Saturday, August 18, 2012

Preparing for the Mighty Musky

Musky fly fishing.  Chasing one of the largest freshwater predators in the world. I have no personal experience but from what I've read it sounds like any trophy fly fishing - lots of mundane time spent casting and searching interrupted by a moment of chaotic fury.  My kind of fishing super challenging but equally rewarding.

There are a few lakes in my area and some rivers, which contain these mighty beasts and I plan to introduce myself soon.  Time to hit the vice.  If you search muskie (musky) flies, streamers etc., you will find a bunch of examples of gaudy streamers to lure this mighty esox.  The guys at musky country outfitters and eastern trophies have some great, creative examples.  But like most of my streamer tying I decided to start with what the gear guys use.  I saw the lure on top in an in-fisherman magazine issue dedicated to pike and muskie and found the picture on the internet.  Everything I've read has suggested that orange and orange/black are key colors when pursuing muskie, so why not start there.

The other picture is my initial prototype fly version.  Two perfect bend 3/0 hooks lashed together with wire, orange grizzly hackle tail, marabou body, and arctic-fox head to push water.  Oh, and plenty of holographic flashabou for good measure.  I took it for a swim in the bath and I was satisfied but there is still room for improvement.

Hopefully I will stick this or its progeny in some toothy critters soon!

Tight Lines.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Kool Aid and Fly Tying

This is yet another example of why the internet is a great thing for fly tying.  I consider myself to be on the creative side of the fence but I would have never thought of the project that gave rise to the picture to the right.

I had a low grade cape standard grizzly rooster (white and black).  As with many people these days, I am cautiously spending my dollars and colorful capes for streamers and intruders etc., while desirable, are certainly not in the budget.  So what is a fly tyer to do?  Get on the internet and stand on the shoulders of giants.  Kool-aid.  Yep, buy a box of colors (unsweetened!) and following the directions on the links provided.

Another cost conscience tip, take a razor and start slicing up the cape into smaller squares.  Doing so will allow you to get a number of colors from one cape.  For example, the picture represents about 1/3 of the original cape. The top clump of feathers is attached to a 1inch X 1inch square.  So you can imagine the amount of colors you can get from one cape.  Also, the smaller pieces seem to allow the individual feathers to absorb more color.  So, by cutting first you end up with more variety and probably a better product.

I have to say the results are promising.  While the cape doesn't seem as bold as the store bought products, it is definitely orange and that is what I was looking for.  There is plenty of room for improvement and experimentation, which will be a lot of fun.

So, if you're looking for a unique colored feather or you're keeping the nickels and dimes close to the vest, then stop by your local grocery store, grab some kool-ai and have at it.

Tight lines.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Thinking About Restoration

I've been thinking about restoration lately.  Such thoughts stemmed from some newly acquired concerns. Those concerns are for smallmouth bass in a lake that is ingrained in my family's culture and not only from fishing but by time and memory.  The lake's smallmouth grow slow but large. They are as strong, wild and as beautiful as the lake they call home.  At one time no one really paid attention to these water-dwelling residents. For instance, in prime season, there would be not but a few boats fishing for bass, usually in simple, small bass boats and most of the time catch and release (or I hoped so).  Indeed, I was clued into this bass fishery from my dock by observing a rickety old bass boat work the shallows for a couple years. The fisherman seemed focused, simple, and deliberate - a way which could only come from being dialed into a fishing pattern.  One day I got my dad in a canoe and we battled wind, wave and distance and came to find we had been sitting on a lake which held a heck of a bass fishery. 

Fast forward through time and many great memories to find the DNR constructed a new boat ramp allowing famous bass television show hosts and 250 HP motors powering souped up "glitter boats" to invade.  Worse yet, My dad and I showed the fishery to a cousin. Now he brings his bass buddies up and have a few days of fish fry every year.  The horror! The horror! These thoughts have kept me up at night. Such a reaction might seem silly, even ridiculous, and, frankly it probably is, but I grew up as a fisherman pursuing these bass and I grew up emotionally, dare I say spiritually, connected to this lake.  I can say, albeit cautiously, that the lake, while not a part of my family, is akin to a characteristic trait just as blue eyes or curly hair. So you can say I have a relationship with this fishery, I've studied it, even swam with the bass and taken a great deal of effort to watch out for every fish I've come across.  I've had a smallmouth hunt crayfish beside me, snatching the little crustaceans as I shuffled stones on the bottom.  That's a personal connection that few fisherman can say they've shared with their beloved fisheries.  Now, the introduction of nonnative, invasive fisherman could potentially soil the very waters and fish I hold so dear. 

