Friday, February 24, 2012

Regional Expo Updates and Blog Plans

   Last weekend’s Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association’s Annual Fly Fishing Meeting, i.e. an expo with a meeting, was a great success.  It was held in Iowa City, IA.  The speakers, including Brian O'Keefe, were well-received.  The guest fly tiers were impressive tiers and educators.  I spent time with Scott Nordby,, and Pike fly tier James Durbin,, leaving with a foam beatle and a Pike fly.  Of course, I came away with more fly tying supplies and… 2 skunk tails!!! I now have 3 tails but my new ones don’t smell like the one which is still sitting in my garage.  I no longer have to debate if I should dare to take that scented tail into my home.

   On that note, expect to see blog entries in the near future for a couple fly tying recipes using skunk tail.  I spent at least 30 minutes sitting on the floor in the vendor’s room examining tail.  It can be soft, supple or coarse, it is frequently luminescent, the white can be white or ‘pee-colored’ and single strands are a solid color or alternate between white and black.  

   I’m gearing up for the annual Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo, which will be held in Blaine, MN, March 23-25th.  The main focus will be helping out at my friends’ booth, promoting fly fishing and Arrowhead Fly Angler guide service,, serving northern MN and WI).   Jackfish Kate will also attend and may help at the booth.  For more information about the show, visit this link and look for a discount coupon, too:

   The local chapter of HFFA is also in the planning stages of hosting next year’s  ‘Annual Meeting’- AKA expo-  in Bettendorf, IA.  Rumor has it that there will be additional speakers about warm water fishing and local fly fishing opportunities, but many still hope for a fair amount of discourse about Trout in the Driftless Areas of IA, MN, and WI, or in other areas of the country.  Attend meetings 1st/3rd Sundays of the month at Riverdale fire station and share your opinion on this club event. 
   I’ve added another non-profit organization to the ‘Casting It Forward’ page.  It’s called ‘Reel Recovery’ and members/volunteers conduct free fly fishing retreats for men recovering from cancer.  This year I plan to add more conservation-minded posts to this page on the blog.  I am looking forward to posting first-hand accounts of volunteer conservation & fly fishing efforts while promoting organizations & individuals who work anywhere for clean water, happy fish, and happy/healthy anglers.  Help me to fill this page! 

   In the near and distant future (this year), I hope to post informational articles about Smallie and Steelhead fishing after conducting interviews and doing my own research.  And, I just thought to myself:  why not a Carp story?  I’d love a reason to again contact Barry Reynolds; a gentleman very willing to share his time and knowledge of fly angling.  **The post to drive me crazy:  adhesives.  Everything from head cement to UV-cured adhesives will be covered (gulp!) with recommendations for their usage and the creation of a chart (double gulp!!) to provide a quick visual on properties (such as drying time) and their general uses.  **I am looking forward to speaking with reps from the IA DNR.  Expect a post about the Trout stocking program, including lesser-known information about stocked Trout and their wild counterparts, some added insight to the new trout map, and about the Driftess Area streams.  **I'm still searching for fishy recipes.  Send me an original!  Of course,  discourse on the magnificent Musky & additions to the WI-MN Diaries will continue.  My goal this year is to self-edit.  Entertainment stories must be under 800-1000 words.  

**I do plan on posting more fly tying recipes.  I'm currently working on the prototype of the ‘Double Buck’.  It is my spin-off of a fabulous large-profile articulated fly I saw last year when fishing with friends from Musky Country Outfitters,  And yes, I saw that fly meet with a Musky!  Sadly it wasn’t when I fished the fly.  I’ve added a collar on my fly to push water.  I also plan to make a couple more changes to truly call this challenging tie 'my own'.  I may post more info on the success or demise of the fly, but no recipe will be posted until (if) the fly is successfully fished.  **I will soon post the PeaBody Nymph.  And, can anyone say ‘Bass Flies’?  I’ve got a real itch to get into some Smallies this year and who doesn’t like a good Bass tie recipe?!

   So, as usual, I have grand plans for posts.  IF I win the ‘Mega Millions’ next week, I will post fairly frequently after my month-long fly fishing vacation.  If I am required to continue working full-time, I will travel and interview folks, and fish & tie flies when I can.  Articles will be posted over the course of the year.  Wish me luck!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Humility and the Fly

Humility is fly fishing’s best character-building lesson.  It is not a single experience which then becomes hosted by a distant memory, and soon forgotten.  Humility is a perfect loop, formed again and again, with a fly rod. 

Hope, confidence, ego, over-confidence spring up and then are stripped away by a few snags, a small wily fish, or a knot, poorly tied.  Humility appears; the great balancer.  It is the fertilizer we wade through that allows us to grow & casts us again and again, back to the fly rod with fresh humble eyes.
My time with the long rod has been short but the passion and the lesson have been long.  I yearn for the big fish, strong artistic casts, & the sharing of my yet-developed wisdom.  But none of these should be felt so deeply or appreciated so strongly without my fly fishing partner, Humility, returning always to my side. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Strike Indicator: Real Deal or Fly Fishing Puffery?

