Monday, March 23, 2015

The Brotherhood

I've talked before about my early fishing days where I would spend hours in the middle of nowhere on my own exploring wild and untouched creek corridors. It's a type of fishing that can really help you disconnect and unwind. I do miss not doing that as much, but when you find your tribe, your inner circle of buddies to fish with, it's a team game. On the slow days you share the misery, but on the good days, the highs are so much higher when you can be just as excited when the guy next to you catches a fish.

It even continues off the water - sharing ideas of things to try at the vise, a new knot, new gear, or new tactics. It's awesome to have other skilled anglers to bounce ideas off of. On the water, whether you're wading or in a boat, you can try different tactics and hopefully find what the fish are on that particular day.

I'll admit, sometimes it's tough when you're in a slump and your buddy is catching a fish every time his fly slaps the water. You've just got to remember,  the team is greater than the individual. If you've already got a fish, give up the next good spot for your buddy or spend a little extra time on the oars. I promise, if you've found the right guys for your group, it's just as good seeing a bent rod in someone else's hand and taking a turn behind the camera.

Which brings me to my next point. I'm pretty tight-lipped when it comes to locations and specific water. It's not because I (or anyone else who withholds their fishing spot) am really that big of an asshole because of any personal conflicts or anything like that. It's the simple fact that we've put in too many countless hours scrolling over maps, looking for likely spots for big wild trout, getting skunked, and going back to the drawing board, to easily hand over precious information. It's not just for personal gain, it's for the brotherhood of the die hard flyfishers. Not just myself, or my close friends, but also for the guys who have busted their asses to find the same spot and call whatever water I'm on their home stream.

So, I apologize for not feeling sorry if this offends you. The best part of fly fishing is the journey - trying and failing only to pick yourself up and try harder to find that next great spot. Trophy fish are earned. You can go out and get lucky and pick one up now and then, but to be consistent you've got to put in your time.

Maybe one of these days I'll see you out there at one of your favorite spots or exploring new water. What you can expect is that if I do, you won't see details posted on Facebook. I hope I can count on you to show the same respect for the brotherhood.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Warming Sun

After one of the most brutal winters I can remember, the ice and snow are finally letting go and receding. I can't imagine how many times I checked the weather and river gauges knowing I was in for bad news - just searching for a glimmer of hope. Last week, we got it. We didn't let the opportunity pass.

Feeling the pull of the oars, the cool morning fog, and casting a line for the first time of the season is a feeling I really can't put into words. You forget the anguish of winter. All the snow covered roads traversed, ice chipped out of guides, and numbing temperatures are replaced by hope for a damn good spring season. Bring on the leeks, fiddleheads, morels, camping trips, dry fly fishing, and hungry fish charging big streamers. If you need me, I'll be on the river.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Dynamic Nymphing 2.0

This past weekend, the Seneca Chapter of Trout Unlimited hosted George Daniel who presented his Dynamic Nymphing 2.0 program and showed a captivated audience how to tie his simple and extremely effective nymph patterns. The process of tight-line nymphing is the best way to effectively cover the broken water that trout love and cling to as conveyor belts for their food. That's what makes this approach so common in the competitive fly fishing world - it's just so damn effective. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, fly fishing competitively is not my cup of tea. However, the guys who are good at it break everything down to its simplest form and formulate the most effective way to approach any given situation. Whether it be nymphing, stillwater fishing, or just our approach to fishing in general,  we've all got a lot to learn from the comp guys!

So, other than our chapter fly tying classes, this was the first event I've ever planned. Man, do I have a new found respect for people who regularly plan big events! Our chapter was really happy to host such a wealth of information for our local fly fishing community, free of charge. A huge thank you to all of our chapter members for all their support and to members from our neighbor chapters, the Cornplanter and the God's Country chapters, and everyone else who was able to attend. It really helped to be working with someone as professional and flexible as George.

I would say to anyone looking for a guide, instructor, or any kind of information on fly fishing, George is without doubt one of the most knowledgeable, down to earth, and honest guys I've met in the industry (or anywhere for that matter). If you haven't heard, at the end of the month he's leaving his post at the TCO State College store and is starting his own guiding/instruction business. Be sure to check out Livin' On The Fly. If he's presenting in your area, do yourself a favor and make it a priority to be there. He's also got a highly anticipated book on streamer fishing coming out late summer/early fall.


On a totally unrelated note, I'm doing a special run of Dirt Roads and Blue Lines hats (see below). The cost is $18+ shipping. I'm just getting an idea on numbers to order at this point, so let me know if you're interested and I'll contact you when I have them ready to ship. Deadline to reserve one is Friday, March 13th.

Also, I wanted to share a few recent ties. For some reason, this is how I seem to always end up sharing flies on this feed. Someday I'll do better with sharing the fly tying stuff, but not yet.

