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This blog is about my life as a fly fisherman, guide, and fly fishing instructor in and around Northern Virginia and Washington D.C.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Recent Potomac Shad Fly Fishing Trip Pics

This past Sunday was the big day to kick off the 2014 shad run. I met clients at the river at 0900 and had clients come and go through 6pm. Note to self, next time bring an eating utensil for lunch.

We through a variety of flies. This was the first day the white perch showed up. Sherman counted about 27 landed. They were taking just about any pattern and some were quite large. The shad took every pattern tossed at them. A faster strip and rod jerk was the key. Joe lost a very big striper.  

Lets start off with the snakehead carnage. Snaggers are showing up.
 White perch non stop.

 Everyone in this picture was fishing illegally. I called the park service who were rather enthused about the law breakers. No officer showed up. There were open fires, poachers, snaggers, litter bugs, hand liners, bow hunters etc. I spoke with each of them and they could have cared less. I always get the 'I found this fish dead on shore' when they have a live shad or herring in their net. Ugh. One guy said he didn't care as he was from Connecticut.

 Constant rod bending.

 Then this dbag shows up with his ladies. Its a no-wake zone. His wake was about 3' up onto the shore.

 Big perch.
 Holt showed up and got some.

We got a massive downpour today. The river is expected to rise a bit but I'm more concerned about the clarity. I'm going to take the down time (cancelled today's client) to tie up more shad flies and some striper flies too. If you need any custom shad flies please do not hesitate to contact me. I just sent 120 to Tochterman's in Baltimore.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Fly Fishing For Shad - My First Shad Of The Year

I had not planned to fish yesterday. I got up before the pixie which is rare. Ate breakfast, packed up some Gatorade, spare waders, and gear and headed out to meet a client at 0900 at Four Mile Run. The outflow is to the right.

The weather was great-bluebird skies, a bit of a chill burning off with the rising sun, and a slight wind. Daniel Bedell met us out there to take some photos.  After we geared up we walked in.

Casting was great and we got into some fish. The outflow hole was full of river herring (looked more like Blueback but its hard to tell). The males were pushing the females up against the drop offs and ledges and we saw our first spring spawn of the year.

I finished with Mike at 11ish and decided to head up to Chain Bridge to check on the conditions. I walked down to Pimmet Run and there was nothing. One random guy with a stick just standing there (?) and two guys fishing for cats down stream. As I had driven in on the GW Parkway I noticed  Fletchers was renting boats.

I headed over to Fletchers. My first inclination was to walk upriver and find some fish. I took brief walk, looked at some of the ground cover blooming, and headed back down.

If Friday was a ghost town at Fletchers, yesterday was rush hour. It was packed. Anglers, picnickers, hikers, families, boaters, and more.

I walked downstream to the point. It was bushwacking through log jams from previous floods. As I still had my waders on I opted to walk through the mud (exposed before tide rolled in) which was messy but easier. I found a lot of bobbers in the woods which I collected as my daughter is obsessed with them. She wants a new one each time we visit a tackle shop.

This was prime copperhead territory. I don't like to walk over log jams on a sunny day. I grew up in the woods and our backyard was full of short but fat copperheads.

 They preferred to sit on the beaver dams where they blended in with the logs.

I had my machete unlocked in its sheath. I made lots of noise to let them know I was there.

 I had my old Orvis 5wt with a 1999 Battenkill large arbor reel, 7wt Orvis sink tip and a box of shad flies from about 4-5 years ago. I clamored onto the rocks at the point and found one guy sitting down and casting shad darts into the current. I climbed above him and stood on a piece of tree that looked like some medieval shield. I stood on top of this on the log jam and watched two guys to my right toss tandem shad darts. They were hooking up on almost every cast. Big shad. Strong shad. Aggressive shad.

I rigged up my rod with a chargruese jig with a damsel dropper. I started casting while I watched them catch and release and repeat. They told me they were giving their darts a 10 count before retrieving.

After a few casts I connected to my first shad of the year. I don't often get to fish for shad as I'm mostly working.

The fight consisted of a rod bending and fly line singing raucous. If I had one extra piece of gear (besides a stripping basket) it would have been a stripping guard for my finger.

For the next 40 min or so I was into fish every few minutes. Some of them were on the retrieve, most were on the swing. Some of them were a foot or two in front of the guy sitting on the rock. I could not believe how much these fish were fighting.

The first several fish took the damsel. I told you they were strong. They were bending my hooks. Same hooks I use for steelhead.

They say the tug is the drug. The tug on these fish was exhausting. At some points I thought my 5wt was going to break.

Here is a bent caddis/shrimp hook. I'm glad I ordered 500 more of them on Friday.

I didn't get hung up on the bottom once. This bend was straight up fish pulled.

