Sunday, November 29, 2009

Camping Then and Now

I think fly-fishing oftentimes offers lots of fun things other than catching fish. One of the biggest difference from other ways of fishing would be fly-fishers often hike into mountains. I am one of them. I may not catch or even expect to see big fish but it's always fun. I can't emphasize what mother nature offers means to me. Besides beautiful trout, mountains and rivers are always in my heart (or vice versa). My favorite getaways are Yellowstone Park waters and my "secret holes" in my area that I keep my mouth shut!.

Whatever we do outside, camping would be one of the most basic and important concerns. But then again, to me, fly-fishing adds some tastes rather than just camping, hiking, or fishing with other ways. Besides preparations for foods and where to sleep, I always bring my journal (as used for this blog) and tying materials in case I need to ties flies that are not in my box.

I made several 3-day fishing camp to Tucannon River in eastern Washington. That meant two-night camping. The upper streatch offeres lots of free camping area, managed by state/rangers. It is such a nice place to enjoy camping though I never caught any fish over 11 inches. Since it's free in terms of fee and space, I have to curse some bad-mannered people who just come here and dump all of their garbages. This is the problem here in eastern WA that I shout loud!!

Anyway, here's one scene from Tucannon camp. I liked to sit and take a nap under the umbrella. I slept in the cab. I didn't encounter people who camped for parties so I enjoyed quietness at night.

This is some of the foods at that time. My favorites were Top-Ramen, Pork-&-Beans, Vienna sausages, corned beef & hash, and some breads or muffin along with some sorts of fluids as you can see.................

I camped at Madison Junction in Yellowstone National Park. It was OK and good in terms of camping. But it was a bit wiered to me because there were lots of groups and people, including myself, who were trying to make "man-made" quietness and solitude. It was like a refugee camp for me to be there. Besides, I went there for fishing. There were too many things to care other than fishing under the ciurcmustance and that made my days tough, not enough, and not busy for fishing.......

As day and year go by, I came to the point that I had to admit those high-caloried and easy-going camp foods above were getting too much for my metabolism.

These days, I would often pack sandwiches and chips for lunch but the night would be like this......simple and essential.

Furthermore, when I go to Yellowstone or Livingston area, I stay in motels with microwave and refrigerator. Ideally, a kitchen unit is the best as at Al's Westward Ho Motel in West Yellowstone (they are an old-style so they don't have a website. If you are curious, just call.) Here's a snap-shot during my last fall trip to Yellowstone at Gray Wolf Inn. It is called "Micro-Fridge"!!

I could be called that I am getting old and soft. Maybe. But by staying motel yet preparing most of my foods in ice-chests give me less times and things to care other than fishing, instead produces me more time to focus on fishing. And this is very effective to keep me healthy and doing as I do in my house. I can keep stuffs for my fresh sandwiches and in the evening after a long fishing day, I can barely sip a can of soup and eat veggies and salads. Yet I can cook some hearty eggs for breakfast with a microwave.

Some of you might suggest me own a motor-home, RV-car, or RV-trailer. This way, I could stay cheap or even free at camping sites. But I hate the competition for "first-come-first-serve". I'll do that for fishing spots but I don't want to do that for the rest. Besides, I know whatever kinds of vehicles I own, it costs a lot....... I'd rather be a good customer for each motel. So far those motels in Montana remember me every time I make calls and visit them. I belive this is why I am getting better fishing results every time I get back!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Soft-hackle Materials & Tools

After I completed my last & biggest trip, I have to admit myself that I am in a mix of loose, depressed, relaxed, that sort of mental condition. Besides, happy holiday season is coming. In a good way, I am a bit away from my tying bench, instead enjoying good DVDs and thinking about what I have experienced this year........

Whatsoever, what I am always thinking (actually obcessed with) is soft-hackle flies. I am still tying to fill my box whenever I've got an urge!! I'd like to post my favorite materials and tools here.

These two always go with my traveling tying bag, Whiting hen cape in dun and partridge. They are so versatile as tail, hackle, and wing materials. I think these two simply seem to represent something "fishy" to our and trout's eyes.

