Tag Archives: fly fishing

The Real Deal On Streamers

I don’t often think. Really. Today was a different story. I was really curious as to why fishing with streamers hasn’t taken off like it should have, it still feels like a novelty. I heard grumblings about it in the nineties; Dahlberg Divers, Clousers, Deceivers, so on and so forth. I think the Hollow Fleye was also developed in that time frame. It was a huge era for streamers (so were the 40’s), but the only source of knowledge for a guy like me was magazines. Word spread at a snail’s pace then, but all these flies made it to the masses for good reason, they worked. Sure, maybe a wayward fly ended up in a magazine due to the buddy system, but was quickly and efficiently snubbed out if it failed to perform or benefit anyone.

Here’s my thought process on why streamers haven’t gained much traction in the last five or so years. Allow me to preface, FRESHWATER.

Theory 1: I’m involved in it.

Theory 2: Social media. Hear me out, this isn’t a big ol’ glass of haterade for social media. We can use it to advance the progress if we are patient. For popularity sake, for the sake of content, we internet people have teetered on the edge of running out of material to endow upon you. More often than not, information is regurgitated and accredited to a source from whom is most popular. The problem with this is much like the problem pre social media. Whatever buddy had his article published after he heard the story from the source, without citing the source, gets all the glory. Leading to dissemination of knowledge not fully understood by the writer who is now the leader in whatever field of knowledge they do not quite grasp. This came down the pipe roughly once a month in the world of magazines. Now, this happens every single day. In order to keep your social media followers alive, they need that daily hit of info. This leads content creators to throw out untested flies claiming they do what the creator said when this person has yet to get the fly wet, but it looks pretty, so that’s good enough right?

Let us not put the blame fully on social media content creators, let us also blame fly tying companies for not dropping the expense of streamers to the market and still plays the buddy system to create designers. On the backs of these content creators, companies also pick and choose based solely upon likes or followers. Who, by the way, get there for a reason (for the most part). It’s a lot of hard work to become a viable social media person. Believe me, I’m not viable and it is still a whole lot of work.

Companies and content creators aside, streamers are really hard. They take time and effort to tie and more often than not, you have no idea what you are going to get when it hits the water. The real water, not a bathtub with 5x tippet towing it along. The bathtub gives you a good idea of what the fly wants to do, but not what it actually does when confronted with proper tippet and a sinking line (or whatever). There is only one way to figure that out and that is to fish it. On top of all the time it takes to tie and develop, there is no telling if you will catch a fish with it. Add in the technique to cast and retrieve your unique fly properly, and many people who want to get into streamers fall flat on their face and give up. The terrible part of this scenario is that streamers can be far more effective in the long run for all species if an angler puts in the time.

Truth be told, sometimes you get lucky, like I did with the Laser Yak. Even then, it is a further development of Der Helmut, which was born from a fly called the Broadway (my first true glider) combined with the Arctic Yeti. If you look at it this way, it took me 6ish years to develop the Laser Yak. That timeframe does not mesh with social media. Had I cared for cranking out content, I would have sent some real garbage into the world by teaching you guys how to tie every pattern in between that turned out to be failures.

You are probably asking yourself, why does this guy feel that it is just streamers and not typical trout flies? Trout fishing is what it is, stuff wrapped around a hook that trout eat. We have had a few hundred years to work this out. The only innovation that can come out of this time period are new materials, iridescence, texture and color tinkering. We are entering an era of realism in trout flies. Something we would not have been capable of in the 90’s due to the advent of new materials. I’m not saying that we are following art history to the T, but we are following a certain progression and our changes in the future will be subtle (but quick) shifts in style rather than innovation. Trout flies are established and it is really easy based upon the common flies in the genre to excel by sticking to a certain equation. Streamers are not so easy and we who are looking to progress the streamer genre are reinventing the wheel, leaving the industry to play catch-up.

