Saturday, March 21, 2015

Opening Day of the Trout Season for Me!

Last Sunday was unseasonably warm. After a brutal winter, the mercury rose into the mid-50's making it seem downright balmy. I was determined to get my taxes done, but the warm weather became too much to take. Soon and without any regret, I shoved an old Simms wader box, now stuffed with receipts and tax info I was sifting through, into a drawer and headed out. I drove east out into the prairie wondering if I could get any fish to move after our long cold winter. I really didn't care that much, it just felt great to be heading out to fish again… did I mention our long, cold, dark winter?

After a quick inspection, I found the creek to be ice cold and gin clear. Shelves of ice lined the banks and dripped 33 degree water into the stream. I'm always optimistic, but this frigid meltwater had me "pumping the brakes" on any grandiose expectations. I may be optimistic, but I'm not stupid, so I opted for two pair of long John's and 3 pairs of socks under my waders. I could barely move and expected the fish would feel the same way.

First riffle, nothing… the next run, maybe a soft take… through the third slick, nada... into the tailout, my feet were getting numb… when BAM, an 19" brown slammed my prince nymph (which was dropped behind a huge stonefly dry).

Apparently, the water temps nudged up just enough to turn on the fish. What followed was a few perfect hours of very welcomed action. Sometimes the trout hit the nymph, sometimes they slurped up the big stone and sometimes they hit the dry, missed it and were flossed onto the nymph. Great fun! Nothing huge, but each 16-19 inch trout had wintered well and was a great indication of things to come!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Great New Bonefish and Tarpon Flies!

At my recommendation, many of the readers of this blog have purchased flies from Peter Smith at S.S. Flies

S. S.  Flies ties many of my top bonefish patterns. These flies have proven to be very well-tied and durable, as well as really effective. If you are not familiar with S. S. Flies, give them a try for your next bonefish, tarpon or permit trip. Phone number, contact info and Angling Destinations' discount code are listed below. (Peter is a good guy so don't hesitate to ask his opinion!):

They have some great new flies as well as their well-tested standards. If you need help putting together a selection for your next trip, let me know.

If Interested, call:
Peter Smith
S.S. Flies Inc.
207 452 2343
Ask for Peter Smith, mention me (Scott Heywood) and Angling Destinations and use the code below for a discount.

Here is just a small sample of some of their new flies:

Goat Belly Shrimp:

Shrimp have a hard carapace on top with the gills sticking down from the belly. The gills are always moving. The combination of stiff translucent badger tail on top and cashmere dubbing below imitate various mantis and grass shrimp. Bonefish anywhere eat the Goat Belly. The Goat Belly comes in size #6 and #4 and is weighted for moderate to shallow flats.

Lunch Lady:

This is designed as a bonefish crab pattern. The Lunch Lady has lots of wiggle, some hot orange legs and a realistic light-colored bottom carapace. The Lunch Lady is a crab designed to drive cruising bones crazy. Throw it at their heads and it lands softly. Let the Lunch Lady drop. If they don't eat right away or if you miss, start stripping short strips which usually makes them charge the Lunch Line. The Lunch Lady comes on the short shank Gamakatsu SC15 #1 hook. It’s appropriately weighted to fish in moderate to shallow flats.

The M.F. Dinner Shrimp:

This fly was first introduced at the Bonefish Tarpon Trust 5th International Symposium. They thought it would be fun if they R&D-ed (Rip-off and Duplicated) a couple patterns from the notable attendees. The original Andy’s Dinner Shrimp is similar, but S. S. uses a different fur in place of the rabbit collar and instead of wrapping then trimming marabou for the body, they used their marabou Trash Can Special Dub.

Evelyn's Modification

The Evelyn has a rabbit tail and E.P. Fiber head similar to Capt. John O’Hern’s Wheel Fly, but the head it a different shape with the epoxy eyes placed back a bit. The head is constructed like a Willy the Pimp but trimmed like the Woolly Mullet. They use the same marabou veil around the tail as used in the Backcountry Sweeper. This provides a flowing transition from the head to the tail. The Evelyn is designed to fish near the surface. When stripped it dives a little (more so when tied to fluorocarbon tippet) then slowly rises back to the surface with the tail undulating and marabou pulsing. It begs to be eaten.

Again, if Interested, call:
Peter Smith
S.S. Flies Inc.
207 452 2343
Ask for Peter Smith, mention me (Scott Heywood) and Angling Destinations and use the code below for a discount.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Report on Christmas Island by Jeff Gulay

I thought anglers might be interested in this report I got from Jeff Gulay on his recent visit to Christmas Island:
 Thanks Jeff!

This review in no way reflects the actual possible fishery on Christmas Island and the different Lodges that operate on the island, but just reflects the {one] week we were at Christmas Island Outfitters and the fishery we encountered.

You can expect a chaotic experience after you land and go through the immigration terminal. The lodge staff were waiting outside the terminal with a welcome chilled coconut water and once all were accounted for and luggage loaded, we were off on a half hour drive to the lodge.

Arriving at the lodge we were pleasantly surprised at the new accommodations complete with air conditioning. There are 3 two story buildings with 4 rooms each complete with a fridge and 2 double beds and a bathroom. Still island-temp showers, but if you wait until you get back from your days fishing you can get a luke warm shower because the water tank is on the roof and gets heated by the sun during the day.

The lodge staff are super friendly and accommodating. The meals are simple with tuna sushi and deep fried breadfruit for appetizers and rice, potatoes, fish (catch of the day) some chicken and some beef. We had octopus and lobster one night and on the last night we had a feast prepared for us with all of the above plus a whole roasted pig! To top it off there were some local dancers to entertain us.

Breakfasts were bacon, eggs and toast and once we had pancakes. Lunches were one sandwich each ( meat, onions, cheese with mustard or mayonnaise) and twice we had an apple each. There was bottled water on the boat, but we brought extra water, sodas and beer from our fridge.

Now to the fishing:

First off, I was amazed at the vastness of this, the largest coral atoll in the world and the many, quite possibly untouched areas in which to fish. Google Earth gives it no justice.

No matter where you go, whether it's by boat or truck, expect a 1 1/2 - 2 hour transport from the lodge to the fishing areas. I would recommend fishing the Korean Wreck area due to the numbers and strength of the bonefish as well as the possibilities of catching a variety of different species including uneducated GT's and large milkfish. If I go back, we will do an overnight camping trip out to that area which the lodge offers at no extra cost but requires a minimum of 4 anglers. They supply everything needed as far as camping supplies and it also gives you a chance to hang out with the guides and get to know them. It also gives you 2 days fishing there which cuts down on the travel time which normally would be 3-4 hours per day.

If you are after fair chase GT's you will definitely get your shots at both small to large Jeets, but don't expect to get a lot of shots or to hook up for that matter. If you are strictly focused on Jeets then I would suggest arranging your trip to line up with the bigger tides which seem to bring the Jeets onto the flats more. What I found while fishing for bones is that when the Jeets show up, by the time you get your GT rod from your guide and get a cast away, your opportunity is gone or not optimal. What we ended up doing was chumming for them with milkfish that were netted fresh that morning. Due to the constant chumming, the GT's are getting good at recognizing a bait that has a fly in it so at some spots you may have to use a bare hook with the bait. That being said, it is possible to chum them in and cast a fly into the feeding frenzy and have them chase your fly. There are other methods for GT's such as trolling the fly or using teasers. As far as flies go on the flats I would suggest a 5-6" fly tied to look like a yellow snapper with some red on the throat. (Of course I had none)

As far as the bonefishing goes, I expected to find large schools on the flats, but found mostly singles, pairs and triples mostly in the 2-3lb range with the odd bigger one. On the trip by truck to the backcountry to fish the lagoons you will encounter some large fish, but they seem to be well educated and you should get plenty of shots at them. The back country lagoons also seem to hold a large number of GT's which are on the smaller side (20-40lbs) Expect to do a fair bit of walking so bring plenty of water.

If you like to catch trigger fish, Christmas Island is the place is for you. You will have many shots at 3 different types of triggers (there may be more types) and they will test your accuracy, technique and patience.

You also can expect to catch many different species of Trevally especially Blue Fin.

The guides all have great eyes and are very friendly and eager to please. They are all different in respect to the knowledge of the fish you want to target and how to fish them. Some of the guides did not help much with fly selection and I'm sure they were under the assumption that if you were there, you must know what flies to use.  The go-to fly seemed to be the Christmas Island Special in orange size 6, but you should bring plenty of size 8 and some size 4 for the deeper water. Next time I would bring some small weedless crab patterns in light colours just to show them something a bit different.

All in all it was a great trip with plenty of fish and different species to cross off the list. I am by no means an expert, but not a rookie either and I learned a lot on this trip. I traveled with a first time saltwater fly fisher and he found it difficult at times especially with spotting the fish which means a lot when casting to them. Having full sun definitely aids in the spotting of fish, something that we didn't have at all times.

Once again, this is just a review on our trip which may differ greatly compared to other people's experiences. This report is designed to inform potential clients about what to expect when booking a trip to this amazing place called Christmas Island.

