Friday, April 29, 2011

Alone at the Breakfast Hole

The ‘Bighorn’ Excursion (Day 2)

Alone at the Breakfast Hole

 Looking out the window blind Tuesday morn we found 2” or so of snow on the ground. The weatherman predicted more snow, windy conditions with a possible clearing later on in the day. We decided to forfeit our drift boats for the day and find somewhere to wade fish.

 There are many nicknames for many holes and areas on the Bighorn. The Breakfast Hole is the first productive area one comes to when leaving the ramp at the after bay. We decided to wade there and maybe head somewhere else later on in the afternoon. The Breakfast Hole is about 500 yards I was told from the ramp. I’m not sure if that’s exactly right but it takes a while to get there by land.

 At the ramp parking area Brad and I were ready to go before the other two. We made first tracks upon the snow covered trail over rocks and through the short leafless Russian olive trees. These have short thorny spikes on their branches that want to grab a hold of fly line, leader, hats and anything else attached but not closely secured to your jacket. We stopped a ways down now and than to try our luck when an opening to the river appeared. Just beyond an overhead cable Brad was hooking up a couple of times and I caught one while waiting for the other two guys. Brad continued to fish and hooked into a couple more trout while I decided to head on down to the Breakfast Hole alone.
 The short bare Olive trees were thicker and meaner as I carefully found my way through them. When I got to the shoreline, across from the island, the water between was fast and deep. There was no way of crossing to the island. There was a deep slower back eddy pool of mud bottom I had to cross to get further downriver. I caught and missed one trout before attempting the crossing. I could feel the silt bottom beneath my felt soles as I knew I had to keep moving to not sink in too deep. The water rose above my waste and I was glad I barrowed Brad’s extra chest waders as I made my way. I made it across without any problems and continued along the snowy path until I found clear ground half way across the far side of the island length.
 There was a guy fishing the bank downriver and two guys at the end of the island dilly-dallying more than fishing. The guy downriver yelled over to the islanders “the fish don’t seem hungry” and pulled out and left. I had the whole bank-side to myself. I had a tandem set up with about 11 feet of leader/tippet and a Thingamabobber for a float already set up. I started at the end of the choppy water and wham! Right off the bat a trout rips my indicator downward with force and I hung on. The beast torpedoed away and downriver with the current. My Battenkill mid arbor clicked out line in fast smooth rhythmic fashion. I palmed the reel for extra drag as the fish continued downriver than towards my bank. In the slower water he held tight and I pulled some on the rod, the Winston 6wt. flexed a little more. The fish swam towards me and I wound in line as I backed the rod tip to keep tension on the oncoming fish. Up in the swift current he again tried to rest but I swung the rod down towards the bank to put side pressure on him and locked my wrist. He inched towards the bank than nudged away and took off back down and away. I knew I had a good fish and possibly a brown as he stayed low. It was a battle of wits, strength and patients. He held up deep in the fast current out further than before. I couldn’t budge him sideways so I swung the rod up river and he followed. He top sided enough and was surprised to see he was a rainbow. More of a battle resumed and I got him towards the bank. I had the extension net unlocked by now and held the rod as high as possible. It wasn't easy to direct the frisky rainbow to the net on 11 feet of leader but I managed. A quick picture on the snow covered bank and soon after he was freed to be caught another day. A few more casts and I had another.

 Time ticked on as I waded and worked my way down the bank casting just this side of the fast/slow water seam. Sometimes it was a slight dip of the indicator while other times it was a good dunking. I fought and played fish time and again changing droppers as the bite slowed down. I seen a few risers to midges down in the slow water and tried for them for about an hour without success. Back to nymph fishing I was rewarded with more takers.

 It slowed down enough I noticed the sun was beyond noon. I was getting hungry and decided to go back up river to see what was keeping the others.

 When I found the other guys they said they also did well catching some big trout. When they told me it was 4:40 there about I couldn’t believe it. Time flies when I’m having fun.

