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Monday, June 30, 2014

Technical Clothing - a great option for sun protection

An alternative to sunscreen

Patagonia Sun Hoodie and a bruiser Brown Trout

A few years ago I decided to start being a bit more mature (as my wife would put it) with my sun protection efforts after seeing some of the aftermath of skin cancer that some dear friends have had to endure.  This meant slathering myself up a few times a day with sunscreen and trying to follow the recommendations on each tube of paste that I was using.  I say "paste" because that's how it felt on my skin... in other words, I HATE sunscreen.  I don't hate the fact that it helps keep my skin protected from the sun, I just hate the feeling that my skin is coated with a thin layer of elmer's glue.  I still wanted to protect myself from the sun, but I wanted to find a way to do it without dealing with sunscreen.  I kind of went through a progression of products until I found stuff that I like, but I'm 100% satisfied with where I ended up.  The good thing is that many manufacturers are coming out with a large selection of clothing specifically to block the sun.  Here are my findings from top to bottom.

High quality polarized lenses are very important to help see fish better, but they are equally important in protecting your eyes from the sun.  When selecting glasses, it's important to find something that fits your head/face and that provides maximum coverage.  I have been using two styles of glasses (Smith Touchstone, and Maui Jim Spartan Reef)  over the last 7 or 8 years, and I have been very pleased with the results

I first started out by wearing a larger "sun" hat that would cover my face and ears from the sun.  I bought a Simms Solar Sombrero, and It worked OK, but it was a bit tight on my huge head (I wear a size 8 new era cap without it looking like a gang banger).  I wore it for a while until I just got fed up with it squeezing my brain for hours on end.  There are several types of sun head wear available from several companies, and they are a good start to going sunscreen free.

Everyone is familiar with buffs, and whether people use them to keep out of the sun, or to get the bank robber look while fishing, they are all the rage right now.  My issue with buffs is that they compress my huge head and make me breathe my hot breath all day long.  They are good for winter fishing, but I can't deal with them in the heat.  I have really only tried them on long enough to realize that they drive me nuts (so like 15 seconds).  If buffs are your cup of tea, go for it.  I really think I'd love them if they weren't so friggin' tight on my fat head.

Patagonia Tropic Comfort Hoodie THUMBHOLES!!!
Long sleeves are a MUST!!!  Yes, even in the sun long sleeves can be a very comfortable option to keep the sun off.  If I'm on the boat, I'll keep a spray bottle close by so I can spray my shirt down to keep cool. If I'm wading, I just dip my arms in the cool water.  Either way, it's built in air conditioning especially if there is a small breeze.
 As much as I love my Patagonia gear, I LOVE the stuff from Columbia because they make stuff for big guys (6'5" 285 pounds... yeah)  I started with the Columbia Terminal Tackle long sleeve tee and the XXL was plenty big for my long arms.  I love that shirt and I have put a lot of miles on it, but it doesn't cover my head and hands.  Then I moved up to the Patagonia Tropic Comfort Hoodie II, and I have found sun protection bliss.  The hoodie goes up over a normal hat and buttons under my chin to keep it right where you want it.  It is like a perfect built-in buff that isn't tight against my skin... YAHTZEE!  The sleeves also have thumbholes so they cover almost down to my first knuckles on my hand.  This shirt is a shirt, buff, and sun gloves all built into one.  The fabric is light and breathable, and is very comfortable even in very hot conditions  The Tropic Comfort Hoodie and a regular ball cap are what I use now and it's very effective.

My Columbia pants are great on the boat
I'm a huge proponent of shorts and I pretty much live in my over sized basketball shorts, but if I'm trying to stay out of the sun I'll wear pants.  The issue that I have always had with pants is that the manufacturers never quite have the right fit for me... hence the reason I wear shorts so much.  I tried to find the right fit with Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo Pant and skeptically ordered some, and after I tried them on and fished with them I immediately ordered another pair!  They are my go-to fishing pants for wet wading and fishing from the boat.  They actually are pretty good under the waders, but I prefer micro fleece etc. for that job...  They are very comfortable and durable at the same time due to the fact that the fabric is somewhat stretchy.  They have come into contact with lots of barbed wire, sharp rocks, fish hooks, etc. and they are as good as new.  Most serious fishing manufacturers will make zip off versions of their technical pants, but I really don't ever see me using those, so I just got the "perma-pant" option.  Pants also come in very handy when wet wading and breaking through thick brush.
Patagonia and Simms, but I couldn't find anything with a 36" inseam.  I stumbled upon the

When I first started wet wading I was fishing in a pair of original Chaco sandals, and while they are
Even the cicadas love my technical gear.
absolutely bulletproof and durable, they aren't the best at keeping the gravel and pebbles from getting lodged under my feet.  I also had more than one run-in with some wild boulders that jumped out and split my toes up pretty bad.  Wading-specific shoes might be a bit better than sandals, but they still are magnets for pebbles and gravel.  Aside from keeping your feet protected while you fish, your footwear should provide you protection from the sun too.  If I'm on the boat, I just wear my every day comfortable running shoes to keep the tops of my feet out of the sun, but if I'm wet wading, I prefer to use neoprene socks and my wading boots.  My boots give me the best traction, and my feet stay clear of sharp rocks and pebbles under my feet.

