Friday, June 30, 2017

A Fly Fishing Short: Holding Hands in the Creek

 
  
I still enjoy reminiscing about  my childhood fishing experiences -- my dad handing me a five foot fiberglass Shakespeare rod with a Daiwa Closed face reel -- strung with the thickest of monofilament line tied to a lead jig head, heavy enough to knock out Mike Tyson in his prime.  Those were simplest of times don't you know? You could go to a big lake;  take a ride in a motor propelled boat;  park next to a bunch of other boats and then drop your fluorescent mini - bomb jig, baited with a bloody but still frisky shiner minnow to the dark and deep lake bottom. Truthfully, I never did understand why a group of 20 fishing boats would care to congregate around one little rock reef that took up less than one percent of a 300 square mile lake -- so much for solitude! I remember the Walleye, those slimy Jacks (a.k.a. Northern Pike), and the Perch that somehow always ended up as Seagull bait. Most of all, I remember being together with dad in a beautiful lake setting, feeling the gentle breeze against my young skin, listening to the enchanted sounds of small waves lapping against the side of boat and especially experiencing the not so sad but beautiful cries of the Common Loon.

Although we have lived in almost perfect harmony on a fairly reliable trout stream, my son, still in the rock throwing years, tends to beat around the bush when it comes to fishing. Some of you fishing parents can probably relate, as the youngster's fuse tends to burn short while fish are not being caught. Consequently, this situation generally heeds a barrage of large and small stones into the finest of trout holding spots with the harboring thought of the need for my hockey helmet. And yes, my son seems to have a system in place as the stones get larger in size with time. Not to mention, there are also the rock skipping sessions, which generally require a thinner and flatter rock that often requires my help to find. Oddly enough,  I always wonder what the trout may be thinking as various sized stones and boulders, normally set on the stream-bed are now hurling towards them. They're probably saying "damn we just got done fighting six months of spate and now this!" At any rate, I'm just happy he picked up the rod a little bit -- it's better than nothing at all!

One fine summer late afternoon, I received a tug on my shirt and heard a little voice. " Hey Pa, let's go fishing". I was almost is complete dismay, since I usually have to sugar-coat everything before he will even pick up the fishing rod. Nevertheless, I did not want to bore him with another one of our countless bank fishing stints from the property creek, so I thought about other nearby holes that might be productive. The only downfall, is that some of the nearby town's finest, seem to like to inhabit these areas when the weather is especially tepid. And by the way trout, you might think a large sinking stone is scary, but you just wait until 280lb. Mary-Joe flies off that rope swing! Regardless, we hopped into my old, not so run-of-the-mill truck with one rod, a small box of flies and a will to get my boy hooked on fly fishing. Somewhat differently, this time I wanted him to feel the rush of the water against his legs, which seems to instill a sort of connection with the river and the things in-which depend upon it -- that's just my opinion.

The big old V8 with 350 horses softly gulps as we arrive at one of my favorite but popular fishing holes, noticing a late model Blue Astro Van packed to the rafters with the all to common and inclusive savage mutt peaking its scruffy head out the sliding door, which happened to face the creek entrance.  I glanced over at my son, trying not to reveal my disdain, and plainly but quietly murmured " dam bums".  Moving on, we drove up stream about two miles to another spot with good access only to find a parked Durango; the topper window artfully inscribed with the words "Just Got Married". Well then... wouldn't want to bother the newly weds! I kind of wondered why they chose such a spot following such a significant event -- it's nice but not that nice!  Glancing over at my son again, I just shrugged my shoulders and kept driving, thinking of a third option. Finally, there it was: an obscure trail, partly covered with brush, the gnarliest of bramble thickets and the itchiest looking of poison oak.

