Saturday, November 21, 2015

Twisted Logic ~ Lemon Twist Spider

     Most have heard, or surmised, that the color of The Universe is brown. We see the prevalence of brown in nature. I see it in my flybox, rows & rows of drab variations of brown. We see it reflected in the colorations of stream nymphs: brown, tan, olive, yellow. (Black is not a color.) Mix them all together & you have brown. 

Combine all the people of the world into one person & you will have one, large, brown person. (How do we treat others? There are no others.)

Of course, regarding simulation, we prefer to cover the spectrum. Sometimes starkly obvious variety is what we need to turn the trick.

Aside from being a good attractor in general, his one will cover a lot of specific insects – Yellow Sally & Pale Evening Dun come immediately to mind. Good to have something all-yellow in the box.

Lemon Twist

Hook: #12-#16 (foto is #12 Mustad 3366-BR)

Thread: yellow UNI 8/0

Body: yellow goose primary swords twisted with the tying thread (3 for a #12), & a short thorax of pale yellow yarn, loosely dubbed

Hackle: yellow grosbeak body feather (flew against the window with bittersweet result)(yellow hen will substitute) ~ & finish.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

An Old Thorobred

     Cruising by a yard sale I notice what looks like flyrods poking up above the assemblage of stuff. Curious, I pull over.

The rods are a Wright & McGill bamboo, & a glass Heddon Thorobred, bunched with a set of rusty golf clubs.

I look the rods over.

The guides & guidewraps are degraded & missing on both. The bamboo would need a lot of work… but do-able.

Other than needing a guide set, the Heddon blank is pristine & straight; the grip & reelseat in good shape. A two-piece, 8’, D-HDH. Considered an all-around trout rod in it’s time. It would throw 5wt or 6wt lines. I like its tobacco color – the color of old mojo.

The ferrules are good. I put it together & wave it, shaking a parabola into the air. It feels good. A lot like bamboo. At the time of its making, probably around 1952, parabolic split-cane actions were the model for Heddon’s newly introduced line of glass rods. It is surprisingly light. I picture it restored & doing business again, trying to imagine a suitable color change for the guidewraps.

 Among the items on display atop a retired coffee table are two Ocean City Wanita flyreels, the same vintage as the rods. The smaller of the reels features a mummified silk line & I presume it is mated to the old bamboo Wright & McGill. I pick up the larger reel & wind on it & it works fine. A perfect match for the Heddon glass.

A guy comes out of the garage. I try to act uninterested. The rods were his dad’s, he says. He doesn’t fly fish & he needs to make room in the garage for his monster truck.

I probably could get it for less, but my mouth jumps ahead of my brain & I hear myself offer 100 bucks for the two rods & reels.

Done deal.

Though an earlier issue, the Heddon Thorobred is very similar to the 8’, 6wt Heddon Pal my grandfather gave me in 1960. That one lived up to its name, truly a pal, until meeting its demise in the early ‘70’s when it bounced out of the bed of a friend’s pickup strapped to my backpack frame, shattering on the road. It still haunts me.

Anxiously awaiting the new guide set & some A thread for the Heddon. I’d like to fish it before the end of the year, new again. To be continued.   

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Love Pink

     There are some every year in fall. Yet it is every other year, during odd-numbered years, pink salmon, or ‘humpies’, ascend the river systems of northwestern Washington in numbers great enough to humble even the thickest among us, crowding portions of the rivers, delighting snaggers & vexing fly casters challenged to make them bite.

     The humpbacked bucks run about 3 to 6 pounds, & the autumn colored hens about 2 to 4 pounds. The hens, to my eye, are among the most beautiful of salmonids. With broad, powerful tails, humpies are strong, active fighters. Pound for pound, I’d give them the nod over chinook.

    And humpies will bite. They aren’t eating, but they are a primitive, automatic kind of fish, & they will bite the fly if the angler can figure out where their trigger button is that day. Oh, it is true that on some days, lucky days, & for mysterious reasons, humpies will go on the bite – & bite anything. But, everybody knows, that is usually not the case. Most of the time you’re left to cipher exactly how they want the fly presented.

     Fortunately, fly color is no great decision, as the humpy’s penchant for prawn colors -- combinations of red, orange, pink & white -- is a fair constant, though they do seem to appreciate a nicely detailed pattern.

   Presentation is what they’re really picky about. Common knowledge has it that humpies like the fly jigging (Clouser-style patterns are popular), & that’s true, though not always the case – & wasn’t the case on a recent trip to the Skykomish, where, I eventually found out, they wanted the fly swinging, dead-drift, tickling the bottom. Swinging. Not jigging. That made me happy.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

October Caddis ~ For Swinging

      I love September – crisp mornings & the aspens flaring like yellow candles on the higher slopes. For those of us afflicted with melancholus habitus, September is the most exquisitely melancholic month of the year. Life has emerged from summer’s oven & cooled to a glorious apple cake that will, all too soon, become a memory in winter.