With that in mind, I have come to find my neighbor is both a fly fisherman and avid conservationist.  Indeed he was once the president of the local TU chapter.  After speaking with him briefly, the man is clearly dialed in to the conservation issues the great lakes fisheries face and I'm looking forward to getting involved and lend a helping hand.  He is part of a restoration project that is attempting to restore the small creeks here in northern Illinois one ravine at a time.  The project has a blog which I have included to my list and is the following:

Its amazing what a little elbow grease can do.

Tight Lines.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fishing Reports

A quick pre-work report.  Had a chance to fish up in Michigan a few weeks ago.  Typically, the lake I fish up north is cold and deep but not this year.  While of course the depth remained the same, the surface temperatures were approaching 80 degrees.  As a caveat, my Dad and I have only recently started using thermometers but we have a sense by touch that the water was warmer than usual.  Likewise, the bass were not in their typical pattern and we struggled to find fish.  Eventually we did tighten up on a few but we have certainly not figured out the warm-water pattern on this lake.

That's what I love about fishing, even a lake, a fishery, that is so familiar is always changing always new.

Also, got up to the Milwaukee twice after being inspired by a fellow blogger.  Stayed within the city limits both times.  First trip was a total success, caught 17 smallmouth, a crappie and hooked but lost a nice pike (darn teeth).  It was a riot and it was easy.  Since it was my first summer trip on the Milwaukee I was kicking myself for not having made the trip before.  However, I must have had a case of beginners luck because the second trip was much tougher.  The water had rose and was discolored.  The fish had moved or were not hungry. Either way my buddy Kelley and I each got one but had to throw the box trying to catch them. So much for easy fishing.  Just another bipolar river to explore.

Nevertheless, we are planning to dial in and picked up a pair a float tubes to assist covering water.

Hopefully, my next report will reflect the first trip rather than the second and I need to start remembering my camera.

Tight Lines.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Slow Down 2012 . . .

I have not been a diligent blogger and not to take a ride on the excuses train but a few things have happened:
(1) bought a house with my girlfriend in a suburb near where I grew up (it has a man-cave / fly tying room i.e. unfinished corner of basement - when finished I'll post some pix for opinions and comments);
(2) went on a tarpon fly fishing trip - got rained out 2 of three days and zero on day 1 (until 2013 you f*ing silver devils)
(2a) on the same trip, while landlocked, my dad and I worked our tails off to find fish in-between down pours and I ended up with a nice sight-fished snook;
(3) work, work, work; and 
(4) more time spent acclimating to homeownership.

I have escaped on a few fishing excursions.  Got up to southwest Wisconsin with some good buddies who are coming into their own as fishermen (but thats another post).  We worked hard, caught some fish, washed down some bugs with local brew and finished each day with an ample dose of red meat - great time!  Fished some local ponds for carp and bass and have caught an smattering of both.  Most interesting is I came across a couple local lakes that have muskie.  Time to tie some critter flies!

Bottom line, Kat and I are settling into the new routine so there will be more time for bloggin', bourbon, tyin', oh yes and whole lot more fishin'.

Back in business.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Intruders.  I love them.  They are fish-catching machines.  They are fun, complex, and time consuming flies to tie - what else can you ask for?  While the pictured intruders are destined to swim in midwestern streams, they share some of the traits of their pacific-northwest cousins.  Some of them use waddington shanks ("WS"), some of them use cut long-shank hooks (9xl in some cases - my favorite).  Personally, I prefer to use long shank hooks cut at the bend.  They are cheaper and I like building from a slimmer base.  That being said, when I want a heavier fly for swinging slow and deep I go with the WS.

