Friday, December 6, 2013

Bat Banger Article in Hatches online

DISCLAIMER:  The blog page has been a royal pain in the ass to maintain, so I apologize in advance for any formatting issues...enjoy the article
Bat Banger- by Vern-o
Read and see more at
I knew who Rich Strolis of was long before ever actually meeting him in person. I kept bumping into his web forum posts on the far too many forums I visit to pacify my need for fly tying satisfaction. Rich always seemed to have some Vimeo video attachment of a tantalizing trout catching pattern that incorporated some element or function that left me thinking “why didn’t I think of that?” Rich’s videos grew and developed into the nicely produced and informative videos that they are today. Then along came the Headbanger sculpin a spinoff of his Hog Snare fly.
I am a big fan of sculpins, and I don’t really know why. Yes, they are tremendous fish catchers, but that aside, I am still fascinated by them. When the Flymen Fishing Company launched their Sculpin Helmets, I was hooked on them before I had them in my hands. I created some very pleasing patterns with them and fished them mostly tied on HMH tubes. Then Rich comes out with his Headbanger articulated sculpin. See the step by step video here I was impressed to say the least, but if there was a downside to the Sculpin Helmets, it was that they could be a bit heavy cast. Sculpins are river bottom lurkers, so the helmets need to be heavy. Around the same time as Rich was working his Headbanger, I was creating my Batwings fly that was tied on a shank and meant to swing nice and smooth through pools and rely on its marabou in drab colors to entice the fish into crushing it. The Batwings was a keeper fly right away for me.

The Headbanger

Then in November of 2012 while at the International Fly Tying Symposium, I had the opportunity to meet Rich face to face. I think there was that mutual feeling of “hey, I’ve’ve been wanting to meet you”. We didn’t get a lot of time to chat, but enough to realize that we had some common piscatorial interests, especially when it came to fly tying. I too got to see the Headbanger tied in front of me and understand the internal workings of it. The thing that really stuck with me was Rich’s use of plastic beads between the articulations. Again, that “why didn’t I think of that?”, popped into my head. After the symposium Rich and I kept in contact on and off through the social media vortexes. The plastic beads kept dancing in my head and while tying at an event in Syracuse, NY I threw in some egg beads that I had rediscovered in a box. While at the demo I started fooling around trying a variation of the Batwings and incorporating a pseudo rear section of the Headbanger. I had brought my swim tank to the demo and threw the fly in to watch it swim. The beads were a bit too big for the rest of the fly, but the swimming motion was exactly what I had envisioned. This fly was alive! I fooled around with a few color variations and combinations. This developing pattern constantly swirled in my head and I needed to advance with it. Not long after that Tying Show, I was home with my daughter who happened to be ill from school. I was fueled with too much coffee and sent Rich a message.
                                                The Bat Banger and Headbanger

I inquired about working together to create a fly pattern that incorporated our two patterns. Rich was on board and we were off to the races. Rich sent me a Headbanger sculpin for reference and a few of the right sized beads. From there we collaborated on a pattern. The end result was to keep the rear articulation pretty much unchanged from the Headbanger sculpin, other than to move the artic fox wing to the rear of the shank portion and replace the rubber legs with DNA Holofusion fibers. For the shank portion again things are kept pretty close to the original. I thinned down the artic fox wings a bit, to keep the fly a little lighter and for the body I used polar chenille which gives a little more flash and movement. Again the legs were replaced this time with Krenik’s copper flash. In front of the artic fox wing, I added a collar of Whiting Farms spey hackle bird fur. This stuff is a lot like marabou, but not as dense and adds a ton of fluidity in the water. Keeping with the Bat Wing tradition I added downward angled jungle cock eyes and a pheasant rump feather topping. I experimented with the Bat Wing, the Bat & Balls Banger, and the Headbanger in the test tank. My hopes were met. The Bat Wing wants to ride high, the Bat & Balls Banger was intermediate, and the Headbanger hugged the bottom. The water column is now covered. The articulation on the Bat & Balls Banger was precisely what I was hoping for. The holofusion and copper flash added a little more flash to draw the strikes. The test run for the Bat & Balls Banger resulted in an early season smallmouth that thrashed it on the strip back. I have taken this fly for several “test swings” and each outing it’s gaining more stream credibility.

