Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Library, Winter

At left, public domain image of the New York Yacht Club library. Wikicommons hosts the picture now out of copyright.

The Library at the Amber Angler's club is somewhat more compact. We do however serve a very fine scotch and several decent bourbons.

I'm in the library. It isn't just for storing books and tying flies (along with plotting world domination). It is a place to read undisturbed by spouse or some pets.

Page 160 of my edition. I quote:
The trout really do take to designs better than patterns. That is to say, they look at how a fly is behaving before they consider its color. The concept of design makes sense when you hear what the trout say, and therefore is the title of this book.
Datus Proper, What the Trout Said, (Knopf, New York, 1982).

I'm at the vise and tying. I am tying for the '16 season with an eye of being one of those anglers who -- when dropped on any stream in North America -- has at his disposal the flies on hand to imitate the actions of the predominant food source on a stream regardless of species or season.

To some anglers, this means six boxes and a vault back in the car. To me it means 20 - 30 drys, and an equal number of wets in two small shirt pocket boxes. Oh, a note on boxes.

Last year, I stumbled on Chris Lantzy [here] He's a fishing traditionalist, rod maker, gear maker, and damn decent human being. I haven't had the pleasure of spending time on the water in his company, but I will. He's down the road in Pennsylvania.

Chris makes some wonderful soft fly wallets that are ideal fly gear. I used both the mini and the full size last year and gave a mini to all the Amber Anglers at spring camp. Excellent gear.

I like the mini fly wallet better than my small-sized Orvis aluminum day box ...though the shirt-pocket day box protects intricate dry flies quite well, too. I used mostly soft-hackled flies as scum-film wets last year an a little crush makes them even more useful on the water.

Anyway, your day boxes for success. Back on topic ...

I love fly shops. I love to stop and talk about what is going on with the river.

I don't think I need "Mark's Tiny Purple Sorensan with a Double Pike One-and-a-half Gainer."

I need a dark spider in size 16 with a Gnat dropper in 18 fished about 24" below the spider.  

The goal is to have at hand a ready selection of flies to account for being two hours from the car when rain sets in and the Hendrickson's start popping off in size 18-16. Sounds like an olive partridge in 16 with 8 inch tag hare's ear in 18 fished upstream in riffled seams coming off rocks and logs.

That last part is the important part. More important that anything else. Let's play Professor for a moment and analyze that sentence.
Sounds like an olive partridge in 16 with 8 inch tag hare's ear in 18 fished upstream in riffled seams coming off rocks and logs.
What Dataus Proper is saying, and what many others have said, is that the behavior of the fly is the critical part. The trout having to make up his mind on "food" or "not food" very quickly uses some sort of crude instinctive logic. Remember ... he has the brain of a frog. Yep, a frog. He's not very smart. He doesn't have "reasoning" skills. He has instinct. He's hardwired. He doesn't have adaptable programming.

 Our sentence.

"Olive" - hrmph. Half of all food in the stream is light or dark olive and the other half is dark brown-black. Hardly too distinguishing, then. This description tells us to make sure the fly does not resemble "Not" food. Don't screw the pooch. Got it.

"Partridge" - in context, resembling any sparse emerger or dun. Bugs have wings and legs but these aren't off a 747 and do not resemble a seven-bladed Sikorsky. The bits that "stick out" are few and sparse. So, partridge doesn't matter and starling or hen could do as well. Maribou or Bunny Strips are however right out. Also, we're talking about things in the first 1 - 4 inches of water when we talk partridge. A drop of floatant and we're talking scum. So, this word means a lot to us ...because we expect it to alert fish to "food" floating.

"16" - size matters. Fish eat size 4 hex. Yes. They do not eat size 4 bat-wing hex in April. Size is a key.

"8 inch tag" - we're in the surface film with the partridge. We're toward the top of the top 1/3 of the water column with the dropper. Important. It means we expect the fish to be following food "up" from the bottom 1/3 where they hang about. Current breaks happen at the bottom more than the top and trout are ...lazy.

"Hare's ear" ... any suitable non-distinct larvae/pupae here. Caddis? check. Iso? check. Mayfly? check. Remember, the trout has about a second to recognize it in the water. He's not going to Ann Miller's fine book [ Hatch Guide for Upper Michigan Streams ] for any comparisons. The modifier "about" in the phrase "looks about like ..." in a trout's go/no-go logic circuit is key. Hare's Ear really does "look about like" a great deal. You knew that, though.

"In 18" ... again, most than half of a trout's early season sub-surface food is size 16 -18. I'd say 3/4 of everything a trout less than 14" - 16" eats is subsurface in 16-18 but I'm not a fisheries biologist. Haven't got the right hat.

 "fished upstream in riffled seams coming off rocks and logs."  The meat of our sentence lies here. Everything else hangs from it.  Upstream ... so the drift works best at our target point of presentation, the hook-ups go best from the take, and the odds of spooking the fish go way down.

Success in a single word right there: upstream.

Riffled seams? Hendrickson's drift for a bit in the surface film. They drown easily in turbulent flow ...thus riffles. Just downstream, fish eat in the concentrated flow of bugs that now are easy to catch ...remember: trout are lazy.

So, the assertion is that we could manage this hatch situation in several forms with a wide variety of patterns providing our flies act like the natural insect. Behavior, then size.

Color or true resemblance?

It's a fly. The trout sees the big hook. You see the shiny pointy thing, don't you? Think the trout doesn't? He earns his living looking at food. He KNOWS your fly has a hook.

What he cannot do is form a reasoned appreciation of your hook. Food vs. Not Food.

Fly acts like food (most important job)?
Fly appears in portion of stream with most currently available food source?
Fly is roughly size and shape of food source?
Fly does not possess a color which detracts from its appearance as food source when in the water?

Fish thinks it is food.

Presentation in the best form for hooking success with minimized chances of spooking fish?

Successful trout outing.

We're in the library. We're getting smarter. We're tying utility flies that catch fish in many situations.

We're staying away from flies that include the description "and a one-and-a-half gainer."

Have you read Datus? You should. Ask at your local bookstore. It's out of print. They'll get it though.

My bookstore: Motte and Bailey. [ here ] Oh, be nice to Gene. He's lived with me and that takes a certain toll.


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