Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Getting Down ~ the Depthcharge Worm

Sometimes you gotta get down.

And though that proclamation might be salient to a spectrum of occasions, it is certainly applicable to fly presentation, in a pragmatic, utilitarian sense. And often.

There are several ways to get down while using a floating line: sink compound applied to the leader; mini-jigs; heavy beadheads; splitshot; & also heavy wire wrapped under the fly body, my own preference.

The wormlike flies in the photo are actually sinkers, meant to be rigged as the front fly on a tandem fly setup (what I call a ‘depthcharge rig’). They contain about a splitshot’s worth of lead & sink like ‘right now’. As there is no hackle or fuzzy material to buoy or sail them, they sink & drift with very little resistance. They are made of rubber bands recycled from the daily newspaper. Being rubber & thin they aren’t as grabby & hitch-y as beads or jigs or shot, probing the bottom & lower water column with a nice, smooth ‘feel’ & seldom snagging. These are the easiest handling & smoothest casting of any type of sinker I’ve tried.

The depthcharge rig with sinking worm is my favorite way to deliver small soft-hackle flies deep. It is the non-weighted trailing fly that I’m trying to catch a fish on, though the sinker catches pretty good too. Generally, about 1 in 3 or 4 gets fooled by the sinker, but there are times the sinker is all they want. And I’ve had it happen more than once, the sinker taking the best fish of the day.

The rubber ‘worm’ simulates a lot of things commonly found in & around trout streams, particularly aquatic worms & beetle larvae & also land-born caterpillars. Trout eat a lot of these (pin a real one on & see what happens) & their obvious bait value to fly fishers is often overlooked for no good reason – & considering the worm shape low in the hierarchy of acceptable baits serves no purpose but a hindrance to fun.    

A simple worm made from a green rubber band works well on streams shaded by a deciduous canopy, where a lot of green caterpillars accumulate & fall into the water through the warm months.

These might be tied smaller or larger but I’ve found a #10 to be handiest for most trouting. I tie worm sinkers on TMC 200R hooks, which serve to give a nice shape, & keel to ride hook-up when weighted. Barbless versions (TMC 200RB) of this hook are available, though in my own experience the design’s shallow bend configuration does not hold fish well in barbless mode. However, the 200R possesses a tiny barb & backs out without doing serious damage – & if one needs to go barbless the barb can be pinched down leaving a nub which helps to keep the hook from falling out of the fish’s mouth or, more important, the trailer tippet slipping off in a fight.

Used tandem with a trailer fly on 12 to 20 inches of tippet tied to the hook bend, depthcharges can be fished dead-drift on an upstream cast, or quartered & swung, & are good for plunking pocket water on swift freestone streams. The Depthcharge Worm is a zen-clean way to present & fish a wee soft-hackle fly in the lower water column where it is likely to serve best most of the time.

Depthcharge Worm

Hook: #10 TMC 200R

Thread: yellow or choice

Body: rubber band – tied in well down the hook bend & wound to the hook eye – these can be painted with colored markers, the mottled effect is achieved by marking the rubber strip before stretching – cut the strip end at a steep angle & tie in by the tip for a neat rear taper – prior to winding the body, apply two layers of .015 lead wire, the top layer slightly shorter & centered over the base layer (specimen in the photo shows extent of leading), then shape with thread or floss until the lead is covered & an elongated cigar shape is achieved – apply cement to the thread body, then wind the rubber when the cement is tacky  ~ & finish.        

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Yak Sardina

     I keep saying tailing is the simplest way to achieve articulation. So here is an example of a design that is all the way there – about as simple as you can get.

Ever notice that the good flies, the true workhorses, are usually fairly simple? Idiotic-simple in some cases. I’m all about idiotic-simple. I consider it a goal & an ideal.

Also, probably too often, I *spew about the superiority of natural hair fibers. Here is why: it is because natural hair is superior to synthetic hair for most bait-making applications. Wild hair is constructed on a ‘spine’ & has memory. It can also be ‘trained’ & will keep & return to the desired shape. Natural hair possesses nuance of coloration; gathers & reflects UV light; allows obfuscating light to pass through; breathes & undulates lasciviously when wet; does not tangle with itself requiring combing out &, this is important, unlike synthetic, wild hair doesn’t droop when the fly is paused. Not saying I don’t use synthetics because I do. But in hair streamers I prefer to use it as a lateral line sandwiched between layers of natural hair. Non-crinkly synthetic fibers, tending to lie together without much flare, work really well as a lateral coloration in an all-hair baitfish pattern.

Natural hair gives baitfish designs the same mojo that natural materials give insect imitations. Nothing mimics life better than life.        

*Spew: It’s my karma work. Made a deal with the thing that lives on my shoulder (not sure if it’s a devil or angel) & it gave me this. The affect is similar to tourette’s I think. No worries. Avoid eye contact, I won’t come up to you at the parking lot.

My take on the Sardina is based on the pattern as tied by Captain Vaughn Podmore.

