Cold Weather Activities

Wow it is cold out today. While Granite Staters are weather tough, they are also weather wise. We throw another log on the fire or more pellets in the stove and set up our fly tying equipment, our tablet, and a favorite beverage and get busy filling our fly boxes and planning fishing trips for 2023.

The groundhog saw his shadow on Thursday so there is going to be six more weeks of winter. (Isn’t there always?) For many that is an “UGH”. For anglers there is a sense of urgency. Only six more weeks to prepare for the upcoming fishable open water fishing season.

Yes, under normal years we begin to fish the Androscoggin River for the big holdover rainbows and the Saco River for the big holdover browns. These fish are most interested in large articulated streamers, something representing a big mouthful of protein so that the fish can go back to the bottom of the river and hibernate for three or four days.

While absorbing the heat from the pellet stove, I start to flip pages in Bate’s book “Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing” looking for a streamer to tie. It is an annual ritual to scan the book looking for a fly that jumps out and says, “brook trout!”

The flies in the book are listed in alphabetical order, I didn’t get to the end of the “B’s” when the fly the Belknap jumped out at me. This fly was developed by Ray Salminen for fishing in the Sandwich area. It is designed to imitate the small minnows that inhabit the watershed.

A flashback to an afternoon of float tubing on Kiah Pond in the Sandwich Wilderness came to mind. While the afternoon had been successful, the action was not consistent. Several times there had been small baitfish surfacing, trying to escape the feeding brook trout. That day the fly box was filled with old school wet flies. No baitfish imitations were available to try and imitate the local baitfish.

The Belknap streamer is simplicity in itself. Bate’s shows the pattern with a red hackle fiber tail, fourteen wraps up and down the shank with gold tinsel. A wing of white calf tail just past the bend of the hook. Then a shorter wing of white calf tail half as long. A topping of two slips of mallard with a jungle cock eye. It is clear that the fourteen wraps of tinsel was Salminen’s way of adding weight to the fly as tinsel was made from metal at the time.

With mylar tinsel being the only tinsel available on this day, there had to be another way to add the weight necessary for the fly. It was time to modernize the Belknap. Wrapping the hook with .015 diameter lead free wire was the start. The red tail was tied with red ice wing. The wire body was wrapped with yellow holographic tinsel, once down the shank and once back up the shank. Calf tail was replaced with white ice wing. The topping was a single mallard feather sheathed over the ice wing. The jungle cock eye remained.

The modern Belknap streamer appeared to be the answer to the question of what baitfish imitation would work in Kiah. It should work in Guinea Pond. Black Mountain Pond. Any of the ponds in the Sandwich Wilderness.

A sip of the brown liquid to toast Salminen and some more pellets in the stove. Brook trout fishing is still weeks away. UGH!