Saturday, February 27, 2016

Reeling in the Breeze

Ballan reel I bought from an outfitter friend at a stamped-from-tin price today. This is a solid model (Heirloom) and a solid build of that model. Classic look for a brother-in-law price.

There is some noise about engineering, production quality, and the rest online. I'm happy with this one. Looks nice and feels nice. It'll get gentle use. Should be fine.

I was given a new Orvis Battenkill click-and-pawl for Christmas a year ago. Wow. That's a model that has sure changed but let's face it: for Michigan river trout fishing these things are usually line hangers. [ Nice Christmas gift from non-fisherman any way you look at it, too].

We're not fighting tarpon off the reel here.

I got a 444 DT Sylk line in 4 with it so it'll go nicely with a 88" piece of bamboo hanging on my wall in its hemp sleeve. My Mill Creek set-up is just about perfect which is great because the water is opening up nicely.

Ten inches of snow this week so I'm gearing up for spring. I'm tying all sub-surface right now: darker colors, too.

I also bought a very nice piece of darker coastal deer hair (my two pieces are quite light in color - and that helps me see my DHC in low light which is why I bought them in the first place) as I'm going to try a little of the darker style as the surface fly on some of my early summer dry-dropper rigs.

I caught almost everything in early summer last year on the dropper (various soft hackles) and that probably means I should work on the floating fly a bit. There are so many bugs in the drift once spring breaks open here that I'll be happy with a 1:10 or 1:8 ratio of surface takes to subsurface. Last year was more like 1:20.

I'm leaving off grizzly hackle in front of the wing this year to "sit" in the water a little better. I "cut" the fly flat in the fall and had much better luck having brookies attack the surface fly when I'd maimed it in this fashion. I had a couple smallish brown trout hammer the surface "sitter" late in September on water I thought was purely brookie territory.

So, I should just be listening to my idols and fishing more "in" the water than "on" the water.

Surface takes are fish heroin for me, though. Flies flush in the water film might give me the same old fix.

Dog knows that the focus on always having something on the line sub-surface has made a world of difference in taking Michigan trout. Hook-ups are much better even when fishing downstream, too.

Now, I'm fishing classic flies and I'm using classic-style gear and I'm looking at classic tactics.

I must be getting old - er, well - classic. A knock-off of classic, anyway.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Bear in the Library with a Fly Rod

The title comes from the venerable board game Clue. I admit I've never played it. I am drawn to murder and mayhem.

I write about murder avocationally.

At left, part of my trout library.

It is very early spring and I'm in the library trying to make things better.

I'm not sure if I can; but, I'm sure in some pretty fine company as I dig about in my volumes of troutness.

I have a cold so I'm not "better" myself. I'll get there.

I regret my current copy of McClane's is the reprint with the photstatic fly plates rather than my original with the glossy inset color plates. I have my original CRC Handbook and my Mathematical Tables (gotta love the reference section on Laplace transforms).

I don't however have some of my other books. I'm missing a signed set of J.F.C Fuller's Military History of the Western World and a first edition of B.H Liddell Hart's The Other Side of the Hill.  These things happen in life.

I'm home with a cold and a fuzzy head and am working on a small field guide that I hope my Amber Angler comrades may find of use when they stand on our local rivers' edges and contemplate "what now?"

I've had to get better at stream ecology here in Michigan which is a topic I've mentioned in these pages several times. Throwing a bushy dry to the sides of a mid-stream boulder during July and August no longer answers the riddle of "how do you catch trout?"

My nymphing technique is still generally poor though the last two months have seen real improvement by using a high-contrast piece of mono as the almost-terminal section of hand-tied leaders. I hate "bobbers" and indicator fishing but I will consent that a "sighter" has really improved my sub-surface enjoyment.

The French Nymphing curly-q sighter bit is a giant PIA, though. Why do something that intentionally introduces slack in a system? Where's the fun in that?

I like to tie-in flouro as the terminal section to make my fly+tippet flouro-flouro easier to manage on the stream (I pre-rig a lot when it is cold and make an Albright connection of my rigged tippet sections to leader.)

I've written about limited fly-boxes and do an adequate job avoiding "magic fly" proclamations and temptations.

Yes, I am convinced that there are times that the local "magic fly" is the thing to use. I'll concede that locals know things that are ...special. I also know I'm absolute shit at looking in a fly box containing Joey's two-and-a-half-gainer and remembering where/when/why I should fish it.

I prefer to stick with the partridge-and-olive in such cases. My loss. YMMV.

Anyway, I'm digging through trying to quantify what others before me have asserted we know about trout.

I've got it all down now. Here, I'll share.

What we know: trout generally prefer to live in cold clean water. They eat "things" in the water, usually. Some trout of a given population swim around in the water from place-to-place and other stay put. 

Yep, that's it. When you take the anecdotal and circumstantial and uncorroborated single-environment differentiated business out of trout in popular and scientific literature, you end up with a tiny bit of confirmed knowledge. It's more than my absurdest example; but, it isn't much more!

I put it to the court that we're deep in the land of Hearsay.

Doctor Simpkins, can you confirm that the trout in question confused your comparadun with the Hendrickson hatch which - at the time you were fishing - had ended some two hours previous?
Uh, no. I have no idea what the trout thought. He was a beauty, though  Let me tell you about my reach cast and how the drift ...
Thank you, doctor. No further questions for this ichthyologist, you honors.
We're not much better off now than W.C. Stewart  and his The Practical Angler. Trout are bloody hard work and I'm certainly glad I don't feed my family based on my own accurate, undisputed discoveries. Those'd be some skinny kids.

Mr. Stewart being a Scotsman certainly intended his volume to be practical. We can all hope our advice and observations come to that high standard.

I'm off to muddy the water - this time in a literary sense.


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Bloody Cold

Four below this morning. Tying soft hackled flies instead of wading Mill Creek. Surprise.

The local is slushy but hasn't crusted yet. It might crust over tonight but next week promises warmer weather and we'll be back on tack for "bonus day" early fishing.

At left, some fresh silks. I ran out of orange and had to order. My local shop doesn't carry silk and made some remarks about the uni being better to work with and silk was for rod building and ...

I understand.

However, I like silk. I like the thread bodies I can make with silk. I like the tactile properties of silk. I like the historical links to four hundred year old flies tied with silk.

That said, I'm submitting one of my favorite quick-tie soft hackles to the Soft Hackle journal and my fly features synthetic scarlet floss for the back third of the fly. There you go. Old and new.

I hope the bench is as rewarding for you this weekend as it is for me.

Sufficient antifreeze taken internally does seem to help with the perspective on winter. I'm using Glenfiddich.