Jeff Gulay

Sunday, March 15, 2015

From Ron Brandt with Sidney Thomas (Circa 1995):

For all fans of the Bahama's Water Cay Bonefish Lodge, I just received this note from Ron Brandt circa 1995:

"Hi Scott, Here are some old pictures from Walker's Cay when Sidney and I both were much younger men.  Sidney had to be in his 20's and I look about 25 pounds lighter in the photo.  Like Sidney, I still have a passion for fishing.  Haven't been out in years due to budgetary reasons, but I hope to someday again roam the Bahamas for that 10+ pound fish.
I wish I could be more specific about the date and the area we caught this fish.  Maybe Sidney can tell exactly what year from the hat and shirt he wore… 
we had run pretty far that morning.  We saw a lot of fish, but I was always too late getting to the right place or just never saw the fish.  On the way in, Sidney saw a small school with several big fish.  They were rooting around in the sand litterally within a couple of steps of shore.  I was using a spinning rig so Sidney got into position and had me launch up onto the beach.  Without the line ever settling into the water I was able to pull the bait off the beach and right in front of their feeding pattern.  As luck would have it, this brute picked up the shrimp and we were able to land the fish.  Thanks to these pictures I'll never forget what a great guide and patient person Sidney was that day.  I know that folks fish for years and spend thousands trying to hook a big bonefish like this.  It's probably tough to tell from a photograph, but where would your best guesstimate on weight be.  It's got a big gut that's for sure.  I think Sidney and I decided 12 pounds would be fair.
Bloody Thumbs!

I answered,,

...very cool Ron, I 'd say that fish is in the 11-12 range. It's a big boy!
 I'll make sure Sid sees this photo. Sid will get a kick out of this!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Our Last Day in the Amazon 2015

On our last day, Mike Schwartz and set off upriver with Neto. Mike and I have fished all over the world together. We've fished in the Seychelles, French Polynesia, Mexico, the Bahamas and now we were headed out once again into the Amazon Basin. Mike and I always have good luck fishing together and today would be no exception.

After a great morning in a calm lagoon, we snipped off our threadbare flies, tied on fresh offerings and headed further upstream. Eventually we reached a hole in the canopy where a small creek was entering the main Agua Boa. While Neto and Mike pushed the skiff in impossibly shallow water, I took  photos, offered advice and pointed out wasps nests. As butterfly peacocks, wolf fish and jacunda scattered ahead of us in 6 inches of water, we made slow progress. Eventually we made to a lagoon. It didn't take long for us to find out there were peacocks everywhere. 

Mike and I change our destroyed flies

Heading up the creek

We hooked many big peacocks over the next few hours. Mike was casting great and plucked a few big tucanare in very shallow water. It was a pleasure for me to watch Mike cast.  I've watched him progress every year and this year he has reached a new level of expertise.   

How good was our fishing for peacocks? Well after lunch, we abandoned our pursuit of the many peacocks in the lagoon and decided to try to hook a surabim catfish. These beautiful catfish were abundant, but very hard to stay buttoned up to. We could get a hook in them, but they mysteriously seemed to be able to throw the hook every time. Finally, Mike got tight to one and we were able to see a surabim up close and personal.

Surabim catfish

Finally, we ran out of time knowing we had to yet make our way back through the creek. When we reached the mouth, Neto told us to keep our eye out for sting rays and for good reason... the stingray's tail contains a sharp spine.

(This spine is covered with a thin mucus sheath that contains venom. When the spine is deployed, the barb pierces the venom sac along with the victim's skin, and the poisonous slime is introduced into the wound. The barb is extremely sharp (it has been known penetrate bone), and it operates under the same principle as an arrowhead. It slides into flesh fairly easily, but the serrated edges make it very difficult and painful to extract. The tail is very flexible and can bend pretty much any direction within a split second, inflicting serious damage. In addition to causing great pain, the venom contains enzymes that cause tissue death.)

Almost immediately upon entering the creek, we saw a stingray half buried in the shallow mud. As soon as we alerted Neto, he marched to the front of the boat and using his machete, cleaved the basketball-sized ray in two.

I asked Neto to cut off the tail. I carefully put the still wriggling tail in a plastic bag and put it in the cooler. I brought the stinky mess home with me. I was curious what the barb looked like.

Mike pushes the skiff... does Neto

A stingray up ahead

Beautiful, but dangerous

When I got home last weekend, I put the stinky bag in my freezer. Yesterday, I dissected the tail, carefully removing the barb and cleaning off the venomous slime. Below is a photo of the barb. It is about 3.5 inches long and razor sharp. You can see the serrated edges would make the barb very hard to pull out.

Finally the main river once again

When we reached the main river, Mike and I cracked our last beer while Neto cooled off in the river. soon we were headed downriver. The trip was over, but what a great way to end a great week!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Bunch of Photos from our 2015 Agua Boa Amazon Lodge

A great trip is a series of wonderful individual events. Here are some of those events from our recently concluded trip to the Amazon:

Tom Moloy and John Frick head upriver

Charlie Conn with a bright peacock

Black collared hawk

Cocoi heron

Blue ibis

A watchful eye

Mike Kotrick with a big peacock!

Beer in banged, bruised and battered fingers
Mom tries to coach this baby across a big gap

She had already made the big leap

Doug Ellis with a nice temensis

Egret with rosette spoonbill