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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.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The 2015 Potomac Shad Run So Far

It started off slow, improved a bit, was good for about 72 hours and is now crap.

Lets examine some photos.

First 'river herring' of the year. First fish caught last Friday at Chain Bridge.
 Not long after we got into hickory shad. Water temps were in the low 60's. I like them to be above 63.
 Bent 5wt is what I want to see. Aggressive stripping causes the hickories to go frantic and attack flies
 One of the smaller hickory shad from last week
 Just a few hours later the hickories increased in size. The biggest of the day was about 15"
 Nothing beats a bit of hickory shad spooge on your wellies
 Check out this hickory, it has damage to its operculum. We got one last year that had this on both sides
 I wanted to switch up the color of 1/32 oz shad jigs from chartreuse to pink
 On the boat on the Occoquan. Plenty of fish around just not biting. We spooked a striper that was over two feet long. The bird watching was exceptional
 Back up to Fletcher's on Sunday. I've never had anyone redeem a donated trip from a raffle until this day. We got into fish. Often and steady but not insane. Mostly on the Snowhite Damsel.
 This one was massive. 1.3lbs

 The wind was relentless. I was cold and glad I wore waders. The trip up with my dinky outboard was 45 minutes
 A bunch of Apache helicopters flew over. They looked like they were ready for battle

 Bent rods above Walker's Point.
 One nasty gizzard shad

Art from Orvis Tysons Corner joined me at the Tidal Basin yesterday. Harry got one MASSIVE LARGE MOUTH BASS. You have heard me talk about him on the podcast. He is such a sweet guy. He gives these to others to eat and he can fish like you wish  you could fish

 I put on a massive herring fly. All I caught was a herring. This tiny fish was hooked in the mouth on a 3/0 hook ???
 'Artemis" with a yellow perch. He got this on a Senyo Ice Man Minnow
 Here is that huge herring fly
 Jamal got this one (fourth of the day) on a spinner bait
 Here is all the botanical flotsam that floats down during flood stage
 POTUS breaking off from the other Sikorski and Blackhawk

Since the river is blown out and better be fishable by tomorrow, lets look at some film:

Just a sample of the shorts I've filmed this week. Water is dropping so get your flies tied up now and get out this weekend. Dress warm. Water temps are dropping just as the air temps, just not as slow.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spring Floods Good For Shad Reproduction, Bad For Fishing and Guiding

We've had quite a bit of rain in the Old Dominion these past few days. I'm normally a fan of big thunderstorms just not during the shad run. The Potomac is rising and will crest at over seven feet just above where we fish for shad. This is good for the shad. It allows them to do their thing unmolested by anglers. The murky water makes it harder for the birds to pick them off-though the osprey and bald eagle are feeding their nestlings with the fish so its bad for them. 

The Potomac has a massive drainage system. If it rains in any of four states it will end up in the river. What ever is on the ground ends up down here too. This time of year there is a lot of plant based flotsam from all of the flowers. There will be all sorts of junk floating down and swirling in the eddys where we target these anadramous fish. Every cast will get snarlerd in small twigs and dropped floral parts. Its a nightmare.

Here is a graph of the rising water. We are looking at about 3-4 more days of the river draining. One benefit of spring time is all the plants need to soak up water to fill their leaves and flowers with water. That is turgor pressure if you want to be specific. What ever the plants aren't soaking up is runoff. That includes all the rain that falls on building surfaces and paved surfaces. So there is A LOT of runoff. Thus the river is rising. It has to go somewhere. All of the windblown pollen is also in the river making slow spots covered with a thick glaze of yellow.

Potomac River near Washington DC (Little Falls)

All of this runoff will be loaded with soil from farms and construction sites and other miscellaneous eroded locations. My clients from California recently told me that all of these construction sites with giant dirt piles would be illegal back home as California has rules about soil runoff. Too bad we don't have rules like that  here. Thus the river looks like  chocolate milk. If you want to know how much sediment is in the water please refer to the below graph:
Graph of

 As you can see the amount of sediment in the river has had a detrimental effect on the water's clarity. Just
imagine how clear this river used to be before all of us messed it up.

This is the Shad Cam. This water was clear about two days ago. Now its nasty. 

Combine high water, muddy water, flotsam, and increased water speed you get an unfishable river. When its unfishable we have to head to other waters and or just wait it out. This time of year all of my works is based around the shad and thus I'm out of work this week. Hoping the water goes down after this weekend (Project Healilng Waters 2-Fly Tournament) we should be back on the shores tossing sink tips to the fish. 

In the meantime you should be cranking out flies to fill your boxes.

Monday, April 20, 2015

DIY Canoe Rack | Change Back On A Ten

So I have this beater canoe. I want to have it on hand to guide for snakehads this summer in some hard to reach spots. The canoe has had a lot of fun over the past decade.

