July 2021
Skinny Water Charters Newsletter
Good day my friend, it's been a while since I sat in front of this computer and banged out a newsletter. What was once a much more frequent communication has slipped off the rails I fear. Finding the time is difficult once the fishing season starts and then there's the motivation factor.

Anyway I want to bring you up to speed on several fronts, a summary of the May/early June cinder worm spawn in our salt ponds, and a great smallmouth bass extravaganza to Weatheryby's and Wheaton's Lodges in beautiful and remote Downeast Maine.

The newsletter also contains a couple of articles on fly casting, one is a short account of a new teaching technique I use to better replicate the various casting angles, and types of casts driftboat anglers need to know to be more successful. The article is coupled with a short account from one of my students who had great success on a recent trip to the Missouri River in Montana.
The other article discusses the Pick Up and Lay Down cast which from my perspective, as a guide, is one that not many anglers use.

I include a short reminder that it's not too early to "put your oar in the water" in preparation for the fall run of False Albacore and Atlantic Bonito which begins in late August.

Lastly I include a short piece on three common fly fishing errors I consistently see and suggestions on how to eliminate them.

Some of these articles have videos embedded in them which hopefully you will have fun watching.

My Best and Tight Lines,
2021 Cinder Worm Spawn- Review

Paul Kuehnel with a nice bass he worked hard for as David LiSooey looks on.
Zak Lehmann holding a beauty.
David Kearford admiring a bass he worked on for a while before connecting.
Charles Blackman on a picture perfect evening casting to tough stripers. I had Charles and his son, Alden two nights this year, the first night was long on scenery and short on rising fish. The second night was long on both.
A selection of flies I tied hours before an outing, based on success from prior evenings.
Kenny Mendez with a nice bass on the evening of May 12.
Charles and Alden Blackman on a gorgeous night of topwater worm fly fishing.
Capt. Chris Killenberg of Westport Fly (www.westportfly.com) on a foggy evening. Chris absolutely hammered the bass this evening. A long and accurate fly caster, Chris made fishing the worm spawn look easy!
John Andrasik from Newport has improved his fly casting significantly since we started fishing last season. One of many bass John caught this evening.
How time flies when we're having fun. This spring's cinder worm spawn was a good one, sure we had our days where the worms or the bass or sometimes both, didn't cooperate, but upon reflection I think our worm spawn fishing this May and June was about on average to prior years.

I had a number of new clients this year, as is typically the case. They were anglers who had heard about this unique fishery and how much it can feel like dry fly fishing for trout... it's darn near as close as you can get to dry fly fishing in salt water.

The stripers are migrating north along our southeast coastline and as they feel the warm waters leaving the salt ponds as the tide drops, they turn up into these ponds where they will stay anywhere between four to six weeks. The menu is essentially one item, cinder worms- that are between one and four inches in length and that emerge from the muddy bottoms to go through their mating rituals. The bass are staged in the pond and typically anywhere between 4 and 6pm, the worms show on the surface and the topwater feed is on!

This is really a flyrod fishery, sure you can catch the stripers using light tackle but the real fun is taking these fish on worm flies on floating fly lines at short distances (6 to 30 feet)... that close!

Some anglers will go home disappointed because the emergence is late (or not at all), or because they have put their fly in front of feeding bass countless times without getting a hit, let alone hooking and landing one, but hey it's fishing and that's the nature of the game... there are never any certainties.

On the other hand for many anglers the sight of seeing such a display of bass of all sizes rising to wiggling cinder worms, at extremely close range and hooking one (or many).. causes some anglers to reserve their date for the following season before getting off the boat.

Typically I get more requests for charter dates than I can handle during the 4-5 week span this phenomenon occurs. Typically this isn't a problem as I collaborate with another guide who like me has been fishing the worm spawn for many years and in most cases, between us, we can accommodate most anglers. However once we get to about June 10, the worms go back in hiding and the bass move onto the abundance of other forage in these salt ponds.

So, if this type of fishing is of interest to you, it's not too early to give a call or send me an email to reserve your date for 2022.

