The Flyfisher Guide Service took to the air this month to encounter western New York steelhead using Moffitt Angling on the famous Cattaraugus Creek in Gowanda. Being the day after Thanksgiving, I reflect upon my childhood in western New York. There is no better way to explain than Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken, written in 1915.
I was able to take away two items from this poem.
1.It is nice to return to your roots and fish your home river for the first time in many years.
2.Almost 100 years after Frost’s prose, Pat Moffitt has taken the path less traveled to introduce the next evolution of fly fishing – hookless flies, contact leaders and a conservation-minded release with a circle hook.
We like to fall back into our reliable and trusty fishing holes regularly, but the true spirit and ultimate reward of fly fishing is about choosing the path less traveled. Typically, we are also afraid to try something new because it seems impossible or won’t work. Take the challenge and try Moffitt Angling. The results are worth the investment.
You may say that I don’t want to learn something new or I don’t know how this works. Well Moffitt Angling has it all in one place when you buy the starter kit or you can contact one of the Flyfisher Guides to get you questions answered.
The few areas we fished around the Gowanda area were new for me, as I was often dropped off at the Springville Dam to fish as a kid. I will now be taking a trip back to this fishery on an annual basis and will be finding a new path for the chrome-colored steelies.
Matthew Burkett, Ethan Emery and I have been fishing Moffitt Angling since the Fly Fishing Retailer Show in September and have become adept in how this system works around Colorado. We are now taking it to the streams and waterways across the country in order to share our tips and tactics for your success. There is no better way to learn than first-hand experience and picking Pat and Kevin Moffitts’ minds in the process. We are bringing back what we learn for you.
The Catt, as referred to by the natives – like myself, is a 34-mile steelhead fishery that dumps into Lake Erie outside of Dunkirk and extends upstream to the Springville Dam. This journey home allowed me time to remember my childhood where I would fish the fall run. By fishing the Moffitt Angling system more and more, I am learning there are essentially no differences from my usual set-up.
Bottom line is that I am hooking and landing more fish, and quickly releasing the fish back to the water untouched. I released several large steelheads over the course of four days and never removed it from the water or touched it with my hands – something that can not be done with a traditional rig. For the times I need a photo of my trophy catch, I was able to remove the hook quicker, snap the photo and release the massive fish.
In the morning we were by the Gowanda High School on the Catt and quickly learned that the summer flood changed the river and moved the fish from their usual slots. We also had to stay relatively close for our lunch appointment with Will Elliott of the Buffalo News, who wrote ‘Hookless fly’ sails through ‘Catt’ test.
We had our challenges on the Catt on Monday, but so did everyone else. One angler cruised by and spoke ill of his Sunday and Monday.
“We had one guy yesterday catch one and the rest of us want to forget it,” said the disgruntled angler.
In the afternoon we were challenged in landing a nice steelie in downtown Gowanda by the railroad tracks as we needed a photo and proof to the reporter it hooks big fish. I came through in the clutch.
We headed out prior to sunrise to get to the trailhead of the Zoar Valley Canyon via flashlight. The sound of the steam exiting our mouths got us excited for our first casts as we traversed the trail before dropping onto the creek bottom to see the sun starting to crest the slate-canyon walls.
We put rods together quickly and broke up into a no turning back mission of stalking steelhead. The water clarity was milky and colored green. The visibility had increased over the previous day. Pat and Matthew quickly broke stride to venture upstream, while Kevin and I started wetting the line immediately.
Before we knew it, Kevin and I were hooked up on the hookless-nymph rigs. We continued to target pools and pockets along the way until we dropped into the money hole. The top of the hole was capped by a small waterfall and spilled downstream into a very long and deep run that was loaded.
