Still need a gift for dad? We've got you covered (dads, better pass this idea along or you may get another tie.)
Fish Snaps From This Week
I don't know if we can say that summer is here yet, but our wet, cold, spring is gradually turning into summer. The stream is beautiful and our high water is finally dropping to more seasonable levels. Sulphurs, slate drakes, terrestrial fishing are all good and we're excited. Here are some pics from this week.
With summer upon us, mayfly duns and spinners make up a good part of our fishing. At this time of year we often see duns hatching and spinners falling not only at the same time, but different species as well. For instance, in the evening we might have March Brown and sulphur spinners on the water and sulphur duns hatching at the same time. What's an angler to do? This week our head guide, Jim Kukorlo, helps unravel the mystery.
Duns and Spinners
A mayfly life cycle has four stages: egg, nymph, dun and spinner. But let's include the emerger which is the nymph rising to the surface to become the adult dun. The dun has upright wings and they look like little sailboats floating downstream. Wings of the dun are semi transparent with a smoky brown, gray, or yellow tinge. The dun will hatch on the water and will float downstream until the wings are dry which will enable them to fly off the water and into the trees to molt. The life span of a dun is about 12 to 24 hours which will vary with different species. The dun will sit in the trees or other vegetation until it molts into a spinner. Duns have no mouth and don't eat anything. Fly fishermen uses a dry fly to imitate the dun stage of a mayfly. Since the dun floats on top of the water you can actually see a trout eat the duns that are riding on the water surface. For all of my matching-the-hatch mayflies I prefer comparaduns or thorax style duns, the later made famous in Vincent Marinaro’s book, A Modern Dry-Fly Code. Comparaduns have split tails and the position of the wing gives it a more life-like look than traditional Catskill patterns. Without hackle the body lies closer to the water and the micro fiber tails keeps the fly upright, although I find that the thorax style flies with the crisscross hackle float better in riffles and fast runs than a comparadun. I also prefer traditional catskill patterns for my attractor patterns and for the flies I use when fishing the dry-dropper method. With so much focus on the duns during a hatch, it is important not to forget the emerger. If the trout are taking the emerger the ring of the rise will be different and sometimes overlooked. When the trout are taking emergers you will see the dorsal fin break the surface of the water. This is a great time to use a dry dropper. Attach an emerger pattern to an 18 inch piece of tippet in the bend of the dry fly hook. The dry fly will also be you indicator if the trout takes the emerger. The length of time that a dun molts into a spinner will vary with different species, but on an average it is between 12 to 24 hours. Once a dun molts it takes on a new appearance. Tails are longer and the body is slim and usually darker in color and the wings are clear and transparent. The sole purpose for the spinner is to mate and for the females to lay eggs. If you look closely you will see the egg sack on the female Hendrickson in the photo. The male and female spinners form in a swarm usually over water but in some cases over land. In some species this occurs in early afternoon or late evening. As they hover over the water they do a up- and-down dance. Once the spinners mate, the females will begin laying eggs by dipping several times into the water. When all the eggs have been released the female dies spent on the water with her wings stretched out flat. This is what fly fishermen calls a spinner fall. That's the short version of a mayfly adult life cycle, enough information for a fly fisherman to identify a spinner from a dun and to know when a spinner fall is happening. You can google the life cycle of any mayfly for more in depth information on individual species. Sometimes duns and spinners can be on the water at the same. When there are duns, you can see the trout eating the adult insects on the surface. When a trout is eating a spinner the rise can be deceiving. The spinner is dead and not moving so the trout simply sips the dead insect slowly into its mouth. These rises can be hard to detect especially in the late evenly hours. I always carry a pair of binoculars in my pack just for occasions like this. Fishing a spinner fall can be difficult for several reasons. If you’re fishing in a flat quiet pool with not much current, presentation becomes critical. Use at least a 5x tippet or even 6 or 7x in some cases. I find the downstream slack-line presentation to work best in these conditions. On very selective trout I will fish a sunken spinner and have found this to be effective especially during the trico hatch. Have you ever been on the water early on a summer morning and see rising fish but can't see anything on the water that they are taking? The morning after a good spinner fall can offer some really good fish taking left over spinners from the night before. One of my favorite flies to use in a situation like this is the rusty spinner. Be sure to tie it in several different hook sizes. Spinners are easy to tie. I use micro fibers for the tails and thin strips of white poly for the wings. Be sure to split the micro fiber tails. Switching from spring to summertime can mean fishing smaller flies, longer leaders and smaller tippet sizes. Late afternoon and late evening fishing can be very productive so be sure to stay until dark and be on the lookout for spinners showing in the air above you. Sometimes it's the last half hour of day light when the spinners hit the water and it can a very exciting 30 minutes of fly fishing. Be sure to carry a head lamp or flash light for late evening fishing and a wading staff can come in handy when wading in the dark. If you live close enough to a trout stream you can eat an early dinner and still have time to get on the water for the evening spinner fall.