The Bat Banger

Victim of the Bat Banger

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Troutoberfest 2013

Pre Tying garb...Barvarian Redneck style

The second annual Troutoberfest in Roscoe, NY was October 12+13, 2013.  Last years event was good, but this year was over the top.  Fishing tournament, Orvis vs. Hardy cook-off, Tiers galore, two days of jam packed seminars and classes, and a pig roast to close the event on Sunday.  Shop manager Matt Nelson and Shop Owner Evan Lavery went above and beyond your typical shop sponsored event.  This truly was a "Fest".  I was glad to be a part of it and I look forward to next year.  A special thansk to William Anderson and Eric for putting up with my antics and being willing to tie next to me.  Always nice to see John Shaner, Lance Hidy, Pat Cohen, and Eric Reed.  As has been the norm for me lately fishing was a bust.

Vickie's cupcakes taking a hit Saturday morning

Matt, Evan and Tom taking care of business.
Eric and William Anderson talking flies
Dan Thomas
The Willow

Wooly Bugger Contest Entries

Pat Cohen getting ready to twist them up.


The coolest t-shirt in ages....IMHO


Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Quest For Heady Topper

The Quest For Heady Topper.
When countless friends of mine that don’t know each other start recommending the same beer repeatedly, I take notice.  First off, what is all the hype?  Don’t get me wrong, I love my craft brews but to the extent that people get that faraway look in their eye at the sheer mention of it. Enter the Heady Topper brewed by the Alchemist Brewery in Middlebury, Vermont.  Geography time, Vermont borders New York.  No problem right, I’ll run to the local Wegmans grocery store known for its tremendous selection of crafty brews……no go.  A buddy mentions that the stuff is really hard to come by.  I begin calling several beer specialty stores in a two hour driving radius in search of….no dice.  Enough of this stuff I say and google the brewery itself to find out what the deal is.  The website has a distribution map that shows a cluster of retail locations all crammed into one area of Vermont.  Geography lesson: Vermont is not a monster sized state.  By now the “what the fuck?” has entered my head.  I attempt to call the brewery and get the scoop.  Of course no human answers the phone and I listen to the “come early in the week because we sell out quickly” recording…again WTF? pops into my head.  It is beer!  How good can it be?  I start contemplating whether or not to end the summer with a weekend trip to Vermont.  No, that is ridiculous to drive five hours for beer.  A lucky break came.  A co-worker was headed to the eastern edge of New York and volunteered to pick up some Heady Topper for me across the border into Vermont.  I mention that I want a case of this stuff sight un-tasted. A case will run roughly $72….not a keg, 24 cans of beer= $72.  My co-worker is certain I have lost my freaking mind at the absurdity I am bestowing upon her.  She was soon going to learn of the insanity even within the state of Vermont for BEER….not just any beer, Heady Topper beer.  She trekked to the actual brewery and they were sold out of cans of Heady Topper.  Dejected and rejected she was sent on a mini-mart quest for the said product.  Rejection followed more rejection, when low and behold she scored a display at one mini mart with a limit of one.  One four pack of beer per customer!  She was able to secure me a single four pack of the heady stuff.  Cash for beer was exchanged in upstate New York and I raced home from work to plan my course of action on how to consume said beverage.  It was easy, just get all the bullshit stuff done, kick back and taste the nirvana in a can.  I kicked on the classic rock radio station and sat on the screen porch, put me feet up and opened a can.  By now I am so annoyed at the ordeal to get a beer  that I’m ready to criticize everything I can about the beer.  I go to taste that first sip when the aroma hits me.  No, I’m not nosing a glass of fine merlot.  I’m drinking beer from a can….that telltale hoppy scent hits me nicely.  Then the taste encompasses my tongue and mouth……it’s hoppy, piney, citrusy, and overwhelming.  Heady Topper is a double IPA (India Pale Ale)….in a nut shell it’s supposed to be hoppy tasting.  It’s not obnoxiously hoppy by IPA standards.  It is wonderfully hoppy.  Descriptions abound for the actual taste, but it is so intriguingly satisfyingly complex.  Hands down I can find no fault with it.  By now the family dog is staring at me wanting to know what mental cloud I have landed on to not notice her.  I reassure her that it would be ok to pull up a chair and sit with me.  Careful not to consume the whole can to quickly I am surprised at every pull from the can how great this is.  Then “Turn the Page” by Bob Segar comes on and I cherish the solitude.  At 8% alcohol content these are somewhat potent by normal beer standards, but not out of control.  Then flowed Pink Floyd.  It’s a classic rock station not Pandora.  By now the can is nearly empty, and in order to fully understand the beer I needed to have another.  I begin to carry on a one way conversation with the family dog. 

