Fly Fishing Traditions

Fly Fishing Traditions Blog and Website
"It's about Life & Fly Fishing"

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Perry Poke Positioning Cast

As you advance with spey casting you will continue to spent time "Warming Up" using the roll cast with it's waterborne anchor or the "Switch Cast" with an airborne anchor. Both of these casts end with the "Forward Stroke" which needs to be grooved as it is part of every spey cast. An exception to this is the "Perry Poke" cast. It is a re-positioning cast and does not have a forward stroke, unless you call dumping the line a forward stroke. You'll see what I mean as you continue to the "How To".

The Perry Poke was named after Karl Perry who popularized this cast. The “Perry Poke” is a re-positioning cast that allows you to re-position your line to use some of the straight line casts like the “Roll Cast” and the “Switch Cast.” You can also use it with a "Single Spey" cast.

The “Perry Poke” is an upstream shoulder cast. For a right handed caster this would be from river left. The river would be flowing from the right to the left with the bank behind you. The “D Loop” will be placed on the upstream side. This cast is best utilized with an upstream wind or no wind. The “Perry Poke” is a Sustained Anchor Cast.

As with most casts you can use this cast from opposite side of the river,river right, with a "Kackhanded Cast" which for a right handed caster is with the right hand at the top of the grip and the "D Loop" set over the left, upstream shoulder.

The cast works well with short “Skagit Heads” of about 27 feet in length or with "Scandi Heads".

First Stage. The first stage of the “Perry Poke” is the hang-down.

(1) Make sure you have a nice taught connection.
(2) Strip your running line back in to the belly or the head before Step Two, the pickup.
(3) Set your feet in the direction that you want to target your cast.
(4) Turn your hips and shoulders to face the line at the hang-down.
(5) Gather line and drop the rod tip down.

Second Stage - Step two is the pickup.

(1) This step is where you pick up the line to place it in the secondary position. The important movement is the lifting of the rod vertically up and not swinging. They line travels quite close to the body. It is a nice smooth operation.
(2) Raise the rod tip to the vertical position and over your upstream shoulder.
(3) The line should place the anchor point right in front of you, slightly downstream from your position.

Third Stage - Step three is the throw down for the “Set”. It is a relaxed dropping of the line. You want the line to drop in a crumpled pile. It looks messy but the line on the water will give the power for the forward cast.
The crumpled pile should be under your rod tip.
Note: a common mistake is to push the throw down out and away from your position.

Stage Four - Step Four is the sweep combined with the “Forward Casting Stroke”.

The important part of the sweep is to take the rod path upstream and outside of where the line is laying.

(1) The sweep brings the rod tip around and upstream in a slightly inclining plane to the point behind you where the sweep up begins.
(2) Go out and around with the rod tip then you do the “Turn Over” which is the rotation of the rod into a vertical plane to prepare for the “Forward Stroke”.
(3) The stroke path is very similar to a single handed “Belgian Cast”.


The Perry Poke is a causual cast the you can use to re-position your line to use a simple "Roll Cast" or a "Switch Cast". It can be combined with other more advanced casts too.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Switch Rod Workshop Perspective

I just have to admit that I was a little apprehensive going into the two switch rod workshops that took place in the last 3 weeks. This was a big step for me, it's what I've really wanted to do, hands on teaching, and to me this was my final test. The attendees of the workshops were mostly faces that I knew, people that are die hard fly fishermen, people that I am friends with and the new faces, friends for the future. I've done many small classes and clinics in the past but this was just bigger. I was originally seeking help for the workshop but that didn't pan out due a personal issue. I decided I'd just move forward and make it happen.

So what did I do? I practiced what I was going to teach, I made frequent trips down to the Lower Yuba and worked on double handed casting techniques. the practice casts, like the roll and switch cast, the spey casts, double spey, single spey, snap T, snap Z, the perry poke, the snake roll. Essentially what anyone that wants to be a proficient two handed caster should do.

I wrote three switch rod booklets to handout to the attendees of the workshops. One on the gear you'll need, rods, lines, heads and such. The second on the practice and spey casts that you'll want learn to use a two handed rod effectively. The third on switch rod tactics and and flies you may want to add to your arsenal. These are like term papers to me, this is how I learn. It is the application of studying something, letting it sink in and then composing that information and assimilating it onto paper. It works for me. What I learn can then be passed on to others, this is what teaching is all about.

I contacted our Sage, Rio and Redington rep, Jaime Lyle, and asked if I could borrow a couple of switch rods where I was short. Jaime responded by sending me six. Six rods with reels, lines, heads and tips. I can't thank Jaime enough. Not only did this give me ample rods to use, but it made it possible for the workshop attendees to sample different rods matched with different lines.

The workshops went, I think anyway, better than I had imagined. A bounty of information was shared, with good food, and camaraderie and I think the best thing is that a bunch of fires were lit to continue the learning process of using switch rods and spey casting.

Once again I want to thank Jaime Lyle, Frank Rinella, Mike Williams and Blake Larsen for their encouragement and support.

Keep on Switching

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Switch and Spey Casting Primer - Shooting Line - Coils vs. Loops

When shooting line with a switch or a spey rod here's a couple of tips from

(1) Hold loops of descending size. Long casts require that you hold multiple loops of line – you’ll have a hard time shooting 40 feet of running line if it’s dragging below you in a single loop on the water. As you strip in your running line after a cast, count your strips and hang on to the line in descending counts. A simple pattern for a cast that shoots 7 strips worth of line might be to count 4 strips, hold a loop, count 3 strips, hold a loop, and then make a cast. Holding a couple of the same length is OK, but for some reason that our brains are too small to figure out, loops of ascending size tend to tangle. One pattern for a mega-cast might be 5-5-4-3. Many anglers have their own pattern that works well for them, but just make sure your loops are of the same or descending size.

(2) Hold loops, not coils. If each time you hold a loop, you place it in the same direction on your hand (e.g. front to back), you wind up with coils of line that that tend to tangle more. Instead, use an old climber’s trick and alternate the direction that you hold your loops – pass the first one front to back across your hand, the next one back to front, the next one front to back, etc. This will result in loops that lay cleanly across your hand, and are again much less likely to tangle.

Here's'a You Tube Video from which shows the "Loop Method" as opposed to the "Coil Method". In this video it explains why the "Loop Method" is good and the "Coil Method" is bad.

Get out and practice this "Loop Method" and your distance will improve.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Switch and Spey Casting Primer - Shooting Line

When selecting the option of using a running line with either Skagit heads or Scandi Heads the question will soon filter into your brain "How do I shoot more line? How do I gather and hold line to prepare to shoot it.

When fishing with a switch or spey rod, the ability to shoot line into your cast becomes critical in reaching common fishing distances. Line tangling on the shoot, or being ripped off the surface of the water will seriously effect your casting. To maximize your casting distance, a simple line management strategy must be used.

One basic technique for managing your extra line in using the pinky finger of your lower hand. Once you practice this for a while it should become second nature.

How to Do It
Here's a step by step line management system that I found at Get out on the river and practice this system and hopefully your casts will be furling out further.

