Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fish With Glass

Fish With Glass

 I decided to fish fiberglass Sunday and pieced together the 6 pieces of my Longfellow Trail rod. I attached a Martin Classic reel spooled with F5WF Cortland Sylk Line. The rod is tip heavy as expected with the many ferrules but isn’t too awful bad. I knew it would get some getting used to but it’s always more fun fighting fish on 'glass' instead of graphite.

 I got my vest on and was just closing the hatch when Jim pulled up in his truck. We talked as I waited for him to get his gear on. After that he headed down the trail to the right of the small creek and I crossed the bridge and through the brushy forest downstream. The small creek was in great condition. Usually it runs clear and low so as the trout can see you and are harder to catch. Today the water is tinted with an olive cast and only enough visibility to see the darkness of the rocks or obstructions beneath. It flows with good height that should bring the undercut bank holding trout out in the main flow of water looking for food.

 After crossing the creek I start to nymph fish and within minutes I snag bottom. With a quick rising tug, up creek with a sidearm motion, the line frees and catapults behind me. I turn to see, from the 4 feet of tapered leader, about 2 feet of 5X tippet and a foot and a half of 6X tippet in a drunken spider web looking maze, intertwined around a prickly bush. My black stonefly nymph is caught in the middle and I stand there just waiting for a roaming spider to show up and try to eat it. I wasn’t in the mood to untangle the mess. I clipped off the nymph and tangled tippet. I wound the tippet around my fingers and than stuffed it in my cigar butt pocket inside my vest. I retied on fresh 5X and 6X tippet and tried again.
 Within 5 minutes later I’m drifting two nymphs along a nice stretch of water that was split from the main stem by the island I stood on. After the end of the drift I loop the line, through the air, up creek for another drift through. It was too late by the time I seen the scraggly thin limb that branched out over the far higher bank. I watched as my lengths of 5X and 6x tippet twisted and spun on the branchy limb. My dark hare’s ear and light hare’s ear nymphs dangled from the mess almost touching each other. After a few words of disgust, I had a choice to make.
1. I can lay the rod down, go up creek to cross and than follow the path and undo the mess.
2. Pull the fly line until whatever breaks first, happens.
3. Clip the tapered leader off and go get a graphite rod!

 I pulled the fly line until the tippet broke at the knot near the tapered leader. I looked and noticed the 2 nymphs were still dangling from the swinging branch. I walked up creek and crossed to the far bank. Up on the trail I walked to the small tree where its limb held my nymphs hostage. Reaching out I bent the limber limb until I was able to reach and snap off the branch. I clipped off the nymphs, rolled the tippet and put it in my vest pocket with the other mess. I was going to make sure that the fiberglass rod was not going to burden me on this excursion. I sat down and knotted together a tapered tippet, to the remaining leader, of 4X and 5X. It was streamer time! I tied on a fast-snap to make changing streamers more easily. I twisted on a small piece of lead strip about a foot and a half above the streamer. It was easier to control and cast the weighted streamer than the light weight nymphs and lighter tippet. Besides that I would much rather streamer fish than nymph fish any day of the week!

 I continued on with less interfering hazards. I’d dead drift the woolly bugger through deeper holes. In the long open stretches I’d cast a triple threat or bugger against the far bank and let it swing downstream before slowly stripping them in. It took awhile for the first take. I was bringing the line in for my next cast when I felt a grab and splash on the surface. I already had the rod high on the backswing and the trout didn’t get enough of the imitation to get hooked successfully.
 I was down creek a bit when I looked up stream and saw Jim and friend, Mark, drifting nymphs in the same run. Soon they came down and joined me and we fished a bit before they headed down creek. Mark caught one trout on a streamer in front of me before moving on. I really didn’t expect to catch anything once Jim nymph fished down in front of me. I did however begin to think that just maybe there might be a dumb trout that avoided getting stepped on that might take a streamer.

