Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Chaos of Spring

AT left, a little chaos of my own.

I spent Easter doing mostly grounds maintenance here on bear hill.

I live where I can just burn stuff if I need to - providing no fire control is needed. SO, the winter detritus and a particularly unappealing trellis went away in the afternoon.

I also spent a little time with a new 7' 4/5 from Chris Lantzy which arrived on Friday.

Wow. It's a nice piece of cane. He had it on his web site as a pre-made that needed an owner. Never been fished. Great price so I bought it.

I'm having Chris make a Driggs for me so I can do a little Fox River Hemingway journey next year.

All reports are that the Fox is a real bitch to fish and the trail that runs a portion of the river is overgrown and neglected at best. Nevertheless, I have to make the homage to the Nick Adams stories and I'll write a little essay about the trip. E.H. wrote about the Two-Hearted but he fished the Fox. We drink Two-Hearted here at Amber Anglers but we'll fish the Fox.

My thoughts tonight concerns the spring preparation we all do.

I've been tying all winter and I'm crafting a little at-the-river guide to help my buddies. I've got a couple stories backed-up behind this little fly fishing missive - one about learning to like the taste of killing, so there's that  - and need to be getting the thing done. You see however the fly tying materials spread about.

I couldn't help myself last night. I had an idea for a a fur-bodied flymph and had to work on it.  Turns out, SLF dubbing works better in this than actual fur for the movement I wanted and so the fly has a life of its own. I'll tie a couple up that are picture-worthy and post them here. It's a bronze/black pheasant-tail affair just right for the shoulder season when we still have a few stoneflies moving around but then, so is everything else.

My shirt-pocket fly boxes are a complete mess filled with maybe 100 flies each from last year. Yes, they're tiny shirt pocket boxes. Too many flies and they represent the whole season. That's got to be cleaned-up.

Why are we so anxious for spring in November but do so little of the actual work to be ready for it until April?

Trout fishing: it's a kind of mental illness.

I've got it. So do you.

Take your medicine. You'll feel better.

Mine's in a small silver flask. I better refill that prescription, first.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Shore. Lunch.

At left, a taco - aka Carne Asada with a good does of style. Jon Sullivan took the snap and while it is hosted over at wikicommons, Jon let's us use the copyright-free photo for any reason at all.

I'm using it at left. Fine quality food porn.

I did a little fishing Saturday afternoon and the trout told me to come back in six or eight degrees. It was fun casting and fun to get out. Cold water, though. Nipped the teens here last week and while the ice is off, that didn't do much for warming the drift.

Could be worse. 16" won't be outside the forecast for the folks on the Au Sable and Manistee this weekend. No trout dash camp Saturday.

Shore. Lunch.

Two words. Important words. Words we trout fishermen too often ignore.

I'm done with cheese sandwiches and tinned oysters on the banks. Ok - you've got me. I'm not giving up tinned fish. Yes I like herring too and no, I'm not Scandinavian. I'm worse.

I look at something like the taco in Jon's snap and wonder why we - collective trout enthusiast we - have not done a better job with the culinary enjoyment of our outdoor activities. Sure, I'm usually excited too and yes I want to fish. I don't mind a decent meal, either.

I'm upgrading my game.

I've a day pack I can wear that's out of the way of my casting and landing fish. I've a little wood burning Solo stove (see link at right)  that will also take an alcohol burner. I've got light cookware.

That smell you detect out on the river will indeed be me making fajitas. I'll fry sausage and onions. I'll make a delightful creole rice. After dawn fishing that will be bacon and eggs.

I am rebelling against the cheese sandwich on the shore. Not. Going. To. Do. It.

We spend a mint of time and treasure - collectively or individually - on our gear. I've got more than fifty hours at the vise this winter (yes, I've got it bad this year)  and I've traded for different gear and I've bought a little, too. Overall, I've spent a substantial part of my off-season thinking, dreaming, and preparing for trout season.

I'm not even a "good" fisherman. I just like the outdoors.