When a 4:20 trivia contest comes over the radio.  I am certain at this point I can answer any trivia question in the world and start dialing.  The answer is a Popcorn Maker and my call gets through.  It matters not the actual question, just that I am a winner.  A winner to a pair of Bacon Fest tickets.  In all my glory of consuming Heady Topper, I am now the proud winner of tickets to festival featuring BACON.  I now understand why those countless friends got that faraway look in their eyes at the sheer mention of HEADY TOPPER.  It is magic in a can. 

After the second can dissolved into nothingness I reached into the frig to open a craft beer IPA to compare.  It was like comparing Guiness to Miller Lite for those of you not familiar with crafty beers.  Heady Topper is worth the quest.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

2013 Arctic Circle Flies

Occasionally cool things happen to flies I tie. Sinking hooks into jaws is always nice.  Sometimes my flies get to travel to faraway places that I can only dream of fishing.  Thus I live vicariously through my flies.  In mid-June I was contacted through a social media vacuum by an individual in Germany who had stumbled across a picture of some flies I had tyed a couple years back for a buddy who was headed to the Arctic Circle.  This individual wanted to know if I was interested in tying some flies for him as he was going there himself in late August.  For me it’s always exciting to see messages like this.  There is a gamble involved with a prospect like this; meeting deadlines, shipping costs, lost packages, currency exchange rates, and just getting ripped off in general.  Fly fishermen are generally decent people and keeping initial orders small tends to minimize the risks.  Sven and I worked out an agreement for me to tie some flies for his trip to the Ekaluk River.  On July 22, 2013  mailed the flies to Germany.  Then the waiting began……lots of waiting.  It took nearly a month for the flies to arrive and Sven got them literally days before leaving.  PPPPHHHHEEEEEWWWW!  I never anticipated it taking that long for the flies to reach him and anxiety had set in over what to do if they had arrived after he left on his journey.  Part of our deal was to share some photos from his trip when he returned.  Sven delivered on his end with some cool pictures and a brief note. 
Had a Great Trip, flies worked well, cold and storms (Winds over 100 mph), very nice people, Good Camp, loads of big, big Char!

Flies ready to go!
A view from on top of the world

You know it's windy when shit flows sideways.....LOL


What it's all about!!!!

This is what it’s all about… fuels the fire within and drives the motivation.
A huge thank you to Sven for his patience and sharing his experience with me!!! 
Sven stayed at: Camp Ekaluk with B&J Flyfishing Adventures
Here is a link to my blog post from a few years back:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Salmon River Trip 8/25/13

Tom Coughlin Stadium Sunrise.

I swear I see a brook trout.

The great eye in the sky.

Swimming fly.

Magog in color with Flymen Fishing Company "Fish Mask"
Not a lot to say about the fishing, it was more of a visual trip.  There were a few fish around, but they weren't players in my game.  Really a good experience.  Sorry for the stupid sideways photos, the pics appear rightside up, but blogger turns them and won't let me correct...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Advanced Fly Fishing for Great Lakes Steelhead (Book Review)

