Thursday, May 22, 2014

Double Rigs - OK they work.

"Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains." - Henry David Thoreau

I think I mentioned in one of my other posts that there are two kinds of religion when it comes to fly fisherman, the dry fly fisherman and the nymph fisherman. And in the post I pretty much claimed myself as a dry fly fisherman. I am not sure why I do not enjoy fishing more with nymphs. I think maybe it is because I can't see what is going on very well, because all of the action happens underwater. I think for me half the fun is watching the fish eat the dry fly off the surface or watch him follow it and his instinct take over and decide there is something not quite right and decide not to eat. That to me is the essence of fly fishing.

 Now saying all of that, I know that isn't even a reasonable way to think, because a huge percent of a trout’s diet comes from nymphs and sub-surface food sources. So in other words, if you want to catch fish you have to learn to nymph fish, if even just a little bit. And saying all of that, I know how to nymph fish and am kinda good at it, meaning that I can usually tell the difference between a fish strike and a rock, but I am certainly not an expert or even close to it. I just don’t enjoy it very much, which is why I don’t fish that way very often.

Last night I was supposed to meet a co-worker up the Pan for an evening of fishing. He never showed, but I fished. I resolved to myself yesterday while I was on my way up to my spot on the Pan that I was going to nymph all evening no matter what. I was going to fish a double rig and I was going to catch a fish. So to my non-fly-fishing below is photo of what that rig looks like. At the top of the rig you have your indicator (which is essentially a bobber, but in fly-fishing it is called a strike indicator or just an indicator) then down a ways depending on how deep you want to fish is the first fly, this one is usually a bigger fly than the second fly. There are a lot of combinations and thoughts behind these rigs. In fact there are hundreds of books written about nymphing and rigging. It is a science all in itself.  

I got all rigged up with a size 16 pheasant tail and a size 18 black zebra midge. I don’t use split shot for weight. Every fly fisherman in the world just moaned and called me an idiot. And I am OK with that. The theory there is the split shot gets the fly down to the fish, I get it believe me but I prefer to use bead-head flies for weight, I feel the rig drifts more naturally. But that is me. Anyway, 5 casts in I saw that indicator pause and dart sideways just enough I knew I had a good strike, I lifted up my rod and sure enough felt the weight on the end of the line. Fish on. A few seconds later I had a very nice brown in the net. He took the zebra midge. I was as proud as new father looking at his baby for the first time as I set that fish back in the river. As I continued to fish I changed the second fly a few times as things weren't happening looking for that perfect combination. I went from that zebra midge to an RS-2, then a Juju baetis, a prince nymph and then finally a fly that I tied. Which is pictured below. It is tied on a size 16 scud hook using a glass bead, red ultra-wire and some peacock ice dubbing. Pretty basic fly as far as tying goes but it is cool looking if nothing else.

I was moving up and down my favorite run on the Pan which includes Melissa’s Run and The Rock. I got to one of favorite runs that has not yet been named. I had a great drift going in a perfect seam and sure enough I saw a nice flash of a fish body and then my indicator went down. I got a good hook set and started the fight. Another brown in the net a minute later, this was a nicer one, about 18” long and fairly fat, best part? He took the fly that I tied. After I let him go I was once again beaming with pride, as a fly-fisherman there is no better feeling in the world as catching a fish on a fly that you tied yourself. 

After a quick check of my rig and adjusting the depth of the indicator I was back in. A few casts later another fish, and once again on my fly. Another brown in the net, another nice fish. I removed the fly and placed him back into the cool waters of the Pan and decided to call it a night and head for home. I was very happy with the three nice fish I caught. I was able to catch fish the way I set out to catch them and that was very satisfying for me. I proved to myself a couple things, first nymphing works. (Which I already knew, but just choose to not believe it.) and two, and most importantly I do have the patience for it and it is kind of exciting. 

While I prefer dry fly fishing more I understand that nymphing is the arguably the “easiest” way to catch a trout since most of their meals come from below the surface, last night I had an absolute blast fishing. I need to get it into mode of more nymphing, because it works and it is pretty fun. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sometimes a good name is the key...

