Friday, November 29, 2013

Stream Strategies - Glides

The following photos are the second in a four-part series of identifying and fishing water types.  

The head of the glide.
Glides are three to ten feet in depth with large boulders, deep slots and ledges strewn along an irregular bottom. They are similar to pools in that the water is clearer and slower so fish can become more selective. Many flies can be used but I prefer to use an Adams, a Stewart, a Caddis or a variety of nymphs. Dry flies are dead drifted on the surface, wet flies can be swung across or under the surface and nymphs are usually dead drifted near the bottom.  

The lower end of the glilde. 
Glides can be fished effectively if you approach quietly and wade with care. Always fish the shallow water first to avoid spooking fish in close. Glides can be fished effectively using many different patterns and techniques.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Stream Stratagies - Riffles

To become a successful fly fisher you need to be able to read the water—that is to know where fish live, feed and hide from predators. It is also important to identify water types—riffles, glides, pocket water and pools. The more you can learn about the water structure and types the better for your success. The following photos are the first in a 4-part series of identifying and fishing water types.  

A wide stretch of riffles. 
Riffles are challenging to fish because strikes are usually quick. When you dead drift a nymph you must react quickly to a strike. If you fish a dry fly, constant attention to the fly and quick and timely reflexes are mandatory.

Pocket water blending into riffles. 
Generally riffles are one to three feet deep and have a choppy surface due to an irregular rock bottom. The water tumbles over the rocks and causes a roughly distorted surface and makes it difficult for fish to see the angler. 

Many different flies can be used with success in this water type. I like to use dry flies because the takes are usually quick and splashy. Nymphs can also be used but snagging the bottom is a concern. Streamers will also work. To ensure a good hookup, quick responses are necessary.

Learning a stream or river from the bottom up is an invaluable way to increase your success. One way to accomplish this is to go to a river when it is at a summer low and take photos of the bottom structure such as logs, rocks, cut banks and drop offs. Then, when you fish it in higher water conditions, you’ll get a more accurate idea of where the fish will be holding.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Conspicuous Woolly Worm

Black Woolly Bugger
Some of the most productive flies ever invented were Woolly Worms and Woolly Buggers. Surprisingly, they are easy to tie but are sometimes passed over in favor of more elaborate patterns. They were designed to suggest a Hellgrammite, an aquatic larva of the dobsonfly, but they can also imitate stoneflies, caddisflies, leeches, nymphs, caterpillers and bait fish, to name a few. Newer variations include the Egg-Sucking Leech, Bead Head Buggers, Optic Eye patterns and the Ochoco Special.  They can be fished in a variety of ways, such as twitched, dead drifted or swung across the surface.

These versatile flies can be tied in a variety of colors, sizes and shapes, and with a variety of materials including chenille, peacock herl, yarn, fiber tails and rubber legs. Applying your own variations may also produce surprising results. The following recipe is for the Black Woolly Bugger which is simply a woolly worm with a marabou tail.

Hook:     9672 sizes 8 to 4
Thread:  3/0 Monocord
Tail:       Black marabou
Body:     Black chenille
Hackle:  Black saddle (palmered)

Tying Instructions:

Step 1. Tie in a clump of black marabou at the hook bend.

Step 2. Tie in palmered hackle and black chenille.

Step 3. Spiral the chenille ahead to 1/8 inch of the eye.

Step 4. Depending on the hook size, wrap 4-8 turns of hackle forward about 1/8 apart. Finish the head and tie off.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

B.C. Midge

The B.C. Midge fly came to life during a heavy rainstorm on Pinaus Lake in British Columbia. 

B.C. Midge 
I had been fishing from a boat with minimal success when a rain squall suddenly developed. As I started to row back to the lodge, fish began feeding feverishly on the surface. I quickly determined that they were taking midges that were very large by normal standards. I then got out my fly tying kit and tied a reasonable facsimile of the midge on a #8 hook and began fishing. In the next 1/2 hour I caught and released a dozen or more trout between 14 and 18 inches. Interestingly, when the rain stopped the fish quit rising. Sometimes, it’s difficult to understand the habits of fish; but, that’s what makes fly fishing so alluring and challenging and why we keep on doing it. 

