Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Interview: Joe Gugino of Why Knot Fishing

Joe is one of the state's most talented and enthusiastic anglers, and is really dialed in on his saltwater game, chasing many species with a variety of techniques, including the fly rod. In addition to fishing, Joe is a founder of Why Knot Fishing, a great community based group that hosts many tournaments and meet ups throughout the year. I highly encourage you all to check out their striped bass tournament this weekend on the north shore - it has fly fishing categories from shore and boat and a lot of cool prizes. There is a discounted price to register mentioned in here too. Check them out! (Contact info at the bottom)


First of all, thanks for doing this Joe!

You are welcome! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to let you know a little bit about myself and the great things we have going on at Why Knot Fishing!

Could you tell me a little about yourself? Where you're from or where you've lived? Your family?

Of course.  I am originally from West Hartford, CT, and currently live in Salem, Ma where I settled after graduating from Endicott College.  I grew up, fishing of course, but also very dedicated to sports with Football and Lacrosse being my two primary sports.  I ended up playing lacrosse for four years at Endicott College, and it wasn't until after I graduated that I got back into fishing and got REALLY into fishing!

When did you first start fishing?

I was first introduced to fishing on a family vacation to Canada.  My grandparents always went to a place called Twin Oaks Lodge in Ontario, and it is there that my mom first gave me and my brothers our first fishing rods.  We grew up fishing mostly in freshwater fishing in ponds around West Hartford having a blast catching tons of Largemouth Bass, Perch, Sunfish, Pickerel, Crappie and Catfish.  We took a couple trips to the saltwater and mostly did some surfcasting with bait and lures, being lucky enough to catch some Stripers, Blues and Sand Sharks.

And how did you get into fly fishing?

I got into fly fishing thanks to my good friend Brian Malchoff and my Uncle Mike Albert.  Brian grew up fishing with me and my brothers in CT, but when he went to college he stayed as into fishing as sports.  He got into fly fishing, and started guiding in Alaska (Still is at Wild River Guides - I highly recommend checking them out).  He always tried to get me into it by inviting me to their yearly Thanksgiving trip to Upstate New York for big trout on the fly.

It wasn't until my Uncle gave me my first saltwater fly rod, and I bought a reel from Brian, that I got into it.  That summer I got my first stripers on the fly, and then finally joined Brian on their trip to Upstate New York.  And it was all happily downhill from there.

What's your favorite fish to chase with the fly rods?

This is a tough question.  In general I pursue Striped Bass more than anything because I live right on the water in Salem Harbor, so I thoroughly enjoy chasing and catching Stripers on the fly.  I also love catching big Trout on the fly in Upstate New York.  Any fish on the fly is fun, but I would have to say False Albacore are currently my favorite on the fly.

This Summer I had the opportunity to fish in West Palm Beach, FL during my trip to ICAST, and I was able to hook up to some HUGE False Albacore on the fly.  They call them "Bonita" down south, and consider them a trash fish, which is the complete opposite of their outlook in New England.  I am still pursuing my first Northeast Albie on the fly - and I can't wait!

You do a lot of saltwater fishing, both spinning and fly. Focusing on the fly gear here, what's a good outfit you'd recommend for someone looking to take up saltwater fly fishing in MA (or New England)?

I use 7, 8, 9, and 10 weights for my inshore saltwater fishing.  The 7 and 8 weights I  typically use in the earlier season when the fish tend to be smaller.  The 10 weight I like to have when throwing large flies on sinking line. And the 9 weight is what I tend to use the most.  I would set your eye on a 9-foot 8 or 9 weight rod to start.  And I would shoot for a large arbor fly reel with intermediate line.  There are lots of different brands out there, and many are great, but my favorite set-ups are my 8-weight Aubut fly rod with Cheeky Mojo 425 reel with Intermediate line, and my 9-weight Orvis Helios 2 with a Cheeky Boost 400 with sinking line that I tend to throw primarily from the boat.

What are some of your go to flies for the surf?

I like clousers and deceivers in olive/white, white, chartreuse/white, or olive/chartreuse/white, or natural bait colors like mackerel or squid.  Sometimes in the summer the stripers up by use get very keyed in to small bait, so having very small sand eel flies to match the hatch becomes much more important.  My favorite fly is a large white Hollow Flyeye.  The movement in the water is second to none and have noticed the big bait = big fish analogy at work.  (My business partner Matt got his personal best 41.5" on the fly this summer on the same fly.)

