Friday, December 4, 2009

Tying leaders and throwing beer cans

Could anything in fly fishing be more boring or frustrating than tying leaders? First of all, how much do tapered leaders cost? $4? In the past I went through my share of leaders and even now that I don’t wind knot a leader to hell in 10 minutes I still manage to lose a new one after only one cast every once in a while. This is enough to make the average fly fisherman consider tying their own leaders. Honestly, most of my leaders last, at least, two trips. Maybe more if I’m fishing a lot of dry flies. Lets also be honest about how much tying your own cost. Tying you own leaders save money like tying your own flies saves money. Theoretically it is cheaper to tie your own but honestly are you going to tie a hundred leaders anytime soon? Lets add up the cost of a wolly bugger first.
Hooks: $5.25
Thread: $1.50
Bead heads: $4.50
Lead free wire: $2
Marabou: $4
Chenille: $4
Saddle hackle: $5 Minimum
Silver wire: $2
That’s $28 if you only want to tie one color, one size and you have all the tools

At $1.50 a fly (like yours will be as good as the $1.50 flies….maybe $.75 flies) So after the 19th size 10 black wooly bugger those babies are free. I imagine leader tying stuff is cheaper but you will still want like 6 or 7 different line sizes right?
Second of all, can anyone actually tie a blood or Albright knot? The blood knot is like tying two cinch knots to one another. Really? How do you hold the other one in place while tying the second? I give up.

I am writing this because my Dad wants a leader tying kit for Christmas. Next thing you know he will want to make his own wood trout net. I find this funny because I initially wanted to do both of those things. I looked into the whole leader tying stuff and found that I didn’t care if the but section was 25 or 27% of the leader. I like to fish and I’ll leave the leader tech up to the pros. If the package says its good for nymphs that’s good enough for me. I don’t need to know the leader is 35% taper 25% butt and the rest tippet. I’ll focus on tying flies. I only need one hobby that makes me throw beer cans against the wall.

Brooks on hoppers

Is any fish in the world prettier than a wild brook trout? For those of you who actually have an opinion, that was a rhetorical question. I found a jewel of a stream in Wisconsin that has a robust and lightly fished population of native brook trout. I recently headed out there in September and I learned three things: You can’t cast a size 8 Joe’s hopper with a 6’6” 3wt fiberglass rod, always bring a backup rod in case of wind or unforeseen pattern production, and brook trout will smack a hopper like nothing I have ever seen.

I strung up my beautiful little fiberglass 3 wt I built this year and tied on a #16 royal wulff that I knew would take fish. I walked down to the creek and must have scared about a thousand hoppers from the bushes and sent them scattering about the trail. I got down to the creek and one was struggling in the water to reach the shore, them BAM! A brook trout came out from an undercut bank and took that bad boy down. I immediately tied on a Joe’s hopper and cast at the same bank. My glass rod feels like casting a wet noodle but with a small dry fly it feels easy to cast. You can feel the loading and unloading like nothing else. The casting rhythm is slowed way down so accuracy is increased due to the extra time to think about what you are doing. With a slight breeze and a wind resistant fly my first cast ended up high and dry 5 FEET from the water. Hmm, this might be tricky. Okay, I know, when I golf I aim wide left because I will slice the ball right on to the fairway. Aim, right and the fly will land on the water. Here we go, nope, wind died, five feet on the other side of the bank. Three more casts and I put that bastard on the water. BAM! A brook nailed it, he was small with a crimson adorned belly and bright blue halos surrounding bright red spots. His vermiculated back was bright green and intensely contrasting. Sometimes, brooks are very dark with muted colors due to silt build up and a leaf filled, degraded habitat. These fish live in a light bottomed, gravel filled stream perfect for spawning and ideal for beautiful colors.

