Monday, May 30, 2011

Fly Tying Tip #115

The late Gary LaFontane was a master of the caddis fly.  He created the Deep Sparkle Pupa and the Sparkle Emerger.  Two of my absolute go to flies.  The patterns for these flies and others are very similar.  The Pupa is meant to fish deep as the caddis are starting to get ready to float to the surface.  They must release themselves from the bottom of the river.  The Emerger version has an added tail or breaking of the body shuck and a bit more wing over the top.

So, here's the tip.  Only construct the Emerger version.  When fishing clip the tail and the top of the wing when you want to tumble along the bottom pre normal hatch time for your river.  When you see caddis coming off the water switch to the emerger and remove some weight.  The body of this fly is to simulate the gas bubble that forms on the insect that enables it to float to the surface.

Wooly Bugger becomes a leech,  Emergers become nymphs, dry flies become emergers.  I have done this even with Atlantic Salmon flies when I need a smaller fly or even trimming down a fly to only a body and tail.

Look in your fly box now,  you will start to notice some new and exciting flies that you didn't know you had.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Trout Fishing Has It's Moments, Some Teach Humility

I woke up this morning and yesterday was on my mind.  My gut is just in a knot over the events that happened and I am totally baffled.  Let me explain.
I arrived at the river at 7am, not early and not that late either. My friend, Al, was a few minutes ahead of me and crossed over to river right.  Things looked as perfect as can be for the river to fish well and the recent high water should have brought some bright ones down from the lake.  I decided to take up a well know position on river left.  I was in a wonderful frame of mind and starting the day with great anticipation.

Within a few moments, Al was into fish number one.  When he landed number three I crossed over as I figured all the fish must be there as the reason for my lack of connection.  I would work the run, Al would step in behind me and hook a fish.  I would put on a curtain fly, Al would do the same and hook a fish.  This was getting very troubling as I played gillie netting fish after fish for this well accomplished and knowledgeable angler. I was being schooled.

I did everything possible to get the set up correct.  I changed leader lengths, added weight, removed weight. went through dozens of flies, even ones I had Al give me from his box, and nothing, not one take could I make happen even though I worked as hard as possible..

The day came to a conclusion when a couple with two big dogs showed up and thought it would be a good thing to throw rocks and big sticks in the pool.  I guess dogs are more important than people at times.  Maybe this was the fate of my day.  Put me off the water and out of my misery.

Al finished the day with ten hooked and eight landed ranging from eighteen to twenty one inches.  All rainbows and very beautiful.

I will continue to figure this out.  It seems like I will have to evaluate every aspect of my setup.

Al left the river in a state of total bliss.  Like he was a child again in full appreciation for what just happened.  This was a very good thing to see.   Me, on the other hand am haunted by this day and by the experience.  Can't wait till Sunday for another dose of humility.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Tools Of The Take

When I first started fly fishing the challenge to get a take was a big deal.  I am now working hard to see and understand what a perfect connection from reel to fly is and to also understand why.  This may sound simple but the total number of options can be substantial.  Getting them all right takes careful consideration.

My opinion is that the correct presentation is the number one factor in getting a fish to act in it's natural state and strike the fly.  Your ability to understand a perfect presentation for a particular situation should not be hindered by your equipment choices.

The Rod
Hi, my name is William and I am a fly rod addict.  I have a neat and concise collection that I have not been afraid to sell from time to time.  Some rods I have regretted loosing and some not so much, but I am always trying to use the best tool that will present my fly correctly.  That means owning and using what you believe is true.

I use switch rods about 75% of the time as they give me the most versatile assortment of possibilities.  It is easy to carry multiple lines and reels and spools and flies but carrying two or more rods is impossible without making a long walk back to the car.  The only disadvantage to the switch is in dry fly fishing for trout.  Today with all the modern rod building techniques making a solid choice gets harder.  Rod builders are making very precise formulas that determine the way their rods function.  The only way to understand what style will work best for you would be the write down where and how you like to fish.  Don't skip any details.  Give this information to each of the rod companies that you are interested in making a purchase.  In talking with them you will receive a real education and have the information necessary to narrow down your choice.

The Reel
In my opinion, the reel is the most important piece of fly fishing equipment you can own.  It is not just a storage device, although the style of the reel is important to the style of line that needs to be stored.  A reel is a centrifugal device that needs to have an ultra smooth start and finish.  This is accomplished by incorporating sealed bearings that will turn without effort with a brake that does not stick.  Your reel will be tested on that first large fish that takes a light tippet.

