Monday, December 30, 2013

PF 2014

To all my fly fishing & fly tying friends: have a very good 2014 season, and may the slings &  arrows of outrageous fortune not keep you away from the stream overmuch...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Feathers & Beads, Christmas Edition

At Christmastime a fly dresser can employ his skills in creating some handcrafted gifts to family and friends. It might be even possible to convince the lady of the house that there could be some sensible use for the cache of materials any fly dresser feels obliged to hoard.

The tie:
4 Chicken "marabou" feathers, dyed orange - originally intended for stillwater lures
Hooks and beads from craft store.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Little Tart (Buchtička)

This little fly has a cult status with many Czech fly fishermen. It consists of only the simplest materials possible - a hook, a bead, hare dubbing, and ribbing of some kind; the tail is entirely optional - but in the hands of a skilled nymph fisherman it has wondrous potential. I have friends who fish this fly (and only this fly) for the whole season with excellent results.

Now with fly fishermen being fly fishermen there are many who just know that their interpretation of the Little Tart is better than others - some swear by gold head, others by dull nickel, and I have witnessed serious bar room fights about what is the "correct" part of the hare's pelt for the dubbing. Or about as serious as bar room fights between fly fishermen ever get...

The tie:
#12 heavy gauge hook (Skalka Lake for me)
3.5mm caliber tungsten bead (dull nickel for me)
rooster hackle fiber tail (not essential, but I like it)
gold tinsel ribbing
hare dubbing (the best is from the back of an old male hare)

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Mysterious Case of Vanishing Grayling

For closing of the 2013 seasion I decided to visit the river Střela, which holds a special place in my fishing heart. This is the river on which I discovered the grayling as a game fish years ago and where I smelled my hand after releasing a fish for the first time to discover that peculiar thyme odour.

I was unable to visit the river for some time, but as I had intimate knowledge of the stream from the past I soon recognized familiar pools and started fishing with fly patterns I expected to be of liking to the local fish - I remembered that gold ribbed hare's ear nymph with a tip of orange and a smallish pink gammarus were particullary effective.

To my surprise these known grayling magnets produced: exactly nothing. I was unable to convince a single grayling, despite the fact of catching a number of off season brown trout. The occasional brownie was sort of expected, but the total absence of grayling was puzzling me deeply.

After persevering for some time I proceeded to catch a couple more brownies, but the grayling remained conspicious by their absenece.

I did not wish to disturb the brownies - who by the look of their mating colors had obviously other things on their mind - too much and as no grayling seemed to be in sight I retired home early.

Still puzzled after cutting my last season's outing short I made some inquiries on the health of the local grayling population. My fears were confirmed by a local friend, who confirmed that the grayling have indeed vanished from upper Střela following heavy floods. Their absence was confirmed by electrofishing. Their disappereance could not be even traced to the cormorants, as is the case with some other Czech rivers suffering decline in fish numbers - the Grayling simply were there in the winter and were gone after the spring floods.

As I have very fond memories of fishing this river as a young novice of the dark art of Grayling fishing I sincerely hope that this fish, being short lived species with good population dynamics, recovers from this setback and returns to the river where they were once flourishing.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Belgian & Orange micro

With the Czech salmonid season fast approaching its end there is just about enough time for a dramatic finish, before I retire to my tying den to contemplate the 2014 season.

In late November it is unreasoneable to expect any hatch, and even though hope springs eternal - and unlikely is not the same as impossible - it is reasoneable to prepare for a season finish in the nymph fishing style.

For this opportunity I prepared two dressings: one is new for me, of pattern well liked in the competition fishing circles and introduced to me by Slovak master tier Peter Durišík, and the other is a long time favorite of mine.

