Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Turks and Caicos - Tight Lines Mon

A great fishing story from a very dear friend, Jay Schroeder, hope you enjoy.

“Virgil, what is the name of the fish eating predator bird?” The 67-year-old entrepreneurial cabbie could have said “Mu’ad Dib” and I’d have half believed him but it was simply a fish hawk. The nice man, or mon, had delivered me to an inlet lake where bonefish prowled for crab at high tide. I’m staying at some all-inclusive resort at Turks and Caicos. It’s free for me and enjoyable despite being canned like a cruise ship.

I came to this muddy mangrove lined lake with my 14-year-old a couple days ago and found only one bonefish which we spooked. I shared a beer with him too and I’d do it again as it’s a ritual of manhood. He needs to learn rituals are important, telling him so pales to showing him. I taught him about flycasting in the wind and lessons about stalking prey. We had a great time. Sadly I only caught one little pompano and to post that pic is the equivalent of showing a photo to your buddies of the 4 a.m. gal you intoxicatingly kissed.

I returned today with vigor but had the same result. I was hoping to see tailing fish along the shore but did not. I don’t go fishing with guys who look for the other kind of tail. I have enough problems in life without giving or inviting too much trouble.

Virgil dropped me at a deep channel spot. I exited his cab and made my way through some polluted shoreline. I’m sure the flotsam and jetsam all have stories, not all of them bad despite the defiling of nature.

The water was a bit muddy. Enough to obscure skittish fish from seeing me but not enough to hide my fly. I tried some blind casting for an hour. At first I pridefully cast normally until I hooked my back but I go barbless so it came out easy. After that I used a cross-sided cast and the usual slow strip twitch. An odd colorful jellyfish surfaced near me and my first split second instinct was to swat it but I backed up and let it be while it pulsated away harmlessly.

A pair of pelagic raptors shrieked to one another above me. One swooped down and missed its quarry, shaking itself free of water as it flew up to hover for another pass. It’s mate struck home and procured a small fish but instead of gulping it the bird headed to a little island where shrieks erupted. Baby birds. I wandered over to the island and got about 30 feet from the nest but the parents were very upset. I love birds. I never kill anything I’m not going to eat and I have a respect for nature. I think about my mom when I’m outdoors and she was fond of teaching me that we are not apart from nature but a part of it. As much as I wanted to see the baby fish hawks I backed away through the muddy mangroves.

Fishing, especially flyfishing, is an art. I’m very good compared to most but I know lots better. My great friend Alan reintroduced me to it 20 years ago and I’ve been around the world with him stalking tarpon, bonefish, permit, trevally, trout, steelhead, salmon, and shad. He owes me his life and in a way I owe him mine. He was a Purdue QB in 44 and a tailgunner over the Pacific in 45. He is the finest fisherman I know and that’s saying a lot. He ends his invites with “tight lines.” Tight lines means something deeper and deeper as I get older. Be squared away with your gear. Know your terrain. Know your prey. Respect your prey. Be observant of your surroundings. Make your best casts but fish a bad cast if that’s all you got. Rod tip down and tight line for when the strike comes your opportunity fails you if you’re not ready. Everything one needs to know about life is in the phrase “tight lines” if one extrapolates properly. Tight lines to me means being in tune with God at times also.

I walk along the shoreline and see a feeding crane. I almost stumble over a banana spider. The dappled sunlight hits a little creek just right and I see the face of God. I wonder how the great scorer will judge me when it’s time. As the great philosopher Rutger Hauer said, "I’ve done questionable things." I’ve also shown the kindnesses and tender mercies that exemplify the glue that holds humanity together.

I remember forgetting my fly box as a 13-year-old on a trout stream in New England. I amused myself by catching insects and using spider web to attach them to a loop in my monofilament tippet and getting brookies to rise and feed. A nice older man came along and gave me a couple streamers. I haven’t forgotten the kindness that allowed a young boy to catch some fish and feel proud of himself despite the mistake of not being squared away.

I walked a lot of flats today and casted to plenty of shadows. No fish. I went to the appointed place and cleaned my boots, socks and stored my gear just as Virgil arrived on time. I will try some sandy flats on the south shore of Turks and Caicos Saturday. In my mind it’s sunny and I can see the bonefish. The casts are accurate, the fly presentation good, and my line is tight and ready. Whatever happens I can handle it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Fly Fishing the Amazon - Xeriuni River, Brazil

When I got the call from Rob Anderson of Bucket List Fly Fishing that a spot had opened last minute for a trip to the Amazon in search of the gnarliest Cichlids known to man, I told him what any fly fishing zealot would - "let me check with my wife".  Rob has been going down to the Amazon after Peacock Bass for 15 years now, he ties some of the most proven patterns for these red-eyed devils and knows the ropes, so I had to call in all my favors to get a hall pass.  Part of the arrangement was that I was to bring my drone (DJI Inspire 1) some 5,700 miles down to document the adventure:

This is my second fly fishing trip to S. America in about a year, but the arid wind-swept southern reaches of the Patagonian steppe couldn't be anymore contrasting to the intensely hot and humid Amazonian jungles of central Brazil.  Wow, what an eye opener, I thought 95 degrees and 95% relative humidity at Christmas Island was hot - that place has wind and ain't got nothin on the rainforest.  Acclimation to the new and completely foreign environment aside, this fishery is absolutely amazing, it's one we all know we have to hit sometime, and now that I've done it, I know I'll have to do it again (safe to say, my wife doesn't read this).  By the end of the first day it was apparent that everything in this ecosystem is actively trying to kill and eat something else.....we were a part of that food chain....somewhere in the middle.

