Redfish and gurglers

Received this email from Rich Walker of Flyline Media back in September:

My media production company Flyline Media has produced a fishing video featuring Redfish taken with Mr. Gartside’s Gurgler. We were wondering if you’d be interested in linking to or showing it on your website.

Rich, this is awesome! Great job, and sincere apologies for not getting it posted earlier. On the other hand, with–no-kidding–seven feet of snow on the ground up here in Boston today and the temperatures dipping below zero, what better antidote for the mid-winter blues.?  Enjoy everbody.


Tall Tails from Flyline Media on Vimeo.

Jack Gartside: Forever a Boy

I finally, finally, finally got around to uploading this video profile of Jack, created about 2004. It was created by Chuck Kraemer of PBS’s Greater Boston who, in only a few minutes, manages to capture so much of who Jack was and what made him special. It’s an amazing piece of filming, editing, and story telling. Kraemer, One senses, realizing what a wonderful story he had before him, felt bound and determined to tell it well.


New GSS Colors?

What a busy summer it’s been! Not sure what’s going on but suddenly a few months ago orders for Secret Stuff (always steady, mind you) increased dramatically.. Which is great of course because it means people are tying and enjoying Jack’s ptterns. Not to mention that the sale of tying supplies–a meager and messy enterprise though it is–is what pays the bills for keeping his web site going.

Jack first started selling Secret Stuff back in the 90s: in two colors only, olive and pearl. Why just two colors? While I never asked him, it probably came down to money. From time to time on the internet I’ve read on one fly tying forum or another exchanges between tyers where someone would speculate that GSS was just someone else’s product repackaged by Jack. Just plain wrong. GSS was and is made at a factory to Jack’s specifications. And if you know anything about factories you know that they don’t deal in small amounts. So a single factory order of, say, pearl GSS cost Jack at some serious coin. As a result, he simply did not have the money to invest in trying out a lot of colors.

That said, given the increased interest in GSS, I’m thinking it may finally be the right time to introduce a few new colors. Based on the requests I’ve heard from tyers, black and chartruese are the front runners. But if you have your own ideas please let me know. Freshwater and saltwater anglers in particular often have different preferred colors. My thought is to introduce two new colors this calendar year and see how it goes.

Here’s a recent comment on GSS from Sean in Maine that put a big smile on my face. Thanks Sean!

“I love the secret stuff and I think it is breeding in the bags! It seems the more I use, the more I find in the bag. This is a great product, and though I did not start tying while Jack was alive, I feel like I know him from the articles I have read and the books I have borrowed. I want this one all of my own and intend to buy more. Thanks so much for keeping his memory alive. All the best, Sean”

Tying the Gartside Secret Minnow

Here’s a video of friend and tyer Ken Misiura tying a Gartside Magic Minnow. The Magic Minnow is about as simple a fly as you can get, consisting of a single feather wound around the hook and a little flash. It’s intended to imitate a newly hatched baitfish.

Ken ties his version with a body of dubbed GSS, which is certainly appropriate although I don’t recall Jack himself every tying it that way. His own recipe for the pattern (which varied slightly over the years) called for no body and instead several (2-4) strands of Flashabou or similar tied in for flash. Either way it’s a dynamite juvenile bait fish imitation, particularly in fresh water.

Tying Notes and Other Errata

The pattern appears originally in the first edition of Jack’s Fly Patterns for the Adventurous Tyer, dated 1993. In that edition the tying notes call for a wing of natural or dyed mallard flank and advise: “For a sleek bait fish look, leave a bit of space between windings. For a more open, breathing effect, make your winds a bit close to each other.”

In the 2005 edition, the tying notes are expanded. In addition to mallard flank Jack now suggests alternatives of other barred or mottled feathers for the wing including teal flank, pheasant, woodcock, and wood duck. Tying notes for the wing include the advice: “As you wind the feather around the shank and forward, twist and fold the hackle fibers to the rear, always being sure to wind on the flat side of the stem and not the edges to avoid a willy-nilly spiderlike effect with the hackle points going every which way.” Ken does a great job of emphasizing this in the video.

Happy birthday Jack!

On December 7, 1941, Franklin Roosevelt said, “Today is a day that will live in infamy.” It may be a coincidence, but exactly one year later John Clarence Gartside was born. Happy birthday, Jack. Wish you were still with us, but in many ways you are.

If you’re a Facebook member you can wish Jack happy birthday on his Facebook page. Here’s the link:

And in the meantime, here’s a wonderful “tribute tie” video of the Gartside Sparrow by Satoshi Yamamoto

Fishing with Gary

Each fall my Gary C.of Pennsylvania visits us in Massachusetts for a week of striper fishing. Sometimes the fishing is great. Sometimes it’s just OK. But either way Gary is a good and longtime friend and fishing companion and we always have a good time.

