flyfishing with mayflies graphic used in fly fishing Wayward fly fishing graph of myflies often used in FLYFISHING

I tried normal once. I got bored. So I stopped doing it.


Fly fishing has become much too normal. On this wayward site, you'll find exciting (and mostly true) articles, stories and book reviews on many aspects of fly fishing. Here I'll explode fly fishing myths (and create a few of my own). Roam around or catch up on the latest news and my current attitudes in the flog (fly blog).

Welcome to the Flog . . .

 

     November 20, 2014

First Fog

Nothing says I need to get cold in the rivers than geese flying south honking to themselves to say they'd rather get warm in a southern sun. If they could actually talk, they'd probably look down at me and say, Idiot.

I don't blame them. I don't know how many times I've looked at an animal only to conclude I've gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to outdoor brains.

But I can dream, and they can't. So there!

And there they are, in the night sky, spreading spearward. Wafting like ink in water that inexplicably knows how to stick together.  Thinking like minions.

Millions!

The first fog of the year is nothing special. Unless you're a stealheader. I wake up and gray has dropped down, obscuring the rotten apples on my tree. You have to be a fogolyte like me to enjoy this crap.  

I dress in everything I own, it seems, and never travel far from the car. The car's important. You see, cold is a concept unique to human beings, and out there, and I'm not as smart as a bird. Hell, slippery green rocks unmoved by treacherous cold currents are smarter than me.

My fly starts with something special. It's the same special fly you have, too. But soon enough I cave to the cold and lack of fish and put on an egg pattern I tied in one second and admit to myself, It just doesn't matter. This is no time for those delicious gold PMD patterns of late September. They'll take this mindless egg pattern as anything. And if they don't, cutts and whitefish will, and so save my worthless cold day that means so much to me.

But beyond the futility of it all, there are reasons. Fish. Biguns. Not the giddy fish of spring. Not the soft and small fish of summer. Not the zero fish of winter. Autumn fish. Fish startled by the pending winter gloom, getting big and bigger. Why more people don't fish at this time is beyond me.

Well, to be fair to everybody else with brains, there are reasons to stay away. There's a chance of storms, there's getting stuck on the wrong side of a rising creek, there's trees blocking roads, apples falling on your head. You never know. Fog can upset your sense of reality to the point that big boulders and stumps aren't what they seem. You never know. Those stumps in the fog could be a bear, a moose, a sasquatch. Or worse, they are just wet. Have you ever stood on a wet, slimy log in cold water? To be safe in the cold, do what salmon do--find a comfortable piece of gravel to do your fishing. Wet rocks, slick logs, sucking muck, rotting carcasses--all conspire to send you home.

The first fog of the year. We'll see what it scares out of the river.

 

     October 25, 2014

Tying the perfect fly

Our theories on fly fishing are delicate, dangling by a thin 12x tippet before us while we trust the fish to validate our theories--which all too often they do. The fish bites, proving that the special shade of olive that we mixed up, tied in that special way, indeed did the trick. To think otherwise would usher in chaos, that fleeting, fearful moment that maybe we don't really know what the hell goes on in the natural world. In other words, chaos is what happens when we fear that the same fish would probably take as readily a well presented boot lace.

Let me get a little more mental here ...

Sitting down to the start of some lake fishing, I might find myself meditating upon a crayfish pattern. Reviewing the literature on crayfish patterns, I find I can tie in the pincers with hen hackle or deer hair, both dyed a precious brown olive with maybe some orange thrown in, and maybe tied in backwards for extra movment.  I image a big brown trout in the early hours of the night becoming mesmerized by those pincers, duped by my design. I desperately want the fish to take the fly because of those pincers, and nothing else. Without those clever pincers, the fly would be yet another version of a woolly bugger.  And that's  the last reason I want the fish to have before engulfing my creation.

If I put legs on my crayfish pattern, and the fish takes they fly, those legs, by damn, were the reason. I suspect meditating and fantasizing at the vice is the easiest part of fly fishing. It also leads to bullshit.

You see, as a species we fool ourselves a lot. We make up stores, creative narratives, and make sense of the chaos that is actually out there. I read this in a book on neurology, so it has to be true.

What's the point? Not too sure really. I should be fishing. But I suspect the point is, don't trust your precious narratives. Always look for fresh perspectives. Perhaps that's why I never name my flies, even the best performing ones. Each time I retie a previously successful pattern, I change it. They won't stop changing. Like a moving stream, I can never put the same fly on twice.

September 20, 2014

New theory for why the fish don't bite

I have one more theory to add to the many for why the fish aren't biting. I'm failing to match a new species of insect! Have you ever lifted a rock only to find an insect you didn't recognize as you look for the usuals, the mayflies, stone flies, or caddis flies in their cute little condo cases? Yep, one of those new insects is the one I couldn't match. Simple.

I mean, new species of animals are being discovered daily. Hell, hourly. Just ask the pharmaceutical companies about new species discovery. Their livelihood depends upon it.

So, why am I so lucky to discover an unusually large proportion of them? More important, why can't I make a billion dollars off my mistakes?

The things I have deal with.

September 5, 2014

T. S. Eliot should have fished more often

T. S. Eliot was dead wrong. April is not the cruelest month. Any month between now and January chasing steelies as cold as Pluto is far crueler than any April.  Try pulling a cold rainbow out of a freestone river, then tell me about cruel.

I spent 8 hours on my local river and managed one 10-inch trout, a steelhead I'm sure, if you define them as any bow within shouting distance of an ocean. A peach egg pattern with red eye and CDC draped around (because I'm anal like most flyfishers) married to a Baetis nymph on an 8 inch dropper to pick up any Whitefish nearby--that was my weapon. Probably the only fish I'll touch this month.

T. S. Eliot was an optimist.

 

August 01, 2014

Back to fishwriting

It's been a while since my last blog and a bunch of you have been asking if I'd fallen in. Actually, I did, but that's besides the point. I also fell down a long steep hill, and that's also beside the point. Mainly, I've been busy on a long project and need a break.

So I'm going to write short fiction for you. To start, a poem. Later, some flash fiction (that's a new hip stupid word for short fiction that's, like, really short). So, here's my winter poem to help summon the winter gods to bring cutts and dollies to my fly! 

Eggs in winter

What it is
Under your foot
Beneath a bed
Of grind and grime
Small pretty pearls
The color of sun

Is the Sun.

 

More poetry ...

June 03, 2014

News Brief: Man finds Woolly Bugger in soup

This is my monthly recap of the latest news affecting fly fishers. You just can't make this stuff up.

Suspicious bug found in soup    According to the AP Wire Service, a man found a fisherman's fly in a restaurant cafe near the famous Henry's Fork of the Snake River in Southern Idaho. According to a waitress, the restaurant patron nearly fainted, thinking the fly was a cockroach that ended up in the soup, or placed by a disgruntled employee. On closer inspection, however, the cockroach turned out to the famed Woolly Bugger, which a local fly shop owner admitted, "looks pretty much like a cockroach, and pretty much any other small creature in the water." How it ended up in the cafe soup is anyone's guess, but local police are interviewing a number of "fly fisherman of interest." Unfortunately, upon further investigation all the fly fisherman on the river were found to be carrying Woolly Buggers, including the chef of the cafe, and most of the police.

Man refuses to go fishing   According to the Washington Post, a man in Albuquerque, New Mexico, refused to go fishing. Reportedly, nothing was happening on the Saturday in question. The grass was mowed the night before, and there were no games on TV. His next-door neighbor simply said, "Bob, just doesn't want to fish today." When the paramedics arrived, they tried to resuscitate the man, but the man fought back the paramedics, demanding, "There's nothing wrong with me. I just don't want to go fishing today."

 

Wife kills man for dirty socks   According to the Los Angeles Times, a man returned home from a fishing trip and had a loud argument with his wife about the stink of his clothes. Claimed a neighbor, the man screamed out, "You don't wash fishing clothes. Everybody knows that's bad luck." More screaming continued. According to reports, the man stuffed the offending socks under his wife's pillow that night and then went to bed. In the morning, the police found him with a fly line wrapped around his throat, but still breakthing. During the trial, the socks were entered into evidence. When the jury smelled the socks, the wife was acquitted and the case thrown out.

May 29, 2013

Damn thief

A classical flautist and award winning fly tier stole "millions of pounds worth of exotic bird pelts from the Natural History Museum," says a popular British news site. Two things. First, let's make it clear that a flautist is a person who plays a flute (and I'll figure out that linguistic bender when I learn how to properly pronounce Pianist with out getting a second look).

Second, for us Yanks, "millions of pounds," means a million or so "dollars". All the feathers on the earth aren't going to weigh a million pounds, unless you're watching a burlesque show.

But back to the story. Why would a flute playing fly tier steal feathers? I mean, look at one of the thief's award-winning full-dress salmon fly?

 thief fly

I've seen a lot of full-dress flies, but nothing like this. I counted over 24 feathers on this fly, and that was on just one side. The same number is probably on the other side. These flies can take days to tie (compared to the few minutes for the crap I tie ). You might call this art, if you are so inclined. Or a whore fly, if you're inclined in other ways. Or damn silly if you fish woolly buggers and don't give a damn about anything you can't tie with two feathers and a dull hook.

The person of interest in this crime is one, Edwin Rist.

 

 

 

You might say he's just a common crook. A crook, yes. But not common. In fact, he's kinda goofy looking (OK, not fair, but I'm not the one who stole the bird feathers either, sport). You might call him a fly nerd. Hopefully, they'll just give him a slap on the wrist, cuz I'd hate to think what happens to fly tying flautists in prison.

However, the entire affair will raise interesting questions for some. Like, the relationship of art to life (I know, this idea has been beaten to death in this century). Or how art doesn't necessarily mean your mommy raised you right. Or the price of hubris, to say nothing about the price of some damn fine bird hides.

For others, it raises still other questions. Like, who in the hell has any time to plan a sophisticated heist and still find time for marathon ties that look more complicated than the birds whence the feathers came? Or who ties flies that have absolutely nothing to do with catching big fish (these are the presentationists talking now)? Or whoever ties quantum flies or plans elaborate heists of bird feathers needs to get a life, a real job, a girl friend, or get out more often to fish.

The greatest crime, though, are two. First, lack of entertainment value. All art must entertain, first and foremost. T. S. Elliot said this (or was it Fitzgerald, I can't remember and am too lazy to look it up right now). Second, and greater problem, is that few people understand full-dress salmon fly tyers, let alone flautists. So. you put those two thoughts together and you get a great big, "Huh?" A nerdy person stealing feathers between band practice? What?

Therefore, I've taken the liberty of tweaking the account to add appeal and give some modern reality to make the characters more culturally digestible. Here are my different story versions.

Story One: A fly tying flautist sniper, and member of special forces Seal Team Six, broke into a museum to capture a leading terrorist suspect. The FTFS team member (that's Fly Tying Flautist Sniper) took it upon himself to subdue the suspect by casting a fly the size and weight of a NATO-issue 7.62 military sniper round. The fly caught the suspect by the collar, at which point the FTFS agent beamed him on the head with his flaut, er, flute. End of story.

Story Two:  A fly tying flautist billionaire had an affair with a poor petunia-growing pianist (pronounced, uh, you know). Both decided it would be fun to break into a garden store and steal some rare petunia seeds, and maybe steal some feathers if they found any. So they stole the seeds, then went on a wild rampage across the country like a modern Bonny and Clyde, stealing feathers and precious seeds from everywhere, taxidermists, craft stores, zoos, you name it. At one point, they snuck into the back of a bar while a burlesque show was being performed and made off with hundreds (no, millions) of plumes, colorful marabous, and beautiful peacock feathers. They raced out of town, whoopin' and hollerin', getting drunk and blowing on the flaut, er, flute all night long in the badlands of Wyoming. The noise got so loud that the local police were summoned (no, the local Navy Seal Team Six were alerted).  The Seals descended upon the crazed and drunken bandits, who were getting high off petunia leaves and playing mumblepeg with the flute. The bandits didn't look so happy when twelve M4A1 assault rifles were suddenly thrust into their faces with the warning, "Drop the flute and step away from the petunias, you feather-stealing flauting bastards." The flautist failed to comply, and instead played one last song, a lullaby. This put the seal team asleep immediately, each hugging his M4A1 and having a group dream about capturing Osama Bin Laden hiding among the petunia fields. The two snuck away and stole their way to Canada, giggling about how they tricked the Seals. They opened a fly-tying and petunia shop, but soon lost their business when a band of elderly ladies broke in and threatened the shop owners with knitting needles, demanding all their silk tying thread and precious Antron and other exotic wools and synthetics for old ladies' prize-winning shawls and comforters. End of story.

Story three: A Faustian fly-tying flautist fought with his Freudian Mephistopheles at the gate of Dante's inferno flouting his flute. Satan got pissed off at all the noise at his gate and banished them all to heaven, figuring God could use a little unrest. "I don't care how evil this little feather stealing boy ends up being," Satan declared. "I'll be damned if I have to listen to his damn flaut, er, flute, for the rest of eternity." End of story.

       March 9, 2011

Fly fishing with Charlie Sheen

Enough! I've had it with the cynics and skeptics about Charlie, the professed "Rock star from Mars". People forget that he is a great outdoorsman, a fly fisherman whom I helped early on when we first met in Colorado. I think we all need to relax and chill over a man who, frankly, has a little more life than the rest of us couch potatoes.

I first met the rock star from Mars on the shores of the South Platte in southern Colorado, and we've been close friends ever sense. I was tossing an emerger fly when a saucer-shaped vehicle landed near a fairly decent run in the river.

Being not a little concerned, I did what any normal well-educated, erudite, snooty fly fisher would do. I picked up a river rock and prepared to defend myself (but not after taking note of a few olive mayfly nymphs on the underside of the rock).

The saucer door opened, a large impressive creature resembling a man stepped out onto the deck of his craft wielding what appeared to be a fishing pole, and shouted "Winning!"

I didn't know what the hell he was talking about. Did he think he just conquered the earth, which every well-educated snob like me knows requires at least a flag rammed into the ground? Did this alien bastard think he could just step into anyone's stretch of water on any planet he wanted and flail his arms shouting absurdities? I was about to bean him with my rock just on principle (I mean, maybe he had a fazor), when out jumped an attractive female companion (for an alien, that is).

"Oh, honey, I think you did win," she proclaimed. "Say that word again for me, please, please, please. Did you win, did you, did you, I know you did?"

"Oh, OK. Here it goes: Duuuuuuuhhhhhhhhh." Then the female creature patted him on what appear to be the ass end of the great male creature. They both jumped down to the shore rocks. I couldn't help but gaze in bewilderment. She was wearing hip waders made of unusual space fabric, and were way, way, way, way, way too short. In fact, the tops of waders were a full half-foot below what appeared to be three belly buttons. (I shuddered to cogitate the motherly source(s) of those multiple navels.)

I thought that perhaps that kind of clothing is OK where she came from, but this is the U. S. of A, and we have laws. Her skin was an intriguing brown olive, not unlike the river nymphs, and she wore what appeared to be bikini top, but on closer inspection with my fogging binoculars resembled more an extremely short, tight-fitting fly fishing vest that barely covered what appeared to be alien breasts.  I put the binoculars down when I realized that both were now standing five feet in front of me. I clutched my rock a little harder.

"Hello, flyfishling, I am the great Charlie Sheen, the Tsar of Mars, " he proclaimed. Looking down from his great height toward his attractive companion, he said, "And this is my wee goddess. I found her in a brothel when I flew by Venus." He continued, "Who beath you beholdern on this fairly planet yourn?"

I wasn't sure if he was drunk, was suffering einsteinian space-ship lag, was tri-polar (aliens get that, I've learned from the History channel), was poorly briefed on this planet's grammar, or was just another extraterrestrial idiot whose been getting high on uranium 235 and drawing space graffiti in grain crops across the globe.

"I am Toney," I said. "I am the, uh," I thought for a moment, then proclaimed, "The King of Earth. Welcome to the finest stretch of fly fishing water in Colorado, which, I might add, no longer has any trout in it, sport. Next time, could you please land that thing at the trail head?"

The great creature responded, "I am the great Charlie Sheen, the Tsar of Mars, and I shall fish here. How doest thou fisht in this finely water yourn, yee King of Earthdom?"

Still irritated by his inferior grammar, but wishing to avoid a potential fazor battle, I offered, "Uh, well, I use a size 16 Flav pattern, light olive with a CDC wing, emerger style. How about you?"

He motioned to his companion, who reached into the pocket of her intriguing alien vest, and pulled out a huge fly the size of a Barbie doll, and tied it to the great fly rod that the great man held. 

I asked him what the name of the fly was, and he proudly responded, "It's a Charlie Sheen." I took a picture of the fly, to document the moment.

Charlie Sheen tossed Charlie Sheen into the water, and the largest fish within three states pounced on it. I responded, "Awesome, Dude." A feeling of camaraderie came over me. It was the first time I had used Awesome and Dude in the same sentence.  Finally, here was a man who could teach me great things about life, fishing, and winning.

Then just as suddenly, the great fished snapped off the great fly, and the fly and fish were gone. The great Charlie gave out a monstrous scream that made the heavens shudder: "No, no, no," he groaned. "That fish ate my head."

He sat down on the ground and cried spasmodically, holding his great head in his hands. His companion came over and produced another Charlie Sheen fly that he could use, and gave his great ass end another pat. This perked him up immediately. He grabbed the fly and raised it toward the clouds as he shouted out with a roar that shook the hills (and scared not a few fish), "Winning!"

We fished together for a while longer, me catching nothing, and he catching more huge fish, and losing more Charlie Sheen's to the fish. But every time, his companion produced another Charlie Sheen, causing more screams of "Winning" across the hills.

Finally, he sat down and looked at me and said, "Yee has a fine fish planet yourn."

I said, "Indeed," and began to feel a little better about the events. I felt that perhaps there was a friendship here, the three-naveled goddess notwithstanding. 

An hour later, I even forget all about beaning him with my rock that I was still clutching.

 

       March 4, 2011

Sylvester Nemes, emerged but not forgotten

Sylvester, his soft hackles and I, go way back. Way, way, back. On my selves, I'm staring at his  soft hackle manifesto, The Soft-Hackled Fly. Between Nemes and GEM Skues, fly patterns took a nasty fall from the lofty heights of Halford's and Gordon's delicate dries, and into the water, deep into the water. And what did they find, lots of eager fish. And lots of eager flyfishers.

It's been said that Syl's flies are simple flies. However, in some special cases, the last thing simplicity in design is is simple. Oops, that was not a simple sentence. Let me try again. Simple designs that are efficient and elegant and truly useful to the point that they inspire a global following require the kind of deep observation, forethought, imagination, and touch of humility that open philosophic doors to the world around us, to the little fishies, and to our ARTifical flies. (Did you notice the clever CAPS?) Art mimics life mimics flies. Oops, I'm afraid this is getting even worse. Moving on . . . 

I began tying soft hackled flies some 40 years ago. Wrapping brown partridge feathers around a hook wrapped in orange silk thread, without the need for tails, weight or wings was almost too simple. The fish chased them in every county I fished. I'd even find a small, interesting feather on the ground, take it home and fasten it to hook, and caught still more fish. Or I'd wrap one around a bare hook streamside using my porta bobbin, and couldn't stop catching fish.

I thanked myself for not matching starling feathers for technically accurate flies that looked more a product of an industrial revolution. I thanked myself for not being a slave to chicken neck feathers, even though my venture into those flies produce wonderful and useful designs like an Adams, Hendricksons, Flavs, and cahils--patterns that I still carry to the stream, but rarely fish. I stopped tying these flies after the moths ate my chicken necks, when I had to ask myself, There has to be a better way, because no way am I going to buy another pair of $60 necks.

Not that I became a slave to soft hackles, neither (I guess I'm not a slave to proper grammar, either). Sylvester Nemes, like all truly great thinkers are the first to proclaim that being a slave to their own designs misses the message. Instead they would ask us to adopt their attitude toward the world, that the best thing you can do for your fishing is to pull your eyeballs out of your brain and stick them into the water to see what's going on.

What's really going on. 

And just observe without thinking too much. Put your brain on hold for a while (after all, at this point it is quite a distance from your eyeballs). Watch the real flies. Tie your patterns, and watch them fly through the water. What should they be doing. What should you be doing with your fly rod to match what you're observing. And for God's sake, don't put anything into a fly that is silly, that is stupid, that is unnecessary, that is too much about yourself and not the fish, that looks like it belongs more on the cover of a magazine than in front of fish's eye ball. It could take a lifetime to figure it out, maybe more, if you want to add up Syl's, yours, and mine. I know it's going to take longer than my lifetime, because I haven't quite figured it out.

Later in life I adopted soft-hackles attitudes to my own situation. I looked over at the Scandinavians and discovered czech nymph styles. Now, these are deep running soft hackes, with bodies of wrapped weight, plastic-shelled backs, subtle fibers for body or head, and no tails. What makes the czech nymphs unique is the lead or tungsten tape wrapped around the body. Over here in the states, we use lead or tungsten wire. Over there it is lead or tungsten tape. Why? Because a thin, well-tapered body is important to their fishing, just as it was for Sylvester. And neither of them thought too much of tails. 

Have we learned nothing from the great prioress, Dame Juliana Berners? When she wasn't slinging bait (people forget that she was also a master of bait) she was fantasizing flies that were nothing but soft hackles. She didn't think too much of tails either.  I mean, would you be putting on tails if you were tying flies with only your fingers 400 years ago?

So, in honor of Syl's legacy, I humbly christen my steelhead egg pattern with the title, Soft-Hackled Egg. Let me make it clear, however, that I hate naming flies. I've always found it a pretentious act, dirative of past greatness, the hallmark of our sinful insecurities. The . . . uh, never mind. Moving on . . .

Here are the tying steps for my Soft-hackled egg, written Nemes style: sparse.

Hook: Mustad 3906 #6. I wrap the shank in thin tungsten tape, then cover with tying thread. This creates a thin profile that is VERY heavy. Weight does not go past the thorax tie-in. Please, no beads. I know what you're thinking: "Hey, wait, that's not a 3906, you numskull." It is, but it's bent to to an Octopus style to give it a bigger bite, and it's tweaked off-plane a bit to increase hookups. I do this to all my Mustad hooks. And I learned a trick to make them as sharp as the famed sharpness of the Octopus hook--I sharpen the hook.

Thorax: Orange sparkle chenille. This is a steelhead pattern.

Hackle: Pheasant rump. Sparse. Very sparse. If you can't count the individual hackle fibers, it aint' sparse enough.

I have yet to find a species of fish that will not inhale this pattern. But that's not the point. The point is, listen to simplicity. You might find it much more difficult than you thought.

As for Syl, the clouds welcome him. Next time you're bending a line, take a moment to look toward those soft-hackled wisps of clouds above you, and think of Slyvester Nemes.

             

 

       December 26, 2010

The biggest fly on the planet . . .   

, according Stream.X, is this one.