I realized that fiberglass might be a little difficult but luckily I did have my fast action 3 wt so the day was not lost. I headed back down to the next pool up and six fish rose and took my hopper in a plunge pool in 10 minutes. At this point I was at about 10 casts and 7 fish, a good day to say the least. I fished up stream because there was actually one other person there, down stream. I found fish in every likely spot and rarely waited more than a half second for a strike. I brought my good camera in hope that I could capture the brilliant colors of these magnificent fish. I had it tucked in my chest pack so I could easily get to it with one hand and snap a few pictures before I let the fish go. I got to a large pool with hundreds of fish pushed down on the bottom. I fished the water where the current came into the pool and caught one right away. The next cast I wanted to take a picture of the fly being eaten so I cast the line out and looked down to get my camera. My fly must have sunk in the current because when I looked up it was gone, no, wait, WOW that is a big fish on. I got him in and it was by far the biggest brook trout I have ever caught. I got a few pictures of him in the water and a few out. The weird thing is there were no blue and red spots.

I moved on after that and caught a few more decent sized fish and got some really good pictures. Every new pool a trout slammed my fly in about a millisecond. I had only 3 hours to fish but I must have caught 30 fish. Time to go, but what a great way to end the season. I tell my friends who fish with me about days like this and I’m sure they don’t believe me, especially when they got skunked that day and I caught one. It does happen and it is worth all the bad days combined.
Tight lines!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I fished the kinnikinnick river is western Wisconsin a few weekends ago. I fish there pretty often and I have had few days as bad as this one. It was the Sunday before labor day so it was pretty crowed. I fished the section of river below the dam at river falls and saw 3 people before I got to the bend pool about a quarter mile downstream. Someone was fishing the bend pool so I moved down to my favorite (and secret) spot and, as usual, no one was there. I waded in and fished my way up the pool. No luck until I was almost to the top of the pool and I got a bite on a #16 bloody prince nymph ( It was just a little guy 10-11 inches but he jumped and was a kick to play with my 3 wt. I fished the rest of the pool to no avail and moved on. The best advice I can give for slow fishing is to move around and mix it up. Start with size: Normal, smaller then bigger. Then shape, maybe to a scud or something with a bigger tail than you normally use. Next, (I never get this far) change fly colors. i.e. use a pink copper john instead of regular copper etc. I fished my way down stream and no one was in my normal spots. It seemed people were trying some tougher water for some reason. No bites for a while then one in pretty fast water. Another small fish but instead of a prince he went for a size 18 pink squirrel. I went back to my “good” spot and couldn’t resist giving it another try. Nothing bit until I got to the deeper water at the head of the pool. I got a bite and something very big turned below the water. I saw a huge brown flash and the fight was on. I got him within a few feet and reached for the net when I realized it was a sucker fish. I hate sucker fish. I rarely catch them and I refuse to let even my net touch one. I grabbed my line and removed the barbless hook easily from its soft mouth. Final score: me 2 trout 0 sucker fish 2 (sucker fish count double since you have to be doing something wrong to catch the wrong species). Net score a big fat zero…

Friday, September 4, 2009

Reels or rims?

I mainly fish for trout on small streams where the average sized fish would be 10-12 inches. If a trout takes out enough line to reach the line on my reel it would be in the 15-18” range and pretty rare. It has happened but not often. I believe this is a fairly common situation for most fly fisherman, which would make the fly reel essentially a receptacle for holding line not in use. In fact, I rather enjoy bringing a fish in by pulling line instead of reeling. I love the feel of line zipping though my fingers when a trout first takes off. Knowing I barely use my reel at all I still, for some unexplained reason want a nice fly reel. Maybe a Bauer or Abel or OOO- a Tibor. All of which cost upwards of five hundred bucks and that is with just one spool. Here are the only reasons I can come up with for why fly fisherman will pay more for a reel than they spent on waders, fly boxes, sunglasses and a decent hat combined. (Notice that the function of all of the items listed above will actually be used on every fishing trip)

One word- Performance

The delusion “you never know when you are going to hook into a monster 5 pounder and that super fine cork disc drag and aerospace grade Teflon sealed bearings are going to save you” Yeah, and that 6x won’t snap like a Winston in a car door. The miniscule noticeable functional upgrade between the performance of an Abel super 5 and an Orvis CFO is not worth $350 to anyone accept maybe Bill Gates who loses money taking the time to pick up $100 bills. But how would I know I can’t afford either one. I fish a battenkill, which is the technological equivalent of a snoopy reel to most Tibor or Abel owners.


