Wednesday, January 25, 2017

New Classic Reel

Image left of day-old newspaper with impressive trout. Public domain. Copyright expired. Hosted on wikicommons.

Today's topic is news and under that heading, Steve over at the Soft Hackle Journal has a great review of the Red Truck Diesel Fly Reel. He thinks they are good to go.

Steve's review  here.

Several of the Amber Liquid guys follow developments on the Leland Outfitter's web site. They were the first place I saw a Red Truck reel. Tempted as I've been, I hate to pay for something I've not held in my paw. Not so after Steve's review.

I know we all visit the area fly shop when we're away from the home waters and we buy some stuff to make sure and support the wealth of local knowledge.

I give a lot of business to my local shop linked at right: The Painted Trout. However, not everyone has a local shop.  I lived for years in a location three hundred miles from a fly shop. If you don't have a local, The Painted Trout, Leland, and Red's do a fine job.

( Leland web page here., Red's fly shop here.)

Don't rely on their web page: call and talk to someone who actually catches a fish from time-to-time. Makes a difference.

You can however rely on Steve's review. I have several Hardy Marquis clones as well as a Marquis 5.
I'll be buying a Red Truck for my Echo Glass 11' 7wt this fall.

Check it out.

You need to ditch that trophy drag and get a classic click (unless you're going to trophy water on an outing and then I'd be tempted to keep that sealed-drag beast in the ready bag).


Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Limited Flybox

Image at left from Mike Cline hosted on wikicommons and provided here copyright-free in the public domain. Nice photograph and thanks for the use here, Mike!

Time for the serious seasonal fly tying. It's a late start for me.

I've been "playing" with patterns here in the last couple months which is to say I've been chasing flags of whimsy.

I'm solidly in the presentationist school. While I've been playing with wonderful flies on the vise, I'm using a limited flybox this year to force my perfection of the "invisible presentation."

That's not a new cast.

The invisible presentation is a combination of a delivery competency that won't put a fish down upon landing, an approach that limits the spook-factor of the angler silhouette and movement within the trout's field of vision, and a mastery of the drift that presents the fly as living insect (nothing living drifts far "dead" or absent any natural movement ... debris dead-drifts)  without encountering the betraying drag.

Chasing the magic fly at the vise will not aid in my pursuit.

I'll list my six flies for the year here on the blog and then do some demonstration ties to feature in the coming posts.

(1) The CDC Caddis.

It's Michigan. We're a caddis-heavy state and surface takes are fun. There are too many evening opportunities to entice active trout with a nice caddis to eliminate this fly from the arsenal. I'll tie them with coastal deer hair in light tan and brown. I've both skins and they're quite nice.

(2) (X) and Herl.  

I'll use a nice speckled hen, a dun hen, starling, a partridge (of course), and a nice flat-black hen whose hackles are especially soft. I'll use these weighted and unweighted. Early on, I'll tie a few with tungsten beads.

I can tie then down to size 20 and adding a drop of floatant covers the midge hatch.

The X and Herl covers all levels of the water column. Tied Stewart-style as the ancient spiders and weighted, they make excellent isonychia  at size 10 on the swing across the cobble and gravel.

(3) Partridge and Yellow.

I'll use Pearsall's silk on this traditional north country spider. It's a perfect "not-dark" mayfly here in my part of the world and is a reliable search pattern when I see no rising trout. It also feels good fishing something relatively pure that I've not adulterated in any way from a standard.

I'll tie some with a tight herl collar this year.

(4) The Purple and (X).

This is a new entry into my standard list this year.

I've got some lovely iridescent purple floss from Danville. I'll tie hackle using starling, speckled hen, and dun hen. I'll use the wire-wrapped and weighted as my "dark" deep flymph and in an unweighted variant for the early season emergers which tend to be darker around here.

I've read that the Purple and Snipe is an early season killer in the U.K. and I plan on testing it here in the colonies over in the driftless area of Wisconsin. It's an experiment for my early-season fishing and for a dark soft-hackle ticked across the bottom.

