Monday, March 31, 2014

The Perfect Fly?

A fish taking advantage of an easy meal.
Fly tying is a very relaxing and creative hobby, but contrary to some beliefs, you don’t need to tie a perfect fly to seduce a hungry fish. In fact, many times ratty and unkempt patterns may suggest natural insects better. This is not to suggest that one should use poorly tied flies. Striving to tie to the best fly you can is important, and I admire people who have the time and talent to tie perfect flies. But from my standpoint, I what to spend less time tying and more time fishing.

Remember to fish your pattern with confidence and that a perfect fly is just someone's fleeting expression. Your success may depend on the sporadic feeding habits and whims of fish. In many cases fish may take a fly because it represents a crippled insect and an easy meal, not because it looks more natural. So, in the final analysis, the fish is the judge of an angler’s offering. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Feather Eyes for Fly Patterns

Real Jungle Cock Eye
Artificial Eye

Jungle cock eyes, also referred to as nails, were formerly the exclusive choice for making the eyes and cheeks of Atlantic salmon flies, eyes on minnows and some terrestrial imitations such as the Jassid. Today, however, these feathers are difficult to obtain because of the endangered species list and are protected under government regulations.

There are other non-endangered birds that have feathers which can serve as close substitutes for eyes. A feather section from a Guinea fowl, peacock eyes for larger flies, a Starling feather if you add a spot of white lacquer below the feather tip, gray peacock pheasant eye feathers and artificial eyes. However, they are stiff and not as realistic. 

Guinea Fowl
Gray Peacock Pheasant

Starling Feather with Spot

Peacock Eye

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Guide's Guide

On the Deschutes river one year, I was guiding two clients for summer Steelhead. My son Chris was along to help with the camp duties, and when his work was done he would do some fly fishing on his own.

The first day was unproductive for my clients, but Chris was catching and releasing quite a few trout. When the next day passed without any Steelhead, my clients were starting to grumble a little. I quickly went into my normal guide routine of offering reasons why they weren’t catching fish by saying things like, the water was on the rise, the fish had moved upstream, the water was getting too warm, and so on. In those situations you still have to be upbeat and positive and give them a ray hope. Finally, at the end of the following day they each had a strike but no solid hookups.

The next morning we decided to fish our way downstream, and I put them in a classic run that was usually productive. In the meantime, Chris went above them and began to fish for trout in some pocket water. Suddenly, he hooked what he thought was a big trout. He played it for six or seven minutes, but it turned out to be an eight pound Steelhead with a dark caddis nymph it its mouth. After the release, one of my clients laughed and said jokingly, “Chris, from here on out you’re gonna be our guide!”

Monday, March 24, 2014

How to Fly Fish Merging Glides and Pools

Merging Glide and Pool
Glides and pools are somewhat similar in that they both have glass like surfaces with intermittent surface depressions. Pools, however, are usually deeper and have a slower current speed. Glides may also contain a more varied bottom structure such as larger boulders, ledges, drop offs and undercut banks. In both water types fish can be more selective so longer leaders, lighter tippets, smaller flies and more precise presentation is necessary. Also, patience and persistence may be more critical in pools.

The above picture is a good example of a glide flowing and blending into a pool. The white arrows are showing the potential holding positions of fish.  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fly Fishing in Hot Weather

Jeff Stewart Releasing a Nice Trout

In extremely hot weather (95° to 100° plus) fish are similar to humans as they will seek out shaded areas. Therefore, if you care to fish during the heat of the day look for protected areas, such as overhanging trees, cut banks, grassy hummocks, large boulders and other potential river structures.

At times dry flies will bring fish to the surface, particularly when there's a hatch, but most often fish will just lay low and sulk. I've had fairly good luck fly fishing in hot conditions by dead drifting an orange- or peacock-bodied Tied Down Caddis with a small split shot.

Fishing for long periods of time in this kind of weather can take a toll on one's system, so I always wear a good shade hat, dark glasses and light-colored clothes that don't absorb the sun. I also drink plenty of water and take a break in the shade now and then. These safety measures can prevent dehydration, possibly heat prostration or worse, a life-threatening stroke. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Where to Find Fish in Riffles

A riffle with arrows showing typical holding areas for fish.
Riffles are one to three feet deep and have a choppy surface due to an uneven rock bottom. Fishing them is a challenging endeavor because the faster current puts everything in quick time. Whether you are nymphing or fishing dry flies you have to concentrate on the line movement and be ready to react quickly. 