Reno > LA > Miami > Manaus > Xeriuni River > Base Camp
6 rooms and a galley, all w/ AC got it done!
From there we took custom-built aluminum river boats w/ poling platforms and casting decks to all ends of the river system, side creeks and back lagoons.  Each boat was outfitted with a guide from the local village who's lived their whole life on the river.
An 8 or 9wt is all you need out there, unless of course you run across an Arapaima...it's only the largest scaled freshwater fish in the world, looks like a big Tarpon but has a primitive lung and can breath air in stagnant low-oxygen lagoons.  You'll see (or more likely hear them) breach to "GULP" for air, when you do, an 8 won't work, keep a 12 handy.  Whereas I was fortunate enough to get a couple of shots at this shy, rare and elusive fish, I couldn't coax a grab.
Big Nasties from Warpath Flies for the prospect of seeing Arapaima, big buck-tail flies for the bass, it's pretty simple.

I've never been to any destination where I had to cast as much, as long and as accurately as I did here.  This fish are sitting on the brush, I'm mean right on the structure, cast too short and you'll miss them, too long and you're in the trees.   Its unreal, you could conceivably make a 1,000 casts in a day, almost all will be double hauls so prepare yourself mentally and physically and never let the guide see your best cast upfront, otherwise he'll keep you 60 feet off the bank and let you ruin your arm.  I think this is why on the 6th day, God made Rio Tropical Outbound Short, and rested on the 7th.
Hand protection is a must, as is a Boga Grip.  Everything has a mouth like a paper shredder.
You better expect rain...Admittedly, being from Reno, I had know idea what real rain was.
Three species of Bass:
Plus Payara, Arawana, Jacunda, Wolf Fish, Black Piranha, Bicuda and more...
Piranha are murder on your flies...
There will be times when your guide says don't swim here.  You'll learn that means Black Piranha, other times he'll say don't fish here, that means too many dolphin (they get your fish), other times he'll say don't swim or fish here...Caiman.  Our guide proceeded to pull up his pants, his thigh was largely missing....he'd fallen asleep in a hammock, 20 feet from the shore, apparently near a female's nest.
Don't worry about backing, it's not about that, it's an all out do-or-die tug-of-war when you hook these guys, you have about 30 seconds of furious jumps, tugs and desperate dives around brush, if you win that battle and get him out in the middle, you often win the war.
Drop me a line if you are thinking about going, I'm happy to share what I know about travel, gear and arrangement, I'm also happy to put you in contact with Rob.
Hope you enjoyed!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Northern Nevada - Bows, Browns & Bucks

Fall is a great time to get out in Northern Nevada, the Truckee is in full swing with good mayfly and caddis hatches occurring.  Yeah, not as many fish around Reno as years past, but I've seen a couple of slobs.  Give it a couple more years, the River in town will be back to her old self.

I cam across this Wandering Garter Snake, he popped out of a rifle I was fishing with a healthy brown in its jaws.  Second time I've ever seen something like this:
Hey snake, try it on this brown...I've yet to observe redds yet but this cold snap could trigger the spawn.
Remember that bottom fly can tell you a lot about what's in the river.
Truckee River doe in Reno, not too afraid of me.
Broke away to the Nevada Oregon border for a great mule deer hunt.

I can't imagine a better overall year-round outdoor paradise.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Down Time - Preping for Peas

Getting ready for a trip to the Amazon next month for Peacock Bass on the fly, in so doing, I'm breaking out the drone and getting back in the saddle again.  I was testing some new firmware updates out at Anderson Park and came across this hawk hunting.  He let me tag along for a few seconds.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Pat's Damsel - The Perfect Stillwater Pattern

