Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gear Thoughts

As my previous posts about my favorite rivers, this post is only my personal experience and thuoghts about fly-fishing gears, not a professional review at all. After all I am one of the consumers in the fly-fishing industry. I know I usually go with lower-end gears. But also I know that does not mean I am being cheap. Besides, I really hate to be a "Mr. Gear" who could a good customer (maybe rich) but not a good fisherman at all, period.

For example, definitely the most expensive gear in fly-fishing is the rod. If I were to run a fly-shop, work at there, or be a professional (guide, instructor, writer, etc), I would own more than several rods and had better be able to review and explain each to customers and non-pro anglers. Fortunately, I am not one of them. My attitude here is "'d better practice and improve my casting first" and "owning higher rods does not gurantee me casting further or catching bigger fish than using cheaper rods". I don't think trout can tell whether the fly is presented by Orvis or Cabela's. I believe it's all up to anglers' ability including reading waters and tying better looking flies.

I always look for the brand/company who specializes each gear and stick with them.....affordable ends of course. I am not a great fan of who wants to produce all such as.....(I zip up my mouth here.) For the rod, I like Sage's. I think it's mostly because I live in Washington State! For the line and leader I stick with RIO or Cortland. Only one exception is Jim Teeny and Kelly Galloup's full-sink line, very specialized for streamer fishing. These are top-end and high-qualities anyway. Then as for the reel, I choose something silvery and fancy!!

For the fly-tying materials and tools, I do go with the best in the industry such as TMC and Dai-riki hooks, Whiting hackles, and premium feathers and hairs from Blue Ribbon Flies. And always trying to be picky too. Matarelli tools, Gossamer silks, etc......Those are much less costing in general money-spending. After tying lots of ugly flies with cheap materials (though I caught trout with them), I really appreciate those materials and tools I have gathered.

The list goes on. I was dreaming about Brodin's ghost net but I found the same looking rubber net at Cabela's in half a price of Brodin's. Got it!! Actually I like this one better in term of over all length and size of the net. It's bigger than Brodin's products and I always look for big trout, right??

Now I want to replace my HMH vise to Regal's.........Or should I get another Sage?........etc, etc....

But here's a bit serious review that made me feel "the higher, the better". I had been using just a regular pair of felt-soul wading boots from Columbia. It wasn't really cheap in general, around $100 or so (and good looking too). Also Columbia produces lots of nice outdoor apparels, you know. My vest is Columbia too, which is very comfortable on my back and neck. Anyway one of its shoe string holders was broken so I got a perfect reason to replace it!! It has been slippery but I've been assuming it is because of the rivers and my strength.

During my last trip to Yellowstone over three weeks ago, I picked up a pair of Simms Guide boots. It was about 40% discount from its original price at Blue Ribbon Flies due to some movement to rubber-soul in the industry. That made this top-end gear down to about the same price as the so-so Columbia boots above so I gave a shot. I thought this might be a bit too fancy a gear for my level and I might even be "shopping-high" in a tourist town.......but I am very glad that I bought this.

In the evening right after I bought it, I used it. It was a total revelation. I could walk into slippery and swift Madison River like Spiderman sticks and climbs the wall!! I am not only saying Simms products are great (I have been using Simms' wader so I already know they are great) but also I really have to realize that I have been putting my life in danger, making myself nervous when I was wading in, and limiting my fishing ranges with those previous cheaper and affordable boots.

This was quite a lesson. We really should not go cheap with gears that matter to our bodies and lives in any kind of outdoor activities. But then again, as for the rest of fly-fishing gears and tools, fancy ones do not gurantee to get you into big fish. Instead it's totally up to your ability. I always keep that in my mind.

The hand-crafted boots-drier is patented by me!! This will drop all the water from the boots yet keep out the debriz and dirts on my truck bed. All you need is some pieces of woods from lumber yards (usually free) and nails. If one of you come up with a better idea, please let me know.

Also, here's my hear-say. I asked lots of people about rubber-soul wading boots to go with the latest technology.

My interview ended up like this,

OK/good : likable but so-so : hate it!! = 1 : 2 : a lot!!

