Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"....now who designed that fly?.......Really?"

I am always intrigued by the names of flies as well as the history behind them. I find it very interesting to know what the originator had in mind when he or she designed the fly. There's always something that seems to make the difference , whether a technique or new material, or whatever, some flies seem to possess a knack for catching fish when other flies fail. But when you consider how many flies are available now versus twenty years ago, the choices are limitless. And finding out some of the information about the original design, the tyer, and the philosophy behind the fly can seem an impossibility. Fortunately, that's not true of all flies, and certainly not of a contemporary nymph favorite, the Copper John. It is the Copper John, isn't it? Well,....despite popular opinion its actually called a Copper Bob. The Copper Bob was first.

The Copper Bob is the original fly, and was developed by Bob White. Bob grew up in Southern Illinois and started tying Flies long before he ever saw his first trout. His passion for fly fishing eventually would take him to Alaska, where he started guiding in 1984. He's guided 27 seasons between Alaska, Argentina, and Chile. In 1988 he was presented with Fly Rod & Reel Magazine's second Guide of the Year Award. His signature Copper Bob series was developed in the late 80's (long before the Copper John by John Barr) and has been designed to meet all the requirements of a "guide fly". They have fooled the wariest trout and steelhead from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. Bob now designs fly patterns for one of the West's best custom fly suppliers, Montana Fly Company- -which is owned and operated by well known angler, guide, and fly designer Adam Trina.

So there you have it. The next time the question of who's fly is that comes up you'll have at least one answer.......the Copper Bob. That's a tidbit I am sure Umpqua Feather Merchants would rather not be known.....but its true!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Trips with Friends........

There are lots of times I think to myself......" I must have the best job in the world." I certainly think I have the best customers in the world. And with many I have been serving them since they started fly fishing. Some customers I have known for more than 20 years.

Most customers end up becoming my friends as well. I get the privilege of taking them fishing several times a year, and we get to share a lot of victory moments together. Nothing beats seeing a customer get into a large fish, except maybe landing it of course. With many of my customers we fish often enough to introduce them to fishing under all weather and stream conditions. And many times we have a banner day when it looked like it could have just as easily been the other way. Such was the case on Feb 18, 2008 with my friend and customer Mac Cheek. We had a near perfect day, we quit counting the takes, caught at least 30 or more fish, lost several more, and a near 20" fish and another larger than that on that came off. More importantly it was incredible to just see Mac fish, and to see how good a fly fisherman he has become. It means alot since he and I started from the very beginning almost 2 years ago, with him learning to fly fish, and Mac is solid proof that if you spend time on the water and pay your dues it all pays off. I was not only impressed as I watched him fish, I was stunned!!!! His casting is well, quite nice if you ask me. Line control, impressive. And fishing prowess......well, the numbers speak for themselves. Until next time, we'll enjoy and savor the last trip..........and look forward to the next one.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Great Tying Weather....

Nothing like a fresh fallen snow to inspire the day's fly tying orders. Like a few days ago, when the snow was a total surprise, and certainly not in the forecast. Even to our fishing buddy/meteorologist Austin Caviness. It was fine by me as I had a number of custom fly orders to fill.

Tying with a view like this is special indeed, and even more so with a cup of hot hazelnut coffee to my right and the crackle of a distant fire about. If I were to pick the best fly tying day it would be a lot like this, bluebird sky and all.

If its cloudy though, forget tying a fly. I will be scrambling for my nymph and big ugly box (streamers and all that other stuff I am embarrassed to show my dry fly purist fishing buddies). There are few things like snow and a cloudy sky that are better at bringing big fish out and making them eat. Some of the largest trout I have caught have been under those conditions. I guess its the low light that gives a large fish confidence that it cannot be seen. And some of the best early season hatches, particularly blue winged Olives, hatch in the very dreariest of conditions- - -and often on a river or stretch of water where no one esle is fishing. In any case, snow and cloudy conditions are one of the best times to catch a nice fish. The next time it happens, jump on it and take advantage of it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Art of Fly Tying.....