Our glowbug patterns were the winning ticket. We got into ‘em. I completely lost time in this slot but hooked into at least 10 while Kevin hit that many as well. We were doubled up three times and successfully landed one of those. Too bad Matthew or Pat were not near to capture this moment. There loss, our gain…
We had another moment with knuckle busting, screaming reels where I was able to land my career largest New York steelie that taped out at 31 inches. My arms were so tired from fighting five previous fish I could not muster the strength to lift this double-digit chrome beauty for the camera.
Once again glowbug egg and a fight of a lifetime came on a 7-weight rod. I tip my hat to Hatch Fly Fishing Reels for a strong drag that does not fail in giving me priceless moment. I really had to crank down the drag for this one.
A few more fish were caught and released and we decided to see where the other half of the party ventured off. As we were fishing behind we wondered if they stopped here in our chrome treasure chest.
We finally caught up with Pat and Matthew who had both hooked into fish but did not have the bragging successes. As we started to fish back down to our entry point, Pat hooked into one steelhead using an egg sucking streamer. This steelie provided a fight that would not stop. In what could have been about 10 minutes, Pat had landed it and was smiling at the success of his invention.
Shortly after noon, Pat, Kevin and I were on the boards with landed steelies so it was pressure for Burkett. We walked back into our money hole and fished it hard again but found no takers.
Matthew moved down to some pocket water and finally had success. Unfortunately there was no photo of the monster. As he was about to grab the steelie it took one more massive run and snapped his rod in three places. I was there to witness the moment. I could not say anything and Matthew said it all by tossing the broken rod into the air and shaking his head as the steelie won.
Kevin closed Tuesday afternoon by landing one last steelhead, while sitting on a rock.
“This is how easy it is to fish Moffitt flies,” said Kevin, who landed close to 20 on Tuesday.
Day #3 and #4
Wednesday Matthew was on a plane back to Colorado while I stayed behind to fish a few more days and visit with family.
On Thursday prior to the massive amounts of rain, I was able to fish the Springville Dam for old time’s sake and landed a few. The best was fishing right below the parking lot and hooking into a nice one while being watched. The rain started to fall a little faster so I left the river for my coat. The two observers from Pennsylvania walked over to find out the conditions and became intrigued by my Moffitt set up.
I gave them sample flies and circle hooks to try. After explaining the details of the system they closed my fishing adventure with the line of the trip.
“I’ve got to find Moffitt Angling flies and give it a shot.”
Toward the end of October Angling University and The Flyfisher Guide Serviceventured north to Wyoming in search of hungry fish. Our purpose was simple; catch fish on different waters using the Moffitt Angling System. Destination #1: a private stretch of the North Platte river near Casper, Wyoming on the Red Butte Ranch. Having driven through hours of a blizzard that swallowed the highway periodically, we were happy to arrive at Red Butte, our home away from home for the next few days. Our cottage sat right on the river and after a good nights sleep and a pot of coffee we geared up to hit the water. Greg Mueller, a 14 year veteran and senior guide for Grey Reef Outfitters/Platte River Fly Shop was to be our guide for the North Platte trip and it was clearly a good decision to fish with him. There is a lot to be said for a guide who knows the river like he does and an outfitter with such a reputable understanding of the river and its fish. That morning was cold, and ice was building on the rod and eyelets if you let it, but despite the chilly temps we hit a couple of fish right off the bat on the Moffitt System. Not long after though, we decided to retreat to indoors to see if the temps would go up a bit. While inside we talked about going to destination #2 - a different stretch of the Platte below Pathfinder Reservoir just west of Casper as heavily pressured tailwater in Fremont Canyon, and that is exactly what we did.
After a 30 minute drive we were back on the water and immediately found hungry fish, willing to eat nymphs at the end of our Moffitt Contact Leaders. Each bend we came to was full of tail-water trout, and despite the rivers deep pools we were able to get our flies down to the fish by using minimal split shot at the end of the Contact Leader. The rig proved to be deadly due to its quick sink rate, high tensile strength, and ability to avoid snags on the bottom of the river. Couple that with the ability to fish hookless flies and a fish friendly circle hook at the end of the leader and you have a great nymphing rig. We had clearly dialed the fishing in as the light of the day began to fade, hooking fish after fish, most of which were well over 20 inches. The day ended with a bang when we doubled up, and I ended up chasing a big rainbow down the river. After a few stumbles along the snowy banks the 24 inch, 6 1/2 pound cut-bow was in for a quick photo shoot. All in all it proved to be a great day of fishing with the Moffitt Angling System despite the chilly temps.
