Monday, December 3, 2012

Polish Quill Flies

With the 2012 season officially over I can concentrate on preparing for the next one.
This particular fly is a good start - an excellent Grayling catcher originaly coming from Poland. I was told it was first tied by folks fishing the fabled river San, where the Grayling grow fat and spoiled by the heavy Baetis hatches. As they age they develop discerning tastes, and the wise old lunkers require a special kind of fly and approach - an emerger of a very slim silouhette, gently fished from upstream so neither line nor leader ever crosses the cone of vision of the fish. The angler is granted just one pass.

The fly is a very simple one, but there are some aspects worth special attention:
  • The hook is of a slightly heavier gauge than most dry fly hooks of its size - this will help to sink the hook bend and "cock" the fly up like a true emerger. The CDC wing will keep the fly afloat, the coarse thorax will create footprint in surface film and the quill body will be sunk below.
  • The body of a peacock quill is tied over a layer of wet tying lacquer. This will make the fly slightly more durable (though still better suited for fishing for gentle Grayling than Trout with their spiky teeth). 
  • The thorax is made of my special homemade mix of Hare and Fox Squirrel hair. The squirrel is very spikey, and by itself rather coarse for smaller flies. Mixing it with hare much improves its appeal and ease of dubbing.

The tie:

#18 Dohiku dry fly hook
#70 UTC Ultra Thread, color Tan
Peacock quill dyed Olive
thorax of mixed Hare & Squirrel fur
CDC wing tied facing upwards

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Closing the 2012 Season

November 30th is the last day of the Czech trout fishing season. It is the last opportunity to wet a line in trout waters till April 16th 2013. Due to unfavorable weather forecast and work & family issues I have ended the season a few days earlier than officially required.

For the last fishing trip I selected the river Úpa. It is one of the lesser known Czech streams, but it supports a healthy population of my favorite fish species.

I wanted to avoid the most popular stretch of the water, which is known to hold a large population of Grayling - not only it contains such excellent spawning area that the fish have a tendency to overbreed and as result are somewhat stunted, but it runs next to a busy road. The car trafic in particular turns me down.

Instead I decided to fish a more scenic spot downstream, which I have not fished for several years. I have encountered some quality Grayling there in the past, but I have not fished it for a long time.

After fishing for some time I was surprised to catch ony smallish brown trout. I was not comfortable fishing for spawning fish, and so I was forced to change plans and turn my fishing trip into a hiking trip (in full wading gear). A few phone calls confirmed that a few dry summers and a some legally protected herons & cormorants had completely ruined this once great stretch of Grayling water.

So at the end this little brownie is likely to be my last salmonid fish of the 2012 fishing season.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October Frosts

Family obligations have kept me off the water for most of September and October (i.e. the best part of the Grayling season). I have therefore put great expectations to this past weekend, when I have finally managed to squeeze in a little time by the river with some fishing pals.

The trip was planned to the greatest detail, so that nothing could possibly go wrong. As is often the case with fishing trips planned too meticulously something did go wrong - in this case we were let down by the weather. A freak October snowstorm hit the Czech Republic, which made the fishing somewhat difficult.

When the snow stopped to fall we had a period of crisp frosty sunshine, very unlike the usual October mists. There was no chance of surface fish activity, but at least we were not fishing in a snowstorm.

The nymph proved to be an effective method, and both me and my friends managed to catch and release over a score grayling - not bad given the circumstances.

We even managed to catch a few out of season brownies, which was rather unexpected. The stretch of river we had chosen is way downstream from the prime brown trout riffles, and is locally known as pure grayling water.

The flies that proved the most effective were largish Czech Nymphs with contrasting hotspot and beaded nymphs tied after the Slovak pattern Uhorčík.

The color pink, normally a certain grayling favorite, was surprisingly ineffective. We had much better success with flies with tags and hotspots tied in darker claret or fluo green.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Joys of Fly Swapping

Swapping flies is as old as fly tying. It probably started between ancient Greek folks fishing for fishes of a speckled hue on fabled Astraeus, but it was greatly improved with advent of the Internet.

I am a great fan of swapping flies, active on several internet forums. These couple of flies are for a swap on Czech site

Having finished this bunch of tiny flees (#20 Eagle Owl mayflies) makes me think a bit on what is the most fun part of swaping. I have come up with several answers:
  • The first and most obvious is that fly swaps let me see patterns and tricks of other fly tiers and learn from them.
  • The second is that preparing for a swap makes me think hard about what pattern to select; it has to be something unusual to be interesting, and yet it has to be a pattern that I know well.
  • The third is that tying dozens of identical flies is good for the soul of fly tier; it polishes the  techniques.
  • And finally the fourth reason is that it builds relationship over the fly tying community.
Looking at my collection of some hundreds of labelled flies I wonder which of the four reasons matters the most to me. It will probably take some more fly swaps to fully understand :)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Scruffy Grayling Bug

A new pattern has been added to my Step by Step tying page: the Scruffy Grayling Bug.

