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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dialed in in wet underwear.

Dialed In


 Wet Underwear

      It's been a slow season so far for me on the Arkansas. I just haven't hit that moment when I fell "dialed in" with all nobs adjusted for the perfect signal. We stopped at the same fly shop as last time and got some of the same advise. I asked if we could return any flies that didn't work and Captain Taylor said, "Of course, these flies come with an absolute guarantee based on your excellent casting, your exceptional fly fishing skills, and your high quality equipment." We laughed about the LinkedIn blog that dealt with the difficulty a fly shop has with dispensing flies and wisdom to anglers of unknown skills and destinations. 
     Well this time I was not going to let any stray fly shop smack get into my head and impede my focus on figuring out what is going on in the moment with mayflies, caddis flies, stone flies, and trout at my feet in the Arkansas.
     I wanted to fish some new areas so Ned headed us to one of the many pull offs we'd not fished before. All the water looked great. Flows were about 550 cfs (kinda wadeable) and water temperature was a perfect 43F. 
     I started off with an orange stimulator as a strike indicator - attractor, a pegged egg, and a sparkle RS2. I changed after fishing some good water to a thing-a-ma-bobber indicator, some heavier split shot and a Barrs emerger , size 20 foam back emerger, and glue gun midge. No hits, no runs, no errors. None left on. I swapped out the midge for a black bead head yellow caddis larva. I removed the indicator and started straight-line high sticking. Two hits but none left on the mandatory 8 seconds.
     Three hours later with the same rig, I ventured into this spot. I picked up a nice brown on the yellow caddis larva. As I was maneuvering to retrieve my flies from ANOTHER snagged beaver branch, did I tell you I HATE beavers, a surprising rock hidden in the mud turned slippery and dumped me sideways into the Arkansas. In 15 years of fishing in Colorado, this is only the second time this has happened. I eventually regained enough balance to push my self upright with my wading stick. Hmmm. My right sleeve was soaked. Water seemed to have entered over the top of my waders and run down inside wetting my right leg and foot. Not a lot of water but I also felt the cold creeping into my crotch. 
     At exactly that moment I heard a gentle splash. A large brown rose again exposing about a third of his body. A rainbow next to him in the swirl of water midway up the right side of this photo did the same. 
     "Well alright then," I thought. "We'll feed them an emerger." I couldn't see what the hatch was. The wind was so strong it was probably blowing them off the water. It didn't matter. I had a fly I love to use in these cases.
     I re-rigged with this caddis emerger I learned to tie from Tom Flagler's Mid-Currents video.  Intuitively I left it unweighted figuring the swirls around the submerged rocks were tossing whatever is hatching all over the water column. I cast it above the feeding zone, let it drift with a tight line of 12 feet of leader and tippet and about 3 feet of fly line hanging from my raised 9' - 7 piece 4 wt fly rod. As it went through the swirl the FIRST time, I felt the tug and nailed a nice healthy 14 inch rainbow. On the next series of about 20 casts I had another 5 fish all of the same class, some browns and some rainbows. I'm dialed in! If I hadn't had a hit by the time the fly drifted past the swirl, I'd just lift the rod tip and induce a Leisenring like lift. Tug, another fish. 

My absolutely favorite part of fly fishing is shown in this sequence of photos.

This is actually a very nice Arkansas River trout.

     All definitely worth the 3 hour trip home in wet underwear. The fleeced I'd left in the car replace the wet shirt sleeve and turtle neck but why oh, why didn't I pack an extra pair of pants this time. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Can I Get my Neighbors Into Fly Fishing ?

Fraser chills out.  John tenses up.

Sunday will be another attempt to create fishing buddies,

 guide my neighbors into using less water on their inappropriate lawns,

 and shamelessly pump my book, "Get Into Fly Fishing for Less Than $100."

     I volunteered to put on a one hour workshop and book signing at my great local bookstore, called the BookBar, on Tennyson St, Denver. It's this Sunday, April 13, 2014 at 11:00AM.  I'm a little nervous about Fraser, the Greenback Cutthroat, who has been searching my neighborhood for his home water, pumped here under the Continental Divide, by Denver Water.
     Fraser is actually quite happy that the water company, a number of counties, and Trout Unlimited have come up with some plans to save his home waters so he can enjoy them in perpetuity. He's been resting in my tying room waiting for his big chance Sunday before the throngs at the free event at the BookBar. Every time I enter the room he just scares the crap out of me. I wish I knew what he was thinking.
    I'm thinking that one hour will be just the right amount of time to give Fraser a shot at getting people out on his water, go over the gear you can get for under a $100, tie a couple flies, try a flip, roll, and bow and arrow cast on the sidewalk, and practice some knots.  Ambitious? Of course.

