The Snobby Fly Fisherman

Not too long ago, while perusing my local fly shop, I came across an individual who preached to the lovely lady working the register about how the only type of fishing he does is “on the fly” and the only fish he thinks are worthy of pursuit are “Trout, Steelhead and Atlantic Salmon”.  I listened from a distance for a couple minutes before I eventually got sick of listening to his dissertation on the “sporting qualities of fish”.

I have heard and read many folks classify fly fishing as snobby, elitist and describe it as an “old boys club”.  However, I have to say that throughout my years as a fly fisherman, this was the first time I ever experienced someone who represented this stereotype.  Before I go any further, I would like to say, that I do not know this gentleman and I do not wish to pass judgment on his character.  However, I felt that these statements were worthy of a soapbox stance on my end.

Admittedly, I am primarily a fly fisherman and I primarily pursue trout.  Hands down my favorite type of fishing is chasing native brook trout in the mountains on dry flies, short rods and light tackle.  But, with that being said, I could not disagree more with the statements of the man in the fly shop.  I now choose to spend most of my time on the water fly fishing.  But I wasn’t always that way and that may change in the future as I evolve as an angler and person.  Some of my fondest fishing memories were created using spinning gear and/or live bait.  Chasing smallmouths on small creeks with texas-rigged worms is a blast.  bass 2Night fishing for channel cats on warm summer nights with a friend is something that I dearly miss.  And it doesn’t end there.  Drifting for fluke, tossing top water for largemouth or musky, trolling for walleye, searching for schooling bait during striper season, wade fishing for blues off the surf…the list goes on and on.  All of which were cherished experiences essential in my fishing career, and essential to the angler growth I’ve experienced thus far.  In the early stages of fishing, it is incredibly important for the angler to stay interested in the sport and to have fun while engaged in it.  Otherwise, fishing will not be a priority for long.  And on a semi-unrelated topic, I also believe that the more fun one has while fishing, the more passionate one becomes about fish and fishing.  Once the passion arrives, the concern for conservation follows shortly thereafter.

I didn’t start fly fishing until I was in my late teens, and even then it took me years to catch my first trout on a fly.  Had I not developed a previous passion for fishing through non-fly fishing methods, I would not have had the patience to stick it out.  In a sense I owe my transition to fly fishing to those methods frowned upon by a small number of “snobby fly fisherman.”

My point is this, all fishing is worthwhile so long as you enjoy it. rob and fluke Try as many different types of tackle set ups as you like – fly, spin casting, bait casting, hand-lining, noodling, whatever.  And pursue as many different species as your area and budget allow.  Once you have put in enough time on the water and gained enough experience, you will start to narrow your search and find your fishing niche.  But until then, don’t worry about it.  And certainly don’t let someone else tell you what kind of fishing you should be doing, because clearly that person has forgotten the reason why we picked up a fishing pole in the first place.

Robert Fravel grew up in Pennsylvania, where he started fishing local streams and lakes at a very young age. During his college years, Robert spent the summers working as a whitewater rafting guide in the Pocono Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania. As an avid fly fisherman and fly tier, he enjoys exploring backcountry streams in search of untouched wild trout waters. He currently works as a lawyer in Dublin, Pennsylvania.

 

 

Advertisements

New Water: Little Schuylkill River

Lately I’ve fallen into a predictable routine of fishing the same few limestone creeks that are the closest to me.  These streams only have a limited amount of public water, so I end up fishing the same runs and pools time and time again.  Sure my methods might change from time to time depending on hatches (or lack thereof), water clarity, water level, etc.  But overall, my fishing had become stagnant.  I wasn’t advancing as a fly fisherman.  I wasn’t reading new water, identifying unfamiliar aquatic insects, placing myself in new/uncomfortable casting positions or simply enjoying some new scenery.  Hence the birth of my “New Water” series.  The New Water series is designed to push me to explore unfamiliar streams in unfamiliar parts of the state, outside of my home stream comfort zones.

