Here’s my favorite Musky fisherman, Brad Bohen, tying his Hang Time Optical Minnow. His method of tying bucktail on backwards gives these flies that ability to pulse in the water like a squid upon retrieval.
Check it out!
I’ve been contemplating my use of a float while nymphing. For those of you who don’t like the cute, snobby vocabulary of fly fishing, a float (or indicator) is nothing more than a friggin’ bobber. When it goes down, you should tug on the line and if you’re lucky, you’ll hook a fish.
So, I’ve been using a float for a good long while, and while fishing the Brule last November, I watched a large float drift over Steelhead runs many, many times over the course of three days. Steelhead are not spooky, not like spring creek trout. Steelhead come from a big lake (or ocean) and have not learned to be particularly wary of snapping twigs, footsteps, or bobbers. At least that’s what I was told.
On the other hand, spring creek trout (trout that live in the spring-fed creeks of the Driftless Region), are very spooky. An angler needs to use extreme stealth to avoid scaring these fish. A float could be, arguably, enough to spook a Driftless trout. I’ve even heard experienced anglers say fly line landing on the surface of the water could scare away a trout.
But without a float you are left to guess whether or not a fish has taken an interest in your nymph, ticking along the rocks on the streambed. Sometimes conditions are such that you can use your floating fly line as an indicator of a bite. Some say the float makes casting more difficult, acting as a hinge on the line. I’ll agree that a float does make tucking that fly right up against the cut bank a bit more difficult. And it sometimes makes a splash. But, it also gives my eye something to concentrate on as I strip line in, watching that pink ball drift back toward me.
Today my little pink float helped me land this nice male Brown trout…
I was on the tailout of a nice bend in the river, where the water was slightly riffled and about three feet deep. I had cast my bead-headed “Night Light Fly” up into this run about a dozen times, then saw the float dip just slightly. Hook set, fish on! He and I danced for probably five minutes, and he even leapt out of the water a few times. My 6X tippet required finesse, and my first attempt to scoop him into my hand ended with him charging back upstream to the hole he came out of. After a bit more coercing I cradled him and admired the nicest Brown I’ve ever caught.
I guess for now, I’m going to continue using a float. There are likely situations where the water is too glassy, the target too small, the fly line visibility adequate, where a float is unneccesary, but the advantage a float gives me in detecting a fish sure is appealing.
I’m looking to get some new waders. Here’s my wader story.
My first year of trout fishing I bought a pair of waders from Farm and Fleet. These hip waders were made of rubber and had big floppy boots. They worked OK and kept the water out, and they were tough as nails, and affordable. The downside was that they were hip waders, so water sometimes came in over the top.
Late that season I bought a pair of neoprene waders from Farm and Fleet. These were great for keeping water out, but they were hot, smelly, and sprung some leaks. The boots were also floppy and the soles were thin, so walking over streambed stones was not real comfortable, and by the end of the day I had a blister or two from my feet sliding around inside the boots.
After using the neoprenes for a full year I decided to spend some hard-earned money on expensive waders and wading boots. I bought some Simms Headwater waders. These babies, along with wading boots, were a world apart from the hot, smelly, sweaty, moist, floppy waders I’d been using. Boy was I happy! The downside, the waders cost me $300. But I figured they’d get used hard for 3 or 4 years, maybe even 5, before I needed to shell out more dough.
Well, they lasted exactly two years. Seam failures in the crotch and inner knees after the first year killed my initial feelings of love for these handsome waders. Patch job after patch job was followed by leak after leak. Each leg has a seam running vertically along the inseam that intersects like a “T” with a seam running laterally around the “Knee-pit”, and it is at this juncture that holes were worn through the material due to abrasion from walking. On top of that, the material was so breathable it started to allow water to wick in.
I’m not sure how any serious fisherman could justify spending the money on these waders. They were a big disappointment.
So now what?
As you may know, a trip was had to the Brule River. Fly By Night Guide Tim showed me and Stephen how to catch steelhead. He also sported a pair of Redington waders that he’d used as a guide in Alaska for a few years. They looked used, but definitely not broken. Guides in Alaska live in their waders for months straight. These waders also had a nice pocket system built into them that allowed Tim to go without a vest or backpack. Bonus!
So, late this winter I’ll be shelling out $350 to get what some are calling the best waders around. Let’s hope this time I’m happy with my purchase.
Getting out to our coldwater streams is a really big deal. But how to not ‘break the bank’ on our visits can often feel like a huge compromise. When you’ve waded enough of these streams you realize just what you don’t see when you stay in a readymade campground.
Someone bought me a cheap nylon camping hammock as a gift for my wedding. I had planned a bachelor’s river trip down the Flambeau River flowage with a dozen or so of my good friends. That was sixteen years ago and the hammock turned out to be the most revelatory part of the whole excursion. The first night we set up camp, I saw that the moon was bright in the sky and we had little worry about weather. So I strung up the hammock for fun.
But I felt so good in it I didn’t bother to set up my crummy tent and I slept better than I ever had before. I think I was the only one who felt great in the morning. (the beer may have played a role) From that moment on I’ve looked for ways to use the hammock as my primary way to get through the night outdoors.
Recently, Tom and I came across an article in the Times.
These guys were doing exactly what I always hoped to do. Why do we sit on our hands?
Anyway, Tom and I have invested in some pretty sweet hammock gear and we can’t wait to find an ideal tree to spend an evening this way. Up in the canopy with the stars.
I’m envious of this dude.
This kind of camping would allow you to get right down to the streams edge without disturbing so much as a leaf. You can string one of these arrangements in two minutes if your not expecting weather and fifteen if you do. And there’s a minimum of wet stuff to contend with in the morning. I’ve been through quite a few serious weather evenings in my hammocks and getting wet has never been as issue. Mostly, I’ve worried about everybody else who wasn’t in one.
This whole idea can be taken to some pretty cool extremes.
Enough of that. You get the idea. Tom and I hope to locate idealized trees for this activity all season long. There won’t be any campfires but who cares? We came to fish.
On the last day of the season last year, I elected to give the newly restored section of Kittleson Valley Creek in SW Dane county a try. The banks have been nicely cut back and lunker structures added with some really nice riffle runs and on either side of the restoration I’ve seen some pretty big browns. It’s not a big stretch but it has some premium spots for fly casters.
This spot may not be a good choice for the early season as I can imagine it getting some significant traffic right out of the gate. But if you can manage to escape work one day you might have a really sweet couple of hours working this water. You might not even need to get wet.
If anybody’s interested, Tom and I will be down at the On The Creek fly shop in Cross Plains tomorrow night tying some flies.
If your local, maybe we’ll see you out there?