I am presently putting together early plans for what we hope to be an incredible year of fly fishing on the Mad River and its tributaries. I am a firm believer in looking at the past in order to hopefully forecast what we might expect for the future. God has created wonderful patterns in all of His Creation that we can see if we take the time to look and investigate. I have taken a careful look at my fishing journals from 2022 and I have attempted to, based on the past, make some forecasts for what might take place in 2023. Only time will tell if I am anywhere near accurate with my plans. The only way to find out is to hit the stream and experience life’s adventure for yourself. I truly hope the following attempt at a look into the shop that is Morrett Fly Fishing will help you prepare for what might be around that next bend in your river. Enjoy this first part of a two part series of journal entries.
Tying Flies in Public
Although tying in public has proven to be very beneficial in terms of my tying skills, production numbers suffer greatly. When I say tying in public I am referring to the time spent at the Fly Shop, ReelFlyRod, either tying with buddies or hosting local Scout Troops with an introduction to Fly Tying. These sessions allow me the opportunity to pass on some traditional patterns that come with a little history conversation while working on the basics. The opportunity to spend some time at the vise with the watchful eye of an old timer looking over my shoulder has been so helpful in my learning process. I guess over the years I have become “the Old Guy”. That being said, I have become very open-minded in terms of trying some new materials and techniques. The young tiers I have had the opportunity to rub shoulders with around the vise have encouraged me to try a little experimentation. I have changed my mind on several occasions in regards to materials over the last couple of years and I think this has helped with imitating nature. I have heard it said, “A fool never changes his mind, but a wise man often does”.
Tying Flies in Private
The quiet of my fly tying room is where my imagination and production levels seem to be most inspired. I am surrounded by a collection of vintage trout flies tied by some of the Masters of the art, Marinaro, Ogden, Dette, and others. I have accumulated quite a collection of tying materials including feathers and fur from a variety of creatures over the years. Just about anything I need in terms of tying a dry fly of some kind is close at hand. Two Renzetti vises are on the ready position at any time. Why two? One for here and one for the road. All of this, plus the security at DEFCON 3 under the watchful eyes of my little partner Willow, our Guillie Miniature Schnauzer, adds up to paradise for a custom fly tier.
Testing Out New Fly Fishing Gear
Hanging around at ReelFlyRod has given me the rare opportunity to have early access to new toys that will be hitting the market in the Spring of the year. I feel a responsibility to try out and learn about all the new technology that will be available in the shop, you know, just in case someone asks me what’s new? I certainly suggest that before a purchase is made, that can be considered an investment, a fly fisherman should do his or her homework and ask the advice of a trusted and knowledgeable fly shop associate. There are so many options available, the help from an “expert” is invaluable. I have thoroughly enjoyed the availability that ReelFlyRod.com has provided me in regards to product testing from all the major manufacturers. There is a bunch of great stuff out there for sure. That being said, I always come back to my R.L. Winston Rods. The feel of casting a Winston fly rod is something that must be experienced, which means it is hard to explain. Casting a Winston WT that I have had for over twenty-five years is like getting back in touch with a dear old friend. Although you may not have seen each other in a while, the moment you step in to moving cold water together again, it seems like no time has passed since your last adventure. I am thrilled that the R.L. Winston Rod Company has accepted me as a Winston Pro. I have recommended Winston products for the last twenty-five years and will continue to do so because I believe it is the best. I realize you can not see me but I am holding up my good casting arm in the way of a pledge.
Gear Prep & Maintenance
I have found that no matter how much you pay for the rod, reel, or line of your choice, if you don’t practice a little bit of maintenance their shelf life will be shortened. For example, this time of the year is perfect for cleaning the cork on your rods that you use to do after every fishing trip. I am good for about every fourth trip in regards to cleaning the rod and line nowadays. Although I do not clean the rod, reel, and line after every trip, I do stick to the policy of never putting equipment away wet. The point is, I like to use this time of the year to clean up any remaining debris from last year and assess the damage. “Do I need to replace some fly lines?” “Any damage to the rod?” “Does my reel require periodic lubrication and cleaning?” “Did I patch the hole in my waders acquired a couple of trips ago?” “Did I glue the sole again on the right foot of my wading boots, or was it the left?” “Did I get the peanut butter crackers out of my waders pocket?” That kind of stuff. I have found that if I put it off much longer I will be caught with leaky waders, one usable boot, and a science project gone wrong in my sling pack when I get the call that something is hatching on the Mad River, sooner than I expected.