Well, now I really feel happy with that Simms pair!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Favorite River - Rocky Ford Creek

Though I often visit Montana to fish some of the best rivers on the earth, I do have some waters to fish here in eastern WA. Well, actually never equal to the qualities of Montana rivers, yet likable and OK. There are lots of lakes to fish here in eastern WA, but I don't like to fish in lakes. Though I understand trout can grow much larger than those in streams, lake fishing is slow for me and I am not a great fan of float-tubes. What if there's a freshwater crocodile or a shark in that lake? There might be some enormous trout or carp that can gulp your feet!! These are my belief and respect of the water, and that's my problem about fly-fishing in eastern WA.

Rocky Ford Creek in Ephrata, WA can offer some trout fishing on foot. But then again, but.......

Put it simply, I go there twice a year only when I need to feel some big trout without going to Montana, and that's enough.

Here are a few things that I don't enjoy. First of all it's open year around, so it's everybody's place = lots of people from the Coast to Idaho. I don't mind that because I can handle the same situation at Montana rivers (Madison, Firehole, etc). But I have to see some problematic people such as; who leave their garbage bags at a camp site, who don't really fish but talk loud and their dogs are barking loud and running around, who are illegally wading (wading is not allowed and very dangerous in this muggy and muddy bottom) and sending waves to other anglers, etc.
Second, it's called a creek but it's basically a huge pond. A bit too slow to trigger me and make me keen and do the best presentation for dry flies or swinging soft-hackles.
Third oftentimes, all you need is scud......Here's my own Deer-hair Scud with an orange hot-point. I am embarrased to show but this has caught too many trout here.

But I don't want to get sulked or be pestimistic at my blog! Here are some good things about Rocky Ford. And these are the reason to make me go......twice a year.
First, these are stocked Triploids. the smallest I caught is 16-incher yet weighing 2-pound, fed by all these scud, leeches, and even mud.
Second, I have figured out the way to avoid the crowd; to start way earlier even than campers.
Third, by doing that, I can do some stalking and bow-&-arrow castings to the crusing trout by the banks. Very up-close and personal.
And forth, if there are lots of people around me, I will get lots of attention from them as an audience when I hook trout, especially when trout are jumping around!!
Also what I have found is to check the opening days of lakes in the area; that way lots of people go those lakes and Rocky ford can be empty!! Trust me!!
This is the obvious (and easiest) spot, where the creek narrows and makes the deepest chutes along with rocks from both sides. It's about just below from the parking/camping site. When I really need to feel fish, I keep this spot at uhhhhhh........5:30am after 2 hours driving!!

Whatsoever, this is the biggest trout I ever caught. I really did not measure but considering what the picture says, it was difinetely 25-inch long and above 5-lb. I was really scared to net it bacause it was so huge and heavy.

Then these two were some of the huge "hogs" from Rocky Ford. Please note, I hooked and landed them with my Sage 4-wt!!

Especially this fatty, I hooked this probably 5-ft away from me while it was crusing the bank and I was hiding behind the little bush. The fly was the scud above. The bite and hook-set were so vivid that I can't explain in words....

Oh, yes, Sparkle Scud was in the middle of upper jaw. This was a slightly technical for me at here. I swam my fly behind the rock then the Thingamabobber let me know the take.....well, how technical it is.....??

Finally but not the last (hoping for more to come!!), catching this one set me into some upper-levels of fly-fishing and made me feel what I have been learning (from books and experience) are correct. There is an outlet from the hatchery (who manages this public section also) and that is the only one riffle. I saw lots of midges were hatching and trout were taking under the surface of that little and only riffle. And nobody was paying any attention to that.

I swung my own tied midge patterns that I learned from Sylvester Nemes' books = "THE" soft-hackle guru. This tiny #20 midge larva/pupa on 6X tippet landed this 18-incher that weighed 3.5-lb (I was sure because on the way home I dropped by a Safeway and felt and made sure with a pack of ground beef!).

Again, there were several people around me and the trout jumped a few times. I never meant to but I had to show them off my fish-handling and landing.....Happy!

I am thinking to visit Rocky Ford for the second time of this year, which will be before I visit Yellowstone in late Octber. Just to feel some big fish.