                      

Being a full seven feet long, I wouldn't dare disagree. Now to be clear, this man isn't casting to a fish (unless he's just spotted a Komodo dragon). It's a novelty item. Nevertheless, this fly inspired me to tie the biggest fly I could to entice my nemesis, Missoula brown trout.

I didn't want to simply pinch a hook the size of re-bar and tie on a foot of syntheticbou (That's my word for all manner of long synthetic stringy stuff like flashabou). That would be easy. So what'd I do? I wound chenille and marabou around a stinger hook.

                     

The stinger is on the left (can you see it?). The eye of the second hook is on the right. The two are connected by monofilament, in case you weren't aware of the usual stinger hook setup. Then I arduously wrapped chenille with a marabou palmer over the stinger monofilament. And No, my wedding ring isn't part of the fly--not that I've never thought of that, neither. (Note to self: Must work on grammar skills for next blog.)

Now, is this a great fly I tied? No. It's crap. What's my point? I'm not sure exactly. My thinking started something like this: I needed to tie a stinger pattern so that it'd have a fighting chance of staying in a trout's mouth without purchasing a brace of new long hooks. And it had to be huge to, uh, prove I could tie a huge fly.

It performed well in the bathroom, where I test my patterns before heading to a nearby creek. Unfortunately, like most of my ingenious efforts at fly patterns, it failed miserably. The marabou collapsed like a wet mop, looking more like, well, an old wet mop.  

OK, I remembered my original point. It's OK to try to tie the biggest fly you can, but it has to perform. It isn't such a big deal if the fly doesn't cast well. Any unusually large fly will cast just fine with a few casting adjustments; that is, by using slow, open casting strokes. (Imagine casting a banana peel, and you'll get the idea).

But a big fly has to appear big to the fish. You don't want it to slim down to something that is as easily tied as a long strip of rabbit fur. I wanted to tie a fly that fishes fat to the fish and that doesn't land on the water like a fat fish. Get it? So next time, I'm going to palmer a saddle hackle from the largest bird on the planet, like an emu or Mr. Super Chicken or a feather from a Victorian hat museum--and whore my fly up good.

I will grant you this: Tying the largest fly on the planet is much easier than tying the smallest fly on the planet. I tried tying a size 32 midge. When I was done, I proudly held it up, then dropped it on the carpet, never to find it again.

Chose your poison: big fly or small fly. Either way, you probably still have work to do. 

       December 16, 2010

You have nothing to fear but fear itself

. . . and everything else. I have plenty of fear about most things in the woods. Most everything beyond my parked car, I figure, is out to kill me, if not the bears and snakes and killer bees, then the microbes who'll feast on me later--to say nothing of the shape-shifting aliens (but enough about my nightmares). So here is a list of fears and how I try to conquer them.

Water  I fear water because it'll kill you two ways, by its current and by its lack of current. Being in the middle of even small currents bothers me. I've cursed at too many slick rocks in thin currents not to learn better. And slow water harbors quicksand. OK, it's not quicksand, but I hate stepping in mud over a couple of inches deep. If it isn't yanking my leg inviting a fall, it feels suspiciously like the stuff I've seen on survival shows where Bear Grylls demonstrates how to climb/swim from quicksand using only a branch and a spare cameraman. So, why hang around the water waiting for it to kill me? Cuz the fish don't grow in trees.

Weather   I can get terribly afraid of the weather. Not all weather. After all, like any fisher, bad, pissy weather is the stuff big fish are made of. It's the weather along one particular narrow valley that gets my hackles on end. You see, this valley was carved many eons ago, and now has a damn at its headwaters. The valley looks like aliens cut it with a large fillet knife, that's how tight it is in there. You can wade across the water, but if it rises an inch, you're not going anywhere for a quite a spell. You can't climb out, you can't swim across, and the surrounding narrow woods are too cold and wet for a fire. Few fisherman dare venture upstream in this water. The fish must know this, and I know it. So I return to face my fears there, and the aliens.

Big fish   A very big fish pulled me into the water once. OK, it didn't "pull" me into the water. It forced me to run downstream where I slipped on a rock and fell in the river. There is a cost to success. Yet this big fish taught me a valuable lesson--to wit, I don't know much about catching big fish. I guess I have a fear of success, since it tends to underscore my incompetence at just the wrong time.

Cougars   All I have to say about cougars is, watch your back. When I've seen them around the neighborhood, I haven't been afraid. Seeing them meant, I guessed, that I wasn't being currently stalked or eaten by one. It's the ones I don't see that frighten me. I no longer take naps in the woods, unless my back is right up against a tall rock. It's been said that at one time in every outdoorser's life (that's the gender-neutral term for outdoorsman that I just made up), a cougar was nearby, if not stalking, checking the person out (No, I don't know the difference).

Flyfishing Ninjas   TV is right. Ninjas are everywhere. You see, they are invisible. So if you don't see one, you know they're there. They have an uncanny knack of catching all the fish near your fly, leaving you wondering, "What the hell? Where'd the fish go? There must a ninja near by."

Fly fishing Zombies   Actually, I'm not too afraid of these. You can see them coming. They do tend to scare the fish, though, because they walk right through the best holding water without thinking in order to get at my flesh. But they're stupid. You bop them on the head with your wading staff, and they'll pretty much leave you alone.

Bears    Bear spray. 'Nuff said. Actually, bear spray works on everything that wants to mess with me, including the ninjas, but not so well on the zombies. I think they consider it a spice, or something.

Wild boars   These could be really bad news. I've only seen them on TV, but everybody there says there bad news. Even Bear Grylls says there bad news, and if Bear Grylls doesn't like them, I'm sure as hell going to avoid them.

Scorpions  Actually, I'm not frightened of scorpions. I live in the part of the world where there aren't too many. But I have been looking for them. I've been turning over rocks in the nearby desert, looking. I think when I find one I'll give it the ultimate respect--I'll tie a fly pattern and look for bass. Then everybody'll know about my scorpion pattern. And I'll start a new myth about how the bass in these parts key on scorpions. Imagine the conversation at your next fly-fishing club meeting. "Dude, that's a cool crawdad pattern." "It's not a crawdad pattern. Crawdads have two pincers and a flipper tail. Scorpions have a thin tail. The bass key on them in early September, Dude." Of course, I'd be lying about September, or any month. But that's how a good myth gets started, with a lie, er, yarn.

Earthquakes   They can turn a small creek into a 1,000 foot cavern right below your feet. Avoid them.

Night time   I shouldn't fear the night so much. After all, the bigger fish come out then, and I find myself on par with the ninjas. I must admit, I love fishing at night, as long as I do it right. That is, I just sit on a spot that I know like the front of my face, and just sit and fish. I fear most the lost of battery power, or my spare light bulb not working. But if the batteries don't work, I figure I'd light a torch. I've seen Bear Grylls do this. My only problem is that I'd look a little silly carrying a torch through the woods lighting everything on fire. On the other hand, torches work great against the zombies.

Heavy flies. I've been experimenting with Czech nymphs tied the czech way, with wraps of metal tape. I fear them landing in my nose during my poor attempts at spey casting. Still Czech nymph is fascinating. Make sure you lead the fly. And no, you don't need to double-up your flies to enjoy the sport. I fear more the even heavier flies, like the one I bought with three tungsten beads and a body impregnated with granite flakes. It was heavier than a golf bar, and cast like one. It would yank your shirt off, to say nothing of what it'll do to your fly rod tip during an aggressive cast.

Spey casters   I don't like these guys. They'll show up in the smallest creeks and scare my whitefish. Though I have to admit, in tight quarters, spey casting and its numerous permutations is sometimes the only trick that'll work.

Spin casters Actually I have less fear of them than spey casters. A spin casters life is pretty much a flick and fish affair. They fish very quickly and move on. Then again, treble hooks are hideous things to get stuck with. Nevertheless, I see spin casters as flyfishers in spirit. They have a keener sense of accuracy than bait casters and level-winders. I've turned many spin casters into fly fishers, typically by not doing anything. Put a dry fly on, hand the fly rod to a spin caster, watch his expression as the fish rises, and you've hooked a fish and a flyfisher at the same time.

Oh, and a few more things I'm afraid of: the mountains that will come crashing down on me one day, the cars that are going to crash into me over my favorite fishing currents, the asteroids that are going to fall through the earth and onto my head, space debris doing the same, plagues of insects that aren't mayflies, caddis flies, stoneflies or any insect that I don't have a pattern for, life in general, death in particular.

One more thing. I've heard that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Wrong! What doesn't kill you, missed you.

 

       October 23, 2010

Flyfishing Survival Tip #1: Building a shelter

On a recent fishing trip, I nearly broke my leg in the middle of nowhere. My physical therapist said I escaped a bullet and pointed out the advantages of couch sitting and watching reality fly fishing shows (there are some?).

So, I decided to brush the dust off my childhood survival skills and see if I should learn anything new by checking out numerous survivalist websites and tuning into Man vs. Wild with Bear Grylls and other survival reality shows.

Now, all I really wanted to learn was a few of the absolute basics to get me back to the car if I had to spend the night. By "basic", I mean just that. Unfortunately, I found that discovering the basics is difficult when you're confronted with web pages of nonsense that spills over the internet from survivalist that write with the perspective that their skills are a proclamation to the coming apocalypse. But be that as it may.

Now, like most of you, my survival skills are impressively theoretical, which goes something like this: If I get lost, well, I have a fly rod in my hand and I'll eat fish (and if you're a fan of Bear Grylls, you may be thinking that you'll eat the fish raw, then go running and skipping out of the forest, travestying mighty waterfalls with somersaults, and trying not to look discouragingly at the cameramen who no doubt know less about survival summersaults).

Then you might think, I'll carve a bow and arrow, shoot some small critter, drink the river water, then build a fire and signal a Medevac helicopter as it flies over. Hopefully, there'll be a camera onboard so you can start shooting you're own fly fishing reality survival show. (It could happen.) But enough about my fantasies. Let's look at the reality of survival from the point of view of a flyfisher.

This episode of the blog will explore shelters. Future blogs will entertain other survival situations.

Lest any of you think I'm not qualified to talk about survival, I do have qualifications. I've seen many episodes of Man Vs Wild. I saw the last year's entire season of Survivorman, I saw one episode of Man, Wife, Wild last week, and I also get lost in my car on a regular basis. In reality, though, I'm not an expert in anything, so reader beware.

So, Shelters. Number one priority. Why? Because you don't want to get rained on, you don't want the wind to chill you, and, well, a shelter is the next best thing to a couch in the woods. And because shelters are the first step to making you imagine that, Hey, I'm going to live through this. (After all, what is a house but a fancy shmancy shelter, right?)

Shelters are surprisingly easy to build. The simplest one involves throwing everything you can find into a big pile, like leaves, moss, grasses, and then grovel and crawl into it like an animal. Throws some sticks and branches on top so that it doesn't all blow away. This is called a debris shelter.

Now this assumes you've got a bunch of debris  around for a shelter. It may be that you're surviving in a desert or the Amazon. In which case, don't read this blog. It'll get you killed.

The debris shelter will keep you very toasty. However, if you like things a little neater, build a lean-to. Learn the basic architectural principle of all shelters: the tripod. Take three short pole or branches, lash them all together at one end (and, No, emergency lashing material does not include your fly line. Do you know how expensive that stuff is?), then spread the other ends into a pyramid shape. That's it. With this, you can have one leg of a lean to, the other being another tripod or a tree, but not your fly rod. Or you can lean a long branch/beam from the top of the pyramid to the ground and a lean sticks across for a more organized debris shelter. Or, you can build 4 pyramids, add larger branches on top for a raised bed, or, if you have that much strength, build a tree house, buy land, build a nation, and so forth.

These are just a couple ideas, of course, Much depends on your local weather, type of forest, and so on. Where ever you're likely to find yourself, do yourself a favor: Practice building a simple shelter, crawl inside of it, drink a bear, and call it fun. You'll get an instant Daniel Boone rush of satisfaction. You might even finding yourself talking to the television when the next episode of "Bear Grylls vs. Cameramen" is aired, by muttering something like "Dude, I wouldn't build it that way. You're going to need a couple extra tripods for the cameramen."

The next episode, building a fire.

       October 8, 2010

The Invisible Hatches

Someone sent this link to a video called, "The Invisible Gorilla." Now, before you continue reading the blog, watch the video (otherwise, I'll spoil the video for you, and the blog).

(Go here if the embedded video doesn't work.)

This video has probably been around for a number of years, but it's the first time I've seen it.

What does this have to do with fly fishing? Everything, or nothing--it depends. But the next time I consider throwing a woolly bugger into a blizzard of caddis flies on the Clark Fork, I'll think again.

To be fair to myself, I'm not inclined to throw woolly buggers into any hatch, unless I'm hunting brown trout in the Blackfoot, or find myself in the middle of a sculpin hatch (that's a joke, at least I hope it is, since the last thing I want to see in my life is the hatching form of a sculpin).

Back to the video. The lesson for me is how uncomfortably close I've become to understanding not how a trout thinks, but how it doesn't think, how its reactions are no different than any other creature's, including me (Yes, I'm a creature).

Now, there are some fly fishers who'll say that in the middle of a trico hatch, for example, the better strategy is to throw a huge fly. The thinking here, is that some of the bigger fish might start chasing the smaller fish chasing the tricos. I suspect, though, that the gorilla theory is operating here as well. The big fish is simply keying on a bunch of frantic smaller fish--a "fish hatch." We flyfishers like to think, in other words, that the big fish "chose" one food form over another rather than "reacting" to what's been suddenly placed in front of their snouts. It must be a way we have of validating our sport by applying some human-like thinking, even intellectual, quality to our prey.

There. That's good enough theory to carry me another dozen years of fishing. Now if I can only find a gorilla suit while fishing. The fish'll never see me. 

 

    September 14, 2010

The season of spiders

Spiders are one of those creatures in life that, as Emily Dickinson said about snakes, make me feel zero at the bone. Unlike Dickinson's snakes, however, spiders can also fill me with intimations of great things to come. To wit, Fall fishing.

I start noticing spiders in the woods around the end of August. "Noticing," is not quite the right word. Rather, I begin to shudder at them as my face finds their webs across my August trails. Who would have thought that trails are good not only for deer, coyotes, bears, and cats, but also for the hairy and hideous arachnids? Everybody and everything needs a trail to survive, might be my lesson here (though I'm not sure what that means exactly).

Not that the fishing makes the spiders acceptable. You see, I have this theory that all spiders will kill you. Period. It's just a matter of scale. Take any small spider and grow it until it is a foot across, and it'll scare you to death, if not kill you with its sixteen-penny bite.

Back to the fishing. The relationship between fly fishing and spiders is actually meager. I mean, no one is tying spider patterns, after all. Nor is anyone going to hold a  spider like they would a mayfly or caddis to get a sense of its proportions and colors (Like I said, that's how you die). Also, arachnids aren't found in the currents like the hapless ants, hoppers and bees. After all, how does a spider fall off a sticky web accidentally? (OK, I don't know that for sure, but I dare anyone to try to find out for sure.)

Spiders say, "I'm going to glue myself to this safe little web and stick what ever comes by." Sort of like some of us humans who like to stay on our safe couches waiting for the pizza guy to arrive, only to wrap him in sticky twine to get at the pizza and garlic rolls (but enough about me).

So here is what happens.  I walk out into the backyard, next to a tree. My face and glasses get plastered with a spider web. My reactions are faster than a kung fu master who just got stung by a bee, as I swat every inch of my body and neck fending off what probably are imaginary spiders crawling toward a critical part of my veins, arteries, or nervous system. After I've bruised my body with all this flagellation, I pause and think, "Hey wait, the spiders are getting bigger this month. Time to tie a few more PMDs and cutthroat patterns and, yes, it is getting colder."

Speaking of tying during the spider season, I've heard of fly tiers who tie extremely small patterns using spider web as thread.  Maybe this can be done, I suppose, but I suspect this is just more fish stories. Spider thread en-masse (that is, a bunch of it in a web) is one thing against mosquitoes. It is an entirely different thing when used as tying thread. Besides, you never know when the spider will jump on you and bit you with their sixteen-penny fangs and kill you, like I said.

But, to every dark side there is a light side (I learned this lesson while watching Star Wars). Intellectually, I know that spiders, like mosquito-eating bats and angry school teachers, have their place in the grand scheme of things. For spiders, their webs are your little diary of what's floating around the creeks. I never hesitate to bend a neck to see what's been hatching. I've even been known to free a mayfly or two. Mayflies are just too beautiful and angelic to get whacked by the dark side.

Or maybe the only lesson here worth mentioning is this: Watch where you're walking, city boy.

    August 24, 2010

Parting notes for my college-bound daughter

Today, she leaves the nest for the University of Montana. (No, I didn't influence her decision to get schooled a half-hour from the finest trout currents in the Western states.) No matter how well you think you've raised a daughter to adjust to the world of personalities, politics and ideas, there are always a few lingering doubts. As fathers, we sometimes find ourselves fearful of the remaining critical lessons that we failed to teach.

Here are my remaining thoughts I fear I failed to make clear:

--Don't date boys who fish with woolly buggers. They aren't the kind of person that I want to meet at the Thanksgiving table. And anyone--Anyone--joining my family who talks about what he'll do with a 3x tippet will be stricken from the will.

--Flavinia, Paralepthpbia, Heptageniidae, Tricorhyodes and all other insects that are difficult to spell, let alone pronounce, is OK to imitate with a fly, but only on hooks no larger than size 14.

--Extra-fast tapers on fly lines are NOT OK. Presentation-style tapers no greater than .023 inches (possible .024) are OK, with no less than 14 inches of level taper. But we can talk about this when you get back for Thanksgiving. 

--Respect your elders. No exceptions. Except if they fly fish for carp. People who fly fish for carp are the same people who go to monster truck rallies and buy hot dogs on the side of the road.

--Always come home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Your mother and I will be sitting and waiting. I'll have all the necessary flies tied and lines greased up for searuns and Steelhead. Don't bring home any boys, except those who can tie a size 22 Tricorhyodes. I'm getting a little low on those. But if he can't distinguish between male and female Trico patterns, well, then, forget it.

--Don't let anyone tell you what to do (Except if you're fishing a size 12 olive dun mayfly pattern when clearly a size 14 emerger better matches the hatch). 

--When you get married, teach your children social skills. Better, let me teach your kids social skills by showing them how the fish talk to each other. They live in schools, too, you know.

Again, I'm sorry for missing these points. Nobody's perfect. We'll talk more about these at Christmas. Until then, think of your parents (and the fish). After all, they taught you most things you know (the parents, not the fish). The only thing larger and more plentiful than fish in the Missoula currents is the love and cheer of proud parents.

 

    August 4, 2010

Wi-Fly

Kids, these days. I can't figure out how to turn off my car's parking lights, and the battery is beginning to drain in the middle of nowhere with my daughter on a too-long overdue fly fishing trip to Montana.

I tear into the fuse box (which is an illogical place to look, I know, since the lights are stuck on, not off), and then look intelligently at random pretty colored wires under the hood (like a real man would). Then, I look directly into the lit light bulb like a doctor checking out a patient's retina. Why, I'm not sure, but this, too, seemed like an intelligent thing to do. After all, there could be something in the bulb that keeps it on, sort of like an eyelash stuck in my eye that keeps my eye open and blinking uncontrollably.

Then my daughter starts bothering me with silly questions like "Dad, what year is your car?" I tell her, and she starts pecking away on her Blackberry using silly queries like "how to turn off parking lights on a 1999 Subaru Outback." Then she announces, "Dad, did you know there is a separate parking light switch on top of the steering column for Subaru Outbacks?" "Uh, no." And there the switch appears. I never saw it before. I must of hit it by accident. I turn off the parking lights, and we're on our way.

My daughter, at an age where social skills are constantly being rehearsed and challenged at school, home and beyond, offers, "Good job, Dad." I might be a lot of bizarre things that I've chosen to ignore in my life, but I'm not a cad of a dad. So I say, "Baby, that $30 per month Blackberry fee that we pay just saved us a certain $500 tow, to say nothing about a lot of anger from you-know-who. Good job." She grins.

It should have stopped there. We're on the stream, and I'm not catching anything. Bugs fly off the water, and my daughter asks "What kind of bug is that, Dad?" "Not sure honey. It's too far away."

Then, "Dad, what river is this?" I tell her. Then I hear juncos pecking along the ground the way those birds do with their clicking sound, and I realize that the clicking is actually the Blackberry again. Doesn't she know that thing could drop in the water? After all, we might need it for another emergency, like how to turn off the check engine light when the gas cap isn't screwed on correctly.

Then I hear, "Dad, what's a pale morning dun?" She pronounces Dun like Dune, like the sci-fi movie. I turn around upstream (a dad's place is always downstream of their daughter). "Uh, Dun, honey." I smile. "Rhymes with, Fun. They're a mayfly, sweetie."

"Oh." Pause. "Do you have one?" she asks. "A what?" I ask. "A dun. The internet says we need a size 16 Dun. I've got a picture. See."

I trudge upstream to look at her blackberry, and I'm looking at an olive yellow dun. "Well, I suppose, maybe, I've got something like that. "Can I have it?" Of course, I say yes, because, well, she's my daughter, and she looks cute and grown up in her new waders. We look in my fly box together and find something that looks like the picture on the Blackberry. I tie it on. She casts. She catches a fish. I don't tell her that it isn't always this easy. I don't tell her that there could be a thousand reasons attend by a thousand theories that explain why she caught the fish other than the matching fly--but none of the theories explain her smile.

The lesson? Not sure. Always have a Wi-Fi enabled palm device with 3G speeds conforming to the IEEE 802.11 technology within reach of a mountain-top tower? Maybe. Smile at what the children teach us? Certainly.

    June 14, 2010

Twitters on the line

The right to free speech is a great thing in this country, except when it comes to Twitter. I mean, what else are we to learn from: "I'm sitting on the couch waiting for my show to start." "Oatmeal sucks." "My fingers are funny." "I just stepped in poo." So, I've thought of a few that are a bit more becoming of we high-minded flyfishers (Now, if I only had a Twitter account):

"The fish is on, then it's off. This is life."

"A size 34 chironomid IS what it is all about, except after four days of absolutely nothing."

"The bigger the fly the bigger the fish. The bigger the fish, the bigger the beer. The bigger the beer, the bigger the liar. The bigger the liar, the smaller the fish. Go figure."

"Life is like fishing because sometimes it totally sucks."

"Life is like fishing because sometimes it great, then it totally sucks."

"Three things in life are certain: Death, taxes and woolly buggers. Guess which one I want right now?"

"Brown trout are smarter than your honor student."

"Fish spelled backwards is hsif. Go figure."

"Go Fish spelled backwards is Hsif Og. This sounds like "Hissy Fog," which sounds funny."

"Who stole my computer?"

"Oatmeal still sucks."

