27 April, 2012

Gettin' Skooled

Headed north last weekend for a Streamer Fishing School with Jon Ray and Ed McCoy of Hawkins Flyfishing. Knowing about my trip to Montana last Fall, Jonny taught me to streamer fish last year. And now I've done a week out West, as well as a solid half-dozen days in N. Michigan, I'd reached a plateau.

On the plus side, my casting distance and accuracy are solid. I can punch even some pretty good sized flies tight to wood or undercut banks with a fair bit of consistency. I have a basic strip retrieve that's serviceable. And, most importantly, I've got some nice fish under my belt on streamers.

But, now that I've done it a bit, I have some questions, as well as a clearer understanding of my weaknesses. For example, I see guides tie on streamers - sometime with a non-slip mono (or Rapala) loop and others with a standard improved clinch. I get that the mono loop allows the fly more motion. But why one over the other? Or what about grain weights? Why am I told to use a 200 grain on the Manistee, but that a 300 grain is required on the Pere Marquette?

And then there are my known weaknesses. I learned to address both during this class.
  1. Hooksets. I miss fish I should have stuck. And because streamer fishing is largely sight fishing, I get to see the pigs I miss. Turns out, I've been playing steelheader and waiting to feel or sense the strike. Nope - not in this game. See the flash? Good, then make that fish wear it!
  2. Line pick-up. Sink tips do what? That's right, sink. I've been finding that my pick-up just isn't there. So, I end up roll casting to bring it to the surface, then I pick-up and start my overhead cast. This both slows my opportunity to make carefully timed cast, and makes me work more. The fix was actually pretty simple. Strip in a bit to get tight to the fly, then pick-up. The result? No inbound rockets screaming straight at my head - or worse yet, the guide's.
I'm eager to put my newfound knowledge to work in the field. I've got a streamer float scheduled in early May on the Manistee that should be perfect. Hopefully by the time I get to Montana in September, I'll be ready to finally break that 20" mark!


23 April, 2012


Finally pulled the trigger on a new waterproof (freezeproof, shockproof, sharkproof, etc., etc.) compact digital camera. Watching my 68-year-old Dad land his first ever Pere Marquette steelhead and realizing I didn't have a camera sealed the deal.

I picked up a Nikon AW100. Regular readers will know I'm a die-hard Nikonian. My first "real" camera was an FM with two E Series lenses, received as a high school graduation gift (I still own it). Since then I've had a myriad of Nikon lenses and bodies. In my opinion, I've not found anything to compare with Nikkor glass. Nikon is the only major camera manufacturer who makes their own glass. And, I think it makes a difference. The color richness and fidelity in my Nikkor lenses is second-to-none.

Since drowning my S9 in an ill-advised January Pere Marquette swim (oops -- turns out the Ledge Hole's pretty deep...) I've been using a refurbished Coolpix S210.

Funny, I've only ever had two disappointing pieces of Nikon gear. The first was a VERY early generation 43-86mm Nikkor zoom lens. Absolute POS. The Coolpix will be joining that hall of fame. It continually struggles with point of focus, and even the slightest of high-contrast situations results in blown-out highlights. Fail. Time for something now.

Anyway, on to the best part about my new AW100! It comes with a UR-E323 adapter for a FILTER! This overcomes one of my biggest issues with point-n-shoots; the inability to to use a polarizing filter! For the outdoor photographer, the polarizing filter is among the most versatile and effective tools around. Some ask, "Can't you just do that in PhotoShop?". I've worked with some very talented retouchers and I can honestly answer, "NO!". Plus, I learned my craft in an era where we were taught to get the image right in-camera, rather than rely on post-shooting gimmicks.

Needless to say, this has me giddy! I've been carting my D70 body and a couple of lenses along on some trip. Bulky, heavy, and a pain in the arse. As you can imagine, I'm giddy. A 40.5mm Hoya polarizer is on order already! Should have photos soon. Can't wait!


20 April, 2012

It's the Little Things

While stocking up on supplies for a couple of new patterns this weekend, I picked up a Rite Bobbin. I've been eyeing these for a while, but the $30 price tag (for a bobbin -- seriously?) kept me away.

