Archive for the ‘#flyfishing’ Tag

Smoke Bomb in a Tree Fort   Leave a comment

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors,

It was my eleventh summer and a group of my neighborhood buddies and I pooled our resources and engineering prowess to construct a very fine tree fort. This fort had everything, windows that opened and closed, quick exit trap doors, radio antennae, and a rope ladder. We were kings of the tree tops.

Our inaugural sleep-in night was upon us and just after we settled in for the evening someone tossed a lit smoke-bomb into our abode. I remember clicking on my flashlight and being surrounded by stinky blue smoke. We bailed out as quickly as possible, but the night was ruined. All that preparation and anticipation went right down the tubes. We were ticked.

I thought about the smoke-bomb incident the other day as I was standing in a well-known front range tailwater. I spend a lot of time guiding other fly fishers and every so often; I get to hit the river by myself, which is always a treat. I plan, re-rig my fly rods, spin a few special flies, and no matter how tired I am from the weeks work, I’m always up early and anxious to go.

I arrived much earlier than the other anglers, and had settled into a favorite run. This run has room for one angler, is choked with willows on the anglers backcast, and the perimeters can be easily reached with a decent roll cast. In other words, it’s a small section of river that a modest fly caster can cover top to bottom and bank to bank, without moving an inch.

Crowded rivers can lead to poor etiquette, unfortunately.

 

I had settled in, and put a couple small rainbows and one decent brown trout in the bottom of my net in around fifteen minutes.  I smiled to myself after landing the last fish, relaxed a bit, and lit my pipe. Just then, I hear splashing below me in the run as two anglers step into the drink. They both look at me as I angle my head to the side, hitting them with a “What are you going to do?” non-verbal cue. One of the guys stops in his tracks, the other proceeds to place a roll cast into my run while trying to avoid eye-contact. His first cast, had I been in a drift, would have crossed my line!

I turned facing him and uttered, “Really, this is the best you can do?” He didn’t say a word, backed out and took his partner with him.  I stood there for a minute shaking my head. I stripped out some line and readied for my next upstream presentation, when all of a sudden, those two knuckleheads bust through the willows on the bank above me, waded in, and began to fish. I could have easily cast over both of their lines. Smoke-bomb in the tree house!

I rigged up my rod and slogged over to the bank. Just before leaving I reminded them that they needed to learn some manners, and mentioned something about trout in public places, and we not only need to respect the fish, but the fishermen as well. They heard me but neither had the courage to make eye contact. I’m still pissed.

Can’t always be like this, but we can play nicely…..

The majority of anglers know fishing etiquette. Always ask folks which way they plan to fish, upstream or downstream, give them plenty of room, and extend to them the same courtesy you would expect from others. Don’t walk the banks above an angler working a run.  That’s a good way to spook fish he is working.  Always try to give them the run they’re in and the shelf above it. I’ll often ask if it’s ok to hit the run above them, if it’s a good distance above the shelf that marks the top of their run.

Maybe that’s part of it, folks don’t know how to read the river, which gives them no discernable start and stop places.  Maybe they simply need to learn a typical run; riffle, shelf, pool, glide, tailout, riffle. Frankly, I’m not confident that will solve the issue, this comes down to a “me first” mentality.  An ”I need this fish picture for my social media”, mentality. Yep, I’m still a little pissed.

I am more than annoyed at what fly fishing has become on our crowded rivers in Colorado. So many anglers, packed into a few miles of rivers. Still, I think with a healthy dose of etiquette, we could have fun days even on highly pressured waters. I have been preaching fishing etiquette for as long as I can remember, and there are days when it’s certainly more than annoying, but we have to keep teaching protocol one angler at a time. Fear No Water!

Simply remember the golden rule

 

Redds and Run-off   Leave a comment

Of Redds and Run-off

Every year I hear the same old crap about folks ripping spawning fish off Redds. Drives me crazy, infuriates me really.  How can you interrupt something as sacred as spawning fish?  That’s our guarantee for future fishing, and there ain’t nothing wrong with wild fish, or the fish helping out in the quest for more fish. Our respective game and fish departments can’t do it all.