In all, it's not too hard these days to find technical clothing that will protect you from the sun.  If you get the right stuff, you will be able to leave that nasty sun block at home!

~ Cheech

Friday, June 27, 2014

Review: Tacky Fly Box

A new concept in fly storage

When I first saw the Kickstarter launch of the Tacky Fly Box, I'll admit I was a bit intrigued but yet fairly skeptical. I've seen a lot of gimicky fly box ideas float around over the years and hardly any hold up to the standard foam or slotted foam styles we've all used. However, the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of using silicon instead of the standard foam that fly boxes have been using for years.

So without having used the Tacky box, I had a few main gripes about my current box setups that I hoped the Tacky box would overcome. 

  • The slots on my slotted foam boxes tend to grow wider as I move flies in and out -- to the point where they won't even hold a fly.
  • I have several foam boxes where, after sitting in the hot sun for a time, the foam and adhesive used to glue them to the box would delaminate and the foam would warp or just peel off.
  • I've had a few instances where my plastic foam slotted boxes were crushed when I sat on or leaned on my pack or bag.
  • Some fly boxes, after long-term use, lose their ability to shut securely. Combine that with foam that doesn't hold flies and you create a recipe for a dropped box that will easily spill its contents. I did that once and spent quite a bit of time picking up small flies from the dirt and rocks. It was awesome.

Tacky Fly Box
Tacky Fly Box
So when we finally got some Tacky Boxes in the mail, I was eager to try them out. The first thing that jumped out at me was that these boxes are sturdy. They are made with a high quality polycarbonate that appears to be very shatter resistant. They'd have to be very strong as you can witness by the Sasquatch abuse shown in the video review below. And the magnetic closure mechanisms work great, holding it securely shut.

In terms of size, they have a very thin profile and fit nicely into a lot of pockets on my various fishing packs and bags. So size-wise, they're great. 

My Tacky Fly Box of dry fly all-stars for the high country
As far as fly storage goes, these boxes will hold typically fewer flies (168 to be exact) than some of the bigger slotted foam boxes, but you actually end up being able to more securely and comfortably store your flies due to the silicon material and the fact that the slots are offset from row to row. This is a great advantage over the typical foam slotted versions and I'd say evens the playing field in terms of the number of slots. For me, it was actually a very good exercise to pare down some of my foam boxes and create an "all star" dry fly box for the high country (shown here). 

And even with the bigger flies I have in the box, there is enough clearance that the lid closes with no issues. Now I'm not likely to store my 3/0 bass poppers or Double-Wide Cheech Leeches in here, but most everything else would fit fine.

So double thumbs up from us on this one. After a lot of testing, poking and prodding with the boxes, both Cheech and I are in the process of moving most of our flies into new homes.  Check out the video review below and buy the boxes here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Universal Chironomid Pattern

The Hamburger of Chironomids

stillwater chironomid fly pattern
Universal Chironomid with goose biot wing pads
So if scuds are the skittles of the sea, then chironomids are likely the equivalent of fast food for the hungry trout. With a laser focus, when chironomids are out and about, the fish will gorge themselves on this plentiful meal ticket. Very rarely will we see stomach or throat samples from stillwater fish that DON'T contain some amount of chironomids in them.

As luck would have it, we like to fish with chironomids in our stillwater fishing and do it quite often. In fact, I have a large chunk of my stillwater nymph box dedicated to chironomids of all shapes, sizes and colors.

OCD Fly Collection

Sometimes, I have to dial in a specific size and color just depending on what the fish are focusing on that day and time. But I have found, more and more, that regardless of various sizes of bugs present, there is a pretty universal size and color that will work most any time on any stillwater -- with very few exceptions. That's why I call this the Universal Chironomid.

A collection of the ubiquitous chironomids

First off, there's nothing inherently magic about this style of pattern -- lots of people tie quill body chironomids. The revelation for me came over the past few years as I noticed that I caught more fish on the smaller less flashy chironomid pupa imitations such as this. So I just standardized on this specific pattern and it's done quite well.