This is where it all breaks down. Unfortunately, you can’t slap some stuff on a hook and make a streamer work like you can with most trout flies. This truth can be seen on social media. You can see what will swim and what will just spin and side roll. Break it down. Think of all of the styles of trout flies, generally (take your time, there are a lot). Heck write them down and do the same with streamer patterns. Your streamer side is going to look really chaotic because a lot of these patterns are still being developed and mixed. It is evolution in motion. Don’t forget to put a giant question mark on streamers because the places some of us are going, there is no path. If this process is fogged by people cranking out a number of untested patterns, we will have far too many people claiming that “streamers don’t work” and cutting the head off of any progress we can make by being dissuaded and spreading info falsely to others.

This needs to be fixed before it breaks. How do we do that? I’m so glad you asked! First, get into streamer fishing no matter what anyone says. You don’t have to go all in, but keeping one handy when fishing is good and you get bored of throwing a bugger to bass or nymphs to trout. You’ll get good at it, I promise. Second, tie your brains out and don’t think twice about tossing a crap pattern (save the hooks though). Learn from what you have tied and use it to understand what to or not to do for the next pattern. If it works, constantly be thinking of ways to make it better. Third, just because you tied something that looks like a pattern you have seen, doesn’t mean you can accurately replicate what that fly does. Even watching a video may not help. Open up communication with tiers. Get a couple flies from them and physically touch what they have done. It will help with understanding how much of a certain material is used and where. We are (for the most part) normal people, give us honest feedback and forget who we are. We are not infallible either. Sometimes humans are wrong, it happens. Lastly, be careful of who you listen to in the social media world. One of the best tips I can give you is when people use always and never, they just don’t know enough yet. For example, “I always catch fish on _______”. If this is true, this person hasn’t fished enough to fail.

Keep it alive my people!

 

 

 

 

 

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The New Guy

Throughout school and beyond, I was an awkward person. I guess it rings true today as well. I don’t dress right, never did, or fit in within social groups. Don’t get me wrong, I had friends. They just happened to be in that same “the weird people” social class. It was the waiting room of sorts, the people you hung out with while you were waiting to be a cool kid. Not me though. I was a permanent fixture. I was made fun of a lot for having big ears or just being generally weird looking. Totally ok with that if you are concerned.

Bluewater Lake seems to be that same sort of outcast, the underdog. If anyone knows me, they know that I constantly root for the things and people I see great amounts of potential in. This lake, as sad as it has become to watch a struggling environment, is one of those places. I’ve asked and suggested on numerous occasion to stock new and interesting fish to fill the gap between super predator and minnow. The state usually responded with a canned “no” and a slew of reasons why my ideas were not the best courses of action. Understandable, I’m quite used to it.

Last year, we heard rumors that a couple of private ponds on the west end of the lake had overfilled their boundaries. Ponds loaded to the brim with sunfish and largemouth. We didn’t think much of it, but hoped that something cool would come of it. Time went by and we fished for trout with the back-handed excuse that we were really fishing for something else. To fit in. Come May, nothing interesting happened. We did see a couple of photos of perch and sunfish, but using these fish as bait is both common and illegal. We thought nothing of it. There is no way a dumped bait bucket could survive in a population density of musky that rivals all other lakes on the planet. It would take tens of thousands of perfectly placed fish for them to take hold.

In my years, I’ve gone through the rounds of seeing this lake ride the rollercoaster of having loads of fish and having none. I’ve fished the creek when it flowed year round and was chock-full of little rainbow trout who made their way up the creek. I watched it dry up and die. I’ve seen the white sucker population explode and been through throwing 5-6lbers on the banks for the crows. After that, goldfish. The state response, at first, was the implementation of largemouth bass. They grew to great size very quickly, but suddenly disappeared after the musky were stocked. This was all over the course of about 6 years. Then in 2004, 1.1 million sterile trout were stocked, a deviation from the norm due to whirling disease in the hatcheries. For 7 years, things remained the same and the goldfish were gone. The muskies were huge. After 3,000 adult muskies were released, things quickly spiraled out of control. Their food quickly disappeared and the muskies began to starve. The stocking program could not support it. By the end 2016, the lake had reached a low I had never seen and the future looked dismal.

