Profound Influence

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

On a variety of internet forums, members routinely post questions asking something to the effect “How did you get started fly fishing”? I don’t think my story is that unusual except for that obscure book my mother bought me when I was just getting started. At the young age of 14 I learned some basic fly tying skills and had the good fortune to be tutored in fly casting by some old gents at the Pasadena Casting Club in SoCal. My teenage years were not the most productive from a fly fishing standpoint because of where I lived and other pursuits. I did make a few trips into the Sierra’s and caught plenty of fish on the fly, but it wasn’t until I returned from my first overseas Air Force tour in Vietnam in 1970 that fly fishing became a regular part of my life.

I was 22 years old, on my own in the Air Force and now stationed in Western Washington. With a steady income and little else to worry about, fly fishing opportunities seemeed to be around every corner in the lakes and rivers of Washington State. It was still the era of fiberglass rods and discretionary funds allowed the purchase of a nice Fenwick five weight rod and Medalist reel, an outfit I still have today. It didn’t take too long for me to become a reasonably successful fly angler, something I attribute in no small part to that obscure little book my mother bought me when I was 14.

The book, entitled: Worming and Spinning for Trout (1959) by Jerry Woods is a mere 156 pages of pure trout fishing wisdom and makes but fleeting references to fly fishing. However in an era with no internet, no videos and few fly shops, its lessons became a valuable piece of my angling education. Why my mother chose that book, I’ll never know, but its words of wisdom have had and continue to have a profound influence on my angling success. I still have my copy and read various chapters occasionally to refresh my skills.

Worming was a popular technique on hard fished brown trout streams in Western New York in the mid-20th century. This wasn’t worm dunking, but instead the skillful dead drifting of small live worms through challenging lies on heavily pressured streams for wary brown trout. A technique remarkably similar to today’s nymphing techniques. The author goes into great detail on the intricacies of worming, punctuated with interesting stories of days on the stream as he and his buddies tried to perfect the worming technique. In the 1950s, success on the trout stream was measured by the weight of your creel and limits taken at the end of day. On hard fished streams, success was gained through stealth, accurate presentations and keen observation. Success today depends on the same skills even though the days of heavy creels and limits taken are long gone.

Continue reading → Profound Influence

Comeback

Guest Blogger: Michael Vorhis, author of ARCHANGEL suspense thriller, OPEN DISTANCE adventure thriller & more to come

It was going to be an epic year. Working from home would give me, in theory, time to get employer deliverables and honey-do’s done with ease, and leave time for more weekend early AM trips to the river. Look out, thou trout! I tied flies and readied leaders and gear in anticipation.

But an early summer outing handed me a disappointing skunk — two takes that strangely broke off a fly apiece (highly unusual for me, given the typical size of the fish here), but no hook-ups. Demoralized, I reasoned that they must have been steelhead “speed break” strikes, to have parted the tippet on what felt like a minor grab…yeah, yeah, dat’s what musta happened. So I re-tooled my tactics to tempt the hypothetical big spring spawn lingerers and aimed my sights at another morning outing a few weeks later, building up expectations as I always do.

But I got skunked again, dang it, and this time felt only one weak bump on the line. Now I was mad. I got out a month later, and flogged the water for 5 straight hours using every trick I could think of. Didn’t get even a half-hearted line-wiggle from a single fish.

What the…? Things had gone from pitiful to beyond all summer long, and now, with a chamber clearly empty of both confidence and lucky bullets, I was staring down the barrel of the autumn Chinook spawn. I set aside not one but two days right up against the season close date, as close to peak salmon run time as Fish And Game would allow, and did my damnedest. But…another demoralizing skunk on that Sunday!

Four days later, the last day of the season for that river, my last hurrah there for the year, water low, Chinook still nowhere to be seen, I’d again gotten no action for interminable hours. I stood out there a nearly broken man. I confess I hit rock bottom. With no future left to plan for, instead of applying the fabricated forward optimism I normally conjure up I started to think backward across recent months. That is, I finally started to use my head.

What adjustments had I made last spring? Let’s see, nice new reel, and I cleaned the fly lines, and the patch I made to a wader leak was holding well, and…I’d gone to nice furled fluoro leaders, which were a joy to use, and…I’d tied weighted flies to minimize use of split shot, thus eliminating path anomalies between rod and fly, and…wait a minute, what was that about the leaders? I’d changed the type. I’d been using “clear” fluoro FURLED leaders all year. It seemed to me they weren’t exactly clear, of course…they refract enough light on every bend of every filament (and there are a lot of little bends when line is braided together like that) that unless it’s nearly nighttime those furled leaders look translucent white in the water…like an off-white piece of thin yarn seven feet long preceding the fly down through the current. Could I be…spooking fish? For months? I’d stepped the taper down quickly from furled portion to tippet, too, so the fly wasn’t really all that far from the furled—maybe only about three feet.

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A “Fishy Spot” Is Always a Good Spot-Eventually

Guest Blogger: Joe Dellaria, Woodbury MN

Have you ever looked at a spot on a river and thought to yourself “Wow, there has to be a fish there!”? Then you fish it thoroughly and nothing-totally bewildering. Years ago, I went through a phase where I spin casted for trout. This happened after I had just finished fly fishing a hole and caught nothing. A spin caster walked up to the exact spot and after three casts with a Rapala, he hooked and landed a nice 16” brown. I was amazed and dumbfounded. To my total astonishment he threw the fish back while saying, “Too small” with a disgusted voice. I promptly started asking questions about his catch rate and size of fish. Impressed by his accomplishments, I switched to spin casting.

This is not the point of my article, but I needed to set up why I was spin casting in one of those “fishy spots.” It was late summer and overcast, a storm front was on its way when I reached this spot where I never had a follow or hit prior to this day. Despite my lack of success, I began casting through the section (My wife claims I am part bull dog!) expecting nothing to happen as usual. My cast went perfectly up against a partially submerged tree in the water and thankfully just missed two branches in the water. Just as the Rapala cleared the last branch the water exploded. The fish hit the lure so hard he knocked it 3-4 inches out of the water. I was thinking “Oh, I hate when that happens,” when to my amazement the fish hit the lure again. In my excitement I over set the hook and pulled defeat out of the jaws of success. My heart rate goes up every time I tell someone about this incident.

Continue reading → A “Fishy Spot” Is Always a Good Spot-Eventually