The warm and sunny months of June through August are periods of heavy damsel activity on most still waters in the region.  There is a heavy hatch that occurs in June that gets the most attention, but this nymph is widely held to be one of the top 5 or 6 food sources for trout from May through September.  I've found that even when trout are keyed in on other hatches, they won't often pass up a well presented damsel.   If you can sight fish for trout and get this pattern out ahead of your quarry w/o spooking it on a 4x leader, there's a good chance you'll only need this one fly during most of the daylight hours.
Things to consider when imitating a damsel fly:
  1. Are you seeing them hatch?  Seeing them fly about as adults is one thing, but they live a long time, so you'll want to watch for them crawling up bull rush or swimming up towards the surface.  Fishing during a heavy hatch (i.e. late June) can be tough, the fish see tons of these nymphs and have likely already gorged themselves, so fooling them is tough.  Secondary hatches in July and August end up netting more fish.  Also, these things hatch mid day, toss streamers in low light morning/evening situations and save the damsels for mid-day.
  2. Find where they're likely to migrate, find shallow weedy areas and reedy banks that allow the nymphs to crawl out of the water to hatch.  Damsel activity is high in these areas and your quarry will often times cruise these weed beds looking for them.
  3. Understand how they swim.  These nymphs are pretty decent little swimmers, making lateral movements of a few inches or so at a time, then they rest, then they move, then they rest.  You don't need or want a fast or constant retrieve, 3 inches, then stop for 4 seconds, then 3 more inches, etc.  The movement is useful in getting the fish to see the nymph but they often take it on the rest when the fly is still.
  4. Match the hatch.  Many damsels are light tan or olive green, and a #12 or #14 fly on a floating line is just about perfect.  Having a pronounced head w/ eyes is a plus and something to imitate their 3-pronged tail is a must.  There are dozens of patterns out there and some look more the like real thing than this pattern.  What I like about this pattern is the fact that its only slightly negative buoyancy.  Weighted flies will start to sink on the rest, this fly won't sink much at all which makes it look like a real damsel.
  5. If you get a refusal, make a fast strip to get its attention again, then use trial and error to see if more movement or rest will invoke the take.  
This is geared towards sight fishing skinny waters, deep water techniques can vary (and intermediate line may be required), but if you can see you're quarry, you can get 50-75% of them to take it.  Just get it out 12-15 feet (minimum) ahead of them, let them discover it naturally and not be "alerted" to it by a splash.  Good Luck!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Stillwater Solitude

A picture post of stillwater solitude in June and July.  Getting on the water at sunrise, being by yourself and targeting trophies in Oregon, California and Nevada...don't get much better than that.
 Mt Bachelor loaded with snow this year.
June is the month of the damsel, they hatch all throughout the summer with major and minor hatches, but June is the major hatch.
Watch for the nymph to swim up from the lake bottom to reeds, logs and bullrush that line the shore, then wait to see them climb up and hatch into adults.
 Fish usually won't refuse damsel nymphs, and you'll feel the takes from Cranebows...they're not subtle.
 Caddis pupa can be top of menu this time of year as well.  When caddis pupate, they're vulnerable, hanging in the surface film as they wait to eclode or for their back to split open and the adult to emerge on the water surface and fly off.

 Common tiger, take something.
 When damsels are out in numbers, it's one of the few flies trout just won't refuse.
 Sometimes you learn more by just simply observing, don't screw it up by casting, sit and watch your quarry, you'll learn something every time.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Truckee River - June Update

Truckee is running a little high due to the warm spell we're having but very fishable, the canyon is the place to be, flows in the mid 700's.  Sean's only been in Reno a few months but already has the river dialed in.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Pyramid Lake - April is Here!!!

April is here but it's still not just about catching, most fish are very focused on the spawn and it can be quite frustrating.  Overall for me its hit and miss for sure, I must have seen 300+ fish Saturday afternoon but only 5 takes, same for others on the beach.
In my experience there are 4 groups of fish this time of year: Summit spawners (most likely to form a big school and the most plentiful group by a good margin), summit feeders (what you you're most likely to hook), Pilot spawners (probably up in the Truckee right now) and Pilot feeders (what everyone and their brother is looking for).  From what I've read, Summit and Pilot fish tend not to intermix, rather they tend to go their separate ways, why I don't know.  According to Fishes of the Great Basin and Great Basin Naturalist, there is also evidence the LCT female is an alternate year spawner, who knows about the Pilot strain, the books are are a couple decades old when only Summit fish were present.  This is interesting to me because I'm always trying to figure out fish behaviour, and alternate year spawning would explain why some schools are in feed mode right now (as would fish just finishing spawning or fish spawning late)

 I really prefer to retrieve big nasties, but most days, indicators with balanced leeches have been consistently out performing.  That said, the the biggest fish for me this month was sight fished on a big streamer.

When you dredge the bottom with streamers and hook multiple dragon fly nymphs, it becomes obvious what to throw on as one of your flies.  These are hearty meals for fish and unlike popcorn beattles and boobies, they actually imitate what fish feed on.
Jan's Draggin is the best dragon fly pattern I've come across, dumbbell eyes get it down fast.
The boys out fished me 2 to 1 this day with 12 in the net on balanced leeches.

Pyramid and her many moods
Normally a storm front like this will get the fish coming in close to shore to ambush Tui Chubs...not today, all it did was turn the lake into an ocean and get everyone soaked.
The colors in and around this lake are amazing, they shift from day to day and hour to hour.
IMHO, she's the most beautiful desert lake you're ever going to come across.  All of these colors occurred over one weekend.