Once your swing is complete with your line on the dangle, take 4 or 5 good strips and place the line over your little finger as shown. You should naturally be holding the rod with your upper hand, but the loops must be held in your lower hand for this to work properly.

With the line still trapped under your pinky, take 3 or 4 more strips. It's important that you make one less strip than the first time, so that your loops of line are getting progressively smaller.

Place the line over your little finger again and trap it. You should now have 2 large loops of line with the bottoms of the loops dangling in the water. It's important that the loops are not too short. Having the line touching the water helps keep them from tangling.

You can continue to strip and create loops until the lines head has reached the tip of the rod. Just remember to make the loops progressively smaller.

Now form a ring with your thumb and index finger of your line (or under) hand.

Grip low on the rod using only your thumb and index finger. Your remaining fingers should be free.

As you wind up for the cast, you can see how the line is hanging in loops off the pinky and is well clear of the reel, rod butt, or any other potential tangles.

Once you stop the rod on the forward cast, open up your little finger to release the line.

You can see how the line is pulled off your fingers in tangle free loops, greatly increasing your casting distance.

Let'er Rip!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Switch and Spey Casting Primer - Part V - The Switch Cast

The “Switch Cast” is also referred to as the “Forward Spey”, “Live Line Roll”, or the “Jump Roll”.

It is a non-change of direction cast just like the “Roll Cast”, but is much more dynamic. It is an “Airborne Anchor” cast. The “Switch Cast is mainly used as an adjustment cast to reposition your line to make a more standard spey cast. It is a linear cast which makes it a good candidate for a practice cast for getting the fundamentals of using an “Airborne Anchor”.

The “Switch Cast” has a “D Loop” with energy. It has less “Line Stick” so there is little energy lost in the cast. The “Switch Cast” is a much more efficient version of the “Roll Cast” but a little more complicated to do.

The Fundamentals of the Switch Cast

  • The “Switch Cast” starts with the rod pointed at the line on the water and then continues with a lift to nose height or about to the 9:30 or 10:00 position.
  • The rod then sweeps laterally to the side, staying at the same height, coming back and rotating the shoulders and the hips lifting the rod to 1:00 and there the rod stops until you set your "Live" anchor.
  • Remember this is an airborne anchor cast, the line will be in the air, you wait until it settles, see the splash and then you go. “Splash and Go”.
  • Once the line touches, “Go” and the “Forward Cast” unfurls like normal.
Keys to the Switch Cast

  • The key is to make sure there is enough speed to get the "Live"anchor to land in the right position..
  • If you pick up too slowly, the anchor lands too far in front of you. You will then have a small “D Loop” and the forward stroke will have to be much more powerful to execute the cast..
  • If you come back too fast, and the anchor point goes 10 or 2o feet behind you, the cast will be poor because the line or “Point P” is too far behind you.
  • The ideal placement of your anchor is just in front of you and to the side.

The "Switch Cast" is a great practice cast for learn the technique of setting an airborne anchor or "Live" anchor. If you add a "Perry Poke" cast before the "Switch Cast" you will have an airborne change of direction cast. Like with the "Roll Cast" practice, practice, practice.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Switch and Spey Casting Primer - Part IV - The Roll Cast

The two handed “Roll Cast” is one of the founding members of the spey casting family that is important enough to learn and to practice. Using the “Roll Cast” as a practice cast will enable you to get the basic principles of spey casting right. It doesn't have many practical uses as far as a spey fishing application except for repositioning the line prior to making a spey cast. It’s good for picking up sinking lines and getting them near the surface. It’s good for throwing a slack line straight, so you don’t have a bunch of slack sitting on the water prior to your cast, but its main and best use is for practicing and for learning the mechanics of the “Forward Casting Stroke”. It also allows us to introduce and learn about “Point P”.

Point "P"

The “Roll Cast” is a very good cast to introduce “Point P”. “Point P” is the point where the hanging line touches the water with a “Roll Cast” and also in other spey casts.

Most of the time “Point P” is the point the line is touching the water when the line is dangling below you, or after you have set the line to form your “D Loop”.

With the “Roll Cast” if “Point P” is in front of you, and you’ve got minimal amount of “Line Stick” and drag, and the “Roll Cast” leaves the water cleanly, you’ve executed the “Roll Cast” correctly.

A good pointer is that if that the line makes little noise as it leaves the water, you have little “Line Stick”. If “Point P” is established behind you when you set your “D Loop”, and when you go forward you;

(a) Hear the spray of water, the noise indicates that you have too much line on the water;

(b) Your cast will not launch cleanly and with power because there is so much drag. This is because the line is being held or gripped by the water behind you.

(c) You had too much “Line Stick” for your “D Loop”.

Make sure that you pay attention to where “Point P” is located. Make sure “Point P” is clean and in front of you when you start your pickup. Pull back to 1:00, hang it, hold it, drive parallel to your rail track and the roll cast will furl out easily.

The Fundamentals of the Roll Cast

The most important point about the “Roll Cast” in relation to spey casting is that it helps you hone the skills and technique of the "Forward Stroke". The "Forward Stroke" is the common element for all spey casts. Practice. Practice, Practice!

As far as the fundamentals of the "Roll Cast" the most important one is that the “Forward Stroke” is cast out parallel to the line lying on the water. Parallel and close. This “Parallel Principal” applies to almost all spey casts. Stay “Parallel and Close”.

The Railroad Tracks

When picking your target line for the "Roll Cast" think of the analogy of “railroad tracks”. If you are casting right handed, over your right shoulder, the line lying on the water at the start of your cast is the right rail track. Your “Forward Stroke”, your aiming point, is the left track running parallel to the right track. Rail tracks are parallel forever and ever. Keep your casts parallel and your cast will furl out correctly.

Roll Cast Rules

  • One cardinal rule is never cross the rail track with your cast. If you cast upstream across the right rail track you will tangle and end up with a big mess.
  • Roll cast to the “Clean Side” or to the left of the right rail track.
  • Also avoid going too far off to the side and have a widening “Rail Track”. The train will fall off the track. You will lose your power and the cast will falter.
  • The “Roll Cast” doesn’t roll across the water; a cast that rolls across the water has little power. A good roll cast should unroll smoothly in the air and drop to the water like any other good spey cast.
  • Remember to aim the “Roll Cast with enough height for it to unroll cleanly in the air and drop to the water as one cast. The best way to achieve this is to start with the right amount of line out of the guides, the “Hang”, use a fast action rod and make sure you rod tip drives in a straight line and accelerates to a positive stop.

The “Roll Cast” is the perfect practice cast which enables to work on your fundamentals for the "Forward Cast: on almost any body of water. Once you have the "Roll Cast" flying properly you are ready for any spey casts that have a waterborne anchor.

If you add the "Perry Poke" cast before the "Roll Cast" you'll have a functioning change of direction "Roll Cast". I'll cover the "Perry Poke" a little later.

