Sunday, July 28, 2013

At the turn of the tide

Busted on a sand eel pattern.
Back from a vacation by the sea, I already find myself scrolling through rentals for next summer. Over the past few summers I've been drawn to the mountains but growing up by the sea, the salt is under my skin in ways that I am reminded at that first whiff of damp, briny air.

Growing up we fished in the ocean. When schoolie stripers were in during the spring I'd sometimes borrow a rod from a buddy and we'd head down to the shore and cast and catch. But there was never the passion, the obsession, that I have today for trout shaped objects.

I've spent most of the past decade honing my trout finding skills and I'd like to think I have some ability there. I've also started to branch out fishing for bass and other warm water species in nearby ponds and lakes. Smallmouth, pound-for-pound a great fighting game fish, are also plentiful in local rivers and they've become a fine venture in and of themselves when the water warms.

During the past year, I've also returned to the salt. Some good friends have been gracious enough to invite me along on fishing trips to the salt and have shown me the places to catch and the flies to use and the times to go. I now consult tide charts with a more discriminating eye.

Great White Shark food.
Nearby the house we rented on the Cape there is an estuary where several small rivers combine and dump into the sea. On our first day paddling on the rising tide I moved some fish and saw schools of bait in the water. Lacking a rod to take advantage of the situation I returned later on the falling tide to see if I could turn this bit of info to my advantage. Hubris. Clearly one needs to know much more than what I had observed. I got in a bit of casting practice with my 8wt.

Waiting for the turn
A day later I obtained some second-hand intel from my buddy Jon. With a renewed interest, I acquired local sand eel patterns from a nearby fly shop. I also paddled the water during dead low to get a sense of the structure. I was looking for the sand bars and the drop offs that provided the ambush zones for the stripers. Armed with a good pattern, knowledge that predator and prey were present and some educated guesses about where they'd come together I waited for the tide. It came on Thursday evening.

Arriving just as the tide was coming high I was drawn into the marsh by the tug of the moon. The light was fading but I could see bait leaping and the slap on the surface that any trout angler would recognize as aggressively feeding fish. 

I took me a while to figure out how to approach the fish. The bait and the feeding fish moved through the estuary in waves driven from the mouth to the nooks of the marsh. The edges of the sand bars created current seams where most of the action occurred. 

Anchoring up in a strategic spot seemed like the most obvious strategy but I soon realized that the tide moved the seams in ways that made a stationary platform a disadvantage. So, I moved to the head of the tide and drifted along the edges of likely water waiting for bait busting. I didn't have to wait long.

Cigar holder/Water Bottle. Brilliant.
Each time a wave of leaping bait came past I cast to the maelstrom and it was in short order that I was rewarded in ways that anglers appreciate. As the light faded I managed to cast to almost a dozen waves of stripers moving through the bait. I hooked fish on half of them and landed two.

I considered this a solid outing on a new piece of water. My only regret was that I had dialed this in just when the vacation was about to expire. At best I would only have one more cycle with the right combination of tidal flow and low light conditions before we headed west across the bridges and back to reality.

I've come to appreciate the tug of the salt. While small freshwater streams still festoon my dreams,  brookies don't double over an eight weight rod and pull line from the reel in a deeply satisfying scream. I keep telling myself it's not about the size and weight of the fish.

But sometimes it is.

Fishing the outgoing

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bug Dope

DEET. Use it.

I can't spell Ehrlichiosis (thanks, Google), much less pronounce it, but is sounds like something best avoided. Chills. Fever. Headache. Muscle Aches. Nausea.

A buddy of mine is an educator with most of the summer free for pursuing outdoor activities. She shares reports of her hikes and fishing via Facebook. Occasionally she'll taunt me directly with photos from the water. I'm spending most of my summer tapping on the keyboard and muttering into a phone. Of course, I got the last laugh when all her outdoorswomanship landed her a nice case of the aforementioned disease. One doesn't land in the hospital while manning the phones.*

She also reported that she had eschewed any sort of bug repellent whilst on recent outdoor adventures. It wasn't because she's reckless but rather that a household member had made off with the can of DEET laden bug spray and hadn't replaced it. I suspect she'll be buying another when she gets back on her feet.

