Tag Archives: streamers

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Canadian Fall Fishing: Topwater Crappie Action

I’ve come to realize that crappie take top-water flies with incredible enthusiasm. Although not a “classic” fly rod target, their surface-slurping tendencies – especially in the fall – deserve your attention…

13 inch Minnewasta CrappieAlthough the spring crappie bite can be awesome, late summer and early fall can be even better.  At my latitude in southern Manitoba – just north of the U.S. border – this time period typically runs from the last week in August through the first two weeks of September.

When the weather is pleasant and settled, crappie at that time of year turn on like crazy.  I usually fish small, shallow, flatland reservoirs and the fish swarm into the same weedy bays they frequented in the spring.  They are also drawn toward turns and points on rocky shorelines.  The rip-rap along a dam is another magnet.

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The magic really starts to happen an hour or two before sunset.  The crappies often give themselves away as they swirl after baitfish and other critters.  Better yet, they eagerly suck in #8 to #12 streamers attached to a intermediate line and a 3 to 5 weight rod.  A type II line also works well, especially if the water is 5 or 6 feet deep.  Some of my “go-to” patterns are shown in the accompanying photos.

IMG_1369Occasionally, if there are sunfish around, I will use a #12 or #14 nymph.  Both crappie and sunfish will hit a small nymph but I really believe that crappie prefer something a little bit larger.

Wait a second… Didn’t the title of this article say something about top water?  Don’t worry, it’s coming…

As dusk moves in, put away the streamers and tie on a panfish-sized popper or gurgler.  Short, rhythmic strips – and the resulting surface commotion – draw the fish in.

My favorite outfit for presenting poppers and gurglers was inspired by a Sage Bluegill.  A Sage Bluegill is probably a bit heavy for most of the panfish in my area so I’ve taken a crisp action 4 weight that is 7 ½  feet long and matched it up with a 6 weight line and a light reel.  The resulting combo loads great with a short line; it is amazing at hitting little pockets in rip-rap or any other target.  Plus, an 11 inch crappie puts a good bend in it!

IMG_0639A boat or a float tube are great for working fall hot spots but walking along the rip-rap face of a dam is also effective.  Actually, as dusk turns to night – but the fishing is still lit up – walking on shore with a minimum of equipment is perhaps preferable to being in a boat or a tube.

Crappie are a great way to say good-bye to the dog days of summer and say hello to fall!

Ice off at Colorado High Country Lakes

An angler stands on his favorite river, swelled bank to bank with cold, turbid, fast moving, dangerous mid June runoff, and mutters, “When is there going to be some fishable water? Curses foiled again.”

Have no fear high country lakes are here! The fish are looking up, hungry and cruise the shallows.  Dead insects, formerly encrusted in ice, drift in the melted film and those alive are responding to the spring warmth. Grab your rod and get up there.

We picked three lakes above 9000’ elevation in northwest Colorado near the town of Steamboat Springs with roads close by, Steamboat, Pearl and Dumont. A short walk around drifted snow banks and we were fishing. The aspens were sucking up the snow melt and sprouting soft, tender, green leaves. Glacier lilies burst from the edge of snow banks with yellow flowers.  The mountains were alive again and soothed the soul.P1030171

At Steamboat Lake the rainbows and cutthroats hit size 8 black woolly buggers with hints of purple mixed in. A float tube was helpful to fish towards the shallow shore but cold. The possibility of hypothermia crossed our minds. Dress in layers because the skies can change from sunny to snowy quickly. While we fished, the Pleistocene era sand hill cranes soared above us uttering their strange, haunting prehistoric cries. The ancestors of this 2 million year old species, with a six foot wingspan, began migrating through North America at the end of the last Ice Age and make the lake marshes here their summer home.

Pearl Lake is only a few miles away. We aimed our casts to evening rises as the sun reflected the mountains in the cool, blue water. It was frustrating because I kept missing strikes at my Griffiths gnat dry fly. In desperation, I downsized twice and finally, with a size 18, I got a hook up. The fish darted deep, pulling my line from side to side and eventually tiring ended up in my net. It was an arctic grayling which have smaller mouths and they apparently couldn’t get their jaws around my larger flies. One of my fishing buddies said, “I never thought grayling would take a dry fly.” Typically they live deep in the lake, but in the spring move to the shallows to spawn and then disappear again.

Dumont Lake lays near the continent divide on Rabbit Ears Pass by U. S. Highway 40. We left a paved road, busy with traffic, to the serenity of a mountain lake. During the summer the lake and campground generally crawls with anglers and campers. During our spring trip we had it all to ourselves. A couple years ago the lake was drained, the brook trout removed, the dam repaired, re-filled with melted snow creeks and stocked with Hofer-Colorado River strain, whirling disease resistant, rainbow trout. The rich organic material encouraged quick growth and we encountered fat, feisty, fish. Aquatic worms were abundant. Small size 14 hooks wrapped with red floss and ribbed with copper wire worked well. Occasionally, the trout would take a larger San Juan worm or green Copper John midges too.