Get out and practice the Roll Cast, two handed, with a Switch Rod or a Spey Rod and you be ready to move on to the advanced spey casts.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Switch and Spey Casting Primer - Part III - The Forward Cast

The Forward Cast

Before looking at individual types of spey casts, which are change of direction casts, let’s look at the most fundamental part, the stroke common with all spey casts, which is the “Forward Cast”.

The forward cast is such an important portion of all Spey Casts that the fundamentals of the forward cast really should be looked at separately. All spey casts are done by different manipulations of the fly line, a drag, a pull, a flip of the fly line, before the final delivery and finish with the “Forward Cast”.

This section will focus only on improving and perfecting the “Forward Cast”.

The simplest way to practice the forward cast is with the “Roll Cast”.

The reason why it is the best is that the roll cast starts from a static rod position. You can set your “D Loop” with the line over your shoulder and you can then concentrate on your rod and hand positions prior to throwing the “Forward Cast”

The "Roll Cast" for Practicing the Forward Cast

The "Roll Cast" is the perfect cast to perfect your "Forward Cast".

By using the pause of the “Roll Cast”, once you have set your “D Loop”, you can to your rod and hands properly.

Use the pause to think about the starting position and how the cast should work.

When you are ready make the forward stroke.

To get a get a smooth tight loop your forward stroke must stop with a very abrupt positive stop.

The Fundamentals of the Forward Cast

Once you have set up your "D Loop" over your shoulder you need to get your starting position right.

(a) Concentrate on getting the arms in the right position to start.

(b) The top hand should be relaxed and at about ear height.

(c) The positioning of the top hand is dependent on the amount of line you are working. With a short belly line your stroke will be short (12” +/-) and in front of you. With a long belly line the stroke will be long reaching behind you and then accelerating forward.

(d) The bottom hand should be holding the rod at angle of approximately 45 degrees.

How the Power of the Forward Stoke is Developed

The power of the stroke comes from two aspects with short or mid-belly line lengths;

(1) The right wrist of the top hand snapping and coinciding with;

(2) The bottom hand powering or tugging back.

Both move at the very same time to maximize the power application.The power of the stroke comes from three aspects when casting long belly line lengths.

(1) The right wrist of the top hand snapping and coinciding with;

(2) The bottom hand powering or tugging back. Both move at the very same time to maximize the power application.

(3) The last aspect is that the right elbow locks straight.

The Forward cast Mantra “Body, Arm, Power”

Body, Arm, Power. This is the “Forward Stroke Mantra”. The three things that you want to concentrate on when practicing the Forward Stroke with the Roll cast is, Body, Arm and Power.

Body - The first thing that should happen with the forward cast is the body should be moving forward into the cast. Lean into the cast. Transfer your weight from the back foot to the front foot.

Arm - The arm angle is very critical to an efficient cast. The rod should be angled down from the ear at a 45 degree angle +/-. The rod should move forward with both hands at this same angle until the wrist snaps and the low hand pulls back simultaneously.

Note: A common error is to roll the cast forward, this throws the rod forward in an arch forming a big open loop without any power. Avoid an early tilt and rotation of the rod.

Power - Work on the simultaneous, wrist snap and pull back for the power stroke. The delayed tilt and continuous application will give you a tight powerful loop.

Common Faults with the Forward Stroke

"Hitting From the Top" - This is an impatient forward stroke. The forward stroke starts with a massive force. An over application of power, too soon. This stroke tend to climb in the air and falls with no power.Creep

This is caused by eagerness or anticipation of the forward stroke. The back cast is completed, the rod stays still for the required amount of time, and the forward stroke starts.

“Creep” - This happens when while you wait for the back cast to anchor or get into position, you creep forward with the rod to almost in the vertical position. You then apply the power from the 12 o’clock position, once you have moved the stroke too far forward. When this happens you have lost your half your power stroke and run out of gas so to speak.

By the time the power is applied the rod is past the vertical position and forces the line to force downward and crumples into the water instead of flying out above the water.

To correct “Creep”, remember that when you’ve completed your back cast, your rod should be motionless or still, shift your body weight forward, maintaining the correct rod angle and then make the forward cast.

If your line is firing downwards into the water, work on not creeping.

"Thrusting" - Thrusting is common when transitioning from single handed casting and not pulling back with the bottom hand.

The bottom hand goes forward with the top hand and doesn’t pull back.

To correct “Thrusting” pull back on your top hand as you turn your wrist into the forward cast simultaneously.

"Rolling the Shoulder" - Avoid rolling your shoulder, or rotating the shoulder around as you make your forward cast.

If you roll or rotate your shoulder it doesn’t allow your cast to fire in a straight line. It will follow your rotation and not fire in a 180 degree line.

The cast will unfurl in a curving, sideways, fading direction.

The cast will land in a downstream loop with your flies upstream.

To correct “Rolling the Shoulder” square your shoulders to your target line when making the forward cast.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Switch and Spey Casting Primer - Part II - Anchor Groups

Anchor Groups

In this article, Switch and Spey Casting Primer - Part II, I want to discuss Anchor Groups.

The anchor for your spey cast is the portion of line that is lying on the water once you form your "D Loop". All spey casts will fall into one of two anchor groups, either the waterborne anchor group or the airborne anchor group.

Airborne Anchors.

The first group are "Airborne Anchors"

  • An airborne anchor cast is where the line is in the air, lands, splashes and goes. This is often referred to as a “Touch and Go”.
  • A good cast to perfect and practice setting up an “Airborne Anchor” is the “Switch Cast”
  • The “Snake Roll” is an example of an “Airborne Anchor” cast.
  • The success of any airborne anchor cast is dependent upon timing the touch down properly.
  • You want to time your cast so that the forward cast starts just as the end of the fly line and nail knot touches down.
  • The advantages of airborne anchor casts are that they are a quicker change of direction. It takes about 4/7th’s of the time compared to a waterborne anchor cast.
  • Another advantage is that it doesn’t make much disturbance on the water. The waterborne anchor casts make a lot of noise when you rip the line off the water.
  • The airborne anchor casts are silent if done correctly.
  • Using an airborne anchor cast with sinking lines doesn’t allow them to sink during your cast.
I'll discuss the fundamentals of a spey cast using an airborne anchor when we review the "Switch Cast" in a future article.

Waterborne Anchors

A waterborne anchor cast is a cast where the anchor is set up on the water, it settles, it stays in the water as you come around to form the “D Loop” and only when you start your forward stroke does it lift off the water.

  • A good cast to perfect and practice a “Waterborne Anchor” cast is the “Roll Cast”
  • A “Double Spey” is an example of a waterborne anchor spey cast.
  • These tend to be the easier casts to learn because you can break down the waterborne casts into segments.
  • Waterborne anchors also casts work well with large flies.
  • We will review the fundamentals of a "Waterborne Anchor Cast" when we review the "Double Spey" cast in a future article.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fishing the Dark Side

When fishing tail water streams and rivers there can be a lot of movement of gravel and structure from seasonal flows. Your favorite holding spots for trout may not be there anymore and you may see areas with bright clean gravel. With the high flows from the winter, spring and in some cases through mid-summer there can be a lot of gravel pushed around.

