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.

Prost.

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.


Prost.

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.



Prost.

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.

Prost.

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.

Prost.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Dexter Casting Club

Image at left from the EPA archives as hosted on wikicommons. Public Domain photo.

The Dexter Casting Club is meeting on Monday nights at Hudson Mills Park in the stream pool adjacent to the walking bridge. 7 PM until dusk.

I meet on Monday nights through the winter at the Beer Grotto in Dexter where a hardy half dozen gather to guzzle stout and tie flies. I'd say we tell trout (or steelhead) stories but really, there is a great deal of tying in silence.

The Casting Club is an extension of the Monday night effort. Not a club as such. Just a drop-in casting fest with targets.

I've been on the Huron once in the last two weeks for smallmouth.

I haven't been up north fishing trout due to work and spousal social obligations. This weekend, I have a big blow-out graduation party for the daughter of one of my close fishing buddies and while I might grouse a little I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Even with trout-crazed bears, life can get in the way of trout dashes.

Casting on Monday night is at least a way to handle gear and improve skills.

I'd love to be more proficient with my single-handed Spey casting now that I am using OPST heads. After using light tapered line like Wulff TT for so long, the heavy headed OPST stuff takes a little adjustment on light 3 and 4 wt rods.

I do cover more water, though.

So, my snake roll is a little sketchy this year. It could use work. Mine is always a little sketchy.

I'd like to get a better accuracy out of cross-body cast. I'm over powering it.

I need to get my wiggle cast to be more consistent. Ideally, I draw the exact same wiggle pattern each time so my management of where to set the fly is better. I'm all over the map with it now and my terminal accuracy is not  as tight as I'd like. I'm going to need this cast on slow slicks.

Always something that I could do better with the fly line.

Going west, I'm going to need to tune my Belgian as well. I haven't had to really pull all that hard on the horizontal since coming to Michigan. I'm getting soft. A 30 mph blow across the Lamar will make me want to have that puppy doing all the tricks.

So, Casting. All of us non-commercial fishermen can use some tune-ups once in a while.

Prost.




Sunday, June 3, 2018

Take Me To Your Leader


I couldn't resist. I know puns are the lowest form of humor but come on. It was lying on the floor and I had to pick it up.

At left, an image of the Albright knot (really, a bend ) as illustrated by Dfred and hosted on wikicommons. Dfred has placed the image into the public domain and so we are privileged to use it here. Thanks!

I tie a great many Albright knots because I am in that league of partially mad fly fishermen who ... gasp ... tie their own leaders.

Yes, I also use the plastic extruded leaders sold in every fly shop. They're fine. I really like furled leaders but I've not ventured to making my own, yet.

So, why? Why do I bother with tying my own leaders?

A hundred fifty years ago, a regular Joe fly fisherman would probably have made all his own gear. His grandfather would have done the same. Both might have traded services with a local buddy for some of it. Oats for fly line braid from the tails of draft horses, for example.

A hundred years ago,  some very fine commercial rods -- and by very fine I mean rods that performed uniformly under the same label due to mostly consistent production practices  -- were available through mail order or in the large cities, in a dedicated sporting goods store. E.W. Edwards was selling rods through the Winchester line of stores and through affiliated hardware outlets. Montague and Horrocks-Ibbotson were releasing tons of mass produced cane rods onto the market and most were available in the general mail-order business lines.

The Trout Industrial Complex was running full tilt.

Today, all it takes to go fly fishing is an Amex and a half-hour of instruction, if that. Maybe a recent viewing of  "the film" and a half-dozen on-line videos will suffice. Having our sport be accessible is a good thing.

I like the connection of using an ancient method of deceiving a fish even if that method is admittedly far inferior in success to a home-made brass wire hook and a can of worms.

I cannot plane my own cane. I'm a poor carpenter and a grave disappointment to an uncle whose trades included cabinetmaking.

I am a marginal fly tier and am thankful every time I catch a trout that somewhere in that frog-brain is a great appreciation for impressionistic art.

I can however tie knots. Tying your own leaders requires little other skill.

SO:  the Albright knot.

I've lecture notes and recipes and various volumes with sections on leader design. I still play with my own.

I had this week what I believed was the "wonder leader"  idea which I rapidly tied up last night. Lou the foxhound and I went out to a clear spot beside one of my meadows (which needs a good scything) to cast it.

I used my McKellip M84 4 wt which is just a outstanding piece of equipment. It's a strong 4 wt that casts a beautiful line. It's a great rod.

So, my leader threaded and attached is the extra-large size wool dab representing a big bushy dry ... and collapse.

I have leader designs from others that will throw such a fly. Most require five or seven step-downs through the length which results in a great many knots and some serious attention to the process of composition. I keep trying for the right three-section 12-foot leader that will turn over delicate soft hackles (many will) or land a big bushy dry if the hatch comes on and Big Bushies are on the water.

So far, no joy. Close, but not yet.

Back to tying a bunch of knots and following someone else's template.

Of course, with every leader I am poking a stick (rod?) into the eye of the Trout Industrial Complex. I'm crafting my own gear. I'm defeating the commercialism of our pursuit.

I'm tilting at windmills.

I am doing it stubbornly knot by knot. You can almost smell the moral superiority in the air.

Now, where is that latest Orvis catalog? They come every week.

Prost.