Thursday, December 31, 2015

Tying the Diamond Wing Emerald Shiner

  As mentioned before, I've been adapting some of favorite ties for use through the ice. Normally I don't name the original things that come off my vise, but the pattern works great, is really easy to tie, and the name sounds kind of catchy for posting on this blog. So...without any more fanfare...
 the Diamond Wing Emerald Shiner

What you'll need:
  • small bare jig hook.
  • small finishing nail
  • 8/0 thread
  • .020 lead wire
  • Diamond Wing Fiber in: UV pearl, chartreuse, and peacock green
  • .25" 3D holographic eyes
  • 5 min. epoxy                                                                                                                                  

1.  Place jig hook upside down in vise, cover shank with even wraps of thread and then tie on the finishing nail with half it's length extending beyond the 90 degree bend.

2.  Wind thread back to hook bend and tie in lead wire. Wrap lead forward with even wraps and secure wraps with overlapping wraps of thread. Return thread to front.

3.  Select a small bunch of pearl Diamond Wing Fiber (DWF) and tie in using 2 wraps of thread leaving 60% of the DWF overhanging the nail head.

4.  Fold the forward facing material back and tie down. Remove hook from vise and place back in with hook eye facing up.

5.  Tie in another, slightly smaller bunch of pearl DWF in the same way as in steps 3 & 4. NOTE: for a larger profile use 4 wraps of thread to catch the fibers, fold back and do not tie down. the next bunch will be tied in slightly farther forward.

6.  Repeat steps 3 & 4  with the chartreuse and then the peacock green DWF. Tie off thread and add a drop of head cement.

7.  Stroke the fibers back, gently pulling any stray or loose fibers out. Trim final profile.

8.  Apply 5 minute epoxy to 3D eyes and affix to fly just ahead of hook bend.

  Tied on a normal hook without the lead, this fly is nearly weightless, sinks slowly, pulsates on the pause and darts on the strip. I'm hoping this weighted version will have the same attractive properties while fishing it vertically. Here's another version tied with Polar Fiber.

   Many who know me understand I'm not a big fan of tying knots, especially when it's -20 out, and you can clearly see in the above photo my solution to "quick changes". I originally started to use these spring clips for fly fishing everything but dry flys, but quickly realized they were useful in preventing frozen fingers while fishing through the ice and lately started using them on my ultra lite spinning gear during open water. I think I  only tied one knot throughout the entire ice fishing season last year!  

   Finally...I picked up a stack of old magazines at a lawn sale last spring and finally got around to digitizing some of the more entertaining pages.
Wow....things have really changed!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Summer's over...put on the parka

  It appears Toronto's longest, coldest summer in recorded history is about to come to a close just a few days short of the new year with the weather prophets flooding local media with doom and gloom in the form of a sever winter storm warning. In typical fashion (frenzied), the terrified population has packed away the shorts and tees, found the down and fleece, put the "snows" on the family car and stocked up on essentials: road salt, food and booze.

  As for me... I'll hunker down in my lair for a few days watching the IIHF Word Junior Hockey tournament from the tying bench until it's safe to poke my head above ground. A few days ago Tackle Shop suggested I modify a few of my recent patterns for a vertical presentation through the ice. An interesting challenge, but who can say there will even be safe ice on the lakes this year the way the weather's been.

   At  1.5" long, I'm certain these will work on all species through the ice with the exception of those that inhabit the depths (lake trout, whitefish and burbot) only because of their weight. I'm considering an extended head beyond the dumbbell eyes by tying in a small finishing nail at the hook bend. Besides giving it a more "realistic" profile (which probably appeals more to the tyer than the fish), it will likely add more action by changing the balance. More to come...provided we survive.

Happy New Year Everyone 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

At the tying bench

   Here's another vaguely topical music offering for you to listen to while reading my ramblings.