With the hint of fall in the air, what better time to brush up on our quest for Great Lakes steelhead than with a review of Rick Kustich's book. Advanced Fly Fishing for Great Lakes Steelhead is a sort of follow up book to Rick and Jerry Kustich’s 1999 book Fly Fishing for Great Lakes Steelhead.  The timing is perfect with the viral explosion that has become a never-ending pursuit for many of us that is steelhead fishing, in particular Great Lakes steelheading with a fly.  Rick Kustich was the first fly tier I went to actually watch do a solo fly tying demo.  I remember that brisk Buffalo, New York winter day at the Oak Orchard Fly Shop.  Rick was on hand to tie tube flies and I was just scratching the surface in my curiosity for the tubular knowledge.  I remember being captivated by the simplicity in execution and the fluidity in which he spoke and educated his audience.  Every step and material had meaning and purpose.  One thing I took away from his demo was that tube flies are a great way to have youngsters learn the skill of tying.   No hooks to pierce inexperienced appendages until they are ready to be fished. It wasn’t long after that I was enthralled in his first book. Detail, detail, detail, every page had it.  It opened a whole spectrum of new ideas for me and destinations to ponder.  The ending notes of protecting our beloved surroundings and resources sealed it for me.  As the years have evolved so has my quest for steelhead along with many of my fellow anglers.  I no longer chuck parachute cords filled with lead to dredge the river bottoms with tiny nymphs dangling six feet away.  I now prefer the quality of the tug rather than the numbers landed. 
Rick Kustich has evolved as well and his detailed ability to capture every nook is chronicled in his new book Advanced Fly Fishing for Great Lakes Steelhead.  Rick methodically breakdown our sport covering virtually every nuance and niche.  What I like about Rick’s approach is that he covers many aspects and options and then states what style he likes and why.  It’s a no-nonsense style that doesn’t dance around what is politically correct. I applaud his stance with statements like, “Personally I have nothing against any sporting means to catching a steelhead, but when one approach significantly takes opportunity away from other anglers, there does seem to be something that borders on the unethical about this type of behavior.”   Rick certainly doesn’t soapbox issues, but rather his on the water experiences have exposed him to a vast array of individuals and techniques.  Rick explores countless tactical approaches and keys in on environmental factors that affect the success of connecting to our quarry.  Rick points out the advancements in technology to make our gear that much more versatile.  Rick makes no qualms about the fact that pursuing steelhead with a two handed (Spey) rod is his driving desire.  This style alone warrants a title using the word “advanced”.  Rick takes the time to describe several casting strokes, many of which are designed but not limited to two handed rods.  Careful descriptions are given followed by outstanding photo sequences taken by Nick Pionessa.  The book is peppered with stunning scenic photos and many a magnificent Oncorhynchus mykiss specimens.  This book really makes you appreciate and want to preserve the natural beauty that encompasses the Great Lakes region.  The book nears its conclusion when Rick discusses the search for a quality experience and gives insight into possible new trends to improve our sport.   Much like catch and release or catch limits have evolved through years of education, Rick hints to pool rotation and sharing in the experience as new avenues for improvement.  The book wraps up with chapters on flies tyed by many of those who fish these great lakes with passion and a breakdown of the many rivers and streams in which to challenge our desires.  There are no real spot burns, but rather a point in the right direction.  Rick has a grasp on this fishery that can only make one wonder what lies ahead in the next fifteen years or so.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Mental Health Day

As real life would have it I occasionally get overwhelmed and frustrated mostly with the real life job.  I then need that mental release, thus the need for a mental health day.  For me there is usually a bunch of planning, on what species and what body of water, etc.  What makes a mental health day more complete, than to score some fish.  This day was designed to score some warmwater species from the kayak.  The weather forcasted changed on me last minute making me rethink my original destination.  No problem I usually have a backup plan.  I headed to the North end of Cayuga Lake and searched for a launch spot.  Once I did I was off and eager to get the day reeling.  No dice, I moved to another location, and another, and dice, no dice, no fish.  A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work.....right?  So be it, not every outting can be what the vision in my head wants it to be......thus the quest continues.  I did manage to take both my girls fishing, so that brought smiles to everyones face, myself included.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Deerfield River Spey Day June 1, 2013

For the last three years now, I have volunteered my time, my abilities, and my money to help out with the Deerfield River Spey Day in northwestern Massachusetts.  The event is hosted by Walt Geryk ( and his crew of volunteers.  The event usually consists of fly tying, spey casting demos, free BBQ, raffles, and auctions. 

