Archive for the ‘fly fishing’ Tag

I like big Buggs, and I can not lie…….   Leave a comment

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors,

Angry August…..That’s fly fishing guide code for “I have to really earn my money for about three weeks”.  Water flows are coming down as the air and water temperatures go up, you have a high sky, little shade and the bugs are getting smaller. It’s not terrible, but the river is a bit angry after a summer of countless boots, bugs and boats.

So, it’s a good idea to pull the staff together for some beers and brats and to recharge the staff morale a bit and go over a few late season housekeeping items.  Out behind the shop, sitting on trucks and ice coolers, we assembled to go over a few tidbits and blow off a little steam that angry august can conceive.

After we went over a few items like “make sure you clean the waders”, to “if you’re gonna park here, move all the way up” to “is that my beer or yours?”, I decided to ask the guides to shout out their best current bugs. Their “crushing it” bugs like the flat-brimmers say.

T- with a fine trout that ate a brown size 18 bug….

As I sit there, my head snaps side to side as many guides bark out their current besties, and I am amazed.  I hear, “size 24 thattabug” and  ”size 22 everfly” ,followed by, “ a size 26 thisabug”.  “What size tippet ya’ll throwin’?”, I humbly ask.  “Mostly 6x flouro, nothing bigger than 5x”, many concur.  Once again, I am the odd man out unless some of the other guides were feeling like me and just haven’t written it down for all to read.

I’m glad one of the crew didn’t ask me what my besties are and what size tippet I’m throwing, I would have been forced to say, “Inch a half Tan San Juan, a size 16 Partridge and Orange soft hackle, followed by size 18 Chocolate Thunder or Butt Crack”. “Uh, all on 4x,” as my voice would trail off.

I like big bugs, always have, always will, and I think if you fish them right you can maybe not hook as many fish as the small fly guys, but the ones you hook tend to stay hooked.  And with bigger tippet, I don’t experience many snap-offs no matter how hard folks pinch cork. I still think the most important part of the drift isn’t always about the flies, it’s still about the drift and putting the right bugs, in the right slot, to the right fish in a stealthy manner.  Are the right bugs always smaller? I don’t think so, but I must confess when the going gets tough I drop a size down to 20.

What about color?  This time of year, for me, it’s about orange and brown.  The fish are already looking for the big orange bodied Autumn Sedge like I am, and they have been “crushing” that size 16 softie.  Brown is just a great color (purple is next) for my tricos, blue quills, pseudo baetis, and PMD emergers that are zipping around.  Certainly could use other colors, but those work just fine.

Janet with a nice specimen that ate an 18 Butt Crack

I love angry August, I’ve the best job on the planet, meeting and guiding amazing people, and every now and again, I get to have a free beer and brat behind the fly shop, and that was my beer he drank out of…….

Fear No Water

Book update:  Into angry August on the book too.  Heavy editing begins soon, just finished illustration and photo placement.  Looking forward to moving it along!

Thanks to all that voted for a cover with the link I provided last post.  Hidden In Plain View reporting for duty!  Soon…..

It’s Hidden In Plain View…..

Sure is dry out today…..   Leave a comment

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors,

“He ate”, I said. “Really, I never even saw it”, he replied.  Recognizing a fish taking your dry fly is not always the stuff that movies are made of.  Sometimes, it is so subtle that we miss the take. Fish typically don’t eat dries while you’re zoomed into the frame in super slow motion with music playing in the background. It’s typically a game of controlled speed, technique, and yep, luck.

It’s obvious we don’t know what we’re missing while nymphing because stuff is going down sub-surface.   I imagine there are several fish we “miss” and don’t even know they ate. Same holds true for surface fishing, but actually seeing the misses is much easier and certainly more frustrating.  Just last week I had a client set up doing some quarter upstream double dry work.  He was rolling an Elk Hair Caddis 18” ahead of a Yellow Sally.  The fish were gorging on both.  He surmised that for every 10 fish that ate his offerings, he may turn 3, and for every 3 he turned he may solidly hook 1.  And this guy is a good stick, honest too.