The most attractive element of all intruder flies is the hook.  The hook hangs off the back of the fly towards the tail and, as such, it sits right in the face of the steelhead - no short strikes with these flies.  However, this design creates a problem - Hook Hang Down.  Frankly, I don't know if it truly is a problem.  I don't know if it turns fish away or causes hook penetration issues.  But if you look at the fly in the water and the hook dangles below the fly, the profile appears unnatural.  Steelhead are hard enough, why give them a reason to turn down the fly. To combat this I've used a number of different materials: wire, fireline, mono. I find the best material is beadalon wire (found at craft stores).   Also, adding weight to the front of the fly balances the hook and allows the fly to maintain a natural profile in the water.

I can't think of a better fly design when swinging for steelhead.

Tight lines.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sweet Video from Jeff Hubbard of Outfitters North

I cant wait to get the two-hander out again . . . work is really bringing me down - videos like this don't help.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Golden Age of Fly Tying

With the first serious blanket of snow upon us here in Chicago, it seems fitting for a good ramble on fly tying.  Last weekend I was watching Midnight in Paris with my girl (you gotta do what you gotta do).  The main character, Gil, was a writer who found himself lost, wishing is was born in the 20s - a Golden Age of literature and art.  He spent his nights at Parisian bars sharing ideas with great minds lost to time such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Dali. Of course, my mind quickly drifted to all things fly fishing, in this case, fly tying.  I wondered, are we living in the Golden Age of Fly Tying?  

By way of example, see the fly pictured above. It is my first attempt at the the fly, which is dubbed the fur trader (pun intended).  It is a modern articulated streamer first made public by Matt Grajewski.  I came across it on the internet.  It appears pretty standard for today's industry - but think about what it is? It is made, almost entirely, of synthetic materials (craft fur).  It is articulated using wire, beads, and epoxy. It's head is made of a craft fur dubbing brush.  It is designed for trout!

At one time, the size 8 wooly bugger was the modern trout streamer.  Tyers were limited by available materials and hooks and tied for fishing rather than tying for itself.  As more materials became available, the wooly bugger evolved into flies like the circus peanut, sex dungeon, sculpzilla and of course the fur trader.  These streamers are articulated, covered in rubber or plastic or synthetic fur that maximize motion with out requiring a lot of movement and swim as if they were born and raised in the river.  The one inch wooly bugger has matured into a 9 inch monstrosity - pretty amazing.  What's more amazing is the speed at which the evolution has occurred and the evolution seems to be just getting started.  Each year (or season) we have rattles, uv curing  glues, glowing materials, lure lipps - what's next? 

The wooly bugger's evolution exemplifies the fact that we have entered into or are firmly entrenched in the Golden Age of Fly Tying.  Thanks in large part to the internet, the seemingly never ending supply of new and creative materials, and the rapid infusion of young, creative fly fishing minds that have taken hold of the possibilities and quickly shared, altered and adapted flies and techniques with amazing speed.  The moment a fly pattern hits a blog or forum it begins to grow, evolve, change to fit different species or environments all over the world. Oh, and I say young only because I believe the older generations of the sport, as with everything, get stuck in comfort zones or concepts.  For instance, when I show my Grandfather the modern trout streamers in my box he laughs and tells me "only pike or bass will eat those!"  That being said, a creative mind is not bound by age or time and fly fishermen are a particularly creative lot. I can only expect this Golden Age of Fly Tying to continue. 

Naturally, this begs the question - are we in the Golden Age of Fly Fishing?  Maybe, maybe not.  I, like Gil, find myself in wandering nights sharing water with anglers like Ted Williams, Joe Brooks and yes Ernest Hemingway. At night, I cast a line with those pioneers of the sport who fished when fisheries were new, undeveloped and untouched; when fly fishing in saltwater was cutting edge, when boat ramps weren't crowded or didn't exist. Now, we can fish for Golden Dorado in Bolivia or Tigerfish in Tanzania and are only limited by the all powerful dollar.  Can we be in a Golden Age where waters are being depleted, rivers crowded, runs diminishing?  As I said, anyone can travel into the wild and may do so not because of a passion for the sport or the fish but only because they can afford trip. Sure, today's average fly fishermen can cast farther, more accurately, reach greater depths and distances, but has fly fishing lost the greatness of old, the mystery?

I have to develop that proposition further but, for now, back to the vice to take advantage of our Golden Age.

Tight lines.