Fly tying from the very beginning was intriguing to me. How different parts of various animals could be blended together to mimic a natural trout food was almost unbelievable....in some ways it still is.
If you tie flies you know what I mean. Its how that one particular feather seems to capture the essence of what makes an insect look or seem alive- -- maybe its the texture, the color, the way it lies flat or the way it bends. Simply put, it is amazing to me that how well certain parts of a bird or beast seem to match exactly an insect body feature or part you are trying to match.
This holds true especially for certain types of materials, like duck wings. The delicate wing quills can be separated into slips that mimic perfectly the wing of a mayfly dun. Or maybe it is the way the hackle fibers can be trimmed close to a stem, the stem knotted, and the end result ends up being a dead ringer for a grasshopper leg. Or the way ostrich herl is wound and then when fished it breathes....giving so much movement in the water that it perfectly mimics the gills on a natural nymph's abdomen. Or finally, the many ways a turkey quill can be sprayed and then trimmed to mimic a caddis wing, hopper wing, even wing pads on a stonefly nymph.
In any case, that is what makes fly tying an art. Just like an artist, a tyer begins working his "canvas" with a vision in mind and begins blending, trimming, tying, adjusting, trimming some more and then finally the end product emerges. And just like most artists, a good fly tyer will tell you that his best fly is one that he has yet to tie.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Crankin' them Out.........

One of the joys of winter is it is a time that there's a little extra time to tie some flies, play with some new designs, but more than that just slow down a little and enjoy it.

Often customers ask what do you do in the off season? Really, we don't have one. We are fortunate to live somewhere we can fish year round, so I continue guiding during the winter months. Also, I do lots of teaching ...particularly winter fly tying. And lastly, I tie for shops and also custom orders for my customers, so often I am busy with that no matter what the weather outside holds. That is another facet of the sport that makes it so fun. I often think as I am tying a fly, if this fly were drifted over that favorite gravel bar on the South Holston and allowed to sit almost still I can see that 18" wild brown rise maddeningly slow and sip it right in.............

If you are a fly tyer you know what I mean. Half the time we are tying we are conjuring up images in mind of that perfect cast, perfect drift, right over that spot we've been waiting to throw our latest creation. Getting the fish to rise to it causes a burst of adrenaline inside, something that really goes even further to over the edge if he actually eats it. And to a fly tyer, there's no feeling like, definite confirmation from the one whose opinion....well when you get down to it--- the only opinion that--- really matters.

Much of my winter time when I am not on the water is consumed by tying custom orders. Just today working on a custom order for the South Holston, about 5 dozen bugs that hopefully will give the person I am tying them for as much joy as I had in tying and fishing them myself. And everyone of those flies I am thinking where and how I'd fish them.....and often customers ask just that. I usually tell them how I'd fish them, knowing if they are successful they will be back for more. And I can't help but feel like I have caught fish too when they do well. And lastly, customers are one of the greatest sources of feedback that there is. Sometimes, I will go through several changes to a fly pattern before it becomes one of the "standard" offerings I tie. And many times, a customer helped tweak the fly through suggestions.

Oh well, ......enough rambling for now. I'd better get back to tying, .........there are many dozens left to finish before the day is through. Good tying.......!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Friends from afar....well almost...Not that far

It was one of those days you hope for. After meeting up in Shady Valley, TN, John and Madie King and I were off. We crossed the Beaverdam and Cherokee National Forest enroute to one of the places dearest to me, Helton Creek.

John and Madie are like a lot of folks, they love to flyfish and are really good at it. They are young, they are professional types, John being a physician , and they live in Columbus, MS. And they don't mind driving a long way to find some good fishing. Just my kind of folks, and absolutely a pleasure to spend a day on the river with. I met them a few years ago via an eBay transaction. We started talking, and set up a trip.

Our day on the Helton was magical. It was one of those days where we got into a load of fish. First it was brookies. Lots of them. What started for them as just wanting to catch a brookie ended up being double digits of them, in the first place we stopped. In fact, I think we caught about 25 fish the first place we stopped to fish. We hit a couple of other spots, and with much the same result. The last hour of the evening was filled with rising fish and about a dozen or more for John, all on dry flies. What a way to end the day.

