Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Naked In Utah

For me, blogs seem like feast or famine.  During the off season things seem far less hectic.  Although I am typically speaking at shows and clubs the pace doesn’t seem nearly as crazy as the open water season.  During the off season I am subsequently able to keep up with my goings on and lessons learned.  Now I am just updating you on events that happened just over a month ago.

Falcon's Ledge Greetings Cards Await Every Guest

On the weekend of May 18-20th I was once again in Utah at Falcon’s Ledge for another of my stillwater schools.  The weather was fantastic, a far cry from the typically unsettled spring of western Canada. Due to flight delays I arrived late in the evening.  Luxurious accommodations, a Falcon’s Ledge standard, awaited.  All guests are greeted by a thoughtful welcome card.  This year mine had a slight twist as it also included birthday wishes.  I was thoroughly impressed.  Dave, Spencer, Grant and the rest of the Falcon’s Ledge staff had taken the time to learn my birthday would be on May 19th.  It is easy to see why Falcon’s Ledge is so highly regarded within the Orvis Endorsed Lodge Program and why they are proud recipients of the Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Lodge of the Year for 2012.  And yes, birthday cake was provided putting the icing on the cake, pun intended, for my trip.  The diet crashed in flames once again!

Callibaetis Nymphs Were on the Menu

Callibaetis and damsels were active on the lodge lakes.  My Herl May was a trout favorite on every lake that weekend.  Falcon’s Ledge guide and friend, Grant Bench and I were busy every evening replenishing lost flies for everyone.

With each on the water seminar a specific opportunity or presentation technique typically steps to the front.  This time the Callibaetis and damsel activity provided the perfect recipe for the naked technique-floating lines coupled with long, 15 feet or greater leaders.

A Falcon's Ledge Rainbow Taken Using the Naked Technique (Photo Courtesy of Spencer Higa)

Floating lines and strike indicators dominate stillwater fly fishing today. I use them often.  And for good reason as it can be a deadly method.  But there are other presentation techniques such as the naked technique all stillwater fly fishers should learn.  There is more to fly fishing lakes than hanging flies under indicators.

Watching Students Enjoy Their Own Success Adds to my Enjoyment
(Photo Courtesy of Spencer Higa)
Nicknamed for its lack of an indicator, the naked technique is the traditional method I learned to fish chironomid pupa and larva (bloodworm). Strike indicators didn’t exist.  I firmly believe all stillwater fly fishers should learn how to fish flies using a floating line and long leader as it teaches two critical stillwater skills, patience and touch.  Skills, that once developed, improve all aspects of your stillwater presentation.

When fishing the naked technique I use either Rio’s Indicator or Rio Grand lines.  The large head profile of these lines is perfectly suited for casting long leaders.  A Rio Indicator leader forms a critical foundation of my long leaders.  This leader features a short .022” butt section that tapers down to the thin tippet section in less than three feet.  Most tapered leaders feature a butt section that is usually about 50% of the leader for turning over dry flies.  I want a leader system with a stiff butt section to aid turnover and long tippet section to sink flies quickly.
For my long leaders I begin with approximately three feet of butt section that is just thicker than the butt section of the Indicator leader.  The butt section is attached to the slender line loop via a clinch knot. I then attach the 10 foot Indicator leader using a blood knot as this provides a smooth horizontal profile that travels through the guides easily.  To complete the over leader length I simply add Flouroflex Plus fluorocarbon tippet using a triple surgeon’s knot.  The leader has to be 25% longer than the water is deep as the leader doesn’t sink straight off the end of the fly line.  So to fish 16 feet down for example,  requires a 19 foot leader.

Using fly lines such as the Rio Grand eases casting long leaders.  Keep your false casts to a minimum, break your wrist slightly to facilitate an open loop and remember the properties of a weight forward line. Shoot the line to the target.  I never false cast more than twice.  Repeated false casts are asking for tangles.  As the line shoots out and reaches the end of the cast let the line shoot tight to the reel or pinch it to a stop.  This causes the flies to slingshot over aiding leader turnover.  Get in the habit of looking for distinct splashes when fishing multiple flies.  If they land within close proximity to each other strip them in and investigate as you probably have the makings of a tangle.  When using multiple flies I keep them 3-5 feet apart depending on water clarity, the clearer the water the greater the separation.  This slingshot technique also works well with indicators.

Spencer Showing Me a Book I should Read!

Once the line hits the water strip out any slack and let the flies sink.  Thirty seconds is standard.  Use your watch to ensure accuracy.  For many waiting 30 seconds is agony.  Remember the patience by product of this method.  Once sunk use two brisk 3-inch strips to remove any slack and perhaps draw a nearby fish to the fly.  If there are no takers begin a slow, and I mean slow, handtwist retrieve.  During the retrieve there must be no surface wake caused by the fly line, more agony for the impatient.

Using Floating Lines Coupled with Long Leaders is my Favorite Method for Fly Fishing Lakes
(Photo Courtesy of Spencer Higa)

Complete line control is critical when using the naked technique.  This means double anchoring when fishing from a boat or pontoon boat.  You must turn your watercraft into essentially dry land.  Any sway means loss of line control and retrieve.  You have to stay tight to the flies to be successful. 
Your fly line is a 90 foot strike indicator.  Watch it like a hawk for signs of a take, particularly the tip region closest to the fly.  If the line veers left right or down raise the rod to set the hook.  If there is a little squiggle in the fly watch it closely.  If it suddenly straightens raise the rod.  In calm conditions you will see takes before you feel them.  The elevated banks of many of the Falcon’s Ledge lakes provided a perfect vantage point when I demonstrated the method.  Students saw the line move as fish inhaled the fly below.  I couldn’t have asked for a better demonstration.  To drive my point home on two occasions during my presentation I hooked and landed two fish twice.

Falcon's Ledge Friends, Spencer Higa (Left) and Grant Bench (Right)

If I were limited to once presentation technique for lakes it would be without a doubt be fishing floating lines and long leaders, particularly if I am working water between 14-18 feet where this method shines. I have provided the Reader’s Digest version of the naked technique and it is often requested at just about everyone of my stillwater seminars.  I encourage you to give the naked technique a try or better yet join me at on one of my stillwater seminars.  I am already working with Dave and Spencer about putting another school at Falcon’s Ledge. Space is still available for my upcoming schools on Fortress Lake and this fall in Manitoba.  Check out my website calendar for all the details.

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