Saturday, December 27, 2014

Near Disaster on the Salmon River

Salmon River in Mt. Hood National Forest
When hiking into unfamiliar terrain one should always have a compass, a GPS or other emergency equipment, such as a map, first aid kit and matches. Without these necessities lady luck may be your only means of avoiding disaster. Unfortunately, my friend Rob and I found this out the hard way. 

We arrived at the Salmon River in the Mt. Hood National Forest and prepared to hike up the Salmon River trail 4 1/2 miles to reach Final Falls. The lower river contained wild salmon and Steelhead which were protected, but there were good numbers of native Cutthroat trout that were catch and release only. The trail began at Green Canyon Campground. We left around noon and planned to return before dark which, in the fall, was usually around 6:00 or 6:30. 

As we headed up through the massive canopy of old growth Douglas Fir and Cedar, we stopped and fished at a variety of pocket water, intriguing riffles and inviting pools. The sun glistened brightly off the water as we caught and released numerous trout using various caddis patterns. Most of the fish caught were small, 6 to 9 inches long, but very feisty. A 10 to 12 incher was considered a trophy.

Finally, we reached the Falls and took a break for lunch. Then, we spent several more hours fishing, taking photos and reminiscing about past experiences. It had been a fun and productive day but as the time neared 5:00 we decided to head back before it got dark. However, we forgot to take one thing into consideration. The river was located in a forested canyon and the trees and dense foliage helped to blanket out the waning light. After only a mile of hiking, darkness slowly swallowed up the light and the evening quickly turned into pitch black. We were in trouble. 

We had matches and some paper but that only gave us a quarter mile of limited guidance. The trail was wide and smooth enough so our only hope was to use team work to hopefully make our way back. I grabbed the rods and held them out laterally in front and Rob grabbed my small back pack and held on tight. Then in unison, we took small footsteps as I moved the rods back and forth in front of us to keep us in contact with the trail. Luckily, after 2 1/2 grueling and harrowing hours we neared the trail’s end and saw our car in the faint light. 

We were elated but as we approached it an exasperating event occurred. Unbelievably, a full moon slowly loomed over the canyon walls, and you could clearly see the entire surroundings. From then on we agreed to learn more about Solunar Tables and to be prepared for any uncertainties.     

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Clark's Hex Hopper

Clark's Hex Hopper
Lee Clark, the originator of the Clark’s Stonefly, is an innovative fly tier, which is shown in his new fly the Clark's Hex Hopper. This unique fly was tied to suggest an emerging Hexagenia Limbata, better known as the big yellow mayfly. 

The big yellow mayfly measures 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. It is unique because it usually emerges just before dark, and it can be found in both lakes and streams. 

Fish will take this fly aggressively if you use quick, short jerks that cause the fly to pop like a bass popper. When fish are not surface feeding this method can be used to entice lethargic fish into striking. It is also effective when used for bass and Steelhead. 

Hook:  2X long sizes 6-8,
Thread:  Black 6/0
Tail:  Brown mallard flank and Krystal Flash
Body:  Dark hare’s ear dubbing
Rib:  Medium gold oval tinsel
Legs:  Brown saddle hackle
Head:  Tan or brown deer hair

Step 1. Tie in a clump of mallard flank feathers. 
Then tie in 6-10 strands of Krystal Flash on top.

Step 2. Tie in a strand of medium gold oval tinsel 
and spin hare’s ear dubbing onto the thread.

Step 3. Wrap the dubbing forward to 1/3 inch of the 
hook eye. Then, wrap the tinsel forward about six wraps. 
Next, attach the palmered brown hackle in tip first.

Step 4.Spiral in 3 to 4 wraps of hackle and 
wrap slightly back over it to form a 45˚ angle. 
Leave 1/3 of the hook open for the head.

Step 5. Spin the deer hair on to form the head. 
then cut and trim the deer hair so that it is slightly 
round on top and flat on the bottom. Tie off and cement.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Miracle on North Fork Reservoir

large lake created by a dam on the Clackmas River  near Estacada, Oregon.  Shows pine trees surrounding the lake.
North Fork Reservoir near Estacada, OR
I was just a young boy of 12 when my dad and I had a fishing experience that would rival many accounts of Ripley’s “Believe it or Not.” It happened when we were fishing for trout on North Fork Reservoir near Estacada, Oregon. It harbored planted Rainbow trout as well as some hatchery Steelhead that inadvertently would escape from the fish trap at Cazadero Dam. 

