"Sometimes, you just need to go downstairs and waggle a rod..."

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Trout Trip Twenty-Eighteen

My buddy, Bryon, and I just got back from our first annual trout trip, which I have titled Trout Trip Twenty-Eighteen. That name is rather boring, I know, but some of the other names we came up with were downright silly. Like "Scott & Bryon's Excellent Adventure" and "Two Guys Trouting". My personal favorite might be "Guys Waggling Rods", but if you, my faithful readers, type that in Google to try to find this post, I don't want to think about what else might pop up on your screen...

Going through our fishing stuff before we wet a line.
We left the Twin Cities on Friday morning and headed south to the Driftless region of Minnesota. We set up camp in Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, which has three quality trout streams running through it. The biggest of the three is the South Branch of the Root River, which gathers two tributaries, Canfield Creek and Forestville Creek, inside the Park. If we weren't so gung-ho about fishing we could have hiked over to see where Canfield gets its start as it bubbles out of a small cave, or visited the "town" of historic Forestville to witness a reenactment of life back in the 1800s, or taken a tour of Mystery Cave. But we didn't do any of those things. We fished, we ate, we napped, and then we fished some more. That was our entire weekend, and it was awesome!
Bryon was happy we got the camper set up.

Our first glimpse of the South Branch of the Root.
My first rod of the trip, my Sage 476 SFL glass rod.

Both Bryon and I caught fish throughout the weekend, but I wouldn't say the fishing was terrific by any means. We were expecting, and hoping for, some good insect hatches, but there weren't many insects at all. I was thinking there would be caddisflies hatching in the afternoons and maybe some sulphur mayflies in the evenings, but that didn't happen. Sure there were a few bugs flying around, and tons of swallows and other birds eating them, but trout rising to them were few and far between. So we nymphed and swung Wooly Buggers most of the time. Nymphing worked some of the time, the Wooly Buggers worked some of the time, and nothing worked some of the time. I guess it was a lot like fishing is supposed to be!
My first fish of the weekend.

The terrain reminded me of the Black Hills. I was expecting to see a Rocky Mountain Sheep around every corner!
Second rod of the trip, my Scott F754/3. What a sweet rod!
A beautiful brownie.

Bryon with a nice brown.
Some more beautiful scenery.
Bryon's first ever brook trout!

Third rod: Orvis Fullflex A 7' 5wt
I won the prize for smallest fish of the trip. Yay?
This would have been perfect dry fly water, if there were any insects hatching...
Even on fishing trips, sometimes you just need to sit around and look at the woods...
Hardy Fibalite 7'6" 5wt.

Bryon showed me some small trees that had been rubbed by deer. Later I saw this big tree which I assumed had been rubbed by an elephant...
Sage 586 LL, with my Mushroom & Swiss Bugger which had gotten completely chewed up.

 Bryon caught me catching a fish on video. I didn't realize what he was doing until I turned to look at him at the end. I think I played it pretty cool...

After two and a half days of fishing and trudging around Forestville State Park, Bryon and I were pretty worn out. We both must have been pretty out of it on the way home because we missed several turns...Finally we made it home and rejoined our normal lives. We are already starting to talk about Trout Trip Twenty-Nineteen. If it happens, read all about it right here!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Off the Schneid

I am not really sure what a schneid is, or even if it's a real word, but I have heard the phrase "off the schneid" ever since I learned how to speak the English, so it must be at least sort of real. I think it means something like "ending a drought" or to "end a bad streak". That's how I use it, at least, and since I'm the one writing this on the internet, I must be correct, right?

Well, I finally got off the schneid as far as catching fish goes. I hadn't even come close to catching a fish since last October, a total of about 7 months, which is about 7 months too long, if you ask me. It wasn't all my fault, though. A never-ending and interminably dreadful Minnesota winter happened within those 7 months, and, wait, no, that's the only reason. It was dreadful winter from October until May this year, so that's pretty much the only reason why I hadn't caught any fish.

Finally, winter ended and the bluegills pretty much instantly moved in close to shore to start to get it on. It had been a long winter for them, too... So, there are now bluegills all over the place at my favorite lake, and they have helped get me off the schneid. Among other reasons, this is why bluegills will always hold a warm spot in my heart.

