Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Quick Sips: Eagles, Spey and Didymo

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

There is no sand in Sandy Creek

This time last week I made a trip to Pulaski, New York with my buddy Jon. I had never fished for Steelhead and didn’t have a particular fancy for it but I had bought an eight weight switch rod and wanted lessons from a competent instructor over fish that were appropriate for this big stick. That led me to Loren Williams and the Salmon River.

So why has an eight weight rod entered my stable if I don’t intend to hammer the steel? Well, I’ve a trip planned for late summer up to the Kvichak River in Alaska and fancy swinging flies to large, eager Rainbows and Salmon. So, I need a big stick is for the task.

Of course, casting an eight weight rod is a gateway drug to Stripers when one is a short drive from Long Island Sound. And once you feel a large tug on the line, I suppose Stripers are a gateway to Steelhead. Maybe this was more than just a casting trip. Maybe I too will pine for chrome hurtling through frozen landscapes!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I Spey

Self satisfied after two days of Spey (and no fish)
Sunday I could not Spey.

By Tuesday, I could Spey (11ft, 8wt switch rod, Skagit head for those interested in particulars)

Am I a Spey Expert? Not yet.

Though I did cast C Speys and Downstream Pokes for two consecutive days and got fairly proficient at swinging flies to unwilling fish, I clearly have a loooong way to go. No one would think me the expert.

That is unless you've never spey cast yourself, nor seen a spey cast, nor have anyone with which to compare my spey casting. In that case, to you, I am an expert. I could even give you a lesson (the first one is free). Maybe I could even make a DVD though DVDs are so old school and perhaps I should stream my mad skilz live on the intertubes. Custom Spey Rods? No doubt I could whip up a few of those too.

Anyhow, I'll post a full report of my casting instruction from Loren Williams and fishing on the Salmon River and the Sandys in the next few days.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Quick Sip: Brayshaw speaks on Steelhead

I always knew TJ Brayshaw was an expert on carp though truth be told I think he took credit for much of English Jonny's ground breaking work in the field.

I've never fished for Steelhead. Tonight I'm driving north to a local "Great Lake" to see if I can find a fish or two. At a minimum, I'd like to learn to cast an 8 wt rod without looking too much like a doofus. I've hired a guide and Youtubed a whole bunch of experts. I'm about as well prepared as one can be and fully delusional about my chances of success.

Fortunately I've discovered another expert on the matter, TJ Brayshaw hisself! Give a read to his enlightening expert advice on the subject. And you call also read his expert responses to reader's questions.

Hopefully I too can become an expert Steelheader this week.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Quick Sip: Didymo on the Farmington?

Brandon Alexander reported on the Trout Predator forum that he had seen Didymo on the Farmington River last week. Need the DEP to look into this to confirm whether it's there or not. No matter what watershed you're fishing: INSPECT. CLEAN. DRY.

Open Water

Last week, I drove to Poughkeepsie. A 7 a.m. meeting had me on the road early and as I drove west on Interstate 84 the sky lightened behind me. I crossed the East Branch of the Croton River just as the light of dawn was beginning to fill the valley and in my headlights I swore I saw the fluttering of a Caddis as it careened in only the way that a Caddis does. Spring is damn close.

Ice out
More than anything, early Spring fishing means taunting Blue Gills in a farm pond down the road. Usually by this time of year the water is open and starting to warm on account of the dark muddy bottom that is the hallmark of farm ponds everywhere. Last weekend the ice started to recede and by mid-week a raft of frozen water bobbed far from shoreline.

On Thursday evening my 11 year old son called just as I was passing the pond on my way home. He too knew that the pond had cleared. He too felt the tug of open water.

I'm a trout fisherman, generally. I'm not against targeting other species but the rhythm and ritual of trout fishing is what brings me peace on the water. For Connecticut-based trout fisherman though, this has been a long winter. It's not been as frigid as winters past but deep snow and unusually high water have made winter fishing opportunities scarce. That itch hasn't been scratched in a long time.

More so this year than the in past the gap between winter and spring means dreaming of the season to come more than actually fishing. However, this gap will soon be neatly filled by territorial and seemingly suicidal Blue Gills guarding their breeding grounds. And I can always rely upon Sam to remind me when that season is upon us.