Where there are corners where the river takes a right or left turn and there is a gravel bank, the gravel sometimes can be carved out and pushed downstream. This often leaves a long bright gravel bottom pushing down from the corner area. Trout don't like bright gravel. You will see a distinct line where this bright gravel has filled the center of the run. To the right or left you will often see a darker patch of gravel to the bank. This creates a seam from light gravel in the center to dark gravel to the edges. This is the darker seam that you want to run your flies through. Fish the dark side.

Another area where this pushing of gravel can happen is below the riffles where the riffle transitions to another run below. The gravel in the run above the riffle where it tails out typically has nice dark color. Once the water flows over the lip of the tailout it can sometimes dig out the gravel at the top of the riffle like a rototiller and when it does this gravel is pushed downstream like mentioned above. This creates another bright gravel to darker gravel seam in the run below the riffle. Fish the darker side.

As you drift down the river there are often areas mid stream where there are islands of darker gravel where the bright gravel has pushed downstream on each side of it. Fish the dark colored areas.

When you drift a river and you are fishing the runs look for dark spots which are typically boulders or rocks. When it is bright out fish will hold in front, alongside or behind these spots, They are mini sanctuary areas. In a freestone tailwater these areas can be prime lies.

Keep your eye out for the dark areas and there's a good chance you'll find willing trout.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chironomids 101 - Part ll - The Life Cycle

Chironomids belong to the insect order Diptera and are characterized by a four-stage life cycle. This is complete life cycle, which consists of the egg, larva, pupa and adult. The cycle starts when a female lays eggs during the early morning or evening hours when the waters surface tends to be calm and the risk of predation from birds and other insects is low. The eggs drift down to the bottom were they soon hatch into the larval stage.

Capable of surviving in a diverse range of habitats and conditions chironomids are found in bogs, lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. You will find them in the tropics and all the way to the Arctic. They are one on mother natures most hardy insects. Their preferred aquatic environments feature soft stable bottoms and weeds, traits of slow moving stretches, spring creeks, tail waters, lakes and ponds. Here in western North America productive mud bottom lakes are home to a staggering number of chironomid species, many capable of attaining large sizes. They can obtain sizes as close to an inch in some instances, which is quite a but larger than most people realize. This is a definite contradiction to their midge moniker.

Depending upon the chironomid species and habitat they are found in a wide range of sizes, from too small to imitate to the big "extra large" chironomids of the west, as mentioned larva can reach to a size that is close to an inch in length. When you find them in rivers and streams they often of smaller sizes due in part to multiple generations. Species capable of more than one hatch cycle per season are often smaller as a result of less growing time between hatches. Multiple emergences are common in southern latitudes and warmer water temperatures.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, some species feature one year cycles and are typically large. Because of this pattern choices can range from as small as #24 to as large as #16. Depending upon your region, stillwater fly boxes will often feature larger sizes, #18 to #6 in some cases. Clear water lakes and ponds tend to feature smaller sizes while rich mud bottom algae type lakes are ideal habitat for the larger species.

Chironomid Larva

Most fly fishers overlook the importance of the chironomid larva. Maybe its because of their slim nature, perceived small sizes or the fact that majority of species live out their larval existence burrowing and writhing about in the bottom ooze. Trout don't have the same opinion and are finely tuned to the intrinsic food value of chironomid larva.

Chironomid larvae grow through 3 to 4 instars. Within species there is a downsizing between stages, a trait common to many insects. Larvae are larger than pupae which in turn are larger than adults, a key consideration when choosing patterns during an emergence.
Slender and worm-like, chironomid larva have 9 body segments and short stubby pro-legs fore and aft. When considering patterns to match the larva, successful larval patterns should be thin and streamlined and incorporate wire ribbing to suggest segmentation and also add weight to the dressing. The weight aids your presentation. As a rule, larval patterns should be presented near the bottom where naturals are most often found. Make a note of this as it is a very important tactic.
In the chironomid larval stage, only the free swimming larva (Bloodworm and Glassworm) are normally found in the feeding samples of the rainbow trout. This is also very important vent selecting larva patterns. The typical size range for most stillwater larva or bloodworm patterns ranges from size 8 2xl down through size 16 standard. The use of a throat pump when fishing will help determine the size of the larva that the fish are feeding on. You have to catch one first of course.

Larva Coloration

Chironomid larvae are present in a wide array of colors. The most popular schemes include brown, medium green, olive, maroon and red, the red larvae have been christened by many as "bloodworms." The distinct red coloration is a result of hemoglobin that many species use to survive in oxygen poor waters. A certain times of the year such as the middle of summer oxygen levels in lakes drop as a result of increasing water temperature. Larva use iron molecules in their red blood cells (hemoglobin) to bind and carry oxygen. Later in the season as the oxygen levels return to comfortable levels the larvae return to their natural green and olive colorations. During this transition period it is not uncommon to see unique candy cane colored larvae of red and green. Keep some of these 'candy cane' patterns in your fly box to take advantage of these occasions. Other color considerations include olive, green and a unique candy cane combination of red and green.

Phil Rowley has a fantastic book titled "Stillwater Selections" that has many "Go To" chironomid larva and pupa patterns.

Where the Larva Live, their Habitat.

Most species of chironomid larva, and there are over 2500 chironomid species in western North America alone, construct tubular homes in the mud water interface along the bottom. Within the safety of their homes the larva pulse their worm like bodies to draw detritus and other food sources into their tube. Feeble swimmers, the larvae move through the water with a lashing head to tail motion reminiscent of a severed worm. Despite this handicap larva often leave the sanctuary of their homes to forage and migrate. Spring and fall are two such times for these migrations and larval patterns should be primary considerations. During low light hours chironomid larva often venture out for a feed making a bloodworm pattern a favored lead off hitter. Plying the waters after a good windstorm with larval imitations is another wise strategy as many larvae are swept from their homes by the swells and aggressive wave action.

Free swimming larva like the bloodworm, do just that. They crawl, float or swim around the lake but generally tend to hide under rocks or rotting logs and remain fairly immobile. Most larva build and stay inside a mud tube on the lake bottom and don't move very far from that.

The worm-like larva are a year round food source or staple as important as the more famous staples that includes scuds, dragon nymphs, damselfly nymphs and leeches. In the absence of a hatch imitating a stillwater staple of some sort is the way to go. In the early morning hours many food sources are active, foraging under the relative security of the low light conditions.

Chironomid larvae venture out of the protective tubes many species construct in the mud water interface. Feeble swimmers chironomid larva writhe and wriggle about at the mercy of the elements, foraging upon detritus and decaying vegetation. Opportunistic trout cruise above tipping head down to vacuum chironomid larva from their mud tubes and those left wandering too far from home. During intense windstorms many larvae are swept from their homes and dashed amongst the weeds. Using the ambient wind to sweep or wind-drift a larval imitation on a floating line and long leader (15 feet plus) can be lethal. Any time an angler sees chironomid larva adrift in the water column try sweeping a larval imitation using this wind-drifting tactic. Wind drifting is an excellent tactic to cover water with a near static presentation.

