Friday, April 30, 2010

Back to tying

The first striped bass of the year in Maine should be showing up in the next couple of weeks.  Typically the smaller ones will be in large schools and found in the tidal rivers and estuaries.  The only place I've been able to consistently find the larger stripers this time of year is around the runs of river herring.  This could be at the base of dams that block the spawning runs or the mouths of small creeks that empty on to a beach or some structure in a large river that provides a current break....all places that concentrate the herring.

In shallow water my favorite fly is a large, white, deerhair headed fly.  It has the size, bulk and action to imitate a river herring and occasionally trigger the big stripers to bite.  Normally I like to tie them with a fish shaped head and I don't have any complaints about how they work but I decided to tie one up with a subbug style head.  I figure if I can get a little more side to side action and wobble to the fly it will work better even if it doesn't exactly have the shape of the fish's head.  The first two pics are how I normally tie these flies.

These pics show the ones I tied with the subbug style head.

I'm pretty excited to give them a try in a few weeks.

I also tied up some more muskie/pike flies.  I tied up some big deer hair poppers which are basically the Afton Angler's hang times with deer hair heads.  He's got a bunch of flies up on his facebook page that I could stare at for hours....pretty amazing stuff.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wasn't happening

Sat down to do some tying tonight.  I wanted to tie up some trolling streamers for landlocked salmon for a friend.  I started pulling out a bunch of materials from the bins and made a big pile...hooks, necks, saddles, floss, tinsel, peacock herl and various other odds and ends.  I figured I'd tie up a few grey ghosts to start out and whatever came to mind after that but it just wasn't happening...

I didn't quite have the hooks I wanted to tie on.  They were too short for the trolling streamers I had in mind.  I can be pretty picky about hooks and if I don't have just the right one for the job the fly feels doomed from the start.  Looking over some of the saddles I couldn't find any nicely shaped feathers for the size of hook I had.  I would have needed to tie on a couple sizes larger hooks to get the proportions right.  I had to tie in the feathers too far up the stem where they were thinner so of course they fought me the whole time and were very difficult to set in the right position.  It didn't get any better from there.

I ended up only tying a couple grey ghosts and a few other no name patterns before calling it quits.  I had a hard time looking at the flies after and didn't even want to think about taking pictures.  My friend should be grateful to get them anyway and I'm sure they will still catch fish.  Tomorrow I plan on putting that stuff aside and cranking out some striper and pike flies.  That should get me back into the groove.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Spey class

Had a great time at the spey casting class at Eldredge Bros. Flyshop with Topher Browne.  I got some good instruction on how to improve my basic casts, tried out some sweet new lines and the best part, forced myself to spend 6 hours or so practicing casting.  I started to get in a groove by the end of the class and was making some pretty decent casts without having to think about it too much.

We had a mostly beginner group in the class so focused on making a good overhead cast to start to feel what the forward cast of most spey casts should be.  From there we worked on double spey and circle c variations for the rest of the day.

The casting portion of the class was on the Ogunquit River which is tidal.  Standing in the same spot we were able to cast with the river running from left to right in the morning on the incoming tide and right to left in the afternoon on the outgoing.

Most of the people in the class expressed interest in fishing for Atlantic salmon but I'm more of a steelhead guy.  They fished with floating lines while I stuck with a Rio 450 grain skagit line with a 5' cheater and about 7' of T14 on my T&T 1307.  This is the setup with different length and weight tips I have used the most so far in the Great Lakes.  It allows me to fish some big uglies and relatively heavy tips yet still have a short and light enough rod to have some fun with the average sized Great Lakes chrome.

One new line that I tried out was a floating Scandi Compact head which Topher supposedly had a hand in designing.  I was told that Scandi lines aren't especially good at casting larger flies and sink tips but excel when casting for distance and when presentation is important.  The head was rigged up on some Rio slickshooter running line which really flew through the guides.  I've never cast a setup that was just so easy and enjoyable.  I would highly recommend new spey casters like myself to give it a try.  I could see a pretty green caster learning how to throw this line and effectively fishing in a short time.

Topher said he fishes the Rio slickshooter when overhead casting in saltwater also.  I might give it a try.  For pure distance I doubt it can be beat but I want to see how it handles in a stripping basket, stripping the line through my hands all day and the feel fighting fish.  Last summer I broke a running line while casting and have used a few others that were a pain to handle due to tangling so I'm up for trying some new running lines this summer.

Here are a few shots in a sequence of me performing a circle c cast.  That's what I was going for anyway.  Locals will probably recognize the footbridge in the background.  In a couple more weeks stripers will be running up through the river here.

I can't wait until the fall where I can really put these casts to good use chasing some steel.

Friday, April 23, 2010

She's coming

The due date was May 15 which would fit perfectly in between steelhead and striper season but it looks like my baby girl is coming today. I guess she'll just have to go steelheading with me on her birthday every year.

Added one more to the clan today. Mayu Elsa Faulkner was born 4/24/2010 at 6 pounds 9 oz. and 17.5" which was a personal best for me.

Monday, April 19, 2010

First pike trip

Getting around to putting up a few pics from the first pike trip of the year which was April 3.  Headed out with a few good friends of mine, John and Paul, who both just love to fish.  All of us have caught a few pike before but none of us really know what we are doing so we went out in search of pike on a hunch and a few rumors in a lake were we know people did well catching them through the ice this past winter.  We decided to fish some of the shallow coves adjacent to where these pike were caught hoping they were up spawning or at least enjoying some warmer water.  Leading up to the trip we had a few pretty cold, rainy, windy days.  We tried to find the warmest water in the lake but without much sun to heat up the surface and shallow water the lake was a pretty consistent 45 degrees no matter where we went.  We started out in a shallow bay that averaged about 4' deep with some of last years reeds still poking above the surface.  The trolling motor on John's boat which has fought us in the past decided to have another bad day so we mostly motored up wind and drifted across the bay.  John picked up a nice smallmouth that we were a little surprised to see up in the old weedbeds this time of year but no pike so far.  We decided to follow a channel that lead out of the bay we were fishing.

I don't remember so much blue sky that day but I guess the sun poked through every once in a while.  It sure made a difference when it did.  The conditions were a little challenging without the sun and with a good steady breeze and the clouds spitting at us occasionally.  We all didn't care a bit and were just happy to be flinging some feathers around.

The first pike of the day showed itself by slashing at my fly as it came up to the boat.   Not a huge pike but respectable by my standards.  At the same time John was in the middle of his retrieve and as his fly came through the same area the pike struck again but was only hooked for a brief moment before going free.  Even though we both blew the opportunity we took seeing the pike as a good sign that we were on to something.  Not too far down the bank from where we had our first action to my surprise I was on to something.  After a brief tug of war I brought a pretty solid Larry to the boat.

Not the species we were after but I'll take it.  We continued on up the channel without seeing much about as far as we wanted to go before the current really started to pick up.  I made a cast and after a few strips of my fly I felt a bump.  I didn't hook anything but I was pretty suspicious that I had a strike.   I picked up my line and fired another cast out to the same spot and this time hooked up.  I wish it were the 20# pike I had swimming in my imagination but it ended up only being an average pickerel sized pike instead.

John picked one up about twice that size on the next cast.  A lot of the pike up here have some really nice yellow markings which make them quite pretty. I'm not sure if that is common or not.  That was it for the day; 2 pike in 2 casts brought to the boat, a couple bass, a few near misses and a hell of a good time on the water.  The catching wasn't so great but the fishing sure was.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A few more

Heading down to the flyshop today for a spey casting class with Topher Browne.  We got a couple inches of snow last night, now it's raining on top of that and hovering around the freezing point. Not my preferred weather for standing around casting all day with no fish to catch.  Sounds exactly like steelhead fishing.

Had some friends over for our Thursday night flytying and tied up a few more similar to the ones in the last post except with stripers on my mind.  The first one I was going for something mackerel-ish and the second in a pollock color scheme.  I epoxied the eyes on the front but I'm not sure I'm crazy about it.

One of the guys wanted me to show him how to tie a grocery pollock fly which is one of the most deadly big striper flies on the Maine coast.  Jim Bernstein came up with this style and color combination for a grocery fly and it has really proven to be a winner.  Actually the fish in the header photo was caught on one of these and a good deal of the other big stripers I've caught locally.  You can see the fly in the upper left corner of the photo.  It's tough to tell scale from the pic but the fly is about 6" or so tied on a 4/0 Mustad 7766.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pike Hang Times

After seeing some of Brad Bohen's Hang Time flies and I have to admit, a few pics of the monster muskies he's caught on them, I was inspired to tie up what I think are a little more pike sized ones.  They incorporate materials and are put together using techniques that I'm familiar with for tying striper flies.  I'm a big fan of using natural materials like bucktail, feathers, and marabou which are the main components of these flies.  I love the natural variation in color and texture and the feel of stuff designed by nature.  These flies remind me a lot of a combination of both flatwings and hollow flies with the flowing saddles and the appearance of bulk without actually being heavily tied.  In the vise they look quite scraggly but should smooth out to a nice fish profile and really move and breathe in the water.  Looking at the pics now they kind of have a slight resemblance to steelhead flies also.  I'm quite happy with how they turned out.

I tied a few up in black/red, a favorite color combo of mine especially in the spring, one that suggests a perch, and the last as a standard chartreuse and white attractor.

A red/white variation that I caught my first pike on in Maine last weekend and also a pretty solid largemouth.  It was definitely worth tying a few more up.

I figured I'd throw up a few pics of some striper flies tied hollow style that I pulled out of a fly wallet.  I know all of these have caught fish already.  They aren't as impressive as I hoped since they have already been wet and flattened out by storage.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sub bugs

With muskies on my mind I decided to try and learn a little more about one of their cousins the pike which I have better access to locally.  Pike aren't native to the Maine waters close by but they have been spreading like crazy. The first and only pike I've ever seen caught in Maine was on Belgrade Stream when I was in high school.  The Belgrade lakes along with Sabattus Pond to the south have been the main territory for pike. People have started to catch them consistently in Sebago Lake which has a long history of salmon fishing and they have started popping up all over the state.  There are rumors of pike in the Saco River and Mousam River watersheds.  Last summer fishing I was fishing with Yudi for smallmouths on the Saco below a dam and she had a ferocious strike on a rapala where the fish launched itself out of the water after it.  If that wasn't a pike then that was one monster pickerel but we'll never know.

In the past I tied up some of the standard pike bunny flies and divers.  Searching around for something different I came across a fly called a subbug that have gathered a following and even a website devoted to them  These flies look a lot like the ones with a deer hair head that I've tied in the past for bass and stripers although they have a somewhat uniquely shaped head that looks somewhat like a diver but with a more bullet shaped head.  I imagine they must dive but also bob and snake around a little more than the standard diver.  I tied a few up according to the instructions on the site on stainless 3/0 hooks so I can use them for stripers along with pike and bass.

I had a chance to try them out this weekend for pike but with the water so cold I stuck with the subsurface flies instead.  I was just too focused on actually catching a pike I didn't want to get caught up in changing flies and testing them out.  They will have to wait for another day.  Hopefully the water will warm up enough to get the pike a little more active.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Muskies on the brain

I've always wanted to catch a musky.  They are a predator that seems out of place in our freshwater lakes and rivers.  A fish that big and powerful with a huge mouth full of teeth would seem to belong in some far away place like the Amazon.  I like big effort, big reward flyfishing.  The type of fishing where you put in the time and are persistent and the big reward will come.  Some other types of fishing fall into this category like swinging streamers for steelhead or chasing big striped bass on the fly although it's hard for me to imagine a more perfect flyrod target than a muskie.
First of all they can be caught in freshwater.  I love striper fishing and the saltwater but there is something special about freshwater.  It feels more inviting and relaxing and hospitable.  What do you normally do once fishing the salt....rinse all your gear off with freshwater.

I love the hunting aspect of fishing.  I get bored of any type of fishing that requires me to stand in the same spot, cast and wait for the fish to come to me.  I'd much rather be on the move casting to new water.  Even if it is working through a pool with a spey rod you get to cover that next few feet of water with each cast with the hope there is a taker.  I imagine muskie fishing involves a lot of casts to new water with hope that on the next cast there will be a taker.

Muskies are also predators at the top of the food chain in their environment.  They are generally going to strike to kill and feed and not because you antagonized them or for some other weird reason everyone speculates on like Atlantic Salmon.

I might have a bunch of misconceptions about these fish but I'll be happy to be proven wrong by catching one.

At one point I wanted to catch one of these fish anyway possible including using conventional tackle.  I have to admit those big, crazy swimming plugs are pretty wild too.  Seeing a musky explode on one of them must be awesome.  After seeing the trailer to the film The Musky Chronicles I am all jacked up again to give them a shot.  By the way if anyone knows when and where this will be playing or how to get it hook me up.  Thanks to Brad Bohen and the musky tribe for working out the details on how to consistently get them on the fly that's the only way I can imagine myself doing it now.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Here we go...

So this is my first ever blog post.  I'm not sure where this is all headed.  I figured I wanted a place to share some of my ideas about flyfishing, the flies I tie, the places I fish and all the great people I get to fish with.  I have a hard time concentrating on only one type of fishing so I like to mix it up a bit.  I'm not an expert fishing in any one particular type of fish or flyfishing style but chances are if it's something I can do within a reasonable drive I've given it a try.