Friday, January 6, 2017

Orvis Sling Pack Review 2017

Orvis Safe Passage Sling Pack 2017  
   Bottle, Line straightener and tippet spool not included         
 With a couple Orvis gift cards I ordered a new Sling Pack from Orvis. It’s not that I really needed one because the other was worn out, I just thought it would be nice and more convenient. The whole purpose I got the original sling pack in the first place is for steelhead fishing and cold weather fishing to carry over a heavy coat. The original worked well but some improvements could make the original a lot better. Welcome Orvis Slink Pack new and improved.
 The main big pouch as well as the smaller front pocket appears roomier. Both hold quite a few fly boxes. The big improvement is there are separate compartments inside each. This keeps other needs, such as extra leader, pack of indicators, flashlight, granola bars and such, easier to get to instead of all laying on top of each other in the bottom of the pack. The little zip pocket in front of the front pocket is great for the most used small items such as split shots and single indicators.

 With room to spare

 Next I like the position of where the hemostats are. They are on the shoulder strap that closes with magnets instead of on the pack itself like the older style where you had to turn the pack around to reach them. There’s a place that will hold an optional Tippet bar on the side of the front pocket but I found my tippet spool holder clamps on just as well.
 A new feature is a place to hold a water bottle with a bungee strap to keep it in place.

  I like to carry a wool fly patch for easy access to my useful flies and to dry the flies out. I added some Velcro strips to the front pocket and my fly patch. It stays put and is quick and easy to get to when needed.
 I also like that the bottom of the pack is coated for increased water resistance which is good for when I lay the pack on wet banks, snow or ice. There is a small fly patch on the top of the big pouch but I’m afraid an elbow will knock off any attached flies. It was a good thought though. There is also a place to put a zinger with your nippers just above the smaller front pocket. I rather keep it handier and there is a place on the shoulder strap that it can clip to.
 The bag is made of 400-denier. The shoulder strap is padded and adjustable to fit comfortable over a coat. The overall dimensions are 9” x 5” x 5 ¾” which is about 641 cu. in. It looks like the improvements, as well as the pack itself, will make things more convenient, handy and hopefully last for years!


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Merry Fishiness

Merry Fishiness

 I met up with Jeff on the upper part of Elk Creek early Sunday morning. The water had receded overnight from the snow melt and rain on Saturday but it was still running fast, a little high and chocolate. Knowing where to fish during these conditions is a great help and I knew where we might have a chance to hook up to some steelhead. We headed over to Lower Walnut in hopes that there wasn’t a crowd.
  The Manchester hole already had a dozen or so guys fishing it. Down below the bridge there were only a few stragglers trying there luck. In the parking lot there were more fishermen, not too many, gearing up. I dressed quickly and told Jeff where to meet me. I strung up the 9’ fly rod and headed down to the water.
 I found the water was kind of murky also but looked not as chocolate as Elk. It was the color of watered down coffee with cream. I crossed the creek and headed up to a section I thought I would get a good drift through. With the water color I decided a bright color sucker spawn would attract attention, and though might not convince a strike, might get a fish over to see a more convincing dropper spawn to their liking.
 Jeff wasn’t too far behind and stayed on the roadside of the creek. I had told him earlier where I hooked up the day before and he found a good starting point and was getting some good drifts. Jeff hooked up first and played the steelhead through the wavy, fast current to the bank. 

  A couple of buds showed up and we all proceeded to find hungry fish in the stained water. We would hook up now and then but were only able to land just a few. 

  Since we were closer to the lake I figured there were quite a few fresh fish coming in and were friskier than the holdovers up creek. When one was hook it would give us a squirrelly forceful fight in the narrow stream. One of the steelhead I brought in the hook was just pierced through the skin near its lip. One more forceful escape or skyward jump and I’m sure he would have got off.
 Overall it turned out we hooked up enough to keep our attention and mood on the plus side. More people showed up later in the morning. A few started to crowd in, within rod length, but that’s something to expect at the access area so there wasn’t any reason to get too frustrated, besides it was Christmas.
 In the afternoon Jeff and I went and fished upper Elk. The water had cleared up some but was still stained. It was also was high and fast but still fishable. I hooked up only twice in the few hours we roamed the stream. Caught and kept one for Jeff to throw in the smoker.
 Here’s a few Christmas steelhead I had the pleasure of meeting briefly during our time on the water.


Friday, December 23, 2016

December Chill

December Chill

 Snow covered every inch of ground overlooking the creek. Ice crusted over the shallow stones along the bank that crunched when stepped on. The leafless trees, which protruded over the stream banks, looked feeble as their gnarled branches resembled knuckles along the limbs. Their thin twigs reached out like frail finger aching in the coldness. Sheets of ice extended from the bank where the water was beyond the main current flow.
 I was bundled up, feeling as if in a cocoon, with 5 or 6 layers of clothing keeping me warm beneath. My Yukon fur cap kept my head warm and I would let the fur flaps down occasionally warming my exposed ears. My exposed finger tips, out from my fingerless gloves, were not as sensitive when tying knots. The frigid water didn’t feel as cold as layers of fleece and polypropylene were worn underneath my neoprene chest waders. My polarized shades were used more to keep the cold breeze from tearing up my eyes than for trying to see through the greenish tinted stained water. Other than that it was a fine day to steelhead fish without crowds.

  Though we knew the temps weren’t going to get above freezing till close to noon, we greased up our fly lines and rod eyes and headed out in the morning anyway. Slush flowed on the water surface in masses for the first couple of hours. This hampered our ability to get slush free casts and drag free drifts. The other two guys I was with got a couple of hook ups while I patiently waited. We had about a 4 mile hike of fishing back to a waiting vehicle so I figured eventually my turn will come. When it did come it came in bunches.
 Donny had just had a couple of hook ups and Mike hooked up once before Donny decided to take a break and have a beer. I moved down to where Donny was fishing at the long slower water tail out. Chunks of ice floated upon the surface water so my casts had to be pretty accurate at times or I would end up tugging ice or wasting a cast with my sucker spawn sitting on the ice chunks.

 My first hook up may have been a foul hook. The indicator wobbled unnatural during the drift and I lifted up for the hook set. The tip of the rod bowed, the line tightened and I gripped the cork handle with my cold fingers. The steelhead hesitated a second before B-lining up creek like a dragster racing to the finish line. Line shot out through the guides and when I tried to slow him down, by palming the spool, the hook let loose and I was fishless. At least I got a taste of steel and it had my blood flowing a little warmer.
 A few casts later my indicator slowly started to dip under and I yanked the rod upward. The slack in the line straightened, the indicator popped up out of the water and I felt the tip of the rod bow downward. I knew right then I had something and when the rod flexed, with a jolt from the other end, I knew it wasn’t rock bottom. The steelhead ran its gambit searching the pool of water and tugging occasionally trying to free the hook. I held on tight and took in line when the chance came. Out mid creek the steelhead did some kind of underwater acrobatic whirl as the line went limp and than tightened again. Playing the fish felt a bit different and when I got it to the surface for the first time it looked as if it was a foul hook. I did notice the steelhead shaking its head and was pretty sure I seen the chartreuse sparkle spawn creasing the edge of its mouth. In an instant it went back down below and struggled with the line as I gingerly brought it to the ice along shore. Sure enough the bottom fly was stuck in its pectoral fin and was wrapped around its body ending with the top fly in its mouth. After unlacing her I settled her down for a wet, cold finger snap shot.

  It wasn’t but a few casts later I had another. This one gave me a short battle before it got free.
 Donny headed down creek and Mike just passed behind me to follow Donny. I gave one last cast and let the drift take me down creek. The indicator just bobbled enough that I thought I had a subtle strike. I lifted the rod and sure enough the line tightened and a battle ensued with a hefty steelhead. The brute surfaced once and Mike thought it looked like a brown trout because of the darkness of its body. From my angle I could see it was a dark steelhead that apparently been in the creek for a while. Mike figured it went 3-4 lbs as he watched me struggle with the steelhead. It lunged outward a few times, gave the old head shakes and at times I thought I had him coming my way. He found strength enough time and again and kept his distance with forceful pulls. I was pretty far up on the bank trying to get him into the shallower water when the rod went light and straightened skyward. The big fish won the battle and left me with a shortened leader broken just below a knot.
 On our travels along the creek we would stop now and then fishing likely spots and mostly the deeper tail outs. Occasionally one of us would hook up but nothing like the pod we hooked into up creek. We weren’t landing too many but at least one of us would hook up now and then to keep our interest.
  We were in a narrower run with an ice shelf cresting the far bank. A lot of times steelhead would lay beneath the shelves out of harms way but occasionally you can get one to come out for a snack if they are curious or hungry. Mike was right above me and got a quick hook up but lost it in the faster current.
 I looped a roll cast up creek and watched as the indicator drifted by me. It looked like a good even drift with the current and I watched the indicator bobble upon the surface waves as if my sucker spawn was bumping the bottom. Down a bit the teardrop indicator turned up creek and I thought maybe I had a snag but I jerked the rod upward hoping for a fish. The line straightened and something weighty was taking the line down stream with the current in no hurrying manner. I though maybe I had a sunken limb or something to that effect as I let tensioned line draw threw my fingers not wanting to put undo tension on the 4X tippet I was using. I backed up towards the bank and finally, the hooked something rather, started a little struggle in the water and surface briefly. I seen it was a fresh jack and once it surfaced began to fight a lot stronger in the current pulling line down creek. I slowly followed the fish down, wading down along the bank, trying to keep him from surfacing in the faster current. Down in slower water I got the rascal to an ice shelf that extended from the bank. I heaved the steelhead upward on the ice to dislodge the hook. He was an energetic young steelhead and I had a hard time controlling the fish trying to keep it motionless enough to dislodge the sucker spawn from its mouth. 

 When I went to release him he didn’t hesitate a bit when he felt the cold water and took off with more energy than I would have expected given the cold conditions.
 The last hour before darkness neither of us got any strikes and we ended the evening walking up through the forest to the truck.

It had been a good day and lots of exercise. Donny figured we fished a 4 mile stretch of water. We couldn’t cover all the better spots because of time but we did pretty well in the sections we did fish as far as I was concerned.
 Mike took us back up to where we started and by that time darkness was falling fast. I stripped out of my neoprene chest waders that felt like I was removing an outer layer of thick skin. Before putting everything in the back seat/floor I started the 5.7L Hemi and let the Ram warm up a bit.
 I put the truck in 4 wheel drive as I drove up the ice/snow packed lane before hitting the black top. There I switched to 2 wheel drive as I head up the blacktop towards the interstate.
 On the interstate I reached over and took out an Illusione Rothchildes given to me by a couple of friends who know I like to enjoy a good cigar now and then. The smoke was on the milder side but was tightly packed for an even long burn for my travel home.

 After the last steelhead outing I hit a deer on the way home and totaled the PT Cruiser. This was the first outing with the 2016 Ram Quad and I’m sure there will be many more! 


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Stimulator Tute

The Stimulator

Hook; #10-#14 Curved 3x long hook
Thread; Orange
Tail; Natural deer body hair
Rib; Grizzly saddle hackle palmered
Abdomen; Yellow fur
Wing; Natural deer body hair
Thorax; Sulphur orange fur
Hackle; Grizzly palmered over thorax
Head; Orange thread

My version of how I tie the Stimulator.
Note, I like to use a saddle hackle for palmering due to the fact the barbs are even length as oppose to a cape hackle.

1. Base hook shank and end base so the thread is hanging down even with the hook barb for reference.
1a. Bring thread to about 1 third behind eye as shown.

 2. Tail. Trim a bit of natural deer hair and even tips in a hair stacker. (I trim the butts some so there is less flair.)
Measure the deer hair about 2/3 the hook shank.
Hold the tail at the hook bend, where the end of the thread is on the bend.
Starting from, behind the hook eye, make a couple soft loops over the deer hair and than tighten the wraps winding back towards the bend.

2a. Trim the hair butts even behind the eye where you started the thread wraps.
Cover the deer hair with thread back to the bend.
I trim any unruly deer hair that is standing straight up from the hook shank.

3. Hackle. Tie down grizzly saddle hackle in front of tail.

 4. Abdomen. Dub abdomen with yellow fur to behind eye as shown

 5. Rib. Palmer grizzly hackle over body. Tie off, do not cut hackle, in front of body dubbing. I leave the hackle beneath the hook shank so it doesn’t interfere when I tie in the wing.

 I make a couple of wraps of thread behind the hackle and than bring thread behind the eye leaving enough room for the head.

 6. Wing. I measure it so the tips reach about ½ the tail length. Trim a bit of natural deer hair and even the tips in a hair stacker. As I did with the tail, wrap over the deer hair wing from behind the eye back toward the hackle and tie down just behind the hackle.

 6a. Trim the butts behind the eye of the hook and cover with thread wraps bringing thread behind hackle.

7. Thorax (Sulphur orange fur). Dub the thorax, with a couple of wraps behind the hackle, and than forward behind the eye leaving room for the head.

8. Palmer the thorax with a couple of wraps of the grizzly hackle, trim and tie off.

9. Head. Make head with orange thread, tie off and whip finish.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Are You Experienced?

Are You Experienced?

 The place was packed but they weren’t having any of it. It was as if I was an outsider at a local tavern and no one was paying attention to me. I tried almost everything I had to try to get some attention but hadn’t succeeded. Even the two out-or-towners, across from me, weren’t having any luck. I thought “maybe show them something different” or “maybe if I tease them enough I might get one to show me some gratitude.”  There had to be at least one steelhead in the bunch that would except my offering.

 I broke camp early Monday morning at first light. Packing everything in the PT Cruiser was time consuming but everything was put back in place for the drive home. So far my 4 day adventure steelhead fishing had gone well. I caught a few steelhead Friday and Saturday I joined in the Project Healing Waters Slam going on in the campground and along the Lake Erie Tributaries. I successfully got my veteran hooked up with some of his first steelhead. Sunday was a good day on the tributaries also. I figured on fishing this morning before heading home and packing up seemed to be a good idea before heading out. I knew I would get out on the stream a little later than I wanted to but I hoped there weren’t too many other anglers out being it was a Monday. Before leaving I dressed warm and put on my waders and wading boots to save time.
 I parked the loaded PT in the lot next to the creek. There were quite a few vehicles but not as many as the day before. I assembled my 9’ 7 weight fly rod and after fishing my line through the rod guides I was ready. I took a few cigars and a bottle of water for the day and headed up the road to where I wanted to enter the creek.
 Walking down creek there were anglers in the most likely holes as I expected. I was hoping to get in the same area I fished the day before but wasn’t sure till I turned the bend and took a glance downstream. Two gentlemen were along the bank trying there luck but there was no one on the opposite bank. The sun was already bright but there was still darkness half across the big pool of water and along the cliff side of the creek. Maybe other anglers hadn’t noticed the many fish in the pool and strung out in the tail end but I knew they were there yesterday and hoped they didn’t move upstream during the full moon lit night.
 I crossed the creek, upstream from the two fellows, and took my stand as I did the day before. It wasn’t long before we all carried on good friendly conversations between the three of us. One of the gentlemen was drifting nymphs and egg patterns while the other had a spinning rod and was drifting live and dead minnows in the pool.
 I rigged up a tandem sucker spawn combination and attempted to entice a strike of the many steelhead in the pool and tail out. I spent the first hour or so drifting tandem combinations of sucker spawn and nymph’s to no avail. The other two guys weren’t having any strikes either. I don’t give up too easily and always figured that there got to be one that can be fooled but so far the local steelhead appeared to be leery and too smart for us. It was time to show them something different.
 I knotted on a Woolly Bugger and decided to try to coax one of the steelhead with it. Using buggers or streamers in a pod of fish usually results in foul hookups which wasn’t what I wanted at all. I learned if I strip the buggers in slowly I’ll have less a chance to snag a fish. It is a delicate process and line control is a must. Knowing when a fish strikes the offering or just bumped along its side or fins is somewhat of a concern when and when not to set the hook. I found, through experience, a slow retrieve and the feel of the fly line tells me when I have a fair strike. It doesn’t always work when fish are moving around but it works better than making long fast straight strips causing deep hook sets and snagged fish.