On the way back from an errand this morning Sam and I stopped by the farm pond. We gazed into the water trying to discern any movement or the saucer sized redds. Nothing yet. But Spring is gaining momentum. Good fishing is coming soon.

So, I've dug out some small poppers. A few bushy dries. And the bright nymphs we'll hang as droppers. Next week I'll even put a few rods in the car so that we're doubly ready should the winds be calm on an early spring evening and the surface of a farm pond be dimpled with the swirls of Blue Gills thinking of the future.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My little gift to you

Not fishing related.

Not really worth watching at all.

But I wasted four minutes of my life watching this and I can only balance that out karmically if you spend four minutes watching it.

Warning: It's awful. But like earthquake, train wreck and carp fishing videos, you can't help but watch it.

It's G rated and harmless (at least harmless as compared to didymo or zebra mussels).

I did start tying some "Bergman" style wets last night. Hope to have something to share in the next few days.

Update: I consider this fair play. Chandler struck me blind by posting the trout lips thing. (you clicked on it, didn't you? And now you're scarred too). It's only fair that I get to strike you deaf by posting this monstrosity.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

False Start

Too many flies and at
the same time not enough
The fly boxes are assembled and inventoried. It's late in the winter season to be doing this; figuring out what needs to be tied. I should have done this in November and then got some tying out of the way during the dark, cold months. The problem was I was still mourning the close of the good days of fishing and plotting some cold weather trips. There was no time to be tying flies for "next" season.

There are three patterns that I fish regularly and I expected that I'd find lots of gaps in my fly boxes where those patterns should be. The boxes were pretty sparse but the built in "fly boxes" in my vest had plenty of samples. And then I dug out the "warehouse" box that I keep in the car and discovered last season's stash of flies. There were more than enough emergers, cripples and bugs stored there. So, no need for an emergency tying session though I was secretly disappointed.

So, I spent an hour or so sifting and sorting. Because I've been pursuing a minimal approach to fishing, carrying as little equipment as possible, I filled a small box with a variety of nymphs and dries. I found a few that needed to be sorted into the circular file. But I also put one or two of those well chewed flies into the box. Heck, if fish thought enough of them to chew them apart then perhaps they'd work again. Perhaps even better. And if nothing else, they have good mojo.

Too ugly to fish or
just ugly enough to fish?
With the sorting complete I felt better though not sated. In the absence of "needing" to tie some flies I've decided that I'll get artistic. At last week's fly tying class we tied some wet flies that had paired duck wings and that got me in the mood to tie married wings even though I've never fished them. So, I'll troll around the site that has a bunch of Bergman patterns and tie something pretty in the couple of days.

I look forward to sharing them with you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Quick Sip: Stream Access in Montana. Progress?

It looks like the folks opposing limitations on stream access (e.g. you and me and all other brothers and sisters of the angle) have made their presence known in the state house of Montana. Willfishforwork posted an update. Now the key question is whether it matters. Privatization of streams is a slippery slope. Glad to see our compatriots out west are fighting the good fight.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Quick Sips

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Friends with Animal Parts

Today was a rainy day here in New England. Earlier in the week I had a fantasy of stopping by a small stream but the rain coupled with the snow melt put the rivers in a raging, muddy mood. I satisfied myself with a slow Sunday morning, church and a fantastic lunch with my family at a great little restaurant.

The Emerger de Rosenbauer
as interpreted by Zakur
Once I was sated I could not resist a nap but was later awoken by nagging thoughts of chores, obligations and a wee bit of work that needed attending.

With chores complete I turned to the obligation -- filling a fly box for the upcoming TU fund raiser. I tied a half-dozen each of my three favorite flies -- the Lightning Bug, the Quigley Cripple and the Rosenbauer Emerger.

I tend to nymph fish more often than any other method but that's usually because I fish when I can and that usually means I'm fishing when no fish are rising. Rainy days. Windy days. Sunny summer middays. All times when the likelihood of rising fish is low, low, low. That said, like most people casting to rising fish is my favorite method and for my money there are no better flies for rising fish than emergers of some sort. Any low lying fly graces my leader from a parachute Adams to a CDC puff over a string body.

Emergers ready for the stream
I like the emerger type fly for two reasons: 1) it say's "easy meal" to me and by extension, I believe, to the fish and 2) it seems to work pretty good. I also like these flies for another reason. They're generally easier and quicker to tie. I find strapping some deer hair -- say for a Sparkle Dun -- or some Rabbits Foot (see above) to a hook shank a lot easier than hackling any type of fly be it parachute or full dun.

