7 Reasons Why I'm Having A Blast Tying Flies This Winter

Albie Flies

It's a stunningly gorgeous March morning here in Phippsburg, with fresh, fluffy snow in the trees undisturbed by any breeze and a brilliantly bright blue sky. It's the kind of morning where you (or at least I) feel like I can get anything and everything done on my list even though rational analysis says otherwise. Doing dishes this morning (yeah, we often leave 'em 'till the a.m. - no kids to judge us) I was struck by how much fun I've been having tying flies this winter. I've been cranking out patterns for albie season on the Cape and North Carolina and restocking boxes for striper charters and NEED to get busy on bonefish and permit patterns for my Soul Fly Lodge group in April. Moving from plates to cast iron pans I contemplated why I've been enjoying this winter's tying so much and here's what I came up with...

1.  I've been making the effort to get together with friends to tie and just loving it. Some outings are more productive than others in terms of quantity of flies produced (and volume of delicious beer consumed) but it is always energizing and I love picking up ideas from others. Thanks Matt Bickford of Maine Striper Adventures for getting us together on a regular basis. Who knew about using channel lead to weight flies? Brilliant Ben Whalley! (Helps to turn over the hook but distributes the weight along length of the shank but not top of the shank - getting a different sinking motion and eliminates the drawbacks that come with lead eyes). Not only am I tying up a hand-full of your Best Bet Fly patterns but I'm incorporating channel lead into some bonefish flies that will eliminate the need for the bead chain eyes when going all stealth-mode. Conversations with these guys about striper conservation, promoting more involvement in advocacy, and of course the usual fish-talk is thought provoking and motivating, so thanks also to Rich Pschirrer of Up 'n At Em! Guide Service, Patrick Rudman of Old Maine Outfitters, Josh Geib of I Just Catch a Shitload of Fish, and Todd Bickford - the quietest and best angler of the group. Come on Craig Uecker - make that schedule work so we can learn more about tube flies!

2.  I've been committed to keeping a (mostly) clean and neat tying station. In the boat I'm a stickler for everything having a place and everything in its place but my tying table is too often a victim of the double whammy of entropy and tier's-ADHD. At it's worse, the chaos extends to the side table, and the floor behind my chair, and the tops of my storage bins. I have no doubts that I'll fall prey to this blight once the guiding season starts up again but for now I'm (usually) being diligent and disciplined in cleaning shit up and only having materials out for the specific pattern I'm tying.

3.  I'm also doing better at maintaining a production tying approach and this helps immensely with the effort to stay organized. More importantly, I tie better flies when I repeat same pattern right down to size of hook and type of flash over and over again. Being pleased with the results keeps me motivated. Repetition breeds efficiency. Full fly boxes gives me peace. It soooo easy for me to craft one fly and then think "what if I added this material...?" and pretty soon I'm six flies deep and each one is different. I've been prioritizing needs over wants, proven patterns over the ever tempting great experiments and loving the satisfaction that can come from discipline in tying.

4.  Eldredge Brothers Fly Shop resumed in-person tying classes and while I wasn't smart enough to sign up for some awesome offerings, I was really pleased to return to teach another albie fly session. I love the process of translating the action of tying a fly into written and oral instruction notes. It forces me to consider every movement and step. It helps me reexamine the habits I've developed around a particular pattern and I often end up simplifying materials or application resulting in a better fly. The act of writing down notes, steps, observations is also a huge help, which leads me to reason #5.

5.  I started keeping a bound notebook next to my tying table a couple of years ago and sometimes I have the discipline to make notes on what I'm doing, learning and wondering. I organize it by pattern and even if I don't refer back to it, the act of writing out my observations helps cement them in my brain. I wish my sketches were aesthetically pleasing, even just to me, but they aren't. And never will be. But they help.

6.  I've been working to learn more about the materials I'm using, or should be using, and how to make the most of them. I'm much more knowledgeable about UV cured resins thanks to my class prep for Eldredge Brothers. I'm working hard to illuminate 1 to 2 seconds at 12 inches, then pausing 10 seconds, then illuminating 1 to 2 seconds at 6 inches and pausing before zapping it up close for the final cure. It does make a difference in completeness of cure and limiting heat build up, both of which make for a more durable fly and serve to limit material distortions. I've been geeking out on hook design and manufacturing. So many choices. There are endless possible variations of any proven pattern but sorting through the merits and drawbacks to substituting craft fur or arctic fox or finn racoon has lead me back to infatuation with coyote fur.

