Thursday, November 30, 2006

Photo of the Week

Continuing on the theme of beautiful fish I'll probably never catch, this week's Photo of the Week (usually a Saturday installment but I'll be away this weekend) comes from the camera and fly rod of Jay from Fly Fishing and More. Jay's from the Netherlands, and this absolutely beautiful grayling came from a river in Austria, somewhere near places with cool names like Bad Ischl and Goiserer Traun. Man, I love these graylings. Thanks Jay!

(CORRECTION: Jay emailed me and pointed out that the fish pictured is not a grayling, but rather a brook trout. The Germans, I'm told, call it a Bach Saibling. I was confused by what appeared to be the distinct dorsal fin. This is a grayling shown here. Now, more to the point, that really is a spectacular brookie!! I clearly did not recognize it because the only brookie I've ever seen was about the size of a business card.)

Far Away Fish

The guy who runs the blog Fly Fishing Journal has got to be the most enthusiastic fly fisherman in Singapore. I enjoy his blog because his joy of fishing is so evident, and the fish there are SO different! This is a red tilapia, but his site is filled with photos of peacock bass, zebra tilapia and other really beautiful exotic fish. He's also a fan of bamboo rods, an aspect of fly fishing I'm not very familiar with and am kind of afraid to investigate because I think as soon as I do I'll have to have one!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Photo of the Week (of Sept. 1, 1977)

I knew this photo existed somewhere in my house and have been looking for it since I recently started putting together a fishing photo album. This is me, age fourteen, 25 miles off Cape Hatteras. This Mahi wasn't caught on a fly, and it doesn't take a very close examination of the photo to see that proper catch and release procedures were not precisely followed. But a noteworthy catch nonetheless. Particularly since all my previous fish to date consisted of bluegill, most of whom had swallowed the worm and hook as I carefully pondered the movement of the bobber on the water. My Dad, and this was actually the last fishing trip we took together, wrote '28 lbs' on the back of the picture. I don't remember if it was actually weighed or not, that may have been a Dad-friendly estimate. I do remember these fish are really skinny though, seems like a 28-pounder would have to be a bit larger than this.

Friday, November 24, 2006

One Strike, I'm Out

I definitely feel like I learn something new every time I go fly fishing. Today's lesson: Be ready for that strike when it comes, because it might be your best and only shot at a fish that day.

Another unseasonably warm and pleasant day at the Gunpowder brought plenty of others with the same idea of spending the day on the water. Walking along the bank, about to call it a day, I scanned the water below and found a cluster of three or four very nice sized trout in a deep pool easily accessible from the other side of the river. So I backtracked, crossed over and started fishing the pool with the fly I already had on my line, a brown wooly bugger. Less than a minute later a very healthy trout took the bugger, flashed his side at me and came loose in a matter of seconds. I didn't give it any thought, assuming I'd be able to get him or one of his buddies to bite again. But it was not to happen. Wooly buggers of different colors, small nymphs, huge nymphs, dry flies, terrestrials. I took breaks and let them settle down. I smoked a cigar and just watched for a while. Nothing.

So, I don't know. Maybe my hook needs to be sharpened, those streamers bump off the bottom constantly but I've never owned or used a hook sharpener. At the beginning I lost flies so readily I assumed I'd never use one long enough to get dull. Then after that I just didn't give it any thought, until now. Not that a dull hook is the only reason a fish doesn't get hooked well enough to land, I'm sure I could have done a lot of things differently and even then, a lot of it depends on the fish, his luck and mine. But days like this make me vow to pay better attention whenever I have a fly on the water, and to pay attention to details a little better so if opportunity knocks just once, I have as good a chance as possible to answer.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today's attempt to be timely with a Thanksgiving post features a bad photo of a really cool artifact. This gun is thought to have been brought to the new world on the Mayflower, and resides at the NRA's National Firearm Museum at their headquarters near Washington, DC. If you have an interest in firearms, and find yourself in the DC area, it is an extraordinary collection displayed with meticulous care and attention to detail.

Monday, November 20, 2006

My Favorite Shark Fly

When fly fishing for the Great White, particularly this time of year, I have the most success using a fly I developed called the Cape Fear. The name, of course, is a play on “Cape Fur,” the variety of seal it imitates. This fly is not for the beginner, it takes some practice to get it right on the bench, and then it needs to be fished just so or you’ll just tire yourself out throwing it with no results. So, let’s get started…

For the hook I like to use a 26” saltwater stainless steel fishing gaff. Now, I’ve seen some people use lead eyes on their seal flies, but I find that you get a more natural action without lead in the front once the fly gets uniformly waterlogged. Personal preference. Anyway, tie about three pounds of marabou to the hook, length about the same as the hook shank. Tie in and wrap a chenille body, medium brown, as in a woolly worm. Except much, much, thicker. I like to tie in foam odor eaters for flippers, size 10-11. Wrap ribbing wire forward, securing it to the hook. Tie off the wire, trim, form a head. Whip finish, cement the head, and you’re ready to go.

