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

"Write what you know. If you don't know, make it up..." - Scott Hanson

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Trouts On Top...

I used to be a dry fly dude. I only fished dry flies for trout, not because I was a snob, or a purist, or an elitist. I fished dry flies because that's the only way I knew how to fish. When I taught myself how to fly fish for trout, fishing with dry flies seemed like the easiest way to do it. I could see the flies. I could see the fish take the flies. I instantly knew when to set the hook. Everything was visual. No knowledge of zen was required. Dry fly fishing was made for me. Or maybe I was made for dry fly fishing... Whatever the case, I fished with dry flies, pretty much exclusively, and I always caught fish. Sometimes even some big ones.

That was back when I fished a lot, if you could call 200+ days a year a lot. Now I am married and have four small children, so I fish about 5-10 days a year. And I can't schedule my life around hatches anymore. When I get a chance to fish, I have to go, whether there will be bugs on the water or not. Which means that, over the past few years, I have taught myself how to fish nymphs and streamers, almost exclusively. And I still usually catch fish, only now there seems to be a larger percentage of big fish, which I am not complaining about.
Some beautiful dry fly water

But, sometimes it's just nice to go out and fish with dry flies, which was exactly my plan when my buddy, Bryon, and I went out this past Saturday. This time of year I figured there would be a good caddis hatch on one of my favorite streams, and if we stayed in to the evening, we might even hit some sulphur mayflies. That was the plan, at least, and I was stoked!
That speck down by the bend in the river is Bryon

It was a bright, sunny, hot day when we got on the water in mid-afternoon. We could see fish rising sporadically up and down the stream. With enthusiasm that belied our advanced years, we jumped into our waders and bounded down to the river. Or at least that's how I remember it now. I let Bryon have the first good pool we came to, and I went upstream to a lovely looking riffle. We both were using some newly-tied Elk Hair Caddis that I had whipped up the night before. It was Game On!
I started the day with my newly acquired vintage Winston glass rod. I was super excited about it, but it wasn't quite the magical wand I was expecting it to be. I will give it a couple more chances before I break it over my knee in disgust...

I finished up the day with my 8' 6wt Berkley Para/metric glass rod. Talk about a magic wand, this rod is Sweet! Did you notice the capital "S" in sweet? That means I really meant it...
Except, we didn't really catch that many. Sure, we both got a few here and there. Being the incessant fly-changer that I am, I would catch a fish or two on one pattern before switching to something else, which would also catch a fish every once in a while. But things weren't happening as fast and furious as I was hoping. There wasn't an obvious hatch going on, just a few random bugs of various species flying around, so it was hard to know what fly to use. I tried caddis flies, crane flies, mayfly duns and emergers. Finally I eschewed my dry flies and tied on a nymph, catching a nice brook trout on my first cast. But even that didn't get many fish excited.

I finished up the day catching my biggest fish on a silver wooly bugger, which was fun. So, I'm not a dry fly purist anymore, who cares?
While not huge, this was the biggest fish of the day. Whaddya think, 11 inches? Maybe 12... so I will say it was 14.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Golden Eagle Bluegills

I had about 45 minutes to sneak away and try out my new old Orvis Golden Eagle glass rod that I recently got. Golden Eagles were made for Orvis by the Phillipson company from between 1971 and 1974, so it's at least as old as me, and maybe a little older. It's just getting into the prime of its life!

It's a 7-foot rod that's rated for a 5-weight line, but while lawn casting it I have noticed that it feels way better with a 4-weight line, at least to me. With the 4-weight line it is as smooth as can be, and surprisingly powerful. With the 5-weight line it seemed overmatched and weak. So, I will stick with the 4-weight.

Using a foam-bodied spider with extra-long orange legs while fishing from shore, I managed to catch a few little bluegills and bass, then things came alive for about 10 minutes, during which I caught a very nice bass and a couple of massive bluegills (massive is a relative term). Then things quieted down, which was fine because my wife and kids were on their way home with frozen custard for everyone.

The Golden Eagle casts beautifully, and I was able to horse the massive 'gills through the weeds without a problem. If you can ever get your hands on an old Golden Eagle rod, snatch it up. I think you will enjoy it!
Massive 'gill #1

Very respectable largemouth

Massive gill #2. I think this one was full of eggs. Or it had just come from an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet...

