Monday, December 30, 2013

"Fly" Fishing in China? - Catch and Release in the limestone Guangxi region.

Fly Fishing in China ?

These photos from Guilin and Lijiang are proof of trout, carp, koi, and pan fish.

     But in a country like China, Morocco, Tanzania or parts of Mexico the idea of fly fishing, especially catch and release fly fishing is as hard for the natives to imagine as it is for us when we try to imagine the fun of building the pyramids or erecting the moai on Easter Island. 
     Is there fly fishing in China? Is it possible to teach "catch and release" to this ancient culture? Could the introduction of a parachute adams destabilize the social structure of a river side fishing village? 
     FishB4UFly's intrepid fly fishing explorers tracked down the answers to these questions. Here for the first time they are REVEALED.
1. YES. There is Fly Fishing in China. And, just like the instructions on how to put together the "Made in China" patio umbrella you got at Walmart, the Chinese have put an original spin on "Fly" fishing. In fact, they didn't borrow fly fishing from Izaak Walton in 1653 as blue blooded fly fishers would undoubtably suggest. They'd been fly fishing for at least 700 years before Izaak tied on his first streamer.
2. NO. They already know. Catch and Release, in the Chinese way, has been  going on in China since the Tang dynasty.
3. NO. Even though China has all the best materials for fly rods, parachutes, dubbing, and fly lines, it is unlikely that a single subsistence angler will be interested in a technique so backward and unnecessarily complicated.

And here is the photographic proof taken on the Li River in October 2008.

Who put the "fly" in "fly fishing?"

First we must allow for an alternate Chinese specific use of the word "fly."  Rather than its archaic easily misinterpreted use as a description of a bug that is not actually a fly, we must revert back to its original and most common usage as a verb rather than a noun. As in, "Look at the big black cormorants those women are carrying on those long poles. I wonder why they don't just fly away."

Who put the "Fishing" in "Fly Fishing."

The first Neanderthal to catch a fish mimicked a grizzly swatting a migrating salmon out of the stream. The first Chinese "Fly" fisher saw a cormorant dive in, swim underwater, grab a fish, fly up on a branch, work the fish into a head down position, and swallow it. Instead of mimicking the cormorant the hungry crafty observer made friends with the Cormorant and taught him to bring back his fish to enjoy the meal together. He let the bird "fly" away, dive into the water, swim after schools of fish, "catch" a nice one, bring it back to his pole, and then he "released" it into his fishing basket. The ring around the cormorant's neck helped keep the bird focused while letting him swallow the smaller fish. 

The battery powered spot light replaced the traditional lantern when the Guilin K-Mart opened.

The cormorant is trained to come back to the fisherman's pole.

 It's not exactly our definition of fly fishing but don't try to tell that to a Chinese cormorant.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Don't use your dog for bait.

Don't use your dog for bait.

Heard a story yesterday from an angler at Bluequill Anglers shop in Evergreen, CO about a mountain lion moving in for the kill on a small dog that his master had brought along to fish Cheesman Canyon, near Deckers Colorado on 12/2/2013. He heard another angler shouting and waving his arms below him near the water at the Lower Narrows
Sign along S. Boulder Canyon near Eldora State Park. There should be one in Cheesman also. 
and went to investigate. He saw the angler, his small dog, and a mountain lion crouched about 20 yards away. We all fish there often and have seen footprints but this is the only recent case where any of us have actually seen a lion in daytime. The ignored rule is that dogs must be leashed at all times on this section of Pike National Forest. The second angler threw some branches at the lion but this did not move it off. The two and the dog then backed away (no running is a rule that they did obey) to a higher trail back to the parking lot. The lion followed them part way. Dogs are great, but don't make them bait.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Skunked in Solitude or Catch in a Crowd

Skunked in Solitude or Catch in a Crowd

     In a place like Cheesman Canyon catching and releasing a nice trout almost seems an afterthought. The boulder filled, pine lined canyon is a photographers, hikers and fly anglers dream. I've fished this canyon in every season and have always been astounded by it's awesome beauty. 

     Brad on the other had fished it once. He laid down the criteria for a good day as "not being skunked","hooking big fish", and "no crowds." He only fishes on weekends so the "no crowds but less than 2 hours away" rule limits us to difficult places to reach.

     In Cheesman Canyon and along the Deckers stretch downstream, a fly angler has to make the choice of risking a skunk in solitude by trekking far from the parking lot or fishing in close proximity to others and catching and releasing smaller more plentiful fish with a short trek. 

     I know there are nice sized fish in Cheesman Canyon and if you're willing to hike an hour, the solitude should be good, even on a Sunday. 
     Guide Pat Dorsey's Blue Quill Angler's stream report gave us fair warning;
                 "Currently, fishing is fair in Cheesman Canyon. Low flows are producing tough, yet rewarding fishing, for those anglers who like to work hard for a few fish." 
      I'd fished with Pat and Fred Miller this summer so I was sure I could show Brad the same places, using the same flies, and certainly catch some of same nice fish (larger now of course). WRONG. If I'd asked Pat what I did wrong I know he'd say; "You fished the same flies and places." Actually, I couldn't even find the same places the flow was so low. Nothing looked the same. 

