Welcome to Tom’s Fishing Stories

2023 LI Fly Fishing EXPO!

My books will be available, while the supply lasts, at the special show price of $10:00 each. Look for my table or come to the presentations.

2 LIFF Expo presentations Saturday, March 25th, 2023:

Exploring the Catskills with Tom McCoy and Friends.

Presentation scheduled for 1:30 pm in the Huntington Room.

It is an overview of all the major Catskill streams and some tributaries. Discusses the Hudson River and Delaware drainages as well as the challenge of the “Blue Lines". Lots of photos and video. The objective is to get people to explore all that these mountains offer vs just going to the named pools. A little fishing philosophy mixed in to help you learn to enjoy the experience and the wealth of resources that make up the Catskills.

Peter Dubno and I will also present:

Fly Fishing Long Island’s Spring Creeks

Presentation scheduled for 12:00 pm in the Board Room.

The Radisson Hotel, Long Island
110 Vanderbilt Motor Pkwy
Hauppauge, NY 11788
​9am - 4pm

Admission to Expo: $10 per person.
Free for anyone 18 years or younger
with a paid adult

Lots to see on this site so please look around.

Note that this site replaces the one I had on WordPress which included a blog and more.  It is a simple vertical website format, so you need to scroll down to see the content.

There are essays on various topics as well as:

Fish Tales(scroll down near bottom)were added periodically during the 2022 season. These 12 Tales are from Tom’s fishing diary and are meant to give others the specifics of where, how and with what he fishes.  

Also look for Tom’s meditations on age and time of life - “Ah-Ara-Wack” and“Past His Prime”.

There are Links toTom’s Booksas well as the list of stories fromLetters to Mackand a recent review from Amazon onHow to Fly Fish for Trout, the first book to read; also, an introduction to How to Improve Your Fly Fishing & Catching.

Toms Fishing Stories onYouTubeare listed.

The LITU Guidebook onFishing Long Island Spring Creeksis featured as well - all proceeds go to Trout Unlimited.

Take a look atTom’s favorite fly,the Joe-Stackand click to watch Jim Misiura tie one.  Black Nose Dace, Royal Wulff, Sully’s Darter and Clouser Minnow are discussed; otherflies will be addedfrom time to time, so look around!

There are links toTwo Podcastsfeaturing Tom and one of Steve Ehrlich’s discussing the idea that there is more to fly fishing than the fish.  Give them a listen.

Reminder - save the date!

Long Island Fly Fishing Expo

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Tom’s bio is at the end of the site. You can follow or contact Tom via Facebook

Thanks for stopping by!

The Cat(s)

(A little non-fishing story for you)

Cats have somehow always been a part of my life even though I am allergic to them, or their fur anyway. Makes my eyes itch and tear, my hands break out. Having been around them all my life you would think I would have gained some natural immunity to the allergy, but no. Not the last time I held one which was today.

Tuffey was our house cat on Cypress Lane, and he was well named. No kitty litter in those days. They went outside to do their business and sow their oats. God knows how many kittens he sired. He was a fighter and had the scars to prove it. I’d rub his cheek to get him to purr and scabs would flake off. Lost part of his ear too but he kept on getting on. When brother John was small, he would chase the cat which ran from him for some reason. The upstairs in the house at the time had two bedrooms. To the right was the one that had the window over the garage so he could get out of the house when he wanted. The other was a two-story drop. John chased and he flew up the stairs and due to some lapse in judgement went left. We ran to the window to see a startled cat on all fours catching his breath. He was a great cat.

The reason we had cats is that my mother hated mice and in her world that is why you have a cat. It was a utility, not a pet. In exchange for a meal and a bed he kept the mouse population in check, occasionally bringing one to the doorstep as a gift. We had other cats: Peter was the one at Glade Lane who we brought to Granny’s bungalow in Breezy Point. He ran away but found his way back to Levittown. Midnight was a beauty and as I remember more domestic. There were more.

Sue and I had no plan to add cats to the family, but a litter was left at the dumpster of the apartments we were in and a hurricane was coming. Several neighbors took a kitten – we took two, one for Tom and another for Jas although they really belonged to us all. Ben joined the family in 1978 and the cats kept him in line even though he weighed about 70 pounds and knew how to use the fighting tools God gave him. The cats were male and female and what do you think happened next? 4 kittens as I recall so now, we have 6 cats, kitty litter, food and hair all over the place, although Sue was a meticulous housekeeper. All this while on a budget stretched thin. Two left on their own and I forget what happened to the other two. Scratch (well named) was gray and white and lived to 22 years old making four moves with us. Spooky came as well but got sick once we arrived on Eatons Neck.

Not to worry, it wasn’t long before we took in a stray and kept him until the local shelter had room. He was beautiful brown and was adopted immediately once there. More poodles came home after Ben and Scratch trained them as well. She was quite a cat.

In the middle of 2006, a feral cat had a litter under our deck. Six kittens as cute as cute can be, so inviting to hold one and play with it. All were black or dark brown except one. He was striped like Tuffey and we debated what to name him. Stripey it was to be. The brood lived within the confines of the few houses around us. One by one they moved on, one way or another. One was a special needs cat that we doted over, but he succumbed to whatever was ailing him. Momma (aptly named) and Stripey were the long-term residents of both our house and the next-door neighbor’s.

They came and went. Ate what was offered and somehow survived even the harshest winters and then, about a year ago Momma wasn’t on the driveway when we came home. Stripey was on his own, now about 15 years old. Otto had been dominant in the house but passed in July of 2021. It opened up some room in our hearts for Stripey. He was wary of coming in the house. When they were all kittens, I trapped and brought each one to be neutered so I figure he remembered that and so didn’t trust me. But he cuddled up to Sue and Jason and Sarah as well as Hunter and Shane – a little bit, not being a particularly cuddlesome cat.

Sue slowly gained his trust, and he would come to the door and look inside. Then one day he walked into the kitchen, walked around the place and asked to be let out. Over the next months he would stay a little longer but always wanted to know that if he asked, we would let him out, and we did. Soon he was spending most nights but would wake us with a loud howl at 6 am or earlier to either feed him or open the door. Sometimes both. It caused some stress between Sue and I as we both enjoy our sleep, but we endured. He calmed down a bit and started to let us sleep until 7:30 which was a fair compromise. During a January deep freeze he came in and pretty much stayed from then on.

He didn’t eat the dry food we had fed the cats for years outside the garage. I bought the little cans of wet food and he decided he liked the grilled rather than the pate. Then it was fish vs chicken. What an appetite too. Some days he had us open 5 cans, not that he finished all that was given. Kitty litter and cat food were running the grocery bill up about $250 a month at a time when inflation and post-pandemic drove all food prices up. I mentioned it to Sue and she kindly said it was worth it. She said he tried to jump up on our bed a few times and she quickly scolded him and put him down. He adjusted.

He was very vocal. Spoke to us all the time as we tried to figure out what it was he wanted. He had his favorite places to lay down and Sue put bath towels in each place, and he knew to use them. When I showered at night he would come in the bathroom and lay on the floor. He started following me around. Sue said he was my cat. He liked me best. I missed Otto so it was a nice thought, but he was very independent. He had an interesting personality. He felt he was a peer and certainly deserved to get whatever it was that he wanted. Sue drew the line at the living room. “He can’t go in there.” But each night I go in and read with some herbal tea before going to bed. He nosed the door open and came in deciding the couch was comfortable. I put a towel down and Sue gave in. A few weeks ago, he crawled up into my lap for a short while. Then would lay under my feet as I read. I would scratch under his chin like I did with Tuffey, quickly washing my hand to avoid the itchy eyes.

Then he got a bit edgy. In and out, in and out. Moving constantly…and then not. He became an even fussier eater and then stopped eating. He asked to go out one evening and I let him figuring that he would be back in an hour or so. But he wasn’t. I guess he stayed out for 2 days. We would call him, and Sue thought she heard a whimper. Could he be under the deck? His birthplace? Maybe, but there is no access although I thought of removing a few boards to see.

The next day I noticed our neighbor Trish walking back down our driveway. I figured she left a package or picked up a stick so I wouldn’t run over it as she is prone to do. I went out to look and there was Stripey, on the driveway about halfway down, facing away from the house. He was leaving, or trying to but his rear legs were not working and his energy was spent. Sue picked him up with a towel and we made a place for him in the kitchen. He couldn’t use the litter box. He was dragging his body around the towels we laid down, drinking water occasionally but no food, and no howls. We figured he wasn’t in pain, at least not the kind that made one howl. For 4 or 5 days we tended to him, changing his towels as needed, refreshing his water, talking to him sweetly. I was scratching his chin more. I’d sit and watch his breathing as he slept, waiting for him to go still, but he didn’t.

We are both thinking that at some point we have to help him get relief but neither of us want to. I prayed each night for him to go but each morning he would pick up his head, allow us to move him and refresh his bed; take a drink and sleep the day away, often dragging himself under the kitchen table which was a den-like structure with the tablecloth hanging over the sides. We even left the heat on in the kitchen, to assure his comfort, but then found him on the cool bare tiles.

Monday, February 20, Presidents Day, Sue called the Vet Emergency Clinic in Commack, a place we have been to many times over the years of caring for pets. She was up early and showered as I found an appropriate box, lined it with plastic and then a soft towel. Sue wrapped him in a fluffy comforter and placed him in the box which barely accommodated his length – he was a pretty big cat. He didn’t resist. He tucked his head in and off we went.

It's 50 degrees today. Such a warm winter has left the ground unfrozen. I got my tools and thought of Robert Frost’s poem Death of a Hired Man. It is such a sad but necessary thing, burying your dead. Shovel in hand, I marked a spot behind Ben, Stan and Ollie and to the left of Scratch and Spook. Otto has his own place under the pines. I dug deep, into the sand that lays beneath the topsoil and clay, cutting away roots and making the diameter wider with each stroke. I paced myself not being the stud I once was. I uncovered him and stroked his fur not worrying about my eyes and allergies. I almost kissed him but didn’t. I wrapped him in paper and placed him as gently as I could, covering him with a piece of blue slate and then filling it. Images flash…death is part of life, and this is what we do. I said a goodbye and told him I was sorry but was glad we brought him home to forever be close.

He may have been technically a feral cat but in the end, when it counted most, he accepted our love and care, and he loved us back. I am glad he is home.

Fishing Long Island Spring Creeks

The fish below was caught in Caleb Smith State Park, one of many spring creeks on Long Island.

This booklet, created by LITU, is a guide to the major trout fishing on long Island.



















For a copy of this guide click “Learn More” which will bring you to the LITU website. All proceeds from the book benefit trout conservation.

Reviews on Amazon:


5.0 out of 5 stars


Reviewed in the United States on January 14, 2022

Verified Purchase

Immensely splendid quality! Remarkably fast dispatch. Immensely charming packaging. Wish all sellers were this choicest.


5.0 out of 5 stars

An absolute Gem!

Reviewed in the United States on May 18, 2020

I actually read this book second. I was unaware, as I am new to the world of fly fishing and all of the wonderful literature that accompanies it and read some of Mr. McCoy's later works first and he recommended this book in those. Once again, a wonderful read full of incite and introspection! I cannot wait to journey further into this man's catalogue!