Taking Inventory on Flies
This is an area where I can be over prepared. I have decided to be a little more spontaneous this year with my personal fly inventory going into the season. After many years of fly fishing the Mad River, you can imagine many different patterns have found success by imitating the same natural insect prevalent at that time of the year. I have accumulated quite a variety of patterns that I tie as well as those tied by others. This can be a blessing and a curse. Standing in the middle of a stream during a hatch with two dozen different Hendrickson Dun patterns to choose from in your box can make one crazy! I am going to tie a small supply of a couple of my favorite patterns for the expected arrival of some insect friends that usually show up towards the end of February and into March. These chosen patterns have worked over the years and I am willing to bet they will show up again, God willing and the hope of a drag free drift.
What to Expect
These can include many variables, such as weather, water conditions, CFS readings, insect activity, to name but a few. I, like other local fly fishermen of a certain age, remember the March when the Hendricksons came off early. I have kept a pretty detailed journal of Spring insect activity on the Mad River for the last twenty-three years. That being said, I have had success with a few Hendrickson patterns in March a grand total of twice, but that’s just me. Based on the last few years of observation my expectations have been narrowed a bit and I feel pretty confident in what I expect to realistically see on the Mad River this March, probably. Little Black Stoneflies should start showing evidence of their presence by their leftover shucks on the rocks stream side. If you are really lucky enough to see their tracks in the snow, get some pictures because it is really cool! Last year was the first year I tied a particular pattern of Early Black Stonefly and it might have won Rookie of the Year. In regards to Mayfly hopes for March and once again, looking at the last couple of years, we should see some size 16 and size 18 Blue Quills. I have two different Adams inspired patterns that I plan to employ to fool the little Blue Quill eating Brown Trout this Spring.
Conditions have to come together in order for all the variables to work out just right for a wonderful dry fly kind of March day. It happens, just not every other day. Time for a road trip! I am very fortunate that my Senior Business Partner and Father of two of my Grandchildren, lives in the middle of some absolutely beautiful mountain streams in North Carolina. Andy has taken on the task of finding out what swims above that last waterfall and breaks trail for the two of us. Searching and fly fishing for Wild Brook Trout is truly an adventure that could last a lifetime. I am blessed that I have a partner that keeps me motivated to stretch my physical abilities coupled with the knowledge that Andy could carry my happy ass out of the forest if the need be. Both of us have made great improvements in our casting skills as the situation has called for the last couple of years. Learning to match the plane of your casting stroke in order to accommodate the local topography and flora one can encounter on mountain streams is but one example. Sometimes it can be like casting in a large culvert. Necessity has made us both learn how to alter our casting stroke in order to fish a stream well. The lessons learned and techniques employed while fly fishing in the mountains has made us both more efficient fly fishermen. Added bonus, I believe this counts as a business trip.
The signs will start showing up sometime in the month of April. I am speaking of Nature’s signs. Once the air temperature hits the mid 50 degree mark and the water temperature climbs to around 52 degrees, it can happen. Purple flowers (Phlox) showing up on the streamside banks, various varieties of birds gathering in the trees along the creek and dive bombing invisible quarry over the surface of the stream, dead bodies (Mayfly’s) hanging in the spider webs strategically placed in flight zones by the local spider population all say it is on! The annual hunt for bugs officially begins on the Mad. Hendricksons have been historically the largest hatch on the Mad River, sometimes large and sometimes not so much. That is just the truth. For reference, I have had April’s on the Mad when a ten fish day, all on dry presented to rising trout, happened, and not just once. Incredible hatch coupled with a Spinner fall from the night before, happened, and not just once. All this means is there is a good chance it can happen again, it just hasn’t happened for me, lately. This means I am due. I will be ready with a few special Hendrickson patterns for when the first sighting is made. I found I experienced more success last season with a size 16 as my go to size for Hendrickson patterns as compared to size 14. A size 18 Klinkhammer in Hendrickson and Adams colorations worked well for a trailing pattern last year. We will see how these work as starters and then go from there. The we I speak of will probably be my partner on the stream, Buck Juhasz. I say probably due to the feeling of uncertainty created from an accident last Spring. Buck went down and then into the hospital for repair to a broken hip. He would like to tell you it happened while fighting the biggest brown trout of his life but in actuality, just a silly household accident. Lessons learned from this incident come in two parts. Firstly, life can change in an instant and does. Enjoy each moment and everything involved in that moment while you can. Secondly, I was not anticipating the Summer would be spent without my “vessel” being filled in conversations while walking in the river with Mr. Juhasz. My fly fishing adventures are truly enhanced when Family or Friends are involved