Slightly embarrassed, I conveyed to my son, who now seemed confused -- that good fishing awaits - once we complete this small trail from hell. To be frank, I didn't  really plan on such an expedition, as we tromped on top of thick bramble with our "spur of the moment" sport sandals to avoid the stabbing thorns. I led the way down the path very Indiana Jones - like, trying my best not to discourage any future trips, until we got to about a three foot drop that would get us to the still slightly submerged rocky stream bank. The plunge into the stream was an awakening for sure;  it was cold but not so cold that it was uncomfortable. I could sense some slight fear and nervousness from the boy, as these were unfamiliar surroundings. The cast shadows from giant fir trees muted any natural colors, turning the stream into a visual parade of black, slow  moving mirrors.  From this vantage point, I pointed out the most popular fishing lies seen in the distance.

Holding hands in the stream, we slowly slipped and stumbled upon thick algae covered boulders. The first fishing hole seemed so close, but so far away. I started to wonder why my sandals were sold as "fishing sandals" instead of ice skates. While exclaiming a WHOOOAA and OHHH SHHHIII... the controversial felt boot bottom ban thing haphazardly seethed into my memory, only wondering if the negative environmental claim justifies all the fishermen cracked skulls, broken bones, gashes and torn ligaments caused by dramatic banana skin - type falls. For those who don't know -- the concern is that an invasive species of sort may adhere to the felt -- taking a free ride to perchance contaminate another stream. Fortunately, here in Oregon, we are still permitted to wear these felt soles, which to provide ample traction to get you where you want to go in the most slipperiest of conditions in the world! Finally, arriving at a series of small but rapid riffle sections, I glanced down and was glad to see that my little one was not the least discouraged.

My favorite way of fishing small creek riffles is to swing a lightly weighted wet fly from upstream. For a beginning child, this method is ideal, since the current of the river takes care of a lot of the work, moving and giving action to the fly. Generally, the "takes" or "hits" happen once the fly line becomes taut and a fish can be hooked without any sort of set. Not to mention, fish will also sometimes take a fly on a slow strip or retrieve. The stream side foliage was thick and overhanging with little to no area to back cast; therefore, I suggested letting some line out and using a little of the rod tip to position the fly. It did not take long until my boy got one hooked on a #16 Hare's Ear wet fly; and watching him standing unattended, rod bent, with such excitement, bestowed upon me the warmest of feelings.  After landing the fish, my sons eyes grew large as saucer plates; we admired a fair sized, deep colored native Cutthroat which are prime but not the only fish in this creek.

As the evening progressed, I made some adjustments due to the decreasing light and increase of bugs on the water.  I changed out the fly to a #12 Stimulator floating pattern, since we had witnessed a number of trout rolling for fluttering Yellow Sally Stoneflies. Ole' Yellow Sally prefers to deposit her eggs in the evening hours by dipping her pointed butt into trout frenzied waters.  Splashes and airborne trout surrounded the drifting and sometimes dragging fly, only mushrooming our excitement. We happily fished below a setting sun, hitting several other similar pieces of stream and landing some frisky but smaller sized trout.  At this point, we had pretty much burned out our chances on the three nearby holes and all I could think about was that trail from hell back to the truck.

Thoughts of the fishing experience with my son flourished inside my head while a few juicy stoneflies splattered upon the trucks windshield, making our way home. Staring at the windy road, I wished my conscience could answer the questions of whether my son really enjoyed fishing that day and if  I would receive another request to share the passion of fly fishing with him. Fishing in general, is a great sport, in that it promotes a greater appreciation for the environment,  it's inhabitants, self well-being and  family togetherness. Just the fishing stories culminated and left to tell another day are far worth more than any amount of gold! I owe it to my dad for taking the time to go fishing; he should be proud that his son has passed on a fishing tradition to live another day - a day wading knee deep and casting a fly while we're holding hands in the creek.






Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Fly Fishing Short: Old Man River

A light creamy white covers the azure of the sky, while we launch the McKenzie drift boat onto a swift flowing and mesmerizing gin. GMan settles into the boat's bow with all excitement and announces "man this looks good!" Floating calmly, tall ever-so-green fir and cedar lean from a heavily wooded bank while an osprey is seen diving for a not so elusive fish. Musical sounds of birds surround us amid the rivers soft whisper. Mainly, the river speaks to us as we study its wonderous surroundings; and we listen like astute sons to a great father.

