Sunday, May 30, 2010

Out of Sight!

This past week I spent some time with Dave Jensen prowling one of his crystal clear unnamed spring creeks in central Alberta.  Dave and Amelia are owners of Fly Fish Alberta and Fortress Lake Retreat.  Check out my Blog List for more info.

Dave had invited me down on a number of occasions but our schedules never seemed to mesh.   This past week they finally did.  Our trip began with rolling rocks on the Red Deer River.  I needed to update my photo library of insects,  stoneflies in particular.  Thankfully I managed to get some passable shots of Skwala's and Yellow Sally's.  After an hour or so of photography Dave had me pack up my camera gear and get on the way to one of his special spring creeks.  Now don't bother asking me where I was because between our talking back and forth and the myriad of roads we traveled I couldn't find it again if you asked.

Upon arriving at the creek Dave spotted our first brown within minutes.  Dave's years of guiding and experience both hear in Alberta and in New Zealand was invaluable.  I was not in a position to cast.  Dave was and placed his cast just short of our target.  A first the brown showed no interest but a quick twitch turned the trout and it rose up just below Dave's Skwala pattern.  Fins flared it was definitely interested but would not commit.  Dave and I standing tall the trout seemingly staring straight at us should have spooked.  It did not, Dave twitched the fly once more and the brown took it without hesitation.  What a start, I was hooked.


We carried on stalking each pool and run.  I learned the value of teamwork and accurate casting.  Mine still needs some work and Dave's tips were invaluable.  Especially when it came to my largest fish.  The overcast and windy conditions made for tough sighting.  Dave stalked up one bank of the run and spotted a large fish for me.  He could see it eating nymphs below so I knotted on a small beadhead Pheasant Tail below my small Elk Hair Caddis.  Dave guided my casting and just as the dry drifted into the trouts window he told me to, "Set, set, set!"  My dry didn't show any movement, at least on the angle I had but on the second set I responded to Dave's instruction and the water erupted.  After a good spirited battle the 20+ brown lay beside me in my net.  What an experience.  Thanks to Dave for providing the two images below.

We each managed a total of two fish that afternoon.  As I mentioned sighting conditions were tough.  We saw at least 10-15 other fish which we could not coax.  Dave and I each had a couple of refusals and even some aggressive follows.  Nonetheless it was an incredible experience that I plan on reliving again, soon!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Back from B.C.

Earlier this week I got back from two days fishing with B.C. Outdoors Sports Fishing Editor, Mike Mitchell.  Mike and I spent a day on Heffley and a day on White Lake near Kamloops.

Fishing on the first day at Heffley was pretty good. Our indicators spent more time underwater than above, especially as the day wore on.  Chironomids were on the menu.  A size 12 black and red Ice Cream Cone was particularly lethal.  Heffley has relatively clear water so it was common to see fish cruising below picking of emerging pupa as they staged above the bottom.

Ice Cream Cone (Black and Red)
Hook:     Mustad C49S #8-#14
Thread:   6/0 Black
Rib:        Fine Red Wire
Body:     Stillwater Solutions 1/8" Midge Flex, Black
Thorax:  Tying Thread
Bead:     Stillwater Solutions SuperWhite Bead

On this trip I also took my latest toy out with me in the form of a 75-300 lens.  It was nice to have the extension necessary.  I was able to get a few full frame shots of a local competitor!

Day two saw us on White Lake, located about 45 minutes east of town near the town of Sorrento.  White is a beautiful gin clear body of water.  You would think you are fishing in a glass of water.  Fish were on the shoals and tough to fool.  The deteriorating weather didn't help matters either.  I still managed to get a number of fish on small size #14 and #16 black and red and green and copper chironomid pupa.

Later in the afternoon Callibaetis duns began dotting the surface.  The regatta-like collection of duns brought fish to the surface and I managed a few fish on both nymphs and emerger style patterns such as the Stillwater Cruncher.

This pattern is my version of the Cruncher that is so popular in the U.K.  My version utilizes the Stillwater Solutions materials.  Light Olive and Olive Dun are my two favorite color schemes.  It is a great searching pattern and works well on a floating or Midge Tip line when fish are up near the surface. 