 

    March 22, 2010

Fish hybrids on the loose

You can call it husbandry, or the science/practice/alchemy of putting two plants, animals (or humans, to be fair) together in unique ways to see something new come out of it. If you're real lucky, you'll invent a super cow that produces soy milk or, better, a latte, or a super wheat kernel that lasts a thousand years and makes an outstanding loaf of bread, or super noodles that'll make some huge industry even huger. Or maybe a super fish that outclasses other fish. And if you can get the fish in a lake, they'll come. Not the fish, the fisherman. Look at the popularity of triploids and tiger trout.

I have my own ideas of what super fish hybrids ought to be, to wit:

A Bassbow   A rainbow trout crossed with a Bass. This hybrid would have pretty strips and look cute, but has a jaw large enough to swallow my deer hair popper the size of a rat. One with a couple slashes under the jaw is a Cuttbassbow.

A Rattlefish     A catfish crossed with a rattlesnake.   This would give those noodlers something to think about before they start thrusting their fingers into a brown, stinking Oklahoma swamp.

Bassbore   My cousin crossed with a largemouth bass. Needless to say, we don't go fishing much.

Cuttcreep   An easily caught mountain fish crossed with a crack head.

Yuppieguppy   A triploid trout crossed with a suburban guppy.

Piturgeon   A pit bull crossed with a sturgeon. You do NOT want to catch this fish.

 

    February 23, 2010

Google fish

I told my daughter to buy the Blackberry. And what does she come home with?--A Google phone, the Droid. Kids, these days! Why can't they listen to the old man when he gives advice on modern telephony in a fast-paced, Wi-Fi, 3G world that is fast approaching 4G speeds?

The first thing she did was show me the stars with one of the thousands of apps that can be download on these new cell phones. This app will display a star chart showing the portion of the night sky that the phone is currently pointing at.  Now, that's interesting. As my daughter and I turned toward different parts of the sky, the star map would rotate with us. Cool. I didn't want to demystify the event by explaining to my daughter that the star app is just a simple application of GPS functionality mapped to a star grid (Like I could design such an app as easily as putting together a new salmon dry rub for the barbie.

OK. enough fun and games. After my daughter demonstrated the power of cell phone apps, I've discovered others, and have a wish list for still others not yet dreamed of . . . .

The Fish Finder app:  This app tells me where a fish bigger than two feet is holding within 70 feet of my current position on the river.

The Fisher Finder: This app tells me when a fisher better than I is approaching. This way I know when to hide so I can watch his technique.

The Beer app: This application would tell me where a group of fishers have hid their beer in the water, so I can, well, find it.

The Flavinia app: This one tells me where the nearest Flavinia hatch is happening. Then I can go out with my precious olive #16 CDC Antron wonder fly (with my Woolly Bugger backup).

The Woolly Bugger app: This one tells me where to place my Woolly Bugger, which is everywhere, which also explains why the app displays the entire earth most of the time.

The Midge app: This application tells me where and when a size 28 midge will work well, so I know what lake not to fish.

The Rock app:  This application alerts me to when a rock too slippery for my boots is underfoot. It actually worked. Once.

The CYA app: This one builds the perfect story you can give your spouse about where you've been all day long. It contains "Intellisense" algorithms and thus "learns" excuses depending on parameters entered into the application profile. For example, if you create an application profile of your self that includes your preferences like "beer," "tennis," "shrimp," "blondes"--the app will return with the perfect story you can tell your spouse, like "honey I was at the shrimp store, playing tennis, when this blonde gave me this bottle of beer for us to share." It's beta software, and a few bugs are being worked out.

 

    October 29, 2009

Rags versus the Web

Sure, the internet is a fine thing. Without it, well, you wouldn't be reading this. But there is still a place for a fine magazine. Just ask Matt Whibby, who has just launched the first edition of The Flyfish Journal.  Now, of course we'd all rather be fishing. There's no question.

But when we aren't fishing, sitting in a comfortable chair with a classy, well-appointed magazine is the next best thing to being elsewhere.

The first thing I noticed about this journal is the table of contents. Most modern glossy magazines force you to wade through pages of ads in the front of the magazine while you desperately search for the table of contents. And even then, you aren't sure if you are at the table of contents. But with The Flyfish Journal, instead of ads littering the front of the magazine, there are full page photos of just fish, flyfishers, and  destinations without any marketing blather. Just pictures. How refreshing!

Also refreshing is the book-like heft of the magazine. The thick, heavily weighted pages have an impressive weight that is going to sit nicely on any coffee table. The magazine is also a little bigger than most magazines, with a thick, printed spine. This means its going to fit on my shelves next to my books so I can easily scan past editions without them getting lost among the zillions of other fly rags that are spilling from my shelves.

I'm not sure what it is about magazines that are still appealing after all these years of eye-burning Internet browsing. For one thing, magazines articles always seem to hold more authority and better writing than what is found on the Internet. True, some writing on Web sites can be quite good, but you can be certain that the better authors are also well presented in the rags.

And one other thing, the internet doesn't travel well, especially during camping. Browsing the internet on the  go, despite the advances in wireless, is painfully geeky and seems to serve only those who like to point out the things they have that others don't. (OK, my point is that I'm too cheap to own a Blackberry.)

So sit down, take your shoes off and enjoy a good read!

    August 29, 2009

Ants in my pants

There I was, minding my own business, picking apples in the backyard, when I had to swat something crawling on my neck. Looking at a squashed insect in my hand, I noticed it was a flying ant. I'd killed it.

Then I felt bad. Who among us fly fishers don't like the flying ant? With their lovely brown winged slow-flying way, they remind me of the slow flight pattern of a mayfly, though a little clumsier for their larger size.

Flying ants. They make me think of cold, cloudy skies, sea run cutts, eagles feasting on salmon flesh, and all things stinky and festering at the end of the season. "Seasons of mists," as Keats wrote.

Other people think fly ants are flying little daemons heading toward the wood in their homes. Maybe so. To be honest, I don't know much about what the ants are up to this time of the year when they lumber on by in fly-by mode. I'm not sure I care too much, actually.

The first question a fly fisher often asks (when they aren't worrying about the wood in their homes), is what kind of fly would I tie? Now, we don't always have to tie a fly. That isn't always the last, best expression of our feelings about fly fishing (Ok, it can be). But if I had to guess at a pattern, maybe an Antron body and some CDC. Then again, just about any pattern I come up with these days has Antron and CDC. So maybe I shouldn't even try. Besides, big patterns with CDC seldom turn out well.

Nevertheless, the ants make me antsy for anadromous fish, and fattening fish everywhere. Fish that are as nervous about the end of the year as I.

    August 25, 2009

Fish pedicures

Now, where am I going to get a fly for these little guys? These little fishes called "Doctor fishes" (species name is Garra rufa) can be employed to naturally exfoliate your feet. What ever happened to loofah pads for this job?

Now, let's hope someone doesn't play a practical joke at the pedicurist by replacing the little fishes with baby piranha. That would hurt. Ha. Ha.

At least when I fish, I release the fish back into the wilds. I wouldn't think of capturing them for the purpose of enslaving them to other people's feet. That just isn't right. It might be better to gobble them up than to enforce them to a miserable enslaving. After all, feet stink, bad.

Besides, I'd need a size 52 midge to capture these little guys, and then I'd have an issue with the game warden. "Uhh, I'm going to raise them to naturally exfoliate people's feet." "Yeah, right. Tell it to the judge, boy."

That's not going to work.

    June 30, 2009

Fly fisher obituaries

I've been collecting fly fisher obituaries lately. Here are a few:

Bob "log walker" Walton. Bob was a great husband, and a great father. He loved life and he loved fishing. He loved log walking just a little too much. Float in peace.

Billy Jones   He was a good husband and a great fisher. He loved to fish. In fact, that's all he did. Fish. Fish. Fish. Now he's fishing where the fish don't bit. Bye bye, Billy.

Jimmy Barton   Big, was how he did everything. He sought the biggest fish, all over the world. He loved life. Too bad the shark loved life, too. Swim with the fish, Jimmy.

Howy houghton   Howy was a great a man and a great fisherman. He caught bigger fish than anybody, and more fish.  And he let you know it. He caught a 100 pound salmon this year, and I caught a small cod. He had the biggest boat, and the fastest boat. You're not going so fast now, are you Howy?

    June 02, 2009

Fly fishers are great lovers

I've been collecting love letters from fly fishermen and fly fisherwomen over the years (OK, not all mine). Here are some typical ones that show the depth of our romantic feelings. They also show that our priorities in life are mature and not centered around fish. Really.

Dear wife, Let me count the ways I love you. I love you more than all things on earth. I love you more than a size 8 Woolly Bugger in the mouth of a 24-inch Rocky Mountain cutthroat. I love you more the my size 18 CDC PMD pattern in the mouth of a whitefish. Truly. Love, yours, forever and forever. I hope you enjoy the flowers. I found them in a Rocky Mountain stream where I landed that 24-inch cutthroat.

Dear husband. Thanks for the flowers. They smell funny.

My dearest wife of all times, that 26 inch steelhead I caught last week, the 8 pound bass the week before, the 60 pound salmon last year (I know, I should have invited you along, sorry), the 26 inch brook trout--are nothing compared to your sweet smile every morning in camp.

Dearest husband. My first husband fished. My second husband fished. My third husband fished. My fourth husband fished. You don't fish. You like to garden. Thank you. Love you always.

Dearest wife, when I lost those three steelhead last week, you were there to help me with landing lessons. When my flies fell in the water, you helped me dry my tears. When I stepped on my fly rod, you let me buy a new one, even though you sacrificed that $800 dress I promised you could buy yourself three anniversaries ago. When you caught all those fish and I caught none, you held me and made me feel like I'm not a total idiot. Love you forever. I hope you enjoy the new fly rod (and No, those aren't the flowers I gave you last week).

Dearest darling, you are the damsel nymph of my life, the young emerger in the morning, the PMD spinner of my life, the caddis pupa in the evenings--and all other things great and really super. Enjoy the flowers. I'll be back in 8 hours.

Dearest darling of all time and forever, If I didn't need to catch steelhead, I'd catch you. If I didn't need to wrestle with the largest bass in four counties, I'd wrestle with you. If I didn't need to snag the largest brook trout in the Colorados, I'd snag you (uhh, in the Colorados). Lots of love. (PS, I hope you enjoy the flowers with the two airplane vacation tickets to Colorado). 

 

    May 26, 2009

I saw it on the radio

I mean, I saw a kid fishing using a radio-controlled boat. There are actually a number of videos of people attaching fishing line and lure to the back of a radio-controlled boat. Maybe it's been going on since hobby boats became radio controlled. Maybe the first thought a kid had after receiving such a boat at Christmas as "Hey, I bet I could stick a bass plug at the end of this and catch a fish."

His next idea was probably something like, "I bet I could stick a rubber shark's head on this and scare somebody." Sort of like the tricks I played as a kid, when I thought it was beyond cool and exceedingly anti-authority to fasten playing cards to my bicycle spokes to make motorcycle noises.

I can imagine an enforcement officer looking upon a radio-controlled fishing boat scratching his head, thinking, "Well, now, I suppose it's fishing, but I just don't see it in the regs."

Aside from the potential legal problems, there are more important big-fish issues. I mean a five pounder could drag a boat under water, and there goes Christmas. "Bobby, where's the boat I gave you for Christmas?" "Daddy, the fish done ate it." "Huh?"

I can also image myself alone on a favorite lake, in my tube, opposite the shore from where a group of kids are camping. Suddenly, I'm being buzzed by an electric boat  that got a little too far from its radio signal. A fish grabs the bass popper that is being trolled behind the electric intruder. The loud annoying sound would be one thing. My clever biot and CDC pattern being dismissed for a remotely trolled bass popper is something entirely different, and entirely unacceptable.

I don't think I could tolerate the kids yelling at me, either. "Hey mister, could you bring back our boat . . . err, and the fish?" In a float tube? With little flippers on my feel? I don't think so, boys.

Or maybe I must don't know how to have fun. Maybe I've forgotten how to be a kid. How to take, perhaps, a cool toy and turn it into a really cool toy. How to get into trouble with authority. How to . . . naaaaaah.

    May 21, 2009

The end of a material life

You can't anticipate a time like this. Or I should say, everyone at some point comes to this, as if I ought to know what ought to happen at every point in one's life, let alone one's fly-fishing life. Let me explain this bit of nonsense.

I've been tying flies for almost 30 years, and now my wife tells me I need to move my tying station to a different room. After much argument (after all, moving a tying station is not unlike a brain transplant), I acquiesced and started the painful process of digging through my mountains of fly tying materials, from almost every conceivable feather to more fur than you'll find in a forest.

After an entire fish-less weekend, I visited every piece of fly tying material, and re-bagged everything. The journey wasn't without many memories. I had to admit to myself, I've changed a thousand percent as a fly tyer since I started collecting and fashioning fly-tying materials.

One thing became obvious right away: 99 percent of the typing material I've collected will never again see the light of a creek. No more will muskrat see water. No more, beaver, bear, vole, seal, bison, and about a dozen other furs that I could no longer even identify. I mean, the big black fuzzy mess of matted hair could be sasquatch hair, for all I knew.

I've evolved (some would say, devolved) into an artificial fly tyer, with only a few exceptions. Over the years, I finally realized that Antron, for example, looks more like the natural than beaver or muskrat. My only nod to natural materials are soft hackles for tails (and the occasional wingy/leggy thorax), and CDC for wings.

This doesn't make fly tying easier, mind you. I fret even more about the how the tail is tied in (canted up or straight), how the body is formed (dubbed or looped), how the rib is tied in (counter-wound or not), how the thorax is formed, how the wings are turned this way or that, how the thorax is picked out, how the proportions mimic the actual insect, and dozens of other infinitesimal tweaks that add up to a lifetime of change (if not improvement).

I have also developed very little tolerance for bullshit. A piece of material has to have a reason to be on my hook, or it's not on the hook. The fish has to give a damn, or I don't give a damn. For example, the Antron needs to have just the amount of colors to be effective; I'm not one to blend four types of olive for the right shade. Light olive, dark olive--and that's it (OK, I throw a little orange in from time to time). And there is absolutely no reason to finish off a hook with head cement. I haven't done this in years. Flies don't come apart at the head. They come apart at the tail (or they get lost in tress and fish), yet no one puts cement there.

Do all the fly tying improvements make the difference? Probably less than I like to think. Being more observant has probably been the number one thing that has improved the fishing. Fishing the runs and riffles more intelligently is another thing I've learned. I no longer fish the heads of riffles and runs first, for example. Added stealth, is another thing. We all hear about stealth, but for me it has been a long journey to learn patience, to learn how to work the creeks slowly, how to move quickly over unproductive water, without taking my eye off unproductive water (you never know).

What the passage of time really points out is the degree to which I care less about the size and number of fish (Or maybe I'm just paying the price for not fishing enough in my lifetime). I'm more interested now in particular species or particular colors, like the change a cutthroat shows over different surfaces, or how the back of a brook trout reminds me of the Milky Way.

Change is a good thing, I suppose, as long as it in small enough doses to digest.

 

    May 07, 2009

Fly fishing personals

"Young fly tier looking for the ideal fly tying woman."  I'm young, energetic, and can tie a full-dressed salmon fly like nobody's business. Woman must be willing to tolerate long hours of inactivity per week while I finish this month's fly. Must be able to add tags and tips to hooks, as needed. Hook sharpening skills a plus.

"Young woman looking for a man who doesn't fish."    I've looked everywhere and can't find one. I need someone to mow the lawn, fix the roof, buy some groceries, rake the leaves, walk the dog, help raise a child, make some money, say hello once in a while. I'll even take a golfer because at least they don't smell like they crawled out from under a rock.

"Need a woman who doesn't mind."    Woman must be willing to mow the lawn, fix the roof, buy some groceries, rake the leaves, walk the dog, raise a child, make all the money, doesn't mind me not saying hello once in a while. I know there are some. Also, must be willing to carry golf clubs. Hook sharpening skills a plus.

"Need woman who can clean a fish." 'Nuff said.

"Need a woman who can tie a size 28 emerger."   My eyes are getting a little more fatigued, and those 28's aren't getting any easier. Woman must be able to tie at a rate of 12 flies per hour. She must also be able to tolerate absences of 13 months per year.

"Need a man who doesn't do the following."  I need a man who doesn't fish, golf, swim, run, play basketball, soccer, baseball, and doesn't watch any of the above on TV. Still looking.

"Need a woman who does the following."  Fish, golf, swim, run, play basketball, soccer, baseball, and watches all of the above on TV. Still looking.

"Fun, vivacious woman seeking fun-loving man, who doesn't fish." I need a man who either golfs too much, sleeps too long, eats too much, makes little money, drinks too much, or cavorts with others--but doesn't fish.

 

     April 30, 2009

They blow up squirrels, don't they

Let me make it clear at the start, I've killed fish. It's been a while, but I'm guilty. If karma is something I need to worry about it, I hate to think what animal or other lowlife I'm going to turn into in my next life. I hope it isn't a squirrel, because they blow them up in Spokane with those squirrel-killing devices call a Rodenator Pro.

Even though I used to kill fish, to be fair to myself, I haven't blown up any. Others have blown up fish, but they are scum-bag fisherman who need a good spanking, or a visit by the Rodenator Pro.

I go both ways with the practice of blowing up squirrels. The Pros: there Are a bunch of them, more than you can shake a stick at. And they enjoy digging holes in the ground that are unsightly. The Cons: they're so cute. I grew up with those little critters. If they were snakes, no one would give a damn. Yet snakes have a very useful purpose on this earth (and not just for killing the squirrels).

If they were bats, no one would care because bats turn people into vampires. But bats also serve a very important function by eating the mosquitoes. The only function a squirrel serves is to, well, be cute, furry little critters for the kiddies to giggle at and chase. They don't do anything useful like kill bugs or other pests. And they don't make noise like their idiotic cousin the chipmunk that wakes me up in the morning.

They are like bunnies, whose only fault is laying all those eggs that I have to step on once a year in the spring. (Someday, I'll find out why they do that, and then maybe I'll ask them to stop doing that.)

Yet, blowing up a squirrel is serious bad karma. You could get reincarnated into a squirrel who then gets . . . well, blowed up again in a vicious cycle of Karma-madness. This is complicated stuff, and I don't expect flyfishers to fully understand all this. I do, and that's why I'm not going to blow up no squirrels, no how, no way. Good squirrels. Nice little squirrels.

What can you do to save the squirrels (assuming you do want to save the squirrels)? Maybe design a few t-shirts with "Just say NO to Rodenator Pro." or "Squirrels are too cute to blow up." "Blow up terrorists, not squirrels."

Or maybe create some yard signs to support your cause, like: "Rodentaror Free Zone." Or "Squirrels are for hugging, not blowing up."

Or maybe just go fishing.

 

     April 17, 2009

Internet acronyms for flyfishers

Internet surfers and teenagers aren't the only people in a hurry. We flyfishers also need to speed up the communication across our fly forums, e-mail, social network sites, and when using our palm devices on the stream (it happens). So here is a list of internet acronyms to speed up (and encrypt) your communications while cruising the social networks at home or on the stream.

WIW   "Water In Waders." Use this when you're using your palm device in the middle of the Madison and you don't want to admit to others that you have wading issues.   

WBOL   "Woolly Bugger On Line."  Use this when you don't want to admit to others nearby that you didn't catch those 18-inch greenbacks with a size 16 Flavinia.

FIE    "Fly In Ear."  Use this when you've been twittering too much using your cell phone while fishing a back eddy and suddenly forgot how to cast.

WNBMTAFBOMOFR  "Wife Nearby, Must Talk About Favorite Book Or Movie Or Favorite Recipe." Use this when at home chatting with your 1,000 fishing buddies on Facebook.

LOL  "Lots of Luck." Use this when while fishing in a swarm of baetis and all you have is a Woolly Bugger.

BRB  "Broke Rod Badly." 'Nuff said.

TPDIS   "Threw palm device in stream." Often used right after BRB.

BD  "Blackberry died." How this message was sent is not clear.

TTYL  "Talking to my leader." Used when you've lost a big fish on a fresh 6x leader.

TTFN  "Talking to fish now." Used when you've caught the biggest fish of your life, and you have no one to boast to . . . except the fish.

POS  "Parent over shoulder." Use this when you're trying to get your 1,000,000 Facebook friends together on a fishing trip, when you should be doing homework (or mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, cleaning the gutters, taking out the garbage, or a thousand other things to fill in the moments between fishing trips).

IDK   "I don't know." Use this when your light olive size 20 baetis doesn't match the thousands of light olive size 20 baetis flying all over your head.

TFK "The fish knows." Use when you've presented the finest CDC fly to the pickiest fish in three states, and you suspect that the fish are smart enough to get online and warn his other fish friends.

WOS "Wife over shoulder." Used when you're planning the next fishing trip with your Facebook friends, and your wife is thinking you're looking for a good deal on theatre tickets. Often followed by WNBMTAFBOMOFR.

LMWAO  "Laugh my wet *ss off."  Use this when you've tripped in the stream for the third that afternoon, and you didn't even have a beer yet.

RLH  "Running like hell." Used when you've fallen in the creek, lost your gear, and a Department of Fish and Wildlife officer happens by. Or you see a cougar. Or extraterrestrials. Sasquatch. Multiple applications.

LFF  "Lost fingers fishing."   Used by twittering noodlers in Oklahoma.

BROF  "Broke rod on fish."  Used when your Facebook buddies are trying to prove who caught the bigger fish.

FIW  "Fly in waders." Use this when your steelhead fly is flying a little too low on the backcast.

FIT   "Fly in tree." Use this when you forget to look behind you when you setup for a cast in a new location.

FIWGG  "Fly in wife, Gotta go." Use this when the fishing is slow, and your wife isn't."

FIF  "Fly in finger." Use this when you discover that you need more instruction on your roll-casting skills.

FIP  Use this when you find yourself fishing in a creek that runs through a nudist camp.

 

     March 29, 2009

In your ear with electric bass bugs

Bob likes his electronics, a little too much. Whenever I see him, he has his Bluetooth wireless headset in his ear, with its little blue flashing beacon to announce to the world: Yeah, I got one of these and you don't. He shouldn't have brought it along in my boat, however. He bent over the water to release a fish, and the headset fell from his ear and into the water.

The water was pretty clear, and wouldn't you know, it was still flashing it's little blue flash. Blink blink blink.

Unfortunately, not only do cell-and-land-based landlubbers (let's call them cellubbers) like blue-flashing things. So did the bass who promptly swallowed it. After all, wireless ear pieces are about the size of a typical bass plug. Hell, if you put a hook on it, you'd probably be breaking a fishing regulation somewhere.

I suppose, though, that if you can put rattlers in bass bugs and call that fishing, you might as well have something blinking as well. And if you gave your cell a call, you might bring in all the bass in a pond, fascinated by all the new possibilities of wireless communication beyond their own lateral lines along their sides.

If only Bob were smart enough to have attached a hook and leader to it. But alas, he isn't that smart. He just looked dumbly down at the place where the flashing blue light once was.

Maybe he'll twitter his adventures--the fish, that is, not the man.

