Dry Flies – the basics to have in your box

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Part I: The fly box – The main problem with dry fly storage is damaging the hackles (squishing or flattening your fly). If you put them into foam incorrectly you risk bending the hackles and altering how the fly floats. The safest way to go is a compartment box – but you have to keep in mind that a windy day can eat a lot of flies. The other boxes that work well are slit foam style from Umpqua – UPG and Scientific Anglers that are built to hold tall dry flies.

10: Royal Wulff

Might be too low for this classic, but it’s on the list. I use this fly in a size 20 during the Deschutes caddis hatch and size 12 on the Blitzen in the fall.

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Gear Review: 4/5 Beulah Classic Switch – Sad to see it go

Specs: 10’6″ 4/5 wt

Lines: 250 Scandi/ 280-320 Skagit/ 6wt Salmon Steelhead Taper/ 6 wt indicator line

Tactics: swinging soft hackles and small streamers; casting long leaders and dry flies; indicator fishing.

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4/5 in action on the Willamette

Swinging a soft hackle can be one of the most productive was to catch fish in the Willamette Valley. Our broad riffles and long runs make a small two-hander the ideal way to cover water and often find bigger fish. There are few experiences in this world that compare to a fish grabbing a swung fly, even when it’s a 10″ tiddler.

Dry fly presentation: I use this setup on the Metolius River when fishing 12-15′ leaders and dry flies. Yes, it may seem crazy to use a switch rod in this setting, but when you need to present a fly across multiple current seams and achieve a long drift a long leader is key ingredient. You will compromise accuracy with this rod, but it’s length will make handling a longer leader much easier.

Beulah is discontinuing this series, so they won’t be around much longer.

Step, step, and step again

img_1901-e1384977467882One thing I have often seen while guiding spey fisherman is that they just wont move. I’m not talking two-stepping here but simply working a run in a methodical and timely manner.  Under most conditions I prefer to move three to four feet between casts which has several benefits.

1) By steadily working your way through a run you will cover more water throughout your day than the person who only moves a couple feet every few casts.  Remember, we are looking for players, the fish who are aggressive enough to eat your fly on the first pass.

2) Constantly fishing new water it is simply more interesting and I tend to stay more focused as I move though a run.

3) We are not trout fishing – you will not find a steelhead river with 2-6 thousand fish per river mile, so covering water is the key to finding fish.

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I do slow down for several reasons.

1) If I know fish are in a certain area and I feel that they are not willing to move far to a fly, I will slow down my pace and work the fly with different presentations.

2) If I feel a grab but don’t hook up I will cast back to the fish, trying a couple of presentations. If this does not work I will mentally note where the fish was holding and make another pass with a new, smaller fly.

dsc_0707-e1385752827440By maximizing the amount of water you cover in a day you will swim your flies through more holding lies. When searching for winter steelhead covering water can make the difference, it only takes one fish to turn your day around.

Things a fly shop assumes you already know: Leader and tippet

This list was inspired by that great old say “assuming makes an ass out of…” you all know the rest. Really though, lets be honest, for the average bear fly fishing is a hobby that takes them into the woods once, MAYBE twice a month. And that would be a lot for most people. Take the average shop rat and you’ve got someone looking at 1-2 days a week, and on top of that they spend another 2-3 days a week staring at equipment, and the rest of the time thinking about it.

Leader and Tippet

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Eight feet is a great leader length for adding tippet to without making your setup unmanageable. And we really like this stuff.

a) tippet attaches to leader (with a blood knot or double/triple surgeon’s knot). you use tippet to extend your leader when you break off, AND extend the life of it. Simply add a foot or two at the beginning of the day. When you break off on Hog Johnson, or a bush, you lose your tippet and maintain that nice tapered leader you just bought for 5 or 6 bucks.

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b) standard tippet should not be used for steelhead or salmon. Use Maxima instead. This is a big one for us. Maxima Ultragreen breaks almost 2-5 lbs heavier than its listed weight and has the ideal properties for big fish.

What’s this “Bucket” you’re talking about?