This is a good pattern for the times when grayling do not consider it necessary to rise to the surface. But need not be considered exclusively a grayling pattern, as this little brownie attests.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Golden Olive Emergers

The weather seems to be taking a turn to the "worse" - the temperature has dropped, and after weeks of scorching heat we finally had some rain - which can mean only one thing: the summer is past, and the grayling season is coming!

Due to both past and forthcoming changes in my family arrangements I expect to spend somewhat fewer days fishing than I used to, but still I need to get ready for my favorite part of the fishing season.

Here are a couple emergers for grayling fishing. They are tied on a slightly heavier hooks and meant to be fished sunk in the film.

The tie:

#18 Dohiku 301 dry fly (somewhat heavier gauge than Hanák 103BL, my other favorite)
14/0 Sheer Thread color grey
3 strands of orange Krystal Flash to make my fly stand out in the crowd
body wrapped from goose herl dyed Golden Olive (Veniard)
2 tips of CDC feather

Friday, August 17, 2012

More of the same

The summer is still very much with us and that means high temperatures and low water levels. I am delaying the start of proper Grayling fishing season on small streams till the conditions improve.

In the meantime I spent a some more time on the river Ohře, famous for its caddis hatches. I even had a special rod made for this river, built on the green Winston WT blank.

The best part of the day on Ohře is at dusk. The caddis hatch is still strong, and predictable. It continues to amuse me that the river is so full of mayflies that it has the look and consistency of a soup - but the fish let the hatching olives and sulphurs pass, only to become active on the surface when the caddis start to hatch.

The variance in color and spots of the fish in Ohře is tremendous - these two fish were caught about ten meters from each other, but look very differently. I will have to consult a ichthyologist friend whether there is a good reason for this, or whether it is just another aspect of the natural tendency of salmonid fish to be unpredictable.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

More Summer Caddis

The Ohře river is about 90 kilometers drive from Prague and during high summer it is at its best late in the day. This creates a possibility to combine some quality trout fishing with a regular day in the office. This intriguing idea comes at a price though, for Ohře is a harsh mistress.

The drive home, returning just before midnight, seems much longer than the one hour it actually takes. The morning after feels like a major hangover. On the other handthe rewards of a night out with a group of friends by this fine river are worth the minor inconveniences.

This week I travelled to Ohře with a group of friends. We were led by my friend Martin, who has formed a special bond with the river Ohře. Just as some men are uniquely suited for relationship with one woman (while others seem uniquely unsuited to do so) this fisherman has entered into relationship with a single river. For some reason the idea of new rivers and new horizons fails to excite him and apart from a little sea fishing he dedicates all his time to Ohře.

During the long and harmonious relationship with the river he developed an uncanny understanding of the mood of the river that he can reliably forecast the part where the evening caddis hatch will be the strongest. Thus we all felt fortunate to be guided by a true expert.

We arrived at Žatec around 7 PM, and killed some time by a little nymph fishing. There was a hatch of olives happening, but the little anorectic mayflies failed to stir the fish and there was no surface activity.

By half past eight the sun had set and the first caddis started to appear. By nine the hatch was in full swing and the fish finally started to notice the meaty morsels. We had about a hour of intensive surface action, before the light failed entirely.

The choice of pattern was not hard, as the fading light made the color of our flies entirely irrelevant. What mattered was a strong Caddis silouhette and solid hook - the fish in Ohře grow to good size and fight with vigor. Many a fish had been lost to bent or broken hook.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Wet Caddis

Taking fish on dry flies is great fun, but as I learned the hard way on a recent trip when my friend Jirka totally outclassed me, trout truly do consume most of their food below surface.

I was fishing a dry caddis imitation and enjoying seeing the occasional strike on surface, while he was fishing a wet caddis and having fun getting 10 fish to 1 mine.

Once I got home I sat down and tied these simple wet caddis flies to do better the next time.

It is a very simple tie, the key factor being wing of Australian Possum hair. It has a peculiar wavy but coarse look and once wet is very mobile. I hear that it is commonly used in many Australian fly patterns.

