Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB

Monday, December 28, 2015

Why I Fly Fish

"I think I fish, in part, because it's an antisocial, bohemian business that, when done properly, puts you forever outside the mainstream culture without actually landing you in an institution." John Gierach

What comes around goes around. For every action there's an equal and opposite reaction. If you're the only one on a section of the Swift one day you will be crowded off the river the next. At least I will be crowded off as I go to spots less traveled. The Sunday before Christmas it was like fishing my private river for the first two hours and hardly anyone after that. This past Saturday was a mob scene with Sunday very busy too. Everyone was at the PIPE and nobody was in my riffle section. Two bows came to the net and I lost another. Then I took a walk down to above Cady Lane where I made some long gentle casts to some skinny water rainbows. Two more came to the net. One has to LOOK for these fish. They are solitary like the fly fisher who was after them.

Fly fishing has never been a social event for me. Sure, I meet old and new friends on every trip, usually in the parking lot or on the path to somewhere and I value that. But I fish alone and that's 99% of the time. In the past five years I've GONE FLY FISHING with only three people, Brad, Bill and Christophe. They are solitary too. We fish, separated by some distance, with few words exchanged until the end of the day. We have a good time.

I'm beginning to think that fly fishing is becoming something like golf to many - totally social and driven by score cards. Fly Fishing competitions and fly fishing teams have metastasized on the landscape which is odd and strange because this is supposed to be the endeavor that we use to ESCAPE the workplace games that we play. I guess it's how we define ourselves - are we creations of our careers or is there something else inside?

There is hope!! A large and growing number of people that I guide do not want to fish crowded areas. "Show me the spots on the Swift that are not crowded" and we do that and we catch trout. Finding good spots is not a hard thing to do. It's a very easy task on the Millers and the EB.

Above is the new toy - A Swift River Company Sierra bamboo at 7.5 feet for a 4wt line. Paired to a 3wt DT and it's a charm. Check the website for Rick Taupier's company if you are in the market.

3 to 5 inches of snow tomorrow. Good time to fish the Swift!!


Thursday, December 24, 2015


Fly-fishing is solitary, contemplative, misanthropic, scientific in some hands, poetic in others, and laced with conflicting aesthetic considerations. It is not even clear if catching fish is actually the point. JOHN GIERACH - Dances With Trout(1994)

Hope all of you have a safe and happy Holiday Season!!!!!


Monday, December 21, 2015

Almost Winter, Bamboo And Soft Hackle Flies

Perhaps fishing is, for me, only an excuse to be near rivers. If so, I'm glad I thought of it Roderick Haig-Brown A River Never Sleeps (1946)

Saturday was the first cold day of a balmy December and I believe that it may have caught the legends of Swift regulars off guard. I heard that Friday (a warm day) was packed and so was Saturday but when I drove past the Y Pool lot at 7am there was one car and nobody at the PIPE lot. I guess that after Saturdays tough conditions the idea of an early Sunday start wasn't too appealing. As it turned out I was the ONLY one fishing from the PIPE to the Tree Pool and back for the first two hours!!

Sunday was a bit of a mission. First it was to test out my 7 1/2 ft 4wt bamboo rod from the cane craftsman Rick Taupier of the Swift River Rod Company. I paired it with a 3wt DT to explore the range of this rod. It can throw the "undersized" line well over 30 feet which is the limit for this section of river. That's what bamboo does!! The second was to test out some new(er) flies after I threw on a size 16 partidge & orange to put some "bends" in this rod. Trout love that fly!! They also loved, but not as much, a mylar midge larva and a hot red sparkle midge that took trout but to a lesser degree. The real surprise was when I tied on a "veiled" soft hackle (midge flash tied in on top of the thorax and before the hackle) because the trout began to ignore that pellet hatch and keyed on that fly.

The fishing was good because I had a popular spot to myself and the rainbows were eager. I went into the double digits in the first hour and and took somewhere around two dozen when I left just short of four hours. Our friends the brookies are now pretty much done with this two month party that they have had. I caught none, just 'bows.

