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

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Joy of Fly Tying: Rubber Leg Spider

I teach a lot of Beginning Fly Tying classes through various Community Education departments in my area. For some reason, when I first started to offer these classes, I called them The Joy of Fly Tying. I don't know if all of my students have actually found fly tying to be joy-filled, but I do try to make it fun, and I have never had a student stand up during class, throw their bobbin at me, and storm out, so that's a good sign.

In my classes, which typically last for three weeks, I teach my students how to tie 9 different flies. We start with the easiest, and then work our way up to the more difficult, adding new techniques along the way. It can be a lot of info for a new fly tyer to digest, so I thought I should post some video tutorials of all the flies we tie in class, so my students, or anybody, can watch and relearn anything they might have forgotten.
A gaggle of rubber legged spiders. Eeek.

So, here we are at the first of 9 videos in my Joy of Fly Tying series. The first fly is a rubber-legged spider, which I think is one of the easiest flies to learn, and a good jumping off point into the world of fly tying. Whether you are one of my past students, or just happened upon this post by chance, I hope you enjoy the video...


Rubber Legged Spider Pattern Recipe

Hook: Mustad 33903 size 10
Thread: 6/0 in whatever color you like
Body: Foam spider shaped body in whatever color you like
Legs: 2 sets of rubber legs on each side of body.


Monday, February 26, 2018

Fly Focus: The KlinkHanson

Every so often I am going to write one of these Fly Focus posts, in which I focus on a fly pattern that I invented, or that somebody else invented, or that I have for sale here on the ol' blog, or that I just really think is cool for no other reason than that it is. The first fly I am going to focus on is the KlinkHanson.
Size 18 BWO KlinkHanson

I invented the KlinkHanson probably 15 years ago or so. I wanted a fly that would imitate an emerging mayfly, that was durable, that was fairly easy to tie, and that did what I wanted it to on the water. I think the fly I came up with is all of those things, plus it's a great fish catcher!

I am not an aquatic entomologist by any means, but I have seen enough mayflies emerging to know what they look like. From what I have witnessed, they have a tendency to take some time at the water's surface as they struggle to emerge from their nymphal husks. A lot of them seem to be half in the water and half out of the water for a while as they are struggling. The KlinkHanson imitates that by having a back half that looks like the nymphal body, and a front half that looks like a winged adult sitting on top of the water.

I really wanted the back nymph half of the body to hang below the surface, so I tried a few different things, but the best option I found was to use copper wire for the ribbing. The copper wire adds just enough weight to get the back half to penetrate the surface, but not so much that it drags the fly under water. No matter what species of mayfly I am imitating, I use pheasant tail fibers for the abdomen, which are some of the best nymph making materials I have ever used.

That same copper wire helps to make the fly pretty durable too. Pheasant tail fibers can get pretty chewed up, but the wire helps keep things in place.

The front half of the fly is what imitates the emerging adult mayfly, so I change the colors up to match whatever hatch I am fishing. For a Blue Winged Olive hatch I use a size 18 KlinkHanson with olive dubbing and dark dun hackle. For a sulphur hatch I tie it on a size 14 or 16 hook, and use pale yellow or green dubbing and a ginger hackle. I have had great success here in the Upper Midwest with a Hendrickson colored KlinkHanson, which is a size 14 with dark pink dubbing and medium dun hackle. You can tie it in whatever color scheme fits the bill.
Size 16 Adams KlinkHanson

Some of you might not think that tying a parachute fly hits the criteria of being fairly easy to tie. I would have agreed with you at one point, but over the years I have tied several thousands of parachute flies, and I developed a technique that makes it pretty straighforward for me. I wrote an article for Fly Tyer magazine a couple of years ago about my parachute technique, and if you want to watch, here it is in video form:
If you don't feel like tying your own KlinkHansons, there are two ways to buy some. First is to stop by at Lund's Fly Shop in River Falls, Wisconsin. They carry them in two colors, a size 18 BWO and a size 16 in an Adams color scheme. If you are not near Lund's, you can always buy them here on the ol' blog, along with several other patterns I tie. Click on my Store Page to check it out.

I hope you enjoyed this first installment of Fly Focus. Look for the next Fly Focus right here in the next couple of weeks!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Time to Celebrate!

I just finished my fly order for the winter, and I want to celebrate, although I am not sure how to do the celebrating. Finishing a fly order seems like a perfect time to toast myself with a nice cold beer, but I don't drink anymore, so that won't work. I guess I could eat a big ol' bowl of ice cream, but I am pretty sure we don't have any in the house. I don't have any party favors, so I can't make a big ruckus with any noisemakers. The kids are all in bed already, so I can't even make them dance around with me or give me a high-five. I guess I'll just go back to my desk and tie some more flies...
Size 16 Adams KlinkHansons

Size 18 BWO KlinkHansons

Size 18 BWO Spotlight Emergers

Size 18 Hi-Viz Parachute Adams

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Winter. Ugh...

