Monday, April 24, 2017

Wader Problems

I seem to have nothing but bad luck with waders.  It's becoming expensive and annoying, to be honest.  I read stories about guides who put in 200 days per year in a pair of waders, and they last for year after year and after year.  I swear that I never get even 100 days out of a pair of waders without some trouble along the way.  Yes, I did have a pair of Red Ball super lightweight waders that lasted me close to 2 decades, but to be honest, I rarely fished during those 20 years.  I spent more time running ultramarathons and fishing on occasion.

So, two weekends ago, on opening day, I did walk into a ground-level barbed wire fence while wearing my waders.  I have the Orvis Super Sonic Guide Waders.  I got these two years earlier, when my previous waders developed leaks in the seams and Orvis offered a good deal on an upgrade.  So, I took that deal and I like the waders.  I've had zero complaints with these waders, to be honest.

After I stumbled into the barbed wire on opening day, I looked the waders over carefully.  Other than cosmetic damage on the boot gaiter, I couldn't find any problems.  I fished in the water for a few hours with no problems.  I stayed warm and dry.

Last night, I got out again for the first time since then.  My very first step into the river greeted me with cold and wetness.  It quickly became clear that there are 3 holes in the left leg of the waders and none in the right.  To be honest, most of the damage to the gaiter was on the right side, which makes this even more confusing to me.

So, I fished for a few minutes.  But, the current was high (a river I prefer to fish in the 1000-1400cfs range was at 3000cfs), cold, and off color.  Plus, given the flows, it was hard to even get my streamer out to where I normally catch fish.  After 15 minutes, to be honest, I was cold, wet and pissed off.

So I went home.  I might have thrown a little temper tantrum (When dealing with cancer as a constant backdrop in your life, sometimes emotions just win).  Orvis can take up to 6 weeks to fix a pair of waders.  To be honest, I have not yet fully investigated the extent of the damage.  It might be minor damage (maybe some tearing) from the barbed wire fence.  But, if so, why did I stay dry two weeks ago?  It might also be a red squirrel that's been living in my wood pile in my garage.  It's possible the waders were chewed on while I stored them in the garage, and if that happened, repair could be very difficult.

So, with some of the best fly fishing of the season just a couple weeks away, what do I do?  First of all, I should have 2 pairs of functioning waders.  I simply cannot take 6 weeks off fishing every time I get a  leak.

So, my wife volunteered that I should get a second set of  waders.  I had a way to get a decent deal on some new waders and took advantage of that.  It's an expensive set of waders from a high priced company, but at least I was able to get the deal.  I did that this morning.

Next, I need to finish drying out my waders and inspect them.  If I find small holes, I will repair the old waders myself.  If I find that the squirrel chewed them up, and the holes are larger, I'll send them back for repair.

But, at least I'll be able to fish in the interim.  And, after repair work, I'll have a second set of waders.  And then, I'll get my third pair back from a friend who has been borrowing them, and test them out, hoping they can be a third pair or something my son or wife can use on occasion.

I also clearly need another way to store my waders.  They need to be hanging at all times, and at a place where no f*cking squirrels can eat them.  But, I'll figure that out.

I would never go through life with only one fly rod, one reel, one pair of wading boots, one wading staff, or just a single box of flies.  Yet, somehow, I've set myself up for a single point of failure with my waders,  And, I feel like an idiot.

How long has it been since I bought my first ever hip boots (Yes, that's how old I am; I started with hip boots)?  Probably well over 40 years and somehow, I'm just learning this lesson now?  In those days, I couldn't afford backups and I would wet wade a lot anyway.  I wet wade when I can these days, but it will be two months or so before it's warm enough to do that comfortably here in VT.  Plus, I fish into November, and late fall is not wet wading season in VT.

Well, nobody ever promised this was an easy sport.  Or cheap.  Or that I'd be any good at it.  I just keep working at it, trying to get better, and trying to keep on top of my gear.  I honestly think that I have gotten to the point where I own way more fly fishing gear (in terms of dollars) than I own skiing gear.  And, I've been teaching skiing for 17 years now.

I know that fly fishing can be done differently than I do it.  Simms, Patagonia and Orvis aren't the only wader or boot manufacturers out there.  I don't have to be in love with Hardy rods or Hatch reels.  I don't really need an Orvis credit card.

At the same time, despite all of my year of experience in this sport, I still feel like a rookie at times. And, if I can spend a few dollars to ward off a rookie mistake, well, I guess I'll do that.

I don't know if anyone actually reads this blog, to be honest, but any guesses when I will actually catch a fish this year?  My guess is Thursday, 5/4.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Opening Weekend

I hate to admit it, but I completely skipped Opening Day, even though I was entered in a fly fishing tournament.  It was cold, the water was high, off color, wading was challenging, and I needed some rest.