This lake has held (at some point or another) multiple records for every fish that has lived in it. Even rainbow trout. The distribution of the food web for minnow, insect and algae eaters is one of the best in the state and can grow fish to their full potential. Pair that with the long growing seasons and cool summers and you have a lake of great potential.

Enter the new guy, overlooked and typically made fun of. Not targeted or desired, just invisible. Not instagram worthy. A fish full of potential in a lake full of potential. A fish that I am very happy to have. One of the most exciting days that I have had on the water in years. Two undesirables hanging out on the water together.IMG_1417


A Day In The Life, Folie à Deux

Whether Rita Mae Brown, Albert Einstein or Narcotics Anonymous mentioned it, the saying holds true. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. I wouldn’t define it as insanity, but rather, the human condition. We are unrealistically repetitive in our actions. I have mentioned Game Theory before, but at what point in the game do both competitors rely on pure delusion? Thus, giving rise to Folie à Deux.

The conditions were perfect. A gentle breeze blew across the lake, erasing rise forms as they appeared, but a keen eye can detect a musky’s slow surface roll. “Hoppers” (the minnows who flip out of the water when they are balled up tight) splashed on the surface, heightening my senses. The wind picked up just enough to send lapping waves to shore. Every splash, flip, slip, slop, glop and whoosh diverted my attention. The delusion had set in.

Rookie anglers typically ask what you are using, where you were fishing or how you caught fish. The five W’s and the H. All questions can be answered with one word, time. You can literally throw anything, and if you do it long enough, you will eventually catch a fish. The best anglers are the ones who follow the golden fishing rule; Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Time is one of the only things that humans can’t manipulate. We can’t sense it, it is not concrete. We use it to measure things and psychologists are notorious for making money with it. Unlike money, you can’t get more. Time is both infinite and finite, held perpetually in obscurity.

The one hour clock was ticking. That big, inevitable fire bomb began to fall below the horizon. Sand tainted line slid through the guides of the fly rod with a familiar drone of repetitiveness, a constant reminder of my delusion. Bumping sticks and rocks sent adrenaline to my fingertips. Hold. Wait. Time was slipping away and in my deepest moments of delusion, a crayfish.

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The feel is so similar at first. Much like a large perch can crush a fly with the voracity of a pike. The delusions creep in and make you do things. You set and feel weight before rationality sets in. With time, the process becomes mechanical. Move, cast, differentiate rocks and crayfish, repeat. With each move the outcome seems it will be different. The shoulders slump from running out of time, the depression becomes physical, the body is giving up. The mind remains delusional, incited by muskies out of reach crashing the surface violently. They are on the feed. Keep going.

There comes a moment in every anglers day when the body and mind are in disagreement. Your body is telling you to give up, to leave. The mind, like a child in a bluegill pond, wants you to press on. I should have listened to my body and left. It was not at all prepared for what was about to happen. I made a musky angler’s greatest mistake. I didn’t wait.

Standing on a rock that dropped around three feet into the water, I brought my fly in through the murk washed in by the rain. When in front of a drop like this, it is good to linger for a solid minute or so. Indecisive muskies love to eat right at the shore and sometimes they need a little time to readjust and attack. I didn’t. My body said to move or go home, I lifted instead of lingered. From the hazy depths rose a shadow behind it. My face waxed curious, I kept lifting. The fly broke the surface as the musky exploded behind it. Missed.

I knew that was my only chance for the evening, but the delusion took over entirely. I blame the muskies. Yet, I walked the banks pounding the shoreline. Searching for something I wouldn’t find. Repeating until finished just like the fly that I had tied just minutes ago. Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results because the musky told me to.