Click here to view comparaduns and other mayfly patterns in our store.
Getting Soft Hackled
While Jim talks to us about mayflies, there are often times when caddisflies will be mixed in with the mayflies or when the hatch is all about caddis. While mayflies and caddis are both aquatic insects, the caddis behave differently and the observant angler will know how to identify and imitate the sometimes subtle differences. Chester Allen talks to us about caddis soft hackles in this excellent story.
Meanwhile back at the office we are busy with 2021 calendar submissions. One of the calendars we submit to is “Inspirations” and while working on Barry's submission and admiring the images we decided that we want to share the photos with you so we've put them in an album for all to enjoy. See them here.
Cathy is posting the chapters from her video, From First Cast to Double Haul, on YouTube for all to view. With cds and dvds going the way of 8-track tapes and cassettes (remember these?), we decided to share the information online.
This week we feature her segment on drag, but all the chapters can be viewed on our YouTube Channel.
If the name sounds familiar but you can't place it, it might be because we blogged about his book, The Feather Thief, several months ago. As I mentioned then, people kept telling me about the book but I didn't get around to reading it for awhile and then I got hooked on it. Still now, months later, I love to talk about the heist. There's a lot more to Kirk Wallace Johnson than The Feather Thief though. He's the kind of American that makes you grateful, thankful, and appreciative. Here's a brief look into his life and if you're in the Steamboat Springs area on June 26, stop by the Bud Werner Memorial Library. I sure wish I could be there. (And, if you haven't read the book, do so!) Thank you MidCurrent, Steamboat Magazine and Alesha Damerville.
This week we stocked sections of Fishing Creek and asked our grandkids to help. They thought it was the coolest thing ever. Of course, they fish and I would say they even fish quite well but never had the opportunity to help stock.
We talk about kids being the future of fly fishing and there are great kids projects. This week I had a young boy working on his fly fishing merit badge come to me for help in casting and learning about insects and flies. I think this is all important stuff, but I also know that our boys would never help stock fish on their own initiative.
We adults have to make the opportunities available to our kids and then stay involved with them. There is a lot to distract these days, but fishing opportunities do come along and it's up to us as parents, grandparents, councilors, teachers, family friends to make sure the kids get the chance to participate.
This is a long weekend. Is there a kid that you can take fishing, or hiking? Maybe your own kids or the neighbor? We hope so! We wish you all a Happy Memorial Day. Get out and Enjoy!
Fly Line Mending
Mending is the ability to position the fly line on the moving current in a manner which counteracts the effects of the current, thus allowing the fly to present itself naturally on or in the water. Mends can be upstream, downstream, and often content with varying speeds of water. These tips and techniques will help us all become better fishermen.
We've got a few spots here and there on the rest of our 2019 trips and we'd love for you to get in on the fun. Here's what we have coming up:
June 20-28 Slovenia, Departure is full July 26-Aug. 9 Africa, Departure is full Aug. 24-31 Bighorn River, Montana, 2 Rooms Aug. 31-Sept. 7 Bighorn River, Montana, 3 Rooms Sept. 28-Oct.5 E. Pyrenees, Departure is full Dec. 7-14 Tres Valles, Argentina, 2 Rooms
Your Line Hand. Domenick Swentosky's tip #49 (of 50) reminds us of how important our line hand is and gives up tips on stripping flies, shooting line, and all the things our line hand does without thinking about it – and we get some tips on how to do all these things better.
