Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Wee Softies at the Bitter End

     Nero fiddled while Rome burned. The ship’s band struck up a tune while the Titanic surrendered to the cold Tao sea.

In NE Washington we’re into a third week of daily temps ranging into the low 100’s. There are a great number of forest fires burning in the region & some of them are very close.  Lots of smoke in the air; the sunsets cooked to a bloody medium-rare. I worry about our ten acres of pine, thickly assembled like a thirsty army waiting beneath a hubcap-bright sun.

In addition to unrelenting high temperatures, the entire State of Washington is being visited by a plague of wasps. Never seen so many yellowjackets, & they’ve become aggressive in the heat. It’s dangerous to sit outside on the porch – & too hot anyway.

The large mayflies of early summer are long gone – & the smatterings of wee mayflies disappeared with the onset of July’s full moon. All that are left to get trout up & visibly feeding are the ever-present, reliable Spotted Sedge, their peak emergence season also past, though they will persist until the end of August, the daily emergence shrunk down to a spotty shooter at twilight.

The trout are edgy & light sensitive, not feeding until the evening sedge emergence gets underway. Even then, there aren’t a lot of them showing –  one here, a couple there – on the eddy seams trailing from the points. Having seen a fanciful assortment of imitation insects at this point in the season, & a good many of them hook-stung, the trout are hyper-wary, their lateral lines functioning as bare-wired bullshit meters so sensitive they can detect even the most innocuous ghost of a presence, & that sure to put them down.

When the world is on fire it’s good to live beside a river. You can fish. You can fish that last hour. If you are careful & do everything right there is time for one trout – maybe two on a good night. They are close, a long cast isn’t required. But the presentation must be perfect, a barely perceptible whisper of a presentation, the wee softie placed well above the working trout. I’m down to the 6’ 3wt glass, matched with the little Pflueger I acquired in 1963, a cooler year. Though just long enough, the 12’ leader is about as long as the 6-foot rod will comfortably handle. The 3-pound test tippet is as light as I dare go, but is okay in the near dark. Considering the size of the trout heavier would be better, but any heavier brings noticeably fewer takes, even in low light.

A wee soft-hackle fly will turn the trick alright, though it must be the same size & profile as a natural sedge emerger. The Hares Ear variant pictured at left has been the choice fly lately. It is tied on a #14, 1x long hook, so it is about a standard #16. It is dressed with a bit of gold antron mixed with natural hares mask, the thorax dubbed over with straight hares mask. The color closely matches a Spotted Sedge pupa – & it looks like a lot of other things too, including small mayflies. Hard to improve on the Partridge & Hares Ear, though the addition of gold antron to the dressing does make a killing version.

There is a lot of fire, & feet must be held to it. That one good trout in the evening is a fun & satisfying game, yet it is a game we are within sight of losing, & it may be the least of what we stand to lose – I hope you are aware dear readers. If you think eliminating world-destroying activities & policies will cause you to lose money & result in all of us living a lower standard of life, then you need to rethink that shit. I promise you the contrary.

I hope, as we go through another round of elections, that you will engage & hold prospective leader’s feet to the fire regarding the affects of climate change. Past time we need to bring this issue to the fore. There is nothing more important. We fiddle & faff & catch the last trout at the bitter end. Or we assume sane stewardship of the living world. Not trying to overstate or be righteous, just trying to be real in light of things as they are.                            

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Steal This Book

     Back in 2010 Amato Books published something I wrote about my home water, namely the book pictured on the left, a collection of essays & short memoirs with a section on fly patterns that pretty much reflects what I was thinking, tying & fishing twenty years ago.  Recent evidence indicates the book is still in print & available from Amato or Amazon.

I know the book is still in print because, a few days ago, curious, I checked. I was curious because in accord with my contract with the publisher I’d received a modest royalty check about six months after publication, but have never received one since. Hey, proof I’m not in it for the money.

Have you ever googled yourself? I never had until curiosity about the book got me searching for reviews of it &, surprised, I found a few.  Also surprising, the reviews are pretty good. I’ve never heard of any of the reviewers, & wondered if the publishers had actually paid these people to write these things. One reviewer found the prose “cinematic” & “immersive” & wondered out loud if the author wrote that way intentionally (as if the writing is unintentional & accidently affecting). Most interesting & mysterious though, was the latest review, which wasn’t really a review but a mention in a piece about cult fly fishing books. Apparently, at least according to the writer, my book has achieved ‘cult’ status.

That all got me thinking. Is ‘cult’ a label we give to obscure movies or books that do not sell very well though a few people like them, or are there actual fly fishing book cults who are privy to a secret network known only to initiates of the cult?

Jack Mitchell, owner of the Evening Hatch guide service, bought a copy of the book & added it to the library at Black Bear Lodge on the upper Columbia. The book occupied a wee niche on the lodge’s bookshelf for six or seven years & was read then returned by numerous guests. Then, last season, the book disappeared. Jack informed me of the book’s mysterious disappearance. He suspected it had been stolen. I let the news sink in for a few moments, grimaced, put on a shocked & disappointed expression & shook my head, all the while secretly delighted & proud that somebody would like my book enough to put virtue, fear of getting caught & fear of hellfire aside to steal it.