(5) Hare's Ear Flymph.

There isn't much to say about this one. I need a PHN or a Hare's Ear. I'd take either one if I were limited to the desert island fly fishing scenario. I will tie a small tail using pheasant hen. I'll use it weighted (heavily) and unweighted. I like the Wotton SLF better than the natural for the hare's ear. Call me a heretic.

With the tail and longish hackle, mine certainly resembles a March Brown artificial more than anything else. That's hardly a bad thing here in Michigan.

(6) The Adams Fly, Jingler Variant.

I tied some Jinglers last year using a Borcher's Special as the model. I didn't like the traditional turkey barbs as the abdomen (my turkey did however cooperate to leave me some feathers from their dusting hole). I tied my Borcher's Special variant using a dubbed abdomen which pretty much made it a wingless Adams.

This year, I'll tied the same fly with two hackles and a name better reflecting what it is on the vise. I'll use grizzly for the primary palmered hackle, trimmed to allow a presentation more in-the-water than on-the-water. I'll tie the fore-hackle with a partridge.

This soft hackle provides good movement on the water even as the fly dead-drifts thus preserving the "living image" aim of any artificial. Bushy, it'll do nicely for terrestrial season.

There it is. A dirty half-dozen.

Illustration and photographs to follow.

There is no magic fly. There are however suitable flies. I'll try the limited palette and see what I can paint.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

You, Flies, and Trout

At left, an Art Nouveau style mirror from the collection hosted in the Museu Abello. Public domain image from wikicommons.

I have to tell a story a couple of times in order to get it right. There are some things I want to say about trout and anglers. I need to say them a couple times to shape the presentation. It's a habit.

I'm going to say them once here and later, I'll do a better job. Indulge me.

The mirror at left. It's a surprisingly enlightening device when we consider angling.

I'll get to the mirror's use in a minute.

The occasional angler is one usually known by reputation. In the understated vernacular of of my youth, the occasional angler is quite a competent fellow about whom other anglers would say "he catches the occasional trout."

The occasional angler deserves the occasional trout. This angler has mastered their game to the point of reliable competence.

It shouldn't be a matter of chance or circumstance to end a day with a trout on the line. The occasional angler should be competent to reliably catch the occasional trout. 

That's the fish we're after: the occasional trout. For the purposes here let's consider him a nice fat 12" brown.

I struggle to be the occasional angler.

Too often, we recreational anglers wear the clothes of another type of angler: the infrequent angler. 

Everyone has commitments and to say the trout angling ranks first or second on the recreational priority list isn't realistic. Both the infrequent and the occasional angler visit the stream a dozen or fewer times a year. They might even ride to the stream together on most outings.

Our difference in distinction between the two isn't in the number of trips a year made to the trout stream.

The infrequent angler is the fine individual whose encounter with trout is by happenstance or chance. 

Catching? "No luck today," is the response. Infrequently they are able to answer "caught a nice brown."

The mirror.

Everything about fishing for trout with a fly rod is under the angler's control. We're not playing bingo here where the spin of a cage determines success or failure. Catching fish or not catching fish regularly works out to a single common factor: us. We see it in the mornings in the mirror as we apply our eye-liner. (beard-oil? Mobes?).

We infrequent anglers execute the act of deceiving a trout -- even the act of locating where in the water a trout might be -- poorly. Alternately, we grow roots. As the drunk looking for his car keys under the street light, we fish "over here" because the casting is easy and we move very little limiting our exposure to trout and undisturbed water.

If we cover sufficient water and we know the most likely location of trout in the current flow and we present that population of trout with our flies in a pattern best imitating living insects then we should occasionally find a willing taker.

We don't experience success because our efforts are deficient in the three key areas: (1) covering water of opportunity; (2) determining in that water the most likely holding habitat of feeding trout; and (3) presenting our fly as a living insect which the trout believes is food.