What we know for sure is that the Moffitt System catches fish. The ease of releasing a fish is amazing and the landing percentage once a fish is hooked seems to be better than with our traditional rigs. Very deep nymph rigs are the rule of thumb on Gray Reef and on such a long rig setting the hook has always been a challenge. The hook set improves your ability to strike when nymphing deep a real bonus for the Reef. Next we are off to New York for some steelheading and another lesson with the inventor himself. Stay tuned...
About 4 months ago, we were formally introduced to the Moffitt Angling System at the Federation of Fly Fishers Conclave in Loveland, Colorado. It was obvious from the start that the Moffitt System was a very innovative and fish friendly way to take fish on a fly. The hookless fly system employs a patented circle hook at the end of the tippet that hooks the fish through the mouth, resulting in far fewer fatalities. The system also allows you to fish multiple fly rigs with ease. I was invited to fish the Moffitt System at the FFF Conclave and was instantly intrigued. Watch the video.
By the time the Fly Fishing Retailers show came to Denver, the industry was abuzz with talk about the Moffitt System, and despite a "slower" show, the Moffitt Angling System booth was slammed with people wanting to know more about it. At the show, we decided to get to know the Moffitt System by taking it to our home waters, and since then have fished it on Colorado favorites including Cheesman Canyon (South Platte River), the Blue River, Big Thompson, St. Vrain, and South Boulder Creek. After experiencing success with the system, we decided to stretch our legs a bit and take the Moffitt System to some of the better known destinations in the Rockies to increase our knowledge and understanding for future use and instruction. After all, if this is the next step in fly fishing's evolution, we want to be able to teach others how to fish it! The first destination on our list was my old stomping grounds; Utah's Green River.
Matthew Burkett and I arranged to have Green River master, Charlie Card of Spinner Fall Guide Service take us down the river on October 27th and 28th. Charlie is an old friend of mine and it was very easy to see why he is now the most requested guide on the Green. He was great on the oars, and NOBODY knows the river better than him. We immediately hooked fish on Moffitt nymph rigs, despite the wintery conditions, but we soon found ourselves switching to streamers and a longer Moffitt Contact Leader...GAME ON! The fish were attacking Sculpin patterns with a vengeance and we did our part by hooking and landing fish after fish on the Moffitt System. We fished until dark, pounding the banks and hooking tons of big browns on the patented circle hooks, releasing fish with ease to fight another day. It was almost dark when we hit the ramp and temperatures in the canyon had dropped into the 20's, but nothing was going to steal the excitement or pleasure that was ours from an amazing day of fishing.
We made the most of our time with Charlie and we relaxed in the warmth of Flaming Gorge Resort and talked about the finer points of fishing the Green and even exchanged patterns. We talked steelheading, saltwater, fishing the West, and how the fish on the Green are bigger and more abundant than in recent years. Inevitably, our conversation drifted to Moffitt and how it can be applied best on the tailwater below Flaming Gorge Dam. Charlie had some great ideas of how he will put the system into play when he hits the water again. I am excited to hear his reports!
In the end, it was easy to see why Pat Moffitt developed the fishing system. An angler can get better drifts using the contact leaders, fish are hooked in safer parts of the mouth, they fight better, and are easily released from the circle hook. We gained great understanding of the system as well, and plan on offering Moffitt classes and lesson beginning in 2010. Our Angling University will debut its Moffitt Fly Fishing classes at the International Sportsmans Expo in January.
Look for more info about the Moffitt Angling System, and learning opportunities in blogs to come.