Fly Fishing Traditions

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Nuts & Bolts #2 - Water Load Casting

When nymphing from a drift boat you are typically casting multiple flies with shot. On the Lower Yuba River which often has good water clarity you also need to add the element of stealth. This means that you often need to be able to cast your nymphing rigg at least 2 rod lengths and more from the boat. This may seem daunting to some. By using a water loading casting technique you will be able to improve your ability to achieve these distances with less tangling when casting shot and multiple flies. We were fishing one day and my son Zack looked at me with a huge smile and a tangled mess of tippet and flies and said, "Look dad, I've got a bigger rat's nest then grandpa." Using a water load cast can help this from happening.

First I'll describe an indicator rigg setup that has been successful for me on the Lower Yuba River, the Lower Sacramento River, the Klamath River and many rivers in Montana when side drifting from a drift boat or raft.

Indicator Setup -

(a) For most side drifting from a boat I will typically rigg up with an indicator and about 6' to 9' of tippet from the indicator to the shot depending on the depth of the run.

(b) I usually rigg up with a tapered 2x x 10' leader. I prefer to use the tapered leader so I can adjust depth easily.

(c) On the Lower Yuba River and the Lower Sacramento River we have been using a "Thingamabobber", large size, white color. On drop offs and areas that have changing current speed and depth I prefer a "Boles" indicator in blue or green. The flag on the "Boles" allows you to see where your flies are underneath your indicator and will tell you to (1) either raise or lower the indicator, (2) Mend to speed up or slow down the drift, or (3) add or take off shot.

Usually I will choose one or the other and stick with it throughout the day.

Fly Rigging - I'll run three flies under the indicator, each spaced from 12" to 18". The deeper the run the larger the spacing. I use 3x fluorocarbon from the shot to the 1st fly, 4x fluorocarbon from the 1st to the 2nd fly and either 4x or 5x fluorocarbon from the 2nd to the third fly depending on the size of the fly.

Presentation - I believe that the Yuba requires stealth with your presentation and the set-ups for your drift. I usually try to cast my indicator into the desired seam with the length of the cast to be at least 2 rod lengths (18 to 20 feet) from the boat and a lot of times even further than that, closer to 3 rod lengths. (2o to 30 feet). I use a 6 weight 9'6" Sage XP or Z-Axis and it does just fine. Keep mending as required to keep the indicator moving in a straight line downstream.

Water Load Casting Technique

Water Load Casting - When fishing from a drift boat there is typically little concern for getting caught up when backcasting. This does not mean you shouldn't "look" first. The best technique for delivering the indicator, shot and flies and if there are not obstructions for your backcast is to water load your back cast prior to your forward cast.

Back Cast - To set up your backcast. You need to think of the mantra (1) lift (2) look (3) launch. By repeating this mantra you are reminding yourself to;

(1 Lift) - Strip your indicator and flies towards the boat and lift the flies out of the water column until you see them up on the surface and then in one fluid motion;
(2 Look) Take a quick look at the back side to see there are no obstructions behind you.
(3 Launch) Lift the indicator and flies out of the water and start you backcast aiming your rod tip over your shoulder.

The cast should be overhead not side arm (parallel to the water). Think of your rod tip as a paint brush and you are painting the ceiling with it. This is another mantra that come in handy (Paint the Ceiling). Continue with your rod tip and point to landing spot on the backcast. Let the indicator and flies come to rest on the water on the backcast.

Forward Cast - before your flies sink behind you repeat the mantra;

(1 Lift) - Lift the flies back off the water before they sink to water load the forward cast;
(2 Look) - Where you want your flies and indicator to land which will be the seam that you want to fish;
(3 Launch) Start your forward cast over your head just to the side of vertical

Remember to (Paint the Ceiling) with your rod tip on the forward cast over your head or just to the side of vertical.

(4 Delivery) - Deliver the flies and drop your rod tip, make a mend for a dead drift and you're fishin'.

Done! Whew. Not as hard as it may sound.

Using this technique will keep your flies from dropping and forming a tailing loop and will eliminate constant tangles with indicator and flies.

Controlling the Drift

Mending - When side drifting from a drift boat under indicator the idea is to set up a drag free drift. Once the indicator lands, Stack mend the tip of your fly line directly behind the indicator. It is best to try to have about 2 ft. of fly line above the indicator which will help slow down the drift of the indicator. The water at the surface always flows faster than the water where the flies are drifting.

Point your rod tip at the indicator and mend almost constantly to keep the line fairly straight to the indicator. You can actually mend and place small wiggles in the line between the rod tip and the indicator. If your line is flowing faster than the indicator make small upstream mends without moving the indicator. If the line is flowing slower than the indicator make small downstream mends without moving the indicator.

If the whole rigg is just not floating right, start over and reset with another backcast, a water load forward delivery and you're right back at it.


Utilizing the water load cast is by no means the only way to set up your cast when nymph fishing from a boat but another technique to add to your arsenal. It will help keep your tippet and flies from turning into a rat's nest. I know your guide will appreciate it!

I wish to thank Craig Neilson of Shasta Trout for sharing his mantra of "Lift, Look and Launch." You can contact Craig at
I also want to thank Mike Hibbard, a superior guide and friend for the mantra "Paint the Ceiling". You can contact Mike Hibbard on his cell phone at 530-526-5535.

Make a Tradition!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Fly Boxes - Box #4 -Eggs/ Larger Nymphs

This a continuation of "My Fly Boxes". This 4th box is another of my "Go To" boxes. It is usually sitting in the tray of my drift boat and handy at all times. It is a waterproof, C&F box, with compartments with individual opening lids on one side and a foam slotted patch on the other side. It is a full size box as is about 4 inches x 7 3/4" and 1 3/4" thick. It is stored in my "Fishpond Guide Pack" but I rarely pack it around when I'm wade fishing. It sees more use in the boat.

