Thursday, August 30, 2012

Al Troth, The Inventor of the Elk Hair Caddis, Passes Away

There are only a few truly iconic dry fly patterns. Flies that seem so familiar and necessary that you don't ever question their origins or whether you select a few for your next trip. They are in your box and they will always be in your box. They just ARE!
If you were making a list, the Adams and the variations of the Quill Gordon from the Catskill-style era would be sure bets. As would be the Light (and Dark) Cahill (circa 1884). These are the iconic mayfly patterns. For the midge its the Griffith's Gnat. You would have to throw a parachute Adams in there too. It works as both a mayfly and as a midge. There is not a trout fisherman alive that does not have some of these flies in their go-to box.
But for caddis, there is really only one classic pattern... the Elk Hair Caddis. It is THE caddis pattern.  The inventor, Al Troth, passed away August 3. He was 82. Thanks Al and have a good journey. I hope there is a trout stream there.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

This is Fly: Bahamas1980's

The latest issue of the on-line magazine This Is Fly has a story I wrote on bonefishing in the Bahamas in the 80's. Here is how the story came to be...
A month or so ago I told Paris Fleezanis, the editor of THIS IS FLY, that I had scanned a bunch of my old slides from the Bahamas from the 80's and early 90's. Paris and I are good friends and have done a bunch of fishing trips together. Paris is very interested in the history of bone fishing and (very persuasively) asked me to write a story and send him some photos. I agreed (even though I was headed to Alaska in a few days). I started culling photos and writing text. It turned out to be an enjoyable process! 
Here is the result: BAHAMAS 1980'S Click lower right (or left) to change the pages. The photos from the story (with a few additions) are below:

Charlie Smith ties his famous Crazy Charlie (then called a Nasty Charlie).

My dear old friend Chuck Ash, Alaska guide extraordinaire, lands a big bone on Abaco 

An early kayak exploration. Looks for a Campsite.

Finding boats was always an adventure!
Goo Jennings' Dad

From The Turks and Caicos: technically still on the Bahmaas Bank. Nice tailgate!

Alaska: The Chosen River Day 6 - Our Final day

Last Day
With our guide Aaron, Dan Cronin and I went far upriver. We finally cut the engine at a falcon’s cliff just below the point where the taiga gives way to the mountains.  Even this far from the ocean, we caught fresh silvers while the falcon chicks squawked, anxious for a lemming or Arctic hare for breakfast.  It was feast or famine up here for us too.  If we found chum or kings, we found dollies or rainbows.  If no salmon - there were no fish.  Some bars were so loaded with dollies that a seemingly dark bottom turned to a light grey as our boat passed over the massive carpet of fish.  Then we would catch a fish on every cast.  The river was beautiful; swift, gin-clear water flew over a cobblestoned bottom.  We could see ruby colored kings in the deeper runs, dark dollies below them, green chum in the shallow slicks, grotesque pinks intermingling with the chum and a few bright red sockeye scattered about.  The rainbow were tough to spot, but we knew they were there. Soon it was time for lunch.

While Aaron made sandwiches, I tried one of his "Wino" flies (made from a wine cork and a piece of egg yarn) on my silver rod for a quick go at skating his “dry” egg.  I tied  two feet of 3X tippet on a 4 foot butt of 30 lb. leader and it was all attached to my 8 wt.  Certainly not a conventional dry fly rig!  I cast across the river, made a mend downstream and skated the "Wino". Jaws soon appeared. They tracked my fly like a heat seeking missile.  With jaws snapping, the fish usually caught up to the swiftly swinging egg.  This was repeated scores of times over the next two hours resulting in dozens of 22 - 25” dollies that fought like thugs and looked like drag queens.  It was one of the most amazing two hours of fishing  I’ve ever experienced.  

 At one point, the dollies started taking small stoneflies off the slick surface and I switched to a humpy (not exactly matching the hatch!) with similar results.  So let’s recap:  I’m catching 23 - 25” dollies on an 8 wt. rod with 3X tippet that barely fit thru the eye of a #12 dry fly!  I love Alaska! 

Thanks to all my fellow anglers for making this such a great trip! Thanks to Marcia and Neal Dorsey, Steve and Cindy Peskoe, John and Anna Riggs, Dan Cronin, Nat and Melodie Rowe and Bob and Paul Stiles. I'll see you in 2014!! 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Alaska: The Chosen River Day 5

Marcia and Our Guide Riley with a Leopard Rainbow

Day 5
This was simply a fantastic day... It was sunny, warm and calm... truly perfect.  If the weather was like this every day, there would be condominiums here and tourists drinking blue sugary drinks with pineapple slices on the rim. Instead, Marcia Dorsey and I saw no one while we fished with Riley.  
Early in the morning, Marcia bent her rod on this year's big dollies while I raised, but was unable to hook, a 25”- 26” 'bow from below a pourover shelf.  Mesmerized by this fish, I was nonetheless ready to catch something when we later arrived at a long, marshy side channel. There were scores of chums spawning in the channel and a few spent chums beached on shallow gravel bars at the end of the run. They could now only gasp for air. Their prom was over... there would be no next year!  As we walked up the channel, bear sign pulled our attention from the channel. There were tracks in the mud, partially eaten salmon on the banks and bedding spots everywhere in the high grass. We nervously made loud conversation. 