Besides being a good fly fisherman, John is quite the fly tyer as well. In the spring I received a "care package" with some great looking flies that John had tied. Great is an understatement, they were fantastic.

I believe one thing I have always loved about the sport is the people I have met and come to know through it. Some of the best folks walking this planet are fly fishermen. They are folks that you not only know as customers but also come to know and call them friends. And that's hard to beat! Not only do you meet some great people, but often trade ideas and perspectives about fishing, tying, and life.

I have the privilege of serving a group of the greatest people on earth.....you! Thanks for that, I could never repay all the benefit that I have received from knowing you all. Here's to more of the same in the future.

Monday, February 4, 2008

What a Game......

Sorry, just couldn't help myself. Just like a questionable fishing day, like going out in the middle of a hard freeze, or the high, roily water that often follows the passing of a spring front, to an orange post thunderstorm stream in summer, to a river that has bared its bones in August.....the Giants weathered every storm thrown their way. Most of all they exemplified what has made a difference in life to me, take one on the chin, brush yourself off, and go on. And quitting isn't an option.
We couldn't pass up the is opportunity to celebrate with Manning and his Crew. A game filled with hype, and the usual predictions, and the usual "no respect" for a NY team that did something just as tough as 18-0, that is winning 10 straight on the road, all the way to the Super Bowl, and as a wild card.
Michael Strahan and Amani Toomer are the only Giants still left on the roster from the Super Bowl game seven years ago. Both veterans told inexperienced teammates to ignore the hoopla, its distraction and the parties, noting that those things are to be enjoyed during those years when you don't play for a championship.
Experts and critics doubted the Giants' ability to get it done. Why I don't know. "There is a way to get to anybody," the Giants Michael Strahan said. "And for us today, the way to win this game was to get to Tom Brady. Stop the run and get to Brady." And Strahan was right, get to him they did, to the tune of over 30 hits, 15 takedowns, and five sacks. The Giants mashed the Pats flat. Actually, they dominated them. Strahan said also "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.' And today we wanted to punch them in the face." Not only did they succeed, they dominated both sides of the ball.
Plaxico Burress and Tom Brady traded comments all week. I know he was excited, but I was nervous about some of the things Plax said....like in reference to winning, he said ".....I guarantee it." But Plax saw the title coming, last week he did say NY would prevail 23-17. That is what got Tom Brady's attention, and drew a response. "We are only going to score 17 points? Ok, is Plax playing defense? I wish he would have said 45-42 and gave us a little credit for scoring more points" said Brady. Why would Brady say this I thought? The Giants are great on defense, and the pass rush they execute is the best in the NFL. Needless to say, with regard to the outcome, the Giants simply smashed them.....the Pats were Flats.
Anyway, I am almost a NY convert. Best of all, was on of the statements by Mike Strahan's parents. Strahan said, "Even when my parents were telling me, 'You're going to win', I don't know if I believed them." Strahan postponed retirement in August just to try for this trophy. How satisfying it must be to have finally have a ring and trophy. I love it!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Certified Casting Instruction.....What's the deal with that?