One of my best buys for this year from Blue Ribbon Flies, a whole pheasant skin. Both top and

rear side, there's nothing useless among these lovely feathers.

Grouse skin is another good one to tie large to medium size soft-hackles.

Here are starling and mallard shoulder. Starling is what I need to tie small soft-hackles for midge and baetis patterns. A paired mallard wings are oftentimes used as wings for dry flies but they are so fragile. I didn't know what to do with what I bought but I learned that shoulder feathers can be used for soft-hackles. Nice coloration!!!

And there it is, a hook exclusively for soft-hackle flies...... I picked up at Blue Ribbon Flies from #9 to 17. Manufactured in Japan by Daiichi, it is 1X-fine & 2X-short.

Then, most of lovely and fishy soft-hackles can never ever be tied without Pearsall's Gossamer silk threads, made in England. They have to go with Matarelli's Midge bobbin.
I always start and end my soft-hackles with applying Lagartun's beeswax on my silk threads. When I pack materials to my traveling bag, I don't carry Dave's Flexament or Zap-a-Gap in case they break or blow up. So instead of the cement, this beeswax always go with me.

Finally this is a recent acquisition that I came to like immensely. Hook & hackle plier from Hareline. This one simply grabs soft-hackle feathers without breaking, that regular hackle pilers can't do especially with smaller feathers (starling and partridge). Also, as the name says, this can hold hooks very well when I slip beads to hooks, most likely #16 and smaller.

I have just purchased white and black Gossamer spools from Blue Ribbon Flies. During the winter, I am thinking to tie several variations of my Coyote with those colors.

If you are one of bird hunters, please give me skins after you secure your meat!!

Wish you a happy Thanksgiving.

I am working on my greeting card for this year. I think I will post around or after Christmas.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Signature Flies

Most of all fly shops and famous fly-fishing authors have their own creation = signature flies that they promote or that have made them famous. Also, professional guides and those who work at fly-shops have their own "go-to" flies. I have tied those myself and fished with them. Those flies are simply great and work anywhere.

Here are the good list of my favorite authors and their flies, only just to name a few.
Craig Mathews: Sparkle Dun, Iris Caddis, X Caddis
Kelly Galloup: Zoo Couger, Heifer Groomer
Sylvester Nemes: Syl's Midge and misc soft-hackle patterns
Scott Sanchez: Double Bunny

I have tied these and fished with them. I have pictures for each but they have been anywhere. Here's just one. My own adoptation of Double Bunny. I tied a barbell eye on top of the hook so it will be upside-down in the water for less snagging the bottom. Shown is the "Integration" of black and white.
Been fishing and tying with my best, I was thinking "wouldn't it be nice if I creat my own fly, fish with it, and show it to others". I was not looking for specific "hatch-mathcers". That's pros' job in their own specific areas. I have been interested in more "free area to explore" such as streamers and soft-hackles, and maybe terrestrial patterns. Ideally, I wanted to see what I can do for my true obcession = soft-hackles.
It came to me out of sudden, truly unexpected, yet really restrained me at my tying bench to do something.
December 2008, my friends, a couple who reside by Jefferson River, Three Forks, MT, sent me a holiday greeting with some pheasant feathers so I can tie some flies with them. They say the hen pheasant (no tails) would have been killed by a coyote in their property. But who knows? They are avid good hunters who often shoot a bird or two for dinner with their bow & arrow!! I wasn't sure what I can do but as I opened a zip-lock bag, I saw nice soft hackles (probably from shoulders) and plumes of aftershaft...............!!!!

This meant more than a joke to me. I just felt I had to do something with these lovely feathers. Then I started to gather and combine all the knowledge and patterns in my head. At the same time, I read and read again Jack Gartiside's pheasant description. I clarified what was going on in my head. It would be a large soft-hackle. Talking about large soft-hackles, I had to think about Madison River in the fall, swinging large soft-hackles for run-up spawners. Then I had two beautiful patterns that I learned from Blue Ribbon Flies.

