Monday, December 12, 2011

The down stream presentation

The down stream drift is becoming one of my favorite tactics.  Often in slow clear water the slap of the line is enough to spook every fish in the pool.  A long (really long like 16 foot) leader can over come this too but if your line spooks fish closer to you that you are not targeting and then run up to the fish you are targeting its game over anyway.  Plus, who can turn over a 16' leader?  Not me. 

A down stream drift can be made far enough up stream that the fish can't see you AND you don't have to cast at all so more water is opened up that was unfishable due to trees or what not.  It works with dries and nymphs.  All you have to to is strip off enough line at your feet (you should be crouched low so the fish don't see you), not get it tangled in the brush, get some line on the water and flick your wrist up to put more line on the water.  Watch carefully and put out just enough line to maintain a drag free drift so when you get a strike the line it free enough from slack that you can set the hook.  It will be hard, but wait a half second longer than normal if you get a strike on a dry fly with a down stream presentation.  I have pulled enough flies out of trouts mouths to remember this rule and I still do it about half the time.  Also, if you don't supply enough slack with a down stream presentation with a dry fly it will go under immediately.  It can be very frustrating.  It is, however, not the end of the world.  Just give another 3 feet or so of line then pinch it off and swing the fly though the current.  Retrieve slowly but know that you may only get one shot at a drift because dragging your fly and line back though the hole can really put fish down for a bit.  Using a down stream drift at a lake inlet is also a great way not to spook fish in still water.  This technique will also make you fight fish up current which makes them feel a lot bigger than they are.  Great for brooks and small stream Cuts!

"Shouldn't you be crouched down?" He never listens to me.....

The Poudre in my backyard

I'm sitting here in my new office in Fort Collins at Colorado State University looking out the window at a perfectly sunny winter day.   I have been here about a week and after more than a little hassle I am mostly moved in.  I took about 2 hours yesterday to explore the new stream which is nearly in my backyard.  The Cache La Poudre flows right though the city of Fort Collins and about 1000 feet form my from door.  The Pourdre for short (pronounced 'pooder', yeah and they know it rhymes with other funny words and they don't care) runs east down the slopes of the rocky mountains in its headwaters and though the foothills near the Fort.  I drove up the canyon a ways and was stunned a the scenery less than 30 minutes from town.  While out fishing yesterday I ran into a few other people out and I was amazed at how nice everyone was.  It was a beautiful day and sometimes, I guess, that is what really matters.  I bet they were in the same mood I was in.  I wouldn't have mattered if people were shoulder to shoulder or if not a single fish saw my fly.  The warm sun and the sounds of the stream were all I was out looking for. 
The Poudre in the city of Fort Collins

I walked a ways out and saw a number of pools that were decent.  Most would have been better in the summer when the fish are in more energetically taxing stream locations.  I tried a few slower pools, mostly with a down steam presentation and had no bites.  In one deeper section by an old foot bridge I spooked what was at least a 20 inch brown trout.  He turned and headed back to the deeper, slower water that was mostly frozen over.  I walked a little farther but came back with wooly bugger tied on for a run at him.  I fed line down towards where I thought he would be but got no take.  After a few attempts at a down stream drift in a very slow and clear pool I gave up.  One drift would have been enough; I guarantee I spooked him after I retrieved the first drift.   

I headed back to the car and tried one last pool with that big ol' bugger still tied on.  I just wanted to cast a bit to shake the rust off.  Casting a cone head bugger and a strike indicator with an 8' 3 wt can be an adventure but I did okay and got a few good drifts.  I even caught a 6 inch rainbow for the effort.  I think it was Colorado giving me a welcome trout. I appreciated it more than you know.  So there you go, 1000 feet from my door there are trout.  So far, I love this state.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Specialty fly lines: How to pick a fly line

In the last year fly fish line manufactures have gotten completely out of control  There is now a specialty line for nearly every situation and species.  Some of the more ridiculously specialized lines are a shooting  head specifically for great lakes tributaries, a hover lake line for fishing just below the surface, a even a specific line for Carp.  You can get wind cutter or streamer and warm water line.  It never ends.  You can even buy a line made to replicate old fashion silk lines.  The casting technology of the 1800's is BACK!  YES! 