When fly fishing for Great Whites with a Cape Fear, the presentation and retrieval are critical. When casting, the fly should make the right amount of “splash.” Not too much, but enough to get the attention of nearby feeders. Give it time to sink just below the surface, retrieve the fly with short, smooth strips, pausing every three to five strips. This will give the fly a realistic seal swimming motion. Count to three during the pauses, and when you start that next strip, get ready. When these sharks hit your fly, they hit hard, and I can tell you, a 16-foot maneater will have you into your backing in no time, no matter how high your drag is set. And if they take it off the surface, as this picture shows, a pair of ExOfficio Quick Dry shorts might come in handy. There’s no shame if you pee a little when you get one of these bad boys on the line.

So you've got him hooked and you think you’ve got it made? Think again. Landing him is the tricky part. If you can hold on through the first run, you’re nearly five percent there. Stay hydrated, get comfortable, apply moderate pressure, keep the rod tip high, and when he gets tired enough to bring alongside the boat, use extreme caution. And trust me, that fly is ruined, so don't hesitate to cut the line (after a quick photo of course).

Forgive the “how-to” article, it’s not what I do mostly or best. But I just didn’t see a lot of advice on how to do this sort of fishing, and I felt like I had some experience in this area and wanted to share. So, tight lines and happy sharking!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bond: Smart. Audience: Stupid.

No, I'm not talking about those who show up for a very popular movie, at a very popular day and time, in a very popular movie theater, in a heavily populated area, ten minutes after the movie starting time and wonder why they can't get six seats together anywhere but the front row. I'm talking about the dumbing down of James Bond. (Caution: spoilers ahead)

Don't get me wrong, Casino Royale was an enjoyable movie. The fights and stunts and chases are probably the best that any 007 movie has delivered. If you liked the Bourne movies you'll like this. And there are really humorous lines well placed throughout. But, here's the thing. A big part of the plot revolves around no limit hold 'em poker. Okay, it's popular. And it's a great game. But it's not the international high stakes James Bond game and it seemed highly out of place here. Worse, a character is shown continually explaining what's going on in the game to Bond's love-interest. This is of course a humiliating attempt to explain the game to the audience, so we can follow along. Worse still, at the end of a hand the dealer physically took the player's cards and the community cards used and set them aside for the camera, explaining that now HE has the high hand. It was all so ridiculous it made me cringe. Bond plays baccarat, and nobody in forty years felt compelled to explain to any audience how the hell you play baccarat.

Oh, don't get me started. Another absurdity revolving around the poker was the terrorist's "tell." MI6 sent Bond to play this high stakes game because he was the best player in the agency. And that high level of poker skill certainly paid off when Bond was keen enough to recognize the way, when the guy across from him was bluffing, he would RAISE HIS ENTIRE HAND TO THE SIDE OF HIS FACE AND COVER UP HIS BAD EYE WHICH TWITCHES UNCONTROLLABLY WHENEVER HE'S BLUFFING! Golly, I don't even think Jason Bourne could have picked up on that bit of subtlety, and he was in Rounders.

The makers of this movie got a lot right, in my opinion, but this poker nonsense was disappointing. The Bond franchise is smarter than that, and should assume that its audience is too.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Photo of the Week

Today, Junior gets the Photo of the Week and a special mention. Junior is our 12-year-old Jack Russell who is beginning his fourteenth month of a 3- to 6-months-to-live cancer prognosis. He's one tough little bastard, but is nearing the end. This picture was taken this past summer at Harpers Ferry, on the Shenandoah River.

Junior also made his YouTube debut in this movie preview parody I made a while back with Junior and his brother, Scooter.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


The Drake Magazine is holding a 5-minute fly fishing video contest. All these videos are worth watching, but some are extremely well done. My favorite features these guys fishing for huge roosterfish, it doesn't say where they are but I'm guessing Baja or Mexico? Anyway, it looks like a blast, although this particular style of fly angling looks suspiciously like exercise.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Did a Little Fishing Today...

Is this a previously unknown species of trout? Is it the rare and elusive Eastern Speckled Dwarf Trout? I don't know. What I do know, however, is that I worked very, very hard to catch this, my only fish today. I will not publicly acknowledge how many hours I spent on the water today, but to give you some idea, the fish I'm holding in my hand in this late afternoon picture, had not yet been born when I parked my car at the river this morning. Still, I thought his coloring was nice, and I hope to see him again in a few years when he's a little larger than a bic lighter.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Photo of the Week

This week's photo comes from The Tattered Fly. I love this photo of a Lochsa Cutthroat, it doesn't even seem real. Why are photos cool when they look like paintings, and paintings cool when they look like photographs? Anyway, thanks Dan!

Thank a Veteran!

