|Column nr.3 2001|
SPRING PARKED JUST OUTSIDE OF TOWN IN UNMARKED CAR
Quietly as possible I walked through the woods toward the private pond near Shingle town California not far from Redding. This mid February trip would hopefully accomplish two most important goals, before spring washes California in warmth and golden hues. I needed to spend time in this isolated little known area and field test a custom made Zebra Wood handled Hexagraph Rod equipped with a light weight J.Austin Forbes English made fly reel. I was dubious about this very pretty little rod with a handmade beautiful Zebra Wood handle instead of the traditional cork. When I first saw this rod at the Portland International Sportsmen Expo this year. I thought, its and art piece suitable for framing and placing over the fireplace! It must be too heavy and awkward to really be easy to carry and effective as a fish taking instrument. The other more obvious reason I drove five hours in the hard rain, was to get into that Zen like state of quietness and tranquillity this time of year provides. The area where I'm standing is way off the beaten path. This little pond is only maybe five acres and full of large Rainbow's still groggy from a cold Northern California Winter.
The first inkling I have of the uniqueness of the Ira Stutzman Rod is its ability to load and throw lines in tight spaces. This little pond has alot of trees and tall grass all around it. The water is used as drinking water by locals, so no wading allowed. Its around 38 degrees this morning and my fingers are screaming at me " Hey cowboy, its not even spring yet and your asking us to tie tiny knots in this freezer? " I attach nine feet of leader and six feet of 4 pound tippet while searching for the right fly. I have not seen more then three fish surface and the area is now alive with landing loud geese. If I don't get down near the bottom with a beaded dark prince nymph forget it! I rummage around the fly box and come up with a black Woolly Streamer I tied weeks earlier. It never fails, streamers wake up afew lethargic bottom dwelling trout four out of ten times. The fly is size #18 and very buggy looking, I tie a batch of them every year and usually go through or rather loose most by May. The first impressions of the assembled Zebra handled rod is it feels great, substantial and well balanced. The reel is small and tight as a drum with no wobble or any sign of less then expert craftsmenship. I have used many Hexagraph Fly rods over the years and have never cast a bad one. If my hands aren't wrapped around one of my beloved Bamboo's, then I try to find the best of the best contemporary graphite's. This little outfit surprised me over and over again. Because this shoreline is so cramped I had no real casting room, yet because of the minuscule added weight of the Zebra Wood. I could get more leverage for more power in this limited space. I usually use one of my 8 or 9 foot Bamboo rods and look for good casting areas when shore fishing
After six throws and no hits while fighting serious cold, I began to get the hang of Ira's artistic exotic wood handled rod. Pure joy to work and to look at is my verdict. Ira says he spent a good deal of time on the formula for the water proofing varnish used on this beauty. He then put it under water for extended periods and it came through perfectly. I challenge anyone who really loves custom handmade fly rods to find a more well designed artistic rod in today's market. The J.Austin Forbes light reel did this outfit great justice from both a performance standpoint and tactile feel. If you do what I do when given a strange new reel. That is take it apart and examine the bearings and the center post for stoutness and exact tolerances. You quickly get the picture if the center post is thin and spindly. Reels now come in many styles and breaking systems which if you can spend the money are quite good. Purists love to keep it simple and palm in their catch instead of relying on the same disc brake system installed on new jet planes! The Forbes reel has it all in one package and its small enough for use on expensive Bamboo where weight is a telling factor. This combo outfit is number one in my book and a pleasure to throw and hold. For more info on Ira Stutzman Custom Rods contact Hells Canyon Custom Rods (541) 742-4828 or on the web. www.hellscanyoncustomrods.com. J.Austin Forbes Ltd. (1-800-) 827-6199 web address www.jaustinforbes.com.
