Sunday, March 22, 2009

First Draw of 2009

We got a good visit from Joe and Jadon last weekend. On the list of things to do: fish a bit. When asked about what specie to pursue, his reply was My heart says carp. Well you really can't beat that. I remember days and months and years ago on the Riviere aux Canots getting into big cyprinids as a duo... standing there on a platform and chucking twister tails up and across... bringing them back fast and occasionally finding a double-digit dog on the far side of the rig. So he's hooked and landed carp before. Not with flies though. I suggested he could bring his spinning gear if he wanted... and the reply was I'd like to get one with a fly. Can't really beat that either.

We had only a few hours, and there are only a few viable possibilities right now for carp. We swung through DB for some coffee and then pedaled north. Pedaled a bit we did, and then we came to one of the great rivers of the southeast and we proceeded to ply a while. Ply we did and right away we were bumping and nicking and upsetting carp. It wasn't sight fishing, nor was it blind nymphing... but rather "strip and feel" deal. Bouncing crayfish-like patterns on the substrate. Hooked THREE in the first five minutes, but two were foul. Either way, we could sense them in there and I figured we were in for a solid few hours. Not to be though. They disappeared. Dis-appeared. I figure the battles of the first three (which were not dramatic) maybe spooked them a bit.

Failure as carp guide. Again... bad rep there, to this point. Still a fun time though. Must have touched 60 F air temp, and the sun shone down pretty well on the two of us.

Joe put up a pic here.

The presentation.

Tell me you wouldn't eat this. The hell you wouldn't.

Three fish were played. Because we are honest folks I will tell you that two were foul hooked. One was for sure by the mouth (smallish though). This one, while bigger, was a genuine ass-hooking.

Nice outing. Need to do it again when fish are active and see-able. We were blind casting at hidden biomass and it didn't work out that well. Need more time too.

The fish pictured above was scaled. I know the weight.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Biggest Little MF You Know

Been watching this whole Headstand and MIB bit developing. Twisted it a bit at me own vise this eve. I like the short hook with wide gap. I also like the rubber legs as wings.

Don't ever underestimate a fly with a giant-sized heart and a king-sized trigga finga. - Charles E. Ray

Sunday, March 15, 2009


That was the word to describe today, and in particular this afternoon. March 15, and I had a sweater on all day - no vest, no coat. Felt like a late April day. Not sure what the temp hit, but it was ridiculously warm. Em had a little get-away weekend... and when she returned, I hit the stream for ~3 hours of fishing. I met WFF on site.

There were bugs in the air, and a lot of them were midges I think. For some reason though, the fish were not keyed into them, and we never saw any nifty little surface dimples - even at a corner that is usually absolute money for that: blanked... not sure why. So, instead of swinging wet flies we nymphed a bit. The new Sage 2 wt was in play. Recall last outing was approx 2:1 ratio of fish lost:caught with that thing. Need to learn it a bit. A contrast to the 4 wt that I've used for years. Today the ratio was slightly better. Hooked and held a few fish. Lost a couple. Slow water like this (below) produced fish from deep.

Today was more about the company though - meeting someone on the stream. We surely chatted for more minutes than we fished. Fished and chatted, chat fish, chat, etc. Pretty good way to pass a perfect March afternoon. I usually fish by myself because I'm mostly a grumpy hermit. I appreciate opps to get out with someone now and then.

As for "report" items: water running low and clear - not stone clear, but damn near. This, in spite of warm temps, becuase I believe there is simply not enough volume of water on the land (in the form of snow) to have any real "snow melt" impacts. That was last weekend and the preceding week... Now we sit with north-facing snow and some ice here and there. Fishing could be good for a while I bet. WFF reported water temp ~43 F at 2 PM and ~47 F at 6 PM. We saw a few "groups" of fisherman on the stream. Every normal parking place on the roads was occupied. Given our goal, intention and pace, we caught our share of fish. Not too many, not too few. Nymphing deep was the ticket. Didn't spook any fish from shallow water at all.

Riding off into the sunset.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Shimmer Glenille

Or something like that anyway. Roughfisher sent me four cards of it. It's better than polar chenille that you find in fly shops: better colors, more-densely-packed and shorter fibers, and "flat" configuration. The following are a few carp flies for which an application of this material was implemented. Thanks man, for sharing some cool material.

First was just a basic crawfish pattern - only a slight taper to thorax.

Next went with various shades of green and added a hackle. Made an effort here to make the thorax more robust.

