Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bonefish Fly # 2 From Jeff Rodenberg: A Quick to Tie Crab "Marty"

 As in Marty McFly of Back to the Future fame, as in a crab tied with McFly Foam… It’s just that simple.

We’ll start right off with the recipe/tying notes.
Hook: Gamakatsu SC15, size 2
Thread: White flat-waxed nylon
Eyes: medium bead chain
Tailing: Sili legs, splayed a little, color at tiers discretion
Body: McFlyFoam, spun a bit almost as if your were doing an egg pattern and trimmed to shape

Tying notes: Tie in bead chain eyes, advance thread to rear of hook and tie in 5-7 sili-legs of your choosing. Tie in clumps of McFlyFoam again in colors of your choosing, whip finish and trim to shape with scissors. I like to make them very small – diameter about half that of a dime, and sometimes just a bit elongated rather than perfectly round. Pick up various bits of clippings and butt-fluff from the floor and place in little ceramic hand-made bowl (see Installment 2 section on Bonefish Stew dubbing blend…)

Obviously not an original, but a hybrid of a fleeing crab (legs extending beyond hook bend) I saw in Dick Brown’s book, and what I think is called a Rainy’s crab which introduced me to the use of egg yarn/McFly foam for the body.  They are actually pretty quick to tie, albeit the haircut can take a bit. And I have to be honest, one of the reasons I tie the legs out back is because it makes everything easier, and I love easier…. The legs can be left a little longer, and thereby wiggle a bit more, and best of all, when trimming the body to shape, I don’t have to worry about unintentionally clipping them off! And how would a fish know which side of the hook the legs should be on? So really, it just becomes a fun session of picking different colors until I get something that pleases my eye and is applicable for the location I’ll be visiting.

Here is one thing I’ve found odd when I've shown guides a crab fly. Most of them tend to turn up their noses at them see Scott's post on this here. And if I do manage to sneak one onto my tippet, as soon as it is discovered, they start looking for a reason to get me to change. I could throw a gotcha right on the nose of a half dozen fish that clearly snub it before I hear a word from the guy with the push pole. But sure as hell, the first time I cheese a cast and land Marty in the next zip code such that there is no damn way the fish had any idea that it was around, I’ll hear it from the guy back on the platform, “…he refused it, I think we oughtta change da fly…”

Crabs… elaborate, time costuming to tie, and noisy to present!

But when some of those fish want a crab fly, man oh man, do they ever want it. On my first trip to Crooked, my brother, Clinton and I had waded thru a shallow creek into a big bay. There was a fish up real shallow, I mean half his back was out of the water and he was just slowly cruising along. Clinton’s attention was diverted to untangling his feet from my brother’s fly-line, and as I was off about 50 yards to their side, I took the opportunity to turn my back to them, pull my hat a little lower, and surreptitiously tie on a crab. As it turned out, the fish came within my casting range first, and I pitched him the crab. It landed softly about 10 feet in front of him, and given how shallow it was, I figured he’d never see it. But damn, he charged that fly like he hadn’t eaten in months. I mean just a full on, water spraying in all directions, jacked up, lit up, bums rush, eruption of a bonefish… When the pointy thing found his lips, it became a full on, water spraying in all directions, jacked up, lit up, full-tilt boogie for God and country right on out the Bight of Acklins. It was the first time, maybe the only time, I’ve ever seen a bonefish take a fly in a way that I would characterize as “violent”, if not a little disturbing. And that suggested something - maybe a crab fly is worth throwing occasionally.

This one, with its intentionally small diameter and use of McFly Foam, lands much more quietly than a lot of other crab flies I’ve tied, to the point I would actually give it some hard consideration in a spooky tailers situation. We shall see next week. I don’t care if Kenny sniffs indignantly when I tie it on, I’m still going to throw it man. Marty needs to stand up to Biff and get the girl. If not, that’s okay too, we’ll just park the DeLorean back at the fly bench and figure out a new design for guides to scorn in the future…

DATES SET for 2016 Agua Boa River Trip to the Amazon Basin

Agua Boa River, Brazil
January 30 to February 6, 2016

Experience one of the top five trips in the fly fishing world!

This winter, we will once again be hosting a trip to Brazil's amazing Agua Boa River. Angling Destinations has hosted a trip to this beautiful river every winter since 2005. Many of the anglers who have joined us on these trips have come back year after year. They come back to experience this clear blackwater tributary of the Amazon River. They want to experience once again the ample opportunities for all three species of peacock bass including the butterfly, the spotted and the temenis.

