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?

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Very Memorable Weekend - A Side

I'd like to start this 2 part post with a thank you. Thank you to the wives, girlfriends, and kids who put up with us chasing our fishing addiction. It's not that we like spending time away from you all - Quite the contrary! But when there's flow, we go.

This was the first time I've ever floated back to back days and it was AWESOME. Flows in this part of the world have been meager at best since spring. (If you've read this blog, you're probably sick of my whining!) However, right now flows are up. I love fishing this time of year because flows are usually pretty dependable and we rarely have anyone to compete with.

On Saturday, we fished a river that has seen a lot of boat traffic lately. Those boats have been manned by guys I would consider pros - guys who are really pushing the envelope in the fly game. However, we hadn't been hearing about a lot of fish being caught.

We were the second of 4 boats (all throwing flies) we saw this day. None of which were in it for numbers. This is Unicorn Hunting. I absolutely consider myself a blueliner first and foremost - nothing compares to brookies and dry flies. For the first time, I'm going to admit, I think I'm also a streamer junkie. Seeing a 2 foot long brown trout HOOVER my 8" dead drifting streamer like it was a nymph... I seriously don't have the words to describe it. It's the stuff that makes you shake for about 20 mins.

Dom has been turned to the dark side. He's been hit hard with the musky bug and I think there are little Esox swimming in his head. Personally, I don't get it, haha. I don't need to. As fly fisherman, we're all kind of driven by the same motives. We fish for different species, often different water, but the predatory instinct is triggered pretty similarly. I think musky guys and big trout guys have a lot in common and have a lot to learn from each other. It's just fun giving the other side a hard time.

Kris, on the other hand, wants to catch anything that swims. So, while Dom was fishing squirrel poppers (haha) Kris was throwing musky flies as well. Dom was the next to strike with a pretty good sized pike. Congrats to him for putting the first toothy critter in my boat. Kris had downsized his musky fly a bit and he scored a trophy brown. His fly was deep when it got slammed. I was rowing the boat to an eddy and we had no idea what was on the end of the line. When it finally showed itself, its was an absolute trophy brown.

We definitely didn't put up huge numbers. That wasn't our goal. We all had BIG fish on the brain and we ended the float with roughly 80" of fish with each of us boating one. The odds of getting skunked are astronomical. Honestly, I feel like we won the lottery. The rivermonsters are on the feed now.

The B side of this post is yet to come. Stay tuned to see how we did Sunday...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Catching Up

The past few weeks have been pretty busy! Fortunately for me, I've been able to squeeze in a good bit of fishing and tying! I have slacked a little bit on the updates though. My apologies!

This past weekend I had the incredible opportunity to meet up with a buddy, Alex Bond (Bondo) of Alex Bond Photography. Bondo is one hell of a photographer and an even better guy! He's just one of those guys who, no matter the setting, is always fun to be around! This photo shoot was no different. We trudged though melting snow and mud, and through the river, and had a bunch of laughs. Bondo is one of the many people who left the area we grew up in and has come back with a professional skill set and a deep appreciation for the area we call home. The PA Wilds is a pretty happening place with some fantastic people and true artisans.

After the shoot, I did a little fishing and bumped into Pat Burke. Pat and his buddies run a blog, "Troutbitten." It's full of great stories, fly fishing tips, and most importantly, big beautiful trout. Take a minute and do yourself a favor -  go check out their site.

Tailgaiting for Trout
Have you ever gotten out of your car to fish and felt a little off? Like maybe this just wouldn't be your best day of fishing? Me neither! Haha, every time I pull on my waders and string up my rod I think, "Man, this is going to be one hell of a day." That feeling is exponentially bigger when you're taking a drift boat off the trailer.

As usual, I had pretty high expectations for this day of fishing. I was feeling pretty damn good with a piping hot cup of Yerba Mate while I was rigging up. Once I was in the water, I lost a couple fish right off the bat and then I missed a few. There went my confidence in my nymphing game for that day! I've really been trying to work on my nymphing lately, but I settled back into the comforts of chucking streamers on sinking lines and it paid off. Nothing huge, but feeling strip, strip, BOOM! - a tight line, a bent rod, and an angry fish - is a pretty damn fun way to fish.

With deer hunting season in full swing, I usually stay off the rivers every day but Sunday. I'm sure it'd be fine, but I can always stay in and tie flies this time of year. Not like there isn't plenty of work to be done!

Copper Johns - One color almost done!
Last Sunday, a few fishing options fell through at the last minute and I ended up fishing at home. I hadn't fished my home stream in a while and I was reminded how nice it is to rig up the rod in the garage and walk to the water instead of driving. It'd been a while since I caught a fish with a red stripe. It was a nice little change of pace.


So, I was fishing right by the house and feeling really relaxed. I'd already caught, released, and photographed a few rainbows and a few browns. Then, for a very pleasant surprise, I brought a gorgeous, good sized, kyped out brookie to the net! Grand Slam baby! So, I set up the tripod, readied for the shot when a gust of wind came and blew over the tripod, toppling it into the river. As I watched the GoPro dive first, the foot of the tripod snapped off on impact. Before I could reach the disaster scene, the gushing water washed it away and into the depths of an off color, chest deep pool. YEP. In the melee, the brookie got away before I could get a decent picture. YEP. Relaxed, zen-like peace was officially gone. COOL.

Jess, Rita, and I were out for a walk about a week later and I said, "Hang on a minute, I have to go look for that piece of the tripod." I had almost no hope of finding it. Miraculously, after about 10 minutes of scanning the bottom of the creek in an area below where it was lost, I saw it! It just so happened to be resting in about 4" of water in an eddy behind an island. So, the tripod is whole again, but I'll probably never get a picture of that brookie.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Early Winter

Over the last few weeks, we've been given an early taste of winter here in Pennsylvania. We were seriously lucky that we didn't see the snow that pummeled Buffalo and the Western part of New York State. Single digit temps and ice gave way to temperatures exceeding 60 degrees here last weekend!

The fish as of late haven't been terribly big, but they've all been extremely healthy. We had a cooler and dryer than average summer which didn't make the fishing all that great, but hopefully fewer fish had trouble with thermal stress. With a larger population of fish, the food base is spread more thinly for each fish which generally leads to more fish with not as much size. Time will tell if this is the case around here.

This weekend we're supposed to see more warm temperatures. We'll see if flows are good enough to put the boat in the water! If not, there's always plenty of fly tying to do. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving! Save me some taters.

Black/Brown Sex Dungeon