DAN FALLON INTERNATIONAL FLY FISHING PRO AM
Dedicated world class fly fishermen have long been the isolated minority in regard to recognition of the innate skill and patience needed to excel. I have had an ongoing argument with many of my bug throwing associates in regard to organizing a world tour of exotic waters. Where two person teams consisting of a seasoned pro and a celebrity amateur. Might compete under specific criteria in respect to technique, water reading, presentation, and catch & release. The majority of the funds raised from such a tour would go toward conservation and habitat management. Now hold on before all you die hards get into heart failure mode. I'm not talking about dragging the sport kicking and screaming into the same muddy waters our metal throwing bass chasing brothers swim in. What I propose is this for starters, lets take a deep breath and imagine a world fly fishing tour which begins with a stop at anyone of the wild trout waters here in California like Hat Creek or Yosemite's Merced River. ESPN along with my dream sponsor's like Rolex, Harry Winston Jewelers, Rolls Royce Cars pull out all the stops This series is shot with an eye on the poetic natural environment and slow steady skills needed to fool fish. We will not hear Buck and his buddy Dilbert say " Dog, that sucker hit like my old lady son! " None of that good old boy tired fishing show patter about things that really don't matter, such as how cold those brewskeys are?
TIME TO LIGHTEN THE LOAD SPORTS FANS
Before you seriously think about attempting to hoist that fifty pound fly fishing vest complete with fly tying bench and three bedroom portable shelter! Maybe its time to take a long look at that huge mess you have been diligently backpacking all over creation son? Lets face it, do you really need three extra reels, five boxes of flies, extra everything you can think of crammed into that poor seem bursting vest your wife bought you for your last birthday? I don't think so, in fact here is the short list of must haves for all wet & dry fly fishers.
You will need an extra reel just in case. Four spools of tippet line, three extra leaders, two small boxes of flies, forceps, needle nose pliers, your license and that friends is just about it. Why not leave all that other stuff neatly packed in a box left in the trunk of your car? Your days will be easier and your poor back will love you for it! That load of junk you have been escorting all over creation has cost you time and energy. Time you could have spent actually catching and releasing nice fish instead of spending endless moments searching for that thing-a-ma-bob-do-hicky.......
With sweet Spring parked just outside of town it is time to begin thinking about early season strategy in regard to waking up and taking trout. Early season tactics for fly fishers are so standardized and engrained in our minds, it is almost impossible to get people to rethink and retool! The drill is tie as many heavy deep diving nymphs as you can fit in your vest and put them as close to the bottom as possible. No matter where I go for opening day, its the same year after year? Well bug tossing friends a quiet revolution has taken place while you have been chained to that tying table cranking out nymph after nymph. The sign at this fork in the road says " Streamer "!
The effectiveness of working a well tied streamer such as a Woolly Bugger, Black Matuka, any of the Marabou's, Double Bunny, Kahuna's, is almost always deadly! That well tied nymph your counting on will work with alot of throwing drifting and waiting and waiting. If you like this kind of waiting and insist on staying a strict traditionalist please read no further. If on the other hand your open to adding a high degree of excitement and nonstop action to your precious stream time. Then lets get this streamer deal down and catch a mess of trout. I put together my streamer rig thusly and it almost always works on most streams and rivers. My reel is full of floating line, not sink tip, I repeat not sink tip. The leader must be atleast nine feet or more and the tippet six to nine feet as well and tapered of course. I throw to stream edges and in front of large boulders where big trout wait in food lanes for passing snacks. I love to bounce streamers off of rocks or logs and let it dead drift in good current all the while mending and watching the slack line for a bump. The reason I use floating line with streamers and in fact all my deep nymphing is it adds alot of drift action and helps keep the streamers looking natural and constantly moving with the surface current energy moving the line for me. If you use sinktip line you will loose much of this natural surface current power and not work the streamer as effectively. A trick I have used when possible is to climb high in trees that overhang streams and let the streamer bounce off branches naturally and hit the water. The same method can be used when one stands on a or near a large boulder and lets the streamer naturally fall or slide down the side of the rock and right into the mouth of that fat trout hiding there.
USE COMMON SENSE
The great thing about most streamers is the simplicity of tying one and then tying a dozen! When I went on the Lake Marie Alaska trip last year and fly fished for giant King Salmon with a little 4/6 weight Winston Bamboo. Each night my friend and guide John Wilson tied twenty or more egg sucking purple leeches for clients. He spent maybe forty minutes tops and they were well tied and would hold up to hard fishing until lost. Those of you new to the sport and anxious about learning to tie flies might be surprised at how easy they are to tie!
