Each summer Liz does an audit of several stores for the company she works for and I travel along hoping for the opportunity to see some cool sights, to keep an eye on my girl and perhaps if I’m lucky get a chance to touch an out of state trout. This year we hit Virginia and although there is trout water here none of it was very close to the locations we had to travel to. The last day, however, put us close to a tailwater in Tennessee that offers some of the best trout fishing East of the Mississippi. The catch… I only had two hours to get a license, get to the water and find fish. I weighed the pros and cons of the situation and went for it regardless of the time constraints. With my license in hand and geared at the waters edge I waited for the flow from the dam to lower to a wade-able level then hiked a bit downstream. Gin clear water over a hundred feet wide, casting freedom. My first look at the water and I saw rising trout smacking Sulphers here and there. Being a bit stubborn I tried an SMB but got nowhere quickly. Running out of time I put on a stretch of 6x tippet and tied on a #16 Free Range S.H. and got to swinging. Talk about an awesome stretch of water, I watched rainbows swim past as I waded a bit upstream. After a handful of drifts I got my first rise but I lost it when I allowed too much line to foul me up. A bit more effort and I managed to fool one of the pressured Rainbows. These fish see alot of flies and I was glad I sucked it up and put on the 6x and a small fly rather than try to force them to eat my big streamer. The only bummer? About three seconds after I landed the first I got the call…I had to leave. Such are the rules of the audit, when she is done I have to leave. If I get back here again I’ll be spending days on this river. Soon…home to the land of the spring creeks and my dogs. I’ve got a yard to mow and a garden to tend.
After tying up my initial stash of #16 Free Range Soft-Hackle flies in a variety of colors I knew I needed to get creekside to test them out. I woke and got the girl out the door, ran the dogs hard and weeded my garden in the early morning hours. I planned to be fishing by 6am but the thunderclouds and their threat of lightening kept me at home being productive for an hour or so. Once things were settling down I headed out hoping by the time I got to the water that any threat would have passed. Onstream at ~7:15am I could tell the storm system was just finishing its pass, I needed to wait just a bit before I felt comfortable rigging my 8′ 6″ lightening rod. I took a water temp and strained various substrates for invertebrates. Scuds and free living Caddis larva were the most common inverts found.
As the sun came and drove away the rain I rigged a #16 Gorilla Beetle with a trailing #16 Free Range Soft-Hackle (Rust). My goals for the day were fairly simple, fish the Free Range Soft-Hackle in the film, just under the surface and sub-surface as a standard nymph. A handful of eagerly rising trout made the first goal simple, a decent cast and good drift resulted in aggressive rises, the Free Range Soft-Hackle fished in the surface film was bringing fish to rise every other cast. Moving upstream I tried various colors, Pea-Green, Lt. Grey, Brown Olive and Rust all brought fish to hand. As the morning wore on and the air temp rose I swapped to a two fly nymph rig keeping my rig light to stay just under the surface, fish after fish came to hand, most small under 10inches but a couple were pushing 12 or so. The final goal was met with the addition of splitshot and a long drift allowing my flies to sink close to the creek bed. The Lt. Grey version did rather well fished close to the bottom, the Rust did the best in the surface film and they all performed about the same just under the surface. To round out the morning I swapped to a #8 Black SMB and sent it down a couple dark holes, I hooked a 16inch Brown but lost it as it was coming to the net. The SMB never fails to produce and I managed a couple other larger 14inch Browns before the heat forced me to pack it in for the day.
Note: The creek I fished was just barely stained on arrival, as the morning progressed I moved upstream to find the stain getting stronger and stronger. As the morning came to an end I found the reason for the ever increasing turbidity. Pastured cattle, roughly 30 head all standing side by side in a 5oft stretch of creek. I get a bit disturbed by sights like this, I’m curious what effect cow manure has when introduced to the watershed in a direct way like this.
21 Jul 2011 / Fly Tying
After sampling KBarton’s Free Range dubbing during the kick ass carp trip out west I knew I had to have some. No, I knew I needed it ALL. I don’t know where to begin, this stuff is awesome. Coming in every mind-blowing color of the fly tyer’s rainbow Singlebarbed has out done himself yet again. I say again because although I haven’t plugged the Sixth Finger yet you will notice my pair of those sexy blades showing up in many of my tying photo’s. If I’m tying they are on my hand, I wonder if I’ll ever really be able to go back. Back to the Free Range, with colors like Pea Green, Rust, Black Claret, Caddis Green, and Brown Mustard you can tell this was made by a tyer for tyers. The guard hairs, subtle flash and easy to dub mixture grabbed me right away. Montana was going to let some of his stash fly back to Minnesota with me but I said no, I just knew I would have to have the whole lot and after contacting Keith my white package arrived the other day.
