Monday, July 12, 2010

The Midst of the Doldrums

Around these parts, in typical years, late June usually brings with it the last of the good spring hatches.  The bug buffet of the past month: sulphurs, isos, cahills, caddis, green drakes, and more...have dwindled to a few spotty caddis and occasional midges.  In most of the water I fish, you'll spot the occasional beetle getting slurped near the bank, but even that isn't a sure thing for an angler.  While many of my trout angler peers simply tough it out, fishing tandem tiny nymphs in deep holes, for me, that's more tedium than its worth.  True, I'll nymph for steelhead in the fall, but that's a 7-9 pound fish on the line to reward your nymphing.  To do that for a 14" holdover simply doesn't interest me.

That said, I've been targetting smallmouth bass and *gasp!* dusting off some spinning gear to tide me over between cahills and caddis (which will show up again around here in decent numbers by mid-to-late August).  Before you block this site from your list of fly fishing blogs, though, check out a few pictures from this past weekend and my lapse to "the dark side".

This is the sight that greeted me last Saturday morning as we hauled the boats (3 kayaks and a canoe) down to the river's edge.  The morning was beautiful.  Still, sunny, and a bit cool.  Once the mist cooked off of the water, the sun commenced a thorough thrashing of all unfortunate enough to be caught under it without shelter.  I've got a nice pair of sun burnt knees to prove I was among the unlucky.  Still, while it was a slow day on the water, it wasn't without its redeeming moments:

Nope.  Not staged.  Two smallies, one cast.  That really made the sun burn worth it.

Much like my fishing has steered away from trout pending cooler temperatures, so has my tying focus shifted toward preparation for cooler times and Lake Erie steelhead fishing.  One of these days I'll dig my egg box out of the pile of fishing gear in my trunk to determine what eggs I lost the most of last year and tie to replace them, along with a few new patterns to try out, but one of my favorite parts about the '09 steelhead season (didn't make it up in the spring), was the fish caught while swinging a streamer in front of the "picky" fish that other guys had drifted past all day with no results.  In the (usually) clear, low water of the Erie tribs, you also get the privilege of seeing the fish notice the fly, dip out of his lie, and chase the fly, usually several feet, and attack.  In one exciting hookup, I watched a big male break formation in the pod he was with, knocking several fish out of the way, to swoop completely across the stream and smash a purple streamer I'd swung past his nose.  It doesn't get much better than that!

Last year, many of my "swinging flies" were little more than a marabou feather or three wrapped as a collar on an otherwise bare salmon hook, sometimes with an additional front collar or mallard or schlappen.  Now that I've been getting into tying winged wets, my interests in this department have turned toward the classic spey and dee patterns.  Many materials used to tie these up, however, are now very costly, rare, and even illegal in some cases, so my aim with steelhead swinging patterns won't be accurate, historically true nods to the spey and dee tradition, but rather no-frills, fishable imitations in their style that I can tie on, fish, and even lose...without feeling too terribly bad about it.

Here's a few of the ugly bunch that fell out of the vise jaws over the past few weeks:

Still lots more to tie, but this is a taste of what's to come.  In the future, I'd like to write up an article on readily available alternatives to those hard-to-find or unjustifiably expensive materials used in classic spey and dee patterns, so keep on the lookout for that too!  In the meantime, feel free to share any questions, comments, or critiques of my ties in the comments section!


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