If you, too, want to get off the schneid, go find yourself some bluegills. They will be more than happy to help out.
There's a bluegill at the end of the rainbow...
Gear used: Scott F2 774/3 fiberglass rod and Lamson LP-1.5 reel; Steffen 7'6" 2/3wt fiberglass rod and Lamson LP-1 reel. Flies: BH Rubber Legs Prince Nymph, size 10; Black rubber leg spider, size 10; Yellow sparkle wooly bugger, size 10.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Kinni Mini Clave

Conclave [kon-kleyv] Definition: 1. A private or secret meeting. 2. An assembly or gathering, especially one that has special power, authority, or influence. 3. Sometimes shortened to "clave".

You don't hear the word conclave very often in life. Unless, that is, you are one of the special kind of people who, for reasons that nobody else seems to understand, has a special affinity for fiberglass fly rods. If you are one of those kinds of people, you are bound to hear the word conclave on a daily basis. "Coulee Conclave"; "Carolina Conclave"; "Montana Clave"; and now the newest addition to this list, the "Kinni Mini Clave".

The first annual Kinni Mini Clave occurred this past weekend, and it was a hoot! The brainchild of three crazed local fiberglass fly rod aficionados, it was a chance for other like-minded fiberglass nuts to get together, cast rods, tell stories, eat great food, and then cast more rods. Some people, including a lot of other fly fishermen, would probably think we were insane for standing around and casting our fishing rods on grass, but it was an awesome time! Even a little bit of rain didn't make us question ourselves, or our sanity.

Unlike other, weekend-long conclaves happening around the country, the Kinni Mini only lasted a few hours, hence the "mini" part of the name. The "Kinni" part of the name was used not only for its rhyming purposes, but also because our meeting place was a park that sits high above the confluence of the Kinnickinnic River and the South Fork of the Kinnickinnic River in River Falls, Wisconsin. The main Kinni is one of the highest quality trout streams in all the Upper Midwest, and the South Fork, while tiny, is home to a huge number of brook trout. I believe almost all of the Clave attendees spent the evening fishing somewhere on one of these two trout streams...

But enough about that! Let's talk about the rods that were there! There were dozens of rods, including one or more from almost every rodmaker imaginable. Old rods. New rods. Custom rods. Factory rods. Rods made in America. Rods made outside of America. Fast rods. Slooooooow rods. Rods that cost less than $40. Rods that cost a whole lot more than $40. If you wanted to try a certain brand of rod, it most likely was at the Kinni Mini Clave. Here are a few that stood out:

No secret ballots were cast or anything like that, but from listening to some of the murmurings coming from the Clave attendees, I would say that two rods really stood out to people. First was a Scott F754/3, which is one of the older black glass rods that Scott made in the 90s, if my memory serves me. Second was an even older Hardy Fibalite 7'6" 5wt. I don't think many people had cast an old Hardy before, so they were surprised by its smoothness and power. Oh, and a lot of people liked the new Fenwick Fenglass FG704-3, too. All three of those are sweet, but there were a lot of other great rods at the Kinni Mini, as well.

Two of my favorites were an old Heddon Pal Pro Weight 7' 5wt, which was like a buttery rocket launcher, and an apple green custom rod built on an Aventik blank by my friend's teenage daughter. She did a great job on the build, and the rod was a sweet caster! I had never tried an Aventik rod before, but they seem to be a great low-end option.

This will put a wrap on the first annual Kinni Mini Clave. It was a bigger success than we were expecting, so look for the second one to happen sometime next year. Maybe it will be on the Kinni or maybe it will move to another river. I guess we'll all just have to wait and find out! If you're a fellow fiberglass fly rod fanatic, we'll see you there!

Editor's note: I would just like to end this by thanking everyone who came out to the Clave, and especially to my two cohorts, Peter Davis and Greg Olson, who did an awesome job taking my crazy idea and running with it. Can't wait to put together another one of these things with you guys!

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Joy of Fly Tying: Parachute Mayfly

I always conclude my Joy of Fly Tying classes with the same fly: a Parachute dry fly. I have tied thousands, if not trillions, of parachute flies in my lifetime, so I find them to be quite easy. But most beginners find them to be quite difficult, so I keep the hardest fly until the end. If they can tie a passable parachute fly they can pass the class. Even if they can't tie a passable parachute fly they can pass the class, but that's beside the point.
Parachute Adams

I wrote about my technique for tying parachute hackle in the Spring '17 issue of Fly Tyer magazine in an article titled "Highly Adequate Parachute Flies", and my technique really is highly adequate. It produces really good looking parachute hackle 98% of the time, and the 2% of hackles that turn out badly are almost always caused by user error. I'm not going to say that the hackle always looks perfect, but if you were to say that, I wouldn't audibly argue with you.
The parachute Sulphur I tie in the video

The secret to my parachute tying technique is to always tie the feather in the same way, meaning the curve of the feather is always facing the same way, the thread is always in the same place, and the hackle is always wound the same way. Once you get the hang of it it's easy. Let's see if I can make it easy for you through the magic of video...

Parachute Pattern Recipe

Hook: Any standard dry fly hook, size 8-28
Thread: 8/0 to match the body color
Tail: Dun or ginger Mayfly Tails
Wing: Antron or poly yarn
Hackle: Dun, grizzly, ginger or any other color, sized appropriately to the hook
Body: Superfine or other dry fly dubbing, whatever color you prefer

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Joy of Fly Tying: Thorax Dun Mayfly

The second-to-last fly I teach in my Joy of Fly Tying classes is an adult mayfly imitation, and I'm not exactly sure who invented it. Or even how I came across it. It's a fairly straightforward tie that is easier than learning how to tie traditional upright wings, such as those on an Adams or a Light Cahill, yet it is a very effective fish catcher that can be just the ticket when trout are turning their noses up at your other offerings.
Size 14 Thorax Dun mayfly imitation.

This fly is called a Thorax Dun, and it can be tied in whatever color and size you need to imitate your local mayflies. In class I always teach it in a size 14, and usually in some kind of color combo that imitates a Sulphur or a Hendrickson mayfly. Or sometimes we tie it with a gray body and grizzly colored hackle, a sort of poor man's Adams, I guess you could say.

If you wanted to get fancy, you could make the wings out of turkey flats or some other feather, but I like to use Antron yarn, because it's easier to use and it has a nice shimmer. Perhaps some day the DuPont family will recognize me for all the times I have extolled the virtues of their synthetic yarns during my Joy of Fly Tying classes and lavish me with riches beyond my dreams... I won't hold my breath.

I now present to you the Thorax Dun, in video form:

Thorax Dun Pattern Recipe

Hook: Tiemco 100 or any other standard dry fly, size 10-22
Thread: 8/0 to match the body color
Tails: Dun or cream colored Mayfly Tails
Body: Superfine dubbing, color to match the natural
Wing: Antron yarn, looped straight up underneath the hook
Hackle: Rooster, sized for the hook, in ginger, dun, or grizzly

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Ice Out!

I don't know if you're aware of this, but it's been the longest Winter in the history of Winters here in Minnesota. The actual Winter wasn't all that bad, but then once Spring was supposed to start, Winter didn't want to give up, so the temps got colder and more and more snow fell, well into April. Just two weeks ago we got something like 17 inches of snow or something like that. I stopped paying attention to the amounts because after a while it just doesn't matter any more.
This is a photo of the Twin Cities during the blizzard of April 14th, 2018.

But then things started to change. After a few days the high temps reached 40, and then after a few more they touched 50, and now for the past few days it's been near or even above 60. Today it got up to 68, and we all thought we had died and gone to heaven. I just got back from Cub, our nearest grocery store, and what were once enormous piles of snow that had been plowed into the back end of the parking lot are now barely over head high. I bet they will be completely melted within a week or two.

You know what else happened today? The ice went out on my favorite local lake. At daybreak this morning there was a thin layer of ice covering the lake, and by the time we looked at it early this afternoon, most of the ice was gone! This is the latest ice-out I can ever remember on this lake, but I've only been fishing it for 13 years or so...

I know this was probably crazy, seeing as how the lake was still covered with ice this morning, but I couldn't control myself - I grabbed a rod and reel and tried to catch my first fish of the year. I flailed away for about 20 minutes with a couple of different colored Wooly Buggers, but no fish were caught or even seen. I did see a handful of Canada geese, a couple of unrecognizable ducks, and a bald eagle flying around, so that was cool. My rod and reel performed flawlessly, which was nice. I had an idea for what is sure to be an awesome new panfish fly, which was awesome. And I didn't fall in and drown, so I would say it was a successful day!

Here are a few photos, but notice none of them contain any fish...
My first look at the lake this afternoon. It was covered in ice this morning!
There are usually a ton of bluegills under this tree, but not yet this year...
Too cold to put the dock in yet, but soon!
By the time I was done fishing, the only ice left was across the lake by the beach.
Lamiglas S-glass 7'6" 5wt and Lamson LP-2 Lite reel. 
The chartreuse Wooly Bugger was not productive today...