Maybe some folks just don’t know what to look for, so here goes: look for water up to about thirty inches deep with areas that looked like they’ve been swept with a broom. Usually, this is a flatter section of the river, with slower moving water. Also, look for one or more fish sitting atop this swept out area. I’ve seen redds the size of a coffee table, up to the size of an auditorium. Both are equally easy to spot if you’re paying attention.

You may be thinking, “So where do I fish then?” The answer is simple, “Not on the redd, but above or below it.” Target the species not spawning on the shelves and pools below spawning fish. Hmmmmm, wonder what patterns to throw…You can certainly toss egg patterns in your nymph rigs and follow that up with the fly of the day, or the dominant hatching insect. No mystery, really, just do your best to be observant, step around the redds, and fish anywhere but on them.

Pretty dang obvious Redd. Just observe.

Run-off is bearing down on us as the water rises and goes off color. My day usually starts out nymphing two and three bug rigs under an indicator, using darker and sparser bugs. I like weighted flies (odd for me, but conditions call for it), with dark and sparse materials, to get the bugs down quickly and allow the fish to readily see them. The darker colors are easier for fish to see in off-color water. I tie my favorite flies in black, purple, red, and even throw in some true fluorescent orange and pink collars to provide for “hot-spots” and visibility.

Little dirt in the drink.

Lately, my days have been ending throwing the mini-rig (it’s in the book), with a black Chubby Chernobyl followed by a black soft hackle (DP643), and a size 18 purple Butt Crack Baetis.  Killer. The fish are moving to the edges and up into the riffles (not redds) to consume baetis swimmers and emergers, and the occasional skwala stones and migdes. You’ve all heard me preach about carrying two rigged rods, well this time of year is perfect for it.  So, mornings I work bottom up, afternoons, top down.

Don’t hesitate to rip streamers as the water’s rising, that can be as productive as it is fun. I like to run tandem rigs with a white or lightly colored streamer up front, followed by a Slumpbuster or similar 20# below on 2 or 3 X tippet.  I like to tie a loop knot to the trailing streamer to allow for a bit more movement. Typically, I’ll run a five to six foot tapered leader down to 2 or 3X to my first streamer, tie off the bend with the same to my terminal meat. If you’re not moving fish, you’re probably above their level, so employ more weight, casting angles, or mending techniques to get those streamers deeper. Vary your retrieves, strip set, and hang on.

Black soft-hackles during run-off

As we get into full-blown chaos with run-off, focus on the banks, edges, eddy’s, and sleeper seams out from the banks.  Just be damn careful stepping into crazy water. Dress appropriately, use a wading staff, take a friend, and show discretion and common sense. It’s not worth dying for.

A few nymphs to consider for run-off:

Black Pat’s Rubberlegs

Black Leeches

Cranefly Larva

Black Soft-Hackles (#16-18)

Purple Butt Crack Baetis (#18)

Purple, Pink or Red San Juan Worm

Various Egg patterns

Purple Butt Crack Baetis

 

Fear No Water…except during run-off

I Just Don’t Know….   Leave a comment

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors,

Once again, the speaking circuit is up and running.  Just got back from Atlanta, and getting ready to head to Texas for the GRTU Troutfest.  In between, I will have a couple chances to get on the water, tie a few bugs, and tighten up my speaking game. It’s a whole different world this time of year.

Buzzing around the country talking with so many anglers is quite humbling and extra enjoyable.  I sat with Lincoln Westby (look him up if you don’t know who he is) for two full days last week at the Atlanta show, just picking his brain.  At seventy plus years of age he is still incredibly passionate about this sport. I was humbled and truly thankful for that opportunity, plus I picked up more than a few tips. I bump into all kinds of people that teach me loads simply by the questions they ask. Many times, I have to stop and think on their question, which forces me to make ask them questions, make choices, clarify, or quantify a stance on a particular subject. Doing this tends to sharpen ones focus, and steel ones opinions.

@rodcuffs releasing a South Platte Brownie

Once I begin to sharpen focus on a subject then I begin to dig into my reasoning for believing one way or another, and every now and then, I change my stance on a previously held thought. Sometimes, however, I stop, cock my head to one side and think, “Nope, not going to believe that.”