The Belgian / Belgičanka:
#16 Hanák 130 BL hook
2.5mm tungsten bead, copper plated
prominently orange Danville's thread, 70 dernier
pheasant tail body
counterribed by copper wire

Orange tipped micro nymph:
#18 Hanák 130 BL hook
2.0mm brass bead, gold plated
4 strands of orange Glo Brite floss
red fox dubbing body
ribbed with 1/32" (i.e. rather thin) gold tinsel

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Crane Goldhead

This is a fly from the Bandits category - named after Hrajnoha and Uhorčík, two legendary folk heroes from Slovakia. It is a style that has served me well over the years.

Normally I make the shortish body of hare's fur, but to make it more interesting this time I used a herl section of a crane feather. It adds a nice contrast to the green butt and gold tinsel. The collar / thorax is from a home made mix of hare and fox squirrel - plain fox squirrel just does not seem to stick to my thread, but it becomes much more pliable when mixed with some hare in a coffee grinder.

The tie:
#10 Kamasan B160 heavy short shank hook (debarbed)
3,3 mm gold tungsten bead
tan elastic tying thread
red rooster hackle fibres for tail
elastic fluo green floss for tag
gold Gütermann tinsel (counterwrapped)
herl from a crane feather
fox squirrel / hare dubbing collar

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Dark Olive & Claret Bobeš

The recent trip has put a dent in my Bobeš box, so a resupply tying session was in order.

This color combination is not as popular with Czech fly fishermen as the medium olive with red accent, but it got me some very fine fish.

The tie:
#8 Gammarus hook
a layer of flat lead
light cream tying thread
brownish scud back ribbed with 0.16 mm spinning mono
body of rabbit fur dyed brown olive
thorax of mohair dyed claret and black
a light finishing touch with black CD marker

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Strange October

This autumn the weather has been even more unpredictable than usual. A cold and wet September was followed by a warm and dry October, with the temperature rising to the levels my Scottish friends normally associate with high summer.

It is my habit to visit the river Úpa around October 28th. These two photos were taken a year apart, and I hope you notice the one big difference between the two (and I don't mean my friend Standa, who joined me for the last years's trip). I have to admit though that the last year's snowstorm was also unusual, and the snow melted in a couple of days.

With no insect activity I had to settle for a nymphing approach. This was not helped by the low and clear water, and the "normal" Czech style short nymphing style was not feasible. I had to approach the fishy spots carefully and fish at a distance, using a modified "French" style with an indicator and a long leader.

I was fishing a team of two flies - a heavier beadhead at the point to help me with the casting and sinking the team down to the fish level and another "catching" fly. I experimented for a while with the catching fly, trying initially a couple of smallish nymphs normally associated with the Grayling. The smallish flies did not work so well though, and the best results I got from a rather substantial Czech style Blešoun.

I suppose I should not be too surprised by the fact: the river has a substantial Caddis population, and various caddis larvae are a staple on the local grayling menu. The fish are used to see them drifting by and know how to handle them. The meaty looking nymph promised more nutrition than an anorectic mayfly. The fact that I added a little violet attractor to the thorax of the fly likely did not hurt either.

Later during the afternoon a light hatch of brown olives started, and the fish became active at surface. I swapped the nymphing rig for a dry fly setup and proceeded to fish a BWO emerger. I had some success with it, but while the sight of a fish striking the dry fly at surface was surely rewarding the fish seemed to be smaller than their brothers who fell for the Czech nymph earlier in the day.

Even though the stretch of water I was fishing is not considered a good trout water I proceeded to catch a few out of season brownies. Due to the strange weather they were not in the full spawning mindset - the river temperature was still above 10 °C - and they were still feeding actively, but their color already showed the approaching season of procreation.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Vltava Again

The memory of the summer is fading fast, and the hot and sunny days of June are replaced by haunting October mists, with an occasional drizzle thrown in. In other words the Grayling season is now at its best.

At this time of the year I always travel to Šumava mountains, close to the Bavarian border. The river Vltava, which later on flows through Prague and is considered by many as being the national Czech river, is over there yet a little stream, a little more than knee deep.