A McKenzie River Dory or Drift Boat
We ground the boat on a gravel shoal, near a large, wide riffle and cannot help but notice a small river - dancing parade of yellow dun mayflies.  Still gazing, reflections of light bounce off the glassy pockets of water that are mingled in between boulders. I blurt out "there's gotta be some fish in here!"  As cold and pristine white water crashes into naturally painted river stones, we pick our way from bottom to top, pelting the surface with flies. After our brief separation we rejoin, thus conjure and conclude that we ought to move on to a fishier run.

Double D Casting
After little to no success, we approach lunch time, picking at fancy prepared sandwiches and sipping on the finest of Microbrews. Life is good! Not surprisingly, our conversation turns intimate as perhaps our minds are tired from the overall guesswork of landing a fish. We talk about our families, friends and even pets. We catch up on to what's currently happening in our lives. Interestingly enough, at that moment in time, the river seems to take the back seat.

We press on our river journey and remain optimistic regardless an unproductive morning. A vibrant sun temporarily peaking through the clouds is a welcomed sight, candy greening the surrounding mountains and warming my slightly chilled bones. A lingering alcoholic buzz from our lunch time brew encourages some playful talk and senseless jokes. Regardless our tom-foolery, GMan manages to pick up a few average size trout on dry flies off the bow of the boat as we approach the near-end of our day long float.

Cheers!

Approaching the final rapids, I wonder what may have been the facet of our misfortune. And please don't suggest that old adage "a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work!" Broken in thought, I advise we ground the boat off the far tip of a nearby island where another channel adjoins the main flow. Glancing over at GMan, I make a look that exemplifies "one more chance?" or a chance to redeem ourselves perhaps?

Flies strung, our initial casts were followed up by heavy takes. A large Redside screams into the fast water, dragging my line and forcing me in pursuit. Looking up for help, I could see that GMan was busy and in the midst of his own trout fight. Fortunately, I was able to steer the broad shouldered fish into calmer water and bring her majesty to the net. Finally, after we both bring more than several nice fish to the net, I exclaim "this is what we have been waiting for!" And I think to myself, "Old Man River's lesson today is about patience".

Native Oregon Redside

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Non Fictional Hemingwayesque Account...

Sitting, blank in thought, staring into the glowing screen, I felt a light tap on my shoulder. "Pa what are you doing?"  I turned and said "thinking of what to write". "Why don't you write about a big fish you caught?". I was instantly reminded of the great Hemingway short story "The Old Man and the Sea" and the grueling three day battle between Santiago and the enormous Marlin. Additionally, I remembered a  similar unexpected non fictional battle between me and an extraordinarily large fish that still appears in my dreams from time to time.


Feeling Heminwayesque

It was another rare but glorious Oregon day in March. After what seemed like weeks of endless rain, on my way home, I could not help but notice the "greening" of the creek below that had been running chocolate brown for what seemed like an eternity. The sun sparkled thru the branches of the grand Douglas firs and the water looked every bit inviting.  Glancing at the clock on my dash, I figured that I might have a slight window to grab my rod and wade-to-play some trout to the net.

Returning to the creek, I began to put together my rod. Shaking from excitement, I struggled to tie on my flies - the site of fishy looking waters did not help. The plan was to run a bright floating indicator above a heavy anchor fly with a lighter fly hanging on a dropper about 16 inches above. I knew I had to go deep, since the water temps were still ice cold. Once my rod was strung, I cautiously stepped into the icy cold waters. I was glad that I remembered to put on extra layers and especially my thick wool socks.

