Friday, June 29, 2012

Hot Day

To say today was hot is an extreme understatement.   By the time we started fishing is was close to 100degrees.  The heat was relentless and so were the bugs.  From time to time you'd see glimpses and experience what you were looking for the whole time.
An escape from all things that bother you. Serenity. It's what people spend most a lot of their life looking for and what most fly fisherman find on a stream. The day didn't yield a lot of fish or amazing stories but  I still had a great time and found joy in the little things that some times get missed when you're not looking.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Father's Day Smallies

Last weekend was the TFF Smallmouth Trip.  I had a great time but the fishing was on par with the other trips.  A few fish here and there but most of the fun is had around the campfire.  We stayed at a new campground this year and the accommodation's were nice.  The group site had it's own campground and at first glance I thought it was kind of sketchy. With a more thorough inspection I was amazed at how nice it was inside. I was expecting a wooden bench with a hole or some trough style urinal. This was a lot more welcoming.Don't get the wrong idea. We were still roughing it. The bathroom was pretty open to the elements. The windows had nothing covering them and the door was held shut with a sliding bolt. There's only so many places you can go to the bathroom and smash a spider crawling towards you at the same time. Now that's camping.

The first day I went on a float trip. It was supposed to be mainly a fishing float but it turned into a 9mile canoe trip. The water was so shallow we had to constantly stop fishing and navigate around submerged rocks and ledges. It was kind of exhausting. It's been a long time since I've done a canoe type trip so I still enjoyed myself. Luckily there was only one class II rapid to contend with. The bad part is the canoe we were using was a 16foot flat water canoe. It was pretty heavy and dragged constantly. One of the funniest comments was when my buddy said "I bet the bottom of this canoe looks a lot different then when we started." We got stuck a few times and used the opportunity to fish or eat something. The next day some friends and I tried our luck trout fishing the Helton.We got to the river early but most of the spots were taken. I couldn't figure it out until someone mentioned it was fathers day weekend. Delayed Harvest regs ended in June and the meat fishermen were out in full force. They were the only ones we saw catch anything. I saw a few fish but it was only when I was wading. The fish seemed to be swimming and knowing they are running for their lives.

My wife and kids were visiting my father in law about 2hrs from where I was camping. I really wanted to spend time with them for fathers day so I made a trip up. My brother in law and his family were there too so that made the trip even more worth while. It was nice to relax and just chill out. My lack of smallies was still on my mind and my father in law has a friend that owns some land with a section of creek on it. I asked if he wanted to head down there. My father in law just got a fly rod a couple years ago and has barely used it. We headed down to the creek and I really like fishing with him because he just enjoys being outside. He wants to catch more fish than me but he loves the experience. I think he's a little intimidated when it comes to fly selection. He always asks for my advice. There was a ddh leach from the last trip and I figured that should be good as anything. The stream was so clear it almost looked as though it was dry. It's hard to explain. It was some of the clearest water I have seen and that includes the glacier fed streams in the Sierra's. The fish could see me coming a mile away. The great thing about this section of water is there is almost zero pressure. The fish have not learned to associate people with danger. I had a few fish right in front of me and I could experiment with different flies until I found the proper one. The right fly turned out to be my navel lint pattern.

I realized how much I am influenced by the Internet and what I read. I've read so many articles and watched so many movies about fly fishing for smallies with poppers. It looks so much fun and seems so effective. I've also heard clousers work and they are one of the most go to flies for smallies. I have never had much luck with either one of those. What has worked best for me is crayfish style patterns. I would say maybe it is where I'm fishing. But these patterns have worked for me in the Shenandoah and New River. I've also seen fish behave the same when it comes to these flies. I'm not sure if it is the color or the action but I have used similar flies like black wooly buggers with rubber legs and I get follows but not the same reaction. I was able to catch some fish on a top water fly and if you've been reading my blog lately you can probably guess what it was. A chartreuse stealth bomber. The great thing I'm learning about smallmouth is I don't need a huge selection of flies. The fish seemed to be more interested in retrieval and fly style or color. The fish near grassy edges wanted a fast retrieval. The ones near riffles or runs wanted a dead drift. The fish hanging near the bank in slack water wanted a floating fly that just sat there. It was fun figuring out what the fish wanted and it was probably one of the funnest times I've had fishing. The neatest thing was when I gave the navel lint fly to my father in law and he caught his first fish of the day. He went on to catch a few more and talked all the way home about how the smallie fought on the five weight. A great end to a great fathers day.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Gear Reviews

