Fly Fishing Traditions

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Which Stance for Fly Casting

The stance you use for casting can influence the movements that follow, such as how you move your casting arm and add force with your shoulder and body.  As with grips, each stance provides somewhat different advantages and disadvantages.

The Squared Stance

When starting from square one with beginning students using a squared stance, facing the target without dropping either foot back is a good idea. Why? The biggest advantage of this stance is its simplicity in relationship to the alignment of the casting arm.  Without moving your body, you can easily attain an elbow-forward arm position throughout the casting movements.  Such simplification of primary movements is important in achieving the consistency for which we strive and a building block for good form. Once good form and timing is achieved the squared stance is the preferred stance.

The Casting Side Dropped Back Stance

Another good option is the casting side dropped back position. This is often the second step for beginning casters once they have their elbow- forward arm position form down. If right handed, you drop your right foot back, as if preparing to throw a ball. It is recommended to start the students with the casting side dropped back 45 degrees.  The main advantage of this stance is in developing timing.

With the casting side dropped back position you are able to watch your back cast to see when to start the forward cast.  One thing to watch out for is that this stance may lead to rotating that side forward during the forward cast. This additional body turning sometimes rotates a caster’s arm and fly rod out of alignment, thus angling the fly line away from the intended direction. Having to realign your arm and rod for the forward cast can also complicate the movement, particularly if using an elbow forward half-throwing motion. So be aware and don't lose good form.

Although timing can be taught in various ways, it is said that most students, in fact, do learn timing best by turning to see the fly line straightening in back. However, it is probably best to have them drop the casting side back just enough to see the back cast, a peak so to speak, then return them to a squared stance when the timing has been corrected. Remember turning to watch a back cast is usually done when practicing, and seldom done when we’re out fishing.  I heard the expression. “Watching your back cast is bad form, except in bear country”.

If you’re casting a slow full flexing action rod, like a bamboo or older graphite, opening up your stance can be used with a lengthened hand movement for better form. 

How About the Stance for Long Distance Casting?

When it’s time to start practicing long distance casting it’s time to go back to dropping the casting side back.  Watching the loops coming off the rod tip on a back cast is the best way I know to learn how and where to stop the rod butt to form small loops in a long line on the back cast.  By this time, arm alignment should be fairly well ingrained.  This open stance offers another distance advantage, inviting long hand movements for a wider casting arc.

The Casting Side Forward Stance

Occasionally I’ll see a person casting to a specific fish and attempting to get a really accurate cast, using a stance with the casting side and foot forward, rather than back.  It is said that turning the casting side forward enhances accuracy by bringing the hand and arm that directs the cast into closer alignment with the eyes and the target.


It’s not a bad idea to start students with the grip and stance that works best for most people.  If you are a beginner, try the squared stance, with your thumb providing support behind the forward cast.  If you find yourself having trouble with timing, drop your casting side back enough to make it easier to watch your back cast.

If you are more experienced, I would encourage you to experiment with these grips and stances, considering the trade-offs in each change you make. Perhaps you will find something that works better with your cast than what you have been doing.

March Browns on the Lower Yuba

The March Brown Mayfly is sort of a ghost hatch on the Lower Yuba. some years you'd never know they exist and the next year there they are. This is one of the years that they are happening. How do we know. The best indication is when you spot clouds of dancing male march brown spinners hovering over the water. They are the big ones. The females are smaller. You will often see these spinners bouncing above the runs. The females The spinners that you see hatched a few days earlier.

The duns hatch and hang around the bushes and trees for a few days and then they molt into sexually mature spinners.  Their colors darken, their wings become much clearer and in the case of the males their tails and forelegs elongate. They mate and the females return and drop their eggs.

March Brown Nymphs

The march brown mayfly typically arrives with the onset of spring. It is a "clinger" mayfly and clings tenaciously to rocks in the fast water. Does the name march brown mean that the fly hatches in March, not necessarily. In our river it is more of an April event and the conditions need top be just right. Big spring storms with high flows happen and you'll never know there are march browns in the river.