Here's "Shakey Beeley". I wanted to copy its whole silhoutte.

And here's "Lucky Bucky Soft Hackle". I love its pheasant use.

Along with BRF's foremost product, Zelon, that I though I could use for flash and color, I drew my idea with a pen on the paper. I came up with this. And I named it "Coyoted Phesant Soft Hackle", hoping I can hunt some big trout like coyotes attack their prey.

It didn't look bad all. But I couldn't ignore a little touch at the tying point of its tail; pheasnt fibers, Zelon under-tail, and ribbing gold wire were all in one spot. Also I had to see that I did some complication and over-dressing for thorax before I tie in and wrap pheasant hackle and aftershaft. Still look OK but too much labor and materials are not for my style nor for any other famous patterns. I wondered if there were any techniques or materials to improve it........

Then I learned another BRF creation, called September Song. It employs a built-up body of silk thread, which is nicely tapered.

This seemed to be the last piece I was missing. This way, I don't have to dub a body and it essentially forms a thorax. And then, rather than topping a tuft of Zelon on top of the shank, I made figure-eight wraps on a longer tuft of Zelon and then made it into a swept back style. This really seemed to combine everything in my head. Highly improved and perfect for my eyes!!

Spending lots of time on my tying bench, I figured shoulder feathers from cock is not soft enough for this fly. Then, not everybody has access to the hen feathers that killed by coyotes!! I came up with that cock's ramp feathers are perfect.

See what I have done from the top and rear.

Also, with its large silhoutte and color, I thought it might look like a drowned Salmonfly.
When it gets wet, it looks like this. With orange silk thread and color and flash of Zelon, I believe it dose look like a minnow/smolt.

I needed an answer to what I got along with theory and my tying techniques. This was what I brought to the Madison. For the rest of story, please take a look at my previous post about how I did with it. Here are two re-used pics from there.
The debut was with this 19-inch fat rainbow at Barn's Pool #1. It was a beautiful run-up trout.

It was dark into evening. This rainbow might have mistaken my Coyote as other proven patterns, who knows? But this picture shows the solid hook at the corner of trout's mouth, which is the typical spot while swinging. So this trout must have chased it, at least my Coyote would have enticed something.

I tried a self-timer as a proof. It looks like both me and trout are cut. But I had to let her go, anyway, it's mostly in my head.

Well, this is why I like my Coyote so much. I think I might as well post a few more about soft-hackles; materials, tools, and spots.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fall Trip 7 - On the Road/Off the Fishing

I was away from my house for whole 11 days. Other than fly-fishing, I had great fun too. As in my fishing reports, fishing population was definitely lower than last year. But also according to Blue Ribbon Flies newsletter, so were the all other kinds of visitors to the Park in October. This gave me much more elbow room for driving than in summer months. I can't tolerate people who just stop in the middle of road to take pictures of wildlife or whatever the reason is. Of course I had to see that kind of people here and there during this trip too, but due to less people, it was managable. I saw several cars stopping in the middle of the road and those drivers were reading maps. There was nobody coming in the opposite lane, I could pass them easily.

I saw a nice bull elk. I wonder why hunters have such hard times to get closer. I petted him on the neck.

I saw a big herd of elk too.

On the last day of the Park, Sunday, Nov 1st. I had lunch at Madison Junction. This Sunday was the most crowded of course. I had had my own success by then, especialy with large soft hackles, so I really couldn't push myself into it on that lovely sunny day.

Something is going on at Hebgen Dam.

Besides I wanted to try either Depuy's or Armstrong's spring creek, probably the main and instinctive reason that made me go to Livingston was the good food there. In West Yellowstone, town was not crazy like summer but also my favorite Buckarro Bill was closed too. If they had been open, I must have had a 1-lb buffalo burger to end my trip.
After I fished Depuy's, I dropped by Montana's Rib's & Chops, but it looked very busy and crowded on Wednesday night. So I went to the other place I was curious about, Buffalo Jump.
For its name's sake, I thought they must have buff steak or burger. Yes, they do!! I had this 10-oz sirloin. I cleaned the plate better than dogs would do. I think I must have had enough of my sandwiches and cans of soup! I hope less buff would scare me next year in the Park!!
Then I noticed that the upstairs of this building is for FFF?? I didn't know that. I have been to FFF museum, which is in the downtown. Is this their office or old location? I failed to get full information. It's quite a coincidence that I was drawn to Buffalo Jump.