“There is certainly something in angling that tends to produce a serenity of the mind.” -Washington Irving

Because I don’t think that anyone is going to rename the FryingPan to Eric’s FryingPan or even Eric’s River, I have begun renaming my favorite fishing spots on Pan to things that make sense to me, mostly because I want to feel some sense of ownership in my river. I only have renamed a couple of spots that I fish. I thought maybe I would cover them, in case I use these names in my posts so you will have an idea of what I am talking about.

I mentioned one in an early post, Gandalf’s Stick. I got that name because I used a huge stick that looked very much like Gandalf’s staff from the Lord of the Rings movie to cross from one side of the FryingPan to the other. When I reach the side I put the stick in the rocks. Now forever to me that location will be known as Gandalf’s Stick. Gandalf’s Stick is a series of three pools in a row that is a perfect dry fly area. It is my favorite area to fish. I seem to always have a great luck here. Not sure if it is the legend of Gandalf that is in the air there, but I like to think it is
Melissa’s Run, this is a wonderful seam that Melissa fishes all of the time and between her and I she is the only one that has got a fish out of it. It is a great nymphing run, and a great area for bigger dry fly’s because it is a little faster running. She does really well in it and therefore I have named it after her.

Horse Path Pool, this is a great pool that I was fishing once and I looked up and there was a train of horses and two owners coming out of the woods. I was not expecting that at all when I went out fishing that day. I got out of the way and a dozen horses tied together came out of the woods and crossed the Pan. They apologized for making me move and for messing up my fishing. It was a very cool site to see all of those horse walking across the Pan. The pool is maybe 10’ long and a couple feet wide. There are always a lot of fish in it and they seem to like little dry fly’s. I always fish the area with my 1 weight rod.

The Rock or Eric’s Rock as Melissa calls it. Some of you maybe have seen a picture of me on my Facebook page fishing by this rock. It is a huge square rock, which always has some big fish around. It is tricky to fish because there is fast water moving around the rock and the fish seem to be in the slower water behind the rock. It is a tricky combination of casting and mending to get your fly in a perfect location to work the slower water behind the rock. The edges of the faster water has also produced fish for me. It is another favorite for me.

Pool under the Pine, this is a cool pool that is about 10” deep, it has some great little seams that run into it providing food for the always 8 or so fish that are always in it. This is a special place for me, I caught the only Brook Trout I have ever caught out of the Pan in this pool. It is just as the name says a pool under a pine tree. The pine is huge and extends branches over the pool, which shades the water, which gives the trout a place to hide. In the shadow. Casting into this pool can be tricky because you have to cast sideways to get your fly under the tree. I looked in this pool the other day and there were fish in there. I will start fishing this pool regularly now.

Jeff’s Spot, this is the first place I ever fished in the FryingPan. And also the spot in which I was lucky enough to be right in the middle of a full on Green Drake hatch. I fished this with my friend Jeff Lyons on a guide trip that I took with him. I have caught a lot of fish in this area, but never like that day with Jeff, it was a once and a lifetime occurrence.

Julie’s Spot, this is a great run that my friend Julie showed me. Maybe 200’ feet long and loaded with fish. I have caught a ton of fish in this area. Tricky to get into, the hill is a little steep, but worth the walk down the hill. I have been to this spot only one so far this year. I like this spot a little later in the summer, I have had amazing luck here fishing big Royal Wulff's and Humpy’s.

The Good Side of the Island, I found this spot last weekend. It is amazing. It is an small island in the middle of the Pan and the side that I fished was a nice calm run with lots of pools, seams and there were a lot of fish in there. I had the most interesting experience here. I found a rather nice Rainbow sitting in a hole feeding, he was eating nymphs and rising to surface bugs. I fished to him for maybe an hour. I would drift a dry, he would come up and look, and pass, I would drift the same fly again, he would rise, hit and miss. I would drift again, he lost interest. I would change flies and he the whole process would start again. We went through this process a number of times and it was really interesting to watch this fish. It was like a weird dance, where neither of us really knew what to do to meet each other. I didn't catch him and part of me is happy that I didn’t. Half the fun of that was the experience of trying to trick him and him winning. I found the experience peaceful, it seemed that it was just me, him and the water around us. This is a spot I will frequent
Bone Pile, Melissa and I found this spot this earlier year. It was marked with about 4 piles of bones from Deer and Elk. I have no idea if it was a cleaning area for hunters or what the hell happened there. There were bones everywhere in the woods leading to the river. It was pretty creepy. I am looking forward to go back to this spot when the flow of the river goes down a bit. I think it will be a great spot.

I have a lot of fun fishing here on the FryingPan and part of that fun has been naming the spots that I like to fish. If you ever fish with me. I will show you these spots and maybe you will come up with better names than I have.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ode to an Adams

"To him, all good things - trout as well as eternal salvation- come by grace, and grace comes by art, and art does not come easy." - Norman Maclean

I think that all fly fisherman have a go to fly. A fly that is their favorite, I am no exception. My favorite fly is a parachute Adams. I love the Adams, I have a million of them in my fly boxes and it is almost always the first fly I try when the trout are rising, or even if they aren't I will fish the Adams. The Parachute Adams is a fly that imitates an adult Mayfly, which means it imitates an awful lot of bugs. So in other words, it doesn’t just look like one thing, it looks like many things. One version of the story claim The Adams fly was developed in 1922 in Michigan by Leonard Hallady. He named the fly after his friend, Judge Charles F. Adams. Others claim the originator of the Adams fly is unknown. I think I like the creator unknown version better, I like to think that one day the Adams just showed up and no one knows where it came from, the fishing gods just made it appear. Yeah, I like that version better.

I fished a lot this past weekend and during that time I found an Adams on the end of my tippet for about 90% of the time I was casting. Why? Because for me it works. It is a beautiful little fly that is easy to fish. It is easy to cast, very easy to see and most importantly it catches fish. The white post, called a parachute helps to make this fly highly visible on the water. I have also seen the post tied with bright pink, orange, and even black yarn, but I think I like the white post the best. I find it the easiest for me to see. I have fished a parachute Adams down to a size 26 which is very small. The image of the Adams on the quarter is a size 22, so a 26 is a bit smaller. But even with something that small, that white post is easy to spot and stands out like a beacon of hope as it gently drifts down the stream. I think that is one of the main reasons I like it so much, I can see it very well. And when you are dry fly fishing, half the battle is being able to see your fly.

I was laughing to myself this past weekend, I had just arrived at the location that I was going to fish on the FryingPan, I stopped and looked around for bug activity and seeing none, I thought perfect, Parachute Adams time. I should have been fishing with nymphs, but to me I would rather practice my casts and my dry drifts then fish properly and actually catch a fish or two. I kid, but what I mean is I have a lot of faith in my ability to fish an Adams and I have pulled out a lot of fish using an Adams when there wasn't a bug in the air and I was hoping that day would be no exception… Fifth cast in I had my first fish of the day. Another victory using the Adams. A nice Brown came up to check out the size 18 Adams that was floating above him, he decided to eat and a minute later he was in my net wondering how that bug beat the crap out of him. I reached into my net, grabbed the confused fish, said hello, carefully removed the Adams and sent that Brown back on his way. I remember I took a moment and looked at the fly and thought, “this is my favorite fly and I have to let the world know.” I have now done that, me and my parachute Adam’s have a good relationship. It is my favorite fly and it is for a good reason. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

It starts somewhere.

“Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise.”  ― Horace

   My fly fishing beginnings are humble. When I bought my first fly rod I was a hardened Largemouth Bass fisherman, in fact at the time there was nothing better than catching a bucket mouth on a yellow single bladed spinnerbait in Forest Lake and Lake Kohlmann. But like all things I wanted to try to catch Bass in another way, so for some reason I thought about getting a fly rod. I went to Burger Brothers in Roseville MN and talked to a sales person whom asked me about my fishing and what I fished for and put me into an 8’ 6 weight St Croix Rod and a Browning reel. He helped me pick out line and spooled the reel with backing and put my line on for me. There were weird knots to tie and I told him I didn't know them, so he showed me as he went along as he helped set up my new gear. I bought a couple leaders and a few flies, I was mostly set.