Why do I like the waterproof boxes? I learned this the hard way. I used to have 3 or 4 Scientific Anglers non-water proof boxes and had them their pretty well filled with flies. I was getting ready for a fishing trip to Montana one time and I took one of the boxes out to check it out. At least half of the flies had rusty hooks and were worthless. I had gotten the box wet when I was wet wading and forgot to open it up and dry out the box and the flies properly. Lesson learned. The waterproof boxes help this from happening. Now, I almost always open my boxes up after fishing to dry then out properly, even though they are waterproof.

Compartment Side
Let's take a look what I've got in my compartmented side

I use the compartmented side of this box for yarn eggs, San Juan Worms and similar types of files. There are 3 compartments that are empty and I know that it's because I've been fishing the egg bite on the Yuba. I just transferred a bunch of "Pettis Eggs" from this box to my smaller C&F Box #2. This is sort of how the eggs in this box go. It's somewhat of a re-supply box for the smaller box with eggs.

Eggs - A little story about eggs. I fished about 20 years ago with a guide on the Kenai River in Alaska. We were visiting Laura's sister, and I was able to squeeze in a half day float for rainbows and king salmon while we were visiting. The guide showed me his egg box. It was a big box probably 6" x 10" and all it had in it was yarns eggs, from opaque white all the way to dark red. It was like a painter's color wheel. The rainbows on the Kenai would lock into one specific color and you had to match it. This was before the "Troutbeads" became popular. He would use the eggs from it and then tie or I guess buy new ones to fill the holes back in. There were probably 75 different colors of eggs.

He also had his "secret" scent. He had a bottle of "juice" that he would put on the egg and it was sort of his secret recipe. He seemed pretty secretive about it. Did it make a difference? I know one thing. We caught some big rainbows an he sure thought it did!

Pettis Eggs - I've been sold on the "Pettis Eggs" for quite a while. I fish started using this pattern on the Klamath River below Iron Gate Dam. Since then it's the first egg pattern that I'll try. There's something about how the glass bead glows through the Egg Yarn. The photo on the right doesn't really do the pattern justice as you don't see the red/scarlet bead in the middle until you get it wet. I tie this more pattern more sparse, so the scarlet bead is more visible, sort of how you should tie a Lafontaine Sparkle Pupa.

I tie this pattern in about 4 colors using "Cascade" egg yarn. To tie this pattern correctly you need to get this yarn. So, I use 4 of the 10 compartments for "Pettis eggs."

Alevin Patterns - Once the egg bite is over the Alevin patterns come into play. I really like the pattern, "Fox's Fertilizer". I've had good luck with this pattern on December 1st when the river opens above the Parks Bar Bridge on the Yuba. I use 1 compartment for these.

Other Alevin Patterns - I have 1 compartment with various Alevin patterns. A couple of these, 3 of those, and so forth. These are flies that I have picked up at The Fly Shop in Redding when I have fished the Lower Sac. It seems though, that if I have any "Fox's Fertilizer's" in my box, that's what I'll "Go To."

Glo Bugs - I have a range of colors of yarn eggs collected mainly from "The Fly Shop" in Redding when the egg bite is on and we have been fishing the Lower Sacramento. I have recently started using more "Troutbeads" and have them in a different box. So, I'll probably eventually phase these yarn eggs out. I have 3 compartments with various yarn eggs in different colors.

The "Troutbeads" are the way to go until the next evolution of eggs comes around. I'll go into more detail about the beads when I get into my Bead Box #5.

Sucker Spawn - The sucker spawn is big on the Lower Sacramento River in the spring and early summer. I was told that the "Old Timers" around Redding say that when the cottonwood trees start blossoming and you get the white "cotton candy like" blooms blowing around, "Put on the Sucker Spawn." I carry two colors, One that is yellow and is called "Oregon Cheese" and a pink color that I'm not sure what the name of it is. I have 2 compartments filled with sucker spawn. I would be willing to bet that Sucker Spawn would work below the Parks Bar Bridge at the same time period.

San Juan Worms - I have 2 compartments filled with San Juan Worms. I have them sort of mixed up with different colors and sizes. The San Juan worm can be great on the Yuba after a spring, fall or winter rain storm. If you ever do stream sampling after a storm you will be surprised how many worms are floating down the river. Do a sampling and then match the color. I usually go for one that is darker. I also like a two tone worm.

That pretty much fills up the compartment side. I need to get set up and tie some more Pettis eggs to fill those 3 empty compartments. Like I've said before, this is what I like about keeping your boxes organized and know what's in them. When you find a big hole or empty compartment you know what you used or what was successful. This is better than sitting there staring at your fly box and muttering to yourself, "What the heck was in that spot?" I'm willing to bet you've been there. Right?

The Other Side "Slotted Foam Patch" - Larger Nymphs

The nymphs that I have stored on this leaf are larger nymphs, size 12 & 14 predominately with a few size 16's. These nymphs are more of the attractors or generic nymphs as opposed to imitative nymphs. My imitative nymphs are primarily in the Boxes 1 &2.

Copper Johns

I like Copper Johns. They just seem to work. I've got a row of Red Copper Johns in sizes from 16's and 14's. I've also got some Chartreuse ones. And there are also some bluish purple ones. I've probably got some other colors in a deep storage box too.

I've got a half dozen of the blue/purple copper johns that worked so well a couple of years ago for steelhead on the Trinity, size 14. This was "the fly" of that day.

Flashback Peasant Tails -

I've got a half dozen Flashback Pheasant tails size 14 that I tied with peacock used for the thorax. If in doubt put on a PT, they will get fish to bite almost anywhere.

Morrish's Dirty Bird-

This is another fly that I really like. There is something very fishy about this fly. It's like a "Bushy" birds nest.

The ones I have left in my box are tied with chocolate/brown dubbing. I've got a half dozen of these. The photo at the right is an olive color. I like this pattern using hares ear dubbing also. That's why I don't have any left in here.

