Saturday, December 29, 2012

To Loop Or Not To Loop, Is It Really To Be Questioned?

I understand the aesthetic value to a perfect nail knot.  I also know that having a loop connection on some of my lines has purpose.  The reason to loop is that you might expect the line will be used with tips or poly leaders.  A Skagit should always have a loop.  The reason not to loop a line is if that line will never be used with tips or poly leaders.  Your three weight dry fly line has no need for a loop and should be treated as light as possible at the connection between line and leader.  End of story.

I saw a quote today that read, "as soon as I get a new fly line I cut those #$#@#@$%$# loops off".  Let's just say that I like to keep my options open.  Our fly lines are the vehicle that delivers the fly in the correct presentation that is needed for the fish to take.  The fish doesn't give a damn if there is a loop on your fly line or not.

To Loop Or Not To Loop is an easy question to answer.

The Relationship Between Fly Rod & Fly Line

The late Lee Wulff was a great proponent in getting us all to think small.  Ultra light was casting without a fly rod and only using his arms to propel his fly.  His feeling was that there was no necessity for long heavy rods and that going small was a more exciting way to fish the fly.  To this day, even with the advancement of two hand rods,  that concept is still strongly held in North America.  Rod and blank manufacturers continue to make their products as light as possible.  From the marketing perspective, rods were made shorter and lighter because anglers have been convinced it is the more sporting way.  The merits of this concept are worth a discussion all to itself as a greater number of long rods are being sold.

Over the last few years, here in North America, I have seen the number of anglers using two hand rods increase dramatically.   Eight years ago I put down my single hand trout rod, except for dry fly presentation,  in favor of a 10' 4" switch 5 weight.  My thought was that learning how to use a switch rod would greatly advance my ability to swing streamers as well as high stick nymph with a dead drift.   The advantage was clear to me and I didn't see another being used until last few year.  Now the current momentum to Switch Rods is overwhelming and is a perfect example of an industry life preserver.   One item that creates the cash flow necessary to keep a company current.    Happens all the time in many different industries and in this case it is not a brilliant  marketing scheme that is pushing the trend..  Though the old European art has endured, what I call the Wulffing factor, on this side of the pond, getting lighter and faster seems to be the trend.  All my casting teaching also seems to be in relation to two hand and mostly how to get the most from the switch rod.

My thoughts on this topic are that there is a perfect rod, reel and line for every situation and each are different.  Today there is a growing number of us who are extending our ability with the use of longer rods.    The trick is to know and understand how wide the range of lines is that can be adapted to each rod.  Then take that adaptation to each angling situation for maximum overall result.

Certainly the Matapedia and it's big water and big fish in June requires something very different than Matane at the beginning of September.  What you will find in Quebec though is that there are many of the locals using the same rod with the same line for both possibilities.  Hardly any anglers will be found with a rod over nine feet long.   Conversely, in the Pacific North West, most steelhead casters have moved into two hand rods.   Switch rods of eleven feet and two handers in the thirteen to fourteen feet lengths.  The understanding of what each style of rod and line offers is a key factor in making the best choice.  And on the Western Rivers they understand that what is right for the Salmon might be something completely different for optimal swinging on the Clearwater.  What the market brings to the table is as varied as the waters we fish.

Fast or Slow

The first criteria to consider is the composition of the rod blank.  The number one question you must ask is what is the composition and design of the rod.  Modern technologies have not changed the process used in creating a fly rod blank as much as what materials are used in the creation.  The latest formation of Carbon Nano fiber is being grown in laboratories and spun into the basic thread.  The concept is that if you can make a molecule into a thread and then weave the thread to cloth and impregnate that cloth by adding resin and then backing it for strength to cut it to shape and roll around a mandrill to be baked, sanded and finished you can make a fly rod blank of various flexibility determined by the density and hardness of the thread and bonding composites used.  Make sense?  To make a beautiful looking fly rod blank takes time, expertise and great imagination that is always looking to the future.   If you are making blanks like last years models the market will leave you behind.  This progression for better or not is the governing factor in the fly rod industry.