I did break off one fish. I was using 8lb Berkley Vanish. I found that the bigger fish took the shad jig. What ever took that jig and broke my line must have been BIG.

 This is one of the smaller shad. Hickory shad (they have an underbite)

Note the forked tail. If you listen to the podcast you know that forked tailed fish are built for speed.

 Another beauty. As I mentioned I needed a stripping basket. This was the most inhospitable fishing location I have been in. There were thousands of sticks and branches sticking out at every angle. If you find this spot, bring a stripping basket.

I'll leave you with this image of my bent rod. I can't remember the last time this rod was this bent. The line was humming while I took this pic. It was loads of fun to get out and fish. I don't often get to to that. The problem is I went home too early (no food or drink as I had not planned to be out there).

Friday, April 4, 2014

Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3T) Review & Drinking Game

Here is my quick review from last week's F3T. Its also a drinking game, the movie that is, not the blog post.

The annual film tour came to Arlington last week. It was great time to see all the local shop employees, anglers, non-profits, and more. I also got to hang out with some clients.

This time I had the bonus of hanging out with Louis and Morgan from @TLTLFF

I got there around 6pm and as I'm trying to get into shape for shad season, I tried to control my urge to  drink a pitcher of beer and eat a pizza from the center outward.

Mitch Fatel is a funny guy, he does the local radio station every time he is here. He had a bit about why strip clubs suck, going there and not being able to touch the strippers is like having a 'big, juicy turkey in front of you that you can't eat).

 I was a thirsty guy. I ordered a pitcher of club soda. The waitress looked at me puzzled but she does not know my thirst for the carbonated aqueous beverage (I prefer a lemon over a lime but I was not complaining as she came through with my drink).

As the sandwiches are named after movies I have a hard time determine what to order. I went with the chicken fingers. We had a good amount of time before the movie started and that was a great time to catch up with everyone and introduce others to others.

Richie from Urban Anglers was our host. He got up and made announcements. So here comes the movie review:
The intro to the movies was 20+ minutes. They started off with music behind them and then started over again with narrative. It was a long commercial for Yeti, Orvis, and beer. Then the feature started. I didn't hear the intro to the first movie and the guy had an accent. I wasn't sure what it was about other than a Kiwi fly fishing guide and his buds working around the world. It was various fish porn with out a plot.

I'll tell you the F3T drinking game now. Every time you see an Orvis Mirage reel you need to take a drink.

This is what the reel looks like. The drag crank is rather recognizable. Now take a sip.
I was biased toward Blood Knot.It was one of the few movies shot in the Continental US, it was shot by our friends at Two Fisted Heart Productions, it featured a great story line of two brothers, it was local, and they own one of the best fly shops in Virginia. That is the  production team standing up. BTW taking pictures in the venue was not allowed, oops.

 So my chicken fingers arrived. I'm a fan of battered not breaded which these were, though I think they were battered in salt. It was way too salty. Good thing I had a gallon of club soda. I'd prefer a nice ranch dressing over a mediocre honey mustard.
 A cold beer to dilute the water.
 The rest of the movies were pretty good. I really enjoyed the follow up to last year's film with Sandflea. That was enjoyable. The last one with a guy from Iceland, Bahamas, and Patagonia didn't make a lot of sense. The underwater shots from Iceland were great.

The addition of women in the movies was a good touch. The fact that a mirage reel made it into every film was a bit odd. There was a nostalgia movie by Sharptail Media. A great white north brookie movie with John Gierach (does anyone know how to pronounce his name? At least as a writer his name is correct with i before e).

I didn't win the raffle this year but Richie hooked me up with a new Urban Angler bag. I like this bag.

The movies were good, some were better than others. I wish my food had not been so salty and that I had some leg room. As always it would be nice to have a flyer with all of the movies being shown, who shot them, who is in them, where they were shot, where  you can buy them, etc.

It would be nice if the tour came around bi-annually with two separate sets of movies. Anyway, if you go you'll see lots of tarpon, some monster brookies, some carp, some Tenkara, what guides do on the off season, beer drinking etc. After a rather dreary winter it was nice to see white sand and turquoise, tropical waters. 

Have fun. Don't drink too much based on the new drinking game, and I hope you win something awesome.

The movie will be shown at the Virginia Fly Fishing and Wine festival @VaFlyFish in two weeks, hosted by the lads at Mossy Creek.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Nothing Going On At Chain Bridge Today 4/3/14

I dropped off the pixie at school today and started on the 17 mile drive to Flechers Boat House to pick up my DC license for the year. Here is how my drive went.