 We left the river early and decided to check out the Yellowtail dam. We came across roadside cows, horses and a few meandering mule deer in the wide open range. We continued switch backing down the winding road to the dam.

 After dinner we relaxed with a few cold beers. I had myself an Arturo Curly Head Deluxe and sipped on Goldslager while Brad and Mat drank beer and sipped on Crown Royal Reserve.

What a way to end a good day and get ready for another float trip down the Bighorn on Wednesday.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Best Miserable Monday

The Bighorn Excursion (day 1)

Ryan our guide

The Best Miserable Monday

 We woke up Monday to find an inch or so of snow accumulated on the vehicles. We left Pennsylvania in T-shirts and to get away from the white stuff. Now here we are in Fort Smith ready to drift float the Bighorn River and it snowed. Soon the snow would disappear though because it will rain. Rain all day off and on under the gray big sky with cold winds that will blow down from the mountains. We dressed warm with winter hats and raincoats to keep our head and clothes dry. It was windy outside so I figured my Winston 6wt. fast action Vapor rod would be the best choice.

 After breakfast we met our guides. Brad and Mat would pair up and have Don as their guide. I paired up with Dave and Ryan will guide us.. Ryan shows up in inclement condition like the inclement weather. He can’t breathe through his stuffy nose that dribbled practically throughout the day. He coughed and wheezed now and then and got to the point he even put Chap Stick on his nose from practically rubbing it raw from wiping it so much. We found out, as miserable he seemed, he didn’t give up or hamper our float. We found he was top notch, got us on fish and didn’t mind circling back upstream when we got hook ups in good holes.

Before we lifted off Ryan knotted extra line to our tapered leaders. The flow was 5,000 CFS and said that we most likely won’t see any top activity. This time of year it’s usually around 2700 to 3000 CFS so with the heavy flow there will be a lot of food washed down the river beneath. There won’t be much reason for the fish to look up for midges or BWO. He attached a tandem set up of flies and three, yes three split shot above this. Just a few inches from our fly line he attached a small white balloon indicator. So here we had three split shots on about 13 foot of leader/tippet drifting under a white balloon, this would be interesting.

 Out at the ramp at the after bay he got the Clackacraft in the water with all our gear. The more experienced indicator fishing Dave took the back seat and I sat or stood up front wanting to get any advice from the other two. We launched out into the rough water from the dam release and started our journey downstream. The fist drift would be under the cable wires. I hauled back the Winston Vapor 9’ 6wt and the chunk of lead followed. I felt the rod load with the heavy weight and than cast out into the wavy water. The weight splashed down far enough from the boat as the balloon floated and drifted high atop the water. It didn’t take long for Dave to hook up with the first fish to break the ice. The day started with him hooking up about 3 to 1 against my hook ups. He’s that good, and I figured I wasn’t going to keep up with him. Later on I kept pretty much even but he was pretty much on throughout the day. There were areas he would be catching fish and I wasn’t. The guide would switch us up while wading and he would end up catching the trout in the exact same place I was fishing and fishing with the same nymphs. It didn’t bother me though it just gave me more confidence that there were trout wherever Ryan put me, I just had to get the right drift to catch the trout.

I’ve read books that the authors claim that the Bighorn River is considered, by a lot of experts, to be one of the top three places to trout fish in the U.S.A. and by some the world. The fish are big and plentiful with the average in certain years around 16” to 18” being caught. The water has plenty of food and the bottom conditions, with flow, are ideal for growing good strong healthy browns and ’bows’. We found this to be true even in the rainy, cold, windy nasty weather conditions.

By the end of the day, around 5:00pm, we both hooked up and landed over 30 trout. When we were catching small trout in the 10” to 14” range Ryan wouldn’t waste time in the area. When we were catching ones in the 17” to 19” range he would double back and we’d try the drift again. We only waded three times during the whole day largely due to the many other fishermen and woman who were wade fishing in the harsh conditions.
 It turned out to be the best worst weather fishing day I stayed out in. I didn’t have much of a choice being we were in a boat. The catching was something I couldn’t imagine before we went out. Big healthy meaty fighting fish in fast moving current. Rainbows and browns leaping occasionally and coming down upon the water splashing like big steelhead. They’d practically fight your line and rod right up to the boat not wanting to give up until they felt corralled in the net. They didn’t mind getting their picture taken either, most of them seemed to have known the routine as they stayed still in your grip.
 I didn’t get a lot of pictures the first day out because of the constant rain and drizzle but it was a memorable excursion none the less with even better days to come on the Big Horn.

