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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mending a broken graphite fly rod with a piece of carbon arrow shaft.

     When you build your own fly rods, sending them back when they break is a very short trip.


     It is certainly true that a life-time warranty can save your life and that of your fly rod. But it does take time, usually some negotiations, and occasionally an up-front cost. On the other hand, if you made the rod yourself, (See reposted Blog entry below) sending it back for repair means back to your own work room. 

To retrieve my favorite 7 piece 5 weight travel rod, sadly snapped in an upper section, I stumbled across a suggestion in the to use a chunk of carbon arrow made of the same material, the same way and what appears to be the same wall thickness as our graphite fly rods except on a constant diameter rather than a tapered mandrel.
      The broken pieces are made to snugly fit inside the piece of arrow using thread draped over the ends rather than masking tape and then epoxied. This will work for breaks only on certain upper sections of rods, but this is where I always break mine.  The guys at RMSGear Archery Supply in Denver are also fly casters and were more than happy to cut me a couple pieces from their scrap box at no charge.  Don't try cutting it yourself because it shatters and the dust is probably carcinogenic.
       Here is  a photo of my light weight emergency fly rod mending kit. The glue is to melt on a rod tip when it breaks off in the first section. The mended section is shown below the samples. So far so good. It seems to cast just the same. Now I'll try it on an 18 inch brown (I'm wishing.)

I used the pack bay finish for both the bonding the sleeve over the broken rod and costing the thread wrapped ends of the patch.
After coating the sleeve with the epoxy finish and letting it rotate over night using the Weber motor described below.

I took the time to label the rod this time printing a label on a black background in white letters, affixing it with clear packing tape, wrapping the ends and then epoxying over it and letting it turn for a night.

Updated:  Duncan Knots and Wire Ties to the Rescue

The brilliant Duncan knot secures the foot for wrapping things up.

     No matter how many times you count your fly rods the answer is always the same. You need one more. Using a 9 ft 5 weight above 10,000 feet for Greenback Cutthroats probably violates a dozen law of natures like, Newton's Second Law, "A body, like a parachute Adams, when acted upon by a force, like a loaded 5 weight fly rod, will travel in a straight line." In the tiny creeks where the greenbacks live, your fly will travel in which ever direction will result in an irretrievable hang up. The answer is obvious. You need a 7 foot 4 weight.
     Building your own rods is actually a lot simpler than Orvis or the Scott pro would have you believe.
You need just a couple objects normally found around the home.

  1. A rotisserie motor from your Weber grill, with a hunk of 3/8 square bar stock stuffed into a pierced rubber card table caster. See Photo.
  2. Newspaper to catch the spills of epoxy.
  3. Toenail clippers and a 5 pound barbell.
Make it youself wrapping station and tools.

     Everything else either comes in the rod building kit or you can order a la carte on line at places like Hook and Hackle. Hand built fly rods make great gifts, especially for people who otherwise would not have sufficient guilt or motivation to come fishing with you.

     As far as skills go, you don't need any. What you need are these two tricks that I'm about to give you. One I invented myself, thank you very much, and the other came from the storehouse of cheap, quick, and dirty tricks for parsimonious people, The Rod Building Forum. 

     Figuring out where to place the guides on the blank piece of graphite can take hours and over 5 shots of single malt. Screw this up and you might as well use a hand line. Formulae based on Newtons Third Law, F1 = F2 but opposite, don't exist and the cookbook tables that come with the kits have no idea how you are going to fish the rod.
     Wire ties to the rescue. After you have found the spline of the rod, epoxied it to the cork grip and rod seat, masking tape it to a coffee table with the reel installed. Then guess at the number of rod guides you're going to use, make small loops, and slip them on the rod. Thread the rod with your fly line through these faux guides, and stretch the line out to about the spot where you normally break off big fish and tie the line to the barbell. Then go back and slide the ties to a places where the line runs as close to parallel as possible to the bend of the rod. Then just mark the rod with a lead pencil at each wire tie, undo the whole thing and write down the measurement to each rod guide location.

Anchor the loaded rod vertically.

Wire ties simulate rod guides for perfect placement on your loaded rod.

    The next biggest challenge is attaching the rod guides to the rod while you wrap them. Thanks go to Perchjerker in the above mentioned rod building forum. He/she suggested using 15-25# monofilament and a Duncan Knot. Brilliant. They are moveable for alignment and when you are ready to take them off, the toenail clippers snap them off faster than a Skylark bartender on ladies night.

The final challenge is marking the rod. You need to do this because after your 6th or 7th rod you'll lose track of their provenance. Further more, when it inevitably falls off the top of your car as you drive away from the creek, or gets lost with your luggage, you may get it back if you've put contact info on the rod. Should you find your lost or stolen rod in the hands of an unauthorized user, it will give you cause to use your carry permit. I'm trying an ink jet printed label stuck fast to a clear piece of USPS package tape smoothly wrapped around the rod, then wrapped with guide thread at both ends and covered in epoxy finish. I'll post a photo if it works.

Weber motor, 3/8 sq bar, card table footie and masking tape.

UPDATE 7/14/2014  - Labeling the rod is still a royal pain for me.

    The use of the clear packing tape is marginally OK. You have to measure the circumference of the rod where the label will go, set the width of the label to that size (I use Apple Preview, Tools, Adjust Size). Using a background color close to the rod color seems to work better than printing on a photo background.

    In making a 10ft 4Wt for granddaughter Eloise, I couldn't find the wire ties, so I just used more Duncan knotted 25lb monofilament. It actually worked ok and I skipped one step by not having to mark the rod where the guides went. The rod turned out to be 10ft 4 inches because I used the first section, rod seat, and cork handle of another rod that I made but broke a few years ago. I built up the first section of the rod with masking tape,  just as I would have for slipping the reel seat over a fly rod blank, but instead I epoxied it inside a new 9 ft wt blank making the rod now 10 ft 4 inches long.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Trespass or Free Pass -It's all in the eyes of the beholder.

