Sunday, October 28, 2018

Lacking Data, We Must Assume Success

The image at left is hosted on wikicommons and is used with the very kind permission of D. Sharon Pruitt and Pink Sherbet Photography of Utah. Thanks for the loan of the image!

Blank page.

It is supposed to be full of measurements and figures and the extrapolation of a population model answering questions of fish-per-mile and the overall success of our Mill Creek restoration program.

First, the water was too high for our fall fish shocking. We've had rain.


A couple weeks later the intrepid Mill Creek Investigative Team convenes and are defeated by a recalcitrant generator mounted on the shocking barge. How many engineering degrees were clustered around the generator that would do everything but generate?

You really don't want to know but trust me, NASA was jealous.

So, my fall highlight was to be the survival of fish in Mill Creek and hopefully confirmation of natural reproduction.  No news is hardly good news.

Maybe we'll have news later.

I've got a roomful of gear and am plotting outings for next year. This year, I may still get up north for some post-spawn streamer work on the Au Sable. I don't like to trouble the fish until after the spawn.

My local shop is plotting an outing to the Driftless in Wisconsin for spring. That has merit.

I have a memorial to attend for the wife of a great outdoorsman and friend. She'd had quite a health battle this past year or so. I'd only briefly met her once -- our friendship revolves around trout and didn't involve the more domesticated elements of life.

I'm going to make a real effort at getting my friend in the ink. He's an excellent writer and has had a solid career in non-fiction and technical writing. He has all the hallmarks of fiction but for accomplishment. Might be an outlet.

At least, I'm going to try to get him to a library for a couple evenings and let him think about something other  than those things that trouble us through the windshield as we roar down the road. Being alone with our thoughts can require a little direction towards industry from time to time.

Are you working on your thoughts about trout? 

I am. I'm thinking the water is bloody cold.

The beer is closer to room temperature. (I keep my cave cooler than yours, I'm sure. I'm the most part bear.).

Don't let it build up in the pantry. Have some.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Lamar, The Lamar, The Lamar

At left, fishing a slot channel in the Lamar for spooky cutthroat. Yes, I'm a long way back from the channel and I'm throwing fifteen feet of leader and tippet with a Hardy Zenith in 5 wt.

That's what it took.

I used a Winston BIIIx in 4wt for more moderate casting (though the Winston will throw almost a full fly line if the wind is down). I used a Winston BIIIPlus saltwater edition 6wt for streamers and heavy tandem rigs (and soft hackle tandems down to size 18).

I used a Echo 10'6" glass 3 wt switch rod for swinging flies almost everywhere.

I used a Orvis TroutBum (Superfine, now?) in 3 wt for brookies on the upper Gardner.

We made the excursion to the waters of Yellowstone Park in the third week of September : transition time.

The country was amazing. The waters were everything they should be. The trout were late-season weary of constant pursuit.

The big browns were not yet pushing up in pre-spawn glory. The undercut banks of the Madison were filled with trout. I walked along a five yard stretch kicking fish out of their holes to convince myself the river actually held fish.

The Gibbon was a gem bright and pure in the stretch above Madison Junction. The Yellowstone was well-mannered but giant strong and so prompted bank fishing. The Lamar was low and slow and occupied by fish not enamored with my presentations or my flies.

The Gallatin runs along the valley road of death. We counted 50+ white crosses coming south from Bozeman into the park. 

The brookies had departed the upper Gardner near Sheepeater and we're told they departed for far upstream tributaries.

Fish were caught. Lessons were learned.

I was able to swing for trout in the "channel" between Earthquake Lake and Hebgen Lake.

Overall, I  used more single-handed Spey technique than I would have thought necessary.

We stayed in the Paradise Valley and drove a couple hundred miles a day. Depending on traffic and construction within the park, your too might do as much time in a car.

In a week's fishing, I witnessed one rising trout.

Feel bad about being blanked on Little River near Your House? I was blanked on the Madison. Gonna take a bit to live that one down.

My buddy Mike with his first fish on a fly. He stalked this brown on the Gibbon as it fed intermittently along a grass bank.

Patience, caution, and a restrained desire to cast the piss out of the water resulted in his first brown and first fish on a fly taken on a #16 cinnamon ant (the fourth fly he tied on ...).

Mike's a good fisherman. He's just new to fly fishing.

Not anymore. Look at the grin.

We're looking forward to going back. The Senator said it was his favortie fish camp out of all we've had.

I'm washing my fountain pens now. There is fiction in the wind faint as the first wood smoke of fall.

George - the furled leaders were a huge help to my guys. Thanks again.


Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Big Trips

At right, a Hare's Ear Flymph tied short on a #12 Hends dry fly hook.  Mine are tailless, ribless,  and over-hackled.  They work.