Andreas Andersson's Deer Head Deceiver

My updated Articulated Green Drake Nymph

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Loon Hydrostop Review

One of my last posts scoffed at cabin fever. After freezing our asses off on our most recent float, skimpy wintertime flows, and most rivers being frozen, it's been a while since I've been out. (It was -22 degrees F on the thermometer on my drive to work this morning.) This post may leave you questioning my sanity and you may recognize some effects of the wintertime blues. Whatever. Don't judge me. (Ha!)

So, anyway, I posted a picture a few weeks ago of the process of pre-treating dry flies with a waterproofing agent. I've been doing this for years. I started with Watershed but because of my obsession and satisfaction with other Loon Outdoors products, I made the switch to Hydrostop.

After posting the picture, I was asked repeatedly if I thought it was worth it. In my mind, it is without a doubt worth it. Since getting in the habit of treating all of my non-CDC dry flies, I feel like they have floated noticeably better. BUT with a background in engineering, it's been bugging me to say "Yeah, I definitely think it works better!" That's not good enough. I want numbers.

I started thinking of ways to put it to the test. In the middle of one of my tying sessions, I decided I would consecutively tie 6 Stimulators and treat every other one (Small sample size, I know. This is a low-tech, part time operation, so bear with me.). I asked my technical assistant/wife to pick either 1, 3, and 5, or 2, 4, and 6 to get treated so I couldn't sway the outcome by choosing specific flies. After soaking the bugs for the recommended time limit, I let them dry for a few days.

In the mean time, I went looking to see if this or any similar tests had been done. I found a comparison of floatants tested against one another (here), but nothing on the pre-treatment process. So, I read through reviews on various sites. Almost everyone (using the product properly) who wrote a review raved about how well it worked. BUT no one had any data to back it up.

On with the test...

First, I individually placed the dry specimens into a jar filled with water and shook, sloshed, and spun the jar until the fly completely sank. I tried to agitate the jar uniformly with each test subject.  After I tested all 6, I performed the test again with each fly wet.

Somehow, I was not able to sink the first treated fly. It stayed afloat for 5 minutes until I finally gave in. (WTF? This is going to be a long test.) Well, that particular fly was an extreme out-lier and was excluded from this graph (but will probably be the first fly I tie on this spring!). I recorded the float time for each individual fly in seconds for treated/dry, untreated/dry, treated/saturated, untreated/wet. I then took the average float time for all of the treated and all of the untreated flies in both the wet and dry condition. Next, I compared the treated/dry vs. the untreated/dry and treated/wet vs. the untreated wet in the graph below. As you can see, the average float time for the treated flies in the dry condition was greater than the untreated - 25 seconds to 14 seconds. Where the gap really widened, was in the comparison of the wet flies - 20 seconds to 3 seconds in favor of the treated flies. Impressive Loon.

This observation lead right into my next experiment - the Saturated float test. I submerged each fly, squeezed it under water, shook off the excess water, and then dropped it back into the jar and observed which ones floated. The treated flies handily won 3:0.

My final test was a drop test with the flies in a dry condition. So, I had to wait for the flies to completely dry over night. Once they were ready, I dropped each fly repeatedly from a height of 33 inches, and counted the drops it took to sink the fly. Once again, the Hydrostop won quite convincingly.

In my mind, there is now no doubt that treating dry flies with Hydrostop is worth the extra step. Does this mean I will stop carrying my Aquel with me on the stream? Of course not. Eventually flies sink - especially when they're repeatedly pounded by hungry brookies. I certainly won't have to apply other floatants as often.

My test data is attached in the graph below. If you have any question on the test, or anything else for that matter, drop a comment. If you want to point out all of the human error that was ingrained in every bit of this experiment... SAVE IT! Haha, constructive criticism is more than welcome, too.

The next portion of this experiment involves testing the treated flies on fish. Hopefully, there will be spotted/finned results. Is it spring yet?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Skunk Appreciation

This past weekend, I had the chance to track down some open water. Things have been pretty busy over the last month. Work, fly tying, fly casting instructor prep class, and TU have kept me pretty busy. It was nice to set everything aside for a couple hours to wade and cast and hope for a tug.

The temperature topped out about 45 degrees Sunday so I decided to visit a piece of water that has been pretty productive in the past. I fished hard and well. I covered the water with everything from midges to meat. It felt incredible to fish with no frozen guides. After a few hours, I made the trip home with a dry net. To be honest, it was the most satisfying day I've spent on the water in months.

If you're near North Central PA, check out some of the events our TU chapter (Seneca Chapter) has going on. Tuesday nights in February and March are our fly tying classes. Sunday March 8th in Port Allegany, we're hosting a fly tying workshop and presentation from the Jedi Master of Nymphing, George Daniel. To round out our busy season, our Fundraising Banquet will be held Saturday, April 25th in Port Allegany. Come on out to help our chapter support fly tying and fly fishing education, as well as raise awareness about coldwater conservation issues in our area.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What's Cabin Fever?

