Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cool Flies

Damsel Flies and Beer Ties

The guys from the Triangle Fly Fishers meet every other Monday to do what's called a beer tie. We meet at a bar and grill, tie flies and tell fish stories. Its been said that some like these little get togethers more than the regular TFF meetings. It's the camaraderie of sharing stories and learning from one another that builds friendships. Many fishing trip invites have been discussed and conjured up around a tying vise at a beer tie. The last one I attended introduced me to the prettiest damsel fly imitation I've ever seen. I had been talking to my buddy Dave Maeda about how dragon fly patterns seem close to the real thing but some how are missing the stiff look of a real damsel. This was his answerThe first time he showed it to me I was reluctant to give it back. I had never seen such a good looking damsel pattern. He began to show me how to tie them and finished one up in less than 3 minutes. I didn't have the material on hand and he did what was a common occurrence at beer tie, donated some to me out of generosity. I still need to learn how to tie these things. The body is done with thick mono. At the next tie I'll see if Dave will be ok with doing a tutorial on how to tie one. Damsels have been on his mind for a while and he's studied them enough to notice the slight difference in their wing colors.

The Not So Secret Weapon

Tying flies can be an effort in frustration at times. To be a good tier takes practice and I just don't seem to have the motivation to be a great tier. This year I tried my hand at the vise again and worked on something close to the marauder. It has turned out to be my most productive fly this year. There's really nothing special to it.The pattern is basically a wooly bugger with dumbbell eyes and marabou. The key is to add a little more material to the tail then you would a bugger. The trick there is because the dumbbell eyes give the fish a decent amount of weight. All the marabou makes the fly fall slowly. That is the trigger in my opinion for fish hitting the fly. I like to fish it using 4-6 inch strips. The pause in between strips is usually where the strike occurs. I haven't had many miss strikes on this fly. Almost every hit is a hook up. It's something I have on me at all times.

Monday, June 28, 2010

TFF South Holston Trip 2010

The weather in Raleigh has been unseasonably warm. It was a nice escape to go fish on a river for a few days even if the air temperature wasn't that much lower. This was going to be my first experience on the South Holston and I really had no expectations of how the fishing would be. My friend Brian and I were the first to arrive at the Castaways Redbrick House late at night. It was more than adequate accommodations and the river was with in 100yds of our back door.

I woke up early the next morning eager to fish and get on the river. Brian is pretty much an expert about ways to fish the Holston and he quickly gathered his gear and we were off to the stream. As we walked down through a pasture you could hear the river but it was hidden under a layer of fog. We walked through some brush and I had my first glimpse of the South Holston.I was a little nervous about fishing at first. I guess because I have heard so many stories about the Holston. They were a little intimidating. Most of the fish are stream raised and the fishing information I had been given was that the river takes pretty technical fishing. Drag free drifts and almost perfect presentation. After some guidance on where good spots were I tied on an emerger pattern and my go to trout fly a beadhead softhackle. I cast into the mist and watched my indicator with feverish intensity. Nothing happened after about 10 casts then the indicator jerked hard under the water. I lifted the rod felt pressure and saw the flash from my first hooked fish.The power of the fish was impressive. It peeled off a foot of line at different intervals. I could tell the fish was good size but it was fighting far harder than I thought it would. As I worked it to calmer water the fish shook it's head releasing the fly. I was worried I may have lost my one and only chance at catching a fish. I moved to a different location and fished some other spots. I tried to watch Brian to see if maybe there's something new I could learn.

He seemed to catch fish regularly. After about an hour we decided to try another spot. I was a little hesitant seeing that he had caught 6 fish in an hour which usually would be a good day for me. Little did I know by Holston estimates when the time is right, six fish can be caught in six minutes. We ended up at another part of the river hoping to beat the generation for a few hours before it got there. At first it seemed like there wasn't anything going on. We saw a few sulphurs here and there but nothing amazing. The fishing was slow and even though we caught a few fish the fishing seemed pretty difficult. As we worked down stream we started to see more sulphurs. Within 10min of seeing the first ten or so you could see them all over. The run we were literally standing next too went from a riffle to a bubbling fury of trout feeding. I have never seen anything like that in all my years of fishing. Brian frantically tied on his best sulphur pattern and I tied on what I thought would work. I desperately fished at rising fish but that led to another problem. I started to get a little over whelmed, I just started throwing my fly in areas where I saw rises. Fish ignored my fly like it was just a hunk of feathers on a hook. I didn't even get a refusal. Brian hooked up and that made me even more eager to catch something. After his third fish he had me come over and he gave me what he was using. It didn't look much different than the fly I was using but it had a different wing. That made all the difference in the world. I went from fish ignoring my fly to trout coming up and either refusing or nudging it. I knew it was a matter of time before I was going to catch some fish. I manicured the fly and made sure it was dry. Focused on a nice consistent rise among the other fifty, made a cast and had an enormous strike. The fish was 17 inches long and cart wheeled twice out of the water. It peeled yards of line several times. That experience alone would make me come back to the Holston. I finally landed the fish and it was the beginning of one of the best fishing days of my life. Cast after cast, I either had a fish on or fought one for a minute or two then it shook the fly off. The fight and power of the fish was amazing. A fish 12 inches an take line and no fish ever just gave up and came over to me. I had every fight you can imagine, fish sending me in circles, running up stream and downstream, jumping tons of times. The only thing stopping us was the rise of the water from the recent generation. I didn't get pictures of many of the fish, I was too busy fishing, but I did love the color of this Brown. The picture doesn't even get close to how pretty the red dots were.