7.  I've been diving back into a couple of tying books that are as relevant and exciting as they day they arrived. Bob Popovic's Fleye Design is the bible and encyclopedia. Drew Chicone's Feather Brain, along with some of his species specific titles, is the perfect compliment. I've been watching videos too. What an incredible resource YouTube can be. If you haven't availed yourself of Gunnar Brammer's instructional gems lately, do it now. I've also made time for some awesome online events. Masters of the Fly is hosting Jason Taylor this Sunday evening at 8:00. If you fish for stripers or pike or musky you want to sign up for this session. Same is true for two more upcoming online demos and conversations. On March 12 Blane Chocklett will help you up your Game Changer game via an awesome set of seminars hosted by The Articulate Fly. Ben Whalley is in the virtual house April 4 with South Shore Fly Casters. Get registered now.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm far from completing my winter tying tasks. I'm not at the point of waking up in a panic at 2:17 am, but I am feeling the urgency brought on by longer days. I hope you're finding fulfillment in your tying. 

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC


Maine Striped Bass Fall Fishing Update

It is mid-September and the striper fishing is still going strong. Sunday the 17th was a busy day on the water with many boaters enjoying a beautiful summer day. We're seeing very little traffic during the week and often have schools of breaking fish to ourselves for as long as we want to stay on them. As I write this morning, I've seen all of two boats out on the Kennebec in the first three hours of the day. Each day deeper into the month will have more and more people tending to yard work, watching high school sporting contests or switching their attention to hunting season. We have a couple of weeks of fantastic fishing to savor before we start looking ahead to next year.

There is much less bait out on the oceanfront compared to two weeks ago. There are still schools of the juvenile menhaden that we call peanut bunker along the beaches, coves and river mouths but not the massive schools that covered this territory. As a result, the schools of stripers are a bit more dispersed. Once you find them the action can still be fast. With all of the swell from offshore hurricanes, fishing the beaches and outer ledges has been difficult, but the more sheltered structure has good whitewater and good fishing. Generic crab/lobster patterns are still the first fly that I tie on in these spots. Pollack flies continue to catch the attention of bigger fish. The roiled water has limited out sightcasting opportunities, but conditions on the flats and beaches were getting better as of yesterday.

There has been excellent fishing upriver in the vicinity of Bath. More about this in the next update as it is time to launch the boat and catch the dropping tide...

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


Quick Update

The great fishing continues, although the surface blitzes on the peanut bunker have been more sporadic. If you see forty six gulls sitting on a ledge you know that the bait and the bass are nearby. So far I have not found the fish to be especially selective allowing us to use bigger flies and lures to tempt larger fish. At some point in the near future we will encounter picky fish keyed into the small size and shape of the juvenile menhaden.

The strong blow last weekend coupled with full moon tides has stirred up the water, but the recent stretch of calm days and nights is slowly helping to clear things up. Sight fishing just wasn't an option at the start of this week. I'm looking forward to poling after some good sized fish fattening up for their run south. Using the seven and eight weight rods to target large fish is always fun and the size of the bait makes that possible up on the flats.

The young-of-the-year alewives are bringing fish to the surface further upriver. Wednesday afternoon and evening was  a hoot of a good time. The best fish came on jigs bounced just off the bottom around any structure with good moving water, but it was hard to put down the top water rods. Zara Super Spooks and Rebel Jumpin' Minnows skittered across the surface didn't draw any big bass but they did keep the schoolies coming to the boat.


The Fall Bite Is On

Peanutbunker1 Birdsonpeanuts1_8

We are fully engaged in the Fall blitz before the stripers move south for the winter. Summer patterns of fish activity are behind us. This is a great time to be out on the water, so don't too caught up in a return to school, anticipation of bird season or football games or raking leaves. Some of the best fishing of the entire season is happening right now.