The best way to get started tying streamers is buy a good tying book and then buy a good assortment of streamers you think you might like to tie. Then just find a quiet place and slowly get aquatinted with the moves needed to create your own streamers. I promise this will forever change the way you have been thinking about early season trout action. While were on the subject of early season tactics which actually help take trout. I will attempt to explain what goes through my mind when approaching a new stream never fished before.
No matter where I go and throw bugs for the first time its always the same routine. I look for tackle stores or just stop by local bars & restaurants and ask questions about where to go and what the trout situation is like? If that fails and it does sometimes, then I buy a good bottle of single malt scotch and look for a good prospect. My prospect is usually middle aged like me and just coming off of a local stream I have come upon. In all the years I have used this ploy it has never failed. " Excuse me, you look like a seasoned pro with that fly rod! Would you consider a bribe worth showing a stranger around these waters for half an hour? "
Never fails and has become the start of many beautiful friendships in alot of great places to toss bugs. When I approach new waters which is usually a good running stream noted for having a worthy trout population I very slowly walk or crawl within say 15 yards and then take my extra cool binoculars and search for signs of trout. If it looks fishy enough, I then begin working the edges from as far away as possible. Trying not to make any noise or cast a shadow on the water.
I love to begin with terrestrials like ants, ladybugs, bees, or the killer streamers mentioned in this update. These edges are perfect trout sanctuaries as are boulders and hanging tree limbs and dark shadowy places. The idea is to become one with the natural food chain and present your fly exactly like all the other edible material floating by that fat trout's nose. If your moving around crashing into the water with your shiny new waders and generally making more noise then you do at home. The fish will be alerted and you will entice nothing but frustration and sore arms from endless false casting! If any of you out there think this method is too severe and more trouble then its worth? Why not take up tennis or join the wife for extended golden moments calling in your credit card number to the home-shopping network? The art of fly fishing is not simple and it cannot be quickly learned or mastered easily, thank god for that. If it were easy we would not have anywhere to fish, unless standing elbow to elbow turns you on.
The worst sight these eyes can recall on streams full of trout is the profile of a newly christened fly fisher walking from his or her car and going right into the water splashing around in shiny new waders! This fifth generation Irish San Franciscan used to get in the face of these splashing noisy creatures and speak my mind about stream common sense. On more then one occasion these impromptu chats resulted in more then a friendly conversation. These days having learned honey and quiet consultation is a much better means to educate. I have resolved not to take these kind of stream assaults too personally. Those of you out there who are new to this sport, please refer back to early updates of this column.
If you can begin to think about trout fishing especially in small streams as a hunting activity. Then you may actually begin to return home with trout instead of excuses? Of course I do not advocate removing fish from waters where they ought to be released in the same shape you caught them. The skills used in hunting work perfectly for fly fishers. The moment your heavy footsteps and loud voice get anywhere near a thriving trout stream. The fish are gone and get into there hiding invisible mode period. Then you can splash all around disturb the sensitive stream ecosystem and generally ruin it for yourself and the next guy. Why anyone would imagine its smart to start wading and splashing around as soon as possible is beyond me. One word sums up what you need to study and master to get anywhere in this sport, STEALTH! If you learn to slowly sneak up on streams and take your time while watching carefully for any rising or swirling fish signs. Then as quietly and as far away from stream edges as possible start working your fly along those edges first. Then slowly expand your casting area and work all the currents and throw near the front of boulders. If you do these simple common sense steps every time, and begin one hour after sunrise. You my fly fishing friend will catch and release many trout, especially if you learn how to use streamers!
BEGINNER FLY FISHING SCHOOLS
I have only afew spaces left for my spring 2001 beginner fly fishing two day courses. One school is located 30 miles from Yosemite National Park in alittle town called Mariposa. The historic Mariposa Hotel Inn is where the two day morning classes will be held. Contact Lyn at (800)-317-3244. The other school is near Redding California at Shingle town. Contact Angela at (530) 474-3738 or http://www.westonhouse.com.
The Mariposa Inn is noted for its occasional ghosts that surprise guests, and its thousands of hummingbirds that visit the back porch. The Shingle town B&B is absolutely breathtaking and isolated. For more info contact me via this column or phone (415)332-3803.
Written by Dan Fallon, April 2001 ©
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