The river supports a healthy population of Grayling, and due to vagaries of the 20th century history has genuine wilderness feel. The surrounding lands were inhabited by ethnic Germans, who were expulsed at the end of the second War and never resettled during the communist times.

I was lucky to pick a spell of clear(ish) weather in between the autumn rains, and the river was gin clear, with the abundant weeds clearly showing. The part of the river I was fishing is relatively high - some 750 meters above sea level - but the river has already left the highest parts of the mountains and entered a high plateau, on which it gently meanders in stately flow.

The weed beds are the main reason for the excellent health of the local Grayling population. For they support a variety of insects - mainly smallish mayflies and stoneflies - that hatch thorough the whole year.

The best fishing was about to be had in the slower riffles and heads of the pools. The river temperature was dropping, but the fish have not yet left the fast water to concentrate in the depths of the pools. The dry fly was still the most rewarding method, but the fish have became a bit cautious and I had to be careful with both my fly patterns - avoiding big and flashy flies - but also with my presentation, for the slightest drag would prove fatal.

The best producing fly pattern was my Hare's Mask Emerger fly, tied on a #18 hook. But it was not a dogma cast in stone, the fish responded well to any drab mayfly imitation, as long as it was tied on a sufficiently small hook and presented without any drag.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Olive Emerger - Varivas

Family obligations and wet weather have kept me off the water for some time. But now the first October frosts have cleared the weather and reliable sources tell me that the Grayling on some Southern Bohemian rivers have worked themselves into something approaching a feeding frenzy. This is surely worth a fishing trip, but as the very same sources tell me that the fish are at the same time rather selective some preparation is required.

For this occasion I chose very fine wire Varivas hook - so fine I avoid it in situations where brown trout of a decent size is likely. The Grayling, being of a more delicate nature, allow the luxury of using such a fine hook and thus achieving a neater imitation.

The tie:
#18 Varivas 2200BL-B hook
#14 Sheer thread Grey
mirage Gütermann tinsel
a strip of herl from a Heron feather, dyed Picric
3 tips of CDC feathers
some red fox dubbing for thorax
a touch of a black CD marker

Monday, July 1, 2013

Finally some grayling

With the flood waters finally subsiding to manageable levels I headed northeast to Úpa, a river known for a healthy stock of Grayling.

The water was still showing a hint of color and the flow was a tad higher than I would like for safe wading, but the river was certainly fishable.
I first started fishing the margins with a team of lightly weighted flies, drawing response from a number of brown trout. This came to me as a surprise of sorts, for I fish this river mostly later in the season when the brownies are otherwise occupied and the when the river seems to belong to grayling only.

For now it seemed that the situation was reversed, and brownies both big and small were the most active fish. When I changed my tactics and started to probe the bottom of the deep pools I finally managed to connect with some grayling. They were hugging the bottom and not yet in their prime condition, but already showing some appetite and seemed to be recovering well from spawning and the June floods.

The best performing fly seemed to be a simple orange headed wet fly. This little spider outfished my other flies by order of magnitude, and the only challenge seemed to be how to get it down to the level of the fish. A heavy Tungsten beaded fly a the point seemed to be the answer, with the "catching" wet fished on a short dropper.

The tie:
#10 Kamasan B160 hook, debarbed
6/0 Danville's Flymaster thread, red
red fox dubbing
holographic Gütermann tinsel
quail body feather
a light touch of Sally Hansen Hard as Nails

Friday, June 7, 2013

On High and Even Higher Rivers

I was complaining that this spring has been so wet that the high & muddy water was keeping me from having the kind of fishing I wanted. The mother Nature most likely heard me, and decided to show me what really high water means. Most of the Czech Republic (and surrounding parts of Germany and Austria, as Nature cares little for man made lines on the map) was hit by heavy rains and major flooding.

This chart shows volume on a small trout stream nearby Prague, one that is stocked with rainbows each spring. It holds trout mostly in the 25 - 30 centimeters range, as its low summer flow can not provide cover to bigger fish (not to mention the heavy fishing pressure). For most of the year it is easy wading, with the water reaching to my knees at the most - this week the water flow on this little brook hit 100 cubic meters per second, which is roughly a hunderd times the norm, or about the flow we get in Vltava in Prague, a much wider river.

