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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

You only really need one fly

The rest is fly box decoration

A fly box with a few flies
If I had a fly for every time someone looked at one of my fly boxes and either said "wow, that's a lot of flies, but there's really only one fly you need to tie and that's the <insert woolly bugger, Ken's Peacock King or the super-duper secret fly xyz here>" or "you're never going to fish all them flies in there", I'd have a huge box of flies for people to gawk at and wonder why I have so many flies. Think about that for a while.

So why then, do we really carry so many flies in all different sizes, colors and styles when we honestly have no chance of using even a fraction of them? Beyond the obvious OCD collection affliction we all suffer from, we worry so much that there will come a time when only that "one fly" will work and worse, we don't know when nor what that fly might be on that given day, so we keep stocking and we keep stocking.

I think we all like to fool ourselves into thinking "if I had that one fly, I'd be catching fish right now". I know one of my winter rituals is the annual fly box filling and re-filling and thinking to myself, I'm planning for the eventuality of the "one fly" and making sure I have it. I think if we get really honest, we'll probably agree that in most situations there are a lot of flies that will catch fish in a given situation. I've had times where, in a solid midge hatch with super-picky fish, they'd eat a crazy attractor pattern or fishing a favorite stillwater where the fish had destroyed my Lemon Lime bugger and I continued to catch fish after fish on nothing more than a hook with a green bead.

Setting those types of instances aside, we're most concerned about those times the fish are finicky and are focusing on a color, an insect stage, a specific size, a specific weight or any other number of variations that might come into play. And those are the times that warrant having the "one fly". We've probably all experienced those times and likely we've been on both sides of the fence. I can remember vividly the times I've sat there and watched fish rise to an insect or feed on something that I couldn't imitate. I can also remember times where I've been lucky enough to cover my bases and pull the "one fly" out of my box that saved an otherwise unremarkable day on the water. What's even better is throwing up a hail Mary on a slow day with a fly that shouldn't work and having it turn into the "one fly".

Lesson learned: Don't worry about carrying too many flies. If you care to do so, buy a pack animal to carry them or better yet, train your cat or dog to walk by your side as a living breathing fly patch. No limit fly boxes. Be judicious in what you carry, plan ahead and make sure you aren't left without that "one fly".




Monday, April 14, 2014

I've Got Worms

Turn your last resort into your first choice

Spinoff of Mickey's UV Juan


Several years ago before the age of crazy work schedules and kids, I found myself fishing my favorite tailwater a couple times a week.  One day I hiked down to my favorite hole to find that the water levels had risen just enough to make the fishing more difficult, and I was hiving to re-think my whole strategy about fly presentation.  This was frustrating because my go-to super special sauce flies weren't getting the love that they surely required.  I found a slower eddy, and finally managed a pretty little brown that surely was starving.  When I reached down to take my fly out, I noticed that the fish had been absolutely gorging itself on aquatic worms - so much so that there were worms all caught in its teeth.  I reached for the box that I kept at the bottom of my pack (because it was embarrassing to have a box full of nothing but worms) and tied on what would save the day for me, but more importantly, that fish taught me that maybe my box of undesirables should see some playing time with the starting team.

Dumb fish?


Many years later, I still had respect for the worm, but it went to a much higher level after working in a fly shop with Mickey Anderson for a short time.  Mickey is one of the most analytic anglers that I know and he always takes into account many variables when he fishes.  I was asking him about his favorite nymph rig, and I was expecting to hear about some micro pattern that had several colors from the spectrum and a special way to present the flies.  His reply was "BIG, on a shallow rig."  He then showed me the fly called the UV Juan that was doing most of the catching.  I had the same reaction that many of the people I fish with now have - yeah right...  I tied some up, and was glad that I did because it is a legitimate fish catcher.  The UV Juan is now a production fly from Umpqua*, and I have tied many spin offs that work great.  The constant that I have found with worm patterns similar to Mickey's is that they need some type of UV quality.  In the case of the UV Juan, the UV "hot-spot" is created by adding a small section of cinnamon UV Ice Dub at some point on the fly.  

By adding worms to your starting team instead of bringing them off the bench, you can turn a bad fishing day into a good day and a good fishing day into a great fishing day.

*For you Salt Lake City anglers, the UV Juan is available at Fish Tech where Mickey works.

Cheech

Cream UV Juan
UV Juan

Hook: Gamakatsu Drop Shot 1/0
Body: Cream poly yarn
Hotspot: Cinnamon UV ice dub
Orange UV Juan

Pig Sticker

Wire Worm
 




UV Juan

Hook: Gamakatsu wacky worm 1/0
Body: Orange backing or twisted tying thread
Hotspot: Cinnamon UV ice dub







Pig Sticker

Hook: Gamakatsu Drop Shot 1/0
Underbody: About a pound of lead
Body: Maroon floss
Hotspot: Shell pink tying thread






Wire Worm

Hook: TMC 200R #4
Body: Red wire from the craft store
Hotspot: Shell pink tying thread







This is just dirty....