 

     March 20, 2009

Extreme helicopting noodlers

I don't care how you go about it. If you're catching fish with your bare hands, you're a noodler. Now, technically noodling is a what real men do to catch catfish using their bare hands in the filthy swamps of Oklahoma and nearby states (please excuse the inaccuracies). But it seems to me that if you're catching fish with your bare hands under any circumstance, you're a-noodling (whether you're a real man or not).

If you're catching salmon by picking spawned-up ones, your noodling, too. If you're like Bear Grylls (the TV survivalist) catching trout by reaching down and pressing them against an overhang in order to grab and eat them so that you and your cameramen can survive, you're noodling, too.

And if you're jumping from a helicopter to land and wrestle with marlin, you're a noodler, as seen in this recent video of the famous extreme aussie catching fish from a helicopter.

This reminds me of another video of a man catching sturgeon and then jumping in the water wrestling with the ancient fish before releasing it. (Sorry, I can't find the video.)

At least the helicopter and sturgeon noodlers are releasing their fish, unlike the real men in Oklahoma, or Bear Grylls. What is it about catching animals with your bare hands that bring out the real man within? Is it a type of validation of the essence of our sports, which says something like: If a fish pole  an extension of self, why not remove the pole and get right to the self. I don't know about you, but I'd rather keep a pole between myself and some of the larger denizens of the watery underworld.

Let's call the recent airborne noodling movement as noodliopting or helinoodling or noodlehoptering. Or maybe call it just damn silly and immature. You want to impress me with real barehandedness? Go jump on a shark, helinoodler.

You could call it fish harassment. Or fish embarrassment. But looking above it all, poking a Colorado trout with a piece of iron as small as a gnat can't be that good either, if you're paying attention to the karma of it all.

     March 10, 2009

What failure feels like

The last day of the winter steely season. I decided to perform the ultimate test: a 4-weight in a 50 mile-an-hour gale. Just me, the wind, a steely cold anadromous river, and hammerheads the size of a Buick. This, the ideal validating moment on a steelhead water the color of cold asphalt.

OK, that was a lie. What really happened was this: I stepped on my nine-weight 10 minutes before leaving the house, and my six-weight was at my brother's house. And there was my precious 4-weight all ready with the cutest little Antron and CDC emerger pattern, which was just the ticket for my Idaho cutthroat, but as worthless as old shoes for steelhead.

When I got to the river, the water was up and the wind took on a fierce, Dante quality (Yes, I'm leveraging my undergraduate education).

I did manage to get the tiny line out there, between hurricane-like gusts. And at one moment I could actually tell myself I was fishing.

The result: I caught next to nothing. I say, Next to nothing, because I nearly fell into the freezing currents when I slipped on a dead salmon carcass. Maybe, technically speaking, if the fish and the man one could rise above it all, the fish caught me. Still, nothing says Failure more clearly than slipping on a

dead fish.

 

     March 3, 2009

Dream Journal entry #14: The Clever Fish

They can't fool me anymore. I've seen it all. Oh, they'll try to fool me with their latest concoction: A new feather here, a new ribbing there, the latest tail that looks like the last tail, a piece of new shiny material that looks like the same stuff my dad laughed at (well, until he disappeared one dark night behind a rock).

I even figured out how to log on to computers. Don't see what the big deal is. Some bozo dropped one in the water last weekend. I got all my buddies on Facebook now, . . . well, the ones that didn't get eaten last season.

I'm not even going to chase that little bug there. Stupid fly that I saw on the internet last night (you got to know your enemy). It doesn't even swim like a real bug. Now, that one over there IS a real bug. Right by that rock.  Nice and juicy. Yum. Whoops. That didn't taste right. . . .

     February 12, 2009

Darwin's birthday

Charles Darwin would have made a good flyfisher. As patient as a heron. Observant (In comparison, I'm as observant as a sack of hammers.) Really really smart (When was the last time you observed a couple of dissimilar events and produced a paradigm that millions of scientist march to?) Sported a long beard. (Note to self: grow a long beard.) All of these things are the stuff we flyfishers fancy as the stuff we're made of. (Note to self: work on basic grammar skills.)

I can imagine him next to me as I discuss the nuances of the sport. Me: "It's a mayfly pattern." Him: "I've studied a billion mayflies, and it doesn't look like any of them." Me: "It's impressionistic." Him: "Meaning: It's a bad impression." Me: "Uhh . . . well?" Smart people, really really smart people, have a way of seeing around, through, under, and over all the bullshit.

Next, I'd be holding a rainbow trout in my fingers, telling him it's a Redside variety from Oregon. He'd tell me that in reality it came from a trout-like fish on the top of a mountain that existed 10 million years ago when it was under the sea, when mayflies were as big as herons, and flyfishers (like myself, presumably) dragged their knuckles and fly reels on the ground.

Still, scientist, I always imagine, are deep down jolly people, always fascinated by everything. Powerful listeners, most of them. Sometimes, too powerful for most people. Still, eager to drink a beer with you (though they might talk your ear off telling you of the history of beer and the evolution of domestic hops).

Nevertheless, Darwin walks in my life. Welcomed. I've felt him when I was released a lovely little whitefish. A poor man's bonefish. A Galapagos guppy. A species under-appreciated except by those who choose to see underneath the obvious.

Happy birthday, Charles!

     February 8, 2009

Fly fishing is like life

OK. That was silly. Actually, flyfishing is better than life. Well, better than the usual stuff we call life, which usually means things like watching television, shoveling snow, and earning enough money to carry you through to your next fishing trip.

Sitting on a wet slippery log, rotating my shoulder to relax its sore rotator cuff (Yes, we're athletes, sort of), freezing because of leaking waders and zero degree socks (and that's in Celsius, which is even colder than Fahrenheit)--I had an occasion to think about where I'd rather be at that moment. Nowhere.

Even the food was lousy--an energy bar to carry me from breakfast to dinner. And a lousy energy bar at that, gooey, bland peanut butter tasting, crappy energy bar. And where would I rather be? Nowhere.

Even the fishing was suspect. I had my usual success. Nutin. I lost five flies, and not for trying to fish intelligently. I couldn't get the weight right, and I kept hitting bottom much too frequently. I even got one fly stuck in my finger. But not too worry. I big yank, a little blood, and I was fishing again. And where would I rather be? Nowhere.

Then I began to shake because I brought the wrong clothes. I stupidly brought one layer less than I should have. The wind came up and shook my arms until I felt an ache in my back as I cast an overweight fly 80 feet when 30 would have done. My feet shook. My teeth shook. Even my brain began to shake.

And where would I rather be? . . . where I instantly headed. Toward the car and certain warmth, toward the last of the morning coffee, toward some good music coming out of my scratch car speakers, and in time for my daughter's school athletic meet, where I watch her be much more successful than I've been in three years of metalheading in the Northwest. She wins her meet, I give her a hug, she asks how the fishing was, I say I didn't catch anything, she looks sad, I feel stupid for one second, then proud as 100 steelheaders with 10,000 fish in the next.

Life is lived between the fish.

     January 15, 2009

Time Off

Maybe it is some of this century's angst. Maybe it's some angst left over from the last century. Maybe you have some malaise (like a mental fungus) that's been growing in you silently, making you wonder Who you are, What you are, Where you came from, Where you are going. Maybe it's your age. Maybe you can't handle life's growing obligations. . . . Or maybe it's been a while since you've gone fishing.

Not getting your fishing in creeps up on you slowly. Maybe the weather was bad for a while (a lousy excuse for a flyfisher). Maybe the weather was too good, causing a heightened level of demands on your time from your family and friends (who evidently don't understand the deep genetic demands that river currents have on flyfishers).

In my case, what also didn't help were three feet of snow blocking all roads from my house to anything civilized, let alone wilderness-like.  So like Huck Finn, despite the adversity, I lit out for the territory of things with fins.

My success was as you would expect. Nutin. I charged out as far as ice-free roads would take me--about 10 miles. When I got to my lake, I discovered something I've never seen on this or any lake within 50 miles of my house. Ice.

But a man has to fish. So I rigged up the 4-weight, which I decided was my ice line, and cast onto the ice, just to see what would happen. I half imagined a fish bumping up into the ice to chase my fly, in an attempt, like mine, to break through the season, both of us asking What the hell?

At least I was getting some casting in. Now, I suppose I could have thrown a large rock onto the ice to break it up, then cast into the little pieces of water. After all, isn't this how they do it in December on the Great Lakes.  (OK, they use gas-powered augers and small huts dragged onto the ice with snow mobiles, but that's not the point.) But breaking through ice, I figured, would've required a rock of such a size that I wouldn't have been able to throw it past five feet.

All of us have experienced something like this. How many times have we lit out for the water, knowing that there was only brown water to cast a fly onto. I mean, we've all read about how to fish in impossibly dirty water. But does it ever work. No. And it's not that the fish aren't there. They are there. They have a much better idea of how to live in adversity than the toughest human beings since Cro-Magnon began wielding their ancient fly rods. 

It could be worse. I could be home watching a competitive fly fishing reality show with silly asides as one flyfishers berates the other flyfishers with quips like, "He has the brains of a woolly bugger" and, "He wouldn't know a baetis from a gnat." 

But we got to get out, if only to look at ice and scratch our heads.

     December 25, 2008

A Steelheader's Christmas

Presents are all nice and good. The caroling is all nice and good. But after all the presents are opened, after all the songs are sun, after all the wrapping paper is stuffed into the recycling bin, after all the kids become engrossed in their toys and have forgotten completely about you (who paid for it all)--it is time to do what you do best: stare out the window and ask yourself "Do you feel lucky?"

Well, do you? Maybe this is THE day. The last three years were just bad luck. There has to be big fish in the that current some day, and maybe this is the day. This could be the day that fish bigger than dreams ascend the rivers. The day you justify the cost of all that nice fishing gear. Christmas. The day Christ was born. The day steelhead run.

Don't be an idiot. You'll come home freezing with no fish in hand, you're kids staring at you wondering where the extra batteries are, you're wife wondering why you didn't shovel the snow before you left.

Tomorrow is for steelhead. Today is for when you make your kids want to be around you.

 

     December 12, 2008

World's smallest insect

It is hard keeping up with our friend, Science. Now we're made aware of a .2 mm insect called a fairy-fly wasp. That's Point 2 millimeter. That's like really small. That means the insect is .008 inches, which is the diameter of a 3x tippet. You'd need a size 164 hook to match this bug. Maybe smaller. Try smashing the bard on that hook. Go ahead, try.

But let's be fair. After all, those paddle legs look like CDC to me. Add a little Antron, and you might be able to hook up with a brook trout. If you think about it, something must want to eat a fly like this. All flies get eaten by something, don't they? I mean, it's not like they are at the top of their own food chain just because they consider themselves too small to get eaten. Now, it's possible to defend yourself by being too big, like an elephant. But a tiny wasp can't hide from an errant foot stomping.

But you know how we flyfishers approach problems like this: we pontificate on patterns. And the smaller, the better. At least in terms of bragging rights. "Yeah, I got him on a size 320 uber mini fairy midge, female." Puhleeeeeze!

     December 2, 2008

T. S. Eliot wasn't a steelheader

Eliot was almost right. April is the cruelest month only if you're a whacked-out fly fisher who can't stand the fact that winter steelhead will be ending way too soon. A normal person would take winter as the cruelest month, and spring as not half-bad. I kid. I know nothing about T. S. Eliot. But I do know a few things about winter steelheading.

I also kid because I love approaching winter. I'd like to say that I like winter fishing because I don't like the crowds, but any steelheader worthy of his nine-weight knows that winter steelheading is sometimes more crowded than summer steelheading. In fact, a freezing sunny winter day could put dozens of people on my favorite stretches. They must all revel in the camaraderie. Or maybe the winter days at home bring families a little too close for comfort, and something must give--such as the flyfisher who must lite out for the territory of the stream. This is not always true, however, as evidenced by whole families that sometimes show up on my winter stretches. Go figure.

Or maybe the alternative is too hard to bear, such as watching your leaf-filled  gutter fill up with water? Such as shoveling the snow. Such as changing the oil in the lawn mower. Such as doing the dozen other things you were going to leave for winter when you had nothing better to do--and now have something better to do.

Oh well. Let me save this flog posting with my rewrite of  T. S. Eliot's Wasteland, from the point of view of a steelheader:

April is the cruelest month, breeding
steelhead out of the freezing pebbles, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull rocks with tattered flies.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried energy bars.
Summer surprised us, coming over the seven-eleven.
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, back into the seven-eleven,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
(whatever the hell that means, but probably has little to do with fishing.)
And when we were children, staying at the fishing guides,
My cousin's, he took me out on a Mackenzie,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down the river we went.
In the rivers, there you feel free.
I tie flies, much of the night, and go fish in the winter.

 

     November 1, 2008

The longest insect

Our friend, Science, has just discovered the longest insect, the "Walking Stick". I don't know why I find this disturbing. I just finished tying a half dozen San Juan worms, and now I have this insect to contend with at the vice. 

                                 

And you know how we flyfishers are wired: we are always on a quest to discover the next cool pattern, lest someone beat us to it and give it an (R). I hate those guys. "Yeah, I put on a 6-inch Walking Stick emerger, red butt, cause you know the females are more red. The Wonder Walker (R) I call it. Wanna buy one?"

I don't think I'm going to find a CDC solution for this one. Maybe I'll have to break apart some chopsticks for the legs, and some pipe cleaner wires. Some of my first flies where just a pipe cleaner wire wrapped around a hook, so maybe I'm onto something. Now, what a fish thinks of all this is another question. I suspect that any fish worth its fins will just look at such a fly and say to itself, "Hmm, that's a stick," and then go on to harass a more reasonable bug.

     October 18, 2008

Filthy flyfisherman: The wife responds

I shouldn't have let my wife near my computer, but she demanded a response to my last blog on filthy fishing socks. So here she goes:

OK, so when the husband told me he was going to blog about stinky socks, I couldn't let that pass without adding my own two cents. As any self-respecting fishing wife/girlfriend knows, men's fishing socks don't just get stinky, they get downright funky odoriffic! My husband's have even been known to grow fur.

Why is this, you might ask. It's because they don't change their socks, just like they don't change their pants, shirts and sometimes even their unmentionables while on a fishing trip. And the most amazing thing is they don't even notice the stench! Sometimes after a fishing trip I have to wait weeks before I can even stand to ride in his car again.

Last week the husband was gone on a 5 day trip (Hurray! We've been married long enough that I count down the days until his next trip. Besides the more he gets away to fish, the more often I can go wine tasting with the sisters). Anyway, much to my surprise on the 4th night he called to say that he had a slight problem, his fishing socks were smelly, in fact, they were too smelly to be in his tent with him and too smelly to leave in the car. Well I was so blown away that he finally noticed, that they must've been really be ripe. "Just throw them away and wear clean ones tomorrow," I said.

"Throw them away?" he shouted over the phone. "I can't do that, I didn't bring any others and besides, you don't throw away perfectly good socks!"

"You left for 5 days and only brought one pair of fishing socks?' I asked, incredulously. Though I don't know why I was surprised. After 18 years of marriage to the man, I'd learned to sneak into his gear an extra pair of the unmentionables, but didn't he know to wear clean socks each day? Didn't he realize where athlete's foot and other disgusting fungi came from? Who wears fishing socks for 5 days? Hadn't he heard me nagging over the years every time he put his feet back into dirty socks? Didn't he wonder when I'd shove him away and say, "Ew" your feet stink, go wash them? Ask any woman going on a camping/fishing trip how many pairs of socks she's taking and I guarantee she'll tell you at least one pair for each day she's gone and probably 2 extra for good measure, just in case.

Needless to say, he wore the same dirty socks again. When he got home, I told him this time he had to wash his own socks. There was no way I was going to touch them, let alone put them in the washing machine, even with my dirty carwash towels. Well, he's been home for a week and can you guess where his fishing socks are? Still sitting in the garage, in the same double wrapped plastic bag where he put them, soaking wet, straight from the river 6 days ago.

Definitely time for the garbage.

--end of wife's blog. I'm so pulling the battery out of my laptop.

     October 01, 2008

Filthy fly fisherman

Parents, don't let your children grow up to be fly fishers. At least teach them the fundamentals of bacteria avoidance. Yes, I caught big beautiful cutthroat in the wilds of Idaho. Some pushing 20 inches. Antron and CDC--what a combination of fly materials! And at what a price--unspeakable filth.

After five days charging up and down the creeks, my one pair of fishing socks never had a chance to fully dry each night. On the third day, I noticed that they began to stiffen up. And on the fourth day, I gave them a whiff. I still have a neck strain from jerking my head away from the smell of those 4-day socks that made household ammonia smell like tulips. Naturally, being a man, I wore them for one more day. After all, I was camping and fishing, and when you're camping and fishing, your priorities don't include cleaning socks.

When I got home, I handed my socks to my wife as a joke. She screamed. Bad joke.

I tried to explain the priorities in fishing, but she wasn't having any part of that either.

I then explained that I couldn't wash the socks because I had an obligation to donate them to science. They were so foul, I figured, that that a new species of life may have been born during my fishing trip. I also quickly calculated the monetary gain from people traveling from all parts to see the filthiest socks on earth--just like they would for the largest ball of twine, the biggest pair of shoes, the smallest person in the world, the smallest horse, or the smallest/weirdest/biggest/craziest/silliest thing in our Ripley's believe-it-or-not look at reality these days.

She refused to be amused. So I told her I'd rinse them out. She suggested a more cruel fate for them, either heaving or burning. My choice.

But, you know, ask any flyfisher: you just can't throw out perfectly good fishing socks.

     September 16, 2008

First Fog

The first fog of the year is special. I wake up, and gray has fallen. Suddenly, I have images of steelhead in cold rivers, dissipated crowds (except for other fogolytes like me), crisp, cold dry weather, longer nights for longer fishing, morning camp coffee, apples on the tree ripening.

Oh, and big fish. Not the giddy fish of spring. Not the soft and small fish of summer. Not the no fish of winter. Autumn fish. Fish startled by the pending winter gloom, getting big, big and bigger. Why more people don't fish at this time is beyond me. It probably has something to do with the interference of the business world and their summer vacations with family recreational needs that don't always involve fish.  It's possible.

Fog also warns you. There's a chance of storms, trees blocking roads on the wrong side, apples falling on your head, goblins. You never know. Fog can upset your sense of reality to the point that you look a little more carefully around river logs as you scramble over and under them. You never know. The goblin could be a bear, a moose, a sasquatch. I saw one once, in the fog, though it could have been a stump or a very tall hairy fellow flyfisher. In truth, the only thing you really have to fear is doing something stupid like starting the fog season wearing summer clothes.

I'm sorry. I'm being silly. I can't help it. The first fog was this morning, and I'm beginning a week long fish trip tomorrow. We'll see what the fog scares up out of the river.

     August 31, 2008

Where big fish tread

This fall is going to be different. I'm going to throw my well-weighted stone nymph in the fastest deepest white water I can find. Now, I've done this throughout my life. but typically the fast, white water was usually the safe side of the really fast ugly white stuff, the sort of stuff that makes you ask, Maybe I shouldn't have thrown out my spinning reel, Wonderrod, and two ounce Daredevil.

Besides, I've always been sheepish about losing my flies. And those stone fly patterns are some of my most prized ones, not because they are more lovely than my olive silk and CDC PMD patterns, but because they take so damn long to tie. I went down, deep and dirty, with my stoner patterns (odd phrase) a few weeks ago, and paid dearly for it.

This next trip, though, I'm doing to get those stone patterns down to the devil, and see what I scare up. And when I catch that big fish, I am so going to blog it--assuming people are still blogging in the next century.

     August 24, 2008

Fear

I spoke of this before. We grow up knowing that the chances of getting hurt in the woods are small. The chances of getting eaten by a cougar are even smaller. The chances of getting bumped off a rock by a water buffalo, still smaller. The chances of getting hit by a falling satellite, minuscule. (Yet pieces of space debris kill people every year.)

However (and that's a big however), the laws of probability cannot be disputed. If you multiply all these little improbabilities over a life span of fishing, insignificant events become much more significant.  Just ask insurance companies. Statistics are insidious that way. The chance of you getting hurt are small each and every day, but multiplied together, this means you're going to get hurt.

Suddenly that innocent slippery log you're walking over takes on new meaning. Suddenly, that cougar that never smelled you before, smells you. Suddenly, that bear looks up from its berry binge to see you presenting that delicate little ant to an eddy. Suddenly that water buffalo that exists on another continent shows up in Montana (well, maybe not).

Now when your young, you don't think of these things. But when you get older, it makes you think twice about taking that wonderful rifle-side nap that I used to take as a kid.

Yes, I know real men who've been in the woods a lot grow a little fearless, even at the sight of a few bears and moose. Me? I get shaker every day I'm out there. Either I'm a coward (always a possibility), or I'm all too aware of nature's inclination not to give a damn whether I live or die. In fact, I suspect nature would rather see me dead, if for no other reason than to feed all the other critters that, in the larger scheme of things, have no less right to live than I.

The reason I've been thinking (OK, worrying) about all this is I've been very lucky so far. I haven't gotten hurt while flyfishing in nearly 35 years of the sport. This either means I'm due, or it means I don't take enough chances to begin with. In other words, maybe I should be putting my life at risk more often in order to advance as a flyfisher. Or not. This is all very complicated.

Of this I'm certain:  I don't want to get eaten by a cougar or bumped around by a water buffalo--no matter what good it might do to my character.

     July 15, 2008

A war in the woods

I wasn't catching fish that day. Neither were they. I suspect, however, that they were more successful as predators that day than I. Paintballers. In my fishing woods, no less.

I knew something was wrong when the birds stopped singing. Being a flyfisher, I tend to be aware of such things, especially when the fish aren't moving and I therefore have nothing better to be aware of.

Plus, I'm a bit afraid of the woods to begin with. For all the nice flowers, birds, and potential meditative meanderings that are out there, they are also an equal number of bears, cougars and, suddenly, little paint balls that can poke an eye out, to say nothing of what they can do my nifty new vest.

At least I saw them before they saw me. I was walking over land toward another spot river bend, when I froze. Like a scene from Lord of the Rings (or Lost or Survivor), the woods started to move in force. Being an exceptional predator, I froze and pretended to be a tree (I know, that was clever of me). This worked for a whole second as the commandos moved toward me in search, no doubt, of the opposing army. When they were about 30 feet away, they froze to. "Uhh, hi," one said. "Uhh, hi, yourself," I said. Then I offered, "You boys having fun out here?"

"Fun" may not have been the right word. After all, kids playing Rambo don't like to think they are having fun, I suspected. They are having an adventure, an experience, an encounter, but not fun. The leader said, "Uh, yeah, sure."