Stillwater Cruncher
 Hook:    Mustad R50-94840or R70-7957 #14-#10
Thread:  8/0 Olive
Tail:       Badger or Red Brown Saddle Fibers
Rib:       Pearl Mylar or Fine Copper Wire
Body:    Stillwater Solutions Bleached Pheasant Tail, Light Olive or Olive Dun
Thorax:  Peacock Herl
Hackle:  Badger or Red Brown Saddle

The shoals on White are large and my Outbound Hover line once again proved its worth again.  I really love this line for long presentations using a slow retrieve.  Every location we chose produced fish but you had to work for them.  Smaller realistic flies such as my Stillwater Callibaetis, fine tippet, 6X Flouro Flex Plus to be exact were necessary for success.

My Stillwater Callibaetis pattern works well when trout are focusing on Callibaetis nymphs.  It also works well in rivers and streams in smaller sizes too.  For lakes try a slow five turn handtwist with prolonged pauses.  Expect the take as the fly pauses and sinks.  This pattern is featured in my latest book Stillwater Selections and the Learning with the Pros Tying Stillwater Flies DVD I did with good friend Brian Chan.  Tying instructions can also be found in the Fly Patterns section on my website.

Stillwater Callibaetis
Hook:         Mustad S82-3906B
Thread:       8/0 Tan or Olive
Tail:            Stillwater Solutions Mottled Turkey Flats
Rib 1:         Fine Silver Wire
Rib #2:       One Strand of Pearlescent Crystal Flash
Body:         Stillwater Solutions Mottled Turkey Quill
Wingcase:  Stillwater Solutions Midge Braid, Brown
Thorax:      Stillwater Solutions Mottled Turkey Quill
Legs:         Stillwater Solutions Mottled Turkey Flats

Tying Note:  Tie this fly in a variety of colors.  Coat the finished wingcase with Tuffleye acrylic. 

Clear stillwaters are one of my favorite challenges.  They really test your skills as a fly fisher. I find their challenges and nuances addictive.  Almost to a fault!

Friday, May 7, 2010

It has been good to be home for a week.  With my local lakes all ice free I am trying to find sometime to sneak out and wet a line.  This weekend will see me working on my boat.  Each year I try and commit to having the boat ready by mid April but between my schedule and the weather things never seem to go according to plan.  So Mother's Day weekend it is!

I am also continuing to stock my fly boxes, particularly the empty spaces in my chironomid boxes.  Recently, I was asked what my current favorite chironomids were.  I found the question unique as I don't usually think of my flies in that way.  Typically, I observe the conditions and the naturals I see and make my choices from there.  Glancing through my boxes here are the chironomid patterns I reach for the most and where you can find the pattern recipes and tying instructions:

Chromie #10-#16 sometimes 18 if I have to.  You can find the tying instructions for this pattern in my first book Fly Patterns for Stillwaters.
Gun Metal Chromie #10-#16.  I often use this pattern early in the hatch before the pupa have gathered enough trapped air and gases to aid their pupal ascent.  Use gun metal grey SuperFlash for the body.  You can find tying instructions in my latest book, Stillwater Selections.
Ice Cream Cone-#6-#16.  Yes the size #6 is correct.  Some of our western lakes are home to some huge chironomid species.  My favorite color combination is a black body with red wire rib.  I probably reach for this pattern first when fishing new waters or if I am not sure which color is on.  Tying instructions can be found in my first book, Fly Patterns for Stillwaters.
Black Sally #10-#16. A favorite version of a black and red chironomid pupa.  You can find tying instructions for this pattern in my latest book, Stillwater Selections.
Collaborator #10-#16.  This is my current favorite when trout want a brown or burnt orange colored pupa.  You can find tying instructions for the Collaborator in my first book Fly Patterns for Stillwaters.
Bronzie #10-#14.  Another favorite when brown is the preferred color.  The traditional thorax design also works well when fish have seen a bit too many beadhead patterns.  You can also find the tying instructions for the Bronzie in my first book Fly Patterns for Stillwaters.
Clearwater Pupa  #10-#16.  This is more realistic pattern modeled after the Epoxy Buzzer and other similar English reservoir patterns.  A good clear water pattern when trout can be fussy and not always willing to eat a bead-head pupa pattern.  You can find tying instructions for this pattern on my website and in the Stillwater Solutions Recipes book.
Green & Copper #10-#16.  This pattern works well when green or olive pupa are on the menu.  When you read the recipe below you will see that it does not match eiether color but perhaps it is the acceptable color range and stands out just enough from the naturals.