Standing waste deep, I found a good seam that flowed into a  deep trench. After casting, my eyes fixated on the small fluorescent pink floating bobber that held my two flies. I waited out two drifts and towards the end of the third, the bobber suddenly disappeared under the surface. Fish on! From the rods bend, and the feel of its weight, I knew that it was a smaller trout. Surprisingly, it gave me a good fight and it was now visible from my fixed position. Suddenly, from the corner of my right eye, an enormous dark shadow emerged from the bottom. As my mouth opened and heart now pounding the shadow transformed into a silvery bullet, drifting to the surface and shockingly swallowing my trout!

My God! It was an enormous steelhead! I was now faced with the challenge of fighting possibly a record weighing steelhead on a 5wt. rod with nothing more than 6lb. line. I instinctively new that I would not win the battle, so I reached for my flip phone-camera to at least have some sort of evidence. The dance went on and on as the suns color changed from a bright piercing yellow to a subdued orange color. After jumping with such grace, she would take a run, which made the reel scream like it had never before. I put the phone back in my pocket as I started to ponder on the possibility of me landing such a magnificent fish.

video

I could see she was tiring, as I tried to roll her on her side. The battle had now placed me in fairly swift chest high water and I wondered how I would beach her without any net. A quick glance behind me, only revealed deep cut banks with thick overhanging brush. What was I to do? The fish was closer and closer, but as I started to reach for the tail, she took another run. Everything was being tested at its limits, including my arms that had been holding this sliver of a rod for at least forty minutes now.

Similar to the Hemingway classic, I befriended the fish with all due respect to her beauty and grace. It was not until I spoke to her that she finally came to my arms. The silvery chrome color with bright hues of pink and blue are unforgettable. I was in awe. Even my hand was too small to grip her around the tail and I could only hold her for so long before she began to struggle. Her girth and strength was too much for me as she slid back into the cold green glaciated waters, line now broken.

Truth be told, I was not upset that the fish escaped my embrace. With encroaching darkness and my heart still pumping, I was just thankful for the dance with such a great partner. I loved it much like Pushkin loved his Anna Kern. Nevertheless, unlike Hemingway's Santiago, I did not want to harm the fish, but only spend some quality time to admire her all in her grandeur. Hopefully, we will meet again and she will perhaps tell of ocean going tales. (Waking up) However, next time I gotta make sure I bring the friggin' net!


Not me but Similar Size of Fish from Betts Guide Service



Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Fishing Stereotypes: Fly Fishing v.s. Bait Cast

Ah yes, I remember the days...impaling thousand of shiner minnows with a deep trebled lead jig head hook with the hopes of getting that 10 pound walleye to bite at a depth of about 30 feet. Jigging on a reef miles offshore with little to no wind, the stillness so prevalent, you can hear your own pumping heart. It was bait fishing at its finest. and the methodology religious to say the least in those parts of Northern Minnesota. We not only fished for fun, but to bring home a stringer of eaters for a tasty Walleye fish fry.

A Young Double D with a Nice Smallie

During those years of innocence, I can honestly admit to the lack of a sense of reality and an isolated existence that was a result of Northern Minnesota cultural norms. Fly fishing? The closest I came to even acknowledging the sport was when our Californian neighbor failed to garage sell a large 10 foot fiberglass Fenwick fly rod with a click and paw fly reel. Frankly put, I'm guessing they gave me the rod because they knew I liked to fish or maybe to just satisfy my cute boyish curiosity.  Unfortunately, the rod never did see any water and was mostly used to whip-crack fly line at my younger brother or at the hovering telephone lines above. Simply put, I was a lion tamer with a 10 foot whip!


A Young GMan with a Good Sized Walleye

It was not until a move to Oregon in my early twenties when I first learned of fly fishing. Sad but true, I immediately stereotyped fly fishermen as rich, metrosexual types frolicking near a frothing stream, joyfully stroking and releasing their so delicate and beautiful caught fish. I could not fathom why they would let such a fine fish go! Fly fishing to me was repulsive - the sight of men communing with nature, layered in ever-so expensive sporty looking waterproof gear, fixed with so many shiny gadgets! And how about that $800 top-o-line Orvis rod they're holding? My goodness! I'm so jealous! How could that be fun?... whilst grabbing my 6 foot Shakespeare, blue-light special, outfitted with an open-faced Shimano reel.