The number of custom fly orders and the call to host trips on the Mad and its tributaries increased tremendously compared to the year before in the month of May. Fly orders from various regions around the country including New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, California, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Arkansas, South Carolina, and oh yeah, Ohio were filled. I had the great opportunity to host and introduce a wide range of fly anglers to Southwest Ohio trout fishing. I have found that a very large percentage of my hosted trips consist of a parent and a child. Father and adult children combinations are most common. I know from my life’s experiences with my Father and my children that there is something special about the bonds formed, lessons learned, and impressions that are made while floating on a lake or wading in a stream that will grow and last a lifetime. I truly enjoy hosting a Parent and a grown child that are possibly re-capturing lost memories from their past, observing the excitement rekindled and shared between them. The smile on a young child’s face in a hero shot photo of their first trout caught on a fly rod is a moment in time that every Father should share with their child. The excitement created by Andy and his team at CreativeFuse with all of their digital branding initiatives over the last couple of years has introduced Morrett Fly Fishing to areas of the country that have, quite honestly, been a surprise to me. I am grateful for their patience and excellence.
Spring Creek Reunion
Personal fly fishing trip with three of the oldest friends that I have, Todd, Mark, and Rod. A few days of trout fishing at the Private stream was just what was needed by all of us, we just didn’t know it. We all started our fly fishing adventures, at different times, on the Davidson River in Brevard, North Carolina. About twenty-five years ago the four of us started spending as much time in a river together as we could. I guess we still do, there is just not as much available time. Not a new story. We all agreed that the next time we all get together will not be at one of our funerals.
Mad River Report & Forecast
Later in the evening Sulfur hatch consistently producing very selective rising brown trout for about a two hour window. The necessity to use long light leaders coupled with longer than usual casting requirements can make this a very challenging endeavor for the dry fly fisherman. Most success was found by either trailing small emerger patterns or an old reliable size 20 Griffith’s Gnat. A size16 or even better a size 18 Sulfur Dun pattern for the lead fly seemed to work best. We believe the overall size of the Mayfly’s in April and May were smaller than in years past. We will see if this pattern continues.
Father’s Day Trip
My son, Ben, and I started a tradition about ten years ago that includes Musky hunting. Originally, we hired a Musky guide, Tony Grant, for the day’s adventure and we always found our quarry, I just couldn’t get one in the net. Nowadays, Ben is my Musky guide on Northern Ohio waters and he always seems to hook up with a monster when I am with him so that I can refine my netting abilities. Although I have had my share of opportunities, I have yet to get one in the boat. Hopefully my Son has not given up on me yet and we will be sharing time together in June hunting this most toothy of freshwater predators. I have learned a couple of fishing lessons in regards to Muskies over the years. First, do not underestimate the value of a properly executed figure eight with the appropriate size fly rod for the job at hand. Second, a trailer hook located towards the back end of your feathers is a must, trust me on this one.
Mad River Report & Forecast
The possibility of experiencing the last of our major Mayfly hatches on the Mad River happens in June, usually. Careful observation along the stream side rocks near silted river bottoms, during the last light of the day, may expose the elegant Brown Drake emerging into adulthood. This time on the river can produce a chance at some of the larger brown trout that swim in the Mad. Be patient and wait for the big boy to show his head. This is the time when your first cast will be your best shot at a trophy. After that first cast the holdovers can get real particular and selective. I have learned to make the first shot count, I may not get another. Last year’s most successful patterns will be employed again this year, to start. A size 12 Brown Drake Cripple pattern with a size 14 trailing Klinkhammer Emerger tied to imitate the Drake was the winning ticket for Brown Drakes in June ‘22. On a side note, when Buck and I fish together we take turns casting to rising trout. We call it “nods”. At the end of a day of double teaming a stretch of water, we each catch about the same number of trout. With Buck on the sideline recovering from hip surgery, I estimated that I would double the amount of fish I would catch going solo on the same stretch of water we had fished together many times over the years. Not so, in fact I don’t believe I was as accurate or as focused without Buck looking over my shoulder, literally. Sometimes a little pressure can bring out the best in you.