The tie:
#8 Veniard Ospery heavyweight grub hook (1x short, 1x strong)
tan UTC thread, 70 den
ribbing of fine gold Gütermann tinsel
body & thorax from homemade rough hare dubbing
underwing of 5 threads of orange Krystal flash
overwing of Australian Possum guard hairs

Monday, July 9, 2012

Caddis Magic

The river Ohře has special meaning to Czech fly fishermen. Ours is a small country, and this river has a big reputation. Most of us have fished it, and formed a relationship with the stream. It is a typical love / hate relationship.

Old Ohře hands gladly tell stories of the times when Ohře fish were bigger and more numerous - and they themselves younger and fuller of life. Ohře is a moody river, and although its best days might be over it holds many a quality fish still. The river however does not yield easily to human understanding. Many fishermen try their luck once or twice and refuse to suffer another humiliating blank day a third time.

I have to confess that I have fallen into the spell of this magical river. It is at its best at the time of early summer, at the time of the so called dusk caddis. This rather large caddis fly hatches from June till late July. Its enormous numbers bring to surface even the huge lunkers who rarely leave the darkness of the deep pools.

And even if the evening does not always lead to a spectacular success one cannot but feel enlightened by the whirl of the caddis flies in the setting sun, far from the maddening crowds of our capital.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Grayling on Fly on Fishtec

Grayling on the fly is now part of the Fishtec favourite blog list, produced by fly fishing tackle retailers, Fishtec.

You can see the full list at the Fishtec blog site I am flattered by being included on the list, as it seems I am the only Czech and most likely the only blogger from mainland Europe so far.

More Redheads

I have failed to discover what is the key success factor of my "Redhead" pattern: is it the gold ribbed hare body? subtle movements and translucency of the CDC wing? the red head? the way the fly lies stuck inside the water film?
Most likely it is the combination of all of the above.

On the other hand I could not fail to notice it outfishes my other imitations by wide margin. It has been the most productive dry fly for the mixed hatches period of late spring.

I therefore refrain from tampering with a design that works and keep on churning more and more copies to replenish my boxes (and to share a few with deserving friends).

Monday, July 2, 2012

Small Fry

The dog days of high summer have hit the Central Europe, with temperatures ranging above 30°C. The game fish are overcome with a strange torpor. Some trout fishing is still possible, mainly on the tailwaters where the big dams keep water temperature down, but this is compressed to a short period around dawn and dusk.

On the other hand an excellent sport can be had fishing for coarse fish, such as perch, pike or asp. These are very active at this period, feeding on this season fry.

Here is a sample of summer fry imitations from a swap run by my good mate Karel Stýblo on Czech server

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Souvenirs from the BFFI 2012

A couple pictures from the British Fly Fair 2012 this weekend. The fair has been held for the tenth year in a row and had been a great place to meet friends both old and new.

A meeting of Czech and Swedish fly tyiers (a variation on the Встреча на Эльбе theme, for those of us old enough to understand Russian), with yours truly and Martin Ångnell.

It has been a pleasure to tie next to brilliant Dave Wiltshire, despite of his unfortunate habit of making complex fly patterns seem easy and setting the bar too high for us mere mortals.

I was glad to make acquaintance with Phillipe Geneix of Avozetto, a tier of true Gallic charm, and Johan Put from the Netherlands.

Jens Pilgaard from Denmark and Mike Townend from Scotland, two of the worlds best salmon dressers.

Rockwell Hammond from the US showed us that in order to excel in full dress salmon game true dedication is required.

A few of Jens Pilgaards creations.

It was extremely hard to resist the urge to spend money at the stands in the retail area. I know I have a whole cupboard full of materials I hardly ever use, but the need to buy more was strong. Perhaps a beautiful cape in bright orange from Chevron hackle, absolutely essential for modern salmon dressings? I know I don't fish for salmon, but just in case I decide so in future?

While it was hard but possible to resist at the materials stands it was impossible to do so at the books stands. As a result I flew home lighter for some cash, but with my bags heavier by a couple books on traditional dressings and a wonderful piece on angling photography by Matt Hayes.

Monday, June 11, 2012


It is that time of the year again. While the grayling are slowly nursing their strenght back from spawning earlier in the year the trout indulge in Mayfly Maddness. Tiny troutlings barely able to fit a female Danica in their mouth and big lunkers who by theory should be entirely piscivorous alike go crazy at the sight of the yellow helicopters.

Lately I have been keeping myself busy with non-fishing activities, but it would be shame to miss the number one hatch entirely. I headed to a remote stream, where I could enjoy the hatch in solitude. I was fishing in altitude of some 460 meters above sea level, so by early June the hatch was about starting. Individual duns will hatch until late July, but there will not be enough of them around to keep the fish activity at the frenzy level.

