Tuesday, May 26, 2009

May 23, 2009: black flies, an unusual catch, and do stocked fish really count?

unfortunately, my picture posting skills need refinement. Here's a bunch of pictures from the last trip. I will post an entry about the trip in the next post. A quick breakdown - the first group of pics are from the East branch of Fish Creek, the next group is from the upper West Canada, and the last is the West Canada in the no kill sections ( powers bend and below the Trenton Falls dam to be exact).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Nymphal Shucks part 4: the fly line

Building on what I've written before, it's time to address the fly line. Remember the bull whip and wet towel analogy? Ok then, let's look at a fly line.

Above is a picture of two types of fly line designs. The top one is a weight forward fly line. As you can see the fly line has an initial taper up to a thicker and heavier section. Then, it tapers down to a smaller, level section. All that weight concentrated in the forward section of the line tends to pull the rest of the line with it. Because of this, weight forward lines tend to be a little easier to cast, and are usually a good beginner line. They are also excellent for distance casting and when fighting wind.

The bottom line is a double taper. Double taper lines are the same thickness throughout its length with tapers on either end. Although not as effective for distance casting as a weight forward, double taper lines tend to cast a little smoother and softer. This is good for delicate fly presentations when trying not to spook a fish. Because of the consistent thickness, they make good roll casting lines (we'll get into the different casts later). Since the average cast is typically no more than half the length of your fly line, the end of your line sees little use. Often, when the front and most used part of your fly line is getting old and cracked, the end is still like new. Since a double taper is the same on either end, a budget conscience angler can reverse a double taper line and get twice the life out of it.

The leader is simply an extension of the fly line. Since the fly line is too thick and opaque to tie directly to your fly, you need a go-between. The leader is made out of clear monofilament line. Before you go grab your Berkley Trilene, there's a catch. The leader has to have the continuous taper just like the fly line for it to roll out smoothly and put the fly where you want it to go. Back in the day (and still today) fly fisherman would hand tie their own leaders. The process would entail tying varying thicknesses of monofilament together to create a thicker-to-thinner taper. There are still guys that do this, and it can be very cost effective. Also, tying your own leaders can result in some creative tapers designed to achieve specific casting results. This can give you an advantage depending on the fly and the conditions. the only drawbacks are they can be time consuming to tie, cost quite a bit more initially to get started, and in some cases the multitude of knots can cause trouble with your fly presentation.

Thanking God for modern technology, I embrace the factory-made tapered leader. These can be had for very little money and are tapered without knots - kind of like little fly lines. these are a no-brainer for a beginner. They are sold in standard lengths of 7.5ft and 9 or 10ft - usually matched loosely to the length of your fly rod. The downside is that the taper is always the same. OK, I guess that's a downside...

The end of the leader is called a tippet. No, I don't know why, maybe because it's the tip of the leader. The tippet is the section that is tied directly to the fly. It's ironic, but pound test is not really a consideration for determining the tippet size, but rather it's thickness. Looking back to how a fly line works and how the fly gets casted, you'll understand that the tippet needs to be the thinnest part. Tippets are measures with an odd, "X" system. As you go thinner, the "X" value goes up. So, a 4X tippet is thicker than a 5X or 6X, and so on. Aside from standard lengths, pre-tapered leaders are also designated by their ending tippet size. So for example, if I was shopping for a leader for my small stream rod, I would probably pick up a 7.5ft 5x leader. I will get into matching your tippet to your fly later on, as well as the knots used to tie all the parts together.

Another note on the tippet is how long and when to tie on more. You see, as you tie on each new fly, you are using up more and more of that tippet section. Most tippet sections are around 18 to 24 inches. As you get down to 12-18 inches left of the tippet, it's time to tie on a little more. Fly fisherman will keep spools of tippet "material" handy to replace the constantly dwindling tippet section. Also, if I am going down to a much smaller fly than I had been fishing with then I might need to tie on a smaller diameter tippet section to suit the new fly. OK. I'm running the risk of getting too long winded, so, I'll cover more of this later on as well.

finally let's end with the beginning. A fly line is only about 90ft long. that's not bad for panfish and stream trout, but in cases of bigger waters and larger fish you need more length. Attached between your fly reel and fly line is another type of line called the backing. The backing is usually a flexible, string-like cord that is relatively thin but strong. It has two advantages. First is the obvious - give you more line to work with if a steelhead takes off on a 100 yard run. Second is that it fills up the smaller core of the spool and gives a larger diameter base to wind your fly line on. Since fly lines are plastic, they do have a bit of coil memory when they've been spooled up for a while. Winding backing on a reel before the fly line helps to lessen that effect. 'Nuff said...

So, there's the anatomy of a fly line and it's parts in as brief a description as I feel I can get away with. Next up, we'll talk about fly reels.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Thursday Night Fishing Club: returning to the scene of the crime

So, Gaddabout and I got together last night for the reconvening of the Thursday Night Fishing Club. Our original plans were to take us to Nine Mile Creek to meet up with a few friends, but they bailed on us. We were also concerned that most of the streams would be high and muddy after the rains we had the previous night and morning. The only option for clear water? Butternut below the dam. You remember Butternut below the dam, don't you? Oh, about a month ago? Opening day? my rant about the wind?

