Sunday, March 29, 2015

Fish Porn - Yes, Porn

Above, an image of the painting Two Women Fishing by Daniel Ridgeway Knight (1839 - 1924).

I'm more than a fair student of art history  but I was unaware of Mr. Knight until finding this painting. Thanks to Wikicommons and the copyright expiration, we have it here to enjoy.

To the present owner - lovely acquisition. Congratulations!

Tenkara on a fertile stream! The marsh marigolds are a nice touch. Cold water.

I love fish porn.

The pair above even show ankles! Girls I know on the water are always clad head-to-toe in poly-something, Gore-Tex, or synthetic fleece complete with beanie or enormous ear-flapped headbands. Sexy beasts.

Fish porn is of course the modern fly fishing film. I guess with music video saturation, videographers turned to the next mega-market: fly fishing.

I don't like the slashing-action-jump-cut-high-five style of fish porn at all. I like beautiful settings, calm, patient fishing, and the reward of a fish even when small.

Today's selection below features Yvon Chouinard most probably known to you as a founder of the outdoor gear firm Patagonia. Disclaimer: I've no commercial interest in the firm. I do own a nice leisure rain jacket of their manufacture.

Mr. Chouinard is an evangelist for many things and apparently from this video an aficionado of Tenkara style fishing.

I just like that it's a video of an old guy outdoors enjoying himself and using very simple fishing techniques with a mix of equipment - Tenkara and modern fly rod - in a very instructive style.

I wish more now fly fishers were introduced to the sport in this simple and enjoyable close-contact manner rather than visiting a mega-retailer and sold a 85' casting broomstick.

I think I'd put an inexpensive soft-ish fiberglass rod, click-and-pawl reel, and admonition to not cast more than 35' on longish light leader for the first year of fly-fishing. I know I've erred in providing other advice to new fly fishers.

Should probably go to a hosted beginners class by a professional outfit just to see how proper instruction looks. I only know lots of "wrong" ways to start folks out. I'll get better, though.

Fish like a heron, first. Slowly. Calmly. Enjoy.

Like I know.

Here's the video. Enjoy. I certainly did.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Dark Tea Time of the Spring

Special Edition this morning as I could use a little trout with my morning cup.

Image at left courtesy of David Wilmot who graciously allows its use on these pages for only the price of attribution. We found the image over on wikicommons.

David, thanks for the lovely snapshot and I hope your morning tea is the perfect temp.

Douglas Adams wrote his second Dirk Gently detective novel with the title The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul which was a phrase lifted from his five-part trilogy The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

We're coming to the point here. Give us a minute.

The phrase is uttered by a character with infinite lifespan to describe the wretched boredom of being immortal. We amend its use here.

It's not-quite-spring. Horrid excuse for a season, really.

Louis the foxhound and I wandered our small north meadow this morning. Grand day full of heavy frost.

Does pawed in the west strip meadow doing some advance real estate shopping for fawning beds. Three - a usual number for this time of year. Last year we had twins that hung around through August nibbling outside my library window in the evenings. Very exciting.

We flushed turkey from their late-morning roosts (for turkey, they're early risers normally this time of year) along the east woods and fence line.

Louis flushed a sleek field hare from bunny pile #1. Probably a young buck by the way he moved. Louis doesn't chase the bunnies. He'll track them and he'll flush them for sport but bunnies are beneath his prey radar. There's a beagle down inside him but he doesn't let it out much.

Meadow cats - an entirely different thing. There's a white-and-grey that teases him horribly.

Trout. It is trout of whom I'm thinking.

It's going to be a low-water spring as the weather patterns sets-up. There is still a fair amount of run-off ice melt still to come but we'll not have the blow-outs of last year which moved timber and pile.

It's time to be on the water. Not quite.

Trout are moving slow. It's streamer season on the float up north because at thirty-eight degrees, the fish are hungry but sometimes sluggish. It's bottom-third action. It's cover-lots-of-water action. It isn't yet "good" for the wade angler.

It's the long dark tea time of the spring.  

The snow is gone. (Did flurry heavy yesterday but no accumulation). The sun is bright. The water  cold. Knee-numbing cold. Not-fun-on-wet-hand cold.

Remember that feeling from late fall? Have I put you down yet?

I'll have a cup of coffee at the local fly shop. I'll fondle gear. I'll talk about ordering a new rod for fall. I'll turn down a pitch to go to Labrador for Brookies this summer.