Swarms of peanut bunker (juvenile menhaden) are filling the bays, flats, coves and beaches near the mouths of the New Meadows, Kennebec and Sheepscott Rivers. The striped bass, large mackerel and a few big bluefish are gorging themselves on these little baitfish. The young of the year alewives are dropping out of the ponds and moving down the rivers on their way to open ocean. There are schools of spike mackerel offshore that can generate a bass feeding frenzy when they sweep past outer ledges and islands. We are also seeing silversides and sandeels close to the mouths of the rivers. The pollack are stuffing themselves on all of this forage and falling pray to big bass in the process.

If you are out fishing on your own from boat or shore be prepared to keep moving until you locate the bait and the fish. There are stretches of water that seem devoid of life but rest assured that "it is happening" some place all day and all night. The fall runs of baitfish always seem more concentrated than in the early season. If you aren't seeing birds, clouds of bait, surface feeding schoolies move, move, move.

This is a great time to fish in Maine. Our saltwater fly fishing doesn't get any better than this.

 

Capt. Peter Fallon 


Friday, August 4th

We started Friday's charter bouncing jigs and 6 inch Storm Wild Eye Shad while drifting over deep structure, picking up fish on every pass. There were no birds circling above us, no swirls on the water's surface, no bait dimpling against the rock weed but plenty of fish glued to the bottom. As long as we presented our offerings right in front of the stripers, these lazy fish would cooperate.

We found another large school of fish holding in 22' to 36' on the edge of a flat. The images on the fish finder were impressive, but that was the only view of these fish that we got. The current was slack and the fish were not eating anything that we offered. We thought about waiting around for the outgoing tide to pick up, but who wants to wait when there were fish to be caught else where.

A short run brought us to fish chasing small brit herring on the surface and great action on the fly and spin gear. Green and white mushies on a 250 grain line kept the 8 weight bent. A 7 1/2" Sluggo raised the two best fish of the day. The surface action subsided for a while but the fish were still holding tight to the structure. The rain subsided but the cloud cover remained with us for the entire trip, giving us perfect conditions for most of the morning.

Dropping down with the ebbing current we again got into stripers chasing the little herring to the surface. It was great fun to be fishing top water stuff at noon in early August. We ended up leaving with fish coming up all around us. My clients stretched their hall pass as long as they could, but they finally had to call it quits and get to their lunch meeting.

Capt. Peter Fallon
WWW.MAINESTRIPERS.COM


Quick Update

Brit1 We got off to a good start this week with some fish over slot size eating large herring grocery flies and megamushies. There seemed to be a push of fresh juvie herring into the lower Kennebec at the end of last week. The surface blitzes have been decreasing since last Friday, but we are still occasionally finding busting stripers down around the mouth of the river.

At times these surface feeding fish have been fussy. One morning we spent an hour on a pod of schoolies, changing flies and presentations on every drift. We were picking up fish, but not at the rate we expected. I wondered if there was tiny bait mixed in with the 3 inch herring? Where's my mask and snorkel when I need it? The most consistent pattern was an variation of an Eldridge Brothers Guitar Minnow fished on a 400 grain line.

The most predictable fish activity that I've found has been on the evening incoming tide, while the bulk of the bigger fish have come towards the bottom of the dropping tide. There are still plenty of the small herring spread throughout the Kennebec. We also found fish puking up 1/2 inch diameter tan crabs and tiny orange shrimp. The water is clearing up nicely and the sight fishing on the flats and beaches should improve.


Week of July 4th

Here's a run down on Kennebec River saltwater fishing conditions this past week. The striper action has seemed more consistent and predictable, with the exception of Monday the 3rd. We experienced a significant change in weather between Sunday and Monday. I don't know if this put the fish off, but on Monday they seemed more spread out, less competitive and glued to structure. We are seeing more slot sized fish, but the bigger fish are still scarce.

Herringkils We've been keying in on the schools of herring that are spread throughout the Kennebec watershed. In some locations, this important bass bait has been set up on the same structure for days. The bite is predictable and we love predictable. These brit herring are juvenile Atlantic Herring that have moved  inshore from the Gulf of Maine, feeding in fertile waters before returning to deeper offshore water in the fall. We've are seeing herring as small as two inches and as large as five inches. Herring and black back gulls, herrons and osprey can offer easy keys of where to fish, however, in the majority of the locations holding large schools of bass there may be no bird activity, no fleeing bait, no swirling stripers.