Minnesota has a well-earned reputation for being cold in the winter. I don't think Wisconsin has quite the same reputation, but it should, since much of Wisconsin is just as far north as Minnesota, and it tends to get the same weather that its neighbor to the West gets. Since both of these states can be so cold, I had long ago given up on doing any wintertime fishing. Back in the day, when I was young, dumb, and full of enthusiasm, I used to do quite a bit of winter fishing, either in the Northeast part of Iowa, a state which has no closed season, or in the Southeast section of Minnesota, which has had a catch-and-release season that has opened on or around January 1st for the last 20 years or so. Now Wisconsin streams, which are actually closer to my home, have a similar winter season. But, slowly over time I inevitably got less young, miraculously got less dumb, and for some reason lost my enthusiasm, so I haven't gone fishing in the Winter for more than a decade, and I have to say I hadn't really missed it. In fact, I had no plans to go fishing until at least late March, when the daytime temps are consistently well above the freezing mark.

But, then my buddy Ted sent me a message. He was going to be in town and really wanted to fish the Kinnickinnic, which is one of the highest quality trout streams in the Upper Midwest, as far as trout per mile go. And he wanted me to go with him. Despite my reluctance at fishing in the Winter, I said yes, pretty much instantly, which shows that my enthusiasm might not be as degraded as I thought...

Ted. How could I say no to that mug?
Sunday was a beautiful warm February day here, at least as far as we are accustomed to. A high temp of 45 degrees meant that many of the native people were walking around in light jackets, or even no jackets at all, and everyone had a bounce in their step. Unfortunately we didn't go fishing until Monday, when the high temp was 25, and it either snowed or pelted us with freezing rain all day long. Oh, and I forgot to mention the wind which seemed to be gusting to 30 knots, only I don't know what a knot is, so that might not be accurate. It was windy, let's just leave it at that.
Ted in the snow.
We got to the Kinni at about noon, which I figured was just in time for the trouts to get their metabolism at a high enough level that they might actually move for a fly. In theory that sounded good, but theories don't always work out the way you think they will. Ted and I flogged away for a couple of fruitless hours. I spent most of my time either tying on new flies to replace the ones I lost in trees and/or shrubs, trying to untangle my leader which was being blown in multiple directions by the gusting winds, chipping the ice out of my guides with my frozen fingers, or blowing on my frozen fingers to try to get them to thaw out enough to tie on another fly or untangle another leader. It was a normal winter fishing trip, as far as I was concerned.
Frozen guide. Ugh...


Me, looking grumpy after untangling my leader for the umpteenth time...
I had tied up some new purple/pink scuds the night before, so I tried one of those first. From there I moved on to a tiny black wooly bugger, then to a bright green wire-bodied thingy, then to a Spearfish Special, then back to the pink/purple scud I had started with. I hooked lots of rocks and branches on the bottom of the river, so I think I was getting my flies deep enough, but I never got so much as a bump from a fish. After a while I caught up to Ted, who had just caught his first fish on a fly he tied himself! It was a healthy 11 inch brown on a Pink Squirrel, and his excitement renewed my determination to keep fishing, which we did fruitlessly for another hour or so.
Purple/Pink Scud which caught no fish...
Spearfish Special, which also caught no fish...

At the end of the day, the two of us caught exactly that one trout, although Ted thought he had at least one other bite. The best thing that happened to me was that I found out that my long underwear still fits despite my expanding waistline. It was exactly as I remembered Wintertime fishing to be, and I hope that I don't do it again for at least another 10 years. Unless somebody invites me to go, then I will probably drop everything and run out the door...

The gear for the day, which worked flawlessly despite my efforts.

Gear used: I used my newly acquired Fenwick Fenglass 7'6" 5wt fiberglass rod. It's one of the new glass rods by Fenwick, and it was awesome. I paired it with my trusty old Lamson LP-2 reel, which balanced it very nicely.




Thursday, February 15, 2018

Minor Miracle

We had a minor miracle occur in my Beginning Fly Tying class tonight. Tonight's main theme was dubbing, so my students learned how to tie a Partridge & Orange wet fly, a Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear nymph, and my dubbed body Rubber Leg Beadhead Prince nymph. Everything was going smoothly through the first two flies, but then I reached into my bag of materials and found out that I brought exactly the same amount of beads as there were people tying. That meant that if anyone dropped their bead, and beginning students often do, I didn't have any extra beads to give them! Oh no!