The most common method is to cast upstream and dead drift a dry fly or a nymph downstream. Strikes will be quick so you must be ready to set the hook. The broken water surface not only conceals fish from predators, but also hides the fly fisher so you can get closer without spooking them. Quiet wading is mandatory. 

The faster current dislodges nymphs that provide constant food sources for fish. Riffles also contain larger denizens like sculpins, crayfish, worms, darters and other bait fish. Also, in hot weather fish may move into riffles where the oxygen is the highest. Fishing this water type is challenging to fish but with patience and proper techniques you will achieve success.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Roger's Old Fishing Pond Story

Four Boys Holding Their Catch for the Day
Kid’s are pretty good fly fishers because they don’t have preconceived ideas about fishing. They just want to go to an old pond and have some fun and maybe catch a fish or two. To them, it’s not a high tech game and they keep it simple by fishing with an old glass pole, used fly line and a simple, buggy looking fly.

One day, however, this simple philosophy was challenged in my fly shop when a customer came in with an intricate, flashy new fly that he had just invented. As he bragged about its superior qualities and effectiveness a young boy entered and asked if I could identify a fish he had just caught at Roger’s Pond. From the shop window I could see a nice four or five pound bass hanging from the handlebars of his bike. The customer took notice and said,
Get him on worms, son?” 

Nope, got him on a fly!” 

As I congratulated the young boy, this arrogant individual brandished his flashy creation and said in a haughty tone, “Something like this, I bet.”

The young boy held up a well-used replica of a Brown Hackle Yellow and responded, “Nah mister, it’s this one. I don’t use that bright stuff ‘cause it scares’em away!”

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Lesson Learned Fishing the Tom Thumb

Tom Thumb
This buggy looking dry fly was developed in British Columbia and is one of the best all around dry flies. It is similar to the Humpy (Goofus Bug). The origin of the fly is uncertain but some believe that Algonquin Indian fishermen had something to do with it. It can suggest caddisflies, midges and both common and traveling sedges. Fish will take an emerger explosively and chase the traveling sedge with aggression.
Here’s a story about an early experience fishing with the Tom Thumb. My friend Pete and I were fly fishing a small lake near Pinaus Lake, B.C. I had just cast the Tom Thumb toward the shore line and had given it a few twitches when amazingly a large fish grabbed the fly and took off towards the center of the lake. It was the largest trout I ever had on and it was well hooked, but suddenly disaster struck. The reel stopped, the rod jerked and my trophy broke off. Pete looked at me queerly and said,
Why didn’t you let him run?”
I glanced at my reel and said, “Because I didn’t have any line left!”
He looked at me with concern and said, “Where the heck is your backing?”
I uttered meekly, “What’s backing?”

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tying and Fishing the Halfback

DEXHEIMER’S FLY                    MY VARIATION                     THE FULLBACK
The Halfback is an old B.C. pattern that was developed over 50 years ago by John Dexheimer. This simple but effective pattern can suggest nymphs such as dragonflies, damselflies, stoneflies, craneflies and some mayflies. I developed a variation of this fly that looks much the same.

The Dexheimer fly and the Fullback use pheasant tail fibers for the wingcases and tails, but my variation uses deer hair. Also, the Fullback has a segmented body. All of these patterns are very effective. They can be twitched near the bottom or up toward the surface as well as trolled from a boat. They can also be dead drifted in streams with good success. Below are the materials and directions to tie my style of Halfback.

Hook: Mustad 9672, sizes 8-14
Thread: 2/0 to 6/0 black monocord
Tail: Dark brown hackle or pheasant tail fibers
Body: 3 to 4 Peacock herls
Wingcase: Deer hair or pheasant tail fibers
Thorax: Peacock herl
Hackle: Brown or pheasant fibers

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

Step 2. Spiral the peacock herls forward 1/2 the body length and pull the fibers upright, tie them off and attach the deer hair and brown hackle.

