Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Damn Kids!

Well, they've done it again. Those damn kids brought home some vile bug and gave it to me. Fever, congestion and down right achy miserableness. Be forewarned you childless types, diapers and the foul mouthed teenage years are nothing compared to the microscopic vermin that children will track into your life.

This is day three of my captivity.

I did manage to get out kayaking on Day 1 before I realized just how sick I was. I saw some fish though the purpose of the trip was a easy, morning paddle with the Lovely. I did make a mental note of locations where I saw sizable bass flash into the murk. I'll be back with a hefty rod and some large poppers when all this passes.

Day 2 was napping, three conference calls and a general malaise and achyness.

Day 3 will end with five conference calls to the net and a combination of general malaise and orneriness. Perhaps that's an improvement. Or maybe my brain is finally been cooked.

Off to the MD tomorrow if this isn't better. Maybe an antibiotic or three can get me healed up for some weekend fishing.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


On this Memorial Day weekend I pray for all those who have fallen in the service of our country. Especially in my thoughts and prayers are the sacrifices made by:
Lt. Cmdr. Keith E. Taylor, KIA, Baghdad, Iraq, January 29, 2005
CIA Johnny Michael Spann, KIA, Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan, November 25, 2001
Lt. Robert R. Duncan, MIA August 29, 1968; KIA North Vietnam October 22, 1975

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Painfully Obvious Tip #7

When I'm fishing a small stream, I go pretty light. Sometimes I carry just a tool-draped lanyard and a small fly box. Most times it's a sling pack to carry two fly boxes and an easy place to store a camera but that's the most gear I'll carry. When the weather warms up I'll start wading wet but for now I wear a pair of cheap hippers.

The other night I caught a fat fourteen inch Brown and had hooked him in the upper jaw. It was a bit of a pain getting the hook out. It was deep twilight, almost dark. The angle was wrong. So it took a bit to get the hook out even with the aid of my head lamp.

As I was fumbling I considered wading to the bank to put down my rod but then I had a moment of brilliance clarity.

Which brings us to Painfully Obvious Tip™ #7:
When you're wearing hippers you always have a place to store your fly rod.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

EPA Socialists try to stop Pebble Mine!

The EPAs assessment of the impact of mining on Bristol Bay Salmon populations was published last week. I encourage you all to download it and give it a read. The short story is that the Salmon and people of Bristol Bay are screwed if large scale hardrock mining is allowed in the area.

And that's if everything goes well.

Maximum Mine Foot Print
Under the "maximum mine footprint" scenario:
  • 87 miles of streams are blocked; reduced flow to an additional 6.2 miles of stream.
  • Elimination of 4,286 acres of wetlands (to give you a sense of scale that's 535 Fenway Parks)
  • Indirect effect on downstream streams and wetlands
  • Diminished habitat at stream crossings of the access road (34 crossings)
Again, that's best case; everything operates nominally and there are no significant events.

Holy Dam Failure, Batman!
Of course, if problems occur, we could see things like:
  • A failure of the 700 foot tall dam (a little bit taller than the Washington Monument) that would immediately kill 30 km of stream and would poison the stream and connected waterways for decades.
  • Leaking slurry or water return pipelines would cause localized destruction of streams and habitat.
  • Culvert blockages during spawning season could kill year classes of Salmon for these streams.
In addition to the direct impact on fish, wildlife that relies upon fish and the biomass from the Salmon runs, bears, moose, caribou and all the other 40 mammals and 190 bird species in the area would decline.

And finally, but certainly not least, is the impact on the lives and livelihoods of indigenous peoples who have been living in this area for over 4,000 years and seem pretty fond of eating.

But wait, there's more!
And then multiply the odds of a problem not by 25 years or 78 years or even 100 years but by forever cause that's how long all this will need to be maintained and operate flawlessly.

Operate flawlessly for forever. What the hell are the odds of that?

But the icing on this turd cake is on page 16 at the bottom of the table.

There are two failures that are rated either "high" probability or "certain" probability and they are summarized as follows: once the mine closes this thing is going to start filling with water and leaking vile poisons. That's right, no matter how well things go for the next century, once it closes this thing will start poisoning the watershed with certainty.*

Let's say that again slowly:

According to the EPA, a mine in this region will poison the watershed with certainty.

