Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fly Patterns for Fall Trout

Fall is not only a wonderful time of the year but it is the time of the year when trout fishing can be at its best. The fish become very active after the long, hot summer, and the brown and brook trout are bulking up for the annual spawning ritual. The end result is hungry trout.

Depending on the stream you fish and the time of day you fish it, a multitude of patterns will be productive; streamers, nymphs, worms, and eggs, and dry flies all have their time and place. I believe it's best to break down the streams in your area into various classes. In the southeast, we basically have 3 types of rivers/streams; Tailraces, Wild streams, and Delayed Harvest/Hatchery Supported streams. Many of the same patterns can be used on each but there are patterns that are also specific to each. Below, I will break down some of the patterns utilized on each type of waterway. Remember, many other patterns will also be productive.

A Tailrace or Tailwater is a watercourse that carries water away from a mill, water wheel or turbine. Many of these are bottom draw where cold water is released from the bottom of area lakes, which provides constant water temperatures and allows for year around fishing opportunities. The South Holston, Watauga, Nantahalla, and Smith are some of the better known Tailraces in the southeast.

As a general rule, the most important hatches on these streams will be midges, baetis, and sulphurs, respectively. For fall, concentrate on patterns that represent the lifecycle of mostly BWO's and midges. Plus, dont forget tubifex, ova patterns, and various streamer patterns. Listed below are a few of my favorites.

Hetero-Genius Nymph

Stripper Midge (sz.24-28)
Zebra Midge (sz.24-28)
Disco Midge (sz.24-28)
San Juan Worm (sz.14-20)
Medusa (sz.16-18)
Nuke Egg (sz.14-18)
Pheasant Tail  (olive or natural, sz.18-24)
Hetero-genius Nymph (sz.18-22)
BWO Split Wing (sz. 18-22)
WD40 (sz.20-26)
RS2 Emerger (sz.20-24)
Extreme Emerger (sz.20-24)
Bunny Duns (sz.20-24)
Hackle Stackers (sz.20-24)
BWO Cripple (sz. 20-24)
Hi-Vis Parachute BWO (sz.20-24)
Sparkle Dun BWO (sz.20-24)
Sumpin' Ugly Sculpin (sz.4-6)
Super Yummy (sz.4-6)
Norms Sculpin (sz.4-6)
Weise's Bunny Love (sz.4-6)

Wild Streams: 
Wild trout streams include native brook trout, and rainbow and brown trout whose population in the stream is maintained by natural reproduction. Unfortunately, there are very few streams in the southeast that are considered catch and release and this includes the wild streams. A few notable catch and release streams in our area are the Davidson, Raven's Fork, and Big Horse Creek. Use similar patterns to those used on the Tailraces in these catch and release waters.

For the most part, a dry/dropper rig is the best way to go about fishing the wild streams from mid summer through the fall. Typically, the fishing tends to slow down in the winter on the wild trout streams. These little mountain streams tend to have far less food than many Tailwater and Freestone streams so the fish are often extremely opportunistic. A stealthy approach and a spot on presentation are the keys to success on these waters. Utilize patterns that represent terrestrials, caddis, baetis and midges; as well as, attractor patterns. Listed below are some favorites.

Parachute Adams

Parachute Adams (sz.14-24)
Orange Stimulator (sz.14-18)
Orange Palmer (sz.14)
Royal Wulff (sz.12-18)
Hi-Vis Ant and Beetle (sz.12-16)
October Caddis (sz.12-14)
Ausable Wulff (sz.12-14)
Humpy (sz-12-16)
Royal Coachman (sz.12-14)
Hi-Vis Parachute BWO (sz.18-22)
Green Weenie (sz.14-16)
Sunken Ants (sz.12-16)
Pheasant Tail (sz.18-22)
Hetero-genius Nymph (sz.16-20)
Tellico (sz.16-18)
Prince Nymph (sz.16)
Casual Dress (sz.12)
Holy Grail (sz.14-16)
Disco Midge (sz.20-26)
Zebra Midge (sz.20-26)
Yallarhammer (sz.12-14)
Black Nosed Dace (sz.8-10)
Muddler Minnow (sz.8-10)
Mickey Finn (sz.8-10)

Link to Casters Online Fly Shop

Delayed Harvest/Hatchery Supported: 
Delayed Harvest waters are stocked trout waters open to fishing year-round, but trout caught between October and June must be immediately released. You cannot keep or have in your possession any trout while fishing these waters during this time. Single-hook, artificial lures or flies are required during the October-June period. Beginning in June, harvest of trout from these waters is allowed, and anglers can use natural bait. "Hatchery Supported" trout regulations apply during this time. Beginning October 1, these waters revert back to "Delayed Harvest" trout regulations.