Friday, May 13, 2016

New Toy

I got a new toy yesterday. It's an old A.K. Best vise from the 1990s or early 2000s. I remember having these for sale in the fly shop I used to to work at, but they didn't sell well for A.K., so then the McKenzie Company acquired the rights, and they didn't sell well for them, either. I always thought they were a cool looking vise, but I never got one back then because A. I already had a great Regal vise that I loved; and B. I didn't have an extra $300 laying around to spend on a vise. Well, let's just say that I spent way less than $300 on this one. I got it mostly for my students to use in my community ed fly tying classes that I teach, but I will probably use it some of the time, too. You know, because it's cool.

This is what came in the box.

It's the real deal!
Look, A.K. even signed the manual!
This tool has some nice tooling.
"Put our logo everywhere" is a good company motto.
And it doesn't just look good, it can hold hooks too!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Fishing Report: Wader Madness

I went fishing yesterday with my buddy Dave. We went to a very secret part of the Upper Midwest, to try to catch some brook trout in one creek, which was very close to a river that holds mostly brown trout, just in case the brook trout weren't cooperating. It was a beautifully warm day that was interrupted periodically by large gusts of wind. Thankfully there weren't enough gusts to keep us from casting, just enough to be slightly annoying every once in a while.
Dave on the water.

I had to go into work for a little while in the morning, so by the time I drove to Dave's place to pick him up and then stop to get a sandwich, we didn't get to the river until after noon. The creek we went to first was as clear as could be. We could see a bunch of small to medium-sized trout swimming around, but they didn't seem real active. Over the next hour or so, we proved that fact over and over. We tried copious flies, we were as stealthy as could be, yet not much was happening. I finally coaxed a couple of small browns up to the surface with a brown Elk Hair Caddis, but that was about it. It was strange that all we could catch in this supposed "brook trout creek" were a couple of browns, but weird things happen out in nature all the time.

Since there wasn't much going on at that creek, we headed over to the larger river nearby. It looked much better, probably because there were fish rising in every pool we could see. I headed downstream to try to tantalize some big fish with a wool bugger, while Dave went upstream and promptly started catching fish on some sort of dry caddis fly. Catching fish on a dry fly is way better than not catching fish with a wooly bugger, so I decided to change flies. I put my Elk Hair Caddis back on and began catching fish right away. What was strange was that, despite being on a "brown trout river", three of the first four fish I caught were beautifully colored brook trout, one of which had to go 12 inches. What a strange phenomenon, but like I said, strange things happen all the time outside.

I am not sure how many Dave ended up catching, but I landed 5 brook trout on this stretch, along with somewhere around 25 browns. The biggest was a hulking 14 incher I caught on my CDC-Enhanced Gold Ribbed Hares Ear. What a fun day!

Except, that is, for my waders. I got some new used waders a couple of months ago, and this was the first time I wore them on the water. I knew that they weren't exactly the right size, but I figured I could make them work. Ahh, but I made a drastic miscalculation...If they were normal chest-high waders with shoulder straps, all would have been fine. But they are waist-high waders, with no shoulder straps, so their being the wrong size meant that they did not want to stay up. No matter what I did, I could not get them tight enough to hang on to my ever-expanding midsection. Any time I moved I had to hold onto my waders with one hand so they wouldn't fall down around my ankles. I felt like a little kid trying to wear my dad's giant pants... I guess I could try to gain some more weight, but instead I think I will move them on to someone who can use them right away. So, if you are in the market for some very slightly used Cabela's Dry Plus Waist High stockingfoot waders in size XL, let me know. If I don't hear from anyone soon, they will be going on ebay.
This is how I spent most of the day. I need some waders that fit...
  •  Gear Used: Dave spent the entire day using his Cabela's pack rod, I think it's a TLR model, that is a 7'6" 5wt, along with a beautiful gold-colored Scientific Anglers 50th Anniversary Edition System 5 reel made by Hardy. I am jealous of that reel... I started out the day with my S.A. System 5 glass rod paired with my trusty old Lamson LP-2 reel, then I switched to my newly acquired Fenwick FF84 rod and my Alford reel which is a clone of a Hardy Princess. Both rods performed flawlessly.
    My Fenwick FF84. What a sweet rod!