I've been tying these with pheasant hackle since last fall and I like the iridescent quality the feather lends. My photography doesn't do much to illustrate the effect; but, the trout frequently comment on it.

"Fooled me," is what they say. Sometime they add other comments not suitable for these pages.

I'm about to embark on one of those "big trips"  that are full of expectation and enthusiasm and which on occasion manage to deliver the emotional reward worthy of the investment.

I'm flying out to Yellowstone Park for trout and grayling. The whole Amber Liquid crew is making the pilgrimage. Proud of 'em. They're going to take a guide day for detailed instruction on various points they want to learn. I might end up doing the same later in the week.

I've been tying and prepping gear.

I've a full assortment of soft hackles and a good number of Steve Bird's low water Spey flies from the Soft Hackle Journal (link at right) though mine only approximate his beauties. I'll swing the double-hackled Spey flies from a two-handed trout rod using my now-favorite OPST heads. (Echo 10'6" glass switch rod in 3wt. Love this rod for trout).

Steve also has an example of Rene Harrop's green drake I keep staring at over on his site as well. The Lamar Valley waters will have some of the smaller sized green drakes  (I am told these are properly red quills, like I know) next week if I am lucky.

I've read-up on the entomology and was not surprised to see that "green drake" covers a number of examples present throughout the year in those waters. I thought there was only the "big"  guttulata in common exposure. Wrong I was.

I need to buy a western water's guide. I have Ann Miller's Hatch Guide for Upper Midwest Streams but am lacking on the insect guides for "destination fishing." I need to remedy that deficiency. 

In the west, there are the "Henry's Fork" style of green drakes which are the grandis species. Like the eastern variant, these draw fish up in the same fashion of the Michigan hex -- the hexagenia limbata.   But the grandis isn't the end.

In the fall in the Lamar valley,  instead of drunella grandis we seek to imitate the timpanoga hecuba  sub-species. Along the coast there is even another subspecies.  It was here my entomology went  awry.

There is a red quill that looks to me and others like a green drake. I asked a distant friend who actually is an aquatic biologist about these invertebrates and was told "common names rule unless you're publishing." He went on to explain that he's become more a presentationist in his fishing over the years and doesn't worry about the precise nomenclature of the hatch or in the design of his own flies anymore.

"Big mayfly in #8-10-12 with a brownish or copper-greenish cast" was how he described his own efforts at the fall hatch drake on the Lamar.

"They float a long time before flight."

Good enough for me. I'll take a couple sample vials and see if I can pickle a couple in alcohol for some meaningful observation. I feel I've run into Steve Martin's old SNL routine of "what the hell is that?"

New waters. New bugs. A box of flies I've tied myself. A flask of scotch. A can of bear spray.

I'm excited.

I've only tied up 20 white miller caddis and a handful of spruce moths.

I'll probably toss caddis,  hare's ears, grouse and orange, and partridge and yellow for a week solid.

A fellow could do worse.


Sunday, September 2, 2018

...And Summer

Planning for fall overshadows my summer.

I've been to Estes and Rocky Mountain National. I've been to Ontario and the Wabakimi Provincial Park. I've been on my local waters.

I've been occupied with the day job. I've been writing.

At left, planning for Yellowstone with a morning cup of coffee and a sectional map.

Some activities in pictures below.

Rocky Mountain National. Look: lake, mountains. 

A Wabakimi Walleye - this is the expensive fish. You know,  the first fish of the trip. All the fish after this guy were free. This guys costs a lot.

He became a featured part of dinner.

Mike wouldn't take my picture with this one. He was "busy" and thus, "I'm biting your head. I'm biting your head."

After a few days in the north country, one becomes a little punchy.

I have a whole series of shoes-and-canned-beer pictures from the cabin this trip. I have no idea why.

This is Nicholas, the fire gull. He's the cabin's resident gull and he digs in active fire. He's standing on a log in the fire picking at "seed trash" from the prior group that didn't burn very well in the rain. We thought we better get it out of the way so it didn't attract bears.

The trash fire did attract Nick.

Tough gull.

Moose. Saw a moose.

... and a white miller caddis recently tied for the Firehole in September. Soft hackle, of course.

Hope all is going well with all. Have been a gargoyle lately. Will be more engaged on these pages here this month.


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Blue Walleye

Image at left from wikicommons and in the public domain as provided by NOAA.

Nice job on the painting. Thanks for the use.

The blue walleye.

My next adventure trip is by floatplane into the wilds of northern Ontario and the Wabakimi Provincial Park.The water is cold and pristine. The fish are walleye and northern pike.

I eat the walleye.

The proprieties must be observed.

We stay in a cabin with a solar refrigerator which works well enough to make ice. Yes, ice for the evening cocktail. Never skip cocktail hour. It's bad karma.

Everything else is propane or solar. We enjoy hot water showers.