We launched Dad’s 12 foot Sea King boat into the placid water and headed out to the cadence of his 5-horsepower Scott-Atwater motor. Dad set our trolling rigs out and they quickly started dancing to the rhythm of the copper-pated spinning flies. My hopes were at a fever pitch as Dad maneuvered the boat in and out of the wooded shore line, but after two hours we only had a few strikes. I was getting a little discouraged and as I turned to complain to Dad my rod was jerked out of my hand and plunged into the water. He quickly revved up the engine and made an effort to follow my wayward outfit but to no avail. My rod was gone and I hung my head in despair, but fortunately he had another one rigged up so I could continue fishing. 

The remainder of the day was spent zig-zagging the boat in the hopes of hooking some fish or possibly my rod. As darkness began to fall, and without any luck, we headed back to the boat ramp. We were the last fishermen to concede defeat. When we docked the boat, a fellow was idly standing by his trailer and as we approached he curiously asked, “Did you guys have any luck today?” 

Dad paused for a moment and responded, “Yeah, but it was all bad. We didn’t catch any fish and when my son finally hooked one the rod was….” 

The man quickly interrupted, reached into his boat, pulled out an outfit and asked, “Is this what you're looking for?”  We were stunned. It was my rod and reel! With a slight grin he handed it to me and said, “You might want this too.” He pulled the rest of the line from the boat and handed me a nice 8 pound Steelhead with my copper spinning fly still hooked in its jaw. I was spellbound and all my dad could say was, “Well, I’ll be dammed!”

The offer to give him the fish for his trouble and honesty was graciously refused and he turned to me and said, “Son, you hooked the fish. All I did was land it for you. It’s all yours."

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Boy's First Trout

Ten year old boy squatting on the river bank wearing sunglasses and a fishing vest holding a 20 pound trout he had just landed.
David's First Trout
My son David was the last of my four sons to learn how to fly fish and experience success. He had learned how to tie flies and cast, but catching his first trout had eluded him until he was ten years old. Success finally came on a float trip down the Deschutes River but not without a few apprehensive moments.

As I helped my son rig up his outfit, I briefly explained how to mend the line and use the wet fly swing to present the fly down and across the current. I also told him to keep the rod at a low angle as the fly swings and not to jerk the rod if he got a take. At my suggestion, he tied on an old reliable orange-bodied Tied Down Caddis. Finally, I reminded him to be careful of the rattlesnakes when he was walking, and if he saw one to stop and shout for help. He nodded with assurance and headed up to a nice riffle.

From camp I watched him make his first few casts, and I felt that this might be the time David would catch his first trout. After half an hour nary a sound was heard, and I was wondering if he might need some help when a blood-chilling scream echoed in the air. I thought “snake” and rushed up stream for fear that he had been bitten, but it was a false alarm. David had finally hooked his first trout and it was a nice one. After several intense minutes he finally landed it. It was close to 20 inches.

I took a quick photo and after he released it I asked him how he enjoyed the action. All he could say was “excellent.” From then on I knew that he may have thought that he had hooked the fish, but in reality the fish had hooked him for life. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Kubitz Special Steelhead Fly

steelhead fly with green and purple and tinsel body, krystal flash tali and wing, and purple front hackle
Kubitz Special Steelhead Fly
The Kubitz Special steelhead fly had an interesting development. When my son Jeff was 12 years old, he was helping me in my fly shop. Being a creative fly tier, he would at times make up some weird looking patterns. They went mostly unused, but I would keep them around my desk so he wouldn’t feel as though his efforts went for naught. One day he tied a fly that was somewhat uncustomary in that Krystal Flash was a predominant feature. Like the others, it was added to the collection. It remained there for several months, but every so often it would catch my eye and I’d pick it up to consider its possibilities.