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book Review: Dynamic Nymphing by George Daniel

If you nymph, you must read this book

I had been somewhat interested in Czech/Polish/Euro/Tight-line style nymphing ever since I was introduced to it by my very fishy friends Ryan Barnes and Lance Egan a number of years ago. It seemed for me, at least, more of just a switch in tactics to fit the style of fishing for the international competitions and besides, I had lost interest in nymphing for the most part so it didn't really grab my attention enough to dig into it much. It wasn't until the last couple of years that I really saw the vision of what some of these other nymphing techniques brought to the table. And once I read "Dynamic Nymphing", it opened up a whole new world of fishing to me.  

As part of my nymphing re-awakening, I've had the chance to fish with and talk to a few guys that really have the Euro style down pat. I was most impressed with the insane catch rates and the fact you can really cover a lot of different water you normally wouldn't touch with an indicator. Anyway, that pushed me to buy and read "Dynamic Nymphing".

The book is broken down mainly into chapters focusing on specific techniques. George does a great job in explaining why certain techniques work in certain conditions and situations. Not only does it discuss techniques, but rigging and equipment options are also covered very nicely. There are plenty of on-the-water pictures and other illustrations that help show what's being discussed. Those are very helpful. Bottom line, the book covers some very valuable information that will absolutely improve your nymphing skills and put you into more fish.

Nice little Brown taken on a tight-line Euro rig with the Allen Icon.
Now that I've gotten the Euro or tight-line nymphing bug, I've changed a lot in my fly selection and design as well as my equipment when it comes to nymphing. I picked up an Allen Icon nymphing rod and absolutely love it. I can't believe how much more I actually enjoy nymphing now that I've had my eyes opened to the possibilities. In fact last year one of my first outings with the new rod, I was fishing a smallish stream that had some fairly spooky and finicky browns. I was totally blown away as I literally pulled fish after fish from the same small pool in the first spot I stopped to fish. Amen.

So if you are not opposed to throwing nymphs and want to catch more fish, check out this book and dig into the cool techniques therein. George Daniel and a lot of these other nymph masters (Lance Egan, Devin Olsen and others) are good evidence that these techniques are solid. Read it. You can buy it from Amazon here.

Cheech's Rock Roller Czech style nymph

Monday, April 7, 2014

5 things I learned from being a gear hucking hillbilly

fly fishing vs. just fishing

Raiders hat + Bob Marley shirt + 50 pound braid = HUGE bass

I always get a kick out of people who say yeah I  fly fish.  Well whoopty-friggin-doooo.  Don't get me wrong here - I LOVE fly fishing, but when the term "fly-fishing" is thrown out there like it's some kind of status symbol I always get a bit of a chuckle.  The majority of the time when I'm fishing it's with a fly, but fly fishing isn't always the most effective way to catch fish.  Just to give a little bit of back-story on this - I grew up in a small town in Utah, and really didn't start fishing with anything other than a wad of velveeta cheese on a hook until I was about 21.  I gradually made the change to lures, then I got a float tube, then I got introduced to fly tying and fly fishing, then I sold ALL of my non-fly fishing stuff etc. etc. you get the picture?  You guys probably all know this so-called progression of fishing that we all perceive to have fly fishing at the very top.  Well...  In 2006 (when in my mind, I had reached the top because I could readily catch fish on a fly), I got schooled.

This bass ate a fly in open water
Around 2006 I found myself living next to a really great private pond that held a very impressive Bass population.  Naturally, it was a huge motivator for me moving to that community, but it proved to be almost too challenging to hit with a fly rod.  The reason for this is that the home owners really loved to fertilize their lawns, which in turn made the pond a gnarled cauldron of matted weeds.  Yes.  A perfect bass environment.  I could get a fish or two on topwater early in the morning when they were hugging the edges, but later in the day when they headed for the depths, it was a complete no-go.  I tried about everything in the book to tie weedless jig/flies that would penetrate the thick weeds and remain effective, but it was no use.  It wasn't until I invited good buddy Bryan Gregson over to fish that my eyes were opened a bit.  He brought his trusty Sage XP and some craw patterns, but he also brought a baitcast setup and a spinning setup.  Even though we had a banner day on fly rods that day, he decided to "lend" me his non-flyfishing (heathen) gear.  For some reason my fishing soul was re-energized with the challenge of learning how to use this gear over again to catch bass.  I gradually built up a small arsenal of baitcasters, spinning rods, and eventually a big sparkly glitter sled (aka bass boat).  Here are some of the things that I learned from then until now.