When I give presentations to clubs about tly fishing the worm spawn I use the following algebraic equation to express what it is :

SD+SW+LW+NW² x (SF+BF²)=

SD= short drive
SW= shallow water
LW= low wind
NW²no waves
SF=  sight fishing
BF²= big fish
An example of just how beautiful an evening on our salt ponds can be.
My Crystal Komodo cinder worm fly. A killer pattern. Don't accept imitations!
This fly is tied with two rabbit strips, with the hides facing one another. The head is black or dark green chenille or peacock herl, an incredibly life-like cinder worm pattern.
Charles Blackman tagged this bass late one evening. We had lots of fish on top but man were they selective! Charles didn't say much, he stayed totally focused and hooked this honey. It was a long fight but he played the fish expertly and it finally came to the net. Wonderful!
Downeast Maine Smallmouth Extravaganza

Guide Keaton McEvoy at the helm of her Grand Laker canoe.
Keaton launching the canoe on secret water.
Self, Keaton and Steve Key. Keaton is wearing her Skinny Water Charters tee-shirt.
Showing off the logo with a good laugh by all.
20' Alaskan Lund guide boats out of Wheaton's Lodge. Registered Maine Guides, Paul Laney and Mark Danforth hanging their "guide wear" out to dry.
Registered Maine Guide Paul Laney at the helm.
Registered Maine Guide Mark Danforth helping Steve show off a nice smally.
Steve caught three fish all week. This shot near Wheaton's was taken early in the week when it was fresh. All subsequent photos were taken of his frozen bass to make it look like he had a productive week of catching. Smiles of Mark and Steve are phony.
Seriously though, we had a great week of topwater fly rodding for willing smallmouth. Our weather was mixed, pretty windy overall with some rain, but the fish were willing, as usual.
My rod of choice was a four piece, 9 foot, 7 weight Edge Gamma Beta flyrod (Fly - (edgerods.com). I used a 7 wt RIO InTouch Stillwater Floater line, a seven foot 8 lb monofilament leader and a variety of popping bugs. For bass that were taking dragon fly nympths close to shore, I used the same line with a longer leader with an Airlock strike indicator two feet above a dragon fly nymph and cast near shore and to grasses and brush above the water line.
Our smallmouth were not giants but we did catch some nice fish in the 2-3 lb range. The part that I liked the most was sight-catching to these critters in Skinny Water.
We did have some days where there was no wind which made for idyllic conditions.
In preparation for this trip I spent some time at the tying vise, whipping up several "Sneaky Pete" knockoffs.
For the last few years I have gone north to Maine to fish their epic smallmouth bass lakes and rivers. I go with a friend and we "batch it" for a week to ten days, typically staying at two lodges that offer really great fishing, accommodations, great guides, great food and comfortable beds.

We fish HARD, starting just after breakfast and not getting back to the camps until about 5pm. During that time we are fishing in a variety of lakes and connector streams using floating lines and topwater popper patterns, and subsurface flies such as the Wooley Bugger and the Dragonfly nymph. As for fly rods we used primarily 6, 7 and 8 weight sticks (multiple rods of different weights because like most fly fishing nerds we have to bring a huge inventory.) When a reporter once asked Diamond Jim Brady why he wore so many diamond rings, his response was classic... "those who has'em, wears'em". That's us but with graphite and bamboo fly rods!

This year our first stop was Weatherby's Resort (www.Weatherbys.com) located in Grand Lake Stream, ME. The lodge is owned and operated by Jeff McEvoy and we were very ably guided by his daughter, Keaton. Although a freshly minted Registered Maine Guide, you wouldn't know that. Aside from being very pleasant, Keaton knows the local waters like the back of her hand as she's been fishing them since childhood. She expertly handled the Grand Laker canoe slipping Steve and I into some beautiful waters, and although one of our days was horribly windy, she was able to put us onto some lee shores where the bass were active.

Our next stop was just up the road a piece to Wheaton's Lodge (www.Wheatonslodge.com). Wheaton's is owned and operated by Patrick and Sandy Patterson. Like Weatherby's, Wheaton's offers superb smallmouth bass fishing. If you go earlier than we did, you can put landlocked salmon on your list of fish to target.