Rocky Ford can be lovable/hatable for anyone but as long as one can get along with what's going on, it can be an OK place to visit every now and then.
After all, though it would only a few, what's wrong with catching big hogs in front of other anglers??

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Favorite River - Madison River

This post and several more later about my favorite rivers never mean to how-to or where-to fish. I have no authority or experience to do that and I am not interested in. I simply love and enjoy these places and these post will express my love and dedication to those wonderful waters that deserve to run forever.

My first post has to be about Madison River. It is definetely "THE" most diverse and most challenging water on the earth to me. It has all; tremendous insect hatches, springcreek/chalk stream quality, riffles, pockets, pools, and then big trout.

Madison can be a bit complicated for the first time visiting anglers as I had experienced. It originates at "Madison Junction" where Firehole and Gibbon Rivers meet within Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming for 14 miles then the rest is running in Montana. Also there are Hebgen and Quake Lakes during the course.

These books help me understand what is all about. Craig Mathes' two books are very important and I am reading again and again. Then Chuck Robbins' guide book for most of Montana waters is essential too. I borrow Craig's sentence, "There are no 'averages' you can trust about this river". I believe if one can catch trout constantly in Madison, especially fool some big ones, one can catch trout anywhere one can go.

Here is my hand-writing map of Madison above Seven Mile Bridge in Yellowstone Park. I first went with Google Earth and based on descriptions in Craig's book, I drew a map for spots, sectons, and pullouts. Then my own driving in the Park!! Whether I fish Madison or not, I pass here anyway on my way to Firehole, Gibbon, and any waters in the Park as long as I stay and start from the town of West Yellowstone. I think I finally completed my own map.

Now I again borrow Craig's sentence (technically Charie Brooks' words) about this top 7-mile of Madison. "Only 20% of those fishing this water catch fish". And one has to play along with lots of fishing pressure and sightseers' trafic. This was why I didn't get closer to this section. Instead I wanted to catch some trout anyway available in other sections as a visiting angler. But I finally tried here during my June trip just for the heck of it.

I caught this 17-incher a bit above Mount Haynes. There was a group of tourists at the pullout. I did not ask them for a picture but I showed them off and one of them walked toward me and took a pic for me.

Also from my June trip at Talus Storyborad, it was a really cold and cloudy morning for late June. I thought it would be a perfect streamer day so I rigged up a full-sinking line and a 5-inch unweighted streamer as Kelly Galloup's theory. First cast and strips, this 14-incher was WHAM!! 14-incher over-powered 5-incher but the fisherman above the water won!!

Then the famous Barns Pools. This is the Pool #1. This and the pool #2 below are very popular spots for everybody (locals or visitors) in the fall, which to me, just crazy. I like these two pools as anybody else but I don't think I get closer any more so much. I found and learned some other sections which most of people overlook or don't care. Or when lots of people are these two pools, Madison between lakes or below Quake Lake are empty!! Those are where I am gonna fish during my fall trip.

Here is one of the most memorable fish from Barns Pool section (sarcastically!!). I was fishing at just above the Pool #1, called Cable Car Run, with a huge streamer trailed with an egg fly. I felt tugs and tapps on my line and it ran away. I thought it would be at least a 25-inch brown!! But the fact was this 17-inch Whitefish foul-hooked on its dorsal fin........Please take a look at the yellow spot on the dorsal fin, that was my egg fly. This pulled out my backing line all the way and went through all the Cable Car and the head of Pool #1 till I dragged to the bank........more than enough!!

But the moment after I caught this 18-incher at the head of Pool #1. Photo was taken by a neighborhood fisherman. I was a bit happy after all!!

Sections below Hebgen Dam and Quake Lake are another stories. It is simply amazing to me. It's all riffles, mostly fast and shallow. For most of anglers, like I used to be, it doesn't look like holding big fish. I used to think about big fish = big pools and holes. This can be true but all the experience at the Madison blew me away, instead gave me other approaches to undesrstand trout and to read waters. One of the best examples is that oftentimes, trout are hanging around right where you are going to wade!!

This is one of the best brown I caught without guides though the photo is shakey from the excitement on my hands. 19.5-inch from Between Lakes. I stopped a car with a group of people as I was fighting and landing it!!