Hook:  9671 Mustad sizes 12 - 8
Thread: 6/0 Black UNI-thread
Tail:  2 Peacock herls
Body and thorax:  Peacock herl
Rib:  Small gold oval tinsel
Wing case:  Peacock herl
Antennae:  Two peacock herls

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cranefly Nymph

The Cranefly Nymph was developed as a variation of Polly Rosborough’s fly, the Casual Dress. He mostly used muskrat with the guard hairs for the entire fly. My rendition uses muskrat for the tail, a body of gray wool dubbing and a front collar of muskrat. The guard hairs should also be included in the tail and wing and the body should be picked out to make it look buggier. Both of these patterns use black ostrich herls for the head. 

The main difference between the flies is that the Cranefly Nymph is not as bushy as the Casual Dress and that wool dubbing is used instead of muskrat for the body, making it quicker to tie. Both flies are effective because the muskrat fur breaths and pulsates in the current. This undulating motion simulates a live and edible insect like the cranefly and other types of larva.

Hook:     9672 Mustad, sizes 12 - 10
Thread:  3/0 black monocord
Tail:       Small clump of muskrat including guard hairs
Body:     Gray dubbing
Wing:     Collar of muskrat, including guard hairs
Head:     Black ostrich herl

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Thief and the Trophy Trout

A young Stewart boy learning the basics
of fly fishing on the Crooked River.

Even after 40 years this fish story still grates on my nerves. Back in those early days the Crooked River in Eastern Oregon used to run clear as it flowed out of Bowman Dam. Fishing was usually very good because of the tremendous population of scuds, the consistent hatches of caddis and mayflies, and the variety of nymphs, especially the craneflies.        

On one particular morning I approached a riffle that lazily spilled into a clear five-to six-foot pool. There was little surface activity as I cast a # 8 muskrat fly up and across the mild current. In the past I had good luck using a slow methodic strip which would enable the muskrat fly to move and pulsate like the real cranefly nymph. As I stripped my fourth cast back, I could see the fly working towards me when suddenly a large dark shadow began to follow it. As it swam closer the shadow transformed into a huge trout. I froze but kept stripping, while saying under my breath, “Take it, take it.” Then the unthinkable happened. Just as this trophy opened its mouth to strike, out of nowhere a three-to-four pounder slashed in and took the fly. As I quickly played it out I watched the big fish slowly cruise away upstream. I was totally distraught. 
A week later I was down at the same pool hoping for another chance to hook that big fish, when a spin fisherman walked up and said,

“Having any luck, fella?”
“No, not today. What about you?” 
“Oh, so so. But last week in this same hole I caught a nice one.”
“How big?”
“Well, that sports shop in town weighed it in at 12 pounds 3 ounces!”         
“No kidding. What were you using?”
“Salmon eggs.”   

I was really upset and, rather than telling him how lucky he was, I walked away while wondering, “If it hadn’t been for that thief, I…” 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Saga of a Cutthroat Trout and Chinook Salmon

Lewis and Clark River
            The Lewis and Clark River is a tributary of the Columbia River, and its source originates from the Saddle Mountains. From there it flows for twenty miles until it enters Young’s Bay, a part of the Columbia. Like many coastal streams it’s a small, brushy stream that requires careful and stealthy wading. At different times of the year it harbors a variety of fish including Chinook, Coho and Chum salmon, and also Rainbow and Westslope Cutthroat trout. I was primarily interested in catching, photographing and releasing the handsome, multicolored Cutthroat, but I was in for an unexpected surprise. 
Westslope Cutthroat Trout
            I rigged up my 8-foot graphite rod with a 5-weight floating line and tied on a 7 1/2-foot leader, which was set up with two flies--a #12 wet fly on the tippet called the Stewart Caddis and a #14 dry fly called the Elk Hair Caddis. The better part of the morning was memorable in that many trout and Cutthroat were caught and released, and although they were not very large they were very aggressive for their size. A nine to ten inch fish can jump and fight with aggression. After a few quick photos I headed downriver to another hole.