In our river the march brown nymphs are very dark brown and almost black. That doesn't mean that they are available to our trout very often. They have the ability to cling to rocks like no other. They also tend to hide under and in the crevices during daylight hours. They venture out at dark They are adapted to stay out of harms way. But when the nymphs become mature they sport large dark wing pads they start to get restless as they begin to contemplate emergence. They start to migrate to slower water along the edges. Guess what, they loose they foothold and end up in the drift. This is when fishing march brown nymphs are the most effective, basically prior to emergence.

Poodle Sniffer - Black Caddis

Here's another fly tying video tying the "Poodle Sniffer" pupa to match a Glossoma Caddis

Black X-Caddis

Here's video from Blu Ribbon Flies on how to tie a Black X-Caddie

Kingfisher Drift Boat Build - Varnishing

Well, I've got the boat flipped back right side up and back in the paint booth. I've been taking a break from the boat for the last 3 weeks or so as I built a pole barn/shed out behind my shop. My brother Craig and his wife Toni came out and helped me build it. The weather in Idaho had shut him down so they came for visit and gave them a job helping me. I'll have a post about that process on another day.

So, right now I'm about three quarters of the way to a minimum of six coats of varnish to apply to all exposed wood parts on the boat. Ugh! I'm four coats into it and all I can say is you have to be patient and take your time. You can't be in any hurry. There's lots of prep, masking and sanding to the process. But most importantly, is the actual technique involved with the applying of the varnish.


The first thing I had to do was to mask off the painted sides. I purchased a special 3M Scotch Blue Painters Tape for Delicate Surfaces #2080. This tape can stay in place for 60 days. I used this to mask a line right under the gunnels. I then used  48" painters masking plastic and taped it to the 1st layer of tape at the gunnels. This protects the entire paint on the exterior of the boat.

I next masked of the interior floors areas and sides that are painted with Durabak truck bed liner. The tape doesn't stick real well to the Durabak but I did the best I could.


The Process. All the mahogany and oak parts on the boat have been coated with at least 3 or 4 coats of epoxy prior to starting the varnishing. The varnish job will be a minimum of 6 coats. I will work towards applying the initial 4 coats of varnish which will provide a solid varnish base coating. Once the 4 coats are applied I will need to do a real complete sanding of everything to make sure the surfaces are flat. It is necessary to wait for this heavy sanding as you need enough mil thickness to accomplish the flattening. Four coats should do it. Once the flattening sanding is done, I need to put on at least 2 or 3 finish coats of varnish. Sound pretty simple hey?

The initial sanding prior to the first coat of varnish and the next four coats is done using 220 grit sandpaper and/or a Scotch-Brite pad. I used 220 grit with a sanding block on the flat surfaces and the Scotch-Brite pad on the curved surfaces. I used the sanding block with the Scotch-Brite pads where I could.

Scotch-Brite pads come in various grits. I have primarily used the red pads (Fine about 300 grit). The Grey (Ultra Fine about 400 grit) will come into play on the final two coats. The sanding between the coats is mainly a scuffing to bond the next coat.

Sanding Reality - The main thing I have learned at this point is how the temperature of your workplace really affects the process. My shop has been getting down to about 45 to 50 degrees F at night. I keep an electric oil heater going in my finishing booth days and nights and have been able to maintain about 55 to 60 degrees F in the finishing booth. The main thing that the lower temperatures does is to delay drying time. The lower temperatures really only effect the time it takes to dry. My drying times between coats is running about 48- 72 hours. To be really dry it needs 72 hours. When is it dry enough?

Good question. You can "Hot Coat" varnish coats if the varnish is still soft without sanding. Sounds good doesn't it. I have been doing a sort of in-between. Let's call it a "Warm Coat". I've been letting each coat dry for about 48 hours and then using the 220 grit with a block to knock down the "nibs' and then block sanding with the red Scotch-brite pad. At 48 hours the coat is still soft enough the it clogs the sandpaper, but works well with the Scotch-brite pads.

To be able to sand with sandpaper the varnish needs to be hard enough to create fine dust and not clog your paper. In my case this will take a minimum of 72 hours, maybe longer. Being I am currently at my fourth coat I'm letting the 4th coat completely dry before sanding it flat.