Back in the day, Alexander Grant used green heart wood that he spliced together to create the first two hand rods.   His Scottish home river, the Spey, has the fastest descending current of all Highland rivers and the concept of standing high and dry on the bank required a long rod.  Being able to lift, sweep and change directions for the forward stroke was made possible by using two hand rods of sixteen to twenty feet.  Long casting was not the focus as the Laird of the Castle had the beat all to himself and the best pool with easy access was always his.   The action of these rods was the farthest extent to slow as would be possible.  The flex started at the tip top and extended right through the bottom grip.  We call this full flex.

Today, the marketing trend has been to go faster and faster with rod action.  This means that the rod flex is at the tip and not much farther down the blank.  A great reason for this is that the line companies have changed the formula that dictates the weight of the front part of their lines.  How does one company get you to think their line will cast farther?  They put a little extra weight to the front of the line that makes the rod load more and we think it is better.  They take turns adding weight until the rod maker must increase the stiffness of the blank to handle the extra weight of the line.  Is a five weight still a five weight?

If winning a distance casting contest was the goal, I would use the advantage of the ultra fast rod.  If winning an accuracy casting contest was the goal I would use a slower action rod.

Are we fishing or are we casting?

If fishing under most conditions and landing the fish is the goal the softer action wins hands down.  Many Eastern anglers are enjoying light tippet nymph fishing for big trout and Great Lakes Steelhead.  They don't understand why they are not landing any fish when the answer is right in their hands.  Notice the the center pin anglers some time.  They are using the same 3X fluorocarbon tippets yet land a high percentage of their takes.  Again the answer is in their hands.

The key to fishing success starts with rod choice.


This is an option that will never be perfect.  Just look at any of the major line companies catalog and it becomes self evident that the array is so varied that one line, or five lines, will never satisfy the ability that one rod offers.  For most of us, we can get a feeling of general application by keeping a log of the fishing days we spend in any given year.   If you can, right now, take a calendar and note each day you spent fishing.  Try to analyze that day as to what the perfect condition would have been.

Monday, June 2, 6am-10am, cloudy, wind 10, air 50-60, water 47 medium flow, midge hatch, caddis hatch
Sunday, November 10, 8am-2pm, wind 4, bright sun, air 30-40,water 38 low flow, BWO hatch
Tuesday, January 1, 7am-11am, wind 9, partly cloudy, air 18-24, water 33 high flow, no hatch

In the three trout fishing examples above you could most likely need three different set ups from rod to line to leader to tippet to flies.  If you really look at these examples what you will find is that all could be changed within each example more that once or twice during that outing.  I fish many days with two or three rods at the ready.  I know the conditions before I go to sleep the night before.  I make my rod and line choices and do the set ups ahead of time.  Right now I am working on January 1.  I know that the forecast above is what I can expect.  It makes my choice of rod and line very clear.

Long rod, light weight full flex no more than 4 weight, short head line for flipping weight and indicator.

Long Rod = Stay shallow and stay warm in cold air and water temperatures and still have line control.
Light Weight Full Flex = Water is crystal clear and extra light tippet with forgiveness is required.  I am always looking for a trophy and want to have what is needed if it were to happen.
Short Head = Casting a short over sized head requires little inertia from the rod.  The weight of the head that is easily loaded on the softer rod turns over the weights and you have only thin shooting line collecting ice in the guides.  Cold weather fishing requires as little pulling line through the guides as possible due to ice build up.

The above set up also allows me to make changes should I want to use streamers and leeches.  I simply remove the leader and put on a poly leader and I have a short head Skagit style rig.  Options of my line choice are sometimes required and having as many options for that one rod might be what is needed for a successful day.

I hope that what you will take away from this post is that any rod and line combination will only be perfect under a perfect condition for that combination.  That there are infinite possible combinations that will be correct.  These different situations can be but a short distance apart in any given water body.   Having as many rod and line options and the understanding of what they do is important.  Being willing to take the time to change to what is optimal has it's rewards.  And thinking about and using this knowledge will enhance the presentation of a fly in the most pleasing way to the fish.