As I was tying that one, I noted that the fly without the hackle and wing case looked pretty good... so I kicked one out minus those components. Here's a quick pic of the "garbage application" step that I use often: reach into the big vat of scraps and pull out anything that can add bulk to the body of the fly... Crappy chenille, dumpy dubbing, etc. This step allows you to build a fatter body without wasting all your good material in a location that will go unseen by fish.

One more - kind of an elongated carp wooley - just non-lead wrap and chenille under a hackle.
The Mini Zonker

Speaking of simple flies, and of to-do lists:

I like the idea of tying some smaller versions of streamers, for swinging at trout. They keep the concept, but allow for (1) easier handling with trout-sized rods, and (2) smaller fish to figure they can eat them. To that end, I've been tying some "micro buggers" (Holschlag), and last night kicked out a few of these little zonkers.

This one is #12, short hook, one strip of squirrel, one hackle collar and a conehead.

Only modifications here are longer shank, and gold under-ribbing.

If I had small black zonker strips I'd use those... I bet this would be deadly in all black. My prediction is that this fly will do pretty well. I left the tail somewhat short because (1) wanted to keep overall silhouette somewhat small, and (2) want to avoid the strip always wrapping around the hook.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Midwest Fly Fishing Expo

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.
Notch One

That's a dual purpose title: imperative sentence, or compound noun.

Friday afternoon rolled around, and it required some attention. Despite the fact that flow in the Zumbro had ~tripled, Root had ~quintupled and Whitewater was up nearly two feet (no rated gauge online), I initiated a little windshield survey. I knew I'd be working Saturday, so the offset was "necessary" maybe. Another part of the deal was the 2 wt that was whispering.

I figured fishing would be at worst dogmeat and at best marginal. Ended up to in the middle somewhere.

Anyting big was pretty well blown out. Maybe could have caught some fish - not sure - but I skipped over all of that. I went to a drainage that is pretty forested, and walked up ~30 minutes - carrying the Sage in its case - not sure if I'd even break it out. Here is what the land looked like - all south facing slopes were devoid of snow, as were all row cropped areas. North facing and heavily wooded had some hanging on.

The world is a real classroom right now... You can get away from reading about watershed and land management issues, science, etc. and see with your own eyes how water moves across the land and what it picks up on its way. Because this is not a rain event, but rather a snowmelt (and a fairly tame one), the intensity of sediment loading is not great.

Here is some shallow ground water joining the stream. Dead clear. Granted these are usually running, and always clear, but the discharge was up a bit... still stone clear.

Water draining a forested area with some steep slopes... Somewhat turbid, but not "muddy" really.

I walked past a number of decent looking corners, and then when I finally turned around I stopped at this one and gave it a go. Mainly I wanted to just rig up that Sage and flip around some nymphs. I was somewhat surprised to find some decent action, despite increased discharge, colder/turbid water. I landed a couple fish, and hooked/LDRed/lost 3-4 more.

The first on the rod was pretty small, so here is the second. First few of many notches to come.
Few notes: (1) saw some midges in the air, but due to conditions, no fish rising at all, (2) seemed like the fish were in slightly slower pieces than normal, (3) I've been thinking about the fact that I lost more fish than I landed - I believe I need to adjust hook set power to compensate for the smaller setup. Need to transfer more energy from arm to hook I think.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


That is a word. JB senior is a right-handed reeler. I am not, and so a change in handedness of the G Loomis Adventure 3 that arrived yesterday was required. I Googled around a bit, and found the phrase "the reel easily changes from one hand retrieve to the other..." etc. but could find no explicit instructions on how to make that change.

I figured there could only be so many things that a guy can do to a reel, so I started poking around.

This component of the reel is absolutely symmetrical, and the drag works in the same fashion in both directions. This suggests that there must be something in the spool that "grabs" when it turns one direction but slips when it turns the other...

The small screw pictured here looked like it should be removed.

This piece and its "seat" came out with a little pull from a pencil eraser. I can't say for sure that I know how this piece grabs, but the clue was that it is not symmetrical - it looks like it's designed to perform a certain duty when facing a particular direction.

Flip it top to bottom, replace it and tighten things up... The zzzzzzz is right on man. Right on indeed. ZZZZZZZZZ, MF'n ZZZZZZZzzzzzz. Had to pull all the line off and respool it in the opposite direction too. Removed a little backing because I prefer a slightly loose spool (don't tell anyone that out of context please).

So now we roll forward with two G Loomis Adventure 3s - one strapped for 4 wt and one for 2 wt. They came to me, my preciouses. Note one is slightly more worn, and that same one actually wears the mark of human blood.