5.0 out of 5 stars

Great Book for a Beginner

Reviewed in the United States on March 22, 2020

Verified Purchase

This is a beautifully written book with valuable and simple to understand basic instruction and very nice stories that illustrate the fishing lessons. It is one of the only fly-fishing books I picked up that did not make my head spin with complexities. Moreover, the stories are beautiful and of a literary quality. The author has obviously worked quite hard at his writing. For me, I live in Long Island (where the author lives) and he gives tips about where to fish in and around my area. I highly recommend the book.


5.0 out of 5 stars

Superb book

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 23, 2014

Verified Purchase

Really enjoyed this. I was really keen to find a good book that gave me a grounded introduction to fly fishing and I've found it. Thought the authors enthusiasm was really apparent and it went into just the right amount of detail.

Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars with 84 global ratings

Click here

Some things just make me smile on a winter’s day.

Podcast: Fly Fishing Long Island and more

Dave Stewart ofwww.wetflyswing.com, a podcast site with over 700 anglers from across the spectrum of fly fishing invited Tom to talk about his background, books and fishing along with his guest host Michael Barger of Art Flick TU. Listen to it atwww.wetflyswing.com - Episode 275.

Letters to Mack 2 – Correspondence from Montana to Montauk

Table of Contents


1. When You Give You Get

2. April Trout

3. May Trout

4. June Trout

5. July Trout - A Western Journal

6. Putnam Pond

7. Hannah

8. Catskills in June

9. Missoula to Jackson

10. 4 AM with the Boys

11. Four Peaks

12. Twin Ponds

13. Shared Waters

14. Missoula to Yellowstone by way of the Big Hole

15. Montauk on a Fly

16. Jerry

17. Negley Farson

18. Adirondack Reprieve

19. The Walk

It’s all in Letters to Mack 2.

Click “Learn More”.

Favorite Fly for Stripers!

Clouser Minnow

Simple to tie and durable, I like it in a Chartreuse and White combination. I have found this to be a fly I can put on in May and take off in November and fish it with a sinking or sinking tip line. Bass can’t resist it when it’s on or near the bottom (in-shore) so be sure to let it have enough time to get down there. Cast and point the tip down and towards the fly – count to 5 or ten, whatever it takes to get it down then strip it, in jerks, stops and starts, as well as long darts. Don’t take it out too soon at boat (or beach). Make sure to strip set when they bite.

Good luck!

Ah Ara Wack

Quiet. On the beach. No wind so the cold doesn’t penetrate. Sun.

Tide’s low exposing the beach with the rocks and pebbles that he detested when first introduced, brought up on the fine sands of the south shore. Now they welcome him with more color and texture than the south could offer. And treasures. Beach glass, shells, flotsam, and once in a while a fishing lure.

He hears a clammer’s rake banging against the side of his Garvey, the first sorting of what goes back and what to market. The box will be next, and he hears the clattering of the hard shells on the sorting pipes. Turns to look and the boat is easily a mile away, yet the sound carries, the Sound so still.

The winter ducks. Ah-Ara-Wack, Ah-Ara-Wack is their tune, if you can call it a tune. He is not sure of the proper name of this visitor, but they have been here a few weeks. Their song mixes with the seagulls who are dropping shells on the parking lot, screaming at their competitors to stay away from the opened mollusk.

They walk to the point without much thought to the weather or the time of year, him and his dog. Just a nice day to be outside, on the beach. He looks up from time to time to see if any other visitors are about. Sometimes a harbor seal, sometimes a snowy owl. Whales have been sighted. None show themselves today. Not yet.

Watching the last of the water draining from the sand, the tide reaching its turning point. The bright sun reveals the sparking water moving, running. A ritual that repeats itself daily, twice a day. Forever. Always. Rearranging tiny pieces of the earth, moving them along its continuum. Moving to where she wants them to go.

The town will bring sand in the spring and the bulldozer will spread it, trying to give beach goers who prefer the finer grit some to sit on, for a while. Nature will do the sorting. The moving. Always. Forever.

Ah-Ara-Wack – the birds muster and swirl in the water, some chasing, others diving. Ah-Ara-Wack. One pod forces another from its roost. Ah-Ara-Wack. They seem restless as many of us must seem to them.

Not him. Restless that is. He is at peace now, enjoying this time of retire. He has time before nature takes over and starts moving him to where she wants him to go.


How to tie a Joe Stack

Page from America’s Favorite Flies by John Bryan and Rob Carter.  Click on “Learn More” for Jim Misiura’s YouTube on how to tie it.

On fly fishing and me

True confession time:

2022 was a heck of a year. First, I signed up to go to NC and TN with Joe, Peter, and TLo, then Stu and Mike joined in. Joe had to drop out due to Matthew’s graduation that week, so I dropped out too. The guys tried to convince me to go but I told them I didn’t want to be the odd man. Truth is I really did not feel comfortable traveling and leaving Sue, the pandemic still festering. Second truth is that I have lost my wanderlust for new places and third, I didn’t want to deal with so many people even though they were all close friends.

Next was a Catskill trip and I don’t recall why I backed out of it. Then another which I was going on alone, intending to camp at the Beaverkill Campsite, something I have been wanting to do for years. I brought the camping gear down from the attic and got everything lined up. Sue was not in favor of this, but I don’t recall the real reason I didn’t go. I did lose my deposit though, at least most of it.

Next was the LITU June Outing. I had shingles on my face that made me look like a lepper. Didn’t go.

I have taken a few trips to three LI rivers, some on outings and others just me or with Joe, as well as one to the Nissequogue with Sue which was memorable. I have had some trout fishing but not in the Catskills. The Catskills is where I trout fish. Not this year…and I am feeling less enchanted with the LI fishing, probably because of it.

Age is a factor. 75 last June and without Otto to exercise me I have lost a lot of stamina, balance and enthusiasm. I loved that dog, and he was good for me. His passing reminds me that we all will. I am generally okay with that reality, but I am not okay with not going to the Catskills.

Fly fishing still interests me but I have lived the life, done the trips, seen the world, at least those parts I wanted to see. I don’t need to fish any more – although every time I go, I enjoy it no matter the circumstances. I guess I still do love this sport, this art, this way of life.

Perhaps what I am feeling are the effects of all the changes the sport is going through; the people and attitudes that are emerging. A multibillion-dollar business has grown around what was once a cottage industry with a few dedicated (and well known) shops and manufacturers. It was nice then, even if some of us had to harvest roadkill to stock up our fly-tying draws.

To me, its history and tradition is so much a part of my fly fishing and today’s emphasis is on moving on. I accept the technical improvements (graphite rods, coated fly lines, leaders that aren’t made of gut) but not the evolving objective which seems to be to catch as many fish as you can, as big as you can, in as many places as you can, with a rod that costs as much as a down payment on a house back in the day.

For me it is more about challenging yourself, no matter where you choose to fish. The dry fly still is supreme in my estimation although I often switch to streamers or even, on rare occasions, nymphs when astream. But with Euro nymphing, and now the Mop Fly, we are just returning to the worm and the wormer’s mentality. Just my opinion.

Then there are the books that sell and those that don’t. I love the old masters and continue to read them and about them as well as some of the contemporary writers. I also have numerous travel guides I refer to, but mostly the history is what I cherish. The new experts’ books are not so interesting to me having long ago formed my skill set, be it as it may. I do like the YouTube tying videos and the ability to connect on zoom.

Speaking of video, a traveling fly fishing film show holds my interest about as long as a Facebook advertisement. The brash, noisy bravado that is blasted at as many decibels as the sound equipment can bear is so far removed from the sport I know. It all seems so juvenile. I once bought a ticket to the film show at Somerset but walked out unable to tolerate the hooting and hollering audience or the films.

The movie about the “Charmed Circle” (the rivers in and around the Catskill Mountains) that was made by a Catskill personality a few years ago held some promise for a portrayal of the sport as I know it. Unfortunately, it makes a laughingstock of this passion of mine. Featuring wacky guides, one of which had to false cast 34 times before laying the fly down just to show us he could. It wanders from the title geography to Vermont and the Adirondacks to show us a well-known, cigar smoking woman guide on the “Miracle Mile”. Then used her to portray female fly fishers in the Catskills. Bad taste all around as well as insulting to those hard-working women who guide us on the Delaware and elsewhere. It did have some brief interviews of note (two of which have since passed making it worth watching in spite of my opinion). I wrote a review that I never posted. What’s the point? I keep to myself and fish as I please. I smile rather than argue with those who would have it differently…and they are the majority. I am still in love with my fly fishing and all that it entails, I just need to separate mine from theirs.

The one fate we all share is that with the climate doing what it is doing we stand a good chance of not having trout or cold-water streams for much longer. Our organizations better step up working for our streams and the climate at large. Yet too many pickup trucks bear the “He won, and you know it” banners along with their fishing decals, indicating a disrespect for the agencies that support clean air, water, and protection of public lands. We need a congress and executive, be they right or left, that agrees to protect what we love. That will work across the aisle on issues that matter and engage in the art of compromise which will enable Tucker Carlson to continue to fly fish along with the rest of us.

We will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of LITU next spring. I recall the 25th and all the older guys who are no longer with us. The history of the chapter I wroteput me in touch with many of those past members. We were the up-and-coming generation motivated to carry on. Now we are the older guys. I am not seeing all the new fly fishers lining up to take the banner from us and carry it forward – another sign of the difference between my view of the sport and theirs. We were oriented toward the community of fishers vs ourselves. Times change.

I am looking forward to 2023 and who knows what it will bring. Whatever it is I will try to make the best of it. I am trying to avoid the negative lens through which this grumpy old man sees the world.

30 Tips - just enough so you can remember them!

Paul McCain is a friend of mine. He also owns a fly shop, RiverBay Outfitters (.com), and does a good job of marketing it with newsletters, events and videos. He promoted my bookHow to Fly Fish for Trout, the First Book to Read,in a YouTube video.

He asked me to write some tips for fly fishers for his newsletter. That is what got me started.

I wrote them as they occurred to me, triggered by a day on the water or after talking to some friends. They are meant to be fun to read while offering some of the information that new fly fishers need to know but may not know to ask.

I am not an expert. I am just a person who likes to fly fish and has been doing so for a while. Over that time, I have discovered and rediscovered so many things that make my fishing more enjoyable. These tips are meant to make yours more enjoyable as well.

(Please note that these are tips – only tips- a tip is a small but useful piece of information on how to do something.In places I suggest further reading and resources, sometimes suggesting my own books. Please know that my intention is not to bait you into buying a book but only to offer additional resources of which there are many.)

All of these originally appeared in a blog that was on an earlier version of my website – tomsfishingstories.com. I thought putting them all together in a book just seemed to make sense as a companion toHow to Fly Fish for Troutwhich has over 5000 copies out there, somewhere.

For more information click “Learn More”

I hope you enjoy it – and your fly fishing!

Podcast: Tom’s Greatest Tip

Podcast interview with Christian Bacasa at Fly Fishing Insider

Listen to a chat on what drew Tom to fly fishing and why he stayed, a bit about the books and some of his tips on catching more trout including, at the end, his Greatest Tip!

