Friday, May 30, 2014

Tying Dropper Knots

Threaded Fly Dropper
Trailer Knot
Flies that extend from the main leader in some fashion are called droppers. Most anglers that use droppers consistently believe that there's a definite advantage over the use of one fly because they expand the opportunities to catch more fish. They offer the flexibility to experiment with different colors, types and sizes of flies. 

For example, you can tie on an old reliable and a new pattern to compare each fly's effectiveness. In order to determine the proficiency of light and dark flies, you can fish them in direct sun and in shadows or in clear or cloudy water. In addition, a No. 10 and a No. 12 patterns can be used to test the discretion of a finicky trout. Also, an assortment of dry, nymph or wet flies can be used to learn what insect stage the fish are taking. 

All and all, droppers are an interesting and productive way to fish, and if they're given a fair trial, catch ratios are known to increase. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Setting the Hook Properly

Doug hooks a sea trout on the Rio Grande
For the most part, failure to set the hook is due to poor reactions. The angler will react too slowly or not at all because of the inability to recognize the strike. Oftentimes during the day, fish will be rising in a deliberate manner and hooking them is fairly easy. When fish are rising sporadically, the strike may be too quick due to the element of surprise or inattention. 

The easiest risers to hook are during feeding frenzies, when fish are taking aggressively and proper timing is not critical because fish will often hook themselves. However, insects such as sedges that emerge erratically may throw one's timing off because of the element of surprise. All in all, to begin to hook more fish the fly fisher must get into the rhythm of the rise and settle down with each cast. 

In order to set the hook properly, you should use a short and firm wrist and arm movement. It's necessary to keep the least amount of slack line on the water so that your reaction to the strike can be quick. Keeping the rod at a low angle to the water will help eliminate breakoffs. Also, make sure that the barb is sharp and intact. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Fly Fishing Trip Gone Awry

Rich holding his broken fly rod. 
We were looking forward to catching some nice trout on the Deschutes River using Salmonflies, but sometimes your hopes for success can turn into a “busted trip.” It was May 21 and my friends Rich and Larry and I were looking for some good surface action using adult salmonfly patterns, namely the orange and yellow fluttering stoneflies.

We hiked downriver and scratched our way through a trail that was overgrown with blackberry bushes. Then, we headed to some pocket water we called the Rocky Run and anticipated some good action; however, the results were not pleasant. I became the first casualty when I fell in the water and then almost lost my rod after I laid it down in the Tule bushes. Rich’s misfortune occurred when he broke his prized Orvis Spring Creek fly rod. Then the sole of one of Larry’s wading shoes fell apart. The fishing was also dismal since we caught nothing but a few trout under ten inches.

Thinking that the worst was over, we headed back to the house to lick our wounds only to discover that Rich and I had unknowingly bumped into a nest of ticks which caused immediate concern. Fortunately, after intense body searches we were able to eradicate more than a dozen ticks. 

To make matters even worse, the next day I realized I had laid my camera down but forgot where I left it. With an anxious concern, I hiked back to the river hoping no one had taken it. Luckily, after a short search I found it partially hidden behind the rock I had been sitting on.

Sometimes when problems occur on a trip, you have to make the best out of bad situations and chalk it up to experience.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Tying the Elk Hair Caddis

Elk Hair Caddis
The Elk Hair Caddis was developed in the 1950s by Al Troth, a creative fly tier from Pennsylvania. It's a good searching pattern that resembles both stoneflies and caddisflies. It is primarily fished as a dry fly but also works when submerged just under the surface. It is also an effective pattern for Steelhead in sizes 6-8. 

Hook:  94840 Mustad, sizes 10-16
Thread:  6/0 Uni-thread
Hackle:  Brown, palmered 
Abdomen:  Dark olive or brown rabbit dubbing
Wing case:  Section of mottled turkey feather

Step 1. 

Tie in a spun noodle of rabbit fur and attach the hackle.

Step 2. 

Wind the body forward to 1/8 inch from the hook eye and then spin 4-6 turns of hackle forward.

Step 3. 

Select a clump of elk hair and stack it evenly and tightly, leaving the butt ends extended in front of the hook. Secure it with 6-8 tight wraps in the same place. 

Step 4. 

Cut the front portion of the elk hair so that it forms a hood above and slightly beyond the hook eye. Cement the thread on top and underneath the hook to finish. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Fly Casting: How to Control Slack Line

Slack Line Retrieve
Slack line can be effectively used when mending the line and casting the fly. However, it can be a problem in casting and playing fish if you don’t learn how to control it. A good example is when a fish runs directly at you. Single action reels aren’t fast enough to retrieve the line, so it must be stripped quickly to keep up with the fish. This action may produce coils of line at your feet that can tangle; so what can you do? 