Wheaton's has a host of guides, all of whom are experts in fishing their local waters, most fishing from the classic Grand Laker squareback canoe. Because Steve and I are "joint and lower back" challenged, we prefer to fish in 20' Alaskan Lunds. Guides Paul Laney and Mark Danforth use these boats and we absolutely love fishing from them. Personally I like to stand while sight casting to smallmouth bass during the "pre-spawn" period. We can see the bass on their beds in anywhere from two to eight feet of water. You can see the bass angle up from the bottom when they sense the fly is invading their turf, you can see them rise in the water column carefully inspecting the popper... you wait, take the slack out of your fly line... wait....BAM!, the water blows up and you are tight to a very strong and aerial smallmouth.

Typically the action goes on all day. In years past we have had 100 fish days. Last year I caught so many bass that my wrist swelled to the point I had to take my bracelet off, immerse my casting hand/wrist in the water as we moved from spot to spot. A couple of cold Whaler's brews at the camp afterwards coupled with a selection of red wines brought from Steve's wine cellar quickly took the pain away until the next day!

Our typical day:
  • Breakfast at 7:30
  • Catch 50 fish before lunch
  • Shore lunch cooked on the fire by our guides
  • Catch 50 fish after lunch
  • Listen to shitty jokes and politics bantering (Steve and the guide's are conservatives, I'm a liberal so they tell me) but despite our political differences they are wrong and I catch more fish... nuff said!
  • Upon returning to camp the bar opens on our breezeway for cold beers and rehashing of the day's catch
  • Great dining at 6:30pm accompanied by a wonderful bottle of wine
  • Early to bed, most nights before it got dark! Party animals!


After nine days of fishing and a couple of days of driving (450 miles one way to these lodges), it's back to Rhode Island and to the salt water guiding schedule. Tough life.
My favorite topwater pattern was the "Stealth Bomber". This one was a commercial tye that I picked up at Kittery Trading Post, however for anyone wanting to tie this pattern, the following website will help you.
Steve's favorite pattern was the "Sneaky Pete"... a simple topwater bug. The favored color was yellow or chartreuse. Tying instructions follow:
"Fabulous Fred" was another of Steve's preferred smallmouth bass patterns. I think the rubber legs do it. A great pattern. Gaines Fabulous Fred (breambugs.com)
A dragon fly nymph pattern
The dragon fly emergence on these Maine lakes is a sight to see. There are swarms of them, and it's fun to watch an unwary dragon fly dip maybe two feet off the surface and have a smallmouth bass come rocketing out of the water and snag these mini-helicopters mid-flight. I target the nymphs as they emerge near the shoreline on a variety of grasses, sticks, leaves or debris. I do this with a nymph pattern on a floating line under a strike indicator. A slow retrieve from the shoreline or grass bed, brings solid strike, a nice alternative to casting floating bass bugs.
We even had a small emergence of mayflies, in this case the "Hex", properly known by it's Latin name, Hexagenia Limbata. It was fun tying on a Hex pattern and letting these flies drift with the wind.
A light twitch of the fly line generally brought a strike by a vigilant bass.
My Favorite Cast... the “Pickup and Lay Down”

My favorite cast by far is the "Pick Up and Lay Down", let's refer to it going forward as the PULD cast. Why is that?

Simple, it can get the fly to the destination without any false casts. No false casting equates to your fly being in the water longer, thus more exposure to the fish. No false casting also translates into less wear and tear on the casters hand, wrist, lower and upper arm and shoulder! Thirdly, the PULD cast allows others that may be in the boat with you, to cast their fly lines instead of patiently waiting for you to shoot the line to the target.

The PULD is also a great "change in direction cast". What's that you ask? Simple, let's say your initial target is a rising fish at the 12 O' clock position. Now you want to change the direction of the cast to a different fish that is rising at the 9 O'clock position. Using the PULD, you can cut that 90 degree change in direction in two pieces, each 45 degrees using only one false cast or you can lay the line down on the water at 45 degrees, do another PULD and shoot the line to the new target. This takes only a few seconds.

