Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Current River September, 2012

I arrived at the Baptist access before daylight.  The air temperature was around 50 degrees and a patchy fog hung in the air.  After finishing the last swig of a cup of coffee which had grown cold during the drive, I stepped out into the dark toward the sound of rushing water.  I started fishing over a large pool using a big black streamer.  I could hear an occasional splash as night feeders were smashing at something on the surface.  Once the faintest light appeared, I could see what they were feeding on.  Clouds of tricos filled the air and the trout were grouped into feeding lanes casually sipping them off the water with some indecipherable cadence.  With no trico patterns on hand I tied on the closest thing I had: a #14 white fly on 7x tippet, hoping to entice some confused trout.

After several dozen drifts over the feeding lane, one errant cast landed right on top of the feeding fish.  To my surprise a fish darted up and swiped at my fly, sadly the no hookset, but an interesting behavior to note.  I would have made nothing of it, but it happened again further upstream when casting at a different feeding lane I set the hook but it slipped out and spooked the fish.  Around this time the hatch had tapered off, so I switched to a #12 soft hackle and landed my first fish (a nice brown trout) casting this upstream and letting it drift back with no indicator, watching the end of my fly line for a pause in the drift.  I caught three more brownies using the same technique, 1 on the soft hackle and 2 on a #12 olive streamer, similar to a wooly bugger but with a yellow pheasant rump collar instead of a hackled body.

It was about time to turn around and head back downstream, and a good steady rain had started to fall.  I switched over to a #12 black wooly bugger with a bead head.  As I worked my way back downstream, I cast toward the bank angled downstream and left my fly swing across the current and dangle for a bit before moving downstream a few more steps and repeating.  I caught 3 more fish using this technique, all rainbow trout, one was nice sized.  Most fish were taken during the swing and I had two missed strikes, one on the swing and one on the dangle.  I will come back to the Current river some day, and when I do, I won't forget the #26 tricos.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Carping by Numbers

Well, the conditions were not the best to sight fish for carp but I had a personal best day on the water at least in terms of quantity.  It was partly cloudy and extremely windy with gusts up to 25 mph.  I took my canoe out to a lake I have been scouting recently and fished once for bass with no success.  The last time I was there, I noticed some serious activity on the back side of the lake.  Lots of cloopers and some real monsters tailing with reckless abandonment in about 8 inches of water ( is it still called tailing if more than half of the fish's body is sticking out of the water?).

I got on the water early and went straight to the back side of the lake.  The water was so turbid I could only see about six inches deep and I did not see any tailers near the shore so I resorted to casting to the bubbles, which indicate a potential carp rooting the bottom.  I started out with a #6 black back stabber with rubber legs and didn't get any takers for some time.  So, I switched to a #6 carp carrot with a bead head and that was the ticket.  The next set of bubbles had a hungry common that took my carrot and once boated, was a welcome sight.  After this fish the wind really picked up and the fish seemed to become more active .. maybe they felt safer with some disturbance on the water.  I noticed more fish tailing near the shore so I stalked into place as best I could with the wind pushing me around.  I managed to get a clear shot at a fish that was alternating between tailing and cruising and made a leading cast about 2' ahead of the slow cruising fish.  After the fly settled and gave it a short strip.  I felt the take before I could see it due to the water being so muddy and a great fight ensued.  

All in all I had 7 solid hookups and boated 3 common carp, which is a personal best for me in terms of numbers.  This trip was also the first time I have caught a carp while fishing from a canoe.  Stalking carp from a canoe I feel has several advantages over wading including: stealth, better positioning and no fear of sinking mud.  On the flip side, as steep as the learning curve is for fly fishing for carp, doing it from a canoe is even steeper.  I have found that instead of sitting down or standing up in the canoe that standing on my knees in the middle of the boat is a good compromise to both maximize both my ability to see the fish and cast to it and quickly alternate between maneuvering and casting.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Salmon fishing at Ballynahinch

While in Ireland recently with family, several of us spent a day of fishing on the Ballynahinch River in Galway.  The river is owned by the Ballynahinch castle estate which has catered to salmon anglers for generations. They take their salmon very seriously as evidenced by this notice posted in the castle pub.

The scenery was gorgeous and the river was the cleanest I have ever seen in my life, but we had not seen any evidence of salmon all day.  It was sunny that day which generally makes for poor salmon fishing. As we were talking to the guide with our backs to the water we heard a noise behind us which sounded like a cannonball being thrown into the water.  The guide got very excited and said it was a salmon.  I moved upstream of the pool where we believed the salmon to be and cast to the far side of the river, letting my silver badger fly swing downstream across the current.  After about ten swings over the same spot, my line tightened and I saw a long gleam of silver flash in the water.  I slowly worked the fish toward the bank but 30 seconds into the fight my line popped right back at me, hook and all and stuck me cleanly in the nose.  It was a bittersweet moment.  I sure would have loved to land that beautiful fish, but to simply dance with it for a moment in time was mysteriously satisfying.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Long Live the Leader

There is something about how a smoothly tapered commercial leader turns over a fly that cannot be mimicked with a home-brewed leader.  A 9' leader will typically have 24" of tippet at its end.  To extend the life of the leader, additional tippet material is generally added to the leader's end; the amount varies depending on the fishing circumstances.  In the past, I have always joined the tippet material to the leader using a Bloodknot ( or a Surgeon's knot if the two line diameters are different ).  Eventually the added tippet material will be consumed by changing flies, and I have to re-extend the leader with more tippet. After several re-extensions, I will have eaten through the original 24" of tippet and begin entering the tapered section of the leader.  This is bad for two reasons: 1) Joining lines of different diameter yields inherently weaker knots (at least for Surgeon's and Blood knots).  2) The leader will be shorter and less tapered causing poor loop turnover.  Eventually, it will have to be replaced.

An alternative approach is described in "Lefty Kreh's Ultimate Guide to Fly Fishing: Everything Anglers Need to Know by the World's Foremost Fly-Fishing Expert".  In this book, Lefty suggests joining the leader and tippet using a square knot formed by two non slip mono loops (Kreh knots), one in the leader and one in the tippet.  Using this approach, tippet material can be added (or removed) from the leader without shortening it.  In addition to extending the life of the leader this has several advantages: 1) The non slip mono loop is an incredibly strong knot, testing at nearly 100% line strength. 2) It is much easier to swap out tippets for a particular fly or fishing situation. 3)  Non slip mono loops can be pre-tied on tippet spools which allows tippet to be rapidly attached in the field with no additional knot tying.  The only downside I have thought of with this approach is if there is heavy vegetation the loop to loop connection may be more prone to snag or collect plant material; however, my initial tests of fishing with this connection on water with vegetation suggests this is not a problem.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

First Slab of 2012

I caught this 20" rainbow trout out of Jefferson Lake in Forest Park, St. Louis.  Every winter, the Missouri department of conservation stocks rainbow trout as part of the urban winter stocking program.  


The fishing has been exceptionally good here lately, with a warm front that moved in late last week.  The day after I landed this lunker I caught 7 more bows all over 12".  This was caught with a #12 jig, with a bead head and black marabou body, very easy to tie: a simple but proven fish catcher for trout, crappie and bluegill.  For stillwater trout I fish this fly with no indicator, just after sunset.  I start out with slow 4-6" strips followed by a 1-2 second pause.  If that doesn't produce I increase the pause all the way up to 15 seconds.  Sometimes I will just cast it out and deadstick for a whole minute before I start working it back.

As one who originally spent a great deal of time fishing for largemouth bass, I have found that one of the most critical (and difficult) modifications I had to make for trout was to slow down the presentation.