            The water I planned to fish riffled over a rocky shelf and into a long pool which deepened and flowed 40 yards downriver. The right side of the run featured a steep five- to seven-foot clay bank, which in heavy rain would periodically erode and muddy the water. As I made a few initial casts at the top end of the riffle a large fish exploded from the water and streaked up and back down to the pool. In the shallow water I could see that it was a large salmon, and as I stood with my mouth agape, another salmon shot by like a torpedo. Without hesitation I instinctively cast my tandem trout flies into the riffle again and I felt a slight pull on my leader. Suddenly, a 15-pound, mint-bright Chinook salmon jumped and cartwheeled back into the water. I was totally unnerved and sat down to collect my thoughts. I had hooked salmon with small flies before but that was using a 9-foot 8-weight rod and a sinking line with # 6 and #4 wet flies. So I wondered, did that salmon really take one of my trout flies, did he just strike at it and miss or was he just playfully jumping as they often do? I would never know for sure, but in my mind’s eye I could see myself playing and landing that Chinook on a small dry fly. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

C.R. Midge

C.R. Midge
One morning on the Crooked River in Eastern Oregon, I was fishing a dry fly over a difficult hatch. After an hour of frustration, I decided to collect a few specimens with my net. After my inspection, I determined that they were #16 adult midges and that the fish were taking the emergers. The only fly that I had which resembled them was a #16 Lead Wing Coachman. I quickly clipped the gray wing back to 3/16th of an inch. Almost at once I started to catch fish because they were taking the emerging nymphs and not the dry fly. 

Thread:  8/0 black monocord
Hook:     92840 Mustad sizes 14 - 20
Body:     Thin peacock herl
Wing:     A Thin mallard section clipped short

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Stewart Caddis Fly

Stewart Caddis

         The Stewart Caddis, formerly called the Dark Tied Down Caddis, was developed by accident. I had been fly fishing with a Leadwing Coachman fly without any luck, and I was just about ready to give up when I hooked and landed a small fish. As I released it, I noticed that the wind had snarled the leader and tied the feather wing down with a half hitch. I hurriedly made another cast and a fish took hard and broke me off. With this in mind, I took another Leadwing and tied the back of the feather down with a half hitch. The results were startling as I hooked and released several more good fish. If you’re in a similar situation, identify the insect stage and if you don’t have the same exact pattern, take a similar fly and alter the shape or size to match the natural. 

Hook:    9672 sizes 12-10
Thread: 3/0 Black monocord
Tail:      Dark deer hair
Body:    Peacock herl
Back:    Dark deer hair
Hackle:  Dark brown palmered

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Polar Shrimp Story

Polar Shrimp
The Sandy River near Troutdale, Oregon was low and clear as I hiked into one of my favorite steelhead runs, located in a narrow canyon on the upper river. The widest part was only 40 to 50 feet across, and when it was clear I could stand atop large boulders and scan the water for fish. I was on one such rock when I spotted 5 to 6 male steelhead hovering around a female. She was preparing a nest and no doubt the males were competing for her charms. In this mode, fish are very protective and will defend their territory at all costs. 

I decided to test their patience and quickly cast a #4 Polar Shrimp about 10 feet from them. One moved to ward off the intruder but he didn’t strike. About that time two spin fishermen saw me and stopped to observe my technique.

“Having any luck?” one asked. “Not yet,” I answered. “But, I’m casting to some fish right now.” As they moved in closer the other one asked, “Do you ever catch fish with that rod of yours?” I made another cast and with my eyes focused on the fish I said, “Well, yeah. If you learn how to…Fish on!” yelled. 

After several strong runs and a few spectacular jumps the fish tired and I landed a chrome eight pounder. After I released it they began to quiz me on the equipment and the technique that I was using as well as where they could purchase their equipment. Several days later they came into my shop and purchased two outfits. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. 

Materials for a Polar Shrimp:
Hook:     No. 36890, sizes 6-2
Thread:  3/0 black or white monocord
Tail:       Hot orange hackle fibers
Body:     Fluorescent orange chenille 
Hackle:   Hot orange hackle (tied wet) 
Wing:     White calftail. 

Step 1. Tie in 10-15 hackle fibers and the chenille.

Step 2. Wrap the chenille up and tie off. Attach the front wet fly hackle.