These waters are often a fly fisherman's favorite place to go from the fall through spring, even though poaching is a constant battle. Some notable streams in the area are Wilson Creek, Helton Creek, North Toe, and Watauga River.  The trout in these waters see a lot of pressure so they get relatively smart to mainstream patterns. A good general rule is to use patterns that you dont see every other angler using. Try some of the patterns below for consistent success. Dry flies typically aren't a good choice, especially during the winter months. You're better off fishing a double nymph rig with/without an indicator. 

Squirmy Wormie
Eggi Juan Kenobi (sz.14)
Medusa (sz.12-14)
Y2k (sz.14)
Squirmy Wormie (sz.12-14)
San Juan Worm (sz.12-16)
Lightning Bug (sz.14-20)
Serendipity (sz.16-18)
Prince Nymph (sz.14-18)
Holy Grail (sz.12-16)
Hetero-genius Nymph (sz.14-18)
Flashback Hare's Ear (sz.14-18)
Sili Skin Caddis (sz.14-16)
Ooey Gooey Grub (sz.8-12)
Duke Prince John (sz.14-18)
Woolly Bugger (sz.6-10)
Little Rascal (sz.6-8)
Sumpin' Ugly- Leech (sz.8)
Blah, blah, blah....... Again, try to use patterns that you dont see everyone else tossing.

Link to Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dominance, Subordinance, and Energy Exertion

Have you ever spotted a large trout sitting like a lump on a log in a particular lie? No matter what flies you toss he/she pays no attention? This may be a resting or hiding lie. Or, you notice a fish sitting on the bottom, moving laterally, and flaring its gills? You cast your dry/emerger combination to no avail. This is most definitely a nymphing lie.  More than likely that fish will not rise vertically to eat your patterns on the surface. Why? The food is funneling right to it so it doesn't have to move more than a few inches to the left or right.

There are countless variables as to why these different situations occur but energy metabolism is a primary factor that we, as anglers, tend not to consider. The larger the fish, the more mass it has to move in any direction. Trout are fine tuned to their domain and they are extremely efficient feeders that waste little or no movement in doing so. This is one reason why we rarely see the smarter, larger fish moving vertically (unless conditions are optimal); it is more efficient to move laterally. Moving vertically often takes more energy due to varying currents within the water column.

As a general rule, trout will not pursue a food source if more energy is going to be exerted than gained by consuming it. Of course, this depends on such conditions as water temperature, time of the year, food sources available, water levels, etc.. If the conditions are ideal and the trout's metabolism is at its peak, it will move more to find food. We can see this variation in behavior throughout the year. All we have to do is observe. For instance, during the cold months of winter or the hot months of summer we know that the trout's metabolism is at its lowest so they tend to move less. Whereas, during the months when water temps are ideal (between 55 and 65 degrees) we see fish moving more because their metabolic rate is at its highest.

Water temperature also controls the trout’s metabolism. While very cold water can hold the maximum of dO2 it also slows the trout’s metabolism to the point of suspended animation ( a cryogenic effect ). This is the way it works: from 32 f to 44 f the trout is slowed to the point of needing very little food and he has a over abundance of dO2, up to 30ppm. At 50 f to 55 f the trout’s activity increases and they actively feed for long periods of time and they still have an over abundance of dO2. When the water temperature reaches the 55 f to 65 f range you have the ideal fishing conditions. The trout’s metabolism is in high gear and they feed constantly, dO2 is in the 18 to 12ppm range and there is plenty of food. The food; aquatic insects and their larvae, minnows of all types and crustaceans are prolific and abundant. The fisherman only has to give a proper presentation and he will hook a trout. The great decline starts when the water temperature climbs to 68 f. Brown, Brook and Cutthroat trout start to feel what I call the frying pan effect. Unless there is a lot of turbulence to oxygenate the water, the dO2 falls rapidly to perilously low levels. The trout’s metabolism is racing furiously along and he is burning oxygen as fast as he can adsorb it from the water. As the sun heats the water, he uses the dO2 faster and faster. With out some type of escape valve he will suffocate.

The trout reacts to this danger in several ways. The first reaction is to decrease activity as in “the dog days of summer”. Fish sulk on the bottom and feeding seems to be nonexistent. When and if they feed it will be in the wee hours of the morning when the water is at its coolest. Water takes a long time to release heat and pre-dawn is when it will be at its coolest. The trout’s second reaction is to move to a place where there is more dO2 available. This could be as close as the head of his pool where a riffle provides the turbulence necessary for oxygenation of the water or a considerable distance. If there is a spring feeding the stream, you will find trout stacked up down stream of the plume of colder water. Ground water can be 10 to 15 degrees colder than the stream. A high shady bank can attract many trout also. FISHING FOR TROUT by Bryant J. Cochrane, Jr.