As with many insect larva and nymphs in stillwaters bloodworms migrate on a seasonal basis. In the spring larva migrate into the shallower reaches and reestablish their tubular homes. During the late fall those larvae not mature for their transition to the pupal stage travel to deeper climes to escape the harsh temperatures and ice of winter. Matching presentation techniques to simulate the natural travel of aquatic invertebrates is a sound plan.

The stillwater fly fisher should use the same presentation techniques that have been refined for the pupal phase of the chironomid life cycle. The key is keeping the offering near the bottom, within one to two feet. Strike indicators are of great assistance to novice fly fishers struggling with the confidence to fish a pattern that reassembles a tiny red stick in the vast expanse of a lake.

Chironomid Pupa Life Cycle

Chironomid pupa are a year round food source and a regular feature on the trout's menu making them the number one food source for trout in stillwaters.

When chironomids enter their pupal stage they are at their most important point of development from the perspective of the fly fisher. When leaving the bottom of the lake and traveling to the surface to hatch, they are most vulnerable to predation by the trout. Even the largest trout will actively feed on these pupa and they are successfully fished throughout the year.

Depending upon the species chironomids can spend up to 1 year in the larval stage. The larva seals itself within its tube or constructs a temporary home to transform into the pupa. During this transformation the larva develops wing pads and a distinct thorax. When the time is right the now transformed pupa cuts its way free and prepares for its journey to the surface to emerge. Once the larva develop into pupa, they leave their mud tubes or hiding places, fill air sacks within their skin for buoyancy, and slowly wiggle their way to the surface to hatch. Often during this process they stop their upward progression and are stationary, suspended between lake bottom and surface. Many anglers are mistaken and believe that the pupa rocket to the surface without stopping. The real story is that the move to the surface in stages and often hover near the bottom. These hovering pupa can take up to 4 days to ascend so trout have ample time to feed on them. This explains why fishing pupal patterns can be deadly while there appears to be little evidence of an impending hatch at the surface. The trout are busy feeding on the bottom. Figuring out what depth the trout are feeding at is the key to chironomid fishing. Remember this!

During this staging process the chironomid pupa absorbs air and gases under its pupal skin. Starting off as a dull almost gun metal sheen these air and gases turn the pupa to almost silver as the emergence process nears the end. These trapped air and gases often obscure the pupa’s natural coloration and during the pupal ascent its color can change and vary in intensity. Common pupa colors include black, maroon, olive, brown and various shades of green.

Chironomid Adults

Adults closely resemble pesky mosquitos. Fortunately chironomid females possess no piercing proboscis. You won't be troubled by bothersome bites. Adult chironomids have slender tapered bodies similar to the pupa no tails and a pair of wings that trail back over the body when at rest. The thorax area is humped and they often feature prominent eyes. Males are easily be identified by their plumose antenna is used to aid their search for a mate. Females on the other hand display fine difficult to see antenna.

.Adult coloration varies little from the pupa, upon emergence however adult coloration tends to be brighter until their bodies harden. Trout preying on adults in selective situations can become color sensitive and brighter, recently emerged adults still unable to take flight until their bodies and wings harden are easy fare.

Once emergence is complete adults fly off to shoreline areas. Most adults do not feed and this stage is short lived, just long enough to propagate the species. Males form large swarms resembling dust clouds along the margins. Large concentrations of adults are audible from a distance and create a high pitched buzzing sound. Hence their English nickname, "buzzers". Males release pheromones to attract a mate. Mating takes place in the air or on the ground. During low light conditions when the water is calm on stillwaters and the risk of avian predation is reduced egg laden females return to the water to deposit their eggs. Females skate across the surface speed boat style or dive below to lay their eggs. Skittering females draw trout to the surface providing anglers dry fly opportunities. Adults often form huge mats on the surface and on rivers and streams collecting in calms and back eddies. Trout move into these areas sipping adult clusters with slow deliberate rises. Patterns such as the Griffiths Gnat are good choices in these conditions. Many times it is difficult to tell if a trout has taken the fly. Get into the habit of using the fly line as site and lift the rod smoothly if a rise occurs near the fly. It is surprising how often the rise is to the fly that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. This tactic has paid dividends on numerous occasions.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Stream of Consciousness on the River - September

My goodness, Its another beautiful day on the Lower Yuba. Glad I'm not working. Sunny with a slight breeze, Going to be nice. Great to be on the river with good friends.

OK, time to climb behind the oars, I like this spot, my view of the river world from the rowing seat. Watching the river unfold its daily drama. Is it going to happen today? We'll soon find out.

Time to get at it. Hold that line now. Slow now, slower, quiet, no slapping the oars down. Let's see, should we fish right or left? I like that seam along the willows. Keep a decent distance now, keep it stealthy. Here we go, are you fish ready because here we come.

Casting big dries to the banks, to the dark seams, to the slack water, in the eddies, in front of, beside and in back of boulders, wherever there are boulders underneath us, behind the salmon, dark spots in the river, mid stream boulders. Anybody home? There you are! Stinks off the boat!

Drifting down the river throwing big drys, mesmerizing. One eye on the fly and one on the next likely spot. Concentrate on the next spot, wham there's a fish on the fly. Sometimes you miss and sometimes that slight pause is just enough for the fish to turn on the fly and you've got a good hook set.

Fish on! Better move over to the slack water, this fish is hot. Follow, follow, there we go. Keep that tip up. Let 'er run. Get that line on the reel There we go. Keep your rod tip to the bank. Looks like she's ready. Slide 'er in. Don't want to botch the net job. Gotcha! Way to go. Wow, look at the colors on this one. Beauty. OK, go get bigger. Nice Job.

My turn to fish, OK, if I have to. Concentrating on the fly drifting down the river, a small fish, tries to swallow that big dry and can't get it in it's mouth. Set anyway, but the fly's just too big. Concentrating on the fly, a nose pokes out of the water on the fly, set. Sorry, too quick, I just yanked it out of it's mouth. Concentrating on the fly. A fish pokes it nose out of the water on the fly. I count to 1 and 1/2 and set. Fish on.

There's a deep slot, tie on a dropper with a small nymph. Go a little deeper. Don't want to chuck lead, just drop off the back of the big dry. Where'd that dry go? Set. Bingo, fish on the nymph!

Tangled again, darn that dropper. Think I'll chop that thing off, just not happening enough for the hassle.

That seam about 3 feet deep looks good, throw some slack, use a reach cast. That's it, now we're talking. Wham! Darn, how'd I miss that one. Get it back in. He's back, Fish On! Man was that fun!

Sorry, my fault I should have waited for you to cast. Nice tangle we've got, I'll get yours free in a second. There you go. My fault I'm in the back, I'll pay attention, right.

Nice run, 3 feet deep with nice boulders, There's a nice slot. Get it in there, drifting, drifting, should be there, about now. Wham, Boy did that fish hit that thing or what. Didn't have to do anything, just raised the rod tip. Get him out of the fast water, OK there she goes again, patience, patience. She's ready. Thanks for rowing a bit and great net job.

