Friday, August 29, 2014

Useful Tips for Tying Flies

My Favorite Marker
Clothes Dryer
One method of creating the right dubbing is to use the clothes dryer. All you have to do is locate an old wool blanket or sweater of a certain color and throw it in the dryer for a few spins. Then pull out the lint filter and you'll find some of the most inexpensive dubbing material around. Using your wife's angora sweater is probably not a good idea.

Fingernail Clippers
A pair of fingernail clippers is a good tool for trimming hackles, cutting wings to the desired shape and hacking through heavy materials like a feather quill, thick tinsel or nylon.

Another effective tool is a permanent marking pen. You can use it to color different parts of a fly to simulate the natural qualities of an insect. You might color the ribbing on nymphs, wing cases and bodies. You can also use them to make the eyes of an insect. At streamside, markers can be effective for trying to quickly match the hatch.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Humbling Fly Fishing Episode

Tom's 10 Pound Steelhead
Tom was an unorthodox fly caster and broke all of the rules of proper presentation. His arms would flail right and left as he loaded the rod, and then he would cast the line in a wide open loop. It didn’t look pretty, but the fly would land perfectly on the water.

The area that we were fishing had tall brush and a few alder trees behind us, so I politely said, “Tom, if you want to have any luck here, you’ve got to watch your backcasts!” He nodded his head and began casting. I quickly made a few false casts and unfortunately hung my fly up on a limb. Tom hollered over, “Doug, you’ve got to watch your backcasts!”

No sooner had I got my fly unsnagged than I heard him yell, “Fish on!” I looked up and saw a nice steelhead cartwheeling downstream. I went to his aid and after 7 or 8 minutes he began to work the fish in.

Listen Tom,” I said. “Don’t put too much pressure on him because . . .” He cut me off and snapped back, “Doug, you've got some nerve for a guy who can’t cast.

With a wry smile on his face, he brought in a nice 10 pound fish and I helped him land it. As we admired the fish, I realized that I had just received a good lesson in humility. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Dead Drifting Nymphs for Success

Montana Nymph
In order to effectively dead drift a nymph, attach a weighted fly or a splitshot on the leader. Roll casting and line mending are the best means of presentation, and a strike indicator can aid in hooking fish. Floating and sinking lines can be used, but floating lines are easier to control. 

The common method of dead drifting is to cast the line upstream, mend it and let the fly drift naturally down with the current. If there is any hesitation, slight twitch or pull, lift the line at once. If you hesitate, a fish can quickly eject the offering. 

A more subtle way of monitoring the line movement without the use of a strike indicator is almost like having ESP. This method can be a natural talent or learned experience, but you can become sensitive to a feeling of the line tightening. This may indicate a fish taking the fly. 

Nymphs such as Stoneflies require faster water flows, like riffles, where they are often dislodged and float helplessly downriver. They are also vulnerable when they begin to emerge, so don't forget to fish close to the bank. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fly Fishing at the Twilight Hour

Dave Stewart with his 14 1/2 lb. Deschutes River Steelhead
It was almost dark when I stepped into the Deschutes River to make a few final casts to try and catch a few trout that were rising. With my 9 foot 5 weight St. Croix fly rod, I waded a few feet out and made a quick, short cast with a #12 Dark Tied Down Caddis. Suddenly, the line stopped. Thinking I was snagged, I gave a quick pull and a large steelhead erupted from the water and tore downstream. My footing was tentative in the low light, so I yelled to my son David to grab the rod and play the fish.

I stayed near the bank and followed the action in the diminishing light as he fought the fish. The St. Croix rod was almost bent double. Finally, after going down river 50 or more yards, David stopped it and began to work it toward the bank. I thought the fish was spent, but it suddenly made another run and we continued to stumble after it. Finally, the river shallowed into a riffle, and the fish began to submit to David’s constant pressure. Using a flashlight, I lit the water and David finally brought the fish in and landed a nice 14 1/2 pound hatchery steelhead. Amazingly, the four pound leader did not break.

Oftentimes, I have had steelhead come in near the shoreline as the light begins to wane. I’m not sure if it’s to feed or just to rest out of the main current. In any case, from that time forward I’ve always made it a point to make a few casts before dark just in case a steelhead or a nice trout is lurking nearby. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Fly Fishing the "Friday Night Hole"

Deschutes River Fly Fishing Run
There was a special place on the Deschutes River that I’ll never forget. It was an area above Max Canyon that, other than rafting, you could only reach by hiking or driving down an old switchback sheepherder’s road. My dad preferred to drive. It was a pristine stretch of water that in the early years was only inhabited by fish, birds, deer and rattlesnakes. Verdant overgrowth and windswept alders guarded the banks of some of the most classic fly fishing water on the river. Here we caught many Redside trout and also hooked, but did not land, plenty of fish that Dad assumed were large trout. In later years we realized that they were actually summer steelhead.

This was the place where I learned a lot about casting, reading water and fly selection. Unfortunately, sometimes good things can come to an end. Not only did the property owner close the access to this Shangri-la, but a new road was constructed all the way to Max Canyon. Fortunately, it took several years for people to find out about this new area, and that allowed us to continue fishing uncrowded water for a while.