A couple of years ago I discovered the joy of rabbit's foot on a tip from Tom Rosenbauer. While I tied the Quigley Cripples in their "standard" form for the TU fly box, with a deer hair wing, I now tie them for myself with a little rabbit gracing the hook shank.

Rabbit is awesome. First, it behaves well on the hook when tying. Easy to mount, easy to tie down. Second, it floats like a cork. And if it does get water logged, a quick squeeze between the Amadou gets it floating high again. Finally, it's easy to see on the water. The wing sticks up and the white wing is easy to see especially in low light.

A few weeks ago a friend mentioned that he had some rabbit's feet hanging by his furnace drying. While this friend is a hunter the feet were obtained from another friend who stalks the rabbit. I was but the last in a supply chain that started in the woods of Vermont and ended at my vice in Connecticut. 

While I eagerly anticipate receiving packages of fly tying loot from Feather Craft and J. Stockard or wandering the walls at Upcountry fondling the twenty-seven colors of pheasant tail there's a secret pleasure in receiving dead animal parts from friends. I think it's the mojo. 

Store bought stuff doesn't have mojo -- or at least the same mojo. We all try to impart some additional mojo as we tie but the material lacks the special essence. Some rare materials, that come through secret channels with handshakes and late night phone calls have good mojo. But animal parts harvested by friends of friends.... that's serious mojo. And every fisherman needs more mojo.

So this new treasure is already being snipped apart to create tempting treats for trout. The "old" rabbit's feet have been relegated to the pile of stuff at the back of my tying desk where they will languish and attract odd bits of feather and dubbing.

It's only a matter of weeks before we see the spring hatches start. I'm looking forward to testing the mojo on the stream. I forecast that trout will be eating rabbit with abandon.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's cheatin' I tells ya!

Nymph? Wet Fly? Just plain cheatin'?
Full disclosure: I have "fly fished" with a "nymph" that was essentially a pink Berkley Grub attached to a hook. By "essentially" I mean that it was just that -- a hook with a skewered grub under an indicator.

It worked damn good; caught fish like mad.

I brought the "bait" along when I was fishing with the boys just in case it got slow and we needed a helping hand. It turns out that everyone (including the guides) ended up fishing grubs for a brief time and had a blast. No regrets. For the record, the boys also did very well using traditional flies.

Okay, now that I've gotten that behind me, I must comment on what I feel is a disturbing trend in fly tying -- artificial bugs. I read in the most recent issue of Fly Tyer magazine about Bug Partz. These are rubber pieces of bugs. You can get legs and other body parts which seem harmless enough but you can also get rubber crayfish. Lash it to a hook and voila, "the most realistic flies ever".

Those aren't flies.

Flies are made from animal detritus. Full stop. Sure, we're gonna add flash and sparkle and wavy soft stuff named after Italian gods but fly tying is deeply rooted in dead animals, thread and hooks. Lashing bug shaped rubber to a hook and calling that a fly!? This is not the stuff of our sport and it's gone too far.

Besides, why would you bother? Why not just head over to Cabelas and grab some plastic bait? They've got all kinds.

The folks over on "Fly Tying New and Old" Blog point an even better solution: Plastic nymph bodies with tungsten embedded in them. Dayam, I say.

Look at these flies I just tied!
For the love of god,where does it end?

I'll tell ya where it ends. Chuckin' treble-hooked Strike Pro Flex Phantoms with an 8 weight Helios.

We must repent! We must turn from this rubber infested future. Wiggly rubber legs? Sure, I'll go for wiggly rubber legs. But when you're stitching rubber to hook like Ahab to the great whale, you've gone too far.

Repent while there's still time.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Water has a liquid state!

I had heard rumors but I didn't believe them. So, last Sunday I got out to see if water did indeed have a liquid state. I'm happy to report that these rumors have a sound basis in fact.

Ann and I struggled through knee-to-thigh deep snow strolled along the banks of a favorite brook and were glad to see not only flowing water but also some bug life. No rising fish yet, but it's only a matter of time.

One of the larger, little black stoneflies crawling about.

Trout holding riffles

You know there are trout holding at the bottom of that pool.