Smalls

The challenge of blind underwater photography: submerge camera and find yourself unable to see the view screen; point & guess, withdraw camera from icy cold water into warm, humid summer air and view screen fogs, thus the photo capture cannot be observed. Resign self to hoping image is captured correctly. Find in editing that what was captured was less than that which was desired. Punt and call it artistic! A 19″ Delaware brown trout ponders the wisdom of selecting that tiny rusty spinner from those available for a morning snack.

It has been a strange year. To be honest, that comment comes to the tongue every year, testament to the incredible variety of Nature and the wonder and puzzlement of angling Catskill rivers.

Though the first hatches of spring were wonderful, with incredible variety and at times prodigious volume, insect production has seemed rather spare since then. Even back in May, I noted an unusual number of uncharacteristicly small flies on the water. I was caught short on my first solo float of the season when confronted with thousands of Shad Fly caddis in a diminutive size 20. Only field surgery saved the day!

Summer is traditionally small fly season on our rivers, featuring the littlest mayflies: sulfurs from size 18 down to 22, various olives in sizes 20 to 26, Summer Blue Quills in sizes 18 and 20 and eventually the tiny size 24 tricorythodes. I am thinking that downsizing terrestrials may be my best move as well.

My concentration this morning was to add some smaller Grizzly Beetles to my terrestrial box. While I fished tiny little beetles when necessary in the Cumberland Valley spring creeks, I have used larger, meatier versions quite often. Ed Shenk called the miniscule black beetles Willow Beetles as they habitually were found in the willow trees lining the streams. A size 20 tended to be a bit large for imitations on most days. I was amazed at the little spun deer hair flies the Master tied for these, clipped just so to provide the rounded profile of the natural. Closed cell foam became hugely popular for tying similar flies, but I never seemed to have the same results the Master did with his deer hair creations. Then again, I was the student and he the Master.

Smalls: Grizz 19: a size 19 Grizzly Beetle that I hope might tempt a few more reticent summer trout than the standby size 17 and 15 flies. The Tiemco TMC102Y is a special dry fly hook, offered in the odd numbered sizes in the English tradition. It is my favorite hook for many terrestrial patterns. The combination of the Sproat bend and wide gape in a fine wire, black finished hook offers improved hooking capabilities for these types of dry flies. They are strong hooks, despite the fine wire, and hold well on larger than average trout!

In truth, I have not spun any deer hair in decades, not since I dawdled at bass fishing with the fly rod. I may need to revisit the technique in deference to the looked for Shenk Tribute Rod, expected this summer. It would be only proper to set out with a small fly box of The Master’s patterns when I first introduce that rod to the rivers of my heart.

Tiny size 20 Rusty Spinners seem to have been the preferred early morning fare in these early weeks of summer. No more than a tying thread body, or a few wrapped strands of rust colored Trigger Point Fibers are required. I don’t go in for split tails on smaller spinners, preferring splayed hackle fibers for a little more support in the film. Clear Antron yarn, or a few Spinner Wing Trigger Point Fibers work nicely for the wings. Fishing flies should be realistic, effective, and quick and easy to tie! The fine brownie in the opening Fly Over photo selected one of these from Nature’s offerings.

I fished along throughout June more or less expecting a late hatch of some of the spring flies I missed during May. When we finally got a real cold snap, plunging the rivers from the seventies back into the fifties over night, there was a day or two when some of those larger flies emerged. I saw Gray Fox, large sulfurs, as well a good numbers of “normal” sulfurs in sizes 16 and 18, the flies May forgot. I wish the cold snap had lasted – I never packed the sweatshirts and fleece away into storage. Oh it would have been heaven to enjoy a solid week of that fishing!

Now that July has come, summer seems destined to stay, so the Smalls will take care of the dry fly fishing for the duration. A light cane rod, a three or four weight line on a small classic reel, long leaders and 6X and 7X tippets will be the standard outfit for the next few months!

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