Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Trout Car

 One of the local fellows who follows my ramblings asked me "didn't you have another Hendrickson pattern last year?"

Yes, and no.

At left, last year's variant tied on a 3x long size 14 ,,, I think in extra heavy. I used up the packet of Umpqua hooks but this looks like that beast.

Still foam lashed under the body. Still transition from last (tail) to dark(thorax) but the collar is a pink ice dub. I was going to the Driftless and there they have the worship of the Pink Squirrel so I tied some "pink hennies."

The campsite versions of the "floater" all have dark collar and they did fine last year so I've skipped the nod to the local favorites in Wisconsin. No, I saw no Hendrickson's when I was there in early May. I saw some BWO  and few of those. Wasn't really a "hatch" going on. Rain. There was a lot of rain and milkshake colored water.

Trout Car

The most important weapon in our arsenal is the one we use to get to the stream.

My old car let me get to the stream quickly: BMW Z4 with all the performance add-ons. Lovely convertible hardtop. A bit tight on space.

So, in the fall of 2016 I ordered a new trout car pictured here at left: Toyota 4Runner in the TRD PRO configuration (2017 special color: cement).

I cannot endorse this vehicle enough. All variants will take you where you probably wouldn't walk.  They're capable, tough, comfortable, and roomy.

The gas mileage isn't the best ... say 23 on the highway ... but it is regular gas and I don't buy vehicles for mileage. I buy vehicles for a given capability.

The Z4 was to go fast with the top down and the stereo up because Beargirl likes that.

The TRD suspension in this model is super soft. It's built for Baja desert-type trails which also turns out to work just fine on Forest Service unimproved trails here in Michigan. I've only bottomed out the travel once and only when I put it through a ditch this winter and blew up and out onto the road by taking a culvert crossing at about 15 mph. She didn't complain ... just hopped back on the road and kept going.

Kept me from hitting a postal van that slid into my path. I figured I could do better in the ditch than he could in the hospital. He was fine but for spilling his truckster into the same ditch after I dashed by. We could just manually push the little boxy thing back onto the road. We shook and I drove on...

I camp for trout. I might have been able to do fine with  Subaru but I wanted to go into Ontario as well and those seasonal roads are something else entirely. Heavy duty and chainsaw required. 

The 4Runner holds everything for a week with room to spare. It goes everywhere. Runs like a champ. I get out after eight hours of driving and feel fine.

It's a step up. I'm a normal sized joe and I have to do a little "hop" to get behind the wheel.

Here are some camping shots.

Logging road to camp site.

Note the upward lifting tailgate. It's a great feature in the rain. Also, the hatch window lowers which almost no others do today.


Good looker with the snout. Comes with a skid plate, standard. Yes, the skid plates work. I did say logging road, right?

There are lots of vehicles that work. When I was looking, 300K from both the Subaru crowd and Toyota 4Runner crowd was normal. I picked the bigger vehicle and enjoy it.

There you go. Hauls coolers fine, too.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Season Opener Hendrickson Soft Hackle

 At left, my Hendrickson soft hackle -- the floater -- that is my new opening day fly.

Tied on a TMC 103BL in size 13 this is my new indicator soft hackle which, when soaked, strongly resembles a Hendrickson.

We'll cover it in a little. I like tying it better than the Bocher's Special I used for the floater last year. This fellow is faster out of the vise.
This beastie at left is the Hendrickson soft hackle flymph. I cleaned this one up a little from the flies I used last year. Size 15 wide gap TMC103BL.

Frankly, I'm not sure the trout cared what was in the water column on opener last year as long as it behaved properly: it bobbed up and down in the top third of the stream.

Normal flymph. Thread body. Lightly dubbed aft in a neutral tone. Darkly wrapped forward with herl. The bi-color seems to be the trick. The nymphs are sort of bi-colored.

So, what do I have here? In the top third of the water column, there is the flymph.

On the surface film, there is the floater. The hen dun feather does everything I like in a Jingler without the bother of two hackles to tie-in. Now, the Jingler is a much more elegant fly that is pure joy to tie on the end of the leader. But, this floaty Hendrickson is an indicator because ... opener.

We can be slow on detecting the take right out of the box. Throw in a little extra excitement and we all can have a rough afternoon.

The indicator fly takes us back to school. (Hopefully without forth period latin.)

The floater: illustrated.

Tie-in aft at about the barb if the hook had one. Walk the thread fore and aft.

Tie in a pheasant hen (softer than the cock feather) tail , wrap as if a PTN.

Onto that, bind a small piece of foam cut to the width of the hook. Take care to bind the foam onto the top of the hook. Notice the foam stops about where we'd tie-in the hackle.

Create a nice tapered dubbed body to cover the foam. You can leave a little foam at the top of the pheasant hen right aft of the dubbing. It isn't for the fish. It reminds you this is the "floaty" version of the fly as you dig through your box.