Couple of Dave's trout


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

If I Have to Explain...

If I Have to Explain…

I always enjoy fishing new waters for trout. This past weekend I headed to Williamsport for a surprise birthday party for my Godfather. I took my mom and GF along but made sure they understood I would be fishing while we are up there.

When we arrived Saturday morning I found the Lycoming Creek was overflowing its banks with strong flow and white water. Just off the banks I could see the water was deep and felt it was too hazardous so we traveled towards the Loyalsock to find the Delayed Harvest Area. On the way over my mom asked me when I catch trout, being that we’re up here, what am I going to do with them. I explained what the DHA was and told her I had to release them though I release trout anyway. My mom than commented ’what fun is it to take the time to catch them and then leave them go?’ She caught me off guard, being I was concentrating on driving and following the map, I told her that it was just fun just to fly fish and catch them and left it at that.
 We found the Loyalsock high and running fast also. From the bank I could see the bottom with good visibility. The Loyalsock is quite a bit wider than the Lycoming so I felt I had a better chance fishing this stream and being safe doing so. By this time it was afternoon so I set my sights on Sunday morning for fishing. We returned to Williamsport to get lunch and check into our hotel.

 Sunday morning I awoke at 6:20 am, prior to my set alarm. I packed all my clothes in the van and ate a waffle breakfast in the hotel lobby area. I had till 12:00 to get back to the hotel to pick up the women before check out time.

...In the access area parking lot at Sandy Bottom, the bottom section of the DHA, I got out of the van and was greeted by nature. Birds chirped about in high pitched tones like the chatting of women in a small morning diner. A crow cawed in the distant as if the town crier waking any slumbering animal still in their beds or nest. Looking up towards the heavens a light fog lingered within and above the mountain tops. The morning sky was lightening up with a good sign of a fine day ahead. I breathed in the cool crisp air and listened to the distant sound of tumbling water as I put together my gear.
 Walking across the sandy earth it was evident that the area had been flooded within the past few weeks. My felt boots made imprints in the damp sand. Logs, trees and branches were entangled about with trash like cooler lids, tarps and man made material scattered among the folded over brush caused by a swift current.

I walked down the sandy shore, below the fast narrow run of white water, to the wider section of the stream below. Seeing the colorful rocky stony bottom I stepped off the bank and was immediately in a foot and a half of water. I could feel the current against my legs even along the bank-side. Taking a few more steps outward I found the stony bottom wasn’t too secure. Rocks and stones shifted from under my felt soles until I felt solid bottom. I also felt more of the strong current against my legs so I decided not to wade in any further.

The water was clear enough and I felt working streamers, to cover more territory, would be my best choice being I never fished here. The water wasn’t as cold as I would have thought so I was hoping there would be some energetic fish that would follow and take a streamer if I come across any. I knotted on a Fast-Snap to my 5x tapered leader so I could quickly change streamers as I go along without all the retying involved. I started off with a woolly bugger and added an extra split shot above my twisted lead matchstick for more weight to keep my bugger down towards the bottom.