Let me just start out with, "Varnish is intimidating as hell". There are hundreds of articles on the web with horror story after horror story about applying varnish. There are 4 important rules for varnishing that I have gleaned from the web and from to talking with experienced painters. Here they are and believe me I learned them the hard way.

(1) How you treat the varnish in the can
(2) How you get the varnish out of the can
(3) The brush that you use
(4) Your brushing technique

How You Treat the Varnish in the Can

Don't shake varnish! Varnish should always be stirred, stirred slowly enough that you don't whip it into a froth. If you shake the can or stir too vigorously you will be incorporating air into the varnish. Air in varnish is bad. You must stir varnish if you are using satin varnish as it has flattening agents that must be thoroughly incorporated.

If you are using gloss varnish you do not need to stir the varnish other than to incorporate added thinner.

Decant Varnish into a Smooth Sided Container

Do not apply varnish directly from the supply can. If you dip the brush into the can and then "scrape off" the excess on the lip of the can you will send a cascade of frothy varnish back into the can. This froth will be picked up with the next brush load, carrying a cargo of air bubble to your varnished surface of the wood. Transfer the varnish from the can into a smooth sided plastic container.

Thin varnish prior to application. I learned this the hard way. Thinning a newly opened can is impossible since there is no room for the added volume of thinner. Further thinning in the can is subject to inaccuracies since you can't easily determine how much varnish remains in the can. Only by decanting the varnish into a separate container can you accurately add the appropriate volume of thinner. The first coat of varnish should be thinned by 20% to 25%. (This does not apply if you are applying varnish over sanded flattened and epoxied wood.) Subsequent coats should be thinned by 5% to 10%. Thin after you have decanted the varnish into the application container.

Remember, the whole point of thinner in varnish in the first place is to make it easier to spread. The varnish needs to be thinned to adjust flow-out to current temperatures and humidity conditions.

By thinning varnish you are simply adjusting the viscosity of the varnish. Added thinner makes the varnish easier to apply by reducing the viscosity so that it will flow out and level better, thus allowing air bubbles to float to the surface and pop before they become encapsulated in the curing film. Brush marks will also level faster when the varnish is properly thinned.

One thing that lower temperatures in my shop contributed to is a thicker application of varnish. It has made keeping a "wet edge" difficult. I placed my can in hot water prior to starting but it just doesn't stay warm enough. Thinning will help solve this problem.

Use a Natural Bristle Brush Made for Applying Varnish

A varnish brush should have a good "reservoir" so as to allow you to "flow-on" a good quantity of varnish before you need to return to the container for more. Here's a contradiction to what you may hear. Never use a synthetic bristle brush or a "foam brush", or a paint pad.

A good test of a proper varnish brush is to dip the very tip of the brush into mineral spirits. If the brush wicks the mineral spirits up into the bristles, its a good brush. A "Badger Hair" brush is often recommended.

Brushing Technique

The brushing technique is very important. The varnish should be applied by "flowing" it in one direction. Never brush back and forth! If you are right handed begin at the left of am imaginary area about 12"  to 18" square. Make a single long stroke from top to bottom (across the grain). of your imaginary square applying light to moderate pressure. The bristles of your brush should flex slightly. They should not bend to the ferrule of the brush. Then, returning to the top of your initial stroke and using the same brush stroke, begin to drag from the top down. Once you have filled in your imaginary square, brush from right to left. from the dry to the wet (with the grain) to smooth and flatten the varnish.

Move the brush slow enough so as to not incorporate air bubbles into the finish. Continue in slightly overlapping pattern of brush strokes until you have covered the area. Tipping off in this fashion further levels the varnish and breaks any air bubble that may have become trapped in the finish. Again move the brush slowly. Brush only with the tips of the brush.

Chironomid 101 - Part l - Chironomid Facts and Tips

As they used to say in the TV show Dragnet. "Just the facts, Maam" Here's some Chironomid facts and Tips to get us started with Chironomid 101. It's an introduction to this important stillwater bug.

Chironomids are the food source eaten more often than any other. I attended Phil Rowley's Stillwater Scholl where he compared them to M&M's. You put a bowl of M&M's on a table and you just grab handfuls and keep eating. Trout do the same when they feed on chironomids. Let's look at some facts about chironomids.