Little Blue Quills, done. Quill Gordons, done, Hendricksons, done. Spring is fast slipping away from us. We're now seeing March Browns, tan caddis, and someone reported seeing the first sulphur this week. We hope you're getting out to enjoy the spring hatches. It is a beautiful time of year and it won't last long!
We're busy with guiding and lessons. Here are a few shots from the season so far.
Last week found us at Belize River Lodge with amazing weather and perfect tides. We didn't put on a raincoat all week. You would think the fishing to be amazing – but truth be told, our group had a difficult week finding fish. The week got a little better toward the end, thank goodness. Thank you to an amazing group of anglers and the staff and guides at BRL who understand saltwater fly fishing and hung in there to make the best of it. We hope you enjoy the photos.
With sulphur season fast approaching here is an interesting Perdigon sulphur nymph to add to your box. We've had lots of water so far this season and this is a good pattern to get your fly down to where the fish are holding, and Tim always has tying tips to make the job easier. Thank you MidCurrent, Marshall Cutchin and Tim.
The fly line is a necessary evil. We need a fly line to cast our flies but the fly line on the water creates drag. Not only the fly line but the leader too. To help eliminate drag get as much line and leader off the water as possible by getting as close as possible to the pool and lifting the fly rod up and extending your arm out over the water. Do same when fishing at a distance by reaching out and lifting the rod higher.
High Sticking is basically lifting your fly rod and extending your casting arm to lift your fly line off the water. Lifting the fly line off the water will help to eliminate drag and give you a better drag free presentation, allowing your flies to go deeper and be in better contact with your strike indicator. Did you catch the part about extending your casting arm? If you are using a 9ft fly rod by extending your arm out and up you now have a 11ft fly rod depending on the length of your arm. For sake of argument lets say you gain about 2ft. It's a lot easier to mend your fly line in the air then it is when the line is lying on the water.
The Drift – The object of a drag free drift is to keep the fly, leader, strike indicator, fly rod and your arm in a straight line as the fly drifts down stream. In order to achieve that you must mend your fly line and follow the line downstream with the tip of your fly rod. The current is never the same all away across the stream. Learn to read the water and look for seams in the current and along the edge of a riffle. It's easier to control your drift in these seams with short casts and short drifts then it is making long cast and trying to mange more fly line on the water. Trout will feed on the edge of a fast running riff and in pools behind rocks. The flow of the current also dictates how I present my cast. Nymph fishing 101 is a three quarter upstream cast – one mend and a perfect drift through the hole. With multi currents sometimes I prefer to cast across stream and drift the fly slightly downstream allowing the fly to drift into the trout keeping the fly line behind and out of sight of the trout. This is especially good to do on bright sunny days to keep your shadow and the shadow of the strike indicator from spooking the trout.
Leaders - For whatever reason I have never gotten into making my own leaders. It might be something I should look into. I use a 9ft. 4wt RIO monofilament leader and adding a 3ft section of fluorocarbon tippet. Tippet size is determined by the hook size of the fly that I'm using. Hook size 12 and larger I use 4x, hook size 14 and 16 usually 5x and size 18 and smaller 6x. Of course that can vary with the water flow and water color. I always use two nymphs by attaching a 18 to 24 inch section of fluorocarbon tippet material, which will lengthen my leader to around 14ft. Longer leaders create less drag by allowing me to keep more of the fly line off the water. I don't use the loop to loop method to attach the leader to the fly line, it adds bulk and creates issues when landing fish and can damage the guides on the fly rod. Instead I simply attach the leader to the fly line with a clinch knot. It makes a slim profile and the leader will go through the guides without hanging up on the guides.
Flies – Along with using two flies I found that high sticking with an indicator can be a very effective way to dead drift a wooly bugger or a streamer through a deep pool or fast riffle.
Split Shots - Although I try to stay away from using split shot by using at least one fly with a tungsten bead but there are times I do have to add split shot. As the saying goes “You are one split shot away from catching fish.” Generally I add the split shot between the two flies. But that depends on what fly I'm using and where I want the bottom fly to be. For example a size 10 Ug Bug as the first fly and a size 18 Pheasant Tail as the bottom fly with no split shot between the two flies allowing the pheasant tail to float several inches off the stream bottom.
