Brian Davenport is the second half of the Hackles and Herl husband and wife Norvise ambassador team. I think it is safe to say Cutthroat Trout are his favorite fish, he has the patterns and tying skill to back this claim up. When not fishing or tying, Brian and his wife run their fly tying and fishing school through hacklesandherl.com
You have no doubt seen Britt on our Facebook Live, Norvise live ties or on her own channel (with her husband Brian) Hackles & Herl. What you don't see is all the behind the scenes stuff she does for us. She takes her position on out ambassador staff very seriously and we are so thankful for that. Here is a bit of a deeper look into Brittany Davenport.
By Norvise ambassador Brian Davenport.
Everyone has a comfort zone-whether in fly tying or fly fishing. Some folks are comfortable at tying certain styles of flies, or fishing in a certain style. But not too many folks are comfortable with more than a couple types of styles of fishing or tying. The ones that are comfortable with various styles, you can bet they are the ones consistently catching fish.
During the Norvise March Madness competition there were 64 tiers and some very accomplished tiers. Even some of the more accomplished tiers found themselves being pushed out of their comfort zone by the fly categories that were drawn. It’s not that they could not tie the flies, but that the type of flies were different than what they normally tie. Some really awesome flies were tied, as they stepped out of their comfort zone.
As for your comfort zone while fly fishing, I know some fly fishers who follow the motto of dry fly or die. When you consider that trout especially, eat 90% of their food subsurface, that does not give them very favorable odds of consistently catching fish. I also know some anglers that only fish subsurface and refuse to fish a dry fly. They are also missing out in some circumstances, like when a hatch is on. Some anglers are so set to one style of fishing, to the point of they will avoid certain places to fish because they cannot fish it the way they are comfortable with.
My favorite fishing partner loves to fish dry flies, and I mean who doesn’t- it is very cool to see the fish come up and take your fly off the top. But she was missing out on other times because that is all she would fish. However, over the last couple of years she has started expanding outside her comfort zone, to include streamer fishing and swinging a wet fly.
Last year we both got out of our comfort zone more, and started to learn and experiment with Euro Nymphing. After reading several articles and talking to some friends about how it is done. We gave it a try on several outings. We had some awesome days on the water, that likely would have only been so-so using other methods.
We live in central Idaho along the Clearwater River. During steelhead season we swing a wet fly with two handed rods for steelhead, however we are going on the Norvise hosted trip to Steelhead Alley this fall. Tim has said that a lot of times they fish with nymphs and indicators as swinging a fly is only when conditions are right-which doesn’t happen too often. I have fished this way for trout and am not very proficient at it, and have had very limited success- so it is definitely out of my comfort zone. I plan on reading up the technique, watching videos and pestering everyone I know that has fished for steelhead in this manner to learn more about it. Also, on my trout fishing outings this year, I may try fishing with an indicator rig more often, so that I can get better at it and more comfortable with it.
Now I am definitely not suggesting to give up your favorite flies that you tie, or your favorite fishing technique. I’m just saying that if you normally fish with dry flies, perhaps work a run with the dry fly and then work your way back thru with a nymph rig. Fish most of the day with your preferred method but set aside a couple hours to specifically fish different types of water and different method.
This also brings up another point-go and fish different bodies of water! A lot of people go to the same body of water and fish the same holes with the same methods each time they go out. Don’t be afraid to step out of that comfort zone and fish a different body of water or a different place on that body of water. If you are willing to step out of your comfort zone it will help you become a more rounded tier and angler and you might just have some great days on the water while venturing outside of your zone! Till Next Time...
Tonight we look at our ambassador Braden Miller. When you look at all he has accomplished it is easy to forget he is still only 15 years old. We are so fortunate to have Braden on our staff. He (and his entire family) are now family to us. I love this kid like he is my own son and Tyler calls him "the little brother I never had".
For a bit of a deeper look into what makes this fine young man who he is read on...
By Norvise Ambassador Shannon Messer
Nose down, tails up searching for fiddler Crabs, Shrimp, Mullet, and Menhaden Shad, Redfish move amongst the marsh grass revealing their location to a keen eye of a captain atop the poling platform. The order is given, "30 feet nine o’clock now, strip, strip, strip", bang fish on! The Scott Tidal 7wt is bent, feeling every burst of strength the angry red exhibits as it comprehends what has just happened. Just as quickly as the battle starts it ends with the redfish coming unbuttoned without warning. Just like that the battle is over. I take a moment to replay the memory tattooed in my brain, dissecting each move. What seemed like hours was only a nanosecond in the battle between fly fisherman and redfish. Redfish won.
Let’s take the time to set the stage, and explain how a mountain Trout fly fisherman ends up on the bow of a skiff in the low country of Charleston, South Carolina. I give credit to my wife of twenty years as she threw out the idea of fishing on our twentieth wedding anniversary. Like many of us, we were looking to travel and explore to celebrate our accomplishment, or let's call it like it is— Tanya putting up with me for all these years. I jumped at the opportunity and we selected historic Charleston, South Carolina.
