Saturday, September 24, 2016

US Youth Fly Fishing Team Wins Silver in World Championship

The 2016 World Youth Fly Fishing Championship was held on August 8-14 in Northwestern Spain and Team USA took overall second place.  The competing US team members were Douglas Freemann, Mason Sims, Hunter Enloe, Cam Chioffi, Jack Arnot and Ryley Batewell.  The French Team took Gold, and the Bronze went to the Czech Republic Team. Eight international teams competed this year.  Our friend Doug placed sixth in the individual standings, which was the highest for the team.    

Click here for the full results: US Youth 2016 Fly Fishing Championship Results  

2016 US Youth Team and Coaches - Doug front and center

 The Teams and coaches.

As you can see below the types of rivers they fished varied greatly. Doug said that a high percentage of their fishing was done with dry flies, and most often by covering the entire beat, as he said he saw only a few rises throughout the competition.  The trout were willing though, and good drift over a fish would bring them up to the top. As you can see in the last photo, some of the beats were weed and algae filled, yet Doug said they held plenty of fish. 

Click on photos to enlarge
It's kind of ironic that when Doug and I first started fishing together, he fished nymphs exclusively, while I often switched to dries when an opportunity presented itself.  He caught plenty of fish and sometimes politely questioned why I would fish dries when nymphs were working so well.  He has continued to fish mostly nymphs in the subsequent years. And then he goes to Spain and winds up fishing mostly dries to take US Team individual top honors!  We had a good laugh at that, and in the end, I think he did so well because all of that nymphing taught him to read water and know where trout like to hold and feed.   He has a great instinct for knowing where the fish are.

Congratulations to the US Team, and especially to Doug.

Sharpen your hooks.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Tying the Puff Daddy

A couple of years ago Doug Freemann showed me this fly after having been introduced to it by the guys he competes with on the US Youth Fly Fishing Team.  It's another one of those simple but very effective flies that can be used to imitate just about any fly just by changing the color of the body and/or the hackle.  This past summer I gave it a good workout in Montana having tied it with a pale yellow body and dun cdc hackle for the PMDs, and it fished very well.  I also did well with a tan bodied, natural cdc hackled version in the evenings to imitate the tan caddis that hatch on the Madison River.       

The video shows a Blue-winged Olive imitation, and with the level of clarity that Tim gets, you can see how the cdc feather is covered with tiny barbs that catch air and also provide plenty of surface tension to keep it afloat.  I recommend that you use your thumb nail to shorten the cdc fibers rather than using your scissors so you get a very "buggy" looking profile.  Tie some up in sizes #18-24 for the fall hatches of Olives.  You'll be glad you did.

Sharpen your hooks.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Madison River - The Rest of the Trip

I know this has been a long time in coming, but its been that kind of summer this year - lots going on and very little time spent on the water.  The weather has been fairly warm and with so little rain in these parts the last two months, the rivers are very low and reaching temperatures too high for trout fishing just about every day.  So not only has there been little time to fish, but even when I have had time, conditions are such that I don't.  And fishing is what inspires me to write; so I'm in a writing drought.

We finished up our trip to Montana on the Madison River, and as expected, we wished we had more time to fish it.  The river was at a good level and clear, and the weather was great.   The first day we started out fishing, but I quickly switched to dries as I spotted fish rising along the quieter edges of the fast water I was fishing.  There were some caddis in the air, so I put on a caribou caddis and started taking fish on top.  In that fast water, the fish don't have much time to decide if a fly is real or not, so a good drift over a steady riser usually resulted in a take.  With the clear water, you could see the fish come up under the fly and as they opened up to take the fly, it was all I could do not to strike too soon.

After spending the day fishing the riffles and pocket water above Reynolds Pass bridge, we went back to the cabin for a bite to eat before heading down river to water that in the past has been productive dry fly water in the evening.  When we got there we noticed the wind had picked up, rather than calming as it usually does in the evening here.  There were quite a few bugs in the air, and they too must have been put off by the wind, as most of them stayed up off the water and then disappeared as the light dwindled and the wind blew harder.  There were some bugs making it to the water, and when they did land, they were quickly gobbled up by trout.

There were some caddis, but they were out numbered by Epeorus spinners.  We took a couple of fish on the spinners by waiting for lulls in the wind and then making quick casts to where we saw the occasional rises.   Matt managed to get his first Madison River fish, a nice rainbow, by being patient and making short, compact casts to a fish working near the bank.  It was a tough evening after a good day and by the time we got off the water the wind was kicking up dust and whistling through our rod guides.                 