Now it can be argued that the PULD cast is essentially an inaccurate cast, perhaps OK for a fish species that doesn't get spooked by line slap... many saltwater species (such as stripers, bluefish, false albacore, and bonito) pay little attention to line slap. On the other hand, bonefish, permit, perhaps tailing redfish might very well hightail it when the line hits the water in the process of changing direction when you drop the line on the water for the second and final PULD. Most warm freshwater fish such as large and smallmouth bass, pickerel, northern pike generally are not easily spooked.

In the following video you will see a fly angler who feels compelled to take lots of false casts (11 or 12 I think!), to present a popper to a smallmouth bass, a fish that falls into the category of not being spooked by line disturbance. This angler could accomplish delivering the fly to the target with two, maybe three false casts- max. Instead he takes 12 false casts as if attempting to place the fly exactly inside a 12" diameter circle.


A PULD cast would have the angler picking up the line slowly, hauling on the backcast, slipping line on that backcast, pinching the line, hauling on the forward cast and shooting the line to the target.... the keys being using the waters surface tension acting on the fly line to load the rod, and good timing on the two hauling maneuvers. Mission accomplished in less than three seconds!

Steps to a pick-up and lay-down cast
1. Rod tip low to the grass/water with no slack
2. Slowly peel the line off the grass/water to the 10:30 rod position, and without stopping
3. Cast up and back, stopping crisply with the rod vertical at the 12 o’clock position
4. Wait briefly for the line to straighten
5. Cast forward, stopping crisply around the 10:30 position
6. Lower rod tip to grass/water

Sounds simple enough, right? Watch the following instructional video produced by Fly Fishers International to better understand how to make this cast, and then add it to your inventory to make your fly fishing more enjoyable and allow your boatmates to also do more fishing!

I can easily teach you this incredibly valuable cast as part of a two-hour lesson, held in Newport.

Fly Casting in the Park
Marty K. from Westport, MA and Boynton Beach, FL hires me most every spring for several fly casting lessons in preparation for his annual fly fishing trip to the Missouri River in Montana. He meets up with several of his buds, and Marty takes pride in catching more trout than his friends in what has become an informal competition. 

This year I designed a method of outlining on the grass, the dimensions of a boat (in this case a drift boat) using bright orange paracord secured with aluminum tent pegs at the approximate angles of the boat. This enables the student to take interchangeable bow and stern casting positions during the lesson to simulate conditions on the water. I can very easily change the peg locations and the angle of the boat to the simulated river flow and wind directions we encounter in the park.

It works like a charm as it offers the student a number of casting "problems" they need to figure out in order to place the fly in the correct position while at the same time avoiding hooking their guide or their fellow angler. We practice the standard overhead cast, off shoulder overhead cast, the standard roll cast, the off shoulder roll cast, the pick up and laydown cast, low- midlevel and high casting angles, a variety of backhand casts, the steeple cast, mending, aerial mending, reach casts and repositioning line as if casting with a strike indicator.

I then randomly space orange soccer cones at varying distances to mark targets that the student casts to- simulating rising fish and using clusters of cones and strips of cloth and a towel, to simulate foam lines and lies where fish may be stationed in the stream.

This is a dynamic teaching technique that closely resembles actual conditions. I’m now working on how I can get the grass to flow like a river.

So following our last lesson, I went to Maine to fish for smallmouth bass and Marty went to Montana to fly fish for trout on the Missouri River. The following paragraph is a message I received from Marty following his time on the river with his friends. The photo above is Marty showing off one of his catches.

"Hi Jim. On my way home from Helena. The Missouri was fabulous and I caught more than my share of Browns and Rainbows 🌈; including a 22" rainbow which the guides said was the biggest they have seen pulled out of the river. Also had some 20 " Browns. My casting was pretty good thanks to you. Didn't Hit anyone. They kept me in the bow as the other guys definitely are stronger casters. Thanks for your lessons and patience. Enjoy your vacation, with friend in Me. Marty "

The following links take you to two YouTube videos of Marty casting in the park and shows our set up as described above.

