Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nymphal Shucks part 2: what's so special about fly fishing?

What's so special about fly fishing, you ask? Well, technically nothing. It's just another fishing technique. Simply put it's a method of fishing designed to propel a lure that is so small and light that it can't propel itself. When spin fishing or casting, the lure or bait is weighted enough to pull the line off of the reel. In the case of a fishing fly, it's not heavy enough to do the same. Enter the fly line. BUT, I'm getting ahead of myself.

So, you want to catch fish? Well, since they don't just jump into your creel spontaneously you have to figure out a way to lure them to you, right? I know you know where I'm going with this but I'm trying to put a simple spin on something that has often become too complicated. A fly, simply put, is just another lure. Now, I know my friend Gaddabout is getting all worked up over that statement but he knows it just as well as I ;). To lure a fish to your line you have to match your lure to the fish's food source. In the case of stream or river trout fishing, that is quite often a bug of some sort in it's various stage of development. A lure of such proportions is way to small to pull line off of your spinning reel, so you have to find a way to get it out to the fish. Also, sometimes that bug is floating on or near the surface of the water. Placing a weight on the line near the fly will naturally cause it to sink and won't look...natural. a couple of centuries ago, some genius came up with the idea of braiding some fishing lines together to create enough mass in the line itself to propel the fly out to the fish. And so, the fly line and fly fishing was born.

The modern fly line is more than just thick plastic. It is heavy enough to cast, yet in many cases will float on the surface of the water easily. It's typically tapered in it's thickness to allow for a smooth blend of power and finesse that allows the fly to land on the water naturally. Without getting too technical and side tracked into all the variables, allow me to attempt to simplify the theory of fly casting. Have you ever cracked a whip? Or, maybe, snapped your buddy with a rolled up, wet towel after swimming at the beach? Did you notice that the whip or the towel rolled out in a really tight loop as you snapped them with your wrist? The reason why the whip or the towel acted that way is that they were tapered - thick to thin. As you cracked the whip, you were holding on to the thickest part and started it moving with a flick of your wrist. As this movement started, the thicker part transferred its power to the thinner part in a smooth chain reaction of sorts. Now, if you had a flat piece of rope instead of the tapered whip, the loop you made with the wrist action would have just lost its inertia before it got to it's end and died out. BUT, in the case of the whip or towel and due to their taper, thicker and heavier is always pushing the thinner and lighter. this causes the power to continue to the tip, and in the case of a whip or rolled towel causes the tip to snap. This is exactly the process that happens in fly casting. The fly line is tapered to the leader, which is also tapered down to the fly. When you cast the fly rod, this tapered design allows the fly line and leader to roll out smoothly in front of you, sending the fly in the direction you casted it.

Now, I'm trying to keep my posts a little easier to get through, so I will stop here. Next, I'll get into the fly rod outfit and the line/leader/tippet relationship. Also, I'm on vacation for the next few weeks and have some fishing planned so stay tuned!! I hope to get down to the Catskills at least once in May. I also plan to fish locally both to some trout streams and on Oneida Lake with my wife. Bob and I have a trip to some new spots on Fish Creek in a few weeks. And, as soon as the water levels get a little friendlier, I NEED to get to The West Canada Creek. It's a disease, I know...


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Nymphal Shucks: the beginner's corner introduction

The problem with a blog, or writing anything for that matter, is that it can be incredibly difficult to explain a visual and physical process. Nothing seems harder to explain that fly casting. It really is something you have to see and feel to understand. So, to get you off to a good start, I've got some references for you to check out:

"Scientific Anglers Basic Fly Casting with Doug Swisher" http://www.cabelas.com/cabelas/en/templates/product/standard-item.jsp?_DARGS=/cabelas/en/common/catalog/item-link.jsp_A&_DAV=MainCatcat20431-cat601973&id=0044057621889a&navCount=1&podId=0044057621889&parentId=cat601973&masterpathid=&navAction=push&catalogCode=IK&rid=&parentType=index&indexId=cat601233&hasJS=true
Now, this video is a bit dated - it was what I used twenty years ago to learn how to fly cast. However, Swisher just seemed to make sense, and his video and exercises were incredibly effective.

As for learning the basics, the book I learned from is no longer in print...and doesn't that make me feel old. Still, a good book is a great reference to have so I'll suggest one:

"The Orvis Fly Fishing Guide by Tom Rosenbauer" http://www.orvis.com/store/productchoice.aspx?pf_id=65C0&dir_id=758&group_id=8791&cat_id=14974&subcat_id=14975

I've thumbed through it at the store and it looked great. Now, I do plan to cover a great deal of information in small bites here. We'll start with theory, and then on to the rod outfit, leaders and tippets, flies, fly boxes, tools and gadgets, waders and vests, and anything else I can think of. I will try to provide pictures and links to help illustrate, but if you have any questions you can email me directly and I'll try my best to explain any point in greater detail.

So, that's where I'm going with this blog for now and I hope it helps all of you looking to start fly fishing or seek to improve your skills and knowledge base. More to come :)


Friday, April 3, 2009

OK - so maybe I'm gonna take this blog in a couple of directions...

I know I said that I was going to use this primarily as a fishing diary, but a comment from one of the two or three potential followers of this blog mentioned doing some fly fishing tutorials. So, not wanting to disappoint anyone, I'll be offering more than just blog entries of fishing outings. First off, look for a "beginner's corner" series with a focus on the basics. It should cover rod outfit set ups, flies, vests, tools and gadgets, and waders. I'd like to offer video tutorials of fly casting, although I'm not sure I'll be able to pull it off. I think I will also offer features like "from the vise" (fly patterns), "from the bookcase" (book reviews), "from the water" (entomology/hatches), and possibly a series on rod building too. I hope you all find them helpful and fun.

Hey Gaddabout, recognize that beautiful pool in the picture?


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Opening Day 2009: An exercize in fly fishing futility

When it comes to fishing weather, I'm pretty tolerant of most conditions. I don't mind the cold. I don't mind rain or snow. A real hot day just means I'll wade wet. In fact, there's really only one weather factor that gets to me..... wind. I don't mean a nice breeze, I mean WIND. And it's not just that it piles up my casts ten feet in front of me. It's not just that it drags my fly line and makes it impossible to get a decent drift. Wind is just, plain ANNOYING. I mean, nothing erodes my cheery disposition quicker than a pounding wind boxing me around, throwing my fly line in my face, and making me panic as my hat tries to take flight downstream. You ever notice that wind takes on a personality? It seems like it knows when you are starting a cast or when your fly is drifting just about in the right position. Today, it also knew that I came with only a fly rod.

So, despite the wind, the water was in decent shape. Don and I went to Butternut Creek and fished the section below the dam. Clarity was down to about 18 inches with a greenish tint, water temp was 42 degrees, the air temp was 46 degrees (not figuring wind chill), and there was no bug activity. The water was a little high, but not typical spring runoff levels. Don landed one 11 inch brown on a muddler minnow spinner fly. I tried olive and black wooly buggers, a golden stonefly nymph, and an IPW with no luck. We lasted a couple of hours. We were deciding about leaving when 4 guys showed up to fish the same hole we were at. Naturally, they were smart enough to bring bait, and one of them hooked up on a nice brown after two or three casts. He must've been the ....... um ....... master ....... baiter. C'mon, you know that was funny.

So, I close the book on another opening day. It was great to hold to tradition. It was good to wet a line after a long winter. It sucked to have all that wind. To quote Pat McManus, it was a fine and pleasant misery.

Welcome to the 2009 fishing season everyone. I hope it treats you well. Tight lines.....