Portly Hamburger-eating rainbow that fell for a smallish chironomid
On a recent trip to a stillwater that holds some very large rainbow trout, I began with some flashier larger style chironomids and was only able to muster a couple of fish here and there. While I noticed two or three sizes and colors of naturals, I focused on the smaller and more traditional looking bugs that were just black/gray or black/tan. The Universal chironomid (UC), once again, worked its magic with 4 fish on its first 4 casts. The 23 inch rainbow on the right was caught on a size #16 UC.

The only differences in this pattern are really just the bead size in conjunction with the hook size (from #12 down to #16 or even #18) and I started using more holo tinsel than the goose biots. I also tie a version without a bead.

One thing to also point out is that you must use some sort of epoxy or UV cure resin on this bad boy. The fly below was responsible for probably 10 fish, but it took a beating in the process. Without the UV resin, it wouldn't have lasted more than 1 fish.
UC "Before"

"UC" After

Material List:

Hook: Daiichi 1150  -- Buy Here --
Thread: UTC Ultrathread 70 Denier, Black  -- Buy Here --
Bead: Tungsten 2.4mm to 3.2mm, Black Nickel.  -- Buy Here --
Body: Stripped Peacock Eye Quills  -- Buy Here --
Wing Pads: Holo Tinsel, Orange, Med.  -- Buy Here --
Coating: Loon UV Clear Fly Finish, Thin  -- Buy Here --

Yet another big fish eating smallish chironomids

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Drakes -- Fripple Style

A very effective big bug style mayfly pattern

Based on the great success of the latest version of the Baetis flavored Fripple (see tutorial here), it stands to reason that the same effectiveness should translate to really any kind of mayfly -- big and small. A few weeks ago, we fished a stream that had some large gray drakes hatching and for which I was largely unprepared. Luckily, there was a lot of non-Drake bug action popping, so it didn't matter, but it got me to thinking about taking the Fripple to the next level.

There are only a couple of small tweaks to the original pattern in the form of deer hair substituted for the snowshoe hare toe fur and the addition of hackle to further aid in flotation as well as give a bigger footprint on the water. The butt still slices into the water and hangs there taunting the fish to eat it. I think that is very key to its effectiveness.

green drake fly patternAnyway, clinical trials began shortly thereafter and the results were actually pretty amazing. We sought out a river that was known for good Green Drake action and some decent sized Browns. The first part of the day was slow and although I didn't see any Drakes at the time, I decided to throw on my new Fripple. The first cast into a likely holding spot resulted in a slashing grab, but a miss. No fish actively rising and we got one to come up -- good sign. The next cast was fish on. No hesitation, just a big mouthful of drake. To prove it wasn't a fluke, I threw right back into the same little run and caught an even bigger fish a few minutes later.

green drake fly patternAt about the same time, the adult Drakes started to show up and the fish started staging to intercept so we could see more potential suitors sitting in the feeding lanes waiting for the buffet to pass by. After a few more fish, we decided to run a few tests comparing the Fripple against some other patterns. In one instance, a few casts of a good drake pattern was ignored 4 or 5 times perfectly placed over the feeding lane. "Your turn", Cheech informed me. My awesome casting skills on display, I placed the fly a good three feet to the right of the fish (blame the Euro-nymph leader I was too lazy to change). Nonetheless, on that errant cast, the fish glided out of his holding position and promptly engulfed the fly.

A few fish following that one, I had a similar situation where I twice, on two consecutive casts, pulled the fly out of the rising fish's mouth (I lost track of the fly as the sun was in my eyes...). But the 3rd cast, also quite errant but yet I was able to see the fly this time, resulted in a solid hook-up.

green drake fly pattern brown trout

green drake fly pattern brown trout
"The fly done work."
Beyond the fact the fish really took to the pattern, it proved to be fairly durable. This is fly right at the point where the foam and deer hair had started to fall apart from being inhaled by numerous hungry fish.

So give it a try. Here's a quick tutorial to help out...

Material List

Add to Cart   View in store

Hook: Daiichi 1160 - Klinkhamer Hook - 10     
Thread: Danville Flat Waxed Nylon Thread - 70 Denier - Olive     
Hot Spot: Danville Flat Waxed Nylon Thread - 70 Denier - Fl. Fire Orange     
Thorax: Rainy's Evazote Foam - Olive - 1/8"     
Body Ribbing: Veevus Holographic Tinsel - Green - Small     
Wing: Medallion Sheeting - Buggy Light Dun     
Over-Wing: Nature's Spirit All-Purpose Deer Hair - Olive     
Hackle: Whiting High & Dry Cape - Grizzly Dyed Golden Straw     
Coating: Loon Fluorescing UV Clear Fly Finish     

Other tools from the tutorial:
Stonfo Pinza Elite Hackle Pliers - Standard     

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Enjoying the Smaller Things

Sometimes we have to take a step back and enjoy what we can.