While we are at it I have a few suggestions for the line manufactures

Double-tip 3000.  Sinking and floating line in one!  Just switch form left to right handed retrieve that the line floats!

Water slapin-hopper line.  Extra wide and flat tip section that splashes down like a cannonball.  Finally you can splash down your line like you mean it and get the attention of those BIG fish!

Race for the cure pink line ( I seriously think it is in development)  Real men cast whatever color line they want. 

Season 3 fly line.  Why wait three years for that sinking tip and guide abrasive feel? This line feels three years old right out of the box!

Muskie line  This line has a kevlar welded tip with 10,000 pound break point for chuckin some serious hair and feathers!  No more busted loops.  The line is 200' long for those super long casts and comes with a beer bottle opener that replaces your fighting butt (I already have one!). Best of all, it only comes in BLAZE ORANGE!

Okay, I'm getting carried away.  I used to think rods and reels were getting out of hand for cost but actually, I think I spend (and in the future will spend) more on line than anything else. Here is my best breakdown of line choices

There are essentially two types of tapers double taper and the more popular weight forward.  Each manufacturer has a specific length of each section and taper between those sections depending on what the line is used for or the wt of the line. 

Weight forward lines have a sections that start thin, get thicker (~30') then get thin again.  Once the thicker (and heavier) section gets out of your guides and in the air it helps you cast farther. Also, the second thin part (running line) shoots faster through your guides than a thicker line would (less friction). 

Double taper lines start thin, taper to thicker for almost the length of the line then taper the same way at the other end.  So, they are reversible and, therefore, last twice as long.  They are good for delicate close range presentations and excellent for mending. 

Trout:  1-5wt rods.  One reel one spool. 
I don't over line these size rods and I use weight forward (WF) for my 5wt and double taper (DT) for 3 and down. I don't have a 4 wt but I would go for WF line there.  My logic:  You don't cast 3wts and smaller very far or fish them in the wind.  They excel where DT line excels.  Easy lay downs and delicate presentations.  I fish weighted flies and cast farther with my 5 wt so I like a WF line.  If you have to mend a lot on the river you fish go with a DT.  The thinker belly section mends a lot easier.   "Trout" series lines just mean the taper has been designed to lay down easy.  What they don't say is just get a double taper because it will last twice as long!   WF lines are for casting farther.  DT lines are for soft presentations and better close range casting.  Just pick one of those two styles. 

6-9 wts  One reel two spools

I would get two spools with any bigger reel you have.  These would fish streamers and larger flies well.   A floating line and a sinking line would be good for different situations.  I have a super fast action 7 wt and I over lined it with an 8 wt line so I can feel the loading of the rod a little easier.  Sort of like training wheels.  GPX line is just a half size up from the size on the box.  Most streamer lines, wind cutter lines and bass lines are probably a half size or more up too.  You can just get a normal line one size bigger instead of a fancy named line for every species and condition. 

One real difference between line in this category is whether they are for warm or cold water.  Cold water lines will stay supple and cast well in the cold.  They will also turn into jelly in the tropical heat.  Warm water lines will stay the right consistency in the heat but be like casting cement in the cold (by cold I mean below freezing).  I don't have a specialized warm/cold line and I haven't noticed that my line sucks in any condition.  Unless you only fish in a certain climate I would stick with a line designed in the middle of the two extremes. 

Bigger?  I have no idea but I would guess casting a muskie or tuna fly on a 10 or 11 weight would benefit from a line size up.  Maybe not. 

Casting aficionados also posit that each rod has a "perfect line"  and they will try out 10-20 lines of the same weight for their rod to find their "match."  I'm not that good of a caster to notice.  I have cast everything form $20 fly line to $99 sharkskin.  My favorites are Scientific anglers mastery series or the Rio gold line.  I don't like textured lines.  They shoot like a rocket but I hate the noise they make going through the guides and they pick up dirt like crazy.  Plus, why exactly are they a hundred bucks?  I thought $70 was out of control. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Uncompahgre National Forest

The next stop on our epic trip was backpacking in the Uncompahgre National Forest in the San Juan Mountains near Telluride CO.  We drove out Highway 70 though the Eisenhower tunnel at over 11,000 feet and drove past more famous trout streams than you can shake a stick at.  The Eagle, the Roaring fork, the Thunder etc.  No time to fish them all on this trip.  Our plan was to stay out two nights and try to summit a nearby fourteener on the second day. The hike in wasn't long but it gained almost 2 thousand feet in 4 miles.  We set up camp and I got my first chance to fish the lake we were camping at.  The wild flowers were out in full force.  The native columbines were huge and everywhere. 