Casting is one area that folks are always working on, regardless of whether the person is just starting out or has been fly fishing for years. And with my business we certainly get a lot of lessons and teaching opportunities where casting is the subject matter. With that said, we also get some questions as to what it means to be a "Certified Casting Instructor".
When I got into teaching casting in the early 90's, little was known about the program. When it became apparent that I'd be doing instruction in the future, and with so many new folks coming into the sport, I decided to pursue certification.I studied and practiced for months even though I had been fly fishing for several years. I took my test at the FFF Conclave in Gatlinburg, TN, and met some very interesting folks. Joan Wulff, Bruce Richards (of Scientific Anglers), Mel Krieger to name a few.....and the gentleman in the photo above is who I took my testing from . His name is Macauley "Mac" Lord, and he is the head instructor of the LL Bean Fly Fishing Schools.
Macauley was gracious and man was he good. This guy could cast, and most of us just stood in awe. But all of the teachers were like that, but the one thing that stood out was that there were no attitudes there......none....no, not one. Each one of them had the heart of a teacher, better yet, they saw themselves as lifelong students of fly casting....making all of us taking the test feel more like comrades or brethren than subjects. I must say the test, even though I had prepared for it, was no cakewalk. That was apparent too for all the other folks who were also being tested.
The Casting Instructor Certification Program began in 1992 for the purpose of enhancing the overall level of instruction in fly casting, including instructor knowledge, casting proficiency, and teaching ability. The objectives of the program are:To educate and enhance the growth of fly casting instructors by (1) establishing high standards for teaching -conducting teaching workshops that are a required part of the certification -(2) administering a test that assesses the applicants knowledge of casting, teaching ability, and casting proficiency -(3)conducting clinics on how to teach flycasting at FFF shows, conclaves and at consumer fishing shows -and (4) establishing and maintaining communication networks for certified instructors .
Who runs the program? The Board of Governors for Casting Certification developed the program and administers it. The volunteer Board is an arm of the FFF and is made up of some the most respected names in the world of fly fishing and fly casting, include Gary Borger, Mel Krieger, Al Kyte, Steve Rajeff, Joan Wulff , Tom Jindra, Macauley Lord, and other well-know experts. The tests for certification is administered either byone of these folks, one member of the Board of Governors, or by two Certified Master Instructors.
Why is it good for the sport? With FFF raising the level of flycasting instruction, beginners have a smoother entry into flyfishing. Flyfishers who want to build on their existing casting skill will have ready access to instructors trained to help them advance to the next level.The Program fosters the exchange of teaching and casting ideas among instructors across the continent.
Becoming certified requires a written test and a casting proficiency test plus the demonstration of the ability to communicate and teach others. The written test covers basic gear, lines, leaders, techical questions to insure that the potential instructor has knowledge beyond casting to the relevant equipment and fishing knowledge necessary. The proficiency and performance test requires :
1)Demonstration of six consecutive controlled casts at 35-40' with narrow, uniform loops on both the front and back casts.2) Demonstrate wide loops on the forward cast only on command.3) Demonstrate tailing loops on the forward cast only on command.4) Demonstrate the reach cast left at 35-40'5) Demonstrate the reach cast right at 35-40'6) Demonstrate the sidearm cast at 35-40' with narrow, controlled loops7) Demonstrate the pile cast at 35-40', and its use as a presentation cast8) Demonstrate slow, medium, and fast false casting at 35-40' on command9) Demonstrate normal roll cast to a distance of 40' on command with leader straightening completely10) Demonstrate presenting a fly to targets at 20, 30, and 40 feet w/only 3 attempts at each11) Same as #10 but over the opposite shoulder12) Roll cast to a target at 45-50'13) Demonstrate double haul casting with 45-50' of line14) Demonstrate a controlled distance cast to a minimum of 75' with line and leader fully straighteningVerbal and Teaching part of the Test: (the testee pretends to instruct the instructor)* explain and demonstrate how to cast narrow to wide loops, with the demonstration consistent with the "How to" needed to produce these types of loops.*explain and demonstrate the cause and correction of tailing loops*explain rod loading*explain and describe the casting stroke as it relates to casting distance*explain and demonstrate good timing when false casting*explain and demonstrate casting into a head wind* Explain and demonstrate casting with a cross wind blowing into the casting sideThe notion that the wind can cause the line to drift into the caster must be included in the explanation. At least one of several possible solutions must also be included. Possible solutions include the following: Pick up on the windward side but change to the lee side for the forward cast Cast only on the lee side of the body using the alternate hand or casting backhand.
As you can see the test is quite involved. Macauley was very much by the program above, but was very encouraging and I must say an excellent teacher. Myself and about twenty other applicants sweated through the testing, about half of us passed. It was a great experience for me, and it certainly gave me several new perspectives on fly casting, and more importantly, teaching it. In teaching casting, just being able to cast is not enough, what these folks are looking for are those who can teach. Fortunately, I was able to pass the test. And I must say I have been learning ever since!