One of the most common phrases you will hear in any steelheader’s circle will be “bucket.”  This ambiguous term has many synonyms: juice box, juice bucket, moneymaker, honey hole, and shnittles.

What does bucket refer to?

It refers to something that separates trout anglers from successful steelheaders. It refers to the specific section of river that ACTUALLY holds steelhead. Not good water, soft water, holding water; but water that produces fish. Water that causes the angler to step up his or her level of focus as the fly digs through the swing. The water that makes us quiver in our dreams.

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Fly Fishing Crawfish Patterns

Crayfish, crawdad, mud bug, crawfish: Names that describe one of the most under-utilized flies for both bass and trout. This staple food source in many rivers and lakes rarely gets any room in a fly box for some unknown reason. People have caught countless bass and mega trout on this common crustacean. I am specifically going to talk about tying and fishing this fly for smallies, but just about everything can be applied to trout.

A crayfish is a forage feeder that mainly eats small fish, nymphs, and decomposing flesh (fish, crayfish, dead animals, waste). They are nocturnal and sometimes move around during the day. They like to hide in cover like a bass in places like rocks, rock piles, erosion control areas, bridge pilings, algae, root systems and undercut banks. A crayfish, because it is a crustacean, has to molt to grow so for a time they are extremely vulnerable.

Tying the fly isn’t hard and you have a number of options for imitating the crayfish.

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7 Tips to make fly tying fast and easy

HAVE THE RIGHT TOOLS

Your tools are the most important part in tying. If you don’t have good or even the right tools, fly tying becomes a huge pain. There are a few tools to be sure to have and make sure they are quality.

First off, have a pair of fine point tying scissors. A pair that either can be sharpened or a pair that are micro serrated so you can be sure they will cut right every time (it is incredibly annoying when scissors miss-cut). Another tool one should have is a ceramic bobbin. The ceramic part is key, it stops the metal tube from cutting your thread. Have a whip finish tool handy also.

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Building Your Own Sink-Tips

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Building your own sink-tips can seem intimidating at first glance, but its actually quite easy. All that you need is bulk lengths of the sink tip of your choice (we use Rio’s T-series), braided loops to fit and some 15 lb Maxima Ultragreen. The shop sells T-8 through T-17 in both 30 ft lengths of bulk sink-tip and T-11 & T-14 by the foot. Pick up some bulk sink-tip, braided loops, 15 lb mono and you’re ready to go. Here are two different ways to go about making your own tips. This will enable you to customize the length of tips you wish to carry, and assures the highest quality of craftsmanship completed by yourself.

When swinging for anadromous fish on the Kanektok, I carry two each of the following sink-tips:

  • 5′ & 10′ of T-8 
  • 5′ & 10′ of T-11
  • 5′, 10′ and 15′ of T-14

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Scientific Anglers Skagit Extreme Intermediate Shooting Head Review

image-22-e1360952584416Intermediate Skagit Heads are a relatively new product to the fly fishing world and have created a stir in the spey fishing scene. Rather than a traditional full floating shooting head, these heads sink at an intermediate rate. This allows the angler to achieve a slow, deep swing that keeps the fly in the “ZONE” for a longer period of time.  The sinking nature of this Intermediate head enables you to break heavy surface tension, and maintain consistent depth throughout your swing. When coupled with a Type 3 or Intermediate sink tip you have the ability to fish shallow tail-outs and riffles. On the flipside, the short length of this head allows the heaviest tips to be turned over with extreme ease, allowing you to dig deep and cast the largest flies in your box. This shooting head really shines in the high water, winter steelhead scene where the fish are holding in slow, deep “tanks” as well as choppy water with heavy surface tension. This head produces a much slower presentation than your floating shooting heads because it travels lower in the water column, instead of on top of the water.

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Total head length is no longer than 29ft on the heaviest 800 grain head.  You can expect the same quality welded loops that SA produces, as well as a labeling system on the head determining front/back a grain weight. The only downside to this line, in my opinion, is at the end of your swing a downstream roll cast is required to break surface tension and bring your head to the surface. Overall I was very happy with the performance of this head.