Thursday, April 21, 2016

We're Just Bears

At left, our inner selves. All of us.

Unattributed US Government photo in the public domain (2004) and hosted on wikicommons.

The season is upon us and we're just a bunch of bears inside. 

It's been a long winter. We're hungry for adventure and for trout. Some for steelhead. Some for salmon, too.

We're moody and disappointed we have things to do with sow and cubs and in and around the den instead of where we want to be: on the water.

We're beady-eyed from winter and occasionally grizzly. We hold new rods in our paws down at the local fly shop and growl: too damn expensive and the old one works just fine.

We nod at the other bears eyeballing the stream. We scratch and wonder when the berries will come in at the farmers' market.

We think about waffles.

We hope for no killing frosts that might set things back. We stand in cold water. We hope.

We dream a little about the summer meadow streams, too.

I was on the river Sunday night. I was back on Wednesday night and I'll go again tomorrow night. I'm after the shoulder-season fish.

We've a few BWO hanging around in my part of the world. There are fish on the surface at dusk.

The wood ducks are nesting in the wetlands next to my house and the deer are in the north meadow arguing about where to put the crib and dresser.

We've rain today and a small thundershower blowing through now. When the thunder comes, the turkey in their roosts cackle and yelp.

I broke in a new pipe tonight using an ancient tin of MacBarren Navy Flake. It's fifteen years old this spring. It's come into its own. I've used it for breaking in pipes for all that time. The newest is a Peterson army mount  69. Great little pipe and durable in the field. I left one in a boat in '98 and have missed it since. Peterson started this line again and I had to have a replacement.

I usually buy estate pipes. Just like good rods and decent reels, there's more than one owner's use in any of them. This time I got a deal and bought new. I've still got thirty years in me for it.

I need to go and finish a story. I need to go fishing. I'll rise early; do the ink work; then do the day job; then find the stream. I can eat when it is dark.

I can sleep when it is winter.

I think dusk in the early spring is my favorite. I like the surprised look on the Cooper's Hawk as he flies by at hat level when I'm still on the water. He's making his last pass for the night before the bats come out and he's surprised I'm there.

I like to have fun with the bats and a fly line, too. Occasionally they'll swoop. Occasionally.

Bats seem harder to fool these days then when I was a kid. I spent half my youthful evenings throwing pebbles and watching the bats swoop in and later ... I learned to trust sonar, too. More appropriately, I learned to trust a hole in the water - that cloud of silence - a sonar image might reveal. Image processing got its start in signals processing and the signals that were of the most interest: acoustics.

There's a great article in the Anglers of the Au Sable journal about a lateral line in trout and their perceptions as measured through it. Fascinating stuff. I'll write the author and see if I can share a little of it here.

Short version: wade like a heron. Don't wade like a bear.

It's hard to go against type.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Highly Mobile

Morning, fly-out lake in Ontario near the airbase.

Some of the Amber Liquid guys are heading off to adventure in Alaska for steelhead. I found this picture this weekend of a trip in 2008 to the north country of Ontario. There are some amazing things to see when you leave the 'usual and customary.' I can't wait to see their snaps.

I'm delighted with my little local trout stream, however. I'll try to be on it every evening next week.

It's good to have spring back. It's good to be out.

I hit a trout on the nose with a flymph last night. He didn't take. Took a half-dozen casts to finally bump him.

I think the stockies are in. No reasonable trout would act that way.

My stalking skills are pretty good right now, though., Not a bad way to start.

You should go sneak up on something cold and full of hops. That's not a bad way to start spring either.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Early Season Trout

It is spring. Almost.

At left,  a Partridge and Yellow Spider ( I think it is yellow and not orange ...label fell off thread) soft hackle.

I can't see color so I have to depend on the labels and when they fall off, I'm lost.

Anyway, spring flies. Too early for them here, but I've tied some. I tied the ones I want to fish most in my last sessions this year.

There's a dedicated group of fly tiers who meet on Monday nights at the Beer Grotto through the winter. They start in November and tie through until about now when it is time to work on the grounds and go fishing. It's been great to get together and think of spring trout all through the winter.

We probably won't get together again until fall.

This weekend: bluegill warm-up. There's a small warm water pond downstream from me where the crew teams practice. The river and my local trout stream are high and unpleasant.

Bluegill it is.

The Christmas beagle has appeared at my house - actually it is Lou the foxhound as I rummaged in a particular household cabinet. He's fairly tolerant about wearing a Christmas hat. Has never made it far enough to be the Christmas card, though.

He's tolerant here because I'm holding Tillamook cheese. He howled about five seconds after I took this picture.