Around noon…..
 With a good flex in the 'glass' rod I lobbed the bugger in the slow pool behind the half submerged log. Holding the rod above the faster run of water in front of me, the bugger sank deep before the push of water caught my Sylk line enough to swing the bugger below. Just before the line straightened on the swing I felt the tug as if the trout took the bugger with a swiping grab. My line hand clinched the line tight enough to set the hook before line pulled through my fingers. The slack line, between my reel and fingers, disappeared instantly and the Martin reel chattered as the spool spun. He fought within the deep pool, below the fast surface current, with hesitating jerks and turns. Jim commented it might be a brown, where he stood watching the excitement from high on the bank. The burnt orange ’glass’ rod, with all the metal ferrules, bowed in a wide arc into the butt section so I was careful not to get the rod in a compromising position. A fiberglass rod makes most fighting fish bigger than what they are but there was no question that this trout was good size for this small creek.
 As the rod started to raise and open its arc the trout surfaced. The noon day sun enhanced his pinkish streak across its lateral line against his olive skin. Black spots covered the long length of his body. He turned deep in an instant, the rod flexed downward and I let tensioned line though my fingers again as my right hand firmly gripped the cork handle with wrist locked. Mark commented about the rainbow had to be a holdover for sometime because of how dark his body was. After more of a battle the heavy weight finally started to tire under the rod pressure and strong undercurrent. Nearer to shore I held the rod high in a big arc and net gloved the muscular body of the rainbow. The bugger was stuck fast in the trout’s lower jaw but with a little help with my hemostats he was free from the hook and released unharmed to give someone else a good battle.

 After Mark and Jim headed down creek ahead of me I lit up a Don Thomas stogie and I slowly fished my way down. I worked the far banks with a swinging streamer or bugger. On occasion I was rewarded with my patience and skillful placement of the streamers. My rhythm, with the slow action and rebound of the ‘glass’ rod was now more familiar than earlier. Most of my casts were a sweeping sidearm cast. At an upward angle, I swung my arm back behind me some and waited for the length of line to follow behind with the flexing rod. On the forward cast I stopped my elbow near my side until the line looped forward before ending the sweep of my forearm.

 Roll casts were more forceful with the wimpy tip than my graphite’s. In time I got used to it and was able to drop the bugger pretty much where I wanted. A few more trout, one being a good fighting brown, came to hand before Jim and Mark appeared from downstream.

 I watched as Mark crouched down on shore at a deep hole near a bend in the creek. He was drifting his imitation beneath. He jumped up and yelled to Jim he had a big trout on. His long fly rod arced like a candy cane and was flexing up and down as the trout tussled below. I reeled in and was wading towards him wanting to get a picture. I saw the big brown trout rise to the surface and tumble exposing his dark golden color belly. I was getting nearer when Mark’s rod shot up without resistance. It was a time of frustration as the big trout got away. Mark was pretty well disgusted but hey…….

They joined back up with me and we headed back up creek. Jim and Mark had found some hungry trout and appeared to have a lot of action downstream. When we reached pretty far up creek, towards the vehicles, there was no one else fishing like there was earlier. Mark stood on the bank casting near an exposed tree limb that stuck up out of the water. He started catching or missing trout often enough it was impressive to watch. I cautiously weaved my way through the brush and quietly stepped into the water trying not to disturb it. Jim made a stand up creek from me and began to drift nymphs in the run of water emptying into the narrow stretch of water nearer to me. I started casting my bugger out towards the far back and let it drift some before slowly stripping in. We were all hooking up now and then to the hungry rainbows. Jim nailed one that gave him a good fight and netted it successfully. It wasn’t long before Mark said good-bye and left. Jim walked over to where Mark was fishing and proceeded on catching a couple more trout. I slowly waded my way, fishing a bugger, down towards the area they were fishing. Jim finally gave up and headed to his truck.

In the mean time….
 The trout grabbed the bugger on the strip in and wasn’t about to let go. As I applied pressure to force him too me he had other ideas. When he turned towards the far bank I instantly knew this trout wasn’t a light weight. The water swirled above him as he swam and bowed the ‘glass‘ rod in a good sturdy arc. The water was maybe two or three feet deep at the most, not wide in this section, but it was a long straight stretch of creek. He took advantage and turned downstream like a stage coach escaping from bandits. The fiberglass rod shook and flexed with the big trout’s turns and dives as the Classic Martin clicked rapidly.

