Saturday, June 27, 2015

How to Tie Fan Wing Flies

Brown Hackle Peacock dry fly with fan wings of mallard breast feathers, red hackle tail, peacock body and brown saddle hackle
Brown Hackle Peacock 
Fan wing flies were most popular from the early 1920’s to the early 1950’s. To many, fan wing patterns were very classy and effective but harder to tie than other flies. They were primarily used to represent a large mayfly, but the wing style did not closely resemble a mayfly since they were lop-eared instead of the customary upright position. In spite of this deviation, they still fished very well. 

 The wings come from the breast and flank feathers of mallards, wood ducks and other types of ducks and birds. Fan wings are not the easiest to tie, are very fragile and seldom last after hooking numerous fish. Another problem can develop when casting the fly. The wings will often twist and turn in the air as well as float off balance on the water. This is due to their cupped wing feathers. 

The fan wing fly shown below is called a Brown Hackle Peacock. Here are the tying instructions. To make a base for the feather stems and to help hold them in place, wrap several X-winds around the hook. Place the wings together fanning outward and pinch the quill ends with your fingers so that they straddle the hook. Set them in place with 5 or 6 tight overwraps. Next, wrap 3-4 turns of thread around the base of the quill ends and tighten them to the hook. Check for the alignment and reposition them if necessary. Then, make several more turns of thread abound the base and trim of the ends. Cement the windings and finish the fly.

Friday, June 26, 2015

How to Tie Dry Flies that Float Higher and Drier

head tail, peacock body, grey hackle dry fly
"Heavily-Hackled" Grey Hackle Peacock Fly
Fishing the rugged waters of many western rivers and streams can play havoc with many of the more delicate feather wing flies. Constantly using fly floatants and refurbishing the hackles to help your pattern float can take away time from your fishing, so here’s is a solution. Use a heavily-hackled pattern. This will create a fly that has higher buoyancy and stronger endurance to withstand the wear and tear on delicate dry flies. Here is the method to tie a Grey Hackle Peacock.  

Step 1. Begin by tying in red tail fibers and a peacock herl body 2/3 up the shank and tie it off. Then tie in a long Grizzly saddle hackle and wrap it forward to the hook eye and tie off.  

how to tie a heavily-hackled dry fly
Step 1. Tying the Heavily-Hackled" Grey Hackle Peacock
Step 2. Wrap the hackle back to the body and bring it forward again to the hook eye and tie it off. The result should show a large, bushy hackle.

How to wrap back through a dry fly wing to create a heavier hackle.
Step 2. Tying the Heavily-Hackled" Grey Hackle Peacock
Step 3. Trim off the excess hackle and finish the head.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Cooking Trout in a Cast Iron Skillet

Man kneeling and holding 2 large trout with 7 more in a row on the grass in front of him, on the bank of a wooded Canadian lake in background.
Chuck Stewart showing our catch of Kamloops trout!
After almost 480 miles we finally reached Huff Lake, B.C. As was the custom back in the early 1960s, we always stopped by Wilson Ranch to get a fresh fishing report. The lake was in good shape so we headed up the rough, dirt road and set up a camp. The Kamloops rainbows had put on a few more pound this season. The fish were in the 5 to 6 pound range with some measuring well over 20 inches. We quickly rigged our rods up and, as in the past, fish began to take my Huff Lake Shrimp pattern aggressively. Inside of two hours we hooked and released a dozen fish or more. We decided to keep a few fish for dinner that evening, and we began to prepare for a late meal.

Back in those years, my cooking utensils were not the state of the art. Everything was fairly clean with the exception of my 14 inch cast iron skillet. It was in absolute disarray. Not only was it dirty, but it was rusty and still had greasy remnants from a previous trip. My dad was stunned and said that it wasn’t fit to eat from. Rob admittedly wasn’t a great cook, but he knew that cast iron had to be kept clean and in good condition. After an hour of completely refurbishing the neglected pan, we prepared a meal with fish as our main entrĂ©e. Our meal that evening was very tasty, but not just because of the clean cast iron skillet. It was also because of the fire engine red meat of the Kamloops trout. Their coloration was mainly due to the fish’s avid diet of fresh water shrimp, and to this day my mouth still waters when I think of their rich and savory taste.

Cast iron flying pans and Dutch ovens will last forever if you take care of them. To begin, it’s a good idea to buy American made cast iron to guarantee its quality and heating performance. Good cast iron retains heat evenly and can tolerate high temperatures without any damage. Also, it cooks even better the more you use it.

Methods for properly taking care of cast iron skillet.
1. Clean it with a little hot water. If food is stuck to the pan, use a wooden spoon to scrape it off.
2. Heat the pan to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and then let it cool.
3. Use a rag to reseal the entire pan with a light coating of olive oil and it’s ready for storing.
4. Warm up and cool down cast iron gradually to preserve its longevity.

Things not to do with cast iron skillet:
1. Do not boil water in cast iron because any seasoning will dissipate.
2. Do not place the pan over really high temperatures as this can eventually cause cracking.

Fire it up and enjoy some delicious pan of fried trout!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Reconditioning and Storing Chenille

Plastic container with chenille stored inside and a tip of it coming out the top.
Easy to Store Chenille
In fly shops and other stores, wrapping chenille around cards is a convenient way to display it for resale. However, if it has been left on the shelf for a while, the chenille may become kinked at the folds and sometimes flattened or creased. This may also occur in shipping or when customers repeatedly handle it for inspection. It is often referred to as being shop worn. 

If the chenille is the exact size and color that you want, buy it because creases and flattened areas can be reconditioned by using steam. To do this, heat up a teakettle of water and move the material back and forth through the steam, lightly stroking it with your fingers. If it begins to twist a little, work the twists back towards the unsteamed end. This should get rid of the creases and fluff. 

