Friday, September 28, 2012

You Never Stop Learning

One of my primary attractions towards fly fishing and tying is the fact that you are constantly on a voyage of learning and discovery.  It is such an ingrained philosophy that it is the basis of my website slogan, “Because you never stop learning.”

Silvia Releases a stunning rainbow.
My recent trip to Manitoba was a prime example.  As most of you probably know, I have been running hosted educational trips to the Parklands region of S.W. Manitoba for the past four and a half years.  Students from all over North America join me to experience some of the spectacular stillwater fly fishing this region offers and to, perhaps most importantly, improve their stillwater fly fishing skills.  My students are not the only ones learning, with each trip or day on the water I learn something too. 
Ron Enjoying his Parklands Experience
Joining me on my fall trip was Jerry McBride from Spokane Washington.  Jerry is a member of the Inland Empire Fly Fishing club and originator of balanced flies.  Jerry’s balanced fly philosophy has had a significant impact on my stillwater tying.  I was looking forward to seeing Jerry once again and in particular spending time on the water with him.  Over the past few years Jerry and I have communicated back and forth regarding balanced flies but I have never had the good fortune of watching him tie of his signature flies.

A typical Parklands rainbow
During the middle of our one week excursion Mother Nature showed her maniacal side as strong 60 km/h plus (40 mph) winds buffeted the region for the day.  Winds so strong our cabins shuddered and creaked throughout the day.  The winds showed no sign of abating. Everyone unanimously agreed, staying off the water was the only sane course of action.
Parkland browns are fat and healthy
To pass our ‘cabin day’ I provided a couple of seminars, fellow Inland Empire club member Leon Buckles provided two entertaining presentations he had on hand.  Hawaiian bonefish and the cutthroat slam are now on my bucket list.  Actually it should be a barrel list with the amount of stuff I have been putting in it of late! 
I watch as Jerry demonstrates-Photo Courtesy of Bob Vanderwater
In addition to Leon’s presentations Jerry agreed to provide a tying demonstration featuring a couple of balanced leeches and his devastating Bionic Worm.  I sat close by Jerry watching him tie.  Although I had been tying balanced flies for a number of years now, Jerry demonstration proved a welcome refresher and provided some tips that I have now added to my balanced fly tying repertoire.
Here is what I noticed and learned from watching Jerry tie;
  • Most of my balanced flies, leeches in particular, use 7/64 diameter tungsten beads.  Jerry likes to use much larger beads up to 5/32” on some of his leeches.  Tied on these sizes the leeches looked balanced and proportioned.  Going forward I will make use of larger beads as they sink much quicker especially in windy conditions when circulation currents might slow down the sink rate of the fly.
  • After years of tying chironomids my instinctive method of sliding the beads onto the pin was narrow end first.  Jerry slides his beads onto the pin large end first when using tapered beads.  The pin head disappears flush into the bead.  This also requires less thread to lock the bead tight against the pin head as the narrow end of the bead is closer to the pin diameter.
  • I am a fan of up eye jig hooks, especially the Mustad32833BLN in sizes #10 or #8.  Jerry prefers to use standard shank down eye hooks feeling the wire is stronger and better suited to the rigors of battling large trout.  His current favorite is a 4X heavy wire Mustad R90. 
  • Prior to discovering up eye jig hooks I used down eye hooks all the time.  The challenge is remembering not to obscure the hook eye with the body materials so you can tie the fly on.  Jerry adjusts how he forms the body to ensure the hook eye is clear.  When using materials such as Crystal Chenille he pushes and compresses the material to keep the hook eye clear.  Standard shank hooks are ideal for tying smaller balanced flies such as scuds as up eye jig hooks are tough to find smaller than size 10.
  • Jerry uses leeches tied using the small secondary aftershaft or filoplume feathers on a pheasant rump feather.  Once wet, these feathers spring to life providing a seductive action trout find hard to resist.  For years I used aftershaft based patterns, primarily damsel and dragon nymphs along with leeches.  Time to dust of those materials and get them into the game more often.
Jerry's balanced flies

The learning opportunity our cabin day provided proved to be one of the highlights of my trip.  Proving once again, you never stop learning.
Jerry and I enjoying time on the water-Photo Courtesy of Scott Fink
If you are interested in joining me in 2013 for one of my on the water educational stillwater seminar trips in Manitoba please let me know.  We are just finalizing our 2013 dates but it looks like we will have a weekend trip during the first week of June followed by two back to back week long trips.  We will also be offering a week long fall trip.  These trips book in the blink of an eye so send me an email right away and I can get the pricing and seminar information to you.
Join me in the Parklands in 2013
Here is a small informational video clip we put together that provides some additional information too.