My dog smells trout

I am by no means an expert lake fisherman but I learned a lot on this trip.  First piece of advise is find the fish.  Not every inch of shoreline on a lake has fish and you can waste a lot of time fishing poor water.  It would be like fishing rapids on a stream.  Maybe fish pass through but not enough to waste your time on.  The obvious places are inlets and outlets.  I happened to find a string of inlets from a creek that held 40 to 50 feeding fish each.  They may have also been tying to spawn in some moving water but it was too deep for me to see exactly what was going on.  The second lake in the chain of three had a number of fish spawning at the outlet (I didn't fish there).  The fish in the lower lake turned out to be some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. They were Colorado river cutthroat in full spawning colors.  Fish of the genus Oncorhynchus (cutthroat, red band, golden trout etc.) spawn after ice out in the spring but at 10,000+ feet "spring" comes in June or this years case, July. 
Male Colorado river cutthroat in full spawning colors

As far as fly patterns go, terrestrials are the way to go. Ants, beetles and grass hoppers out fished any other pattern when there was no hatch.  If there is something specific coming off go that direction if not tie on a beetle and a small dropper. I had tons of fish inspect my parachute Adams and then pass by but the ant got nailed almost every time. 

Female Colorado river cutthroat trout

The water is super clear

This place is absolutely beautiful and is an easy hike in as far as backpacking trips go.  It is typically a day hike for most visitors.  Since the fish are decent sized and the lake gets some pretty good traffic I don't want to name names but the lakes are named appropriately and if you dig enough I gave you enough info to find them. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Skunked on the Blue and the Gunnison

Blue River

Gunnison River
I took a trip of a lifetime this summer after I finished my Ph.D. and the first stop was Colorado for a conference and, of course, some fishing.  In the first week I was lucky  enough to fish both the Blue river and the Gunnison.  Both of which are blue ribbon trout streams known around the world for stellar trout fishing.  There was only one problem.  I got skunked on both rivers.  This years epic snow pack was still on the move down the rivers of Colorado into August.  From what I could gather, that is about a month and a half longer than normal.  Walking back from a rather demoralizing experience on the Blue, with a blanket hatch in the air, I ran into a rafter who asked me if I had any luck.  You could tell by the sheepish sideways smile on his face when he asked that he already knew the answer but was hopeful something had changed.  I said no luck but that the hatch was out of control.  He said "Yeah man, Its all blown out man."  "It'll be epic in September though!"  He's probably right. That didn't help me out any but I hope things have picked up for him by now.   What I did gather from that trip is that the rivers in Colorado are big and they are even bigger in Wyoming and Montana, more on that later. I am used to fishing rivers I can walk across but these beasts are not to be messed with.  Granted the run off was raging but even in low flows these rivers are too big to cross.  They are filled with varying currents and pockets that will send you back to mending school.  And with the currents moving like they were, one really appreciates arial mending or a reach cast.  I am probably the last person anyone should be taking casting advice from but the reach cast is handy and you should use it because it is easy and it helps you catch more fish.  There is probably a good youtube video with someone demonstrating a reach cast but I'll try to briefly explain it here and give you a pointer or two on making it work.  The reach cast is best used when casting at a 45 degree angle up stream and drifting down to a 45.  It you cast normally you line will be pointing at your fly at a 45.  To reach cast, instead of following your line to the water with your rod, reach up stream like you are meaning as the line is falling to the water.  If you did it right your line will be about  perpendicular to the current.  This line angle will create a better drift and significantly reduce the slack line you have on the water.  The problem is this technique shortens your cast. Fortunately, it is easy to compensate because it shortens you cast by the same distance you move the line up stream.  Typically about a 6-8 foot over shot should give you the distance you want. 

