I feel compelled to make up for my last post. I was exhausted following a few days of fishing and was just too lazy to recount the ups and downs of steelheading bliss. I will endeavor to make up for my shortcomings by giving you some tactical tidbits in this post. Tactics and tying don’t make up a great deal of my rhetoric for good reason. As I’ve stated previously I’m no great mind in the world of fly tying, and my skill set leaves something to be desired. But why let my limited repertoire rain on your parade? I simply utilize a personalized approach that works for me. I love a hatch as much as the next guy, but I see no point in discussing my elk hair caddis pattern because it’s well traveled turf. I’d rather chat about my hairbrained schemes. At the core I’m constantly experimenting and can find inspiration from a variety of sources. Towards the end of last season I broke from my usual fluff and actually offered up a little bit of insight into my madness. I shared with you my “Little Boy” heavyweight bugger. The thing is a XL sized tank and mostly inappropriate when mining for char. I’ve adapted the thinking behind this fly for brook troutin’ duties. Not that these flies won’t work for browns, it’s just that I’ve got a soft spot for the little guys, and I’ve been on a brookie binge lately. I’m keying on some ultra deep pools that can be found on some prime brook trout streams. From an approach standpoint my tightline tactics have been dominating the landscape. I find myself using a modified Czech nymphing approach and less of the traditional nymph rigs that are prone to tangle and snag. I’ve grown to prefer a direct connection with my offering as opposed to being hampered by a series of floats, split shots and point flies. Here’s a rag tag cross section of flies that have gotten air time over the last few weeks. I’m constantly refining my designs. The challenge has been in creating a fly that will plummet into the deepest of pools, but remain compact. Weight is the critical link to mastering strike detection using this approach. I’ve tried any number of tricks. You name it, barbell eyes, beads, lead wire all have been used, and regularly I use all of them in one pattern. Tungsten bomb beads have become a mainstay in my arsenal, and one just doesn’t seem to be enough in some applications. You’ll see that I frequently employ a double-beaded version. Sure I could throw a change up and go with the sinking line route, but where’s the fun in that? I’m a tinkerer by nature and prefer the heavy fly highsticking routine.
Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s not like brook troutin’ is rocket science. A quality brown trout worth his salt can be fickle enough to fray your nerves. It’s like they have just a touch of muskie to them. That’s not the case with most brook trout. They’re more of the bluegill ilk. But a trout, is a trout, is a trout. If it was always easy we wouldn’t be talking about it. I had an epiphany of sorts back in February. Jack and I were doing some late winter ice fishing and I inadvertently left a few panfish jigs in my Patagonia sling pack. Jigs are a popular choice everywhere spinning reels spin, but for some reason as fly anglers we must tie our lead to the hook. And there in lies the shortcoming. I periodically can’t seem to find products at the fly shop that do what I want them to. It made me think about how much innovation has occurred in the ice fishing universe. Everything about the sport has changed in the last 20 years. In particular the micro plastics and jigs that are meant to imitate aquatic insects are impressive. Driven by the almighty dollar, conventional baits are reinvented every few years. Conversely, stodgy old fly anglers year in and year out are content to slip their ubiquitous coneheads on to their olive-colored buggers. The traditions of fly fishing are both a blessing and a curse. Old school tactics are part of the allure of it all. I’ve got nothing but high fives and respect for those who fish classic fly patterns, but Norman Rockwell isn’t going to get me to the bottom of that 12 foot pool. Dave Genz on the other hand will. The godfather of modern ice fishing’s new series of tungsten bombing drop jigs are just what the doctor ordered. A marmooska jig on steriods, its massive tungsten head coupled with a tiny hook is perfect for dainty little brookies. Its designed to punch through iced over holes, but delicate enough for the smallest panfish and it’s damn heavy for its compact size. Casting the heavier flies in my brook trout lineup aren’t for the faint of heart. Like it’s big brother the “Little Boy” bugger, its difficult to roll this baby over with a traditional casting stroke. Even working the beast through a pool is a new dimension in fly rodding. Its like you’re pounding the bottom with a ball peen hammer. Not exactly your garden variety drag-free drift. I like to refer to my large single nymph fishing as “frankenymphing”. Close quarters dinkin’ and dunkin’ is where they can do some serious damage. While these seedy little cheatin’ attractors can represent aquatic insects, baitfish, worms or even baby brookies, the big tungsten jig versions require a specific yo-yo technique. As you can see above even the dinkiest of brook trout can find them a tasty morsel.
Posting up a pic of a Rush River Bubblejack IPA makes me feel kind of icky. Featuring a fishing-themed beer on a fishing blog should probably be against the law (and an IPA nevertheless). Beer snobs everywhere have grown to dismiss this over saturated style of beer. I’d probably fare better if I said that I own a selfie stick. It’s not like it’s actually a brand that kowtows to our people (like Trout Slayer) but the Rush is on the Mt. Rushmore of local streams. For quite some time I avoided beer from Rush River Brewing for no good reason. Perhaps I felt like was giving in by drinking a beer named after a local favorite? One of my neighborhood pizza joints features this beer on their limited menu and eventually I caved. Its passé hoppiness has grown on me. I just as easily could have threw down a Bell’s Two Hearted. At least it’s not a PBR. Maybe we need to stop associating fly fishing with beer drinking? Lemonade anyone?
I hit the road bright and early recently to test my meddle. Upon reviewing a new section on an old favorite stream at dawn I had a close encounter of the third kind. The precipitation that has hit the region lately had me wondering about the water level and clarity. I was carefully looking through the woods to see if I could get a good look at the water level when a dark object caught my attention in my peripheral vision. I turned to my right and noticed something staring back at me. It doesn’t make any sense, but the first impression I got was the outline of the old Mickey Mouse ice cream bars with the big ears that were popular in my youth. It took me a few seconds to register what it was, but I finally realized that a big black bear was standing in the brush across the clearing checking me out. By the time fully processed the encounter, in good black bear fashion, he turned and ran away. Needless to say I chose to move on to another stream. It’s the first time I’ve seen one while fly fishing in this area. After regaling Mrs. Adrift with the tale she wasn’t impressed. I chose to take out an insurance policy for future visits to this watershed in the name of bear pepper spray. Overkill? Perhaps. When looking to bomb the deepest of pools, or escaping from the evil clutches of your garden variety black bear. You’d better get the lead out.