Walleyes Waiting for a Coat of Beer Batter and a Searing Oil Bath

As my time progressed in Oregon, I got to know a few fly fisherman.  While my eyes fixated on their growing noses,  I remember the stories that rolled off their tongues and the constant claims of the improved catch rates when compared with use of a bait fishing rig. Truthfully, I was a bit still smitten with the idea of the societal transition or being someone that I really was not. Besides, I didn't support the notion that some close-minded fly fishermen look down at bait casters for numerous reasons not to mention. Regardless, my boyish curiosity got the best of me once more when I purchased my first fly rod and reel set-up at Cabelas for under $200.

Since, that first rod purchase, I've learned many things and ultimately have a greater appreciation for fly fishing. In my opinion, fly fishing takes more skill and smarts to land a fish than bait cast fishing. Moreover, once you begin fly fishing and become successful, you gain a greater appreciation for conservation that to me was somewhat missing in bait cast fishing. For instance, how many times have you seen styrofoam worm cups and emptycans of Bush Lite on the shore of your favorite stream? Hence, fly fisherman are generally not known to unethically Eli Manning any unwanted fish once caught. OMAHA!  And how about the endless lengths of unsightly monofilament line that hangs from riverbank trees?

Modern Day Double D Frolicking on the Row River Oregon

It's important to note that the cheap beer drinkin', pollutin', and uneducated stereotypes don't fairly serve all bait cast fisherman. And the same applies to the stereotypes that most fly fisherman are rich, biased, metrosexual, tree-huggers. I've seen it from both sides and I can attest that there is goodness in people no matter what method they choose. Truthfully, I don't believe I would be the fly fisherman I am today without my bait casting background. Nonetheless, next time I'm passing an uneducated hillbilly bait caster from the shore in my girly-boy boat, I'll make sure I wave hello and offer them a Bush Lite. After all, we're all after the same thing!

Best Wishes!

D2




Thursday, August 18, 2016

Why I Gave Up Dry Fly Fishing

The sparkling clear bluish green McKenzie water was in view as I reached for a rod outfitted with a large Stimulator dry fly pattern holding a small dropper pheasant tail nymph off the bend of the hook. As I made my first cast, I confessed to my bud Gary that I am not a dry fly fisherman while fighting a brisk wind with probably a way too long leader.  Unfortunately, the large fly seemed to be absorbing water as we reached faster currents and eventually sank subsurface without stimulating anything but my nerves.

Sparkling McKenzie

 As I reached for the small plastic bottle of Gink fly floatant in my vest, I experienced a bit of nostalgia relative to the great success I have had in the past fishing nymphs subsurface; great quotes about the advantages of using nymphs over dry flies by such fly fishing greats as Gary Borger flowed through my head. I could not take it anymore...I finally reached for my 10 foot 4wt, which was loaded with a long french style leader, a curly-q indicator, 3lb, fluorocarbon tippet and two Prince Nymph Jigs in #10 and #14.

The boat now anchored upon a good flowing riffle, I lobbed the flies a few feet from the stern and not far from the side of the boat. I could tell that Gary was new to the method as his eyes fixated on the bright chartreuse colored slinky that drifted just about the surface. "What do you call that thing?" Trying to explain, I was still getting use to straight-lining from a boat. Thus, I could not help but wonder if there is a visual advantage compared to when your body is sunk in the water. Nonetheless, after only a couple casts, my reel's drag gave a scream and thereafter I landed my first fish!

video

I had continued success throughout the day as we jockeyed around fast water, in which the method works best.  As I swung my arm from East to West, I felt that the weight of my jigs were just right, pulling and bouncing off the rocky bottom -  I felt like I was in total control. Throughout the day, I thought about all the dry fly fisherman who may have passed up the same spots, since the rough water has the capability to sink the most floatable of flies. I thought about the river guides and how they feel about 40 feet of fly line whizzing past their ear connected to a size #6 barbed hook! I thought about all the energy that goes into a long dry fly cast compared to a short lob of leader and tippet.