Read Additional Resource Information from Fly Rod & Reel Magazine

Monday, December 17, 2012

Fly Tying Tip #130

Brown Trout Spawn

A fly shop is not the only place to find fly tying materials.  Sometimes our creativity can be stifled by being limited to the materials at hand.  Go have a walk around a fully stocked bead store and see what you can find.  It might open the door to something new. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Special Regulations Opening Day

I fondly remember the opening days of my youth.  These New Jersey events happened each year in April and made the closed season very long indeed.  The excitement of that time is still ingrained in my psyche as I now have many opening days to consider and experience.  I feel like a kid in a less than juvenile body.

January 1, April 1, the first Saturday in April, the second Saturday in April, April 15, May 10, June 1, June 11 and June 15.  In addition to these dates there are others that will be important to you especially if you fish ponds and lakes.  Around the country there are many dates that open a season for many different species.  The understanding of these dates and locations will give you an order to your year as an angler.  Start checking the information provided by your states Fish & Game as well as the others near by and you will determine what is important.

Here, where I now live, in New Hampshire we have rivers that don't close.  Some locations receive their best stocking during October and November.  They are a great asset to the state and on some nice late fall and winters days being out and hooking a few fish can't be beat.  The opportunity to fish a twelve month season is possible and I do my best to take advantage of the situation.  Massachusetts holds a few locations with tail water releases that keep things going through the dog days of summer.  Many anglers head that way during July and August.  These kinds of places exist in a number of other states as well.

I remember opening days back in the 1960's where the trout streams were crowded.  If I were very lucky my Mom or Dad would take me to some better locations for the day.  Big Flat Brook was a real high lite and Upper Saddle River or the Ramapo River were the norm.  All well stocked streams and worth a visit even today.  I fished as much as possible and did my best to learn.

It is clearly that feeling of anticipation that keeps my youth alive and my mind fantasizing about the future.   The most important thing any young angler can do is keep a log.  You will have the record of your days and those days hold the forgotten secrets of days to come.   Sadly, I did not do this and have only photos and memories to relive through this blog..  I have no idea what the water temperature was on a given day or the flies that worked best or the conditions that caused a better day.  I do have the collective experience but know that I would be a better angler today if I had that record of events.

Three AM and I am having some coffee.  I'm up when the alarm sounds and doing my best to get out the door.  My gear was already worked on and packed and is ready to put in the car.  January first is the first opening day in the New Hampshire season.  The weather can range from cold to too cold and I have a rule that single digits will keep me home.  Guides freezing is for sure even at higher temperatures while being cold will be kept at bay by wearing multi layers making me feel like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.  Boot foot waders are a must as the difference in foot warmth is dramatic.  Head gear will be used and tip free gloves that I will try all day to keep dry.  A second pair tucked inside my waders in case I catch a big fish that requires getting wet.

A second complete set of clothing will be kept in the car.  Fall in the river with water at 32.6 and you will need to change or go home.  Also in the car is another heavy coat.  When you get too cold to get warm you will want another layer.  I wear two pair s of socks .  The first is a thin nylon and the second rated for 30 below zero.

In sixteen days I will make the one hour drive to meet up with the same crew that I meet each year.  The same friends that share the passion and excitement and banter and joy together for many years.  We fish and sometimes hit the mother load and some time nothing at all.  It simply doesn't matter.  It's opening day, it's a New Year and I am counting down the time right this minute.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

You Can't Have Any Pudding Till You Eat Your Meat

Larger trout, especially browns, like to eat big meals.  I have been tying some bunny tail flies lately that are a take off of Vermont Guide, Mark Wilde's fly The Wilde Thing.  A few different materials but essentially the same thing as far as the fish are concerned.

What the pattern mostly reminds me of is a simple Pheasant Tail Nymph.  Tail, abdomen, wing casing, thorax and legs.  Pretty simple but effective as any other fly I have been using lately.  Mark ties the fly with a b it of weight on the top of the hook so the point rides up.

Give it a shot and fish them low and slow. Try something big and articulated.  Change colors and materials, add flash or not as well as the weight.  I think you will be very happy with the results.