The Line
The number of line choices is dramatic and completely dependent on the style of fishing and the fish you are after.  Learning about all the types of lines is possible by reading every top quality line manufacturers website.  There is enough information there to make even the most knowledgeable angler confused.  Learn as much as possible and you will be able to make some clear and important observations.  Your local high quality fly shop will be the key to choosing correct lines for each use.  Again, have your list ready so you can cover every aspect of where and what.  How is determined by the rod choice and your casting skills.  Many anglers today are using single hand rods with two hand casting strokes.  Customizing your line to have the proper weight distribution is necessary.

The key to a proper line is the ability to make a presentation in the way the fish want it to be.

The Leader
Guide Rick Gray Checks My Leader
Using a correct leader is a learned experience.  You not only must consider the diameter but the length of each segment.  Every fish as well as form of presentation and size of fly needs to have a different leader structure.  I will use different leader materials depending on what angling I am doing.  Trout and Atlantic salmon are in the same genome but not in relation to equipment and certainly not in the composition of leader material.  Today I mostly use a copolymer for trout, mono for salmon and fluorocarbon for the salt.  Learning and practicing the knots that have the highest strength percentage is critical.

The Fly
On any given day and any given location any fly could work.  Now, saying that puts me in the ranks of a total fool who does not have respect for what the great angling masters would say.   I have hooked Atlantic salmon on big Marabou flies that on the first cast hit the surface in a pile and taken the moment it hit the water.  I have also hooked salmon when I have removed all the materials except the body.  Trout can be the same way sometimes.

The best way to learn what will work is to ask and see.  Very few successful anglers are so anti social and secretive that they will not be willing to share.  Don't be shy, and when someone hooks a fish simply excuse yourself and ask what just happened.  "May I see it?  Nice fish, will get you a long way.  I have no problem asking or sharing.

If you are a fly tier, one of the best ways that I have used to learn is to purchase one of a pattern that I think will work.  I make sure that I have the exact materials and tie a few for the next time out.  Flies are so inexpensive in relation to the time to build correctly and materials cost that buying one should not be an issue.

So, there you have some thoughts with so many variations that it would take a book to cover a portion of each topic.  Just think about each thing as needed.  Do some homework and ask a lot of questions.  I own rods, reels, lines, leaders and flies that will never see the water.  This is part of the process toward getting it right.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sunday Alone For A While In Bristol

FlySpoke At Grantown On Spey
47 degrees and a misting drizzle when I left the house this morning.  To me this is fishing weather with only one thing missing.  My fishing partner.  I'm going at it solo today and getting a late start.

Now don't get me wrong, I love fly fishing but my wife and family come first and are followed by my friends and fishing. As fishing is an extra added activity it will never rank number one.  I am a social animal first and a sportsmen not far down the list.

What I need to make fishing complete is that other person who shares in a day of banter, comradely and spirit.  Having a fishing partner keeps the day moving forward and offers less chance for an early ending.
I am always searching for a reason why I do certain things and friendship is why I fish.

On the days when I am by myself, if I find other anglers on the river,  I am always open to some company.  We share stories, a few flies and the water making the possibility for quality relationships.  Since Sunday I have had communication from Ken and Joe who I met on the river.  It is like a forever expanding circle of people with the same passion.  Being an angler of the fly is just that kind of activity that is not meant to do alone.  It is the reason we all have stories to tell.

I will agree that there are times when I am out in a wild place and can get a true sense of my miniscule position in the world.  I get that feeling of vulnerability and can fully appreciate what it does for my soul.  I just don't need that from fishing. 

I like to share what I know and am always ready to learn.  The person who I am fishing with the most I met in Lawrence Massachusetts some thirty years ago.  I was his introduction to Atlantic Salmon and he is my mentor for fishing trout.  Be open to to that person you meet for the first time.  You might make a life long friend a special part of why you fish.


Fly Tying Tip #114

Never tie in synthetic wing materials by the cut tips.  By choosing half the quantity desired and looping back, you can apply these added flash items in a vertical, horizontal or Temple Dog style for a maximum fullness effect.

By using these creative items in this way you are making sure that they can not pull out and will need far less thread to cover properly.

This fly, I call Black Ice, has individual  strands of Pearl Metz Wing n' Flash tied in and folded back surrounding the center tuft of white buck tail.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Why Get Shy When the Waters Get High?

Today, the rivers all over New England are raging.  Many have been stocked, some are still going through natural migrations and even in these high flows it is possible to have a very good day catching fish.

I see this same thing happen all over.  On the Salmon River in New York most anglers will run home if the river hits 1500cfs.   The water goes up real high and everyone thinks the fishing is done.  The posts on local fly fishing forums become full of complaints.