I have been wanting to do this for a while and a post from another blog inspired me to do post of my own. The blog was called Troutbugs and the main complaint is most of the reviews the author has read have been obviously biassed.  I'm going to try to change all that with these reviews of things I've bought this year. My reviews will go over the good the bad and the ugly with no true loyalty to a specific brand.   The only thing I will warn readers about now is I am cheap. My purchases are usually based on price, reviews or word of mouth. 

I had been looking for another reel for awhile for my 8wt. I really wanted just another spool for my Albright reel but what Albright wanted for the spare spool and shipping I could get a brand new one from Cabela's. Cabela's had a sale running on a Three Forks Disc Drag Fly Reel for $19. I have bought Cabela's products in the past and to me it's kind of like buying something from a large superstore. You get it with low expectations. That was no different with this purchase. When the reel arrived I was actually impressed at the quality of the reel and drag system. The reel was rated for 7/8/9 wt line. It held my 8wt line and backing fine and didn't add much weight to the reel itself.   One thing you find when you buy cheaper stuff is you don't get the little perks like different retrieve setups. I'm used to this being left handed and having to change retrieves many times before.  Although with this reel there was a new twist. Apparently if you tighten the screw that holds the spool on too hard, the spool does not move. Make the screw too loose and you get what happened to me. I was at a pond testing out the reel having a great time. When I cast stripped some line off the reel and heard the familiar sound of a reel falling and hitting my foot. I've had this issue many times with my Redington Crosswater reel so I was starting to wonder if this is a problem with the way I'm doing things or the equipment. I grabbed the spool put it back on and noticed it wouldn't stay on.   There was something missing.  It was the screw at the back. This screw is tiny and trying to find it in wet grass was impossible. I looked for a good 10min and even thought about coming back with a magnet. I decided to give up and look into how much it would cost to get another screw. Dreading this and expecting to pay $10 for a tiny screw I sent Cabela's an email. Come to find out they outsource their reel repair to a small company. I was given their contact info and I was surprised to get an email with in a few hours. I was told to send my address and a new screw would be sent to me the next day. The promise was kept and I received a package in the mail. It didn't have a screw but a bunch of other parts. I read the directions to find out what they were and realized I still needed the screw but I would have needed these parts as well. I contacted the repair company again explaining the issue. They were super understanding and again sent me the correct part at no charge. I have been using the reel since with no problems. The reel does the job and for under $30 you can't expect much. Just make sure you tighten the screws.

If you read my last wader fiasco you know I was on the lookout for new waders. Sierra Trading post had a sale on Redington Crosswater Chest Waders for $40.  I jumped on those and when I got them I thought they weren't going to hold up right away. My previous waders were LL Bean and seemed to be made out of a more durable material.  I've used the Redington waders about 5 times now and I've noticed a few things. I thought the material was weak because it was thinner than the LL Bean waders. What I realized was the thin material made the waders light and they were just as durable as the Bean's.  They became so comfortable I forgot I was wearing them.  The bad about them is they do not come with a wading belt. There is a draw string around the top but I really wished they came with a belt.  It's not a huge deal I have something else that works as a belt. 

