Monday, September 30, 2013

Tying the Whip Finish Knot

There are special tools and methods that can help one tie this knot, but they all take more time. The triangle whip finish is quicker once it’s mastered. To help you tie it correctly, start by making a triangle with your fingers (A, B and C) as shown in the starting position (1). Place (A) tightly on the hook shank to prevent it from slipping. Make sure your index finger (B) is going over the top of the hook and point (C) is going under it. Keeping tension on all points, move the triangle slightly over the hook. Then, using a 360 degree motion, twist your hand to the right (2), bring it down and towards your body (3), and return to the same starting position (4). Continue this procedure wrapping forward to the hook eye.  

To tie off the head, place a dubbing needle inside the triangle and pull the thread taut (5). Then, draw it tightly to the head until it stops and slip the needle out. You should now have made a neatly tapered fly head. 

Note: The number of wraps it takes to finish the head will depend on hook size. Smaller hooks may take six to nine wraps and larger sizes may take ten or more.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Summer Steelhead on a Goofus Bug?

Doug landing a Steelhead 
Today not many fly fishers can believe the type of success that was experienced by Steelhead anglers five or six decades ago. It was a remarkable era when hugh runs of native Summer Steelhead would return to the Kalama and Wind Rivers in Southwest Washington, the Sandy and Clackamas Rivers in the Portland area, as well as the Coastal streams. However, my favorite water was the Deschutes River in Eastern Oregon. My Dad introduced me to this rich, high desert fishery in those early years when there were lots of fish and very few anglers. Back then if you saw four other anglers, it was too many. This would prompt Dad to caution me, “Now don’t tell anybody about these fish, the river is crowded enough!”

I witnessed my first Summer Steelhead caught on a fly on the Deschutes near Warm Springs. My friend, Bob Wiley and I had hiked down into the canyon to fish for Redside trout. But when we arrived at the river, another fly fisher was playing a big fish. It was a 6 to 7 pound Steelhead. After five more arduous minutes he landed it using a 5-weight rod, a dry line and a high floating fly called the Goofus Bug. This started the wheels turning in my head, and I thought, “Aha! So this is how you do it.”

I then began fly fishing for Summer Steelhead by dead drifting the Goofus Bug and other dry flies to no avail. If I had known of the greased line method of fishing surface patterns, I may have had more luck. Eventually, I discovered the technique for the wet fly swing and began my lifelong pursuit of catching Steelhead.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How to Tie Glo Bugs

Steelhead landed by Doug Stewart on Glo Bug
Glo Bugs are very productive for trout and steelhead and they are quick to tie. The best material is Glo Bug yarn because it has a soft texture that is easier to shape. Also, a smaller hook is best to use because it allows fish to mouth it for a longer duration and ensures a positive hook-up.

They are fished with a nymph technique which requires constant focus on an indicator and the direction of the line. High Sticking is a method that’s used to dead drift the fly as it flows downstream. With the rod held high the line must be cast upstream and constantly mended as it flows down. Then to prevent snagging and to lure fish into striking, twitches, slack line draws and line lifts can be used effectively. 

1. Depending on the hook size, fold together two or four sections of yarn and place on top of a #9523 hook, 3/16 to 1/4 inch from the eye. Next, use your fingers or bobbin to secure it with seven tight wraps of “A” nylon thread.

2. Pull the material upright and make three snug thread wraps in back of the yarn and seven or eight in front of the yarn. Depending on the size of glo bug you want, pinch the yarn and move your fingers up and away from the shank approximately 3/16 to 1/4 inch.

3. With strong, sharp scissors make one lateral cut cleanly through the yarn. Don’t make short snips. Tied and cut properly, the yarn will turn into a semi-rounded shape.

4. To complete the glo bug, firmly pull the yarn down on both sides and with your fingers compress the ball three to four times. Trim off any uneven ends below the hook, and finish the head with several half hitches or a whip finish knot. A completed head is unnecessary.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Catch and Release

"Beaching the fish” is a descriptive term that is often used in place of “Landing a Fish,” which means leading a fish into shallow water and gradually sliding it onto the bank. When landing a wild fish, you can use this method but you should keep the fish in shallow water until the release. Curiously, there is another unconventional method for beaching a fish that my dad used for landing steelhead on the North Fork of the Trask. It was one of those unprecedented flukes that we would never forget. 

            We decided to fish the first hole above the falls because it was a natural place for steelhead to rest before continuing their migration up river. Most of the fish were wild and very close to the native strain. You didn’t just play these fish for a few minutes and then reel them in. It was an aggressive battle from start to finish, and quite often the fish dictated the outcome. They would literally tear up the water with powerful runs and spectacular head-shaking leaps. It was a fight to the finish and most of the time they won!

            The water was in perfect condition as we stepped in and began to cover it. I was just getting ready to make another cast when Dad yelled that he had one on. The fish quickly jumped several times and then tore downstream. Finally, he stopped its run and began working it back up river. The fish was at least 12 pounds and had plenty of fight left. Suddenly, it streaked across the water towards the other bank. Dad stopped it again, and as he looked around for a landing area the fish regained new strength. It streaked upriver, downriver and across to the other side jumping crazily out of control. Suddenly, the unthinkable happened. The fish made two more jumps and landed directly on the opposite bank and spit the hook out. We were stunned. However, the fight ended on a happy note when the fish quickly flopped back into the water. 