We'll ignore the problem of wading like drunken bears for now. I know you do it. I've done it. It doesn't help.

How then to improve?

The trout. Consider the trout. After all, he's an expert on being a trout. A little knowledge here can go a very long way.

The late Datus Proper deposited much of the knowledge any occasional angler could ever need in his volume:  What the Trout Said. It's an excellent work on the perspectives we occasional anglers require for improvement.

Our anglers' assumptions about the trout are most frequently wrong.

Humans love to anthropomorphize our prey and anglers are no different.

The gulf between the perception and reasoning of an angler and the perception and reasoning of a trout are enormous. When we humans begin to attribute rational action patterns to the trout we tumble into the land of Wrong. [ I always though Candide should have visited the land of Wrong in his travels].

Trout are not possessed of human sensibilities, reason, or rational processes. Why? Their brains lack the requisite sections! The morphology is incorrect.

If you could listen to a trout's thoughts (I own the only working example of the trout-o-think-o-meter) as I can, you'd know a trout brain has a recording that plays over and over for eleven months nineteen days a year. That recording has two phrases:

  • Is it food? 
  • Am I food? 

The other eleven days of the year the recording plays "make little trout."

The trout has unusual perception. It isn't analogous to the perception of human anglers because of the wide gulf between the evolution of the two species and the habitat in which the two live.

Water is not air. We'll come back to that.

The angler's brain has a substantial section devoted to passing short-term memories into long-term recall. The angler has emotional processing and highly developed reasoning function (usually). Not so the trout.

Most of the trout's brain is involved in processing sensory input and the predominant part of that section: visual processing.

The trout's brain doesn't reason in the same sense as yours. It can do pattern recognition. It doesn't convert experience into learning, however. (Not completely true though trout do not easily covert experience into learning and the difficulty of this pathway is so severe as to virtually not exist in the horizon of any angler's encounter).

Pattern recognition. Even here we have to qualify a trout's response to stimuli because it just isn't what you the angler have as personal reference.

A trout does not have a flashcard recall engine specialized in entomology or invertebrate zoology.

He inspects items for signs of any clear differentiation between food and not food with a bias towards size and movement.

I'm a presentationist. I believe the behavior of a fly in or on the water is the critical determinant of its success and therefore my success.

I know representationists: folks who believe that a fly must closely resemble the food present on the stream to best catch trout.

No successful representationist catches the occasional trout without mastering presentation. 

Many anglers fishing "the wrong bug" have consistent success because of their presentation acumen. Sure, the "right bug" helps. It isn't the first requirement however.

How do I know?

It makes no sense that the fish would ever take a fly with that bloody big hook sticking out of it if he was pattern selective. There. I've said it.

No bug looks like a fly hook. 

If the trout can see the insect and discern my Adams is not sufficiently like a Hendrickson mayfly, he's certainly able to discern anything else we fly anglers put on the water has a bloody great hook sticking out of it.

Now, that's not true. Size and general shape alike, we've all hooked fish on a dry fly.

What? The trout just ignored the hook today but next summer will be concerned with the number of legs on my Iso nymph? Bullshit.

More time on presentation for me. More time mastering the process of delivering my imitations so that they behave as living insects and thus: food.

Less time stocking the fly box. I might have to do a season with just four flies. I'll think about that this week.

I could also use another pass through Dave Hughes' excellent Reading Trout Water.  I've some others but that's the one I recommend. Comprehensive text. Excellent.

My barrier to the occasional trout looks back at me every morning as I shave. There it is.

What's keeping you from the occasional trout? Lucky boxer shorts?


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Chalkstream - Driftless Style

At left, a public domain image of a chalkstream from Dorset, England (Dorset is SW of London and borders the Atlantic).  Malcom Morley generously makes this image available and it is hosted on wikicommons. Lovely summer snap.

My local fly shop is hosting a number of trips this year. Aren't they all?

The trip which interests me is a camping outing to the Driftless in Wisconsin (probably Vernon county). I like the camping option because it is an inexpensive way to experience new water. Camping here means tents and primitive campsites. All the better.

