Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dangling in the Parklands

In early June I once again visited the lakes in the Parklands region of S.W. Manitoba. As with previous excursions I was  providing back to back hosted stillwater seminar trips for 26 fly fishers, all keen on improving their stillwater fly fishing skills.   I have been providing these hosted stillwater seminar trips for over four years now.  I venture out each spring and fall.  For some of my students these trips are starting to form part of their annual fly fishing adventures.  Seeing old friends on each trip is a welcome bonus.

Pauline shows why she keeps coming back to the  Parklands.  This local resident was  27" long and had a 17" girth.  That's over 10lbs! (Photo Courtesy of Barry Stokes)

Some of my students have visited these waters on their own but after seeing the success and camaraderie within in our groups chose to participate in my hands on seminar format to grow and develop their stillwater skills.  Fifteen or more anglers all working together provides an excellent learning environment and during our debrief sessions expedites figuring out just what the fish want.  The synergy is similar to a group working efficiently on a large jigsaw puzzle as opposed to one or two people struggling to get it completed.

Bob Vanderwater (left) and I present Bob Morenski (center) with a cheque for $500 
(Photo Courtesy of Bob Vanderwater)

The lakes we target on these trips are public waters chosen for their potential to produce quality rainbows, browns and aggressive tiger trout.  Getting to these lakes just takes time, for me about 10 hours.  The lakes offer easy access and great launch areas, even some camping.  But these lakes didn’t happened by accident.  The Fish and Lake Improvement Program for the Parkland Region (FLIPPR) works with local rural municipalities to make the incredible stillwater fishing the Parklands is becoming famous for a reality.  But like all groups they need our help. For example, the electrical cost to run aerators on the lakes isn’t cheap.  Without winter aeration most of these quality lakes would perish due to winter kill.  Our students, most awestruck with the fishing they were experiencing, were keen to support FLIPPR so they could return in the future.  Bob and Karen Vanderwater, who provide invaluable help in administering and coordinating my trips, and I agreed.  Everyone in both groups donated funds and on behalf of both groups Bob, Karen and I were pleased to present FLIPPR board member Bob Morenski with a cheque for $500 towards their ongoing efforts to maintain these lakes.  If you visit the Parklands region we encourage you to do the same.  It is a small price to pay.

Chironomids were on the menu

As with my spring 2011 trip chironomids were front and center, providing me with the opportunity to introduce students to my absolute favorite way to fly fish lakes.  One group, who were joining me for a second straight year from the Ottawa area, came specifically to learn how to fish chironomids.  Thankfully Mother Nature was in an excellent frame of mind and this trip would allow me to provide instruction using three different chironomid presentation techniques, the naked technique, indicators and full sinking lines or ‘dangling’.  It is rare to be able to provide comprehensive instruction on all three methods as often conditions and trout location dictates only one or two methods, typically those involving floating lines.

I have touched on strike indicator tactics and most recently in my previous blog entry entitled, “Naked in Utah” the naked technique previously.  Dangling is another deadly but not widely used or known technique. 

Big fish like chironomids and lots of them!

Dangling involves a full sinking line from an anchored position.  I prefer type V or VI density compensated lines such as Rio’s Deep series of lines.  You can dangle with slower sinking lines too.  Some of my students did well using clear intermediates. Typically, dangling  works best in water too deep for floating lines, 20 feet or greater but it can work in water as shallow as 12 feet if conditions are right such as windy conditions or water with reduced visibility due to suspended algae.
Leaders are short, 3-6 feet depending upon the number of flies you are using.  The more flies the longer the leader.  I often use a short length of 2x or 3x tippet attached to the fly line loop using a loop to loop or improved clinch knot.

Tiger's love deep water during the day.  They are a perfect candidate for dangling.

The key to dangling is to accurately set the depth so your flies suspend roughly one foot off the bottom.  To do this we used a technique often used to set indicator depth.  Attach a pair of hemostats to the fly and lower it over the side.  Strip off enough line to allow the hemostats to sink to the bottom until the line goes slack.  Reel the line in until you just feel the weight of the hemostats.  Reel in two to three more times ensuring the flies sits just off the bottom.  Strip in the line and remove the hemostats.  You can mark the line with a small section of masking tape so you can find your mark again after you land a fish.  Rio’s new lines feature a built in hang marker set at 13 feet.  I make note of which guide the marker is near and use this to reset my line.

You know you are just above the bottom when you hook a sucker.  Part of my Tokaryk Gand Slam.

With the line distance figured out make a cast.  It looks like you threw the line over the side of the boat, 18-20 feet of line and leader isn’t much.  Avoid the temptation to strip off more line.  If you do all you end up doing is dragging your flies through the mud and debris along the bottom. Let the line sink so it is hanging or dangling directly below the rod tip.  Yes you are fishing directly below your boat, pontoon boat or float tube.  You can let the flies sit below or after a while begin a slow handtwist retrieve with lots of prolonged pauses and bring the flies up through the water column.

Be warned most takes are not subtle.  Hang onto your rod if you aren’t careful it is possible to have the rod ripped from your grip.  A rod with a soft forgiving tip is not a bad idea.  Trout tend to come over the top of the fly and if you are bringing the fly up and the trout is going down the resulting strike is hard and aggressive.  Don’t be fooled by takes as the end of the fly line nears the surface.  Trout often follow the fly up through the water column taking only a few feet below the surface.  Who says fish are afraid of boats?

My standard dangling pose

I encourage you to give dangling a try.  It is a great method to use on windy days and it offers a social element as well as you can carry on a conversation without having to have an eye or both eyes on a floating line or strike indicator.  Short of being unconscious you won’t miss a strike. 

There is still space available for my fall hosted schools, September 13-17, 2012 and September 17-23, 2012.  Please click here for more information.

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