One of Many

Thinking back, for some reason, I thought I would give my dry fly rod another chance to prove me wrong and it failed miserably.  As I type this sentence, I see it, my first rod, sitting lonely in the corner probably not to be finessed in any sort of way in the near future. Sure...I may use it for the occasional casual jaunt down to the nearby creek. However, when it comes to getting down to business, I will with no hesitation grab the nymphing rod. So to the dry fly purists, the long casters and the fisherman wearing out their copies of "A River Runs Through It": This is why I gave up dry fly fishing.

Trails End

P.S. Thanks Gary for the great trip! I hope to row a boat like you someday. Regards ~ D2





Monday, August 8, 2016

Double D's Late Summer Fly Fishing Tips

Late Summer Row River Oregon

Are your late summer fly fishing trips nothing more than frustrating attempts that leave you nothing but an appreciation for mother nature and all her beauty. Have you ever felt as if your prospected trout were swimming freely about, ignoring your offering and enjoying your inner pain? O.k...we've all heard it before, "a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work". Yep, the frustration can be so profound that you'd rather zombie out to ole' Wolfie with a bowl of ice cream placed mid-lap. Fortunately, Double D's here to save your arse with some hot summer fly fishing tips!


1. Fish Early or Late

Ultimately, lots of bright piercing light is detrimental to trout feeding. During heavy light hours, trout typically inhabit deeper or turbid waters to find cooler water and hide from predators. Boat and people traffic during these times only drives the fish to more secure locations. Not to mention, warmer waters during the afternoon can make trout lethargic and less likely to feed. Use the hot afternoons for a cool-off or nap and find solitude on the water in the early mornings and into the evenings.

A Row River Morning Surprise


2. Nymph the Afternoon

If you must fish the afternoon hours, hit fast water sections with a nymph or two. During hot days, faster riffle - like water provides a cool refuge for snacking trout. In a river system, trout hold in slower water and feed in the faster water. The fish will likely we close to the bottom, so rig up heavy enough to bounce off the bottom.




4. Ditch that Indicator

I see it too often and can't find a reason for casting a round bright object without a hook at a trout in clear as gin water...drive me to drink'in! Straight-line your nymph with a colored line indicator or implement a French Nymph method with long leader and curly q indicator for longer casts.


3. Light on the Leader & Tippet

Late summer waters are generally gin clear here in the west so a very light leader and tippet are beneficial. Don't be scared to go 6x or 7x to fool them. I love 3 lb Maxima Fluoro Carbon for nymphing.

4. Shade, Shade, Shade Shade...

Need I say more?


5. Gain some Altitude

If you live in a mountainous region, seek the upper reaches of your favorite river. The gain in altitude will likely garnish cooler water temps and lively trout ready to take your fly.

6. Terrific Terrestrial 

Don't be surprised if you can't find a hatch in the late summer. Try a hopper or beetle dry pattern and tie a small nymph of the bend of the hook to improve your chances.

7. Limit your Visibility

Trout live in water, but they are not blind to your trout-wheelin' tactics. Wear clothing colors that tend to blend in with your surroundings. Try to keep a low profile and stand in a way to not cast a shadow on the water. The French Fly fishing team can be often seen wearing shin or knee pads, which enable them to keep an extremely low position to the water.

Upper McKenzie River Bow

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Fly TImes on the Mac with Friend of the Fly: Video

The Friend of the Fly team recently hit the scenic McKenzie River of Oregon in search of line pulling trout. We are happy to report that the fish were definitely on the bite! Most of our success came during the morning and early afternoon hours, in low and fast waters. Even though we picked up a few fish on dry flies, the top fishing tactic was tight-lining using a two nymph system. In fact, we could not keep the sized #14 and #16 Prince Nymph jigs out of the fishes' mouth! Props to GMan for putting this little video together of the trip!