The timing couldn’t have been better, I’d been checking the mail waiting for my stash to give me a reason to bust out the vise and get to work. I’ve been fishing a bit in my free time but haven’t had any reason to tie, simply put…my boxes are full and unless I’ve run out I can’t justify sitting inside tying when I could be out fishing or enjoying the fresh air Southeast Minnesota has to offer. With the arrival of my Free Range I had the motivator I was looking for to sit down and knock out a couple dozen. I picked a simple fly, something that wouldn’t detract from the Free Range, the Free Range Soft-Hackle is what I’m calling it. Just a dubbed body with a single wrap of Partridge for the collar. My gut tells me that I’ll take loads of trout with these flies. Thanks to John Montana I used a new technique to apply the dubbing that takes full advantage of all the subtleties of this stuff. This method involves a bit of wax, a touch of dubbing and sending my thread to the moon to achieve a nasty, buggy, trout turning body. I tied three dozen in six colors, thanks Keith for investing the time to make this awesome dubbing. This stuff will be put to good use in many future W.F.F. flies. If your looking for some hit Singlebarbed’s store and stock up and while your at it get those scissors, if you tie with blades in your hand you will love these and likely never go back.
- AT: 7:00am DT: 11:30am
- WT @8am: 57°F @11am: 56°F
- Clear Water on Arrival
- AAT: 75°F DAT: 84°F
- Rising Trout on Arrival
Onstream at 7am…late for this time of the year. I hiked downstream roughly a mile and began working back upstream to the truck. Started with a two fly nymph rig consisting of a #14 Pink Squirrel and a #16 Caddis larva. Picked off a couple but opted to swap to a #14 Stimulator due to observed rising. I tossed the Stimulator for an hour and picked off close to a dozen trout in the 8-11inch range. Looking for one or two larger fish I swapped to a #8 Olive Kiss My Leech. I opted for this particular streamer pattern for two reasons. The creek was gin clear, the fish were active and nearer to the surface making a lighter streamer less likely to spook trout but still get the attention of those feeding anywhere near the surface. I did put on a decent sized splitshot to drift a couple deeper spots but for the most part I was tossing the streamer and stripping it in fairly quickly. Many strikes observed the second the fly touched the surface of the creek, a nice tight cast was needed to hook up with an instant strike. The stimulator made its way into action over the course of the morning a couple more times dictated by the situation. Weedy? Go top water. Risers? Go top water. I assessed the bug situation and believe the tiny Baetis nymphs I observed with dark wingpads were the hatching insect bringing trout to surface. A well dressed, high floating Stimulator did the trick just fine and was much easier to see than a smaller #18-20 BWO. When the thunder clouds rolled in I rolled out leaving the creek at roughly 11:30am. Get conditioned to wake early… Trico’s will be upon us soon.
So I’m fishing one of my usual haunts looking for a single larger trout to wrestle with then head home. I’m tossing a #8 Olive SMB when a swell in the surface of the water appears as I’m stripping my fly in, my line goes taught then pulls…HARD, then…nothing. Limp. My line has no fly attached to it. I figured since I didn’t see the culprit that it must have been big. I tie on another fly and get back to it when whack, I set the hook. This fish is fighting hard, I get it to my feet when I realize it’s not a trout. It’s a decent small mouth bass? Ok I guess, then right as I’m about to net the fish he shakes my hook. Not a big deal. I go back for more. Three casts later I’m looking at a good sized rainbow but before I could even think about reaching for the net I get the shake…again? Ugh. So by this point with the heat, the weeds, the humidity…I’m maybe frustrated. I decide a couple more casts then I’m gone. Last cast of the day when I get a hit and bring in…a northern pike, my first on a fly. Serious? My thoughts then turned to the first fish, the line breaker. Was it a larger pike? Perhaps. On my way home I stopped to get gas and noticed the first of many, Hexagenia Limbata. The attendant said the firsts ones started showing up around 5am the morning of the 14th. They are here and the big hatches are going to pop soon.
Stopped just for twenty or so minutes to fish a spot I’ve spied a George hanging out in. George is code for freakin’ big brown trout, the kind that break tippet and leave you speechless standing on the bank holding a limp line. The first cast hooked this guy. I enjoyed the smaller fight he put up then promptly sent him swimming so I could concentrate on finding my larger target. I knew the section I’d seen him at last time but saw no signs until a forty foot cast put my fly just upstream of a tree covering a portion of the creek. I let it sink to get under the branches then began stripping my fly back out when I saw the shape, big, dark and moving fast. He didn’t strike and instead gave me just enough to keep me coming back, the big ones tend to either hit it or quit it. I tossed my fly for another couple minutes hoping he would change his mind but no luck. Next time…