Step 3. Spiral the peacock herl forward to 1/8 inch of the eye and then spiral the hackle over the peacock and tie off.

Step 4. Bring the deer hair forward over the top and tie off. Finish the head and cement.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Badger Lake Fish Story

The Halfback Nymph
Badger Lake is a large lake located near Kamloops, B.C. It has produced fish in the 10- to 15-pound range; however, 3- to 5-pounders are more common. It has good hatches of chrinomids in the spring and sedges in June.

Badger Lake near Kamloops, B.C.
One morning my friend Pete and I were fishing from my High Laker boat, anticipating action. Pete was rowing and trolling a fly called the Halfback, and I was casting toward the shoreline with a Bucktail Caddis. Suddenly, I heard a noise and saw Pete’s rod fly over the transom. Luckily, I grabbed it and handed it back to him, and he began playing a good fish.  

After almost ten minutes, he brought a nice 5- to 6-pounder close to the boat and shouted, “Quick, get the net!” I glanced around the boat, and unfortunately, I had left the it back in camp. With threatening eyes he glared at me, but I assured him that I could carefully lift the fish into the boat. However, my plan backfired as the fish flipped over my arm and broke off.

Pete never let me forget this incident and always blamed me for losing his fish. Interestingly, the fish seemed to gain a few pounds over the years. The last time I heard him tell the story it weighed over 20 pounds. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Fly Tying Proportion Illustrations

Judging the ideal lengths of body, wings, hackle and tail materials to tie a fly is a common challenge for some tyers. Selecting the right measurements for tying materials can be complicated if you don't know the general proportions for the hooks. Below are illustrations to help eliminate any confusion.

General Proportions of
Fly Parts to the Shank
(click illustration to enlarge)
Streamer & Nymph Proportions

Wide-Gap & Wet-Fly Proportions

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Max Canyon Fly Family

Max Canyon
I developed the Max Canyon on a fly fishing trip on the Deschutes River. I had been catching fish using old standards like the Skunk and Brad's Brat, but I wanted to develop a pattern I hoped might be more effective. So, with these flies in mind, I tied a fly using a black, orange and white color scheme. The next morning I began casting using the Max Canyon on the tippet and the Skunk on the dropper. The results were amazing as I hooked and released six fish that took the Max. Switching the flies' positions made no difference. Read my October 11, 2013, post, "Tying and Fishing the Max Canyon," for the entire story and the fly tying instructions. 

Dark Max
The Dark Max was created by Larry Piatt. He wanted to make the Max Canyon a little darker and give it a lower profile. He tied in a flat gold Mylar tip at the hook bend in place of the orange and white calf tail. Then he replaced the white calftail underwing with black calftail. This fly is very effective, especially in off color water. 

The Stewart
The Stewart was created by Marty Sherman. He wanted to tie a fly with the same color scheme as the Max Canyon but a little darker. He replaced the orange and white tail with golden pheasant tippets, made the body all black with gold tinsel and made the underwing black instead of white. Marty first called it the Dark Max, but he found out that Larry Piatt had already claimed that name. He thought the fly should somehow bear my name so he called it The Stewart.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Matching the Hatch with Pizazz

march brown fly
March Brown
a gaudy fly
A Gaudy Fly
It’s amazing what flies will work when fish are selective. One day I fished a mayfly hatch for over an hour without so much as a nibble. Good fish were still rising as I sat down to tie on another fly. I was close to giving up when an old timer sauntered up and asked, “How ya doing there young feller?”

Not very well, I’m sorry to say. I’ve got a perfect match for the March Brown but they’re refusing it. There must be too many naturals on the water.”

He looked at me with a glint in his eyes and said, “Son, fish can get downright choosy when they’re looking for the right groceries. Ya gott’a be innovative if ya know what I mean. Mind if I give’er a try?”

I nodded, but almost laughed when he tied on a huge fly with pink gaudy feathers, a scraggly purple body and pink rubber legs. It bore no resemblance to the naturals, and as he began to cast I knew that it would probably spook every fish, not to mention the water ouzels. On his first cast the fly hit the water with a loud splash and instantly an 18 incher grabbed it and went cartwheeling downriver. I was stunned. 

Then he looked at me and said, “Now son, that’s how ya match the hatch!” 
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