“I got a big'n” I called out to Jim who was at his vehicle by now.
 The trout stripped out a long length of fly line before he quit his long run. I held the rod at an angle upstream trying to force him to me. The branches behind me kept me from putting side pressure on the trout. He started to fight his way towards me tugging on the line as the ‘glass’ rod dampened every thrust. He kept his distance towards the middle of the creek the nearer he came upstream. I was getting ready with my hand in my glove net when I felt more weighty pressure on my right wrist. He pulled downwards and took off down creek again. I let line strip through my finger and the cork grip I was trying to keep tension on. He got to about half the distance as before, before I got him turned around. A few more jerks and pulls flexed the rod but I needn’t give him any more line. I got him closer and grabbed him by the neck of his tail. Jim stood near the bridge as I lifted the lengthy rainbow for him to see.

 After that Jim left and I continued to fish for about another half hour with only one more hook up. We disturbed the water enough and the fish were well aware of it.

 At the minivan I drank a beer as I took off my fishing clothes and dressed in more favorable clothes to drive home in.

 As I drove down rte. 8 I replayed some of the excitement in my head while smoking a La Aurora Cameroon cigar. I wondered how old the fiberglass rod was that I was fishing with. It was given to me by a friend sometime ago. At no time, while fighting those bigger rainbows, did I ever have second thoughts about the ability of the fiberglass rod, no matter how old it is.

What was it I read on The Fiberglass Manifesto blog?
Walk with cane
Write with graphite
Fish with Glass


Monday, March 19, 2012

Fishing in 'God's Country'

Fishing in ‘God’s Country’

 I could have stuck around home and fished for freshly stocked trout in the warm weather…..with a 100 other fishermen. I just couldn’t see the fun in it being among the crowd of spin casters and fly fishermen on Oil Creek or the Neshannock Creek special regulation areas. Instead I loaded up the conversion van and headed to Potter County in North Central PA., ‘God’s Country’ as we call it here; untouched, unspoiled, untamed. This mountainous area where I was to visit is where Kettle Creek, Cross Fork and a few wild small tributaries meander through the dense forest. Sure there is only fly fishing allowed in the Catch and Release areas this time of year but I was sure not too many fishermen venture this far north in the middle of March to fish.
 After all these years I still get excited, like a kid, going on one of my trout expeditions. I had all my fishing gear packed in the van Friday evening. Saturday morning I woke up before the alarm. I filled a cooler with refreshments, grabbed some cigars and my satchel of clothes and put them in the van. With a cup of hot tea and a smile on my face I was heading East on I80 before the sun rose. The crescent moon was a spectacle in the dark sky above the foggy morning roadway.

It was near 9am when I reached my destination. There wasn’t a soul around. A gray squirrel scurried up a bare tree as I pulled up to park. A few song birds chirped somewhere out within the forest. The air was a bit nippy as the sun hadn’t reached above the mountainside just yet. Dry leaves crackled underfoot as I walked towards the narrow wooden bridge. I gazed over the bridge rail waiting for my eyes to adjust to the wavy current as I looked through my polarized sunglasses. The movement of fish hanging in the current soon became visible. The little kid in me started to get excited all over again!
 Back at the van I dressed warm though knowing the near 70 degrees noon weather was to come. I wore my thick fleece pants beneath my 3mm boot foot waist waders knowing the mountain creek water won’t warm as much as the air temperature. With a slight breeze about and knowing the tight casting conditions, I elected on the 3 weight Demon saving the Wonderod for later in the day or tomorrows adventure. One last swig of water, I grabbed my vest, the cigars, and headed to the vacant mountain stream.
 It wasn’t long before I had a spunky rainbow flexing the 3 weight in a big arc. I was surprised at the energy of the rainbow in the March cold water conditions. Though he took the Woolly Bugger without too much of a tug as it was swinging, he fought eagerly. His body was firm with good girth as I held him within my grip.
 After a couple of more takers, and energetic fights, the other fish wised up and quit hitting the streamers I offered.

 I decided to work 2 nymph patterns. It took a few combinations and changed in depths before another bend in the rod. This guy wasn’t happy at all that the dark GRHE was just an imitation of a drifting nymph. During the struggle he came completely out of the water twice in fanciful twists trying to shake the hook free. He stayed as frisky from the hook set until I released him back into the cold water.