1- Gear fishing is EVERY bit as technical as fly fishing.

This smallie crushed a tube fly
I have heard it a million times.  "Bass fishing is so easy, because they just come out and CLOBBER your fly," and "All you do with gear fishing is throw out your lure and reel it back in.  There is no challenge in that."   Well, welcome to Farmer Jim's pond with fish that have never seen anything.  Well, guess what... it is rarely that simple when you fish on a water that gets any amount of fishing pressure.  There are myriads of techniques for rigging, casting, presentation, boat position, use of electronics, and use of SCENT (yep, I said it... scent).  There is a reason why I have 6 to 12 rods rigged at all times on the bass boat.  Learning how to break down a bass water has helped me immensely in fly fishing because I have learned how to break down water and come up with a game plan and a technique instead of just flogging the water and hoping for the best.

2- Casting practice is every bit as important with conventional gear as it is with fly gear.

So you are scanning water, and there is a small opening in the snarled tree that you are looking at.  The hole is about 6" in diameter and the water is shallow so you can't splash and spook the fish.  If you miss your spot, you will spend the next half hour untangling your line from the snarled tree.  Yeah, I spend a lot of time in the front yard flipping and pitching into small targets.  Same goes for fly casting.  You should spend a lot of time practicing different casting techniques so you can present your fly more effectively.  Admittedly, I probably practice more with my baitcasters than my fly rods.

3- Knot strength is everything.

I used to try to learn new knots for fly fishing, but after bass fishing I realized that a standard clinch knot and a loop knot are all I need when attaching flies.  When you start snapping 40 pound braid setting the hook on a 3 pound bass, you realize that you need to pay more attention to the type of knot that you use, and to make sure that it is tied perfectly every time.  The amount of torque a 7'6" "flippin" stick puts on line is tremendous.  I'm not downplaying the fact that that you need to tie good knots in fly fishing, but bass fishing really made me focus on knots and knot-strength much more.  So far, if I need a knot that will hold as close to 100% strength as possible, I use the good old palomar knot.

4- Fly Fishing isn't always the most effective way to catch fish.

Check out Curtis' ZAGGIN ZOOK
I get it.  We fly fish because there is a major element of a challenge when we do it.  Sometimes, a fly is by far the most effective technique to use because the fish are eating something that is much more effectively represented with a fly than with some type of lure or bait.  Other times, fly fishing might still work if you get lucky, but for all intents and purposes, all you are doing is waving a really long rod in the air for hours.  On one particular trip to one of our bass havens, somebody.. cough, cough, couCURTIS, was going to make 100% effort to throw a fly rod all day while I was hucking my heathen sticks with the heavy artillery.  He had tied up some bugs that were comparable in size to my stuff so he ended up throwing a 9 wt all day.  I probably made 2,500 casts that day- Curtis? 250.  A sore shoulder led him to Tackle Warehouse to order some wares for the next time around.  There are, however, times when fly fishing for bass is the best way.  On a trip to Oregon several years ago, Curtis smoked us all because he was fishing a crease fly that was the perfect size and color.  As hard as I tried, I couldn't buy a bit with my heathen gear.


5- Don't judge.

I learned a long time ago that the guy sitting on the bank hucking rapalas just might be able to teach me something.  We are never done learning and if we think that fly fishing is the be-all end-all of fishing, we can miss out on opportunities to learn and become better fishers.  I'm not telling you to run out and buy a can of worms and an Ugly Stik, but maybe the next time you are out fishing and you see the guy fishing with non-flyfishing gear, you will think twice before you label him as a backward-hilljack-bait-chucker (which I certainly have never done before... right?).

Bruiser Bluegill new for 2014 Bruiser Blend Dub HERE

It would be safe to say that I'm a very avid bass angler, and I enjoy gear fishing for bass every bit as much as I enjoy fly fishing for trout.  For fly fishing, I tie flies, build rods, etc.  For gear fishing, I make lures, I pour lead and do custom paint, etc.  I like fly fishing because I can highly customize the say that I present my fly.  I like gear fishing because I can highly customize the way that I present my lure.  To me it's just fishing.


~Cheech

Friday, April 4, 2014

Weighty Considerations of Fly Design

Put your flies on a diet

Slim version of a callibaetis nymph
I had good reminder of a basic concept on fly selection last year when it comes to how fish will and won't take flies. I was fishing a high mountain lake with crystal clear water and was casting to a pod of very nice fish suspended about 6 feet down in 15 feet of water. They were actively feeding on Callibaetis nymphs, but not moving too much up or down. "Easy pickings", I'm thinking to myself as I slap on a proven nymph pattern and dropped it from my trusty indicator. Not only could I see the fish ignore my pattern, but they were also giving me the middle fin and laughing as I stood there in rejection.