Me at Raynolds Pass. 16-inches but it was a fat and healthy browny during the run-off time.

Then the famous $3 Bridge. This riffle goes on and on. If one wants to cross the Madison without any intention for fishing and wading, I think one can! He or she would be washed away, but probably not get killed by drowning!!

Trout is wild and there are lots of fishing pressure, but somebody who can manage and observe all of those can be successful. Of course one can cast nymphs blindly and would catch lots of fish. Nothing wrong with that but to me, Madison is the most challenging water that makes me a better fisherman out of me, so why not push myself harder rather than just catching fish??
So far my experience is limited to only a part of this beautiful river. Due to the convenience to Yellowstone Park waters, I visit West Yellowstone, so I fish the Upper Madison. Eventually, I will do plan to fish around Ennis that has lots of opportunities for wading and I try to float various sections with guides as much as I can afford.

I really hope Madison River runs forever!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Yellowstone Trip - Off the Fishing

This trip was a bit slow for fishing but I never fail to enjoy visiting Yellowstone country. Here are some scenes and reasons that I visit Yellowstone repeatedly. In this post, some are true and others are fantasy. Please judge with your sence of humor.

In Montana, you don't need seatbelt and there is NO speed limit. Here, me drinking (Gatorade), driving, no seatbelt, and taking a picture of myself, while going 87mph in 65.
In the evening of last day of the trip, I'd like to have a nice meal for a dinner. By then, I simply don't have time to get out. I am busy for fishing till the sunset, writing my log for the day, thinking what I am going to do on next days, checking flies, etc. I usually have a canned soup and salad and they are enough till I eat a big breakfast next morning.
My favorite place in the town of West Yellowstone is Buckaroo Bill. I try to eat Buffalo meat in order to reduce its population. They always scare me when I am fishing and cause jams on the roads. While fishing Gibbon during my June trip, 6 Buff bulls sneaked behind me about 80-feet or so, and forced me to cross the river. That night I had a Buff tri-tip sandwich and felt better!!
That evening (Sep 3rd), I saw a 1-lb Buff burger as NEW on the menu but that sounded too big for my metabolism. Instead I ordered an 8-oz New York cut Buff steak. Though it cost a bit more than a 1-lb Buff burger, I thought Buckaroo Bill would be closed when I visit in late Oct. In that case I have to wait till next year, so I ordered one of their bests.
This was probably one of the best steaks I ever had along with the sides. I ordered as "to-go" so I can watch TV in my motel room while eating......

Then nothing tastes better than Montana brewed beer after hard fishing days, especially in summer. Here are some trout-beer that I have tried.

Did I forget "Trout Slayer"? It's on my wall already along with a Simms hat from Bozeman.

These beers are some of my collections along with other Montana beer. I seldom pick up 6-packs for each. At the liquor store in West Yellowstone, I can buy mixed 6-packs to taste myself or give my friends and co-workers as sourveniors. So far, the darker, the better, those make me sip, rather than gulping, like I sip Canadian whiskey. My favorites are "Slow Elk" and "Powder Hound" from Big Sky Brewing Co.

Now I am heading back to my tying bench to tie a lot for the next trip. I think I have enough time till then to tie them all......

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Yellowstone Trip - Part 4

On Sep 3rd, my last day, I tried Pine Butte again and finally unleashed nymphs. I changed my strategy a bit and stepped into the river and fished anywhere fishy, which I noticed I haven't done with dry flies. I think when I use dry flies, I seem to focus or limit to obvious spots to make trout rise. But now with nymphs, I can go deep to the bottom. Considering what I got on that day as written below, this was the last lesson of this trip. Next time, I will cast dry flies anywhere fishy with my best observation and casting.

These two nymph patterns were all I needed. It is interesting when I tandem-rig these two and observe what trout is on which. At least on this day, rainbow trout took only brown thread $3 Serendipity.

Brown and Whitefish took only this bead-head Crystal Serendipity.

Here are good problems about these flies. These two hook way too many fish (whether I net or not) and trout really chew them. In spite of ribbing with wire, these flies become a "rag" after a few catch. But even when I don't notice that, most likely Whitefish would keep biting on it. And I knew I have to deal with Whitefish that I don't want to touch much. I de-barbed the hooks so my flies came out quickly without touching them!
Anyway, I caught a lot. First trout that looks like I fished the Madison was this 14-incher.