When we're outfitting this year, we should consider our culinary enjoyment. Most of us can fry. Everyone can boil. Those two things and a little Thursday night preparation makes the Saturday shore lunch a fine event.

Hmm, tamales steamed stream-side and eaten out of their husks slathered in verde sauce.  Make it hot enough, it'll cut down the evening mosquitoes drifting in from the swampy parts.

Post dawn fishing omelette and coffee right on the river bank? Yes, I say. Yes!

Most of the food we love was invented for field eating, anyway. The French will fold an omlette cooked to leathery perfection into a piece of wax paper and put it in a jacket pocket before heading to the fields.

Pierogi? Pierogi!  Let's see ... butter, a skillet, a camp stove ... delicious.

We're miles from somewhere but miles are hardly a barrier to the willing. After all, we stand in cold water waving sticks. (Thanks to Mr. Gierach - brilliant line. Buy his books. All of them.). We can do with a little civilization out in the wilds.

Why shouldn't we trout fellows be known as much for our fine stream-side cuisine as for our delicate yellow sallies?

I say let's give the aluminum locusts something to stare at.

Hoist your fajita and say it with me: "I'm a trout fisherman and I'm not eating plain cheese sandwiches anymore!"

That is, if you can talk with your mouth full. (I've seen you guys at Spike's in Grayling. Some of you I know are up to the task.).


Special thanks to Steve Bird for last week's plug over at his Soft Hackle Journal. Thanks, Steve. Have a fajita. Link to the Journal is over on the right. You should be reading it.

Oh, and Oberon is out. Already. I know! I'm going to have to ask Moberon about this development. It's Best Brown weather. Well, sacrifices must be made. I'm still recovering from excessive Hopslam-ing. Bell's Two Hearted: official beverage of the Amber Liquid crew. Drink some tonight yourself.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tactical Trout

At left as hosted on wikicommons: The Gentle Art  by Ernest E. Briggs as it appeared in Angling and Art in Scotland (London. Longmans, Green, and Company, 1908). Copyright free.(expired).

Well. If she was fishing for fisherman, she'd have caught me.

Tactical Trout.

I went looking for a 7wt DT line today from Airflo.

I need a drink.

Forty Plus. Camo Intermediate. Skagit Compact. With me so far? Watch your step on this next part.

Super Dri Bandit. WTF? What is a "Super Dri Bandit" supposed to be?

Dri CAST Line (Turns out CAST is Canadian Atlantic Salmon Taper).

SLN Euro Nymph Line. I'm not making this up. Euro. Is that how you pay for the thing?

Oh, here's one. Maybe it's what I want: Super-Dri G-Shock Fly Line.

Isn't G-Shock a watch line by Timex? No, wait. He was that guy in 2LiveCrew. The one who could sing? You got me. No one in 2LiveCrew could sing. Just about my whole point here.

Our industry is losing its ability to carry a tune.

I'm calling bullshit on the naming of these lines. You want to let your FPS video game addicted 13 year old name your fly lines, your business. Don't expect me to spend my time looking through 42 WF lines to find a double-taper in 7 wt that can actually be mended by a human.

Has it come to this?

Maybe the next new rod on the market can be the "Body Count" line with models like ISIL and Thermonuclear Kim.

You're killing me. Airflo, you're killing me. You are squarely in the Trout Industrial Complex and you're not going to make your quarterlies if you keep up this bullshit. Consumer markets collapse when consumers move on and they're heading for the exit right now. You're driving away folks with money to spend on repeat purchases.

Am I the only person who has read Customer for Life ? Remove the barrier to sales. Then remove the barriers for repeat sales and make the interaction a self-esteem enhancing experience.  Turn the handle, print the money.

You're not helping the sport one damn bit, either.

Cortland 444 in peach, please. I can understand which line to buy from those guys.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Better Lesson

At left, a soft hackle: the coug.

I had good luck with this beast last year in size 14 and 16 where the shank is wrapped with four to six turns of non-lead. It fishes in the bottom 1/3 of the water column and brookies love it. I'll tie it in 10 and 12 this year as I search for the larger fish under the smaller fish I observe on the surface.