On my way home Thursday, Nov 5th, I did some shopping in Bozeman, then took I-90 to Washington State. I dropped by Wheat Montana at Three Forks. It's a popular spot for anybody passing by. One day when I dropped by around 2:00pm or so on my way home, I saw lots of WA lincense plates. They were making a row to order, so I left..... This time, I dropped by 10:00am or so and got a sack lunch to go, so I didn't have to wait!

I dropped by Conoco in Missoula for gas and a break. Then I opened the sack. Very neat and delicious!! I consider myself that I make good sandwiches and pack a nice box but this one can rival mine. It's just a regular sandwich but I think the bread is the key. I also bought a loaf of bread and now am applying on my own sandwiches. If Subway is a bit too much and makes mess while you are driving and eating, this is the go-to!!
I never failed to bring some Montana beer with me as always. Since Bayern and Big Sky Brewing are in Missoula, this Conoco station has some good selection. I found this one!! This is from Kettlehouse also in Missoula. Every fly-fisherman had better try!! But it does say (No promises that beer will help you with your cast.)!! Funny and nice beer!!

I really had a great time all through the trip. Long winter is ahead. I hope I can get back to Montana hopefully in April for wild trout, hearty meals, and robust beer!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fall Trip 6 - Final Destination: Depuy's

The biggest reason I wanted and decided to visit either one fo the spring creeks in Livingston was that I was doing poor job for Baetis hatch at Madison and Firehole. Baetis and midges hatches sounds consistent at spring creeks.

Other option was to stay in West Yellowstone and do the same; streamers in the mornig and evening, then try to hit Raynolds to $3 Bridge for Baetis hatch.

My first choice was of course Armstrong's. But I could not get a hold of O'Hair Ranch. Later I heard from Yellowstone Angler that they have gone elk hunting!! So I called Depuy's for the availability when I checked into Livingston. Also I had a wild notion to see what I can do at this challenging water, where I totally got knocked out one afternoon last year, while Armstrong's is already familiar.

Whatever I got, I have no regret or disappointment for what I decided. If the hatch would be slow at Depuy's so would be at Armstrong's. And with the sunny weather at Madison, I would not expect too much for Baetis hatch.

Though my expectation was to fish for Baetis and midges with dry flies or swiging soft hackles as emergers, just in case I tied several Sparkle Scud in my motel room in West Yellowstone. I left my stillwater box (should I say Rocky Ford box?) in my house.

I was swinging soft hackles for Baetis and midges through the riffles but had no actions. I came up to a nice deep hole where I wouldn't go enough by swinging soft hackles. Since I was not getting any actions, and after I paid the rate, I tied on this light olive Sparkle Scud. I finally got out of "skunk" at Depuy's and this marked the first trout at Depuy's and last one of this trip...

Depuy's is twice longer than Armstrong's. But even with my limited experience, I seem to see more trout at Armstrong's than Depuy's. For example, if I am walking carelessly at upper section of Armstrong's , I often see at least a dozen or more trout get spooked and run away. At Depuy's I saw barely one at each spot. I would try Depuy's again while the rate is low, but this experience here makes me like Armstrong's better..... As of now I am thinking about to get up there early April next year. Can't wait.....

Fall Trip 5 - Last Day at Madison with Streamers

Tuesday Nov 3rd was my last day at Madison. I was still prospecting some more big though not deperately as you read in my last post with soft hackles. By that day, I decided to make a detour and drop by either one of spring creeks in Livingston on 4th.