Last winter's trip was terrific. We have the same week, the first week of February, reserved for our 2016 trip! This week is the very peak of the season and we've worked hard over the years to secure this week for our groups. Last year, we had a wonderful group of enthusiastic anglers who enjoyed lots of sight fishing opportunities. 

Experienced anglers consider peacock bass to be one of the strongest gamefish in the world. They are known for ferocious topwater strikes, gill-rattling jumps and unstoppable runs. In addition to peacock bass, other species include payara, piranha, pirarucu, aruana, jancunda and countless other species. This fishery is world class and should be experienced by any dedicated fly angler.

Accommodations will be in roomy, air-conditioned cottages equipped with private baths. Anglers are guaranteed a long fishing day, experienced guides and a friendly and flexible Brazilian staff. If you’ve always dreamed about fishing the Amazon Basin, this is your chance to do it in style.

If you're interested in this great adventure, the 2015 trip report and all the previous year's trip reports (including lots of photos) are available on Scott's blog FLY PAPER:

To see all these previous year's trip reports go here:
(please see the bottom of this post for all the links or call us and we'll make sure you get them).

If interested, call us at 800-211-8530 for details
Limit 12 anglers. 
January 30 to February 6, 2016.
The 2016 price for 7 nights with 6 days fishing is $5,950.00.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Bonefish Fly # 1 From Jeff Rodenberg

Doug's Fault
It goes back to Water Cay in October. I had hauled along my “tying kit”, one of those things that is supposed to keep you highly organized with all sorts of zippered compartments, tool pockets, etc. But mine is best described as stuffed hither and yon with hastily chosen, undisciplined hunks of stuff. I was fooling around in the lodge at the tying vise one night, and as you’ll come to notice, my flies while serviceable, are anything but professional. And to be honest, I was turning out some particularly bad experiments. Doug Jeffries (International Man of Mystery) happened to be hanging out watching (probably in horror, but too kind and gentlemanly to say anything) and he briefly walked back to our room. He returned, with I kid you not, a little Glad Sandwich bag containing a handful of hooks, a small patch of coyote fur and a couple of other materials. His own neat, crisp and clean, well thought out version of a travel tying kit….

Jeff at the Water Cay tying table

I got up, fetched another Kalik from the cooler, and ceded the pilot’s seat to Doug. And for the next half hour, he schooled me in the nuances of tying dubbing loops and a creation he calls the Conch Fritter. Scott had walked in during this time and was now watching as well, and both of us just had to grin. Doug popped a fresh Fritter out of the vise and Scott and I could only agree in our admiration of its masterful and simple elegance. His fly, just like his tying kit, was the definition of neat, crisp and clean, and well thought out….not an extra turn of thread, with a profile and proportionality not unlike that of a swimsuit model. It stood out in stark contrast to my rather shabby and undisciplined flies and tying kit. Why do I mention all this?

A.) Because now you know why Scott and others can often be found snooping around in Doug’s fly box with sticky fingers 

B.) To give credit where credit is due – it’s Doug’s fault that I managed to cobble together this thing and it is nothing more than a variation on his fly and hopefully a positive reflection of his instructional skills. Did the pattern he created really need tweaking? Hell no! But I can’t help myself, I have to fiddle with things. Going back to the dog analogy from my first e-mail to Scott, in this case I simply had to pee on the bush and give it my mark… 

Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! It’s Doug’s Fault man…Doug’s fault…. 

Hook: Gamakatsu SL11-3H, size 4
Thread: Pink, flat waxed nylon
Eyes: Standard silver beadchain
Tail: Peachy-pink rabbit and two strands black crystal flash shrouded with coyote fur
Body: “Bonefish Stew” blend* in a dubbing loop
Legs/rubbery stuff: black and white centipede legs and two strands UV grizzly flutter legs.
Head: dubbing loop figure-8ed around bead chain

*You will not find Bonefish Stew dubbing in your local fly shop. It consists of roughly equal parts coyote, red fox, shiny tan/amber craft fur, peachy-pink rabbit and light yellow UV Ice Dub, all of the various clippings and butt fluff obediently collected from the living room floor to avoid spousal wrath. It must be carefully and comprehensively finger-blended to homogeneity in a small hand-crafted ceramic bowl given to you by your elementary aged offspring, while viewing the second round of March Madness with an appropriate beverage….