My Orvis Wading Boots have been slowly falling a part for awhile. I bought them on clearance from a fly shop but I still felt I should get a few years out of them.  It has been less than 2yrs and already the felt soles are starting to separate from the main shoe. The inner sole has been shot for awhile and constantly slides when you put your foot in. The laces on one boot are coming a part. I'm not sure how to even describe it. It's like the outer lace is coming off and the inner paracord like material is what's left that allows you to tie the boot. I was thinking about taking them back to Orvis and seeing if there is a warranty on them that lets me replace them. When I went to do this I decided to check the size of the boots to see what size I would need.  I knew I wear around a 10. Checked one boot -10,  checked the other boot - 12?. What the heck?  Well now I know why they were on clearance. I know you're probably thinking how did he never notice? I never really did. I bought these boots as a quick fix when I lost some Korker souls and needed something to get me through the weekend.  I thought for sure I checked the sizes but I must have just grabbed the box that said size 10 and went on.  Either way there was no way I was going to try to do a warranty exchange with miss sized shoes.  I had been researching Simms and other brands. I even bought a pair of Redington CTX's off Sierra Trading Post.  That's one thing that sucks about buying online you can't try it on. The boots were way too high.  They were almost like snowboarding boots.  The boots were advertised as wading boots but I don't think fishing was the intention. They were returned. My buddies kept telling me about Chota's.  They kept raving about how long they last and how comfortable they were. After about the 6th person I decided to give them a go. The boots fit great and felt more like an actual shoe than the run of the mill wading boot.  They run $75 and they seem well made. On my first fishing trip trying them out I didn't have thick socks to wear in them. I wore my normal thin socks and some neoprene booties. The boots felt great until the inner soles started to slide around.  I can't stand that. I just kept seeing the Simms rep from the fly show in my mind telling me how the Simms inner soles are nailed down and prevent this.  I'm going to try super gluing the soles or using gel soles or something. I'll live with it for now and other than that I have no complaints about the boots. The felt of the sole performs great and the fit of the boot is comfortable.

I always have an issue of never having a fly box that can hold bass flies. I have a Plano but I wanted something that fit in my chest pack. I received a Orvis $25 off $50 purchase coupon in the mail and decided to use that.  Some of my friends have Cliff Boxes and I always thought they looked cool but were they really something worth having? I checked out the Cliff Bugger Barn and decided to pick it up for $22. I have been happy with it so far but you can only put so many large poppers in the box. I think I'll never go away from bass fishing with a back pack. I like the comfort of having all my bass flies with me. The box is sturdy and the foam is decent.  I'm not too sure these boxes are any more special than a plain old Plano box minus the foam. There really isn't any vents on them to allow moisture to escape and keep your hooks from rusting. The main thing I like about the box is that it fits in my pack and holds a good amount of bass flies.  It serves its purpose.

This is my last review and I haven't used it fishing yet but I have to share it because people need to know about this.  My front patio is mosquito haven.  It is so bad that my family hasn't enjoyed the patio in years. It really sucks to have a bbq on a beautiful day and you have to go hide in side or you'll be eaten alive.  A neighbor told me about a ThermaCell Lantern. At first the idea sounds just like a regular mosquito candle.  A heat source cooks something that smells and is a deterrent for mosquitoes. I was skeptical at first because candles don't work in my patio and I hadn't found anything that was really effective. With bbq season coming I picked up a lantern. They run about $20-$25 and you can find them at Walmart. They come with 3 smelly tab things and a butane cartridge.  How it works is you put the tab in the top of the lantern, screw in the cartridge into the center of the lantern then hit the start button a few times. That is all there is too it. You can put batteries in the thing and use it as an actual lantern/repeller. This thing works. We tried it out last weekend and when I first started it the mosquitoes hung out. The directions on the box said it takes about 10min.  Sure enough after 5min there were no mosquitoes in sight. I did find one here or there lurking. To me that is success because with out the lantern we'd have 10 mosquito's around us at all times. It was great to finally enjoy a meal outside and use our lawn furniture. I'm taking this lantern with me on camping trips and I put it next to me while gardening. Didn't get one bite! I hope this lantern can help others.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Was This Meant to Happen?