Strike Indicator – Years ago, long before the idea of using a strike indicator, I used to paint my nail knot with bright orange fingernail polish which would help me see the strike better by watching the end of my line. And it did work and it was a pretty cool idea that I learned from a friend of mine but strike indicators work much better. Keep in mind the strike indicator also suspends the fly in the water column which helps to keep from hanging up on the bottom of the stream and allows you to drift the fly at the depth you think the trout are. By watching your indicator you can see the effect the current has on your drift and how your fly is being presented to the trout. How far from the fly you put your indicator is a question I get a lot from fishermen. The rule of thumb I use is to put the indicator 1 to 2 ft higher then the depth of the water you are fishing. Most indicators will slide up and down your leader and are easy to adjust. Adjusting the indicator and being sure you have the right amount of weight are two very important factors in nymph fishing. There are hundreds of strike indicators on the market and after years of trying different ones the Dorsey indicator is my favorite. (More about different kinds of indicators in a future article.)
Fly Rods – As a kid using sticks as swords the guy with the bigger stick usually wins. A longer fast action fly rod greatly helps in mending and managing the fly line. My go to fly rod for nymph fishing is a 9ft 5wt Sage X, and depending on the size of the stream I'm fishing, I also use a 9.5ft or a 10ft 4wt.
If you are new to nymph fishing or struggling with getting good drifts and having confidence in your nymph fishing. Just by learning to lift your fly rod up and out you will see immediate changes in your drift. Once you establish confidence you will start catching more fish and having fun.
We're busy working on our 2020 trips. Here is a look at what we have to look forward to:
January 11-21 Suinda & Pira, Argentina (golden dorado) February 8-15 Laguna Verde, Argentina (rainbows) February 16-20 Dorado Cruiser, Argentina (golden dorado) March 13-20 Villa Maria, TDF, Argentina (trout) March 21-28 Estancia Tecka, Argentina (trout) Dates TBA San Huberto, Argentina (trout) April 25-May 2 Turneffe Flats Lodge, Belize (bones, permit, tarpon, etc.) June (TBA) Ireland/Scotland (trout/Atlantic salmon) August 6-15 Reel Action Camp, Alaska (trout, char, pacific salmon) August 22-29 Bighorn River, Montana (trout) August 29-Sept.5 Bighorn River, Montana (trout) October 4-11 E. Pyrenees, Spain (trout, barbel) Nov/Dec Tres Valles, Argentina (trout)
We just returned from our March/April trip to Argentina where we visited three estancias with three amazing groups of clients, never put on a raincoat, and had beautiful weather – with just a bit of wind. After all, it wouldn't be Patagonia without some wind! The places you'll see in the album are Tres Valles Lodge, San Huberto Lodge, and the Limay River Lodge, all amazing. It seems like a long time until next year. There is just no place like Argentina! Click here to see more photos
We've all heard the news about Sage's new rod, the Igniter. If you're looking for a fast rod with backbone for longer casts, bigger flies, and one that will step up to the plate should the wind come up, but is still fun to cast without being too fast, try to Igniter. Here's an interesting short MidCurrent review of the rod by fly fishing gear reviewer, Robert Morselli.
Fishing is good here at home. Hendricksons are the order of the day with March Browns soon to follow. Here are a few shots from guiding recently. Spring fishing doesn't last long, we hope you're getting out to enjoy it!
We kicked off mid-April with a beautiful weekend for the opening of trout season. Pictured here is our most popular fishing spot on opening day, the Benton Dam. Then the following week, just so we don't become too complacent, Mother Nature threw tornados (tornados in PA, you say?) at us in the middle of the night.
Our little town of Benton, having just recovered from a devastating flood last summer, was now devastated again with tornados. Our lovely Mill Race Golf Course was just about obliterated, barns torn apart, homes lost or damaged, beautiful 100 year old trees uprooted like pick-up sticks. Everyone was without power for days and it felt like a war zone. Luckily no lives were lost.
So now we are trying to get back to normal, but we're not sure what normal is anymore!
Here, we're busy getting out fly orders, lots of Hendricksons and March Browns are rushing out the door so we can tell that the spring hatches are in full bloom here in the east. Trout lilies and Dutchmen's Britches are blooming, fish are rising, it's a beautiful time to be outside and we hope you are making time for spring fishing. It won't last long.