There is a positive correlation between metabolic expenditure and food intake in both dominant and submissive fish. The dominant fish usually makes better choices than its subordinates and will obtain a greater energy intake because it is often moving less.

Just as any animal in the animal world, most studies have concluded that those that practice a high return/high cost foraging strategy will actually expend more energy than they acquire, whereas those that minimize energy expenditure obtain a higher energy gain. This is one reason why we always see the smaller, subordinate fish moving more and being more opportunistic whereas the dominant fish pick their feeding times and foods wisely.

So, which is most important to a trout, shelter? food? oxygen? As a biologist I have to go with shelter followed by oxygen, water temperature and food. A trout can survive for a few weeks with out food if necessary, but with no place to hide from danger he won’t be there, even if there is plenty of dO2. As a fisherman I am most interested in the food supply, specifically the ease of a trout’s obtaining it. Let’s face it. If a fish isn’t eating you are not going to catch it. If he is too scared or too stressed by lack of dO2, he is not going to eat, and if Mr. trout isn’t opening his mouth you are just practicing casting. FISHING FOR TROUT by Bryant J. Cochran, Jr.

Try to think like a trout. Read the water, pick up rocks, look for the shadows, shapes, and flashes of fish, etc.. Bottom line, observation is key as a fly angler. Observe more than you cast. Position yourself in areas where your glare window is less and you can see more. Take 1/3rd of the time that you spend fishing and spend it looking. Believe me, you will be rewarded. If you fish with a buddy, take turns spot fishing for one another. This is productivity at its best. The result will be more fish hooked and less time aimlessly casting.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lunch Anyone?

Well..... it's finally time to begin the onslaught of fall guide trips after the long (and HOT) summer hiatus. The oldest daughter is in kindergarten and the trees are beginning to show their fall colors. This is one of my favorite times of the year. I always enjoy the lazy summers in the air conditioning, hanging with the family, and tying away in the shop but miss being in my office on the water. Not to mention, I need to work on reducing the beer induced greater omentum that was created this summer.

In the southeast, our trout season is a lot different than that of the west. Sure, we can battle poisonous snakes, heat, rhododendron, and walk miles to catch a few wily small stream trout (and char); but, for the most part, once mid June hits many southern trout anglers either hang it up for the summer, travel to troutopia (tailraces of Tennessee, Montana, Colorado, etc.), or fish for various warm-water species.

Then, September arrives. September in the southeast means cool nights, perfect days and the change of the seasons. Anglers begin gearing up for one of the longest trout seasons that I know- September through June. This is the period that I prefer to be on the water, either fishing for fun or chaperoning other anglers because this is the time of year when trout are most active; with the exception of the cold snaps in dead winter.

For many, a guided fishing trip is a treat. It's an opportunity to fish new water, meet others that share the same passion, and maybe even learn a thing or two. Fly fishing is a hobby, a passion, a religion, a way of life, or whatever you want to call it. Many people enjoy it because it's an activity that we are always learning new tactics, techniques, and methods. It's an activity in which we're always on the move. Those that reach a plateau and believe that they've Mastered it are doomed. Every fly angler needs to have an open mind and learn whatever they can, when they can, for their entire existence.

Some anglers believe that hiring a guide only means one thing; catching fish. I know I'm in for a long day when someone asks, "how many fish are we going to catch today?". Sure, that's the underlying reason of why we are out there (and some hire guides); however, as guides all we can really guarantee is hope and the "experience". After all, it's called fishing, not catching. Regardless of how good the catching is, I want my friends/clients to go away with the best "experience" imaginable. Catching fish is something I work hard to achieve but so many factors weigh in on a continual basis.

I've been a guide/instructor for over 20 years now and guiding for me is about meeting new people, seeing old friends, teaching what I know, experiencing what Mother Nature has to offer, blah, blah, blah. Some anglers are beginners, some are advanced, and others fall somewhere in between. Whatever the case, I always strive to provide the best experience possible.

Part of the "experience" is knowing a little geography, history, hydrology, science, culinary arts, you name it. As a guide, I have to be a Jack of all trades and Master of none. Call me a net boy, cameraman, chef, psychiatrist, knot tier, de-tangler, Saint, tree trimmer, etc. but it's what I do to create the ultimate "experience".