A bit later, I caught a 16-inch Cut-bow. I am not sure if there exists Cutthroat and Cut-bow hybrids in Madison but I think this one has orange slashes and its gills and belly were pink/orange. Pardon my self-timer pic. Trout was held under the water till count 3 and I took only twice. I believe trout was released safely and happily (I hope!).

I had two mysterious fish that pulled my line way out and got away. Also I had a really big and heavy bite and as I set the hook it snapped my bead-head Crystal Serendipity in a moment. Could be a huge brown?? Maybe. I didn't see even shadow of them. Just the actions and feelings that make me feel something big. These experience in Madison always make me want to come back.
All morning I didn't see anybody at Pine Butte except for the opposite bank. In the afternoon I went to Slide Inn for the first time. It is a pretty wild section. Yet 12-inch rainbow rose and bit on a hopper fly!
So why didn't I use nymphs from the beginning? Was this trip good?
My trip never ends bad. I always enjoy the process to make the trip, what I get during the trip, and what I will do for the next trip (= homework). During this trip my Pinocchio's nose and cocky attitude broke off and I really pushed myself hard to fish on purpose, especially with dry-flies and insect hatches. That does not mean I don't like using nymphs or streamers. As this day at Pine Butte, I used nymphs with observation and reading waters rahter than casting blindly.
And most of all, I saved my fishing luck for the fall. That's how I conclude!
I can't wait till I get back to West Yellowstone in late October. But then again, I will enjoy the process by then. I have some flies to tie and get ready for cold weather. I will have a perfect reason to eat some huge breakfast to get against the cold weather!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Yellowstone Trip - Part 3

On Sep 1st, I hiked into Nez Perce Creek, just to enjoy dry fly fishing for small trout. I always like to catch big fish as anybody else but this kind of day-hike into small and overlooked streams in Yellowstone country is very addictive. I already have some streams I'd like to hike into for the next trip. Also, I quickly dropped by Muleshoe Bend of Firehole River to see what's going on. We all know Firehole warms up during the summer, but I recognized tremendous hatches of caddis and trout were rising all over. I tied on Iris Caddis and dead-drifted. A 12-inch Browny somersaulted as I set the hook for his rise. It was so vivid and such a nice fish that I didn't feel like taking a picture or two. There were too many rises all over, but it was so ovbious that I quit fishing there. I thought let them rest and be fat till I cast to them for Baetis hatches at the end of the season.......

Back to Madison on 2nd, I went to Pine Butte. This is a very good looking streatch but somehow not so many people fish here. And so far for me, I always catch fish. But.....that morning, I ended up only raising 4 trout.........2 on Sparkle Dun and 2 on hopper. Now my Pinocchio's nose was getting shorter and shorter......

I went back to my motel and took some rest. Then I headed back to $3 Bridge in the evening, hoping for very last summer evening hatches (caddis and epeorus). My tactics was to swing soft-hackles to cover lots of water and to fish for emerger/pupa. Soft-hackle for mayfly also imitates drowned spinner, I believe. Here are two of best looking soft-hackles from my box.

A full moon over $3 Bridge. I stayed till 9pm.

Was my effort rewarded? Uhhhh.......7-incher.......

I went to Raynolds Pass and stayed till 10pm. All swinging soft-hackles.....nothing. All I saw was this weird looking whitefish that was swimming in the shallow. I walked in and just scooped with my net to see what's going on...well, it looked like it was damaged mentally and physically.....

Is this all I am getting? I had only one more day left!!

Yellowstone Trip - Part 2

On Aug 30th, Sunday, I fished Gallatin within Yellowstone Park. I fished here two months ago on my way home of the June trip. But it was still in the middle of ice-cold run-off. So this was pretty much the first time. As most of everyone say, Gallatin is the little Madison. Very pretty. Then, these were my ego and attitude (Pinocchio's nose): Gall is easy, just toss some attractors, maybe with a dropper nymph, later on tie on spruce moth and terrestrials, etc, etc...... I did observe good spots and hatches (midges and spruce moths). But I didn't see any rises or shadow of trout. I even swang tiny midge pupa patterns, yet nothing. First one I finally saw was a 6-incher on a spruce moth at 11:30am. This was all the action I got in the morning.