The striped bass have not been especially selective when they are feeding on the brit herring. At many times the fish are holding tight to the bottom, clustered around ledges, humps, bars and drop offs. Getting your fly or lure down to the fish is often the key to success, especially as the current slows and/or any surface action diminishes. Megamushies, grocery patterns, juvie herring, full dressed conomo specials and guitar minnows and other half and half flies have all fished well. Use a sinking line and pay attention to boat movement and current to get your fly to sink, sink, sink. Jig heads with soft plastics and Storm wild eye shad (5 and 6 inch) have been the workhorse lures, but I always have a couple of rods rigged with sluggos and rattle traps. Braided line is the way to go.

Richwithfish Out around the mouth of the rivers, the beaches and points there are lots of small sand eels and some schools of small, deeper bodied baitfish that I haven't yet identified. The mackerel have been spotty at the mouth of the Kennebec. The pollack are on the ledges and around the kelp beds. We've found some nice fish in the whitewater but we've also had some slow times prospecting for bigger bass.

Lexwith5wt We've also found smaller schoolies feeding on tiny, orange shrimp. At times stripers feeding on very small bait can get selective but these fish have hit every fly that we've thrown at them. As a general rule, the blitzing fish will hit throughout the water column. When the surface action diminishes for a few minutes, put down your floating line or popper and fish subsurface. Nothing beats catching big fish, but I'll admit that hammering the schoolies on a 5 weight rod is fun.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


What a Difference a Day (or so) Makes

The fish are back on. As evidence I offer my thumb, raw and sore. The runoff coming down the Kennebec from last weekend's rains had somewhat tempered the enthusiasm of the striped bass. The past few days we've seen steady improvement in water clarity, with today significantly clearer than yesterday. The stripers have responded by showing themselves on the surface again, although most of the fish that we found were still hugging the bottom. We had a great crew from Sunday River and American Skiing Corp. out in the two boats today. There was no shortage of hooting and hollering with all of the hook ups.

We saw a few herring flipping in Morse Cove at first light. I'll be keeping my eyes open for concentrations of these larger striper snacks. The prime time for saltwater fly fishing in Maine is about to kick off. The next three weeks should be top notch. We do still have some openings for charters during this period, so if you're thinking about striper fishing in Maine, now is the time to act.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


Sea Serpents

Sea_serpent_3 Loch Ness has nothing on us. Look at the photo of the monster we saw yesterday on our run up the river to Augusta. All of the runoff has the upper river full of tree creatures and log serpents ready to eat your prop for lunch. Many of the bouys above Richmond have been displaced by flood waters and floating debris. The current around the bridge pilings in Augusta is fercoious. The waterfront park at the Gardiner landing had alewives or herring swimming above the level of the sidewalk.

Despite the turbid water, the Kennebec below Bath has been fishing well over the past week. At times the surface action has been so widespread that the birds are having a hard time deciding which school of fish to follow. They aren't wanting for feed either. No problem getting the active fish to eat. They aren't fussy about size, color, or retrieve. Most of the bait has been small. As the large baitfish move into the river, we will be seeing bigger bass chasing them.

We'll give you another update after Wednesday's charters.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


Rain and Runoff

No drought concerns here in Maine. With all of the runoff from recent rains the rivers are murky, clouded with silt. The fish remain active and when you find surface action they will find your fly or lure. Fishing away from the blitzes or below the smaller fish the challenge is getting your offering noticed in the coffee with cream colored water.

A lure or fly that incorporates a rattle transmits vibrations that the bass detect with the sensitive receptors of their lateral lines. A jig or Clouser bounced along the bottom also appeals to senses not handicapped by the turbid water. Flies featuring spun deer hair heads are thought to "push water". A gurgler or popper can be an excellent fly for these conditions.

Chartreuse is always a popular color on the Kennebec, no matter the water clarity. In these poor visibility conditions I like the following color combinations: yellow/olive, chartreuse/olive, olive/black, purple, purple/black. I'll also try patterns tied entirely out of flash material such as angel hair.

Don't let the stirred up water hold you back. As I write this, I am watching fish busting on the surface out in front of the house. Gotta go...

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com