However, as I continued to watch their behavior reacting to my fly, a couple of things became apparent. First off, they did not like the fly just hanging there in front of their faces as it tends to do whilst connected to a floating indicator. Secondly, while the fly did garner some attention from a few fish as it descended through the water column, I realized that the bead-head fly passed way too quickly through their "eating zone". I would get a bit of notice and movement from a curious fish, but the fly would continue to drop as I stripped it in and I would again be on the losing end.

Bead-Head Deep Dish Callibaetis
Once I realized the proper combination (i.e. non-stationary, yet not moving too quickly and in the "eating" zone), I tied on an unweighted nymph, ditched the indicator and watched the magic happen. The rest of the day was filled with successful sight fishing using slimmer unweighted callibaetis nymphs. The big takeaway though was just considering how my nymph selection skewed very heavily to the heavily weighted patterns. Time to retool the box and the tying approach.

So pulling from that lesson, there are a few things that I now make sure to incorporate into fly design when it comes to weighting or adding beads to patterns:

1. Consider the weight AND hydrodynamic (yes that's a big nerdy word) profile of a fly as it affects where in the water column a fly will travel. Remember weight will sink a fly but resistance from hair, hackle, dubbing etc will also affect the sink rate and the action in the water. One of the reasons I think the Cheech Leech, for example, is so effective is that it's not overly weighted with lead and other gizmo's and the copious amounts of marabou and dubbing help provide a bit of lift (and movement of course). To see what I mean, try throwing a Cheech Leech in a small shallow stream and see how it will literally glide through the water swimming more than it sinks.

Fall Cheech Leech
2. As you tie flies and consider the effect of #1 above, make sure you plan your boxes accordingly. In a nutshell, tie weighted and unweighted versions of your nymphs and even streamers. There will be times where you need the weight and times when you don't. Fishing a Copper John in a fast moving stream will really come in handy when you need the fly to descend quickly and get to or close to the bottom. On the other hand, as in my example above, you sometimes need an unweighted pattern that stays longer in the strike zone on its own. After this experience, I went back through my boxes and tied slimmed down versions of a lot of my nymphs -- especially stillwater patterns.

Unweighted slim version of a callibaetis nymph
3. Indicators are not always required and will sometimes be a hindrance. If you've done much Euro or Czech nymphing, you know that indicators of the floating variety can actually work against you in some cases when you want to have the fly control the sink rate and connect you more closely with the fish. So barring the presence of a flotation device and assuming a floating line, your fly will largely control how fast and how far it will sink. Sometimes a slimmer unweighted profile works better than a buggy weighted pattern -- especially in stillwater or slower runs or pools in rivers and streams. Then again, sometimes a heavy weighted pattern is what's needed. So taking the indicator out of the equation can sometimes help you better dial in your fly design and selection.

 At the end of the day, there are no hard and fast rules, but having similar fly patterns with varying sink rates in your arsenal will definitely be to your advantage. It sounds simple and logical to have both weighted and unweighted versions, but I'm slow on the up-take most days, so it's good to be reminded of this every now and again.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Trout Fishin' Super Flies

Guaranteed that you will limit out in a half hour

The ever deadly Fatty Longtail

Rarely are we privileged with the opportunity to see these top-secret flies that only my Uncle Ken can tie.  The last time I was using them, the DNR came and checked my line and told me that it was unethical to use something so effective.  In fact, Utah has teamed up with 7 other western states to try to make them illegal, and there is a good chance that you will no longer be able to fish them after 2014.  Without further adieu, I present three weapons of trout destruction.







Friday, March 28, 2014

Product Review: Clear Cure Goo

A product that has truly revolutionized my tying

Not too many years ago, I found myself struggling with the epoxy conundrum: Basically is it worth throwing epoxy on fly patterns given its curing time and all the other challenges that come along with that? I usually found myself opting out of using epoxy in situations where I would have liked to use it, but just didn't want to mess with it all.

Then along came the Clear Cure Goo revolution. This is a great product line that will literally put a totally different spin on both the patterns you tie and the workflow that you use to tie patterns that would normally use a traditional epoxy.

Now there are a large variety of Goo styles, including, Thin, Brushable, Tack-Free, Thick, Flex, Fleck and so on, but our favorite is, hands-down, the Hyrdo. It's the perfect viscosity and will cure tack-free.

But best of all, when it comes to this great UV Cure resin product, you can literally use it on a huge variety of flies.

Midge Dry Fly

Gut Bomb - Tan

Chimera Fly

Experimental mayfly nymph

Jig Style Nymph

Caddis Larva

I've tried most of the resins out there. There are some good ones and some not-so-good ones, but in my experience, you can't go wrong with the Goo and it's got a spot on my tying desk at all times.

You can check out their website at: www.clearcuregoo.com