While I rarely keep track of my own catches these days, during the week Gary visits I do keep track of his, and it’s a pretty good indicator of how the fall fishing has been year to year. The reality of fall striper fishing, despite it’s reputation as a time of bountiful blitzes, is that it is very streaky. This is especially true of the daytime fishing. In the daytime you tend to find either a lot of fish or none at all, boom or bust. This is a direct result of the stripers’ fall feeding patterns in which they abandon the structure and regular feeding lanes of summer to chase schools of fast moving bait. Today they may be here, tomorrow there, and the next day nowhere at all.

Even when you find the fish, they can be maddeningly difficult to catch. If you are a shore or wade angler, it’s typical to arrive at the water’s edge to find a cacophony of bait, birds, and bass all boiling the surface–but just outside of your casting range. If you a a boat fisherman you may find yourself surrounded by breaking fish, but by the time you hook and land one the school has moved 300 yards away. Fire up the engine, motor over, and the the school moves once more. You are constantly playing catch up, and for as many fish as you may see you never catch quite as many as you expect.

Night fishing in the fall, as it is most other times of the year, is more reliable. The bass can be counted on to gather at certain spots that attract bait at certain stages of the tide. Rivers and estuaries are especially good places for this. But even night fishing tends to be less predictable in autumn than other times of the year. And, like day fishing, it is subject to that other great factor of fall that can shut down the fishing in a hurry: weather, in the form of wind and storms (cold, though uncomfortable, doesn’t affect the fishing that much as the water temps are slow to change).

Here’s a brief summary of Gary’s catches since 2007:

2007: Day 14; Night 142; Total 156
2008: Day 2; Night 34; Total: 36
2009: Day 3; Night 52; total 55
2010: No visit
2011: Day 15; Night 4; Total 19
2012: Day 3; Night 36; Total 39

While a lot of factors, including weather, the relative lateness week of the visit, and the diminishing striper population in recent years all affect the numbers, it’s pretty clear how much more effective the night fishing is over day. 2011 is the only outlier in that respect, a reflection of my purchase of a boat (which allowed us to chase daytime schools) and night fishing that was exceptionally slow that year (largely due to the absence of lights on the water where they had once existed).

This year’s visit began this evening and we got off to a pretty good start, with Gary landing 15 bass up to 26 inches and dropping a few as well.

Boston fall fishing report

The fall fishing has been in full swing in Boston since early September. After a relatively slow August, this autumn has seen a good number of surface blitzes from a combination of big stripers, small stripers, and medium sized blues. This is the most surface activity I’ve seen in the past three or four years. Best hours have been daybreak through late morning and then again late afternoon until sunset. After dark bass will take up feeding locations where they find a combination of good current, bait, and light on the water. The prevalent bait has been peanut bunker (in the open water and along the beaches) and spearing (in the estuaries and river mouths).

While a series of grey, drizzly days have limited most folks’ time on the water the past week, this has been a remarkably storm-free season with not a single hurricane of or ocean storm making its way to New England. That bodes well for the striper season lasting late into October or even early November.

My notes from a week ago Tuesday…

“Headed out in my boat after work late this afternoon for an hour’s fishing. I was crossing the edge of a large flat when I saw a few small fish (snapper blues, maybe?) slashing at bait on the surface. I cut the engine, climbed up in the bow with my fly rod, and started tossing a Gurgler. As I worked it, about every minute or so something much bigger than the snappers would surge through the bait, scattering it. So I started working the fly with a little more pop and on about the dozenth cast hooked into a good fish. Fifteen minutes later, after a fight that took me well into my backing, I landed the biggest striper I’ve taken on a fly, just shy of 40 inches.”

Cape Cod fishing report

From Cape Cod comes this fishing report by Gary Cwyk. The striper fishing has been very good this week, with the Brewster Flats and the Orleans area on the bay side producing especially well for this time of year

Early in the week the outer beaches were rough from several days of east wind, not to mention full of seals. But the water settled as the week progressed and Truro on the ocean side has produced some nice fish.

The Cape is loaded with bait right now. On the Brewster Flats the bass are chowing on sand eels. Monday morning we found ourselves surrounded by tailing fish that were rooting their meal right out of the sand. The outer beaches are thick with herring two to four inches long. The estuary grasses are swarming with mummichogs. And everywhere on the Cape the spearing are on the spawn; The picture at right shows water cloudy with spearing milt.