Each time I witness a Mayfly hatch I am amazed by the huge size of the insects. I am used to the tiny hatches of the Grayling season, pitting the tiny naturals aganist my tying skills and visibility concerns. Flies in size #18 are the usual compromise. When fishing the Mayfly I sometimes struggle with the fact that my imitations tied on a #8 hook are not big enough - a rare problem indeed!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

British Advice

The British Isles are the cradle of Fly Fishing as we now know it. The country is so thoroughly imbued with the spirit of fly fishing that important lessons on tactics can be learned even from wartime propaganda!

With special thanks to The Keep Calm-O-Matic poster generator.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Grayling vs. Seatrout

A Danish friend is considering abandoning the folly of fishing for ugly anadromous monsters and seeing the true path of the Grayling. To ease the transition I prepared for him a small box of my favorite grayling dry flies.

It is interesting to compare the contents of the little fly box to a regular sized Seatrout fly (here a typical Danish Magnus). The flies are all tied on #18 Dohiku dry fly hooks, patterns are:
  • CDC Goldie
  • Hare & CDC emerger
  • Olive CDC quill
  • Muskrat & CDC emerger

Monday, May 14, 2012

Wrath of the Ice Men

Mid May is a period that traditional Czech folk lore calls The time of the Ice Men. It is a period of cold weather, supposedly driven by the same climatic forces as the Asian monsoons. The feasts of Messrs. Pankrác, Servác and Bonifác have been traditionally celebrated on May 12th, 13th and 14th. Nowadays the religious observance is all but gone, but the folklore tradition - and climatic phenomenon - remains.

I took some time off to visit a small stream westward from Prague. Just as the folklore predicted the weather has dramatically worsened for the weekend, and the temperature dropped by almost 20°C. This was accompanied by a sudden change in barometric pressure and further compounded by low water levels. As a result I had only limited success fishing.

An unexpected outcome of the low water situation was that I was able to check first hand the abundance of caddis flies living in the stream. The little critters were easily visible in the low water, and I could easily see that there were a plenty of them around to ensure a very rewarding caddis fishing later in June.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Field Testing the CDC Redhead

To field test the CDC readheaded emerger fly I traveled westward from Prague, to the mountainous region by the German borders. My friend Ruda introduced me to a remote and little known stream, where little stocking had been done and so the brown trout still retain their distinct coloring.

The fish seemed to like the fly and when it was presented properly they attacked it with vigor. It is likely that they would show the same attitude to to other fly patterns - such as the tried and tested Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear of F. M. Halford's fame, but it was enjoyable none the less.

In the little pool by a old tree stump, on the bottom right corner of this photo, I hooked a nice brownie. I did not measure it, but by the look of it it exceeded the 40 centimeter size that is over here considered a "decent fish", the like of which one can expect to catch only once or twice a year.

I decided not to press my luck any further and after releasing this beautiful fish I called it a day and returned home. By the look of my redheaded fly it was about the time, for it was beginning to show signs of stress.

The wing was still keeping it afloat and the head retained its reddish orange look, but the ribbing was gone and the abdomen was badly chewed up. I decided that the pattern has passed the test, but the one example I had been fishing today had to be retired to the dustbin of history.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Redheaded CDC Emerger

We are now entering the very interesting phase of fly fishing season when a whole bunch of insects are hatching. Many of the medium sized mayflies - Baetis, Ephemerella, Rhitogena - and early caddis flies compete for the attention of hungry trout. Not to mention a horde of terrestrials, such as the Hawthorn. Only the genuine Mayflies will have - thanks to subversive manipulations of pope Gregory XIII - to wait till June.

Given such wide spectrum of hatching insects it will not be necessary to present a specific imitation - a general imitation, open to represent both a hatching mayfly and a smallish caddis fly. A hotspot has been added to give the trout a reason to pick the "right" fly out of the scores of similar ones drifting by.

The tie:
#12 TMC 2487 BL hook
tan pantyhose tying thread (not visible)
Gütermann Sulky Mylar tinsel rib
natural hare body & thorax (lightly roughened with a velcro strip)
4 CDC feathers
red Danville 6/0 Flymaster thread (just for the head)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lord of the Nymphs

With apologies to J. R. R. Tolkien :)

Three Czech nymphs for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven PTNs for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine beadheads for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One Nymph to rule them all!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

French Style Nymphing with a Czech Twist

I have long ago found the French nymphing style a useful backup option for the times when fish are not responding to the dry fly. It has served me well especially in the very early and very late parts of the season, when the water is cold and fish reluctant to rise.