So I loaded it up with my favorite GSP thread (a little slippery, but good luck breaking it) on Saturday. Dissassembly and reassembly were very simple. I would install the optional washers on either side - made mine butter-smooth.

From the first fly, WUNDERBAR! This thing is da' bomb! I never realized how much difference proper thread tension made and the role the bobbin could play in that. My thread control's always been a bit marginal. But this thing make me an ace!

Now the only challeng is talking myself out of replacing all of my other bobbins! Awesome product!


19 April, 2012

Seasonal New Fly Pattern

Last Spring I spent a day on the Manistee river with a friend working on my streamer fishing. During a break we played around with a simple salmon parr pattern on a floating line. The results were pretty cool and I made a note that I wanted to try this again, soo.

Last week on the Pere Marquette while on a late season steelhead float, we saw gazillions of these little buggers. I decided right then that it was time to engineer my own pattern. Or maybe borrow someone else's...

A little online research led me to a couple of simple recipes. Grizzly Marabou for tail and wing, some pearl braid for the body, palmered with mallard flank. Finally, some bead chain eyes and some orange ice dub for gills and PRESTO! One sweet little pattern.

In the coming weeks, I hope to have that good fortunate to stick some trout with these!


05 April, 2012

Remington Versa Max One-Year Tear-Down

Did my first full-on tear-down and cleaning a couple of weeks ago. While I haven't shot this gun extensively, it's had some decent outings - probably 300 rounds between clays and duck hunting. My only cleaning efforts have been to run a Bore Snake through with some Hoppe's No. 9.

Being gas-operated, my inclination was that the pistons and related components in that region would be pretty grimy. Imagine my surprise to find only minor carbon that easily cleaned up with a bit of CLP and a toothbrush! A little Remington Bore Scrubber and a few patches and the barrel's ready to rock.

I'm still extremely pleased by how easily this gun disassembles and goes back together. Truly a simple machine. Thus far, I have yet to experience a mis-fire or any error in operation. I'd call that pretty good news!


04 April, 2012

Rig Wranglin' - Part 2

OK, so we've talked a bit about the changes to the chuck-n-duck rig; now more about my primary indicator/swing rig...

This set-up is centered around a Scott A3 11' 8-weight switch rod. As per usual with Scott rods I have only one word -- "sweet!" Great stick. Balances well, has some nice backbone for casting and fighting fish. All good. I briefly toyed with swapping out for one of the new L2H rods. I talked to a couple of knowledgeable Scott folks and both said the A3 was a pretty sweet stick, and the L2H wouldn't be worth the effort to change. Good! One less stick to swap out!

I fish this rod both as an indicator set-up, as well as for swinging streamers on small to mid-sized rivers.

The swing set-up is unchanged; older Ross Momentum V reel (tankasaurus) with Rio Skagit Short in 500 grain with a 5-foot cheater. This one's MONEY; throws big flies with great accuracy and accomodates my mediocre spey casting skills. I may explore switching to a shooting line and head system, perhaps based on the new Scientific Anglers Skagit Extreme next Fall. Would be fun to try tweaking weight, and even playing with Scandi lines.

Previous Ross Momentum V LT
The bigger change is on the float set-up. Previously I had a Ross Momentum V LT with a few guide miles on it. I like the Momentum series well enough (though I think I preferred the older one) I do have a few concerns. First the drag isn't sealed. Since this one's my go-to Winter rig, that's of some concern. All I need is a frozen-up free spooling reel to blow a day. Second there are a couple of weak-link plastic parts in the drag system. Nothing major, but when the chance to score a lightly used Orvis Mirage V came along, I jumped at it. Bulletproof drag system, fully sealed, and getting great reviews throughout the industry this is a hot new reel. As of now, the vintage Rio Atlantic Salmon/Steelhead line remains on it. But I noticed that it's underperforming when turning over the rig, so I suspect a new line will be in order next Fall. Line technology has improved so much in the past 12 months.

Couple more steelhead trips and the season will be at a close. Up next it's STREAMER TIME for the big trout. Can't wait!