If you need a good example of how gracefully these sorts of mines close down look no further than Butte, Montana. I may have to visit if I get a chance to go to Yellowstone this summer. The Berkeley Pit, about half the size of the Pebble Mine pit, is a mile long, thousand foot deep pit filled virtually to the brim with acid.

This thing has been filling with water for the past thirty years and it'll overflow sometime in the next decade. Of course, you'd expect that they'd be ready with Plan B. But they're not. They're monitoring the situation closely but they have no plans to manage the water level. That's the plan. That's the kind of plan we can expect at Pebble Mine.

But if you call in the next thirty minutes we'll double triple quadruple the offer
Then multiply all this by four -- there are three additional mine sites, Big Chunk, Groundhog Mountain and Humble that would add another 15,000 acres of eliminated wetlands and another 70 miles of blocked streams.

And presumably three more certain sources of acidic ruin.

Act Now!
The EPA can stop this now (or at least punt it to the courts). Get your fingers over to the Save Bristol Bay website and submit a letter to the President and Congress urging them to take action. It takes all of two minutes and your voice needs to be added to the loyal opposition.

* Update: Over breakfast this morning I read the relevant sections of the longer, 338 page document. Here's the quote on the certainty issue: "During a planned post-closure period, the probability of a collection or treatment failure would continue to be high, and would be less likely to be detected and stopped quickly because of the lower level of activity and oversight. Finally, if the mine is closed prematurely or post-closure water management ended, the discharge of untreated water would become inevitable." How poisonous would that water be? Who knows. Again, I think Berkeley Pit is probably a good proxy; highly acidic.

Another update: Note the last sentence.

"Pre-Tertiary waste rocks are acid-forming with high copper concentrations in test leachates (i.e., they would require 2,900- to 52,000-fold dilution [Editor: this means that leaking fluid would require up to a 52,000 fold dilution to meet Clean Water Act standards]). If leachate from a waste rock pile surrounding the  mine pit was not collected, the 10.6 million m3 of leachate per year from the waste rock pile could constitute source water for Upper Talarik Creek, which flows to Iliamna Lake. The total flow of Upper Talarik Creek would provide only 18-fold dilution [Editor: as opposed to the required 52,000 fold required dilution] so the entire creek and a potentially large mixing zone in the lake could be toxic to fish and the sensitive invertebrates upon which they feed. The runs of sockeye and coho salmon in Upper Talarik Creek would be jeopardized by even a day-long event." [emphasis added]

So, how likely do you think a day long event is in the next forever years?

Dam? Damn! Seven levels of hell.

Froggy, Cold Water. With Trout.
My favorite trout stream is thirteen minutes from the house. Most years I fish it a couple of times. The past few weeks I've fished it about a half a dozen times which is a pretty good stretch given my work schedule.

The hatches have been very regular and the trout large and strong. I attribute this to the great water we had last year. Of course, I complained often when it rained like crazy all summer and fall but it seems to have resulted in something worthwhile.

If I take my time gearing up I can be on the water in about twenty minutes. If I'm in a rush and I've got a rod strung, I can be on the water in fifteen minutes. Last Wednesday I was ready to go and I was down at the mouth of a small tributary in what may have been a new record.

Dame's Rocket. From friggin' Asia.....
Dude, it's way too early in this report to be posting
flower pictures. Have some faith that you'll find a fish.
There wasn't much going on when I arrived and while there was some beautiful water right in front of me I had a vision.

There's a bend pool a quarter of a mile upstream right in the middle of a somewhat froggy section; wide and slow with little structure. A couple of months ago, while walking the dog, Ann and I walked that portion of the river. I spooked a trout out of the undercut bank in that bend. Perhaps he was still there.

The water up there is flat, flat, flat. Wading spooks everything to hell so most of the approach is spent scrambling, sometimes on all fours, through thick brush. You then slide into the river as near as you dare to the target zone and cast gently

I was lucky. When I arrived there was a sporadic caddis hatch and a rising fish right where I expected it to be. I cast to him through several fly changes. He didn't like what I had and I eventually put him down.

I gave the water a rest and moved upstream practically stepping on another rising trout. Coming around a bend, still bushwhacking, I hear the sound of a waterfall. There are no waterfalls on this stream.

It's a beaver dam.