Back at the Brickhouse we rested and set up the strategy for the spinner fall. I have only read about spinner falls in books. I have never fished one. This is the time when the spent mayflies fall dead on the water and the trout go crazy. We came to the river late in the evening but still light enough to see fish rising here and there. The fishing was phenomenal and the mist from the cool water with the hot air temperature created views right out of a dream.The mist was so great at times we couldn't see the other TFF members we were fishing with. Then a voice came from the dense fog. "I see a few spinners." I started to look every where but I couldn't see anything. Just like the hatch earlier I saw a few bugs then within minutes there were hundreds. The water again started to churn with fins and feeding trout. The water literally looked like it was boiling with the mist. Again the fish avoided my flies until I tried a spinner pattern that was recommended by the South Holston River Fly Shop. I caught fish after fish and kept going until I could no longer see where I was standing. The fish didn't seem to care about presentation. I was even able to catch fish letting my line belly or giving the line short strips. As darkness fell I'd cast into the mist watching my fly and line disappear. I'd slowly follow the line I could see with the tip of my rod, then the line would slash across the water and go tight into the fog. The fly rod would pulse and bend from the weight of the fish. The fish usually could only be heard but not seen until it was with in ten feet. It was a day to remember.

The next morning I woke up early and everyone was sleeping. I decided to try the section of river next to the house again. I was rewarded with a fish about the same size as the one I had lost the morning before. The days went on the same as the one before. The hatches were thicker every day. The spinner fall wasn't as good as the first night but the sulphur hatch was so thick at times that when I opened my chest pack to get a fly a couple bugs would fly out. There were times you couldn't tell what fly was yours and what was natural. I saw the craziest things like fish refusing real flies, catching fish with two flies in their mouth and seeing fish that would take a 10wt to catch. There were times I was so tired from fishing I had to just sit and rest even with tons of rising fish in front of me. The whole experience was unbeleivable.

It was a great trip and I had great experiences with all parts of the trip. The house was great. The South Holston fly shop was really good. The owner Rod Champion, really appreciates his customers. They honestly care about your experience on the Holston and not about how much you buy from their shop. The fishing was like nothing I had ever experience before. I really owe the most thanks to Brian. With out his knowledge of the river and generosity with certain flies and locations I definitely would not have caught the amount of fish I had. I look forward to when I can come back.

TFF South Holston Trip June 2010 from Kevin Frank on Vimeo.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fun Morning on the Haw

I met up with my friend Dave and fished the Haw this morning. I decided to try making a little movie of the whole experience. Even though there isn't a lot of amazing fishing footage there's enough to give you an idea of how peaceful it can be. What's nice about watching video after is you realize things you never noticed before out on the water. I false cast A LOT! You can hear birds everywhere in the background of the video but I don't remember hearing that many while fishing. I must have been so focused I didn't pay attention. I'll let the video speak for itself.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Where the Wild Things Are...

My family was in Boone this weekend and I was able to get away for a couple hours to fish. I've hit this stream a few times and the fishing has always been decent. There was a good rain the night before and the water was a tea color and about 6 inches above normal. It made wading very interesting. Certain times I cringed as I stepped in between some good size rocks and just hoped the spot in between wasn't that deep. You couldn't see the bottom in many places.There was plenty of insect activity and I decided to try my luck with my go to trout fly, a soft hackle. Then the fun part came of trying to angle your cast and not snag the vegetation that surrounded you. The wet weather had made everything lush and leafy. I was able to get my cast where I wanted and a silver flash glimmered beneath the water. I lifted the rod and a small trout was airborne. It spit the hook instantly. I tried the same run a few more times with no luck. Up stream there was a bridge that has always provided at least one fish. It didn't take long and my indicator slashed back with serious resistance indicating a fish was on. The fish jumped a few times ran every possible direction in the pool then came to hand.I'm sure these fish have always been this colorful. For some reason they seemed more so on this day. The pink stripe along their side was very vibrant and striking. The pink on their gill flap had a iridescent glow to it. The fish matched the scenery every turn there was emerald green as far as you could see.I saw some huge mayflies and stone flies but I couldn't catch them to take pictures. I was reminded in this small pool that small water doesn't mean small fish.I tossed the fly along the run and let the water flowing around the rocks control the drift. The indicator stopped abruptly but didn't bob or drop below the surface. I lifted slowly and the rod just bent down. I thought I was snagged at first but the resistance was varied and I saw the flash of a hooked fish. The fish jumped a couple times and navigated the 2ft space it had to work with to get every bit of a fight it could before coming to hand. It was the prettiest bow I have landed out of this stream. It was a good size fish for this water. The day went on with me catching fish here and there. It was kind of Indiana Jones fishing, hopping rocks, ducking trees and scrambling up and down suspect loose rip rap. It was a really fun day and I look forward to a return trip.