I don't think that my complaining was direct cause for the flooding, but it seems unlikely I will be having much fun fishing the Kocába and other trout streams this season, given the damage done to the fish and surrounding countryside.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Opening the 2013 season

A combination of work & family issues, compounded by bad weather, has caused me to miss the traditional April 16th trout opening day and start my season only in May. The stinky office stuff I can get over, rainy weather will clear, but a certain young lady has some serious growing up ahead of her before she can cast a fly rod. I suppose I just have to get used to it.

As most of the rivers were still too high I decided to start my season on a stillwater. My favorite venue for early season trouting was closed due to competition, so I had to settle for another - also popular with Prague fly fishermen, but without the Sliwovitz destillery.

As I was not familiar with the water I struggled at first, catching only number of baby Perch - tiny in size, but voraciously attacking any fly showing some red - but no trout. The situation was not helped by my being badly out of casting practice after the long winter. As the day progressed I managed to connect with some fish by fishing a team of buzzers in the "washing line" style - a buyoant booby fly fished on point and two buzzers on droppers fished just below surface.

Holo Red Buzzer
#10 Kamasan B110 hook
black spanflex
shiny holo tinsel
Chinese Red UNI Stretch
a layer of Sally Hansen's Hard as Nails

Yelow Gold Buzzer
#10 Kamasan B110 hook
black spanflex
Yellow UNI Stretch
Black UNI 6/0 thread
a layer of Sally Hansen's Hard as Nails

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Coal Speck

One of the earliest hatches in the Czech season are a kind of tiny black dipterans that I have so far failed to scientifically place. They are tiny indeed, almost impossible to imitate due to their diminutive size. They are however one of the first hatches to appear, allowing for one of the first opportunities for surface action. I will be expecting them to appear in about a two weeks time.

Here is a fly pattern designed to imitate this insect, tied on the smallest hook I consider practical for actual use - #20 Hanák dry fly. Anything smaller than that is just showing off (unless your name spells Andy Baird; then it would be just normal).

The tie:
#20 Hanák H130BL hook
14/0 Sheer thread, color grey
#16 UNI tinsel, pearl
2 tips of CDC feather
homemade Muskrat dubbing, dyed black
a light touch of black CD marker to darken the head

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Black Buzzer

I can hardly wait for the moment when the icky white stuff finally melts and I can go fishing again. I still have to wait a while, but The Moment is getting nearer each passing hour!

It is very likely the first cast of the 2013 season will be at a still water. The rivers will be flooded with snowmelt, supressing any fish activity. I should do better on some sheltered still water.

In order to prepare for the occasion I am stocking up on my buzzer box. These are about perfect for what I have in mind for early season stillwater fishing - a team of simple buzzers drifting slowly on a floating line. Not the most active of fishing styles, but effective in the early season when the fish are feeling lazy after the winter.

An added bonus is that tying buzzers is a simple task, using only a very limited number of materials. The "clean" style stresses function over form, appealing to my estetic feelings.

The tie:
#10 Kamasan B110 grubber hook
black UNI Stretch thread
red flexi floss
a drop of thin lacquer

Monday, January 28, 2013

La Toxique

This fly originates from the competition scheme: as such it goes light on the specific imitation front, while being heavy on general attraction, at the same time being easy to tie and thus expendable. Not the best pattern for gin clear waters, but deadly whenever there is color in the river.
Effective when used with the long leader nymphing techinque.

The tie:
heavy gauge curved hook (#10 Kamasan B110 Grubber in this case)
3.0 mm silver Tungsten bead
ribbing of peacock side of the #16 UNI Peacock/Orange tinsel, stretched out to make it even thinner
body of red Mylar tinsel
collar of synthetic peacock dubbing

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What a difference dubbing makes?