Podcast #164 on the Fly FishingInsiderPodcast

The Black Nose Dace

The Black Nose Dace (BND) is probably the first fly I tied, acquiring the materials from Fireside Angler in Melville in the ‘70s. It has remained my favorite for streamer fishing all these years and especially on Long Island.

I tie it weightless and fish it on a long leader, letting it play in the current and trying to let it naturally sink to the bottom in calmer areas. Pulsing it and adding some short strips, then letting it drift back and repeat.

Black Nose Dace - My version:

• Hook – I usually tie it on a #12 streamer hook like a Gamakatsu S11s-4L2H – but suggest tying them on a variety of hook sizes both smaller and larger.

• Dressing – The key here is to go light – use half of what you think you should use:

• Thread: Black (It is called a black nose dace as it has a black thread nose)

• Tag: A red wool tag – Maybe ¼ inch or less at the top of the bend

• Body: It traditionally is wrapped in silver tinsel, sometimes with an oval silver rib, but I switched to a silver Bill’s Body Braid a few years ago and find it easier to work with and the fly spins less in fast water.

• Wing(s): There are three layers –

  1. White Bucktail –Tied so the tips are not perfectly aligned and extend just beyond the Tag. I try to use hair from the middle of the tail.

  2. Black Bear Hair – Just a few strands to cover the white bucktail and form a stripe on the side of the fly

  3. Tan/Brown Bucktail tied such that it doesn’t hide the Bear Hair – again not too much or too aligned extending about a hook shank beyond the bend (progressively longer than the underwing layers.) I vary this, sometimes making the wing shorter on larger hooks. The splay of the tips gives it some motion when in the water and pulsing.

• Head: Black thread wrapped to secure the wing and end in a tapered nose.

• Whip finish and coat with head cement.

(This is from the Long Island Flyrodders booklet on member’s favorite flies compiled by Bill Smith.)

Another fly I favor

This was probably the first dry fly I tied and used.  A Royal Wulff. Over time I used it less and less although I always had one in my box.  Today it is my secret weapon when on the Beaverkill at dark.

New Fly (for me)

Sully’s Darter by Bill Smith

January 2, 2023 – Connetquot

PHW day at the park. It was about 52 degrees, overcast, slight wind and the water was at 48 degrees. I am thinking Blue Winged Olive, Iris Caddis and Black Nose Dace and they all produced. Bill Smith stopped by and gifted me a good-looking fly suggesting I give it a try. I saved it for my destination which was lower Beat 9.

When I first saw it I thought it was a Hornberg - but it isn’t.It is a handsome fly with a well-formed body of Mallard, a collar that sparkles and a partridge hackle that sweeps back in the water. When wet it looks like a living bait fish. Later I asked him if it has a name:

“This fly is heavily based on George Maciaug’s George’s Killer. I’ve changed it a little, hopefully just enough to warrant renaming it. I call it Sully’s Darter because LIFR Vice President Shawn Sullivan was very successful using the original pattern on several group trips earlier in the year. It’s a fun pattern to tie and seems to be quite effective. “

Well, I can attest that it’s very effective, amazingly so on this day, in this place, and at this time – and I suspect it will work wherever I fish it. Well done, Bill!

Ellwood Freshwater Flies is Bill’s company and for the materials and tying instructions go to his YouTube by clicking this link:


More to fly fishing than catching fish?

Listen to my friend Steve Ehrlich!

(Click the title for podcast: “And a River Runs Through It”)

Steve also has a new website, but it is important to note:

He is more of a “life-guide” than a fishing guide - although he could be both.


Tom’s Books

Tom authored his first book,How to Fly Fish for Trout, the first book to read, when a friend wanted to learn how to fly fish for trout and was overwhelmed by the available instruction manuals. Too much information for a beginner was the problem. It has since sold over 5000 copies.

Letters to Mack, Book One: Correspondence on a Fishing Life.Tom shares his fishing and hiking adventures with a lifelong friend named Mack. “Sometimes you have the good fortune to meet a buddy early on and get to share your life with him” says Tom. “At first it’s in school or on the ball field and later through correspondence and a few fishing trips.”

Letters to Mack 2: Correspondence from Montana to Montaukcontinues the series with western trout and Long Island striped bass, blues and albies.

Letters to Mack3: Correspondence from Islamorada to Pulaskiincludes tarpon and steelhead adventures.

How to Improve Your Fly Fishing & Catchinghas 30 brief and easy to read tips to remind an angler of those little things we all so often forget. (Available in Color and Black/White)

All books are available onAmazon.comin print and digital.

Past His Prime

We made it to Roscoe in time for breakfast, then headed for the fly shop. Dennis was on the quarried stone stoop having a smoke and greeted us with “Uh oh, look who’s here.”

“What’s happening?” says Jerry.

“Not much. The rivers are high.”

“Any action?”

“A little yesterday, more the day before, hard to tell with this water.”

Action means flies and sometimes you hit them and sometimes you don’t. It doesn’t alter the joy of being here, at least not much. We come every year and every year it is different. Moving inside, Dennis takes his place at the tying bench where he greets all, whether buying or not. Jerry watches as sulfur emergers fill a cup next to the vise.

He tells Dennis what he has been torturing me with for the last few weeks. “First time since 1952 I missed the Hendrickson hatch.” It is already June. Drakes, Isos and Sulfurs, maybe a left over March Brown. June. “1952. Damn.” Dennis admires his tenure. “You must know every rock in this stream by now.” I countered, glancing over my shoulder, “He’s past his prime.”

It blurted out. I didn’t mean it harshly, just jousting with him as we often do, but the words struck me as unintentionally cutting, probably because there was truth in them. This man who taught me so much, my mentor and friend, has lost his edge. He can’t see the drag of the fly, his tremulous hands keep him from tying a blood knot, and tying on even a size 12 is difficult.

He doesn’t react to my words. We buy some weighted stoneflies for the high water and say our good-byes. As we are leaving I ask “Where should we start?” We both know the answer.

Earlier this year Jerry was in the ICU bedridden, attached to more machines for monitoring, elimination and nutrition than I care to think about. Nothing was working. He looked me in the eye and said “I don’t think I’m going to walk again.” A plain statement. No real emotion or search for sympathy. Just his professional assessment of the situation, being the clinician that he was. I stumbled for words. “You need to think of a place you want to walk to, get the image and hold on to it.” He looked at me as his wife listened to the plan. One word came out of our mouths at the same time, “Barnhart’s.”

Sometimes people go suddenly, unexpectedly. That is more difficult as you are left with this wretched void, totally unprepared. Watching someone go through the later stages of life, the decline, is difficult in a different way. It is better than the alternative but you find yourself marking how close the nearest medical facility is and thinking about how you would get him there. He gave up river crossings some time ago. I knot on a fly or add some tippet, give him the first shot at a rise. All of us who fish with him quietly do whatever we can to make it easier without being obvious about it – but he knows.

We play out the roles.

Just last spring the two of us worked Barnhart’s from the riffle at the head, down past the portal, all the way to the big bend toward Horse Brook Run. He quit when we hit Hendrickson’s and made it on his hands and knees up the steep bank. No small feat. Leaning on the guard rail, watching, he cheered the catches and misses as I fished the other side. That was just a year ago.

Later that summer, on Slough Creek, he got upset with himself like never before, frustrated and cursing at hanging a fly in a tree on the first cast after struggling to tie it on. I turned and made like I didn’t see. That image haunts me.

Barnhart’s is where we went after leaving Dennis and he walked in with no assistance. It is something we have done a hundred times over our 30-year partnership but this time it was a big deal, his walk in, manifesting the image he had conjured. He cast his last fly on the Beaverkill the fall of that year and caught his last Catskill trout, falling as he swooped it into the net on Sunoco Pool.

Once home he drove himself to the Nissequogue where we usually close out the season together. He called that evening making it clear that regardless of what he was about to tell me, I need to know that he thoroughly enjoyed the day. He had walked to the lower beats, the path not in sight of the river, and got turned around. “Stumbling through the woods, I broke the tip of the Granger, suffered a few significant scratches from the underbrush, and once I found the river couldn’t even fish.” Sure, he enjoyed it. He was in his element.

That was over a decade ago.

Last year a buddy used a walker to cross the West Branch at Stilesville. Another lost his balance at Ferdon’s and feared he might drown, not being able to get up. Manny didn’t remember the wild Delaware rainbow that broke him off a few hours before, he too is gone now. My legs don’t feel like they used to. Stamina no longer allows for more than a few hours on the stream. The hike into the Neversink Gorge is out of the question. Rock hopping, once a natural act, is suicidal.

We know when we pass our prime. It is obvious. What is difficult is knowing when to hang up the boots. Like the cowboys of old, most of us hope to go out with our boots on. Friend and short story writer Richard Dokey and I were planning a trip to Silver Creek when his son called. They found him in his waders. He had just published his final work – Fly Fishing the River Styx.

So keep those boots on as long as you can, even if only to be in your element, like Jerry on the Nissequogue. After all, being in one’s prime is not the point, being there is.


I have followed this path before

And know to where it leads.

Friends try to intervene,

Life continuing to recede.


The time of life, our future fate,

Is not to be denied.

Though if we embrace this very day,

We can all enjoy the ride.

My Honey and Me!

Fish Tales 2022

These 12 Tales are from Tom’s fishing diary and are meant to give others the specifics of where, how and with what he fishes. It was a season of Long Island Fishing, mostly at the Parks - and most of those were at club events which allow wandering to any beat rather than being assigned to one.  If you are interested in this option at the parks, join one or more of the organizations mentioned in the stories, all of which will enrich your fishing.

Fish Tales #1

April 13, 2022 – Special Day in so many ways

54 years ago, Sue and I were in Puerto Rico thanks to the US Navy. Today we are going to Caleb Smith State Park together. It’s the first time she has accompanied me to one of the trout parks on the Island.

I reserved Beat 7 as it has a nice place to sit by the waterfall. We took the 12 to 4 session. The walk was fairly easy although there are a number of boardwalk sections and a bridge or two to cross. Her foot has been acting up, so we just took our time.

Once there and settled I fished the downstream section staying within sight, or at least earshot. I managed a nice Brookie from under the bank side boards just below the first diverter, walking back to show her before netting it. Next, I walked up to the top of 7 via the trail and worked down, again within sight.

There was a fish under the brambles by the little island but no way for me to get anything in there. I passed him up. Fished the far bank under the trees working the small Green Woolly Bugger into the hole under the bushes. Very patiently. I think I spooked one fish.

Took a break, standing in place, then returned the bugger to the hole. Gently pulsing it and covering the area, letting it sink back I hooked…a stick. Once retrieved, I worked it again getting some roots this time. The third time is the charm. I felt a monstrous grab, a quick roll and bolt as the fish, a Rainbow I think, headed toward the opposite bank and broke me off. I headed over to Sue for some PBJs and water explaining that we needed to give the hole a good rest.

I tied on an Iris Caddis and walked quietly upstream before cutting over and going back under the trees. Casting side arm, allowing the current to carry it in, helping it with some gentle tugs before it got too close. When it was in the hole it sunk, and I gave it some more line. Hand twisted it out and let it go back a few times before recasting.