Muddy Waters
So long as the water does not get too muddy, I say get out and learn how to read what is available and close at hand.  The best place for fish to get out of the heavy water is right at your feet close in below large rocks and boulders.  Let's say you are fishing river left, and the flow is a sweeping left turn, these opportunities are even more pronounced.  All rivers are full of these places and all the fish must find them right along with you.  Now, the fish get a head start because a river does not go from low to high in an instant.  As the water starts to rise the fish will start moving close to shore and keep moving to shore searching for safety as the river builds.

Orange Gremlin
If you know there are fish in the river, and you don't want to lose the day, then find the place where the fish will want to be and keep yourself safe on the edges.  The water was in the bushes and a bit off color today, and with the help of the right color flies, I managed to hook five brood stock Atlantic salmon and had at least five more boil on my fly.  All this happened within a rods length from shore.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Striped Bass Have Been On A Drastic Decline..........

I have been studying a bit about migrating fish and am now thinking that the Striped Bass may be experiencing the same plight as the Atlantic Salmon in reverse. I also believe this is not a new occurrence but one that ebbs and flows every 35 years or so. 

Let's just look, for now, at recent history. How was the bass fishing back in 1980? On the increase or decline? I think that the answer is increase. Conversely, how was the Atlantic Salmon fishing in 1980? Increase or decrease? Decrease is the answer. Today the reverse is in place, and if I am correct in my observations, Bass anglers are in for 30 more years of change with the bottom happening in 10 to 15 years. Bad for bass and a good time to be a Salmon angler.  I always blamed the Bass for showing up in New England at the same time our beautiful smolts were going to sea.   Yes, a factor, but not a conclusion.

I have been studying what is called the Multidecadal Oscillation and North Atlantic Oscillation and their combine effects on food source availability and ease of capture for migrating fish species in the North Atlantic.

For Bass,  I do understand that the commercial over harvesting of Juvenal and Adult Menhaden as well as climate change, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and the like have put an extra burden on Menhaden and other prey such as crabs and anchovies. Yet again, not the straw that breaks the back.  This has only caused the downward numbers of Bass to be a bit more dramatic yet not the main cause. The cause is natural and has to do with climate change cycles that have gone on for thousands of years. 

If you want to do the research it will open the door for you. If not, here is the simple version as I have tried to understand.

Cycles cause weather that starts in the Gulf of Mexico, moves north and east, and depending on where the path between the natural Icelandic Low and the Azores High is located, positions the path of these storms to move into the Atlantic Ocean and across to Europe and therefore determines the amount of ocean churning in that longitude determining how easy it is for predatory species to find prey.  

When the cycle is positive the space between these oscillating climate patterns is further north, when negative the path will be further south. Today's cycle is negative overall. When Chesapeake Bay is being battered by winter storm after storm a disruption and scattering of food as well as a change in the salt content of the estuary occurs and Bass find less to eat. Same problem for salmon in the North Atlantic when the storms move higher through Pennsylvania and Nor Easters are pushed further up into the North Atlantic. Survival of the species will cause weaker members to die for the benefit of the masses. In the case of lower tournament weights for Bass, as written in the Marthas Vineyard Gazette,  I believe is a direct influence of food availability.

Remember, this is a law of averages over 35 or more year cycles. Not every season will be bad or good. 

There is reason to act on the reduction of over harvesting of prey by man for commercial use as well as climate related issues. The reason is Critical Mass. If a species declines for what ever reason below a certain value, critical mass is lost and the species will also be lost. We need only watch the Running The Gauntlet video to understand that migrating fish can lose critical mass with man's help. A good thing for the Pacific Salmon and Steelhead is that the Pacific Oscillations are in change for the better as well.

There are many resources for information toward my hypothesis. I am not a scientist but an angler that likes to understand the reasons why. My studies have been mainly influenced by my love of Salar, but seem to have a direct relationship to Striped Bass.  I gave up blaming all the individual reasons for the Atlantic salmon decline and now believe there is a higher power. 


Friday, May 13, 2011

What A Great Day!!!!!

Seven Rainbows Between 18 and 21.5 Inches Today
A traditional Great North Woods fly called Dick's Killer was 
responsible for the three largest........ 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Maine Warden Service: Dover-Foxcroft Man Sentenced for Illegal Taking of Endangered Atlantic Salmon

AUGUSTA, Maine – A man from Dover-Foxcroft was sentenced to six (6) months in federal prison plus two years supervised release today in United States District Court in Bangor. In January, the offender pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Lacey Act for the take and sale of numerous endangered Atlantic Salmon from the Piscataquis River in Dover-Foxcroft during the summer of 2009.

Honorable Judge John Woodcock commented that the defendant was not a sportsman and the method he used to snag the fish was “appalling.” He described the endangered Atlantic Salmon as a magnificent fish whose recovery efforts represent hope for our society.