Had to bust out ice before we could launch.
Real winter has finally settled in. Most creeks are partially frozen over and the rest are completely frozen. That makes it a lot easier to stay in and tie flies. We have, however, been able to get a couple frigid float trips in since the last update - mostly with toothies in mind.

Sweet! My turn to throw.
As I've mentioned before, the esox family of fish aren't my absolute favorite to hunt, but it's fun to go with my buddies who are into it and I learn more about these apex predators every time we go. I have no complaints putting time in among the hills, behind the oars, reading rivers, and watching 12 inches of bucktail and chicken feathers snake through the water waiting to see a fish respond with the worst intentions.

I have to say, before I started floating, my fishing was done in solitude 90% of the time. It's been a hell of a lot of fun finding a good crew of like-minded dudes who share the same addiction, but I'm hoping to spend a little more time with a 3 wt, a hammock, and a dip can of flies, all by my lonesome exploring bluelines this year.

The ANF is where I grew up and learned to fish. It's still my favorite area.
We took advantage of a rare sunny January day to check out a stream that's been on my radar for some time. It was a little silty and a little too easily accessible in the lower reaches, but I'm sure if enough shoe leather is invested, I'll find some secluded fish that aren't too used to visitors.

Little early, buddy. A good sign though.

There are more than enough opportunities to ward off cabin fever around here. If fishing isn't possible where you are, take a couple hours and just walk the banks where you normally fish or check out some new water. There's plenty of time left to fill fly boxes.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Very Memorable Weekend - B Side

With an epic day in the books Saturday, why not float again Sunday? After all, when there's flow we go...

For quite a while, I've been struggling with tying Double Deceivers. I love the way they swim, it's almost hypnotic watching them twitch and dart through the water. I've just never been completely satisfied with the finished product when I tie them. For the water I fish the most, they're generally a little big. I'm not saying you won't catch anything with them, but the primary food in this part of the watershed is smaller. So, you're missing a lot of 18"-22" fish that would probably eat something a little smaller. A couple of weeks ago, I found what I had been looking for - Andreas Andersson's Aino.

After seeing the flies Andreas had been posting to facebook and instagram, I couldn't take it anymore. I had to put in an order. Mostly, it was the Deer Head Deceivers (DHD's) that did me in, but when I saw the Baby Brown Trout Aino, I had to see for myself how he was creating these bugs.

I've always tried to "collect" flies designed and tied be some of the great fly tiers. Sparkle Duns and X-Caddis from Craig Matthews, Simple Shrimp from Mike Heck, Zelon nymphs and Rubber Leg Tellico Nymphs from Ian Rutter, etc. When I started getting into streamers, it got even worse. I have Sex Dungeons, Peanut Envy's, and Heifer Groomers from Kelly Galloup and Double Deceivers, Junk Yard Dog's, Grumpy Muppets, and Drunk and Disorderly's from Mike Schmidt. Now, I have an Aino and DHD's from Andreas Andersson.

Every fly tier has their own style and every fly designer has different things they are looking to imitate. Andreas is known  for imitating bulk. By that, I mean, anyone can attach too much material to a hook and create bulk.The problems is, bulk casts like a wet sock and behaves like one too. When streamers are designed with stiff materials and soft materials in the correct places, you get light flies that look big and bulky, they cast great with the correct gear, and they move and look like what you're trying to imitate all the time.

Anyway, back to the fishing! The high water as of late and unseasonably mild weather has created a firestorm of great fishing. The trout have been given an extended growing season and they're doing all they can to take advantage. The takes have been ferocious!

Yep, the fish above POUNDED the Baby Brown Trout Aino. Throwing big streamers like this can be extremely visual. I made a cast tight up to the bank and retrieved it with a kind of bait-fish limp. This buttery torpedo was hiding in the shadows just waiting to pounce. On the third or fourth strip, I saw my 5" streamer get devoured. I don't know if it was the solid take or how sharp the Partridge of Redditch hooks are, but this fish was plugged. YES! Caught, photographed, and released to hunt some more. See you later buddy. Two great floats, back to back. Also, its safe to say I will be stuffing more Aino streamers in my boat boxes.

I started the A-side with a thank you, now I'll finish with an apology. I've been a little shady the last month or so. I've had to end up cancelling fishing trips and tinkering with plans because I've been plotting a surprise Christmas Wedding with my now wife. We held the ceremony and  celebratory mini-hootenanny in the back yard around the fire ring/pond with our parents and siblings. We pulled it off without anyone having a clue. Haha, I hate being sneaky, but it was worth it. So, now that I'm married, I get to fish a lot more often, right?