What's the biggest difference, in your opinion, between fishing for trout and fishing in the salt?

That's a good question.  There are obvious differences for sure, and there are definitely many similarities as well.  I think the biggest difference for me is the size of the fish.  I love fishing for trout and hunting them in small creeks or big rivers and getting the right drift or the right swing, and there are certainly some huge trout you can catch that are a blast.  But every time I am fishing in the salt you never know if that 40" striper will be behind that next rock, or swim in front of you on the tide swing.  That potential for that big fish makes it just as exciting every time we go out.

Let's talk about Why Knot Fishing for a bit… What is WKF and how did you come to start it? 

Why Knot Fishing is a team of passionate and positive anglers focused on the future of the sport through practicing Catch and Release, conservation of the environment and the fisheries, and support the Take A Kid Fishing philosophy.  As I mentioned I didn't really get into fishing until after I graduated college.  I stayed on the North Shore after graduating and started trying to figure out the best ways and places to fish. My teammate from college introduced me to his friend Matt Zimmermann who was also from Connecticut and also just graduated from Endicott and loved fishing just as much as I did.  We fished together all the time for two years, Matt had the name Why Knot Fishing, and during one of our trips to Upstate New York, I asked him about the idea of trying to make something out of Why Knot Fishing.  What that something was, we weren't sure, but we had made many great connections locally on the north shore and with some great fishing companies, and wanted to expand our network of fishing friends and add some exciting to the fishing community.
We launched in May of 2014 with a Fishing Season Launch week and Launch Party with no clear direction, just a website where we would share our fishing stories and continue to connect with as many other passionate anglers as we could, and continue to get more people into the sport!

Going into 2015 we ran our first series of Fishing Meet-Ups once a month in the winter called Why Knot Wednesdays where we gathered during the off season to talk fishing and meet other anglers.  We had different themed nights with Saltwater Fishing, Freshwater Fishing, Fly Fishing, and Kayak/SUP Fishing.  We then repated our Fishing Season Launch Party into the summer.  2015 was an exciting year for us.  We partnered with local Hobie Kayak Dealer Little Harbor Boathouse to run Kayak Fishing Events and Charters, and I also had the opportunity to run a Kayak Fishing Kids camp which was a blast!  We also ran two successful catch and release tournaments with our Southern Maine Striper Derby, which is for fly fishing only from shore, and ran our Fall Run Striper Classic which was for all anglers spin and fly from shore and boat.

2016 was another great year for us.  We continued with the Why Knot Wednesdays, making them bigger and better, and our largest Fishing Season Launch Party.  We brought on a third partner Jay Campbell, who loves fishing like us, and has many years of business knowledge and wanted to help us continue our positive direction.  We revamped our website and expanded our team around New England and the Northeast and down the east coast with our regional Team Captains who have helped to be the local experts in their areas and connect with local team members.

And we are now moving into 2017 ready to make it our most exciting year yet with the release of our official team membership! We have always been an unofficial and loosely organized team, but now with the official team membership people can connect within our web and mobile app, track their fishing in a fishing journal to become better fishermen, and connect with other anglers.  Team members will also have the ability to access discounts and giveaways from our great supporting companies.  Team members will also have access to local events and tournaments.

The best part about it is we have been and always be dedicated to what we were when we started.  Being passionate and positive anglers, looking to help other anglers get into the sport and have fun fishing!

You guys run a bunch of tournaments, some of which have fly fishing categories (from boat and shore), and one of which is fly fishing only. How have the tournaments been? Specifically the latest one in Maine?

The tournaments have been great for us!  We love being able to gather people on a day or two days and bring a fun competitive atmosphere.  They are all low barrier of entry and aimed to be fun and a great opportunity to wins some great prizes!  The fly-only, shore-only one-day tournament in Maine was modeled after the Cheeky Schoolie Tournament in Cape Cod.  We had such a blast at their tournament we wanted to continue to spread that fun atmosphere to other areas.  That tournament is also teams of two competing for the four longest fish, so it requires teamwork to get the job done, which is a fun aspect in a tournament atmosphere.

Some pics from this year's Maine tournament

Why Knot Fishing is running another tournament this month… could you talk about that for a minute ?