Painted Wall in the Black canyon of the Gunnison NP

Gunnison river in the NP

Friday, August 12, 2011

Winston GVX and Allen reels

Great looking rod and reel. I love my new setup!  I added a walnut handle to the Allen reel.  They come with a matching aluminum handle.
I recently finished my Ph.D. and got a few sweet graduation gifts.  The first was a Winston GVX 9' 5 wt rod.  It has been on my "fly rod of the moment" ever since it was released.  Now that I have had about a month to fish and cast with it, I feel like I can give a fair and balanced review.  My first impression was "wow, what a smooth rod to cast." It is billed as a fast action rod but I think it fished very well with more open loops when using two fly, or indicator rigs.  I now know what they mean by the classic Winston action.  My Ascent is a nice rod but seems to be a little rough around the edges compared to the GVX.  It has some serious gun to it also.  I could launch a cone head bugger about 60 feet without a problem.   Now, the conehead sculpzilla I got at a fly shop in Missoula was a different story.  The guy there said he could cast it without a problem with a 5wt.  All I have to say is he must have been one hell of a caster.  I, on the other hand, needed a helmet and maybe some body armor if I were going to cast that thing around with a 5.  I did get it out across the stream a few times, fearing for my life each time that thing whipped by my head.  Both decent casts got strikes when nothing else was working mid-day, but after a few near misses I had to take that beast off.  I'll stick with my 7wt for streamers.  All in all I think the GVX did everything on the stream well. The only thing that I noticed, which is likely user error, was the bottom ferrule would be loose sometimes after casting a couple hours.  Better than a sticky ferrule I guess. 

Update: 8-28-2012

I've fished my winston GVX for over a year now and I love it as much today as I did when I first got it.  What it does best: Dry flys.  This rod is a smooth casting, pinpoint accurate, dry fly casting machine.  It does everything else I have tried well too.  I can chuck a cone head bugger with a double haul into a lake about 50 feet and can toss two nymph rigs with a big heavy point fly or split shot with no problem either.  I have fished a 6 wt with cumbersome nymph rigs and that is better but to have the ability to switch to a dry dropper and toss those with the GVX is worth dealing with a slightly less than ideal wt. rod with nymphs.  What I don't like:  The handle hardware seems a little cheap for a $500 rod.  That's about it.  I love the color, the aluminum rod tube and most of all, the way it casts.
Nice female Colorado River Cutthroat

The next awesome gifts I got were two Allen trout series fly reels.  Why two? Apparently, Allen sent the wrong color on the first order and when my wife called them about it they said to keep the black one and they would send the gun metal color for free.    If that doesn't tell you that Allen has the best customer service around, then I don't know what would.  The reels are machined 6061 bar stock aluminum with a carbon disk drag and are right around $100.  I have looked around at reels for a really long time and there is absolutely no better reel for the price right now than an Allen.  In fact, the Allen trout reel is probably as good or better than any $250 reel on the market.  They also just released the Alpha II which is their big game reel and if it is anything like the equipment they sent me it will not disappoint.  Check out their fly tying hooks fly boxes too.  Sweet deals.  I also bought line from Allen and used it on my trip. They have all the usual sizes in DT and WF plus a few sinking lines all for $20.  Unfortunately, they don't have sinking rates or any specific info on the sinking line.  They were so affordable I thought I would give it a shot.  I used the 5 wt WF the most and so far it seems to float as well as other lines.  It has very low memory and came with a welded loop.  On the down side, it got hot one day and I think the line coating picked up some sand or some kind of grit to make it rough.  I'll try to clean it off and see how that goes but it started to cast with quite a bit of resistance after that incident.  I'll post a longer term review of the line after I have used it a few more times.

Update: 8-28-2012

Yeah, the line sucks.  I took it off mostly because the color was too bright for where I fish but mostly because it really wasn't that good.  For $20 maybe get one to toss in your bag for emergencies but it is not a long term line solution.  The reel, on the other hand, is still awesome for the price.  I did have one problem, I put the reel in the water and got some sand in the drag system.  I tried to take it apart to clean it but striped a screw.  I contacted Allen and heard back right away.  They said that screw is reverse wonder I stripped it.   They repaired the reel for free and upgraded the drag.  I got the reel back super fast and it has been perfect ever since.  The 3-5 reel which is now their 3-4 reel is a little small for a DT 5wt and the larger reel looks too big for a 5 wt.  I am basically running with no backing but really, will I ever see my backing on my 5 wt?  Probably not.  I do try to keep it out of the sand, but for $100?  Its awesome.  