At a show last year, I was walking by the casting pool as someone was presenting to a group of anglers.  This presenter was talking about setting the hook techniques, and had the fly rod pointing down to the opposite end of the pool as the point was made. With line out in the pool, and a large management loop formed from the index finger on the cork, this person proceeded to explain a dry fly set. “Reach up here with your left hand, grab the fly line up here above the cork, and pull hard to the side as fast as possible.” I stopped in mid stride at the edge of the pool just to confirm what I thought I heard. Yup, that’s what I heard.

So, in front of your management loop, you reach up with your off-hand grabbing the fly line and pulling to the side for the set.  This alignment renders your loop worthless.  What if you happen to hook the fish? Then, you’d have to take the line in your off hand and put it back under your index finger on the cork, just to begin to fight the fish. This is as hard to explain as it is to be believe. So, imagine you’re holding the fly rod in your right hand, and the management loop is created between your index finger on the cork and the fly reel. See it? Now, a fish eats so you need to set. Take your left hand and reach above your cork hand (toward the fly rod tip), and grab the fly line between the first line guide and the cork, above your hand. Pull it tight, out to the side, quickly.

Nice winter fish for this sweet lady

I don’t get it.  Usually when I hear something like that I can find some merit, or reasoning.  I am still stumped many months after hearing this, and have shared this story with many in hopes someone could enlighten me.  Not being a jerk here, but honestly trying to figure out what I am missing, because I just might learn something. Shoot me a note with any theories.  You can’t ask a stupid question here, or give a stupid response, it’s all about learning.

The Eagle River has some shelf ice up high, and downstream you’ll find smaller amounts.  The lower river has been checking in at about 38 degrees at ten in the morning, and warms up to about 41 degree on full sun days.  Midges are coming off, and I (and the fish) are already beginning to look for Blue-Winged Olives. Not a bad idea to throw a pink San Juan, Black Soft Hackled PT, and a Buttcrack Baetis in that order, if you’re so inclined. Other combinations will work equally as well as long as depth and speed are dialed in.  Go low and slow.

The latest book (Hidden in Plain View) is still doing well.  Thanks again everyone.

Sweet release times two….

Fear No Water!

Duane

Long learner.   4 comments

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors,

I’ve heard it said, “If you’re the smartest guy in the room, you’re in the wrong room”. I certainly not only subscribe to that notion, but find it easy to not be the smartest guy in the room.

Recently, I had the opportunity to be a featured author at a book signing at the Blue Quill Angler in Evergreen Colorado.  This was not your normal book signing, not when you’re elbow to elbow with John Gierach, Pat Dorsey, Ed Engle, Landon Mayer, Marty Bartholomew, Steve Schweitzer, David McElwain, and Terry Grosz. Nope, this was something special for me and I was humbled and excited to be counted in the fold.

There are many ways to learn new skills, tactics, techniques, or perceptions about any endeavor.  Most folks learn

Wasn’t the smartest in the room this day….Lightening and hail in the high country and it’s me and my 6’5″ client…..

best by seeing or doing, while the rest learn by reading or study, and it’s always easier to learn from someone that already knows what you want to learn (think back to 7th grade Spanish class).  Therefore, when I’m in the situation where I am surrounded by tons of knowledge, I keep my mouth shut and listen, listen, listen.  I still have so much to learn about fly fishing.

I’ve been guiding a long time, before that, I taught school for 22 years, and I feel as if I have a pretty good handle on how to break things down, present them in bite-sized pieces and feed them to hungry learners.  I had great mentors that taught me the “teaching ropes” and that hastened the process.  Still, after 22 years, I wasn’t the smartest in the room, but was still the hungriest.  Hungry to learn, learning by listening and watching, followed by a healthy dose of “go do”.

I consider myself a life-long learner, and I realize I have a long way to go when it comes to mastering what I do, but that doesn’t stop the journey.  This year, I’ll be presenting to folks all across this country, a brand new fly fishing presentation.  I try to create a new one each year, to keep things fresh for me and my audiences.  Do I know everything? Not in the least, but I do know this, the more I teach, the more I learn.  More often than not, I come away from an evening presentation with more questions bouncing around in my head.  Stuff I can only answer by getting on the river.