Beadhead Hares's Ears

I've got half a dozen beadhead and non-beadhead hare's ear nymphs. Just a general proven searching pattern. I got on a hares ear kick by reading books written by Dave Hughes. I don't go to these as often these days but I always have some in my boxes.

Bird's Nest's

I have a whole row of bird's nests in size 14. I absolutely love this fly. This is a must have fly in everyone's fly box. Read Ralph Cutter's book "Fish Food" about this. This is another "Go To" fly for me. I've used this on the Lower Sac, Yuba, Montana and just about everywhere. The photo on the right is much "yellower' than the patterns that I've got.

Skip's Nymph

I have a dozen of these that I tied. This is another must have "Go To" nymph. It works for a PMD in the right size and is similar to the bird's nest as a general attractor nymph. I like how easy this pattern is to tie with not a lot of different materials. Try it. This is a great fly on the Lower Sacramento River when the PMD's are happening. I like this fly in a size 16 & 18 when the PMD's are happening on the Lower Yuba.

Lafontaine Twist Nymph - I've got a number of Lafontaine's twist nymphs which have a beadhead and tied from his book "Proven Patterns" I have used this fly, which is tied on a size 14 3x long hook, swinging at dusk in the eddy pools on the Yuba. Cast it into the current, let it swing into the eddy water and hold on!

Prince of Darkness

I've just added this fly to the box. It is a "Go To" fly of Ryan Miller who guides out of Nevada City on the Yuba. This is a good looking fly! I think it's a better Dark Lord. It has that tint of green which alwalys seems to do well on the Yuba.

That's the make up of Box #4 and is full of eggs, SJ worms and my "Go To" attractor nymphs.

You can check out this post and others at

Take some time to organize your fly boxes, it's worth the time spent.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Skwala "Knothead" Prototype


I've been able to play around at my vise with the rain pounding down for the last week or so. The Lower Yuba flows are receding a bit, but today they are still running at over 12,000 cfs, which is down from 20,0000 two days ago. When all this is over hopefully the Skwalas will have survived and be starting up.

I'm trying to refine two types of Skwala dries, one for the bouncier, nervous water, which so far is the prototype "Skwalanator" and now I've come up with a slow, eddy water prototype pattern I'm calling the "Knothead".

The resident rainbows will take a Skwala Dry with reckless abandon sometimes in the nervous moving water when the Skwalas are in the drift, many patterns work, some better than other. When the fish are staged in slack or eddie water feeding on the helpless Skwalas it's a different story, a much more imitative pattern is required. Twitching the fly can help but I'm convinced that you need to get (1) the profile correct (2) the size correct and (3) the color much closer to the natural. Thus the need for two separate patterns.

This is all conjecture and experimentation and will hopefully be put to test in January.

This "Skwala Knothead" prototye pattern is tied with a bullet head using gray dun died compradun deer hair. It has a dubbed body and a sparse overwing. I've trimmed the palmered hackle that runs through the abdomen on the bottom to enable the fly to float flush or just below the film. I'm still looking for the right rubberleg material and this mini black rubberleg material may be to large. Like I said it is a prototype until the fish tell me they like it.

Pattern Recipe for the "Yuba Knothead"

Hook: Tiemco 2312, Size 12

Thread: 6/0 Olive (I like to use the 6/0 for the deer hair bullethead)

Egg Sack: 1/8" black foam cut to 3/32" wide. (Double over and tie about 1/8" past the hook bend).

Palmered Hackle: Size 14 black dry fly hackle

Body: Yellow antron dubbing wrapped with the Olive thread (When the yellow dubbing is wrapped with the olive thread the olive color blends with the yellow dubbing to give it the yellow/olive cast that you need to match the Yuba River Skwalas.
This is the second major change from all the patterns on the market.

Under wing: Hareline No-Fray Wing Material Black (Fine mesh wing material like micro window screen)

Over wing Flash: 5 to six strands of Krystal Flash

Bullethead/Overwing: Dark Brown Deer Hair - (Sparse Wing)

Rubber Legs: 2 pairs of Hareline Fine Round Rubber Legs Black

Visible Over Wing: Small bunch of orange dyed Deer Hair

Once the fly is completed, carefully trim the deer hair overwing and remove all the deerhair at the bottom and on the two sides until you get the desired profile of a sparse overwing. I've left some on the sides as I just think it makes the fly look buggier. If the trout don't like it I'll just trim more off the sides.

Also trim the palmered hackle off the bottom of the fly.

I can't wait to test this pattern out!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fishing the Klamath River December 2009

I traveled to Northern California this week to fish the Klamath River with Craig Neilson of Shasta Trout. I went with Blake Larsen a long time friend and fishing buddy. This was sort of a thank you trip to Blake who is my Project manager for my Custom Home Building business. We were hoping to hit the river and catch some action for the winter run steelhead. We had communicated with Craig Neilson earlier in the week and he said that it had been brutily cold. There were times last week where he had to use hot water from one of his thermos bottles to un-freeze the anchor rope for his drift boat so he could set the anchor. None the less they had been catching fish. The fishing had been good for half-pounders and winter run steelhead. So we were prepared with lots of insulated layers, waders, fleece gloves, hats, rain gear etc. This was a steelhead trip after all. It's not steelheading unless the conditions are miserable.

Blake had traveled down on Monday morning, leaving Truckee in a light snow storm. We had planned on leaving Grass Valley at about 5:00 am. With the snow on the highways we left at about 5:30. Our plan was to meet Craig Neilson at about 9:00 in the town of Mt. Shasta. We made good time and were able to get there on time.

We were going to be fishing a 5 1/2 mile stretch of the Klamath River below Iron Gate Dam. It is about a 50 minute drive north of Mt. Shasta. This portion of the river is east of Yreka and almost touching the Oregon border. It is more of a a high desert environment. Not really what you think of when you contemplate Northern California or South-western Oregon.