Charleston was an easy choice for us. We love visiting the area, the food is great, you are surrounded by history, and the weather can be amazing! Every time we visit, somehow, we discover something new. This trip we found Ye Ole Fashioned Ice Cream and Sandwich Bar in lovely Mount Pleasant, SC. While waiting on ice cream we couldn’t help but notice they have a fried bologna sandwich on the menu. If that doesn’t make it a first class food joint your expectations are too high.
I was excited and a bit apprehensive after we booked our excursion. I did not want to look like I had no clue on how to cast to saltwater fish. The double haul is a cast that we very rarely, if ever, use in the North Carolina mountains. I am a stealthy predator, roll casting in tight quarters to almost invisible trout, which is a far cry from a seventy or even sixty foot cast on the money for a saltwater species. I practiced as perfectly as I could until I felt confident in my abilities to present the fly as instructed by the captain.
The morning was picture perfect, mirror smooth water and chamber of commerce temperatures greeted us as we departed on our adventure. I must have felt like a fresh major league call up to the show stepping into the batter’s box for the first time. Just my luck it would be MLB Hall of Fame Greg Maddox on the mound that day.
The casting turned out to be the least of my struggles. It was the spotting of the fish that kicked my butt! Regardless of what lens I had in my Smith Optics, I struggled spotting moving redfish as they revealed themselves to us. I was able to spot a few tails, but that was it. Don’t ask me if I saw the mullet because it was a big fat no! I now felt like many of the guests that I guide in the mountains at that point. They tell me they struggle seeing what I see, and now I was experiencing what they feel and it was frustrating. Spotting reds was the biggest challenge for me and I was frustrated, disappointed, and helpless at that point. Tanya knew it, and she was supportive as I pressed on.
If you are someone like me who has never tried sight fishing for a new species you should do it. Don’t be afraid of failure, and accept the challenge head on. I am motivated more than ever to seal the deal the next time out on the skiff! I continue to practice, and I look forward to the next opportunity in the near future.
I have had the opportunity to fish in many different places the past three years, and for that I am thankful. I have faced many challenges along the way, but in the end it has made me a better fly fisherman and guide. You will see me on the bow of a skiff again, but this time holding a redfish. Who knows? It just might be the skiff that the @georgia_drifter owns. Till next time...
Tight Lines - Shannon
By Tim O'Neill
Well, in last weeks blog post I talked about our fishing for pre spawn Smallmouth. I can remember one of my Dad's favorite sayings "Ride it till she bucks" well, we are going to ride this particular tributary until it bucks. This post is about the second of many floats down this river this spring. and what a float it was!
The day started at 5:40am on Saturday morning. I was up and getting ready when I looked out my window and saw my buddy Ed already backed up to our Smith Fly Raft and he was hooking it up to his truck. This was a welcome change from the week before when Tyler was ALMOST A HALF HOUR LATE! To borrow another one of my Dad's favorite sayings "If you cant run with the big dogs, stay on the porch" Apparently my son had gone out howling at the moon the night before and couldn't get out of bed on time...This week it was myself, Ed and Brian Shumaker of Susquehanna River Guides. By 6:00 Ed had the raft hooked up and we were on our way.
After a quick breakfast we had the shuttle car dropped off and we were at thee put in. We were quickly geared up and soon we were headed down river with Ed on the bow, Brian on the sticks and myself in the back.
It was apparent the water had dropped dramatically from the week before as soon as we started fishing. The Sonar Titan line that was so good to me just a week prior was not going to work today. In the deeper holes this would do fine, but I quickly had to switch to my intermediate shooting head for the bulk of my fishing.
We had floated less than a quarter mile and had just hit the top of the first productive run and Ed was tight to a good fish. A solid chunker came to net and with that the skunk was out of the boat.
I swear it was on the next cast and I looked up and Ed's rod was doubled over again. this time an eye popper of a Smallie showed itself.
We continued floating, casting and picking up a fish or two. We were coming into the spot, you know the spot, the spot where it is about to go down!!! This was the run where we had put three 20 inch fish and several 18's in the net the week before. We had switched and Ed was on the paddles, Brian was up front and I was in the back.
We would drift a bit, drop the anchor and fish. Pull the anchor, drift, drop anchor, fish. We repeated this several times in the 1/4 mile stretch we simply call "The Run". I watch as Brian put on an absolute clinic on the front of the boat. Fish after fish, one after the other, and big fish too. I don't know how many Brian landed, I lost count. I do I have never seen anything like this. For a bit, I just sat and watched trying to figure out what Brian was doing. I guess the saying "there is no substitute for experience" would fit well here. Now, I did manage some fish, and I would have been happy with the outcome, but I was not having success like Brian. Clouser Minnows were the fly of the day and after a bit of a discussion as to whether they were tied correctly, I got to see the fly in action fished the way it was designed to be fished. I also got to witness the effectiveness first hand. It was impressive.