Wow, nice fish, where's my camera? Got it. I think its time to get behind the oars again. That was fun. Thanks for rowing, bud.

Boy its hot, down another bottle of water. Man that tastes good. My brain's feeling a little cooked.

There's the take out. One last run. Let's fish the inside. Kersplash! Fish of the day. Nice job up there. Way to hook that thing. Nice way to end the day with a nice fish within site of the takeout.

Wow! What a great day. When can we get out again? Soon?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Psycho Prince

A fly that is increasing in popularity in the west is the Psycho Prince as designed by the renowned fly designer Mike Mercer. The Purple Psycho Prince is the new flavor that has been tied on by many guides in Montana and for that matter just about everywhere.

The fly is tied with "Ice Dubb" and can be tied in many colors. This one is the purple version. Tie some up in purple, orange, blue, dirty pink and green and they will be a welcome addition to your fly boxes.

My Simplified Version of the "Psycho Prince"

Hook: Tiemco 3x Streamer Hook, Size 14

Bead: Size 7/64 Tungsten Bead

Tying Thread: Black 6/0

Tail: Pair of Brown Turkey Biot Quills

Ribbing:Copper Wire, size to fit

Carapace : Two Peacock herl fibers

Wings: Pair of White Turkey Biot Quills

Thorax: Peacock Ice Dubbing

Tying Instructions

Step 1:

Slip the 7/64 tungsten bead on the hook. .

Step 2 -

Wrap the hook down to the tie in point at the tail.

Step 3 -

Form a bump with the tying thread at the tie in point for the tails.

Step 4 -

Tie in the two brown biots for the tails and make sure they extend about 5/16" past the hook bend.

Also make sure they are even.

Tie down against the thread bump to splay the tails.

Clip off the excess biots and cover with thread.

Step #5 -

Tie in a piece of copper wire for the ribbing.

Step #6 -

Tie in two strands of peacock herl fibers for the back.

Step #7 -

Dub a tight noodle of Ice Dub. Less is better.

Step #8 -

Dub forward forming a slender tapered body.

It's OK to have fibers sticking out

Step #9 -

Pull the Peacock herl fibers forward keeping them on top of the fly.

Bind down the fibers behind the bead.

Leave room for the thorax.

Cut of the remaining peacock herl.

Step #10 -

Wrap the copper wire forward for the ribbing.

Tie off the wire ribbing behind the bead.

Cut off the copper wire.

Step #11 -

Tie in the pair of white biots for the wings. Starting to look like a Prince Nymph now.

Step #12 -

Dub a short noodle of Peacock Ice Dub for the thorax or collar.

Wrap the dubbing noodle behind the bead and cover the tie in point for the white biots.

Whip finish behind the bead. Cut the thread and you're done.

The Finished "Purple Psycho Prince"

Top View

Quartering View

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fishing Report - Lower Yuba 09/13/11

I was able to fish the Lower Yuba today with Frank Rinella, one of my regular fishing buddies. It was sort of a last minute plan that came together last night while Frank was watching Monday night football and I was busy at my vise. I'd tied up some new hopper patterns and was ready to give them a go.

We've been fishing the river for the last 5 or 6 weeks throwing big dries, mainly hoppers and caddis, looking for fish that happen to be looking up. Are there many hoppers or caddis floating down the river. No. Are there really any bugs floating down the river. Not really. It's just that floating a big juicy morsel down the river and hoping that some of the fish feel like its worth coming up for seems like the thing to do. Its an attractor thing. Its a throwing dries instead of lead thing.

By this time of the year I'm usually rigged up with indicator shot, bugs and eggs fishing behind the salmon, but this year there just aren't many salmon. Where the heck are they? I'll get to that in a bit. It's pretty darn refreshing to throw dries. Would going down deep be more effective? I don't know, could be, I haven't tried it in a while. There really aren't many salmon in the river and so the egg bite definitely isn't happening. There isn't any hatches going on so will they go for nymphs and rubberlegs? Not Sure. Our thought has been, why not throw some big dries, especially when the river is so low and crystal clear.

With dries you can keep some distance and fish are less spooky when fishing away from the boat, but probably the biggest factor is that its just darn fun. Just make sure you keep some distance, fish downstream and to the bank and throw a nice reach cast to keep you leader and line upstream as much as possible and see what happens. You can fish the middle of the river the same way. Just look for deeper seams and boulders and such. Like I said its causal and a fun way to fish.

So what about the salmon? We ran into a team of workers doing the salmon and trout surveys for the DFG and they had some interesting comments. One that stuck out was they said that the Feather and the Yuba salmon are a pretty mixed up bunch most years and in some ways they're just about interchangeable. When we have had larger numbers of salmon in the Yuba in past years, a large number of them are Feather Salmon. The salmon will tend to go where the bigger flows are once they head up the main stem of the Feather river. If the Feather flows are down and the Yuba flows are up, the salmon will take a right turn up the Yuba and we'll have a big mixture of Feather and Yuba salmon. The same thing happens with the Feather hatchery steelhead. Some of the Feather Steelhead will head up the Yuba too.

We have sort of known this, but this year the Feather is running high and the Yuba is low, so almost all of the salmon are headed up the Feather towards Oroville and ignoring the Yuba. They also said that there are about three gravel bars in the Yuba above the mouth, that even a pontoon boat has to be walked through. They can't run their jet sled upstream to do sampling from the Daguerre Dam to the mouth of the Yuba. This is what the salmon and steelhead are facing and they tend to just continue up the Feather. Really starting to make sense to me now. Mac from Fish First in Chico had a similar comment the other day.

In general the river is running low at about 800 cfs, its a beautifully greenish blue color, crystal clear and just downright the prettiest I've seen it in a long time. The fish are scattered around and like I said, perfect for throwing big dries. I landed one fish today that both Frank and I thought was a steelhead. It had different coloration and almost a kyped jaw. I also hooked another big fish that as soon as it was hooked, took off downstream and went aerial two times and unfortunately came unbuttoned on the second jump. It was what we thought another steelhead, but we'll never know. Nice to reflect upon it though. Frank landed a really nice true 18" fish. So, all in all, we had a ball.

Is throwing dries the most productive method right now? Don't know and right now don't feel like trying to find out. Maybe next time.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Last Day above Parks Bar 08/31/11

I made it out on the lower Yuba River for the last day before the season closes for 3 months above the Parks Bar Bridge. Frank Rinella and his wife Karen joined me. It was a calm warm day with just a slight breeze. We made it out early and had the boat in the water by about 8:00. OK, 8:00 isn't really that early, but we had willing fish coming up checking out our hopper offerings in the subdued morning light before the heat and brightness really came on.

We found that as the day progressed and it got brighter and hotter, the fish were not aggressively taking the fly. It was sort of like they would dash up and say, "Boy, it's bright up here" and then dash back down. As the day progressed there were many last minute refusals and nips at the flies. We also noticed that there were many smaller fish, 6 to 8 inches or so, coming up and trying to inhale our hopper patterns. This all amounted to many missed fish. It was definitely a day where you had to have patience and let the fish take the fly, count to 1 or 2, and then set, or wait for a bigger fish.