First, wait until the fish stops running and then, with your index finger holding the line, grasp the slack line with your little finger of your casting hand. The index finger becomes a second line guard. Then, with pressure still on the fish, begin to reel in the slack line. If the fish suddenly makes another run, drop the line from your finger and continue to play him from the reel. From here on, fast winds can usually get the slack line back on the reel in short order.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Fly Casting: Shock Loop

The Shock Loop
Controlling the line with your off hand has a number of important functions. It is used to regain the line, strip line off the reel, play smaller fish (larger fish must be played off the reel), control slack line and perform different types of retrieves.

To begin, it’s best to place the line under the index finger of your right hand since additional fingers render no real advantage and you’ll have a more positive feel. The index finger is also used to perform the shock loop which is necessary when you’re using the wet fly swing (letting the fly swing down and across the current). After the cast, quickly strip off a short 4- to 5-inch loop and place the line firmly under the forefinger of your casting hand. 

Maintain the loop as the fly is in motion. Fish will take hard as the fly swings and the loop will simultaneously be stripped from your finger allowing the fly to seat firmly in a fish’s jaw. If the loop is too long, the line may whip around the reel handle and break the leader off. Also, it isn't critical to be prepared for the strike since your finger is acting as a manual drag until the line pulls off of the reel.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Fly Casting - The Single Haul

The Single Haul

The single haul is used to increase line speed, load the rod quickly and produce longer casts.

To begin, point the rod toward the water and vigorously pull the line down to your hip at the instant that you lift the line from the water. If your rod is too high when you start the pull or if your timing is off, slack line will occur which will “kill the cast” or in other terms "ruin the presentation." 

Then, when the forward cast reaches its maximum distance, release the line and simultaneously lower the rod to allow the line to land softly on the water. If the release if too quick, slack will occur and again kill the cast; if you release it too late the line will slap the water. 

Once you perfect this method, your casting will be smooth and accurate. The single haul is also used to initiate the Double Haul where you are casting for distance.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

How to Identify a Wild Fish!

                                                                                Adipose                 Dorsal
Anal             Pelvic              Pectoral 
Wild Trout (all fins intact)

It's fairly easy to spot wild fish, and they are easy to tell apart from hatchery fish if you look for some obvious indicators. Like Steelhead, wild trout will have an adipose fin that is intact and easy to spot behind their dorsal fin. The adipose fin of hatchery fish is cut more often than other fins. However, many hatchery fish are not clipped because of the sheer numbers of fish that have to be handled. 

Another more subtle way to tell the difference between wild and hatchery fish can be seen in the fins of wild fish. The dorsal, pectoral and anal fins of wild fish may be larger and have white leading edges, as shown in the wild trout picture above.

Hatchery Steelhead
(adipose and dorsal fins are missing)
A telltale sign of a hatchery fish is that the dorsal fin will usually be deformed in some way because of their crowded conditions in the hatcheries. 

A more subtle way to differentiate between wild and hatchery fish is in their fighting qualities. A wild fish will normally fight harder, longer and usually revive more quickly. Simply put, compared to hatchery fish, wild fish come from a more healthy and hearty gene pool. 

Release wild fish. It's the right thing to do. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Conserving Our Fly Fishing Resources

Steve Dorn releasing a Winter Steelhead
Releasing fish is a sensible way to preserve our heritage, and it assures us that wild fish will always be with us. If we don't release them, we are defeating our own purpose, so here are a few sound principles to follow. 

Barbless hooks are best to use, but if you use barbed hooks, keep the fish in the water when you extract the fly. If you cannot extract the hook, cut the leader and then release the fish. In most cases the hook will eventually work loose or rust out. Never gill the fish when you handle them; cradle them gently under the belly. 

If you play a fish longer than anticipated, you may have to help its regain strength and revive it. To do this, face the fish into the current and work its body back and forth. This action will force additional oxygen through its gills and assist in its rapid recovery. 

Lee Wulff's thoughts on this subject are fitting when he says, "Game fish are too valuable to be caught only once," and "The fish you release is a gift to another angle and remember, it may have been someone's gift to you."