I got it to go back to the hole and drift deep under the bush risking hanging it up on the branches that lay on the surface. It sunk and again I gave it line. I channeled Clark and his favorite saying “Sometimes you have to annoy them into a strike.”

I let it sit there gently pulsing it a bit. Time passed by, maybe 4 or 5 minutes. A long time. I pulled it softly toward me and WHAM! A very large Brookie. I managed to get him out from under the bush and into center stream. He gave a good fight as I shuffled over toward Sue.

I didn’t have to remove the fly as it came out and was stuck in the netting. What a beautiful fish. Colored as if it was in spawn although brookies spawn in the fall as far as I know. Perhaps he was from Vail Pond that he grew so big and pretty. Hatchery fish can be big but are seldom pretty. I held him in the current and he kicked, but not much, choosing to settle at the bottom by the weir. After a bit he moved to center stream.

Sue said, “I knew you were going to catch him.” She is a bit of a witch like that, knowing things that is. I told her how much I appreciate her and especially her sharing this with me. She said it is great to be here.

I told her that I had enough fishing, and we should pack up and head out. I was thrilled in so many ways with the day, I didn’t want any more. I wanted it to be just as it is right now. Capture the moment as they say. She said we could stay which I appreciated but it was time to go.

A fellow came by who had Beat 4 but worked his way down since the river was empty. It is not yet 3 pm. I asked him to take our picture which he gladly accommodated. I told him to feel free to fish 7 since we were leaving. He offered us beat 4, if we’d like.

We chatted about the river, and he asked how long I have been fishing it. I told him since the mid 70’s…and he said, “Me too”. Looking at him, he must have been in diapers then, but he clarified that as a boy he rode his bike to the park in the summer and fished it. We said our goodbyes as Sue and I headed out.

On the way home we stopped at Carvel for “2 for 1” sundaes. It was like a real date. She said then and has repeated since that it was the best day she has had in a long time.

Me too.

Fish Tales #2

May 20, 2022 - Carman’s River

May is when the Brown Drake, Green Drake, March Brown and whatever other large Mayflies emerge on the Carman’s and at times in great numbers driving the fish crazy. I have been in it once when it was running at full tilt and a few times when it was spotty. But you have to go in May and you have to stay late. Dark usually, with the action starting at dusk. It is an amazing sight to see and worth the travel and the odds.

I have not been there in a while and kind of made a promise to myself that I would at least try this year. I have talked to Chuck about it, and he is always willing to meet out there. Jim wanted to go when we met at the Fly Fishing Expo in March but we haven’t talked since. I ask Joe.

The weather is another issue. Weather and flow and time of day all matter. I have curtailed my fishing this season for a number of reasons, mostly my lack of energy and drive. I have lost the need to go fishing but still love to go. Other things just get in the way. So, I am looking for a day and I see Friday open (that’s today) but there is a good chance of showers as evening falls. 35% it says three days out. Starting at 8 it says.

Well, if I go at 4 and hang out until 8 who knows what will happen. I mean I have a rain jacket. I call Joe and he is taking Friday off to fish the Conny in the morning and will meet me there for the evening. Actually, he gets there early and waits for me at Gate A. I send a text with some suggestions.

I arrive at the check in about 10 minutes before they close. I wanted to pay the fee for this first 2022 session I fish although later in the year when I arrive after 4 no one seems to care. $4.00 for the day. $38 for the season. I have never fished the Carman’s enough in a season to make the $38 worthwhile except that it relieves my conscious of not paying when I go after 4. With gas at almost $5 a gallon I won’t be driving out here too much so I just pay the $4. Guilt relief.

I drive in the campsite entrance and ride the fence road turning down the wrong road and wandering through the mulching and tree removal area and then come to Joe’s car at the top of the lake. Oh no. I hope he didn’t go in here. Too much mud. I park and walk up to the usual parking for A where the old cement foundation is.

He wades out and I suggest we move the cars as others will come and if they see no cars will think the water empty of fishers. Then a car pulls up, proving my theory. We walk back toward the river when the driver calls out “Are you guys just going in?” It’s Michael who I hardly recognize as he has trimmed down and is as tan as a cabana boy in August. I introduce Joe and we chat. He has been busy between hiking long trails down south and fishing both here and in the salt. “My wife is in the city” he says meaning, I assume, he has bachelor privileges. As we talk the next car pulls in.

It is cloudy but no rain. We all know we have to wait for the action but go fishing anyway. Ken was the new arrival, nice fellow. Michael went to West Meadow to try for some stripers. Joe went up, I went down, and Ken stayed in the middle. No rises but a few bugs. March Browns. Some spent spinners along with many little bugs, none of any interest to the fish, yet. I get out and move my car to A.

I take the trail up to B rather than crossing behind Ken, walking the planks to the river leaving my rain jacket in the car. It is about 70 degrees. Mucky entrance but I see Joe as I emerge from the weeds. There are some thunder rolls in the distance and Joe checks the radar. Looks like it’s in Islip. We have about a half hour and Joe moves his car to B while I work the far bank heading downstream slowly.

I put on a fly Chuck recommended. Well not exactly…he just said go big. It produced a small bass which was a delight, still no rises. I got halfway to Ken when the skies opened up. I hear Joe shouting behind me as he turns to head for his car. It’s a 50/50 call for me so I head toward Ken who seems to have his fly hooked on his back. I help him untangle and we both shuffle toward the cars, the rain now an official downpour.

I had backed in, so the open tailgate provides a nice dry seat to watch the rain and the river. Ken went into his car and Joe came and sat with me. I guess it was about 40 minutes before the sky began to brighten. The radar showed it as a temporary break – I am thinking we were not going to make 8 pm if the next rain is anything like the last one. Maybe it will be drizzle. Ever the optimist.

Ken and I head toward the river as the sun comes out, but it is still a heavy rain. Joe heads back to B. I stand with Ken, and finally say I am going to work upstream if it’s ok with him. He doesn’t have a raincoat so he will be sticking nearby. I work under the trees where I always have some luck, even if the fish are usually small.

Looking for rises but none are to be seen. As I approach just below where I caught the bass, I work a section in a little cove. I am using the JD Wagner 8-footer which I need to adjust to. It has a powerful butt with a soft tip designed to lightly land dry flies. Takes a few casts to get the hang of it. I am thinking I need to put a heavier line on but after a few casts, it performs nicely. I need more time with the rod to figure it out. I don’t take it often as I have so many others I like.  

There is a rise at the base of a tree. I switch from the big fly, which the bass made a little gooey, to a BWO with CDC wing. Nothing. Rainy day fly, the BWO, what is wrong with these fish? I put on a Joe Stack I had on the patch rather than digging out a March Brown emerger. I put it where it should be, and again, and again. Try another spot for a while. Another rise under a downed branch which is impenetrable.

Go back to the first one by the tree, sure I will get a rise. What I got instead was a good roll of thunder. One more cast. I am fishing with bamboo so no lightning rod to worry about. Then I realized I am standing in the middle of a stream, and its thundering. I head for Ken but he is already gone. (He moved up to C dam and caught a nice trout above it in the bushes. Sorry I can’t report on Joe’s fishing, but our departure was too hurried to swap fish tales.)

Once at the car I break down my gear but can’t take the rod apart. My grip is not what it was. I just put it on the seatbacks up to the dash. Joe comes and says a quick goodbye as it is raining harder yet. I let Sue know I am on my way and drive up a spate stream of a road to Gate A and home. Joe calls to make sure I got out ok.

Glad I went. I have a smile on my face while I drive home with my wet waders on.

I may not need to fish these days but damn, I sure enjoy it.

Fish Tales #3

May 30, 2022 – Memorial Day

Friends of Connetquot has a fund-raising outing on the Holiday. Beautiful warm sunny day – perfect for a picnic. Rain might have helped their efforts. I fished the morning session. Janet mentions that 10 signed up.

I considered the JD Wagner but chose the Neuner 6’6” 4 wt. and swap the spool in the Hardy to match. I love Chuck’s rods. A Joe Stack tied on for good luck, I head downstream. That’s another big decision – where to fish? I have been walking upstream lately and enjoy the solitude, but I actually thought I would try to be social and go where everyone else seems to go…but only 2 other guys are there.

I wet the fly on upper 12 and have three on and one in the net. There are many fish, I am sure stocked for this occasion. They are not looking up for the most part and I am not going down. Result is walking by many I could have fished to had I been willing to dredge the bottom.

The weed, or watercress, has also become a limiting factor. One needs to find slots and pools where it is not clogging the water. Even then your near line often hangs up while your fly tries to move downstream – oh, that’s another thing – I have become almost an exclusive downstream dry fly fisher these days, at least on Long Island.

Anyway, 3 on the hook and one in the net almost by design. I just as soon shake them off once hooked, at least most of the time. Exceptions being when someone is watching (I can be petty) or when it’s a fish that is a challenge to land, like the last one of the day’s down on 9.

It’s not really 9, but below it. Past the sluice, under the trees, just before the water opens up to that wide, duck loving area of the river which is not a designated beat (until you get to 8). I have found some of the most amazing fish in this area over the years. One time I met a probable sea-run that fought and jumped like a salmon after hitting my Fran Betters’ Burnt Orange Usual. That was memorable. Many times since, a little further down, where it opens up a bit, still is covered by trees to make the fish less spooky of the ospreys, I have gotten lucky.

Floating a nice dry (Joe stack or other suitable choice) works as does a Black Nosed Dace or unweighted Woolly Bugger (its shallow), but with a fine rod I try to stay dry. I mean it’s the whole point of fishing bamboo built like a Leonard, right? The Joe Stack works the near water first, of course. There are rises, but not consistent. I can’t bring them up so move down to the roots of the tree on the left. Wham!

A big boy with friends. The little hole explodes as I press him to come to mid-stream. I am not thinking of landing him and even gave the line some slack. Then he runs and jumps. Heads back to the roots and breaks me off leaving with some lip jewelry. Wow. I wasn’t expecting that. I rose a few more over there and had one on and in the net.

I give it a rest coming back to work the right side. Again, there are rises. Sips even. I am thinking of putting on a spinner or Iris Caddis, the takes are so soft. Instead, I dry off the Joe Stack which has caught every fish so far and add some flotant as I need to get it way down there without it sinking. One float, two floats. Hmmm.

This time I throw it further right and encourage it to swing toward the left, letting it drift after each little tug. Not really a twitch but enough so it looks alive and ready to leave. He takes it and reacts immediately like the other one, disturbing everyone in his hole, jumping repeatedly, 3 - 4 times.

He turns toward me, and I cannot pull line in fast enough. Then more jumps and back downstream. I get him on the reel, not that the drag on this Hardy is going to help much. I decide that I really want to land this fish.