On the way driving to the river, I had a vision of taking my sunglasses off my rear view mirror in my SUV, and my lanyard with my license and steelhead card attached to it. Unfortunately it was still hanging there in Grass Valley, Smart! Fortunately there was a gas station real close to the river where I could pick up another one. We set up our shuttle and were on the river at about 11:15 to start the fishing day. This is later than everyone had hoped for, but at least the temperature had warmed up to a balmy 39 degrees. The day started with a solid high overcast and was looking to improve during the day. We later had periods of full sunshine. This steelheading isn't that bad!

I was rigged up with a thingamabobber with a tapered leader that was about 8 ft to 9ft. above the split shot. I had one lead shot and one AAA standard shot. I started with a size 10 troutbead with a size 8 egg hook. A second fly, which was a brown rubber legs, was tied to the hook bend of the egg hook.

Blake was rigged up basically the same with a troutbead, except his bottom fly was a fly similar to an Idlwylde Fly called a "Fuglybug". This fly had been good in November of the Klamath.

Later in the day a BWO hatch came off and and we added a BWO nymph as a third fly. We also tried an Alevin pattern. That was pretty much it. That's what had been working for Craig earlier in the week and there wasn't much need to start changing and experimenting with a bunch of different flies. The steelhead were either going to eat them or go back to sleep.

On Monday we caught some half pounders early on, had a couple of hatchery steelhead landed during the rest of the day. It was a "steelhead day" as compared to a November "egg bite day" when there are a lot of salmon in the river and every trout, half pounder and steelhead are gobbling up eggs. We only saw a couple of late salmon and Craig stated that the salmon run is done. Subsequently, even though the steelhead still will take a troutbead, a lot of the half pounders have already migrated down stream. The numbers of fish in the river in December are less than in November when the salmon are thick. Don't get me wrong there are still half pounders in the river just not as many as in November. Essentially if your after a big number day head up there in November when the salmon are thick and if you are looking to land a large adult steelhead head up there in December through February. It also pays to keep updated as to the timing of the steelhead run. Check out Craig's fishing reports at before you go.

Blake with a "typical" Klamath River "Half- pounder"

As mentioned we also fished an Alevin pattern on both days and had sucess with it. The photo on the right is the "Fox's Fertilizer. We used a fly similar to this one.

On Tuesday, the air temperatures were warmer and there was a drizzling rain off and on for most of the day. There were a few runs where the fish woke up and the bite turned on and was steady. Of the two days, Tuesday was definitely more of the "numbers" day. We had the river to ourselves on Tuesday and I believe that also made a difference.

The fish seemed to be pretty sluggish on both days and we had the feeling that you had to drift a fly across their noses, essentially be right on the line or in the right slot. Once hooked most of the fish just hunkered down and "dogged it". We landed a number of larger steelhead with the biggest once going about 23". Blake hooked a fish that was larger than that but we lost when it wrapped itself up and popped off.

Blake with Craig ready at the net

Teamwork Pays Off - Blake with a nice "Hen Steelhead"

Even I get lucky once in a while!

Craig Neilson is also an accomplished switch rod enthusiast, so we set up in a few runs and swung flies with switch rods on both days. This was another reason that I wanted to head up there. I was using my Sage Z-Axis 11 ft. 6 weight switch rod and Blake used one of Craig's switch rods. We were rigged up with mini Skagit Heads attached loop to loop with a level running line. I had a 7 ips versaleader attached to my Skagit Head. Craig worked with both Blake and I on the spey casts that we needed to incorporate when fishing from the front and rear positions of the drift boat, from river right and from river left. The casts required change with the front and rear boat positons and also from river right or river left. Swinging flies from the drift boat is sort of cool, it's like having a portable rock that you can stand on and fish from where ever you want it. There is some coordination that you have to work out with the two angling positions but we really didn't get tangled up much at all. I will say that if you just casted willy nilly and paid no attention to what the other caster was doing it could get messy.

The water temps were in the low 40's and getting colder which Craig said tends to put the steelhead off the bite. Steelhead tend to get grabbier as water temperatures increase. Even by 1 degree. He says in pays to monitor water temperatures closely. Buy a good stream thermometer and keep records of water temperatures. If a warm storm was coming in after a period of colder weather. Head to the river and start swinging flies. Good to know.

The Klamath is a great river to swing flies for steelhead and booking a trip with Craig would be a great learning experience with the added chance of landing a 10 pound or bigger steelhead when swinging a fly.

Give Craig Neilson a call at 530-926-5763 or e-mail him at You will thank me for the heads up.

Make a Tradition!


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Monday, December 15, 2014

The Yuba Skwalanator - The Experiment

Note: The colors are definitely more golden than this photo captures

Introducing "The Yuba Skwalanator". I've been on a quest since last winter after being humiliated by refusal after refusal of every Skawala dry fly I had in my box, to come up with a better pattern to match the Skwalas on our local Lower Yuba River. I had decent luck last February and March with the standard patterns I carry when fishing the nervous types of water, but when the fish would move down into eddy type water or the flats below riffles where they could really take a good look at the flies, no takers. They turned up their noses and said "Fakers go home!" They would take live Skwalas inches from my dry fly put no dice.

So in an effort to refine this pattern I have collected just about every pattern on the market out there and talked to my fishing buddies, taken many mental notes and this is the pattern I've come up with this tie.

Recipe for the "Yuba Skwalanator" (Arnold is still Governor by the way).

Hook: Tiemco 2312, Size 12 (This is the first major change. The Lower Yuba Skwalas are smaller than most patterns in the market)

Thread: 6/0 or 8/0 Black ( I like to use the 8/0 because of the many materials used in this pattern.

Egg Sack: 1/8" black foam cut to 3/32" wide. (Double over and tie about 1/8" past the hook bend.