Rodent Architecture.
I generally have a low opinion of the industrious rodent. He knocks down trees that shade the stream and his impounded water warms unnaturally.

But then I saw some trout rising in his pond. Maybe a bit of detente was in order.

The fish near the damn were spooked by my approach but there were a few more rising along the near bank. I saw a spot upstream where I could slide into the water and try a dry-dropper drift. Unfortunately, the vermin hadn't done a great job of clearing the path to the spot. Between here and there was every manner of man-made and natural barbed obstacle.

WTF? What's next, the beavers and
the trout laying claymores?
I worked my way up the bank, over the beaver gnawed punji sticks and waded deep into the mix of barbed wire, barberry (another friggin' invasive), blackberry and another half dozen barbed bushes.

Fortunately the new growth wasn't up yet so all I had to do was crunch through last year's growth. My hippers already leak so the extra pin pricks won't matter a bit. And through some sort of genetic defect miracle I seem to have an extra dose of clotting factor. I only lost a pint or so of blood.

The upstream spot looked far more appealing from a distance. Instead of a small sandy perch it was a three foot slide down a clay bank into about a foot of boot sucking slime. But from there I could cast to all the likely spots so I made the best of it.

I rested the water a bit after my sloppy entry, enjoyed some highland cheer and kept a keen eye out for large, sneaky rodents.

More flora?! Really? Where the hell are the fish?
Within a short while fish started rising along the bank and my offering floated to them. All took the dropper.

I'd like to say that my technique was flawless and that I picked off the fish in order upstream to down without one spooking the other.

In truth, I was sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. Spooked a few. Caught streamside brush. Dragged the fly. Missed strikes. But I did manage a few trout -- a fat Rainbow, a beauty of a Brown and one of what may have been last year's stream born crop of Browns.

Now it's almost dark and I'm stuck deep in the muck with seven levels of thorny hell between me and the field that's just behind the trees. I manage to make it back up the clay bank only slipping twice (remind me some time to tell you about the time the clay on Wappingers Creek tried to kill me).

I never made it back to the bend pool. I'm sure the trout is still there, still rising against that deep bank. Next time I think I'll try a streamer on a slow swing through there. Or maybe a dead drifted Woolly Bugger. Or maybe a mealworm.

Finally, a fish.
A wee bit older.

Okay, I took this on the way in. It was dark when I walked out.
And I went another way so I wouldn't have to crawl through more
damn prickers. I'm too delicate.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Spinners Everywhere

Last night I got out again for about ninety minutes. Timed it perfectly. When I arrived on the water the Sulphurs were just starting and managed a few. Then, like clockwork, the spinners were back in the same riffle.

A buddy of mine corrected my Hendrickson Spinner guess with a "light hendrickson" (which is likely correct and according to Troutnut are similar to what I think of as Sulphurs).

Pretty mayflies (either Ephemerella invaria or ceteris paribus, I'm not sure which)

I guess I'm going to start using barred spinner tails in my tying instead of the plain dun colored ones.

Now I know why I tie a little yellow/orange egg case on my pattern

Painfully Obvious Tip #6

I've been fishing downstream drifts more frequently lately. I started this habit mostly because some of the good lies on a local stream are now blocked by fallen trees from last fall's floods and fishing down and across is now the only way to get to them.

Last week I was having trouble feeding line into one particularly tough spot. I was using a rod I hadn't used in a while, a seven foot four weight, and I attributed my inability to effectively feed line to the fact that I usually did this sort of thing with a nine foot five weight.

Of course, I then had similar difficulty on a subsequent trip feeding line with the five weight. Which is when lightning struck and I realized that I had fished the same line on both the four weight (uplined for small streams) and the five weight.

Which brings us to Painfully Obvious Tip™ #6:
After you fish a scum filled small pond from the bank and have let your line sit in the muddy swill at your feet, take a moment to clean the line.
A couple of minutes cleaning the line (and the guides) made it shoot a whole lot better. I'm going to clean the rest of my lines tonight just to be sure.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Bounty of Bugs

I recently discovered a trout that lives two trees up from the dead one. He's in a perfect lie protected on one side by overhanging brush and on the other by a fallen tree. It's a deep slot with a natural funnel for food. The only way to get him is with a downstream cast and to feed line for about thirty feet. I've missed him twice on other trips but swung by to have another go on my walk out last evening.