Last week, it was easy to tell when a fish ate the dries as most takes were splashy.  That’s the telltale sign fish are eating caddis, stones, or terrestrials.  Not a hard and fast rule, like all in fly fishing, but when you’re seeing aggressive, splashy takes, good bet they’re eating something that skitters, flutters, or bounces on the water.  When you see those easy, simple rises, fish are usually secure, calm, and eating duns, spents, or cripples.  In all cases you need to read the fish, the bugs, as well as the river to dial in the correct offerings.

Let’s talk more about reading fish as they eat dries.  There are basically, 3 types of rises; simple, compound, and complex.  In each case the fish have a staging spot, or a beginning holding area.  In a simple rise, the fish typically simply elevate to the surface, break the surface, and yawn in the bug.  A compound rise is a bit more detailed as the fish, starting in the same staging area, follows the bugs for a short distance before ingesting.  This is a tough rise to consistently hook fish because they are really inspecting your flies, and any wrong move means game over.  The last type of rise is a complex rise.  These fish do the same as a compound except they actually turn downstream and follow your bug downstream.  Usually, if you can maintain your drift, that fish will eat.

The key to dry fly presentation when it comes to how the fish are eating is observation.  Watch how the fish are feeding, where they are staging, and then cast 4 to 5 feet upstream of them. Show the flies only, no fly line allowed.  I see a lot of folks that have a surface feeding fish picked out and either cast way too far upstream, or cast directly on top of the fish.  If you take a nymphing cast approach and cast way upstream, you will have a terrible time keeping your drift as you near the fish strike zone.  Casting on top of the fish that is eating a full 4 feet downstream of where it’s staging causes issues too if you cast 4 feet above where you saw it eat.  I’ll let you digest this for a minute.

Couple things about the dry fly lift.  Not even gonna call it a set.  It’s a lift in the opposite direction that the fish ate.  Fish eats going downstream (complex rise), you lift upstream.  Simple rise upstream of you, you lift up and downstream.  Lift speed is not nearly as critical as lift direction and control, and this is how most fish are missed when dry fly fishing.

That’s enough for now.  Hey, if you don’t already, please like The Fly Fishers Playbook Facebook page.  Only fly fishing, and plenty of it.

Fear No water!

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Dry fly fishing in beautiful places….

Size 18 Elk Hair caddis

Fashionably late…..   Leave a comment

Alright, let’s get on with 2016. Little late to the party, but I’ve been busy guiding pheasant hunters. The fly fishing juices are flowing strong as I embark on another year of trout tales. This time of year represents, in my mind anyway, time for learning and experimentation.

My speaking schedule is in full bloom, and between now and June I will hit six states yapping on about this great endeavor. I shake a lot of hands and I learn. Wish I had a twenty spot every time a stranger says to me, “You ever tried this?” More often than not the idea doesn’t fit my program, or appeal to me, but it always makes me think. However, there are a few ideas that come my way, and I think, “Now why didn’t I think of that?” Long story even longer, I always listen.

So, I invariably head home from these events and run either straight to the vise or straight to the river. It’s funny, folks on the river fly fishing are a tight-lipped group, but folks at shows spill their guts. Maybe they feel safe sharing in that environment knowing they won’t have to deal with it til spring, or maybe they wish to get involved in the circle of learning somehow. I don’t know, but I’ve picked up a few gems over the years, by simply stopping and listening.

I’ve happily shared most everything I’ve picked up at the shows over the years, I’ve a few new ideas this year that I won’t comment on until I put them to the test. One’s a simple in-line nymph rig adjustment, and the others deal with spinning bugs. Both are in the testing process, and to be frank, I haven’t noticed any appreciable difference in performance, but I need to try these ideas for at least winter, spring and run-off.   Will let you know. I’ve a feeling some of the ideas I hear aren’t as novel as we think.

Speaking of novel, I am considering another book. Really have the itch to spit one out, but having a difficult time refining my ideas. Seems like fly fishing books are all cut out of the same template. One hundred forty seven ways to put more fish in the net, or the twenty three essentials to catch fish, I don’t necessarily want to go there. I like to draw analogies, feed off experiences and data, and try to teach a little along the way. If you have an idea for books you’d like to see, please let me know. Insert the listening part here……

In January I’m in Ohio at the North Ohio Fly Fishing Expo. February is the Winter Fly Fishing Social in Taos, New Mexico.   March is Lewiston Idaho at the North Idaho Fly Fishing Expo. April is the Washington Fly Fishing Fair, and May is a 3 day extravaganza of presentations all over Arizona.