My brain makes a few re-calculations. Memory kicked in. Small rod (6’6”), long leader (12 foot), medium tippet strength (5x). I better look to tire him out before doing anything else. The only way that is going to happen is if I can use what strength the leader and I have to keep him out of the roots and weeds where a break off was assured. Another jump but then he begins to give in. Reeling, I get to the point where the leader is almost all the way in and I cannot bring it into the tip top as I have one of those plastic bead-like connectors which can get hung up and break it. I have been meaning to change that. I lift and move the rod upstream, unhook my net, and wait. He sidles up next to me and he is bigger than the net, handle and all. A headfirst approach would break him off, but a tail first would never happen, as he still had some strength in him – and some fight. When I move the net in the water he takes off, back downstream. Damn.

Patience. I think about what I tell others - be patient. Its May with cold water and no heat stress to complicate things. I can leave him in the water, on the hook at rest, for as long as either of us can take it without compromising his health. As long as we both stay calm. Especially me.

He comes back alongside and there is no choice – I have to swoop him into the little net headfirst, which I do. He is twice the size. I don’t lift but rather follow him with the net, so he swims into it rather than out. I put my rod on a dead branch and grab his tail as I lift the net. (I think this is a first.) He is longer than that big one Chuck and I managed to land in tandem up at Caleb Smith a few Octobers ago but not as fat. They chow down in Vail Pond up there and could use a gym membership to slim down. This guy is a stream fish and has the thick wrist and broad tail to work it well.

The fly is neatly sitting in the netting, no need to remove it. I hold him a moment, in the water, dropping the net to hang on its leash. Take a phone shot or two to show my wife, none too professional but under the circumstances they are the best I can do without taking him out of the water.

I lead him into the current and hold that huge wrist as he wavers back and forth, seeming not to mind the personal attachment – like a feral cat who will let you pet him, but not for long. Then off he goes in a shot.

Fish Tales #4

July 18, 2022 – Club Day at the Park with LI Flyrodders

I took the morning session figuring it would be cooler, especially after Tim told me he took the afternoon and it was too hot. He sent an unbelievable video of fish at beat 14 heading up the artisan well creek. I sent it to the Park Manager and suggested she put up a sign to not fish here in hot weather (it’s not very sporting and the stress will probably kill the fish even when released).

I fished upstream on Tim’s advice and hit a nice rainbow jumper on 20 with a Black Nosed Dace, same fly that worked for Timmy. I walked up but there were no visible fish and the in water vegetation has all been either removed or died. I tried a few likely places dropping the fly back and tugging on it a bit. Let it sink and then darted it across. Nada.

At lower 27 I put on a Stimulator which looks like a grasshopper. Worked a few spots with no response. Moved to the upper platform and had a fish on the first cast across the sluice. More after that as I let it drift downstream, mostly on my side of the stream. I let it sink and had a few, all modest stockies, and switched to a beetle as the stimulator got water logged. Black foam with rubber legs and a tuft of elk hair on the back for visibility. They liked it both floating and sunk.

I took a break on the bench at 28. It was cloudy and light rain but still warm. I was going to work 28 to 30 but heard more thunder in the distance so headed back. I stopped to try the beetle at 25, 24 and 23 with no luck. I headed for 20 to see if that jumping rainbow might like the beetle but the rain picked up.

I was a little tired from the walk and was glad to call it a day at 11 instead of hanging around until 12. Truth is it is too warm to fish for trout, not good for them and maybe not so good for me.

Sick with shingles from June 6 until this very day. Although the scars have cleared up, the energy and twitching nose haven’t so no Catskills this year which is a bummer but accepting what you are dealt is the game these days and I am better for it. Hopefully a fall Catskill trip will materialize. If not, I am still the luckiest man on earth.

August on the Salt

Close to home, fishing the beach with poppers after sunset. Joy in just being here watching the moon rise with friends Walt and Dennis. A fish of unknown species provides my first action, ran a bit of line out, tugged and turned soon freeing himself as I shouted “fish on” with glee.

Made my day!

Fish Tales #5

August 20, 2022 – Late August on the Conny

The Theodore Gordon Flyfishers outing was all day, three sessions with breakfast, lunch and even a dinner in a restaurant (several who live a distance away stayed at hotels). I arrived and fished the morning session and stayed for lunch.

Stream temperatures were cool upstream (Beat 28 was 59 degrees at 8:30 am, Beat 17 was 66 and I would assume everything below that was in the high 60’s or low 70’s.

Luke fished the Pond outflow with some action, a bass and a few un-seen but listless fish. He did much better upstream, starting at Rainbow Bridge where he had 3. I walked in at 19 and had no reaction to my Dace, then worked my way up to 30, a good walk. It was to be cloudy with some rain but turned sunny and hot. I walked slow and fished a few spots where fish were visible (Beats 22, 26, 28) and some where they were not. I had high hopes for 27, below Bunces Bridge, but it has been cleared of bushes and debris and perhaps the fish feel more comfortable elsewhere. Either that or my fly selection was not to their liking.

I had lost the Dace, a Stimulator and a Beetle on the way up to the trees. I was trying to cast and flip with a 12-foot leader (which needed to be changed) on the 6’6” rod. Took a while to adjust. I switched to a Black Leech at Bunces and left it on at 28.

I sat for a while taking my gear off and sipping 2/3rds of the water I brought leaving a little for the walk back. Hydration has become important, and I should probably buy a second bottle holder for my Simms belt. My appetite seems to have disappeared. I had a nut bar but no desire to refuel. The bench was in the sun, so I didn’t sit long. I wanted to see if they cut new accesses to the river between 28 and 30 where it would be helpful to the fishing and not hurt the fish, but they didn’t. I watched for a while at each access, and nothing was moving even though the water was cool.

Back at 28 I decided to watch a little longer. Small fish were near the edge across the stream where some weeds remained. I flipped the Leech but poorly and spooked the one I saw. I took another cast and used the open space behind me to use the full range of the rod and line. It landed where I wanted but the fish were gone. I reeled in and watched for a while, cooling off.

A big rainbow came sauntering by heading downstream. He was in the middle of the water column. I flipped the Leech and he turned and took the tail, a tail that was too long, and promptly spit it out and moved on. Closest I have come to catching a fish today. I trimmed the tail and tried again for the small fish on the other side. They were back but not interested. Time to change flies.

I like to fish dry or at least light, but a bead-headed Green Wooly Bugger was what I needed. I had one with titanium bead on a jig hook which should keep it down and free from too many snags. I launched it to the small fish area but another, even bigger, rainbow showed up. I lifted the rod to bring it into his feeding path and he gently took it. Just like that I am connected to a very nice fish. I tightened the line to set but didn’t expect much of a fight. Wrong.

This guy ran up and down and jumped 2 or 3 times. I had to tire him out to get him near the long-handled net even with 4 x tippet - and then he ran again. Remembering the weather, I pressured him over and after one more run, he came to the platform, rod significantly bent. I missed the first two attempts to net him and then put it through the lower bar of the guard rail that surrounds this pier. I was able to reach out further while holding the rod high overhead. The platform is low enough that once in the net I could lay the handle on the deck suspending him in the water. Placed the rod aside with some slack in the line and got down on my hands and knees to unhook him. He took it in his mouth in a gentle gulp and the jig hook lodged in the roof of his mouth. I tried once to get it out with the forceps but then cut him free as he had rolled on his back, not a good sign. I lifted him out of the net, he was heavy, held his wrist and moved him in the current, holding him through the first few shakes to free himself. Finally, he kicked hard and was off.

On all fours, I watched as he found some cover. A good catch and release but I will now be wary of jig hooks that have been touted as the latest and greatest (like the Mop Fly). I will stay with my traditional hooks and hook ups.

It is 11 O’clock so I head back downstream stopping just before the entrance gate by 26. They improved the sluice there and the current and depth has been improved to the point you really can’t see if a fish is lying on the bottom. I worked the flow and into the back eddy a number of times with another Green Wooly Bugger. Then I flipped it midstream, and this monster rose out of the depths and took the fly before it could settle to the bottom. A whopper! One that did not like being fooled and took me for a ride like the other one only with more pressure and a fierce determination not to be led in any direction other than the one he wanted to go in. Downstream. After a worthy duel he took to the bank and found a nice branch the volunteer cleaning crew neglected to remove, and I now was hooked to something less exciting and just as stubborn. He was gone.

I stopped at a few more spots on the way down, looking where they were hiding under logs and in holes. Flipped another GWB to no avail. I finished my water and came upon two nice fish in midstream as I approached the end of the trail. I watched and was about to flip the fly when I saw a fellow watching the water just below the fallen tree below me. I had my fun and wasn’t sure if he had his. I motioned to him that there were fish and he responded that he was watching one too. I walked down to him and his was bigger than mine. I wished him luck and left him to the fish.

I worked the water below Rainbow Bridge thoroughly with no action and headed for the car. I passed Hal who had just left 17. We nodded but didn’t exchange info. I went over to 17 and put on my last Beetle. I always have luck here floating anything down to the end of the run where it enters the hatchery flume. I wasn’t disappointed although the fish were small. I had a few missed rises as well working a line with too much slack.  

A fellow on 18 hooked a nice fish and was showing his family and friends who seemed all full of wonder. Made me want to make one more cast. I went across instead of down, near the shaded bank and fed it line. Before too long the Beetle got juiced! Wham! And a big one, bigger than all the others I had seen or hooked. He put up a good fight and even managed a jump, but I think the warmer water (66 degrees) played a role in my landing him as he barely fit in the net and was heavy enough to make it awkward to lift him. I hesitate estimating size but 22” would not be a bad guess. Again, on my hands and knees, slipping the net through the lowest rung on the platform rails I managed to net him and keep him wet. I couldn’t get the fly which was in the corner of his mouth as he was still twisting. I reluctantly brought him to the deck and the fly self-released. I grabbed his wrist and took the net away. A few more pulses back and forth in the moderate current were needed to get him to kick but kick he did.

I cut the fly off while still prone on the deck. As I crawled my way to an upright position, suddenly self-conscious, I looked around hoping no one was watching.

I met up with Luke at the car as I considered changing to shorts and a tee in this heat, but we started chatting. I offered him a bottle of water, but he went to get one of his sparking types. We met at the shaded bench overlooking the river and enjoyed each other’s company as the heat of the day left us.

Fish Tales #6

August 26, 2022 – Vail Pond

I waited until the day before to make a reservation. The weather report was cloudy, relatively cool night and some rain. As good as you can get this time of year. I call and the morning session is empty. I take Beat 4, where they dump the fish in when they are dumping fish. It is seldom open. They have not been stocking from what I can determine, which probably makes sense given the hot summer and marginally cool water. (Plus you have your summer teenage poachers thinning the stock.) Water temp is high 60s at beat 5. Had to go to beat 3 to find mid 60’s but even it is marginal as the pond in Blydenburgh is overflowing its warm water into beats 1 and 2, discoloring and warming the whole river. I was hoping for a few brookies in the spring holes.

In any case, I started on Vail Pond. It is covered in weed and debris and has few if any visible signs of fish activity, but we know they are there, under it all, hanging in the cool water of the bottom protected from osprey. Heaven for them. Fishing the pond means being able to cast your choice of fly over the top weeds 40 – 50 feet into a small open area. These areas occur at the whim of the wind rather than the weeds. You see, they float and don’t seem to be moored. At one point I am targeting a spot in front of me but over time it closes. I also fish the weed covered water. Its annoying to have to clean the fly after each cast and you always are risking a snag, but I visualize how big bass will blast through all kinds of cover to nail a gurgling frog.