Well, I assumed he was the leader. They all looked about the same, with impressive shields of plastic, camo paint on their faces that match their clothing (at least they weren't clashing), sniper-like hats that I've seen on the History channel, and pneumatic assault riffles with cylinders of lovely colored balls. if they didn't look so silly, they'd might've looked a little Impressive, even intimidating,

To be fair, I probably looked a little silly from where they were standing, what with my bright green vest, waders and fishing hat that my wife tells should only be worn near water and nowhere near the mall or any place civilized and miles from any of her friends and family.

And it might be argued that we were in the woods doing the same thing. Acting as predators and, like I, dressed for the part, with equipment to match their skills. Though I suspect they've done a few more pushups than I.

The other soldiers looked around the woods in a confused manner, much like I was, I suspected. Then we parted ways, back to our own games. I never heard them again.

Leaving the woods, the only signs I saw was the occasional red spot on  a few trees and rocks and one near a bird's nest (those guys). Maybe the spots have been there all along, or I dismissed them as flowers, fungus, or some other piece of background vegetation.

I don't want to sound dismissive. After all, there are other things we have in common. We practice catch and release (well, I'm certain I do). We don't have bards on our projectiles.

And the beer probably tastes the same.

     June 29, 2008

Match the hook

Maybe I'm cheap. Or lazy. But because I need only a  few big and long flies for the large stonefly nymphs, smaller sculpins and other fish fry, I just can't justify buying boxes of long hooks in different sizes and shapes. I mean, I can afford it. I have a day job. But it's the principle of the thing.

And I'll be damned if I'm going to buy some hook the exact shape of an invertebrate's backbone (OK, they don't have backbones). So what I like to do is take a size 2 Mustad 3906 and bend it to my shape (well, not "my" shape).

The technique is fairly straightforward. Using two needle-nose pliers, grab the hook behind the bard with one pliers. Grab just above this point with the other pliers, and bend the hook point up until the gap is considerably reduced to, say, a size 6 hook. Then begin straightening the original bend of the hook until the shank straightens and begins to look . . . well,  nymph like. The only trick is getting the gap nice and narrow in order to maximize the length of the hook. With a little practice, the entire bending process takes very little time.

Below are three hooks: a size 2 3906 unbent hook, the same hook bent to the shape I want for a large stone fly or small sculpin shape (which now is about the equivalent of a 4x long size 6 hook), and a large Antron pheasant nymph I ended up tying.

             

Oh, and now for the secret X-factor: I like putting a slight side bend into the rear quarter of the hook, for extra insurance against the fly slipping out of a trout's mouth.

Who should want to bend their hooks like this? If you're a guide or a commercial tier, obviously you don't want to take the extra trouble to bend your own hooks when its much easier and cost effective to buy a few hundred hooks for your clients' and customers' needs.

But for those who simply want a complete fly box for those special fly-matching emergencies, you might want to consider bending your own. I mean, why buy a hundred or so hooks when you'll likely to need only a few flies? Plus, with all the different shaped bugs and small fish out there, I'd need to buy a few dozen styles of large and long hooks to match everything big and long that I might want to tie.

Why Mustad 3906 hooks? Like most other flyfishers, I grew up with these, and started using size 2 (the largest one in this style) on Steelhead flies. I just love the classic shape of the hook, and ended up using it on everything. Plus, the wire is easier to bend than thicker-wired hooks, like the nail-like 34007 (the famous Bill McMillan hook). I call my hook the Mustad 3906LX (long with x-factor).

In general, the final reason is that I like to mess with stuff. I love to change everything I own. Actually, I'm not alone here. Lots of people don't feel they own something until they put their signature on it by changing it. And if the change doesn't work out, at least something is learned that was worth the effort.

     June 15, 2008

You know you're a fisher when you aren't fishing

It used to be that when I saw a big fish in a small creek that allowed no way to land it or play it, I'd cast anyway. We're talking about a fish over, say, 18 inches. If I hooked-up, naturally the fish would jet downstream and be off in a few moments because the terrain made it impossible to follow more than ten feet. Of course, I'd feel pretty stupid losing a nice fish, a nice fly, a bunch of tippet--to say nothing about my sense of humor.

Or maybe the creek had one of those mucky bottoms that I prefer not to step in. (I have a fear of muck. It pulls at my knees and ankles, and can cause me to trip in the water. Besides, I saw on a Bear Grylls wilderness survivor show last week just how dangerous muck can be. Just ask a dinosaur.)

What I'm trying to say is, you can get to a point in your fishing where the best strategy is to sit down and realize you got no strategy. You can sit this one out, walk on to more strategic water,  or try rethinking a few things.

In this particular case, I didn't even put a fly in the water when I saw the large brown trout showing its back in weeds and muck impossible to float a line and fly. So I got on my belly and snuck up until my head parted the tall grass leaves until I was peering at the slow currents. Quite frankly, I was more concerned about getting up and close with a snake, who'd probably stare back at me with a, Who the hell are you and What the hell are you doing down here?

I dragged the tip of my fly rod behind me, and pulled it forward slowly until the tip was even with my head. Then I pulled the fly out inch by inch, which, as some of you may know who get obsessed about small creek fishing, is no easy task. In a case like this, you need to have the leader rolled up on the reel and the fly hooked on the tip top. Then when in position on your belly, you gently work the fly and a foot or two tippet out with your fingers.

Standard operating procedure for near-trout experiences.

Then like a Ninja (though skills can be leveraged here) I very slowly worked a few feet of the rod out and began dangling the Antron and CDC fly over the water, with enough desiccant to float a battleship (wait . . . they already float). Did I mention that I had cut the hook off. Sorry. You can't play this game with a working hook, or you'll be back at the start, chasing a losing battle. Beside, if you catch a small trout this way, you'd have to back out of position and ruin all hope of interesting a large trout.

When everything was in place, I let the wind grab the fly and dangle it above the suspect fish's liar, letting it dance with the wind on the water like a caddis fly. After a few moments my mysterious brown creature rose from the depths and took the fly on the surface and dove back down--except that the fly popped out, as designed. I kept doing this until the big brown stopped rising. Then I had fun with some smaller bows, who were much more willing to jump higher than the brown, even with a fly that was getting a little water-logged and slimmed. The brown didn't seem too willing to jump out of the water, but the bows, I learned seemed quite happy to jump 6 inches out of the water. One almost got the fly at 8 inches.

I'm not sure it is fly fishing. In fact, without a functioning hook, I'm not sure it is fishing at all. It is more like trout Olympics. And it is more fun than a barrel of monkeys (note to self: work on more consistent metaphors).

     May 20, 2008

More fiction from the Lake

Just when you thought reality was safe from fiction, along comes another story of mine. This time, I explore everyone's fear: Things that go bump in the night during a fly fishing campout along a secluded little lake with a fishing buddy and The Others. OK, maybe that's not everyone's fear. And I apologize for the reference to "Lost", the TV show. I just threw that in to improve the Google ratings. I'll never do that again. (Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, how to get rich, how to make money, how to be sexy in a river, how to get rich fly fishing, Brad Pitt, Hanna Montana)

Read away

    May 15, 2008

I hate fly tying

Well, OK, I don't hate it. In fact, I'll have to admit, it is getting easier over the past few dozen years. I've finally weaned myself off of traditional  materials. It used to be all about muskrat and expensive neck hackles. It all started when I discovered that moths had eaten up my $60 dollar hackles reserved for my Adams. I just couldn't buy another neck, so I began exploring other materials, and landed upon Antron-like dubbing, CDC, and desiccant floatants--like most everybody else.

At about this time, I was exploring the essential aspects of a fly that I need to work into a pattern--again, like everyone else.  This started when I was listening to a music artist say that what's important to him is to play only the essential notes in a song, and forget the rest. This pretty much sums up my attitude toward fly tying, and just about everything else.

So now, I fret over the shape of the fly, and how well the materials move in the water. Fortunately, Antron fibers move as well in water as my old partridge hackle (though I will still use soft hackles on some flies). And I tend to fret about the color of they fly, mixing different Antron shades for the perfect olive, but I also suspect that it is far too difficult to get this right. I mean, every time I hold up a natural PMD to the sky, I'm amazed by the qualities of the color and light that I could never capture. So I also tend toward two shades, one light olive, one dark olive. I think I just contradicted myself, but that happens too.

The real complexity is in the application of materials. Each year I learn new ways to apply dubbing, attach a wing, a tail. It never ends (again, like most people). Currently, I'm into canting tails upward, a trick I learned from A. K. Best. I'm also learning to tie nymph bodies using dubbing loops. Occasionally, I'll fool around with floss over orange or yellow or olive thread patterns, something I've adopted from miracle nymph patterns. Tied with copper rib, they are the coolest flies as the copper begins to green up through oxidizing.

The point is, I don't hate fly tying. I'm just aware of its demands if you want to continue to grow in the sport. Having fun in this sport often requires stretching yourself, which leads to better experiences (and sometimes fish), which leads to growing you in some other way. Which often leads to the kind of great insights that get replaced by next years great insights. Then the pattern repeats.

The other thing that bothers me about fly tying is the fact that no two flies are alike. It's not that I can't tie two flies consistently. The point is that my fingers are always apply new tricks, and the materials are constantly finding new ways to tie themselves, it seems at times. And I also can't tie two flies consistently to save my life. This is why I have a day job.

    May 10, 2008

Why Fly Fishing

Why Fly FishingWhy Indeed? I sometimes find myself in the difficult position of explaining to non-fly fishers the subtle side of our fair sport. But I'm afraid I often fail at a good explanation. I'd probably get fewer dumb stares if I could stop fumbling with a "flyfishing is like life" approach. This DVD does a much better job. It's' a pleasure to see Joan Wulff cast in it. And its fun to  listen to a rare John Gierach interview as he does what he does best, philosophize wryly about how this elusive sport brings us back to the water time after time--whether the fishing is good or lousy.

Read my review.

    April 23, 2008

What floats your boat

I love fly fishing from a kayak. I love the distance I can travel, and the fact then when all hell breaks lose from the heavens, I can get home. I've been terribly frightened in a float tube in such weather, but still love my float tube for its precise positional control. Now apparently, you can have both. Just ask John Zimmerlee and his electric kayaking creation called a Stream Dancer. For you techno-fishers out there, the Stream Dancer is, according to John, propelled by "electric motors with pulse width modulation speed controllers to vary the speed and rotation direction of the augers." I'm not sure what that means, but I like the sound of it.

                                   The Stream Dancer

What it might mean for the rest of us who must suffer with paddle and flippers is that you can get anywhere quick in this boat, up to 5 knots, according to the developer. For us landlubbers, that is like, well, a good clip in a parking garage. And once you get there, you'll be able to turn circles and go back and forth using only two foot paddle controls, for that precise control while keeping both hands on your fly rod and line. You can even stand in it (don't stand in it). And with all the storage, you can pack a lunch that would put a float tuber's energy bar to shame.

Any boy does it catch fish. OK, it doesn't catch fish. Hooks with fur, feathers, and other things real and artificial catch fish. Good presentations catch fish. A high barometric pressure catches fish (or is it a low pressure?). A full moon catches fish (or is it no moon?). Patience catches fish. But when you need to get there quickly in order to practice all of the above, and maneuver like a heron once you get there, you can't beat a Stream Dancer.

    April 13, 2008

Blog until you drop

In the Times, while drinking my coffee (sorry, bad grammar, must work on my grammar), I came across an article about a couple bloggers dying from . . . blogging. As the story goes, they overworked themselves by the 24/7/365 act of staying current with events and the advertising dollars that chase them.

I suspect that the blogging wasn't the issue, though. People have been overworking themselves into a grave ever since early man began chasing down his dinner by running through the woods for days on end, only to find nothing and come home to a lonely cave with his young naked family staring at him pitifully with a "What, no Mastodon?"

How does this relate to fly fishing? One thing about fly fishing is that it is fairly difficult to blog too much and still get enough fishing in to have something to blog about. Though many are trying.

Fly fishers are getting rich by fly-blogging. I, for one, am about One million dollars short of my million dollar goal to make a million dollars, though I've started puting adds on my site (tasteful relevant ones on one side of the window, and not plastered all over the place until you can't tell add copy from content). Am I getting stressed out? Not yet, though my lack of really big fish has been a concern of mine lately. But this is nothing worth blogging about.

    March 26, 2008

March Madness on VERSUS Country

Not getting too exciting about Spring Break this year (after all, high school is a distant memory), I might look into the next interesting thing, the Big Fish March Madness tournament on VERSUS, In this case, viewers, not experts, get to logon and vote for the best of the bad fish by March 27. Then the winners are announced after that on the Versus channel.

How am I planning to win? Easy, I'll enter the biggest baddest fish. For me, that's going to be a sperm whale. They got big mouths, and eat giant squids. Imagine the lure I'll need to catch one, let alone a good fly. Oh, wait, they're a mammal. Hey, wait, Mahi Mahi is on the list of species you can vote for, and they're a dolphin, which is a mammal. (Ha, I fooled you. "Dolphin," as applied to Mahi Mahi, is different than true dolphins, which Are mammals. It's confusing, sort of like calling a rainbow trout a salmon, or a Pterodactyl a bird, or a donkey a horse, or my cousin, Bib, a decent human being.)

OK, then, how about that creature from the Black Lagoon. He has big fish-like scales. Oh, sorry, that's fictional, I think. How about an alligator. Now, THAT's a bad fish. Shoot, it's a lizard. Snapping turtle? Jelly fish? Hmm. This game is more difficult than I thought. Check out the action on the VERSUS site. Log in, vote away, and fish on.

Somehow, I don't think viewers are going to vote for the brook trout I caught last September. It was huge because it was 8 inches long, and 4 inches longer than the little cutts it was devouring. Huge, because it was caught in a creek two feet across. Almost big enough in my mind for a Tiger Woods body pump.

The point is, a "big" fish is sometimes relative. Sometimes it depends on your situation, sort of like voting for my uncle Bernard, who has a face like a fish (just don't tell him that or he'll chase you with a fence post).

Anyway, I'll be tuning in to VERSUS to see what's up. After all, its still too cold to catch my own big fish.

    March 07, 2008

Baetis, again

On the one hand, I don't want to be one of those flyfishers who has to wax on about the virtues of this and that insect. Me? I know enough about insects to get me by. I'll learn the common insects from various web sites, look at some pictures (Troutnut.com is fantastic for this), and grab some muskrat, rabbit or Antron to cook up my impression of the bug.

But sitting on a rock in a suburban stream during a cold march day, I paused my boredom when a dinky baetis rose up in the way only a mayfly can--like it wasn't in an particular hurry to rise up for anything or anybody. For a short while, I thought it might be another lousy midge. But looking at its unique flight pattern, I recognized its single spiraling nature, that delicate struggle it displays as it yoyos around the cold air currents. All other insects seem to buzz around, or flit around, or flop around, or skittle around--all motions that aren't particularly interesting or suggestive.

Maybe the difference is that all these insects have mouths, and thus have a need to eat and buzz around. But the mayfly has no mouth, and therefore doesn't' eat, and therefore has no particular reason to fly anywhere. Therefore, it flies aimless up and down in graceful circles, as if it were about to forget how to fly. As if they wanted to say hello to me, except for the fact that they don't have mouths.

Well, I guess they need to breed, too. But I'm not a scientist, nor am I one of those flyfishers. And obviously, I suddenly have lots of time on my hands--until Spring.

    February  29, 2008

The end of the chill

Tomorrow, this river closes. They all do, until late Spring. As I reel in the final cast, a single mayfly rises. Baetis. A better fisher than I would have promptly slipped on a sliver of a tippet, an appropriate fly, and may have found some success. Myself, I just enjoy the mayfly as a consolation for my lack of success this winter, and as a harbinger of Spring bugging fever.

Walking back to my car, I notice the single bud on a tree. Each year I try to see if I catch a tree bud just before it buds, just before it decides to split a cell into the new year. Actually, by the time you tell yourself that a tree bud is budding, a thousand cells, hell, a million, a billion, have probably already split. I'm not sure if this particular bud is budding, or if it is, like me, near frozen. Note to self; I'm not sure why, but I should pay attention more to such things.

Now, despite the temperature, the mayfly's cells are raging. The kind of nuclear fire that can push a little insect into metamorphosis during this three-month chill is enough in its import to drive oceans and worlds apart. That's right. The Big Bang, a little mayfly--it's all the same. What this says about the cold weather's effect on the cells in my brain, I'm not certain. The point is, well, I'm not sure what the point is, but I do know that budding trees and cold little insects insite me enough to look forward to warm fingers in Spring.

    February  06, 2008

Crowing Over Eagles

Four hours north of me guided eagle floats are being offered. $700, and all the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you can throw down. To see bald eagles? A half hour north of me, they are as plentiful as crows, sailing along the anadromous avenues of the Northwest.

In fact, I had to look more closely to see if some of the juveniles weren't just gigantic crows that decided that rotting salmon and all those Omega-3 fatty acids were just the ticket to growing as big as a Buick. But their sound gives them away, that wailing fingernails-on-blackboard sound, like that creature from Predator. Well . . . nothing like that. But it is the kind of squeal you don't want around your head if you get too near a nest.

My river this day was a thin one as steelhead rivers go, and I was in my usual zone--an existential Nothing. That's a pretentious way of saying, No Fish, No How, No Way. Damnit. Note to self: until I start catching fish, stop using big words I don't understand. The saving moment was a river beautifully thin, with weedy cobblestones a perfect softball size. Actually, they remind me more of curling rocks, to pick a more appropriate metaphor for a cold river.

As I peered through the cold fog at the shore with a half  dozen eagles picking at their delicious meal, I couldn't help but think more about the eagle floats up north. One thing I'll have to admit--I know little about eagles. The eagle guide up north could talk my ear off about nesting habitat and other bird matters, and I might have walked away from such a trip a wiser man. Then again, I tend to venture alone on most nature adventures, and as a result often arrive at fairly naive observations about animals.

Like, Bald eagles like to eat a lot. Bald eagles are big. They are very black and very white. When they fly close overhead, I can hear the whoosh of wind under their wings. They build large nests in tall trees. And why do they have a white head? Does it blend in with the sky to better make them appear smaller? Also, they are a little frightening. And they don't frighten easily. At least not over me. I may not know a lot about them, but I've seen hundreds of them up very close and personal--and for very little gas and money.

As one flew toward me, I raised my hands to see if I could steer it one way or the other. This works with some large birds. (It also works, don't ask how, with most other things, like cars, cows, and people.) But the eagle, as proud as a silver dollar, just glided over, no doubt sizing me up as unimportant--maybe saying to itself "Go ahead--old man with stick--trip on a rock, and I'll eat your eyes out."

    January  25, 2008

Fly Fishing as Art

Some time ago I ran across a gear fisherman who was watching my fly casting. "Fly casting--now that's a real art,"  he exclaimed. I get a lot of this. I thanked him, somewhat reluctantly, not knowing what else to say. But later on I had to gather my muse and think about art.

Now, anyone who casts a fly realizes that there is about as much similarity between art and fly casting as there is between opera and singing in the shower. (Ok, that was a weird analogy, but I think I made my point.)

Real art is more like what Rod Crossman does. You may have seen his art illuminating numerous flyfishing and other magazines through the years. Here is one of his latest, which he was kind enough to send to me:

This particular piece is titled "Crystal Creek," and like a lot art that should do something for you, does this for me: It tells me that I need to work less and fish more often. Well, to be fair, not fish more often. But fish less and sit back more. Sit back and enjoy the moment. It also reminds me that I don't need to work as hard at my fishing to be fishing well. I just need to show up at about the hour of the evening that captured this artist's imagination, and wait for the fish to tell me when to start getting busy. Or, maybe the point of the picture is that I don't need to get busy. Or, maybe the point of art is that there are as many points to art as there are viewers, and a real artists doesn't need insists on a particular notion that must be understood. I suppose. But what the hell, I don't know much about art. I fish.

So that's my theory of art. Now, thirty years ago, I would have had a lot more to say about art (and a lot of other things as well). I could have used works like "Expressionism," "Representationalism," "Functionalism,"  "Formalism," "Institutionalism." Don't be impressed. I just googled "theory of art," and came up with the list. My point is, that in none of these theories is there any mention of whether the art makes me want to go out and do something, or approach something that I wouldn't have otherwise done. I call this the So What theory. Or SoWhatalism. There, I invented a theory, and if it doesn't help me catch more fish, maybe it'll help me enjoy the process more.

Visit Rod Crossman's site and to see what else you can learn.

    January  19, 2008

Flyfishing celebrities

What do Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie, Hannah Montana and flyfishing have in common? Absolutely nothing. I just mentioned them to increase the Google hits. Now, strategizing meagerly like this would make even more sense if I had some advertising on this web site. But I have a very good reason why I don't advertise: I don't know how. Note to self: Investigate ways to make millions of dollars advertising about flyfishing.

But while I have your attention, let's see what connections I can draw. Two of the above women were married to a guy who starred in a famous movie about flyfishing, who incidentally likes women with A's and J's in their names (am I the only one who discovered this connection?). Another one of these women has a name that recalls a state famous for flyfishing. There. It's all about the connections. And one of these women knows someone who saw someone who read about someone who knows Kevin Bacon. Amazing.

In addition, all of these celebrities are people I would like to meet while flyfishing. All would look great casting a fly rod. All would look fantastic wearing fishing waders, to say nothing about how they'd look with flippers and float tubes hugging them. And don't get me started about how'd they look sporting a designer fishing vest.

Now, let me make one thing clear: I'm happily married to a woman who lets me fish all the time and doesn't even turn an eye toward me when I say I want to go fishing next weekend, the same woman who occasionally fishes with me, and catches fish. She even tied a fly once. Never mind that it looked suspiciously like an earring. it still caught a big fish. Note to self: Check all of her jewelry for other ideas I could use fishing.

So, what is the point of this blog entry? I have no idea. But if I had some ads at this point, maybe I could buy a few more energy bars for my next steelhead trip.

I promise something useful for my next blog: art and flyfishing.

    January  01, 2008

Flyfishing resolutions for the new year

I've decided to change it up this year. No more mister average flyfisher for me. All new casts, all new flies, all new attitudes--that's my plan. Here are my resolutions for the new year:

One: Tie smaller flies. I'm going start with size 20 baetis, followed by size 32 midges. Then I'm going to get a new eyeglass prescription, followed by a microscope (probably followed by Woolly Buggers).

Two: Get better at presentation. I'm thinking of performing an interpretive dance while casting. Lord knows, nothing else has been working.

Three: Stop lying to fishermen about the fishing--unless they start lying first.

Four: Tie larger flies, just in case resolution one isn't working out. Maybe I'll come up with a Lefty's Deceiver for small streams, size 4/0, that's "four ought".

Five: Be nicer to bait fishermen. Naaaaaa. Well, OK. Maybe a little. I once hurt a fish by being too harsh when I tried to release the hook. I also ate a fish once that I caught on a fly. There, you have it. Karma had better not be anything other than an Eastern myth, or I'm screwed.

Six: Try to find activities that are more important than fishing--or save this resolution for the following year.