Seasonal Availability

  • Larvae are available all season long, 12 months of the year
  • The emerging pupae and adults are available two times a year. They become a main food source for stillwater trout in;
(1) April through June
(2) August through October

  • With that said about the pupae, chironomid larvae or "bloodworms" are available for trout all year long and are a main food source for all stillwater trout all year long.
  • Bloodworm patterns are a good choice during low light conditions and after recent windstorms.
  • Chironomid Pupae patterns can also be used throughout the season as they have elongated emergence cycles. Trout will often take chironomid pupa patterns regardless of the season.
Fishing Tips for Chironomids
  • When trout are found in water 20 feet or less, use a floating line and slip indicator. Start with suspending the flies one to two feet off the bottom. make sure you are just above any weeds.
  • Experiment by moving the fly up one foot at a time to locate feeding fish. Sometimes 6 inches can make a difference.
  • In water 15 feet or less also try using use a floating line and a long leader. This is called the "Naked Technique". Use a fly line like the Rio Indicator Line that has a orange 18" tip which will be your indicator. Takes will be seen as a movement by the orange tip rather than felt.
  • When using the "Naked Technique", your leader should be 25% longer than the water is deep.
  • When using the "Naked Technique" you must balance 4 variables.
(1) Leader Length
(2) Retrieve Speed
(3) Pattern Weight
(4) and the time to allow the pattern to sink
  • Wind drift larva and pupa patterns by quartering across the wind and allow the ripple to swing through the water column. Watch the orange tip of the fly line for any movement.
  • When fishing for chironomids in water over 20 feet deep use a full sink line, a type VI or VII and retrieve the fly vertically through the water column. Cast only the amount of line and leader as the water is deep. Count the flies down and use a shorter leader.
  • Remember that when presenting imitations for the chironomids larva and pupa, the retrieves must be so slow that they are almost static.
  • When fishing on the surface, pay attention to whether the trout are taking skittering or stationary adults. Present your flies accordingly.
  • When trout are taking chironomids on the surface consider using a soft hackle retrieved slowly through the area of rising trout.

Chironomid Larvae Patterns

Size - 3/8" to 1" - Hook sizes #8 through #16 - A size #12 2x long is a good average size larva pattern

Shape - Slender, segmented and worm-like

Color - Many species are able to generate hemoglobin in order to survive in oxygen poor conditions.
  • As a result scarlet red or maroon coloration is common.
  • Larva can generate hemoglobin as conditions dictate which affects coloration. Candy Cane schemes of red and green are common on some lakes.
  • Olive and bright green are other common colors
Chironomid Pupae Patterns

Size - 3/8" to 1 inch, hook sizes #8 - #18
  • Chironomid tend to be larger in mud bottomed, algae type lakes. Sizes #12-#8
  • In clear water lakes, Chironomids are smaller $10 -#18
  • A #12 is a average pupa size and a good place to start.
  • If trout do not appear to be selective to size try using one size larger so your fly will stand out from the naturals.
Shape - Comma-like shape.
  • Many pupa patterns use scud pupa hooks to suggest the profile
  • Most patterns have a bulbous thorax, slender segmented, tapered abdomens
  • In clearer water or on lake with much angler pressure consider using slim realistic patterns.
Colors - Black, maroon, brown, olive, shades of green, tan.
  • On dark days, use dark patterns.
  • On bright days use bright patterns
  • Pupae use trapped air and gases to aid pupal ascent and the adult transformation. This gives pupae a distinct silver glow.
  • Pupae can change color as they absorb or replenish trapped gases
  • Chironomids pupae have prominent white gills. The Chaoborus pupae do not.
  • Use Super White beads in algae stained waters. They tend not to fouls as much as synthetic or natural materials do.
Chironomid Adults

Size - The adults are smaller than the corresponding pupa.
  • Sizes #10 - #16 covers most adults
Shape - Similar in look to adult mosquitoes.
  • Chironomid adults do not bite like mosquitoes.
Color - Colors mirror those of the pupa. recently emerged adults are bright. Their body color darkens once it hardens.