Thursday, November 19, 2015

There is a season

There is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to build up, a time to break down.

A fixed length line system is the epitome of simplicity.  A stick, a string and a fly.  A perfect way to get someone fly fishing and catching fish with a minimum of time spent learning the intricacies of casting while managing long lengths of line.
What I find most interesting is it seems like for every beginner who is smiling ear to ear as a result of catching their first fish, there is a seasoned veteran who is also astream smiling ear to ear while fishing this very basic set up.   These well aged fishers for the most part have long since lost count of how many hours they have spent fishing and how many fish they have caught or lost.  They have spent multiple decades amassing large quantities of high quality tackle, yet they choose to leave it all at home and fish with only enough equipment to fill one hand and a shirt pocket.
One reason might be that everyone enjoys catching fish.  In many circumstance, there might not be a more effective way to catch large numbers of fish than by fishing tenkara.  On the other hand, to many of us old timers, the catching part of fishing has become much less important.  It’s replaced with the simple pleasure of standing knee high in a sparkling stream, enjoying the sights and sounds of nature.
Maybe it a momentary return to childhood,  I know it is for me.  My earliest fishing memories revolve around catching small pan fish using a willow branch for a rod, and a fly I tied up using a piece of kitchen sponge and some rubber bands.  Back then, I didn’t need an expensive rod (or any actual rod for that matter),  a reel or a vest full of flies to spend endless hours wondering what might next grab my hook.
I find myself needing and even wanting a whole lot less stuff as I get older.  Simplicity has a certain allure.  Time spent doing worthwhile things has become much more important to me than the urge to entertain myself by buying things.  I find generally I’m just as happy, if not  actually happier, with less stuff.  It seems like that has carried over into my time spent fishing.

I'm not really sure I totally understand it, but I know I'm not alone.  I've talked to enough other old geezers to be convinced there is something to it.  The one thing I do know, it feels good to be out there and find myself unconciously smiling like a little boy.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Interesting Article/Editorial

 There is an interesting article/editorial in the Angling Trade publication written by Geoff Mueller.  I found this paragraph referring to Yvon Chouinard particularly spot on -

Chouinard, as he’s done through
much of his career, has chosen to
swim against the mainstream with
tenkara. But he still fishes for British
Columbia steelhead with a two-
hander and has caught fish with a
standard double-haul across the
globe. But in potato country, on the
brink of fall, the 70-something-year-
old is most content standing in the
river, smiling like a little boy, and
twitching a tenkara rod for wild trout. 
He doesn’t seem bored

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Lake Michigan Salmon Population Decline

Lake Michigan salmon numbers are way down from what has been the norm for the past 50 or so years.

It's going to be interesting (I fear not in a good way), to see what effect the reduced salmon numbers are going to have on the resident trout/bug populations over time. If a butterfly fluttering it's wings can cause a hurricane, what happens when you remove a couple million thrashing salmon tails.

In alot of respects, one might view a salmon as a semi truck, filled with biomass, making a delivery from the big lakes to consumers upstream. They provided tons (literally) of food in the form of roe and flesh to the resident populations every fall. That gave all the residents a chance to fatten up for the cold winter ahead.

If over time there aren't so many, if any, semi trucks delivering the bacon, it could mean lean times for river residents getting ready for winter.

I hope not, but of course, we'll see (whether we want to or not).

p.s. As I think about it, the big lake sourced feed bag continued well into the spring/early summer with massive numbers of hatching fry.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Panfish Flies

Panfish flies are a ton of fun to make and fish.  They are extremely cheap, fast and easy to tie.  Added bonus, they catch fish!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Just like Tom Sawyer

Very interesting and well written article -

Just like Tom Sawyer: Tenkara fly-fishing is catching on






Monday, June 29, 2015

Best Time to Fish

Someone in one of the fly fishing forums was looking for suggestions regarding why they weren’t catching as many fish as they expected.  They were fishing a few U.P. Michigan Ponds/lakes for brook trout.  He had put in long days starting the day at 9:00 or 10:00 a.m., and fishing to 5:00 -5:30.  OF course, the days were not a total loss - beautiful scenery and several loons to keep him company.