   Child sits on dock holding fishing rod, watching the red/white bobber & hoping for a fish to take the worm.  30+ years later, the woman wades in a stream, mending the strike indicator around a branch & maintaining a drag-free drift on a nymph rig, setting up for a take.  Goals are the same:  have fun & catch fish.
   Heck yes, the strike indicator is a bobber!  However, it can be more than that.  I’ve never read a book or sat with friends for hours while watching my strike indicator.  Both the bobber and the indy can set the depth of the hook and indicate when a strike occurs, which is similar in concept to how a screwdriver or a drill can drive a screw into wood. In particular situations, either tool can perform the same task.
   The plastic, foam, cork, putty, yarn, or sometimes, elk hair object, with the edgy name, ‘strike indicator’, is a multi-tool.  (The bobber may also serve other purposes, but that is a topic for another writer to explore)  This article will explore how the indy can be used in ways other than as a classic bobber, and when used similarly to a bobber, how other considerations of its use still differentiate it from conventional angling.

But when is an indicator a ‘multi-tool’ not strictly a bobber? 
   How about when the indicator is a dry fly or a hopper with a dropper attached?  How many conventional anglers hook a fish with a bobber? 
  The indicator can also be used in multi-current situations to set up the fly.  When casting directly downstream through riffles and drifting into a deeper pool, I have intermittently used an indicator.  As I strip out line to maintain a drag-free drift, first, it is easy to produce enough slack to not feel a strike and second, the disturbance to the line in the riffles can lessen the ability to sense a strike. Adding an indicator creates a waypoint where less slack is present on the side closest to the nymph and where a strike can be seen, especially during the nymph-led fishy transition into slower, deeper water. 
   A respondent to my query on provided another example:  the angler uses the indy as an anchor point in a slack eddy, causing the fly that has landed in adjacent fast water to pivot around this section of eddy, hit the eddy line and then flow into slow current water.  This strategy keeps the heavier fly from landing on the smooth water while still directing the fly into the current changes and to the slow flow water after the pivot-point, which tend to be popular fish hang-outs.
   Furthermore, this same angler reported that he will purposely overweight his indicator, dampening “the rigid depth controlling effect of the indy.” 
   The ‘soft take’ of a trout might be felt too late for the angler to effectively set the hook.  At times, having a visual reference to the fly can be invaluable.  Once it leaves the hand, a tiny dry fly often becomes invisible on the water, and nymphs and wet flies can be become difficult to see in a variety of water conditions.  Indicators can then be used as a simple aid to allow the angler to make better visual contact with the fly or, at least, to approximate its location in the current.  The indy here may be a commercial design, or perhaps the angler simply adds fluorescent paint to knots on the leader.  This technique could also be a teaching tool utilized to aid one with reading current.
   A guide friend of mine dislikes the term ‘strike’ indicator, believing that this gives one the mistaken belief that its primary function is to indicate a strike.  Regarding indicators, he wrote, “The main purpose is to telegraph to the fly angler how your nymphs are behaving underwater.  Using an indicator gives the angler a better visual of what is happening below the surface.”  He sure wasn’t describing a bobber.

Can this 'multi-tool' make one a better fly angler?
   Well, the simple multi-tool can set fly depth, indicate a strike, be a visual indicator of fly location, aid with fly placement in multi-current situations, & telegraph what the nymph is doing on the water bottom.  However, another valuable attribute is that the little gizmo is also a great teaching tool.  Next time you chase the fish from a hole, use the indicator and keep fishing the hole.  Without those fishy distractions, you will have a great visual with which to learn about water current, water depth & what your nymph is trying to tell you.   
   Indirectly, use of an indicator and a little patience will improve general fly fishing skills.  When one reluctantly adds an indicator to a leader already burdened with a weighted point fly, a dropper, and split shot, either one’s fly casting or knot de-tangling skills will improve (& probably both).  In streams and small rivers, presentation of both the indicator and the fly without disturbing the quarry is the new rule.  Producing a drag-free drift on a windy day can be more challenging.  Finally, when you learn what the indy is indicating and how to respond, life will be filled with more fish and fewer snags.
   Fly fishing offers endless opportunities to have fun, to learn, & be creative in the outdoors.  Improving my abilities to use and read a strike indicator have increased my general skills as a fly angler, regardless of whether I elected to attach an indicator to my leader on any given day.  The indy is simply a multi-tool which allows the angler to be successful (or not!) depending on when and how it is used.  Others may be just as successful foregoing the strike indicator while utilizing similar techniques…  As fly anglers, we have many tools at our disposal.  However, our enthusiasm & the application of our knowledge and skill, peppered with a little luck, ultimately determine our successes.

(In a month or two, this story will be moved to the 'Featured Article' section, but I will still make reference to it here so that it may remain easily found.  Thanks, ~Twitch)