 As time passed I fished alone. Occasionally someone would stop and look over the bridge asking if I was “catching any?” and “how is the bite?” each time I would tell them I caught a couple but the bite was slow. Each time I never encouraged them to come on down and give it a try. Each time I made sure I didn’t hook into any trout by either pretending to tie a new pattern on, relighting my cigar or haphazardly cast out with a bad drift. Each time they would walk back to their vehicles and left.
 As the noon day sun made its presents felt stoneflies began to emerge and dance about the water. There weren’t any risers but a stonefly nymph worked just fine!
 When no one was around I went back to the van and took off a layer of clothes before heading up stream for a bit. I caught two eager rainbows hiding beneath a downfall but couldn’t find anymore hungry trout within the short walk upstream. About 2:00 I ate a quick lunch and headed to a section of Kettle Creek I like to fish. 

 On Kettle Creek the water was high and moving fast. I fished streamers and nymphs for about an hour before giving up and heading to the 144 bridge and access area. It took awhile but I finally got a good hook up on my 4wt Stream Rod. He felt heavy as he fought tooth and nail in the deeper water and under current. Three guys on the bank watched as I got him handled and settled down before the nymph hook popped out of his lip. The rainbow was the biggest of the day and I decided to release him quickly after the good struggling fight.  

 Soon after that, one of the bank side anglers joined me and we tried to lift another trout in the general area but failed to do just that. In the parking area we drank a beer, to finish up the day, before going our own separate ways.

 After a well needed nap I headed into the big town of Cross Fork to Jeff’s Bar for the St. Patrick’s Day Dance. After a few beers, a few new found friends and a few more beers; I knew it weren’t going to be an early rise Sunday morning for this gent!


Thursday, March 8, 2012

BWO Therapy

Blue Wing Olive Therapy

 The SAS Scott rod swings forward like an extension of my arm. The peach double taper line unfolds above the creek extending towards the branch extruding out of the water near the far shore. As the tapered leader starts to unroll I slowly lower the fly rod level with the water. The line, leader and 6X tippet fall softly upon the surface. I’m unable to see the #18 BWO in the distance but the fly line tip points in the general direction. I move the rod tip with the current and keep my sight in the vicinity the fly might be. Within a split second I see a flash rising just before the trout takes the fly. I wrist back the long length of line while raising it off the water. The line tensions and I feel the stuck trout afar….
 It is cold! Hand chilling cold, red nose cold, cold! The eyes of the fly rod aren’t freezing up but my own eyes would tear up if it weren’t for the polarized glasses blocking the chilling wind. The water is running with good flow and depth that extra heavy weight isn’t needed to get my tandem rig down to the fish. I can feel the chill of the March water that flows around my neoprene hip waders. I have the furry flaps down on my Yukon Alaska hat and I can still taste the flavored Chap Stick, upon my lips, that I barrowed. Otherwise my 4 layers of clothing are keeping any air hidden body parts warm.

 Jim and I made the near 2 hour drive, from Clarion, to join up with some friends for a day on the famed Spring Creek in Central Pa. After a morning BS camaraderie meeting, at Dave’s camp, we split up and scattered out along the creek. Some drove up creek a ways and a couple guys walked down creek. I walked up from camp, entered the creek, and am now drifting a nymph and dropper aimlessly for wild trout.
 After a good 30 minutes I only catch one small brown trout that happened to get in the way of my bead-head pheasant tail. My excitement about fishing is starting to wear off with the continuous retying of different nymph patterns to see what works. I light up my first cigar of the day and contemplate my next move.
 I wade towards the bank, scarring off the mallards, and start flipping over rocks. Among the cluster of small snails one olive scud clings to the rock face. I look into my nymph box and find a green dubbed rock worm pattern with a brown hare’s ear head.
“It will have to do” I tell myself
 I drop this from a flash back hare’s ear nymph and drift the tandem rig beneath an indicator.
 At the end of a drift, near the backend of a pool, my indicator dips. I bring the rod up and set the hook. I hold on tight as the wild trout takes me for a ride. It kicks and pulls like a mule in a thunderstorm. The brown leaps from the water like a rainbow, twisting its body in mid-air before reentering the water. My knotted 6X tippet holds tight in the seemingly never ending battle. Nearer to me he is still kicking up water as I get a hand on him.