While Riley fished with Marcia, I threw a mouse for 'bows. In a long slick below a beaver dam, I hooked two 20" 'bows near some schooled sockeyes.  Then I caught a 23” dollie on an yarn egg in a small bathroom-sized riffle/run. This dollie was bright and beautiful and strong.  I photographed him and tossed a fat mouse into another bleed that was coming back into the channel. After a four foot drift, I lost sight of my mouse. I struck, not quite sure what had happened. I came tight to a big fish. Usually a mouse is savagely slashed at, but this mouse had been sipped in like a dry fly.  The fish jumped showing the bright red slash of a bow.  Riley rushed over to hold the fish for photos!  It was a beautiful 22” bow. Small water, big fish... on a  mouse - ahhh... you gotta love Alaska!

Chum Salmon

Chum on the Redds

Monday, August 20, 2012

Alaska: The Chosen River Day 4

Day 4  
Anna Riggs and I went upriver with our guide Dan to walk and wade a side channel.  Bear sign was everywhere and we made as much noise as possible.  We went slowly through the little shallow channel hoping to spot 'bows behind the hundreds of chum that were on redds in the braid.  Anna and I traded fish while Dan enthusiastically searched for the biggest 'bows he could find. 

We started at 18 inches, went to 20” and kept going up in size from there.  Some of the bows were dark-backed, while others were blond and bright.  All were gorgeous with spots everywhere even in their eyes and lower lips.  My biggest bow of the day was a 23” male and Anna’s was a 22.5” female; both were strong and deep bodied.  All the rainbows were caught on glo-bugs and were spotted before being cast to.  Does it get any better than this?

Conch Fritter: A Bonefish Fly You Might Want to Tie!

The Conch Fritter:
Designed and tied by Doug Jeffries of Benicia, California, the Conch Fritter is a terrific pattern. The "Fritter" presents a large, heavy-bodied silhouette with some contrast in the tail section and good movement in the body using silli-legs.
I think this fly is a great combination of things. It looks like a big meal, but it lands relatively lightly. It has great movement, look very natural with the coyote fur and has just enough flash to be seen, but not so much that it spooks fish.
Doug has other great bonefish patterns which we will describe in the future on FLY PAPER. For more information, Doug is featured in the latest issue of Fly Fishing in Salt Waters... have a look!

Doug has been tying flies since 1972. Doug is very innovative with materials, has a keen eye and comes up with some elegant, but still effective patterns. I have used the Conch Fritter with great success in many places. In the Bahamas, I have used it on South Andros while on the liveaboard Sea Hunter and at Water Cay Lodge on Grand Bahama Island. The Conch Fritter has also been great in Los Roques especially on the pancake flats.
Doug has been generous and given me a number of flies in color variations on the version shown here. I have told Doug I hate to use his flies because they are so pretty. But when I need a winner, I put on a "Fritter". Doug is a good friend and a gentleman to fish with. Although I appreciate his generosity both with his flies and advice, I wish he would stop outfishing me with his Conch Fritter. When he does that, I'll stop stealing flies from his fly box!

Materials List
Hook:  Gamakatsu SL11-3H, Size 4 – 2
Thread:  Tan
Weight:   5/32” Dazl eyes. Or medium bead chain.  Fishes well in very shallow water without weight.
Tail:  Flash Blend fibers – contrasting using pink, yellow, orange or chartreuse; Shrouded by a mantel of coyote under fur; one brown variant or cree hackle along each side of the tail.
Body:  Coyote fur with guard hairs included, spun in a dubbing loop
Legs:  Rubber centipede legs, small, black & white or yellow & black; 6 pairs

Step 1:  Mount hook in vice, normal position, and attached thread near the eye (leave one eye diameter as a reminder to leave space for a finished head).  Make two small bumps of thread about 1/16” apart.  Tie in the lead eyes between the bumps of thread with figure eight wraps.  Apply a small drop of super glue to the wraps. 

Advance the thread to a point aligning with the hook barb.  Tie in a small bundle of pink Flash Blend and trim it about as long as the hook shank.

Step 2:  Rotate the hook so the point is up.  Tie in a bundle of coyote under fur that is about twice as thick as the bundle of Flash Blend.  Using your fingers, work the coyote so the Flash Blend is shrouded within the coyote fur. 

Tie in a cree or brown variant hackle feather on each side of the tail.  These hackle should extend slightly longer than the coyote fur.

Step 3:  Make a dubbing loop and insert coyote fur which includes the guard hairs.  Make a loop that is about 4 inches long.  Use a small piece of Velcro glued to a popsicle stick to comb out the fibers as you spin the loop.

Stroke the hair backward toward the hook point and make two or three wraps beginning right on top of the wraps for the tail.  Try to cover any exposed thread wraps and make a smooth transition between the tail and body.

Tie in two strands of centipede legs on one side of the body so one end of the strands is about twice the length of the coyote dubbed body.  Take tw or three turns of thread slightly forward and then pull the remaining strands of centipede legs to the opposite side of the hook shank and tie them down.  Cut off the legs so they are roughly twice the length of the dubbed body.  Separate the legs and position them on the top half of the fly.  The fly should have four centipede legs sticking up at various angles.

Stroke the legs and hair backward and make two or three more wraps with the dubbing loop. Then repeat tying in another pair of centipede legs. Repeat this process one more time, essentially dubbing the entire body with the legs approximately every third.  Using the last of the dubbing loop, make a wrap or two in front of the eyes. Tie off and clip the dubbing loop. Build a neat tapered head and whip finish. If desired, you can trim the fur flat on the bottom of the body.