During the slower months of winter, when I guide sparingly, I often look to put a bit of time into fishing.  Funny thing is, I never go just to catch fish.  I’m always working on or testing something.  I may be testing a rig wrinkle, bug stage modification, a specific drift mechanic, or a modified piece of equipment, but I always fish with a purpose other than trying to just put fish in the net. Often, I am fishing with folks that are nailing fish, but I keep testing, pushing the envelope, and trying to learn, while watching fish after fish hit the bottoms of their nets. It takes discipline and a pile of hard-headed stubbornness to not just blow-off what I’m doing and simply fish, but I remain steadfast in my mission.

I’m always looking for a new perspective, or a subject that receives too little attention, maybe a newly recognized (to me) cause and effect, or something that I consider obscure by the standards that I guide and fish to. Ultimately, I try to pass what I learn onto the folks that I guide, that read my books, or that see my presentations.  It’s worth it.

This years’ presentation is titled: The Dance, Landing Trout on a Fly Rod.  I’ve been thinking about this presentation for years, because everyone talks about everything from the cast to the drift, and the set, even how to take photos, but actual discussion of fish landing techniques and rod physics is rarely broached.  Gonna’ change that.  I truly hope folks will like it.

The Dance

Hidden in Plain View is doing great.  Thanks to those of you that have purchased the book. Proud to say it’s still in the top 10 of new fishing releases through Amazon after 3 weeks in.  Pretty humbling for sure.

So, you see, that extra work, the little touch of stubbornness (depends on whom you talk to), and the ability to listen while realizing you’re not the smartest in the room, is worth it in the long run.  Hopefully, at the next show, event, or club gathering, you and I get a chance to talk, I always welcome the opportunity to learn new things.

Fear No Water!

ps. the new speaking schedule is up.

Pss. There’s still time to purchase a copy of the book before Christmas (Amazon/Barnes and Noble)

Still time!

Your vote counts…..   Leave a comment

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors!

Hi folks!  I could really use your help in determining what the cover is to my new book that should be coming out sometime this November.  It is narrowed down to two covers, and I need your votes to help decide on the cover!

Please go to the link, read the synopsis, and click on one of the covers to vote for your favorite.  Please feel free to share this because I would really like a bunch of feedback.

Photo cred to Tucker Bamford and Alan Peak out of Colorado.

Thank you very much and Fear No Water!

http://www.koehlerbooks.com/cover-polls/hidden-in-plain-view-recognizing-the-obvious-exploiting-the-obscure-in-fly-fishing/

 

 

Mama Nature   Leave a comment

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors!

“We had our July in August” That’s what I told one of our young guns the other day before we headed to different spots on the same river.  What an odd season it has been.  Usually, I can somewhat predict flows and clarity pre, during, and post run-off, but this year, like last, has been confusing to say the least.  July fished like August for the second straight year with somewhat picky fish, hot air and water temps, and a high sky.  We were all scratching our heads as to what was going on.  “Then the rains came……..”

We endured several run-offs this year.  Gone are the days when you could bank on a steady, concerted melt and drain.  It would start, then stop, then start again.  Seems like it started in April and was done this year in late July, statistics prove that out. That lack of consistency really makes you scratch your head at times as to where the fish are holding and why.  They aren’t following the typical patterns to movement because the typical patterns no longer exist.  The flows this year averaged about twenty percent higher than norm until just a few weeks ago, so the fish didn’t spread out in earnest until late July.  Only then did we start consistently catching fish in the faster and shallower riffles.

Fish ate a dropper in the mini rig for Thomas.

But wait there’s more!  Typically, after the 4th of July, all I throw is the Mini Rig.  This rig allows me to cover water from 6” to nearly 4 feet deep fairly effectively. It’s all I ever needed after the fourth all the way into late October.  This year, because of flows, torrential afternoon rains, cold water temps, and funky fish holds, I found myself using the nymph rig more and more, while the Mini Rig sat idle on the bank.  Gotta fish ‘em where they’re feeding consistently, so nymphing ruled the day until about two weeks ago.

One of the last nymphed fish this season.

Now the flows are perfect, the water is gin clear, and small quills and tricos are coming off. It’s been a Mini Rig domination the last two weeks, backed up by double dry rigs and an occasional streamer or nymphing rake.  Back right where she should be, even though temps hit the mid-thirties a couple mornings last week. I’ll take it, means fall is on the way, big orange sedges, trico spinner falls, pseudo-baetis, and hoppers on the edges. Plenty of water this year, so I guess it’s ok to have that many run-offs after all. Mama Nature knows what she’s doing.

