23 February, 2012

What Works for You Works...

My Dad and I have had a realization lately - in fly fishing (as in many other things) there's a program. And everyone's got a different program. Talk to Guide A and they tell you orange is the perfect color for River X. Yet you talk to Guide B and they would NEVER run orange, preferring to start with blue.

Lately I've been on the quest for a simplified stonefly. Turns out that virtually every tyer has their own patttern and all claim theirs slays everyone else's!

I've quickly discovered that finding a program that works for ME - for my skills, for my preference, for my equipment, for my location, etc. - is really what its all about. And finding this program is purely driven by getting out and trying things while paying attention to what does and doesn't work.

As an example, I tie up my steelhead rig below the fly line using primarily double surgeon's knots. Why? Because I can tie them consistently, even with cold hands. But on a recent float trip with a couple of buddies I noticed a lot of blow hook-ups - with failure right at that surgeon's knot. One companion (an experienced guide) on that trip suggested it was time for me to man up and learn to tie a solid blood knot. But the next day while fishing with another friend (also a guide) he dismissed the blood knot - preferring instead back-to-back Uni knots. Since then, I've had several others validate Uni's.

What's intriguing to me is that I started using the double surgeon for tying on tippet while trout fishing. Never had a failure at the knot yet. But consider the fighting and landing demands of trout versus steelhead and it probably makes sense.

Another example is egg fly selection on the Pere Marquette. Conventional local wisdom when the river is low and clear (as it's been this Winter) are pale orange, cheese, and pink. Near the end of a recent fishless day I came upon a productive hole and decided a change was in order. The Superman egg is one of my favorites, but not for low clear water and savvy fish (typical in the PM). But what did I have to lose? Tied on Superman and BANG -- first drift I hit a nice little skipper!

The moral in all of this? Guides and other experts can teach you a TON, but don't take their recommendations as gospel. Rather, take the time to learn WHY they recommend a color, pattern, style, etc. Then apply this newfound knowledge to your situation. I've been surprised by how much that approach accellerated my skill set!


10 February, 2012

Addictive Behaviors

Read a magazine article last night about a woman's 20-year battle with her addiction to prescription painkillers. Horrific story, but eventually she gets help and is, thus far, clean and sober.

This is a reminder of how fortunate I am. I clearly have some addictive traits - a quick wander into my basement Man Land will clarify that. Ran into a good deal on an Orvis Mirage reel - BANG, now I own three. And like any good addict, I can rationalize all three. First was for my Scott ARC 1287-3 spey rod which deserved a nice reel. Then I decided that since my Scott A3 switch rod is my main Winter stick, the Mirage's sealed drive would be a benefit over the previous Ross Momentum. Finally, I've been seeking some nice reel bling for my 6-wt. all-rounder, so why not a Mirage 3? Addict. Can't stop myself.

And, do I just own one pair of skis like a rational Midwesterner who skis a half-dozen days in-state and perhaps 3-5 out West? Oh, no -- I have my all around skis and a nice pair of Line Prophet 100's.

My learning is similarly addictive. Once I start down a path I want to try all the permutations and see how many I can master. Like to fly fish for steelhead? Better figure out indicator fishing, swinging, high-sticking, and more. Perfect. Right up my alley.

While I've certainly been through periods where I may have been drinking more and more often than I should have, that's about the extent of my harmful addiction. Owning a dozen fly rods is far better than being whacked out on Vicodin. I am indeed fortunate.


06 February, 2012

Mad Skillz

Yesterday I was reorganizing the "demo flies" tied during the Schultz Outfitters "Bar Flies" demo classes and noticed something interesting. My tying skills have improved considerably over the past year. Flies from the early classes last season look like crap compared to what I've been tying this year.

It shows up in so many places - feather placement, body proportions and balance, and most noticeably in the head finish. Wow do those old flies look SAD! By comparison, the heads on the new ones are tight and crisp (and don't look like they'll unravel after a single fish).

This motivated me to go back and have a look at some other flies I'd done. The pattern was the same with others. For example, my early examples of Sean's Half A$$ Stonefly look crude and kludgy. Though I have caught fish on them - but we'll chalk that up to luck. The new ones look sleek, and (God forbid) something like an actual stonefly!

One of the things that motivates me in my outdoor passions is the opportunity to improve my skill set. So, this new discovery was certainly a welcome surprise!

Some of this growth is the result of spending hours at the vise, but more of it is having access to some great instruction. I've been fortunate enough to learn from well-known tiers like April Vokey (above), Kevin Feenstra, and Greg Senyo. As well as up-and-comers like Mike Schultz, Jon Ray, Steve Martinez, Tommy Lynch, Eirik Vitso, Jay Daley, and Chris Hatcher.

By putting this all together, I really do feel like I've learned a TON! One of the best acknowledgements was a couple weeks back at Tommy's class, my Dad fell a couple of steps behind. I was able to lean over and catch him up. Tommy saw this and commented later on my growth as a tyer. Nice props from a serious tyer and fisherman.


03 February, 2012

Orvis Kudos

Regular readers will know I usually don't have a ton positive to say about Orvis. While they are the 900# gorilla of fly fishing, I've found many of their products to be disappointing.

I think this started with my Silver XT waders. In addition to a truly lousy fit, the two layers at the knees did a nice "Michelin Man" fill up. Not exactly functional, and often dangerous.

For me, they've looked like a company whose products were coasting. They lacked current features, and just seemed to be outpaced by others in the market.

But something's going on out there in Vermont...

If you haven't seen the newish line of Mirage reels, give them a look. Way cool styling. Completely sealed, bulletproof drag. And, nice light weight. I've ended up with three of them - in sizes 3 (main trout rod), 5 (steelhead switch rod), and 6 (spey rod). They're pricey as Orvis reels have traditionally gone, but when you start comparing to Nautilus, Abel, and other similar brands, they start to look very competitive. Clearly someone in development got the message. I hear the Hydros are pretty good, too.

They've also upgraded the rod line. Sure, the Helios is a rock start. But, let's be real -- they start at $800. Ouch. But last year they brought the Helios profile to the affordable Access line. Heard a ton of good about those, too. Unfortunately, I'm Scott loyal. I'm not switching.

Good work, Orvis -- keep at it!