You all know my views on the crowds of "Generator Joes" blasting the evening with the joy of small engines echoing through the valley.

The guide/outfitters will blaze ahead and establish the base camp. Participants will come along a day later, set up their tents, and get the briefing.

Then, the covey breaks up and away we go "the spots."

Sounds right up my alley. Nobody joined at the hip. Maybe a communal meal daily. Maybe not. Probably more like a "lunch invasion" at one of the cafes around the area.

Who knows? Not my show.

I've committed to a fly-in to Ontario this year so the expedition budget is quite small. A bare-bones camping excursion sits in the right spot dollar-wise. It's a day's drive each way (avoiding the Chicago traffic. Nothing short-cut about traffic around Chicago to me).

I'm anxious to try the small pasture fishing.

Many of my fly fishing books discuss the hatches, fertility, gin-clear water, notable beats and all the rest from the chalkstreams of England.

I'm a soft-hackle guy now being convinced by the on-the-water performance of these sparse beasts and the infrequency with which I experience surface-hatch feeding trout. Trying my subsurface game against our mid-west version of a chalkstream is a great challenge.

I'm an upstream roll-cast pick-up sort of fellow, too. I can't wade very fast (not too agile) so there's that to help. Seems to be my sort of slow purposeful fishing as I work out some finer points of my invisible presentation technique.

I've also been taken by Ed Engle's small flies. I've fished the Colorado waters Ed writers of in his books and certainly can respect Ed's chops for fishing to difficult fish. I fished Colorado for several years when anything "bushy" did fine. Ed's a year-round fellow and March trout might not behave the same way as my late July fish!

I'm thinking about year-round trout. If I'm serious about year-round trout, then Ed and Syl Nemes both provide meaningful focus on the midge. Early-morning midge fishing on the Driftless might just prep my skills for some serious early morning trico hatches on the South Branch of the Au Sable come September.

September success might lead to confidence in March.

Always looking to improve the game.

Speaking of game: Bell's Winter White.  It's informally nicknamed "snowberon" by The Senator and he's onto something there. Great cool-season amber beverage. It satisfies the need for a session beverage here in the bleak mid-winter. Oberon is the beer of summer sessions. Two-Hearted is the beverage of choice for Amber Liquid guys.

Snowberon is the winter session ale of joy.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Mill Creek Reports

Pictures Below: outing on New Year's Day and today, the second.

Beaded soft-hackle flymph, Copper John, an olive scud-bug tied over wire, heavily weighted PHN.

No-joy on the nymphing. Not surprising. I don't know the stream bottom well enough in the Sloan Preserve. I think I know the deep slow holes but I might not know the right ones. After a blown-out stocking event and a long hot summer, our trout numbers are down. I could easily see the majority of fish in one or two holes for this stretch.

I could easily see that I'm a poor nymph fisherman. I'm not moving enough covering enough water.

Anyway, pictures.

Two outings. No fish. Good conditions into the 40's.

New year's was sunny. Today was overcast. Both lovely days in the woods.

 Water temp? Cold. I broke my stream thermometer late last fall and haven't replaced it.

 Later afternoon fading sun on Mill Creek. The flow has come down following the melt-off of 11 1/4" of snow here two weeks ago.
 It looks nice but this "chute" runs current at more of a modest trot than a walk. A little shallow without holding structure for trout as well.
 A tributary branch joins from the right.
 Fresh beaver work in the Preserve. The chips are fresh and dry from last night.
 More the nature of Mill Creek: shallow rock outcroppings with mixed timber piles. This is a lone sweeper broken off and now a shallow obstruction.
Downstream showing the overhanging trees. The casting in Michigan -- overhand -- if done in the stream along the direction of travel.

Nojoy today. Nice day in the woods in both outings. I had dreams of dredging the deep slow pools and finding a few fish. No to be.

Two outings on Mill creek in the books for '17, however.