Green & Copper
Hook:  Mustad C49S #10-#16
Thread:  8/0 Black or Olive
Rib:  Fine Copper Wire
Body:  Holographic Green Mylar
Thorax:  Peacock Herl
Bead:  Copper
Gills:  1 Strand of Stillwater Solutions Midge Gill

I also use chironomid larva patterns a fair bit as well.  These are simple but effective patterns to try, especially during low light conditions such as first thing in the day before the pupa begin to ascend and hatch at the surface.

Frostbite Bloodworm #12-#16.  This is a dead simple pattern but still works very well.  A #12 2xl is probably my go to size.  You can find tying instructions in my first book Fly Patterns for Stillwaters or on my website.
Beadworm #10-#12.  I use this pattern a lot on muddy bottomed lakes which are often home to some of the larger chironomid species.  Tying instructions for this pattern can be found in my latest book Stillwater Selections and my website.

So there is my current list of favorites.  I am alwasys in a state of flux so I am often bringing new creations into the mix or some previous year's designs end up getting used more often and will peak their way onto future listings such as the Static Interference which can also be found on my webiste.

Now back to the vise, once I dig it out from the rubble and debris that is my tying bench.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Vancouver Island Report

I just returned from a few days on Vancouver Island filming an episode of The New Fly Fisher focused on urban fly fishing.  We focused our efforts on a number of the unique lakes located within the Nanaimo city limits.  This episode also celebrated the first time good friend Brian Chan and I filmed together.  We had a great time and gathered lots of great content.

Nanaimo Harbor Shoreline
The fishing was pretty consistent although we didn't run into anything large.  These small lakes are stocked on a regular basis and the trout are almost always cooperative.   We used leeches and chironomids under indicators most of the time as the imitative approach worked best.  Balanced leeches were particularly deadly.  My most productive pattern featured a tail of brown Stillwater Solutions™ marabou, a body of Stillwater Solutions™ olive Crystal Chenille and gold bead.  The best hook for this pattern or any of my balanced designs is the up eye Mustad Ultra Point 32833BLN.  Check out the image below to see how it hangs.  These patterns also work well fished traditionally without an indicator.

Balanced Sparkle Leech

Hook:  Mustad Ultra Point Up Eye Jig Hook 32833BLN #8-#10
Thread: 8/0
Tail: Marabou, Color to Suit, Mixed With a Few Strands of UV Pearl Flashabou
Body:  Stillwater Solutions Crystal Chenille, Medium, Color to Suit
Bead:  Black, Silver or Gold Tungsten Bead on a Straight Pin Secured to Shank

Tying Note:  Please Visit my Flies Section on My Site for Tying Guidelines

When fish weren't cooperating an olive or hot orange Booby fished on a fast sinking type IV or VII line shook them from their slumber.  The marabou tail and large foam eyes shakes and rattles the Booby when fished with a brisk handtwist or strip retrieve.  When using Booby's a fast retrieve reduces the risk of deep hooking which is almost assured with a static Booby.  Use short shank hooks such as the Mustad C49S as well.  Smallmouth bass also fell for both presentation techniques.  A special thanks goes out to Gord MacDonald who provided a camera boat, took us to his local lakes and put up with our warped sense of humor, well mine in particular!

Brian suspends a chironomid from shore.
The 2010 season also marks my inaugural guiding season.  I have been asked for many years if I guide and now I do.  I offer instructional guiding for one or two anglers for stillwater trout, pike or walleye on the fly in the comfort of my fully outfitted boat.  I provide complete instruction, all equipment, lunch, flies.  All you need is a willingness to learn and perhaps a digital camera, although I always bring mine along.  Please see my Guiding page on my site for rates and additional information.  June is pretty well booked but I have space available in July, August and September.  So if you are in the Edmonton area let me know and perhaps we can hook up. 

May sees me home for a reasonable amount of time.  I will be filming another TV show in the middle part of the month but I hope to spend some time exploring my local favorites for the first time.  Keep an eye out for my posts on these waters.