Big Water, Big Flies, Big Fish

It’s been a season of big trout for many fly fishermen in southern Ontario this year, at least according to those I’ve talked to and (to a somewhat lesser degree) my own experiences. It makes sense though… the rivers have had an abundance of water, keeping big trout holding in water that might otherwise be warmer, shallower and clearer. High dirty water has also kept dry fly purists at home, reducing fishing pressure on many rivers.

I won’t say it’s been a record season for me though, as I had an especially difficult time keeping big fish on the line earlier in the season. I’m not sure if I’ve finally shaken the dust off my streamer fishing skills, or if the trout have had a change in attitude (or both), but hook-ups with big fish have picked up somewhat over the last month for me. I suppose I can also attribute this to the arrival of warmer weather and the corresponding increase in night fishing success.

A big wild brown from last week, caught just past dark.

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Happy New Year

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and all that!  I’ve been pretty inactive on the blog lately… a typical case of the winter blues while I wait 7 long months for trout fishing to re-open (down to 4 now).  I hope everyone had great holidays.  Santa didn’t treat me to any new fishing gear this year, but a new pair of waders are definitely on the horizon since my Simms Headwaters waders found their way to the trash after last season.

I meant to post these earlier, but never got around to it.  I was experimenting with a few Christmas flies last month.  Here are a couple first attempts that we hung on the tree.  The deer hair snowman was especially fun to tie.

A couple Christmas flies I made with my daughter to hang on the tree

A couple Christmas flies I made with my daughter to hang on the tree

 

Preparations

June turned out to be a busy month both on the water and on the fly tying bench. The rivers are now teeming with bug activity and you just never know when that epic day on the water might arrive… where everything comes together to produce those perfect conditions that bring even the most wary of trout to the surface.

This is the time of year where our fly boxes need to be the most diverse. Depending on the time of day, river and hatches, you might be casting streamers, nymphs, wet flies, emergers, tiny dries, large dries, or even huge topwater patterns. Consequently, I’ve been hitting the tying bench a lot lately, trying to cover all my bases. In what has been an increasing trend of mine, I’ve concentrated more on sub-surface patterns this season to up my odds when fish are either not rising, or when they’re rising but refusing dry flies. Below are some flies I’ve been tying and fishing on some of my local waters.

Grand River

If you fish the Grand River, you know how frustrating it can be if you rely on dry flies to match the hatch. Although I don’t spend as much time on the Grand as I do other rivers, I’ve come to realize that it’s a largely sub surface and emerger river. In response to this, I tied a bunch of the following emerger patters in various sizes, mainly for caddis and blue winged olive hatches. I’m sure that by simply swapping out different colors and materials, these could be used to imitate a much wider variety of caddis and mayflies.

Caddis or BWO emerger, loosely based off a Snowshoe Emerger pattern

Caddis or BWO emerger, loosely based off a Snowshoe Emerger pattern

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Blog Updates

As usual, I haven’t seen much fishing since trout closer. I attended a steelhead clinic a couple weekends ago with a friend and we’ve been trying to setup a steelhead guided trip, which keeps getting pushed back. I’ve convinced myself that I’m simply waiting for the colder weather to drive the mobs of fishermen off some of the more accessible steelhead water – we’ll see if that actually holds true.

Interestingly, my two youngest kids have suddenly become fascinated with fly tying. This isn’t surprising I guess, since they are at that age (junior kindergarten and grade 1) where crafts occupy a large part of their time at home and school. They’re constantly asking to tie flies with me, so I’ve started letting them participate. I always make sure I de-barb my hooks at the vice when tying flies, but de-barbing isn’t quite enough when a 4 and 5 year old are carrying them around the house. So, I completely remove the hook bend, making them safe decorations but pretty awful fish catchers!

My son tells me his favourite fly is the “Wuggy Bugger”. He helped me tie this one and he liked it so much that he’s been taking it to bed with him. It’s not a real Wolly Bugger of course, as it has no hook or hackle, so I hereby declare this new pattern the Wuggy Bugger, as named by my 4 year old son.

My 4 year old son, snug in bed with his "Wuggy Bugger"

My 4 year old son, snug in bed with his “Wuggy Bugger”

Portable Fly Tying Table

I mentioned during the off season that I’d been considering building something to better organize my fly tying tools, which up until now have been stored in a bunch of boxes and ziplock bags. I considered everything from full blown desks to much smaller portable tying stations. In the end I decided to go with a simpler portable tying table, which takes up less space and allows me to easily move my tying area around the house (or even on a trip).

The design I ended up using was based off this one. I used pine for the base and all of the other wood. It’s still pretty bare bones since I have only incorporated my main tools so far. As you can see, there’s lots of room for additional tools and containers, but it’s already much more functional than what I was working with before.