My wife and I went to the pre-tournament meeting Friday night.  I got my scorecards.  We had a cocktail and some food.  And then, we went to the Fly Fishing Film Tour movie, something I've been doing every year for a few years now.  After the movie, it was cold and raining in Middlebury.

As we headed home, the temperatures dropped, the rain turned to snow, and the drive got pretty hairy.  Luckily, we had brought the car with snow tires, and despite other cars being off the road, we managed to make it home.  It took a while and I climbed into bed at midnight.

I woke up at noon.  Got up for a while.  Ate some lunch.  Thought about fishing.  And then, I went back to bed for a 2 hour nap.

That night, I went to our local Trout Unlimited banquet.  Luckily, it was over early and I was back in bed by 9:30.  Sunday morning, I was up by 8:00 and to Middlebury by 9:00.  I fished, mostly in one spot, for the next couple hours.  The final score was 2 expensive streamers lost, once Prince Nymph found, one possible strike, and no fish hooked.

For the fifth consecutive year, I was shut out in this tournament.  But, I was far from alone.  There were 16 total fish caught in 2 days by 93 fishermen.  Only a couple people caught more than one fish, and I think they were all in the pro division.

The amateur division was won by a woman who caught a stunning brown trout - nearly 20" and very healthy looking.  For that one fish, she won a very expensive fly rod.

This tournament is really all about getting together with other fly fishermen to start the season.  Maybe I'll catch a fish one of these years, but maybe not.  Maybe if I spent more hours on the water, I'd have better luck.  But right now, taking care of my body in my fight against cancer comes first, and I needed rest over the weekend.

In the end, I won a few prizes at the raffle.  I got some tippet material, some strike indicators, a Tacky Tube, and a hat.  Plus, I got a nice fishing shirt for entering.  And, I donated a couple hundred dollars to various fishing charities over the weekend,

The fishing will improve over the next few weeks.  If the water is too cold or too high, ski season isn't over yet anyway.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tying Season is winding down and fishing season approaches

It's only nine days until our opener here in VT.  It will probably still be weeks before I catch my first fish, but that won't stop me from getting out there.  Even the big storm due in tomorrow for the central part of the state (8"-12" of snow) will divert me to skiing this weekend, but next weekend is all about fishing.

I had my annual eye exam recently.  I usually rotate between 3 pairs of reading glasses (my distance vision stubbornly remains at 20/15 as my close vision continues to deteriorate), and I replace one pair per year.  One pair is for computer work - 18" or so from my eyes.  One pair is for books, phone, tablets, remote controls, etc. - closer to 12".  And then, I have my fishing glasses, which are designed for use at about 6" - perfect for tying flies and tying knots on the river.

This year, it was time to replace the fishing glasses.  I got them home earlier this week and looked at the flies I'd been tying.  I was amazed at the detail I could see in some of the flies - details that had eluded me while tying.  So, I'm glad to have these upgrades for the rest of my tying and fishing season.

Here are a few recent flies from the vise:

At the top are some Frenchies.  In the middle are two-tone Perdigon nymphs.  At the bottom are single color perdigon nymphs, designed mostly for cloudy, early season water.

I still want to tie some more Frenchies, including some with non-orange hot spots.  Plus, some without the collars.

And, some final juju baetis.  I'm hoping the new glasses will help me with that tiny little fly.  I am usually comfortable tying them down to a 16 or so, but I like to fish them in 18 or 20, so I need a little refinement.

Of course, these are all tiny flies.  The first fly that I cast this year is going to be much different.  I'm sure I'll start out the season with a Kelly Galloup pattern - probably a Sex Dungeon or a Circus Peanut.  But, if the water is clear enough, the flies above will get some action on opening day, along with some Navy Divers, San Juan Worms (shudder!), and maybe some woolly buggers.

Maybe this will even be the year where I ski and catch a trout on the same day.  That goal has remained elusive for me.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Just a few more flies and I should be ready

I've been tying a lot of different flies this winter and fewer of my old stand-bys.  This has included, as mentioned before, a number of competition or attractor patterns, and fewer insect-specific ties.

Some of the flies that I'm tying, such as the Juju Baetis, have a very specific purpose.  The same is true with wooly buggers.  But, some of my newer patterns have included Navy Divers, Neon Firestormers, Frenchies, and Perdigon flies.  The last two are the two I'm most curious about for this coming season.  Both are sparse, quick sinking flies used internationally in competitions.  They are easy ties - a Coq de Leon tail, a bead, and a bright collar are the core of the fly.

The Perdigon uses a Sharpie to create a dark wing case and it has a simple thread body.  It is designed to plummet to the bottom.

The Frenchie is really a form of a Pheasant Tail and uses a PT and wire body, an optional ice dub thorax, and then the collar.  If you use the ice dub, the key is to match it somewhat to the color of the thread used for the collar.