Whether the morning has been tough, average, or a barn burner, lunch always seems to settle the smoke. It's a time to recoup, hydrate, and energize oneself (in actuality, most are ready for a nap after). I take a lot of pride in my lunches and work diligently to make them another piece of the puzzle. Some guides may find this offensive but a soggy, 6 day old deli sandwich and a bag of chips purchased from the 711 usually isn't a good route to take as far as lunch is concerned.

It's about being treated special. Just like the feeling you get when you go over to grandma's for Thanksgiving dinner. Some days it's grilled beef tenderloin, fresh green beans, and homemade chicken noodle soup, others it's grilled chicken breast, fresh asparagus, and homemade white chili, and others it's crock-pot beef roast, mixed vegetables, and potatoes. Regardless of the flavor, it's about putting the extra work in and showing the friends/clients that they are an important part of the "experience".

After all, life's not about having the most and best toys, it's about the "experiences" we encounter though life. He/she who dies with the most and best "experiences" always wins.

Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide

Casters Fly Shop Fly Fishing Guide Service

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bobbin Holders

Fly tying has come a long way since its crude beginnings in the middle of the 19th century. Tiers had very few tools and materials to utilize whereas today we have more choices than we know what to do with. As a general rule, quality tools and materials usually allow fly tiers to learn faster and tie better flies. Therefore, you should always strive to obtain the best tools and materials that your budget will allow. The best place to obtain these is your local fly shop. Local fly shops are "going by the wayside" and they need all the help and support each of you can provide. 

The primary tools needed to tie flies are a vise, scissors, bobbin, bobbin threader and whip finisher (or half hitch tool).  Additional tools like a bodkin, hair stacker, hackle pliers, hackle gauge, cautery, dubbing loop tool, etc. all have specific uses, and will become important to as each tier refines their skills, and they make the decision to attempt different methods and techniques.

The concept of bobbins has been the same for the last 140 years- an important tool meant to hold a fly tiers thread, floss, and/or wire spools, and one to assist with wrapping thread around the hook. When choosing a bobbin one must consider the length of the tube, it's diameter, the tension it provides, and whether it has a stainless tube or not. In time, thread friction will wear grooves in the ends of stainless tubes, which will ultimately create thread fraying and cutting burrs; a ceramic, titanium, or ruby tip will help prevent this. Tube length and diameter also has importance in certain applications. For instance, a longer tube is advantageous because it allows more leverage when wrapping the thread and provides more control in the placement of the thread. At the same time, bobbins with a larger diameter tube are used for floss and other heavy or thick materials.  Again, these are some of the considerations that must be made when choosing a bobbin(s).

Even though the intentions are the same, bobbins and their design have changed dramatically throughout history. They began as a crude, cumbersome instrument and today they are more refined and some can perform multiple functions, like the Petitjean Thread Through Bobbin. 

I can find out anything I need about bomb making and basket weaving on the internet but I have had a difficult time finding out much about the time-line and history of fly tying and the tools used.  The Perry Bobbin from the 1940's and DH Thompson Bobbin Needle from the 1960's are 2 that you can find a little information about. 

Morris Perry was a well known Classic Salmon Fly Tying and Fishing expert from England. He moved to West Haven, Connecticut and opened a fishing shop. During World War II he invented the Perry Bobbin. It was designed of mostly wood because steel was scarce as a result of the war. In the early 1960's, he moved back to England where he fished and tied his Featherwing Salmon Flies. His partner in Long Island Sound continued to market the Perry Bobbin but the market shrunk with the lifting of  steel rationing and the flood of Asian imports. The DH Thompson Bobbin Needle is an almost identical version but is made almost entirely of steel. Boy is it heavy. I have one in the shop and it doubles as a barbell.

As mentioned beforehand, we have more options than we can shake a stick at. Listed below are some of my favorites. They are listed in accordance to their price and not necessarily in the order in which I prefer them.

Ekich Ultimate Bobbin. The $100 Bobbin. No cost was spared in sourcing the best materials possible (stainless steel, brass & anodized aircraft aluminum), nor was effort spared in achieving the highest tolerances and finishes on CNC machine centers. The result is a highly functional, durable and reliable product that will give you years of pure tying joy. This bobbin is not for everyone, although, it might just be for you.

Marc Petitjean's MP Thread Through Bobbin. The bobbin of all bobbins. You can change thread spools and thread it without even looking; plus, you can adjust the thread tension to your liking with the thread tension spring. The MP Bobbin also incorporates a wire loop for thread dubbing loops and spins on axis. Made with love by the Swiss, for the world. Bobbin not designed for light threads, like 10/0, 14/0, etc..

