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.




Saturday, April 2, 2016

Big Bones Brah - Maui Fly Fishing

Now there is no excuse not to take the family to Maui, turns out there are some large and challenging bonefish to be taken on the fly.  Its sounds a little crazy but 8-10 pounders are to be expected in Hawaii, with 12 and up not uncommon.  The secret's out about Oahu, but Maui is right up there as a fly fishing destination, only problem is, unlike your typical bone fishery, they're only in certain places at certain times, they're really tough to locate, almost impossible to see and as a result, hard to catch (unless you've been doing it all your life).  Forget what you know about bones, and stalking them on white flats in ankle deep water, Maui is a whole nother game.

 This is one place where you need someone with some local fishing knowledge...wait for the plug.  Captain Jon Jon, owner and proprietor of Local Fishing Knowledge is the only fly fishing guide on the entire island and he know's his stuff.  A lifelong fisherman, fishing is less of a livelihood for this guy, and more of a lifestyle.  

Below is NOT what you're going to find on Maui, that's the easy type of bonefish'n, the kind where you can spot your quarry 40-50 yards out, have time to set up, false cast, cast short, recast and still stick it....it doesn't work that way on Maui.
Now let's say you get a lucky lead from a local about a reef or beach with bones, and let's also say the wind lays down and swell lightens up so you can actually see the fish...what to throw at them?  The right fly is below, but I can't tell you which one it is, only Captain Jon Jon ties them so you'll have to talk to him.  Jon Jon is like a spiritual scientist about reef/flats ecosystems, bone fish ecology and all things fishing.
You may not get the large schools 50-100 strong like you do in Abaco or Kiritmati, but what they lack here in numbers they more than make up for in size.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Pyramid Lake - February Update

Its still hit and miss out there at Pyramid, being in the right place at the right time matters, stick and move if you're striking out or wait for that school to come in, they usually do once or twice throughout the day.  Some big fish are being caught, supposedly a confirmed 27 pounder and an unconfirmed of the same size.  This may be the year of the 30 pounder, they say its overdue. April is almost here!



Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Snow Shoes & Scuds


 We're off to a good winter here in Northern Nevada, plenty of snow at the higher elevations and considerable snow at the lower ones.  Deep drifts + soft slush by mid day = snowshoe only.
 A lack of tracks tells us we're the first here in a month or so.
 First small fish gets the ye ole stomach pump, be quick, be gentle, release unharmed.  It can be a a very safe method if done correctly, use water to flush/suck contents, don't just jam and suck, fish can't be too small, use discretion, don't use a trophy-class fish.  95 scuds, 4 mayfly nymphs, 1 caddis larva....which fly to choose?
 Cornices along water edges are a good way to go swimming, stay far back.

Ahh, winter bows




Thursday, November 19, 2015

Jurassic Lake - Fly Fishing Patagonia Argentina

I was wondering how Jurassic Lake Lodge could ever make such a boast - "the most prolific rainbow trout fishery in the world"...I stopped wondering that last week.
One of the Lodge staff shot and edited this video for me, I can't thank him enough, his name is Germán Cerrotti (malevofly@gmail.com) and he's as accomplished a videographer as he is an accommodating and friendly person.  My only contribution to the endeavor was footage I manage to capture from my drone (DJI Inspire 1) which Germán eagerly spliced into his work.

Situated in northern Patagonia, in the Argentinian province of Santa Cruz, Lago Strobel (aka Jurassic Lake) is a 65 square kilometer (16 square mile) body of water.  To be more descript, it's an 800 foot deep caldera filled with about 300 feet of alkali water.  Situated east of the Andes, it's fed by a sole year round tributary, the Rio Barancoso.  This river has cut a deep and rugged channel through the Patagonian desert steppe ultimately terminating in the lake.

Jurassic Lake Lodge is the only lodge on the lake, the only lodge with exclusive access to the most productive bays on the lake (the legendary "boca" and the "bay of pigs") and is the only lodge with access to the most productive first half mile of the Rio Barancoso...despite what marketing for their nearby competitor might suggest.  If you're making the time and financial commitment to go this far, spend an extra grand to get to the A+ waters, trust me on this.  The best way to describe the lodge is exceedingly remote, off the grid and basic.  That said, it has all you'll ever need for a wonderful experience including a SUPERB guiding staff, great food, warm beds and showers, private baths per each double occupancy room, a warm dining room and lounge and a large selection of delicious local Malbecs always being uncorked.  A generator runs half of the day and powers type-A outlets, a satellite TV and something the Argentinians referred to as "satellite internet", but I don't believe in unicorns either.
Due to a diet of crustaceans (scuds), the trout flesh is the same color as Sockeye Salmon which also lives on a diet of crustaceans (plankton).
Trout Sashimi - Ever seen red trout meat?
Gaucho-style lamb BBQ