I see a wake. Not like a following fish, more like a turtle cruising near the surface, but it gives me hope. I launch and fail. I have my GLoomis 9-foot, 4 wt. Stream Dancer and have no excuse for not making a decent cast. I look behind to make sure I can clear the bankside bushes and trees and then work the line up and into a double haul with a good 60 feet out. I hit the clear water but short of the place the wake once was. I wait.

When with Joe Pepe up on the Lake I would put a frog popper out and let it sit long enough to light a cigarette, if I smoked. Then twitch it and wait until the smoke was half done, twitch it again and Wham! The same technique did not appeal to whatever was looking up though the weeds in Vail Pond.

Moved to the next platform, at the south end, where the canal leads to Beat 14. The twitch works and I have a colorful Sunnie on the line. Good fighters those Sunnies. Further south I picked up a little bass whose fight did not compare. One more Sunnie and I moved to the river.

Top of Beat 5 is where I begin. I had reserved #4. I told the ranger I would probably go in at 4 and work my way to 7. She reminded me, which I knew, that the park rules are to stay on the beat assigned. Goes back to a few years ago (or maybe a decade ago) when an old fellow got lost and spent the night in the woods. She reiterated that they need to know where I am if I don’t show up at the end of my session. I suggested the weir would certainly catch me, were I to make my final trip this day. “You can fish a little up and a little down, maybe, but try to stick to the area” she said. A kind accommodation I respected. I switched to beat 5 as I wanted to look at 6.

The water is in the high 60’s and off color. No fish to be seen. None spooked as I move around. None came out of the little secret spots I know to test. I checked myself as I was getting impatient. Sat on a Boy Scout Bench and took some water. The weather person lied again, it’s hot and sunny.

I started with the beetle and stayed with it most of the day, alternating to the Dace and GWB for the deeper holes. Nada. From 5 I went to 6 (the in-stream numbered post is missing) and am glad to see the weeds less obtrusive than in other years. I drift the beetle under the bushes, into the logs, over the grass. Twitched and even stripped trying to get a reaction.

Got out and walked up to 4, went to the bottom of 3 to be honest (I wanted more temperature data points). The water is survivable but there are no fish to be seen. I always assume they are here, somewhere, but today I couldn’t find them. I should have taken Beat 3.

I went back to the pond which had come alive with dragon flies and darning needles. Lots of them, swooping the top of the water like swallows during an evening hatch on the Beaverkill. There is a rise to one that lingered over a spot a little too long. I put the beetle in the vicinity and repeated as before. I then intentionally plopped it here and there hoping the splash-down would get some attention, but no.

I went for some distance, and in the process of false casting and hauling, a dragon fly ate my beetle and was firmly hooked. Spinning the line and the water, I held my breath thinking that if anything is going to bring a fish up, this live bait will – but nothing. I brought the rig in and could not calm the fly enough to get it off. Rather than stomping on it I tossed it back out. Plop and whirr. A good size Sunnie took it, I mean it was big enough to fillet. I cleared the line by clipping off the beetle and sliding the now dead bug off. I took a few casts at the north end and picked up one more small Sunnie.

As I was walking out, I was surprised to see a fellow walking in for the mid-day session. He was not making eye contact and I think he would have walked on by had I not said hello. He grunted some reply. I said he should be ready for a day of target practice and he said “What the hell does that mean?” Rather than explaining, noting a grumpy demeanor, I said good luck and turned for the car.

I love this park in all its phases, even this one. I thought of the nice big brookie Sue and I caught last spring, Joe’s 22-inch rainbow on Beat 7 a few years ago and the football Chuck and I landed on 14. It will happen again. Just not today.

October maybe.

Fish Tales #7

September 19, 2022 – Connetquot on LI Flyrodder Club Day

Times are changing at the Park. Theresa left who always was our interface. Ted Bany called me to say he has to pay for all sessions at 9 am which means those of us who fish later in the day need to get him a check well in advance of the day of the outing. I always wait until a day or two before to call Ted and pay him when I get there. With these new rules that may change, and I will have to plan in advance. Change is constant.

He says not to worry about it but he wanted to make certain that I was really coming. I tell him I will be there around 11 and he says good because they are having a BBQ. That is new too. 17 guys showed up for morning fishing and 13 for the afternoon, a good turnout. It was great to see so many people. This pandemic has really damaged me. Seeing them all and saying hello and bumping fists, hugging with some, was so energizing. Rich Cosgrove and Annemarie were the hosts, and the hamburger was delicious. I will have to ask him where he buys them.

Peter Dubno and Diane were there, and we got to visit. He is a special guy and he and I have a connection. John Fischer, Bill S., Joe H., and John S., and Norm F. and…30 members!

John is going upstream and asks if I would like to come along. I had decided to fish downstream today, in waders. I had not been down there for a month or two, it seems. We would meet up later. Peter was staying nearby, and I will join him at the end of the day.

9-foot GLoomis 4 wt. is the rod. I have been using it lately to accommodate the long leaders summer fishing requires. It is a perfect rod, although not built by the original company as my 5 wt. that Sue bought me was (Shimano bought them out). Its fittings are economical but of good quality. The blank is perfect, the reel seat less so.

I tie on a Beetle that worked the last time I was here and suited up. The waders feel confining and uncomfortable after being used to walking in my short boots upstream. Lots of sunscreen to protect my poor nose which has been through so much and still has dead nerves in it from the Shingles. (If you are over 50 get the vax!). Extra bottle of water and I am off, following Karen S. who is wet wading. I feel like a sissy.

John S. is fishing 16A and playing a nice fish as Karen and I look on. First photo of the day. The Park continues to be tweaked and the old photos I use in my presentations need to be updated. I try to take a few each trip. I also like to show case the nice folks who fish with me as well as send copies of the photos to them and the club. It is all part of being involved, being a part of. It all makes me feel good.

I walk ahead of Karen as I tell her I’m heading for Beat 9. At the crossing at Beat 13, I am thinking about the fish that used to lay in the weeds that were recently removed on upper 12. (A friend mentioned that they may have over done it on some of the stream modifications. I agree with him but share that I try to keep my opinions to myself in deference to the volunteers who turned out to do all the work that was involved in opening up the water. In July there were only weeds and no open water on some beats.) I walk toward 12 in the water and test the Beetle in the shade on the far and near banks, it being high noon with sun on the water.

I can see fish, and some are rising, a few aggressively. Someone is around the corner, so I stay where I am and send long drifts and casts down to the action. Despite decent casts and good placement, no one cares for my fly. I should change but decide to move on as Beat 9 is my goal.

It’s Bill on middle 12, working the hole under the trees. At the crossing above 11, Tommy of “Ken, Lou and Tom,” is playing a fish. I snap a few photos, but the fish gets off before we can do a hero shot. So far, the river has been pretty much occupied, about two on each beat. Crowded but not overly so since these people know how to behave, are courteous and respectful of fellow fishers. It’s a nice Club.

Ken is in Beat 9, but above the sluice, trying to get that fish that always seems to tease us from under the tree. I ask if I can fish below the sluice and he says sure, he is moving back up anyway. He is replaced by another fellow whose name I can’t recall.

I stand, drink some water, and watch the water. No rises. No visible fish. Water approaching 66 degrees. I set my expectations accordingly. Joe Pepe once stood in this spot with a weighted nymph and pulled out 5 fish. I am sure they are here. It’s just too good a hole for them not to be. Besides, most people overlook this section, probably because of the low hanging trees and seemingly shallow water once out of the sluice. The near shore rocks are slippery when you climb in as well.

I start down under the trees by the tail of the current. Work the Beetle in the usual spots but some are really shallow with the river this low. I was talking to Chuck about the problem, and we agreed that some of it is from the weed removal, speeding up the flow and taking volume out of the stream, but the real problem is with the water table which provides the pressure to bubble these springs up to the surface. The drought is partially responsible for this. A quick rain will not fix the water table although run-off would help if it’s cool enough. The water table problem is from too much withdrawal by Long Islanders to water their lawns and flush their toilets. It will take a while to replenish it, if it can be replenished. Scary thought that like the Wantagh Creek that flowed when I was a kid, pumping all treated sewage and wastewater out to the ocean instead of recharging it lowered the water table to dry it out completely above Southern State Parkway. It’s a drainage ditch where brookies once lived. That could happen here as well. Sounds like a long shot, but is it with all the changes we are experiencing?

I take a break and another drink as it is getting warm, and the shallow water isn’t cooling these waders much. What to put on? The Beetle goes on the drying patch and the Black Nosed Dace goes on. I work it as I usually do, and it takes a while to find a fish…but a respectable rainbow comes along. The fish’s fight is minimal due to the warm water (a recent stockie), so I unhook him in the water without a net. Good for both of us. I work the area again and then move up to the sluice, working both sides of it before using it to propel the streamer. I get a surprising hit in the still water just below the rocks but miss him. Then a spunky fish on the other side of the current. I see him and then he is off (I like to think by design). One more and I head upstream. Passing another fisher, I get in at the platform on 11.

It is so beautiful here. Tree covered water, smooth current, ideal dry fly water and there are rising fish, some soft, some not so soft. Too pretty to fish subsurface so I change from the Dace to an Iris Caddis. A most effective fly too few people use. Nothing sexy about it and so easy to tie. A fish rises directly across from me. I have been sitting on the platform and being quiet for a while; the water up and downstream is dimpling and splashing. Flipping to the near fish, he takes a look and says no. I start working the near water below me, preferring to fish dry downstream when practical.

Ed Kohler and Karen come by as does another Flyrodder. They move on down.

A rise right next to the fly and then a hit and refusal. Surface action. Got to love it. The fly does its work and I have a few when I start working the top of 10 from 11. There have been some big swirls down there and I wanted to keep my distance, although setting the hook on a big fish with so much line out can be tough. I hit a small one and then the fish of the day grabs it.

At first not reacting, then swimming toward me, at speed. I am reeling in as much line as I can while playing him, hoping to keep this guy away for the side brush and rocks. He jumps, maybe 18 inches, maybe more, and then he changes strategy – heads downstream like a freight train! I palm the reel as I am close to my backing, and he is still going. I have to turn him. I start moving down toward him stumbling on a branch and then stepping in a hole. I put side pressure even though it may bring him to the rocks. He doesn’t care and keeps going. – Ping! Wow.

The knot gave on the tippet. Damn.

I sit to recover and repair the damage. I have another Iris Caddis and put it on. Go for the one who rose across from me when I first came, and he refused me again. Time to move on.

I have not used the Joe Stack in a while and ever since Joe Odierna started giving me a supply, I have tried to use it on every trip no matter the circumstances and remarkably, it always (as far as I can recall) performs. I walk to 16A by the whirlpool, which has changed. In fact, I put the rod down and take some video, it is that different. The whole shape of the swirl has shifted, probably due to low water. I watch for a while and then some fish come into view. On the bottom, going side to side for nymphs, I think. Joe Stack is dry but fishes well when sunk as well. The first fish comes up and refuses, then I let it sink and move into the current. Nothing. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Switch to casting the far edge and letting it sweep the bank, two more fish appear, but don’t rise. Ok.