We took a break for lunch to give us and the fish a rest. We paddled over to the side and sat in the boat and ate our sandwiches and talked about the things three guys sitting in a rubber raft talk about while on the river.
After lunch we switched and I was on the bow, Brian was in the back and Ed was providing the muscle. It was a good thing because after lunch Ed said what do you want to do, I said I want you to row us up to the top of this run and we are going to go through it again. He kinda laughed and said "no, really, what do you want to do" I said I am serious, take me back up to the top of this run...Ed's face looked like that big eyed surprised emoji from your I phone.
In short order we were at the top of the run and started the anchor, fish, pull anchor, drift system again.
In last weeks post I referred to my best day on the smallmouth river as Epic (I still dislike that word). I honestly don't even know how to describe this float...
I don't know what to say. Till Next time...
Tight lines - Tim
Tyler is my son, my friend, and an Owner of O'Neill's Fly Fishing and Norvise. Tonight you get a bit of insight on what makes Tyler who he is.
By Tim O'Neill
Any one who knows me knows that Smallmouth Bass are my favorite fish to chase with fly gear. Oh yeah, if it is Steelhead season I will say Steelhead are my favorite, when we are Pike fishing I will say Pike are my favorite, when the Shad are running I will say...well, you get the picture.
I have been quoted many times saying "Pound for pound a Smallmouth is the hardest fighting freshwater fish" I believe that to be true. I have also been quotes ad saying "Once you catch a truly big Smallmouth you will kick a stone at all of your Trout gear". I believe that to be true, hence the title of this article.
For us, typically the end of March into April has always been the Trout time of year. It is just what we did year after year for as long as I can remember, this would take us to the Smallmouth spawn, usually around the first week or two in June. We would start our Smallmouth Fishing after the spawn and fish them through the summer. Well, a few years ago our friend Brian Shumaker of Susquehanna River Guides (the premiere smallmouth guide service on the Susky) introduced us to pre-spawn Smallmouth bass fishing, and he ruined us forever!!!!
For us the pre-spawn typically starts around the last week in March and can carry deep into May with the month of April being the prime time. This is all temperature driven so you need to watch your waterways closely and when that water hits around 45 degrees you need to hit the water. We are typically looking for "river run" fish meaning fish that come out of the river into one of the smaller tributaries to spawn. Resident fish can grow to a large size in this area, this time of year we are looking for the migrators fresh in from the big river, hungry, hormonal, and MAD. Man, I love these fish!
Some of the smaller tributaries can be hard too access and tough to navigate once you get on the water. Our favorite pre-spawn river is no exception. Our Smith Fly Big Shoals was tailor maid for this type of fishing. Light to carry and easy in and out of the water, you can bounce this thing off every rock in the river and it keeps on trucking.
Low and slow if the key during this time of year, intermediate and heavy sinking lines are the norm and you can leave your floating line and popper box at home. Don't get me wrong, I love coaxing bass to the surface and I love the visual of the popper bite. There will be plenty of time for that in a few months, just not now. Short leaders of 12 to 15#, sinking lines and big baitfish patterns are your go to for early season Bassin, favorite patterns include Feather Game Changers, Deceivers, Clouser's and Half and Half's are all great choices. I have long believed white to be the most productive Smallmouth color and the early season choice remains the same. To throw all that payload you need a serious stick. We have been relying on the Axiom II X and the LK Legacy from Temple Fork Outfitters. These rods have the juice to launch a heavy sink tip and the backbone to land an angry 20" Bronzeback. We have been very happy with everything TFO since joining their team.
On this particular day we spent about 6 hours floating a productive section of the river. Cast, upstream mend, count the fly down, strip, strip, pause. We spend as much time on the anchor as we did on the sticks setting up on the likely fish holding water and drifting over the other. Cast, upstream mend, count the fly down, strip, strip, pause. Most of the time that pause id the most important aspect of the cast, a truly bid Smallmouth will usually hit on the drop, probably the reason the Clouser minnow and it hundreds of variations are so effective.
When we were driving home, tired, gear stowed and boat in tow I was thinking; "This was the single beast day I have had on a Smallmouth river. Never before had we landed three 20" fish, 5 18" fish and I don't know how many 14, 15 & 16" fish. Truly an epic day on the water (and I really do not like the word epic) but that is the only way to describe it.
So, like the title says Smallmouth...in April??? Absolutely! Man, I LOVE these fish! Till next time...
