Friday, November 21, 2014

The First Snow, A Side Trip

I'm interrupting the tribe series to post about a recent weekend of swinging flies. A group of friends made our annual excursion northward to the shores of the Great Lakes to chase steelhead.  The company was excellent and it turned out to be a much needed break from my recent busy stressful work life.  We fished hard each day, ate well, got plenty of outside time and slept early each night. Fish were caught, time slowed down and life became simpler at least for one weekend. My batteries were recharged and I get to relive my time via the pictures that I took.  They don't sum up the entire weekend or even accurately represent what took place, but they are another form of fishing; fishing for images.  Every time I'm on the water I fishing for fish and images, for me it makes it a rich time. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Spey Tribe-My Introduction

I have to say that I entered this tribe kicking and screaming the entire way.

The first time I'd ever seen a Spey rod in action was on the Deschutes River in in the late 80's. For those of you who don't know the Deschutes, it is a huge river especially by eastern standards.

                                           The big water of the Deschutes

I went steelhead fishing for the first time in my life with two brothers, one of whom I'd met at a Kaufman's Streamborn fly shop outside of Seattle.  His brother had guided in Alaska with the same group of guys that I guided with a year or two prior to my time up north.  We hit it off pretty well and they invited me to fish with them for three days in October.  One of the brothers fished a spey rod.  I'd heard of spey rods, but I have to admit that at the time I thought it was ridiculous to use such a rod when I could double haul an 8 wt. all day long for three days and not have my arm fall off.  Let's just say that youth brings with it lots of flexibility physically, but not necessarily intellectual flexibility, at least in my case.

                                           The first Spey rod I ever saw in action.

In order to reach all the productive water they had this small rubber dingy.  The three of us crammed into it crossing this huge river.  When I looked down I could see 20 or so feet deep into the river.  If we had tipped over, all of us would have drowned.  This mode of transportation freaked me out a few times. 
I got this shot because I wasn't crossing the river with them this time.  I fished on the unproductive side instead and didn't have a coronary crossing the river.
We didn't always have a ton of backcast room but we fired long casts all day with our single handers.  We sure worked hard for our casts. 

We fished hard for three days with nary a bite.  I had a lot to learn about swinging flies for anadromous fish.  After this outing my confidence in this method was just a tad weak.  After guiding in Alaska all summer one was supposed to catch fish lots of fish, not three days of casting practice. Oh well it was time to go to New Zealand and I didn't think about swinging flies for two more years. 

My next opportunity to swing flies was in Nova Scotia.  My buddy Steve and I headed north at the end of September for a week of fishing. We brought tents, rods, tying gear and clothes.  Mind you only single hand rods, as that was all that we had.  We ended up fishing the Margaree River, which is beautiful, easily waded little river.  There was no need for two handed rods.  In this neck of the woods the only acceptable manner with which to fish is to swing flies.   If someone is in the run you want to fish, just wait in line at the head and jump in when it's open.  Everyone works their way down a step at a time.  Just leave enough space between you and the person below so your line doesn't get near them and life is good.  It is a great way to fish and one can feel very relaxed about access as everyone gets a turn. 

There is a salmon museum on the banks of the river.  When we went there, I saw a fly that reminded me of a pattern we used in Alaska for silvers.  That pattern was like crack to the silvers.  The Alaskan flies were weighted which was a big no no in Nova Scotia so we tied up some unweighted versions and hit the river.  Low and behold we started catching fish on the swing.  We didn't really know what we were doing so we tried everything, casting slightly upriver, casting down river, mending, not mending.  Beginners mind can be a beautiful thing.  One of the things that I learned on this trip was to believe that a fish is going to hit my fly.  Having a positive attitude is more than half the battle when swinging flies for migratory fish, at least that what I came to believe.  We had a blast and the salmon were not shy about letting you know they wanted the flies as they hammered them.  One fish broke me off on the take and I was using 15 lb. maxima!  
One can see the fly stuck firmly in the nose with the hook point coming out above the fly and the thick brown maxima.  

This one was hooked perfectly in the corner of the mouth.

                                                      My best Salmon at 36 inches.

                                    Those males with the big kypes are stunning fish.

                                                    Putting the wood to one.