      I'm going to send them out to Clear Creek to get started and have them look for water that satisfies a trouts needs according this ladder. Hopefully they'll find these spots and these fish.

I always share the stream and really appreciate the climbers staying out of the water above me.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Can you return flies that don't work?

TO BUY or TO TIE .. 



     When you go into a fly shop you're going in to shop for flies. Ned and I fished the Arkansas last week and made the required fly shop stop on the way.
"I'm going out to fish the Arkansas. What should I be throwing today?"
     The poor guy behind the counter knows you expect an answer and that you need flies. So he'll fill one of these little plastic cups until he hears you holler, "STOP." As he's filling you'll get a running commentary with the words, "the one fly you'll need ... this was very effective yesterday ... the guides are using these ... you must have these ..." You'll also hear advice like , "fish this low and slow ... be sure to get a good drift ... some are throwing 3 or 4 flies ... tie this 18 inches below ... tie this 10 inches below ...  fish this close to shore." Unless you only bought one fly, you'll be unable to recall the names of the flies, where you're suppose to use them, and what advice you were given for fishing them once you put your waders on. This is why it is unlikely that you'll have a convincing case when you come back into the fly shop at the end of the day and ask for your money back on the flies that just didn't work. 
     When I mentioned to Ned that the I didn't start hooking fish until I tied on some of my own flies, he said, "Yeah. Same with me."
      This got me thinking about this whole buying or tying dynamic. We need the fly shops near the rivers for current info and info on current, a place to book guides, and advice on access as well as the mercantile activity. But only a guide, on the river,  who has had time to evaluate your skill set, and is trying to connect you to a specific fish that he sees right in front of you, can make a fly selection suggestion that will probably work.
      In my humble opinion, just getting involved in buying flies destroys the intuitive skills passed down from our ancestors who stumbled along streams 40,000 years ago and learned not to spook a fish they needed to catch. Those that spooked the fish are not our ancestors. They died of starvation before they could reproduce.
     Once on the stream with $54.97 worth of flies we figure we have to use them. But since we can't remember exactly all the advice, we tie on the "one fly" we think we should be using and then fish it the way we kind of remember hearing. I think that is why buying two dozen flies before going out on the stream is dooming us to failure.


     Tying your own is not for the thrifty. Every recipe from a big name fly tier will include an exotic (or erotic) ingredient you'll never use again and only comes in $19.95 sizes. But just as it's possible  to get into fly fishing for under $100 (See my much heralded book by the same title : ) you can get into fly tying with a vice, some cat hair, dryer lint, embroidery thread, a glue gun, goose feathers, dog hair, yarn, and some craft beads. It helps if you know pheasant and elk or deer hunters. Along the way, you'll learn the name of the fly, where and when to use it, how to fish it, and what it is suppose to imitate. All of this is explained in the recipe or video for tying the fly.  If a fly shop wanted to do this level of education it would take the same amount of time which means they'd need to triple their staff and keep the shop open 30 hours a day. In other words, it actually takes longer to tie a fly than to buy a fly. Much longer. Does it cost more in the long run? Don't ask. But you'll notice that most fly shops have as much floor space devoted to fly tying materials as they do to finished flies for sale.


Here's a Blue Winged Olive (Mayfly) on the Arkansas last Friday. 

Here's a BWO imitation tied by an amateur fly tier in Boulder. I bought it at the Colorado Trout Unlimited Gala Friday night. It would have been nice to have it along earlier in the day.

     Last Friday, in  Brown's Canyon on the Arkansas with Mike, I took this photo of a massive midge hatch on my boot and flying around. The midge in flight looks strangely like the photo of an sparkle winged RS2 hanging on my tying bench.


     Next week I'll be fishing the "Holy Water" of the Ausable River in Michigan with Bill. I'm trying to get some information on what trout might be interested at that time, but I'm over a thousand miles from a fly shop on the river. So in the meantime, I tied up these because I have confidence in them and I know where and when to fish them.

I pray these flies will work in the Holy Water.

Pat Dorsey turned me on to the chocolate foam wing emerger last year. I've added a couple flavors.

Mike says you can't lose with a Barr's Emerger

I tried out the sparkle RS2 and it worked like a charm. The glue gun midges are still in tryouts.

Midcurrents has a great video on how to tie this. Can you tell that I'm all out of hungarian partridge feathers. If Fred or Aaron don't  shoot it, I probably don't have it.

As I imagine the fish would see these masterpieces.

      Blogging this out has brought me to the conclusion that tying is better than buying for everyone involved. The fly shop will come out ahead, your own head will come out ahead, and your fish count will come out ahead of your buddies who "buyed" rather than tied.