The dubbing

Tying notes: Essentially the same as the instructions for Doug’s Conch Fritter that were previously published here by Scott. Tie in the bead chain and progress thread to back where you tie in the tailing materials. Create the dubbing loop, take a turn or two, then add some centipede legs repeat a couple more times and figure 8 the dubbing around the bead chain. Tie in 2 strands of the UV flutter legs, one on each side. Whip finish, and have a pull from that bottle of beer….

Doug at the Water Cay tying table with his original Conch Fritters in the foreground.

So what were my thoughts in introducing variations?

1.) While I really like the coyote for the body in the original, I will admit to having some trouble in getting 100% coyote into a dubbing loop as nicely formed as Doug’s and decided that if I was going to be sloppy, I might just as well be intentionally sloppy and throw in a few more stray hairs.

2.) I wanted to have a go at UV materials to see if they would make a difference. 

3.) Because I wanted to bring just a hint of the peachy pink bunny used in the tail into the body to gratify my artistic sensibilities and 

4.) ...why not?

The reward for the effort

Will any of this make a difference? Who knows….and therein lies the fun – finding out next week!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

New Bonefish Fly Designs From Jeff Rodenberg

Last fall, Angling Destinations hosted a group of bonefishermen to Water Cay Lodge on Grand Bahama Island. We were a group of flats fanatics and our trip was sensational. We each experienced many wonderful moments and got to spend a lot of time practicing the effective techniques the "Water Cay School of Bonefishing" preaches. I'm sure all of us would agree it was a tremendous learning experience and some of us have decades of experience bone fishing!

At least half of this group are also very experienced and quite skilled fly tiers. I've written about Doug Jeffries on this blog. Doug's fly designs has been published in Fly Fishing in Salt Waters magazine and he is an expert tier. Another trip member, Jeff Rodenberg, is diehard tier too, just a bit younger and a bit less experienced than Doug.

The Crew from October

Doug Jeffries

Jeff Rodenberg

Last week, I received an e-mail from Jeff. He is on his way to Crooked Island next week with his daughter. Jeff has been busy tying flies for his trip. He has been translating much of what he learned last fall at Water Cay creating some new fly designs for his upcoming trip. I thought it would be great to follow his progress from design to trip results and see if his new flies work on Crooked Island.

Over the course of the next few posts, Jeff will describe the ideas and concepts behind the creation of some of the patterns (seen in his box below) and then will report on their success from Crooked Island.

I applaud Jeff for sharing his ideas. Jeff has taken many of my top five bonefish flies, incorporated Doug's ideas as well as those from many others, and come up with his own refinements. My advice is to pay attention! Jeff's fly designs are distilled from the hard won experiences of some very good bone fishermen.

What follows is Jeff's initial e-mail to me:

Hey Scott,

Check out the attached photo. With only a week to go, I’m at the same time proud of myself for being frugal in selection, and a little bit scared, of the one box and the only one box, of flies I’ll be taking to Crooked Island next week. As you well know, I’m a fly-geek who enjoys nothing more than tying up a bunch for a trip to see if I can find “the One”…This will represent the fewest sheer number of flies that I have ever taken on a trip….it’s scary man, scary… 

With this box, I don’t have a single “standard” tie that you will find in any book of fly recipes. Every single one contains at least one (in some cases several) modifications, in the hopes that it will cross the line into the irresistible. Which is to say, I know how it feels to be a dog standing near the treat jar with that eternal optimism that with a wag of the tail or a cocking of an ear, it might induce its human to reach into that jar and produce the delectable. In the same way, I’m optimistic that a wag of my fly-tying tail or cock of my fly-tying ear, will produce a delectable bonefish treat - a reel singing over a white sand flat...

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this whole business of bonefishing has transformed itself over the years into something, that at least for me, goes beyond the simple “I want to catch lots and big”. It has become as much about enjoying that dog-like optimism that my flies will work, the opportunity to have venues that allow evaluation of same, all of it played out within an appreciation for your continued support in booking trips for me to indulge that Jones…

Jeff's Crooked Island Box

So… I’m hoping to find enough time over the next week to send a couple descriptions of some of the individual ties and then we’ll have some fun evaluating what worked about them and what didn’t…


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!