Male Colorado river cutthroat in full spawning colors with my new Allen reel.  I hope this one wins me the photo of the week contest!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Small stream fishing

   Tom Rosenbauer has some great tips for fishing skinny water in an article on the Orvis page.  I fished a small creek this weekend and could have used that article a few days earlier.  My favorite tip and one I will follow next time is to use a larger tippet diameter than you would on a stream where the fish see more pressure.  My thinking was the opposite: since the fish are spookier on small streams, I thought I would have to use a lighter tippet.  Tom makes the point that the fish are not likely leader shy and the stouter line size can help rip flies from the brush easier. Boy, that would have been handy on Sunday.  I was casting to water that was about two feet wide and I missed more than I would have liked. 

    I decided to take two rods with me, which is something I really don't like to do but I wanted to fish my 6'6" fiberglass rod with dries, and I wanted to be able to fish nymphs in case nothing was happening on the surface.  I should have just stuck with my 8' 3 wt.  The 6'6" rod was too short to keep my fly out of the 5' tall brush around the stream.  I got a few good casts in with it and with the slow action of that rod they lay down so soft.  Nothing hit though.  It was a really strange day for this stream.  Typically, I don't even mess around with nymphs because the fish usually destroy dries, but I didn't get one hit on top in 4 pools.  I ended up hooking a decent size brown on a GB prince nymph.  I have only caught a few browns and nothing of that size out of this stream so it was a nice surprise.

I ended up with a few more on nymphs but overall a pretty poor day on this stream.  The sky was really photogenic though and I got to try out my new Nikon D90.   I played around with the video mode a bit and filmed a pool with about a hundred brook trout in it.  I love this new camera.  I can't wait to get some nice lenses for it.  The only thing I can think of is maybe the midday sun kept the fish from coming to the surface. That usually isn't a problem there though.  Oh well, maybe just an off day.  Hopper season is coming and I now they can't resist those.

Friday, June 17, 2011


I used to think I was a tough guy.  I didn't need a net.  I can handle a fish.  I was wrong.  I know there are net guys and no net guys.  I used to be the latter, but I have been converted.  Here's why...

I was fishing the lower Kinni when I hooked into a really nice sized brown with my 3wt (>18 inches).  After a pretty good fight, I got him close and tried to get a hand around him.  This beast was too big for me to get a grip on.  I'm 6' and have pretty big hands but, around this fish, my hand couldn't get a grip.  I ended up probably trying to squeeze too hard and eventually lost my grip anyway.  The fish broke off immediately after that and I never got a really good look at him, or a picture for that mater to remember that great fish.  Right then, I was a net man for life.    No more missed grips and a second or third run because I couldn't get a hold of them. 

The second reason I am a net man is the invention of the rubber net bag.  No more flies caught in the netting and the natural slime coat of the fish is more protected.  Also, If you plan to take pictures of your fish, you can rest a fish in a net while you get your camera situated and ready for a shot.  The fish can remain in the water and will be less stressed than if you try to take a picture while holding on to it the whole time. 


If you are looking for a net, I would recommend a rubber bag and the smallest one you can get away with on your favorite stream.  Big nets are heavy and you won't take them with all the time because they are a pain to deal with.  My mother and father-in-law gave me a Brodin Ghost net for my birthday recently and wow, what an awesome net.  I really think fish are less stressed in the clear bag. They seem to not know it's there and try to swim though it repeatedly.  Plus, what a great looking net!  The teak handle is responsibly harvested from plantation teak in Costa Rica.  The craftsmanship is unmatched and will undoubtedly last a lifetime.  I have the Firehole model which is about right for a stream where the average fish is 10-12 inches.


Nice.  Jacked right out of the package. Thanks Rio!