Tie in two-turns of a dun hen feather right forward of the body, then collar with a bit of a darker dubbed material.

Watch the eye.

And here he is groomed on a cork for the photo. He'll float all day long on a dry dropper with his cousin the flymph.

I worked this guy in the last half of the year when I'd tie a trio of indicator flies at my campsite after breakfast. It's sort of Adams-ish. Just a floater.

Seems to work.

Base mixed dubbing. SLF Ginger. SLF Root Beer, SLF Dark Claret. Awesome Possum Australian possum in natural.

Add more claret for the collar dubbing noodle.

Otherwise, this has a "splotchy" lifelike appeal when spun. It's a little washed out in the picture.

See the flies above for a better portrayal.

I wish I tied nicer, cleaner flies. I don't. I tie decent thread bodied flies but I go for the buggy set on anything else. I've got Robert Smith's book here open in front of me at the desk. I look at his delicate and precise representations. Then, I ball some fur on a hook.

I'm fortunate that the trout seem to go along with it. They're good sports that way.

A prepared English Grouse feather for a amber-and-grouse thread bodied fly.  Seems to do fine, too. Not bi-colored. Not specifically pattered after nymphs I've researched.

Still catches plenty of fish. Looks a lot like a Hendrickson when stuck on the surface film.

I'm at the bench tying for opener. I'm feeding breakfast on the Black River. I'm looking forward to forty-six degrees, a light drizzle, and heavy overcast that lasts all weekend long.

I'm camping in my new outfitter's tent (as soon as I learn to set it up ...snow still melting in my front garden where I do my tent practice).  I've replaced my tippet.

Come on, spring! Just over thirty days until season.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Reels and Reels and Reels

Spring cleaning, line washing, lubrication this weekend.

At left, trout reels in 4 wt. and 5 wt

In the foreground: Konic from Lamson, Ballan (one where the pieces fit together properly), an SA system 1/ Diawa 456, another SA System 1/ Diawa 456 of the other flavor reel face (both Marquis clones and some of the best clones made) , yet another System 1/ 456 ... and the line continues...

So, trout reels.

If you catch the usual trout most of us encounter -- the under 20" variety -- the reel is a line holder.

The Konic in the foreground was used for streamer and smallmouth work where I do enjoy a disk drag when I get a nice fish on and try to flounder by stepping in a hole.Seems to happen on the Huron every time I get a nice smallmouth hooked.

Holding the rod aloft as I flounder certainly benefits from a subtle drag system!

Nevertheless, a couple reels for consideration:

At left, a Douglas Argus I've used for a couple seasons. The brass foot is a nice touch and the design aesthetic features wonderful detail. The palming rim is inset with hundreds of pin-sized holes which provide a nice friction stop when your paws are cold and you're not quite sure how hard you'e pressing.

This is a beautiful click-and-pawl reel on a par with any classic reel. Comes in a padded bag as pictured. The pawl tension is adjustable from a brass screw on the back fixed rim. Classy.

Goes for ... too much money for any utility argument. Nice, but pricey.

Beauty frequently costs.

Once apon a time, beauty cost me a brand new Ford Bronco (like O.J.'s)  when she put it in a creek having missed the WPA bridge late one evening. That Bronco never did run right afterward. Sold it to a guy I didn't like. I don't think the Bronco was going to help him like me any better either when it wouldn't start every other morning. 

I wasted windfall money on that Bronco, anyway. Shouldn't have bought it.

Beauty ended up breaking my heart, too.  Don't they always?

 At left, one of the SA system 1 456 / Diawa 706 reels in my collection.

The aftermarket bag is a requirement as I've yet to see a reel case that was designed for these beasties.

The reel is a dead simple clone of the Hardy Marquis and as I have one of those (Model 5) too, I feel confident saying the clone is the better reel.

Yes, the Hardy makes a great, distinctive sound.

The Marquis also hates grit or dirt or anything other than fine machine oil for lubrication. If the reel is dunked in anything but gin-clear water, I'm soon to be mid-stream servicing the thing for a stray bit of sand. If I'm taking the Marquis out, I have a dropper of oil, some gauze pads, and some Q-tips in a plastic baggie that goes into my side bag.

An older fellow sold me the Marquis -- new in box, unused -- that he bought in '73 for his son who promptly decided he didn't like fishing at all and became a pretty good golfer. Pops has a collection of Garrison rods I've got my eye on. I gave about what Pops paid in '73 under the agreement I'd fish it until I couldn't fish anymore then find some other "pup" to sell for the same paltry price under the same terms.

I don't think Pops likes golf. He pronounces the word with the same emphasis most people use for "asshole" when driving.

Anyway, SA 456 Marquis clone is the Kalashnikov of trout angling fly reels. It isn't ornamentally beautiful but it is tough, true, and reliable. It looks like something that should do the job and it does.