False Albacore and Atlantic Bonito
Each summer about this time I put out the word that it's not too early to start thinking about the influx of False Albacore and Atlantic Bonito that begin arriving in late August (Bonito), followed shortly thereafter by the Albies. Based on my records over the last fifteen years or so, the Albies typically start arriving in Newport area waters about September 8. I like getting on these fish in the early weeks before word gets out they have arrived, when our waters are not yet teeming with Albie fevered anglers, when the preferred bait (typically Bay Anchovy) is still moving in tight bait balls, and when our weather is still very much like summer. The False Albacore is not necessarily a difficult fish to catch, but they can get very picky as September starts to slip away into October and when these fish get pounded by every Tom, Dick and Harry running them down.

Currently I have eleven Albie trips in the books for September, which leaves considerable opportunities for other anglers to get on my calendar. October is wide open and I'll generally book Albie trips to about mid-month. I'll tell you now, once the word gets out that these fish are in Newport area waters, my guide friends and I will run out of open days real quick.

So, now is the time to make your reservation that I will secure with a small deposit.
Check out this video taken on a foggy/rainy day off Jamestown... it was a veritable Albiefest!

The following video is of two of my friends/clients who simultaneously hooked up on False Albacore near the Center Wall on our south shore a couple of years ago. I love this video because it illustrates the speed and direction these fish take when they get hooked. Who doesn't like to get tight to a fish that can swim 60 feet a second?!
John Andrasik of Newport with a chunky Albie he scored off of Jamestown last fall.
Roger St Germain hoisting a gorgeous Albie he caught just south of Newport's Brenton Reef last fall.
"Warren's Fly".. a pattern my friend Captain Warren Marshall turned me onto a few years ago that has been my "go to" pattern for False Albacore and Atlantic Bonito.
Rick Wood, DVM -put on an Albie catching demo last fall on his boat. A happy guy for having just lost a sweet fly rod, reel and line set up off of East Beach when we were dashing from one Albie feed to another.
Ask Brian Sheppard of New York City about chasing False Albacore... he needed to sit down for five minutes, drink a bottle of water and catch his breath after this beast tested Brian's endurance!
Ask Paul Kuehnel (above) about Albie fishing. Ask Jeff Moschella and Andy Celona (below) of Bass Pro Shops/ Foxboro about chasing Albies... they'll tell ya!
Winding Fly Line onto Your Reel
I see these things all the time during a fly fishing charter and I think it's worth mentioning in this newsletter as several opportunities to improve your technique.

When the fly angler is playing a large fish on the reel, they are 100% focused on landing that fish as soon as they can. More often than not, the tendency is not to "play" the fish to the net, but rather "horse" the fish into the boat as quickly as possible. More often than not, they will do three things incorrectly.

They will have the butt of the rod in a high position, oftentimes chest-high which puts a lot of pressure on the tip of the rod (think in terms of the entire tip section of a four piece rod being severely flexed.) A fly rod is not meant to carry this dramatic flex with the thinnest portion of the rod. The flex is meant to be distributed over the entire length of the rod. Anglers should try not to have the butt of the rod any higher than "belt level".

The second thing I see is the angler will take their hand off the knob of the reel and place it above the cork grip half way to the where the butt section joins the second section, in order to gain more leverage. Again, the rod is not designed to have the lower flex point above the grip and below the first stripping guide. The rod is designed to transfer that pressure into it's butt section.

The third mistake I see is that the angler does not distribute the fly line evenly on the spool as the line is being wound onto the spool during the "fight". What happens is the line is unevenly wound so that it bunches up and binds against the "bridge" that connects both sides of the spool. This "jam" can damage the fly line by abrading the plastic coating, as well as potentially causing the angler to lose a fish by braking it off should the fish take another run. If the line is bunched too tightly on the spool, the leader may break from the pressure of the fish stripping off line.

RIO Products produced the following short video that illustrates uneven fly line wound on the spool and how to properly distribute it while fishing.

Fly Fishing Quote
"There's more B.S. in fly fishing than there is in a Kansas feedlot."

Lefty Kreh
I hope this newsletter was fun and perhaps contained information of interest to you, and again I welcome input for future topics you may be interested in knowing more about.

Sorry for any misspelled words and lousy sentence structure. I try!

Newsletters are produced whenever I can find the time. An archive of prior issues can be found on my website.
My best, and I hope to see you on the water.
Capt. Jim Barr
Skinny Water Charters