Trespass or Free Pass - It's all in the eyes of the beholder.

     The quest for access is second only to the quest for trout in my world. There are a number of legal, ethical, and practical issues involved but the bottom line is achieving a drift to a likely looking  feeding zone without getting shot at, yelled at, or perish the thought, arrested by the sheriff.
      I don't like to be where I am not wanted. The culture in the United States provides a plethora of places for me to be unwanted. Somehow I've developed the sensitivity to be absolutely convinced that I'm always on the wrong side of the fence, in the wrong line, or have shown up at the wrong time. 
     In England for instance, walking paths through feudal estates have a tradition and acceptance by the lords of the manor. In the United States, setting foot on a stone at the edge of someone's rented camp site is treated like a federal offense.
      There are huge National Forests near Denver with idyllic trout streams far from the noise of highways. Unfortunately through legal mechanisms I don't understand yet, access to these streams is often landlocked by bordering private properties. A quarter acre plot of fenced and posted private property along a public road that passes through a National Forest effectively blocks the ethical and responsible fly caster from access to miles of stream and at the same time provides the private property owner with a 100,000 acre back yard at no cost. In Colorado, unfortunately, the property owner has title to the stream bottom. 
     So the public is denied access to their lands acquired and maintained at large cost while the neighboring private property owner is given control of land they don't own. On the other hand, the fly caster has not paid the taxes, mortgage, fencing, or surveillance fees for the property owner and a property right certainly is the right to enjoy the property without the annoyance of seeing or hearing a stranger crossing your land. 
     I've been researching ways of getting to this piece of water for three years and think I'm getting close. I've found a piece of abandoned property along the stream who's ownership and control is muddled in the Colorado and Indiana University Systems. There must be a right of way conveyance in bordering property deeds allowing access to this isolated mountain plot. I thought I locate it yesterday.

My goal was to be within the National Forest Service Boundary. 
The trail behind me seems to be the missing route to the abandoned mountain lab.

After an hour of bushwhacking along a canyon wall I found this obvious road to the lab.
There was plenty of elk scat but this is obviously a hereford patty which meant to me that I was on Forest Service  property leased to a cattle rancher which would make it publicly available for a free pass to the stream.
      I had to cross one ancient barbwire fence breeched by a fallen tree at least ten years ago. I keep carefully to the outside of a string of "Private Property" signs and well out of the sight line to cabins. I trekked down through a canyon with a tiny stream which held brook trout.
Healthy and colorful brook along the way through the canyon. 
Finally I spotted one of the lab buildings used to house students during summer projects.

Water in the main stream was a little high and unwadable due to the monster runoff of 2014.

Just as expected in a natural stream there were side pools where trout can rest and feed during periods of high water.  I worked this pool for 30 minutes with 10 flies, hooking one on a flashback size 20 nymph and finally releasing on that fell for a size 20 barrs emerger.

Feet up for lunch.

It's not just about the fish.

     There was no way I was going to trudge back up through the canyon to get to my car when I could just fish back upstream to the road. This meant crossing that one 1/4 acre plot of posted property along the shore line behind the trees and brush. I took my chances and did not encounter either the property owner, an electric fence, or a large doberman. But just thinking about it kind of ruined the whole great outdoors experience. I've got to figure out how to get a free pass.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Driftless Drifting to the Shiftless in the Driftless

Soluble limestone bedrock in Bad Axe creek creates a perfect habitat for trout in spring fed creeks.

     The "Driftless Region" of Wisconsin is driftless because it doesn't have any drift,  that is silt, clay, sand, gravel, and boulders usually left behind by retreating glaciers. 
     Crystal clear water after a recent flood exposed these pods of 10-14 inch browns. But they acted shiftless. Nothing seemed to interest them like the only teenager at a family reunion. They'd feed occasionally, ignored nice hatches of caddis and mayflies but completely refused every fly in my box.

Make this full screen and spot the shiftless brown trout pod.

     I knelt in the tall grasses along the banks and crawled up to get a shot at these browns with a 12 foot leader ending in 6x. I was rigged with a size 18 parachute adams, dropped down to a Lafontaine style size 20 caddis emerger, followed by a size 22 Pat Dorsey style foam backed chocolate emerger.
There were a couple follows and a refusal or two but I was completely ignored by these shiftless trout. My drifts were perfect. I had not spooked a single fish in the pod. Finally in desperation I started retrieving my fly back like a streamer at the end of the drift. Boris Momontoff, the Russian guide at Estancia San Pablo in Tupungat, Argentina taught us to do with prince nymphs in the fast water of the foothills of the Andes. WHAM, a nice strike on the first retrieve on the size 20 emerger. As I moved down the pools I found I could tease out a strike driftless with a teased retrieve instead of a drift. I first saw Alfonso Aragon do this to a couple shiftless golden dorado in Bolivia.

Golden brown.

Timber Coulee Creek was one of the first of the Driftless Area streams with habitat restoration. Most of the work was to correct grazing problem along the creek banks. 

Timber Coulee Creek

Browns here seem to have red fringes on their fins like brook trout.

Another happy release.

There are those who believe that all trout fishing destinations should remain undisclosed.  But since my followers number in the teens, the chances of a run on these banks is zero to none.  Unbelievably this spot can be scouted with Google Street View. Stand on the bridge and spot the trout and it's shadow in the water.

Vikemyr Rd
Viroqua, WI 54665
43.582456, -90.941668