2 Unique Opportunities
Tres Valles, Argentina
Tres Valles, Argentina, in the fall (their spring) is beautiful with full rivers, hungry fish, and snow capped mountains. Easy wading, float trips, spring creeks, small rivers, lakes. It's the fly fisherman's dream destination. You may not be a lake fisherman, we weren't either until we got to Argentina. Lakes are different here, clear, cold, with hatches and big fish. With spectacular scenery and rising fish, lakes here can be a lot of fun.
But there are also pretty little spring creeks with browns and rainbows that will surprise you (and fill up the net), small rivers where an Adams dry fly and a PT nymph will catch fish all day long, float trips through beautiful canyons, and walk wading small rivers.
This is a small lodge, only 4 guest rooms, with big variety! Come with us to this special destination, December 5-16, 2019. Includes a day in Buenos Aires, our favorite city. See the details.
Villa Maria, Tierra del Fuego
We're very excited to have a week at Estancia Villa Maria in Tierra del Fuego next March 13-20, for sea-run brown trout. This small, 6-guest, lodge is sold out annually and for years to come. It is only by a stroke of luck that we were able to get a week here and it may not happen again.
If you have Tierra del Fuego on your bucket list, come along with us to this very special destination. It will be a trip that you won't soon forget!
Oh, drat. I finally get a day off to fish and the fish won't bite! Our head guide, Jim Kukorlo, tells us what he does when this happens. (now we all know his secrets....)
What Does a Guide do When the Fish Aren't Biting?
This might sound like a tough question to answer. But it is a situation that I do find myself in from time to time. Not only when I'm guiding but when I'm fishing too. I know the water well and I know the fish are there but they are simply not biting.
As a young boy I was either playing baseball or fishing in a small creek behind my house. As were all of the kids in the neighborhood in those days. What I noticed was that when the fish weren't biting the other kids started to throw rocks or play in the creek but I didn't. At least not right away. I always wanted to catch fish when no one else was. That hasn't change I still like to catch fish when the bite is off.
As a guide I always do my best to give the client a good day on the water. Which of course includes catching fish. Doesn't take long to sense that the bite is off. Now that can mean several things. One - the strikes are soft, we are rolling fish or getting head shakes but can't keep them on the hook. I immediately switch to smaller flies and that sometimes can make a difference. Or Two - the fish are simply not biting.
Before I start changing flies I will add split shots, adjust the strike indicator and correct any mistakes my client is making in his presentation to ensure a drag free drift. I read a great article on patience vs. persistence by Domenick Swentosky on his website Troutbitten. “Patience is waiting for something to happen and persistence is making something happen.”
Another way of putting this is “Think Outside the Box” and when the bite is off and I'm guiding it's definitely time to “Think Outside the Box” and be persistent. I usually start on a certain section of water for a reason. On a summer day I like to hit the quiet pools first before the sun is on the water. Colder early spring or autumn days I like to start where I will be in the sun and later in the day move to the shady pools as the day warms up. But what if I'm in the pool I thought would be the best in the morning but it isn't. Once we are in the beat for awhile I like to move up or down stream to different water. We will not only rest the pool but it will give us different type of water and fish that haven't been fished over yet.
If I start out using nymphs I like using the two nymph set up. Using an attractor fly such as a San Juan worm, squirmy wormy or some sort of egg pattern as the top fly with a go-to nymph such as a size 18 pheasant tail or caddis pupa that can sometimes trigger a strike. I continue to change the bottom fly with an assortment of flashy flies with orange, green, red and even purple bead heads and different color hot spots on the fly. If using 4x tippet, I will drop down to 5x or even 6x.
Many clients have never fished without an indicator so having them high stick a nymph is something different and new for them to learn and can be productive in certain pools. The fly will get down quicker and deeper and it will be a different presentation to the trout.
If still no success underneath I switch to a attractor dry fly such as a hopper or a yellow body Crackle Back dry fly (more on that in a future issue). If there is no interest in the dry fly I can always add a dropper fly such as a soft hackle, beetle or many other options.
Thinking outside the box doesn't mean just using different types of flies. It also means using different types of presentations. Early afternoon is a great time to swing a few wet flies through a nice riff or working them slowly in a deep pool. When was the last time you heard the word wet flies? Old school I guess but they still catch fish.