My initial response, although I had never fished the ponds/ lakes mentioned, I will say, I've been fishing for a long time, in alot of different places for alot of different fish. One of the biggest mistakes I generically see folks make - fishing at the worst time of the day. Most folks are coming out just as the fishing slows down, and go home just as the fishing starts to pick up.

I have found you are best off to fish early in the morning, and late in the evening. Having been doing this for a long time, I can say it is often dramatic what a difference if makes. The difference is sometimes lessened on a cloudy day, but on a sunny day, you are much better off taking a mid day nap and resting up for an evening of fishing. Someone may be able to come up with an exception, but day in and day out, fishing the low light times of day is the way to go.

So wrote Rudyard Kipling - “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noon day sun”

My advice was pretty much solely based on my own personal experience.  But as I thought about it, there are a number of factual reasons to support my claim. 

 In a given lake or pond, trout may indeed be at the top of the aquatic food chain.  That's probably true as long as they don't have to worry about what's in the air.  In ecosystems where loons, herons, kingfishers, fish eating raptors, etc are present, fish drop down a notch or two in the predator/prey pyramid.  Since the birds are all sight feeders, if they are present, fish learn to stay scarce when they are highly visible from above.

I'm not at all familiar with the biology of U.P. lakes and ponds.  Down in my neck of the Michigan woods, zooplankton forms the basis of the food chain in alot of lakes.  Many species of zooplankton exhibit a behavior known as diurnal vertical migration.

In the evenings, the zooplankton swim toward the surface; at dawn, they sink back down thru the water column.  The stuff that eats the zooplankton tends to focus their feeding behaviors during these migration periods.  Zooplankton is particularly vulnerable during these migrations. Their swimming motion is often species specific and readily recognizable.  That motion may certainly be a feeding trigger for the species that prey on the zooplankton.   That in turn causes the larger fish to become more active in terms of feeding on the smaller fish.

OF course the same thing applies to the aquatic bugs, fish tend to become active when the bugs are active.  Alot of hatches occur during the early mornings and late evenings.  Aquatic insects tend to avoid the bright sun and mid day heat.  Perhaps partially to avoid detection, as well as avoid dehydration.

During the middle of the day from a prey fish perspective, there is less activity going on, i.e. less chance of an easy meal, coupled with the fact they are more likely to get eaten themselves by something in the air, fish soon learn to retreat to the safety of the depths.  Same way I use to tell my kid, not much good happens after midnight, not much good happens to our fish friends at noon.

It really all comes down to risk vs. reward.  Fish that make unwise choices about their safety tend to get eaten, which in turn removes those behaviors from the gene pool.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Ceramic Nymphs

I received a package of ceramic nymphs from the good folks at French Nymphs today
I wasn't familiar with ceramic nymphs until I saw them on the French Nymph site -

These are some great looking flies, they are relatively heavy for their size and should cut through the water column very well.

Make sure you take a look at these if you like to fish subsurface.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The most important fly tying tool

Trick Question –  What’s the most important fly tying tool ?

Trick Answer -  Your fingers.

DISCLAIMER -  It takes a man who is comfortable in his own skin to talk about hand care

One thing I’ve found, it really pays to keep your fingers/nails  in good shape when it comes to tying flies.  Nothing gets in the way more than ragged finger nails and patches of rough skin.   For a long time, I just put up with it. 

It wasn’t until I started hanging around with my guitar playing buddies that I learned how to take care of my finger tips and nails.  Guitar players are meticulous in the way they take care of their finger tips and nails.  The need them smooth and well kept in order to make sure they don’t get in the way of fretting and plucking strings.

I found out what they use to smooth things out – glass nail files.  A good glass nail file is worth its weight in gold when it comes to maintaining health smooth nail and removing rough patches of dead skin and such from finger tips.

It makes tying go so much smoother, wish I would have figured this out about 40 years ago.  If you are tired of snagging materials and such, give one a try.  (as with most things, don’t buy a cheap one, it pays to get a good quality file, they are guaranteed to last a life time, unless you drop and break it.)  They work so much better than nail clippers, sandpaper, emery boards, ...  

