Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Chris Ties Flies

Fishing has been a little slow lately. The drought-like conditions, the low water levels, the non-stop heat wave... These have all contributed to less than stellar fishing. Saturday I hit the Fox with Sam- he got 3 or 4, I got one tiny one.. But it was my first smallie on a crank!

My first fly... Messy and rough around the
edges, but....
Sunday morning I waded with Osprey (Rob) for quite a long time, but there was zero action. At the very end I managed to hook a tiny smallie for a split second on a white jig and twister. When the little fish threw the hook the whole Algonquin Valley resonated with my profanity.

Not sure what happened here
Over the weekend I got a fly rod! This was to replace the one that broke and I just returned it. That, coupled with the horribly uncomfortable weather outside motivated me to tie some ties.

Early yesterday morning I tied my first tie, and tied a bunch at lunch, and even more after work.

I stepped out for 15 minutes at lunch, fished the new tiny secret green sunfish pond, and got five. My first fish on a fly I tied myself! I stayed for a few more minutes and caught 4 more fish on the fly.

...It caught some fish!
Right around sunset, I headed for a spot on Salt Creek to do some more fly fishing with my new rod and new flies. It's a humbling experience learning something new like this; just when I think I have a good idea how to handle a spinning rod and reel, fly fishing happens. It's a completely different game.

I'm enthralled by this new world of fishing; the miniscule lures, the finesse and calmness needed to cast them, the infinite combinations of feathers, hair, and thread that are used to create them. I love making wooden lures, fishing with tube jigs, and tossing texas-rigged worms in front of bass... But I'm starting to love this too. I like the contrast between giant bass spinnerbaits and tiny flies can barely see, but somehow the fish can.

As I fished I had plenty of tangles, my fly line wrapped around my rod about a hundred times, the tiny flies with their tiny hooks got caught in tiny branches everywhere... To get a better angle I actually stepped in the creek, but quickly decided I didn't much care for the experience. I saw a little bass swimming around. At one point I had a black wooly bugger, I believe one tied and given to me by Mike Muston, right in front of the bass. I watched him approach, eat it, then immediately spit it out. Apparently I missed the hookset, but I was so enthralled just watching it happen, I didn't care.

I moved to a different spot and tied on a white fly I'd tied earlier. I've been following "recipes" for flies, in an effort to learn the basics before I try any fancy stuff. I've been trying to tie a wooly bugger, but I can't get it to come out right. I don't have all the right materials, so I'm improvising with what I have. This one is tied with goose feathers I found (for the tail), black yarn for the body (scraps from Claire), and turkey hackle (I think that's what it's called.. from my buddy Mark). I weighted it with some thin wire tied around the hook shank. It looks amazing in the water; it pulses and moves with the water in a way I've never seen plastic do.

I tried to make a wooly bugger...
As the sun set, I watched my little fly swim around the creek. I thought I'd have some luck with a white fly since I'd had so much luck on white twister tails in the same spot (even though all the baitfish seem to be brown). Turns out, I was right about the color! I saw a little bass approach the surface (my fly was just below the top of the water) and quietly slurp in my fly. Fish on! As soon as I got him on, I suddenly remembered I still don't know how to fight a fish or reel one in on a fly rod...

It wasn't much of a fight, it seemed like the warm water temperatures and probable lack of oxygen were messing with these fishes' mojo. Somehow I got the little fish in. I set down my phone, set the timer, and got some pictures of my first bass caught on a fly I tied.

My best impression of a trout angler holding a bass
A few minutes later, as the sun went down behind the trees on the other bank, a slightly bigger bass found my fly. This time I tried to focus more- despite my excitement- and try and remember what the internet told me about what to do when you're fly fishing and you catch a fish. I've been spending a lot more time learning about the casting part, I mostly forgot about the fish catching part!

I stripped line with my left hand (I'm pretty sure "strip" is the fly fishing term for "pull line in with the hand that isn't holding the rod") while I held the rod in my right hand and held the line with my index finger. I'm still not sure if I was doing that right, using my finger as the drag... When the bass went left, I moved the rod right; when he went right I went left. Soon he was tired, and I brought him in, awkwardly pointing my rod to the sky and struggling to reach the fish.

Fish #2 to fall for my untidy fly
After a while the heat and humidity was too much to bear. Somehow the temperature seemed to be going up after the sun set. I thought I'd do a few casts with my spinning rod that I brought just in case something happened to my fly rod. Apparently I'd forgotten how to cast a spinning rod, as my fingers caught the line, closed the bail, and my little jig smashed into the water like a bowling ball into a kiddy pool.

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