Getting to and from the lodge is a journey and experience in and of itself, you're going to need some help from Fly Water Travel, they're experts in this field.  From Reno, NV we had 2 domestic US flights, then a red-eye to BA, then a transfer to the domestic airport, then another domestic flight to Comodoro Rivadavia and finally a charter plane to a newly constructed gravel runway right at the lodge.  A chartered Twin Otter eliminates the infamous 7 hour "road to hell" and substitutes 1.5 days of 4x4 travel for world class angling...provided the Patagonian winds allow the Otter to land.  Upon our departure, we experienced sustained winds of 146 KPH (91 MPH) so we learned all about crossing the Rio Barancoso when swollen and the "road to hell" after all.
Rio Barancoso after a rain storm in the Andes.  They tell you to roll down the windows because if the truck gets swamped, you won't be able to open the doors...yeah, that advice made me feel better too.
The lake is a biological anomaly, devoid of fish until McCloud River Rainbows were transplanted in the 1990's, these fish quickly flourished due to an almost limitless scud population.  As I understand it, this allowed them initially to grow to gargantuan proportions, but what's kept the population in check and therefore the average size of the fish extremely large is the ruggedness of the lake's only year round spawning tributary, the Rio Barancoso. 
An endless torrent of rapids and waterfalls prevent most fish from successfully navigating to the upper sections of the river which are most suited for spawning.
 Below is an aerial drone photo of what the call "the Big Pool".  It's only 500 yards up from the lake and practically the only substantial piece of soft water for the first mile or more of river.  Because of a really rough rapid immediately below, most of the biggest fish can't even reach this first and only rest stop before the next mile of continuous rapids guarding the upper spawning grounds.  The concentration of spent fish is so high here that after a short while you'll realize there is no sport in fishing this section of river and will move on in search of a challenge.  The fish in both the lake and river will take mice and attractor dries.  Additionally, fish will grab streamers on the swing, all of which make for a great angling experience.
I found sight fishing in the side creeks, pockets and edges of heavy rapids a good balance of risk/reward.

The lower section the river has more hot chromers.


 Now there are two primary beats near the lodge on the lake, the "boca" at the confluence of the river and then the "Bay of Pigs".  Each had their own nuances, challenges and opportunities.  Below, my buddy Clark is displaying a quintessential chromer from the Bay of Pigs.  Their color gives them away but you can easily identify a chromer hook-up blind folded: your reel will scream and the fish won't spend much time in the water.


  Not every fish is in the teens.  Below is a pretty average fish, and yes, I'd put the average close to 10 on certain days, but not quite 10 pounds, you'll inevitably get a few 4-5 pounders.
The lake's alkaline waters are a petri dish culturing the lakes biomass, primarily scuds which fuel this fishery.  I never attempted to max out on the number of fish I caught, for me it wasn't about that, but I'd estimate on my better days I caught between 400 and 500 pounds of trout.
An aerial drone photo of the "Bay of Pigs", about 200 trout foraging on scuds immediately below.  The fish school up and move a lot, they'll come in, feed heavily, then move out.




Word to the wise, protect your hands, these fish are as toothy as the women in Buenos Aires are leggy, and they're live wires to boot.  We learned after the first couple of days that there is an advantage to being able to C&R fish up to 12 pounds w/o a net or forceps - flies last longer, you don't have to chase down a net and you can get back to fishing much quicker - you just hand line them once you got them in close, but it's murder on the hands.  Not to mention the cuts you'll get from retrieving your floating line all day.  My buddy Jay discovered Minnie Mouse and Goofy bandaids held up the best - My Little Pony not so much...he plans to write the manufacturer when he has free time.

I get pretty geeked out about history and had an opportunity one day to travel to the other end of Lago Strobel to meet the 80 year old Gaucho and his next two generations who own the Estancia underlying Jurassic Lake Lodge.  Their contiguous land holdings total 45,000 hectares (111,000 acre) and boarders Lago Strobel, most of Rio Barancoso, Lago Quiroga Norte and Lago Quiroga Sur.  They were so humble and lived so modestly you'd never know they had such a wealth of real estate.  We shared the traditional Argentinian social drink of Mate, a hot herbal tea which is passed around and continually recharged with hot water and fresh herbs.

Below is some real gaucho shit, that's a wild horse they just shot and are butchering, and yes....they plan to eat it.
With Lodge owner and manager Carlos Lopez (in the orange puffy above) translating, we were able to attain permission to traverse a 4x4 road beyond his modest homestead in search of ancient Indian Petroglyphs estimated at 12,000 years old (amongst the oldest in South America and North America for that matter).

Puma Tracks
Rhea tracks? (indigenous flightless bird similar to a small Ostrich)
Mother and Child's feet

Unassuming rimrock - site of the petroglyphs
Baby's feet

Lizards











 Armadillo foraging near camp.
A Guanaco, an ancient camelid of the South Americas, a close relative of the Llamma.
What an amazing place, I did my best to describe it but it's one of those "you have to be there" experiences.  There are many similarities between Jurassic Lake and Pyramid Lake in my back yard: Large alkali lake over 300 feet deep and receding, white limestone tufa rock surrounding its entire boarder, a mixture of rock, pebble and sand beaches, unusually productive waters, disproportional biomass, trophy sized trout eclipsing 30 pounds, remote, rugged and wind swept with almost electric turquoise waters acting as a terminus for a sole feeder river.  Throw in petroglyphs more than 10,000 years old and the  similar ancient Native American association and you damn near have a match!

I hope you enjoyed this post!