Palmered Hackle:

Body: Blended antron dubbing 2/3 golden, 1/3 olive. ( This is the second major change from all the patterns on the market. The Skwala on the Yuba river are more Golden Olive with emphasis on the golden)

Under wing: Hareline No-Fray Wing Material Black (Fine mesh wing material like micro window screen)

Over wing Flash: 5 to six strands of Krystal Flash

Wing: Dark Brown Deer Hair - (Sparse Wing)

Dubbing at Thorax: Blended antron dubbing 2/3 golden, 1/3 olive

Rubber Legs: 2 pairs of Hareline Fine Round Rubber Legs Black

Hackle: Black Dry Fly Hackle size 14

That's a lot of materials to fit on that size 12 hook. Minimize your wraps and dubb with very small amounts of dubbing. Sparse!

Can't wait to give it a go. If I was a trout, I'd eat it. If they work I'll sell them on the river for $20 a pop. Kidding!

As a note: I've tied some of these with the Deer Hair wing using the cut butts over the wing. I've heard that that has made a difference. I took photos of this with a standard wing because it was prettier. I guess the trout might like the weird hair do.

Thanks to Norm Sauer, Tom Page, Keith Scott and Frank Rinella for their insights on the Lower Yuba River Skwala hatch. Also thankd to ralph Wood who came up with a Skwala Pattern that inspired this sort of "Stimulator Tie". Thus watch out for the Yuba Skwalanator.

Techniques - Mending Your Fly Line

What does “mend” mean? Well… let’s look at a fishing situation, imagine you're standing knee deep in your favorite stream. You make an upstream presentation, your fly land softly, starts floating back towards you and then all of a sudden in starts skating the currents. Opps, Forgot to mend the line.

The term “mend” or “mending” is simply the act of moving the fly line during the drift, to create a specific presentation of the fly to the fish.

With that said, mending the fly line will have an effect on how the fly rides in the water. Learning when, where, how to mend and what the mend does for the presentation of the fly are all keys to becoming a successful fly fisher.

Standing alongside an experienced angler (maybe, hiring an educational oriented guide?) who talks you through when and how to mend is one of the best ways to learn. Mending expertise doesn’t come overnight, but a little time on the water with someone knowledgeable is a great start.

Fly Line ‘Belly’ and Mending

Let’s talk about ‘belly’.

Belly can be explained as a downstream arc in the fly line as it floats in the current. Belly can be good or bad, depending on the situation. Think of the fly line as a sail, and the water as the wind. Wind fills the sail and pushes the boat; water fills the belly and pulls the fly.

Belly is Bad when.....

When is belly is bad. You might have noticed when there is belly, in fast water, the current fills the belly until it becomes tight and then begins to pull the upstream portion of the fly line – often dragging the fly out of the zone or streaking it across the surface. If you are nymphing, the fly will not be able to sink enough to give a good presentation. If you are dry fly fishing, the fly will have minimal time to present itself.

In this situation the belly is bad. The fly line must be mended upstream to remove the belly, allowing more time for natural fly presentation. Sometimes the current is so fast that continuous mending is required to allow the fly to drift properly.

Belly is Good When.....

When is belly good? When you need to move your fly, to speed it up, swim it faster or skitter it cross the surface. This is often the case when the current is slow, or at the end of the swing or drift.

Here’s one example. You’re swinging a streamer. It’s halfway through the swing and the current starts to slow. The line stops swinging so the fly stops swimming and begins to sink to the bottom. There is still a lot of water left to fish but not enough current to move the fly. This is where you want to have belly to pull the fly through the last half of the swing.

During your swing, as the fly line begins to slow, mend a downstream belly into the fly line, allowing more water to fill the belly, thus pulling the fly and continuing the swing. This will also work to skitter a dry fly across the surface.

Lets Start Fishin'

Let’s say, for the sake of example, we are mending upstream. You have made your cast across the current and a down stream belly is starting to form. Do not simply flip the rod tip upstream. This is a classic mistake that will only tighten the line, increase the bellydrag and pull the fly towards you and out of the zone. You must first lift the line off the water and then lay the line over.

Every mending situation is different. There are times when you can slowly lift the line and simply lay it back on the water. Other times you need to mend quickly. Imagine your rod is a paint brush. Now using only the rod tip, lift the line and quickly flick paint in the direction you want to mend.

With practice, you will see that when you flick a mend, it will roll down the line. The harder you flick, the farther down the line it rolls. The farther you need to mend, the higher you need to lift the line off the water.

It’s hard to explain on paper so go out and practice. Paint circles and flick paint. Observe the result of the rod tip action and the effect it has on the fly line. The fly line will always follow the rod tip. The wider the circle you paint with the rod tip, the wider the circle the fly line will make.

Concentrate on mending techniques, your flies with drift more naturally and you'll be in contact with a fish more often.

Thanks to for help with this tip.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Kingfisher Drift Boat Build - Installing the Decks

With the completion of the paint job on the interior it is finally time to permanently install the two side decks which will cover the dry storage compartments and the front deck that fits into the stem.

The two side decks and the front deck fit into the stem have been epoxied and screwed into place.

Installing the Deck Pieces

The three deck pieces have been previously fit and the screw holes drilled and countersunk for wood plugs. I had to do a little prep work prior to installing them.

I first sanded the interior plywood sides above the Durabak paint with 220 grit paper with my 5" random orbital sander. I also finish sanded the gunnels inside and out with 220 grit sandpaper. Once that was done I sanded the tops of the deck frames with 80 grit sandpaper to prepare them to receive thickened epoxy to glue the tops down.

I next vacuumed up all the saw dust created doing the prep work. I then mixed up a batch of thickened epoxy to use as glue. I used 1 ounce of  fast set hardener and 2 ounces of the compatible resin. Once mixed I added wood flour to thicken the epoxy to the consistency of a normal glue. I coated the tops of the dry box frame work and then carefully placed one of the side deck tops. Once aligned with the pre-drilled screw holes I used #8 x 3/4 silicon bronze screws to attach the deck piece. I repeated the process with the opposite side and the front deck.