I took a turn fishing and had a hopper floating about 4 feet off the bank as Frank was rowing, and a nice size head came out of the water on my fly. What did I do, I yanked it right out of its mouth. That's what. I had another one come up not 30 feet further and what did I do, I yanked it right out of its mouth too. I recast immediately and it came up for a second time. I counted to 2, set, and hooked it. Goes to show I can sit in my rowers seat watching my buddies quick set and laugh at them and then when I get the chance, I do the same thing. We laughed about that!

In general, we have been fishing dries instead of nymphs under indicator and the fish have been pretty cooperative for the last three weeks or so. The fish have been looking up for dries since the flows leveled off at 3,ooo cfs in July. I was in Montana when the best action on top was happening.

I did notice lots of stonefly cases at the water's edge. These had the look of ones that had hatched pretty recently. I ran into Keith Kaneko and he said he'd been having luck with rubberlegs. Think there's a connection?

An interesting thing about fishing the river for the last 10 days or so, is watching the river and what happens when the flows are being dropped about 200 cfs a day. The powers that be started the fall reduction on about August 21st. The river had been running pretty consistent at about 3,000 cfs for quite a while, from back in mid July. Before the start of the reduction of flows, the fish were comfortable in their holding areas and fishing was about as good as it gets fishing hoppers and hopper droppers. Things have been a changing.

I checked the flows this evening and by about 1:00 this afternoon it was lowered to 1000 cfs. The river has been in a process of lowering for about 10 days now. So in the last 10 days it has dropped about 2000 cfs. How has this affected the river and the fishing? I fished the river on the day they started lowering the flows and didn't notice much difference until about a week ago. Many of the areas that were holding fish were noticeably shallower and the light penetrated all the way to the bottom. I'm of the opinion that the fish have been moving around and are basically uncomfortable with the change of flows and the resulting change of their habitat and the world they live in. When they're in this mood they tend to move to their sanctuary water, sulk and hide out. That doesn't mean that they are uncatchable, they just are more wary. You have to go to stealth mode, especially as the water levels continue to drop.

The fish will adjust to this and the everyone fishing the river will need to start digging into their bag of tricks for the fall. The river will be low and clear from this point on until the storms start moving through. The salmon are now starting up the river and the fish will change their tactics as well. Eggs!

I'm looking forward to seeing the salmon in the river as it's always fun to float the river amongst them and look for steelhead and trout hanging out below them. So as the season moves forward, towards the real fall, beware of the salmon redds and the spawning areas. Keep out of the buckets and redds. In general be conscious about what you're doing and you and the fish will be fine.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fishing Report Lower Yuba River 08-15-11

I fished the Lower Yuba River after returning from my time in Montana with friends and family. As it turned out when I left in mid July the Lower Yuba was running at over 6,000 cfs and wasn't really fishable and while I was gone it finally came into shape. I heard reports from my local friends of having big days casting hoppers to the banks. This seems to happen every year that I'm in Montana. Darn it!

I took a new friend, John Davis, down the river to give him some pointers on rowing a drift boat. John was here on a backpacking trip to Yosemite and we hooked up right before he headed home. He has a friend who is a guide on a steelhead river on a tributary to one of the Great Lakes up north. He rowed his friends boat once for about 20 minutes and decided he wanted to get a better handle on drift boat rowing techniques. Good idea. For those of you that have friends that are guides, learning to be proficient on the oars will get you a phone call whenever the guide has a day off and wants to go fishing. Guides spent all their time on rivers, rowing their clients and like everyone, they want to fish sometimes too. If that isn't a hint, I don't know what is.

We found the river running at about 3,000 cfs and in great shape. The water has good clarity and with that much water the deeper slots and runs have a deep blue color. It was a bright clear day and not overly hot.

We sort of took turns with practicing rowing techniques and fishing. So I'd say that 50 percent of our time was spent practicing how to do basic rowing strokes, pivot turns, ferrying and moving around obstacles. The other 50% was spent fishing. We started off rigging with a Fat Albert to imitate the grasshoppers that are all along the river and trailed a Red Headed Step-child or other attractor nymphs on a dropper below it. We found hungry fish quickly along the deeper banks and lines of willows. When I say hungry, I guess I should say maybe starving fish. Most every fish we caught were very thin and "Snaky".

My feelings are that the bug population has been decimated by the continuous periods of high flows. On almost very run you can see long tongues of bright fresh gravel laid on top of the river bottom. I believe that this has basically buried the bugs where they live. This could mean for some tough fishing in 2012, but time will tell. Bugs are remarkably resilient. The fish move around and the river will evolve.

Usually at this time of year you will see the beginnings of the salmon run with a few salmon here and there but we didn't see any. As far a bugs go, I saw a couple of PMD's and that was it. No hatches what so ever. I can tell you one thing for sure, when the salmon do show up the trout will be gobbling up eggs like their lives depend upon it, and they probably do!

We found that when fishing the willow lined banks, the fish where holding in water that was from 2 to 4 feet deep where they could find a bigger rock to hide out and watch for an opportune item to come floating by, aka our Fat Albert. They also were hanging in deeper water in the runs among larger boulders and you could actually see them coming up from the deep to aggressively take the dry. This is exciting fishing. The fish also took the trailing nymph once in awhile. We also spent a little time fishlng under indicator, but when fish are coming up to a dry like they were, what would you choose to do? You got it, keep banging the dries!

We had a great day. John got a good head start on his rowing skills. The only thing he needs to do now is to beg, borrow, or steal a pontoon boat, get out on a body of water and practice the techniques and he'll be good to go. We caught fish too!

A pretty good welcome home I'd say!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Phil Rowley's Stillwater School

My journey to become a better stillwater angler was greatly enhanced by attending Phil Rowley's Stillwater School in Idaho a week ago. The school was located at Sheridan Lake which is located near Island Park. It was hosted by the local fly fishing legend,Lynn Scott, of BS Anglers.

For those unfamiliar with Phil Rowley, he is a stillwaters educator and Canadian television fly fishing host. He has an excellent website and blog, . In his website you will find tips regarding strategies and tactics, fly tying, entomology, upcoming stillwater schools and events and many other points of interest. He also has an online store for unique products and flies. If you are interested in expanding your fly-fishing knowledge, particularly stillwaters, consider attending one of his stillwater schools. His goal is to teach and pass along his experience and knowledge to you. He is a true educator.

The stillwater school was a two day event with 8 hours of classroom type instruction and about 14 hours of fishing on Sheridan Lake. The topics included;
  • Strategies and Tactics for stillwaters
  • How to find trout in stillwaters
  • Dry Fly Techniques
  • Techniques for fishing nymphs and chironomids
  • Entomology for bugs you will find on stillwaters
  • Retrieve Techniques
  • Fly Patterns and Selection
  • Seasonal Transition and Food Choice changes
  • Tactics for Tough Days
  • How to read conditions, water, weather, structure and habitat
These topics were covered in a classroom situation with PowerPoint presentations and then put to test on Sheridan Lake. We fished with both Phil and Lynn and they were able to answer our questions as be put various techniques to use.