There is a good article at MidCurrent on leaders today.  The question addressed is how long a prepackaged leader should last.  The answer, not surprisingly, is it depends.  Mine have lasted as long as a few trips to about 1 minute after I get it out of the package.  Who goes around looping the butt end of the leader 40,000 times around the rest of the coiled leader?  Can we just stick with like 3-4 loops?  The first time I opened a prepackaged leader I tried to unravel it and about 45 seconds later I was cussing and cutting out knots.  I turned a 9' 5x $5 leader into a 4' butt section in a minute flat.  I can't be the only one who has had these problems.  In fact, the last one I opened I almost ruined for the same reason.  I thought I unraveled it right but I ended up with monster tangle instead. 

Here are my tips for buying leaders:
First, don't think tying your own will save money.  If you like to do it knock yourself out, but I have a hard enough time finding the time to tie flies let alone my own leaders.  If you want to get all crazy with leader science and adjust your butt section length then tying your own is the only option.  Otherwise stick with knotless prefabs.

Second, buy 3 packs. It's basically like buy 2 get one free. 

Third, always buy 9' leaders.  7.5'ers are better for nymphing and you usually use a bigger tippet size for that anyway so just cut off a few feet from you 9' 5x and you have a decent nymphing leader.  For dry flies I like at least a 9' leader in 5x for the clear and still spring creeks in WI and MN.    This way you always have the leader you want.  Like Demetri Martin says "when someone asks me if I have a poncho I don't say no.  I say not yet.  Because I have a blanket and scissors.  I'm only a minute from having a poncho, or 10 scarves."

Fourth, change your leader if it gets too short.  Don't spend hours fishing a leader you have tied 64 inches of 5x tippet on to so you don't have to change it.  It will turn over poorly and you will probably break off a fish if you do hook one due to the dissimilar size of the mono at the knot junction.  I have done this too many times, and I know how tempting it is to just keep fishing no mater how crappy your leader is.  Just change it. You will catch more fish and have a better day.  If you don't have another leader tie on two tippet sizes to step down the size gradually.  Congratulations, you just tied your own knotted leader. 

Maybe it is easier than unwinding one out of the package……

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I read a quote from Sarah Palin today-

"A faceless government is taking away their lifeline, water, all because of a 3-inch fish," Palin said. "Where I come from, a 3-inch fish, we call that bait. There is no need to destroy people's lives over bait."

   Thoughts like this are what lead to species extinction.  Sarah Palin is talking about the delta smelt.  A diminutive fish that seems to have no value except that it exists and is about to be extinct.  The issue is: Where do we draw the line?  Save only game fish? Save all fish?  What about the frogs and birds and the insects?   There is a great article written by David Quammen called "Synecdoche and the Trout" which appeared in the book Wild Thoughts from Wild Places.  Essentially, Quammen argues that the trout represent the environment.  Trout are an indicator species, which we can look to in order to help us understand what state the environment is in.  The bull trout is a perfect example; they can only live in the purest and coldest waters.  We can look to their numbers to judge the success of a stream restoration project.  Similarly, the plight of the delta smelt is an indicator of our overuse of water.  The more we drain the delta, the more smelt will die.
   We care about the smelt not because we want a smelt dinner or have a new delta smelt pattern we are dying to try out.  The line has to be drawn somewhere.  The plight of the delta smelt represents our indifference to the destruction of nature.  How much damage do we need to do before people can see the connection between leaving their sprinklers on in a rain storm and the extinction of a species hundreds of miles away?  The fight for the delta smelt is about water, and LA uses a lot of it.  The agriculture industry in southern California uses a lot too.  Their is so much water pumped out of the Sacramento delta that it flows backward when the huge pumps are turned on.  The fact remains that no one will tell you what to plant in your yard or how often to water your grass. We can only hope the connection between the hose, the delta and the fact that southern California would be nearly a desert without imported water will eventually sink in.
   As for Sarah Palin, she gets paid too much to say the stupid, uninformed and ignorant stuff she says, so I doubt anything will change her mind.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Baghdad Fly Fishing Club

Check out this Slab of the month entry on Moldy Chum. Steve Peterson serving over in Iraq sent in picture of a pretty nice slab.  He is a member of the Baghdad Fly Fishing Club and they could use some gear to help outfit their club members.  You can send donations by mailing them to one of these two addresses:
MAJ Dave Cloft
USF-I J5 Assessments
Unit 42001
APO AE 09342