I'll fit some reels to a Barch '88 clone which has unusual ideas about reel feet it will accept. I'll whine about wanting to use some of my accumulated System One/ Diawa 706 click-and-pawls instead of my Able TR2. We'll confirm that a Hardy Duchess fits the rod and I'll be sunk.

Dirk - partner in my local shop -  has kids in college. I'll call the new reel an "educational expense" on the taxes. [ IRS: that was a joke. Really. Don't get up. I'll bring you your tea. IRS - Vogons? Never been seen together. One in the same? You be the judge.]

I'll write a couple nice letters to the purveyors of some of our favorite amber beverages and ask if I can use images on this personal-use-yet-public blog with the provision of non-commercial non-monetized sourcing.

I'll cut back some Staghorn Sumac and edit a story that has to go out out on submission. I'll torment myself over an early rough of another story.

I'll think of a tight line cutting through the North Branch of the Au Sable from an over-anxious Brookie taking a Partridge-and-Olive over a gravel flat just downstream from Powerline. I'll probably have vine charcoal on my hand from sketching the scene. I'll leave out the image of netting him with the big ghost net and having him wiggle through.

I might call Dirk and buy a new vise.

I'll have a nice cup of tea.

How's your stock of brandy doing? 

Mine's running low.

Come on, spring.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Filling the Box

Freyfisher provides us with permission to use the image on the left from wikicommons. These are Elk Hair Caddis.  Nice. Lovely snap.

I'm looking at the spring boxes.

I've too many diverse specialist flies that I love but never use.

I'm done with it.

Back to basics. I'll break down and go with terrestrial patterns later in the year but for now, my stocking will focus on  an mix of whim and logic. If you've got your boxes out at home, follow along. You know the dance steps already.

I also say that I was taught to select your likely flies and put those in your day box. Leave the big boxes back at the cabin.

So, this list constitutes the spring flies I'll have in the day box - depending - and in the resupply box back in the cabin.

(1) Royal Wulff. - I can see these well. I like them as dries and I like them as indicators I can follow when I have a nymph down below.

(2) Elk Hair Caddis - These are sentimental favorite. I learned on dry flies and the caddis was my go-to. Of course, this was on Colorado streams in the summer when fish were starving and ate anything that fell on the water. I thought the EHC was some special fly. I didn't know I was fishing it as a hopper at the time. I see these well in the drift.

(3) Parachute Adams. - I prefer the Wulff but I've a couple dozen of these in various sizes and will use them. Most of the time, I drown them and fish them in the film with the little parachute sticking up. I don't like them for an "on the water" dry but that's me. I've more confidence in the EHC or Wulff for a pure dry presentation to a rising fish.

(4) Griffith's Gnat - I use this fly too seldom. I love it as a dropper on the surface. I tie it 18" behind a Wulff at the end of the day and I can follow the wulff and not have to strain to see the 18 Gnat in the growing gloom. I should fish it more. I'm probably not alone in that either.

(5) Hackled Pheasant Tail. I'll use some with beads (not too proud there) and most without. I catch fish on the hackled. Not so much with the unhacked version.

(6) Hare's Ear Flymph - I like this fly in spring. I should fish this more in the early summer evening. I stay too long with something else and I think the dark color and flutter from the hackle is perfect for the light from the golden hour on out. I'm not using it enough. I tire of subsurface too quickly.

(7)  Partridge and Orange - I will  be using this as my exploration pattern when I don't see rishing fish. I'll still use it when I see rising fish. I'll use upstream drifts more.

(8) Partridge and Green/Olive - I have a bunch of these very light and very dark beasts that are perfect for the early season.

(9) Ants. - I don't try an ant often enough. I like the size 12 hard-bodies as beetle and bug imitation for under trees. I've been too lazy to tie them on in the evenings, though. I should try them more with the little trout in the backwater. I'm not above taking a 7" rainbow on a barbless hook with a 3 wt. I'll do a little dance for a bluegill.

(10)  Olive and Black Buggar. - I've no excuse for not trying for large trout more often with a great streamer set-up I own. The Ambush line makes it effortless to fish streamers without any of the voodoo of flying big hooks by my ear.

Big fish eat other fish. An 18" trout eats baitfish. I need to get over it.

On food rich streams in Michigan, fish don't have to feed all day. Big fish don't have to eat insects at all. More streamers very early, and very late. I should be casting streamers when I can't see to tie on again. Big eyes are easy with a threader even in the evening.

