Monday, February 25, 2013

Modern Fly Crossovers In The Information Age

It seems to me that the differences between flies that can be used for Atlantic Salmon and Steelhead are melding.

Is an Intruder really anything more than a really big shrimp pattern?  Is the Syd Glasso style a River Spey fly with a different wing?  Bunny leaches designed to wiggle in front of North Western chrome are being found on the crystal clear waters of the Gaspe.

Years ago I would have never dreamed of using eztaz or a looped dubbing ball on my salmon flies but today in order to get a wide and full tail and wing it is the norm.

In days gone by rivers had individual style to their flies.  Dee Flies and Spey Flies are very different in materials and construction right down to the style of hook.  The headwaters of these two rivers are so close together that you would think there would have been more commonality.  Take New Brunswick and Quebec as a model.  The rivers are very different and so were the flies but if you were to check the fly boxes on the Gaspe you might just find a few Green machines in the mix.  You will also find creations that were designed for the Gaula as well.  Soft hair tied in a reverse full bodied style is all the rage in spring and fall no matter where you are.

My feeling is that the number one reason for such a crossover of materials and styles is the internet.  Every ghille in Scotland has a website and YouTube is loaded with great fly tiers willing to show their talent.

This is the age of experimentation and what will come out of it just might be an entirely new concept.  Materials and techniques are advancing rapidly.  Something is going to come of it, and when it does, it will be as fresh as the day the first Lady Caroline was fished.

The classics will never go away.  There is nothing more rewarding for me than taking a fish on a well tied creation that has been proven by time.  But who knows that magic elixir might just be one more tie away......

Friday, February 22, 2013

Do Predator & Prey Look Into Each Others Eyes?

There is a subject that needs to be thought about when it comes to building wet flies and streamers. Heads or Tails? Do you know what triggers an instinctual feeding response from the fish you are targeting? Do you know the inherent fight or flight mechanism of the prey you are imitating? Are the fish you're after chasers or slashers?

These basic questions need more study to offer us a better chance for angling success. Everyone has heard the expression "Short take". I have watched Landlocked salmon nipping at the tail of my fly over and over without the slightest feeling that it is happening. If my hook were positioned at the tip of the tail I might have felt a different story.

How about the possibility that the use of very small eyes in your fly might trigger a flight response from certain target fish. Some fish may need the sight of big wide open eyes to make them chase. For others just the opposite might be true. Lure makers have thought about this for years.

One day, in June, I was fishing on the Matapedia River in Quebec. We were in a twenty six foot Gaspe canoe moving slowly up river. In the clear water our guide noticed four salmon sitting together close to the left bank. My partner started with medium size flies like Lee Wulff's stone fly, and Black Bear Green Butts.

When it was my turn, I waded further up stream and choose to use a 5/0, very large, big eyed fly to swing right in front of them. All hell broke loose. The water raised four inches, one fish, about fifteen pounds, wet ballistic and shot three feet in the air and all four fish scattered as quickly as possible.

Certainly my three inch long fly was not large enough to bother a three foot salmon. Today I believe they looked into the eyes of death and instinctively ran away as fast as possible. I no longer use eyes that are large and might be mistaken for a seal, shark, or Swordfish when casting to Atlantic Salmon. My opinion is that the learned instinct of an animal species can make a big difference in angling. In turn, by removing the fear factor we offer ourselves a better chance.

Conversely, I have also read from the California School of Fly Fishing, that there is no eye contact between fish at all. Do bluefish slash through pods of bait fish and not look at the eyes of their meal? Do some salt water species have millions of years in developing a black spot on their tails for no reason.

Here is my conclusion.

I am now making sure that for Steelhead my flies will have no eyes and the hook is in the tip of the tail. For trout I have medium eyes and the hook is in the tail as I believe they are spotters and chasers. For Landlocked Salmon the hook is in the very end of the tail as they are nippers. For Bluefish and Striped Bass I use big eyes and have the hook right up close to the gills.  Atlantic Salmon flies will have small eyes.

My observations are just that and come only from experience. I would love to hear from anyone who has clear scientific studies that support or refute this theory.

You Call It! Heads or Tails.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Fly Tying Tip #131

I've been working on some big tube flies for early bright Atlantic Salmon fishing as well as patterns for New York State Steelhead.  The more I tie the better I understand how to make them wide and full.  Most of the time a fish is going to see a fly from the back and underneath.  That is the most important look to consider.  Using tubes with larger diameters is the key.  Creating larger tubes is easy and cost effective.
The beginning of this video shows how I create the larger diameter tubes.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Nature, Senses And Instinct Of Salmon And Trout

For many years, many years ago, I fished out of a camp on the Marimichi River in New Brunswick, Canada.  The late Arlington Bamford said to me one day that the first thing I must do before starting to fish was to go down to the river and take a big hand full of gravel and sand and wash my hands clean.  "They can smell you", he said.