I ordered a batch directly from the Czech Republic (for some reason, they make the best files) for the folks in my fly fishing club.  The guys and gals just love the way they smooth out the rough spots on their nails and finger tips.  I actually have a few left, if you’d be interested in one, drop me a PM.

There, somehow I strangely feel better having come out of the closet and having talked about hand care.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Where to fish -

A great source regarding where to find wild trout across the U.S. -


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Loop to Loop connection

I like to use a loop to loop connection wherever appropriate.  It's fast and easy, secure, and easily reversible.

There is a right and wrong way to make the connection.  You want the knot to look like this -

not like this

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tenkara as a teaching tool

I recently read a short article about the use of a fixed length line system as a fly fishing teaching tool. I agree with much of what the author said about how it simplifies things for the beginner. The article stressed that it eliminated the need to shoot line and mend line.

I don't agree that it eliminates the need to mend/manage line on the water.  I will say that having a long rod and very light line makes it alot easier.  This allows the student to learn to recognize what happens when line meets water, to see the effect, and to be able to figure out what needs to be done in order to make the fly behave as the angler intends.

A fixed lenght line system certainly eliminates shooting line, but it does even more in terms of simplify the process.  What I've found really helps a beginner is eliminating the need to coordinate two hands in order to successfully cast (even when you aren't shooting line). When folks are first getting started, it is indeed a pat head/rub stomach type of exercise trying to coordinate the movement of both hands. Eliminating the line hand allows a person to focus on using just the rod hand to make a cast.  

I've lost count of how many times I've watched a newbie fly fisher spend an evening trying to flail away with a reeled rod.  After a while it’s hard to miss the level of frustration that overcomes even the most determined new learner.

My approach is typically to wade over and ask him/her if they'd like to give my rod a try.  I don’t typically provide any other instruction or suggestion.

 So far I've yet to see a person within no more than a cast attempt or two, be able to deliver the fly and start fishing. More often than not, the fishing gods seem to be smiling because it seems like beginners luck kicks in.   The person soon catches their first fish.  It's very rewarding experience to both the student and myself, everyone goes home happy.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Myth Busters - Dead Drift

There are at least a couple of widely held and accepted fly fishing related “truisms” , that at least from my perspective, aren’t so true.

One I think many of us have heard – It’s isn’t fly fishing unless your rod is equipped with snake guides.

I think most of you who may be reading this may have a slightly different opinion.

Another one I often hear – You need to present your fly with a dead drift in order to catch fish.

I personally disagree with this one with as much vigor as with the snake guide axiom. Dead drift is certainly a popular and effective presentation, but it certainly not the only presentation that works well. Not everything that a fish may eat floats along lifelessly in the current. A lot of things move, whether it be in the form of a struggle, or purposeful means of propulsion. Don't be afraid to twitch, skate, skitter, swing, flutter, lift …. your fly.

Anytime one is engaged in a discussion, it’s always nice to know at least a few other folks share your opinion. When it comes to fishing alternative presentations to dead drift, I think I am in good company. If I ask you to close your eyes and picture what is commonly referred to as a “tenkara” fly, chances are you envision something that looks like this

So ask yourself, why tie the hackle forward? I probably don’t need to tell you it’s designed to add movement to the fly as it is twitched during the presentation. It’s to make the fly look alive via the movement imparted by the angler, and the resulting pulsation of the hackle. These flies are specifically designed NOT to be fished using a dead drift presentation.

As least for me, another fly fishing truism bites the dust.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

But another validity discussion

Another day, another it ain't really fly fishing discussion in a fly fishing forum. I find it interesting that if you do a google search on a guy named Izaak Walton, you'll find several hundred clubs, organizations and other miscellaneous stuff named in his honor.

Guess what? He didn't use a reel either.

As you spend some time looking into things, you'll find the development of fly fishing in both East and West is remarkably similar in terms of time frames and the types of equipment used.

I personally don't think there is anything mystical or zen about using a fixed-length line set up to fly fish. It's a simple and effective way that some folks choose to fish.

Quite honestly, the vast majority of good old boys and bubbas can't help but smirk when they see somebody standing in rubber pants, waving a stick around as they zoom by in their bass boats. It's all just a matter of where you happen to find your interest along the curve.