As always, it took a little experimentation to figure out what the fish wanted and each lake provided forage that was different, but the fish were hungry after a long winter beneath the ice. A local fly shop can offer tips to solve the riddle.

A high mountain lake awakes and waits for you. Don’t despair, get up there.

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Product Spotlight: Airflo 40+ Fast Intermediate Fly Line

Recently I bought an 8 weight setup to use for this upcoming season but still had a decision to make when it came to the type of line I wanted to use with it. The questions I asked myself when making this decision were: Where and how was I going to fish this rod? What brand of line did I want to use? Did I want to use a floating, intermediate, or a sinking line?

AF40PLUSI thought about these questions and started to answer them one by one, I decided I would most likely be throwing streamers with the rod, and wanted a line I could use to throw large flies for pike and to throw articulated flies for trout in large rivers. I felt like an intermediate line would be the ticket for this application and decided on the Airflo 40+ Extreme Distance Fast Intermediate fly line. I knew Airflo had a great reputation for their fly lines but had never owned one, I had used their lines before on trips and liked them but always stuck with Rio when it came down to purchasing a line. I wanted to try something new so I went with Airflo, I was not disappointed.

The Airflo Extreme Distance Fast Intermediate line has a lot of features I like about it, the Polyfuse coating and the Ridged running line makes for a smooth and slick surface through the guides to get the extra distance needed for long cast, and the weight forward head loads the rod quick for less false casting. The sink rate for this line was also great, one and a half inches per second works great in the situations I would be fishing in, I can get the fly deep by waiting a few extra seconds before I start retrieving the line but slow enough to I can still use it to swing streamers in rivers without the fly getting to deep and snagging on rocks. I also like the translucent green head; I believe it gives it a little more camouflage in the water compared to a solid color sinking line or tip. Since the line is a full intermediate it gives the fly a level plane to drift and during the retrieve, making it easier to create a more life-like presentation of the fly.

40+The only down fall I found about this line is the shooting head on the line is pretty long, making long cast in a confined area tough, it’s not a super aggressive head so casting with trees and bushes behind you can get a little frustrating. You need to make sure you have enough room for your back cast when trying for long distance shots.

What I am using it for and the places I will be fishing it, you couldn’t ask for a better line, I encourage anyone to try this line if you are looking for something to use with streamers in shallow water. If I wasn’t disappointed I don’t think you would be either.

A night with Clear Cure Goo

Product Review: Clear Cure Goo

A night with Clear Cure GooI have used many different types of epoxies throughout my fly fishing and fly tying careers. And I agree that at the end of the day, they all do pretty much the same thing. However, after coming to Fishwest, I was introduced to Clear Cure Goo epoxies. They are relatively new in the world of fly tying epoxies, but have quickly gained popularity amongst tiers in both freshwater and saltwater realms. Their product line offers tiers a wide variety of epoxies, covering all tying situations from small nymphs for trout, to large saltwater baitfish patterns.

For the Mountain West, I have found that the Clear Cure Goo Hydro and Thin epoxies cover most of my trout fly tying needs. The Hydro is perfect for putting a hard translucent layer on chironomids bodies, and topcoats for shells on nymphs. The Thin epoxy has just enough viscosity for situations that require larger amounts such as when building heads for streamers and baitfish patterns. The Thin epoxy does cure with a slight tacky feel, so a final thin coat of Hydro is necessary for a tack-free finish. I would also recommend that if you consider yourself a slower tier, or really want to build larger heads, to purchase their Thick epoxy

No matter which Clear Cure Goo products you use, the final results are a finish as hard, clear, and smooth as glass that I have yet to find crack, chip, or yellow.

I Suck At Dry Flies

I suck at tying and fishing dry flies. If you want a nymph, I can fix you up. Soft hackle? No problem. But if it is a dry fly, you can forget it.

Dry flies are congruent, poised, and angelic. Nymphs and soft hackles are chaotic, archaic, and wild. Perhaps this speaks volumes about me.

A dry fly is pretty much predictable. It floats, with a few exceptions can only be fished one way, and represents the end game. Maybe that is why I have never been much of a dry fly angler. It requires a level of grace that I dream of but never quite achieve. Its movement across the water, barely dimpling the surface film, is a ballet of sorts. Nymphs/ soft hackles are always working under the surface. You can only guess what is going on, and the predictability of its meanderings down the river is purely conjecture. You can dead drift it, swing it, strip it, but in the end you have only limit control and you have to watch your line very carefully because anything could happen at any time.