Epoxy Fillets

Once the decks were epoxied to the framework the next step was using epoxy peanut butter to install fillets at the joint of the decks to the interior sides. 

I used 3/4" blue masking tape and masked a line on the decks and on the sides so I had a finished fillet of about 3/8". This is about the size of a rounded wooden tongue suppressor. Using masking tape insures a nice straight fillet and minimizes the cleanup and sanding. The key is to (a) take your time and mask straight true lines (b) mix the peanut butter to the proper consistency, it must be firm and non sagging, and (c) to let the epoxy fillet set up long enough prior to pulling the masking.

Once the masking was pulled, I let the epoxy fillet set up a bit more and then wet one of my fingers in a protective glove with acetone and swiped it down the length of the fillets. This smooths the fillet out nicely.

The 3/8" epoxy fillet is smoothed out a finger in a glove with acetone. Once it sets up and hardens it just needs a little detail sanding by hand and then it can be flow coated with epoxy.

Nuts & Bolts #1 - Indicators for Deep Nymphing

12/12/09 - This is the first entry for "Nuts &;Bolts" - Rigging Indicators.

There are many indicators for nymphing available on the market. I'm going to cut to the chase and give my two cents on the on-going debate of "What is the best indicator to use?" I'll clue you into the indicators that I and some of my guide friends have used on our local rivers. As for the local rivers, I am talking about the Lower Yuba River, Feather River, Lower Sacramento River, Trinity River and the Klamath River. I'm really talking about an indicator that has to support a lot of shot and 2 or maybe three flies. This discussion is not about the pinch-on or micro indicators.

The indicators that I typically like to use and will discuss are the;

"Boles Float Rite," the "Thingamabobber" and The Frog's Hair indicators.

The Boles Float Rite
The "Boles Float Rite" Indicator is a made from polypropylene yarn with a swivel in the middle. A stiff polypro "flag" sticks out of the middle. What I like about this indicator is that the post points to where your shot and flies are. If the indicator post is pointing downstream your flies are fishing behind and are being drug downstream. If the indicator post is pointing upstream your flies are racing up in the water column and not fishing at all. If the indicator post is pointing straight up you are fishin'. I've also noticed that when the Boles is fishing right it sort of sucks down into the water column slightly. This indicator is great when fishing dead drifting from a drift boat. You need to mend to attempt keep the fly line straight above the indicator and dead drifting.

The biggest complaint that I've heard about the Boles is that it is harder to adjust depths. The indicators come in a two pack with two rubber bands. You thread your leader through the eye of the swivel, fold the leader back onto itself and then tie a half hitch with the rubber band and then snug up the knot to the swivel. I usually cut the tags of the rubber band short once I snug it up. This is definitely awkward, but you can adjust it, just bring extra rubber bands as they sometimes come loose when you try this adjustment.

The other way to rigg the Boles up, is to tie your butt section straight to the swivel and then tie straight tippet material, 2x or 3x mono, down to your split shot knot. This work great on rivers like the Lower Sacramento where you don't have to be changing depths allot. To change depths you have to shorten or extend the 2x or 3x tippet from the swivel to the split shot knot.

Another point is that you need to treat the Boles with floatant and "Comb" it out before fishing it. A small mustache comb works great, I've even used a toothbrush. Apply the floatant and "tease" out the Poly fibers. A good trick is to use Mucilin Floatant. You can apply this the day before and it seems to keep the "Boles" floating all day long.

The Boles comes in small, medium and large sizes. I like the blue and green colors for stealth

The "Boles Float Rite" is a good one, I like it a lot.

The Thingamabobber is a new design in strike indicators from West Water Products.
Its design was inspired by western guides who use small balloons as strike indicators for their buoyancy and sensitivity.
Already a favorite among most of my friends that are guides, the Thingamabobber combines all of the best strike indicator elements in one simple design. It is buoyant, easy to cast, ultra sensitive, durable, and affordable.
The Thingambobber comes in a variety of colors and 1/2", 3/4" and 1” diameters.

The Thingamabobber has all of the best strike indicator elements in one simple design.
• Casts well in any weather condition
• Easy to attach and adjust yet stays in place on your line
• Never sinks and requires no floatant
• Ultra sensitive
• Comes in a variety of colors and sizes
• Durable and affordable
• Highly visible

Frog's Hair Strike Indicators

The Frog Hair Strike Indicators incorporate a quick and easy line threading system that allows for easy adjustments of depth on knotless leaders. As you find the need to adjust depth as you move up or down the river, you simply grab the indicator and slide it into the desired position, lets go, and continues fishing. The Frog's hair indicators can be purchased for re-use or 1 time usage. I personally think the one-use system is a waste and don't understand why they even went there. For the multiple use style you insert a rubber retainer on your leader then the indicator and then a second retainer which enables you to then move the retainers up or down to the desired depth. You can purchase additional retainers as you will have to remove the lower one if you take the indicator off. I really like this one for it's adjustability although if you are using a tapered leader and need to adjust to real shallow depth the indicator has a hard time staying in place. This can be a problem.


This is a tough one. "Boles," "Thingamabobber," or the "Frog's Hair"? I've been enamored for quite a while by the "Boles Float Rite," but lately I've been reaching into my fish pack and picking out the thingamabobber. I was born in Montana and I guess that it just sounds right. "You betcha, I'm gonna throw on-a thing-a-ma-bobber!"

I guess right now I'm a "Thingamabobber" guy unless I'm having trouble figuring where the heck my flies are in the water column, then I'll switch to a "Boles Float Rite". The "Boles" also works great when your are trying to help people figure out what nymphing is all about and then you can explain to them to watch the post and determine what the flies are doing. The "Frog's Hair" has the easiest adjustability.

So, I guess for me it's a draw. I carry all three. It's more of what I'm trying to accomplish in diferent situations and water types.