 I continue on down creek and am surprised I get two good hook ups beneath the heavy wavy current mid-stream. I am able to land one wild brown but the other comes loose as it rose into the more strenuous surface current.
  After 10 minutes of nothing Dave pulls off the side of the road and asks how I’ve done. After a brief conversation he hands me 3 olive scud patterns. I return to the creek after he takes off to check on the others. Within four drifts I connect up with a brown, the scud works like candy. I begin hooking up more often. In a slow pool I pull in three browns within 6 drifts! It is almost like fishing for stocked trout.

 Noon time I meet up with the gang back at Dave’s camp. Everyone has had a good morning catching trout. While talking, some of us drink a beer and finish off a bottle of malted Scotch. A few of us eat a sandwich while the others head inside camp for a hot lunch. After I finish up my beer we head back out into the creek. 

 I walk back up creek and plan on working my way back down to camp as I did in the morning. There is another fisherman at the pool ahead of the riffles so I step into the water below the riffles and start to drift the two nymphs beneath. In a matter of time I pop out one trout on the olive scud before getting down to a fallen tree branch in the center of the creek.
 Drifting the tandem nymphs I see my first rise just downstream from the downed tree branch, than what looks like a swirl across creek, near a half submerged thick limb. I search the surface water for a definite fly that they might be rising for. The tedious act of tying on a #18 or #20 midge with cold fingers isn’t too thrilling. I’ve fished Spring Creek enough to know that the trout are pretty selective sometimes and just not any old fly will make them rise.
 I watch a standup winged Blue Wing Olive just beyond the first rise. Within the blink of an eye, I see a flash of a rise, a surface splash, the water swirl and the BWO disappears.
I nip off the two nymphs and knot on a long piece of 6X tippet. I take a white parachute BWO, from my midge box, and begin the process of tying it on. My hands are shaking slightly, if not from the cold than from the excitement. I patiently try to thread the tippet between the hackle fibers and into the #18 hook eye. I’m successful after a couple of misses. I pull tippet through the eye and spin the fly 4 times between my thumb and finger. I continue trying to tie the knot as I hear more surface splashes beyond. Getting the tippet through the first loop near the eye is always a problem for me and with cold fingers doesn’t help the matter. I get lucky and get the tippet end through on the 5th attempt. I wet the tippet with saliva and finish putting the tippet through the bigger loop above and cinch it tight. After cutting off the tag end I visually scan the water over and pinpoint where I want to land the fly.
 There’s a wall behind me with a few thin trees growing along it. I’m able to short cast and with a single haul my double taper line loops out in front of me. As the fly falls I back up the tip slightly so there’s enough slack in the line upon the water for a nice drag free drift. A fish rises and turns towards the imitation. He dives quickly without taking the fly. I refrain from lifting the fly too quickly not wanting to disturb too much water on a false hook up. After a few minutes I get no takes. After 3 more patterns, one being a quill body BWO, I only get two refusals with no takes. The fish are being finicky and I know now that I’ll have to use my stand up CDC wing BWO. Besides the dun color CDC being harder to see upon the tinted water, I don’t have a jar of magic powder to absorb the water from the CDC feather when it gets wet. It’s going to be a one fish, one fly deal.
 I cast out and am able to see the spider looking fly after all. I watch it drift and than see a fish rise from beneath it. He takes the fly off the surface like one would take a piece of popcorn tossed at them. I wrist back the line and feel the catch. The trout fights beneath like a wild brook trout, scurrying about in the pool arena. Across the surface he splashes as I bring him to hand.

 The CDC is in no dry shape form for another good silhouette. In the cold I retie on a new CDC BWO after each catch. I miss a few and they become more wary of my new imitations.
 Just up creek in front of me three fish rise sporadically near the stony shore in only about calf high water. I reach my arm out and sidearm a horizontal loop cast. At the right moment I wrist the rod back sharply and the fly flips forward and lands with the leader and fly line arcing towards the middle of the creek as if it were cast from the far bank. I take in slack keeping up with the oncoming fly line while holding the rod out towards the middle of the creek. A slap at my dry and I quickly rear back taking up slack and hooking the trout’s lip. He darts mid stream towards the downed tree branch. I hold the rod high, pulling line through the rod eyes, trying to keep tension on the hooked trout. He avoids the underbrush and after a short skirmish I get him close enough to land him.

 Now small snowflakes fall sporadically and the sun peers out more often. There are less surface feeders and the ones nearby seem to be aware of my prowling and quit rising to my imitations. I now turn my attention to an occasional riser a good ¾ across creek. He feeds infrequently beneath the shade of an over hanging bank-side tree, sipping in the slower current.