Can be adapted to simulate most any baitfish. I tie mine with clear mono tying thread. Before adding the eyes & cementing the head, I hold the fly in a stream of hot water under the sink faucet for a minute to shape it, as you would a bucktail or flatwing.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Damn Near Straight Rabbit Leech

     I got the first leech on me at the age of eight, the summer I’d amassed enough sand to swim from the family dock out to the island in the center of Tucker Pond. A nice one. About two inches long. Noticed it there, dangling alien spade-headed wormlike critter, undulating from the center of my chest as I emerged gasping from the pond aiming to claim the island’s fabled blueberries. I ripped it away & a drop of blood streamed down. That was ikky, I thought. Took the celebratory juice out of my right-of-passage swim-to-the-island victory for a minute.

That was also the summer of my first truly big bass, taken on a black/blue flake rubber worm, a new thing. And I later learned that a lot of other fish besides largemouth bass like the black/blue combination.

The rabbit ‘leech’ (DNSR Leech) pattern featured here has become one of my staples for dredging Eastside Washington lakes, I like a #4, makes about a two-inch ‘leech’, & I doubt that it is taken for a leech, in that size, as the real leeches I’m seeing in the local lakes are under an inch long – which accounts for the popularity of mini-leeches, I think – & this pattern can be tied on a #12 & fished as a mini-leech. But I like the big ole #4 tied on a TMC 200R drop-bend hook (which serves to keel the fly – lake fish don’t want to see it rolling & screwing through the water) fished deep on a full-sinking line or 15’ sinking head.

Size & silhouette reminds me more of a dragonfly nymph or a sculpin than a leech…

Good smallmouth bass fly. Brookies & browns too. And it does travel to running water as well.

DNSR Leech

Hook: #4 TMC 200R

Thread: wine UNI 8/0

Tailing: black rabbit fur (taken from a strip or whole hide) layered with 2 strands blue flash/2, red flash – tie in ahead of the hook point – apply a drop of penetrating cement at the tie-in point (I keep saying it: tailing is the simplest way to achieve articulation.)

Body: black rabbit w/guard hairs mixed with chopped red & blue flash, on a dubbing loop of the tying thread, or wine 3/0 or sewing thread on larger sizes, if you like           

Collar: black rabbit fur spread around the hook shank as a collar ~ & finish.

Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Soft-Hackle Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear

     Though I have featured the Hare’s Lug & Plover, a popular British version, it occurred to me that three years into writing the Soft~Hackle Journal & I have not yet archived my own take on the Hare’s Ear. Versions of the Hare’s Ear have been in use for the entire history of Anglo fishing literature, & no doubt were fooling English trout well before the advent of print. I’ve overlooked the ancient pattern, fearing redundancy, considering it already covered ad infinitum. Forgive me. And some things do bear repetition. There might be kids reading who really need to know this.

Example: Once had a guy show up to fish with a boxful of neatly tied flies (beadheads on all of em) & not a single plain old Hare’s Ear wet of any kind in his box. The guy had strong ideas about what works. He let me know he’d fished Patagonia every year for twenty years. But the upper Columbia redband, being canny wild trout, were not appreciating his impressive resume or his beaded enticements. Spotted sedge stormed from the reach, & the trout preferring the emerging pupae accumulating just beneath the surface film. The beadhead caddis ‘emerger’ the guy insisted on did not present the way the trout wanted it, the gold beadhead serving to sink the fly too quickly out of the preferred zone, & that soon became obvious while fish tailed all around us. He made a face when I opened my box & offered him the wee Hare’s Ear, but took it without a word, tied it on, & was soon into a nice UC redband. To be fair, the guy was a passionate angler, he was simply temporarily stuck in a frame.  

Moral of the story (if I may paraphrase): He who lives by one thing will, on some days, die by that thing.

If you don't already, I’d suggest you carry a couple beadless Hare’s Ears with you & be able to meet a spectrum of circumstances & hatches they will cover. Can’t go wrong with a soft-hackle Hare’s Ear when meeting spotted sedge hatches – & the same pattern tied with an olive abdomen covers grannom, as well as others. And the pattern is equally useful fished for both mayflies & the smaller stonefly species. The Hare’s Ear imitates nothing, yet looks like everything – a delightfully utilitarian, ambiguously dangerous combination, bottom to top.     

There is no disputing the fish catching mojo of rabbit face as a tying material, evidenced by the many versions of the Hare’s Ear we see – with & without hackle or tails – with hare’s mask the only material in common.  And I think there may be as many versions of this fly as there are tyers interpreting it. 

The version featured here is my own take, though I doubt the material list is original. It may be tied without tailing to simulate sedge larvae & pre-emergent pupae, though I fish the tailed version as an emerger during sedge hatches, as the tailing serves to represent a trailing nymphal shuck. I tie them both weighted & not.

S-H Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear

Hook: #10-#18 Daiichi 1150

Thread: tan UNI 8/0

Tail: mallard flank, wood duck or gadwall – 3 to 5 fibers (This is a departure from the popular guard hair tailing, & I think an improvement.)

Rib: oval gold tinsel – metallic rod-wrapping thread is good

Body: reddish hare’s mask taken from the base of the ears, dubbed on a loop of the tying thread, wound to the head – overwrap with gold ribbing to the head, then add a bit of dubbing mixed with guard hairs from the ear & wind on a short thorax (I wind a short thorax on all my soft-hackle nymphs to create silhouette & mass & to keep the hackle flared away from the body.)

Hackle: ruffed grouse, & partridge or brahma hen are good – & finish.

Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird: