Friday, January 29, 2010

White Wulff's and Bunny Leeches

White Wulff’s and Bunny Leeches
(Last page of 4 Men and 2 Forks)
July 2009

After a good breakfast of bacon and eggs we filled the cooler with lunchmeat, grub and beer and drove to another section of the Shenandoah River south of Luray, VA. We found a big parking lot to assemble our gear and with only a few vehicles in the parking lot, had high hopes for an enjoyable morning. Jeremy lined his 5/6 weight rod that he was more comfortable with. I lined my 5wt. Scott rod for Giddeon to use and Jeff and I stuck with our 6 weights we’ve been using the past couple of days.

 Out in the new section we found deeper water between the submerged table rocks and ledges. A few cows grazed the forested posted area of the far gradual slanting bank. We spread out along the wide river and had a lot of room without interfering with each other. During the morning we all caught a few smallies but it wasn’t like the day before where we were constantly hooking up. A wind kicked up as we were wading down stream for lunch. Giddeon’s straw hat blew off so we had a comical cast and retrieve contest for the current flowing straw hat. Giddeon got a good hookup and brought it in without much of a fight. Jeff hooked into a small largemouth against the cement bridge abutment and I got a few pics. We sat around for lunch before heading back to the power dam.

 At the water edge, of the power dam, the sun was shining with big white clouds above our heads. Jeff and Giddeon headed upriver to fish below the dam on the far side of the river and Jeremy headed down river to the rock outcropping that he did so well on hellgrammites the day before. I waded out and stood between the island and near bank ready to fish my way down river.
 I have to admit that catching smallies and fallfish are fun with the buggers and poppers but it was getting old and I wanted something more challenging. Seeing blue damsels and a few fish rising for some top water, no-see’m bugs, I decided to try dry fly fishing. A few different Humpy‘s, Trudes, and #10 dries didn’t enthuse any fish. Taking a look into my fly box of big flies I tied on a white wulff pattern for a try.
 I saw a fish continue to rise in front of a small stargrass island some 30 feet away. False casting line out, I dropped the wulff in the general area and wham; the fish grabbed it in no time. The smallie fought tooth and nail through the heavy current and into the submerged stargrass and rocky bottom. I kept the Winston high as not to let the leader scrape against any rough rock ledges. The 12” smallie came to hand after a good hard fight. I noticed, across river, two fish were rising in the slower water out from the bank of the big wooded island that split the far side waters that flowed from the dam. The distance was too great from where I was standing and figured on trying for them later. I caught some glimpses of a few fish still rising around me so I played for them first. The white Wulff and rising smallies didn’t disappoint me. With each cast out, with the white Wulff, I was hooking up to smallies continuously. My dry fly fever was subsiding with each drop and hookup. I stood in one place, in the middle of the river and swear I hooked into every smallie I seen rising and then some. What an afternoon!
 Wading across river, I was now concentrating on the two rises out from the island. Both fish were upriver from me about 5 feet apart. The wind kicked up some so now I would be casting somewhat into the wind. I carefully waded upon the slab rocks and stargrass feeling beneath my boots before committing to stepping down. I was down river and to their left rear. I pulled out line and started my overhead cast. Casting into the wind I kept my back cast higher and shot my forward cast down lower before stopping my rod tip. This would make my wulff more wind resistant moving downward in the wind than more horizontal into the wind. My first cast was this side of my target, but I had plenty of distance. As soon as the Wulff pattern drifted down river from the unsuspecting riser, I quickly lifted my rod pulling line down with my line hand to generate line speed behind and above me. After feeling the rod load I dropped my forearm and pointed the rod right to the spot I wanted the fly to land. The white wulff penetrated through the oncoming wind and dropped nicely before the last rise. I’m not sure where the bass thought the Wulff was going but it came up quick and devoured the fly. A quick back hook set and the smallie took off down stream. Without letting line out, I kept the rod tip bent and followed him with the tip. Downstream I started to reel in the 3x tapered leader with him in tow.
 I tried for the next riser up river from the one I just caught but he didn’t want anything to do with the white Wulff. I was doing so well with it though that I wasn’t going to change flies just for one fish.
 I looked around for anymore risers and seeing none, I was satisfied and headed downstream to try my fly around the exposed rocks Jeremy was fishing around. I slowly caught up with Jeremy and he said he caught a few but not as many as the day before. Seeing Jeff down below where the river came together again, below the tree wooded island, I slowly fished my way towards him. I caught a few risers before I was within talking distance.
“White Wulffs are the ticket today” I said.
Jeff said he caught a few on different streamers.
“Where’s Giddeon” I asked.
“He’s up between the island and far bank” Jeff replied. “I gave him an olive bunny leech and he’s been hooking up pretty regularly.”
Later on when Giddeon came down river, he exclaimed he got into some 14”-15” or so smallies. He’d drift the olive bunny leech and jig it a few times and hook into one of the big smallies.
 Time passed and we were all getting a little tired and moving a little slower. The wind kicked up some and the skies darkened. About the time we figured out the falling sprinkles was going to turn into an all out downpour and not quit soon, we were as wet as our submerged wading socks and boots. We sloshed up to the van. The outside temperature was warm but being soaking wet wasn’t comfortable at all. We stood under the pines for a while and those of us that brought a change of clothes got into them. We stood around for a while talking among ourselves and having a beer or two, until the rain subsided. We headed back down to the river with raincoats.
The group headed downriver to the more rocky areas, whereas I stayed below the power house, casting my white Wulff randomly from out in the middle. I noticed the water was deepening gradually and with more tint from the earlier quick downpour. The jagged table rock and boulders would not be easy to negotiate without visual help. I stuck it out, out in the middle for another ½ hour. It was a ½ hour too late. The rain blew over the mountain, this time without warning. Bright heavy raindrops fell from the bright sky before the dark clouds could catch up from behind the tall obstructing mountains. I tried looking through the now opaque water, but the bottom was no longer visible. Slowly I took steps towards shore trying to feel the bottom and dangers through my heavy socks and felt wading boots. I started taking longer strides as the raindrops felt like pebbles falling from the sky. I was within 30 yards of shore, with the stronger current breaking against the back of my knees, when my left boot gave way off a slightly slanted table rock while my right foot was still not yet touchimg the river bed. My right boot didn’t grip in the wavy stargrass bottom and I was falling in an awkward unbalanced position. I knew the water wasn’t deep enough to cover my head but after I let go of the Winston rod, to feel for the bottom, I was submerged to my neck on all fours. My left hand kept me from sinking any further as my right knee scraped against some rough submerged rocks. My right hand quickly reached and grabbed the rod before I stood back up, bruised, soaked and bleeding.
“I had enough” I thought, “It would only be daylight for about another hour anyhow.”
 I sloshed myself to shore without any more misfortunes. On land I found my Winston didn’t suffer any damage though my hand and knee took the brunt of the fall. Under the shoreline trees Jeff showed up along the lane. I told him what had happen and I was giving up and heading towards the van. After passing the power plant, and heading up the stony road to the van, the sun came out in full view and brightness. It didn’t matter; I was done for the day. Getting drenched twice in one day was a fair warning of what else could go wrong.
 I changed my clothes again, grabbed a beer and waited for the others. Jeff showed up soon after and the boys showed up just before dark. We were hungry for the deer chip steaks we were going to cook up when we got back to the cabin. We all had another good, though wet, day of fishing. We put away our gear and on the way out we came across a nice size box turtle in the middle of the gravel road.

Sunday morning, after a few more hours of fishing near by, we cleaned up camp and Jeff and I headed towards home. Jeremy and Giddeon headed toward the airport. It sure was fun spending time with my sons again and being on the water for 4 straight days of great fishing.

Thanks again, Jeremy, Giddeon and Jeff for a great entertaining time. Thanks to Mr. Cappola for the great lodge and Harry Murray’s fly shop for guiding, fishing instructions and useful patterns to make our time spent enjoyable.


Monday, January 18, 2010

A Hunch Before Lunch

A Hunch Before Lunch
(May 2009)

The morning long but successful
my stomach aches for food
Through the forest I walk back
in a tired and somber mood
Driving up the back road
I know where I’ll take lunch
Parking aside the empty cabin
for some reason I have a hunch
I walk through wooded saplings
across an old RR grade
Peering over the steep dirt bank
there a rainbow lay
Basking in the bright noon day sun
as if he hadn’t a care
“Could this trout be caught?” I ponder
Though fatigued, I take the dare.
To the van and my 4wt. I decide
I tie on a delicate 6x
I feel I only have one cast
The situation so perplexed
Downstream I cross a riffled run
not wanting to make wave
I climb the bank, crawl the grass
there’s no cause to be brave
I wait for just a breeze
that would riffle the surface water
‘Till then I tie on a latex caddis
as the sun beats upon me hotter
The breeze finally comes at last
I slowly slip into the wetness
I pull out line almost motionless
as my shirt fills with sweatiness
I wait patiently, now exposed
another breeze spoils the water surface
I roll cast upstream from my quarry
accurately and with purpose
The white caddis drifts realistically
a short strip puts it within sight
His slight movement with open mouth
I draw the line quickly tight
He bolts away taking line
turns and swirls with anger
I let him fight on the light tippet
I know the constant danger
He rips upstream and takes a leap
my rod straightens with the rise
Splashing and slashing in the water
I have to compromise
He bolts upstream further on
I hold the bent rod high
Line slides through my guiding fingers
with the least pressure I apply
He crosses the stream and now turns down
I strip in line with haste
Now once in front of my line of sight
he turns and we’re face to face
We leer at each other eye to eye
neither foe nor friends
He swims downstream with bully force
the line re-tensions, the rod re-bends
He runs his gauntlet, fights his fight
but learns his match he met
My stomach growls with hunger
as dinner comes to the net


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Midges, The One that got Away

Midges, The One that got Away

 The past long weekend (New Years) brought cold weather in the teens and the temperatures stayed below freezing throughout the weekend. Snow fell every day and I was sure this iced up any open water or at least brought slush, so fishing was out of the question. My thoughts turned to tying up some midges before the TV remote battery went dead.
 The term ‘midge’ to fly fishermen has different meanings depending on who you talk with. Even in fly tying books it is used loosely. The only common denominator is that ‘midge’ means small flies. Some will consider a midge only be tied in #22 size hooks and smaller, while others will say the #16’s thru 20’s are midges also. Whether it is a dry fly or a fly tied for under the surface fishing, if it is tied tiny it would be considered a midge. I now don’t tie anything smaller than a size #20. Tying tiny flies are frustrating enough with my stubby finger tips and eye sight that if I wanted to fish something tinier I’ll just purchase the tiny things.
My midge tying is therefore in the #18 and #20 range. Usually dry flies but I’ll tie some subsurface stuff also.

 In tying midges I have to be in the right mood and get my mind prepared for it. It’s not something I can just go to the tying bench, whip up a few quick midges and than take them out and fish with them, at least not for me. I got to get myself in the right mood and patience for settling down to tie them. I’m talking about fine thread, ultra fine dubbing, very fragile small hackling that can break at any moment while wrapping it around the hook. Then tying all this on a tiny #20 hook with 2x reading glasses isn‘t done quickly. I tried using one of those magnifying lighted glass lamps a few years ago but I couldn’t get used to it. But with my gradually failing eye sight I may have to resort back to trying it again.
 I’m not much of a midge fly guy, that is dry midges, but there were occasions in the past years where tiny dry midges came in handy for wary trout. Especially during the warmer months in the mouths of feeder streams where I even caught big trout on such tiny flies. Besides that I’ve been invited to fish down in south central PA., in February, and I was told midges are a must.
 I look out the window and I see falling snow and knowing the temp’s are in the teens I shiver at the thought of fishing in February, brrr…..

 I start off tying a black midge dry pattern on a #20 Mustad up eye hook. I like the up eye hooks on tiny midges. It’s easier for me to tie the tippet to an up eye than a down eye. I use fine black thread and a good grade black hackle. Back around Thanksgiving I received a plastic sectional case with a variety of ‘Nice & Easy’ hair color samples. I’m not talking about the dye itself but the actual imitation hair follicles in the shades of the dye used. The box stores sell these sample cases at years end and the person who gave me the case said that they heard that people who tie flies buy these. I figured the hair follicles should be stronger than thread and might show a good segmented body when wrapped around a thread base.
 I put a Jimmy Buffet CD in the player to get me in the mood and clamp a size #20 hook in my Renzetti travel vise. It usually takes me a few attempts to get the fly looking the way I want but on the first attempt it looked pretty darn good. I used two strands of #121A hair color follicles and they wound on the thread body with no problems. I didn’t crowd the eye and the black hackle looked to be the right size. The black tail fibers were a touch on the long side which is the way I like them on my tiny midges. Holding the fly in my palm I prepared for the ’flight and land’ test. I tossed the fly in the air and it drops on the white, card grade, paper. This is just a test I use to be sure the fly lands correctly, upright, and not upside down or on its side. The midge lands correctly and it also lands correctly on the second attempt. On the third attempt the midge bounces off the paper and I thought it landed on my blue jeans. ’Than’ I thought it fell on the gray/black cushioned tying chair. I had to resort to getting on my knees and trying to find the midge on the gray piled carpet. While searching, among the scraps of tying material on the carpet, I found two #16 curved nymph hooks and one #16 standard nymph hook. I searched the fox pelt and carpet underneath my fly tying desk without any luck. My first midge tie had disappeared almost as if it grew wings and flew away!!!
 The next six I was more careful with and they turned out well enough that I was satisfied. I did find two strands of the ‘Nice & Easy’ worked better than three strands. It seemed the third strand wanted to separate from the other two and leave gaps, so two it will be from now on. The hair follicles also gave a nice shiny segmented body, so I was really satisfied with the results.
black midge

 My next tie was to be a dun midge. After threading the #8 gray thread, through the bobbin, I got out the blue dun beaver fur dubbing. I try to use natural materials as much as possible, but that’s just me. I got out both the light blue dun and natural blue dun rooster capes. I will tie two sets of five midges in each shade of dun hackle. I’ve found that the streams I fish have both shades of color. The 10 duns I tied came out fine with only having one that I crowded the eye. I had to burn off loose hackle fibers that blocked the eye with a hot dubbing needle tip. Somewhere between the dun tying I slipped in a Skynyrd CD. I was in the zone concentrating on tying without any worldly matters.
 blue dun hackle

light blue dun hackle

 Next was to be Adam midges. I’ll tie 6 standard dry fly midges and 6 parachute style. I don’t care to use Adam’s as much as I try to use a natural May fly pattern. The Adam is an attractor pattern that resembles many May flies on the water. It’s probably the #1 dry fly pattern I would suggest to any newbie in any trout waters in the respectable size. The hackle and tails, on bigger patterns, call for a mixture of grizzly and ginger hackle. Due to the smallness of midges, two hackles would put an excessive amount of bulk in the thorax section, therefore I use one Cree hackle feather. Cree isn’t that easy to come by but I have both a Cree rooster neck and saddle that I use sparingly. Cree is a combination of ginger and grizzly on each feather. On my standard midges I use Cree fibers for the tail but on my parachute Adams I use a few moose body hairs. The body I dub with Adam gray beaver fur and use black thread for tying. I use down eye hooks on the parachute dries and use polypropylene float yarn for the post.. The adam midges turned out fine.

adams parachute

 The last fly of the day will be BWO’s. (Blue Wing Olives) These are practically on every creek in PA. They always come in handy in the mornings and whenever tiny olive color midges are about. I insert the Celtic Woman CD in the player and really mellow out to the sweet voices of the girls.
 I thread a spool of #8 BWO thread through the bobbin and take out a dark blue dun rooster cape, another shade that isn’t always that easy to find. I don’t usually put wings on my tiny midges but I decided to add wings to four of the imitations. For the wings I use gray polypropylene floating yarn. I use only enough fibers to show a nice silhouette within the dark hackle. I split the fibers into two wings with the tying thread. Natural paired mallard wing section feathers aren’t easy to tie on such a small fly and are too much of a fuss. A friend of mine gave me a box of his father’s fly tying stuff when his father passed away. When I opened the box of fly tying material I found a clear plastic sectional box filled with different colored spools of polycryolin yarn. The only thing I can tell you about it is the box has Sunrise printed on it and ‘made in India’. I’m not sure if I could ever find these again but the spooled yarn is easy to work with. The colors come in handy and the tan shade is perfect for my male Hendrickson patterns. Black for the thin small dry black stonefly patterns and the olive shade and green shade go well with my BWO patterns. Even the gray doesn’t look bad on some of the dun patterns I tie and for the thin bodies of small caddis flies the thin yarn is pretty much perfect.

the finished product

some pattern material

 After tying for the day I look outside and more snow is falling upon the already white landscape. The big yellow plow truck scrapes and salts the road as the tire chains clink and ting upon the pavement and finally the noise disappears up the road. It doesn’t look like I’ll be fishing for sometime. I’ll have to pass the evenings getting in the mood to tie up some more flies for awhile!

I still wonder where that first midge went, that got away?