   I went home and looked at my new stuff and thought, “Now what?” There was no internet to watch YouTube videos to learn how to do anything fly fishing related. So I went out in my front yard and tried casting. I guess I really never thought of books, or taking a lesson, teach yourself seemed to be the way to go. I certainly know now that it wasn’t, but for someone that had never had a fly rod in their hand or even really thought much of fly fishing, the casting motion came fairly natural to me. I was able to get a fly out about 30 feet or so with minimal problems, which I figured would be enough for what I wanted to do. My next task was to find some waders which I did the next day I think if I remember right. After all my new gear was procured, it was time to go out and give it a try. At the time I was dating a girl whom luckily for me was an avid fisherman as well and enjoyed being out on the water as much as me. We would take my little 14’ boat out on area lakes and fish for hours. It truly was a great time of my life. Not much of a job, I lived at home with my parents, didn’t need much money, so I fished a lot and I fished with a person whom at the time cared for deeply. We had a great time together always on the water but, saying that she didn’t have much interest in fly fishing so she would come with me and sit on the shore and read while I attempted this odd way to catch fish. The first place I ever used my new fly rod was at Lake Johanna in Roseville MN, it is a smaller lake with a sand bottom, a fair amount of aquatic weeds in the right places, but more importantly it was loaded with pan fish, Largemouth bass, Northerns and Muskie. In fact the only Muskie I have ever had on my line was at that lake, but that is a story for another day.  Lisa set up shop on the shore with a blanket and her book, while I geared up and waded in a bit. I will never forget it; I put on a glo-bug fly and started casting (badly). I remember the guy at Burger Brothers told me to get the fly out and “strip” it in and showed me a few different stripping styles, well sure enough about 2 casts in I had my first fish on a fly. It was a very bold little sunfish that hammered that little glo-bug. I don’t think Lisa could believe that I actually caught a fish so quickly, but when I think about it, Sunfish eat anything, the fly or presentation doesn’t really matter when it comes to them, they are aggressive and hungry.  So saying that it really wasn’t all that impressive like I thought maybe it was.

   I remember many days at Lake Johanna with my friend catching sunny after sunny, and then finally I got my first Bass on a fly. I think if I remember right he was maybe 8” long, but as Bass go he put on the aerial show, a couple nice jumps from the lake to show that he wasn’t giving up. It was truly an amazing feeling at the time to accomplish what I set out for. A Largemouth Bass on a fly! I fished for a few years like that. That St Croix got a lot of use. I caught a lot of fish with that rod. Sadly I never got into any big Bass, but lots of 10” – 14” fish so that was always a good time. I always wanted to get a big one, but it never happened.  My biggest Bass was 22.75” which was a beast. I have still have the photo of her. I should scan that to digital and post it. I was young, good looking and that fish was massive!

   The thought of catching Trout never even crossed my mind as I remember those early days; it was only Bass and panfish.  I do remember seeing a video of a guy catching a bonefish on a fly rod and I was mesmerized. That was now my goal, to hook a Bone on a Crazy Charlie fly and watch the line peel off my reel as he runs for the horizon on some lonely flat in the Caribbean.

   While my understanding and love of fly fishing has changed over the years and Lisa and I have parted ways, my goal of hooking a Bone has stayed with me. I don’t fish for Bass much at all anymore; I haven’t caught one in years, it is all trout now. But that idea of standing knee deep in that warm blue water, sight casting to a single Bone tailing and seeing my Crazy Charlie skirting across the bottom out of the corner of his eye, coming to investigate, eating and making that run to the edge of the ocean still weigh heavily on my mind. I will catch a Bonefish before I stop fly fishing. I want to hold one in my hand, I want to see that silver/gray skin up close, shit I might burst into tears when I pull him out of the water to take that Charlie out of his mouth. I will not apologize or be embarrassed at all if that were to happen, because only I will understand the road that brought me to that moment in my fishing time.

   I think about this story every once and a while when I am out fishing. My fishing places are different now, the Eagle River, Roaring Fork, the Yampa, the Blue River and my beloved FryingPan, which are all world class fly fishing locations. My roots are in Lake Johanna in Roseville Minnesota, which no world class fly fisherman has ever heard of. I remember those times with Lisa, learning to fly fish, catching sunnies and thinking I was a great fly fisherman! It is both funny and sad how things change. That time in my life there was nothing else but fishing and a girl. No real responsibilities, no cares, no worries. But those things are what brought me to now, and I wouldn’t change any of it.