"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

Monday, January 15, 2018

My Dad, My Instructor

I tend to say that I am a self-taught fly caster, but that's not entirely true. While I have never had an actual casting lesson from an actual instructor, my dad, Steve, did give me some rudimentary lessons when I first started flailing away with a fly rod, back around the age of ten. He wasn't the most fluent of casters, but he had done some fly fishing when he was younger, so he knew the basics. Actually, looking back at it now, he pretty much only taught me how to roll cast, and then I filled in the rest on my own. But, he was a good roll caster! Even later on, when I would take him fishing, he pretty much just roll casted all the time... Hey, it worked for him, and he was a stubborn old Norwegian, so who was I to try to get him to change?
My dad, Steve, knew how to roll cast...

Speaking of him and his roll casting, I can't tell you how many times I saw him plop himself at the head of a pool and roll cast a size 14 beadhead orange scud down into the pool, and then just let it sit there in the current, putting a tiny amount of movement on it with his rod tip every once in a while. The fly would just hang there, not like an actual scud at all, yet time after time he would catch a few trout, some of which were good sized. I would routinely outfish him, but he didn't care. He would catch some fish, which justified his unorthodox style, and he was happy. I told you he was a stubborn old Norwegian...
Size 14 Beadhead Orange Scuds

My dad was also my first fly tying instructor. Just like with fly fishing, his knowledge of fly tying was somewhat limited, and that same knowledge was about 30 years old when I got my first fly tying kit. But I was eager to learn, so he taught me everything he knew. Together we made some enormous and gaudy wet flies that started unraveling as soon as they were out of the vise; some cork bodied poppers with terrible paint jobs; and some other flies that didn't really fit into any categories, other than maybe "fish frighteners". None of our flies back then were very pretty, but they got me excited to learn more, and my dad was smart enough to know there were others out there who could teach me more than he could. Together we found a local fly shop, and he allowed me to take all the fly tying classes I wanted. He may have been stubborn, but he was also a great dad...

Of course those weren't the only things my dad taught me, but they are the things that make sense to write about here on my fly fishing blog. You see, my dad died on Friday. He lost his long battle with aphasia and Alzheimer's. We knew the day was coming, but it still was sad. But it has also been fun to look at old photos and relive old memories. Memories of days on the water and time spent behind the vise with him. Memories of him driving a 12-year-old me out to the fly shop almost every week just to hang out and absorb the knowledge of people who seemed to know what they were talking about. And memories of a 35-year-old me acting as his guide, taking him to new waters he had never fished before. My dad was a great instructor, even though he had some unorthodox ways of doing things. He was my first fishing buddy, and I am going to miss him. I love you, dad!

My dad on the banks of our favorite trout stream. RIP Steve Hanson, 1938-2018


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Merry Fishmas! Ha, See What I Did There?

I don't know if you noticed, but Christmas was just a little over a week ago. I didn't ask for any new rods or reels this year, mostly because everybody in my family already thinks I have enough rods and reels, and I didn't want to get any grief from them. But as we all know, you can never have too many rods and reels, so I got myself a few Christmas presents, to go along with the wonderful stuff my family did get me.

First of all, I figured I needed a new reel to go with my new bamboo rod that I won earlier in December (click on Boo! to read all about it!). It's a very light 6'6" 2wt rod, and I didn't have a reel that was small enough to balance it well, and I also didn't have a 2wt line to use on it. The 3wt lines I have seemed a little too much for it.  I know that a classic old bamboo rod probably deserves a classic old reel to go with it, like a Hardy Flyweight or an Orvis CFO, but I don't think I will actually be fishing with this rod all that much, and I couldn't justify spending much on a reel for it. Same with the line. So, after much consternation and grinding of teeth, I finally decided to go with something a little less expensive. I ordered a Maxcatch Avid 1/3 reel direct from China, and a Maxcatch 2wt weight forward line to go with it, also from China. I got both for well under $50, and the amazing thing is that they both came with free shipping. How can they ship things all the way from China without charging for shipping? And, they arrived less than a week after I ordered them! What a crazy world we live in...

The Avid seems like a very nice little machined large arbor reel, with a disc drag and everything! It seems to be very well built, but I guess time will tell if it lasts. The line is your basic weight forward line. I am a fan of name-brand lines, but I also would rather spend my rod fund money on rods and reels, so I have purchased a few cheap lines from Maxcatch. So far, they all seem fine. And super cheap!

I haven't been doing very much fly fishing for bass over the past few years, so about a year ago I decided to sell my high-end bass rod to help fund some other rod or reel purchase that I don't actually remember right now. I figured I could always find a lower priced bass rod at a later point in time. After much searching, I found two at the same time! So, I bought both, and will figure out which one I like best once the temps get above -5 and I go outside.

The first rod is a beautiful old Fenwick HMG 8'6" 7wt, that looks like it hasn't been used much, if at all. There's still a label on the cork...The second is another old beauty, a Sage 790 DS, which also has had very little use. That one even has a built-in extended butt, which will come in handy if I ever catch a brute of a smallie. Some of you might be thinking, "I thought this guy only fished fiberglass rods...". Well, I have come to the conclusion that fiberglass is a perfect rod material for me in smaller line sizes, like 6wt and under. The few fiberglass 7 & 8wts I have cast seemed like they were a little too heavy, so I tired out faster than I wanted. So, it's back to graphite for me, at least in the bigger line weights. But I will stick with the older and slower graphite, thank you very much.

The other fishing gifts were actual gifts, not just things I bought for myself. Both of them were books, All Fishermen Are Liars, by John Gierach, and Fish Won't Let Me Sleep by James Babb. Both Gierach and Babb are excellent writers, so I am excited to have some new books to read during the unrelenting Minnesota winter which has only just begun.


I hope you all had a very Merry Fishmas!

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year, New Contest

I like to tie flies, and I like to blog. So why not combine those two things? Starting today, January 1st, 2018, we are launching our Every-Other-Week Fly Giveaway Contest here on The Riffle. Everyone who emails me their name and mailing address to shanson1974@gmail.com will be entered into a random drawing for three (3) flies. For this first contest, we will be giving away three size 8 Yellow Stimulators. Who couldn't use some Stimmies? The contest will run until 11:59 PM CST on Sunday, January 14th. We will announce the winner and the flies for the next contest on Monday the 15th. Let all your friends know! Oh, and Happy New Year!