Worked our booth at the Expo on Saturday. Getting to be a solid tradition, and I like it. It's a well put together event. We had constant chatter from folks of all sorts... made some cool connections, and caught up with some people I typically only see at that venue.
Over lunch, I sat in on a session called Nymphing The Driftless, presented by Wayne Bartz. He is a contributing writer/photographer at Midwest Fly Fishing Journal - a solid publication that covers all kinds of fly-related endeavors, adventures and study. There were many sessions, as usual... In past years I've attended some that were basically dudes showing cool fish pics, promoting their guide services, and then concluding with "here's our website if you want to shovel some dough our way." Weak ass shit there. Somewhat enjoyable, just to look at pics... but overall, pretty weak. Guys decked out in "fishing apparel," - really looking and talking the part. Has it's place I guess, but I picked this particular session on Saturday because I figured it'd be different... and it was.
Bartz, despite being one of the region's top fisherman, comes off as a normal guy. He's plain-clothes. He started the presentation not with a flash or flair or a giant muskie pic... But by saying this: Hi. My name is Wayne Bartz, and I have a presentation for you today called drifting the nymphless. One of the best slips I've heard, as it kind of switched the phrase to the polar opposite of what he had intended to reference... pretty funny. Crowd got a good chuckle, and so did Bartz.
So this was a presentation from a guy who has been fishing the WW system since he was ~7 years old. He offered a good mix of background, beginners' info on techniques/basics, and some subtle "advanced" type stuff. His photos were quality, not quantity... and the fish he highlighted were those with the best coloration and form, rather than the biggest. Thinking back, he had ZERO pictures of human faces and fish in one frame. He's a pro photographer, so the fish were done justice. He communicated well the sacred nature of The Driftless Area, while at the same time offering the crowd useful information. I'd say he hit a home run.
When one of these true veterans steps up to a microphone, a guy like me breaks out a notepad. One thing I've realized is that by way of all these conversations, all these stream walks, these hours spent looking at maps, and weeks of working over river data... A guy gets a lot of ideas regarding fishing. Because time is limited, planning is necessary. To optimize planning, notes are necessary. I've got a list of places to explore in 2009, and a list of places to hit hard in 2009... as well as a list of patterns to work on. Anyway - here are a few of the many notes I jotted:
(1) Trout getting weary of brass beads; use black or blue.
(2) Don't weight flies too heavily, use BH at most, and rely on shot from there, as heavily weighted flies don't drift well.
(3) Split shot should be 8 inches from first fly.
(4) He claims you can use three (I thought it was two) flies in a rig.
(5) He endorses the use of strike indicators.
(6) He's a high-sticker, only he adds a modified Leisenring Lift in the end third to add to the overall drift.
(7) Patterns he likes are SIMPLE: black wet fly, pink squirrel, Root River Special, etc.
Many more notes I can't recall right now...
That last one - #7 - he really stressed that... No need to imitate "fly shop flies." Tie your own, simple patterns. Trout will basically eat an anomoly in their viewscape as water flows toward them, so long as it's roughly the shape and size of the nymphs that inhabit the benthos. I agree, and I was glad to see him underscore that one.
For the evening, we kept alive a little tradition we've started: homemade beer and some tying. I didn't do anything too creative - I went with that simple theme and tied up ~20 basic nymphs to add to my general stock.
My main general pattern is the DLK - the standard BH HE #16 or #18. That fly, the pink squirrel and the scud are my go-to flies... I've been thinking on it a bit though, and I "came up with" (although I guess no pattern is "original" at this point) this basic Driftless Area nymph - moose hair tail, peacock body and turkey wind case over the entire fly. One of them has a mono rib. A simpler version of the PT I guess you'd call it. I like the mosse for the tail. If you turn over rocks in these streams, most of what you find will look pretty much like it:
Worthy of consumption I think.