Salmon and Trout are wonderfully efficient animals that use the nature of their senses for survival.  These senses are switched on twenty four hours a day and to understand these basic tendencies is a requirement necessary to hold more than the stocked hook up.

Salmoniods have a distinct shape and composition to their eyes.  Somewhat nearsighted and without lids trout and salmon eyes are sensitive to light. They have a maximum range of approximately twenty feet and can see minute details up close .  They see in a cone shape that widens as distance is extended.  This is what is called the window.  Given the eyes unique location on the side of their body, there are blind spots that are directly behind, above, below and in front.  Full body movement is required to see in these locations.

A pallet of twenty four colors can be seen in full light.  The last and first color to be visible is blue.  In a total absence of light white and black can bee seen as white and black. Certain color combination's are better seen because of the distinct contrast that is created making one of the color enhanced.  Perhaps this is the reason a Mickey Finn or Blood Egg can be so effective at times. Sparkling adornments, florescent glows and vivid saturated colors can be seen better in low light and in discolored water.
These fish have no external ears.  Hearing is achieved by the use of internal ears as well as the lateral line detecting sound vibrations.  There is a tonal range that fish can hear.  The human voice is outside that range and can not be heard.  Wading staffs, metal cleats and rapid movement can be heard and felt from a great distance.
The sensory ability of smell may be the most highly sophisticated attribute of the genome Oncorhynchus.  Able to detect the right or wrong smell in one part per billion puts trout and salmon in the top of this category.  
The ability to discern by taste equates to the selective nature of feeding.  The simple sensory choice is a matter of what tastes best to the fish at the time of feeding.  
This sense is divided into two different categories.  Natural feel and testing feel.  What is felt can be different than what is felt.  Trout and salmon feel every tiny vibration and change in current for a substantial distance.  They can even feel these changes happening down stream of their location.  Water is denser than air and the molecules will radiate vibration at a faster speed than the water is moving.  This is enhanced as the water temperature increases.

In Testing Feel we are using what little ability a fish has to be curious.  That momentary lapse in sensory auto pilot that will cause a fish to test if something is food or not. This test is done by the mouth using the other senses of sight, smell and taste.
Here is where all the above is brought together with the physical strength of
our quarry.  Lightning fast would be an understatement, being able to accelerate from 0 to 60 in one second, able to jump it's entire body weight two and three feet off the surface of the water, turn as sharply as can be and able to stop on a dime.

Our understand that we have a direct effect on how successful a day we will have is an understatement.  With only a fishes natural instinct to freeze when the slightest thing is not perfect is all they know.  They don't think, they just act. After working on this post for the a few days, I am thinking of the next time I go to the river.  I will walk slower, used my wading staff less, stay off the elevated boulders and wash my hands in the gravel.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Purpose of Practice Is To Practice With Purpose

How often do you find yourself taking the time to enjoy the pleasures of casting practice?  I know that we all have angling as our first preference, but what about taking your casting skill to the level of the artful endeavor that it represents.

Even those gifted with the greatest of natural abilities must look at it this way and if we do then practice will have purpose.

Making the most of our practice time involves a level of readiness that we must be willing to create.  For me my rod and line are clean with the leader measured and the line slicked.  I have already gone over my video from the last practice, made notes and then created a new practice plan.  I stretch my line, set up my distance targets and then because I practice with both single and two hand rods I start both with the same exercise as a means to get into a grove and limber up.  The Overhead Cast.

This might seem too basic for most of you but let me explain why.  The elements involved in a tight loop overhead cast are exactly the same as the finish for all other casts.  Sure there are things like aerial mends to contend with but those are called mends because they are executed after the forward stroke.  There are also casts that involve the manipulation of directional changes in your line, but they are made by understanding what it takes to alter or enhance your grooved stroke.  I also make a point during this warm up to cast wide open loops as well as tailing loops with purpose.  To be able to control my line to that degree means I understand the physics as to what makes a good cast possible.

My practice plan is formulated by item and time.  I determine the amount of time necessary to do the job correctly and do no more or less than what the plan dictates.

You must know yourself.......

Never push your practice farther than what your physical and mental limits might be.  That is, unless you are studying for a masters level proficiency.  For those of us who simply want to improve only a limited amount of time should be spent for practice.  It is important that we stay motivated and have fun.   It is very important that we understand that the smallest of details realized during a practice creates major improvements in future practice.  These small findings are needed to create a complete understanding.  The perfect cast is made of many perfect moments in time.

There is only one hard and fast rule to observe  .....Eye Protection Must Be Worn.....

The fly stays in the box......