This feeling gradually grew on me until my curiosity was overwhelming, and I decided to try it for winter steelhead. The next morning I drove to the Sandy River and began casting my 350-grain shooting head with a 10-pound, five-foot leader.  Four casts later I had hooked and landed a bright 20-pound fish. With this startling success, I began to use a sparse amount of Krystal Flash for some of my standard patterns.  From then on I paid more attention to Jeff’s creative fly innovations. The fly was named after the access road to the river.

Hook:  36890 Nos. 4-6
Tail:  Black Krystal flash                                                                          
Body:  Rear 1/3 hot green chenille, front 2/3 purple wool
Rib:  Silver oval tinsel
Hackle:  Purple saddle
Wing:  Full black Krystal Flash tied in body length
Head:  3/0 black

Step 1
Attach a sparse amount of black Krystal Flash 
for the tail. Tie in the oval tinsel and the chenille. 

Step 2
Wrap the green chenille up 1/3 and attach he purple wool. 

Step 3
Wrap the wool up and follow with five to six turns of tinsel.  
Attach the purple hackle.
Step 4
Spin the hackle forward three to four times and wrap slightly back 
over it to form a 45-degree angle. Then, tie a full wing of Krystal 
Flash about the length of the body. Finish the head and cement. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Winter Fly Fishing for Trout

Pheasant Tail Nymph
Fly fishing when the temperature is below 30 degrees can be problematic and challenging. But it can also be productive if you know when and where certain insects will be hatching. Patience is a necessary element for success. Dressing for the weather is important since you may have to sit and wait for certain hatches to appear. One nice advantage is that there is usually more room to fish when the weather is cold and inclement.

Hare's Ear Nymph
Glo Bug
Here are some things I’ve learned on the Deschutes River. First, don’t start fishing until the water warms, which is usually between 10:00 and 2:30 in the afternoon. This is when insect activity is best. There are not as many hatches in the winter, but there are a few that are available: blue-winged olives, midges, the little brown stonefly and various small mayflies. A Black Body Elk Hair Caddis fly, Griffith Gnat, Dark Brown Hare’s Ear and Pheasant Tail nymph can all be productive. Sizes vary from 10-18. If they’re smaller than this you might need the patience of Job to be successful. Also, dead drifting Glo Bugs, San Juan worms and attractor patterns can be very effective, but I don’t fish them like I used to because it requires more effort to be successful. Simply put, fishing dry flies is more relaxing and in many cases more productive than other methods.

Griffith Gnat Dry fly
My favorite fly pattern is a Blue-Winged Olive, but the hatches are not as consistent as they used to be. It’s possible that the flood of 1996 ripped out lots of important vegetation for insects.  Depending on the river, the normal time of emergence is between 11:00 to 2:30 in the afternoon. During very cold and unpleasant weather, I’ve had some of my best fishing when it’s snowing. With regard to the water types, look for glides that have surface depressions and current tongues that may concentrate nymphs. Also, swirls on the surface can indicate fish are taking nymphs.  

Blue-Winged Olive Dry Fly
Elk Hair Caddis Dry Fly
A final thought is that vigilance might produce good results. If there isn’t any action, just sit back and enjoy the scenery and the variety of wildlife such as water oozles, ducks, deer, swallows and eagles. Success can only be measured by enjoying the total experience.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

How to Fish Foam-bodied Surface Bug Flies.

Picture of four types of foam-bodied surface bug flies.
Examples of Foam-bodied Surface Bug Flies
As a rule, flies with rubber legs are fairly large and are used on all types of moving and still waters. They suggest a variety of insects including caddisflies, stoneflies, dragonflies and can be fished both on top and under the surface water. Fish are curiously tempted to strike when they are presented with a variety of twitching techniques. 

If you are fly fishing waters where cruising fish are visible near the surface, cast the fly about four to five feet ahead of the fish but not directly in its path. A few short twitches should get its interest. Even if a fish doesn’t get excited, you better be ready because it has seen it. If it’s going to take it the fish will slowly turn around and nonchalantly head for what the fish believes is an easy meal. Anticipating a strike is exciting, so be ready because the take will be explosive. 

You can also hook fish by dead drifting patterns in a stream or by casting and stripping them using various cadences. Above are a few examples of effective patterns. 

For tying instructions for the Girdle Bug, see my January 1, 2014, blog post:  "Tying Rubber Legged Flies."
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