For trouters, the emergence of giant, pumpkin orange Dicosmoecus (fall sedge, fall caddis, October caddis) are right up there with the best of reasons for loving September, in my neighborhood & to my mind. This is my favorite insect. With a five eighths to three quarter inch body & the wing around an inch to one & a quarter inch long, it is a large, handsome bug, lending itself to a number of imitative possibilities. I play with these through the season. Wet versions work well as swung flies &, for me, these most often out-fish dry versions of October caddis.  The one featured here has been working well on the swing.

Hook: #6 TMC 200R

Thread: rust brown UNI 8/0

Body: Umpqua October caddis blend dubbed on a loop of the tying thread – & a bit of squirrel dubbed over the thorax area

Wing (optional): turkey tail

Hackle: gadwall/orange dyed guinea hen/brahma hen ~ & finish.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Great Gray Spotted Sedge Variants

     As the ancient Egyptian seers predicted, the last full moon of August was certainly the transition moon. Weather patterns have rearranged favorably. A few nights ago, under the porch light, I discovered the first great gray spotted sedge (Arctopsyche grandis) of the season.

Great gray spotted sedge show at the end of August on the U.S. upper Columbia, just prior to the larger October caddis (Dicosmoecus); & although Arctopsyche grandis produces great hatches on some western rivers, it emerges sporadically from my home water, more a seasonal presence than a meetable hatch.
GGSS is a large insect, the body about 5/8 of an inch long & the wing about an inch long. The wing is thick & waxy, like October caddis.

Just as anglers keep a mental catalogue of the larger fish they’ve caught, so do trout keep a catalogue of the larger insects they’ve caught – drakes, salmonflies, carpenter ants, wasps, grasshoppers – & eat them (& the artificial) opportunistically through the big insect’s respective seasons. The big ones are memorable.

So it is on my home water. And even though GGSS pupae & adults are most active around dark, the imitation generally fishes well all day when these insects are present.

 As with October caddis, winged wetfly variants of great gray spotted sedge fish best for me.

For swinging:

Hook: #8 TMC 200R

Thread: camel UNI 8/0

Abdomen: 50/50 blend of Wapsi Superfine BWO & Hareline Light Olive on dubbing loop of Pearsall’s primrose yellow silk

Thorax: 50/50 pine squirrel & Hareline Brown on dubbing loop of tying thread

Wing: turkey tail (alternate wing: pine squirrel tail)

Hackle: brahma hen ~ & finish.

Soft-hackle variant:

Hook: #8 TMC 200R

Thread: camel UNI 8/0

Rib: copper wire

Body: green tinsel/thorax: 50/50 pine squirrel & Hareline brown on dubbing loop of tying thread

Hackle: gadwall/brahma hen ~ & finish.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Transition Moon~Two More Diving Sedge

     This last full moon of August truly is the transition moon, bringing blessed rain to wet the fires & clear the air, finally. There are no insects under the porch light tonight. The woods are silent. This is The Moon Of Sleeping Trout, the fish shifting feeding mode, transitioning from the wee summer sedge now dwindled to an echo, ambiguous, hidden for a time, anticipating the larger sedge of autumn that will fatten them for winter – great gray spotted sedge & October caddis – due to show, on the waning of this moon.

It's time to dispense with the summer patterns, so, in tribute to their hard work, I post the last of the diving sedge, as an addendum to my last post & a sort of end-of-the-skein for the summer season.

 In the last post, Diving Sedge, I suggested it’s a good idea to carry more than one pattern for simulating the spent sedges of late summer, as trout do exhibit regional & daily preferences, for reasons known only to their kind, for the most part. In addition to the variant of my last post, I find these useful as well for covering spotted sedge & grannom.

Though both of these patterns exhibit a different style altogether, they are both tied with a light olive silk abdomen, which serves well to simulate the shrunken abdomen of the spinner.

The first is a simple spider, the hackle, swept back when the fly is swung, serving to simulate the wings; the other, a hackle-less pattern with CDC wing. And these both have their day.

Diving Sedge Spider

Hook: #12-#18 (#14, mostly)

Thread: camel UNI 8/0

Abdomen: olive Pearsall’s silk

Thorax: pinkish-brown dubbing taken from the base of a hare’s ear

Hackle: light brown speckled hen ~ & finish.