 Traffic, traffic, and more gridlock. This is why I don't go anywhere in this direction on most days. It sucks.
 At least summer is near and people will leave town.
 I finally made it into DC.
 This is the Chain Bridge DC side lot. Its all open this year.
 It took me 1 hour go go 17 miles. I got out, stretched my legs, and chatted everyone up a bit.
 The water was brown from last weeks rain. Lots of crap in the water too (literally and figuratively)
 This is the view going under the C&O Canal.
 I hadn't seen Paula in a year or so. She is the best. I talked to her, Alex, and The Animal. I don't guide this side of the river so I'm not here to often. Always a great time.
 I drove back over to Va and parked and made my way down to the river. It was high tide. Pimmet Run was inundated.
 Spots where I normally fish were somewhere out there. I strung up my rod and walked down river to the cove at Pimmet Run. I saw NO signs of life.
I tied on a chartruese Shad Bolter with a Snowhite Damsel dropper, 7wt sink tip, 5wt Orvis Silver Label rod with a 1999 model Battenkill Large Arbor. I fished for 30 minutes with nothing. I took a break to cancel a client for tomorrow. As I was typing a fish, most likely a gizzard shad, came up to the surface. A cormorant then popped up.

I thought I was going to head out but that sign of a fish was promising. I fished for another 30 min before calling it. Not worth my time. I packed up and walked out.

On the way home I stopped at Dicks and picked up a new landing net. This one is big enough for snakeheads. Lets hope they wake up soon.

If you are heading out tonight or tomorrow don't expect a lot from shore. Boats won't be rented at Fletchers until the water level drops to 5'.

If I didn't have to pick up the pixie at school at 1pm I would probably have gotten some Ropa Vieja at the Caribbean restaurant. MMM.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Snowhite Damsel Step-By-Step Instructions | Tying Tutorial

You don't need to remind me that my YouTube videos are rather dodgy. One day I'll sit down with someone and redo my videos. In the meantime, you'll have to settle for low budget cinema. For those tying the Snowhite Damsel I have just sat down and created a step by step tutorial with some closer images.

I'm super happy right now, no its not just a caffeine buzz from my Mexican Coca-Cola from lunch. The weather has finally broken and I have two clients today. One will be some lawn casting and then an evening casting and catching session on the incoming tide.

First, lets discuss the anatomy of an ostrich plume. We will be cutting 5-6 individual fibers at a time. Cut them from the shaft. The ones that are called 'oilness' look like the ones you want. The part you cut will be referred to as the base. The outter most part I will refer to as the tips.



  • Chartruese ostrich plume (Bear's Den, Urban Angler, Malinda's, All Seasons, Tochterman's)
  • Bead chain (Home Depot) 
  • Red 6/0 Uni thread
  • Multi-color Krystal Flash
  • Size 10 curved hook (Flyshack), barbless
  • Scotch tape

 Put that hook in your Regal Vise. Yes, I say use the Regal. The spring is key.
 Start your thread. Preferable toward the eye of the hook.
 Get those dumbells going. Be careful not to cut your thread on the edges of the balls. They are sharp from where you cut them with a wire cutter.
 Get 3 strands of Krystal Flash
 Take the tape and tape (its a noun and a verb?) to the Regal Vise. All strands should be lined up. This will ensure you have 3 strands of equal length for each pattern. I get about 10 flies per taped strands. 
 Cut about 1" of Krystal Flash. When you tie them in behind the eyes the strands should go back to just about the spring on your Regal Vise.
 Notice I'm using a Rite Bobbin. Love them. Don't tie in your flash too long.
 Now take your ostrich plume and cut 5-6 fibers from the base. Line up the tips.
 Stick the whole shebang in your mouth and drag it through and across your maw. This wets the fibers and collapses them. They will stick together.
 Measure about 1" of feathers and pinch them.
 Put the feathers over the dumbells. The TIPS should be facing to the left and the BASE to the right. This will give the tapered ends of the feathers a natural tail like look for the damsel.
 Use about 3 wraps to secure the feathers down. You should be comfortable in your wraps that fewer are better so you don't fill up the fly.
 Fold back the feathers while holding the base.
 Start to wrap backwards about 6-7 times until you are above the hook point. Now wrap forward and leave the bobbin behind the eyes.
 Start to wrap or palmer the feathers up to the eyes.
 Wrap under and over the eyes.

 Wrap 3 times behind the eyes. Nice and tight. Securing the fibers.
 Now cut any extra.
 Bring the bobbin in front of the eyes and wrap 3-5 times.
 Knot your fly 2 times.
 Cut  your thread, repeat. You will need a lot of these.
 I did a bit of pre work and made a half dozen or so tails before I tied. This made my tying time much faster.
 This is the final product. Fly on the left, natural on the right.
 This is what I just cranked out for tonight's incoming tide.

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