General Rigging for Indicators

The rigging diagram above is from the "Boles Float Rite" website. This diagram is the recommended rigging by "Boles Float Rite".

The rigg that I've been schooled on by fish guide, Mike Hibbard, is a little different. Lets talk in general terms and assume that you're using a Boles, Thingamabobber or Frogs hair adjustable, pegged corkie or whatever indicator you prefer. This would be Mike's Lower Sacramento Rigg.

  1. Set the indicator about 24" +/- down from the fly line butt.

  2. Start will a 9 foot or 10 foot, 2x tapered leader.

  3. If you're starting with a tapered leader that has been shortened, extend this down with 2x mono so that you can tie a double surgeons knot or a blood knot 9 ft. below where the indicator is set. This is a good time to note that if you are going from monofiliment to Flurocarbon tippet you need to up size the mono one size, for example 2x mono to 3x fluro.

  4. This is where you will place your shot. The shot goes above the knot.

  5. The tag end from this knot at 9 ft. should extend at least 24" so you can tie your 1st fly at 16" to 18" below the shot. Use 3x fluorocarbon.

  6. Tie a 22" piece of 4x fluorocarbon to the hook bend of the 1st fly and tie the 2nd fly 16" to 18" behind the 1st fly.

  7. Tie a second 22" piece of 5x fluorocarbon to the hook bend of the 2nd fly and tie a third fly 16" to 18" below the 2nd fly.

This rigging is based upon the 1st fly being the largest the second fly smaller and then the 3rd fly smaller still.

Note.: When working with fluorocarbon and tying two pieces together, use a triple surgeon's knot

You're now good to go. You can then lower the indicator as required in different sections of the river or move it back up.

Thank Mike Hibbard in person at 530-526-5535. Get out on the Lower Sacramento River or the Trinity River with him. He'll show you the ropes. He's taught me!

Make it a tradition!


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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Kingfisher Drift Boat Build - Painting the Interior with Durabak

I've been preparing for painting the interior areas that will be painted with "Durabak" polyurethane truck bedliner. It is a do-it-yourself product that can be applied by brush, roller or sprayed. Because of all the detailing I will be doing most of it with a roller and cutting in the hard to reach spots with a brush. I'm using the Durabak 18 which is a UV resistant product.

Here's the finished product. Believe me it's a lot of work!

With the Kingfisher I'm painting the following areas with Durabak 18.
  • The floors
  • The inside and outside of the dry boxes
  • The inside and outside of the two pedestals for the seats
  • The two hoops for the rowers seats
  • The base of the rear casting brace
  • The sides up about 6" to 10" depending on the area

Preparing the surfaces

Once I installed the wood plugs for attachment of pulleys, foot braces and the 3 drain plugs I had to fair all of the surfaces to be painted with Durabak. I used an epoxy mixed with micro balloons. This is a fairing mixture for smoothing the surfaces. I used a fast set hardener with it's compatible resin. Micro balloons create a low density filler that is suited for fairing, smoothing out, large areas. It is approximately 30% easier to sand than epoxy thickened with wood flour. When you are doing large areas this really helps. 

I purchased the micro balloons at TAP Plastics of Sacramento, CA. I mixed up batches of 2 ounces of resin to 1 ounce of fast set hardener. This allowed me time to work the filler with a squeegee or a brush and not have it run and drip too much. I mixed the filler to a mayonnaise type consistency. On the more vertical surfaces slightly thicker. I used this filler on the bottom and on relatively vertical surfaces.

Once the filler had set, I sanded the surfaces with 80 grit discs with a 6" or 5" random orbital sander. Once sanded I vacuumed up the surface and reapplied the fairing mixture as necessary. I faired all the surfaces in two layers, sanding in between. Being the Durabak has rubber granules mixed in with it, the surface needs to be flat but not perfect.  This was the first time using the product and I think I probably did a better fairing job that I really needed to.

Once the fairing was completed to satisfaction I sanded all the areas that would be coated with Durabak one last time with 80 grit sandpaper. I hand sanded all the inside corners and areas I could not sand with the random orbital sander.

I vacuumed the surfaces and then used Xylene to clean and etch all the surfaces. The Durabak instructions were very clear to only use Xylene.  

Some of the areas, like the caster's knee brace, was difficult to fair and to mask. I think it came out pretty cool though!

Masking the Surfaces

The areas that were to be varnished and not coated with Durabak had to be masked completely. Durabak is sort of messy and I did not want to have to clean off any drips. I used 1/4" wide masking tape to establish the line to be painted to. I then applied a strip of 3/4" blue masking tape to that line.   Then I used a 3M masking machine with 12' paper and 3/4" blue tape to complete the masking job. I'd say it took me 3 to 4 hours to mask everything off.

This photo shows the inside of the dry boxes, the front pedestal and the line painted forward to the stem (bow). The mahogany deck that will be attached on top of the dry boxes will extend forward to the stem.

Applying the Durabak

It is important to get organized prior to any painting project and this is one of those. I had to gather up a number of items and get everything laid out and organized prior to starting painting. Things like:
  • Xylene to thin the Durabak if necessary and to clean up messes
  • 4" roller frame
  • Special 4' foam rollers provided by Durabak (2)
  • Disposable paint trays for a 4" roller frame
  • A soft Polyester brush
  • A metal mixer wand  - 1 gallon size
  • Wooden stir sticks
  • Rags
Durabak can be thinned up to 15% with Xylene. I opened the Durabak 18 can and used the metal mixer wand in a cordless drill to stir the material. The instructions are explicit about doing this. Durabak comes in a smooth or a textured type. I'm using the textured. Rubber particles are suspended in the polyurethane paint. The paint must be stirred on a regular basis to keep the particles in suspension. I decided to apply the Durabak straight out of the can. In retrospect, I believe I should have thinned it slightly as I had trouble having the rubber particles clump together. I had to really work the material to spread the rubber particles out evenly. 