12 Jul 2011 / Everything Else...
Since we’ve moved I’ve noticed a lingering urge just to stay at home, to be home doing stuff all the time. One of our first goals this summer was to plant a garden. Liz and I have had a small space to grow a few tomato plants in the past but have never built a garden from the ground up. This began with laborious ground prep and fence installation all of which was done by hand without the use of motorized tools. Sod was composted, soil was tilled (with a borrowed motorized tiller), post holes were dug and installed. Additional soil was added and then formed to make four large raised beds. Planting was completed on a rainy cool evening and now we are spending time daily monitoring and maintaining the space. This being our first attempt at a full scale garden will be a learning experience but a rewarding one, I hope to expand what we have done this year to accommodate more for next year and in time perhaps have enough to bring to the farmers market near us. After all the work is done, weeds have been pulled, plants staked and mulch applied we like to relax with our hounds. Lily my German Shorthair is especially adept at the Dock Jump. Check it out and enjoy the outside even if your not fishing.
Damn, what an afternoon. Got onstream later than I wanted but found myself pulling up to a bridge with a family of six swimming in the big hole just downstream. The adults and I discussed fishing while I got my gear togather, the kids played in the cold water tossing sticks for the dogs. Trout water being enjoyed by all. As my time was short and I had not seen this section of creek we parted ways and I left the kids playing in the creek behind me. Weeds were of course up and tall crowding the already pretty thin stream. What it lacked in width it made up for with depth, a good situation for the trout and perhaps a more difficult one for me. I rigged a #14 Black Wet Fly and trailed it with a #16 Pink Squirrel, noting the depth around the first turn I added a single small split shot to aid the sink rate and moved upstream.
I found a good run and took my time getting into place. I could see from the banks I had chosen the right section of creek to satisfy my goals for the day…find brook trout. Their white fins giving them away as I peer through the weeds crouched on the bank. Rather than stand up on the bank and give my position away I slid down the bank wall and took a step into four feet of trout water. Normally I don’t cast from in the creek but sometimes it is the best option, a straight shot upstream with a marginally clear lane for a backcast behind me. The second my boots hit the creek I could see dirt plooms sending sediment downstream, those I had disturbed. I took another couple of minutes to let things settle and to observe my targets. I managed one decent cast with my two fly rig but missed the take it inspired only to lift my line up too sharply sending my flies into the bank riddled with 4-5ft tall weeds. I attempted to remove my flies without moving which resulted in a broken line and no flies…rookie mistake, 5x tippet… I could see my flies and rather than lose them I moved through the creek downstream to retrieve my goods.
On the bank I turned to see a rise from the run I was fishing, I looked at my flies and decided to try a #14 Orange Stimulator for maybe three reasons. 1st, there was a significant amount of instream vegitation which would hang up my two fly nymph rig, combine that with gin clear water and low flows resulting in disturbed trout from the splash of my flies hitting the creek. 2nd, Brookies take a Stimulator really well, they just don’t hesitate and tend to crush it. Finally the 3rd reason was my desire to fish a dry fly, to see the rise.
The first cast with the #14 Orange Stimulator proved I had made the right choice. Slam. A beautiful 8inch brookie, I’ve caught brookies before but not this many displaying the brightest colors I’ve ever seen on fish. I sat on that first run and moved maybe 2 feet in an hour. I’d catch one and send it downstream then turn wait a minute and cast again, for the most part they hit the Stimulator within two-three seconds of it hitting the water. They also tended to react more agressivly the higher the fly was floating, a couple nailed my fly as it was half sunk because I’m often too eager to stop and dress my fly properly (I’m working on that). I worked to the very very tip top of the riffle, in water less than 4 inches deep lay a nice 13inch brookie that I had seen rise once. I knew he was there, just a matter of get his friends out of my way without disturbing him. A couple more brookies and a brown later and I was grinning at the red belly flying through the air attempting to shake my hook.
My afternoon was made, long casts, dry flies and beautiful brookies. I moved upstream and took a handful more with my fly before it disintegrated before my eyes after about the 20th trout jaw took its toll. I swapped to a #14 Pink Head Stimulator and sure enough the brookies took to it. I landed a handful more before turning to head out. On my way I spied a hole and decided to swap to a #8 Black SMB just to see if anyone was home, the most colorful fish of the day came as a result. The icing on the cake and with that I was on my way.
I love tossing them. I love the rise. I’ve been caught in the “I want a fish and I’ll just stick to my streamers or nymphs” rut to make sure I get my fix in and as such I’ve been trying to force myself to fish dry flies a bit more when there isn’t a hatch occurring to guide me to them. Tossing a #14 CDC and Elk (Olive Body/Grey Wing) I crushed close to twenty tiny browns from a single run. I took my time and worked the run slowly and managed to keep the fish rising for my fly without disturbing them as I kept pulling their friends out on after the other. The low flows, humid weather, tall weeds, standing in the creek…all made things difficult but the rise for a dry fly made it worthwhile. P.S. 1pm in July is not the best time to fish, with that said I take it when I can get it even if it’s 90 degrees and humid.