Sunday, January 18, 2009

A little prose on life

This is for all of us who walk through life slowly and quietly, observing and thinking. For us who sometimes seem to wander without direction.
For all the romantics and dreamers. Inspired by Marty Kwitek, who as the legend has it, was seen sitting by the river with his rod and no waders quietly fishing in his mind.

Aimless memories;

Finding myself restless and lonely one summer’s evening I set out from my cabin to gather kindling for the wood stove.
I wandered toward the stream and distant woods in no hurry and without any direct path in mind.
My foot brushed a wildflower, and I stopped and peered at the delicate pink bloom, so small, so bright.
Continuing my journey, I plodded slowly to the little stream, and sitting on its bank watched the little dances of life and death played out between the trout and the mayflies.
A fish flashed in the little riffle, and I knew it was a brook trout by the white slash on its fins.
I smiled and went on my uncertain way.
Past the stream and approaching the woods, I was startled by a grouse that must have been happy and safe under his little bush, only to have me come along and spoil his tranquillity.
I sniffed the pine scented air deliciously.
The gently fading light was greeted by the distant howl of a coyote, and I knew it was time to return home.
I ambled back deep in thought about nothing.
Back in front of the fire with my pipe, I remembered what I had forgotten. My little trip was purposeless, and I had failed in my gathering of kindling. I had brought nothing back with me.
Or had I?
After a bit of thought, I knew that I had gathered memories.
I had hunted without a gun and fished without a rod.
I had taken beauty back with me, and left nothing but footprints.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Spey flies

With the recent explosion in popularity of two handed or ‘Spey’ rods, I have noticed the tendency to refer to pretty much any fly that is not a tube or intruder as a “Spey fly”. Spey flies are very distinct and have the following characteristics:

1. A body of wool or fur wound thin and tight to the shank of the hook.
2. Following tinsel as body ribbing. Usually thicker diameter. Often followed or counter wound with narrow oval tinsel.
3. Little or no tail.
4. Hackle that extends back past the rear of the hook, and is tied in either at the rear or at some point in the body and wound forward; or tied in front, wound to the rear and locked in with tinsel. The hackle should follow the flat tinsel and be tied in directly behind it to protect the delicate stem.
5. A wing of Bronze mallard tied in as slips to form a keel-less boat low over the fly. Wing can be tied in straight or reversed.

That’s it. See the above photo of my Gold Heron Spey as an example.

Most of what I see referred to as ‘Spey flies’ are actually flies that have one or more of the above characteristics, but not all. Thus, they are not Spey flies. I would characterize them as ‘Modern Spey-like flies”. Take a ‘Marabou-Spey’ for example. The only characteristic that it shares with its Scottish cousin is the length of the hackle. We can use marabou as a hackle feather in traditional Speys, but then it must be tied in properly.

Producing variations in style is important to the development of flies, but one must acknowledge that they are variants. For example, My variation on Dee styling in a fishing fly by using hackle wound at the head, hair and mallard wings, and lacking jungle-cock certainly leaves us with a fly that is reminiscent of a Dee fly, but is not a Dee fly per se. If we use hair in the wing it is a hair-wing, not a Dee.

They are not easy to tie. Getting the hackle wound in correctly, setting the wings, and forming the head will take practice. My first Spey flies show all the classic mistakes, and it was three years before I tied one even remotely right.

If anyone is interested in tying them, the excellent books by Veverka and Shewey can serve as guides. Use gray marabou stripped on one side to practice with so you don’t burn through blue ear pheasant.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A wee rant on dumb gear

New fly fishing gear designers; meet Moe, Larry, and Curly Joe inventing the edible celery panfish flyrod. Yours for only $900 bucks.

Perusing the new Cabelas and Orvis catalogues, I am reminded of how much I dislike all the superfluous gear out there which is toted as the ‘must-have’ for the angler. So, without hold, I give you some views on junk. Please read this with a tongue in cheek mood, as this is how it is written. I don’t want to get comments back full of contention. After all, this is the classic angler not the contentious angler;)

You may wish to read my blog post on equipment first; located here.