To be continued…

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A Day In The Life

People do not generally ask what my daily life is like. Being behind the counter of a fly shop drums up comments such as “must be nice” or “I would give anything to be in your shoes”. Unfortunately for most, the assumptions fall a bit short of the real thing. If you really love being broke and being asked “what are they biting on” on a regular basis, the shop life is definitely for you. Lucky for me, I hate money and love answering questions. I also love to be outside, which is what brought me here in the first place. Such a rookie move. I should have just buttered up to someone with a huge trust fund account that likes to fish. A paid personal fishing assistant if you will. (In case you are wondering, yes I would)

Here I sit though, compelled by past choices, trapped in the same fishing conversation I’ll be having for the rest of my life. It’s almost like Groundhog Day, the movie. As cringe-worthy as the movie is, I loved it.

Staring off into the void, that numb indirect stare not focusing on anything in particular, my mind races to flies and other assorted items that need improving. Building and rebuilding in my head until it flows effortlessly off of the vice. Which never happens as poetically as you want it to. Usually just a glob of materials dangling from a hook.

Without further ado, I write to you today, off the cuff. This comes with every intention of answering a question nobody has asked. I guess it fortifies how much I enjoy answering questions. I’ll even ask myself. Really, the only goal of the day is to tie a fly and fish it for about an hour till sunset. Just to possibly entice a musky into the most exciting moment of his life, a photo op.

I have been toying around with suspending style walking flies for some years now. The latest iterations involve restrictions in the articulating joints but tinkering with weight distribution is showing positive results. Summer is definitely not the time for giant articulating flies though. I am, however, going to spice up an X-tail. If you haven’t seen the X-tail video… Here Goes!

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The absolute magic! Shimmer Fringe in bronze, yellow and blue!

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Too big for the omni jaw, luckily I come prepared.

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Such a sexy hook! Run through the tulips!

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It is important to note: that is .035 lead free wire behind the barb. It is centerish between the head and tail of the fly. With mass there, in the middle, the fly sways left and right.

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Add feathers… (should’ve picked some more photogenic stuff)

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Add bucktail…

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Add flash…

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Add more flash…

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add even more flash…

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Repeat till complete!

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A tiny morsel of yum.

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Gah! Choices. Too much of a hurry to deal with this!

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Throw on some chill tunes…

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Conditions are PERFECT!!!!

To be continued…


Mitosis Egg!

I set out filming Fly Hacks to help people understand the “why” and “how come” that I find myself asking when watching other videos. Anyone can bake a cake by recipe, but knowing how and why certain ingredients are used can lead you to make better cakes. I feel the same with flies. We can copy other patterns, but when we understand what we are doing, we can take an idea further. I hope my readers and watchers can take my patterns further. It is more about how you can use a material than it is about what new materials are out there.

 


Here Comes the Ice Cream Truck!

When I was a kid, it was a bell, it was a child’s call to arms. These days it is bad digital music through a megaphone often precluded by a child’s voice saying “Hello!?”. A process that further complicated the simple world of the ice cream man. I do not wonder why hordes of kids carrying pitchforks are not chasing these big white box trucks around. They have gone too far trying to make the truck acceptable and cool. What ever happened to good ol’ bright colors? Unusual, bright color combinations that just attracted children. Blue ice cream and hot pink sprinkles!? Yes please! There is something otherworldly about the colors, as they are not commonly edible. Why do kids love them? The answer is ultra simple. Curiosity.

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It is common in science to conclude that animals have minds equivalent to young humans. They can accomplish seemingly complex tasks in the wild, but when it comes to processing new information or training, animals seem to have trouble. We can teach them to speak sign language, yet it does not give us much insight into the way they think. We can only observe. Maybe observing a young child’s behavior when it comes to food can give us insight into highly educated fish. Which takes me right back to ice cream.

When I was young, chasing after the ice cream truck was a habit. If my parents did give me money, it might have been a dollar. Enough to get an ice cream cone, probably bubble gum. Yes, I wanted something more than bubble gum ice cream, the coveted “Rocket Pop”. It was $2.50 if I remember correctly. Never had enough to buy one. Something about it called to me and I can’t quite pinpoint why. It just looked like unending bliss, or maybe I would fly to the moon after eating one. Who knows?