Years later, my friend Steve Dorn got one of the first jet sleds on the river. This allowed us easier access to the water that Dad and I fished years before. From that day forward, we became steelhead addicts. We would often hurry over to the river at the end of the work week to fish that spot; thus, it was called “The Friday Night Hole.”

Friday, August 15, 2014

How to Tie the Blood Dropper Loop Knot

This knot is used to attach droppers to the leader so that another fly can be added. It is called a Dropper Loop. To begin, you start out the same way as you tie a Surgeon knot. See my July 10, 2014, blog post, "Tying a Surgeon Knot for Fly Fishing Leaders."  

1. Place two leaders together in the opposite direction so that they overlap about 4 to 5 inches. 

Layout Leaders to begin Blood Dropper Loop Knot

2. Make two overhand knots, keeping the ends pointing straight out with a loop underneath. 

Overhand Knots

3. Pinch the looped section and push it up between the middle of the two lines so that it extends 1/2 to 3/4 inch. 

Create the Loop

4. Pinch the knot and pull the line ends tightly to form the dropper loop. Tightening the loop is shown below in two stages. 

Stage 1: Knot Tightening
Stage 2: Knot Tightening

Monday, August 11, 2014

Tying the Turle Knot

This knot is perfect when tying flies with turned-down or turned-up eyes. When it’s secured the leader will have a straight pull through the eye. This eliminates the possibility of cutting the leader and helps the fly to keel evenly in the current.

Step 1. Pass the leader through the eye. Next, make two wraps around the standing line and pass the tag end through the loops forming an overhand knot. Then tighten the knot.

Step 2. Slip the fly through the large loop and snug it up against the eye.

Step 3. Tighten it down and trim off the excess and it’s ready to fish.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Steelhead Fishing with Droppers

Fly Fishing the Deschutes River
One of the most exasperating experiences of my life occurred on the Deschutes river. I was fly fishing near Ferry Canyon one morning and hoping for some good action. I had just made a cast and, as my line began to quarter down across the water, I felt a light pull but missed it. I quickly made another cast and the water suddenly erupted with a mint bright steelhead. It put up a strong battle, but after six or seven minutes I began to bring it toward the bank.

But disaster suddenly occurred. The fish gained new strength and made one last surge, 10 yards downstream right into some submerged rocks and branches. I quickly reeled in my line as I walked toward the location. I tried to free my fish but it was really snarled up. Finally, after several tugs to try to free it, I gave a few jerks and felt the line come free. Aha! I thought I got it loose, but when I retrieved the line the steelhead was gone and in its place was, to my disgust, a three- or four-pound sucker.

I couldn’t believe my eyes, but I quickly realized what happened. I always used dropper flies when I fished. I found that my chances of catching more fish increased by 20% because one out of every five fish I caught was on the dropper. Even though I regretted losing the steelhead, my theory was still intact because the sucker took the dropper. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Fly Fishing with Foam Bugs

Foam Salmonfly
If you enjoy action on the surface, foam bugs are indispensable and are especially effective for trout during salmonfly hatches. They are durable high floaters that can suggest many types of insects besides the salmonfly, such as beetles, dragonflies and grasshoppers. They work well for steelhead, bass, bluegill and many other types of spiny rays. You can attract many types of fish by twitching, stripping or dead drifting them. Aggressive surface takes are usually quick and exciting. 

Russ's Foam Fly
The closed cell foam bodies (sheets) can be purchased in a variety of colors at fly shops and craft stores. You can easily cut out the proper sized strips using scissors or a paper cutter. Quarter inch strips are standard.  You can use markers to add special features to make the fly look more realistic. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

How to Tie the Peacock Soft Hackle Fly

Materials for tying the  Peacock Soft Hackle:

Hook:  94840 Mustad, size 12 - 16
Thread:  Uni Thread, black 6/0
Body:  Two to three peacock herls
Thorax:  Muskrat or Hares Ear dubbing
Hackle:  Light or dark partridge

Step 1.  Attach the thread to the hook bend and then tie in two to three peacock herls.

Step 2.  Wrap the peacock herls forward and tie off 1/4 inch from the eye.  Tie in the dubbing about 3/16 inch from the hook eye.

Step 3.  Spin in the dubbing to form the thorax.

Step 4.  Attach the partridge hackle and spin it around the hook two to four times.  Make sure it's sparse.  Wrap slightly back over the hackle and finish the head.

For information on soft hackle flies and how to fish them, see my July 28, 2004, post, "The Amazing Soft Hackle Fly."  

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Humorous Fly Fishing Story

"Old Herman"
The fun and rewards of fishing can be noticed in the happy faces of newcomers and even old veterans and ultimately transform into pleasant memories and a lifelong string of interesting and humorous stories. Here is one example that has a surprise ending. 

Two brothers, ages 12 and 15, were always competing against each other in sports, especially bass fishing. It seemed like the older one would always outdo his younger brother, especially when they went bass fishing.

There was a pond nearby that had one very large bass called Old Herman that his brother had caught and released numerous times. He envied his brother's luck and thought that it was probably due to his equipment rather than his talent. 

He was bound and determined to catch it, so one morning he got up early before his brother awoke. Then, in total stealth and silence, he snuck his brother's gear down to the pond and began to cast. After a dozen or more casts without any luck, he placed the fly precisely where his brother had caught Old Herman before. Suddenly, the big bass popped up just beside his fly and said with a sly grin, "Hey boy, where's your brother?"

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