A fly that gives the gift of finesse, and wrapping up those loose 2010 ends

December 25, 2010

One word or two. That was the hard part for fly fishing guide Joe Bruce to decide.

Is his new fly a Bullethead Darter or a Bullet-head Darter?

It doesn't matter if it works, I suppose.

And Bruce says the BD (how's that for getting around the issue?) is his "go to" fly in all conditions, for both freshwater and saltwater fish.

Bruce, who used to own The Fisherman's Edge in Catonsville, says he was looking for a fly last summer that would work when water was low and clear and fish could see what was being offered.

"I needed something to suspend in the water, a subsurface fly," he said.

He reached back almost a half century to the streamers tied by Carrie Stevens, the self-taught woman from Upper Dam, Maine, who designed the famous Grey Ghost. Collectors scramble to buy originals by Stevens, who died in 1970 at the age of 88.

For the freshwater version, he uses polar fiber. For the saltwater version, he uses Icelandic wool. Both have exceptional floating properties. A little bit of flash helps get a fish's attention.

Color is in the eye of the beholder or tier. Bruce likes chartreuse, but he's been known to make them "in any flavor you want," including, he says, Louisiana State University's purple and gold for a Delta redfish angler.

No matter what the color, the BD seems to work on everything from bluegills and largemouth bass to pickerel and black drum, by the looks of the photos Bruce shows me.

"It has no weight, except for the hook," Bruce said. "This thing will undulate and dance. I can catch fish in 3 inches of water or 3 feet. Every fish I've thrown it to, I've caught."

Bruce is selling his flies at Tochterman's on Eastern Avenue. The small freshwater flies are $1.99 and the saltwater versions go for $3.25.

"When you need finesse, this is the finesser," Bruce said. "I don't get too excited about things, but I do with this."

So excited, that he made an executive decision on the spot: Call it a Bullethead Darter.

Right church, wrong pew

In last Sunday's column, I put former Annapolis mayor and avid hike leader Dick Hillman in the wrong Appalachians.

The Energizer Bunny of Maryland hiking is a member of that group and the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, but he leads adventures for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Sorry, your honor.

I highly recommend his next ATC outing on Jan. 8 — a 4-mile jaunt along the Patapsco River shoreline, from Canton to the Inner Harbor. The group will step off at 10:30 a.m. from Canton Waterfront Park near the Du Burns Arena. Details: http://www.amc-dc.org (click "Activity List") or 410-263-1844.

This just in

With the year winding down, here's a few updates of things we mentioned in earlier columns.

Saltwater anglers need not call the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration before they go fishing in 2011. The General Assembly approved a modification of the saltwater license to cover fishing in the Atlantic Ocean and the coastal bays in addition to the Chesapeake Bay. The license cost remains the same — $15 — but this will be the first time the Ocean City crowd will have to pony up ...

Maryland State Parks is drawing up plans for Park Quest 2011, the outdoor adventure that combines geocaching, history and nature lessons and teamwork. Last year, it attracted a maximum 750 teams in a matter of days. This year, the cutoff will remain the same as will the number of parks: 24. Matt Ridder, the new Park Quest guru, says there will be new Quest locations, an earlier start to the season to capitalize on cooler spring temperatures and an "unforgettable" finale that is unforgettable. Registration and season dates will be announced in January ...

The Appalachian Trail Museum closed for winter on Nov. 1 after an inaugural season that attracted 8,300 visitors, says museum founder Larry Luxenberg. The museum at the halfway point of the 2,100-mile AT in Pennsylvania's Pine Grove Furnace State Park, will reopen on April 2. It will be open weekends through Memorial Day and then daily through the summer. The all-volunteer staff is planning the first museum festival, scheduled for June 17-19, and an educational program for each Sunday in summer ...

The thief who took Leviathan, Michael Marlow's 16-foot canoe filled with a lifetime of fishing memories, from Prettyboy Reservoir never had the guts or conscience to return it. Marlow reports that he and a neighbor picked up a replacement — Leviathan II — "so fishing continues." Happy New Year's and tight lines, my man …

Finally, Martin O'Malley proved me wrong. After nearly four years in the hunting cone of silence, the governor got positively blabby this fall. One might say he jumped the gun. In a press release dated Sept. 23, he urged folks to blast geese from the sky — two months before the season was to begin. But after his quick grab for field cred in an election year, MOM fell silent as deer, turkey, black bear and weasel trapping came and went. Martin, we hardly knew ye.

Candy.thomson@baltsun.com

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