I know him, you know him, he drives a Beemer and has two pairs of Costa del mar sunglasses. When you say “hey, is that an Abel super 5?” he’ll say “yep, I thought it had the best features for what I do.” You’ll think “yeah, those Teflon sealed bearing will come in handy when you are hitting on my wife at the lodge while I’m on the water.”


Freds are people who have all the best gear but have never even seen a trout in person. They will say “they guy at the shop said this is the ONLY reel to own for trout” You’ll think “If the guy at the shop said you needed piss yourself to get rid of the suburb stench in your waders you would probably do that too.”


This is the closest to justification for buying a nice reel as there is. If you take pictures for the cover of Fly Fisherman you probably shouldn’t be toting a medalist but if would get you some street cred though.


This is the category I fit into. Maybe a cross between performance and gangsta but more gangsta. Gangstas love rims and I love reels. If you think about it they are a pretty fair comparison. Rims don’t really improve performance. Tires do, so does fly line. The way I look at it a caddy settin on dub deuces isn’t too far off from a boron II settin on an abel super 5 with a rainbow trout skin candy paint job. They are even starting to chrome out fly reels even though black is far superior for stealth. UHHHH, ckeck out that S4 settin on a Tibor. That’s so gangsta.

Maybe my gangsta desire to own a phat reel is misguided and I could learn a few things from the techies. Most people would not consider me a respectable fly fisherman anyway with my batenkill reel complete with 3 year old SA mastery with a newly acquired sinking tip and bottom of the line Winston. Fact is, I still catch fish every time I go out and I do occasionally lose one but I guarantee its not because I didn’t have aerospace grade reel components. I think that stuff is better left, well, in the air where it may actually be necessary or at least for fighting a marlin.

Keep it reel


Friday, August 7, 2009

Angler encounters of the annoying kind

There are a few types of people one will run into while fishing. I have encountered all of these people and I only have one thing to say: No wonder there is so much gear for sale on craigslist.

The name dropper: This guy will definitely mention he spoke with Bob Johnson down at Steve so and so’s fly shop and tell you that the trout are only hitting size 32 midges. He might also, mention he saw Cornelius down here on Tuesday and they were hammering size 14 black Joe’s hoppers but NOT the brown ones. This guy will surely initiate conversation with you first or just stop when you walk by expecting to enlighten you about what he heard.

The no talker:
This guy will respond to the ubiquitous “Any luck?” with a simple “nope”. He will definitely be wearing camo of some sort due to the over lap of Duck hunting and fishing gear. If he does have a fly rod it will be a 7-9wt on a stream where a 3wt would suffice. If he has spinning tackle he will have braided line because it makes it easier to detect walleye strikes and there will be a buck tail spinner tied on trailing a chuck of dried up night crawler. No, this guy doesn’t like you and yes he is carrying an empty stringer.

The big talker: This could be anyone. Maybe even you a few times. You just caught a massive trout maybe an 18”er and you have to tell everyone that walks by. Try to resist. Would you believe you if you heard that from some guy? Not likely.

The off duty guide: This guy will answer your “any luck” with “yeah, a few.” Which means like 20 and I’m not going to tell you where or on what so don’t ask. This gentleman is easily identified by ether a very elaborate 3 fly rig or Sims waders that look like they walked to Alaska and back. He will likely be using one of his nine sage Z-axis rods and be selling all of his 9 sage XPs. Of course, the easiest way to recognizes this guy is he will definitely not be wearing a wedding ring.