Dry flies dance to Mozart, George Winston. Nymphs and soft hackles dance to Coletrane, Muddy Waters, and The Allman Brothers. And while I am making this comparison, it should be noted that streamers dance to anything that would be found in a mosh pit, college frat house, or sleazy strip joint.

I do not like streamer fishing. Perhaps it is just a little more aggressive than my style will permit.  These flies, monstrous looking piles of fur and flash with hooks just come across as menacing.  The unhidden splash they make as they find the water only to by yanked back to the rod tip.  To be certain, if you want big fish, or if you want to cover a lot of water, streamers are the way to go.  But for me…it’s just not my style.  If I wanted to fish like that I would hang up my fly rod and throw jerk baits with a spinning rod.

I have fished Dries, and on some occasions I have fished them exclusively with much success, yet the whole time I felt like a kid in a new suit for Easter.  I just never can seem to settle into the comfortable rhythm or pace of the dance.  I have friends who, when fishing with a dry fly, look as if they were part of a painting by Michelangelo.  I watch them and think to myself…”There can be no other way for this man to fish…he has reached perfection.”

I guess at the end of the day, I am a nymph/ soft hackle guy who hopes someday to have the grace to be a dry fly guy.

But then don’t we all?

Grace is a pursuit that we may touch, but will never fully achieve. It is the point where all the poor mechanics and technique are put aside. Grace is a gift. One we don’t deserve in our fallen state. But with a little help, we may find ourselves granted its music. And then we not only dance, we fly…..

Summertime and the Streamers are Easy…

Typically no one thinks of fishing streamers in the middle of summer. Especially not when fish are looking up for terrestrials, caddis or large stoneflies. In all honesty several of my best streamers days have been had in June through September, not late fall like typically thought. Last year one of my nicest and most memorable fish came after a stellar morning of fishing large attractor dries while floating the South Fork of the Snake . The morning started out great and the fish were eating hoppers and attractor dries very well, until the gale force winds kicked up in the afternoon. After 45 minutes of struggling to deliver a bushy dry inches from the bank I decided it was time for a articulated streamer, a 7 wt and a 250 grain sinking tip. Knowing the fish were tight in on the bank we didn’t change anything but switch from a dry to a streamer. In all honesty the action was much slower on the streamer but the fish that did show up to play were much bigger than that were interested in our dry offerings. We came around a eroded outside bend with some downed trees, my buddy placed the boat excellently and I made a cast back up stream into the pocket of a downed tree, just like I would with a hopper. As the streamer hit the water a large brown came off the bottom for a closer look, with one strip he closed the distance and on the second strip he committed to the eat. It was just as much or more of a visual eat than any of the dry fly eats from the morning and reminded me yet again to never underestimate summer time streamer fishing.

So if the wind is howling, the fish aren’t looking up, rain has stained the water or like this year with everything being 3-10 times higher than usual mix it up and throw on a streamer. I think you all might be pleasantly surprised.

In the summertime I like to fish a lot of white and other bright colors like yellow. But often times like the day mentioned above, olive is hard to beat.

Top three streamers you won’t catch me without in the summer. Sasquatch in white and olive, Circus Peanut in olive and crawdad , Chubby Muffin Sculpin in olive and brown.

 

 

 

Typically no one thinks of fishing streamers in the middle of summer. Especially not when fish are looking up for terrestrials, caddis or large stoneflies. In all honesty several of my best streamers days have been had in June through September, not late fall like typically thought. Last year one of my nicest and most memorable fish came after a stelar morning of fishing large attractor dries while floating the South Fork of the Snake . The morning started out great and the fish were eating hoppers and attractor dries very well, until the gale force winds kicked up in the afternoon. After 45 minutes of struggling to deliver a bushy dry inches from the bank I decided it was time for a articulated streamer, a 7 wt and a 250 grain sinking tip. Knowing the fish were tight in on the bank we didn’t change anything but switch from a dry to a streamer. In all honesty the action was much slower on the streamer but the fish that did show up to play were much bigger than that were interested in our dry offerings. We came around a eroded outside bend with some downed trees, my buddy placed the boat excellently and I made a cast back up stream into the pocket of a downed tree, just like I would with a hopper. As the streamer hit the water a large brown came off the bottom for a closer look, with one strip he closed the distance and on the second strip he committed to the eat. It was just as much or more of a visual eat than any of the dry fly eats from the morning and reminded me yet again to never underestimate summer time streamer fishing.

So if the wind is howling, the fish aren’t looking up, rain has stained the water or like this year with everything being 3-10 times higher than usual mix it up and throw on a streamer. I think you all might be pleasantly surprised.

Summer time I like to fish a lot of white and other bright colors like yellow. But often times like the day mentioned olive is hard to beat.

Tope three streamers you won’t catch me without in the summer. Sasquatch in white and olive, Circus Peanut in olive and crawdad , Chubby Muffin Sculpin in olive and brown.