 We are kind of spoiled in Pennsylvania. The state stocks over 3,000,000 trout a year in approved streams and lakes throughout the commonwealth. During the regular trout season bait fishermen and conventional fishermen follow the stocking truck for better opportunities to catch fresh dumb stocked trout. Fly guys are no exception as many will only fish freshly stocked streams in project waters during preseason of opening day of trout. I’m not excluding myself from this bunch but I tend to at least let the stocked trout settle down some. I also don’t mind fishing in streams that were last stocked the year past. The Loyalsock was stocked a few weeks prior so my odds of catching a trout might not be too bad though the water conditions won’t be too helpful. Even so, I wasn’t going to let it discourage me even if I didn’t catch anything on this new adventure.
 I worked and waded the area below the faster water for about an hour before I couldn’t wade in any further. I walked upstream along the bank casting in pocket waters behind visible oversized rocks that created a wake on each side leaving the water behind in a slower pool. So far I was hitless but was enjoying the outing in the quiet outdoors.
 I decided to spend the last hour above the rapid white water run. By now the mountain haze had burned off and the sun was shining down through a slate blue cloud cover which kept the glare to a minimum. As I was trying to wade upstream, in the calmer water, the under current was hampering my intended pace. I could feel beads of sweat run down my spine and the heat of my body was rising, fogging up my polarized lenses. When I took them off I was able to see through the clear water just as well without them as the sun was to my back so glare wasn’t a problem. My intentions were to get within casting distance of an island that separated the large wide section of water. Watching the stony bottom I started to navigate my way towards the island. I didn’t get too far before the water crept up just below my hip wading belt. The clear water made the depth very deceiving. I decided to wade across no further and slowly fish my way downstream towards the rapids casting across stream swinging and drifting streamers.

 I took a break to let my body cool off and lit an Arturo cigar. I watched a large bird fly down and perch itself on a bare tree limb above the island. The mountains surrounded me as I stood in the cold water in the valley. A refreshing lazy breeze followed with the current carrying with it the cool rising air from the cold creek. It sort of got a little eerie as I thought about my presence in this remote area, miles from human inhabitance. I always feel safe though, knowing danger when I see it and don’t temp nature.

 With my cigar clinched between my teeth I practiced my long distance casting having plenty of room behind me. My bugger plops into the water just shy of a strong riffle made by subsurface boulders. I mend my floating line downstream some as the surface current is slower than the undercurrent where my bugger dropped. I watched my bugger straighten the floating line than swing deep and downstream from me time and again switching colors often. I than decided to practice double hauling. It took a while to get my timing right with short pulls on my fly line. I’m sure it didn’t look pretty but I did get the weight forward line out a few more feet.
 Than it happened while swinging a triple threat. At the end of the swing I let it dangle deep in the current before stripping in. I felt the grab and tug of a sluggish fish. Instantly I pulled back line and lifted the rod for the hook set. The fish tugged again and swerved left to right in the current trying to dislodge the hook. I know the quickest way to tire a trout is to fight him from the side. Their streamline body is made to hold, facing upstream, in current without using too much energy. This trout decides not to swim out in either direction but decides to struggle, tug of war style, directly down stream from me. I decided to flank him but he just followed the line pull and current shift from my leg movements. I began to shift the rod from left to right trying to make him use more energy from side to side. With every movement towards me I took in line as the rod tip continued to bend and hold tension on the trout. Nearer to me I shifted the rod far right and the fish reluctantly followed. He rose and his tall dorsal fin and the tip of his tail fin broke the water surface. He struggled in the surface current than dove deep. I moved my flexed rod downward towards him than swing it to my left, the tiring trout followed. Now played out I put my left hand in my net glove and moved the rod upstream to my left. He rose again and I gripped the dark rainbow by the neck of his tail, a solid trout! I admired my only catch of the day before unleashing the hook from his lower jaw.

I thought about my mom’s earlier comment “what fun is it to spend the time to catch trout than letting them go” as I released the trout from my hand. My mom never spent time in nature let alone fishing. I really didn’t know what to say to her at the time.
“Why do I fly fish and release them?” It’s pretty much like the reason I ride a Harley, an American made motorcycle, than a Japanese or foreign cycle. Like the words on a Harley shirt says; ’If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand!’

I looked at my watch and it was closing in on 11:00am. I decided to call it quits and took one more look around at my surroundings. Nice to be out!

I waded out and found my way back to the van. I changed clothes and put away my gear. As soon as I hit the hard road I took the time to light up a Cohiba Pequenos to smoke on my way back before picking up the ladies.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mutant Stonefly tute

i'm not one to throw attractor patterns much and would rather match the hatch. here is a stonefly pattern i developed that works for me. seems to work better during windy conditions and riffling water. easy to tie and see also.

DT'S Mutant dry Stonefly

hook; 38941 mustad 3X long #16 #14 #12 (#14 demo)
thread; black
tail; split black goose biots
wing post; white calf tail
abdomen; black polycryolin or black dry dubbing sub.
thorax; black dubbing
wing; grizzly hackle wound parachute style


Bend hook at point to tie post at

base hook shank with thread and tie in split biot tails
Bring thread forward and tie in wing post in front of shaft bend
Trim butts of post tapering towards back of hook. Wind thread in even wraps back to

Tie in doubled up polycryolin or dubbing.

Wrap polycryolin over thread with a few wraps in front of wing post

Trim poly and dub a thorax just in front of wing post to stand up straight

Tie in hackle

Wind hackle parachute style, trim and thread head


You can trim the wing post if too long
I tie these in black and brown


Monday, April 4, 2011

One that didn't Get Away

One that didn’t get Away
April 3rd, 2011

Every fisherman has a story about the one that got away. Even if they caught a couple of lunkers on a said trip, there’s usually one that got away. The one that got away is always bigger, longer or weightier. One way or another that’s the one that gets away. Whether it is was bigger or not, we like to say it was. Maybe it’s because we tell these stories to show we are vulnerable. Even if we don’t share these ‘one’s that got away’ with others, we can admit to ourselves we had the biggest on at one time. We can dream about them over and over again and picture in our minds how big we think it was. How awesome the fight was at the time. It gives us the reason to go back and try to catch him again.
 On the other hand when we catch a big one, we always seem to add a few inches or pounds when telling the story. If we think he was 22” we’ll say he was 24". If he was fat we’ll describe his fatness in unbelievable proportions.

Here’s my story of the one that didn’t get away. The fattest brown trout I ever caught compared to its length. I have proof, someone seen me catch him, Honest!!

 I was on the water by 8:30am. The morning was cold but not finger biting cold. April it was, early April when trout sometimes are rising to small Blue Wing Olives or Stoneflies. The morning was overcast but bright with forecasted rain to come later in the evening. When I got out of the van I could almost feel the moisture in the air upon my beard. The light breeze brought with it a wake up call of chillingness that woke up the skin and sleepiness if there were any in ones eyes. It was cold enough to not make you sleepy might be the best way to put it.

That morning I decided to take out my 5 piece 8’ 6” Stream Rod rated as a 4/5 weight. A custom made fly rod I bought from the Kettle Creek fly shop. I haven’t fished with it for awhile and wanted to get the feel for it again. I wanted to fish it with a 4wt. weight forward line to see how it handles in open waters. I attached my Double-L reel and headed out to fish Oil Creek.

 I had already been out for almost a couple of hours without a single hit. I was up at the bend by now swinging and drifting a triple threat when Troutslammer showed up along the bank. He wasn’t sure if he could get out or not but if so he was to meet me along the waters. As he approached a fish grabbed my triple from beneath. I held tight and played the fighting rainbow in the swift current. He gave up a good fight in the chilling water but I played him near. Seeing he was too frisky and long for my small net, I brought him along shore. After releasing the fish Jim asked if I still wanted to go to a previous planned creek I have never fished before. There I was, I had the complete creek section to myself, not another soul around me. I had just caught a big rainbow after being skunked for the past hour or two. Maybe things were going to pick up, maybe not. What to do? Simple enough!
“Let’s go” I said, “I can always return later!”

