Saturday, October 25, 2014

When Wading, Discretion is the Better Part of Valor

A back view picture of Doug Stewart  balancing himself in fast water rapids on the Deschutes River while fly fishing for steelhead
Doug Fly Fishing Fast Water
Throughout my fishing career I have been close to the brink of disaster many times but I was very lucky. I used these situations as learning experiences. However, one time I got a good lesson from the Deschutes River that reminded me I wasn’t indispensable. 

I was fishing a short run called the Ledge Hole, so named because you had to wade over large boulders up to your waist to reach a wide ledge. You needed to anchor your body against the current as you made your casts. It could be tenuous depending on the height of the river, but nonetheless I waded out and started casting my old standby, the Max Canyon. After only a few casts I was into a good-sized steelhead of at least 15 pounds. It took off downriver, and as I began to retreat to the bank, I suddenly slipped and started drifting downriver with my fish. Luckily, my wading belt was tightly secured, and it created an air pocket inside my waders which helped me keep afloat. 

As I struggled to restrain the fish, a stark realization emerged. I was nearing a series of rapids and had to make a split second decision, break the fish off or ride the rapids out to land it. For a moment I had some reservations, but I quickly realized that taking a chance might cost me my life. I tightened the drag and broke the fish off knowing that it was better to be safe than sorry.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tying the Doc Spratley Streamer

Doc Spratley Streamer
I originally used the Doc Spratley successfully on many Canadian lakes in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. It was developed by Dick Prankard of Mt. Vernon, Washington, in the late 1950’s. One story of its development occurred in Prankard’s fly shop when his close friend Dr. Donald Spratley walked in quietly and unnoticed behind Prankard as he was tying a fly. When he said "Hi" it startled Dick and he broke his tying thread. Slightly perturbed Dick said, “Dang it Doc Spratley, just because of that I’m naming this fly after you!”

This fly is a great lake pattern that can represent caddisflies and leeches. It’s also a great steelhead pattern and can be tied with black, green, orange or red wool.

Hook:  Mustad 9672, sizes 4-8,
Thread:  3/0 black
Tail:  Grizzly
Body:  Black wool
Rib:  Silver oval tinsel
Hackle:  Grizzly
Wing:  Pheasant tail
Head:  Peacock herl (optional)

Tie in the tail and attach the rib and black wool.

Wrap the wool forward and tie off 3/16 inch of the eye. 
Follow with 4 to 6 wraps of tinsel. Attach the front grizzly hackle.

Spiral the hackle forward 2 to 3 times and wrap 
slightly back over it so it’s at a 45 degree angle.

Tie in the wing without extending beyond the
length of the tail. Tie off the head and cement it. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

October Cast and Blast

Picture of a man fly fishing on a large river in Oregon's high desert.
Doug Fly Fishing the Deschutes River
Our annual 5-day float trip down the Deschutes River was filled with great camaraderie, success, some disappointment and a mild confrontation. Thankfully, we were graced with fabulous weather that featured little wind, a warm blue sky and an impending full moon. Expectations were high as we set up our camp at the Box Car run, but the water was higher than normal. Nonetheless, we fished the first evening hoping to hook a few summer steelhead, but nary a fish came to the fly.

Three men dragging a buck through high desert grass country
Isaak, Shannon & Paul with Isaak's Buck
Early the next morning Paul and Izaak headed out to find some deer and Shannon and I went fishing. Our casting efforts were to no avail, and after several hours of flogging the water we gave up. This was of some concern because this water was usually productive, but since we had four more days left, we reeled in and fixed some breakfast. Later that morning we heard several shots, and our two-way radios confirmed that Izaak had a 3-point buck down. Shannon went up to help him drag it down from the canyon and I monitored the camp. Paul also had an opportunity when he spotted two nice bucks running up and over a saddle, but he passed up the opportunity for fear of wounding one of them.

The second day Paul and Izaak headed back to locate another buck. Luckily it came sooner than expected. A small herd was feeding at the top of Peckerwood Canyon, and it had several nice bucks in it. But, in order to get a good shot, Paul would have to keep a low profile because he had little cover. Izaak was at a position where he could see the herd and advise Paul of its activity. So Paul began to crawl behind sagebrush, tall grasses and rocks to inch 50 yards closer to a nice buck that was quietly feeding. Tension gripped the scene as Paul sighted in on the animal at 200 yards. Suddenly a shot echoed down the cannon as Paul brought down a husky 4 x 3 buck. Teamwork and stealth was essential in making this event a classic stalk!