C&F Bobbin. Optimum bobbin weight (17g) helps provide tension. Teflon coated bobbin arms and clever Micro Slit Foam design in bobbin nose retains constant thread tension.

Wasatch Mitch's Bobbin Whirler. A standard-sized ceramic tip bobbin with dubbing hook allows tier construct loop-dubbed bodies without employing separate tools or cutting the thread. Beautiful wood workmanship. Comes with an instructional DVD included.

Stonfo Elite Disc Drag Bobbin. This machined bobbin has a hardened steel tip insert and countersunk feed that will allow thread to glide through the tube for threading and tying. The drag control has a large adjustment zone for fine tuning thread tension to your personal liking.

Renzetti Ruby Tipped Midge Bobbin. Renzetti bobbins are in a class by themselves. The ruby tip provides for ultra smooth thread delivery and excellent wear resistance. Plus, the smooth spool knobs are perfect for fine detail and lighter denier threads. The standard length tube is 2-inches long and is 3/32-inch in diameter. Also available in an extended length version (saltwater) upon request; the tube is 2 3/4-inches long and 1/8-inch in diameter.

Rite Bobbins. AMAZING VERSATILITY FOUND IN NO OTHER BOBBIN! Any standard thread spool works with all "RITE"TM Bobbins.

• 1" shorter than the "Rite" Standard Bobbin.
• Designed for tiny flies or smaller hands, but many tiers with large hands swear by this bobbin.
• Ceramic Thread Tube.
• Small Diameter Barrel.
• Removable Vinyl Grip.
• Solid Brass Arm.
• "Click" Drag Adjustment.
• 1-9 ounces of thread tension.
• The most versatile of all fly tying bobbins.

• Ceramic Thread Tube.
• Small Diameter Barrel.
• Removable Vinyl Grip.
• Solid Brass Arm.
• "Click" Drag Adjustment.
• 1-9 ounces of thread tension.
• The most versatile of all fly tying bobbins.

• Originally designed for salt water fly tying applications.
• Extra long, 3" surgical stainless steel tube.
• Large diameter thread tube, accommodates threads as large as yarn.
• Becoming popular as a rod-winding tool. Accommodates Gudebrod and Dynacord rod wrapping thread.
• Heavy duty click drag system, 2-16 ounces of thread tension.

• Longer reach with 2 ½" Ceramic insert.
• All surgical quality stainless steel components.
• Very high pressure click drag system.
• Heavy duty thread tension, 2-16 ounces thread tension.
• Perfect for longer hooks such as streamers.
• Excellent for spinning deer hair.

Tiemco Ceramic Bobbins. The Tiemco bobbins have ceramic tubes to ensure smooth winding of fly tying thread for years to come. They last many times more than conventional steel bobbins. I have personally tied with one for more than 15 years. Available in straight or curved.  

Griffin Ceramic PeeWee Bobbin. This small bobbin is only 3" long. It will hold a standard spool of thread while it fits perfectly in your palm. Flared on the in-feed end it also carries the ceramic insert. Griffin is one of the leaders in the creation of fine fly tying tools.

Montana Fly River Camo Ceramic Bobbin. This bobbin is the coolest tool since the introduction of hand axes. Ceramic lined stainless tube is made to last. These bobbins come in a brown or rainbow trout pattern. Great gift for the "hard to shop for" fly tyer.

These aren't the only bobbins on the market that tiers prefer; it all comes down to personal preference. Share your favorite bobbin with us.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fly Pattern of the Fall- Squirmy Wormie

All we can say is, DEADLY! This squiggly worm has the tendency to TEAR THEM UP. Trout, steelhead, panfish, bass, carp, you name it. This pattern has caught them all. Wild, stocked, native, invasive, squirmy has no limits. It has been our best selling fly since last winter. Available only at Casters Fly Shop Online Store in Glow in the Dark, Purple, Blue, Red, Orange, and Insect Green.

Beware, this pattern will make you squeamish if you're a purist. Some say, "you may as well be fishing with garden hackle and salmon eggs". Phewy! It's still a fly regardless of the material used. How can we say that? We sit at the bench and tie every one of them. Take away synthetic fly tying materials and we'll be left with very little to play with at the bench. No more Mushmouths, EP Crabs, Chernobyl Ants, Pole Dancers, Hise's Waxy's, Kinky Muddlers, Norm's Sculpins, Tequeely's, High Vis Ants and Beetles, San Juan Worms, blah, blah, blah.

Remember, its all about being on the water or even at the fly tying bench. To each his own. Just try not to dis those who choose to do things differently than you choose, especially if they are within the legal bounds of the law.