Our activity schedule consists of breakfast, travel by boat, fishing, shore lunch, fishing,  travel by boat, the evening cocktail hour, something on the grill, cards, bed.

This my ninth trip to Wabakimi and I love it more each time.

The water is deep and cold. The lake is  large.

The main lake is seventeen to nineteen miles long depending on counting outlet bay and is about eight miles wide at the broad spot though five miles is a good average guess. The Lower Wabi is ten miles long and seven or eight miles wide with long broad bays extending back off the main body.

The lake complex holds three cabins though one is nearly abandoned now. The outfitter business in Canada is dying as recreation tastes-- and fuel prices -- change with time. We've been the only boat on the lake several trips though we've shared the water with four or five boats once or twice, too.

"No internet?"

There are walleye. About two in fifty are blue walleye. These are a rare specimen regarded purely as myth in some circles. I've held them in my hand. I've eaten them -- though unintentionally.

We harvest on a conservation limit: two fish for consumption per man per day. No party fishing.

Entertainment consists of feeding the eagles.

We haul the guts and carcasses away from our cabin (bears) to a small island guarding our lagoon where we watch the bald eagles swoop-in for an easy meal. The eagles come and usually take the carcass. The gulls squabble over big chunks of guts or over pieces of fish dropped into the water by the eagles' haste.

The crows appear in the end to handle the final cleaning process.

After the fist day, two fish in the sixteen-inch range are more than sufficient to feed anglers expending calories sitting in a boat. Portage trips are entirely a different matter though on Wabi, we don't care for portages as the main lakes hold all the action we could want.

When the wind comes up, the big lake rolls with five to six foot waves which provide excitement in a small boat. Last year, we had evenings -- and evenings are long affairs in Ontario with the sun setting finally around 10:00 PM and the light lingering most of an hour more -- where the water was so still the entire surface was a mirror. Not one ripple across fifteen miles of water.

At five o'clock in the afternoon, one is reminded of "the anvil of the sun" section of Lawrence of Arabia. Twenty feet down, the walleye don't mind at all.

The blue walleye we catch seem to have a pigmented coating of slime.

It comes off on the cleaning table and on your fishing shirt. The flesh is normal and the pigment is hard to detect unless it is against something white and then, it is as if you ran a crayon sideways across paper as a block of color.

Certainly sunglasses and careful handling of fish we return to the water causes us to miss many of the blue we catch. Minimal handling in the water while in a net means we probably won't tell if this fish or that is a blue. When we're picking a "lunch fish" for a stringer sometimes we know from our hands though usually, it isn't until cleaning when we can tell.

I look forward to days on the water with my buddy Mike fishing largely in silence -- we know each other's jokes so well we only tell punch lines now -- and scanning the shoreline for bears and moose as we motor about.

We'll fish for pike on the fly in shallow bays in the afternoon.

I don't let pike over 40" in my boat, though.  Nothing like a large angry fish with a mouthful of teeth thrashing amongst your gear. With that slime coat, they frequently end up in the boat on the thrash even when using a lipper tool.

I'm a cradle guy now. Positive fish control.

We'll see if I can convince any pike to do the Canadian tarpon trick this year. Most have no desire to tail-walk though it has happened. We'll see.

"Pay extra."

 Doubles on the turn.


Thursday, July 5, 2018

Mountain Fishing

At left, snow on some of the peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Colorado this year is quite dry. A fire on the other side of the continental divide drifted smoke into the Estes Park valley though it made for a fantastic sunset.

We saw a moose at dusk but were unable to get pictures. Typical of moose.  They're uncommonly shy compared to elk, otters, mule deer, or even bighorn sheep.

I did a little introductory instruction while visiting friends.  I outfitted them with the basics but for rod and reel and pointed them to Kirk's Fly Shop  for a few outings on $10/day rental gear before committing to something else.

Dan's an avid hiker who believes he will enjoy the occasional mountain stream or high altitude pocket lake diversion of a few casts.  Janene is a active sort up for anything. Together, they'll have a blast. They took to the instruction right off and were able to master the rod loading with a Belgian cast quite easily by the session's end.

I have cast the Douglas Upstream 380-6 and think it is a fine hiking rod provided the wind is down. That's the deal with the 3 wt: doesn't like much wind. A mid-day outing on a hike needs something with more authority after the ten o'clock blow comes on ...

I used a 4 wt Orvis troutbum and a 3wt Orvis troutbum on a stillwater session at Mary's Lake. The light rods worked well for instruction.

Below, an introductory set of late-summer flies in both a shirt-pocket day box and a back-up storage box just to get them started.

I didn't tie the big rubber-legged stuff. The rest are mine.

And ...

It's a start.  Dawn and dusk ants have always been late-summer flies which work well for me in the park. I like the mid-thorax tie though i understand why others might not.