Don't get me wrong, this little stretch of water is beautiful. Pleasant riffles and pockets and a couple of deep pools. It's even better when you don't have to share it with anyone. Last night was all of that. It was only Bob and I, 65 degree air temp and 59 degree water temp. The water was at mid level and clear down to 2 ft. There was a bunch of bugs coming off: Caddis in #16 tan/dun, #18 black, #18-20 Dun; Mayflies in hendrickson spinners #14, olives/blue dun #16, one March Brown #10; and various midges. The fish were rising ~ at times chasing caddis out of the water and at times sipping mayflies and midges from the surface.

It was funny how Bob and I were whining as we put on our gear. We were acknowledging that the fish gods weren't as kind to us these last few years as they've been in the older years. So, it came with great surprise that we did pretty well....or maybe the fish gods finally threw us a bone. Bob headed to the base of the dam, and I started quartering a black wooly bugger down through the riffles and pockets towards the "big pool". At the head of the big pool, I got a hit on my 5th or 6th cast. He faught well, but not as hard as he probably should've since he was an 18 inch small mouth. Yup, I was incredibly surprised too. Nice fish. The evening glided on with me catching 2 browns on dry flies and Gaddabout landing 4 browns, 2 small mouth, and a rock bass.

Phew. It's nice to get a fish in the net again. It's been a long winter. It was great to fish with Bob, head to a local joint afterward, catch up on the families, and build excitement for the next trip. We both sighed at one point, taking in a good day of fishing and soaking up the relaxation around us. It's good to be alive, and even better when you can you can spend some time fishing.

here's the link to the CNY Flyfisher report I posted: http://www.cnyflyfish.com/forum/itemView.php?msgID=695

Stay tuned - more fishing to come in the next few weeks. Hopefully my picture taking abilities will improve along the way....


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Nymphal Shucks part 3: the fly Rod

OK. So, I will do my best to keep this as short and sweet as I can.

Fly rods differ from spinning and casting rods in a number of ways. First off is length. Since managing your fly line is more involved than just making a cast with a weighted lure, fly rods tend to be quite a bit longer than spinning and casting rods. You will find fly rod lengths ranging from 4 1/2ft long to 14ft long, however most fly rods tend to be around 7 to 9ft. The shorter rods are best for small fish and narrow casting access like a small, tree covered creek. As you get up to larger waters, you tend to get into the mid sizes like 8 to 10ft. Then, say you get into a specialized casting style such as spey casting or pursue large saltwater prey your rod length can get up to 14ft.

Second, the rod's action plays a part in how it casts. a slower action rod is a bit more flexable and allows for a smooth, forgiving cast that isn't as powerful but delivers the fly delicately and acts as a shock absorber to protect a fine tippet. You might like a faster action rod that is a bit stiffer and provides considerable more power to your cast when you're fighting wind or trying to make a long cast.

Third, the weight designation applied to each rod is a way to help match a particular fly line weight to the rod. There is room to play in this designation - some guys like to overload the rod with a heavier fly line than what is recommended to get a desired casting feel, for example.

To keep it simple, I'll give you a run down of my rod outfits - both current ones in service and my future rod building projects. I think my current and future rod outfits will give you a good concept of how the different variables are applied to chose the right rod for the water you fish. I fish in lakes for panfish, bass, northerns, and carp. I also fish small creeks to larger rivers for trout, and medium rivers for salmon and steelhead. So, here's what I got or plan to finish for my well rounded arsonel:
  1. (current project) 6.5ft, 4 weight rod, medium action for very small creek trout fishing
  2. (current project) 7.5ft 4 weight rod, medium action for small creek trout fishing
  3. 7.5ft 3 weight for creek trout fishing
  4. 7.5ft 5 weight for creek and small river trout fishing
  5. (current project) 8.3ft 5 weight medium action for small river trout fishing
  6. 9ft 5 weight medium action for small to medium river trout fishing
  7. (future project) 9ft 6 weight fast action for medium to large rivers and windy conditions
  8. 9ft 7 weight medium action for stillwater and steelhead fishing
  9. (future project) 9ft 8 weight fast action for windy days on stillwater, and some eventual saltwater fishing
  10. 11ft 6/7 weight short spey length for river steelhead
  11. 11ft 8 weight short spey length for river salmon
As you can see, that list is a bit hypathetical, because three of them are in the process of being built, and two others are future projects I intend to build. The point is, you have to consider the fly you plan to cast, the amount of space you have to cast in, and the size of the fish you plan to catch. I could hook up on a feisty steelhead with a 4.5ft 3 weight, but the fish would probably distroy the rod outfit in your hands. that being said, I wouldn't be able to cast a weighted wooly bugger with a 2 weight rod. So, you will see as we continue how all the parts come together. In the next couple of posts I will be covering the fly reel and fly line, and the leader/line relationship.

Now, just because I'm trying to keep these posts shorter than my usual to make them easier to read, doesn't mean I'm not open to questions. If you have questions, please feel free to post them in the comments. If I can't answer it well enough in the comments section, I will dedicate a post if needed to get the point across. For all I know, no one is reading or following this blog, so if you do have questions let me know so I can address them.