There it is. I'm not helping myself with a selection of Hendricksons in my day box. A partridge and olive in 14 and 18 will do just fine. I should be using those.

Better presentation. More flies under the surface than on it. More Hare's ear. More streamer very early and very late.

Simple. Cuts down on the flies needed. Puts the onus on me.

If you're borrowing flies, you'll know what I've got.

I'm going for more catching. I'm already happy just being on the water fishing so, no worries.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rehersal, and More

Image at left from wikicommons extracted from Fishing and Shooting  by S. Buxton (1902). Clearly, the Amber Liquid crew could use a little work on their outing wardrobe.

I'm not sure silks and buckles give great traction in the Manistee.

I'm going to make a proclamation.

Hear All: I do not believe in the magic fly.

There. I said it. I don't believe that the key to catching lies in "the magic fly."

There is a great belief among current fly fishermen in the "educated" trout. We call these selective trout after the book Selective Trout by Richards, Swisher, and Whitlock.

I say I believe none of it.

Trout are roughly in the same intellectual class as frogs.  If you look into the morphology of the trout nervous system - as I have - you find the parts of the brain responsible for analytic decision making underdeveloped even for modest vertebrates.

There it is. The fish is stupid. He learns poorly. Exceedingly poorly. His capacity for memory function is almost non-existent.

Further, most of what a trout eats ( 80% even 90% ) is subsurface, under 5/8ths of an inch in size, and brownish.

A trout lives in a flowing stream and feeds in current where he has less than two seconds to decide "food" or "not food." He gets it wrong a lot of the time, too.

In short, the fish is a trial-and-error feeder with a genetic impulse to consume items that are roughly equivalent in appearance to "buggy" subsurface invertebrates.

I don't think a fish cares between dull green and dull brown. I don't think he cares between an Antron body and a hare's mask body.

SO. You might disagree. Go to it. Free county - so far.

What do I believe? Ahem. Proclamation, please.

Hear All: I believe presentation matters most to a trout given a reasonably topical food-resembling imitation.

Fishing a Griffith's Gnat in a Hex spinner fall isn't going to do much for you. A "switch" has gone off inside the trout brain and his pattern recognition software is stuck in "Hex spinner" mode. Good luck with that.

However, when the prevalent food is the the bug soup mix most of our streams enjoy day-in and day-out, the trout is going to say "buggy"  or "not buggy."

The trout does a pattern recognition routine, says the fly is "food", and then proceeds to eat the imitation unless the angler screws it up.

Let's consider our imitations as "flies." Nymphs, flymphs, soft hackles, dries - we'll leave out streamers which are bait fish imitations - we'll call them all "flies" here.

If the fly looks generally like food and acts like food, the trout will consider it food and eat it.

Bugs are almost always at the mercy of the environment and not the master of it.

Flies don't move on the water faster than current. Flies don't swim upstream well. Flies don't swim across currents well.

Flies tumble, drift, and struggle. Flies move by currents and not against currents.

In the superhighway bug sushi conveyor which is a trout stream,  the trout has a lot of comparison objects. Plus, it seems one of the little bits of instinct he does have in the forebrain is "swims right" versus "swims wrong."

Presentation matters. The drift and mend matters. It isn't that you have a size 16 Fippity-Foppity in Chartreuse with a Yeti Belly body.

It's that your pheasant tail nymph drifted naturally in the mid one-third of the water column for all of the nine feet in front of the trout.

So - presentation matters. (Trust me on this). How to make a good presentation? Cast well.

Cast well for the presentation you intend. Optimize your drift over water you think best holds trout who might be feeding.

We'll start rehearsal with casting. It's the logical first step in getting line and lure to water.

What casts? Let's review a hierarchy of casts and their uses. It's be a good thing to have these down before season so you can react to whatever environmental obstacle you encounter.

It's no fun moving because of a bush or sweeping tree. I know.