Later that day I decided to do some trout fishing, and since there were no risers, I put a small split shot on my leader and tied a Girdle Bug on the tippet. I waded out into a riffle, and after numerous casts I felt a slight pull and set the hook. Suddenly a 9- or 10-pound steelhead rolled on the surface and shredded my 5 pound leader. I immediately went back to camp and re-rigged my steelhead rod with another Girdle Bug and returned to the same riffle. After only a few casts I got a hard take but the hook pulled free. I guess it just wasn’t my day.

We pulled out Monday morning and headed downriver to a campsite called Weinhard’s Drift. It has classic fly water that contained slow glides and ledge water that usually held steelhead, but when we arrived another party had the campsite. Fortunately, another camp was available below called Wagonblast. We set up camp and when the sun was off the water we started to fish. Shannon went upriver, Paul and Izaak went below me and I fished our camp water. Soon another angler began to fish behind me. I stopped and went up to chat with him. Suddenly he said, “You’re not at a legal campsite and you’re fishing in our water!” I was stunned and said, “I’ve been fishing and camping here for years and your camp is 100 yards above us." “Well,” he said, "the Weinhard camp includes all the water below it." I snapped back, "Does that mean you own this water all the way to the Columbia River?” With that statement he just shook his head and fished on through without saying another word. In spite of this confrontation, it still was a great trip even though fishing was disappointing. Hopefully, this will all change in the future.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cutting and Tying in Antennae

Antennae can add a surprising touch of realism to a fly and may better entice fish to take your pattern, especially in clear, quiet water. There are many materials to select from such as horsehair, goose biots, peacock, porcupine, rubber hackle, monofilament, paint brush fibers and a stripped feather shaft. The sky is almost the limit.

There are a few tricks to use that will make the application easier. First, when working with pliable feeler materials like rubber hackle, horse hair and monofiliment, fold a single length and tie its two ends in first. Then you can cut the loop to form the 2 antennae. Stiffer materials like porcupine quills may have to be tied in separately. Durability can be a problem with fragile fibers, so consider using stripped feather shafts or other stiffer types of antennae instead. These materials can also be used for tails. 

Rubber Hackle Antennae

Horse Hair Antennae

Stripped Quill Antennae

Peacock Herl Antennae

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tying the March Brown Fly

March Brown Dry Fly
The March Brown nymph is found in fast flowing currents and because of an underbody suction cup, they can easily cling to rocks. They become vulnerable when they are dislodged from the rocks or when they rise to the surface as pupae. The March Brown can be fished by dead drifting a weighted nymph or by using split shot. As a wet fly it can be fished down and across the current with or without twitching. Below are the tying instructions.


Hook: 3906B, sizes 8-14
Tail: Mottled turkey quill section
Body: Brownish gray dubbing
Rib: Gold tinsel or small yellow floss
Hackle: Brown hackle or partridge
Wing: Two mottled turkey quills, tips down
Thread: 6/0 brown

Step 1. Tie in a clipped turkey section with the 
tips down and the dubbing noodle. Tie in the floss.

Step 2. 
Spin the dubbing forward and follow with 
4 to 6 wraps of floss or tinsel. Attach the hackle.

Step 3. 
Wind the hackle around two to three times and 
 cut out two small 1/8 inch sections from the quill.

Step 4. 
With the turkey tips facing down, match the wing sections
up and secure them evenly on top of the fly. The wing 
should not exceed the tail. Tie off the head and cement.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

How to Tie Mark's Brindle Bugger

Picture of Mark's Brindle Bugger fly
Mark's Brindle Bugger

Mark's Brindle Bugger was developed by Mark Middleton a number of years ago. He had a pensive interest in watching a variety of fish take various types of insects such as dragonflies, damselflies, leeches and bait fish. This habit eventually led him into fly fishing and tying flies that simulated the size, shape and color of these underwater denizens. This study eventually led to the development of Mark's Brindle Bugger. It’s size, body color, shape and undulating motion make it alluring to many different types of fish.

Materials to tie Mark's Brindle bugger:

Hook: Mustad 9671, 9672 sizes 10-12
Tail: Olive marabou and Krystal Flash
Body: Varigated black and yellow chenille
Hackle: Coachman brown, palmered
Head: 6/0 olive Monocord
Optional: .025 lead optional

Drawings of four stages of how to tie Mark's Brindle Bugger
Tying Mark's Brindle Bugger         

Step 1.Tie in a small bunch of marabou and Krystal Flash, length not to exceed 1 to 1 and1/2 inches.

Step 2. Attach the hackle and chenille. Next, wrap the thread forward to 3/16-inch of the eye.

Step 3. Spiral the chenille forward and follow with 4 to 5 turns of hackle.

Step 4. Tie off the head and cement.

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