Another problem is that carded chenille usually gets tossed around a lot in fly tying kits, and it can also show the constant wear and tear of handling it. My solution for this is to put the chenille inside a clear, plastic cylinder. Then, poke a hole in the top of it and pull a small end of chenille slightly through the hole. No muss, no fuss. Types, colors and sizes of the chenille can be listed on the outside of the cylinders. From then on, your chenille will always stay in prime condition and ready to use.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Pros and Cons of Spey Rod Fly Fishing

Spey rod fly fisher in a large river, rocks in the foreground and green trees in the background
Photo By: John Shewey, Classic Steelhead Flies © 2015
Spey fishing is named after Scotland’s Spey River. It is basically a dramatic roll cast that helps to change the direction of the cast and enables casting longer distances. I learned how to cast a Spey rod over 30 years ago on the Sandy River with my friend Cal Cole. He had a good understanding of Spey casting and showed me the basic methods. However, I was having such good success with my single handed rod that I didn’t feel that there was a need to change.

The advantages of Spey casting are obvious for larger rivers in that long casts can be effectively used to cover more water. You can also use special casts such as the Snap C, T and Z, which are very important in putting the fly in motion. Spey casting may be less frustrating and fatiguing than casting a single-handed rod. It may also be more effective in mending the line, controlling its speed, and using less effort to play fish. Aside from this, a Spey cast is primarily a long roll cast that doesn’t require extended back casts. This allows you to cast and fish in places that are surrounded by obstructions such as trees and brush. Of course, this depends entirely on the ability of the caster.

There are some disadvantages in Spey casting. Longer rods may become more difficult to handle when you try to land a fish with your hand. If you are fishing a good run that has brush, logs and other debris behind and below your position, landing a fish can be difficult. I can remember an angler that had to stick his Spey rod back into brush and use the tip section to try and land his fish. Longer rods can be less efficient in fighting fish and may cause overkill on smaller fish. Also, transporting Spey rods in a car and carrying them through brush can be difficult.

An additional and somewhat unfortunate problem with Spey casters is that many never had the time or inclination to learn how to cast and enjoy a single handed fly rod. Casts like the side arm, back hand, curve, parachute and many others are seldom used in Spey casting. These types of casts are vital for success in fishing all types of waters. Also, anglers that first learned how to cast a single handed rod usually make a smooth transition when learning how to Spey cast. I also believe that if you are a sturdy wader and can cast 60-70 feet or more, you can cover nearly as much water as a Spey caster.  A final dilemma is that Spey rods weren’t made to fish small streams and rivers and personally, I like to fish small rivers.

One thing for sure, I’m not trying to discourage people who want to learn how to Spey cast. It’s a very productive and satisfying method to use. And maybe, just maybe, when my old legs start giving out I’ll become a dyed-in-the-wool Spey caster. I remember my Dad’s transition when he was in his late 70’s and not able to wade like he used to. He gave in to better judgment and switched to using a bubble and fly on his spinning rod and he caught fish. Aging has a natural tendency to change a lot of old, integrated habits, and Spey casting may be the logical answer.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Problamatic Lake Fly Fishing

Jim's 16 inch Trout
It was a clear, picturesque day as Jim’s Ford pickup bounced over the ruts and chuck holes that guarded the Central Oregon lake’s rocky entrance. The sky was a deep azure blue with a hint of a little wind and maybe some good luck in our quest for large rainbow trout. But as we bumped up the rocky grade to the lake’s dike, a problem quickly arose. 

Because of the mild winter, the lake’s shoreline was clogged with algae and reed beds that were wider and thicker than normal. Longer casts of 40-60 feet would be required to avoid snagging and to reach fishable water. As we rigged up our outfits, the bulrushes and tall grasses were being invaded by a variety of birds in search of food. We hoped that the fish would be in the same feeding mode. 

Thunderheads Building Up
A first cast hookup was usually a good sign that we might have a banner day. My first attempt gave us hope as I hooked a beauty, but I lost it after a short battle. Jim had a few takes as well but didn’t have any solid hookups. After two hours, we had nothing more than a few good strikes and short takes. As we sat down to eat our lunch, I noticed that a series of large thunderheads were building up in the Northeast. From past experiences, I knew that this could easily indicate a falling barometer and put fish off the bite. I hoped this wouldn’t happen. 

Released this nice trout.
After lunch a brief hatch of emergers surprisingly occurred. I hooked and lost a few trout and Jim finally landed a nice 16 incher and lost one over 20 inches. This gave us renewed hope, but without warning the wind began to pick up and gusts of 20-30 miles per hour whipped the water into heavy riffles. The hatch was quickly put down which further dampened our spirits. 

We decided to wait out the oncoming storm for another hour, but without observing any surface action, we finally called it a day. In some respects it was a disappointing trip, but rather than mope about it, we chalked it up to bad luck and the fickle whim of Mother Nature.  

Friday, June 5, 2015

How to Spin Deer Hair to Build Bodies and Heads

Step 1. To begin, cut a clump of hair say 1/4 inch thick and comb the fluff out of the hair and trim off the remaining tips. 

Step 2. Lay the clump on top of the hook and hold it with your fingers. Make 2 loose wraps and pull the thread tight and make 2 to 3 spins. 

Step 3. The hair should spin as you wrap. 

Step 4. Compress the deer hair together with your fingers and make a few tight wraps of thread in front of the hair. When the hair spinning is done, compress the front and back of the hair to make it a dense clump. Repeat the process for a longer body, and trim it to the desired shape with scissors or a razor blade .

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