Nothing has changed over the years. I was digging through my materials one day, looking for some that were rarely used. I saw it. A hot pink northern bucktail. Not something I would normally buy, but this one was perfect. I proceeded to tie some muskie flies. For some reason, I combined it with chartreuse and my brain exploded. Working with the hair took too long and I needed a quick and easy go-to pattern for the times when I’m in a hurry to go fishing (always). I bought up a handful of materials and began to tie. What I came up with was an articulating and suspending, not really fishy looking fly. It was the colors that looked delicious. The “Rocket Pop”.

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I know, it doesn’t look like a fish, but it was never meant to. It was meant to tap into the brain of a child, to make things that looked delicious and unreal. It was the idea that maybe children also have the same primitive instinct and curiosity as a predatory fish. The same fish that spends his entire life hunting prey, knowing exactly which fish to eat. One with senses about as sharp as his teeth. One quick in his reflexes and right in his choices. One with a weakness, the ice cream truck.

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Lesson #20: Be a kid. You never know when it might come in handy.


The Beginning

For twenty years, I didn’t know this photograph existed. It was buried away in a shoebox time capsule waiting for a time when it may be of some use. The use was an ear to ear grin about a time when things were simple, unadulterated. Although it may have been just the simple act of fishing, life was easy then. No quotas or deadlines, no bills or worries, and no liars or thieves. As a child, nobody was out to get what they could from you, their only goal was to add what they could. It takes a child or mother or father to see the real beauty here. Not that I’m saying that those are the only people who will see it. Rather, you have an element of one of those within you. To others, it is a poorly handled and obviously dead, fish. I would sacrifice that fish again, if it meant that I could live it all over the same way.

That's me on the left!

That’s me on the left! Please also note that I have the same hairdo.

Life beyond that moment was changed forever. In the following weeks, I would pick up fly fishing. For me, there were no hand-me-down rods and reels, no mentor, nobody to tell me right and wrong. Just magazines and books totaling endless hours at libraries and grocery stores. A kid dreaming about his first fly rod through a Bass Pro Shop catalog, asking his mom what we could and could not afford. In reality, we couldn’t afford any of it. Christmas that year would tell a new tale, beginning the life of a fly fisherman. Not one who entered by means of indoctrination, but one that entered by the majesty of the fish itself.

 

Through my pleading, my parents would take me to wonderful places. Montana, Colorado and Wyoming were some of the most memorable places. For some reason, New Mexico was where I could really get out and explore. It is where I felt the most comfortable. While looking through these photos, I realized that I had a fishing outfit. A very large white shirt. Most of my clothes belonged to older and larger people before they found their way onto my back, but no matter, I was doing what I loved to do.

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The first place I ever fly fished will remain in my heart forever. It was my companion and mentor. It was my teacher of life and self reflection. It was, in essence, a hero of mine. As the years passed, it remained a constant in my life and showed me some amazing fish along the way. The beauty of the canyon and the wildlife within it were my escape through high school and may have also been my saving grace from drugs and other crime amongst my childhood friends. The creek was there through it all. Rather than go to a party, I would find myself wanting to fish. Life just worked out. In the long run, everything was ok. I only ever saw one other fly fisherman on this creek one time. I think the creek knew me well and felt the same as I did. When I left for Florida, the creek died. It dried out from cattle ranchers damming up the springs and feeders. They killed the trout in the wake of it all. It died from lack of use, lack of people that loved it.

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What happened next, I feel is an odd turn of events. With the drying up of the creek, the white sucker and goldfish populations exploded out of control. The state had no other choice but to put a predator in to kill the rough population. With that, there was new life and a new species to fly fish for. They have grown to their full adult size around the time that I stumbled back to this place, the place that taught me that a river can be a friend too. The place where I found fly fishing. Is it chance?

Lesson #19: Secrets can be dangerous to some places. Without people, your secret can dry up and you will carry it with you to your grave. The real secret is sharing it with the right people.

Side note: One of the photos is of the San Juan LONG before any habitat projects. The hole I’m standing in is the “Kiddie pool”. I’ll try to replicate this image in another post to show you how much it has changed.