A few months ago on a very snowy and blustery Saturday morning in November, I sat in front of my vise in
my warm and cozy manly man-cave watching the powdery Utah snow piling up outside my window. I felt a little like Clark W. Griswold as he stood before the frost-laced window staring out at the fantasy scene unfolding in his yet-to-be-built swimming pool as my mind drifted to summer meadow streams full of colorful bikini-clad cutthroats. In my Griswold stupor, I could smell the grasses, trees and water as they combined to form one of those scents you don't easily forget. I could hear the wind in the trees and the splashy rises of fish greedily taking terrestrials from the surface. And as Ruby Sue roused me from my day dream, I was harshly reminded of the months ahead locked in Winter's grasp.

But as I sat there and tied flies that day, I had an epiphany of sorts. I was playing around with some very clean colorfully dyed pheasant tails and a superb Hungarian Partridge pelt while working my way through a few fly patterns. As I was tying, I stopped to think about how something as small as a delicate pheasant tail fiber wrapped on a hook and counter-wrapped with some silver wire was a source of a certain amount of enjoyment and fulfillment. I stopped and began to focus on those small things in my world right in that moment that brought me satisfaction: Being in a warm room tying flies; having my soft-hackles prepped with webby fibers stripped and feathers all lined up; being able to take a few pieces of fur, feather and metal and ultimately make something from nothing in the form of one fly. Done, complete, tidied up from chaos to order.

I began to think more about the things we fly fishers more often focus on and strive to attain. It's frequently more about the big fish, the big trip or the big gnarly flies. But how often are we forgetting or overlooking those small things that, when added up, combine to form what could be a very large part of our enjoyment of this sport in which we participate -- especially when those other things are out of reach for the time being. How often do we focus on getting that huge trophy to impress the peeps, but not stopping to appreciate the colorful bright spots on a small brown or brook trout taken from a small stream or lake?

And even more to that, for the fly tyer, it can be all about the latest and greatest materials, hooks, flies and doodads. Everything leading up to the big trip or the filling of the boxes. How about the smaller things? Things like a nicely stacked clump of deer hair with the tips aligned, ready to be pulled out of the hair stacker or a perfectly spaced and wrapped peacock quill body or the motion of gently preening back soft hackle fibers as you tie off an immaculate thread head in front of it. That list goes on.
Big Color, Small Brookie

In today's hustle and bustle, it will behoove us to stop and smell the roses along the way. Appreciate those small things wherever and whenever you can. Don't let the pursuit of the grand overshadow the enjoyment of the everyday or the small.

Peace out.

~ Curtis

Monday, June 16, 2014

Gut Bomb Damsel Fly Nymph

Gut Bomb Bloodworm meets damselfly nymph

Gut Bomb Damsel

A few years back when Curtis created the Gut Bomb Bloodworm I was really impressed at how he was able to manipulate the body to seem almost see-through, and I started thinking of ways that the "gut bomb" technique could be added to other types of patterns.  I had tried it on many different iterations of bugginess from the vise until one of the flies really clicked; it is now called the Gut Bomb Damselfly Nymph.  I really like to fish damselfly nymphs in the early summer, and this one was quickly added to the arsenal full time after several successful trips with it.  I think the keys to a realistic damselfly nymph are eyes and a slender profile, which are achieved with the gut-bomb body technique and burnt monofilament eyes.  

This Bonneville Cutthroat couldn't resist 

There are several damsel patterns that I will fish quite a bit, but if I know the fish are feeding on damsels but are being picky about patterns, the GB Damsel gets tied on and they can't resist.  This pattern is also successful in tan and a brighter green.  You can also add flash to the wingcase, and use soft hackle fibers for the legs on this pattern.


Hook: Allen S402 #12-#8 BUY HERE
Thread: UTC 70 - olive BUY HERE
Tail: Wooly Bugger Marabou - olive BUY HERE
Body: Scud back 1/8"- clear BUY HERE
Ribbing: Krystal Flash - UV pearl BUY HERE
Thorax: Arizona synthetic dubbing - bronze peacock BUY HERE
Legs: Buggy Nymph Legs - dark olive BUY HERE
Wing Case: Fino Skin - mottled olive BUY HERE
Eyes: Melted 25 lb. mono

To seal the body and the wing case, you can use either Clear Cure Goo - Hydro, or Loon UV finish - Thin.