One important aspect of practice is a need to be in a state of mind that lets you concentrate on casting.  Feeling the grip flex and watching our body and the casts and thinking about every aspect creates the environment toward improvement.  Your mine must be free to think and come to conclusions.  Sometimes casting is a puzzle.  We watch the line and it is making a sharp little turn at the lay down and if we are having a fly on the end of the leader we might switch off casting to fishing mode much too easily.  Being in the mind set that casting is the objective is the first thing to do in order to improve.

What should I practice?????

A complete practice plan starts with an item.  Let's say a roll cast is what we decide.  The next step is not to go outside and start to roll cast.  The next step is to study the roll cast.

I do a lot of pantomime indoors getting ready for a practice element.    I take the grip section of my rod and slowly go through what I expect the movements will be to make a proper roll cast.  I go to my library, YouTube, IFFF site and my collection of notes taken and printed over the years.  I read, act out in my mind and write on my plan Roll Cast 12 minutes.  Because I have done my reading and study and even a Thai Chi dance on the roll cast I have prepared the set up and can have a very rewarding session with only 12 minutes.  I video every session from a distance far enough to see my body yet be able to talk to the camera with my notes.  Don't try to take written notes.  Use a smart phone or a tablet or camera but taking notes will only keep you from thinking and will add too much time to the process.

That's it.  The total circle is complete and you are ready to watch yourself, find the faults and write into your next practice plan an aspect or two in the roll cast that needs attention.  Say four minutes forming a larger and more pronounced D loop.

The total can be broken down to the sum of the parts to work on to complete the total.  Slow motion frame by frame is a great tool for this.

So, give it a try.  Improvement will be noticed paralleled by understanding and when you make that perfect roll cast  to a 5 pound brown, without thinking, the ringing in your ears is only the sound of Purpose coming through....... 

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Switch Rod Advantage

Thirteen years ago I purchased my first two hand rod.  A pre-owned Loomis 14' GL for a 9 weight line.  This became my rod of choice for fishing from a 26' Gaspe Boat on the big rivers of the Gaspe Peninsula of Quebec.  The long rod not only made shooting head overhead casts, but conveniently passed over my guides head sitting in the stern.  The guides said I made their job easier because I covered two drops at a time making boat position changes less often.  I was also able to continue each swing to the opposite side of the boat and cover the all important dangle directly below.
It was a few years later that I started to learn traditional as well as modern two hand casts.  I now feel very confident fishing for Atlantic Salmon and Steelhead with two hands. Traditional Spey, Scandi, Skagit and Salter.  I own a nice collection of Salmon and Switch rods that suit my fishing needs.
Six years ago I built a 5 weight switch rod for use on the larger trout rivers in Northern Maine and New Hampshire.  These are big waters where currents create deep pockets in heavy flows and having a longer rod offers extra distance from two hand casting techniques.  Along with this greater distance is the ability to control your line through pockets by holding the rod high and reducing drag.  This rod, even though only a 5 weight, works well with a light 275 grain Skagit and short sinking poly leaders for West Coast style swinging.  As we all know, fishing success is about keeping your fly in the water and learning how to use a two hand set up will give you, at a minimum, 15% more fly in the water time.  There is no back casting or any multi roll casts to get your line out where you want it to be.

In addition, I wanted the ability to change from nymphing to swinging quickly.  I am always thinking of ways to limit the quantity of gear that must be carried for an entire day.  This was achieved with the creation of a short head line that will accept indicator and weight and converts quickly to a short head Spey line with the addition of a floating tip.  I also use this same short head line with sinking poly leaders.  With this set up I carry one rod, reel, backing, line and the tips necessary for various changes that will satisfy all scenarios except one.  The dry fly.

Because my switch rod is 10' 4", I can cast with one had with ease.  Carrying a full floating line for dry fly fishing requires a second spool.  This is the quickest and most efficient way to make the change.

As the season progresses, I do go to a full dry fly set up on a single hand 4 weight.  The waters get slower, the fish are looking up and the fun of the lighter presentation is always desired at those times.  For most of the year, I have found that nothing can take the place of the two hand set up.  This also applies to all my nymphing for Steelhead with an 8 weight switch.

For some strange reason the light weight two hand rod gets a great deal of resistance.  I hear that people are "set in their ways" and "what has been is good enough" or "you will never get me to do that".  If there were one thing, and one thing only, that I could make you do, it would be to get a switch rod and learn the many advantages it offers.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Our New Spey Forum

I am please to announce the start of a new forum.  Two Hand casting has been the rage for many years in Europe and the Pacific North West.  Now a growing number of anglers are using switch and two hand rods for everything from 4 weight trout to Atlantic Salmon in the Canadian  Maritime.   Steelhead in the Mid West to Striped Bass on Cape Cod.

The door is open and I hope you will help make it happen.