J. Stockard Fly Fishing Blog

Welcome to the J. Stockard Fly Fishing Blog. We’re here to share advice, how-to’s, news and inspiration about fly tying and fly fishing.

Tying for Teeth

Guest Blogger: John Satkowski, Toledo, OH, fly tying demonstrator and instructor, you can find him @ River Raisin Fly Company on Facebook

As the air crisps, the leaves start changing color, and the baitfish abound, fall creeps steadily upon the rivers and lakes. The fish start feeding and bulking up as they prepare for the harsh winter ahead. For me this means one thing, the pike rush into the shallows. I love chasing these toothy freight trains as they inhale any meal that happens to be unlucky enough to swim within their territory.

Pike have always fascinated me with their sheer predatory abilities. I have encountered numerous pike sitting with their belly resting on the bottom and a very large sucker sticking out of their mouth. The fish don’t seem to mind as I walk by and watch them try to digest their prey. They just have this mystique about them, as if they can just appear and crush a fly when you are about to recast. They strike with such brutality and speed, it has startled me on more than one occasion. When fall approaches, the bigger fish come out of the depths and vegetation and are center stage for flinging half a chicken’s worth of feathers at these magical freshwater barracudas.

The first issue is where to find the fish. In warmer weather, the pike reside in deeper vegetation or near the top of the aquatic vegetation. As the water drops to 50 degrees or below, the fish move to the greenest vegetation left in the body of water. As they are very vegetation oriented fish, they will still use the vegetation to ambush prey. This is where big, chunky flies imitating the pike’s forage will really shine. You can also use some different attractor streamers to provoke the pike into action. It is amazing when I have been able to see the fish and I am running flies right by their face and they remain calm and collected. A swift jerk of the rod tip and the pike turn and destroy the fleeing fly with reckless abandon. If you have never targeted pike on the fly, this time of the year will have you weak in the knees.

Once you have found the fish and what they are keying in on, it’s time to talk about fly selection and presentation. In my experience, there are certainly flies that always tend to do well. Rabbit strip flies, big flashy flies, and flies that push a lot of water can always tempt fish. I like to push the envelope with flies that move differently than the fish are used to and have the type of movement that provokes strikes. Flies that jackknife really hard or push water tend to do the best for me. A fly that can imitate an injured baitfish is also highly valuable during cold water pike season. Tying these flies can be deceptively difficult as getting the desired action can be a delicate balance of weight and material choices. more…

Bad Bug, Good Bug

Guest Blogger: Mary S. Kuss, Life-long avid angler, licensed PA fishing guide, founder of the Delaware Valley Women’s Fly Fishing Association

There really are no bad bugs, just bad humans. Infestations of Japanese Beetles, Gypsy Moths, Emerald Ash Borers, and a host of other alien invaders are all the result of humans introducing insects to places far removed from their natural range, whether by accident or intent. In the absence of the predators and diseases that normally keep their numbers in check, they can run amok and reproduce explosively.

We humans then run around with our hair on fire, trying to think of what we might do to control the current “bug-pocalypse.” We have to do something! Sometimes the cure is worse than the affliction. The most common reaction is to spew toxic chemicals around. This may knock back the invaders but also wreaks heavy collateral damage upon a wide variety of beneficial insects, some of which may otherwise have helped control the alien species, given time. Nature will always clean up our messes but on her timetable, not ours. And lest I be pilloried for being insensitive, I realize that orchard owners and other agricultural interests don’t have the luxury of being as casual about this issue as I am.

The bad bug de jour is the Spotted Lanternfly. I first saw them last summer. There were reports of pockets of heavy infestation in southeastern Pennsylvania, but I saw none in my yard just west of Philadelphia. This year they have been far more abundant. I’ve squished dozens of them at all life stages, from the tiny black early-stage nymphs with white polka dots all the way up to fully-formed adults. I’ve become quite adept at catching them by hand and dispatching them with a quick pinch to the head–not that this makes any meaningful impact on their numbers. more…

Social Distancing Has Become Social Fishing

Guest Blogger: Joe Dellaria, Woodbury MN

It has been astounding how social distancing has pushed people to the rivers. I used to consider it crowded when I saw one or two cars parked at one of my favorite spots before Covid-19 hit. Now, I am relieved if I see only six or seven cars. There are pro’s and con’s to having so many people on the river. Let’s take a look at a few of each.

Pros to so many people on the river: First, and foremost, people are lonely and looking to stop and talk. This is a great opportunity to learn from other anglers. Just last week a friend and I walked what felt like half-way to China to get away from the crowd. I had just finished fishing a little riffle pool and was glowing in the aftermath of catching a 14” brown on my “killer beetle” pattern (one of my earliest blogs provides tying instructions if you want to try it). As I straightened out my line and prepared for the next cast, two younger guys walked up. They were laughing as they thought they had walked far enough to get away from the crowd too.

As usual, we went through the “How are you doing on the river today?” ritual. Earlier in the morning I had landed eight fish during the Trico spinner fall, one of the fish was a 15” brown. They were happy for me and asked some follow-up questions. Then I asked them, “How are you doing?” They were killing it and had 10-15 fish apiece in a couple of hours. I was impressed as the afternoon had not been at all like the morning for me. more…