I always have a fly rod setup with a sink-tip line and a streamer ready to go in hopes of hooking into a good fish who is looking for a bigger meal. A dead minnow or sculpin pattern just dead drifting off the bottom can be a easy meal for a lazy trout. Or dead drift a super bugger with a small nymph as a drop fly off the bugger.
These are a few of the different flies and techniques I try when the fish aren't biting. Weather and water conditions really play a big part in where I fish, what flies I use and what type of presentation will be best.
On a day when my client is catching fish there isn't a need to change techniques or even fly set ups. So on a day when the fish aren't biting, clients can experience some different ways of fly fishing that he/she might not have had the chance to do before.
Trout live in beautiful places and most clients are just happy to be on the water. As the old saying goes “A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work.” So what does a guide do when the fish aren't biting? I work hard, I'm persistent, I think outside the box and I do the best I can to give the client a good day on the water.
If you have any questions or if there is something you’d like to see here, please let me know. I like hearing from our readers.
Hope to see you on the stream.
50 Women Who Fish
This week Wild River Press is releasing Fifty Women Who Fish, of which Cathy is one of the fifty. It is a gorgeous large-format hardcover production of more than 300 pages with hundreds of color photos.
For two full years, author Steve Kantner sought out a wide range of female anglers, extraordinary individuals from ages 20 to 90, from the Florida Keys to Alaska. All are passionate about their favorite outdoor sport and their personal stories are fascinating.
How many times have we all been in this angler's situation? Next time let's remember to change our position and our angle. It might just make the difference needed to hook the fish. Thank you Orvis, Dave, and Phil.
Cathy & Barry are wrapping it up on the Limay River in Argentina and have two more days of fishing before starting home. They have visited three destinations— Tres Valles, San Huberto, and the Limay, and have not put on raincoats the entire time! Weather has been good and their guests are taking home great memories of good times and good fishing. We will have more when we get Barry’s photos home and edited.
Country Life Experience
Fun! Fun! Fun!
We're excited to tell you about a new program we have for families and kids who don't get nearly enough time to play in the country.
There is something for everyone – fly fishing, kayaking and fishing on the pond, grooming the horses (and giving them treats), gather eggs, eat beans from the garden, learn about the woods, do the waterfall trail, and lots more – wind down at the end of the day around the campfire and then sleep under the stars.
Programs are designed for families and kids of all ages and we'll always be as flexible as possible with specific requests so give us a call for dates and availability.
We hope to see you and the kids in a couple months!
Fishing With Kids If you fall, get up
Since we're talking about families, I thought this would be a good time and place to share Domenic Swentosky's excellent advice on fishing with kids. It's fun to read even if you don't plan to take kids fishing. Thanks Domenic!
January 10-20 Coyhaique, Chile (trout) February 7-18 Estancia Laguna Verde, Argentina (trout) February 15-25 Estancia Tecka, Argentina (trout) March 14-24 Estancia Tres Valles, Argentina (trout) March 22-Apr. 1 San Huberto, Argentina (trout) Apr. 27-May 4 Belize River Lodge (bones, tarpon, permit, snook) June 20-28 Soca Valley, Slovenia (trout) July 26-Aug. 9 E. Africa Photo Safari Aug. 23-30 Bighorn River, Montana, Wk. #1 (trout) Aug. 30-Sept. 7 Bighorn River, Montana, Wk. #2 (trout) Sept. 28-Oct. 5 E. Pyrenees, Spain (trout) Dec. 7 – 14 Estancia Tres Valles, Argentina (trout)
January 11-18 Coyhaique River Lodge, Chile February 8-15 Laguna Verde, Argentina February 16-20 Dorado Cruiser, Argentina (dorado) March 13-20 Villa Maria, TDF, Argentina (sea-run browns) March 21-28 Estancia Tecka, Argentina March 29 – Apr. 4 San Huberto, Argentina April 25-May 2 Turneffe Flats Lodge, Belize (bones, tarpon, permit, snook) June (TBA) Ireland/Scotland (trout, Atlantic salmon) August 6-15 Reel Action Camp, Alaska (trout, pacific salmon, char) August 22-29 Bighorn River, Montana August 29-Sept.5 Bighorn River, Montana October 4-11 Spain, E. Pyrenees Nov/Dec (TBA) Tres Valles, Argentina