I'll howl for cheddar, too.

New field watch I'm trying. Could be a keeper. This is a Bertucci in titanium.

No complications. Quartz. Five year battery. Analogue.

Turns out, it is a little hard to find a basic field watch for a price you might want to pay. There are "cheap" field watches out there; but, they fail. There are overpriced watches with solid outdoor vendors' names that pack plastic watchworks. Be careful of those.

There are some great field-grade watches out there too; but, I'd rather a custom piece of cane for the price.

Omega. Rolex. Breitling. Hamilton. Sinn. Seiko.

Various styles make it or almost make it. Lower end manufacturers push you to the diver's watch for the durability a field watch ought to have. Higher end manufacturers make you choose: trout car or field watch you'd trust.

Bertucci is a little bit of a crap shoot as they're newer to the market but if they hold up: bargain.

The crown won't fall out on this watch - hopefully - as it did in my last Timex stopgap. Even $32 is a lot for something that fails in a month. You go broke on "cheap" that way.

Watches fail at the worst time and this Bertucci has the potential to make it past "the worst time."

The dial is big enough to read without glasses. It tells the time. Screw crown. Solid lugs (no little pins to fall out allowing the band to part). Screw case. Sapphire crystal.

I could use a phone to tell time but then I'd be handling the phone on the stream and that is inherently a bad idea.

I've dropped sandwiches on the stream. If food can slip my paw, a phone surely will.

I wore a 007 Seiko diver's watch for some years. Massive thing. Unbreakable unless I died in the process of its failure. I put it on another guy's wrist who needed it more than I did. Good watches are transient that way, just like good fly rods.

I'm happy with a field watch that costs less than a decent snow tire. 

If I get a few years out of it, I'll be very happy. My outfitter wears one of these and he'll put it through more abuse in a season than I will in a decade. Works for him, should work for me.

I'll take my snow tires off in a couple weeks.

It looks like spring out there but let's not get carried away. I drove through flurries to fish the Au Sable two years ago on the weekend before Memorial Day.

Spring is like the Soviets: trust, but verify.


Sunday, April 3, 2016

North Country and March Brown

At left, the view out of my library window this morning.

It's April but this is a Michigan March scene.

March and most of April are winter months here. We've been spoiled by a mild March and the hint of spring; but, yesterday it let us know: we're still in winter.

I expect the North Country has a little of this now as well. I'll find out one day. I might have to spend a year or two in that part of the world.

Steelheaders have no idea what I'm talking about with this winter/spring thing. The ice is off and so they're out. The Alaska bound crew should take note. 

I'm working on spring. Maybe if I spend some time getting ready, it'll come sooner.

Here I am fitting a huge Medalist 1498 CJ to my Echo Glass 3wt 10'6" switch.

It is a heavy reel but the effect of the counter-balance keeps me using my lower hand for the power around the lowered c.g of the rod and thus, I don't get excited and "throw" my top hand. I can get away with throwing my top hand on my salmon rod -- which I almost never use -- but this little 3wt is more sensitive to solid technique.

I could use the two-handed tune-up. I never was "good" but merely "okay." I'll settle for "competent" and no blown casts over an entire day on the water. This rod will help me get there.

I've spooled with with a 7wt TT floating line from Wulff and this hits 190 grains right on the button.  It also seems perfect for the 10'6" rod.

The Echo glass will throw a much much heavier line but the recovery is poor in the tip. Echo gives me a solid grain window and this TT 7wt is right in the wheelhouse. I'll be able to cover the waters I want and get better day-by-day for a big fall spey steelhead season.

I got pro advice on the line. Thanks, Steve. I went with the TT over a DT but endgame is nearly the same. I'll be able to cast AND mend all the way to the fly with this line over the previous Ambush head I used for swinging fall streamers.

There's a pile of gear in the corner of the library needing a solid field test. I replaced a Frostline kit-made sleeping bag (goose down) I made years ago then left in a rental cabin last fall. Hey, 30 years and several pieces of duct tape means it is time for a replacement, anyway.

I went synthetic from Marmot. I'm more likely to need the insulating power of a synthetic in wet conditions these days. Shoulder seasons are damp.

I can stand the savings over down, too. I don't have enough days left in me to get "the goody" out of a $350 bag. REI points I've carried forever bought the bag.

New daypack there too (I haven't had one suitable for fly fishing) and a new heavy pack as well. Cookstuff  (Banks fry-bake pan) and new stove (Solo Titan model ... no more dealing with white gas).