Step 3. Spin the hackle 2 to 3 times and tie off at a 45 degree angle

Step 4. Tie in the wing and complete the fly with a neatly tapered head.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Green Sedge Inspiration

The Green Sedge Fly

I never forgot my first experience of catching a fish on a fly of my own creation. 

My first success at marching the hatch was on Glimpse Lake in British Columbia. I was wearing an old goose down vest, and while casting to some rising fish, I noticed that a few down feathers had leaked from the vest and settled on the lake. A gentle breeze tumbled them across the surface when suddenly a fish rose to a feather and snatched it. I was stunned! A fish taking a feather? 

Then fish started feeding all around the boat. I peered closely at the water's surface and confirmed that a hatch of No. 8 green-bodied caddisflies was occurring. The fish were taking the adult caddis and the feathers with equal abandon. I dug into my fly tying kit and tied a close resemblance of the caddis using grizzly hackle, green wool and feathers from the hole in my vest. The imitation had a perfect shape for the caddis wing, and as soon as I starting casting I was hooking one fish after another. It was an ecstatic moment.  As the feeding subsided, I realized that I had finally "matched the hatch" with my own imitation. 

Hook:     No. 9672 Mustad, Sizes 12-10
Thread:  3/0 black monocord
Tail:       Grizzly hackle fibers
Body:     Insect green yarn wrapped with palmered grizzly hackle
Wing:     Mallard flank feather
Hackle:  Grizzly (tied dry)

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Spruce Fly

This fly was developed in the 1930’s by Don Godfrey. It was originally used to catch sea-run cutthroat on the Oregon Coast.  However, it also became an effective pattern for brook trout, steelhead, salmon and a variety of warm water fish. Variations of this fly are the Silver Spruce tied by Polly Rosborough, the Dark Spruce which is a good minnow suggestor, as well as the Red Spruce used for brook trout.

The wings of these patterns can be tied as a feather wing style (matched together as one wing) to suggest the back of a minnow. They can also be tied splay wing style (wings split apart) to suggest a lively motion of a fish. It can be fished effectively using the wet fly swing, casting and stripping or trolling in still waters. I highly recommend it.

Hook:    9671, 9672 Sizes 10-4
Thread: 3/0 black
Tail:      5-6 peacock herls
Body:    Rear 1/3 red floss; 2-3 peacock; herl tied in front
Hackle:  Furnace tied wet.

Step 1. Tie in the peacock tail and attach the floss.

Step 2. Wrap the floss up 1/3 and attach the herls.

Step 3. Spin the herls up to 3/16 inches from the eye.

Step 4. Attach the wings splay style and the hackle.

Step 5. Wrap the hackle up to the eye and wrap over it to form a 45 degree angle. Tie off and finish the head.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Tying the Nail Knot

Fishing knots are typically the weakest link between you and the fish you’re fighting, so it’s vital to choose a knot that has a high breaking strength (90%-95%). However, a knot can still slip or break if it is poorly tied, and an inferior knot that is tied correctly will not.

The nail knot is a neat and sure way to attach leader to the fly line. It is basically a jam knot that tightens around the fly line so that it can’t slip. It also can be used to attach backing to fly line; in fact, I prefer it to the Albright Knot because I believe it’s a smoother connection. Also, an Albright Knot can come apart if it’s not tied properly. 

To facilitate the tying process, an inexpensive tool can be made by cutting a small 1-inch section from a hollow Q-tip or a stir straw. This will allow you to slide the line through and complete the knot. It can also be easily threaded onto a safety pin and attached to your vest for easy access. You can also use a nail or a toothpick in a pinch, or  a nail knot tool. 

The 4-step method: 

1. Place the Q-Tip or stir straw section on top of the fly line so that it is 1/4 inch from the end of the line. Then, with the leader on the top of the tube and line, tightly pinch everything between your thumb and forefinger. 

2. Still holding everything snugly, wrap the leader 5-6 times around all 3 components. Next, use your off hand to push the leader back through the tube.

3. Pull the tube back out of the wraps and pull on both ends of the leader tightly with your off hand. 

4. Tighten the knot and trim the short end of the leader to 1/8 inch. Lastly, trim the end of the line to 1/8 inch and you’ve completed a knot that won’t slip. 

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