I have had a good day and have no complaints. I dry the fly and dress it. Rest my arm a bit and repeated the process. Two on the sunk fly and one, God bless him, came up and bit it dry. Time to move. I walk a bit and am feeling the heat and exercise starting to overtake me. I sit and drink another bottle and eat a nut bar; watch the birds (this is a great park for bird watchers) and continue on to find Peter.

He is sitting on the bank at the foot of Rainbow Bridge flipping his nymph and, when asked, tells me he stopped counting after ten. My man! I fish a platform with the Joe Stack hitting a few including a 5-inch stream-bred Brookie. Peter tells me there is a good one under the two logs on the far side. I work it and as he starts giving me another tip, I hook the fish.

This park is magic as are the friendships this sport provides. Thanks Peter!

Thanks, Flyrodders!

Fish Tales #8

October 7, 2022 – Last Licks at Caleb Smith

It stopped raining yesterday; the aftermath of Hurricane Ian has passed. Today is bright and warm, well 70’s anyway. The water is cool although I did not use the thermometer and the river full and clear. I took Beat 7 for the morning session and was glad to be out in the fresh, dry air.

I had just sent Bill Smith a description of the Black Nose Dace I tie and started with it hoping to switch to dry flies as the morning progressed. Lisa was at the gate and came over to say hello and collect the fee. She was telling me how they finally have some full-time staff and hope to get projects done during the closed season like repairing the wall on Beat 4 that keeps the river from becoming another pond. I encouraged her to contact LIFR and TU if she wanted volunteers.

Speaking of the pond, the top weeds seem to have been washed out with all the weather we have had and there are large openings to cast into. Also, the foliage is almost at its peak. It’s beautiful!

As I am getting my gear together, I meet a new friend named George. He belongs to Art Flick TU and fishes with Tony and Doug. He shows me the rod Doug made for him. He has been fly fishing a few years and thanks those guys for showing him the ropes. Nice fellow, we walk in together and invite each other to come to our Beats.

I go in at the top of 6 on my way to 7 and have three fish in the first hour. No monsters but lively, strong fish. I work my way down with high hopes but there wasn’t a fish to be scared. I guess they haven’t had a chance to migrate down here from the stocking site.

The river has changed a bit. Perhaps the heavy flows have cleared some debris and filled some holes. After a good bit of time working the bushes on the right of upper 7, I walked up to them and not a fish to be seen. Headed below the weir and worked the rushing water before heading further.

I like it down here even though the fishing can be non-existent most days. It is beautiful and seldom is another person in sight. Lisa had told me of the big brown she caught on 8 or 9 one morning so there is always hope. I also have had a few brookies here on occasion, so I like it.

George comes down and is calling my name. I shout back “Is that you George?” I told him of my luck on 6 and that 7 was not working. He headed back to 3 and, again, invited me up. I thanked him and may have indicated that I would come. I finished my river walk to the end of 9 where I thought I saw a rise, and then saw it again. I snuck up to a casting position that made sense and put on an Iris Caddis. Worked the area with 3 or 4 flips but no reaction. I walked over and no one was there.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to go up to 3. It’s a long walk and I might get lucky on 6 again. I walked the path and took a long look at 6, deciding to go see George. There was a class from Northport HS on Beat 4 doing stream ecology lessons. Good to see young people here (who are not poachers).

George was at the top of 4 and had caught 9 fish using Tony’s Mop fly and others. I walked to the bottom of 2 and worked my way down with a Golden Darter. It was having a hard time getting down in the heavy flow and. I was too lazy to change with only a few minutes left in the session. I worked all the usual spots and ended up catching a root in that deep hole on the left at the end of 3 losing the fly. I reeled in and got out to find George.

He was smiling and fighting his 10th fish above the platform on 4.

It was a nice day. Good to meet a new friend and always a pleasure to be in this park. It closes next week so I bookended my season with fishing Beat 7 spring and fall.

Fish Tales #9

October 18, 2022 – Fishing the North Fork

Paul of RiverBay Outfitters often organizes trips to rivers and beaches in the tri state area. He also does Alaska, Montana and more. I have gone with him to Connecticut’s Housatonic and Farmington. Maybe a few others. I like supporting him and his shop as he’s a good guy who donated years of service to our clubs before he opened his shop. Quality guy.

I never went to Truman’s Beach, as many times as I have been to Southold, Greenport and Orient. It’s a two-hour drive; going out isn’t bad but coming home is tough after a day in the fresh air and salt. Luke called and invited me to come with him, his treat! I checked with Sue, and it was a go. We met at McDonalds in Northport so he could save the 11.5 miles x 2 picking me up at home would entail.

I brought plenty of gear, both fly and surfcasting, as well as clothes to keep warm. Temps were to be in the 50’s with 12 mph winds west-northwest. Turned out sunny and very comfortable.

The beach is a big half-moon stretching for 3 miles or so with off season access not a problem (summer is in season). We met at the DEC Oyster Ponds Boat launch as Truman is a private Town beach. Down the road are the Oyster Ponds (a local told us it was really called Mud Pond), and Orient State Park is just up the road - and there is more in the area. Jerry and I had fished Hallock Bay with Rob Thompson years ago and had a 10-striper day on the fly, from a boat. Working the beaches takes a bit more effort.

Luke and I took a look and fished the Pond first as the tide was just coming in and barely a bait fish in sight. After exploring we looked at the bay side which entails a repel down some pretty scary jetty like rocks. Truman’s was looking good. We went to lunch.

That’s the glue for Paul’s trips – food. He cooks anything from hamburgers and hot dogs to chicken to chili, and today - Sloppy Joes. Drinks, salads, and fruit with cookies as well as chips. All you need to fuel up for a day on the water. No one had caught anything yet and everyone was making plans to go to their spots – Paul was an open book, which is the other benefit of his trips, and gave us all the options. We decided to stay at Truman’s and perhaps meet him at the Pond at dark.

Luke and I walked west and worked the water, he with a fly rod and me with my surfcaster. My shoulder tires less with this pole vs the 9-wt. fly rod. It is beautiful and uncrowded (its Tuesday). We came to a huge rock about 30 yards off the water line and I pretty much set up there. Luke likes to wander and went way to the east. We stayed in touch by phone. He ran into some inshore Albies that rocketed by before he could react.

I had a few guys walk past me and set up at respectable distances. We all worked our patch hoping Luke’s Albies would come streaming past. I had two significant fish boils well within casting range, which kept me interested, not that I wasn’t already. There is something very mesmerizing about casting and watching the lure work the water. Your subconscious reminds you of the time when an explosion you didn’t expect came. You always think it will happen again. And it will, eventually.

I needed a bio break and the porta-potty is by the car, so I abandoned my rock (and someone quickly moved in). When I returned, I found a nice spot closer to the car with a large, stranded driftwood to relax on. As with any fishing, it is good to give it a break. To take some time to both rest and observe - always looking for the birds to get organized and the Albies to break.

At Sundown and high tide, which came together, Mark joined me. He doesn’t usually fish this area although he lives near-by. He showed me an Albie Whore he tied, pink and well made, as all of his flies are. All he needs now is for an Albie to come by. He moved down beach.

Another 50 casts and it was getting dark. Luke reappeared with both his fly and surf rod loaded with a Deadly Dick, still waiting for those Albies. We fished a bit more and called it a day. By the time we got to the car I needed my head lamp to break down my gear. Mark went to see if Paul was at the Pond and later reported he wasn’t, but a nice size Schoolie Bass was.

Paul pulled in to show us photos ofthe 2 nice stripers he had on the other side but mentioned it was a long walk, had multiple Bass and then had to start back, while the Bass were still hitting. Beautiful fish.

It was a most pleasant day, especially for me who has not been out and about much for a year (or 2). Just being here made my day. No fish on the hook required (although it would have been nice.) Luke and I had a pleasant drive home listening to the scratchy AM radio voice of John Sterling calling game 5 between the Yankees and Guardians, winner moves on. Yanks won!

If you are not on Paul’s mailing list, go to www.riverbayoutfitters.com and sign up for the newsletter. Lots of information, YouTubes, Trips and more.

Fish Tales # 10 - PHW at Connetquot

November 7, 2022

The first Monday of every month is Project Healing Waters Day at the Connetquot. The Northport branch of the organization, based at the VA Hospital, gets to fish the river. I have volunteered as a river guide for the organization in the past. Pre-Covid it was a regular date on my calendar.

I saw Jeff at the presentation I gave at Art Flick TU on the Catskills, and he repeated his invitation to join them again.

So, I arrive and Bill Smith, Ted Bany, Jim Pungello and some others are there as well as cars of those already on the river. Ted starts talking about all the changes and I ask him to clarify. “A fellow named Dave Turner took over” he says. It’s still the Northport branch-based Vets who fly fish. For those with service-connected disabilities there are additional services and benefits (like 5 days in Montana, all expenses paid, you can apply for), but any vet can be a member. I ask where Dave is.

At his car we say hello and it turns out I had fished with him early on. I inquired about becoming a member. He asked for my email, said he will send me a link. He asked again if I was a vet. I showed him my driver’s license which states that I am, and he encouraged me to join them.

Dave headed off to check us in at the office while the rest of us stayed in the area, sans waders. I walked up as far as Beat 22 and back. Lots of fish in the river at all beats and apparently tons of them down river. Dave later said he had 40 in the net, amazing!

It was a beautiful warm sunny day (too sunny). I started with an Iris caddis and had an immediate rise to my first cast on Beat 19. Then a few more and finally a fish on, self-released. I worked Beat 20 below the bridge and had one while scaring another.

Upstream the fish were very spooky when fished over. I needed to walk past them, give them some time, and then fish down to them. A few more on the Caddis including a three-time jumping rainbow who must have lifted himself 3 feet into the air each time. I lost the caddis and put on another for a few more hits then, the water went quiet, the further up I went.

I switched to a Black Nosed Dace and fished down to several fish getting hits and misses before hooking what I thought would be the fish of the day. A big boy who I got into the net, a rainbow with good color and spirit, 20 inches at least. At the top of Beat 22 I switched to a Joe Stack. I was going to put on an #18 Adams but figured it would be hard to see in the glare. (These new prescription sunglasses are not too fishing friendly. I am thinking of just getting some Ray Bans or Costas and using my magnifiers to tie stuff on.) The Joe Stack worked, as always, hooking more when it sunk but getting the attention of a few surface feeders. I worked some nice holes too long and had to remind myself that it’s better to either give it a rest or move on. I headed back toward the other guys.

Just above where Bill and Ted were chatting, I drifted the fly into a likely riffle and hooked another significant fish. This one less angry and more annoyed than the other, he stubbornly resisted my bringing him in. I struggled to get him to and in the net. Fortunately, he unhooked himself as I went for the final scoop.

Bill was working a long line to an aggressive fish that was making a wake like a submarine. I watched for a bit and headed toward the car, fishing the platforms adjacent the parking lot. Another fish or two and I was done. We all ended up at the cars simultaneously. Dave said it would be okay to fish another hour, but we were all done.