That auction site has them regularly for about $35. The new -- re-designed -- LWT Marquis runs ten times that new.

One has to decide about gear: nicer gear or more days on the water with travel money in the pocket.

If it is a line holder, I'm not sure its a value proposition of cost over function.

Of course, fly fishing is just about the most difficult manner by which to put a trout in a pan for dinner. We're not out there for practical reasons.

Beauty will cost you. Sometimes it costs more than money. 


Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Big Fly Fishing Show

 First, the baked goods illustrated segment. At left, blueberry bear bait. It works. Attracted a couple bears in this house.

This weekend was the big Michigan fly fishing expo here in the southeast part of the state. I couldn't bring myself to go.

First, I've got all the gear I need with the exception of new larger wading boots. I bought new waders last year and the booties are larger and thus the existing boots are now painfully small.

Also, crowds.

I go to these large shows and see a few people I know. Generally,  the room is a giant cocktail party filled with strangers and ... the bar is closed.  Not much there to energize me.

I've purchased some great books at the show (Robert Smith's, for example). I've met some great builders. I've bought a couple nice skins.

I'm not much on the crowd. It's why I like fly fishing: mostly I'm alone.

I like the company of my dog. Lou's here on the ottoman at my feet as I write this. Beargirl is out on the town.  I'm content. The house is quiet.

I could have purchased new boots through my local -- they went to the show -- who were using the district rep's stock to sell while they were in their booth. Instead, I'll stop by some Thursday on a late lunch and buy the same boots when the store is empty.

One of the Amber Liquid guys had to put down his dog this week. I'm so sorry for him.

There are few people I know who I like as well as the dogs. Dogs are just ... dogs. Every morning Lou is glad to see me. When I get a leash, he's glad to go for a walk even if he isn't the one who needs it the most. He's happy when I come home. He's happy to be a "lap foxhound" and just get petted for no good reason.

I think there's something there about the trout, too. I've no good reason to go into the woods and fish for trout. I don't eat them. I could walk the trails instead of fish. I connect fly fishing with happy times in my life being outdoors and in the elements. I connect with dogs for much the same reason.

I spend most days in an office with faces looking at me to "make it all work." I do the pro from Dover routine a good bit.

Maybe dogs come back as trout and that's why I like them. Maybe trout come back as dogs.

I'd make a better trout than dog next time around.

I'd swim with the great beaver. I'm only going to eat worms, though. No flies.

If I'm going to get caught, I'd rather it be on some five year-old's Snoopy rod and bobber. Pretty good way to go.


Sunday, March 4, 2018


 At left, a little restoration project of my own.

Pictured: a 1492 1/2 China-made Medalist reel. I've carried this little 1" wide gem around for a bit looking for a good use. It's a right-hand only wind and is plenty of reel for any trout I'm likely to hook this summer in these waters.

Cue the dock scene from Jaws where the chief says "there are no other sharks like that one in these waters." Always trust a lubber to know the disposition of local waters. Just sayin'

Anyway, I've been looking for a special use of this little beastie.

I've spooled it with just over 40 yards of backing and 100 feet of 20 lb level running line. I've left space to hold a 225 grain OPST head, a 10' floating tip, and leader should I be pressed and need to roll it all onto the reel in haste.

I've a several rods in the 3 wt though fast 5wt which could hold this little OPST style set-up.

I'm visiting rivers this spring where wading access is poor and where the ability to "reach-out"  to holding ground requires zero backcast. Thus the OPST heads.

Otherwise, I love the Wulff TT lines.

"Right tool for the right job." 

I'm happy to put this little reel back into a use it deserves.

I've some great rainy-day streams to visit.


It's not quite spring and that's the agony here.

Some stoneflies are hatching. Saw a few yesterday on a hint from Bill Phillips. Thanks Bill!

Streams are high and chocolate. They're not as blown-out as last weekend but definitely bank-to-bank and fast with 7" of very sloppy snow from Thursday (fell in about 6 hours) on the melt.

Next weekend I swing some large rootbeer colored flies for early smallmouth in the Huron.


Al Ritt will be at the Beer Grotto Monday night tying socially. We tie different flies but he's a fun fellow to hear talk. That'll get me excited for spring, too. I'm only 100 flies behind where I want to be. That's not bad.

I'm tying mostly double-hackled and palmered bodied flies right now that are best described as loch flies. I'm giving trout something larger in profile this spring and we'll see how it goes. I've been corrupted in part with the thought of fishing larger flies throughout the water column.

I always have a page of sparse soft-hackled flies in my box so if my plans fall to naught ...


I received a fly vest full of accouterments from the widow of a buddy who passed last fall.  It was full of the sort of impulse buys that go unused or forgotten over most of a career. I've got it hanging in my library. I did take the armored stream thermometer.

I'll think of Dean every time I check the water. It'll help my fishing log.