BTW, conditions were not that bad. The wind is the key. A windy 40 degree day is worse than a calm 30 degree day. Sunday morning wasn't anywhere near Saturday's conditions.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Simple Dark Flies And A Word On Tying Thread

I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful... Robert Traver Anatomy of a Fisherman(1964)

A few posts ago contributor Joe C sent me a photo of a handsome Swift rainbow and told me to pay special attention to the fly that was hanging from it's jaw. "looks like a dark fly with black hackle" was my response and Joe said that that's exactly what it was: black dubbing and black hackle. And it didn't appear to be that small either. It got me thinking and then tying. It also brought me back to one of my favorite books: What Trout Want, The Educated Trout and Other Myths by Bob Wyatt. Wyatt wrote about the Black & Peacock which is exactly what it is: peacock and black hackle from sizes 10-20. Wyatt ties his with stiff hackle. Mine uses dark starling which is almost black but has that "glow" to it. It represents nothing and everything. A size 16 nailed bows and brookies on a recent trip to the swift. Wyatt called it the "little Black Dress" of trout flies. Maybe that makes it an attractor.

We should be taking advantage of the great selection of very thin and very strong threads out there. I use 12/0 thread for all flies from size 14 through 20 and then drop down to 17/0 for the rest of the sizes. The reason is simple. The less bulk the better.
Veevus makes an array of colors down to 16/0 which isn't necessary. Uni-Thread goes to 17/0 but comes in only white but the white is changed to any color with a chisel point sharpie. I use black and brown exclusively and color the white thread by unwinding a foot of it on top of a paper towel and then running the sharpie over it. Works like a charm.

It has just occurred to me that this may be the first product endorsement in the history of this blog. That gets me thinking of doing some reviews of products that I consider worthless, of bad design or a waste of money. Maybe in 2016......


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ways Not To Play And Land A Trout

A trout's brain is very small. It is sometimes said that dry-fly fishermen "pit their brains against those of the trout". No-one has ever leveled a bigger insult at us. Dermot Wilson - Fishing The Dry Fly

This past season I guided two anglers who took too long to land a trout. Both hooked a trout and then began to lower their rod off to the side, one side and then the other. The trout swam around at will and after what seems FOREVER the fish came to the net. A third angler did the same but lost the trout and fly and tippet to a sunken Millers dead fall. That's what happens when you play with your fish instead of PLAYING your fish!!

I haven't a clue how this weird technique metastasized but it is totally unnecessary. Your goal it to bring the trout to the net as quickly as you can without breaking the tippet if you really believe in proper catch and release.

Let's say you hook a trout. It's first action will be to move AWAY from the PULL that you induce and to go deep. FORCE THE TROUT TO THE SURFACE where it doesn't want to be. It will begin thrashing about and EXPEND far more energy than letting it swim around at will. USE YOUR ROD to make this happen. Don't bend your rod into a candy cane shape but raise your rod arm enough to make the rod bend from the tip into the mid section of the butt. Your rod, acting like a fulcrum, will flex to every surge the trout attempts and it will be like a weight being pulled. Maybe your reel and it's drag system might even get into play. Get that fish thrashing up on the surface, in that half water, half air zone and it will tire quickly. You will net it, take a quick photo WITHOUT YOUR MITTS ON THE FISH, and then release it.

I saw a video of this weird and unnecessary technique. It showed someone hooking and landing a trout while going side to side in a low sweeping matter. It was easy to TIME the video from hook set to landing and that took 2 minutes and 12 seconds ( a long playing) BUT buried in the video were THREE video breaks of undetermined length. Why do we have video breaks? Usually because the scene is taking too long. Three, four, five minutes or longer?? Conclusion: the trout was played out toooo long. Lesson: use the appropriate sized tippet (not too light), elevate the rod, and Play the fish and not PLAY with the fish. It's best for the trout!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Almost Winter And Some Winter Flies

"Fishermen are born honest, but they get over it" Ed Vern TO HELL WITH FISHING (1945)

Yes, The thermometer will hit 60 this weekend and next week will feel like the first week of April but we are just lucky. Winter will arrive soon enough and we will spend more time at the vise than we did all Summer.