Two Trees Trout
I missed him this time too. Not even a sniff at my fly though he started rising to something else. It took me a moment to decode what was going on. While I was working out my approach, a very nice Sulphur hatch started coming off. It's my favorite hatch. I love those magical yellow flies. The trout do too.

Below the fallen tree, in the tail of the pool, trout were on the Sulphurs so I tied on a Quigley and walked down to the riffle separating this pool from the next.

Spinners everywhere!
When I got to the riffle not only was I pleased to see half a dozen trout on the surface but also the biggest spinner fall I've ever seen on this stream; probably a late batch of Hendricksons. And in the pool below there were another half dozen fish rising to the fallen spinners. Such a bounty of angling opportunity! I was momentarily stunned into inaction. And then I fished upstream for a bit.

I managed three trout pretty quickly, one a stunning little brookie who slipped away before the shutter clicked, and while I was unhooking the third trout, a stout Brown, the hatch shut off. No rising fish.

But there were still plenty of egg laden spinners in the air so I tied on a #14 Rusty Spinner and went downstream and enjoyed about ten minutes of good fishing before total darkness; three trout to hand.

It's rare that I'm on the stream when the bugs are just right. Like many of you I only fish when I can and when the call comes that "this is running" or "that is hatching" I'm usually too deep in something else that I can't break away.

Last night, on a whim, it all worked out. Magical.

Rusty Spinner Victim

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On the eradication of wayward Macks

Yellowstone Lake is as big as the sky.
Standing on the cobble shores of Yellowstone Lake the wind whips your face and you feel and smell the kind of damp air that is reserved for large bodies of water; add some salty stickiness and you'd think you were on the shores of some ocean's bay. Waves lap the shore but you see how a sustained wind could drive the water up hard; I suppose that's how all that drift wood got up near the tree line.

After spending a week roaming the juncture of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming I thought that anything "Big" would begin to seem normal. Big Sky, check. Big mountains, check. Big bears, check. Big trout, I wish. You get the idea. Everything is huge in a magnificent, stunning, awe inspiring, staring-with-a-slack-jaw kinda way.

But then you see Yellowstone Lake for the first time and despite having seen it on a map a few times you think, "Damn, that's Big!".

And you think about the Cutthroat.

And you think about those damn Lake Trout.

And you think, or may even say aloud, "Jeez, those Cutties are screwed."

Unaware of the danger, my smolts
frolic at the edge of Yellowstone Lake
I read about the Lake Trout problem before I visited the park a few years ago but one doesn't truly appreciate the scale until you see the lake and the many feeder streams in which Cutthroat Trout once spawned in stunning numbers. Since some person or persons released Lake Trout into Yellowstone Lake, Cutthroat populations have declined by 75%. One stream's spawning run was 55,000 strong in the 80s but now is measured in the hundreds. Lake Trout outbreed, outlive and eat Cutties and without our help the natives will soon be gone.

It's oft said in angling that "You shoulda been here yesterday/last week/back in the 50s when fishing was good." That old saw seems particularly appropriate for the Yellowstone Cutties. Only 5-10% of the population that existed when I graduated from college remains.

Invasives and habitat challenges are nothing new to those familiar with conservation. Here in the east, like many places across this country, we've extirpated, restored and extirpated again all manner of wildlife populations as we built farms, then mills, and cities, and industry and then let it all go fallow again as field and forest. We seem intent on doing it again with housing subdivisions. Bad decisions, all in the name of progress, made with supreme neglect for wildlife but generally not with bad intent.

More recently we've managed to introduce the zebra mussel, didymo, whirling disease and a host of other nasty things; more acts of neglect. And we continue to liberally put Rainbow and Brown Trout, the kind of invasives we "like", where they wouldn't otherwise be. I suppose there are some concessions to be made but the lines seem arbitrary.

What seems particularly insidious about the Yellowstone Laker problem is that apparently someone did it on purpose and it has been catastrophic. A pristine location, or at least as pristine as they come, destroyed by a guy with a bucket and an idea.

At that's the solution as well.

People, ideas and actions.