We did however spot some nice fish. But getting a fly to them without spooking them in this shallow water was nearly impossible. We were of course careful to stay out of redds and not interfere with the brown trout spawn.  
     See if you can spot the brown in this video. Can't spot it? Maybe that'w why you don't catch many fish in Cheesman Canyon. Keep looking. It is clearly there.
     Pat Dorsey reported that, "Anglers can expect to see a good a.m. midge hatch, followed by a sporadic blue-winged olive hatch mid day (1-3 pm.)." We did indeed see a good midge hatch and a very steady  bwo hatch from 11:30 to 12:30. Brad switched to dry fly bwo imitations and hooked two nice fish briefly (under the 8 second requirement to count as a Trout Unlimited in-stream release.) I stuck with a pegged egg and foam backed size 20 emerger and hooked one for even a shorter period deep in a cut below a boulder. 

     As we trudged back along the Gill Trail, (thank you very much Cutthroat Chapter of TU) we soon encountered an increasing density of anglers. Observing them from high above on the canyon trail out, some obviously knew what they were doing but did not seem to be hooking up, and some obviously did not but weren't hooking up either. 

     "Well Brad," I said, "You can't argue with the great solitude we enjoyed. I didn't see another angler all day."
     "True," he said. "But I hate getting  skunked."

Detailed instruction on how to get here,  fish this water, and get back to the airport or a Bronco's game can be found in my eBook guide:
"Fish Before You Fly, Denver's Cheesman Canyon." 


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Red Drum - Black Drum.. It's not just about the oysters.

Acme Oyster House - $1.35 local.
New Orleans for fresh oysters is reason enough. But a focus on food must change to an intense eye straining focus on the marsh water as three well dressed Denver Trout Unlimited fly casters take on the Mississippi Delta where the Denver South Platte river water mingles at last with salt water.

Peche and Cochon two more reason for New Orleans.

Acme Oyster House - Grilled Oysters w/Parmesan
The real reason for New Orleans is powering out into the delta to find Redfish preying on mullet.

After a two hour ride in Capt'n Greg's new pickup to the Cypress Cove Marina, Fred gets the first solo shot with Greg while Nick "volunteers" to guide newbie John and experience Redfish hunter Ned out into the West Bay.

 I'm fishing an eight weight Orvis rod and a weight forward saltwater line, although wisdom on the boat thinks my drag is not strong enough.
Capt'n Nick has tied on a bright chartreuse streamer to help counteract the overcast weather and lack of sun.
 We head out into the West Bay looking for birds, chasing bait fish, and surely the Redfish will be nearby.
 Oil and gas deposits lie under the marshes. The delta has been extensively exploited but the pumping and processing activities are largely unheard and invisible except for the occasional christmas tree valve cluster, loading depot, and gas burn off stack.

After a half hour or so we cruise into a marsh and Capt'n Nick kills the outboard, drops in the trolling motor and mounts the lookout/poling pulpit to spot Redfish and complain about the overcast sky.
Fred's as concentrated on the water in Capt'n Greg's boat, miles away, doing the same thing. The two boats are in constant cell phone contact. "I actually don't know where the hell I am."
Fred's ready.
Who can keep tight loops all the time.
Put it there. THERE. DROP IT. DROP IT. aww shit.
From the fresh perspective only available to someone who has never fished in the delta before this is what Redfish fishing seemed to be:

1. A harrowing, bone crushing, fiberglass stressing pounding through light chop at 38 mph in an open boat to a salt marsh cove that looks exactly like the 34 coves we passed on our 40 minute trip.
2. Silent drifting along the marsh reeds while standing on the bow pulpit or sitting down in the cockpit praying not to get hooked during your partner's cast.
3. After 30 minutes of missed opportunities and constructive criticism, powering for another 1/2 hour to another identical spot and doing it all over.
4. Panic on the pulpit as you try to overcome the excitement generated by the Capt'n as he spots a Redfish coming right at you but can't seem to scream the direction, distance or speed in a way you can understand. Finally you just cast and hope for the best which of course turns out to be the worst; in the wrong direction, "NO YOUR OTHER RIGHT",  wrong distance, "10 YARDS, NOT 10 FEET", and stripped with the wrong speed, "AHEAD OF HIM, NOT BEHIND HIM!"
Missed it. Move on past an oil dock.
Move on. 
New fly. This time put it on his nose. 
They're in here somewhere.
Will Fred's immaculate new shoes impact his chances? Only if they're standing on his free loops.
But finally, as they say, even a blind monkey will find the banana.
As I concentrate on keeping tension on the line after the strip strike, I notice that free line is wrapped around the reel seat, so I trap the fly line to the rod with my gloved finger while I feverishly try to unwrap it. 
The Redfish has turned and started his run, just as I've trapped the line. "Well DAMN." After two of these ballets, Capt'n Greg pulls out a leader spool, hold it up for me to see and says, "Can you read this?"
"50 lbs," I ask? 
"Right. Let's see if you can snap this."
 We are into a huge pod of Redfish and mullet. And it is not long before I get all the acts together and 
Fish ON!
20 minutes later.
 After a dozen runs pulling line past my splice of extra backing, I work the Redfish closer to the boat.
Almost in.
When he decides to give up, Capt'n Greg just reaches over the side, loops his finger around his tail, cradles him under the chin with his other hand in lifts him into the boat. Miraculously, he stops moving and just freezes. What could be going through that Red Fish mind? These fish could be 15 or 20 years old. They are in healthy condition and spectacularly colorful.
Hello Redfish. Nice to have you aboard.
Small forward teeth but massive grinder teeth down his throat for crushing mollusks.
John's Red.
Fred's Red.
Ned's Red.
John's Black Drum.
When the skies clear and the sun comes out, it's obvious why these marshes have such allure. There seem to be possibilities everywhere.
Miles and miles of marsh.