I’ll keep my ears open, and will share everything I learn!

Fear No Water,

Duane

Winter experimentation on the South Platte.

Winter experimentation on the South Platte.

Fly Fish Alaska   Leave a comment

Alaska. Unless you’ve been there you just can’t comprehend the beauty. Now, I live in arguably one of the most beautiful places on the planet, Colorado. But, Colorado is no match for the unbridled beauty of Alaska. It’s huge untamed landscape that thrusts up and out of the ocean, coupled with the colors, and vastness is not something that pictures can capture.

Unbridled beauty....

Unbridled beauty….

I was afforded the opportunity to fly fish Alaska because a couple of my long-time clients wanted to give it a whirl. Minturn Anglers offers a wonderful package for fly fishing for Steelheads, Silvers, Huge Rainbows and all of the Dolly Vardens you can catch. Next year, rumor has it, we are expanding our trip packages to cover five weeks. These are one week packages, and not only is the fishing stellar, but the accommodations are incredible. If you’re ever interested in a trip like this don’t hesitate to contact me. I still have an Alaska blush.

The gear we took was as important as the plane tickets themselves. Keeping everything dry was the top priority on my list. Aside from a good pair of waders and a raincoat, I needed something that would keep my other gear dry. Whether we floated or waded, I needed to be able to carry important items on my back the entire time. A place to carry a lunch, provide fire starter, a dry set of clothes, and any other stuff, in a dry venue were paramount. I settled on the Umqua Tongass backpack.

The pack.....

The pack…..

This 30 liter backpack, complete with padded shoulder and waist strap was more than up to the challenge. It has two water proof compartments that employ a simple roll-top closing system. The closing system was a huge bonus. Not only did it keep the pack water-tight, but it is very easy to quickly access the stuff you carry inside. It also has a hanging interior pocket that I quickly figured out carried my cell phone safely.

I really liked the exterior pockets (6) and used the two on each side for anything from rod tubes to adult beverage carriers. The pack has “cinch straps” to ensure everything rides compactly, balanced, and comfortably. Although we hiked through some pretty nasty willows, I never had the pack hang up because of the way it hugs your back.

I used my pack as carry-on and it fit nicely into the overhead compartments. One little trick I used was to fold the waist straps back over the pack itself, and hooked them in place. This way the pack had zero external straps to hang up while transporting, going through the xray machines, or riding in the trunk of the rental car. When fishing, the entire system of adjustable straps made for comfortable days. No shoulder or hip pinch was experienced at all, and the pack stayed put even while spey casting.

Cold steel....

Cold steel….

I strongly recommend this pack, and come fish Alaska while you’re at it.

Fear No Water,

Duane

p.s. Black Friday’s coming up, don’t forget the Fly Fishers Playbook 2nd Edition for your favorite angler!

The Two Day Chubby…….   2 comments

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors!

The other day I am out in front of the shop performing my morning ritual rigging rods. Bob Streb walks by and asks’ “What are you doing?” I explain that I’m trying to get a two day Chubby. He kept walking by and filtered into the shop. I thought about my response for a bit and started chuckling. Let me explain.

As a guide and basically a bottom-feeder in the economic society, I strive to get as much use and efficiency out of my gear as possible. Gotta make every inch of tippet, every drop of floatant, and every pinch of putty last. Therefore, I go the extra mile, sometimes two, to stretch the last bit of life out of all my gear. That includes my Chubbies.

Since about the 4th of July, I have been running the Mini-rig alongside nymph and dry fly rigs. It’s a standard in my stable, and I fish it a bunch in the right kind of water. It’s perfect for water that is up to about 18” deep, textured, and faster moving than the main run body. You can peruse the archives to find more detailed info about the Mini-rig, or pick up a copy of the 2nd Edition of The Fly Fisher’s Playbook for more information. It’s perfect for top-down fly fishing.