The aficionado: I love this encounter the most. In fact, it just happened to me the other day. I fish in western Wisconsin and this time of year is notorious for its trico hatches. I refuse to fish trico hatches because, in my limited experience, big or even decent sized fish don’t bother with size 24 insects. If I wanted to nail a bunch of 10 inchers I’d go fish for brook trout. In any case, I wait until the hatch is over, which also has the advantage of not being at 5am, and fish attractor dries with a bead head dropper. The other day I was walking out at about 930 am and two guys were walking back in. The boisterous aficionado piped up as I walked by and proclaimed “hatch is over”. Subtext: Your lazy dumb ass isn’t going to catch anything. I had to stick him in the ribs a little-
What size were they coming off?
Him: 24.
Me: Were they keying on males or females?
Him in his head: HUH? Out loud: probably a little of both.
Me: Get any?
Him: 2
Me: any size to them?
Him: not really, maybe 10”.
I nodded and kept walking. He said, likely sarcastically, “good luck.” This is not a fish story. I fished from 930-1 and caught 5. 2 12 inchers and a fat 18 incher that got me straight into the line on my reel and took be up and down the pool twice with my 5wt. The guy likely knows his stuff but is so caught up in what he is supposed to be fishing that time of year he ignores quality water time with other patterns.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The secret is a well planed approach

Any fly fisherman will tell you that the first cast is the most important. So here we go, I will explain in detail how to approach a nice stretch of water and catch a trout.
First, calmly stand next to the bank down stream of the area you believe has the best chance to hold trout. Then, wait until you see the guy up stream leave his hole and move right past the riffle you thought was so promising. Move in on the hole he was fishing. You must wait for the water to “cool off” after he left so the trout are not spooked. This usually involves careful selection of the proper fly but since you clearly saw a size 18 dark brown caddis attached to the hook keeper of the gentleman who caught no fewer than 6 trout from this hole earlier you should probably stick with that. So now, you have some time to watch the water. Look for rising trout and try to see lanes to drift your fly that would maximize its exposure to hungry trout. At this time you should also attempt to block out any structure in the immediate area. This will ensure that when you toss your line behind you the tree RIGHT BEHIND you will be a total surprise. Now that the water is “cooled off” you can slip quietly into the shallow water down stream of the hole. Slide your foot into the pool ever so softly. Unfortunately, the rocks found in most trout streams have been covered with a slick film, originally developed by NASA and licensed by trout for protection, so slick that once force is applied to it will accelerate that force in a random direction at near the speed of light. Now that you are near the ass over teakettle position bring the other foot down with enough force to catch your fall and make a depth-charge like supersonic boom. This will scare the trout in this hole into an alternative trout dimension only reachable with $1000 fly rods and $750 reels. Be sure at this point to check if anyone saw that. If the guy who was previously in that hole is laughing at you, the finger or small arms fire would be appropriate Okay, so the fish might be spooked but its worth a few casts right? So, strip off enough line make sure you can catch you fly in both the bushes across the river and the tree 30 feet behind you. Now, cast a few times away from your intended target to make sure you are casting the appropriate distance. Walk down and unhook your fly from the log nowhere near where you want to cast. Okay, range is about right… Now, apply enough floatant to cause an environmental disaster is most wildlife refuges. Make a mental note to buy quality feathers next time so you don’t have to use so much floatant. Let your line flow down stream, raise the rod tip until the fly line is lifted from the water and only the leader and fly are afloat. Pop the fly out of the water, redirect the fly towards the fish after your first false cast and allow the fly to gently land 6 to ten feet too short and scare and remaining small fish when it lands directly where they are rising. This is only slightly better than casting the proper distance but having your line slap down on the water like you were Indiana Jones and the temple of scared off trout. Heeyaw!