Tight Lines - Tim
As we add people to the Norvise Pro tyers team we are trying to build a family of the most diverse and helpful fly tyers and fly fishermen in the industry. We borrowed an ad I always liked and that we thought was a great way to get to know us a little better. We will be posting these each Monday until we get through the entire team. Hopefully this will give you a little insight into all of us. This could also be good info to strike up a conversation with one of us the next time you see us at a show or on the river.
By Tim O'Neill
The spring Shad run can be one of the most prolific fisheries of the spring, it can also be one of the most overlooked. Starting at around mid-April our rivers and tributaries will fill with these migrating fish as they start their yearly pilgrimage to span and repeat the circle of life. A quick circle it is as the entire spawn lasts around 6 weeks. If it is past the third week of May and I have 2 subpar outings, a sub-par outing is less than 30 fish, it is time to move on to Smallmouth. What is a good outing you may ask… on a year with a strong migration, when targeting hickories, triple digit catch numbers is the goal, and an attainable goal it is.
There are over 30 different species of Shad, all members of the Herring family. The two most popular and the ones we target with fly gear are the American and the Hickory Shad. The crown jewel of the Shad family is the American Shad. These fish start their migration a little later in the year, they are usually in my home waters of Northern Delaware around Mother’s Day. A 4-to-6-pound average fish with a deep forked tail and shaped like a bullet, these fish will give a stout 8 weight a solid workout. The smaller cousin to the American is the Hickory shad. At a 1-to-3-pound average, what they lack in size they make up for in numbers and tenacity, they aren’t nicknamed “Poor man’s Tarpon for nothing”. At the time of hook expect to feel several violent head shakes followed by the ole’ “airborne ranger” as these fish usually come out of the water at least one time during the time you are trying to land them.
The gear we use to chase these fish is pretty simple as are the techniques we use to catch them. We mentioned Smallmouth earlier, with the exception of flies, all the gear you use for Smallmouth will fit into the Shad fishing arenas quite nicely. For Hickories 5 to 7 weight single handed rods are ideal. Early in the season we may be dealing with high, fast moving water. Weighted flies and heavy sink tips could be the norm. Do your shoulder a favor and take a 7 (or possibly an 8 weight) when hucking the “chuck and duck” rig. Later in the season, when the water flows are considerably lower a 5 weight with an intermediate sink tip is ideal. In 20 years of chasing both Americans and Hickories I don’t believe I have ever used a floating line and I am not sure I have a need for one. Beings we are typically using a form of a sinking line leader construction is pretty simple. I will typically build a short, 3-to-4-foot, leader out of Fluorocarbon consisting of two feet of 12 to 15# blood knotted to a 1.5-to-2-foot piece of 1 or 2X. If you enjoy throwing 2 handed rods these new Micro Spey rods were tailor made for these fish, especially the smaller Hickories. Smaller two handers in the 3 to 5 weight range are a joy to cast all day (you do A LOT of casting during a day of Shad fishing) and the smaller, Micro Spey’s let you “feel” the fish very well.
Fishing techniques are very simple, typically we will implore the wet fly swing. Position yourself up river of a spot of deeper holding water, cast down and across river, put a large upstream mend into the cast and let the flies settle in and hunt. Keep the line tight and follow the rig with the rod tip as it swings through the run. Don’t forget the dangle. At the end of the swing let the fly hang in the current for a bit. You will be surprised when a Shad comes up, whacks the fly and almost takes the rod out of your hands! Remember, these are migrating fish, you want to find your spot, stake your claim and stay there as long as you can. If the fishing slows a bit just be patient, the pod you were fishing over has probably moved up river above you. Rest assured, there will be another pod coming along shortly. Also, don’t be afraid to change fly colors. Even if it is the same pattern in a different color, sometimes a color can go “stale” and the fish will stop engaging it. A quick fly change and you are right back in the game catching again.
Speaking of flies…just like everything with Shad fishing Shad flies are pretty simple. Small Buggers say size 8 in bright colors are fantastic choices. Hair wing bucktails are another great choice, the tried-and-true Mickey Finn could possibly be the perfect shad fly. Small Clouser Minnows have brought plenty of shad to hand. Having been a Shad a holic for many years you can bet we have designed some of our own patterns. O’Neill’s Shad Crack is our number one pattern. You can see this fly being tied on this month’s beginner fly tying video series. Other favorites we will be showing are O’Neill’s Hazardous waste, and O’Neill’s Dart. Black will sometimes be a good producer, other productive color combos include Chartreuse & Red, White & Pink, Orange & Silver, Yellow and Orange, and my all-time favorite Bubblegum pink & electric blue.
Mid-April is a great time to get out and shake off the winter shack nasties. It is also a great time to get your distance cast tuned in after spending an entire winter of flipping a nymph rig up river and watching it float past. I call Shad the perfect fish at the perfect time of year. Hopefully this year you can get out there and chase them with us! Till Next time...
Tight Lines - Tim