Seven: Read old books. Like the bible. (It could help. Saint Peter was a fisher, after all). Or maybe re-read Dame Juliana Berners (again the biblical connection). Lord knows, I'm not learning any more from the plethora of magazine gibberish I read these days about the act of flyfishing. Besides, I sometimes wonder if  the great Dame said it best the first time, anyway.

Eight: Fish more often. "Nuff said.

    December  25, 2007

Dead fish

December is the cruelest month. Sorry again, for the Eliot stuff. I caught hundreds of salmon last weekend. Hundreds. These fish are so near to dying that they don't realize I am the Great Hunter. Someone walking tall and waving a big stick to be feared--with a license to fish. Well . . .  I didn't actually catch anything, but I bumped into hundreds.

You know how older people sometimes walk into things? OK, that wasn't fair. After all, I bump into things all the time. Just ask my wife: whenever I walk down the halls of a shopping mall, my feet trip all over themselves, and I nearly kill myself navigating something as simple as an escalator. I once tripped on an escalator, and it took me half hour to fall down (sorry, a Demetri Martin joke).

My point is that spawned out salmon have lost most of their marbles and then go around bumping into things, including my legs while fishing. I'll be on my usual steelhead adventure and doing what I do best when I fish for steelies (that is, catch nothing, and getting colder), when a chum the size of a Buick swims between my legs. Then  I look around and  see thousands of dead salmon in various states of decay, and a hundred more milling about. I walk toward one and touch its back with the tip of my rod. It moseys on for about ten feet than stops. So I walk up to it and poke it again, and it moseys another ten feet. Then I step forward again and felt one of the more disgusting feelings you can have in this sport--the feeling of my felt soles digging into a dead salmon. It's all fun and games, until you step on a dead fish.

    December  05, 2007

December fishing

December is the cruelest month. Breeding steely fish out of the dead water. Sorry. My butchering of T. S. Eliot couldn't be helped. I'm not really looking forward to next weeks start of my steelhead season. I rarely catch anything, accept a peek at the snowy mountains. This year, I think I'm going to try something different. I'm not sure what. Actually, I say this every year about this time--xomething different. Here's my new strategy . . .

Strategy one: Tie simpler flies. Put lots of red on the fly, and some florescent green. And pink. Maybe a few pieces of shoe laces, and hair from my dog. Cause it really doesn't matter a whit. And in general, don't worry about the fly. instead, worry about the . . . well, I'm not sure what I should worry about, or if I should worry at all.

Strategy Two: Get the fly deeper. Or maybe get it a little higher. Fish the head of the run more. Maybe the middle. Maybe the tail. Fish the seams. Maybe wade deeper. Or stay closer to shore. Not sure.

Strategy Three: Read a good book on steelheading. Or maybe improve my google search skills, like "How to catch steelhead, right now." "How to catch steelhead if you're a complete idiot." "Catch steelhead if you never plan on catching steelhead, or never will." Thank God Google doesn't judge the queries. I mean, I can accept Google pointing out my spelling errors in my queries. But I'll be using another search engine if it returns something like "You get no search hits because you're an idiot." Not that I'd dispute this. I just don't want to be reminded.

Strategy Four: Forget about steelhead and catch whitefish instead. They are in the same water, are kinda big, and can definitely save a steelhead-less day. Maybe catch some Dollies, too. They hang around salmon and steelhead. And you can boast about them, unlike whitefish.

Strategy Five: Wear warmer clothing. I froze last year. It could help catch fish. Lord knows, I've tried everything else. Maybe get some of those hand warmers. Bring something better to eat, while I'm at it. I'm tired of energy bars. Energy bars taste like Snicker bars that have never gone on a date.

Strategy Six:  Watch the Ouzels. They are curious little folks, dipping ever so daintily to dry themselves off after chasing insects under the water. They also dive down to retrieve salmon eggs. I bet you didn't know that. I saw one do this repeatedly. What does this say about steelhead fishing--not a damn thing, except that when nothing else is happening, I can still find amusement.

I hope this helps. Oh, and put a few back.

    October  26, 2007

The final fly

Some things about this sport irritates me so. I tie up a hundred flies for an upcoming trip, and then the very last fly I tie is always the one I'm going to put on the tippet for the trip in. I didn't mention that my fly rod travels in my car fully loaded. And by implication, I don't always follow the rule that the ideal flyfisher waits until he is on the stream before putting on the appropriate fly for the conditions that day. Oh well . . . .

So, what is it about this final fly? The first one hundred flies were fairly well tied, with lots of clever turns of thread and materials and tails cocked just so.

But the final fly has those final intuitive touches, such as only a few hackle fibers, not the twelve you get from a full turn of hackle. And only three or so strands of Antron in the tail, not a dozen or so as on the other flies I tied. (And, Yes, the fish I chase can count, which explains my frequent lack of success.) Maybe the body is dubbed a little thinner or with a bit more rust in the mix, or whatever. Or maybe I dubbed it with longer strands of Antron so that, when picked out, it looks more like a caddis energer/nymph/stuck bug. Sort of like baking four apple pies for a big dinner, but baking the final one for yourself with those extra special touches that only you will appreciate: extra cinnamon, extra butter, thicker crust, chilled next to an open window and not in the fridge. That sort of thing.

Does it make a difference? Hard to say. This particular fly, a sparse caddis orange/rust nymph pattern of primarily Antron and rabbit, stayed on the tippet for three days. OK, I did swap out a few experimental baetis patterns at some point, but my final fly caught fish during the entire trip, and I like to think it was because of the special final touches (probably not, but you like to think . . . ). I didn't even lose the fly. It stayed on all trip long (with the occasional baetis) inspiring me, taunting me, like a siren call, validating myself as a great flyfisher (again, probably not, but you like to think so sometimes).

Such a respite from the usual scenario: a wonderfully new fly that fails miserably, but shouldn't. Sometimes, the fish are just smarter, I suspect. I don't what kind of fish you are catching, but the ones I often launch a fly toward apparently are on the internet, sending messages back and forth like IOW ("idiot on the water") and DENN ("Don't Eat Nymphs Now").

So what is it about the final fly that makes if different? Why can't I tie all my flies like the final fly? For that matter, why can't I swing a golf club like I do the final one on the driving range? Why can't I putt my golf disc on the course like I can in my back yard? Life is full of triteful mysteries like these. But that's what we live for--little mysteries the feed our little theories and fantasies.

    September 1, 2007

Fly fishing reality shows

You know it's bound to happen. Let's see. How about a group of flyfishers driving trucks over the ice in Northern Canada. Hmmm. How about two teams of flyfishers left on a deserted island surviving from one challenge to another, voting the jerks off as readily as they vote off the nice people (those, in other words, who might win the popularity vote at the end). Another Hmmm. Or teams of two flyfishers racing across the planet fishing and accumulating points toward a final million dollar prize. Hmmm, hmmmm, hmmm. Or maybe just a couple of yahoo flyfishers with cams, lost in the Amazon. Naah.

Actually, we have already started seeing this sort of thing--Flyfishing contests that stress human drama, attitudes, asides where we learn that the only person who is bigger than the jerk talked about, is the the jerk actually talking. When you think about it, it's the jerks that make all reality shows work. The hell with the nice guy. There's no money in them. I imagine the producer/director/camera guy (are these all the same people?) saying. So, how much do you hate him/her/the fish/your fly/his fly? Now, I exaggerate a little here. After all, we flyfishers generally speaking are a good crowd of people, with the usual exceptions. And any competition felt, is generally well accepted and good-natured, with the occasional exception. And anyone out-of-line, usually isn't around for the next trip. I guess in a sense, they get voted off.

Nevertheless, if the person in front of the lens isn't cooperating (because he or she is normal) then there are always the dirty tricks the producer/director/camera man has. "Bob says you couldn't catch a fish in aquarium. He also says you couldn't catch an alligator with a chicken tied to a rope. So what do you think of that?" I think the producer's strategy is to try to bring out the jerk within. In some religions, this is called original jerkness.

After all, when you think about it, we all harbor ill fillings about lots of people at one time or another. (Don't we, or is it just me?) And these producers are being paid to tap into this.  And we're all too willing to oblige. That's not to say we are all bad. Actually, I suspect, most of us are quite good. We're just vulnerable.

So the next time someone sticks a camera in your face and tries to ferret out a negative comment toward your fishing buddy who is throwing woolly buggers in a spring creek that is giving birth to a lovely trico hatch, just say, "Actually, I admire his imagination and perseverance. Lord knows I'm not catching anything in this hatch." And if someone's casting is hitting the water too hard, just say you admire his or hers grasshopper presentation. And if the producer/director/camera guy doesn't like that, remind them that there is also a jerk behind the lens.

    August 15, 2007

Fly fishing fortune cookies

After an entire life of reading fortune cookies saying the same thing time after time, and after realizing after reading them that, no, I didn't get rich, I didn't experience a great change in my life, I didn't meet a famous person, I didn't meet a person who would change my life forever, I didn't overcome hardships that easily, I didn't meet a new love (and I didn't actually need one, thank you), and I'm not an especially outgoing and fun-loving person--I decided new fortune cookies were in order, namely:

You are on outgoing and fun-loving person, while fishing.

You are about to catch a fish bigger than your leg.

The fish you catch that is bigger than your leg will eat your leg.

You will encounter a mayfly hatch as big as a snow storm.

You are about to meet a beautiful woman, while fishing.

You are about to meet a most rugged man, while fishing.

You are about to come across a large sum of money, while fishing.

You will get rich while doing anything else but fish.

You will be able to cast a fly across the mississippi.

You will win the lottery with the numbers 23 14 7 34 21 12.

Only idiots fish with flies smaller than 16.

Fish with woolly buggers.

You will get eaten by a big fish.

You find beauty in ordinary things. Do not lose this ability. If you do, go fishing.

You will win the lottery tomorrow; then you'll catch no more fish.

    June 29, 2007

Ants ain't antsy today

Recently, I decided I needed to take a closer look into imitating ants. Why? I'm not sure. I've always had a few in my fly box, but I haven't fished an ant pattern in years.  I read somewhere that there is 10 times the amount of protein in an ant than in a mayfly or caddis nymph. I'm not sure I believe this, however. I've also heard that ants outnumber stream insects by a factor of a million. I do believe this, so I figureed it was time to look into ants some more.

I'm also not sure I believe other theories of trout and ant behavior. For example, toward the end of summer, trout get a little desperate for food. Because there are fewer and smaller mayflies around, because stoneflies are over, and for other reasons known apparently only to a fish, trout get a little more opportunistic and start considering grasshoppers and ants. It's sort of like saying that if there isn't any steak around, then the only thing left to eat is a hamburger. I think flyfishers are way too willing to apply human logic to a bug's brain. Besides, the more I turn over rocks, the more I realize that fish have plenty to eat all year long.

But my point is . . . well, I'm not too sure what my point is. But what I'm wondering is, are there more ants crawling around during one time of the year than another? Now, when ants take to the wing, that's one thing. But other than this, I don't see more ants hanging or crawling around at different times of the year. But I strongly suspect that I'm simply not observant enough.

Putting this issue aside for the moment, I started contriving an ant pattern. Naturally, I started worrying about the proportions of body parts. One authority said that the abdomen is 40 percent of the body length, and the head is 25 percent. So I did what any flyfisher would do, I started looking for a sample.  I roamed around the backyard looking for an ant, and wouldn't you know, I couldn't find a single one. Not even around the house. Apparently, you only find ants when you don't want to see them, like in your house.

So I tied an ant anyway, mainly because I was a little late getting to the stream to meet a fishing buddy. I started with black bunny fur (with Antron, because I put Antron into everything, include my pancakes), with CDC legs (because I put CDC into  everything as well, accept my pancakes), and just a few strands of white CDC for visibility. An awesome looking pattern, which I invented (along with about a hundred flyfishers before me).

Then on stream I started looking around for an ant to compare. Of course, after 5 hours of fishing I saw not one ant. I thought these insects were ubiquitous. Along with cockroaches, aren't they supposed to inherit the earth?

Then back at work, I finally found an ant. It was crawling across my computer monitor. I said, a little too loudly, because just then my boss walked in, "So where in the hell have you been?" "Huun," said my boss. "Not you, the ant." "What?" "I'm talking to the ant." I showed him the ant I picked up. He just rolled his eyes. He learned long ago not to ask questions about the things I do. He muttered some important work-related matter that I completely ignored and walked out.

When the boss left, I watched the ant navigate all over my hand. It looked just like the size 16 one I tied. The proportions looked about right. The legs extended out about a one-and-a-half times the body length, which also checked out. And the color was dead on--black.

Then I just let the ant go lose in the office. Over the next few days, he'd show up periodically across my monitor or chair, as if to say "You're strange." He'd be right. I'd pick him up and observe him for a while, then let him go again, like my cat.

That's what separates the ants from the rest of the insect world, they'll hang around and play. Well, to be honest, I played with a little inch worm once, but they aren't much fun.

So my question remains, What's up with the ants that ain't'? Wherefore art they, when, and why?

    June 20, 2007

Snorkel Vision

Some people you just don't want to teach how to fish. Take this biologist person I know. I made the mistake of teaching him how to fish a fly. He had been telling me stories of his snorkeling to make fish counts in local streams as part of his county biology work. He had been watching insect life, watching fish swim and hide, gathering the kind of snorkel vision any die-hard flyfisher would pay good money to acquire.

This kind of knowledge you can't just pick up reading books and watching videos. Not even YouTube has this information, at least last time I looked (probably does by now). Actually, I had a difficult time searching in YouTube for "nymph," as you might imagine. Well, OK, nymph did come up, but not the kind we're talking about here.

Anyway, he decided it was time to do something rather than work while working, to think about bugs and fish instead of thinking about bugs and fish all the time with a dry suit on. One conversation led to another with his wife saying she knows someone who fly fishes, and so on. It's an old old story, told for centuries, minus the dry suit.

So we fished, and very quickly he showed promise. Within a month he started tying his own flies, to "match his work," he proclaimed. Then the inconceivable happened. He caught a 20 inch cutthroat a half mile from a large shopping mall. Now, under normal circumstances, I would suspect a lie. But he's a biologists, and biologist have no need to lie. You and I might lie, but scientists are a little truer to the code. (I have no idea what that means.)

Given time, these people will start catching brook trout out of your bathtub. We still go fishing together, but it gets more and more challenging. Now, I have to reach deeper and deeper into my bag of advice gleaned from books and  grocery-store rags in order to impress, staving off the inevitable check on my precious sense of fishing reality-- "snorkel vision."

    April 1, 2007

Flyfishing Film tour for 2007

A "fly fishing film tour"? I didn't know exactly what that meant. I mean, I see all manner of flyfishing videos on OLN and other cable stations. But what Fly Road & Reel and the Angling Exploration Group have put together is something quite a bit different, not just a film, but a state of mind.

OK, "state of mind" might have been touch corny. After all, New York is supposed to be a state of mind, and I don't want to go fishing there. But this isn't a movie review. This is a blog. blogs are for hanging out and yakking and making people believe I actually know what I'm talking about. Go back to your search engine to find a real review.

Nevertheless, the film tour is the next fun thing to catching big fish in bizarre locations. The experience starts where all great movies start--in the ticket-holder's line, on the rainy sidewalk as you wait for the doors to open. Accept in this case not everyone is a random stranger. These are fellow flyfishers who populate your own streams. You can tell by their hats with flyfishing themes. You recognize others from your monthly fishing club. Some are wearing their flyfishing vests. I'm not sure why some people do this. Do they wear their vest to all social events, their flies dropping from their vest's drying patches into the guacamole?

Finally the doors open,and we all rush by the fresh popcorn with real butter (well, at least in this theatre). The producers, and stars, and writers, and editors line up along tables selling shirts and hats and bumper stickers--and they talk to you. That's nice. Try getting close to actors and such at a blockbuster movie, and you'll end up in jail, or at least with someone's camera lens in your ear. "Hey, Britney. I like your hair cut!" Just won't happen.

Once inside the theatre, a feeling of camaraderie fills the popcorn air. Before the show starts, everyone is looking around or standing in the isles, looking for fishing friends, club members, the next door neighbor, the person who jumped into their drift like a jerk. Cards get exchanged (those networking guides just won't stop), whoooaaas get yelled, names are screamed from the balcony ("Jimmmmmyyyyyyy, dude. Next week, my boat, OK?"). You don't get this kind of electricity during your usual movie.

Then one of the producers (or maybe it was one of the film's cameramen or fisherman/actor, or other fishing film figure) makes an announcement down on the stage, welcoming everyone, reminding everyone of the raffle, working the crowd. Imagine Brad Pitt addressing filmgoers during the premier of his latest blockbuster? I don't think so.

Then the flicks start. Hilarious, well presented stuff. Down-home humor is sometimes exceptionally fun. I'm not sure exactly what I mean by "down home". Films done for the sheer fun of it, maybe, for less than a million dollars. Maybe less than $100,000. Hell, some of these were probably done for the price of handheld high-end video camera and plane tickets. I obviously don't have a clue about howvideos, let alone movies, are made.

These video's have what high budget movies so often lack--focus on intelligent and entertaining scripting. The audience impact is obvious. I almost expected a few viewers to jump up and dance with the fish on stage a-la The Rocky Horror Picture show.

Then there's the intermission. What is this--an Opera? An intermission? What are you supposed to do during an intermission? Well, I did what comes natural: stretched, pissed, bought a shirt at one of the tables the producers set up to sell movie items, even chatted with one of the fisher/actors, listened to the raffle, and watched everyone talk to each other as if I were in a live Breugel painting. All-in-all, an interesting and amusing way to see fishing.

What else do I like about these flicks? No ads, not even those that sneak up on by showing a man fishing as he lifts a can of Diet Coke to his mouth, as if the Real Thing is not a fish. And no one tells you to silence your cell phone.

I wasn't sure at all what to expect walking in, but walking out, I knew I would be waiting impatiently in the ticket holders line next year for the next tour.

    March 9, 2007

Ouzels again--this time on a hook

No, I didn't accidentally snag an ouzel while steelheading. I've been reading John Schewey's latest book, Steelhead flies. Read my review. And I got to thinking about tying flies, fancy flies, fancy steelhead flies. Normally, I'm a marabou and chinelle type of steelhead fly tyer. But I thought I would kick it up a notch and learn how the big boys tie artful flies--and here's what I came up with--the Ouzel.

                          Ouzel by Toney Sisk

This fly isn't meant to look like an ouzel. Though I've seen steelhead patterns that are the size of one. Its tail reminds me of what one particular ouzel was fishing for during my last outing. It kept diving into the currents and coming up with salmon eggs. I'd never seen an ouzel do this. During this inspiration moment, I thought of a new fly.

Hook:   A big one
Tag:      Flat gold tinsel under orange silk, with fine gold oval tinsel rib
Tail:     Red Hackle fibers, skirted around the hook (see below)
Body:   Half Peacock herl spun on a loop, half Estaz (a thick chinelle), ribbed with medium gold oval tinsel
Gills:    Red Wool
Hackle: Pheasant body hackle
Thread: Well, yes. Thread is used.

Here are two views of the skirted tail. Notice how the tail circles half the diameter of the shaft, like a . . . skirt.

Ouzel by Toney SiskOuzel by Toney Sisk

What makes an ouzel an ouzel, and not some other fly that looks similar? (And let's not fool ourselves: most steelhead flies are more similar than different.)

First, The tail is skirted, which creates an luminous effect when drawn through the water. The tag (or butt) of flat tinsel under silk wraps with an oval rib shining through the hackle fiber tail enhances this effect. When I started skirting the tail, the fly began to take on a slight orange glow. This is a unique tying strategy of mine, which no doubt a hundred other tyers discovered before me. The skirted tail also makes the fly swim more vertically in the water column. (Ok, I made that up. I have no idea if this happens, and besides, the fly is tied symmetrically, which means that it more tumbles that swims in a nymph-like way.)

Now keep in mind that this shirted tying technique is my my own design and is registered in the US patent office. You can only use this method if you pay for the license. Kidding.

Second, the thick Estaz chinelle holds back the pheasant feather from completely collapsing on itself in stronger currents, and holds the hackle vertical and alive in weaker currents.

Third, the peacock herl is tied in a loop. Read Shewey's book about this. No more trout scraping my herl to pieces on the first bite.

Some tying notes

  • To skirt the tail dig your fingers into the tail hackle fibers tie-in point. This is something I learned from A. K. Best to make tails on dry flies angle upwards. I just extended the idea by angling the feathers upwards and then around the shaft. Probably all my dry flies will get this treatment, too.
  • Don't glue the tails in. If you do this, you can't spread the tail fibers around while fishing. Half the fun is dinking with flies while fishing. Hackle fiber tails are long enough to tie down along the entire length of the shaft anyway, which you should do to keep an evenly tapered body.
  • Use more hackle fibers than you would normally, say 30 or so.
  • Keep the tying neat. In the long run, neat saves time. The skirted tail is easier if the tie-in point is smooth from the tag (or butt) tie-down points. At the tail tie-in point, build up the thread in the shape of a ramp before tying in the tail. The tail will splay out better this way.

I thought about putting a winging material on top, but after I put on the pheasant body feather, I stopped there and decided it had the right body and hackle to sink the fly quickly and to let it swim or twist in the currents depending upon whether I wanted a dead-drift presentation or a swimming presentation. As for the jungle cock eyes--well . . . do you know how expensive those are? I was looking at a package of 12 feathers for 12 dollars in my local fly shop, and then made a snap decision about jungle cock eyes.

    January 29, 2007

Winter images--ouzels on a fly

Who has not been amused by the lowly water ouzel, scurrying over winter rocks, occasionally causing a roaming and freezing steelheader to give pause. I've been looking at these birds (well, everybody has been looking at these birds) during many winter trips. They are a welcome respite to the action I've been having during my usual flyfishing adventure, whereby I actually catch fewer fish than zero each time out. You see, we aren't really hunters any more, because during the past 10,000 . . . . Oh, never mind. That'll have to wait for another blog when I've had more time to figure out what the hell I'm talking about.

Soooooooo, my point is that I was watching this ouzel, and marveling (yes, I do marvel, when I'm not amazed, or dumbfounded) at how it dips under the water surface, chasing, I assume, bugs. After all, birds eat insects, right? And . . .  bird seeds out of my back yard feeder.

But this ouzel was bring up orange-colored red things--salmon eggs. I thought at first that this was just a fluke, but in the space of a minute, this ouzel snatched a half dozen salmon eggs. Initially, I thought it just got lucky, or was being opportunistic like a . . . well, like a bird, fish or any  animal that doesn't chew on hay.

Training my binoculars on him and studying the water, pretty soon I was seeing more and more salmon eggs floating by in fairly fast water. I've only seen salmon eggs around redds (or in bait bottles). This gave me more faith in my salmon egg patterns, not to catch ouzels, but to catch . . . well, you know.

One other thing I figured out while peering at my ouzel--why they dip. We all know they love to dip up and down, which explains their moniker "The American Dipper". They are simply drying themselves off after dipping in the water chasing insects . . . and salmon eggs. I could clearly see the water being shed from their feathers while they did this. Dogs shake and ouzels dip

Now, maybe this is common knowledge, but I figured it all by lonely self.