Friday, May 9, 2014

Tying the Deer Hair Hopper

Deer Hair Hopper
Grasshoppers,crickets, bees, beetles and other terrestrials are all part of a fish's diet during their hatching seasons. During the summer they are very abundant and fish don’t pass them up when they fall or get blown onto the water. To enhance the realism of flies that are tied to represent these insects, a close interpretation of the head can be made by spinning deer hair. Long and soft deer hair is easier to work with and will make a better head. The type of head used for this fly is the tapered version.

Hook: 94831, 9672 Mustad sizes 8-12 
Thread: 6/0 black Uni-thread 
Tail: Red hackle 
Body: Yellow yarn or polypropylene 
Wing: Two mottled turkey feathers 
Hackle: Brown palmered and clipped 
Head: Clipped deer hair

Step 1.Tie in red hackle for the tail and a palmered brown hackle. Then attach the yarn body material.

Step 2. Wrap the yarn forward, then follow with the palmered hackle. Leave 3/16 to 1/4 inch room for the head. Trim the hackles so that they are even with the point of the barb.

Step 3. Match 2 turkey feathers together and tie them in so that the feather tips are pointing up and do not exceed the tail. Then tie in the deer hair collar so the tips are slanted backwards.

Step 4. Spin 3 to 4 more clumps for the head and stack them tightly together. Cement the head and tie it off.

Step 5. You may trim the head when it is in or out of the vice. I prefer to trim it holding the fly in my lap.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Tools to Spin and Trim Deer Hair

The Deer Hair Hopper showing four head variations.
Spinning deer hair is primarily a method used to build the heads and bodies of flies. There are two styles that can be used. The flared style, where the hair flares out in one place on the hook shank, and the spun style, where the hair spins around the hook shank. Both are equally effective but my preference is the flared method. The only tools you will need are a hair stacker (tamper) and scissors or razor blade. If you don't have a tamper the sleeve of a ball point pen will do the job nearly as well.  

Below are samples of the flared style and the tamping process.

Flared Style Fly Head
Tamping Hair Process

Monday, May 5, 2014

Fly Fishing isn't always about Catching Fish

Jim with his 20 inch trout!
Our anticipation was high as we bounced awkwardly along the old dirt road that led to the lake. It was a typical high desert scene with rolling fields of grasses, sagebrush and Juniper trees that were stationed like sentinels. Numerous other spring fed lakes had similar habitat which displayed tall grasses, cattails and reed beds. This helped to provide food and cover for the Kamloops strain of Rainbows.

A typical high desert lake!
The weather was warm with the sweet smell of spring in the air, and it featured a high but slightly overcast sky with a swirling gusty wind to deal with. Jim and I started fishing with two of my favorite patterns that were usually effective--The Stewart Caddis size 12 and a Black Midge size 16. The first hour was mildly productive as we hooked and released 5 or 6 fish up to 18 inches using the Stewart Caddis. The method we used was to cast and make 6- to 9-inch slow strips back and repeatedly fan the casts out and across the water. During the next few hours we only hooked and landed a few more trout, and Jim caught a large one that measured 20 inches.

Finally, after several more hours, the black midges began to emerge and our hopes intensified, but for some reason the fish were not keying in on them, so only a few more were hooked. Finally, after 5 hours of persistence, we decided to call it a day.

Yellow Winged Blackbird
It was a disappointing trip because we didn't catch a lot of fish, but it was successful in another way. We took photos of some common visitors--a Yellow winged Blackbird, an Orange Headed Blackbird, some Barn Swallows, a cruising Osprey and the infringing Coot ducks. Looking at it in this light, it was a successful trip because we also caught some wildlife in motion with our cameras.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Masking the Hatch

Large insects are "Masking the Hatch."

A complexity arises when numerous insects are hatching simultaneously and more than one insect is available to the fish. For example, there could be still-born nymphs, emergers, duns, caddisfly pupae or caddisfly adults rising at the same time. Since each insect may differ in size, shape and color, it's tough to know what they are feeding on. Often anglers try to match the most obvious insects in the hatch, but in reality, the fish are feeding on something else. This problem is referred to as Masking the Hatch."

The natural tendency is to key on the larger insects, since they are easier to see. Some anglers believe that larger insects will attract larger fish, but this can be a mistake. Many times the less prominent, more diminutive insects are more abundant, and larger fish will readily take them.

One method to unmask the hatch is to use dropper setups. You can tie on a March Brown on the point fly and a Blue Wing Olive on the dropper to see which fly the fish take. You might also use a kick net to see what stages are present and most plentiful. In many instances, the fish are taking the smaller insects, and the larger insects are masking the hatch. If you take time to analyze this challenging and often perplexing event, positive solutions will result.
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