Welcome to Tom’s Fishing Stories

Lots to see on this site so please look around

First Tom’s Bio followed by Fish Tales (Just added the 4th), Links to Tom’s books and YouTube Channel as well as some highlights from Letters to Mack. Two Podcasts! The LITU booklet on fishing Long Island Spring Creeks is featured as well as a recent review from Amazon on How to Fly Fish For Trout, The first book to read. Take a look at Tom’s favorite fly and click to watch Jim Misiura tie one. At the end there is a link to a podcast of my friend Steve Ehrlich discussing the idea that there is more to fly fishing than the fish. Give it a listen.

Thanks for stopping by!

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!

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 updating Trout Fishing on Long Island’s Spring Creeks, a Long Island TU publication, and has been included in the beautiful book America’s Favorite Flies, as well as TU’s Trout Tips, Florida Fly Fishing Magazine, the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum’s An Anthology of Angling Experiences along with other regional publications.

A life time 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 other conservation oriented organizations. 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.

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 water fall. We took the 12 to 4 session. The walk was fairly easy although there are a number of board walk 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 ear-shot. 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.

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 Montauk continues the series with western trout and Long Island striped bass, blues and albies.

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

How to Improve Your Fly Fishing & Catching has 30 brief and easy to read tips to remind an angler of those little things we all so often forget.

He compiled this non-fishing collection over the last 30 years: Thoughts, Prayers and Meditations, a way to a more peaceful life, which you may find of interest.

Possible future title:

The Best of the Blog from Tomsfishingstories.com - While the blog was active there were over 390 posts on fishing fresh and salt which received over 99,000 hits. He may assemble the best of those posts into a book or two in the future so stay tuned on Facebook.

All books are available on Amazon.com in print and digital.

Fish Tales #2

May 20, 2022 - Carmans River

May is when the Brown Drake, Green Drake, March Brown and whatever other large Mayflies emerge on the Carmans 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 Carmans 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’s 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 half way 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 down-pour.

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 rain coat 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.

Read about an amazing trip to New Mexico’s San Juan and the Durango area of Colorado

Check out Letters to Mack, Book One by clicking “Learn More”.

YouTube Channel

YouTube Channel link

See video of an amazing blitz at Montauk on a fly, as well as Tarpon, Salmon and Steelhead. Long Island and Catskill streams with hatches, a typical LITU June Outing, some trap shooting, a few dolphins in the Sound and more.

The most popular video links:

Exploring the Upper East Branch of the Delaware - 6:04

Comprehensive Tour of the Connetquot River - 1hr 14 min

Sulfurs on the West Branch of the Delaware - 3:49

Steelheading on the Salmon River - 9:52

Small River, Big Fish - 2:47

Blue Fishing with Capt. Dave Flanagan - 3:44

Fall Albies on the Sound - 3:22

Montauk Blitz on a Fly - 1:43

Tarpon on a Fly - 4:28

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 try’s 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 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 floatant 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 head first 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 head first, 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.

Tarpon on a fly!

Check out the story in Letters to Mack 3, Correspondence from Islamorada to Pulaski (click “Learn More”) and on Youtube channel too

Podcast: Fly Fishing Long Island and more

Dave Stewart of www.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 at www.wetflyswing.com - Episode 275.

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 Fishing Insider Podcast

Long Island Spring Creeks and Parks!

This fish was caught in Caleb Smith State Park, one of many spring creeks on Long Island. For a guide to all of them click “Learn More” which will bring you to the LITU website. All proceeds from the book benefit trout conservation .

Blues, Bass and Albies all busting at once!

Check out the story of this Montauk Blitz in Letters to Mack 2, Correspondence from Montauk to Montana - click “Learn More”. Also on the YouTube Channel.

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.

A recent review on Amazon:

Elliot Lewis - 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.

Click here


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Hope to see you on the river!

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