Pretty little fish.
There's a stream not far from my house that runs through a typical Connecticut suburb. It's a little miracle. The water runs cold in the warmest of years and even in droughts the springs continue to feed it with cold, clear water. For three hundred years it has suffered all manner of abuse but wild trout, especially Brook Trout, still live there. TU, a local watershed association and the town have worked to protect and restore this fishery but most of the work can be credited to the imaginations and efforts of a few hardworking individuals.

In Yellowstone I expect it's not much different. We need that cadre of dedicated individuals to imagine a different future. But we also need all of us. There's a hand to lend when work needs to be done, a keyboard that needs to be whacked when politicians need to be redirected and there's a checkbook that needs to be opened when its time for that.

But equally as important, there's a lesson in all this to bring home to our own watersheds whether they're storied and grand or just plain old grand.

The ground smokes & steams. Everywhere.
Who are the custodians of your home waters? (Hint: That mirror will be handy in identifying one of them) What organizations help out? Are you a member? Do you make your voice heard when foolishness and idiocy are meandering through the halls of legislative bodies?

Even subtler actions are important. Bring a trash bag along on your next trip. If you fish bait, don't release it into the river or lake. Inspect. Clean. Dry.

I've been to a few of the marquee National Parks and while Yosemite has a special spot in my heart I haven't seen anything that matches the variety and grandeur of Yellowstone. To come down into the Lamar Valley and see the river winding through the flood plain and all those fuzzy dots, bison upon closer inspection, grazing is to be transported into another, magical time. The beauty of the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone are without compare. The rolling paint pots, the fuming geysers, and even the cheesy theatrics of Old Faithful manifest the power that is deep within our planet.

And the Grand Prismatic Spring? It's one of those "see it, to believe it" sort of things.

And I haven't even talked about the fish or the animals or the flora.

Yellowstone is the benchmark. If we cannot protect it, if we cannot find it worthy of our efforts to restore and sustain for ourselves and future generations, then we have truly lost our way.

Grand Prismatic Spring.
There's no photoshoppery  going on here. Those are the real friggin' colors. Unreal.

There are even good rocks to kick back and chill upon.

And you might as well catch the Tetons on the way up

This is my submission for the Trout Unlimited, Simms, the Yellowstone Park Foundation and the Outdoor Blogger Network – Blogger Tour 2012 contest

Additional Resources
The battle for Yellowstone Lake
Trout Shangri-La: Remaking the Fishing in Yellowstone National Park
Save the Yellowstone Cutthroat
Yellowstone Map - that lake is huge! Damn those Lake Trout!

Monday, May 14, 2012

On the pond

There's that bright green stuff in the background.
We now return to regularly scheduled programming.

I found Spring last week.

I was sitting out on the deck after a particularly trying workday. I had a large glass of Cabernet nearby, an Arturo Fuente smoldered in hand and I was trying to push aside the frustrations via Gierach therapy, or maybe it was McGuane.

When I looked around I noticed that sometime during the day most of the trees had leafed out. There had been hints of leaves for about a week. Buds swelled, green tips built up hope but then, all of a sudden, I was surrounded by a the fresh greenness that can only be found in a new leaf during its first few days.

But then I lost it.

I drove up to New Hampshire that Friday evening to join my Brother, Dad and Uncle for some light home improvements.and to bond as men do. Up in New Hampshire spring is still all promise. During Sunday's paddle the only green was on the large hemlocks where ospreys perch.

I suppose that spring is wandering north somewhere between Hartford and Keene and while I don't recall seeing her on the drive home, no doubt she's got her thumb out somewhere along the I-91.

The source of all those gnats is discovered.
Shucks litter the pond surface in early morning.
I fished a bit on Sunday morning. I went out early in the new-to-me kayak and fished over in the trough that runs behind the big island. The boys call it Blueberry Island on account of bazillion blue morsels you'll find on it come July but I've always known it as the big island.

I've learned  most of what I know about angling from old guys and that's how I learned the pond. A dozen years ago Bob, an elderly neighbor, took me on a tour of the pond and shared some of the secrets he had plumbed from its depths in a lifetime of angling.

There's the deep spot where fish hold during the warm days of summer; best fished with weight and a worm suspended about fifty-nine feet down in a sixty foot deep hole. There are the two spots where the state stocking trucks back in about a week before the season starts; easy dry fly water if you catch it right. And there's the trough behind Blueberry Island; a transitional space that holds whatever the season brings you. When the water is cold you can catch trout around the drop-offs and when the waters warm you'll find dinky bass.