Stay tuned for my next blog: Fly fishing from an outhouse, followed by What the weasel knows.

    January something, 2007

Nothing to report

Again, I have absolutely nothing to write about. But this has never stopped me in the past (and for once my enemies agree with me on this point). There is too much ice on the roads to travel, and even if I could travel, I wouldn't catch anything.

Actually, I could if I did what all the experts said to do during winter. Be patient. As patient as a heron. Cast that nymph along that seam 30 to 50 times--better, 500 times--because the fish isn't going to move far for anything.

Well, I have a couple  problems with that approach. First, I don't want to stand in ice water until my legs freeze like stalagmites (that's a weird metaphor, I know, but even my metaphors suffer in winter).

Second . . . ,well, you catch nothing in winter, especially with the tiny flies that I'm told to use. Baetis, you know, and chironomids. Tying on these flies is always a challenge. I like to avoid 7x tippets like the plague. More often than not, I'm using 5x on a size 20 fly, which is sort of like putting a hammer head onto an axe handle (again, another sorry image. My poetry also suffers in the winter).

Plus, third, it is hard to dress in winter. There are days when if you have to work hard to fish and it is freezing, you really don't want to sweat, because then you become uncomfortably chilled. Or it might be too warm, and now you're overdressed, and the welcomed warmth makes you sweat, and then the rivers rise too quickly, and you're screwed. And the cougars in the woods are hungry. Wheh. I've got some issues, I see.

Now, occasionally  I'll catch a fish, and I have to admit it is a special feeling to have pulled it off--even though dumb luck played a huge role, because, like I said above, I'm very unlikely to hang in ice water for too long. Sometimes, though, I'll get into a nice rhythm with my casting, with a small indicator, small fly, small weight, slow water, when, bam, I surprise a fish. Or a fish surprises me. Or both. Then I might stay in the water until I freeze. Usually, the fish happens when I'm casting very close in the slow water, casting like I were a metronome. Did I spell that right? I mean that think on top of the piano.

One more thing, and then I'll shut up. Sometimes these winter fish fight light hell. Not sure why. Then again, I've caught 24 inch residents in spring who fought like they are half dead. I wouldn't even need to reel in line. Life is weird. Fish are more weird. So what does that make me? Less than normal, I'm afraid It's winter. I'll crawl back in my hole now. I'll have something useful to write about next time, Like:

  • Fly fishing for sperm whales
  • How to catch nothing on a fly
  • How to lie about your fish
  • How to catch the blues fly fishing

    January 1, 2007

Shark on a fly

River and Reef dot com recently reports its 600 pound shark on a fly feat. Now, this is much bigger than than anything I've caught recently. (Well, I once caught a branch that was attached to a fairly large tree, but there was no one else around to witness, so I guess this doesn't count.)

The odd thing is that the man who caught the shark is a little pissed that the no record is set because the wire tippet was too long by about a foot. I understand his point. Big shark have mouths that are much deeper than the puny one foot wire leader that is allowed by the IGFA rules. Picky.

The fly was a Red/White tandem streamer cast after heavy chumming. Everyone knows you can't catch a shark without some serious chumming, preferably a dead pig, cow, bear or other source of large amounts of meat so that the shark stays in one place rolling around with a meal in its mouth like you and I would salivate over a pizza, beer, cake, chicken, football, all at once. At least I think that is how a shark is caught.

Perhaps the streamer was the right choice. I, for one, would have tied a more exact pattern, like a broom mopped duck taped to half a chicken with some old beer cans and a power cord as a ribbing. But that's just me.

Now lest it sound like I'm simply jealous because I've never caught anything bigger than a big trout (it was a really big trout), I don't need to catch a . . . I mean, I don't need to prove that . . . that is, I don't need to seek validation by. . . . Oh, hell, I wish I had a shark on. A tarpon. Tuna Anything bigger than two feet. OK, 20 inches. Hell, anything that shows some backing.

--What this does show is that flyfishing is confusing. What does it mean to cast a fly. Now, this has been debated for at least a half century

    January 1, 2007

Fly films among us

There is more in the film than just emergers, apparently. Just ask all those film producers doing interesting things for the the Fly Fishing Film Tour being sponsored this year by Fly Rod and Reel magazine. The tour will probably pass by a  town (maybe even a creek) near you, from California to Alaska.

Fly fishing films have come a long way since the first serious one, A River Runs Through It (see my last blog entry). Well, there might have been serious fly fishing flicks before this, I just can't think of some right now that didn't involve brief cameo shots of flyfishers.

Now, making angling entertaining isn't new. Just watch any bass masters tournament. Or the latest video fad, celebrity angling for, typically, large ocean species with distorted image takes (I obviously don't know video jargon). The trick to many of these productions is to sell them with sex or hostile family antics or just about any attitude that is punctuated with a Woo Hoo.

Thankfully, fly fishing films don't go to relationship extremes to depict the fish and the fly. They pretty much stick to the land, the culture, the fishers, their adventure and their prey--and less about the fishers themselves. There is less chance of alienating the audience this way, plus in the end, the films become more interesting and useful.

When the film tour comes rolling through my town, I'll be hanging around. It will be a welcome addition to the yearly sportsman shows.

 

    December 23, 2006

A River Runs Through it

I see that this is one TV again. So I'm watching it again. Probably my fifth viewing. I know Brad Pitt doesn't flyfish. You can tell in his casting. But that's OK. It is a pleasure to see the Borger kid cast, though. I've tried his shadow cast, at least I think that is the name of the cast, but I'm not sure I do it right. Usually, it all collapses around me when I get too much line out, sort of like how I casted 35 years ago after picking up a fly rod for my first time. Flailing line around is easy. Making it go out straight and purposeful afterwards is something entirely different.

So, Jason Borger doing the casting is not the point of the movie. But I am amused by TV advertisements that extols the virtues of the outdoor by depicting a flyfisher who couldn't cast his shadow, let alone a fly.

Soooooo, back to my original point . . . OK, I don't have an original point. But one message I get out of the movie is the sacrifice of genius. To be great at something, I mean to be really great like you're in touch with a higher force, you have to give up things. Sometimes these things are social, parental, familial, or whatever. But they are probably important things.  Maybe that is why the smart people, the really smart people, are sometimes jerks. Occasionally, though, they can be very kind, almost too kind, like they always feel guilty about something. I learned all this after college, by the way. College teaches you just the opposite. Ok . . . I'm beginning not to understand what I'm talking about.

Or maybe there isn't a relationship between genius and social challenges. Anyone can grow up socially challenged, garbage men, scholars, geniuses. so what the hell do I know. But the history of story telling is all about the fatal flaws of rising too high. Damn, this IS beginning to sound good.

Now, back in college, we needed to think in terms of themes. Novels have themes. Poems have themes. Short stories have themes. After college, it took me years to get this theme thing out of my system. Now I just look for something that is interesting to me in the story or novel or movie. Something I can cling to. And this is the interesting thing I find in A River Runs Through It, the price of genius. I'm not saying this is the point of the movie, or that this is the most important thing in the movie. The most important thing, no doubt, escaped me, as most important things do. I'm just saying what the movie said to me.

    November 25, 2006

Irritating fishing moment #32: Brown trout on my indicator

I suppose we have all seen this at one point or another if you fish with indicators. Just as the sun falls, I put on a lovely little chocolate small mayfly nymph with a little bit of weight and a small indicator (because a small indicator is a communication device, whereas a bigger one is a float). I know there are small baetis around, but I don't know whether they are coming or going, drifting or emerging or spinnering, because of the pending gloom.

At least I can see the indicator, so I stick with it. Then large browns start poking their huge noses out of the water in a harvesting manner, like I imagine a whales do with their baleen sheaths. And then one attacks the indicator. Now I know that people will attach a hook onto the indicator for just such times. But that would turn indicator fishing from an experience that is not terrible validating to begin with into one that approaches farcical.

These are times that try me the most. It always seems like I've arrived late to the party when it comes to significant fishing. What I should have done is recognized that browns swim upstream because they are breeding and will therefore attack anything big and threatening. Therefore, something resembling a purple, red and chartreuse grasshopper (call this a whore hopper) would be more appropriate.

But who starts late season fishing with a grasshopper pattern. This is the season of BWO's (with a few salmon egg patterns). Then again, I could put on a large caddis pattern for the late season caddis and feel better about the large fly strategy. Then again, the browns were also sucking up baetis right before they attacked the indicator. Then again, a big streamer might also irritate a spawning brown into striking. Then again (as always), it is too late in the day to switch my mind set.

Or maybe I should gang my flies: a BWO under a woolly bugger, which is under a floating muddler, which is next to a  . . . what, I'm not sure. I think I have to stop at the muddler (unless I wanted an indicator, too).

The point is, fish striking at indicators mess with everything planned, special, contrived, intelligent, written, spoken, or taught, The fish should know better.

    November 19, 2006

The garbage among us

I have fished streams that had as many beer cans as fish. Not that this is always a bad thing. I once stumbled onto a six pack of beer, for instance, that was either placed in the water to keep the beer cool, or lodged there after a float party gone bad (or good, depending).  And everyone who claims to fish have comes across old boats, old canoes, old shoes, funny hats, odd pieces of plastic, metal and wood left over from floods or intentional dumped.

Sometimes the fish suffer. Now a fish won't suffer from a discarded beer can (unless they drink it, I suppose, and even then to excess). To be honest, a fish might have more to worry about with the little bits of tippet that we all leave in the current. I'm not exactly sure why they should worry, but there are those who would argue that a fish can gag on nylon, to say nothing of lead-based weights, Styrofoam floats, and, for that matter, a fly.

What? A fly is garbage? I don't know what else it is if it leaves the confines of its tippet. Now, I'm not talking about flies that are worthless or poorly tied. When all is said and done, garbage is just an attitude. By any other name, it would smell as bad. It's discarded stuff. So if a diamond ring falls in the stream, is it garbage? Uh . . . well, I guess you'll have to ask the person who threw it there.

So does this mean I should pick up all my leader and tippet pieces? Discarded leaders longer than 4 feet, certainly. I hate looking at leader tangles on the shore. Too often, these are attached to hooks and lures and sometimes dead fish. How about pieces of tippet a quarter inch long, the tag end a fly's clinch knot? Probably not. I mean, how would you retrieve it? if you actually managed to hold on to such a small piece, I would lose it transferring it to my pocket.

Would I keep old Beer bottle caps? Broken indicators? old weights? Yes. Yes. And Yes. Would I throw away an unopened six pack of beer. Hell no, not only because it is  bad to litter; it is a downright crime to waste it.

    November 10, 2006

Fly Fishing Mystery #22: Larva on the hook

At least twice a year my fly catches a cased caddis larva on the hook point. It is always the same species, Brachycentridae. These are the small larva that build that clever little chimney-like case. Not those messy caddis builders who only know how to put together a house with little bits of rock and mud. And not those other caddis larva that say the hell with building hard shells, and simply spin a little net and let food come to them. These are also known the "free wheeling" (or is it "free swimming") larva. They think they are special because they are not beholden to no house, no way.

Yes, caddis have attitudes. It really irritates me too that I can't figure out whether the adults are coming or going, whether they are emerging or returning from egg laying or just fooling around with a game of dodge ball with the trout. Read any book on caddis, and you'll get an eye-full of the dozens of vastly unique types and methods of living their lives in dozens of types of currents.

But I digress.

Now I expect everyone has snagged these little chimney-cased larva during their fishing. But I've always wondered how my fly managed to get its hook into the small end of one of these guys. Since this only happens once or twice a year, I suspect the odds (or fate) are at work here. In other words, it just happens if you get your hook down deep often enough. But I've never snagged the other caddis shells at all, not even the big October caddis cases (and that's a lot of meat to hook into). So therein lies the mystery. I haven't even snagged that many branches or other odd bits of flotsam down the, except for the rocks (and the occasional fish), but that goes without saying.

Now, I suppose I could just keep the caddis larva on the hook and fish the fly with a little bait attached, but we flyfishers have rules about these things (to say nothing of what the law says, I suspect). So I guess I'll just keep pondering the Brachycentridae as they appear on my hook.

    November 5, 2006

Battle in Peoria at the Big Fly Small Fly tourney

The 25th annual Big Fly/Small Fly tournament got underway last weekend in Peoria and I was fortunate to be invited, and this year was no different than the others.

The BF (Big Fly) team showed up with a few coolers, which the SF team quickly questioned to the referees. The SF suspected beer, or worse, bait, and demanded the coolers be opened. After 10 minutes of arguing, the BF team opened the coolers, which contained only hamburgers, beer, a couple cans of caffeinated super drinks, and some bananas.

After the initial fracas, the tournament got underway, but not after the BF made some grumbling comments to may camera about small men with small flies.

The SF immediately started catching fish, using size 22 chocolate chironomids and flavonoid patterns. They followed this up with two 14 inch beauties using size 16 adams and a size 18 CDC quill pattern, fishing a cross current seam above a pool. Since the tournament is won by total inches, it looked like the Small Fly men were going to take it all.

The BF were catching nothing, but didn't look too worried. In fact, two of the team (there are three per team), were seen taking naps on the edge of the river. Pretty soon, the third one took a nap with the other two. I took a peek in the cooler and saw that it was empty. The SF team picked up two more rainbows, one 12 inches, the other 14 on yellow caddis emergers.

An hour before the tournament ended, the BF team woke up, looked at their watches, and started casting into a pool. One had a size 6 woolly bugger, the other a muddler minnow. It was hard to see the third man's fly, but it look to be the size of a small bird.

Within a few minutes, each two the BF team members had on rainbows over 24 inches. The third soon joined them with a 30-incher, then another 24-incher, and the tournament was won.

I interviewed both teams afterwards. I asked the BF team how come they always seem to come out ahead?

Billy Holland, the team lead, said "beer." And we don't fish wuss flies.

The SF team refused to be interviewed. They stalked away muttering something about big flies, big butts.

    October 25, 2006

Wayward advise #12: Kick the water

Stealthy is out. Instead, jump in the water and kick all of the water out of the stream. Well, not quite. But here is a situation where scaring the fish is a good thing:

You're done fishing a particular run with perhaps a cut bank on the far shore, and you don't catch a think. If the water level permits, march right into the edge of a cut bank and kick around in there. Use a stick if you have to. As you do this, watch for scurrying fish. Next time you fish the area, you'll know where the fish take refuge, and you'll know how close and at what depth to send your nymph. Fish have short memories. Fifteen minutes later, they'll return.

Don't pay attention to the idiot on shore who thinks you're an idiot just because you're kicking the water like . . . well, an idiot. If you aspire to be even stranger to the person on shore, you can start yelling at the fish:

"Damn you, fish. Come back here. I'm not done with you." Or

"Hey, give me back my fly. I know where you live now." Or

"Don't go away mad. Was it the fly? I'll tie on a better one."

Or scream maniacally while doing the above. But watch where the fish go. They'll come back, even if you stay put and don't move--sort of like a house cat that's been chased around too much by the kids. Well, maybe not exactly like that.

What you are doing is training your sense of sight. After fifteen minutes, get ready with your dries, nymphs, indicators, weight or whatever the water and fish are telling you to do. However, if you're standing close to a fish refuge, use a silent technique. This is no time to do something stupid. I mean, don't start kicking the water again. This is when you need your best stealth--side-arm casts, off-shoulder casts, underhanded casts, dabbling casts, flip casts.

Now, the next time someone presents his or her fishing report during the local club meeting and mentions a maniacal nymph fisher, you may have to drop your hat a bit and sink into your chair. Either that, or stand up and proclaim, "What an idiot. There ought to be a law against that."

    October 15, 2006

Fly businesses I'm think of starting

I'm not ready to quit my day job, but if I did, if would have to be because of one of the following startups I'm think of:

The Fly Bar  Imagine sitting down to a tall one next to a fly tying vice. You can order up any material from the most exotic materials for full-dress salmon flies to all color of marabou for Woolly Buggers.

"I'll have a Bud. And you got any of that guinea, maybe some bronze mallard, and a little yellow parrot? Oh, and I almost forgot, how about some of that peahen neck feather? Is that cockatoo on the wall? Are those peanuts fresh?"

"Dude !"

Dry fly cleaners   This business would cater to those who want their dry flies cleaned and fluffed. We all know how grimy and filthy those flies can get after a few fish. Note to self: will need to get some very tiny cellophane bags so that customers have a handy way to pick up their flies.

Fly prognosticator   This is actually a 900 number whereby you can learn your fly horoscope.

"Am I going to catch a fish over 24 inches this weekend?" "No."

"Am I going to catch a bunch of small fish?" "Probably."

"Should I use a Woolly Bugger on my trip in August?" "Yes."

"How can I improve my fishing?" "Buy more Woolly Buggers."

"Will I be able to buy Woolly Buggers near the river?" "No. But can I sell you some?"

Fly Muffins  These are muffins sold with a large fly on top, like an October Caddis pattern or Stonefly pattern. Remove the fly before eating. Bring a dozen on a trip, and amaze your friends. For fully-dressed salmon fly muffins, add $2.

    October 9, 2006

Flyfishing within the Galaxy

Recent news reports from National Geographic have it that no less than 16 new planets have been discovered near the center of our galaxy. This is good news. How many years has it been since people have thought about life on other planets? Actually, the number is close to 150 years. (OK, I made that number up. I have no clue.)

My point is that it isn't necessarily stupid to start thinking 3,000 years in advance about how to approach fly fishing on the first planet we step onto that has a breathable atmosphere. (It has to have a breathable atmosphere because, think about it, we flyfishers have enough to carry on our back besides oxygen packs.) We can't live on Earth for ever; so it goes without saying we're going to figure a way off. And, let's face it, worm holes are just not a realistic solution. Plus, they are kinda silly. And probably a little nauseating to travel through.

Now, we should keep in mind to walk carefully along rivers on other planets. I've seen enough movies, including all Star Trek episodes, to say nothing about all Stargate episodes, to know that you have to be careful. There could be monsters. Or super energy beings (they can be so condescending, to boot). Or crazy shape-morphing creatures that know what you're thinking. Things like that.

Ah, but there could be big fish there, too. Really stupid fish that haven't seen any fly. Probably haven't even seen tall animals standing over them waving sticks. Haven't seen nets. Or funny fishing hats.

We should also keep in mind that fishing tackle may have changed in 3,000 years. There might not even be fly lines. Maybe there won't be leaders or tippets, either. Maybe not even fly rods. Maybe flies will behave more like fly-bots, swimming under the water searching out fish, which are then electro shocked. Or maybe the fish will eat the fly-bot, which take over the fish's brains, causing it to swim towards the flyfisher or botfisher or whatever (that's not important), or causing the fish to swim in circles at the whim of the botfisher/programmer guy, or cause it to jump in the air every three seconds, or mess with its piscatorial synapses enough to make it say something.

And if the bot-fly fails, the botfisher would probably put on what any reasonable botfisher would--a woolly bugger. It's not going away any century soon. They'll work in every current on every planet in every galaxy born since the Big Bang started pumping out galaxies.

Some things never change.

    September 30, 2006

Drug testing we who fish

Recent news reports have it that competitive fishers were required to pass a drug test during the World Angling Championships in Portugal. It's about time. I've often wondered why those who don't fish with a fly catch more fish.  I knew it wasn't the powerbait. Now I know.

Now, my preferred drug is a double short latte. Hell, by the time I'm done brewing it, it's a quadruple latte. Oh, and I also like chewing on those power bars mid-stream. I don't even drink beer while fishing, which is another thing those guys on the other side of the tackle box have over me.

According to the drug story, drugs can quicken your strike speed. I don't understand this. One's fishing can improve with an increased sense of action on the end of the line, not how quickly you respond to it. In fact, it is a fairly common error in fishing to strike too quickly. Thus the supremacy of a quad latte to keep you awake long enough to sense what's going on--in, on, beyond, and under you.

Drug testing--indeed!

     September 24, 2006

Fishing on the other side of the Atlantic

The Trout Underground has a nice blog on European blogs. I've always been intrigued by European flyfishing. Not that I know a lot about it. We yanks are seldom exposed to it, unless you take a trip over there. Even then, I suspect many Yankee flyfishers simply apply their own techniques and flies and don't think to tie on an arcane CDC pattern and chase grayling on a misty lake, or go deep after tench (do they go deep over tench?). Europeans love their CDC patterns--as they should. I'm learning to fish them to the exclusion of everything else. I'll fish the same CDC fly dry, moist, wet, on a dry line, wet line, slow sink, fast sink, here, there. So simply to tie. So effective. I haven't touched a roster neck in years.

Don't get me wrong. I really don't know that much about European fly fishing. Therein lies my problem. I wish I knew a LOT more. They always seem to have something unique on the end of their line. Someone should write a book that details or compares how they approach the sport. Until then, let's read their blogs and get some insights.

     September 7, 2006

Flies I need to fish

The last fly I want to fish, it sometimes seems, is the best fly. You see, we fly fishers can do odd things. I've been at this sport for . . . hell, I can't remember when I wasn't fly fishing. Just when a fly starts catching a lot of fish, I'm just as likely to abandon it as continue fishing with it.  We're weird.

I had one fly call the Predator, which resembles something between a zug bug and woolly bugger. Big, lots of herl, chicabou tail (Ok, marabou), pheasant tail rump feather wrapped spey-like. Beautiful fly that caught lots of lots of fish in lakes, rivers, trout, bass, steelhead. I no long touch it. In my twisted mind, I need to try a different fly. If your catching too many fish with one fly, you've stopped learning about fish, I guess my logic goes. In other words, I got bored with the fly.

On the other hand, I have yet to catch a fish with my new fly.  A caddis pattern, silk body, CDC wing, metal rib (yes on a dry fly). I'm going to fish it until it catches a fish, the reason being is that the fly looks too beautiful not to fish.

On the other hand, I've tied flies in the past that were very complicated to tie and stunningly beautiful, resembling the insect itself. Delicate wings, lovely olive body. Art. I've never fished it because it was so complicated to duplicate and so lovely to look at. There it sits in my fly box, perched like art. Don't ask. We're weird.

     September 1, 2006

Postcards in books

Well, now, that's interesting. Amato Books has come out with a book of postcards put together by Richard Twarog and displaying the wonderful flies of Tim Trexler. Beautiful postcards really. Hmm, the possibilities are interesting.

Say you are  on a long trip up and down the eastern seaboard, numerous destinations, and you simply don't have enough time to slip into the usual tourist outposts to pick up postcards and toothpaste. You now have a solution to impressing your club members with no more trouble then licking a stamp on the way to the next put-in.

Or take the postcards into work and pin them on your wall. No one will know you didn't tie them yourself. If they ask, say: "Yeah, I tied that one over the weekend." "Weekend?" "Yep, you can't hurry those flies." "Golly."