The hackle is soft dun hen. The collar is peacock herl. The abdomen and tag are wrapped four-strand floss. Thread is claret in silk, as if that matters.

I do use a dubbing loop twisted in with the herl to make a stronger fly. Like some of you, I've had herl break and flies come apart from rough treatment. I don't think there is any cause for that and if one wraps the dubbing loop in with the herl, even broken herl stays in place rather well.

Note this fly shows a barb. In practice, the fly is fished with the barb smashed down. My local shop doesn't carry barbless hooks but a good pair of needle-nose pliers are never far from my hand.

This little beast is my connection with Dave Hughes, Syl Nemes, Vern Hidy, James Leisenring, George Skues, Mr. T.E. Pritt, W.C. Stewart and Mr. Issac Walton. Not all of these giants would agree with the degree to which I've hackled the fly, the use of weight, and probably the floss.

Oh, and I choose this list because these gentlemen addressed specific works to the wet fly in general and the fly we call the soft-hackle wet fly in specifics. Other writers discuss the wet fly or even the soft-hackled wet fly in fine terms; but, the  above authors address "wingless wets" with a special enthusiasm.

The fly does however work. The hackle has a nice taper in the water when the fly is pulling in the current and my strikes come upstream on the first half of my drift and downstream half on the swing and half on the dangle (or second dangle).

When I was a kid in fourth or fifth grade, a fishing show was popular in my area of the country: The Sportman's Friend with Harold Ensley. His theme song included the lyrics "gone fishin' instead of just a wishin'" and to a kid, that summed up how I wanted to live life.

I remember Harold fishing for Northern Pike and Muskie. When the big spoon - usually skirted with deer hair - reached the Lund, Harold and his son would make a couple large figure-8's in the water with the lure off the tip and frequently, this action provoked a strike from the large following fish. The fishing was filmed soundlessly in super-8 and the replay on the television was accompanied by voice-over narration by Harold and occasionally his son Dusty.

I use a second "up and back" pull with my rod inspired by those films of Harold when the soft-hackle is on the dangle and about half my dangle strikes come on the falling fly from this "second dangle."

No, I usually don't detect a strike on the dangle until I pull on the line and find a fish hanging about down there. Not trying to hook a fish downstream - and letting him hook himself - turns out to be a pretty good tactic. The fisherman doesn't get to mess things up.

We fish trout, not bass. No raring back with all your might to set the hook, mate.

Now, I'm showing "the coug" and talking about this line of fine fishing writers because I'm trying to improve my skill as an instructor. Catching is more effective at enticing new fly fishers than my romanticized speeches about trout living in the most beautiful parts of the world.  Trout do live in some wonderful places but sight-seeing isn't really the first purpose of the sport.

I ran across a passage this week thanks to Syl Nemes and his The Soft Hackled Fly and Tiny Soft Hackles. The passage is from W.C. Stewart in The Practical Angler:

Those anglers who think trout will take no fly unless it is an exact imitation  of some immense number of flies they are feeding on, must suppose that they know to a shade the color of every fly on the water, and can detect the least deviation of it - an amount of entomological knowledge that would put to shame the angler himself, and a good many naturalists to boot.
It is this sentiment exactly which I have inherited in my fishing from my Uncle who started me down this path by taking the time to coach me on a passable form with a fly rod some forty years ago.

I speak of the uncle who exclusively used a woolly buggar in brown or black and who scoffed at my dry flies as "having fun."  Depression era kids who once fished to feed their brothers and sisters had different ideas of sport than perhaps we do today.

The point of this follows: the coug looks like no known insect. In the water, its light and neutral tones do however look like most insects and moreover, the movement makes the fly look alive.

I'm going to send new fly fishers into the water with flies like the coug on easy down-and-across beats for a simple reason: it works.

We'll cover the joys of a Deer Hair Caddis (DHC) take on the surface right at dusk a little later.

I've been a poor instructor. I'm sorry for that.