According to Maine Warden Service Captain Dan Scott, the Maine man was the subject of a 2009 joint investigation between the Maine Warden Service and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, after a tip was received through Operation Game Thief. Wardens and special agents conducted surveillance on the defendant for multiple nights and days during which time numerous violations were documented, including the illegal take, possession and sale of Brook Trout and Atlantic Salmon. Subsequently, a search warrant was executed on the man's residence.

In December 2009, the accused pleaded guilty to several state charges, including possession of live fish, exceeding his bag limit on fish and selling fish.

Captain Dan Scott attributed the successful investigation to good communication and information sharing between the Maine Warden Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents, the Atlantic Salmon Commission and the United States Attorney’s Office in Bangor. He commented that Judge Woodcock’s sentence demonstrated the seriousness of these violations and the fact the people of the state of Maine and the United States will not tolerate the blatant abuse of our endangered fishery resources. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fly Tying Tip #113

Getting the head of your Salmon flies to have a smooth and bright finish takes a little time but is very easy to do.  First using the thinnest thread that you feel comfortable with make sure that you are always placing your winds next to the other.  No crossing and making uneven bumps.  Second always make your whip finish end at the back and bottom of the head and trim with a straight edge razor.  Nice and tight to the head.  Next put on one thin coat of your favorite head finish.  Then after this is dry go back and fill in any places you see thread that was not covered by using the point of a pin and dipping in the head finish.  Let that dry.  Add brush coat #2 and then # 3.  Make sure that this is completely dry and then apply coat #4.   I always us clear and make the color happen by the color of the thread.  One important factor is that you spin the fly on coats #3 & #4 so gravity can make the head finish dry away from the thread.  This is the key to a very smooth surface.  For working flies two coats will due.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Steak & Eggs With A little Hot Sauce

Yesterday was a great day to be in the woods.  Mid state New Hampshire is just starting to show strong signs of coming through what seemed like the longest of winters sleep.   The fiddleheads are well sprouted and I was bitten by the first black fly of the season.

Another aspect to this time is a transition from universal high water run off in rivers that are below lakes and the timing of optimum minimum lake level for the summer holiday season.  The high flow creates places to find large fish that have emigrated over spillways and the quickly lowered flow gives the opportunity to find them.  This becomes the perfect time to be there.  If you look at the the USGS river flow in cubic feet per second, for many New England locations, you will see that these graphs made a dramatic downward motion over the last week.  The keepers are starting to hold back water by putting in boards that raise the height of their dam.  Prior to this time, the rivers flowing into these same lakes are seeing their annual migrations of lake dwellers running to up river pools.  Some are stopped by additional dams and some travel deep into the woods.  The farther north you go, the later these events are happening.  You can still catch these rights of spring in most locations in the North East.

This is a magical time of regeneration and birth that has different results according to situation.  At some places, the river below dams are now low enough to produce hatches.  Fish from below can move up close to the dam to feed. Others are following suckers, walleye and perch for some tasty treats. Smelt are on the move and attract salmon and the rainbows are just doing their spawning ritual and have access to a smorgasbord  after the nuptials are complete.

There are many of these locations and each has it's unique aspect that makes it a valuable possibility to catch large trout and salmon.

This is a time for steak and eggs for our fly patterns.  If you want to attract a large fish then feed it a meal.  Eggs, worms, leeches, smelt, spawn and sculpin are all highly prized tastes in a discerning pallet.

OK, back to yesterday.  The rainbows were as hot as steelhead in the warming water.  The smallest fish we netted was 18" with two others at 21" and one that was a real giant that snapped a 4X tippet after a hard fought down stream battle.  The flies that were the big winners were Floro Pink San Juan Micro Worms, Hot Orange Red Dot Eggs, Red Belly White Sucker Spawn, Pale Yellow Sucker Spawn and Red Butt Woody Streamers.  Although we tried Caddis Larva, Emergers, Pheasant Tails and Hairs Ears not one fish was hooked with these insect replicating patterns.  We saw no surface activity that indicated that fish were even there.

The transition will happen in very short order.  These same locations we will be fished with emergers and dry flies and will transform over a week or two at most.  For the time before the hatches, hit them big and hit them low and make it bright.  The results can be dramatic.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Fly Tying Tip #112

Less is more.  When you are tying a group of the same fly, be conscious of the quantity and proportion of materials you use.  I find myself using too much of some ingredients at times.  Trout and Salmon have eyes that act as magnifying glasses.  They see great details up close and less from a distance.  This is why a fish will accelerate on a presentation and only at the last moment jam on the brakes.  Think sparse because the fish see far more than we might think.