“The Wet-Fly Corner” With Andy Brasko, a Genuine Wet-Fly Fisherman
Photo by Annie Brasko
Taken from the February 2010 Guild Gazette Newsletter
“One of my favorite things to do is to fish the Willowemoc in the late-night hours, from 9:00 p.m. until midnight. Late-night fly fishing is challenging, a little tricky, and a bit spooky. What first got me intrigued with it were the stories of large browns coming out to feed, but what really got my attention was the sound of violent strikes being made on the surface of the water by feeding trout.
My go-to pattern for night fishing and the fly for this month is the White Miller.
It has produced quite well for me on the Willowemoc and on my home waters of the Ken Lockwood Gorge in New Jersey. The White Miller is nothing more than an all-white fly with a little silver flash. However, I have also seen and tied a variation of this fly with a red tail and gold tinsel. According to Mary Orvis Marbury in Favorite Flies and Their Histories, the White Miller was “copied after the familiar moth” and “has been in use nearly ever since the time when anglers first learned to cast the delusive fly” (p. 365).
I fish this fly when I see moths attracted to my head lamp when it’s turned on for a few moments to tie on a fly. I shorten my wet-fly leader from 9 feet for to 7½ feet and use just a two-fly rig. It’s just a little easier to manage and cast in the dark. If the stream flows are medium to high, I use a sinking line, and if the water level is low, I use a floating line. When it comes to night fishing, my motto is “Hold on!” The strikes of browns feeding at late night can feel like I’ve snagged a branch or log or just like an explosive tug. Then I watch line start to unwind from my reel.
I fish the White Miller in size 8, because I have not seen too many moths larger than size 8. Exceptions, such as the amazing luna moth, which is much larger, hardly ever are seen. However, I’ve observed moths around size 12 to 14 in great numbers, and when I do, I switch to size 12 White Miller, even though I consider a fly that size to be no more than a midge.
One of my late-night excursions was on the upper Willowemoc under the covered bridge. I remember that night very well. It was July Fourth weekend, 10:45 p.m., with a clear sky, full moon, and a heavenly body of stars. I was casting a two-fly rig and for about forty-five minutes taking fish almost on every cast. My largest fish that night was a fifteen-inch brown. Over the past few years, I have caught browns ranging from seventeen to twenty-three inches, and like Canon Greenwell, I was in my glory. This fly is a simple little fly that is easy and fun to tie. Consider giving it a try on your late-night fishing excursions.
Hook: Mustad 3906, size 8
Thread: White Danville 6/0 for the underbody and black Danville 6/0 for the head
Tag: Silver Mylar tinsel, size 16/18
Body: Two strands of white Danville floss wrapped from back to front
Rib: Silver Mylar tinsel, size 16/18
Beard/False hackle: White dry-fly hackle from a Cabela’s premium cape, folded and used as a full-collar hackle
Wing: Paired white goose quills (duck may also be used)
Head: One good soaking coat of Griff’s Thin, two coats of Griff’s Thick
The pattern listed above is from Ray Bergman’s Trout, plate 9. I also love the variation of the fly mentioned above, with a red tail from paired goose or duck quills and a tag and rib of size 16/18 gold Mylar tinsel. However, I prefer the all-white version pictured here for night fishing, because it supposedly imitates moths, and the red-and-gold variation looks more like a mayfly to me. But tie and fish whichever version pleases you most. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”