The next morning Matt and Paul drove down to the Henry's Fork to fish the wide, meandering currents that flow through the Harriman Ranch in Idaho.  Chris and I decided to stay on the Madison and first thing in the morning we hit the fast water above the Slide Inn.  We fished brown Serendipitys and Pheasant Tail nymphs and did well as long as we got our flies right down on the bottom where the fish hold.  In that fast, heavy water you hook a lot of fish when you find the right combination of fly and split shot on your leader, and you also loose a bunch as the fish are strong and know how to use the current to their advantage.  You don't wade this section of the river, not even just off the bank, its too dangerous and fortunately you don't have to - all of the fish are taken within ten feet of the bank or less, often only a foot or two off the edge.  

When the sun moved overhead, we called it quits and headed up the road to the Campfire Lodge to get some breakfast. While there we checked out the fly shop and I came across these cranefly larva flies.  These flies were tied on stainless steel hooks and are big and heavy, and not something I would fish in fresh water.  The guy there said they do work when fished in the fast water; but why not tie them on a hook that will corrode if a fish breaks off and the fly stays in its jaw?  I got a shoulder shrug for an answer.      

After that we fished a few different stretches of water and took a bunch more fish on dries before heading back to the cabin.  I had expected to fish nymphs, but even with the bright sun, caddis and Epeorus mayflies hatched sporadically bringing fish to the surface.  I took most of my fish on what I call a spent Puff Daddy, which is my variation on a dry fly that Doug showed me a couple of years ago.

It would be nice if I could tell you finished off the trip that evening with a bang, but it was more like a dud.  After the four of us had an early dinner at the Grizzly, we headed up river to fish.  The air was still, but very chilly, and no bugs showed at all.  We fished our dries over likely holding water and did take a couple of fish, but that was it.  Not that we were disappointed, we were tired and had a hell of a good week.  My son did well and now is already excited for our trip next year.  He's been tying flies almost every night, texting me or calling with questions, and his skills are improving rapidly.  Looks like he caught the bug like the rest of us.

Sharpen your hooks.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Armstrong Spring Creek - Montana

After fishing the Bighorn River for four days four of us headed over to Paradise Valley, just south of Livingston, to fish Armstrong Spring Creek for a day.   Armstrong is an internationally well-known destination that offers a wonderful fly fishing experience for a limited number of anglers each day in a beautiful setting. The river runs roughly parallel to the Yellowstone River and  is about 1.5 miles in length. The consistently clear, cold flows make it ideal for both hatches and wild trout production.  

When we arrived mid-morning, Pale Morning Duns (PMD's) were hatching well and fish rose to take them off the surface throughout the river.  The blue sky was a bright with sunshine, and the air calm, dry, and already very warm.   It was easy to find a target with all fish rising, but the varied currents and gin clear water made it necessary to to use long leaders, fine tippets and accurate casts from a well-chosen position.

I found a nice run where the river tightens below the long smooth pool you see above, and eased my way in a ways down from where several fish worked the edges of the faster currents.  I had almost 3 feet of 6X tippet on the end of a 10 foot leader, to which I tied a #16 PMD cripple, before casting my offering to a nice brown working the left edge of the run about 25-30 feet above my position.  The fish turned and followed my fly on that first cast before casually dropping back to its holding place with a seam in the undulating weeds that line the bottom of the river. My fly must have dragged.  The next cast I finished with hard follow through sending the fly well past where the fish was holding before stopping the rod tip short causing the line, leader and fly to bounce back, before landing on the water in nice "S" curves, and dropping the fly a foot and a half above the fish.  The fly drifted for a second before the fish rose up and took it with quick, audible sip, and I lifted my rod driving the hook into its upper jaw.  It jumped a few times and in few minutes I had my first 2016 Armstrong Spring Creek brown in my net.

By the time the sun was directly overhead, the PMD hatch was just about done for the day and in turn, fewer fish rose to the surface. The rise forms changed to; from confident, audible takes, to soft, silent sips. With the heat of the day upon us, the breeze had kicked up and big, fluffy clouds moved over the valley creating short-lived, passing shadows on the water.  Scattered tiny blue-winged olives, small caddis, midges and various terrestrials floated by, making fly selection a little more difficult.  For all we knew, each rising fish could be taking a different bug, or even taking whatever floated over them as their mood dictated.  I switched to a 7X tippet and tied on my pheasant tail simple snowshoe emerger in a size #22, and spent the next few hours stalking rising fish.  I took a bunch more fish, both rainbows and browns, and had a few more long distance releases.