Over the holiday, I was able to get out and wet a line in some new water: the Little Schuylkill River.  schuylkill countyThe Little Schuylkill is a picturesque stream located in Schuylkill County, that averages about 30-40 feet in width (at least in the DHALO Section).  It begins in the lower Pocono mountains around the town of Tamaqua and flows for about 25 miles before joining the Schuylkill River below Port Clinton.  This region of the state was once an epicenter for coal mining.  And like many streams in the area, the Little Schuylkill suffered tremendously from the ill effects of the mining industry.  Silt, and acid runoff polluted its waters and decimated the stream.  In the 1960’s, a stream survey showed that the Little Schuylkill was completely devoid of aquatic life.  Thanks to the dedicated efforts of outdoor enthusiasts, conservationists and concerned citizens, sixty years later the Little Schuylkill is once again full of life.  The stream boast a healthy population of both wild and stocked trout, a steady supply of caddis flies, otters, minks, blue herons and supposedly harbors some bald eagles as well.

Early in the morning on July 4th, I loaded up my waders, fly rods, and chest pack, grabbed a cup of coffee and headed up to Schuylkill County.  I originally planned on fishing just above Port Clinton, as I had driven by the parking lot for this area dozens of times before.  However, when I got there, the parking lot was full.  So, I decided to continue to drive upstream until I found an access that was less crowded.  Eventually I reached the Delayed Harvest section of the water around 8:45 a.m.  To my surprise there was not another soul in the parking lot, despite it being a holiday.

Apparently, that area had gotten a fair of amount of recent rain because the ruts and holes in the gravel parking lot were full of off colored rain water.  Before putting on my waders and rigging up, I took a walk down the water’s edge just to take a look.  The water level was slightly above normal, with just a hint of murkiness.  Clear enough to see the bottom in three feet of water, but skewed enough to make the finer details invisible.  There was a small island to the right of where I was standing, blocking my view of the upstream landscape.  After putting on my waders and rigging my 9 ft. 5 wt. St. Croix Rio Santo, I made my way around the island via the near bank.  When I rounded the tip of the island, I found a long, deep, fast moving run that extended upstream for about 40 yards where it met a set of shallow rapids.  On the far side of the rapids, was another long, deep, fast moving, picture perfect run that had my mind racing about the number of trout contained therein.  IMAG0094Initially, I had a size 16 tan deer hair caddis tied on, but upon seeing the deep runs, I decided to tight line my way upstream and switched to a tandem nymph set-up with a size 14 hare’s ear on top and a size 16 caddis larva dropped off the bend.

The fast moving, broken water combined with the tinged water clarity allowed me to stand fairly close to the runs without spooking the fish.  On the second cast, I brought a 12 inch rainbow to net.  As I slowly worked my way through the first run, the fishing got better.  By the time I got to the end of the first run I had already netted 10 trout, about half of which were wild browns, and I probably lost just as many.  The second run provide to be almost as fruitful as I netted more browns, all between 10 and 15 inches.

By 11:45 a.m. I was getting ready to call it a day.  While I would have loved to stay and fish till dark, I unfortunately did not have that luxury.  As I was walking back downstream, I decided to make a few more casts into the tail end of the first run.  At that point the Little Schuylkill offered up her finest treasure of the day, a stunning wild brown with some spectacular coloration. IMAG0137

IMAG0131

 

With this royal farewell, I made my way back to the truck, whistling Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” and wondering what new piece of water I’ll explore next.

Happy Birthday America.

 

DIY Portable Fly Tying Table

When it comes to fly tying, I am about as organized as a toddler.  In the (not so distant past) I had my vice set on top of a desk, surrounded by stacks of papers (which are unrelated to fly tying), and my tying materials were spread across multiple rooms usually encased in some sort of paper or plastic bags.  So as you may have guessed, when I sat down to crank out a dozen flies at night, I wasted a lot of time searching for my materials.  Simply put, it was a mess.   One night a while ago, while trying to tie some flies for an upcoming weekend trip to fish Slate Run and Little Pine Creek, I decided I was fed up with my lack of organization.  I needed change.  I was going to make fly tying great again!