 It seems I’m always on the wrong side of the creek when it comes to finding the deeper holes to fish. Maybe I was just giving Jim the best opportunity to give him a more reasonable amount of space for him to cast. The water was clear but with the overcast sky and tall tree canopy the water was not as clear to us looking into it  as it might be to the fish looking out. I selected not to add any weight to my streamers, in the slow pool, and let them gently drop and drift with the slow current. Anyhow, I sidearm back-hand cast the triple threat into the deep pool towards the branchy bank and overhanging tree. The triple threat falls just shy of the branchy snags up against the bank. I watch as the fly line tip dips and slowly drifts, the rest of the floating line lays straight upon the water with a small section slightly kinked. I hold the rod straight out towards the far bank and see the kink in the line straighten as the line pulls forward. I quickly strip set the hook and lift the rod. The rod flexes immediately into the butt section and I know I got a dandy. Jim notices the quick flexing down of the rod also and watches the ensuing tug of war.
“Holy chit” he’s a bigg’n”
“I can see that, you got a……”
 The trout pulls deep and I’m forced to give him some line. He darts away down to my right and I hold the rod steady as the shaft flexes towards the fishes motions. The line flutters with fighting tensionfrom the struggle beneath and I know I have to keep good tension on him being I have the barb pinched down. The weight of the fish in the slow deep pool and the fight starts to make my heart pound with excitement but I know I have to play it cool to keep from losing him. He starts to swim towards me as if he has a plan. I hold on tightly while taking in line and discover his intentions, this isn’t a dumb trout. There’s a sunken tree log, complete with broken branch stubs, a few yards out on my right. I try to lift the rod higher to maybe force him above it but he is too strong and heavy as my rod only flexes in a tighter arc. He sets himself up against the far side of the log. I’m worried my line will get caught up in the log stubs or log itself should he decide to scramble along it. With the rod high I start to wade closer to him as the water rises higher upon my hip waders. He jolts outward and I try to hold the rod steady as it shudders in my grip from his pulling head shakes. Now free from the log I let him swim out into more open water. He starts to surface and I slowly swing my rod upstream against his will. The beast is within my vision and I can now see the brown trout’s size and fat belly. Jim says something about the trout’s size also but I’m concentrating on not losing the fish. He tries to dive deep again and I try to prevent it but he wins out and I let line out. Again we struggle trying to get each other to make a mistake or tire. He turns towards me again and this time the rod force is able to force him above the log. I take in line while he sub-surfaces and water churns above him as he fights to get free. I pull my C&R net out and even Jim doubts the fish will be able to fit into it. With the rod high above me, shaking from the weighty trout, I struggle to force the fish in the net. He surfaces enough I get the net beneath him and slowly lower my rod. The big fish folds into the net and I scoop him up. I have the net cradled with both hands as I wade my way to shore. I gaze at the fish and am astonished by its huge belly. It feels good as I release him back into the pool knowing the big one didn’t get away this time.

 As I continue to fish I feel short strikes and wimpy tugs at the triple threat but manage to take one more lengthy brown before changing tactics. I decide to slowly drift a brown bugger near the bottom like a worm. With smooth backhand casts I drop the bugger into the pool and let it drop to the bottom. Slowly I retrieve it, stopping now and than, to let it settle like a drowned night crawler. My tactic works time and again as I watch my fly line straighten while the trout picks it up from the bottom. I have to be quick with sharp line pulling hook sets. I miss now and than but when I do hook up another fight of man verses fish erupts and more than not I get the fish to hand.

 Eventually trout start to rise as Jim and I both came to this creek with this intention. It doesn’t take long before I discover that the trout are taking emergers and not duns. I scoot the CDC BWO imitation along the surface and a trout takes the moving fly. When they quit that I put on a wet BWO and cast it out across the pool. I slowly retrieve it as I raise the rod tip and wham, a trout can’t resist the emerging fly. I catch a few on a BWO nymph until no more trout are interested in my offerings. I return with a bugger and pull out another before Jim has to leave for home. I fish my way to the path side bank before getting out of the water. I climb the bank and follow the trail, meeting Jim at the Jeep.

 What a great feeling it is to fish a new stream and come out triumphant! Catching nice size brown trout on buggers, triple threats, emerger patterns and such. Oh, and bringing in the big one and not having to tell a story about ’the one that got away!’