I'm working up flies that seem to fish better from December through March for fishing the Swift. My Swift River Scud, a more trim and less bushy version of the standard tie, tops my list.

Another fly that works well in the cold is the Swift Serindipity. This version skips the deer hair wing and goes with white turkey flats instead. The body is kevlar in your choice of color. Red work best.

Hot Spots have been with me for close to 10 years. When I first developed this fly I searched the internet to see if the style existed or if the name was already used. No on both counts. Now there are a zillion hot spot variations. The contrasting color really works and you heard it here first!!

San Juan Worms can be a game changer in the Winter and don't forget any and all larvae patterns especially for the Pipe. Winter caddis skitter across the Y Pool on any winter day when the Temperature hits 40+.

Start tying.

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Chilly Start To A Good Sunday And more Conventional Wisdom Debunked

There doesn't have to be a thousand fish in a river. let me locate a good one and I'll get a thousand dreams out of him before I catch him and if I catch him I'll turn him loose. Jim Deren, Proprietor of the legendary Angler's Roost.

Weather Underground said that the temperature would hit 60 on Sunday which meant that there would be a jump of 38 degrees from 7:30 to mid day. "Good Luck" I thought to myself as I rubbed the seasons first ice from the guides. The lower Swift River (below RT 9) is a shaded river, a joy to fish during the heat of Summer, unlike the beach conditions found above RT 9, but a chilly place during the dark months. The reverse is true during the Winter where a 35 degree day is pleasant as you cast for trout chasing winter caddis at the Y Pool.

The short trip today was to work out a 6 foot bamboo rod with a 2 wt line and catch some trout in the 1.5 hours that I had. I did both as the little rod laid out short casts, long casts and everything in between. Again it was the #16 partridge and orange that did the trick and those rainbows could not subdue that cane rod. Will I start using this rod more than I have? Yes, but it's short length will make it a Swift River rod and only when the river is flowing low. It will not see the Millers or the EB but it will see the Middle Branch next Spring.

Now for the myth killing segment of this blog. Conventional Wisdom, almost always wrong, states that you fly fishers better get to the PIPE before New Years Day (the regulation change) because the bait boys will clean the place out in no time. This nugget has survived from year to year despite little or no evidence. If you would like EVIDENCE that this is garbage then take a stroll through the past years that have been carefully recorded on this blog. You will see that fish were caught throughout the Winter in this section. Here's what happens below RT 9 in the Winter:

1.The bait guys clobber the trout in the SPRING and not in January. The Spring trout are freshly stocked and DUMB. The January trout have been in the river since they were stocked either in October or July. They have wised up as witness to the equation that 10% of the fly fishermen catch 90% of the trout right up to New Years Eve. And now we are expected to believe that worms and powerbait suddenly become more successful? Hardly! It's true that bait fishermen who stand by the PIPE will catch fish just like fly fishermen do because that's the EASIEST spot on the whole river. Not a lot of skill required.

2. I've gone down to that section in early January and have seen NOBODY fishing and only a few tracks along the shore but I could see trout! I've never seen the "blood stained snow" that is always mentioned.

3. Last year was the first year that I remember the parking area being plowed. I will not tempt fate by trying to go in there if the snow is deep. I'll drive around to the other side and walk across the field if the flow allows me to cross over. That said it's easy to park in the Y Pool lot and go upstream.

4. 250 CFS is very fishable above RT 9 but a torrent down by the Gauge and the Pipe. We have had a few winter torrents in the past 10 years. Best to go upstream.

