Sunday, December 30, 2018

2019 - The Year of Streamers

At left, a palmered-style bead-headed rusty streamer in #10 1 xl. I've had good fortune with these palmer-hackle flies because they are most forgiving to tie: in the water the hackle covers all manner of sins.

The bead-head I feel now is a mistake. Weight interferes with the lifelike action. A weighted leader and an unweighted fly on a loop makes a better presentation. Head-weighted flies are "lumps" at current speeds I fish never twitching or oscillating. They plunge.

I loved fishing my soft hackles. In 2018, my most effective technique in Michigan involved the long drift downstream. I used this technique of a slack drift past cutbanks, in front of downed timber, and in the inner edge (towards the middle of the stream) current flows that come from major obstructions.

My drifts didn't drag exactly but they produced enough irregularity that they simulated life in a struggling invertebrate and drew fish out of concealed lies.

Unfortunately, I fished to too few actual fish in 2018. I have only one note on stalking and taking a feeding trout. I fished to habitat. 

SO, 2019: The Streamer.

I like feeling the take. 

I like fishing micro-streamers imitating various baitfish in #5 down to #16 fry. They cast well using single-handed spey techniques.

I like tying the streamers.

I need to learn a little more. I'll look through my copy of McClane's and dig about online for some Carrie Stevens' patterns. I have Sharon Wright's tremendous Tying Heritage Featherwing Streamers but lack much in the way of hairwings in my personal library. I expect I'll be investing in the writing of Joseph Bates.

I'm looking for solid mid-size fish this year: just the chunky 12" kind. I'm told from my reading that many fish in this league transition from invertebrate diets to more piscivorous pursuits.  I haven't found such references in the academic studies yet. I'll keep looking. I have reason to doubt.

Nevertheless, in the winter sessions I'll be going through bucktail and spun this and that. I'll make generous use of the over-hackle dressing for heads because I am convinced that the hydrodynamics of a prey animal is considered by a predator. 

I'll have fun and in the spring, I'll flip micro-streamers along the banks and under sweepers seeking the hungry ice-out fish.

I'm really looking forward to tying fuzzy-bodied soft-hackle streamers. I'm getting my body taper technique down pretty well. 

I hope the trout appreciate that effort.

Happy 2019.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Trout Fishing Holiday Gift Guide

 At left, the Christmas Tree from 2016 in New York's Seaport District. Photo from Advicrespon and share here from wikicommons for the price of attribution. Nice tree. Thanks!

The Holiday Trout Fishing Gift Guide.

There's always someone asking about gifts. I've gotten two email inquiries already this year.

(10) A three pack of rubberized electrical tape in varied colors.   Fishing takes place near water. Duct tape is great stuff but the waterproof tape is much much better for the myriad of repair issues encountered in the field. This is a truly thoughtful and practical gift.  Thus, it sucks.

(9) Whiskey.   This crowd is full of day drinkers. They'll have lost their flask so anything in a pint bottle (fits in a fly-fishing vest pocket) will work just fine.

You can get three of  little airline bottles if it is just someone you have to buy a gift for because they gave you one last year and you had nowt for them.

It should be at least a quart bottle if you've borrowed gear from the individual in the last year.

It should be a full sized bottle if there is a paycheck involved in the gift transaction. Just sayin'. Don't cheap-out on the boss.

(8) A Flask.    See number nine. If it is for your brother-in-law and you need to borrow his chainsaw, fill it before you wrap it. If his chainsaw didn't start when you borrowed it last year: empty.

(7) A Cooler.  NOT a Yeti cooler. I'm talking Gott or Igloo or a Coleman. Should be the size to hold a twelve pack because ... well, number eight and nine. We know this crowd.

The twelve pack cooler allows for a generous lunch to be placed on top of the proverbial six-pack and ice.

The little six pack coolers are great but for forcing decision of preserving the convenience store egg salad sandwich in July (and a pack of chips) or the six pack procured at the same establishment. We've covered how that decision making process will go and while the beer will be cool, your fisherman will be hot before the weekend is out -- as in raging fever from a sandwich gone "off."

Why not the Yeti? Because nothing says "break my window, steal my cooler, and head directly towards the great pawn shop in the cloud that is E-Bay" like a Yeti cooler in Bumfuck-MethAddictville, Michigan. You know: where the fish live.

(6) A Gift Certificate to the best Italian restaurant in town. Yes, can be a little pricey (thus number six).

