March 1, 2024

Hardcore Game Fishing

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Cascone’s Worm

Aron Cascone is an enigmatic captain: private by nature, dedicated to his clients, and a perfectionist at heart. If you’re someone who can match his remarkable intelligence, you will have a fierce friend. He’s also a pilgrim soul, sometimes wandering from place to place in search of a better bite.

Orvis-endorsed for years now, Cascone has become the go-to captain for when staff at the home office in Manchester, Vermont, feel the need for salty air and foamy water. His guiding prowess in South County, Rhode Island, and the surrounding waters is unmatched, but you’d never know it. He is not a natural promoter. Cascone is content simply doing his job well until the shift clock runs out.
Great chefs don’t like to give up recipes. The same goes for great fly tyers. When a fly performs consistently, some shout it from the rafters; others keep it in the box, ready to use in desperate times.

When I first met Aron years ago, we spent a memorable day in his flats skiff motoring around one of the many ponds that empty into the Block Island Sound. We were chasing freshly arrived stripers that were feasting on cinder worms like sipping trout during a hatch. The world was calm, the water was placid, and the moon was rising as swirls pockmarked the surface all around us. Most eats were soft slurps, not the thrashing blasts I have come to expect from striped bass.

Cascone took a fly from his box and tied it on. There were two other boats in the area, and neither could hook into a fish despite the life bounding up from the pond’s depths in all directions. It wasn’t that the fish weren’t eating; they just weren’t eating the flies the anglers on the other two boats were offering.

During early spring, stripers of all sizes feed on spawning worms in the backwaters of the Northeast coast.

Cascone stood on the bow, stripped out some line, then showed me the fly on his leader. It was an articulated streamer with a marabou tail, a mysteriously ragged body, and a shovel-shaped deer-hair head. He then reached down to the water and gently scooped up a rising cinder worm. The worm and fly were nearly identical.

Aron’s cast was pure, and the fly landed lightly near a previous swirl. Cascone took two short strips, then danced the fly along the surface with minimal effort. It undulated like a sea snake or, better yet, a cinder worm. A bass immediately raked the surface and devoured Cascone’s worm—it was a monster-sized fish for inside the pond. After this, Cascone handed me the rod equipped with his secret weapon, and I proceeded to catch a striper on my first cast, though the boats around us still hadn’t hooked up. He looked at me with a Cheshire grin, knowing that he had the special sauce for success, and we went about our business until there was no light left on the water. It was one of my single greatest days on the water and led to a head-scratching question, “What was that fly?”

Ten-year-old Talisker scotch goes smoothly with a cast-iron-cooked steak. I’m sitting in the guide’s house in Charlestown, Massachusetts, with Cascone and two other friends, eating, laughing, and listening to stories from their day chasing false albacore. I’ve come to document the worm fly’s rapid emergence and see Cascone tie a few firsthand.

Most of the action in Cascone’s Worm comes from the head, rather than the tail; therefore, the fly is tied backwards.

“The pattern surfaced through time on the water, but since then, I haven’t looked back,” Cascone says as he refills our glasses. It’s a peaceful Friday night with flies and friends. Truths are told and stretched. The noise of the outside world can’t penetrate no matter how many messages or notifications appear on phones. It’s quiet here.

Cascone’s tying space takes up much of the dining room. It’s a perfect nook surrounded by picture windows and stacks of plastic bins, drawers, boxes, and all manner of bric-a-brac that would only make sense to someone who ties flies. He’s got every bit of material you’d need, a lot of material you’d want, and some that you never thought you needed but you do.

Owner Gorilla Light hook
Owner Gorilla Light hook

The worm starts simply with an Owner size 2/0 Gorilla Light hook, a tuft of olive marabou, blended red and cream dubbing, and craft store fringed novelty yarn in crimson.

“The action in the worm is in the head and not the tail, so you build it backward,” Cascone says with a smile, “like a reverse Game Changer.”

He lays out the three shanks with the longest attached to the hook. The same materials minus the marabou are tied in place, and the process is repeated until the mini shank at the head. Then, Cascone cuts a clump of olive deer hair and begins to pack and spin it. This is a process that always vexes me.

Firehole Articulated Shanks
Each worm fly’s 4-inch body is trimmed of excess hair or fibers, but not before the head of each one is finely shaped to impart the desired action. Pictured: Firehole Articulated Shanks

When he has a good head crafted, like a fine pour on a Guinness, he begins to snip and shape the deer hair into a flattened shovel shape. He then trims off any excess fibers from the whole 4-inch body and sets down the finished product. He’s tied it in his signature cinder-worm colors, but my mind races with all the possibilities. What about an all-black version that would maneuver like a Senko for largemouth? Or, how about a drab brown that would entice an ambitious trout like a juvenile river snake? What if we tied it a little bigger and in all-white to appeal to albies or bluefish? Cascone’s worm catches fish for certain. I’ve experienced it firsthand. The action and movement of the craft yarn and the side-to-side motion of the deer-hair head give it an unmistakable allure. The pattern is ready for anglers to test, pending a productive worm hatch.

hungry striper puts a beautiful bend in the fly rod
Cascone’s Worm pictured in action as a hungry striper puts a beautiful bend in the fly rod.

The next morning, after putting in our time chasing albies on snotty water along Point Judith, we shake hands in his driveway. I’m armed with photos, stories, and what I think is the best secret to emerge from Rhode Island since coffee milk. I try to convince him to come down to Jersey and fish the beaches this fall, but he’s already got that faraway look in his eye like he’s caught scent of the next bite. Plans for a fall run down south are too far off. He can think only about the trip he’s got on Sunday and the need to get his sport on more than just the Spanish mackerel we took out of the washing machine today.

Aron Cascone is an imperfect captain, but he’s perfected a beguiling fly. Take a few minutes (because that’s all you’ll need) and tie one up in your favorite color or the original cinder-worm pattern. Strip it slow and wait for a flushing take, then raise a glass of something smoky to Cascone. Wherever he is and whatever bite he’s chasing, he’ll know, and he’ll be happy.

The post Cascone’s Worm appeared first on On The Water.

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