The pheasant tail simple snowshoe emerger.  Learn to tie it HERE.

Below me, about halfway down the pool I was fishing, my son worked a bank lined with willows.  After missing a few on the take, he hooked and landed a nice rainbow on a PMD spinner.

We fished until dark, taking breaks every so often to go back to the car and rest in the shade, snack and hydrate.  We drank almost a case of water between the four of us - the dry air made it to the mid-nineties F. I stayed with the pheasant tail emerger and took quite a few more fish before calling it a day.  We had a great time, we all caught fish, and we plan on going back again next time we visit Montana.

Sharpen your hooks!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Angling Tips to Help Trout Beat the Heat

During the steamy “dog days” of August, it is important to remember that trout and salmon (coldwater sportfish) experience serious physical stress whenever water temperatures climb above 70° Fahrenheit. Heat stressed fish often seek pockets of cold water created by upwelling groundwater, small feeder streams, or water released from deep reservoirs. These refuges allow trout to avoid or recover from potentially fatal levels of heat stress. You can help by taking the following precautions during your warm weather fishing trips.

Avoid catch and release fishing for heat stressed trout. Trout already weakened by heat stress are at risk of death no matter how carefully they are handled.
Don’t disturb trout where they have gathered in unusually high numbers. Because these fish are likely to be suffering from heat stress and seeking relief, responsible anglers will not take unfair advantage of their situation.

Fish Early. Stream temperatures are at their coolest in the early morning.

Go to Plan B! Have an alternate fishing plan ready in case water temperatures are too high at your intended destination. Consider fishing a water body that is less prone to heat stress or fishing for a more heat tolerant species like smallmouth bass.

By paying attention to water temperatures and adapting fishing strategies to changing conditions, anglers can help trout and salmon to beat the heat.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Bighorn River Q & A

A few of you have sent me emails, and one a comment, asking for more information about the Bighorn. So I've taken the questions from the comments on my post of July 13, which covers the gist of what others have asked, and pasted them here along with my answers. Please keep in mind that my answers are based on my own experiences fishing the river in July, and mostly from the perspective of the dry fly angler. I have fished the river using subsurface flies, but only when absolutely nothing is hatching or rising. 

Sure would like to hear about your Bighorn River trip! Did you wade, or float? Float, it flows through the Crow reservation and access is very limited without a drift boat. We started everyday below the afterbay, and stopped/anchored in the places we saw rising fish or that we wanted to explore, or that we knew from past trips hold fish. 

Which section(s) did you fish, and which areas did you like most?  This year we floated from the afterbay to 13 mile once, and the other three days from the afterbay to 3 mile.  Below three mile the river had a lot of algae and plant matter in the water, and the one day we drifted to 13 mile we saw very few rising fish below 13 mile, and the water was "dirty".  That said, it may be different next year, so don't assume anything because everytime we go it is different.  Two years ago we fished to 13 mile everyday because we found hatches and fish the whole way, and the water was clean. 

What times of day did you find most productive?  We caught fish all day long.  They do turn off for short periods, but I haven't found one time is better than another.  In the evening, lots of fish rise, but they can be very snooty and you'll have to work for them - lengthen your leader and tippet, and take your time so you make good casts and get drag-free drifts the first time over the fish.  

Was the dry fly fishing good throughout the day, or did you nymph until evening? Most people fish nymphs and do well - like 80% of all the angler fish subsurface.  But if you want to fish dries all day, and are willing to work and be patient, you can catch fish all day using dries and catch fish.  I only fished dries all day long all four days, and caught a lot of fish,

Did you stay in Fort Smith?  We rented a cabin in Cottonwood Campground.  We have also rented cabins in the past through other means and stayed in Ft. Smith, and they seem to all be good.  None of the guys I go with need amenities - the cabin is for sleeping, eating and tying flies and getting a good shower in the am.  

What were the good and bad things about the trip? It's a vacation in Montana, what can be bad about it?

The bottom line is that it's like anything else in life; it is what you make of it.  We go every year (25+ years)  and have a blast no matter what the weather is like, how good the fishing is (its always good, even when it is bad), and even when we invite a new guy and he turns out to be an asshole to travel and stay with (he doesn't get invited back again).  That didn't happen this year; my son was the new guy and he's in for life. : )

Life is short and fishing in Montana or anywhere is awesome.