Here's Phil checking out the bugs at the shoreline of Sheridan Lake. There were damselfly nymphs and adults, callibeatis nymphs, snails, and leeches sampled. Phil reminded us that the first thing do do when you arrive at a lake is to do some detective work and see what kind of bugs you can find along the shoreline. He had a glass box that he had made that was about 8' x 10" x 8" tall that he put samples in. This enabled him to look at the bugs closely and take photographs of the bugs.

We fished out of these aluminum prams which were set up with fore and aft anchors. There were 5 people attending the school and four prams so I fished the 1st day out of my pontoon boat. I only had an aft anchor set up and I found out the hard way why you need both fore and aft anchors when the wind started blowing. It wasn't pretty! I've got the right set up now as I've learned my lesson. I've installed a Scotty Anchor on my left front foot arm.

Here's a Kamloops rainbow that ran about 4 pounds that Phil was able to get a picture of. The largest trout landed over the two days ran about 7 to 8 pounds. I caught about 3 that went 5+ pounds and one that went about six pounds. Six pounds of jumping fish!

We fished this arm of Sherdian Lake where Sheridan Creek comes in for Kamloops Rainbows. I had the most success with a Rickards Callibaetis Nymph and a damsel fly nymph with a Cortland Camo Intermediate Line. The Callibaetis nymph oufished the damselfly nymph 4 to 1. The fish were taking the fly when I used choppy 4 inch strips. Strip, Strip, Strip, wait and let it sit, Strip, Strip, Strip and so on. I managed to land one fish that went about six pounds and about 4 others in the 5 pound range. Thanks for showing me how, Phil and Lynn!


I fished with Phil on this part of the lake where he showed me how to fish chironomids with a slip indicator. There were not many fish hanging out in this part of the lake, according to Phil's fish finder, and the fishing was slow but I managed one nice fish under indicator set at about 16 feet fishing about a foot off the bottom. Phil showed me how to rigg, how to cast the long indicator setup, and how to be patient when fishing this method. Phil told me. "When deciding to move the fly using the slip indicator method, imagine that you're sitting on a keg of dynamite. When you retrieve the line to move the indicator, if you see any rippling of the water from the indicator or the line, you set off the keg. Boom! Move it that slow!"


The following photos were shot by Phil Rowley while we fished on Sheridan Lake.


Here's a photo of an emerging damselfly that Phil photographed on his net.


Here's an adult damselfly that Phil photographed.


Here's two mating pairs of damselflies doing their thing.

If you ever get a chance to attend one of Phil's schools or seminars, do it! You won't be sorry.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Beaverhead River, Montana

I met up with my friend Don Lilgeblad who was visiting his sister in Sheridan, Montana at Frontier Anglers of Dillon, Montana. I had brought along my son Zack and his cousin Issac. Zack is 13 and Issac is 11. We were planning on fishing the Big Hole and the Beaverhead.

I was hopeful that going fishing with a teenager and pre-teenager would work out. Sometimes it is great sometimes you wish you'd have left them home. Sort of like the debate on whether you should bring your dog along to go fishing. I'm not going to touch on that one.

After talking to the youngster behind the counter we decided to try the Beaverhead. We decided to put in right at the base of Clarks Canyon Dam. The put in at the Beaverhead is pretty steep and primitive but we managed to get the raft in OK. You can see the water being released from the dam.

We put in the boat at about 1:00 and were planning on floating about 6 miles to a take out called Pipe Organ, named because of an interesting rock formation which, you guessed it, looks like a pipe organ you'd see in a big church. There were a couple of boats putting in that had done an earlier float lower down the river in the morning. This is a definite sign I should have picked up on and I'll get to that a little later.

We rigged up with an indicator nymphing set up with small mayflies and small golden stone nymphs. There was a pretty major hatch of small yellow stones coming off as we got ready to head down the river. The Beaverhead was running much higher than usual for this time of year as is the case with most Montana rivers here in 2011, but the upper 1 1/2 miles of the river has a low gradient and was pretty fishable. There are nice soft edges all along the upper stretch and good holding water for the large browns that reside there. Don hooked up right away and was tight to a healthy brown. We had been side drifting and Don was presenting his flies a good 2 1/2 to 3 rod lengths away from the boat, which I think made the difference as this river gets a lot of pressure.

As we drifted down the river before too long we started seeing pods of trout along the edges and in the calm side eddy water. It was a little difficult as it seemed like the trout were holding in the soft edges but to present a fly to them I had to place the boat in the faster water in mid stream. You also had to maneuver around anchored boats and wading anglers. I thought to myself, "This is a little crazy".

We managed to hook and land about 5 nice fish in this upper stretch. Zack was fishing but the fish would hit and spit out a fly pretty quick and he got frustrated when Don kept hooking up. Zack always thinks it's the fact the flies are different or the rod is different and doesn't want to accept that it is technique. Some days he has patience some days he doesn't. This was one of the doesn't days.

We passed a pod of fish and Don got a cast in and then the fish hit and took off downstream and went air board and I got a good look at it. It was big. It then ran upstream and kept going upstream. Pretty quickly the fish was into his backing and just kept going. I said you're going to have to put some pressure on it or he'll be up at the dam with your fly line. Don managed to get him turned and work in back to the boat. As it headed down stream I got a good look at it and it was fair hooked and heading upstream. It rolled a bit as Don was working it it and the fly popped out, but the fish was hooked in the tail by the trailing fly. It was fortunately tuckered out and we were anchored in a nice slow water so Zack was able to get it into the net. Whew!

We worked our way down the river and picked up a couple more fish in the upper 2 miles and then we started the braided section below "High Bridge". The water in the lower section was really ripping and we found it harder and harder to find good holding water. In addition to than the water clarity started changing and I'm thinking they're releasing water, "Great!" "Not!"

We floated the rest of the afternoon and picked up a couple more fish is about 4 miles. Was it us, was it the increased flows. It had to be the increased flows don't you think.

We came to the "Organ Pipe" take out and called it a day. This is an absolutely beautiful float and I recommend it to anyone. It the flows would have been more normal we probably would have caught fish throughout the float. Sound like a fisherman, hey!

We enjoyed a nice bottle of wine with a spaghetti dinner and decided to give it a try in the morning. The next picture I think tells it all. We encountered a little more pressure the next morning.

You can't probably count from this photo, but looking upstream I counted 8 driftboats and probably another 8 wading anglers. This was looking upstream and when I looked downstream I saw 3 drfitboats and 3 wading anglers. This is in about 1/4 of a mile.
"Get me outa here!"

So in retrospect, here's what the smart guides are doing. They get on the water early and do a float lower down the river where the gradient flattens and spend the first half of the day. They then have lunch and put back in right at the dam after the hatches progress and the angling pressure subsides. They fish have started eating bugs again rather than trying to hide under a rock.

Lesson learned!