 

 

Eric with a fish that ate a dry. Cherry series 8′ 4wt- 8 Rivers Fly Rods

Just a couple quick notes:

I am building next year’s speaking schedule, so if you know of any club or organization looking for a fly fishing speaker feel free to contact me.

Hidden In Plain View is going well.  I am knee deep into the photo and illustration portion, and loving every minute of it. Looks like a mid November completion date.

And lastly,

The Butt Crack baetis made it into the Montana Fly Catalog.  It’ll be available, along with the Butt Crack Midge, early next spring.

Butt Crack baetis- My go to fly most of the year…..Coming to a fly shop near you!

Fear No Water!

Like the First Day of School…..   2 comments

“Alright, let’s get started”, someone with authority barks, but I’m already seated up toward the front.  “How did I get here?”, I muse as I realize I am front and center.  I quickly scoot myself back toward a wall during the confusion of folks jockeying for chairs and finding their comfy places.  Our manager welcomes everyone and decides we should do introductions as there’s new faces in the crowd.  There’s always new faces, where do these folks come from?

Oldest guy in the room.

The guy with a beard to my right starts, “I’m so and so and this is my second year”, then it’s the other guy with a beard, “I’m so and so, and this is my first year, then it’s the fresh faced young woman, “I’m so and so, this is my first year.  Uh-oh, my turn, “I’m Duane, ah this is my first year.”  That gets a laughing response from the masses, because they all know I’m the old guy.  The roll-call continues and the bearded guys keep rolling out low numbers of years with guiding experience.  I’m amazed.  Yea, there’s a few with eight or nine years in the room (one that says he shadowed me 8 or 9 years ago), but for the most part these folks are young enough to be my kids.  Hell, some of them might be.

It’s like going to a professional baseball game and realizing that the damn umpires are younger than you. I’m the oldest in the room again, and after some health issues last winter, I’m beginning to feel it.  Don’t get me wrong, I can hang with these kids all day everyday, it’s just that when I grow a beard, it’s gray.  That just doesn’t look cool in a fly shop or magazine cover anymore.  I’m a relic, and my fly choices and approach to the sport show it.  I still throw tons of soft-hackles and my idea of lunch is sandwiches on the way to the river so we have optimal time to fish.  Although I still throw softies, I have had to learn that guide trip lunch is something you do sitting down next to the river after you have thoroughly washed your hands with that new antibacterial liquid soap.  Isn’t all soap antibacterial?

I digress.  As the paper stack grows at my feet, I wonder how many old permits are in my pack.  Not too long ago, I was stopped by a game warden and checked for a license.  I found one in there from 2007, I really need to get in there and clean my pack out.  Might be a sandwich in there.  The manager explains how to carry these in a water-proof bag in your waist pack (no vest wearers in this room, not since I switched 5 years ago.), and I watch as some folks jot down this information, and the most of the rest are nodding their heads in agreement.  I think, “You gotta be told how to carry this stuff?”. Then, I kick myself for being “that old guy”, and find myself nodding with the rest.

I’m asked to get up and describe the areas we can legally guide on the South Platte River near Deckers.  I get up and in a nice way tell them it is their responsibility to learn where they can and can’t fish.  I go into how one winter, I walked the entire blue line from the confluence up to the fly shop, and drew a map showing every feature I thought important.  I realize at this time that I wasn’t asked to tell them to learn it themselves, so I explain that we can meet down there and do a drive-a-long.  Old guy relinquishes again, but it’s worth it.

I also throw in that there are a million first year guides out there, but not nearly as many second year guides.  In other words, don’t be a jerk, keep your head down, and bust your ass.  As the meeting comes to a close, I think about how these guide meetings are just like the first day of school.  A good chance to meet new people, rekindle old friendships, discern a pecking order, and fill out a pile of paperwork.  Just before the meeting was adjourned I got “it”.  I got that old feeling that I used to get before a guide trip, or when geese were set and coming in to my decoys. or before a big baseball game.  I got a butterfly.  Only one, but it was a good one.  I’m excited for another year on the river. I look for the challenges, and am stoked about working with all of the guides, management, and ownership.  Here we go.

Fear No Water

p.s. Buy a copy of The Fly Fishers Playbook for the old guy in your life for Father’s Day