Monday, May 25, 2015

Water Outlook for Wyoming this Summer

Usually in May, I'm concerned about our snowpack and whether we will have enough water for our trout to thrive during the dry and hot summer months.

Our road to town.. great for cleaning muddy wheel wells!

I helped a big snapping turtle get off this flooded road today!
Yesterday we had two inches of rain in 24 hours. We've had flooding and road closures. We can't even get over the bridge to get out of our subdivision… We have to take a back dirt road that takes us past soaked hay bales and horses standing in flooded pastures.




This is great for kayakers, fish and fishermen... not so great for running to town to get a six-pack! The good news is: I think we are well on our way to a great summer of trout fishing!!

We are all wet!









Friday, May 22, 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Wind River, Wyoming: Two Great Days!

We began the day nymphing...
This week I fished Monday and Tuesday on the Wind River near Thermopolis, Wyoming with Chad Olsen and long time client and friend, Dan Cerven. Despite some bad weather both on my drive to the river and on my return trip Tuesday night, I had a great time with these guys making the rigors of Wyoming travel well worth it. Plus the quality of the fishing we encountered just made it that much better. It was world class!

.and the rewards were great. Dan and Chad with a big 'bow!

...and another fish on.


Dan, Chad and I had a great couple days. Monday was perfect! The kind of day a trout fishermen dreams about. It was dead calm, overcast and a bit cool. Perfect baetis weather and these little mayflies did not disappoint. By 10:00 AM, we could see the bigger fish staging in the shallows under the Russian Olives near shore or off moss mats caught in the roots of trees. The fish were ready and so were we!

The duns started blanketing the river...

...and it wasn't long until the fish started sucking them in.

We didn't have to wait long. After catching a few big fish on nymphs, the duns started coming off around 10:00 AM. We switched rods and for the next few hours, experienced some awesome dry fly action to pods of big fish. These robust Wind River trout are very strong and go crazy when hooked. For us, a small fish was 18 inches, but we mostly caught trout in the 19-21 inch range. Dan and I both caught rainbows, browns and cutthroats to complete a Wind River Grand Slam. We had a mid-day lull only to have the dry fly action pick up again when the baetis spinners started falling in the afternoon. It was a simply awesome day!

A fat cutthroat!

...and a 21 inch brown.

You know the fishing is good when you can do this!

On Tuesday, our weather quickly deteriorated. But despite some very cold, windy and rainy conditions, we caught some BIG browns and rainbows on nymphs. Dan and I both caught 23" rainbows plus numerous 20-21" 'bows and browns. We had very little dry fly action in the 20 mph winds and rainy conditions, but before I took off, I did manage to get a good cast to a 20+ inch brown that ate my #20 baetis dun like a champ.


Hot Springs 20" 'bow

And Dan's 23 inch rainbow


In the cold and rain, a 20+ inch brown warms the hands

Now to try and get home!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

WHAT WE DO 2 FISH!


Last Sunday afternoon, I drove over the Big Horns to fish the Wind River with Chad Olsen and Dan Cerven on Monday and Tuesday. That afternoon, I had to crawl over Powder River Pass in a blizzard, but I eventually lost elevation and reached the safety of Tensleep Canyon. Then, I was on my way!



Dan, Chad and I had a great couple days. We experienced some terrific dry fly action on a long-lasting baetis hatch on Monday and yesterday, despite some very cold, windy and rainy conditions, we caught some BIG browns and rainbows on nymphs.


After studying the forecasts yesterday morning, I was anxious to stay ahead of the storm, so I got off the river early while they continued on downstream into the evening. I was hoping to make it home ahead of the storm, so I threw my gear in the back, pulled off my wet raincoat and still in waders, took off for home.



No such luck! I got in yet another whiteout as I reached Powder River Pass. There, it was 25 degrees with a 40 mph wind driving the snow hard. The visibility was almost zero. I crept over the pass at 15 mph white-knuckling it all the way. After I got safely over the pass and knew I had dropped out of the worst of it, I stopped to get out of my waders and took these photos.

WHAT WE DO TO FISH!
Was it worth it? ... you be the judge. 
I'll post some photos from our trip tomorrow.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Some Hints for Fishing Baby Tarpon on the Yucatan


Tarpon armor
As I was sifting through my notes from our recent trip to Tarpon Cay Lodge on the Yucatan Peninsula, I remembered stuffing a bunch of tarpon scales in one of my fly boxes. I had gathered these scales from the floor of our panga one afternoon. They had come from a sabalito that jumped into our boat unannounced and unhooked, whizzed past my nose and went berserk in the bottom of the boat. Last night, I went to my gear room and as I was looking for the scales, I started to make mental notes on what I learned on this trip. 