I would love to!  Coming up this Friday September 23 through Saturday September 24th we are running our 2nd Annual Fall Run Striper Classic.  This tournament is on Boston's North Shore and you can fish from Boston Harbor to the Merrimack River.  Anglers fish for the total combined length of their two best Stripers in one of four divisions (Spin - Shore, Spin - Boat, Fly - Shore, Fly - Boat)

A cool wrinkle on this tournament is that there is a "virtual" launch, so instead of checking in on Friday night, anglers can head right from work to the water!  We e-mail everyone on Thursday night of the tournament the identifier to be printed out and laminated, or taped, or put in a ziplock bag.  Then on Friday at 5:55pm we e-mail out a code to be written on the identifier so anglers can't fish before 6:00pm.  An angler has to take a picture of the fish with the tape measure clearly visible.  All scorecards are due by 6pm at tourney headquarters which for this tournament will be The Onion in Beverly, MA.  We have an after party and awards for all participants and their friends and families.

There are also other fun prizes like Biggest Fish, Smallest Fish, Biggest Bluefish, Most Bizzare Catch, and a Social Media prize.  And every angler gets a captains bag and a raffle ticket.  So you don't even need to catch a fish to win.  We have $1,000's of dollars worth of prizes and raffles from great companies like Costa Sunglasses, YETI Coolers, Buff USA, Cheeky Fishing, XtraTuf Boots, Cortland Line, Capefish Co. The Fly Pack, East Coast Flies and many more!


Currently we do not have many fly entries in either division, so you have a great chance to win! (and for reading this post on this great blog you can get your entry for $28 instead of $35 by using code "futureoffishing" at check out!

Finally, you guys at WKF care a lot about getting kids fishing, and conservation. Why are these so important to you?

They should be important to everyone!  Kids are the future of fishing, and if you don't practice conservation then there will be no fish left for our kids to catch.  I used to be a Camp Counselor and 4th grade teacher, and taking kids fishing is just fun.  The more people we get into the sport and enjoying the great outdoors, the more people we will have that realize how important it is to protect.  And going out and fishing and enjoying outside is good for everyone, and especially kids.  It teaches them patience and persistence and lets them make great life long friendships.

Is there a way viewers can contact you?

I would love to talk to anyone and everyone about all things fishing! Please feel free to call me at 860-402-5903 or email me at joe@whyknotfishing.com.

Thank you again for the opportunity to be interviewed. I hope a few of you will be able to join our tournament and/or learn more about Why Knot Fishing and become a part of the team.

Tight Lines!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Euro-Nymphing Clinic

Housatonic River Outfitters is hosting a clinic on Sept. 24 for Euro (or, "tightline") nymphing. Noted angler Aaron Jasper will be leading the session.

I've caught more fish, and bigger fish, since learning the technique two years ago.  Both my personal best 22" fish, and my volume-leading 60+ fish day, were done with that technique.

More here, if you're interested.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A New Personal Best: a 22" Brown Trout at the Farmington

After six long hours at the Farmington, I had landed only one fish. A very nice 6" brown. Spots A was absolutely barren. Spot B yielded one take and the aforementioned fish. Very few bugs, the air was cold, and only a few rises in the morning.

As some midges popped off, I was hopeful for more activity. Nada. I had with me two fly rods, one for dries and the other for tightline nymphing. When the dries didn't deliver, I switched. But, tightline nymphing didn't produce either.

I don't know about you, but when things are slow, I often catch myself getting a bit down. I feel like giving up. Instead, I decided to go to Spot C. In the past, I've forced myself to keep fishing, for, often, something good happens soon thereafter.

It did.

I saw my line tighten, and I set the hook. Immediately, I felt something heavy and a flash of orange. A brookie?

The fish just bore down and just bulled its way around. It took me down river, and so, I followed it. I've learned the hard way that when a big fish is on, you want to keep it up river from you, or the hook may pop off. Gradually, I used side pressure to ease it into calmer water.

That's when I saw the tell tale marks of a brown. And, not just any brown. This one was huge and had a very pronounced kype. Of course, I immediately became nervous.

The fish came close to the net a few times, but then surged away each time. After many hours on the water, I now know how hard to max out on my tippet. I use fluorocarbon, and it really can handle a great deal of stress.

Also, thank goodness, I have seen the Jensens' "Side Sweep" video. I've learned to use that technique when a big fish is on. It worked.

This ended up being a 22" buck brown. My phone camera isn't working that well, and the pictures don't capture how gorgeously buttery-yellow-orange this fish's belly looked. But, I'm glad I got some pictures.

This brown now is my personal best fish. My prior one was a 21" brown, also at the Farmington.