I swore off tying dry flies years ago. Nowadays I concentrate my tying efforts to producing, in mass, nymphs, pupa, larva, and emergers exclusively. Therefore, I buy my Chubbies. A good Chubby ain’t cheap, and I have found a shop that takes good care of me in that department. It’s not that I can’t tie my own, but I had to draw the line somewhere, or I’d never leave the tying bench. Dressing the Chubby to get a good two days of service is important. Let me explain again.

Fishing a mini rig for a full eight hours equates to probably close to a thousand drifts, some drenching hook-ups, and a few trees and snags along the way. There’s only so much that it can take. But if you take care of it, you can get more service than you may think. It’s all about a little TLC.

The evening before the second day of service (and sometimes third), I painstakingly work to remove all water from the previous outing. I use those little foam thingy’s incased in leather to suck out the water from the main body. You can tell by looking at it if some areas require more attention, as it will appear darker in those areas. Keep working on those areas. I then use a little brush, the same one I use to prep yarn indicators, to brush the wing portions and get all the fibers pointing in the same direction. Next, I cover the Chubby with Top-Ride floatant and store for the night.

Bob walked by as I performed the next step the next morning. The Chubby is ready for final primping to get it thru the day. I usually only apply the silicone based floatants once to a dry fly, but the Chubby can handle two applications, if prepped right. First, I knock off all of the Top-Ride from the previous evening. Then, I re-apply a small amount of liquid floatant as I lightly brush it into all the nooks and cranny’s of the main body. Lastly, I simply brush a bit of floatant into the wing fibers making sure to fluff and separate the individual fibers. Now the Chubby is set for another day of service. As it gets tired during the day, I simply shake it in a little dry shake and continue to fluff. This helps keep it up all day.

Like I said, I’m cheap, er thrifty, and need to stretch all my gear to the limit, that includes my Chubby Chernobyls. Great Mini rig bug, floats all day, suspends heavy tungsten bugs, and catches fish.  Bob asked me the other day, if I am able to get two days out my Chubbies. I proudly told him “Yep”. He chuckled and walked by. To escape ridicule, maybe I shouldn’t prep my Chubbies in the parking lot in front of the shop.

Fear No Water,

Duane

After 2 days hard work....

After 2 days hard work….

Mouthful...

Mouthful…

It’s in the bag…..   1 comment

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors!

My client hooks a beauty of a brown in a soft seam about fifteen feet out. The river is in pre-runoff, so there is a dangerous element to landing big fish that get into big water. I bark a few directions about rod tip angles and height that puts my client in good fighting position. The brown took exception to it.

Off she goes! The reel is screaming as she burrows deep into the hard water across the river. The downstream bow in the fly line is tremendous as the fish is jumping upstream and across from us. I’m thinking we’re screwed. Somehow we manage to keep our ground and get half of our fly line back. The trout is back in the same seam we hooked her in.   It’s our move.

I instruct to move downstream a bit to maintain at least a ninety degree angle on the beast. We set our feet, but realize we will be moving soon. Client lifts the rod a foot or so and increases tippet pressure on the fish. Reaction generated and the fish is ripping off line downstream. We strive to keep up.

At some point, I know I’m going to have to let go of my clients wading belt, stop dragging him along the rocks at river edge, and go in for the beast. We top out on a small sand point, and I exclaim that we will live or die from this point. It sounded good when I said it.

The beast is now forty feet downstream swimming in and out of a nice eddy. “Perfect”, I think as I claw my way through the willows waist deep in the drink. As I near the spot where I think we have the best chance to bag, I realize it’s simply too deep to be of much help. The fish is in the soft flow, finning up and down, a mere seven feet away. Problem is adding together my arm and net length, I come up about a half foot short. Where have I heard that before?

I’ve no choice, I have to make a plunge move out to this fish hoping to bag it before it bolts downstream into a class four rapid. Here goes nothing. I felt her tap the outside of the hoop of my net as I went under water. I came up kicking and spitting….Fishless. She broke us off in the heavy stuff downstream.

I bought a new net. My old net was perfect for most seasons, but run-off on the Eagle ain’t one of them. Handle is just too short. I contacted Kevin Mackey of Mackeynetworks and we designed a new bag. Obviously, the handle is longer, but there are other features as well.