CDC Diving Sedge

Hook: #12-#18

Thread: brown UNI 8/0

Abdomen: olive Pearsall’s silk

Thorax: squirrel dubbing

Wing: brown CDC – a single feather tied flatwing style (it will behave better if moistened with some spit & trained back before tying in) ~ & finish.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Diving Sedge

      Full moon. It will be a transition moon this month. You can feel it. At last, there’s a front moving in from the coast bringing low, heavy clouds. Strong winds ahead of the front are clearing the smoke away & bending the pines, & bursts of swallows buck the wind gathering the last of the summer caddis blown from the trees. There won't be many left for the trout. I won't fish tonight. I'll stay in, maybe tie some October Caddis, as I'm hoping to see them after this moon.

Caddis. Though it is true that trout prefer eating mayflies to caddis, mayflies (& stoneflies) aren’t nearly as available as caddis (sedge). And I believe it is true, as Gary LaFontaine sagely observed, that caddis are the most important streamborn insect to anglers. And I would add: particularly to soft-hacklers.

That is certainly true of my home water, where, with a few seasonal exceptions, mayfly hatches are stingy, sporadic affairs, rarely meeting the hopeful angler’s expectations, while caddis are on the menu April to November, with spotted sedge, the most prolific, providing reliable fishing almost daily, June through August.

Spotted sedge (Hydropsyche) is the most prolific caddis of the West. On my home water spotted sedge peak in early July & by late August emergers have diminished to a sprinkle just before dark, while, simultaneously, egg-layers & males emerged from previous nights assemble to deposit eggs, or, in the case of males, programmed for daily flights over the water at dusk, fly around until spent enough to fall (dive) into the water, as if, in their final moments of life, seeking to return to their place of origin.

Living beside the river, a lot of what’s hatching from the river is attracted to the house lights & ends up in the house. The kitchen is a convenient place to observe insect behavior. If there is water left in the sink basin caddis will invariably be attracted to it, hover above it, then plunge in, breaking the surface film. These seem perfectly at home under water, able to scoot rapidly, expertly kicking their legs & gliding, & able to keep that up for several hours without breathing air, just under the surface film. Once breaking through the surface tension they never regain the air. And though they are able to swim in rapid spurts, the buoyancy of the wings seems to prevent them from diving to a greater depth.

Which leads me to question the ‘diving down to lay eggs’ behavior often described by angling writers. I’ve not seen it. I’m seeing females dapping eggs on the water, to my mind a safer adaptation than having to dive down where there is danger of being eaten, not to mention the realistic hydrodynamics involved getting so light a being down more than a few inches in a 6-knot current. I’m just not seeing it. I may be wrong (& as a human being I reserve the right to change my mind) but my own observations lead me to think that the ‘diving’ behavior is simply the result of spent adults going for a final swim. Whatever the case, there are live adult caddis swimming under the surface film, usually enough to get a handful of trout up & going, a happy circumstance for the soft-hackler looking for a thrill on an evening during the dog days of August.

In the early season, trout prefer emerging pupae to winged adults, but in the late season, with fewer pupae available, the balance shifts to those spent adults that have been accumulating around the river, living for up to a month (or more). So late season is when ‘diving’ patterns come into play. As soft-hackle designs, these aren’t much different than the emergers I tie. The dark wing holster of the emerger is a prominent feature of the natural, so I hackle emergers with a darker wing, a dark brown brahma with heavy black mottling, or a dark mottled feather taken from a ruffed grouse, meaning the hackle to simulate the wing holsters as well as an emerging wing & legs. As adult caddis age their coloration fades somewhat (& the abdomens shrink), hence, I choose a lighter hackle on flies meant to be fished as an adult spotted sedge, a faded mottled brown or dun hen.

I carry several variants to cover adult or ‘diving’ sedge, as trout do exhibit regional, seasonal & even daily preferences for this one or that one, however, the version featured today is usually reliable & probably the most universal, as it serves to simulate a number of species, East & West. The material list for this pattern has been around for a long time. Ray Bergman described it, & it was probably in use before his time. I recall John Merwin, writing in the early 1970’s, extolling the virtues of this pattern fished in the rivers of Vermont. I consider this one an essential bait.  Any serious trouter anywhere will do well to carry these in #12-#18, & #8-#10 will cover many of the larger sedges as well.

Diving Sedge

Hook: #14 Daiichi 1150 (most used, a #15-#16 can be tied on this short-shank hook)

Thread: tan UNI 8/0

Abdomen: light olive rabbit dubbing

Thorax: pinkish-brown fur dubbing taken from the base of a hare’s ear

Hackle: watery-brown speckled hen, grouse or partridge, trained back & tied down ~ & finish.