What we need are more of these books/cards. I can think of a few: Postcards of unusual CDC Flies (They always photograph well). Postcards of other unusual dry flies. Postcards of famous fly fishers. Of famous rivers. Historic and modern fly rods (probably just the handles). Historic and modern fly reels. Fishing hats. Or maybe unusual species of fish not usually thought of as fly fishing targets.

Let's hope Amato Books produced more of these little gems.

     August 27, 2006

Flyfishing on Pluto

There goes my vacation plans. No way am I going to fish on anything less than a planet. What really irritates me the most is that all this realigning of the planets flies in the face of all the trust I placed in encyclopedias and text books of my youth--the forefathers of what googles us today.

Scientists love to rename things. You can't blame them, really. The classification of things helps scientists uncover relationships that weren't evident before.

Before you know it, a rainbow trout will not be a trout, but a lousy salmon. Oh, wait. . . . That already happened. Salmo gairdneri became Oncorhynchus mykiss. Thank God, I don't have to change my flies to match.

     August 16, 2006

Catching nuthin'

Catching a lot of nothing provides perhaps the best opportunity to reflect upon the nature of nothing. What does that mean? I have no idea. Probably a piece of nonsense I picked up from college, where I evidently understood more things than I do now. Sometimes when it becomes perfectly clear that there is no fish within four counties, you either have to start thinking of something, no matter how silly or stupid, or you create the worst sin of them all--boredom. And I have thought up some mighty silly things while fishing.

You see, if you catch a fish, well, then, you've got something to think about. You even get some motivation to accompany legitimate fishing thoughts. You might even begin to spot fish before you catch fish. This is called a good time.

But when you got nothing, it is tempting to start changing a lot of flies. Too often, though, this isn't the solution, especially if you look around and realize that not only are there no fish within four counties, then are also no insects within four counties.

Casting a longer line is another common last-ditch strategy. But this is stupid, too, because, remember--if there are no insects within four counties, then are also no insects 80 feet in front of you. Plus, you end up with a sore rotator to accompany your no fish.

So what do I do. Well, not much. I like casting a shorter line, say 35 to 40 feet. I try to cast this short line perfectly, with different curves upstream and downstream. I get a little mesmerized by the physics of the cast, how it feels in the hand as different part of the line load up. I might invent a cast, like a twirling, curving, twisting cast that probably has no value in presenting a fly, but is fun to do nevertheless. I try to catch myself doing something fun, minus the fish.

I practice looking through the water at the rocks, and imagine that the long thin rocks are fish, but then sensing that this is stupid, I stop doing it.

As a last resort, I might sit down and stare out over the water. I do a lot of this. If you wait long enough, something might actually happen. This is probably your best strategy. Waiting. Doing more of nothing. Maybe a few swallows will show up, catching insects you swore didn't exist within four counties. But then again, birds don't do stupid things. They don't think stupid thoughts. They don't get bored. And, no, this isn't existentialism. Existentialism only happens in college.

This is a sport. Let's face it. Sports can be defined as one damn performance after another. The percentages are clear: we're all headed toward lousy, like a current that in time will sweep the strongest fish downstream as Eagle food. It's times like these that you suspect that a sport, any sport, is defined as an activity that you somehow don't deserve to play well at.

Or not.

Relax. Pretty soon, you'll see some movement on the water, which is probably just a small errant wave over a moving rock. And you'll be up trashing the water in no time. Be happy. The worst day of nothing on the stream is better than any epiphany you'll have at work.

     July 30 2006

Squawfish

Squawfish? Why those fish? Let's call them the poor man's carp. The fool's carp. The idiot's carp. Whatever. To be honest, when you haven't caught a fish in three days, they start to look a little better. I've been targeting them for years on one particular lake. I won't tell you which lake, cause you will all go there to hunt out my elusive squawfish. Yeah, right. I target them because the kokanee that used to be there are no longer. The cutts have left, too. And I get bored of rainbows.

Because the various department of fisheries want everyone to start thinking about targeting squawfish (like on the Columbia), they've changed the name to make them more interesting. Now they are called Pikeminnows. I'm kidding about the reasons. They original name wasn't appropriate in these politically-charged times. Read my article on Squawfish (err, Pikeminnows) to learn more.

Now, do I like catching these fish? Yes, to be honest. Would I rather catch a squawfish than wild kokanee? Hmm, I guess not. But I can say that if suddenly I caught 50 kokanee in this lake, I'd be curious enough to put on a snorkel and figure out why. Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. That's life. You just wait: 200 years from now (OK, maybe one million years), pikeminnows will be Thee fish. They'll be patterns named after them, like the Pikeminnow Buster, the Green-Butt Pikeminnow, the Pikeminnow Adams, the Pikeminnow CDC emerger, the Pikeminnow Bugger. There'll be fly line tapers designed for them, like the Squaw Taper. Then I'll have the last laugh. Wait . . .  I'll be dead.

     July 11 2006

Blogging ideas

You know, I have nothing to blog about today. I'm watching some Texas Hold 'em poker, and trying to draw a connection between poker and flyfishing. But I'm afraid I can't, except maybe when a fish the size of my head breaks the surface just at dark and just as I'm ready to leave because  ...  well ... it's dark. And, to tell you the truth, I'm a bit afraid of the dark.

But I also have a wind knot in my tippet (read my article on Wind knot angst). Now the wind knot brings the breaking strength down to 50 percent, the fish is 50 percent bigger than any fish I've seen, yet modern tippets are darn strong, and just maybe. Just maybe. It'll hold. Hmm. I think the best strategy is to go all in and toss the fly under those conditions, and maybe I can at least talk about the one that got away. Maybe 4x tippet that has the strength of 7x tippet is good betting odds. I'd just play that fish as if I had a midge on a 7x tippet, yet I've never fished with a 7x tippet.

Hmm, I'll never get rich fishing.

     July 2 2006

Those Trout Bums

This is what we all aspire to--A carefree life of chasing serious trout, which become suddenly less than carefree. Read my review of the The Trout Bum Diaries, and then ask yourself, Do you feel lucky? Now, don't get me wrong. Living an adventuresome trout-filled life has its drawbacks. You'll lose a bunch of flies. They'll get stuck in trees. You might end up yelling at trees, at yourself, maybe at the fish, who probably conspired to lose some of those flies (those wily browns). You might bust an axel, sleep next to a highway, find sand in your shoes, your reel, your soup. Lose some more big fish, really big fish, really really big fish. Fish bigger than you thought fish could be. Ought to be. What kind of trouble will these flyfishers get into next? Stayed tuned for more videos. 

     June 10, 2006

Offbeat flies

Mulberry flyA Mulberry Fly? As if matching the hatch weren't difficult enough, now we are matching the fruit? Real fisherman, I guess, don't argue with a fish. If the fish wants a mulberry falling from a nearby tree (or a cranberry, or a grape, or wants to look at a magazine filled with naked trout) then that's what the fish gets.  In the end, tying a fly matching what you've been seeing the fish take and then snagging that fish, is what we should aspire to. Those offbeat anglers (aka, The Brown Water Boys, or Sebastian O'Kelly and Christopher Arelt) discuss their Mulberry Fly (pictured above) and other offbeat things in their recent book, The Offbeat Angler. You can also read my review, then maybe decide, if they can do a mulberry fly, you can tie a corn fly, a marshmallow fly, or a Wheaties fly if that's how you go about chumming the lake.

     May 19, 2006

Testing your dry flies

It takes a lot of effort from me to tie/design a new dry fly. I don't have many unique patterns I fish with. When my fishing buddies look at my fly box, they are sometimes amazed by the quantities and types of flies. But 90 percent of the flies they see have been parked unused in the fly box, the victims of time and failed experiments or lack of interest. if I were to remove them, then those same fishing buddies might snicker at the few I actually fish with. And we flyfishers are very sensitive about such things, aren't we?

I have the few tried and tested, a few different colors, a bunch of sizes and profiles. Lately, its been CDC and quill bodies, or CDC married to a sparkle emerger pattern. These are patterns that flyfishers smarter than I and with more time have devised, only to be tweaked by my mind's eye to become mine own. We all like to do this to many of our flies. Of course I wouldn't presume to rename them just because a added this feather and not the one a Borger or a Schollemeyer said I should. Read my article on naming flies to get a better sense of my attitude on designing and naming flies. Most of flies that I call my own, don't have a name.

This is my segway into another topic--testing a dry flies floating qualities. (OK, it's not a segway. I just started using this stupid word at work to impress someone at a meeting that I wanted to irritate a bit). To save time testing the floating qualities of your new fly, use the bathroom. That's it. That's my point. I bet nobody thought of this (probably wrong here).

If you turn the bathroom sink on at different strengths, you can simulate different wave and riffle properties on the stream. This is important for determining the relative floating ability of, say, a CDC fly versus a more beefy deer hair or cork pattern. You can make a speculation like "If I tie a longer fly on a smaller hook with minimal CDC and no tail with Antron body, does it have a chance on the stream?" "Will it hang vertically?" "Will it lie horizontally with hook down?" "How fast does it sink?" "Does it look stupid?" One thing's certain: if it looks stupid to you, it's probably going to look stupid to a fish, too. This saves you having to go out on to the stream to find out for sure at a distance of 30 feet. And it minimizes the accumulation of stupid flies in your fly boxes.

Now, this testing environment isn't perfect, of course. But you might find yourself going back and forth between sink and tying table with minor tweaks to see how the pattern performs in the "lab" before trying the pattern on a fish. And while your in the bathroom, go ahead and put the fly in a clear glass of water and hold it up to the light to see how it looks from underneath. And when your little girl comes into her bathroom and wonders what you're doing, either explain yourself (good luck), or tell her you're cleaning the sink.

     April 19, 2006

Flyfishing for robots

robot fishDon't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with science. Science has thought up some great things, like rocket ships, fly rods (I guess) and . . . well, fish. Flyfishmagazine reports such an animal . . . er, machine . . . born to science. Thank God someone reported this as a robot. If I had seen this thing last week on my local bass pond, I'd put down my gear for life. I wonder what those people who wrote Offbeat Angler would have thought if they yanked this mechanical beast out of their familiar bass pond? I might have wondered if the military came up with a "smart fish" that chases down enemy . . .  combatants?  Terrorists? Flyfishers? If you wanted to match the hatch for this fish, I suppose you'd tie on a GPS receiver.

     April 9, 2006

Missing link

missinglink At last--the missing link. We've been waiting for years now. National Geographic has just reported on the animal that links fish to land animals. We can all relax now. The culture during the last 100 years has expressed a void, a gap between us and . . . Something Else that no one can quite put a finger on. For some, that Something Else is a god, another person, or nature herself. For others, it's just a fish/frog/snake creature resembling more an old boot that nature conjured up in a weak moment of creativity. Maybe nature came up with this transitional creature, stood back and looked at it, said "this looks stupid," and then proceeded to make frogs, salamanders, birds, and a few monkeys to try to make sense of it all.

     April 1, 2006

Backyard fishing

Not all good fishing is fishing good. Hmm, that was an odd thing to say. I'm trying to be clever, but it isn't working too well. It is early in the morning for me. Let me start over. It is really easy to buy a ticket to a fancy location that you've read about in a magazine, only to arrive and to be stuck with yourself--again. Then the fishing begins, and you're fishing the same way you always fish, and maybe you don't get a fish. Then you get home and start fishing your old haunts, and maybe begin to not take the home environment and familiar ponds for granted. (Or maybe you're cheap at heart.)

Then you discover some fish in a pond that no one has ever fished before, except maybe for a few kids in a nearby farm. And you begin to put things into perspective. Maybe you catch a big fish there, or more than likely, just any fish you totally didn't expect. A gift fish moments from your home. Maybe then you need to read a book that'll help get your perspective back, such as the Offbeat Angler. Seems a really interesting way to approach fishing and your environment in general. Not everything is brown trout in far off destinations or fee-based fishing. Three-quarters of our fishing, just like three-quarters of our lives, is myth.

     march 21, 2006

The universe's birthday

We've just been told that, for sure, the universe is 13.7 billion years old today. That's Billions. That's a very long time. Not only that, we're told that the universe began as an object (well . . . matter/object/energy/einstein stuff) that was only the size of a marble, which then exploded out to the far reaches of the then future universe in one trillion trillionth of a second. That's a trillion trillionth. That's a very short time.

So here I am on my favorite little spring (well, imagine if you can, for I don't do much computing there) putting back another brook trout with delicate swirls on its back like the arms of a solar system and spots like stars and constellations, trying to put all this into perspective. I don't know why, but this stuff bugs me terribly. I think it bugs a lot of people terribly. How did a big bang make a cute little brook trout?

Well . . . let's see. The first particles had single electrons and protons, maybe not even that. Then there was a significant boom, then more complicated elements formed like carbon, then eventually oxygen, nitrogen, then . . . you get the idea--life. Just like that. And before you know it, I'm putting back a pretty fish.

Not only that, but the universe is expanding and not slowing down. It's accelerating. No rebirth. This is called entropy. Entropy sucks. Anything good needs effort to keep it good. That's the lesson in all this. Wheh. Now that I figured that out, I'm going fishing again--and putting back more fish and being nice more often (even to the jerks), because . . . well, what if they're wrong? Happy birthday, Universe!

     march 9, 2006

All creatures great and woolly

new sea creature If you can't hook up with bonefish, you can try for one of these, as long as you have a fast fly line that can get down three miles. French divers have discovered a new crustacean in the South Pacific. They call this six-inch-long lobster-like creature Kiwa Hirsuta. I call it a Woolly Crustacean.  In fact, with some marabou, maybe some chickabou, some hen hackle palmered on both legs, a little Mylar, turkey feathers for the thorax, some tinsel, and lots of weight to get it down three miles--I should be able to create something to entice a sperm whale.

     February 19, 2006

Odd events in flyfishing

What is the oddest fish you caught? Or the oddest way you caught a fish? Or the oddest thing you did while fishing? Send me your story, and I'll post (with a link to your site if you have one).

I'll start. I was fishing for cutthroat in the salt one day, and all I could pick up were flounder. Now, I've caught flounder on the fly before in shallow water. And I have nothing against flounder. But this particular fish was rising to my fly in the oddest way. Imagine a pancake griddle chasing a fly, and that is how this fish kept chasing my fly across the surface. A flounder's rise would make a trout's rise to a caddis seem dainty.  Plop, plop, plop--like your hand slapping the water. Perhaps there is a special word for this ring in the rise to add to the lexicon of rises--like, well, "slap".

Now, if you know me, you know I like to play games with the fish sometimes, sort of like how people will play with their cats. After missing the first few hookups, and thinking that maybe my fly was too big for the small flounder's mouth (I was using a Deceiver, after all), I started intentionally pulling the fly away just as a rise occurred. For the next twenty minutes or so, I managed to keep that flounder slapping at my fly as I pulled it closer to shore, maybe five slaps per cast. After a while, the action stopped. I could almost hear the fish swim away in disgust, with a "This sucks."

     February 10, 2006

Trout Grass

Trout Grass videoEven if you prefer waving graphite over your head, you'll enjoy this fine video on bamboo. The history of flyfishing is as much cultural and societal as it is mechanical and physical, and this documentary illuminates this sometimes neglected aspect of what we do to entice a trout.  Read more . . .

     February 2, 2006

How small do you have to be?

So which is it? Who deserves the king of small? Midcurrent has a report of the smallest fish, about 1/3 inch long.

But now, an even smaller fish is reported, about 1/4 inch.  They look about the same length  to me, and believe you me, I'm an expert on small fish.  The smallest fish is actually the brook trout I had on last week, which I swore was a good ten inches by the tug, but turned out to be maybe smaller than these guys (well, it might as well been). At least, I put my fish back.

Apparently, astronomers go through similar discovers and angst over small matters. Now we have reports (more attitude, I suspect) that our beloved underdeveloped Pluto may no longer be a planet at all, and that a nearby tenth planet is. Indeed! I don't think so. Soon, they'll be saying that rainbow trout are salmon (oh, wait, they almost do). Somehow science isn't as fun as it was growing up.

     January 18, 2006

The 2006 IGFA Record Book is out

It's out! It's out! The 2006 IGFA book of records as reported by Midcurrent. Check the appendix for the smallest trout ever caught. You'll see my picture. Chapter 27 contains additional records seldom reported upon: The biggest trout caught under the most unusual circumstances, which was won by Fred Jenkins of Redding, Iowa, while eating an anchovy sandwich. The trout jumped out of the water and grabbed his anchovy.

Or this record: In Wisconsin, a man caught a fish and, forgetting to buy his son a birthday present, put the fish in a plastic lunch bag he had. He carried the fish home and put it in his son's smallish aquarium. The 12 inch fish began thrashing around in the 14-inch aquarium, splashing water out and terrifying the tropical fish, causing the son to cry and the wife to beat the father with fly rod. He promptly removed the fish and returned it to the river that night, but retained the Who's Silly record anyway.

     January 11, 2006

World's largest freshwater fish

Now that's a fish. The National Geographic reports that this is the largest freshwater fish caught, a 650 lb. Mekong catfish. I wonder what fly they used. I swear, though, that the fish I had on last week was just a tad bigger. I wouldn't want to try noodling for this kind of cat, as real men in Oklahoma might do.

     January 3, 2006

The sticky myth of head cement

Using head cement to put that finishing touch on your perfect fly is a relatively new idea. As far as I can determine, using head cement to secure the head wrappings on a fly is somewhere between 30 and 50 years old.

Frederic Halford, Theodore Gordon, and Charles Cotton never used it. Certainly not Dame Juliana Berners'our first writer on the subject of flies and fly fishing. Even if they thought about it, our earliest fly fishing legends would probably figure they were too busy tying their flies with their fingertips and then tying them onto horse hair next to a stream to bother with another impediment to getting on with the fishing. Read more . . .

     December 22, 2005

To fish or not to fish--just ask Shakespeare

Of course, Shakespeare was a fisher, if not a flyfisher. The Shire of Far Reaches site has interesting speculations on William's fishing (as well as a great history of fishing in general), as seen through the eyes of his poetry. According to scholars, the poet knew about everything happening in his culture, to the point that some have questioned the bard's existence (He knew too much?)

A hundred years had passed since the publishing of Dame Juliana Berner's "Treatyse on Fysshynge wyth an Angle". It seems to me, with the paucity of book publishing at the time, any book is going to embrace fairly common practices and interests to survive, especially if it is attached to a book on farming (which it was). Shakespeare must have sensed all this as he took the pulse of the land and lords--no doubt while lounging on a mossy rock, rod in hand, dabbling a red wool fly, waiting for a trout to break his reveries. Go Bill.

     December 16, 2005

Watching your weight

I love soft weight on leaders, but it tends to slip down after a while--that is, until I figured out how to spread it on the leader to keep in place. If the soft weight is rolled firmly with your fingers until it is fairly long and thin while keeping the center thick, the adhesive material within the weight has more leader surface area to adhere to, and it stays put, even with strong casts. Be sure to compress the weight firmly with your fingers to help with the adhesion. You'll figure out how thin to make the ends of the soft weight to maximize adhesion. Too thin, and the ends can separate.

I no longer have to use the blood/surgeon's knots to hold the weight in place, which are usually located in an inconvenient position relative to where I want the weight and fly to be.

Even in Winter when the weight gets rock hard, the weight stays in place. Typically in winter, I have to rework the weight at least once during a 4-hour trip. This is usually accomplished with a touch of my lighter flame to warm the soft weight before I mold and compress it again into the right shape.

     December 15, 2005

Interesting Irish fly pattern contest winners

The 2005 Irish Open Flytying Championship has some most interesting winners. Take this one from the "Nymphs/Emergers/Pupa" category. This is not a still from the movie "Aliens". It's an emerging dun (Or, I suppose, and emerging spinner). Now, you don't fish these--You ponder them. Fly tying contests are fascinating events. Shame on our Buggers and San Juan Worms :-)

     December 13, 2005

Ernest Schwiebert passes on

Such a fine writer. I've probably enjoyed reading Ernest more than anyone. Midcurrent has nice words about on our great ambassadors to the sport.

     December 12, 2005

Another interest flyfishing podcast

Flyfishingradio.com has produced another podcast for easy listening at home or work, which for me means work. I don't normally listen to podcasts, but our media outlets need all the flyfishing support they can get. Wylie Thomas always puts on an interesting, home-spun radio show. You can always pick up something interesting, such as thoughts from a member of the US Flyfishing team. Lance Egan, and how he goes about seducing the wily carp throughout the year.

What is in a hook, anyway

I love trying to match the hatch as much as the next guy wading in a clear chalk stream. Quill body, CDC, beautifully long split tail, size 18--what more could a fish want? Perfect match for Baetis or large midge. Except for that piece of iron sticking out the fly's butt. If the fish is going along with our plan and playing by the rules, then what is the fish thinking about the hook point? How come the fish isn't rejecting the fly because of the hook. I've always wondered.

     December 05, 2005

I've had it with leaders. Fight back with a 4-piece one

Trying a new leader formula--the Gary Borger 4-piece style. Apparently, more of a George Harvey formula. Whatever. George Harvey's formula uses a very thin butt section, .013 inch. Gary uses a more traditional .020 (with maybe thinner ones for some leaders), but he depends on a longer tippet and mid section to cause the leader to collapse. I guess that's good. Mainly, though, I wanted a simpler formula, and just 4 pieces is certainly simpler, and something I can tie stream-side.

The triple surgeon knots joins the sections for me--a new knot for me. I usually rely on a blood knot, but I'm finding the triple surgeon to be much easier to tie--and as strong or stronger. I almost sliced my fingers off pulling apart a 5x tippet tied to 3x with a triple surgeon's knot.

I was worried that a 4-piece leader would hinge or not cast smoothly, but I've perceive no difference in how the leader turns over. The nice thing about the leader is that it is easier to carry only the one leader and adjust as necessary while fishing. Usually, I'm carrying 8 or so leaders carefully filed away. With large piece sections (except for that odd 1 foot of .013), I don't feel I'm being inefficient by shortening the leader significantly each time I want to change tippet diameters. Cutting and splicing takes much less time than it takes to take one leader off and put on another.

Read Gary Borger's fine book Presentation. It has changed my mind a lot about my basic assumptions on presentation, leader design, and casting.

     November 29, 2005

Lord, its stinky out there

Waiting for Steelhead to come ashore. Mainly though I'm bumping into Chum. I love how these big fish bump into my legs as I fish. One nearly three feet long swam right through them. These fish must lose their sight (certainly their common sense) when they get into the rivers. The eagles are up above, making their odd squeaky noises, probably waiting for the salmon to beach themselves. Maybe the fish are hoping I'll protect them from the eagles.

What is odd is that I have to change my casting in response to the fish. I know they are just upstream where I want to start my dead drift, and I don't want to snag them. Not that I'm pure or kind-hearted (well, OK, I am, sort of), but fighting a fish with the determination of a sack of rocks isn't my idea of fun. I'd probably end up trashing all my tackle for one stinky fish. The fleeting stink at this time of year reminds me of the rotting flesh/eagle cycles, and I am disappointed that I can't be sense that for any longer than the freezing moments I have between casts.



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