Here is the summary:
Fish: male brown
Length: 22"
Weight: 4.5 to 5 lbs., est.
Fly: #14 Perdigón fly (brown-olive thread with a very thin profile, fl. orange hot spot collar, Loon UV Thin Finish, jig hook, tungsten bead)
Method: tightline nymphing
Tippet: 6.5x fluorocarbon
Fly rod: 11' 3-wt. Euro
Leader: very long
Water: 74 cfs, 65 °F
Last, many thanks to Brian from Westport, CT, for helping me with the picture taking!

What a day....

Friday, September 16, 2016

Cynthia Harkness

I swung by Orvis Dedham to exchange some fly tying materials and was grateful to see Cynthia Harkness.

I met her a few years ago, and she is a true Fish Whisperer. I was just starting to fly fish regularly, and she was the first person to tell me about some local rivers, techniques, and spots. Then, a month later, I ran into her on a river and learned that she fishes a great deal, often before heading to work.

This time, I learned some more things:

  • They're now selling some tiny flies for the Swift River.
  • They have some new fly rods on sale only at that store: a 10' 3-wt. Helios 2 ($477, down from $795) and a 8.5' 6-wt. Superfine Glass ($225, down from $425). If you're thinking about Euro-nymphing, the former would be a good fit.
  • There are some great and under-fished striper spots only one hour away from Boston.
  • All of their free fly tying classes were over-subscribed.
  • A female fly fishing group now numbers 38 anglers. I keep encouraging my wife to take up fly fishing and hope she will now that she knows about this group.
  • All of their store-sponsored trips to the Farmington and Deerfield have sold out quickly, as well as tomorrow's float trip to target pike. In October, they have another pike float and a trip to the Farmington planned (more here).

So, all this to say that it's great to see so much innovation and so many programs designed to make fly fishing accessible to all. So, give them a visit or call over. They have a cool newsletter and are on Instagram, if you want to stay up-to-date with what's going on in the area.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Perdigón Flies


Perdigón flies seem interesting.

I first heard about them from competitive fly fishermen. As I've written before, I think there's much to be learned from people who compete and try to catch the most fish and the biggest fish (video here).

A Perdigón fly hails from competitive anglers in Europe, and it often is used by tightline (or Euro-nymphing) anglers. They're designed to sink quickly into the strike zone. And, they're very durable.

So, I've been making some, and I'm finding that they're super-easy to tie. A tail, a thread body, wire for segmentation (or, not), and a thread hot spot collar.

Then, you put on some epoxy to fill out and harden the fly. It also gives a nice glow to everything. I use Loon UV Finish, the thick kind. I put on the goop, smoothen it with a bodkin, and hit it all with a UV flashlight. Last, add a dot from a Sharpie pen to denote a wing case. Easy.

I'll let you know how it goes when I fish them this autumn.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Wet Flies at the Farmington River

I arrived at dawn at the Farmington, wondering if the Trico hatch would be on. It was relatively brisk at 53 °F, a big change from just a few weeks ago. I actually felt chilled.

There was a modest Trico hatch and just a few fish rising. Later, the spinner fall happened, and, again, only a few fish were rising. They're quite sophisticated at this point and wouldn't take anything that I was throwing up top. So, I added a Sunken Trico Spinner to the dry and landed a few that way.

Not much of a crowd at the spot where I fished. Some people came and went, but it was pretty much just one other angler and I for most of the morning. 

Later in the morning, I worked some riffles and noticed quite a few BWOs hatching, as well as some Caddis. I put on a #24 olive parachute. Nothing. WD-40. Zilch. X-Caddis. Nothing. Son of Sexy Walt's. Nada.

You get the idea.

For me, September is the toughest month for fishing. Hatches are sparse, and the bugs are small. The trout are educated. Water is usually low. The autumn spawn has yet to start.

As the sun rose, I saw some fish rising steadily downstream of me. Gentle rises, no splashes. Just ripples of water spreading out in concentric circles. Bulge rises. This meant that the trout were taking vulnerable emergers below the surface film.

I remembered something from Ed Engle's Fishing Small Flies. During a hatch, trout can be very focused on where the bugs are in the water column. If there is a ton of them below the surface film, the fish will be less inclined to take dries up top. They don't have to.

So, on a hunch, I put on a #20 CDC wet fly: Tiemco 2448H emerger hook, olive-brown thread body, extra-small black wire, and some CDC. I had a bunch of leftover feathers after using the tips for small BWO parachute flies.

As luck would have it, I immediately felt a jolting take. A good fish came to the net. Crazy!