I'm old and have more money than brains thus better gear. I've also seen the north country tinder dry and so I'm less inclined to cook over a free-form open fire than I was back in the day. In a dozen years of Ontario fly-ins, I had one dry year. Several trips saw me all but sleeping in rain gear.

It can get dry here in Michigan. The stove is a reasonable provision.

I'm tying. 

I have the excellent volume The North Country Fly: Yorkshire's Soft Hackle Tradition by Robert L. Smith. I purchased the volume here this spring from an independent bookseller. I encourage you to do the same.

AT left, my North Country Spider inspired May Brownie

The pattern books are full of some wonderful March Brown versions. However, in reading and studying Mr. Smith's wonderfully comprehensive survey, the herl collar stood out as a prominent feature I have not incorporated into my tying. I tie a herl thorax, but not a collar.  This, this new beast.

March Brown based patterns are solid here in April and May into early June. I'm extending them a little while with a slightly heavier dubbing to cover Hare's Ear flymph territory and will probably tie a dozen with grey-to-black transitional dubbing patterns mixing the two across the wraps and also add a darker hackle - probably black hen - for more work in the summer season. I'm listing my pattern here for the use in spring.

Warning: I tied this beast but haven't proven it's worth through the season. I'm just happy to be doing something so be aware of that lingering winter madness in my reasoning. April in the library is not May on the stream!

May Brownie:

Hook: standard 12, any make. Pinch the barb, please.

Thread: Peasall's silk in orange.

Tail: pheasant hen. This makes a wonderful tail material for soft hackles. I like it better than cock pheasant tail on wet flies.

Abdomen and Thorax: Wotton SLF mixed synthetic hare's ear on a dubbing loop. This fly carries no wire wrapping so the dubbing loop is essential for durability on those occasion where you use it all afternoon.

Hackle: Ginger Hen. (I have a new ginger hen saddle that is butter soft. Thanks to Lauren at the Painted Trout !). Two wraps. My saddle has a nice iridescent quality when wrapped.

Collar: two peacock herl mixed with dubbing loop strand for durability. Small collars are illustrated in the old flies preserved today. Follow their lead: small.

I'm ready to swing.

I'm ready to fish upstream to current seams an arm's length away from my right leg.

I'm ready to find a half-warm PBR in my side bag late in the afternoon.

I'm ready to laugh on the water at jokes I've heard before.

I'm ready. I'm certain you are, too.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Friday Nights

My camera requires a special cable to charge and I lost the thing. Again.

At left, Henry Ford, Edison, Pres. Harding, Firestone, and I believe Sec of Treasure Mellon (not identified in photo but looks like him) from a public domain photo hosted on wikicommons.

The gentlemen are camping and the young men behind appear to be attendants. They're too well dressed to be guides.

I like to camp but I seldom wear a tie or take corrupt politicians with me. Seldom, anyway.

I've one I'm trying to corrupt but the bastard has the nerve to resist my best efforts. Maybe I put a higher value on the a can of PBR in my side-bag.

I hit Mill Creek tonight. The water is up - chest deep - as we've had plenty of rain. This weekend, snow.

Driving home tonight I had a revelation: Friday nights have lost their luster.

Sometime between the cancellation of The Brady Bunch and the Partridge Family on television and now, Friday nights have lost any special appeal.

I say we change this.

We should all just be ordinary trout bums on Friday nights. Some jerky. Crackers on the bank while scoping out the river. A pipe. A fly rod. Good humor.

Especially good humor.

It should be a national celebration where we all go to our local waters, fish for a couple hours, then get a burger from a drive-in (wrapped in wax paper) or a half-slab of ribs from a local shack where they look the other way if you bring a beer from the joint across the street.

Guides should eat free and no one should ask them for advice. We should all just be "guys on the river."

I spent two hours tonight with water too damn cold (39 degrees) for much feeding and left the creek with a smile a mile wide on my face.

I caught two little browns the size of which did not match the size of shiners Toonces bought (20 dozen) for a walleye trip in 2003. [ Toonces, cat who can drive a car from SNL. Yep, now you know how you get the name Toonces on a fourteen hour drive to your fly-out outfitter's base].

The size didn't matter, The fish didn't matter.

It was just fun technical fishing in tight quarters. Fun because I kept out of trees and brush. It's early and I didn't expect too much from my lightly weighted hare's ear flymph. I wasn't in the current casting upstream: a technique which certainly would have changed to fishing outcome.

It was good to get out. I'm in better spirits for it despite frau bear being down with a cold and snow in the forecast for three days this week.

Friday night fishing. I'll do some camping with that a little later on ... but definitely the fishing.

I'm leaving the tie at home.

See you on the water.