I tried to keep calm as I handed out the beads. I wanted to start sweating, but sweaty hands mean slippery beads, so I held it in the best that I could. Through clenched teeth I explained how the holes in the beads are countersunk, and how they should put the small hole on the hook point first. Everything seemed to be going OK, but then a student showed me how his bead wasn't going around the bend of his hook. Knowing that if he tried to force it he could easily jar the bead loose and send it shooting across the room, I offered to try my hand at getting his bead on. That's when the miracle occurred. Despite my years of practice and steely-eyed determination, I made a misstep, and I in fact jarred the bead loose and sent it shooting across the room. Actually it shot into the side of my foam tool caddy, ricocheting back towards me and my lap. I wasn't sure where it went at first, so I checked everywhere: on my seat, in my jeans' pockets, in my belly button. It was nowhere to be found. I figured it had bounced onto the floor and rolled all the way across the room, never to be seen again. But then I looked in the bottom of my garbage bag that is attached to my vise, and there it was, looking up at me through its small hole. Or maybe it was its big hole, I was too excited to pay attention...My student's Rubber Leg Beadhead Prince nymph wouldn't have to go beadless! It was truly a minor miracle...
Maybe from now on I should use these beads when I teach a Beginning Tying class...
At least they wouldn't roll away very easily...

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Last Fly Blues

Maybe it's just me, but my last fly oftentimes sucks. I don't care how many of a certain fly I have been tying, and how good they all look, that last one is usually the worst of the bunch. Why is that? Does that happen to anyone else?

Nowadays when I tie I am usually tying for production, trying to meet a deadline for one of my local fly shops. That doesn't mean I sit down and tie 6 or 8 dozen at a time or anything. Most nights, after the kids go to bed, I have time for a half dozen or maybe a dozen flies before I pass out. I don't think that's enough to ever really get into "autopilot" mode, where the flies appear without my putting any thought into them. But I am able to get into a pseudo-rhythm, so with a minimum of thought I can get most of my flies to look pretty good, and without any major mess-ups on my part.
What the first eleven Hi-Viz Parachute Adams look like: good proportions, everything in its place.

But then I get to the last fly of the night. You would think that by the last one everything would work out as well as can be expected, but for some reason my last flies have a tendency to look abnormal at best, and completely deformed at worst. I don't get it. Is it because I am excited to be done and don't pay attention as well as I had been? I try to do all the same thread wraps as before. I try to cut the same amount of pheasant tail fibers as before. I try to wind the hackle in the same direction as before. Yet, somehow, something happens to make me mess up. Sometimes the thread breaks. Other times the wire gets gnarled. Some feathers seem to have a mind of their own. Tails and/or wings want to roll around to the wrong side of the hook. I trim things I don't want to trim. I accidentally knock my lamp off the table, it instantly ignites when it crashes on the wood floor, and the house burns down...Those are just examples...
What the last Hi-Viz Parachute Adams looks like: body is too fat, wing post is floppy, hackle is going everywhere, and tail is limp. No good!

After much soul-searching and brainstorming, the only thing I can think of that might keep all these last fly catastrophes from happening is to not ever tie a last fly again. Instead of getting out 6 hooks and tying 6 flies on them, I think I will get out 7 hooks but only tie 6 flies. Or get out 13 and tie 12. I'm not sure what else I can do... I've gotta try something, I don't want my house to burn down!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Exhibitionist


That's a titillating title for a blog post, isn't it? I bet I got some new readers with that one! I know I would have had a hard time not clicking on it... 😀

Ahh, but the reason I called it The Exhibitionist is because I am putting on a virtual art exhibit of a bunch of photos I recently found. When my dad died last month, we had to look through old photos to show at the funeral, and while doing so I also found a bunch of forgotten old pics from past fishing trips. There aren't any big fish pics, but lots of scenery and river scenes. Apparently I believe that the roads and trails to and along rivers can be just as scenic as the rivers themselves, so there are a few of them. And some fish, too. Hope you like my photo exhibition!
Forest Trail

Unknown Lake
Birch Trail

Fryingpan

Heading Home

At The Farm

Through The Birches

25 Pounds Ago In South Dakota


Day Dreaming


Ron On The Kinnickinnic (I Think...)

Whatever Happened To My Trout Magnet...?
Rocky Trail

Whitewater Fog

Monday, February 5, 2018

Lamson Love

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about all of the fly reels I have purchased, and how I had almost as many reels as I did rods (How Many Reels?). Well, soon after writing that post, I came to the realization that I didn't need all those reels, and especially all the different brands of reels that I had accumulated. Why was I continuing to search for the best brand of reel out there when I had owned the answer for almost 20 years? The Lamson LP series of reels are the best reels I have ever owned, so I set out to sell off most of my other reels and fill my reel bag with Lamsons.