Bob died a few years back of Leukemia. It ate him up over the course of a year though he fought like hell. I can't think of a crappier way to go though there are likely a few I don't know about. Ann and I both agree that it's far preferable to go quietly in our sleep or to instantly vaporize while walking with the dog.

The pond is small fish water. It's too acidic to have good bug life or to provide good spawning so you never find large fish here. The biggest will come off the back of a stocking truck. The largest Smallmouth I've caught was about twelve inches long; its measurement in inches versus pounds a clear giveaway.

I'm all for renewables, just not in my back yard.

I spent most of my brief time on the water paddling about and, once the wind got up, more than a bit just drifting in the wind. When the wind is up on the mountain the pond's water gets kicking in a manner and that gentle rocking coupled with the drift on a wind's whim is restful. But there was fishing to be had and a small Mepps spinner was already tied on my rod.

I worked my way into the slot behind the island casting and reeling. I tried the anchor rig I had installed and it worked well. I spun around its axis as the winds shifted but that just gave me new water to cast to. Once I had gotten into the shallows I started to get a few strikes and eventually a nice freshly stocked Brookie came to hand. He was chased by some friends as I reeled him in so that was my good clue that the stocking truck had recently visited the pond.

I cast about a bit more and went through the standard arsenal of spinners and crank bait but after that first Brookie, no more made themselves known. I paddled the shaded eastern shore chasing an Osprey from one hemlock to the next. He seemed to want to stay about two trees ahead of me; I guess large birds don't get large by being fools.

A flotilla of small motor boats soon began puttering around the pond. This was a second sign that the stocking trucks had been here recently. They mostly congregated around the deep spot near the house though my catch clearly indicated that some of the fish were schooled up in shallower water. But with 3,000 fish in a 100 acre pond there were bound to be trout everywhere.

I'm looking forward to more time on the water in the kayak and a week or two this summer up on the pond. The house is small and not as comfortable as home. The pond fishes poorly. But time away is restorative and disconnecting with the family will be restorative in a manner to which I'd like to become accustomed.

The early morning is usually windless though it picks up soon enough. Paddle blades disturb the water. Ripples
extend to the farthest shore.

They should call the trout stocking program "Loon Welfare"

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Please Stand By

Has anyone seen my personal life?

On the heels of two weekends of volunteer commitments I find myself consumed by work stuff as well as a couple of personal items so this site will remain quiet for another day or so. Hopefully back to our regularly scheduled programming (such as it is) by early next week.

Until then, enjoy one or two of my favorite posts.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Painfully Obvious Tip #5

I was given a tour of the Beaverkill River downstream of Roscoe last week. I can't recall how many times my friend said "Oh, and this river has some nice fish". Later I fished. While fishing I rigged up two rods; one for nymphing and one for swinging streamers.

On the streamer rod, I rigged a 7 foot 3x leader. I conehead Black Wooley Bugger completed the ensemble.

As I swung through the middle of a run I got a mighty swipe and surface roll from some sort of fish that snapped me clean off so quick that I think I actually cursed; it's a bit of a blur (that plays in an endless loop in my brain).

Which brings us to Painfully Obvious Tip™ #5:
When swinging streamers in a river where you have been forewarned that there are large fish, try something stouter than 3x.
I cut the leader back to about four feet after that brilliant move.

No further break offs.

Sadly, no further monster fish on the line.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Ugly Flies

I just disassembled the rear section of an articulated streamer I was tying. It's a Wooley Bugger sort of thing and the hackle was all wrong; much too long, thin, whispy and just generally ugly. I couldn't stand to look at the thing much less join it to the other half of the fly. Out came the knife and it's back to a bare hook.

Do over.

I have some ugly flies in my fly box and on my tying desk. The ones on my desk are generally early tying experiments and while they're horribly homely, they remind me of how far I've progressed in the art.

I've also been given some ugly flies over time. You don't want to refuse them, cause it's like calling someone's kid ugly, and you put them in your box and you may even fish them. I don't ever recall fishing someone else's ugly fly and being amazed by its effectiveness. It may be that they're really not very good. Or maybe it's because I've rarely had a fishing trip where amazing amounts of fish are caught.