What's in a dubbing? That which we call a fly
By any other fur would catch as sweet.

This sort of question occurs each tying season to many fly fishing Juliets; and just like a name in drama the dubbing in fly tying matters more than seems obvious at the first glance.

I am tie the all time favorite Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear on a gathering of fly tying pals. To make it a bit more interesting - after all the GRHE is not exactly rocket science - I have prepared a demonstration of various dubbing choices.

The following flies are all variants on the GRHE theme, tied on #10 Skalka wet fly hooks with 3.3mm bead, partridge tails and ribbed with Gütterman golden tinsel. Only the dubbing varies.

#1 - Young Hare

This fly is tied with fur from a young hare. The fur is light in colour and smooth in structure. It will have lots of movement in water, but it will have a "soft" feel to it.

#2 - Old Hare

This fly uses fur from an older animal. It is darker, with some hints of grey. The dubbing is mostly guard hairs from the back of the animal, where the hairs are longest and roughest.

#3 - Hare mixed with Fox Squirrel

This is actually the same fur as in exhibit #1 (I mix my dubbing myself, so I know for sure it comes from the same pelt). It has been mixed with some Fox Squirrel hair to give it some structure. The Fox Squirrel is very rough fur, with plenty of structure but it does not dub easily and is very messy. Mixing it with some Hare makes it much easier to work with.
This fly has the most structure, in fact so much it might have trouble in sinking to the catching depth.

#4 - Flashy Oppossum

Something else for a perspective. Entirely different from the previous flies - the result is not exactly undesirable, but definitely something else.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Olive Heron Mayfly

Yesterday I published a post on the importance of a fly tier knowing when to abandon the slavish imitative style in order to let his imagination fly on a Pegasus wing. I still stand by that opinion, but on the other hand I do not wish to disparage the Halfordian legacy.

The imitative tying style has its benefits - not least of which is the satisfaction a fly tier feels when he reproduces from a few threads and bits of feather a simulacrum of an insect that is capable not only of tricking of a wily predator but also of pleasing the eye of its maker.

The tie:

#16 Hanák H130 hook
UTC #70 Ultra thread, color Tan
a few fibres of Coq de León for tails
Heron herl, dyed Picric, for body
two CDC feathers, spun in a loop and cut to shape for wings

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Matrix Inspirations

Fly tying inspiration can come from unexpected sources. I have experienced a profound sense of fly tying insight when watching (for the ump-teenth time) The Matrix over the Christmas holidays.

The moment of insight came to me when I was watching the famous "Matrix Is a System" scene. In this scene Neo pushes himself thorugh a crowd of black & white dressed people, listening intently to Morpheus - only to lose focus when an attractive blonde in red dress passes him by.

I have found that this movie scene beautifully illustrates an important fly fishing problem - one that is especially common during heavy hatches. How should the fly tier / fly fisherman help poor Mr. Trout in choosing one particular individual fly from a swarm of seemingly identical insects?

It is true that the heavy hatches when a layer of mayflies on the water surface resembles a woolen carpet when seen from distance are rare. But still, these are can be surprisingly trying times. The laws of statistics and sheer number of naturals on water ensure that your fly will have to pass a rising fish for many times before getting a strike; all the time risking scaring the fish by badly executed cast and resulting drag.

The contrast of the woman in the red dress vs. black and white crowd illustrates the need to be less imitative in times of fly life overcrowding. Your imitation needs to look familiar in size and shape - the woman in the red dress is clearly human, being neither a midget nor a giant - but has to stand out in the crowd.

The Matrix lady does this by having blond hair and red dress; your fly can get the same result by having a body tied with a gold tinsel instead, or having a bright orange tag, metallic bead head or a contrasting thorax. Anything goes, as long as the difference in color and movement is subtle enough not to scare Mr. Trout / Mr. Neo rather than attract him.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

PF 2013

Wishing all the best to my fishing friends, a very good 2013 fishing season and tight lines!