My first Lamson LP was the LP-2 that I purchased new back in the 90s to pair with my then-new Sage LL 586. It's been my workhorse reel all those years since, and has never let me down. The drag works perfectly, it has a lovely purr whilst spinning, and it looks good, too. I bought an extra spool for it a long time ago which harbors a 6wt line, so the LP-2 can adorn many of my fly rods.
My original LP-2. Isn't it beautiful?

Now I also own an LP-1 Lite for my 3wt rods, an LP-1.5 and an LP-1.5 Lite for my 4wt rods, and an LP-2 Lite for my shorter/lighter 5wt rods. If you don't know the difference, the Lite versions are click reels, and the regular versions have a disk drag. The drag adds some weight, so therefore the non-drag reels are called "Lite". For a second there I also owned an LP-3, which I planned to use for my 7wt rods, but it was one of the old versions with a solid aluminum body without any holes, and the lack of holes proved to be too heavy for my liking. So, off it went.
From left: LP-1 Lite, LP-1.5, LP-1.5 Lite, LP-2, LP-2 Lite

Lamson doesn't make the LP series of reels any more, but you can oftentimes find them used on ebay or other sites. Lamson makes other terrific reels, too, so you should also probably check out their current line-up. As a matter of fact, why don't you do that, and leave all the LP's for me...
What a line-up!

Friday, February 2, 2018

On The Air

I live in a major metropolitan area. There is something like 3.28 million people living in that metro area, if you can believe the statisticians at Google. And while my house is in what you would probably call an "inner-ring" suburb, it's only a handful of miles from a major urban downtown, filled with skyscrapers and city buses and all of the other stuff you would associate with a downtown area. As you can imagine, being the tree-hugging, fly fishing kind of guy that I am, I don't go downtown very often. But it's there, in case I need it for some odd reason.

You might think that my actual town, the inner-ring suburb I mentioned earlier, which is home to about 25,000 people, might be a mini version of its big neighbor city: people rushing back and forth, Millennials and coffee shops on every corner, all of the other stuff that big cities are known for. That's kind of true, but it also has a lot of elements that are more reminiscent of a small town. One of those elements is the local television "news" show.

New Brighton Now! is a show that highlights the people, places, and events that happen around my town, and for some reason they have been inclined to have me on not once, but twice, to talk about my upcoming fly tying classes and tie a fly. Last year I tied a silver wooly bugger. Last week I was on again and tied a purple Skidmark. I was happy with my appearance, mostly because I didn't faint under the hot lights. Take a look and see what you think. And if you're in my major metropolitan area and you want to take some fly tying lessons, make sure you sign up!


Skidmark

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Fishin' Trip

I don't mean to sound like I am complaining about this, I am merely stating a fact. I haven't been on a fishing-only trip for something like 8 years. Now that I am sitting here racking my brain, I can't remember if my last fishing trip was when we (my cousin Grahm and I) went up to northwestern Wisconsin on a futile attempt to catch muskies, or when we (my cousin Grahm and I) went over to eastern Wisconsin on a near-futile attempt to catch lake run browns, cohos and steelhead in some Lake Michigan tributaries. I am pretty sure those two trips happened in consecutive autumns, but for the life of me I can't recall which one happened first. Or maybe they happened in the same autumn. Or maybe they were several years apart but all my fishing memories are now jumbled up in one big ball of brain matter... I suppose I could go back and look through photos to see if I could pinpoint the dates of those trips, but that seems like a lot of work, so I'm not going to. I do know that my oldest daughter was alive, because I recently found a photo of Grahm holding her in our old house, and the only reason he would have been in that location was because we were going fishing. The oldest daughter is now almost 9, so you can do the math, if you're still reading this...
Grahm and my oldest daughter, when she was a baby. Grahm is on the right. Sorry, ladies, he's spoken for.

I'm not saying I never get to fish. I still fish quite a bit. But now that we have 4 kids, most of our camping trips are family-oriented, so my fishing time usually comes at the end of the day or in the early morning. And sometimes, heaven forbid, we go camping in places that aren't even near water...

No water...
I haven't gone on a trip in which I get up at the crack of dawn(ish), fish all day, stopping only to scarf down a granola bar for lunch and pee, and crawling back to the campsite to eat uncooked Rice-A-Roni straight out of the box before collapsing into my sleeping bag, only to get up and do the same thing the next day, for far too long!

But, it looks like I am going to get to do that in a few months!!! My buddy Bryon and I are planning a 3-day camping and fishing trip to SE Minnesota in May.
We will try to hit the sometimes-glorious Mothers Day caddis hatch on some high-quality trout streams down in the area, and the only thing I will have to think about will be which rod do I use each day.
Which rod...?
Other than that, we will be fishing, fishing, and then we will do some more fishing. I am starting to get a little excited. Can you tell?