I tie my ant bodies with floss, varnish the second-to-last wrap, and glue the last wraps in place by wrapping over the wet varnish -- in this case Sally Hansen Hard-as-Nails.

A little piece of 80-grit wet-dry roughs the floss and takes the sheen right off. One or two passes seems to make it "fuzzy" and dull.

I'm about out of the "cinnamon" floss. I'm going to have to look and see if I can find more.

My royal trudes are a little off-center but seem to do fine, anyway.

Apart from instruction, the social schedule allowed for no fishing. I traveled with my wife.

Bear Lake at 9400' prompted a little "carping" for air when we made a brief walk around the water. I'm not ready for serious backcountry at altitude, yet. Three mile trots on the flat lowlands are not sufficient preparation.

I'm going to have to work harder.


Monday, June 18, 2018

Blanked on the Au Sable

 I made camp on the Holy Waters of the Au Sable. I used the "big tent" which was awesome! Worked great and had its rain break-in. Fine. No issues.

I took my time to ensure a good pitch. Very little "fiddling about" required.

Interior sans chair.
I broke-in some new boots. Loved 'em. Did a quick two mile hike round-trip in them on the South Branch Au Sable moving from one spot to another and back. Very nice. They'll do.

Korkers. I loved my old centurions but with the large booties on my waders, my toes would ache then go numb. I had to get a bigger toe box.

Made some biscuits in the Banks Fry-Bake. These are sourdough-style and I'm not much for keeping a starter alive and not much for cake-style biscuits. I'm more a southern-style fellow. These were a little wet when I mixed them up and so they "caked-out" on me. Cooked-up fine.

I'm just glad they came out AOK in the end. I was sleepwalking through the prep thinking of something else and added about twice the amount of canned milk I intended.

I had a couple Oarsmen while enjoying the river. Let's just say I had a lot of time to think about tactics, fly selection, conditions, and possible valid approaches to likely holding spots.

Lots of time. I wasn't pressured by the haste of catching at all.

 Jeweled damselflies were about on the North Branch. It was a lovely humid afternoon and these were dipping at the water's edge. Trout had no interest in them.

 The rogue's gallery. An isonychia nymph. Hare's ear. Partridge and X, Wire-wrapped this and that.

By the end, I had nineteen of these on my drying patch.

I had a pair of small brookies hook-up on size 17 pheasant-and-orange. Neither made it to hand.

I hooked a small brown on the dangle on a PTN in 15 who hopped twice and threw the hook as they can easily do when taken from directly above.  I had a nice view of his belly.

Nothing to hand. I'm not sure why. It rained Friday night in two different spells before and after sunset though neither enough to do much more than damp the firewood at the neighboring campsite.

It was a dad-and-lad family outing over there of the once-every-other-year civilian camping style. Six or seven boys and a couple dads. Fire trouble. Food trouble. The usual misadventures.

I think they all had a blast. Their Sunday morning departure was loud and boisterously happy. Always a good sign with teenagers when they kick-in to do something with gusto. Results aren't always the end game. Activity and the pursuit of some activity count for a great deal.

Gear left out is going to be wet. Provisioning for the cooking fire is the first job after setting-up the shelter and some of that fuel needs to be protected from the elements.

Camp chairs are buckets if you leave them sitting around.

Hey, it's easy when you know how. If there isn't anyone to show you -- or you've only ever "scout camped" -- then you learn by experience. A good attitude helps and these folks could have been the mascots for good attitudes. Also, the boys were learning to fly fish and that was fun to hear.  Knot tying and practice was a big topic of discussion at the usual teenage boy volume.

Sometimes less than optimal outings are learning experiences of the first-order.

My time on the river this weekend fell squarely into "learning experience." 

I'm not sure if my approach was insufficiently stealthy, my tag of tippet extender on a cutthroat furled leader was poorly chosen, or my persistence into the evening hours was too brief.  I was off the water by eleven each night.

I fished upstream. I fished an up-and-across swing. I fished an across-and-down swing. I made dry fly casts to holding lies with an Adams, a royal coachmen, a drab jingler, and a jingler with a bit of flashy UV dub in the abdomen. I made nymphing runs. I ticked bottom with wet flies on a swing. I fished the top column with traditional soft-hackles.

I missed something. I know it wasn't fly selection because I covered the litany of bugs in various stage that are present in June. I used old favorites. I used other stages of old favorites.

I suspect that I needed to be on the water after midnight.

The hex started last week. Then stopped. The drakes blew through in the period of one week. It's odd for June right now.

I know Au Sable trout are nocturnal. I did not fish after midnight.

They got me. Again. 

Trout Win! Trout Win! (My best Harry Carey).
Great outing. Can't wait to dash again. Will be July with the current schedule. 

Rocky Mountain National is around the corner, though.