Maybe the person who took the book was a member of The Cult. Perhaps entry into the cult requires one to steal the book. A pact sealed with a crime. Who knows. Maybe everybody but me is in on it ~         

Thursday, June 14, 2018

March Browns of June

     The spate has gone by & the home water is finally clearing & coming into shape. The native redbands, most of them thinking only of sex for the last two months, are now done with spawning & looking around for something to eat. With abiding synchronicity nature has timed the end of the spawning season to coincide with the onset of the year’s heaviest insect hatches.

As the spate diminishes, the bugs get going. If you watch it daily you see the progression. At first a spritzer of sedges. Some BWO’s on cloudy days. Nothing but a handful of tidlers up & going on them. It feels dead, but don’t be fooled, the clouded silt is a veil hiding the river’s secret doings while rising pregnant in its season. It is about to give birth. Daily, hatches of wee bugs increase until about the first or second week of June, when March Brown mayflies appear. March Browns are just the thing needed to put some fat back on haggard post-spawners, & these really get things going.

A gently swung softie will generally outfish a dryfly, where I fish. Here’s one that is turning the trick right now.

UC March Brown

Hook: #10 Mustad 3366-BR (equal to a standard #12), the fly dressed small on the hook, about #14

Thread: rust-brown UNI 8/0

Hackle: partridge

Tails: bronze gadwall flank

Rib: burnt-orange floss, twisted

Body: hares mask with a bit of Hareline UV Pink Shrimp Dub chopped in ~ & finish.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

High Water Mickey Finn

     Record spate coming down the upper Columbia this year. Up to 200% above average snowpack in some places on the higher mountains to the north & east – the Kootenays, the Cabinets. Still more to come. Water coming in from the Pend Oreille, carrying topsoil from the Flathead & Pend Oreille valleys, is dang near like chocolate milk. The river is flooded into the trees & there is a concerning amount of logs & debris coming down the American Reach-Columbia mainstem.

The nutrients carried in the spate will replenish the reach. Too bad they can’t make it past the dams to the sea where they are necessary in the chain of life. If we were to be made truly great again, then imagine the great wealth & job-creating project it might be to remove the dams, restore the fish, & get going providing the grid for sustainable, low-cost power. If it is really true that “Americans can do anything,” then why do we continue to support the world-destroying status quo? I’m afraid we’ve a long, long way to go toward greatness from where we are now.

The U.S. & Canada Columbia River Treaty is up for re-negotiation in Washington D.C. this week. At nearly the last minute, in a unilateral move, it has been decided that the Columbia River Tribes on both sides of the border, & all other fisheries stakeholders, will be left out of the talks. Apparently the only legit stakeholders are the power consortiums operating the dams.

Once in a while in a fisherman’s life he must fish.

And fish have to eat. No matter how high or dirty the water, no matter how inane & short-sighted the policies of men. There are places where the determined can hammer it out. The bugs haven’t really got going yet, so I’m swinging things large-ish in visible colorations. The old Mickey Finn is a good one. I love bucktails. Bucktail has great action & allows a large pattern that is easily cast, the material providing the illusion of mass without actual bulk. Everybody knows the dressing. I like UV treated bucktail for these. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Tampering With the Royal Coachman

Playing with some patterns to swing in the high, off-color water. As a lure, there's no denying the killing attractiveness of the Royal Coachman. Of course, the old dressing begs tampering with. This one is dressed on a #4 TMC 200R hook, camel UNI 8/0 thread, golden pheasant crest tail, golden pheasant tippet wound as a collar, peacock herl body, red tinsel girdle, brown marabou rear collar, brown hen front collar, white goose Dee-style wing.   

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Dissembling Life in the Anthropocene

Getting awful hard to keep up with these people. How does this benefit us?

I still write leadership, but it feels like spitting into the wind, & seems to be about as effective. How should we address world killing policies? If somebody has the answer, I'm in.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Blue Sinixt ~ For Trout Spey

Blue Sinixt for Trout Spey ~ Steven Bird

    Been working up some lures for swinging this Spring. Pre-spawn rainbows, like steelhead, react to certain color combinations & are incited to grab (fun when they do it). The classic Atlantic salmon design frame, which has contributed much to the sea trout & steelhead fly traditions, applies to create killing wetflies for inland trouting as well. Studying classic dressings reveals creative material applications that may be applied to defining Trout Spey designs. For tiers compelled to exercise fanciful imaginations, attractor wetflies offer a satisfying outlet.

For swinging:

Blue Sinixt  

Hook: #6 TMC 200R

Thread: black UNI 8/0

Hackle: church window body feather taken from a cock ringneck pheasant

Tailing: Hareline UV Shrimp dubbing fibers

Body: rear to front – tip, blue tinsel; butt, peacock herl; girdle, blue & silver tinsel; thorax, blue dubbing

Topping: golden pheasant tippet (I dye it with an orange marker), splayed ~