In the past I have seen Instagram posts of beautifully crafted table-top fly tying tables.  Unfortunately for me, those beautiful pieces also came with a hefty price tag.  So I decided I would fashion my own, out of scrap wood laying around the garage.  My material list was such:

  • One 2×6
  • One 2×3
  • One 1×4
  • One section of a 2×4 that was previously ripped down the middle
  • One 12 inch piece of a dowel rod, that happened to be the perfect diameter for my tying spools
  • All pieces were secured using a nail gun and 1 ½ inch nails

Once I had a rough idea of the dimensions I wanted (I made it roughly 21 x 24), I constructed the outer frame using the 1×4.  I also angled off the front corners of the two sides pieces, simply for aesthetic purposes.  Once the outer frame was done, I measured, cut and secured the five storage spaces.  Next was the base.  For this I used four 2×6 pieces and one 2×3.  Once I had the boards arranged to my liking (I put the 2×3 in the middle to keep the piece symmetrical), I nailed them all in place.  Afterwards, I secured the ripped 2×4 to the front, to contain the tying area. IMG_20170623_104530_162

Lastly, I cut the dowel rod into eight even pieces and pre-drilled eight evenly spaced holes into the cross piece just below the storage areas (see feature image).  I applied some wood glue to the dowel rods and secured them in the pre-drilled holes (for added spool storage, use longer dowel pieces that can accommodate more than one spool of tying thread).

Once the build was done, I gave the whole piece a thorough sanding and vacuuming, then added two coats of oak stain.  Now I have a designated tying space with material storage incorporated into the design, and the piece is small enough to take on a weekend fly fishing trip for some stream side tying.  I don’t think this piece is going to revolutionize the fly tying furniture industry or sell for hundreds of dollars, but it certainly has helped increase my tying productivity.  So when all said and done, it has served its purpose.

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

Every fisherman has their favorite waters.  For some it’s a lake, for others it is a river and for people like me it is usually a small countryside or mountain stream.  Those waters become favorites for varying reasons, but typically there is a correlation to the amount of fish caught in those waters.  On the flip side, most anglers also have a list of places where they have had little or no success and as a result rarely fish those locations.  I am no different.  Up until recently I considered Saucon creek to be my arch nemesis.

Saucon creek is a small limestone stream with a thriving wild brown trout population that runs through Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley before dumping into the Lehigh River.  Saucon creek is also one of the few wild trout streams within a half hour drive for me.  So when I was first getting really serious about fly fishing a number of years ago, I naturally spent a lot of time trying to cut my teeth on Saucon creek.  However, Saucon creek seemed unwilling to share her trout-bounty with me.

imag0099

I cannot tell you how many days I spent on that creek without catching a single trout.  Sure, I hooked up on a few, but as soon as a trickle of hope entered my thoughts, the trout would spit the hook and leave me in a state of disbelief.  Eventually, I gave up on Saucon creek entirely and searched for trout in other area streams.  I reasoned to believe that the fish in Saucon creek were simply took picky.  But if I’m being honest, the truth was my fly fishing skillset was subpar and I was humbly outmatched.  Back then (in the “not so” good o’le days), I had no idea what a dry dropper or tandem rig was.  Didn’t know how to match the hatch.  Had no idea what the difference between a caddis and a midge was.  And I thought a terrestrial was a character from the movie Alien.  About the only thing I knew was that dry flies float on the surface and nymphs are fished under the surface (I was also convinced that streamers were party favors and every used fly was a wet fly).  Looking back, it’s really not surprising that my constant efforts of throwing a pheasant tail 16 inches underneath a pinch on indicator with no regard for the water depth didn’t produce fish.

Fast forward three years (or maybe four), my fly fishing IQ and skillset have improved.  How much they improved is up for debate, but nonetheless, there has been a least a scintilla of improvement.  As such, I recently decided to once again square off against my old rival Saucon creek on a cool, windy November afternoon.  The first 30 minutes started off the same – no fish.  But after making some on stream adjustments to get my flies down to the right depth, I finally broke the curse!

saucon-brown

It definitely wasn’t a wall-hanger, but to me it was a trophy.  I finally cracked the curse of Saucon creek.  All in all it turned out to be a very pleasant day of fall fishing.  I managed five small browns that day.

saucon-brown-3

What a relief.  With all that said, the moral of the story is this: If at first you don’t succeed….fish a bunch of stocked trout streams until you figure out what the hell you are doing!

Enjoy the day,

-Robert Fravel