[this eve, after I had performed this task, I got an email from G Loomis; attached was a PDF diagraming the process as it is portrayed above; the device that determines handedness is called the roller clutch]

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Arrived today...
...did the ultimate Driftless Area trout rod.

Workout coming soon. Thanks JB and JB.
Dude, where's the sink?

I was clicking along, driving south the other night... crossing the watershed boundary from the Cannon into the Zumbro... enjoying a calm and quiet evening, when my two bit radio in my one-eyed car clicked onto a FOX talk show. The host was a woman named XXX Jeffers I think. She was pretty entertaining to her own person, and a lot of words flowed from her mouth, across the airwaves and into my ears. She doesn't like President Obama, and in fact she doesn't like "the liberals" much either... Which is fine I guess. However, one thing she mentioned as a core of her displeasure with said party is something I've heard before, and has always bugged me: taxes take money out of the private sector.

What I need now, is a rationale explanation of how that can happen. It's precisely what she said, and it seems I hear that fairly often. Here are my observations:

Government agencies use tax dollars for these purposes:
(1) Pay employees. Thus, this money goes back to the private sector.
(2) Contract with private entities for work - same deal - back to private sector.
(3) Buy stuff - equipment, supplies, etc. - back to private sector.
(4) Overhead, utilities - back to private sector.
(5) Employee benefits - health care, retirement - back to private sector.

I'm stating the obvious here... But what am I missing? How can you make the claim that the government takes money out of the private world? It's a pass through - nothing more. So back to the original question: Dude, where is the money sink? The gov doesn't eat any dough.

You could put forth an argument that government doesn't always make wise decisions when it comes to how to put tax dollars back into the private sector. Still though, it's hard to paint that as "waste" because the money doesn't disappear - it still serves in the private world... just some private entity other than the complainer got some extra. This happens all the time in private to private transactions - bad decisions and overpayment for a service or good... common occurence.

So I guess my point is that government doesn't "take" any money. It funnels it to projects that it deems necessary, according to the guidance of legislators, who in theory are to be guided by constituents. It's a funnel, not a pit.

Ranting a bit... but it came to a head when I read this article. I haven't talked to any fisheries guys on this yet, and to be honest I don't have an informed opinion on whether or not this would be a good thing. Some of the knee jerk I've heard though is that yes - surely it would be good to get this to the hand of the private sector - away from wasteful government spending. Well - maybe speculate on what would happen:

Currently, the state of MN funnels tax dollars to the hatchery program to raise and stock fish in our waters. State employees are paid an average to maybe below average wage to do the work involved. There is no "retail" cost for the fish once they are ready to stock. The state can set policy to use the best science to raise the best and most appropriate fish for our waters. They have access to the most up to date information regarding fish diseases and genetics. That's about as much as I can figure.

If we privatize hatcheries: the State of MN would likely put the work out for bid. Once the contract were awarded, the goal of the contractor would inevitably be reduced to the core principle of the capitalist: how can I meet the minimum requirement of my contract, while spending the least amount of money, so I can bankroll the gravy (because the contract is set). Thus, shortcuts may be used, and care for the "final product" may be lacking.

The comparison outlined above is based on the assumptions that (1) gov employees in the fisheries world care for their work and "their" fish and that they conduct their jobs with integrity, despite getting pay that is not glamorous, (2) private entities MAY care for their work and "their" fish, but there is a greater probability that they will NOT do so, but rather they will be focused on maximizing profit and the "retail" cost of the fish they grow.

I believe that those assumptions are generally and loosely sound. They wouldn't be so in every case, but my observations suggest that they're safe bets.

Anyway, to circle back to the front of the conversation - just for a second, I thought maybe hatchery fish were one of the few true "sinks" for tax dollars: we pay big money to raise them, and it comes back to us in the form of a product - one of the few things you could claim that the gov actually "produces." But that was just a second of thought... then came the fact that those fish drive huge private expenditure - cars, boats, rods, reels, etc. - the billions spent each year in the private sector... so the bills turn to fish flesh that swims and breathes and eats bugs... and that fish flesh maintains tangents that dust off savings and circulates them through the cash registers and pixels on computer screens and old leather wallets, etc. etc. Money fish money fish, money fish.

If we privatize the hatcheries, I think we should install a contract stipulation that all payment be in the form of 10 kronur pieces - the coin that honors the pisces by featuring an image of four capelins. This coin here sits on my dresser top. Lucky fishy coin money.