  As mentioned in my last post, I've pretty much ignored my fly fishing gear for the past year. Not just the rod and reel but also anything to do with fly tying. The only real upside to that is I haven't spent a fortune on tying materials! Truth be told...I'd been tying long before I ever picked up the long rod. Back in the 80's I was making my own spinners and started tying the hooks with beads, bucktail and feathers. Jump ahead 20 years, I bought a cheap fly tying kit a few weeks after getting my first rod and a small fly box, thoroughly disgusted with the price of a hook dressed with feather and fur.

  At this point in the story I can almost hear the derisive laughter. the hopes of saving a few bucks on store bought flys...I've spent thousands on tools, materials. books and magazines. It's been frequently pointed out, over the years, that it would have been far cheaper and easier to just go out and buy a fish! True enough... but that's not why we do what we do. Our game is to fashion an artificial bait, present it in a realistic way and hopefully catch a selected species, to be released or kept depending on regulations or personal opinion.

  My initial investments in flys. materials and instructional reading was misguided as the majority of it was geared towards trout and my game was warm water species. Obviously there is a spot for mayfly and caddis patterns, to name a few, in a bass and panfisher's box, but warm, still- water fishing requires different tactics and flys.
  The first creations to come off the vice could only be described as UGLY. Mismatched materials, crowding the eyelet, I've seen 10 year olds at shows with more tying skills. But let's face it, even the ugliest first tries manage to attract the interest of fish with what I assume are diminished mental capacities. So... with the occasional success, I started to rely less on the books and developed my own style to suite my individual fishing needs. Here are some early works I'm not terribly embarrassed to show.

  Patterns that I've consistently tied since the beginning were salmon flys. My first attempts were unweighted glo bugs, but it soon became apparent some major tweaking was in order to fish them in fast, shallow water. First thing was to replace the glo bug material with less bouyant, assorted cactus and ice chenilles, Next step was to add weight, lead wire wrapped along the hook shank, and eventually replaced with copper beads or cone heads. The whole idea was to simplify the process and still have an effective pattern that I could whip finish in under a minute.
I give away more than half my salmon flys every year

8" synthetics 2006

bucktails 2009
   The patterns I truly fell in love with, though, were streamers; from wooley  buggers and egg sucking leaches to realistic baitfish patterns. I still enjoy tying and fishing them. It might be the wide variety of patterns and materials used or the simplicity of tying a fly that looks so good that hold my interest so keenly, but it's more likely the fact that every thing I target (from the smallest perch to the largest carp) will smash them.

  The streamers coming from my vice have gone through an evolution over the years. Unweighted bucktails tied on long shank hooks have been pushed aside by short shank, weighted, mixed synthetic patterns arising from my imagination. Through trial and error I've found by using partridge hooks I get more short strikes, but the overbalance at the head gives a more erratic swimming action, thus eliciting more strikes. The use of beads for weight have been replaced with dumbell eyes, cones,and more recently "Fishheads". I still like to use bucktail, but have a growing fondness for some of the new synthetics as they they have finer fibers that can be bulked up more and don't hold as much water when casting.
Mickey Finn, red and yellow bucktail  on 1/0 partridge hook and Fishead

"Clouser" style, red and white bucktail on 1/0 partridge hook, dumbell eye.

chartreuse, peacock green and  black Diamond Wing Fiber, orange polar bear, 1/0 partridge hook, Fishead. Banding added with a Sharpie.

chartreuse Diamond Wing Fiber, bronze back Flask Blend, #2 partridge hook dumbell eye.

chartreuse Polar Chenille, natural and hot pink polar bear, 3D prism eye.

   Because of my self imposed lack of credit and motorized transportation, my ability to buy tying materials depends almost entirely on dropping into a big box store when out on a trip with Tackle Shop. When the rare opportunity does occur, what ensues is reminiscent of the Black Friday antics we've all seen on the news, me madly grabbing up all the new shiny things without much thought towards whether I need the material or not, eventually leading to buyer's remorse and said material being stowed away and eventually forgotten.

   Such was the case a few years ago when I purchased 4 large packs of Fishient's Polar Fiber. I was on a large pike fly binge at the time and was thunderstruck to find I'd spent $20 on an untried product that was unusable because the fibers were only 2.5" long. The materials went into a drawer, unopened, until I found them last week. As I mentioned, my tying is evolving, so when they returned to the light I put them to use.

  After whipping off a dozen 2.5" streamers on #4 partridge hooks in assorted color combinations, it occurred to me that, although they looked fine and would swim with great action and movement, they lacked an "inner light".  In the next session I added a few strands of pearl Diamond Wing Fiber. What a difference! The only problem being I'll have to wait 4-5 months to use them.

   Several years ago, while on a trip in Barrie, I bought a wooley bugger that had a small propeller just behind the eyelet. It didn't take long to see the potential for this "do nothing" fly. The first time out it attracted a good sized pike as I let it "helicopter" down. On another trip it accounted for dozens of small bass as I swung it across the current on a tight line. It took quite a while to find a source for these propellers and once I'd acquired several sizes and styles it became obvious they weren't all equal in their abilities. The ones with the rounder blades spun much more freely.

Matuka spinner
   Another thing I've been trying lately is tying on worm hooks so I can access the depths in weedier waters.
yellow bucktail. yellow chrystal flash, chartreuse and peacock green Diamond Wing 
Fiber, black bucktail, orange polar bear, on 5/0 wide gap worm hook.
traditional spun bomber
   I've been spinning deer hair on occasions for years, turning out mediocre top water bass bugs and such, but I never took to it wholeheartedly until recently. I'd always been amazed at the "artistry" some tyers produced, specifically Pat Cohen at superfly. The things this guy can do with deer hair would make your head spin. Anyways...last month I found a tutorial on youtube on hair stacking for bass bugs. The video was close to an hour long and, as it turns out, it took an hour for me to produce my first fly using this method. One thing I have to say is that it uses up a lot of material and makes one hell of a mess!
My first attempt at hair stacking

  I suppose experience will lessen the mystery, but I never know how well the patterns will show until the fly is completely trimmed out. Once again... I won't know how well these will work until bass opener next June. Until that time I'm thinking of adding glass rattles  to some of these patterns.

  So...this is more than I've written in the last ten posts combined and I have to admit that it doesn't come naturally for me. You've probably noticed I let the photos tell most of the story. There's more to this story, but I'll have to tell it at another time.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

November Rain?

 Play this video while you read this post.
"Cause nothin' lasts forever Even cold November rain"

  Great song, perhaps a little sentimental for GNR but I like it anyways. What I'm not so crazy about is how dry October and November really were. The idiot box keeps telling me that we are currently experiencing the warmest and driest autumn in recorded history for this part of the country. Good news for the average joe on the street but a blow to the head for those of us who planned on fishing the local rivers until freeze up. 

   A little catch up is in order before I continue on this theme, Back in mid February, at the height of the Simcoe ice fishing season, my cat-like reflexes failed me and I tried to open a new hole with the back of my head. A hundred yards away Tackle Shop looked over and thought I was staring down a hole trying to locate fish, when in reality I was passed out on my back for close to 10 minutes. I have little recollection of the rest of the day and for the next six weeks I was laid out with a constant headache, nausea, vertigo and worst of all... no fishing. I've fully recovered since then with no ill effects other than some tenderness at the back of my head. I've fully recovered since then with no ill effects other than some tenderness at the back of my head. 

   I'd regained my footing in early spring, and although, not steady enough to tackle the river for the spring run of steel, I was ready and able to do some carp fishing in my local ponds. One day in early May I spotted a familiar splash of orange I'd been chasing for several seasons. This flashy old-timer had refused all my offerings in the past and on this day I decided to lay low and wait until he made his way along the shore to where I was sitting and droped a crawler right in front of him at rods length. Who knew it would be that easy?

  I still get a good laugh when I think of the locals standing on their balconies overlooking the pond, scratching their heads in confusion as to what I might be doing, and seriously asking "Are there really fish in there", once again proving my theory that the average person has no idea what's in their own backyard. Too bad for them...good for me and mine!

   I didn't get to go on as many road trips this year as usual so my addiction was satisfied locally. The bass pond I'd found last year had a family of beavers take up residence in the early spring and although I appreciate seeing them, particularly in an urban environment, their presence drastically altered the water chemistry causing huge mats of floating algae to form, thus forcing a change in tactics from pitching "hardware" to "software". When I first found the spot a year ago September, fan casting the few access points with 3" floating Rapalas, small Mepps, Beetle-spins with a white twister grub and top water poppers produced several afternoons with fish counts nearing triple digits!

   By mid summer this year, access to open water had all but disappeared so rubber baits came heavily into play, wacky worms, craws and frogs dragged across the mats and allowed to fall into the pockets. Catches were far reduced from last year but far more exciting, as any of you would agree, trying to wrestle a 5lb largemouth out of thick weeds with a 5.5ft ultra-lite and 4lb braid is extremely challenging and just a bit ridiculous.

I sometimes think Treefrog couldn't catch a cold, but he does have his days.
   A couple "youngsters" who live in the same house expressed interest in the sport, and although they'd never fished before, they quickly picked up the nuances of fishing "slop". I can't speak for them but I never get tired of witnessing the astonished sense of accomplishment as that first fish is landed.
Jamie's first of many for the day.
Dave could catch them but was too squeamish to handle them.
Ironically sitting atop a box of  topwater poppers and frogs.
    As mentioned earlier, this year has mostly been a stay at home affair, partially because of the expense of travelling hundreds of miles for a  day out and also because TS had to sell his boat. There were a few trips to the east end of the Trent Severn Waterway this summer where a few notable catches were made; The Russian's first open water musky in Rosedale,

   Tackleshop's person best musky on the Scugog River using the ever present five of diamonds,

    and my first ever multi-walleye day below dam #6 in Frankford, using a Stike King spinner bait. Sorry no pictures...I ate them!

   So here we are, almost caught up, and with a good variety of fish porn on display. Rain, rain, go away, come back another day. NOT! It didn't occurred to me until mid September that I hadn't even glanced at my fly rod or tying bench in almost a year. In a flurry of activity I quickly restocked my collection of egg patterns and made the journey, by mountain bike, over to the Rouge River every few days in anticipation of intercepting the fall run of Pacific salmon.

   All through September and October the river ran extremely low and clear, making the locating of fish easy but difficult to sneak up on. A few came to hand, a few others regained their freedom through break offs. Here are some shots from my backyard over the last few months. Note that some are from Little Rouge Creek, where fishing is prohibited this time of year.

This buck went straight into the smoker


Photographing fish on a redd

Little Rouge Creek 

   I've complained about the low water levels but the one positive point with the weather this fall was the unheard of ability to comfortably wet wade right up to late October. With the salmon season coming to it's end and decomposing on the river bank, I turned my sights on honing my near non existent trout fishing skills. I hate to admit that I've no fly fishing acquaintances to learn from and that reading up on tactics make little difference in my approach. I learn mostly through trial and error.

   It took a while but eventually it dawned on me that what worked on those giant swimmers, (casting upstream with a heavily weighted egg) wouldn't work well on trout. My set up would drift down, line first, scaring any wary fish, and any bites I would get would probably go undetected. One solution would be to use a strike indicator to allow for a more vertical presentation, but I've always hated casting them. I sat beside the river with a bottle of water and a smoke, trying to wrap my mind around this problem. I understood these fish sit just off the current, moving inches to sip at passing eggs, but when living in Lake Ontario prey mostly on bait fish. A plan started to come together.

   I tied on a clouser minnow, cast down and across the current, and on the second drift nearly had the rod ripped from my hands. I was amazed at the savagery of the strike from the 24 inch rainbow that came to hand a minute later. Less than an hour later I hooked into a slightly larger brown trout that broke me off as it tail walked across the run. It would have been a much simpler process getting to this point if I'd actually read all those articles I'd read.

   Not surprising, but I'm still "suffering" from two problems; low, clear water and inexperience. It's too late for November rains, but with my vow to hit the river weekly until Christmas, perhaps inexperience will fade as an excuse. Oh...and I've started a new fly box, I'm currently working on wet hackles.