The material was fairly easy to apply and I had the first coat done in about 1 1/2 hours. When the first coat was down I was a little disappointed in the way the rubber particles were spread around. The material is recommended to be applied in two coats so I was hoping that the second coat would even the finish out a bit. I waited for the material to be dry to the touch, about 1 hour, to start with the second coat.

I decided to thin the second coat by about 5%. I'm glad I did. I had purchased 1 gallon and had used about 60% of it on the first coat. Thinning it did the trick. It spread evenly and nicely and I had just enough to give everything a second coat. The rubber particles were spread fairly evenly. It's not perfect but it will be fine.

This is the rear Pedestal and the rounded transom. All the wood grain portions or the boat will receive many coats of marine varnish.

It is also important to pull all the masking after applying the second coat and before that Durabak sets up too much. All the photos were taken about 1 hour after the second coat was applied.

Up Next!

I can finally install the 1/4" mahogany decks. They have been fitted and have been flow coated twice with epoxy. They are sanded and ready to install. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Strategies - Make it a Meal for Midges

Make it a Meal

I came across this tip in the newsletter of Deniki Outdoors. It's about fishing when the midge hatch is on. It was a tip from Dan Stein, and fishing with midges on the Bighorn River in Montana. We have midge hatches and the Lower Yuba trout will key on them sometimes in the winter. Although it is not a blanket hatch like the get in Montana this tip may just help to get a fish on your fly.

The scene is Dan Stein and a friend are fishing and swarms of tiny insects are littering the river’s surface. Every trout in the Bighorn seems to be eating dry flies.

I reach into my fly box and poke around for a size 24 black midge pattern.

“That’s no good,” Dan said. “You won’t see it and the fish won’t eat it.”

Instead of that tiny fly, Dan dipped into his fly box for a size 14 Blue Dun, a fly that looked absolutely nothing like the naturals on the water.

I wondered what in the world he was thinking, and he knew it.

“Just watch,” he said. “Throw that fly upstream from the fish you just saw rising by the bank, and let it drift down.”

I made the cast, and within a split second natural midges started landing on my fly. By the time it floated into the fish’s feeding zone, it was a meatball of swarming insects. Sure enough, the brown trout rose to inhale the meatball fly, and I set the hook.

“You have to make it a meal,” Dan said, smiling. “Why would a fish waste time and energy to suck down one little bitty bug? When the midges are hatching thick, always fish a midge cluster, or use a fly the bugs can cluster on. The more protein a fish sees, the more likely it is to eat.”

If you want more tips like this you can pick up The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing – a new collection of 250 nuggets of fly fishing wisdom from Kirk Deeter and the late, great Charlie Meyers by clicking on the link.

Photo from Deneki Outdoors

Monday, December 1, 2014

Lower Yuba - Opener Above Parks Bar Bridge

December 1st, 2009

With much anticipation I hooked up with my friends Blake Larsen and Frank Rinella to fish above the Parks Bar Bridge today, December 1st. We all have been looking forward to fishing above the bridge to see what kind of shape the upper river is in. The river below the bridge has been fishing pretty tough for a while now and we were excited to see if some of the fish from the lower river had possibly moved upstream. With flyboxes organized and full, rods strung up and ready to go I drove to meet them in town. We met at 6:00 had a cup of joe and headed for the river. Our plan was to float about 2 1/2 miles of the river down to the Highway 20, Parks Bar Bridge. We took care of our shuttle and left Frank's truck at the bridge and headed to the river to launch my drift boat.

We arrived at the river at about 7:30 to the sight of a number of fishermen already on the river. It was a little brisk in the morning requiring a sweater or wind shell but warmed up pleasantly as soon as the sun climbed higher by about 9:30. During the day of fishing we saw a number of pontoon boats and a three drift boats including mine. We were able to float downstream before them and had the 1st drift at most of the runs. All in all it there were less people on the river than I had anticipated and compared to my past experiences for the December opener.

Frank fished using his 6 weight switch rod and nymphed without an indicator using the "Tight Line" method. Blake started with an indicator setup but switched as he wanted to try this method. We were able to fish casually and non-pressured for most of the day with many stories told and experiences shared. I think this is what I like about a day on the river as much as fishing. There are always new things to be learned and wisdom's to be shared. It was a great day with great camaraderie with old and new friends.

Well, what about the fishing?

Some of my observations and thoughts are;

  • We caught enough fish to keep smiles on our faces

  • We lost enough fish to be able to give each other a hard time about losing them.

  • I was a little disappointed that we didn't see much evidence of salmon redds on the stretch we floated. There were some small fields of redds but not near as many as last year

  • We saw two or maybe three salmon.

  • We did not see much bug action although we did see a few midges, BWO's, and Baetis

  • We were able to hook up using quite a few different patterns."Troutbeads", PT nymphs, Hogan's Olive Military May, Hogan's Red Headed Stepchild, Golden Stone, Prince of Darkness, Burks HBI. The fish seemed willing to eat what was put in front of them although the "Troutbeads" were our best producer.

  • The trout were where we expected them to be and were located in the runs below riffles, deeper slots and eddy pools. I don't remember seeing a caddis at all.

  • We didn't see much action when fishing the riffles or the tailouts. 1 fish caught in a tailout.

  • A lot of the runs were fished by wade fisherman prior to us fishing them and when rested still produced hook-ups

  • We were able to fish a number of areas that could only be fished properly from a boat and were probably the first to fish these areas.

  • A crew working on salmon carcass surveys said that the amount of salmon carcasses were low and they seemed disappointed in the run this year, hoping for bigger numbers.

  • We still need some weather to change the current pattern and to hopefully bring additional fish into the system.

The Yuba is a wild and beautiful river and we all need to work to protect and enhance this fishery so our grandchildren will be able catch a native trout and steelhead here close to home.


December Sunset on the Yuba

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