Saturday, August 31, 2013

Yesterday: This season's last day of sunfishing

I am sure I will catch another sunfish or two before winter, but yesterday was the last day of the season for fishing the private farm pond that I float tube many times every year.

You can definitely tell that Autumn is on its way

I have been fishing this productive resource for over 20 years and don't think I have ever caught fewer than 50 sunfish during my 2-4 hour excursions around the pond's circumference.  I still remember fondly the day I fished here with my then 8 or 9 year old son in the front of the canoe with a fly rod he bought with his own money (thank you Cabelas for reasonably priced gear) and a woolly worm he tied himself, and proudly counted"1" through "100" each time he pulled another one to his hand.

Yesterday was a better than usual day.  Mixed in with well over 50 sunfish (of which perhaps 3-4 were 10") was a half dozen small bass (10-13").

What was interesting to me is that all of these fish were caught on the same gray "double hackle" I wrote about in my prior post.  It was the same actual fly.  I think I'm going to retire it.

This thing simply will not quit.  And it still looks great.  I am thinking it is the most durable pattern I have ever used.  Now, partly that might be because I didn't lose it on submerged structures of tree branches.  And the 4x tippet helped when the tippet got wrapped a couple of times around lily pads by really pissed off sunfish.  Or, maybe it's the fact that the long shank meant fly-damaging forceps were rarely needed to get a hook out.

By the way, my friend Jim, who tied the original batch of these flies I have now fully consumed, read my prior post, and I think he might be sending me some more!  Seriously though, if he doesn't have time for that, these are certainly easy enough to tie.  Or, maybe it's because when forceps were used I could grip onto the middle of the shank without breaking any fly materials.

This is my final photo of the day.  This one fly 
has caught over 100 sunfish and about a dozen bass, during the two
days I used it.  I think I will nominate it for my "hall of fame".

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My very last "double hackle"

I was fishing from my Hobie Float Cat on Saturday for bluegills and bass.  There had been some big shifts in the weather conditions last week and this usually puts the fish down.  It did this time as well.

Poppers didn't bring the fish up, so I went deep.  Using my usual patterns; specifically, a weighted small peacock herl bugger and a "fluffy" grey beadhead nymph I was only picking up a fish every 5 minutes or so.  For this particular fishery this is very slow fishing.

So, I pulled out my big Bugger Barn box and looked over the other choices.  In the corner was a single grey chenille "double hackle" fly.  This type of fly is also called a "fore-and-aft" fly.  I've never tied one of these. Instead, quite a few years ago, I received a dozen or so of them from Jim LaFevers, a friend in Texas. There's an article about this pattern on my Web site, here.

This fly stood up nicely.  This is how it photographed
after catching some 40 bluegill and several bass.

I had forgotten how productive this simple pattern could be. After all, its only chenille and hackle. I love and prefer simple patterns. It is always a joy for me to catch fish on something simple.  (Maybe it makes me feel like I am a better fisherman for it.)

In many ways the "double hackle" seems to be a rather primitive pattern, coming from the day when we were less sophisticated about fly patterns.  "Back then" patterns were fewer as materials were harder to come by, pattern books were less available (with small and sometimes only black and white pictures), and there was no Internet to share ideas, techniques, fly photos and patterns.  I'm thinking back to the 1960s when I first started fly fishing. The only flies I had were those bought at the local hobby shop. Although I didn't tie flies back then, all one needed to tie this pattern was chenille from a fabric or craft store and hackle of just about any quality.

On Saturday this fly turned out to be a winner.  On the first three casts I picked up three fish, and I was off to the races.  I really believe the pattern's attractiveness was mostly about the presentation.  Not so much my presentation of the fly, but how the fly by its nature presented itself.

This is what I am thinking....

The fly casts beautifully on my 9 foot 5 weight Sage DS2, a moderate or moderate-fast rod.  The fly holds water easily which adds weight when being cast, but wind resistance is far less than, say, a fully hackled woolly bugger.  At any rate, the fly turns over nicely on 4x or 5x tippet.  When it lands, it splats.  Maybe this is a trigger, though it had to sink a bit before I would pick up strikes.  And when it comes to sinking, perhaps the rate of sink was the trigger.  Unlike other flies I fish below the surface, this had no extra weight on it.  The size 8 3x long hook was weight enough.

In terms of matching something found in nature, what I saw mostly on the farm pond I was fishing was dragonflies.  My guess is that the size of this "double hackle" matched closely the size of a dragonfly nymph.  But who knows...

I don't need to know why this pattern works.  I just know that I need to tie some more. (Or, send an appeal to Jim!)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Monday flyfishing trip to New Hampshire

Sustenance... The Poor Boys Diner
This is the first river we fished, along rt. 16 in the Pinkham notch area.
Me.  Taken by friend Steve P.

The Elk Hair Caddis - parachute style, pictured below, worked great for me.... once I found it in my fly box.

I usually fish a parachute with a simple tail of a few strands of feather fibers or a few strands of hair from a ground hog. This would be more of a mayfly parachute. And I started the day that way.  But it simply did not produce for me on Monday. 

However, the longer and fuller profile of this caddis tied by my friend Paul DiNolo worked wonders.  After finding it in a corner of my flybox, and after catching a few trout on it, I remembered earlier hearing Bill at North Country Angler in North Conway talking about this being the time to fish terrestrials and hoppers. To the extent that grasshoppers were working, this caddis perhaps imitated the profile of a struggling grasshopper.  I have always felt that the parachute hackle can connote action and motion.  And a downwing of elk or deer hair has long been used to imitate grasshoppers, the most famous pattern perhaps being the Latort Hopper.  Add a pink post parachute and now I can see it among white foam and bubbles!

My friend Paul will be the first to tell you that these flies were tied to be fished and not photographed.  I think he is right; I caught a mess of trout on this sample, and it held up well.  I find that if you can use your fingers to get the hook out of the fish, the fly will last longer than if you must use forceps to remove the hook.  One more reason to pinch down the barb!

Below are a few pictures.  It looks like the elk hair (or perhaps coastal deer hair, from the looks of it) is tied in about 2/3 from the eye and the poly post is tied in about 1/3 from the eye.

This is a lot of material tied onto a size 12 hook.  It takes a little practice to get this pattern clean and neat.