Since I have been doing so much small stream fishing my 8wt hasn't gotten much love. I decided to break it out and jump on some water in between thunderstorms. I was a little torn where to go. There was a pond where I had hooked a large bass I wanted to get back too. I really wasn't sure I wanted to drive that far plus the weather was so unstable. I decided to hit a pond closer to my house. I've always heard after a rain that this pond can be amazing. I was excited and went to get my gear ready when I noticed none of my stuff was in the car.  I don't know how I didn't notice this when I put the rod in the car.  I guess because my stuff is almost ALWAYS in my car. The reason it wasn't this time is we recently took a trip to the mtns and drove my wife's car. My stuff was still in there.  I slammed the hatch and mumbled some things under my breath while I sped back home. Should I even go now I wondered? I figured this may be a sign to hit that pond where I hooked the huge bass. I grabbed my gear from my wife's trunk and headed to the other pond.  The weather seemed like it was going to hold off long enough for me to get some time in. When I started to get my stuff ready I grabbed my reel and noticed sinking line was on it. Then I started to look in my backpack and all around the car.  My reel with floating line wasn't there. I had my 3wt reel with floating line on it but would that really work? I guess we'll find out I just want to fish damnit.  

I walked to the spot where I saw the nice size bass. I had the sinking line on and decided to go with a white wooly bugger. There were only two other fisherman a father and son. They were a ways down the bank from me. By their looks I could tell they were wondering what the hell a guy was doing fly fishing there. The section was right in front of a drainage ditch that flowed fresh rain water in to the pond. I saw some movement at the back end of the pool and something that looked like a huge fish but wasn't moving at all. The lighting was horrible and it was hard to tell what was a log and what was a fish.  I worked the water and ended up snagging a rock near where the water entered the pond.  I walked over to unsnag my fly and when I got back I noticed the log wasn't there anymore. IT WAS A FISH!  It had to be a monster bass. Was that the fish I hooked before? Was my chance at catching a big bass there over? I kept trying and eventually felt I spooked everything on that side of the pool. I went to the other side and started to work the water there. I saw splashes and what looked like bass busting shad. Still I had no action. 

After about 30min the son started making his way towards me and I started fishing where I had started. I watched him for a bit and I don't know what he was fishing with but it made such a huge splash it startled me every now and then. After getting a horrible tangle in my line I decided to ditch the sinking line and use the 3wt reel with floating line. While changing my set up I asked the kid if he had caught anything. He said his dad had caught a huge bass earlier. He raised his hands and showed me the size of the fish it looked about the size of the one I had spooked earlier. Was that fish sitting there because it had just been caught? I decided to try a wannabe stealth bomber. It was chartreuse and had a strange material for a tail. Almost like artificial rabbit fur. My friend gave me this fly after some sale. I worked the fly but I noticed my leader was pretty short and the fly just didn't do the exact action I wanted. It wasn't working like a real stealth bomber. The lighting was really starting to fade and I still didn't feel like I fished this place right. I watched the kid some more and eventually saw him hook something close to shore that ripped his hook clean off. It was about 5ft away from him so I figured it was a bluegill.

I decided to get serious and fish right. I tied on a proper leader. Buffed it up using 10lb mono and went with a REAL stealth bomber. While I was set up I noticed the kid had left and I figured where he fished was too beat up to try now.  There's no way a big bass is still over there. I cast away from that spot first then on my second cast I decided to give that first spot another shot. I cast in what seemed to be 4ft from shore and maybe 5inches of water. I saw some movement near the fly then something sip it in. I set the hook hard hoping it was a bass but really thinking it was a bluegill. Then I saw the wake of the fish and it started to thrash around. This was no bluegill. The fish turned sideways and started to swim past me. This was by far the biggest bass I have ever hooked with a fly rod. All I could think of was the advice of my buddy Mike used to tell me. When you hook a big bass, set the hook then set it 2 more times. I set it about 10 times. I kept pressure on the fish and it wanted to run but there is no way I wanted to play with this thing on the 3wt "click paw" drag reel. I horsed the fish and the power of the 8wt held with the impression either I'm breaking or you're coming with me. The fish started to shake it's head and this is what I hate about big bass. You always seem to have them hooked to where you can see half of your fly sticking out of their mouth. Every time the fish jumps you just keep hoping your hook will stay in there. Luckily the multiple hook sets lodge the fly in well and the fish came to hand.
If you haven't tried the stealth bomber yet you really need to get your hands on these or tie them yourself. They are by far the best bass flies I've ever used.
In just a couple weeks I've caught my biggest bass and probably gill on this fly.
To top it off this is my 250th post which makes me wonder if all these events that seemed like mishaps were meant to happen. I don't know if I would have had the same night other wise.