Weather forecast had been calling for sunny days since Sunday Nov 1st. On Monday, 2nd, I tried Between Lakes for the second time during the trip. But as I got on Oct 29th, it was just slow. Those two days ended up as "whitefish" days. It was bit sad and also mysterious because I caught lots of nice trout there last fall. Who really knows? My guess/speculation is there might be something to do with Hebgen dam failure last year???
Until this day, I couldn't fish with streamers as I like to do. Because of icicles and frosts on my rod guides, it was almost all impossible to cast long, strip & strip, and re-cast. But I figured if the weather would be warmer and brighter, I wouldn't have problems with icicles and frosts instead start early. I did my last effort to get up early and start before the Sun hit the river. I drove to Hwy 191 Bridge and took right to a parking lot. I walked upstream and the Sun resembled two egg yolks one in the cloud and the other in the river.
I started from here. It looks appropriate.

I cast Doug's Home Invader toward opposite cutbanks.
I started with a floating line and a long leader, mending it twice or so then stripping short and slow. The third cast before I got accumulation of frost and icicles on my rod guides and fly line, I felt a big tag. I set the hook and started to reel it in. I felt a typical fat brown trout action; to wallow rather than fight. Then this drawing-perfect fat one came out. Photo is not edited nor shot badly by me. This was exactly how he looked. Football like!! Very toothy too as I removed my fly, I got a puncture on my thumb. It measured only 17-inch but must have been some of the tops as for the weight among Hebgen Lakers.

Gotcha!! I hope he can use some exercise in the riffles of Madison in the Park or grow longer!!

After this, as the mornig went by, I didn't get any actions any more. I switched colors and pattern of streamers all the way but nothing. Now the Sun was high and getting warm and bright. I was fishing dowstream from Hwy 191 Bridge. I located a fish path/chute right underneath the cutbanks where I was standing. I saw lots of little fish, mostly whitefish. I figured if there were some run-up trout from Hebgen Lake, they would pass here also. Since the day was bright, fishing with nymphs might have been a better bet but I had no time to waste for those little whitefish. I had to do something to elicit the strike under this conditon with limited time. I switched into my spool with Kelly Galloup's full-sinking line and his unweighted or lightly weighted streamers. I tied on black Sex Dungeon.
By the way, this kind of fly takes almost an hour for me to tie. But instead, I can save $5 rather than buying at fly shops!!

I worked hard with jerk-strip, taking a step or two downstream. I noticed all the little fish in the path/chute were scared away from my fly. That was good. I was looking for one big individual who would fight back on my 5-6 inch long streamers.

Another Gotcha!!

Somehow it was bleeding heavily so after this quick shot, I released him quickly. It swam back quickly so I hope he was all right.

I could go on toward Hebgen Lake but I stopped around noon and went back to my truck and headed to $3 Bridge for Baetis hatch. As in my Baetis post, I didn't catch anything by that. So this 18-icnher was the last trout in Madison for this year......

Conclusion of this trip is: in the fall at Madison, I had great experience with dry flies, nymphs, soft hackles, and streamers, all kinds of methods that fly-fishing requires. Along with spots, crowds of people, and weathers, I give myself a credit that I did play well enough.

Sounds like I have to wait till next spring to visit Madison........I am already getting a cabin feaver........

Fall Trip 4 - Large Soft Hackles

I had been waiting for opportunities to swing large soft hackles as an soft hackle enthusiast (mania or addict, I may be called). Madison is the greatest riffly river to swing insect imitations among hatches. But when targetting run-up spawners with large soft hackles, my understanding is that those flies would probably trigger something within trout (eyes, instinct, etc) because they come up several feet to take the flies or chase them while swung.

I experienced the greatest swing action ever!!
As I mentioned in my previous post, Soft Hackle Streamer was one of my top choices, tied in white and black. These worked the best on cloudy day, either swinging or stripping long and rapid.

In the evening of Friday, Oct 30th, I tried Cable Car Run and then might as well Barn's Pool #1. At the very last cast, this little 13-inch browny bit on black Soft Hackle Streamer with typical swinging action; tap & tap, then run or leap, and hook itself. Not a bad way to fisnish the day.