One fly that's been lurking about my fly box is one that I obtained from an Adam's fly swap. This was several years ago; my first swap. I think I tied a Parachute Adams for the swap. It was my first stab at a Parachute fly and while it wasn't fly shop quality it wasn't half bad either. I didn't keep any in the Homely Fly Collection so I must have impressed myself enough to send them all along. But this ugly fly remains in my fly box, unfished.

Ugly, misshapen Adams
And that brings us to a question: Do ugly flies catch fish? I know that flies that are chewed upon after a day of catching fish sometimes catch more fish the more abused they get, but does something that's ugly right out of the gate work?

The Test
This evening I went out and fished an ugly fly on purpose. I took the hideous Adams that I got in the swap -- think Kindergarten craft project -- and I vowed to fish it until it caught something or darkness swallowed it.

I started at a little bend in a wild trout stream that's held fish before. I like to fish this standing on a flat boulder midstream but the floods late last year moved the boulder downstream so I waded out and cast a bit. Not even a look.

I moved down to a plunge pool that I refer to as "sure thing" pool. Again, not a look in all the usual places.

I saw a little rise in a tiny eddy along the far bank under an overhanging willow. The first cast was in the wrong place but the second landed smack in the middle of the eddie and there was an immediate slashing rise. A tiny Brown came to hand. Ugly flies can catch fish; at least small fish.

I fished down a bit and back up nymphing. I managed to hook a few but none stayed on long.

Duped by an ugly fly
The Dark Hole
Walking back to the car in the gloom I passed by an S bend in the river. The lower portion of the S is a series of riffles but the upper portion is a slow glide against a deep bank. Three dimpled rises marred the otherwise unruffled surface of the pool.

I watched if for a bit and the fish seemed to be on something at or just under the surface. It was too dim to see well but I figured it was worth a shot. I moved up to where a trickle of a feeder stream comes in above the bend and watched for the fish again.

They were down. My approach or some other thing had put them off. So I waited.

Eventually one fish started working tight against the bank and while it was a long shot I let a Rusty Spinner drift downstream feeding line as it went. And it went to the wrong place. I retrieved it slowly to avoid spooking the pool.

Again I waited.

A ring manifested itself midstream and my Rusty Spinner went down in search of trout lips. This lane was an easier drift and while I couldn't see the fly in the dim light it was well past where the trout had risen and there was no rise.

So again I retrieved the fly slowing stripping in line in long slow pulls. And the line went tight. And the rod tip bent deeply and the throbbing of a shaking trout head was telegraphed to my hand. Very lucky and very satisfying.

The fight was short. I let a bit of line inadvertently slip through my hands and either the slack or whatever it is that causes hooks to be spit caused the hook to be spit and it landed just upstream of me.

If there are signs, I think this was one of them.

I went home.

The Dark Hole

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ugly Trout

Yes, I know we love them, but I encountered a ugly trout last week. I was tempted to also count him a stupid trout, as he fell for my imitation, but then I recalled that he was likely very smart and it was only because my imitation and presentation were so damned good that he came to hand.

Yes, that must be it.

But I think you will agree, with his deformed pectoral fin, tattered dorsal and caudal fins, and kindergarten-grade finger paint spots, this is an ugly trout.

While I recognize the hideousness of this particular Brown Trout I do not fault him for it. He grew up in a cement pond and had likely been recently dumped in the Beaverkill River and likely was a bit confused and stressed. I'm sure his fins will come back to normal after he consumes a diet of caddis and March Browns.

Unless he ends up in a frying pan or stuck in an eagle's talons.

So why did I share a video of an ugly trout?

First, it's the only video of a trout I have from last week. But more importantly, isn't it cool how he holds position in a pretty good current with virtually no effort?

When I put him back in the water he initially was behind my boot but within about 10 seconds he moved to the position you see him in now. That little bump of a rock near his nose allowed him to hold with just the odd twitch of his tail. It's not something I would have thought as creating holding water. I guess even a ugly trout can tug the line and teach you a bit about the sport.

He seemed to hang out a bit longer than other trout. It probably helped that he sensed my catch-and-release ethos and was instantly calmed in the presence of such kinship and brotherhood.

Or maybe those crappy fins just make it hard to swim. He was probably tired.