            My dad was totally distraught, and with some empathy I looked at him and said, “Don’t worry about it dad. You just showed me the easiest way to catch and release!” He kind of chuckled and said sarcastically, “Doug, I don’t mind lettin’ em go but not from long range!”  

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Versatile Tied Down Caddis

Years ago, I developed  the Stewart Caddis (originally called the Dark Tied Down Caddis) to suggest the pupae of the Hydropsyche or Spotted Sedge. It’s a simple pattern that fish will take using different types of presentations. All one has to do is get it into the water and let it swing, twitch it or just let it work in the current. All in all, the simplicity of this fly, its versatility, ease of tying and the fact that it can be used almost year around make it an indispensable pattern.  

The type and texture of materials are widely varied. For example, floss, yarn, mohair, Antron, chenille and dubbing material can be used for the body. Common body colors are orange, yellow, off-white, rust, olive and insect green. Although the tail and wing are usually tied with deer hair, moose and elk hair can also be used.  
Hook: 3906B Mustad, sizes 14 to 6
Thread: 3/0 black
Tail and Wing: Natural dark deer hair
Body: Orange wool or color of choice
Hackle: Brown palmered

Step 1. Clip out a small bunch of deer hair and tie the tip ends at the shank bend leaving about 1/4 inch extended behind the body. Then pull the forward bunch of deer hair upright and make a few tight wraps right at its base. This keeps the deer hair out of the way. Next, tie in the wool and the hackle

Step 2. Wrap the wool forward tying it off 1/8 inch from the eye. Depending of the hook size, spin 4 to 6 turns of hackle forward to the eye securing it in place.

Step 3. Pull the deer hair down over the body to form the wing case. Pinch it tightly in this position and tie off. Don’t let it cover the sides of the fly.

Step 4. Closely trim off the excess hair and whip finish the head with a slight taper and cement.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Ubiquitous Caddisfly

        Caddisflies are one of the most widely spread insects in the world, especially in the Western United States and Canada. These stalwarts are adaptable to many different ecosystems and can be found in cool freestone streams, spring creeks and cold stillwaters. There are two different types of Caddis larvae--the case builder (periwinkle) that cements gravel, sand, twigs or vegetation to form a temporary home, and the free-living caddis that simply makes a crude shelter out of sand and small pebbles. Their life cycles consist of four stages of development--egg, larva, pupa and adult. 

        When caddisflies emerge from their pupal cases, they swim or use a bubble to buoy themselves to the surface. During the hatch, fish will take these emergers with aggressive swirls, loud slaps and jumping rises. The surviving adults quickly head for the shoreline where they will begin their mating ritual in circling swarms. After mating, the fertilized females fly to the water to lay their eggs in the surface film. Some, however, swim down to the substrate to accomplish their mission. 

       A Caddisfly can be fished in a variety of ways and at all times of the day, but evening is usually the best for emerging caddis. An effective technique is a simple cast down and across the water with or without twitches. Patterns such as the Lead Wing Coachman, a peacock body Soft Hackle, the Stewart Caddis and even the long-forgotten Cow Dung are effective. Scuds and shrimp can be portrayed with olive, gray, brown and pink colors. The shape of the Tied Down Caddis can be drastically changed as a fish’s teeth will tear up the wingcase, but don’t discard the fly. Fish will often take the chewed up version better that the original. This style of fly can also be used to represent other insects that have varying body colors. For example, orange, yellow, gold and black bodies are effective for stoneflies. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Luck be a Summer Steelhead

A picture of Don Wilson standing in the Deschutes River landing a steelhead with his fly rod.
Don Wilson playing his lucky fish!

If I were a gambler, I would have lost my shirt. I was guiding my friend Don Wilson for Summer Steelhead on the Deschutes River near Maupin, Oregon. Before we fished I decided to go to Sherars Falls to check the number of fish that had passed over the falls that day. Normally in September and October the counts can be 100 or more, but to our displeasure we counted only 20. Regardless, we decided to fish an area that was called the Ledge Hole. I knew the odds were not in our favor, but it was in the evening and the conditions were just right--no wind, shadows on the water and adequate room to lay the line out across a gentle riffle. As we approached the run I felt that hooking a fish would be a long shot.
A picture of Don Wilson standing in the Deschutes River landing a steelhead with his fly rod.
Don landing his fish.
The water was at a good level and it allowed us to wade arm and arm across the uneven bedrock.  Any higher and one could easily lose their footing. Fish often held close to the ledge in 5 to 10 feet of water and a short cast of 10 to 20 feet would often produce a good fish. With a Max Canyon fly, Don made a 75-degree angle cast and let the fly swing across the riffle. Amazingly, a good fish took hard and the fight was on. After a spirited fight of seven or eight minutes he brought in and released a beautiful 8-pound Fall Steelhead. I congratulated Don and urged him to take several steps down and make another cast knowing that hooking another fish would be a long shot. As he approached the end of the run he made a final cast for luck and remarkably another fish took hard. It was a spitting image of the first fish and it was also given its freedom.

A picture of Don Wilson displaying the steelhead before he released it.
A quick photo before its release!
As we headed back I looked at Don and said, “Do you know what the odds of catching those two fish were?” As he quizzically looked at me I said, “Buddy, Lady Luck must have been on your side because you just caught ten percent of the Steelhead in this section of the river!” We laughed as we headed back to camp.

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