There are a whole host** of diseases that one can get from ticks and according to the CDC the incidence of many of these diseases is on the rise***; great news for those of use who spend time outdoors. 
Fun & Exciting Tick Borne Diseases 
Lyme disease
Rocky Mountain spotted fever
Southern tick-associated rash illness
Tick-borne relapsing fever
In order to keep one's self at a lower risk of getting one of these diseases the CDC recommends the following when you're out in tick habitat:
  • Products with permethrin kill ticks. Use them.
  • Use a repellent with DEET on skin (at least 20% concentration)****
  • After being outdoors, check clothing for ticks, shower within two hours of getting home, and check your body for ticks.*****
I've had Lyme Disease and I don't recommend it. What I do recommend is plenty of DEET, inspections and a nice shower after a day outdoors.

Check out the CDC's Stop Ticks website.

UPDATE: I was out in the woods this evening. After I finished writing the above article I took my own advice and took a shower and found a tick buried in my ankle. It had only been burrowed in for an hour or so and it was easily removed with a gentle tug. 

* Of course, one must avoid heart disease and the myriad other corporate diseases.
** Host. Get it. Tick's are a parasite. We're the host.....oh forget, it.
*** I also suspect we're just getting better at reporting them, but that's just a guess.
**** Remember that DEET, along with sunscreen, isn't good for modern fly lines. Wash your hands (or at least wipe them on your waders) before touching fly lines.
***** Easier to do in the shower. I suppose having someone join would aid in the inspection.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Strip'n Pebble Mine

I've ordered mine. Have you ordered yours?

$30. All proceeds go to opposing the construction of Pebble Mine. Order two (of this shirt or in combination with others) and you get a few decals you can use to decorate your fishing car, fishing gear or house cat. They've also got a full line to shirts that exude a different sort of fly fishing attitude.

"Not this mine. Not this place."

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Simple Flies - Bass Edition

As a fly tyer I appreciate patterns that are simple to tie. As a angler I prefer effective ones. It's nice when both characteristics can be found in one fly.

A few years ago a speaker at a Trout Unlimited meeting talked about fishing for Smallmouth Bass and shared a pattern that he found effective. While I've not often fished for bass, especially in still water, I found it particularly effective this past weekend on a pond in New Hampshire.

A willing partner
The fly has three materials: 1) Two Tungsten Cone Heads*, 2) Zonker Strip (white, yellow and chartreuse seem to work), 3) Thread to match the Zonker Strip.

Both yellow and chartreuse worked well.
I tie the fly on a 2x or 3x long streamer hook. The head of the fly starts with two tungsten cone heads mounted back-to-back. This gives the pattern that weight-forward jig action. You then wrap the entire hook shank with a good layer of thread and position the thread at the rear of the cone heads. You then take a zonker strip two times the length of the hook shank and mount it to the hook. Start by piercing the zonker strip with the hook point at the midpoint of the strip. Then lash the strip to the underside of the hook shank. You only need to catch in the end of the zonker strip near the cone heads. Don't wrap back down the body. That'll just screw up the action that the zonker strip makes in the water.
Mellow Yellow


You could make this fly even easier by buying some jig hooks but then that just doesn't seem like fly tying to me so I don't do it.**

Fishing the fly is a simple affair. Cast to likely structure. Strip. Pause. Strip. Pause. Set Hook.***

While I took a break for a drink and a snack I let the fly dangle in the water three inches down in three feet of water. A school of bass came to take a look. They pondered the mesmerizing action of the rabbit fur for a bit. Then the largest of them bolted in and grabbed it. He's pictured above. This fly fishes well even when you're not fishing.

This little guy grabbed a hopper while I was stripping it back to the boat. The locals say this lake has
Largemouth. He has the stripe and color of a Largemouth, but the mouth structure says Smallie to me. Variety I suppose.

* Technically that makes four materials, but I'm not counting it that way. I'm also not counting the hook. I suppose that makes five materials if you're a stickler for such details. I'm still sticking with three. If you're inclined to disagree with me I can't protect you from your own ignorance.
** You may not share my high moral standards with regards to fly tying and thus feel that using a jig hook is acceptable. If you want to cheat, that fine by me. I won't be the one going to hell.
*** Most strikes come on the pause. Those that don't, come on the strip. Other times the strike comes when you're not really paying attention and don't have a clue as to whether you were paused or stripping. Magically, a fish is there. I still count those ones.

Monday, July 1, 2013

I Heart Brook Trout

Reckless and Spunky. Wild Brook Trout. 5 p.m. June 30th. Yellow Sallie Dry, #14. Fished upstream with a little action.*

* Though likely unnecessary. We are talking about Brook Trout after all.