In the afternoon, I moved above Specimen Creek confluence. I found some nice cutbanks toward upstream. I finally got one, the first time Cut-bow on a hopper.

Total, I got about a dozen rises and landed two in the afternoon. But I was not happy at all about what I got. There were some very nice looking spots that I betted my fly-fishing experince but I didn't get any actions. Later, local fishermen and people at the shop told me that Gallatin can be very unpredictable, etc, etc,....... This was the first lesson of this trip.

Then on Monday, 31st, I floated Madison with a guide from Blue Ribbon Flies. Though we caught lots of trout, they were about 10-inch ranges. We only saw some shadows of big ones. It was just a tough day. This does not mean the day was not fun. Mike is a very easy going person, yet his guiding is very intense. I want to learn things from him and want him to correct my vices and problems. As a reminesce, here are two out of many nice fish he got me hooked with last summer.

So where was this trip heading??

Friday, September 4, 2009

Yellowstone Trip - Part 1

I just came back from another trip to Yellowstone.
Put it simply, it was a tough fishing. But that was what I wanted to see. Insect hatches were waning as summer goes by. Terrestrial fishing can be good but when everyone is using them, especially big hopper imitation, trout can be suspicious as days go by. And to see what I can do during the transitional period.......Was I mad and frustrated? Not really. I had my own expectation and objectives.

Also, here's a personal note. I think it is good that I am gaining confidence and knowledge to fish Yellowstone area. But also I knew my nose and attitude were a bit like Pinocchio's. So far every time I have made a trip, I catch fish. Lots of them. But this time my Pinocchio's nose got shortened as the day went by, instead I got a mosquit bite or acne on top of my nose......

But!! before talking about fishing, I have to mention some incidents that I didn't enjoy.....

First, when I left my house at 10pm Friday (Aug 28), it was around 80F. I started AC of my F-150 (aka Big-Fella) but I was not getting cool breezes, which had been ice-cold within a few minutes. I know his sounds, smells, actions, etc since we've been together for a long time. I noticed all of those were normal and so were the gages. So I kept driving up to Ennis and West Yellowstone. I was hoping there were some auto shops to talk to along the way but they were closed for the weekend. I asked some advice to people at a NAPA shop in West Yellowstone. They said fluorine was getting low or out yet it should not affect the rest of the system nor put me on the side, just I would not have cool airs. That was what I thought too since Big-Fella is now over 211K miles. As I drove and fished the Madison to West Yellowstone, my mind was sporadic due to this. Next day was Sunday (I had to fish anyway) and on Monday I would be floating with a guide. I couldn't talk to people at auto-shops till Tuesday morning. They said the same thing that I can fish and go home, just no cool breezes. Anyway I am home now.
(Big-Fella covered by snow in "late April" during Livingston trip this year.)

Second, on Monday morning (Aug 31), I was way late to wake up. I was not late to meet a guide at Blue Ribbon Flies or had him wait, but I could not have my own slow and easy morning to get ready for fishing. I forgot to set up the alarm on my cell phone. I barely woke up for the sunshine at 7:15am. When I know I will have a long day for fishing or breeding cows, I have to eat a big breakfast. 3 to 4 eggs with ham and toasts. Potatoes, sausages, etc as needed. This way, as the Sun rises, so do my blood pressure and sugar level and I can keep going all day. That morning, I could barely fetch whatever I could pick up, clean-up, and dress-up. This is the one thing I really regret and will never let it happen again.

Third, Monday seemed to turn out the bad weather pin-pointly. We had sun, cloud, shower, and winds every 15 minutes while hearing thunderbolts somewhere. Then after that till today, the area has been sunny up to 90s. This Monday weather seemed to shut off trout's surface activitiy to trrestrials and attrator dries.

Then forth, my polarized sunglass, that I used for 2 years, broke on Monday after we floated. It was $20 from Wal Mart so I think it did a great job and I saw lots of fish through it for the past 2 years. Now I got a $30 pair so it should last for next 3 years??

For all the reasons above, this trip started very slow.