I don't come from a military family. I didn't serve in the military. But I enjoy and appreciate the freedoms provided and protected by our armed forces. And I try to remember their sacrifices always, but especially around holidays like Veterans Day and Memorial Day. But just thinking about it always rang a little hollow, and I often wondered how I could better express my gratitude. Last winter I met Ed Nicholson at a Fly Fishing show. Ed founded Project Healing Waters, a joint Trout Unlimited/Federation of Fly Fishers venture that offers wounded military from Walter Reed Army Medical Center opportunities to learn or enhance fly fishing and fly tying skills for physical and emotional rehabilitation and therapy.

Project Healing Waters runs on donations and volunteers, so I signed up for both. I'm a graphic artist until I win the lottery and fish full time, so I volunteered my design services and was thrilled to find out that PHW needed them. I designed their logo and help to put other fundraising pieces together. But the real reward came when I first went on an outing, with soldiers learning to fish -- or long time fishermen re-learning to fish using prosthetics. I've met many great people through my involvement with PHW, some of whom I now consider great friends, and getting involved in such a worthwhile project has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.

So if you're so inclined, go to the Project Healing Waters web site and make a donation of time or money. And thank a Veteran today!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Flyfishin' Product Review: Stick

This month's Product Review is for the Stick, truthfully one of my favorite new tools I've added to my fly fishing gear this year. This past summer I went fishing with some friends on the Savage, which flows out of Deep Creek Lake in Maryland. My friend Ed, whose bright idea it was to go there, accurately described wading the savage as akin to "walking on slime covered bowling balls." Virtually impossible to wade, in my opinion. Although at the time I didn't have two things I now own: studded wading boots, and a stick.

Well with an autumn trip scheduled to the Salmon River in upstate New York, a river that demands utmost respect, I had planned on buying studded boots anyway. But as easy as it is for me to impulse buy fishing gear, I could not bring myself to buy a stick. I've seen them in catalogs, from sticks that fold up and you wear in a holster, to finely crafted wooden sticks from Orvis that you can sometimes find on sale for $11,350. I was told by a trusted stick owner that the fold-up kind is okay, but he greatly preferred the unfolding model. Attach it to your belt with a line long enough that it just floats on your downstream side, and short enough that you can easily grab it.

So I set out to make my own stick. First, on a fishing outing to the nearby Potomac River, I found a stick. I brought it home and, using a utility knife, proceeded to carve it into a similar but slightly smaller stick. I cut it to length (from the floor to about the arm pit). Some sandpaper, outdoor furniture varnish, a rubber chair leg thingy, an eye hook at the top and some thin nylon rope (glued, wrapped and spraypainted black) and the stick was complete. Total cost: Under $5.

The very strong current of the Salmon River proved to be the perfect location for a stick test drive. I used the stick constantly and found it very comforting. The fact that it's floating downstream of you so you pretty much have to pick it up before you move around too much, works very well. It was in my hand on numerous occasions where I unexpectedly lost my balance, saving me from certain immediate moisture overload. It also serves nicely as a walking stick while hiking to those hard to reach spots.

So if you don't already own a stick, and you wade in strong water on slippery rocks, take an evening off from tying flies and make a stick this winter. But don't delay, because I'm thinking of applying for a patent.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Don't Forget to Vote!

Well, okay, maybe it isn't so obvious as I look at it now. But I tried to spell 'Vote' using parts of some of my fishing images. The 'E' is a particularly lame stretch, I think. Anyway, just a friendly reminder to take a minute on Tuesday to vote.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Photo of the Week

Western Montana, the most beautiful place I've ever seen with my own eyes. This is the Missouri River. Weather moving right to left. Current moving left to right. Trout holding steady, waiting for a much better angler. When I return next summer, I hope to be that angler.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Better Than a Good Day at Work

Went fishing with an old friend today, he was the first person to ever hand me a fly rod and show me how it worked. Yet for one reason or another (mostly proximity), we've never fished together. But he and another friend were passing through and I took the morning off to find us some trout. I chose the spot where I had, less than two weeks ago, had the best day ever in terms of the number of trout caught. But today was very different. Lots of recent rain had water levels where I like them, but it was still pretty murky. Usually this stream is quite clear, and I'm sure it will be again tomorrow. But today you couldn't see your feet in knee-high water.

So for whatever reason, the fishing was very slow. Hooked a couple, landed one. My friend hooked a smallie but opted for a long distance release, must be North Carolina Style. But the weather was beautiful and we had fun. Mid-day they had to continue their trip north and I stayed to sabotage any hopes of doing any work by the time I got home. I hiked a ways, looking to change my luck and my persistence paid off. This nice rainbow took a stone fly nymph off the bottom in about five feet of water -- the deepest pool I'm aware of at this stream. I was standing on a boulder when I caught him, guiding my rod tip around the edge, along with the current. He was hooked good, but when I got him close enough to see I realized I hadn't really thought the whole thing through: I couldn't reach the water with the net, and the 6X tippet I was using was not going to take lifting him up to me. So I had to do some shuffling and steering and pulling to get both him and me to a location where we could meet, but it all worked out and I snapped this picture for my friend, knowing that the old "right after you left I caught this sweet rainbow" thing would never fly.