I suggest this list as a hierarchy from basic to advanced skills to master:

  1. The Water Haul - reverse direction, no backcast : multi-fly rigs on upstream drift.
  2. The Roll cast - constant direction, no backcast : obstructed backcast.
  3. Overhead cast - constant direction with backcast : wide open, babes on bank.
  4. Belgian cast - - side cast with backcast: overhead obstruction.
  5. Parachute cast -- overhead cast with backcast: soft drag-free presentation.
  6. Pile cast -- overhead cast with backcast : induced slack for drag-free presentation.
  7. Reach cast, close and far -- roll or overhead cast technique - delivery mend.
  8. Single Haul in Roll, in Overhead -- roll or overhead cast technique: line acceleration, distance.
  9. Double Haul in Overhead -- overhead cast technique: line acceleration, distance.
  10. Snake Roll -- change of direction, no backcast: light rigs.
  11. Snap-C/Snap-T and Roll -- change of direction, no backcast: all rigs.
  12. Single Spey -- change of direction, no backcast : upstream loop
  13. Double Spey -- change of  direction, no backcast: downstream loop.
If we're going to move from fishing to catching, our presentation has to improve. In order to maximize the opportunities we have at presenting our fly to fish, we need to have a solid arsenal of casts to employ.

It's about incremental improvement. It's about practice and accomplishment.

It's about a rehearsal for the main event.

Have you practiced you casting, lately?

Too bad you're not here at the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Fish Porn

John Singer Sargent above: Two Girls Fishing. Hangs in Cincinnati, Eden Park.

Sunday edition will try and bring a special piece of fishing porn. Today's kick-off: an especially nice piece.

Now all we need is someone to film and someone who's college French still works.

Pecheur du Tarn


Friday, March 20, 2015

Away We Go

At left, fly casting analyzer as photographed by Mike Cline.

I believe this is an old Palm E2. I used both a T1 and a T3 back in the day. Yes, I too learned Palm script.

It was a handy little beast when your day was consumed with meetings. I could use Bluetooth and sync to Microsoft Exchange as I walked by my office. Very cool. Spreadsheets, word docs, pdf, meeting notes transcribed to text.

Almost as good a pen and paper and smartphone today.

The point in this image of the casting analyzer from technology now relegated to the trash bin is that our skills also age and pass from cutting edge to near useless.

I went out tonight on Mill Creek for a little casting practice with a three-stand wool fly on 4 wt line. Now, the wool is sure to be completely sodden quite quickly, sink, and present a real problem for casting.

That's the point.

Breeze, strong current, heavy sunk fly, sinking leader: these are the conditions that happen in spring swinging streamers or multi-fly rigs. We're at the top end of control for whatever is in our hand complete with obstructed back-casts and we have to perform. Not being able to fish means not being able to fish.

SO, I went out to practice.

The first fifteen minutes: not pretty.

I'm rusty after winter and the conditions outlined above are hard. They were still hard thirty minutes later when I could manage to roll cast the fly to the surface downstream; execute a snap-c to bring the wool wadding upstream, and because of wind and current, execute a roll cast off my left shoulder for thirty-five feet.

That's about as good as it got: thirty-five feet. I don't expect much else off a soft fiberglass rod and a heavily weighted set-up. With a strike indicator, it would have been worse.

So, work to do.

Everybody wants to fish as long as it isn't miserable. Controlling the line and fly has a lot to do with miserable - or not.

So, we'll have a casting practice session or two before opener. We can all learn some new tricks. We could all use some after-practice amber beverage.

To that end, some great instructional videos about technique. I enjoyed these.

Caution - these are provided as entertainment. It's about like watching Pen and Teller do a card trick. Looks easy. It isn't easy the first time. Takes some work.

Think of these as aspirational technique mastery videos.

Roll casting: not the big arcing useless beast you learned. [ I might have taught you that useless version, too].  Red's Fly Shop Roll Cast 301
Orvis Crisp Roll casting

The standard Overhead Cast: Basic Overhead Tip

The Snap C to re-position a downstream line for a cross-current roll cast: Snap - C and Roll

The Snake Roll ( useful for no backcast re-direction with a surface fly):  Snake Roll

Lastly, some single-handed Spey: Red's Single Spey

Just want to fish? Here's a good one. Notice the casts: simple, controlled, close: Barnes Illustrative Fishing Techniques

If you have some favorites, link them in the comments. We'll set a video instruction series on the right column here in a bit.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Something Amiss

At left, the Madison under Mount Haynes in Yellowstone. Photo in the public domain as provided by a Park Service employee in the course of official duties. Thanks, Jim Peaco.

Damn fine official duties.

So we've come to it. Riffle, run. pool.

The Amber Liquid blog which you are reading comes from the Amber Liquid Anglers' and Sportmen's Club. This is a common area to document some unusual perspectives on trout fishing, the outdoors, and fine amber liquids that do seem to make both more enjoyable.

So, gear and links on the right. Exploits and observations here.

Trout in the water.

Come on, spring!