After two falls of fishing up there opportunities to swing flies didn't happen anymore.  My buddy Steve moved to Montana, I entered graduate school and life took me in a different direction. For a number of years fishing took a back seat and the fishing I did do was all local in western Massachusetts.  Up next my Spey awakening. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Fly Fishing Tribes

Each so called genre of fly fishing is represented by its own so called "tribe."  Each group has their own distinctive look, gear, lingo and ways about them.  When it comes to fly fishing I originally belonged to the adipose fin tribe.  If it didn't have an adipose fin I was pretty much not interested in catching it.  Since that time I would like to say that I have matured as a fisherman and now greatly appreciate what different species have to offer.  Variety is the spice of life is my new mantra.  As a result I find myself as a member of many fly fishing tribes. 

This post will highlight some of my time when I was a full blown trout weenie.  My dress has changed from non-breathable waders to the much more comfortable breathables.  I still have my original Columbia vest in storage, but I now use something completely different.  I had a pair of Thomas &Thomas wading boots made by Weinbrenner, which were by far the best wading boots I've ever owned. They lasted through 4 seasons of guiding in AK which is  amazing.  I still have them and need to take them to a cobbler for some ripped seams and break them out for summer fishing.  They are light weight and felted but most importantly I can feel the bottom with them and hence they make me a better wader.I used 2 piece rods as 4 piece rods were not on the scene yet.  We had those old huge polarized glasses that weighed a ton and fit on one's nose like a square on a circle.  Back then I even had hair!

During this time I traveled far and wide to chase fish with adipose fins.  My travels took me to Oregon, Montana, Alaska, British Columbia, Argentina, New Zealand and Nova Scotia among others.  All of these pics are scanned from slides so the quality isn't so great.

                                                                 A good Ak bow
                                                                Argentine brown
                                                     My friend Bob working down a run
     Sunset at the Boca of the Chimehuin, famous for it's huge spawning browns.  I wasn't there in     prime time but it was beautiful.
                                                    Another Argentine Brown
                                                                   An King in AK
                                The famous Leopard bows of AK.  Followed by some piggies

                                                        A New Zealand piggie
                            Love the old glasses that we all wore.  This fish fell for a dry.
                                                               Typical NZ brown
                                                Some better fish from down under

                               The king of fish from Nova Scotia

                                My first steelhead, I worked really hard for this BC steel. 

Over the next year I will be highlighting my own fly fishing "tribal" affinities in a number of posts as the seasons change including an updated trout section.  As such consider this the introduction to my tribes. Up next Spey fisherman aka speynerds.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

DIY Aluminum bars for your wading boots

So a few weeks ago I get the latest issue of the Drake magazine and see on the back page the new Patagonia wading boots with these aluminum bars on the bottom.  Years ago in Alaska we had these galosh type of things with aluminum bars on the bottom and they were like wading with velcro in the river.  It was unreal, the difference and this was back in the day when everyone had felt.

Fast forward a few years and I've been using these LLBean boots with the rubber bottoms and metal spikes.  They're ok on rocks but nothing great.  As someone who is always trying to improve my gear I thought I could replicate the Patagonia idea while saving some bucks.  I did some searching on the web.  I found a couple of folks gluing and screwing the bars in the bottoms of the boots.  I saw that one guy mentioned using t-nuts and I said that makes sense as the bars will never come out. 

I spent about $25 and a couple of hours on them.  Here it is step by step.

Tools needed
Hack saw-electric makes it faster
drill and bits
T-nuts 1/4X5/8"
screws 1/4-20 screws, I used 3/4 and 1" for my boots, yours might be different.
countersink bit
File to round edges of bars-I used a grinding wheel made this step fast

Finished product.

First step take out the linings on the boot.

 Buy Aluminum bar from local hardware store 4" is plenty for a pair of boots. Measure and cut the bars into manageable sizes. 

 I roughly measured the bars to fit along the bottoms of the boots.  Use a punch so as to have something for the bit to dig into.

 Lining up the holes and drilling one right after the other.

 Then I counter sunk the holes for the screws.

 Drill holes in sole and put in T-nut (see below).  Make sure the holes will go in the boot and not into the side of the boot on the inside.


Once the bars were done the hardest part was lining everything up and getting the screws into the T-nuts.   After they were all done I screwed them up and put the liners back in.  At first I thought they might be uncomfortable due to the T-nuts, but they were not.

  After a day on the water.  I have to say they worked as well as could have wished for.  Very sticky on rocks and easy to walk in as opposed to korkers or the like.   An easy way to greatly improve one's traction on slippery rocks.