Pre-packaged leaders.
You know the ones. When I ran a flyshop, these were my top seller, and I pitied all the poor souls that bought them. Why, you ask? No matter what you do, they will never lie completely straight. They are coiled in the package, and will retain those slinky-like coils forever no matter what you do. Go ahead, stretch them between two nails on a hot day, use a useless leather leader straightening tool, have a buddy pull and stretch them, tie them to your dog and throw a ball, it matters not. Those coils will drive you nuts! The only way to prevent this is to buy leaders tied with a stretchy butt material like maxima, or tie your own.

Reels that look like abstract art or an engineer’s high school project and sporting wild colors.
This speaks for itself. Just look at the reels offered in the Cabelas catalogue. They all look like they are trying to outdo each other for the most complicated CNC project award. The classic looking reels are usually the cheap ones. I don’t really hate these things, but they have become so ubiquitous that real consumer choice has lessened.

Reels that sport ultra large arbor designs that take no backing.
Hello…Orvis? A perfect example of this was the first generation Orvis Battenkill large arbor reel. When someone bought one of these, there was much alchemy performed in the back room. I often had to cut the flyline back by one quarter in order to fit it on the spool, and that still only allowed twenty feet of backing. It is a myth that large arbor flyreels always prevent coiling and increase the retrieve ratio. When they are wider than conventional reels this can be true, but in general, a conventional reel with the proper amount of backing achieves the same thing. It is only when deep into the backing that a large arbor design aids retrieval. This is not to say that I dislike large arbor reels, instead, what I dislike is that they are touted as the only way to go. As if anglers such as Zane Gray couldn’t land fish on conventional reels.

Sage bass fly rods.
I cast these for the first time in October, and I must say they perform beautifully. I was able to throw the entire line with ease. They were designed to allow fly anglers to fish in bass tournaments, thus the length is under 8 feet. The rods, which are stiff as a corpse, get their zing from an especially heavy weight forward taper flyline made by Sage. So why does this bother me? Simply because new anglers may purchase these rods to fish for bass thinking that they are superior to conventional nine foot 5-8 weight rods. They are not superior. Perhaps at close range in brushy streams they might excel, but for much of the bass fishing I do, (casting in big rivers with pinpoint accuracy at 80 feet) they have no superiority to my rods. In fact, trying to cast at that distance consistently with these rods one would be in the backing, as the flyline is only 80 feet long. They also remind me of a bait-casting rod. The line is so heavy that it carries out from the rod tip like a spoon taking the mono for a free ride. Another thing I dislike is being limited to this specific line from Sage. What if I want to try something else? Sorry buddy.

Knot tying tools.
With an exception for people with eyesight problems, twitches, or hangovers, I dislike knot tying tools.
One becomes reliant on them and never learns to tie knots the proper way. Enough said.

Dumb gadgets that get in the way.
You know those necklace lanyards made of beads and alligator clips that enjoy so much popularity? One sees pictures of guides out west wearing them while floating the Madison. The reason guides like them is;

1. Everything is handy, so that the guides can locate it after a night of drinking moonshine.
2. It makes them look like they know what they are doing.
3. They are not fishing, just guiding.

Number three holds the clue. The damn things get in the way of everything; your hair, the flyline, tippet material, the spinning reel handle while playing a fish, etc. They even get tangled in your wader suspenders when you desperately have to relieve yourself. Fine for guides, anglers should give them a pass.

Unnecessary and overpriced stuff
Hello… Simms? Simms makes some of the finest waders, boots and jackets on the market. Several years ago they expanded their product line to include pretty much everything. Now anglers can wander around the river as walking advertisements. Much of this expanded selection is horribly overpriced as well, making it the necessary purchase for doctors and lawyers looking for that Brad Pitt look. I even saw a miniature cigar humidor shaped like a little rod tube and sporting the logo of a famous rod company. I guess some people feel that if they pay the top dollar, then they get the best.

$500.00 waders that leak after 6 months.
We can send a man to the moon, but can’t produce breathable waders that are durable. Enough said.

Any product promising that you will catch more fish.
Look in the mirror. The person staring back at you is the only one who can improve your fishing through time on the water, study, reading, thinking, and practice. There are no magic beans, even if fishing companies have gotten rich by selling us those beans.