 It’s exciting catching a trout on a dry fly. It’s more rewarding catching one on a fly I tied myself. Making a far pinpoint cast, correct drift and getting a trout, unaware of any danger, to rise to my fly and hooking him is the ultimate.

 The SAS Scott rod swings forward like an extension of my arm. The peach double taper line unfolds above the creek extending towards the branch extruding out of the water near the far shore. As the tapered leader starts to unroll I slowly lower the fly rod level with the water. The line, leader and 6X tippet fall softly upon the surface. I’m unable to see the #18 BWO in the distance but the fly line tip points in the general direction. I move the rod tip with the current and keep my sight in the vicinity the fly might be. Within a split second I see a flash of a rise just before the trout takes the fly. I wrist back the long length of line while raising it off the water. The line tensions and I feel the stuck trout afar. I pull in line until he resists strongly and darts towards the rear of the pool. I let him wrestle with the flexing rod, only letting line slip through my fingers as needed. He decides to swim upstream and I keep pressure on him as I bring in line. He tries to hold up but the rod force steers him towards me. A brief battle ensues within a few feet from me before I get him to rise towards the surface and I cradle him in my hand.

 The rises stop as no more BWO’s visually appear. I move upstream a bit and work a streamer deep. Dan and Jim show up from down creek and fish their way nearer. We talk about our experience thus far upon the creek. They also caught fish on the dry fly. We head back to camp and meet up with some of the other guys.
 It’s still early in the evening but Jim and I decide we had enough in the cold conditions. Satisfied with the outing we bid our friends good-bye and head north.

Snow falls with more abundance and my windshield wipers whisk the wetness away from the windshield. I start to feel the warm heat upon my feet and upon my legs beneath my fleece pants. As we talk Jim spits into his self made snuff spittoon while I draw on a Don Thomas Maduro stogie.

What can I say? Just a day of little BWO therapy, as I look at it, on a cold winter’s day!


Monday, March 5, 2012

Allen Alpha II 7/8 Reel Review

Allen Alpha II 7/8 Reel Review

 I had the opportunity to get my hands on an Allen Fly Fishing 7/8 Alpha II reel. I’ve heard of good things about these reels and was glad to get to try one out for myself. I’m a big believer in double taper lines for short casts and roll casting. I wound this on the large arbor reel with enough room for at least 100 yards of backing. My main use for this reel is for fresh water big fishing such as steelhead, largemouth, pike and whatever comes about this year. I used it for the first time in January with a graphite rod but it got a better work out back in February for fishing steelhead in a Lake Erie tributary with the weather around freezing temps. I decided to use an 8wt fiberglass rod that day and after fitting the reel, onto the down locking rings, it balanced the rod out close to perfect.
 The fish weren’t as jumpy or wild as a fresh chromer just in from the lake but I got hold of a heavy weight female and a brute of a male steelhead that tested both the drag system and the strength of the Alpha II.
 You can read about this outing at http://streamsidetales.blogspot.com/2012/02/glass-versus-steel.html
 The drag system is controlled by a nice sized center variable adjustment knob. You can hear the soft clicks as you tighten or loosen the drag knob to where you feel the drag needs to be. I’m not one that likes the loud audible click, click, click as some reels voice. This reel is quiet and I didn’t really notice the soft clicking of the reel during the excitement of playing the big fish. Maybe it’s just me but I just don’t need to hear the clicking noise to know how fast the reel is spitting out line or to let everyone know I got a good fish on.
 Retrieving lots of line when a speeding steelhead comes towards me is what the large arbor is all about. It quickly spools line while reeling in to keep tension of an oncoming fish. I felt as if the drag tightened instantly without undue pressure as soon as the fish took out line and held that tension as should be. During battling of the big fish I felt no slipping, just a smooth constant drag as one expects. When reeling in it was smooth with no jerkiness or wobble.

 I got the black frame with gun metal spool but they also have other colors I was informed.
 I never owned a reel costing over $200.00. For my fishing, and the performance price for this reel, I may never feel I need a more expensive one.

 All in all I truly have to recommend a look see at an Allen Alpha II when considering a new big game reel.

Here is their web sight