I decided to keep fishing this fly. I enjoy fishing wet flies. There's a certain grace to throwing a fly downstream, letting it sink, and letting it swing gently. And, the takes are very powerful.

I had strikes when the fly swung in front of underwater rocks. The trout were holding there in the pillows of soft water. More fish came to the net. Nymphs were getting active, for I periodically could see trout flashing down deep, picking off bugs as they started to ascend up the water column.

Later, I switched back to the X-Caddis and dropped off it a black midge larva, with a tiny glass bead on it to give it some weight, as I was fishing some riffles. This 16" rainbow came to say hello.

I stopped counting fish after a while, but I think over a dozen were landed. Fishing small wet flies downstream can be tough, for it can be tricky to set the hook. But, I gradually am getting better at it. I find the key is to wait a second before gently raising the rod tip. When I didn't do that, I pulled the fly out of the fish's mouth. I learned that lesson quite a few times! I also think that tying the wet flies on the Tiemco 2488H hook, which has a 3x gape, really helped.

Crowds have thinned out at the Farmington. Hope you get a chance to fish this weekend. A good Labor Day for all....

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

My Top 3 Nymphs

As we head towards autumn, I'll be readying my tightline nymphing gear. My "dries or die" phase will come to an end. Only the midge hatch will be on, but there's only so much throwing of #28 and #30 dries on 8x that I can take.

I'll be restocking my flies and will be sure to have my Top 3 nymphs with me. Some will be quite small. They're on the list, for I try to pick patterns that suggest bugs that are commonly in the drift:

  • Pheasant Tail or its variants, such as the Frenchie. The Pheasant Tail mimics swimmer nymphs, such as Baetis
  • Midges. Midge larvae and pupae are nearly always in the drift
  • Walt's Worm or Sexy Walt's. These are quickie versions of a Hare's Ear for me. Bulky and buggy-looking nymphs mimic clinger nymphs, like Quill Gordons and March Browns. I rarely tie the H.E., as it takes too much time

Your go-to flies for autumn?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

'Thinkin' One Through'

Well, if the drought has dampened your plans for trout, there are some amazing videos through which we all can live vicariously.

Up top is another great video from Amelia and Dave Jensen. The pair are famous for being able to spot trout, and they're clearly amazing anglers, too. 


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Charlie Craven's Parachute Adams

With small Blue Winged Olives starting to hatch, I've been tying small parachute dries down to a size 24. Last time out on the Farmington, after the Trico spinner fall ended, it was the only fly that took fish for me.

There are many ways to tie a small parachute fly. You can use CDC for a wing post and whip finish the fly at the base of post.  I've tried a bunch of styles.

My favorite parachute fly uses white poly-yarn, for it's easy to see on the water and the material floats. I also like finishing the fly behind the hook eye, as I think it's more durable. So, after doing a bunch of online research, I found Charlie Craven's method of tying a Parachute Adams.

To tie a #24 BWO, I alter his recipe:
  • Orvis "Big Eye" dry fly hook
  • Micro-fibbets for the tails
  • Olive thread for the body, with some taper
  • Olive dubbing for the thorax (make sure you peek at the fly from below, as that will be the trout's view of the profile--you want a good-sized thorax)
  • Grizzly for the hackle. I don't bother with adding both Brown and Grizzly, as the fly is so small anyways
A parachute-style fly is great. It sits lower in the water than a Catskill-style dry, and so, looks more vulnerable. Charlie's recipe is here.

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Waning Hatch at the Farmington

I took a vacation day from work and fished the Farmington Trico hatch and spinner fall in the morning. I thought it might be less busy during the work week. Nope. My favorite Trico spot was even busier.

It was a fun outing, although the hatch wasn't as robust as during last time's 21-fish morning. Perhaps, it is because it became very cool overnight. Or, maybe it is a natural progression, as the hatch may be starting to wane.

The fish were very selective. A floating Trico spinner was the ticket, and accounted for seven trout landed, three of which were good-sized. 13" maybe? Pricked some others. Other Trico patterns were ignored. I've read that trout get more selective as the Trico hatch progresses.

The Trico action ended at 10 am. I was hopeful that the X-Caddis would continue to produce. Nope. I cycled through a bunch of flies. Nothing. Then, a bunch of fish rose to a #24 olive parachute fly. I either missed most or they gave splashy refusals. Landed two browns, however.

Everything died at noon. So, I reeled up and left.

Water was a solid 63 °F at dawn and 68 °F at noon. So, it is a good thing that the temps are getting cooler.

I hope everyone is enjoying the final days of August.