Last winter sucked above and below RT 9. Maybe the same thing will happen this year or maybe the lower section will be good as in some seasons past. One thing is for sure: the same old story will be circulated again next year.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Falsecast Started It - The Alchemy of Bamboo And A Good Swift Morning

The skill of the early artisans who made split bamboo rods was amazing. They contrived tools to make sections of bamboo so perfectly uniform that at the tip of the rod the cross section might be as small as a sixteenth on an inch, yet each of the six bamboo sections was identical Lee Wulff, The Atlantic Salmon

I blame frequent commentator "Falsecast" for starting this whole thing. My November 20 post led with a discussion about graphite and fiberglass. He chimed in with a question on whether bamboo may be overrated as a rod building material. I gave my pros and cons but spoke of the beauty of bamboo. That started the ball rolling or better said, that started the double haul to my present state. I've spent the past week taking out my two bamboo rods that haven't seen the light of day in months. Put them together, flex them around my fish room, take them apart, clean the ferrules and then do it all over again. I had to fish them and fish them soon..Today was the day.

Which one - the 7ft 3 inch rod made from an Orvis blank or the Paul Young "reconstructed" rod standing at 6 feet? The longer rod won so we started working the Swift together this morning.

The rod matched perfectly to my 3wt double taper and with the #16 partridge and orange selection. A long story short - we broke into the double digits within two hours with bows taking that swinging fly 2 to 1 over the brookies. At the end the soft hackle came off for a #20 micro egg which produced a 50-50 split between the above mentioned species. But the real pleasure was feeling the gentle flex of that cane and seeing the rod respond with the classic bend of a fighting fish.

Why did I forget these rods? They always worked well in the past. Maybe because I may leave a graphite rod or four in my vehicle but would NEVER leave a bamboo rod in the car to be stolen. So into the house they go to be forgotten as was the case. No longer will that happen. Fish them, protect them and then fish them again. Maybe a New Years Resolution is in the making - fish cane in 2016.

I have my eye on a third rod to join the team. Thanks Falsecast for igniting the fuse. I mean THANK YOU!

The thermometer may kiss 60 degrees Sunday. You have no excuse unless you fished today or on Saturday!!


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What Is An Attractor Fly And December Fishing

"Trout are quite unaware of their exalted status" Harold Blaisdell, The Philosophical Fisherman (1969)

The "Attractor Fly" has been with us for decades and is not the invention of the early 1980's as I once saw proclaimed online. The Mickey Finn, shown above, was created by John Alden Knight in the 1930's and Mary Orvis Marbury invented the Royal Coachman in the late 1800's. Both flies are called attractors because they stand out in the water due to their color combinations. All aquatic life forms exhibit some form of camouflage to survive but not these critters. They are not meant to represent any life form because no life form could survive being eaten by being dressed out in gaudy colors!

Why do trout attack attractors? Aggression and the chance to eat something may be the simple answer. Lets say that Mr. Rainbow is holding next to a rock. Henderickson nymphs are becoming active on the bottom with emergence a day or so away and Mr. Rainbow picks them off as they move by. He's quite familiar with these nymphs and all others in this stream so when a size 12 Royal Coachman wet fly (any gaudy fly will do) with it's snow white wings and orange barred tail comes drifting by he sees it. He's probably never seen anything like this before. What will he do? First off, he's not threatened by the size of the fly. Second, it's now in "his" space so he will attack this strange thing and swallow it if he can. He responds to this fly differently than he would respond to a drifting nymph.

Now comes the battle as to what flies are attractor flies and which are not. I have a simple definition: if your fly has an important element of its construction that makes it truly stand out in the aquatic world then you are fishing an attractor fly. It is a fly that doesn't represent any species because NO SPECIES could live and survive without blending in. An example of a fly that blends in would be the traditional soft hackle fly and an example of a fly that doesn't blend in would be any bead head. Yes, a bead head is an attractor by my definition. If a species of nymph lived in the Swift that had a bright,shiny, gold or silver bulb on the top of it's head it would be on the road to extinction.

What about dry flies? It's funny how many writers call the stimulator an attractor fly when it does so well in June during stonefly time and in Summer during hopper time. It's a good match for those insects.

The rest of the dry fly theory I will leave for another time.

It's time to wring out the last few hours of your 2015 fishing licence. All the rivers are flowing at a perfect level and there are fish to be caught. I still have some openings.....