I use this net as a wade staff as well. I had Kevin turn the end of the handle to about an inch diameter, and I placed a walking cane rubber stopper on it. The rest of the net is surprisingly light for the beefy ability to support my weight fully. The hoop is large enough to bag the beasts of the Eagle, but not too obtrusive to carry. The wood and finish are beautiful.

I don’t rep for Kevin, but if you want one of his nets, go to mackeynetworks. If you can’t find him, contact me and I’ll get you hooked up.

Fear No Water (I mean it),

Duane

 

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Customized

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Fish friendly

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Aha!

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Customized to my height

Come To Your Senses…..   4 comments

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors,

“Did you hear that?” My client says, “Hear what?”. “I thought I heard a fish eat on the surface downstream to our left”, I reply. “Nope, didn’t hear a thing”, he says. This conversation, and many like it, happens often while I’m guiding.

Fly fishing is mostly about sight. Being able to see what is happening while following an indicator or dry fly is easy. It’s directly observable. The ability to “feel” underwater and hear peripheral happenings on the surface is the next step in becoming an accomplished angler.

I find the best anglers, fly fishers, are those that have the whole package. They can pick up several clues about what’s going on around them while concentrating on the “sight game”. The ability to multi-task while getting great drifts is paramount because it helps you “see” what’s going on around you.

Seeing adult bugs fluttering over the river is important, but hearing fish eat on the surface without a visual clue is deadly. Also, the ability to discern by sound how the fish are eating on top, and the ability to make appropriate changes to your rig, without a visual clue is huge.

One of the best days of fishing I ever had was on the Arkansas River near Salida, Colorado, during a caddis hatch. During daylight hours, it was easy to see my offering and the subsequent splashy takes on the surface. Where it really got fun was when the sun went down and I continued to fish in the dark throwing dry caddis imitations to eager fish. Having a general idea of where your flies where in the drift, and setting on the sound of the fish eating, was an absolute blast. I think that day went a long way in teaching me how to dial into a river without being able to see. I have done it several times since on various rivers in the Rocky Mountain West.

If you do it enough, you can tell the difference between a sip, a flush, and a splashy take. Splashy takes are easy to recognize, but sips and flushes aren’t so easy to discern. Splashy takes are a good sign that trout are eating Caddis, Stoneflies or other bugs on the surface that skitter, skate, or hatch in one fluid motion. Sips signify fish that are eating duns, spents, or cripples on the surface in a peaceful cadence. You have to really listen for sips, but I often hear those before I see them because the fish may only expose a nose and part of their back. Flushes are fun. For those of you that have ever thrown mouse patterns in the dark, you know what I mean when I talk about a flush eat. It’s the sound of a fish attacking something on the surface. Usually, it’s a big fly eaten by a big fish. It’s a large circular take with an unmistakable sound.

Often times, I will hear a fish eat on top, and quickly look in that direction for the telltale ring or floating air bubble that shows broken water surface. At this point, using my experience and sight to determine which flies are hatching comes into play. Figure the type of take, where the fish ate, and finally the adults that are hatching, to formulate your plan and next move.

The other sense I mentioned earlier was feel. In most fly fishing situations, the “feel” comes after the hook-up. If I’m Czeck nymphing, feel is a sense that comes in handy as there are very few visual clues that tell you when you have a fish eat. Sometimes when fishing soft hackles under and indicator you also get to feel the fish eat on the swing portion of your drift. Another chance to feel a fish eat is when you’re chucking streamers. Streamers and Czeck nymphing are unique in that you can not only feel fish takes, but you can feel the water. You feel differences in water speed, depths, and hydraulics. In other words, you can feel without seeing what’s going on with current sub-surface. It’s pretty cool, and will teach you volumes of information that you can apply to all disciplines of fly fishing.

As a guy that’s bow hunted nearly his entire life, I’ve learned what it takes to get close to game to seal the deal. A lot of my successes have come from secondary senses. Although I rely on sight predominately, I am constantly striving to bring my other senses into play as I fly fish. Give it a try!

My sense of smell tells me dinner is ready……Fear No Water!

Let the force be with you....

Let the force be with you….

 

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