Saturday, April 30, 2016

Shad Time on the Big River

Experimenting finally paid off
(picture by M. Taylor)

     I met up with my friend Mike yesterday to do a little shad fishing. I went out once already, at the first mention of a run starting, but struck out. Instead of fishing a favorite tributary, Mike asked me to join him on the Connecticut River. It's big water. I didn't know what to expect, so I brought a lot of gear. 

     I hooked up within the first few minutes, which was actually sort of a curse. I figured I had my rig all dialed in, which was not the case at all. I was the only fly fisherman there. The spin fishermen were nailing shad left and right. I switched rigs and hooked up again, but it was another lucky take. I tried messing around with leader length, fly weight, and different density tips, but none of it worked. I had the proper distance covered, but I wasn't getting the flies down enough and the floating line/Versileader combo seemed to be sweeping my flies over the lies too quickly. 

     It's easy to get frustrated in a situation like that, but I felt determined to figure out this puzzle. I hiked back to the car and picked up a triple density scandi head. The only one I had with me was a F/I/S2. I crossed my fingers, put it in my pack, and hiked back to the river. Then I realized I forgot the reel in the car, so I had to go back. Now I was frustrated! 

Releasing a nice roe shad
(picture by M. Taylor)

     I added a 10' Rio Versileader (7.0 i.p.s.), 3' of fluorocarbon tippet, and a heavy fly. I crossed my fingers and went back to it. I was hooked up within a few casts. It wasn't just luck this time, either. The new setup was the right move. It slowed my fly down enough to let it sink and to let the shad see it. I had pretty steady action from that point on. I wasn't putting up numbers like the spinning guys, but it was about as good as it could get on a fly rod on this particular day. Eventually, I realized I didn't need a very heavy fly. The line and leader combo took care of it and casting became a lot more pleasant. 

     Experimenting with lines definitely paid off. Sure, it took a couple of hours to get it all figured out, but I was still able to enjoy plenty of action. More importantly, it's another lesson to keep stored away until it's needed again. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Breaking in a New Rig on the Delaware

A nice view downstream
     Last week was a long one. Since moving into our house almost three years ago, we knew a deck replacement would need to happen sooner rather than later. The old deck was neglected beyond the point of making repairs worth the time or effort. So, during my wife's school vacation week, we tore the old deck out and built a new one. It's nice to have a new and bigger deck, but it felt like a sort of crummy way to spend a week of beautiful weather. Luckily, my friend Harold asked me to join him and guide Steve Taggart on a Saturday afternoon/evening float trip down the mainstem of the Delaware River. 

     The weather was beautiful, albeit a bit too sunny to make most of the trout willing to come up for a dry fly. Despite the effects of the sun, we were able to headhunt for enough large risers to keep us busy throughout the day. Given the funky wind, I probably should have rigged up my 6 wt. dry fly rod, but I wanted to try out my new 5 wt. combo. I strung up my Beulah Platinum 9' 5wt. and an Abel TR2 reel. We expected to see Hendricksons on the water, so I tied on my favorite fly for that hatch, a variation on Bob Quigley's deadly Quigley Cripple. 

Beulah Platinum 9' 5 wt. and Abel TR2

     It wasn't too long before we found a few risers. This was my first time fishing the Delaware, so it took me a little while to wrap my brain around fish that weren't necessarily staying in one place to intercept insects. Trying to anticipate where the target would rise next was tricky. I eventually pinned one down and hooked up to a brown about 16-18 inches. I was surprised at how strong these browns are! They can be difficult to lift. I thought the brown was as good as landed, but it popped off at the last second.

A variation on the Quigley Cripple is my favorite fly for the Hendrickson hatch.

     As the hatch progressed, we moved downstream and continued to hunt for large fish. We struck out in an area with rising fish on the far side of a few complex currents. Throughout the day, we found good targets and managed to prick a few with one of Steve's comparadun patterns. 

     For me, the highlight of the day was when Steve spotted a large trout at the bottom end of a pool. From a distance, it was difficult to tell if it was a trout or a beaver. He was sticking his head out of the water, gulping bugs off the surface. Each time his head went back under, his big back would show, followed by his tail. He was cruising laterally in a fairly broad area. He wasn't traveling in any discenrable pattern, so I tried my best to guess where he would emerge next. 

     After throwing a half dozen casts that went unnoticed, I laid out a cast that happened to landed a couple feet in front of where he was moving. We saw the big head pop up and engulf the comparadun, followed by his back and tail. The hook struck home and it was game on! He didn't run far, but he was very hard to move. I got him on the reel and I was able to hear my new Abel sing a bit. He ran towards the boat and wound up circling us. At one point, I was really worried that he was going to go underneath. I stood upon the boat's middle seat to help clear the line and leader from getting hung up on the boat. 

     The first attempt to net the big brown trout was unsuccessful. The full length of my 12' leader was outside of the rod tip and I couldn't get the fish high enough. He circled the boat again and I prepared for another landing attempt. Steve gave me the order to strip into my leader when the fish got to the stern. I stripped, then lifted the hefty trout off the bottom of the river. Steve dropped the net at just the right time and the brute was finally landed! He had a great big kype and was a real handful at about 22". 

     The big guy was my only fish brought to hand that day but, when the trout are that big, strong, and difficult to hook, I don't feel like I missed much. Given it was my first time on the Delaware, I was pretty happy with how everything turned out. I can see how this river can be addicting for dry fly fishers. I can't wait to get back.

Good way to break in a new rig

Friday, April 8, 2016

I Hate Tying Bombers

Labatt Blue and Green Butt Bombers (sz. 2-6)

     I hate tying Bombers. If well-tied Bombers didn't cost so much, I would consider buying some. I hate tying them for a number of reasons. Here are a few:

1. They are material hogs. The veal industry must be booming considering how much calf tail is needed to tie these things, especially in large sizes.

2. Good hackle is hard to find. At least in the U.S., it is.

3. Clipped deer hair is messy. It gets all over everything.

4. They take me forever to tie. Granted, I could probably get much faster if I tied them more often, but I hate tying Bombers.

     I don't necessarily hate tying all flies made with spun and clipped deer hair. The amount of dislike I have for them is proportional to the amount of spun deer hair used in the fly. I'm neutral on Buck Bugs. I sort of dislike tying Muddlers. Did I mention that I hate tying Bombers? I think tying bass bugs would make me want to stop tying flies altogether.

     I'm writing this post now just to stall. I should be at the vise, tying more Bombers. I might tie some more at the C.F.F.A. Fly Tyers Roundtable event next Wednesday night. At least I can make a mess of a room not found in my house (heh heh). When I watch a video like the one below, I still hate tying Bombers, but a bit less.