If the above address fails, send to:
BAC&SFF C/O Joel Stewart
3461 Calavo Drive
Spring Valley, CA   91978 
 This is a great chance to find a home for your unused fishing gear.  You can see a list of gear they are in need of here.  I hope everyone can send out just a few things they have lying around.  It all adds up and will provide gear for our troops overs seas to try and find some relaxing time between what must be a stressful situation to say the least.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rush River BWO's and the crowd

The Rush is a classic driftless region lime stone bluff stream

To say the Rush river is a popular fly fishing spot is an understatement.  I have avoided it until now for two reasons.  One is Access.  This is a common problem for streams in Wisconsin.  Maybe I haven't come across the right info, but I can't find a map that has a clear indication of what land is private with an easement, private with no access or public.  Minnesota publishes an invaluable book that marks each trout stream, shows the regulations and where easements have been secured.  My approach in Wisconsin: find a river, drive to a spot, and check for no trespassing signs.  A driftless anglers best bet in this situation is to consult the driftless bible, Trout Streams of Minnesota and Wisconsin by Jim Humphrey and Bill Shogren.  This book has all you need to start exploring the streams of Wisconsin including maps and a little info about each river.  There is not so much detail that you will know a specific spot to fish, but the book will get you to a general spot that can be explored.   After all, exploring a new stream is half the fun.  I owe a lot of my fishing success to those two guys, and I am so thankful they produced such a great book. 
    The other reason I haven't fished the Rush until recently is it's so crowded.  Well, it is and it isn't.  It's a big river.  I drove up A from the Mississippi past about 4 spots detailed in the book and one other I had heard about.  2 spots had one car.  One had none and the other had at least 7.  Since I haven't fished that spot I have no idea why so many people were out there but geez.  If I see two cars I move on to somewhere else.  I look for no cars or one if it is a crowded weekend.  There are plenty of fish and spots on the river.  I wouldn't want to fish with 10 other people on a section of river anyway.  I moved on to another spot, saw one car parked and saw the guy walking down stream.  I parked and headed up.  I saw one guy coming back down and I worked past him up stream.  I didn't see another person until I got back to the 3 pools closest to the access point.  All three were occupied.  The funny thing is I only caught one fish out of those three pools on my way out.  Up stream a half mile or so I got 8, almost all on #20 or #18 (after I destroyed my #20s form catching so many fish I switched to 18s) BWOs.  The pressure is super high at the bridge crossings and the first few pools but if you get out to the 7th or 8th pool, chances are you will be the only one out there and the fishing will be better.  I do the same thing at the lower Kinny when there are lots of people.  I walk out until I pass two runs or pools with no one in them then I work my way back.  Usually, by the time I get back to the popular pools they are empty.  Moral of the story is get out and walk until it's not crowded anymore.  You will catch more fish, get better exercise and not waste your time on a bunch of spooked fish. 
Wide, and not shaded.  The Rush has some challenging runs

Only fish I got on a nymph.  #18 BH flashback pheasant tail.  Smaller than average fish for the Rush

Below is a video of the BWO hatch last Sunday.  Pretty consistent like that for hours.
    Another early season thing to consider is shade.  The Rush is wide in spots and the trees this time of year are not shading any part of the stream most of the day.  Generally, fish stay out of bright runs or feeding lanes when there is no shade.  If they are out there it won't take much to send them to the bank for safety.  The good thing is fish are hungry this time of year, so there may be feeding fish out in a sunny spot anyway.  Look for spots with a little shade though;  I think the fishing will be a bit better there.  Later in the day when the shadows get longer may be the best bet this time of year. 
    Cloudy days this time of year are a great thing.  This Saturday looks like it might be a great day for a BWO hatch.  I got a nice 14-15 incher on the Rush last Sunday on a #20 BWO.  Still working on my 20-20 club though.  (20 inch fish on a size 20 fly)
Nice 14 incher on a #20 BWO.  Glad I had my net.  This guy hit the fly and just sat there in the current for a few seconds with me pulling on him.  Then he decided he'd had enough and headed for the deep bank side. 

My last #20 BWO.  Mangle.  Got a few more on #18s

Monday, April 4, 2011

What can you do?

Sneaking up on trout during a hike.  Hope days like this are just around the corner. 
I'm ready for some bigger fish like this. 