The issue with storage is we live in a two bedroom apartment/condo and there isn't room to store it. I used to keep it at my parents house which is a 20 minute drive with no traffic. I need to keep it close for work.

For several months the canoe has been at a friend's backyard down in Lorton. The problem is he just moved to Charleston, SC this week. So last week I picked up the canoe.

As you may know, my old car died in November. It had a roof rack. My current ride does not. We tied down the canoe with the straps running through the car. Its rather awkward but it works and it provides a rod rack when taking rods to work. The downfall is there is no room for me to wear my cowboy hat while driving.

The other problem with the new set up is that it covers my sunroof. That isn't too bad, I can deal with the extra shade. The bad issues is that the canoe in its current state prevents me from opening the back of my car to get to my gear.

Rather than going out and buying a Yakima or Thule
rack I decided to improvise. I went out today and  bought two pool noodles at the Dollar Tree. I then went to Home Depot and purchased a long piece of Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) piping. You should look up how this stuff was invented, totally by accident, rather fascinating.

I had the guy at Home Depot cut the pipe to the length of two pool noodles and my daughter and I shoved the pipe up in that noodle. We threw these into the back of the car and drove the .5 miles home.

The pixie stood by as I loosened the straps and shoved the reinforced noodles under the boat. I then tightened the straps and baboom I have a roof rack. The canoe is elevated just high enough to allow air to flow through the sun roof and allow for me to open the back of the car.

 Final product. Its cheap and filthy and it should work.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Custom Shad Flies

Its that time of year again and I am happily getting loads of e-mails and phone calls for custom shad flies. While there are loads of patterns out there, I just want to share with you what I throw, and what my clients throw. These are patterns with nearly 20 years of design behind them and I make my living off of tying these flies and putting people on fish with these flies, so yea, trust me when I say these flies work.

Don't throw more than two flies at once but always throw a tandem rig. My suggestion is to toss a 1/32 shad jig with 20" of 8lb Berkley Vanish to a dropper fly. Dropper choices are damsel first, puff second, buster third, Clouser fourth. Tutorials should be on Youtube.

Here are the flies I have my clients throw. They are $2 each:

Shad jig

The Shad Puff. Three colors that vary by my mood and what has been working.

1" Calf Tail Clouser. This is more for the other species that are mixed in. Shad will tear it up too.
 Shad Buster. The color stands out.
 Snowhite Damsel. If you are not throwing this fly for every species of fish your pursue than there is something wrong with you.

If you want to know the theory and design behind these flies you will need to listen to my shad podcast, on Itunes.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Tidal Potomac Fly Rodders March 2015 Beer Tie | Clouser Deep Minnow

Beer Tie was created by TPFR member Dalton. He wanted the club to get together to tie flies and drink beer. What started as a small club five years ago has become a community of anglers. We are now hosting the beer tie at the second location, Whitlow's On Wilson. We outgrew the dark Irish pub.

I volunteer to teach a new fly pattern each month. The flies are based on what the fish are feeding on or will be feeding upon in the near future. Each pattern is rather easy (remember, we are at a bar which has dodgy light, people are drinking, the vises wobble on the tables, and we are also eating). I try to pick larger patterns as its hard for everyone to see their flies in the dark and hard for me to see what people are tying. 

This week's beer tie was a good one. Loads of people came out. TPFR is also partnering with Port City Brewing Company (take a left out of my street and drive about 4 miles and make a right and you are there). I chose to teach the Clouser Deep Minnow and Bob Clouser gave me one of his flies at Tie Fest for us to use as an example.

Beer tie is on the second Monday of each month. It is all ages. Monday is also half price burger night. Craft beers are $3 until 7pm. All tools and materials are provided at the teaching table at no cost to the tier. 

Here are some of the images. 

I get to Orvis early to pick out materials. Orvis is on the same block as Whitlow's.

  5 cases of Port City brews
 The Mike Dunlap TPFR logo popper. It was sad to see this go. I wanted it for myself. It went in the raffle
 This is a first time tier's creation. This is a very fish fly
 Most seats were filled

 Art from Orvis Tysons Corner @OrvisTysonsCorner demonstrated how to use a lighter to melt the waxed thread on the head of the Clouser. Very cool hack though it smelled nasty
 A blank hook. The other issue with the space is these are patio tables. This one where we tie is perforated. If you drop just about any hook, bead, dumbell eye etc it will go through the table
 Terry C helping out
 My stack of flies for the night. Teaching allows me to stock my guide boxes (last year when I taught the Clouser I went out the next morning and got a snakehead on my beer tie fly)
 Griz tied up his very very popular shad fly
 Art burning more stuff. Burnt deer hair is nasty

Want to make it to the next event? Click here

Want to start your own beer tie, let me know if you have any questions. Our club is based through the International Federation of Fly Fishers.

Want to tie the Clouser Deep Minnow, click below

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