Initial version of my portable fly tying station

Initial version of my portable fly tying station

Features so far include:

  • Metal rods to hold spools: thread, silk, tinsel, wire, etc
  • Slots to hold main tying tools: scissors, whip finish tool, bodkin, thread bobbin, hair stacker, wax, etc
  • Larger holes for containers
  • Hangers for larger more awkward tools, such as hackle pliers
  • Hole to hold my magnifying lamp
  • Enough table space to hold my vice, a tying book and some materials
  • Space under the rear ledge to store materials or containers

Possible additions/modifications I’m considering:

  • Pull-out drawers under the ledge at the back to store hooks, bead heads and the like
  • Additional metal rods to hold more spools
  • Additional holes and hangers for more tools and containers
  • Possibly a different finish for the base

Wet Flies

For most my fly fishing years, I have favoured the dry fly more than all other types of flies. My very first trout was taken on a dry fly, my most memorable days on the water involve dry flies and they produce arguably the most exciting takes from fish. I would typically rather prospect for trout with a dry fly than tie on a nymph or streamer, even when the fish are not rising. Considering most fish feed under the surface, this is a bit stubborn.

I’ve grown to appreciate the nymph and streamer for what they are and I certainly fish them more now than I did in the past: but still, I don’t enjoy them as much as I do fishing closer to the surface. Most trout fisherman generally consider these 3 types of flies: dries, nymphs and streamers. There’s also the more recent hybrid emerger, which is fished just under the surface flim, but these are what you’ll find predominantly in most fly shops and fly boxes. Yet, the sport of fly fishing grew up exclusively on another type of fly, one that is largely ignored by most anglers today: the wet fly.

I’m not stating anything ground breaking here. This subject has been brought up by lots of others, on the internet, in books and elsewhere. Speaking of which, I just received a copy of a new book, which is why this subject is fresh on my mind:

Wet Flies by Dave Hughes

Wet Flies by Dave Hughes

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Merry Christmas!

Just a quick post to say Merry Christmas! Woke up extra early this morning to 3 very excited kids and things are just settling down. Hope Santa was good to all of you and hope you have a great holiday and happy new year.

While searching the infinite database that is the internet, I came across a couple fun tying ideas that I think I will use as inspiration next year. Enjoy!

Christmas Bugger (source)

Fly Ornaments (source)

That Time of Year…

As is obvious from my sudden lapse in blog posts, things have been pretty slow to non-existent on the fishing front since the trout season closer. This is the norm for me around this time of year, when the weather gets suddenly colder and rainier and the fishing slows down.

That doesn’t mean I’ve got nothing to write about though.  As we get some drier days and the crowds thin down I’ll be getting out for some fishing here and there.  Also, this year I’ll be spending more time on the fly tying bench restocking my supply and experimenting with new flies.

In fact, I’m currently in the midst of doing some research for a little side project: building a custom fly tying station. I haven’t quite decided yet whether this will be a full size fly desk, or a smaller, more portable tying station. There are some neat ideas out there and I plan on combining them to make something of my own.  Here’s a couple links I have been looking at with some neat plans:

Fly Tying Desk
Portable Fly Tying Bench

The idea is that this will cost very little – possibly using nothing but scrap wood I have lying around my garage. I’ll post some more details and pics as I flush out the design and start working on it.

2012 Trout Closing Weekend

Well, trout season is officially over here in southern Ontario, which means my fishing days are going to be limited to some remaining warm water fishing (bass, pike) and possibly some steelhead fishing if I can manage to find a place and time where the crowds aren’t too bad.

My wife graciously agreed to let me spend way too much time on the water this past weekend, to finish off the trout season. I took Friday off work and managed to get out for three consecutive days, all of which were spent on different sections of my favourite local river. By the way, you’ll notice that I rarely mention river names or locations. This is on purpose, in an effort to avoid random lazy people from typing a couple words into Google and going away with sensitive and hard earned fishing locations. If you really want to know where I fish… well, I probably won’t tell you unless you’re family or friend 🙂  But, you’re more than welcome to ask.

Anyway, on with the report!

Friday, September 28th

Friday was supposed to be a full day of fishing, but I slept in a bit more than I would have liked and as usual, I needed to do some last-minute fly tying to top up my box. The main ties included a bunch of Red Humpy dry flies (which are always productive on this river), as well as a number of Simulators and a couple Gartside Gurglers for a bit of night fishing.

Lots of Stimulators in sizes 12-14 would be the main go-to fly during the days

Gartside Gurgler (size 6) for hopefully enticing some hungry Browns at night

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