I didn't go fishing this weekend.  Actually, I didn't even think about going.  I took one look at the Mississippi and thought  the trout streams would look about the same.  High, fast and chocolate brown.

Maybe I should have gone.  Catching trout under those conditions is tough but not impossible.  I walked the Kinnie a few years back around the same time of year.  I had never seen the river so high and off color.  I brought my rod down but I wasn't serious about fishing.  I stripped a wolly bugger across a few runs but got nothing.  I ran into a guy who said he got 4.  I couldn't believe it.  Then I saw him get one along the bank.  He was high sticking nymphs along the banks.  With the high water, the banks turned into the perfect spot for trout to get out of the current.  The banks were higher, since the water was up, and had more room for the fish to stack up.  I guess you learn something every time you go out.  It makes a lot of sense though but it's just hard to do the opposite of what you normally do on a stream.  Typically, I would be standing about a foot or two off the banks and cast to the deeper part of the pool or run and that would be where a majority of the fish are.  Now, I was standing where a majority of the fish were.  The center of the stream was a torrent of rushing water.  The fish were not out there, that would take way too much energy to maintain.  I'm going next weekend, high water or not.  Here is what I'm thinking for tactics, any of your ideas would be appreciated.  I haven't fished these conditions often so I could use some help.

I'm going to forget about dries until the water comes down. I am not, however, going to forget about emergers.  I think a lot of hatching insects just get tossed around in water like this.  I'm not going to go for the just below the surface film emerger type fishing.  I'm going to fish a two nymph rig with a small bead head (maybe with an extra split shot if the water is really moving) and a soft hackle emerger about 16 inches off the bend of my nymph.  If insects are hatching off the bottom I really don't think they could get up too high without getting swept down stream.  Plus, I doubt many fish will be darting out into that current very often.  We'll see how it goes.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Wisconsin Catch and Release Season Opener

I fished the lower section of the Kinny in Wisconsin early season last year and it was kind of a zoo.  I guess it is a good thing that there are lots of fly fisherman out there.  It was hard to find an open spot, but I eventually found my favorite spot just being vacated by another angler.  I ended up with 4 or so on the day thanks to that spot.  I only got one fishing new and slightly less desirable spots earlier in the day. 
This year I decided to fish a smaller, less well known brook trout stream instead of the more popular lower Kinny.  I got out at noon and fished until 3 or so.  It was pretty warm but just cold enough to get a little ice in the guides.  It also got windy.  On this stream, I never fish heavier than a 3wt. The biggest brook trout I ever landed out of this stream was about 12 inches so a 3 wt makes the smaller fish more fun.  I really had a hard time casting in the wind.  I was fishing a tandem rig with a #16 parachute Adams and an orange scud about 18 inches off the bend of the Adams.  Fighting the wind usually means making tighter loops that are more resistant to the effects of the wind but a tandem rig is best fished with open loops.  Both cases were a mess.  The stream is about 5 feet wide and down to as little as 3 feet wide and I felt like I was hitting the water about 60% of the time.  Without wind I can typically place 3 drifts in this stream, my side of the current, in the current and the other side of the current.  Yesterday, I was lucky to get my fly in the water.   The stream meanders around an open field so each pool was either a head wind, cross wind or any other variation.  The casts I did put in the water were catching fish though.  I got maybe 3 off my Adams and 6 or so on the scud.  I also tried smaller pheasant tails and midges as a trailer fly but go no hits on them at all.  I had one on that may have gone 12 inches but I lost it after a few head shakes.  I was fishing barbless and they were tossing my scud fairly often.  I looked back at my pictures from last year and the orange scud was the ticket back then too.  Orange scuds are supposed to represent dead scuds that are drifting down stream.  Scuds that are alive are either gray or olive or, I guess, a bunch of other colors but not bright orange.  Maybe the winter kills a lot of scuds and the trout see those more this time of year.  Who knows, but that fly has been working pretty well for me this year.

I did see a few rises and I saw some blue winged olives that were about #18 or smaller.  This is the earliest I have ever seen those guys.  Baetis were a welcome site after a early winter season of no dry fly action.

I have released about a hundred fish and have tried to get this shot every time.  Finally got a good one!