Category Archives: Mary Kuss, PA Fly Fisher

Tough Bugs

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

“Stream channelization, pollution, and insecticides have taken their toll on the mayfly life that, according to trouting literature, once flourished in our waters. The eager rise of trout to emerging insects, that magical event for which many trout fishermen live, is unfortunately rare. Many of the classic hatches have all but disappeared from public waters in the Poconos. If one were to follow a source such as Schwiebert’s Matching the Hatch in preparing patterns for use in our area, he might find a considerable number of them can be eliminated because so few of the naturals now exist in major streams.”

Don Baylor
Pocono Hatches
Pocono Hatches was published in 1980, and as you can imagine this situation has for the most part only gotten worse during the forty years since. Even so, the Poconos still have much better and more diverse hatches than the waters nearer my home in the Philadelphia suburbs. The best thing I can say is that there isn’t much channelizing of streams going on anymore.

Those of us who love fly fishing, of course, have adapted to the decline of the classic hatches. Attractor patterns have become increasingly important in our pursuit of trout and other gamefish. Yet there are still hatch-matching opportunities. We simply have to turn our attention to the insects that have also been able to adapt. There are a handful of aquatic insects that still live, and sometimes even thrive, in our altered streams. Here are some of my favorites.


Chironomids are by far the most significant hatch in the streams I fish. They are ubiquitous, abundant, and a frequent trigger for selective feeding. Midges are very important during the winter, when they are usually the only hatch available. A relatively warm day in January or February often brings on an emergence.

I like to keep my workhorse fly patterns simple and easy to tie. Although I believe firmly that a wise fly fisher always carries some change-ups, I rely on two midge patterns. For the pupa, which is often the most important, I use an Al’s Rat. This pattern could not be simpler. On a standard dry fly hook, form a double layer of brown size 3/0 Danville Monocord. Add a small ball of Muskrat dubbing as a thorax. Done. I once saw a photograph of a real midge pupa next to a wet Al’s Rat and the likeness was uncanny. For the adults, I like a Griffith’s Gnat. I tie both in sizes 20, 22, and 24. more…

Blob Flies

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

These rather bizarre fly patterns come to us from the reservoir trout fisheries in the U. K. An Internet search of “Blob Fly” will reveal an array of information on tying these patterns, the materials used, how to fish them, and also a lot of controversy—which is not unexpected. Anglers tend to be very opinionated about this type of pattern. Some love them simply because they work so well. Others try hard to find something in nature that Blobs might “imitate.” A few are outraged that anyone would fish with such things and would like to see them outlawed.

Those in the imitation camp like to say Blob Flies resemble a clump of Daphnia, a tiny crustacean that lives in many lakes. In my opinion that’s a bit of a stretch. I think Blobs function as a pure behavioral trigger, much like their cousins the Green Weenie and the Mop Fly. The Blob works because it makes a fish curious enough to mouth it. I have no problem with that. Frankly, I believe that’s why most artificial flies catch fish most of the time.

From what I’ve seen so far, there are three basic versions of this fly. The standard Blob consists of nothing more than a layer of “Jelly Fritz” on a hook. The F. A. B. (Foam-Assed Blob) adds a short bit of foam cylinder at the rear end. You can tie a Blob with a Marabou tail–a weird sort of Woolly Bugger I suppose. Numerous other uses await discovery. This is a material that cries out for experimentation. more…

Private Waters

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

Most of us have mixed feelings, if not outright hostility, to the concept of privatized fishing waters. Except, of course, for those of us who have access to them.

This aversion to private water may arise, in part, from our cultural history. The Europeans who arrived to colonize the Americas came from places where the aristocracy exercised iron-fisted control over the best natural resources, including fish and game animals. How wonderful it must have been for people who had never had legal access to fish and game to arrive in a place teeming with them, free for the taking. Americans quickly came to regard the use of this bounty as their right. In this new land there would be none of the oppression their ancestors had suffered in The Old Country. It should be noted, however, that they had no problem oppressing the original Native people who were here before them.

It didn’t take long for Americans to create a plutocracy as a substitute for the European aristocracy our ancestors fled. Those who were able to accumulate sufficient wealth, by whatever means, began to take control of natural resources and to exclude the common people. Resentment was inevitable, and still persists. I can recall very well my first encounter with private water. I was so naïve, it came as a complete shock.

The late Ernest Schwiebert had a tremendous impact on my fly fishing experience, right from the beginning. One of the first fly fishing books I owned was the first he published, Matching the Hatch. As soon as it was published I added Schwiebert’s Nymphs to my growing angling library. He would later issue a massive two-volume set on this topic, which I also acquired, but this was the earlier single-volume version. The dust jacket was a bright shade of turquoise, with the word “NYMPHS” down the spine in large white letters. The book was full of Schwiebert’s beautiful color drawings of the immature stages of various macroinvertebrate species. Visitors to my college dorm room would walk over to the shelf, take the book down, open it briefly, and say “Oh.” before putting it back. more…