After much consideration, (a.k.a. daydreaming), this is what I came up with… Here are my takeaways and lessons learned for fishing baby tarpon (sabalitos) on the Yucatan Peninsula. Hopefully, these thoughts will help visiting anglers put more tarpon in the air and ultimately, in the boat:
(Many Thanks to Doug Jeffries for some important additions!)

GETTING READY and RIGGED

-First and foremost, relax, take it easy, you're not going to boat every tarpon you hook. You WILL jump many more tarpon than you put in the boat.

-Retie your fly after each fish or at least carefully inspect your shock tippet for abrasion and knicks. If in doubt, retie.

-Use as long a leader as you can comfortably turnover. Tarpon can definitely see the fly line in the air so false casts over fish or too short a leader reduces your odds significantly.

-I prefer black hooks especially over dark turtle grass bottoms. Flies tied on black hooks seem to spook fewer fish.

-Use flies that float (for the rios) or have neutral buoyancy  (for the outside flats). Flies should be tied so to offer a soft landing if properly presented.

-Sharpen your hooks! Sharp hooks penetrate tough tarpon jaws much better. Check your hook every time you cast into the mangroves, snag the bottom or a sunken log, and after every fish take.  Drag the hook point across a fingernail without putting any downward pressure on it.  A sharp hook should "hang up" or grab onto your fingernail, a not-sharp-enough hook will slide across the nail without hanging up. Keep a small diamond file handy.

-Pinch your  barbs!  If not for the fish, then for your guide, your partner and of course, you!  A barbed hook buried in the back of your head is not a good thing! Plus it certainly makes releasing a fish much easier.  

PRESENTATION:

-Remember you know how to double haul. It's amazing how many anglers know the double haul, but forget to use it in the pressure of the moment.

-You should help your fishing partner manage his fly line as he casts and strips it back into the boat. This is especially important on windy days.

-Your fishing partner, your guide and you should be acting as a team. 


-If it is very windy try standing a little farther back on the deck and stripping your line into the footwell behind you. Here, your partner can grab your line and help you manage it and keep it from going overboard or under the boat.  


-If you cast too far, you will be stripping your fly into your target fish. A too long cast presents your fly abnormally to your target tarpon. Prey species do not move towards predators. A fly coming at a tarpon will usually spook the fish. Also, you need to cast in front of cruising tarpon, but not too far in front, as they then might not see it. 

Now is your time to choose direction, velocity and distance.

-Start stripping your fly the moment it lands, especially if your fly has landed very close to the fish. A stationary fly is lifeless and at best, will not elicit a response. At worst, it will spook your tarpon. If you cast too far in front of cruising fish your guide will often say “stop stripping”. This will let the fish get closer to your fly. He will then tell you when to start stripping again.

-If a tarpon misses you fly on a strike, make a long slow strip to allow the fish to find your fly again, then begin short, quick strips once he has found your fly.

THE STRIKE

-Do not strike as soon as you see the fish hit your fly. This is too soon. If a Tarpon takes a fly from behind, stop stripping to let the fly into the fish’s mouth, then strike. If the fish takes while swimming towards you, set the hook several times in quick succession if possible.

-To set the hook properly keep your rod tip down next to the water's surface pointed directly at the fish while strip-setting. If you are off to the side, you will not have a tight line when they eat and you  WILL NOT get a good hook set. Do not raise the rod tip trout-style, you WILL NOT get a good hook set.
Again, DO NOT RAISE YOUR ROD TIP TO SET THE HOOK!


THE FIGHT

-Once you feel the weight of the fish, put the rod butt against your belly, rotate your body moving the rod sideways as you come tight. Do not use too much power as now is when the tarpon jumps… 



-When your tarpon jumps, be ready to “bow”. Bowing means to push your rod forward while also lowering the rod tip. This releases the pressure on the fly during the tarpon's gill rattling, mouth open, head-shaking jump. It is then much harder for the tarpon to throw your hook. As your tarpon reenters the water start stripping in the line until you are tight again.



-Don’t worry about getting the fish “on the reel” because while you are occupied doing that they will inevitably jump and you will lose them. Bigger fish will usually get on the reel themselves. Smaller tarpon (under 15 lbs.) are best landed by stripping them in and bowing when they jump.

-Fight the fish with your rod tip down almost parallel with the water's surface... not vertically. If you hold the rod tip up, you generate much less power, you allow the tarpon to gulp air and you will come unbuttoned much more often. Fighting the fish to the side allows you to pull the fish in the opposite direction he wants to go thus wearing the tarpon out more quickly.


-Many fish are lost when a tarpon jumps at the end of the fight near the boat. Here, your leader is is stretched and possibly frayed as often is your concentration. Keep focused! At this point, you don’t have the luxury of the fly line stretch to cushion the fish’s movements. When a tarpon is close, you must pay close attention and react quickly and precisely. 

Do not lift a tarpon out of the water by only its lower jaw.


AFTER ITS OVER

-Get your fish back in the water as soon as possible. If you catch a fish you want to photograph, keep it in the water, have someone get your camera ready, and when all is set, lift the tarpon by the lower jaw and support its weight with a hand under its belly. Take the shot and quickly get the fish back into the water.

-Absolutely never ever hold a tarpon up by its lower jaw or with a Boga Grip out of the water. This can fatally injure the muscles in a tarpon jaw and prevent them from feeding efficiently, eventually resulting in starvation.  

-Same with lip gaffs often seen used on larger fish.  That tears a large hole in the thin membrane of the lower jaw. The result is the tarpon cannot produce enough suction to inhale their prey and feed efficiently.

-After you revive your fish and release it, take a deep breath, smile and celebrate with a cool drink from the cooler. You deserve it! 


Doug Jeffries and Steve Peskoe enjoy a Sol after a great day on the flats!


Monday, April 27, 2015

Tarpon Cay Lodge Trip Report: Part Two... The Fishing Details

If you've ever wanted to fish Tarpon Cay Lodge on the western shores of the Yucatan for baby tarpon, here are the fishing details you need to know!

Tarpon Cay Lodge offers some of the best fly fishing for juvenile tarpon (called sabalitos in Spanish... meaning little tarpon) to be found anywhere in the Americas. Anglers find tarpon cruising the outside turtle grass flats, roaming mangrove-lined rivers, probing creek mouths and staging in the bays beyond.

A competent angler can jump a dozen or more sabalitos a day and if lucky, put a few in the boat too. Tarpon Cay Lodge is a world class angling destination and a must-do for serious saltwater anglers. Here are the details on how to equip yourself and what you can expect regarding the technical requirements of fishing the area.






Guides:

The TCL guides can often find fish on all stages of the tide. They work hard to do so, see fish incredibly well, pole quietly (with their hand-hewn white mangrove poles), work a staked-out panga as well as anybody I've ever seen, position the boat quickly to conform to an angler's casting window and yet somehow manage to be relaxed, enthusiastic and supportive.

Carlos poles at dusk

The guides are always on time for both the morning and evening sessions. They try hard to accommodate anglers needs as much as possible. Tarpon Cay Lodge is managed by Captain Marco Ruz. He is an experienced fly fisherman and knows well the needs of visiting clients. Marco's guides, Carlos, Chris and Martin use stable 18' pangas. These boats have well proportioned casting decks, seat cushions and plenty of room for gear. They are powered by 40 hp. Yamaha 2 or 4 stroke engines. All fishing is conducted out of these pangas. (There is no wading in any of the fishing areas so don't bother to bring wading shoes.) The fishing begins five minutes from the lodge and takes no more than 25 minutes to arrive at the most distant areas. Each guide communicates with the others so there is no stepping on each others toes. 





Lines:

Anglers usually fish fast 8 or 9 weight rods with quality reels with disk drags. You will be fishing a floating fly line most of the time as the tarpon are usually found in very shallow areas sometimes as little as one foot deep! Lightweight, slow sinking, or top-water flies are mandatory. Floating lines are perfect for the variety of environs found near TCL which includes shallow turtlegrass flats, mangrove-lined coasts, rios and the mouths (bocas) of these rivers. It's good to bring at least two rods so you can rig one with a floating fly for the rios and shallow bays and the other with a subsurface or neutral density fly for the outside flats.


Suggested fly lines are: Rio Tarpon Taper, Tropical Clouser, Tropical Outbound SHORT. Most line companies makes equivalent lines.


In June through August, larger 30-90 lb. migratory tarpon travel into the area demanding a 10 wt. rod and floating, intermediate with clear slow sink tips and sink tip lines. 


Suggested fly lines for pursuing migratory tarpon in moderate water depth or to keep fly beneath the chop on the surface are: SA 400 grain Tropical Streamer Express Clear Tip, Rio Deep Sea 350 – 450 grain,  Rio Tropical Outbound SHORT WF/F-I and Rio Tarpon Taper WF/F-I. 


Flies: 

The truth is you don't need any specific fly patterns. Spin a natural deer hair head cropped close (or use a bit of foam wrapped with thread) for buoyancy, add a few strands of bucktail to avoid fouling hackle tips splayed-out tarpon style and a bit of Kraft Fur to cover the hook. Then add a few strands of Krystal Flash. In ten minutes you're done. These flies float or ride just below the surface. For juvenile tarpon in shallow water this simple tie works like a charm. Red, yellow, orange, black Kraft Fur with natural grizzly, yellow grizzly, or tan grizzly hackle is best.

As expert fly tier Doug Jeffries said: 

"If you didn't want to be fancy this fly in different colors and sizes would probably work 80% of the time. Easy peazy. The bigger fish on the outside flats jumped on the tan version. I think it looks like a mullet or sardine. I'd tie up a yellow or orange version with more flash to use in the rios."

So, what this means is (as with all fly fishing) the key is presentation. If you can cast a 9' leader, GREAT!… if you can cast a 10-12' leader, so much the better! If the tarpon are happy and unaware of your presence, they will eat! I'd definitely make sure I had smaller flies in size 1 or even 2. Total fly length would be 2 to 2.5 inches. maximum 3 inches. Flies with mono snag guards are highly recommended especially when fishing deep in the sticks or in very shallow water.


Simple baitfish flies in size 1 work well for baby tarpon

Flies for Baby Tarpon:

In no way do you need all these flies, These are just some patterns that work well. I think flies should be tied on Tiemco 600SP hooks, Gamagatsu SS 15, or Owner Aki black hooks size 2, 1, to 1/0.

Merriman’s Tarpon Toad II (chartreuse, purple/black)
Flashtail Whistlers in yellow/orange; white/red and red/black, natural grizzly
 
Grizzly Flashtail Whistler bruised and a bit beaten from catching fish!


Tarpon Neutralizer
Shrimp Neutralizer
Slide Ball Slider
Deep Cover Shrimp.
TCL special – size 1 and 1/0 WORKS GREAT, but hard to purchase in size 1!



TCL Special with deer hair collar


TCL Special with foam collar
SeaDucers (red/white, red/yellow, or “cockroach”)
Puglisi Tarpon Streamer (Everglades Special, brown/tan, yellow/orange)
Haskin’s Foxxy Minnow (flesh, olive)


Haskin’s Foxxy Minnow

Megalopsicle 1 and 1/0
Mayan Warrior 1 and 1/0



Top Water Flies for Baby Tarpon: 


Puglisi Floating (Everglades Special, red/yellow) – size 1 and 1/0
Haskin’s Deep Cover Shrimp (weedless - tan/prawn) – size 1 and 1/0
Charlie’s AirHead - mullet or sardine


                          Airhead Mullet
Mini Gurglers (white, red/white, black ) – size 1 and 1/0

     Gurgler

                                                                  S.S. Flies Gurgler
Haskin’s Floating Minnow (gray-griz/white, red/white, orange/yellow) - size 1 and 1/0 
Floris Van Den Berg's Cigar


Floris tying his "Cigar" (in foreground)

My 5 minute quick-tie "cigar" done after  siesta… and it worked!


Migratory Tarpon: 


SeaHabit (sardina color) – size 2/0
Whistler (red/white) – size 2/0, 3/0







Thalken’s Cruiser (anchovy / sardina) – size 2/0
Haskin’s Foxxy Griz (minnow-white) - size 2/0 or 1/0




Topwater Flies for Migratory Tarpon: 

Crease flies (black/silver, olive/silver, brown/gold) – size 1/0 and 3/0
Charlie’s AirHead (chartreuse/white, grey/white) – size 1/0 and 3/0




                               Airhead


Leaders: 

Leaders needn't be too complicated, but remember the leader is the final connection between you and the fish so it needs to be well-tied. Leader systems with efficient tapers and strong knots deliver accurate presentation of the fly and solid hooking power. Here are a variety of leader systems that work well: 


Rio Striped Bass Leader – 7 foot, 22 lb + Jinkai Shock (or equivalent for baby Tarpon): This is the simplest and highly effective baby tarpon leader setup. Utilize this leader with an Albright knot to connect shock tippet (40-50# Jinkai hard mono). Total leader length is about 10 feet. 






Simple Hard Mason Three Piece Leader + Jinkai Shock (recommended for baby Tarpon): Here is the formula for building this simple, but effective leader system. The tapered butt section consists of 3 - 4 feet of Mason 30# blood knotted to 2 - 3 feet of Mason 25 lb.. Blood knotted to this is an 18” section of Mason 20 lb. as your class/breaking tippet. Lastly, you use an Albright knot to connect a 2 - 3 foot section of shock/bite tippet (40- 50# hard mono.) NOTE: if you do not wish to tie your own leader systems, make sure to bring all of the leader materials and your guide will tie your leaders for you.