5 things fly fisherman can blow a cool grand on

Here is the first part in a five part series entitled "5 things fly fisherman can blow a cool grand on"

#1 fly rods. This one is obvious. One rod can cost upwards of 3 grand if you like bamboo rods built by two guys from Montana.

Since most people have something to the effect of "purchase of any bamboo fly rod will result in immediate grounds for divorce" in some sort of legal document I'll just stick with the graphite and fiberglass rods.

Fly rods are way above and beyond a grand. I would say an average fly fisherman would have 5 fly rods. I have 4 and they are way less expensive than an average rod. Mine would run about $600-700. Most fly fisherman think a rod cheaper than 300 bucks isn't worth crap. It would be like buying running shoes for a marathon from walmart.
Here is a list of rods I think most respectable fly fisherman would own:

3wt for trout on small streams $300
5wt for bigger streams, windy days and maybe small mouth bass. This is a real all around rod and would likely be where someone would spend the most money $600 for maybe a Scott or Winston rod.
6 or 7 wt for smaller salmon and maybe steelhead. Or just big rivers on drift boats. Also for Largemouth bass, small mouth, carp and light saltwater stuff. Not an everyday rod probably for trips $250.
9wt for saltwater and pike. Unless you are crazy for bone fish and juvenile tarpon a cheaper rod here would do fine. $250
11wt for mature tarpon and tuna. They don't sell cheap 11 wts so here is 500 dollar rod.

I would say that this is an average selection with no "specialty rods"
Most people have at least 2-3 specialty rods.
Fiberglass 6'6 2 or 3 wt. for brook trout $200 and you have to build it yourself
0wt just to mess around with. $300
13wt for Sailfish, sharks and marlin $900. A guy in San diego just caught a 9' great white off La Jolla on a Scott 13wt.

So we are up to about
Wait, you thought I was done there?
There still are travel rods (3wt and 5wt depending on where you are going) these are 5-7 piece rods instead of 4 piece. $700 for both
S-glass fiberglass rod 5wt $300 Better action than graphite
Fast action 5 wt $900 for when you actually learn to cast like a pro. You can rip off a 100' cast with one of these babies.
Last action 3 wt. Like the last action hero. no, I made that up. But I would buy one if they made one.
Zero action 20 wt. I made that up too but I bet someone has one. JAWS!
-2wt for theoretical trout. These are so small they are only predicted to exist by scientists. Mostly found in MN.
-6wt for tadpoles. Get a hold of a 2 oz tadpole on one of these babies and it will feel like a 18"er
If they sold a fly rod for catching flys I would probably want that too.
That reminds me of the funniest thing I ever heard when I was fly fishing: How do you catch a fly? Dead serious I'v heard it twice. People think fly fishing is fishing for actual flies.

Total: Way more than my wife would ever let me spend on fly rods....

boy I sure want a 8'6" 4 wt and a S-glass 5wt. And a 2 wt oh yeah, and a fast action 7 wt. maybe a 13 wt if I move back to SD and a............
It's an addiction. I can't stop myself.

That sounds about right to me. Now all these rods need reels and line. That will take us to the #2 thing fly fisherman can easily blow a grand on. Next week: Reels and line.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

In the begining there were trout

There's a fine line between fly fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.
- Steven Wright

Ah yes, fly fishing is quite possibly the most humbling endeavor I have ever undertaken. Many times I have looked up and down steam to see if anyone witnessed my latest attempt at pruning the foliage directly behind my intended target. If it were not for the rising trout on the beautiful stream in front of me any passer by might wonder what all the thrashing about with a 9’ stick and cussing was all about. I am an amateur fly fisherman but a seasoned trout angler. I have been fishing for trout since I was 5 but recently learned to fly fish. I am self taught which means a few things: I cast like sh#t, I don’t think dry fly fishing is the best way to catch fish and I don’t know anyone who has told me different. This is my chronicle of the highs and lows of learning to fly fish.