Great day in the new PHW of which I will soon be a part of.

(No photos. I couldn’t handle the camera with the big fish and the small ones I shook off – besides fish pictures are not my thing anymore. I enjoy taking photos of others. I also like river photos and scenery shots, but the leaves are mostly down, the colors muted and so I just walked and enjoyed myself rather than “working” on my photo library.)

Fish Tales # 11 - The Conny in December

December 5, 2022 – PHW at Connetquot

The PHW sessions are different in the cold months – 9:30 to 1:30. (Park sessions are 8-12 and 12 to 4.) I went and met a new member, Jim. He has been fly fishing for a few months. I walk with him to the lower river below the hatchery, seeing if I could be of assistance in any way. Apparently, the guys who worked with him before did a good job (and he has a natural talent for the game). He caught fish. More importantly he handled his rod and line well and was patient with himself and the fish. I fished with him at 16A and then he went to upper 15 and did 16 and 14. He had caught and released a number of fish so I told him he’s “got it” and snapped a few photos that I will send to Dave to forward to him.

As we chatted, I asked where he was from? “Sayville” he says. I tell him my fishing buddy lives there and mentioned the street. “That’s where I live” he says. I ask if he knows Joe and he says they are coming to his house for a neighborhood holiday gathering this weekend. Small world.

There apparently was a mishap at the hatchery last month and an entire troth of growing fish was released. Hundreds of fish dumped in the river, many more than its natural food sources can sustain. We were fishing in a fish tank. They don’t seem to be spreading out, there are huge schools just hanging in the current, many of the 12–14 inch category. Might be a good time for each of us to take a few fish home for dinner. Jim did well and would have caught fish under normal stocking, I am sure, given his technique.

With Jim catching fish, I excused myself after an hour or so. Bill, Dan and another fellow were fishing the top of 16A and having fun. I had asked Bill if he would like to come with me to the mill race to see if there were any sea-run fish around, but he decided to stay. I drove down and had beats 1 – 4 to myself, that is if you don’t count the swans, geese and Mallards.

I had the Dace on which took a few good size fish upstream. I walk into beat 2, behind the mill. They have removed the boardwalk which really was useless. At the edge of the deep water, I work the streamer in the back eddy as well as the out flow including the skirt where they often lie. No action. None. Now the fly is unweighted and in this current probably stayed too high in the water column, even in the slower water of the eddy. Time for a fly change. I wanted to test for fish, so I put on a bead head Green Woolly Bugger. Bang!

Fish on and a lively dark colored rainbow exactly where I had been fishing the Dace. The GWB also pulled nice fish out of each of the other Dace targets. Mystery solved. After 5 or so, I put on the Joe Stack as is my tradition. The water was 43 degrees. No bugs, not even midges, at least not yet. No one seemed to be looking up and I was about to change when I had a swirl. Next cast I let it sink and soon had a fish or two - on the sunk fly. I wanted one on it dry. I put it on the other side of the flume and soon got my wish. Amazing fly.

I walked over to 4 and put the Joe Stack out on the pond. The wind was from the south and the water calm, at least within my casting range. “Patience” I keep telling myself. A swirl and then a miss. As the day warms there are some midges about. I see a rise over by the boat dock out of the corner of my eye. I continue to work 4 moving it in and out, right and left, with each cast. More misses. I walk over to 3 and put it where I saw the rise. Fish on! I had the long-handled net and got the fly out and him back in the water quickly without touching him. A short rest on the beach was his only inconvenience. I had a few more misses and fish. God Bless the Joe Stack.

I walk to the platform and sit to add some tippet and an Iris Caddis. Eat my PBJ and head downstream on beat 1. The sticker bushes need some trimming, but I managed to get to the water after untangling my net a few times. I am below the outflow and fishing up into it rather than down. I know fish are here so wait for the fly to do its job. I incrementally cast longer covering the right, left and center in turn.

After a while I am thinking I should put the Joe Stack back on but resist the urge, knowing this fly will work. A rise up by the #1 platform, a long cast. I add some line and haul what I can, and it falls just short of the target. However, with the eddy’s reverse flow, it is being drawn toward the rise. I give it more line. Nothing. Recast the whole length (The GLoomis 4 wt. is doing its job) and drop the fly on top of the spot. Wait, Wait. Nothing. I go back to the other side, toward the Mill. Bang! A sigh of relief. A few more fruitless casts and I walk over to 4 for more pond fishing.

There are cruising fish that I didn’t see before. A lot of them. All sizes. I wonder if the hatchery fish have made it down here from the top of the river. I change to an #18 Adams which is as small as I can see on the water although the midges are 22’s or 24’s. In a similar pattern I cover the water and practice my patience which is rewarded with a number of swirls, misses and fish. My phone alarm goes off indicating it is 1:15 and time to get ready to go. One more. Bang!

Surely the whole park is over stocked, and the fish are hungry, as well as untested. It would be a good time to bring a newbie as they would surely be able to feel the tug of a trout even with minimal skills. And think about keeping a fish or two for dinner!

As I am heading home, I think about the Catskills.

Wrapping up 2022

It has been a tough year for my fishing. Probably the first year in the last 50 that I did not get to the Catskills – or anywhere else other than our beautiful Island. Carman’s, Nissequogue, Connetquot and, of course, the Long Island Sound and its beaches and bays. No complaints as we are so fortunate to live here – but I am looking forward to being in the mountains in 2023 –Wishing you all a Happy, a Healthy and a Merry.

Thanks for your support of this website. Tom

Fish Tale #12

December 19, 2022 – Last of the year at Connetquot

The day was cold but sunny. I had not been to a LI Flyrodder meeting and it’s been a few months since I have been at the Monday fishing event, so I wanted to say hello and Happy and Merry to whoever was there. I was not all that interested in December fishing but, as I said to Sue, if I don’t do these things, I will spend the rest of my life sitting in my chair in the corner of the den, so here I am.

Ted is here collecting the fees. We talk a bit, I ask how Pat, his wife, is and such. He volunteers to organize and run these fishing days at the park for us. A good man.

I see Shawn and others but my memory for names is failing me. Paul McCain of Riverbay Outfitters is there with Jerry to give him a hand in catching some fish. Paul guides him rather than fish himself. Another good man. I have met so many good people through my fishing.

I leave the waders in the car and put on my boots, rig the rod, tying on a Joe Stack. I walk to 16A to watch Paul and Jerry then step down to lower 16A. The river below the hatchery is still overloaded with fish looking for something to eat and I have numerous hits on the fly, mostly small but some in the 14-15 inch range. I move to lower 16 and have a few more hits. Then lower 15 where I lose the Joe Stack and replace it with a Black Nose Dace. I work it down with the current and into the deep, dark water off the logs that shoulder the stream. I get a tug like I snagged a branch, but it is wiggling. I work on retrieving and it pulls back. No jumps; must be a brookie. It continues to feel big and sluggish. When I get it to the net the reason reveals itself – I snagged him in the pectoral fin. About an 18-inch fish in good color, he sits in the current a while once released.

I move down but there are guys below me so head back to Paul. Take a video of Jerry landing a fish and head upstream. I stop at Rainbow Bridge and have some lunch. It is very peaceful, and I have no urgency to move on. But I do. The fish spook as I walk. If they don’t, I get set to cast and one upstream flick of the rod sends them running for cover.

I think about how sloppy my casting has gotten and resolve to work on it. The fly needs to turn over and set down gently. Too often it makes a hard entry. Or doesn’t finish turning over making a pile of leader and fly and not where I wanted it to be. No excuse for this. I tie on an 18 Adams which has lost its parachute; looks like an emerger I figure. So does the fish as he hits it when I float it down to him from some distance away.

I walk past Beat 22 and think about going to 23 but why? I spend some time here and then work my way back, now a bit tired. I put on the dace and then switch to an Iris Caddis – nothing. Its 2:30 and some guys are gearing down at the cars. I do the same. I think about hanging around for the others to come but have some errands to run. I leave.

I am glad I made the effort to go to the park. The friends and fresh air were rejuvenating.

I am wondering what 2023 has in store.

Project Healing Waters

Went to the VA on Tuesday to tie flies with the PHW guys. Bill Smith was the lead todayas Jimmy Gilmartin joined in the tying. He had two interesting flies – one an ice blue loop fly with blue floss middle and the other a candy cane tied on a large salmon hook for the holidays. Fun. I posted mine on Facebook and had over 60 likes.

Thanks Bill!

If you are a disabled Vet PHW is here for you.

Contact Dave.turner@projecthealingwaters.org

Long Island Trout Unlimited

Attended the LITU holiday meeting that night. It was so good to see everyone who was there, sharing news and good wishes as well as making some preliminary plans for Catskill fishing in 2023.


The Chapter dates back to 1971 and has been carried forward over the years with teams of leaders who have given us their time and energy. I joined TU in the 70’s and went to a few meetings when they had them in a Bethpage church, but life was busy back then with family and business as well as other volunteer activities, so I stopped attending. (BTW – Peter Dubno has been active in the LITU Chapter for about 50 years – continuously!) I guess it was about 1998 or so that I started to go to the meetings again and it has been a very fulfilling experience between the good work we have done and the good people who have become my friends.

We need your help:

It's time for new leadership, if the Chapter is to move forward as we, the now elder statesmen, back down for all the usual reasons. If you are reading this and want to pick up the banner of TU we have been carrying, please come to a meeting and get to know us – come to a board meeting, let us know you’d like to try us out. If you are not a TU member, we can offer you a discounted membership to get started. If you are a member, you already know how important local Chapters are to the mission of protecting our cold-water fisheries. Don’t be shy, give us a try!(Click the link below)


Tom McCoy is a lifelong fisherman

He caught his first trout before he was 10 in Catskill Creek. He camped at the Beaverkill as a boy, fishing with bait and lures before attaching a fly reel to his spinning rod and flailing away hoping against hope to hook a trout.

In the 1970’s he attended a Trout Unlimited casting clinic and bought a $15 rod and $20 reel, beginning his pursuit of this sport in earnest.

Since then he has fished mountain streams north, east, south and west. He also loves the saltwater and has fished it from his home base on the Long Island Sound to the Florida Keys and beyond. Thanks to a travelling career, he has been fortunate to fish in 21 states and 5 countries – so far.

He recently was co-editor for a team responsible for updatingTrout Fishing on Long Island’s Spring Creeks, a Long Island TU publication, and has been included in the beautiful bookAmerica’s Favorite Flies, as well as TU’sTrout Tips,Florida Fly Fishing Magazine, the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum’sAn Anthology of Angling Experiencesalong with other regional publications. In addition, he has written five books, 2 “How to” and 3 which comprise a trilogy fishingmemoir.

He does presentations on fly fishing and his travels for clubs and libraries in the area as well as on Zoom.

A lifetime member of TU, he also supports Theodore Gordon Fly Fishers, The American Museum of Fly Fishing, The Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), The Peconic Land Trust and otherconservation-orientedorganizations. He is a member of the Long Island Flyrodders and Friends of Connetquot River State Park.

He is fortunate to be surrounded by his family and many friends.

Hope to see you on the river!

You can follow or contact Tom via Facebook

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