The proceeds go to Reel Recovery, an organization devoted to assisting cancer survivors in their recovery through fly fishing.  I enjoy helping the cause and traveling to some beautiful river locations.  Every year I have constructed a leather fly wallet and tie a few flies to go along with it.  The items are then added to the list of wonderful trips, gear, and artwork to be auctioned.  This year was no different, except I may have donated more flies and materials than usual.  Again, it’s all for a good cause.  This year was a little different for me.  I usually have the family in-tow with me and we spend time after the event together.  With the addition of a new puppy to our family, traveling a good distance and finding accommodations for the puppy was a bit much this year.  I made the trip this year solo.  Thank goodness the weather held out, unlike last year’s monsoon event.  I had aspirations to fish before and after the event. You would think a solo trip would allow me endless hours of fishing, but it didn’t. 
At the Hairpin Turn

The drive is nearly five hours each way, and not leaving until late Friday afternoon put the kibosh on the evening hatch since I had to find a place to throw down the tent for the night. 

Up early on a quest for coffee took me to the Shellburn Falls Coffee Roasters, then as I scoped out fishable water I ended up at the Zoar Picnic Area and decide to give a hand setting up the big tent. 

Once the event got underway there was a steady flow of people, some faces new, and some familiar.  My little travel table/tying table soon had the company of two other tiers, one of which was Allen Landhere.  I’ve encountered Allen at many of the Somerset Tying Shows, and he is an exceptional tier.  It was nice to have fellow tiers at the table to share in the skills and chatting. 
Allen Landheer
To say the least, the day was perfect and as the afternoon wore on and the event was winding up, I contemplated driving back home or fishing the evening hatch. 
Walt talking casting finess
Auctioneer Chuck!!!

Streamers donated by Eunan
What I’ve noticed each year of doing this event was that the auction has some really incredible items, and each year I watch as countless items go for virtually less than cost.  The point of the event is to raise money for a charity, not get an item for dirt cheap.  This brings me to why we are there.  I am sure we all know someone who has lost the battle with cancer.  I for one know an individual who is currently battling cancer.  His name is Mark and he is an avid soft hackle tier and angler.  Mark goes by the screen name soft-hackle on a few web forums and is a co-founder of the flymph web site (  I met Mark a few years back at a tying event in the Catskills.  I think Mark was the first internet human being, at least fly tying related that I met face to face. Mark came up introduced himself and we just started talking flies, and everything soft hackle. The knowledge just fell out of him.  This was my first time really doing a tying event and I wasn’t even unpacked yet. Mark made me feel like I had been tying with him for years. I think from there it’s been no- stop for me. I still smile thinking of all that enthusiasm he shared.  Eventually I got to sit down and watch him tie and again the knowledge just gushed and I beamed with respect.  Mark and I have stayed in loose contact over the years since then.  Mark truly has been an inspiration to me.  Two years ago I got to see Mark while battling with cancer at the first annual Flymph gathering in the Catskills.  I was glad to be able to stop and say hello to him and the fellow Flymphers.  I had hoped to tie at this years Flymph event, but scheduling was an issue. 
I digress a bit here.  Flash back to the Deerfield.  I decided that my obligations to get back to New York were greater than fooling around chasing trout all evening.  I packed my vehicle with a bit of mixed feelings, but mostly pleased with being a part of the Deerfield River Spey Day.  I couldn’t resist the temptation to wet a line for an hour or so.  I found an unoccupied pull off and threw together my gear and hit the water.  I worked my way toward a sweet little run when I noticed a decent splash as a trout inhaled a bug.  I opted for a March brown parachute pattern, since they were sporadically coming off the water. I then wanted to increase my odds of hooking up with a fish, so I added a dropper fly.  I chose the Genesee  Jewel wet fly, created by Mark.  I’ve heard and experienced the capabilities of this fly as a searching pattern.  Now let me paint this in a different light. 

Genessee Jewel by Mark Libertone
 I am on a tight schedule, I’m physically and mentally beat from the previous events, and I’m fishing a non-descript piece of water I have never fished before, in hopes of connecting with a fish (trout preferred) on a sunny slightly humid June 1st day.  It wasn’t easy, but eventually my parachute was pulled under and the Genesee Jewel was connected to an over excited rainbow trout.  I played the fish to submission with a giddy kid type feeling overcoming me.  It happened, my road trip, tying event, hoopla extravaganza was candy coated with one simple fish, taking one wet fly, created by one remarkable person. 
I fished a bit longer hoping to improve my odds and as the sun shone bright, a brief down pour of rain told me it was time to go.  I searched the skies for a rainbow, but realized it came in the form of a fish.  I thank you Mark Libertone for all the inspiration.