I have recently come to have doubts about the "Frenchness" of my approach: I was taught the technique by true masters, who surely forgot more about nymph fishing than I can ever hope to learn. But while all of them knew well the way of the nymph none were particularly strong in foreign languages, and I am positively sure none of them understands a word in French. So the technique I am about to describe might have been French at its start, but has passed through so many Czech hands that I am unsure how much of its origin remains.

The key part of the technique is the indicator. Unencumbered by the arcane requirements of the FIPS Mouche competition rules I have found that the simplest home made indicator works the best for me. I am using a short length of braided Dacron fly line backing in bright orange color. It has a perfection loop tied on each end and when treated with red Mucilin it floats like a piece of cork.

The indicator is loop to loop attached to a level 0.30 mm Stroft monofilament leader some 6 meters long. The weight of the indicator and flies attached is sufficient to cast this leader to the distance of around two rod lenghts, which is OK for my kind of fishing.

At the other loop is attached the tippet, again using the reliable loop to loop connection. For most of my fishing I am using 0.16 mm Fluorocarbon tippet. I try to avoid lighter tippets for nymph fishing whenever possible, as any bottom snags with a 7X tippet are likely to result in loss of whole team.

On the tippet I tie my team of flies. I always fish with two flies, a heavier one on the point and a smaller one on dropper. I adjust the length of my tippet according to the depth of the water I fish, aiming for approximately one meter long tippet in knee deep water.

The point fly serves several purposes - it adds weight to the team so I can cast it further, helps to straighten the leader and drags the lighter fly to river bottom. Actual fish catching is secondary. The smaller fly on dropper does most of the work and accounts for about two thirds of the fish taken.

An example of the point fly is the Heron Goldie fly above, tied with 3.3 mm Tungsten bead.

Examples of the dropper flies are a #16 Motley Turkey nymph with a 2.4 mm Brass bead and a #18 Crane feather nymph with a 2.0 mm Brass bead.

All the flies are tied to similar pattern - tail of rooster hackle fibers, contrasting tag of pink, orange or chartreuse thread, body of nondescript color with a furry thorax and a metal bead. I tie my point flies with Tungsten and the dropper ones with Brass - the additional weight of the dropper fly is small, but the difference between cost of a Brass and Tungsten beads is large.

I found that the choice of fly rod for nymph fishing matters less that the tackle manufacturers would like us to believe. Fly fishermen who specialize in nymphing like to use long wimpy rods - 10' to 11' in length of the AFTMA class 2 or 3. These indeed do the job, but are impractical for any other fly fishing technique, especially if overhanging vegetation is involved.

I have the French leader and a box of beadheads stowed in reserve in my fly fishing bag, and whenever situation demands so I rig them on my 8'6" AFTMA 4 class dry fly rod. There are times when I wish for a longer reach, but overall this method serves me just fine.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Opening the 2012 Trout fishing season

The fishing season on Czech trout waters traditionally opens on April 16th. This date is eagerly awaited by local anglers, as it presents the first opportunity to cast a fly line since November. This period of forced abstinence is usually manageable during the time of hard winter frosts, but as the weather starts to warm up in March severe cases of withdrawal syndrome begin to appear in the fly fishing community.

For the formal occassion of the first cast in new season I chose the river Střela. Unlike my other favorite rivers, Kamenice & Jizera, it has its headwaters in relatively low altitude where the snow has already melted and its flow was close to normal.

The river flow was stable and the water was only lightly colored. It was still rather cold though, at only 6°C. The streamside meadows were sporting the first spring flowers - buttercups, primroses and butterburs - but the hoped for hatch of large dark olives did not materialise for the whole day. A quick shake of the submerged vegetation with a kitchen sieve showed that the LDO nymphs were present in large numbers, but waiting to hatch on some later day.

Some smallish midges were fluttering around the river edge, and I tried for a while fishing the dry fly. It was a futile effort, mainly to satisfy my conscience as a dry fly fan. The fish were firmly hugging the river bottom, and if I wanted contact with them I had to present my flies at their level.

Having discarded the dry fly I turned to the nymph. The French leader to hand technique with a little Czech twist was rather productive, and I proceeded to catch and release a number of brown trout. Most of them were of the smaller size, but all of them were in good condition. Plump, well marked out and they fought with attitude.

The most productive flies were beadheaded nymphs. I fished a team of two flies, a #12 hairy grub with 3.3 mm tungsten beadhead on the point and #16 turkey herl nymph with a copper bead on dropper. The point fly provided weight to cast (or rather lob) the team and accounted for about a third of my catch, with most strikes going to the dropper.