I've pretty much decided that all of these patterns will inhabit a new box in my pack - a box of just attractor and competition nymphs.  I'll see how these do vs. my normal nymphs (PT's, Prince, hare's ear, zug bug, and my various BWO nymphs).  I'll simply adjust my fishing from there based on what works.

I ordered some hooks this morning and some slotted tungsten beads.  Those should be the last supplies I need to finish up my tying for the winter.  With 19 days left to opening day, it's crunch time.

Although, to be honest, opening weekend I'll most likely be stripping gaudy Kelly Galloup streamers for a shot at a big brown.  The new nymphs will come into play as the nymph fishing picks up when water levels drop and the water clears up a bit.  This will mostly be in May and June, so it may be a while before I know if this new focus will work or not.

This has been a winter of re-thinking a lot of flies and techniques I use.  It's completely possible that I'm overthinking everything and I'll end up wishing I had tied more traditional flies over the winter. Or, just maybe, these new flies and some tight line nymphing will elevate my game to the next level.

That's why we call it fishing, I suppose, rather than catching.  Until I get onto the water, I honestly have no idea what will happen with the fish.  Either way, I'm going to have fun pursuing them.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Am I tying the right flies? Buying the right flies?

I seem to be doing more and more with attractor patterns recently.

Yes, the Navy Divers in my last post are clearly attractor patterns.

The JuJu Baetis that I've been tying are somewhat on the edge - a flashy version of the standard PT nymph.  Are they are an attractor or a good approximation of a baetis?  In some ways, the flashback puts them into attractor pattern for me, even though it's a pattern that works for me, especially in the fall in Vermont.

And, I find myself looking at other flies.  Should I be tying mop flies?  How about Neon Nightmares - the last fly from the Gink and Gasoline blog?  Girdle bugs?

And, my most recent fly purchases have been varieties of Prince nymphs - Batman Princes, Black Montana Princes, and Blue Montana Princes.  While the regular Prince works great in my home river, I find myself fishing the Batman Prince (or other similar attractor patterns) a lot in recent years.

There are times when I think the obsession with flies is just too much.  I should probably just cut down to some princes, some PTs, some hare's ears, some stones, and not much else for my nymphing.

And then, I have a day where I catch half a dozen fish on a Batman Prince or a Juju Baetis or a Copper John.  The "shiny" flies work.

A fly fishing blog recently posed the question about what matters most - location, fly selection, or fly presentation.

The first is obviously crucial.  I'm not going to catch trout in my bathtub.  So, I have to go where the fish are.  But, after that, which matters more - the choice of fly or how it's presented to the fish?

Ideally, we would always be presenting the proper fly to fish, in an appropriate manner.  But, if I catch fish on gaudy attractor patterns because I'm comfortable with how to fish those flies, is there something wrong with that?  Or, would I be better off just using a few key flies and honing my presentation there?

This is a serious question, asked by someone who currently owns close to 1500 flies.  I'm not unhappy with how my fishing tends to go, but I'm sure I can do better.  And, I'm not sure that my recent focus on attractor patterns feels like a step away from tradition.

After 40 years as a fly fisherman, I'm still learning all the time, and I honestly don't have the answers.  Maybe that's why I still fish with guides every chance I get.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Navy Divers

Here is what I did on Saturday.  The photo is a bit fuzzy because those are size 14 flies and my iPad camera (or its operator) sucks.

No automatic alt text available.

These are tied on a jig hook, and I think they will be an excellent attractor nymph on my home river.  Because they float with the hook up, and they will get deep with the tungsten beads, I'm hoping they help with quick strikes as my trailing nymph in a multi-fly rig.  I also think they will do really well for fall brookies on the Magalloway in Maine.

Here is the info on how to tied them:

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Getting ready for the new season

I've been tying flies:

I've entered the Otter Creek Classic opening weekend fly fishing tournament.  I've bought tickets to the Fly Fishing Film Tour movie.  I have my ticket for my local Trout Unlimited regional banquet on the evening of opening day.

And, after tying all those woolly buggers, I was ready to move on to Pheasant Tail nymphs, when I discovered I was out of brown thread.  So, I ordered some new thread - brown, black, white, gray and olive, in 6/0 and 8/0.  While I was spending money, I also got some new leaders and tippet material, plus a few flies and a few other fly tying materials.

In the next few weeks, I need to tie PTs, Hare's ears, Prince nymphs, and purple juju baetis flies.  Other than those, I think I'm set for the new season.

Well, I'm going to buy a few Kelly Galloup streamers for opening weekend.  Those are flies I've still never tried to tie, and I'm not going to get to them this year.

I am having some surgery on 2/13.  Last winter, I had similar surgery on 3/6, and I wasn't 100% by opening day.  With surgery being earlier this winter, I'm hoping I'll feel OK by opening day.  Given that I have the film on Friday night, fishing Saturday, a banquet Saturday night, fishing on Sunday, and then the awards BBQ after the tournament on Sunday, I better be feeling good, or I'll never keep up.