My No stress leader system for baby tarpon is 3.5 feet 50 lb. to 3.5 feet 40 lb to 3 feet 30 lb. all knots tied with double surgeons. VERY SIMPLE!





Quigley’s Twisted Leader System: This leader system utilizes a series of twisted mono sections to form the tapered portion of the leader. This leader has exceptional turnover power and shock absorption with its twisted line configuration. Added to this is a 2 – 3 foot section of shock/bite tippet (80 lb. Jinkai hard mono) attached with a No-Name or Albright knot. 






SHOCK TIPPET SIZING 

Baby Tarpon

Tarpon Cay Lodge: 30-50 lb. monofilament 



Migratory Tarpon

Tarpon Cay Lodge: 80 lb. monofilament 

NEXT:

HINTS TO SHORTEN YOUR LEARNING CURVE WHEN FISHING BABY TARPON ON THE YUCATAN PENINSULA...



Friday, April 24, 2015

Crooked Island with Jeff Rodenberg and his Daughter Marley


If you'll remember, Jeff Rodenberg was going with his daughter, Marley to Crooked Island in the Bahamas. Jeff's intentions were to test some bonefish flies and report back on their success… well, family trips have a way of morphing away from an angler's original intentions. Here is Jeff's trip report… Thanks Jeff…  very cute story, cute daughter… looks like you had a GREAT trip!
(other lodging options on Crooked Island here)

Hey Scott,

A note to let you know that Crooked was simply awesome...because it was pretty much 180 degrees different than expected and planned for, and I love that!!! To me the best times are actually when things require one to throw every preconceived notion out the window, and just have a blast making it up as you go along. Maybe it's because I work in an honest to God Dilbert cartoon where people who think planning, processes, and predictability is somehow the key to business success more so than simply being flexible enough to respond to the needs of customers for quick solutions, but I digress…

Nice Mutton Snapper

Kenny Scavella throws the cast net

We arrived on the full moon/spring tide and bones were just not right. Not moving onto the flats, just humpin' around with each other out in the bays in big muds. So Kenny (who is honestly as much a friend as a guide given the amount of time we've spent together) and I decided to spend some time on the permit. And of course, I totally lost composure and blew it on: 

A.) two that were easy pickin's on the back of a ray
B.) one 30-40 pounder that was as cluelessly happy as I've ever cast at
C.) a pack of a dozen that were fighting over everything…

At one point I could hear Kenny from the platform say "Jeff, remember to haul man!"...I honestly can't remember a time in fishing over the last 40 years when I've been so totally mindless - try as I might to remind myself "it's just a damn fish",  I was standing there on the deck with line drooping everywhere, a quarter sized welt on my ass from the whack of a crab fly, and laughing along with Kenny and my daughter about my almost incoherent blathering excuses...I honestly think that will go down as one of my most favorite fishing memories of all time…

Kenny Scavella and Marley
And here is the best part...after all this mayhem was over, I hear daughter Marley in the boat...."Buddy?"....

Jeff; "yeah"

Marley; "if you hook a permit, can I reel him in?"..............................

Crisis point as a parent! For the last 5 years I've slobbered over getting a permit...but at the same time, you live for doing everything in your power to enrich you children's lives, give them opportunities you never had, live for their smile....

But I had to be honest...and said... "Hell no! Marley, I'll contribute significantly to your college education, will buy you your first car, but are you nuts? Reel in my first permit? Are you crazed? ...."

She was cracking up. Kenny about pissed himself and added.."Maaaalllllley...I tink you crossed da line..."....A moment that she loves telling a story about…



We did whack a few bones in the muds to let Marley have some fun cranking them in, spent a day pilchard fishing the reef for mutton snapper which Willie cooked up and made a big deal about Marley catching dinner for all of the patrons, and it was homecoming week on Crooked which made it perfect for showing a beautiful little lady that which makes the real Bahamas (aka anywhere but Nassau) such an incredible place. I found out last weekend that Marley told one of her gymnastics friends that it was the best vacation she'd ever been on….



So bonefish fly experimentation will have to wait (and I wouldn't have it any other way) until next time, and in favor of spending some time on ideas Kenny and I passed around on permit flies. But most of all, I'll cherish the time I've had with all 3 of the 4 ladies who have made several trips so damn memorable, and whether or not they become avid bonefish anglers, be so very thankful for the bond that flyfishing in the Bahamas has given us...

I've a few more pictures I'll send along....

Jeff