If this is a close fishing buddy, you know he needs the points. Anybody serious enough about fishing with you is someone who has a pretty long line of domestic disappointments loaded on their sleigh. Help a buddy out.

(5) A new fly box and a selection of your  own hand-tied flies ... nominally headed for the reject jar. They should be recognizable as ... something. PTN? Hare's Ear? These are great because screw-ups are usually buggy enough to be more effective than the "good" ones we keep ourselves. You had to start early on these though and if you're a trout fisherman, you didn't.

Also, no flies with problems at the eye-hole unless you want to be considered a different type of "hole" when your buddy is on the water.

Or it's  for the brother-in-law.

(4) Wool Socks. Yes, socks. Good ones. Better than you'd buy yourself..

The big over-the-calf wading socks are great. Heavy boot socks will pass muster. After three hours in steelhead temperature water -- or that near-ice stuff running off the mountain on your excursion trip next year -- you will be praised in the minds of the recipient for having style and class in your gift giving choice. Seriously. Nobody has enough fluffy warm wool socks in this game.

This is a tube sock crowd. Spoil them.

(3) A flannel shirt. Not the Wal-Mart variety discount shirt you'd buy at the local Tractor Supply clearance table. A good one. LL Bean does well. Filson has a couple that are just grand. The Chamois shirts from Cabela's/BassPro are nice too. Basically, a better grade outdoor shirt than you'd ever buy yourself. It'll last a decade. Seriously.

You might need someone to "go in" with you on a boat some time in the future. This is the sort of gift for that guy on the list. Besides, they probably have daughters meaning their flannel shirt collection has been heavily raided. I know.

(2) A waterproof camera. Doesn't have to be the super rugged model. It just has to survive three minutes on the bottom of a normal stream or one lifetime encounter with a softball-sized bit of granite.

Your buddy is using a phone right now. He's going to drop it. Then he's going to bitch endlessly about how he was slimed and the case wasn't worth a shit and you'll be stuck with the drama of trying amateur phone rescue (try finding a bag of rice at the stream-side fly shop ... go ahead, try) instead of more fishing.

Save the day before it happens.

(1) A Fold-and-Go Gas Stove Here Yes, it can be a little fiddly. It upgrades the field lunch from cheese-and-crackers to hot coffee and grilled cheese or chili or  a nice tortellini-and-tomato soup.  Civilization at the truck's tailgate is awfully nice.

My Canadian fly-in buddy and I replaced our shore lunch emergency reserve butane based stove (almost burnt down a swimming pool when tested this year after most of a decade in service) with this new folding beast. Amazing difference.

We needed a large wind screen to make it work well but the control was awesome and it folded into our kitchen bag much better than the large bulky square thing it replaced. Also, gave not one hint of any explosive tendencies unlike the old butane model.


No fish gear?

Would you seriously try to pick out another man's underwear? (Something in low-rise mesh?  -- apologies to Bill Murray).

Then steer clear of buying fishing gear for someone other than yourself. You can't do it as well as as they can and any serious trout fisherman has enough gear already. If you are a spouse reading this, I assure you your husband has hundreds if not thousands of dollars of fishing gear you have no idea even exists. Let it go.

** Special Spousal Selection ** 

Here is a concession to the serious gift giving need of spouses. He wants a hall pass. 

That's it. A card with something like "seven days of unaccountable time spent chasing trout" on a little handmade certificate inside a card would delight the guy.

He doesn't want a trip (well, he might ... but you probably can't pick it unless he said "I want to go with the Drunken Trout Fly Shop to Belize") as much as he wants the ability to go on a trip.

Don't want him gone a week? Give him three "free weekend"  passes. No spousal expectations from Friday at 5 PM until Sunday at 5 PM (mostly sober) is a great consideration.

What he needs is a new set of snow tires or four 3-packs of new boxers.

What he wants is to go fishing in the spring/summer/fall.

He'd really like the hall pass to be for additional fishing time in excess of his usual and customary fishing time. We know that probably won't happen (because you'll think .. "I gave you three weekends, how much more time do you need?") and no husband would expect anything but a time-limitation gift from the spousal unit.

Hey. We've been married a couple times over here at the Amber Liquid hangout. We know how this "creeping domesticity" expectation works. That how wives become ex-wives, frankly.

SO, shop away ... shop away.

The Christmas card this year sent to the trout guys sums the holiday sentiment this year.

It was a gingerbread man saying " bite me."

Ho Ho Ho. (I'm not talking about your mother, Big Bear. Don't sit on me.)


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.