 I casted out towards the other fellows and let the bugger swing down creek mid stream. With, slow inching strips, I brought the bugger towards me keeping a feel for a take and keeping my eyes in the water to see if any were following. Nearer to me I noticed a steelhead following it but turned off within my sight. This gave me a little more confidence and anticipation that just maybe?
 After a few more casts I watched the steelhead again take notice. On one such occasion, while the fish was following, I let the bugger drop but before hitting the creek bottom I raised the bugger back up. The marabou tail waggled and the steelhead swiped at it like it would at a wounded bait fish. I instantly yanked the rod up and the line tightened. I seen its head shake two or three times before it took off towards deeper water.
 “Fish on” I called out so the two gentlemen knew there was a wild one coming towards them. The battle was on! The steelhead ran wild in the pool of water like a nervous mother looking for a lost child in a large group of strangers. The steelhead surfaced a couple times and sent waves throughout the pool. I had a chance to tighten the drag and after doing so I began walking down creek trying to get the steelhead to follow. This way it would give the other guys a chance to continue fishing and would be easier to tame the fish in the shallow water. The fatty fish battled well but I kept control and got it safely to the bank.

 That broke the ice and gave me much needed confidence that these motionless steelhead were willing to strike if I had the right offering, movement of the bugger and making it too tempting for them to pass up. I caught one more unwise steelhead that put up a good forceful fight, before the fish decided enough was enough and aware the bugger was dangerous. I tried a couple of other color buggers but that didn’t work either. It was time to try something different again.
 I stepped back and gathered my thoughts. I lit a Brick House Fuma and looked around as the morning brightened. The suns rays were filtering through the bank-side trees , down creek,  and putting a sparkling glow where they reached the water. Smoke, from my fuma, rose from the foot and gently swirled in the air like the roof top chimney smoke in a winter calm.
 For the past few days I noticed quite a few steelhead were already paired up in the shallows. A friend, this weekend, felt some of the hens he had caught were spawned out by their soft bellies. If my experience tells me anything an egg sucking leech wouldn’t be a bad idea. Usually I don’t fish these till later on in the season but a fleeing egg sucking leech might fool a couple more fish.
  I looked through my bugger box and found a used, but still in good condition, egg sucking leech with an orange egg behind the eye of the hook. I knotted this on and gave it a try. Knowing I should strip the leech in longer strokes towards me, to act like it was fleeing a robbery, I moved down creek just a bit and worked the shallower back end of the tail out. It was on my first cast, with long strips towards me, that the line straightened and I set the hook. The steelhead shot up threw the surface and twisted its body in mid air trying to throw the hook. It plunged back into the water and without hesitation made haste up creek towards the deeper pool. The leader cut through the swirling water surface behind the fast fleeing fish. I held onto the cork grip and locked my wrists as the spool spit out line the further the fish darted. The fish continued through the pool further with lightening speed. The other guys evidently heard the surface commotion and had already taken their lines out of the water. At the head of the pool the steelhead whirled around, tugged at the line a couple of times, before heading back my way. I reeled in line into the mid arbor and kept the butt section upward as the mid section and tip section bowed towards the oncoming steel. I walked down creek into the shallows and the fish didn’t appear to want to do battle near me. It kept swimming in the shallowest water and I was afraid it was going to enter the faster current downstream. I brought the rod to my right and towards the bank to put side pressure on the fish. He appeared hesitant but turned back up creek. In front of me I struggled with the fish to get it along the stony shoreline and than up on the leafy bank.

  I unhooked the leech from the side of the mouth and he darted off back to join his friends.
 It wasn’t but a few casts later another steelhead took the leech in a sweeping take like a young kid swooping up a fresh baked cookie before mom turned her head as he headed out the screen door. I was in mid-sentence, telling the others what I was using, when the fish surprised me by the take. My cigar almost fell out from between my lips but luckily I bit down quick enough from letting that happen. Another lively steelhead reached the leaves safely. 

  After that there was a lull in the action and I figured I’d try a Triple Threat streamer. I knotted on one of my Ghost Patterns and let it swing towards the tail end into the shallows. I stripped it with long easy pulls, when a fish swept it up. Another battle and I had another steelhead. 

  For the rest of the afternoon I switched my offerings when the bite died down. The Woolly Bugger took most of the steelhead but all in all it was a challenge to get the fish to strike.

 Back at the car I changed clothes and I thought a reward for the successful weekend was well deserved. I took out a Fuente Double Chateau I had saved for such the occasion.

  The broad leaf wrapper was tasty and at full draw the flavor was smooth and very enjoyable!


A few more steelhead from Monday

 …And a few from Friday