Just a quick note here. I didn't want to get close to Barn's Pool #1 or #2 because it's just crazy to make a line with lots of people like at a school cafe. But somehow this year, there weren't many people at all. My guess is one: because it's colder than last several years and two: I heard they say run-up is strong up to Madison Junction. Well, there were much more people around the top section than Barn's Pools!! I played a game right!

Next day, Saturday, Oct 31st, only 1 day away from the closure, I went to Barn's Pool #1. I went through the run as the first customer. Fished for an hour and got no actions. I moved up to Cable Car and swung down. Then just below the cement blocks where it seems hard to fish (wider, deeper, and slower than upstream), I was about to get off the river, yet making some more swings. Then something I had never seen before happenned while fly-fishing. That's the most exciting scene ever but I had never expected this while swinging soft hackles.

My line and leader were straight and swinging downstream. Then several feet straight ahead of the tip of my fly line, suddenly something like a submarine protruded!! Or should I say, it was like an eyewitness video for seaserpent or Nessie-like monsters? For a nano-second, I doubted my eyes, but the next nano-second I cooled down and figured it must be trout coming to my fly and instinctively I set the hook like dry-fly fishing. Next that something like submarine did become a submarine. I fought carefully and confidentially. A 19-inch brown came up to take my skinny Soft Hackle Streamer (black) all the way to the surface, showing his head and back!! Magnificent!!


In the evening of same day after I fished for Baetis hatch at Upper Haynes and swung some at Madison Junction, I went back to Cable Car and Pool #1 again. I looked for the second time but nothing really happenned and I was about to quit then I saw the same big rise/attack again!! I tried to set the hook hard and strip some in, it was something really big and tried to run. then my fly line got tangled on the handle of my reel......that something big snapped away with a black Soft Hackle Streamer. I didn't cry or get disappointed. Instead I smiled and said "see you tomorrow" These mysterious unlanded trout always make me go back to Madison.

But the most memorable and my own personal biggest achievment during this trip was the following. This happenned on my first day in, Tuesday, Oct 27th. So you can imagine how I spent the rest of my trip, easy and relaxed. I just fished as I like. I did pursue and expect bigger individuals later on but it was really OK even if I don't see any. I brought my own question and expectation to Madison and I got an answer. That was enough for me.

Let me formally introduce you my own design "Coyote". Full name "Coyoted" Pheasant Soft Hackle. I will definitely post all the stories behind how I came up this fly and why I like it so much soon after the trip reports.

About 5:00pm on that day, as heading back from Firehole, I stopped by Barn's Pool #1. Nobody was there. On the way, I saw several people left in upper streatches so I guessed they might have moved after they killed (or spooked) the pool. Just to get started my swinging for an entire trip, I started from Cable Car Run. I had a good action, tap & tap and run!, somehow my leader broke off. I fished down to Barn's Pool #1 now with white Soft Hackle Streamer trailed with my Coyote. As the sun set, I took my sunglasses off and tried to pack into my vest with my left hand, which means holding my rod with my right hand, though I am lefty, while swinging. I felt two nice taps then the solid run!! Holding my rod with my off hand, I essentially did one of the biggest mantra when swinging "resist your impulse to set the hook, instead don't do nothing!!" Now I swtiched my rod into my left hand, then a huge trout leaped twice!! I tried to drag it to the shallow and noticed it was on my Coyote!! I screamed twice, since I knew nobody was there, "Coyooooooote!!" and Coyoteeeeeeeee!!"
A 19-inch fat hen rainbow came to my net and camera.

Did she like it or just mistake as another proven pattern especially in the darkness? But the picture shows my Coyote was hooked solidly on the side of lower jaw, a typical set point when swinging soft hackles.

These two 19-inchers were the biggest for this trip. I didn't catch anything over 20-inch or 5-lb but I really like what I did and what I got. I caught respectable trout with my own favorite way and favorite flies. This is the top highlight of my entire trip.