Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday Fishing Report: I'll Be Sad To See August Go

I had to forego the afternoon and make an evening of it. It was an exceptionally beautiful evening, and my fish came at the beginning and the end.

I caught both trolling, the first in the hot sun, the last in the cool moonlight.

In between, the lake was absolutely calm and the rises were virtually nonexistent. So I watched the moon rise and the sun set, and listened to the crickets and katydids and coyotes and eagles and ducks and crows and Kingfishers, and peace and contentment settled gently over me like the cool darkness.

I'll be sad to see August go.

Friday Fishing Report: The Fish of the Day

Another afternoon and evening trip to enjoy one more of the waning days of August.

I noticed today that the swallows are gone. That's always a bittersweet realization. They're among the first of the birds to go. The Eagle was here, and stayed perched on his limb most of the evening.

It was a day of little fish, and of lost fish. I caught several of these on the Wooly Bugger. They're pretty little things.

But I also lost the fish of the day when he hit the Bugger and began stripping line off the reel in a long run. I enjoyed that a split second too long and he got into some weeds. I was lucky to come up with the fly.

As evening settled in I went back to a dry. I'm finding it very enjoyable to mess around with dry flies in the cool blue dusk. I don't catch as many as I might if I trolled steadily, but when I do catch one it's extra rewarding.

I had seen a flying ant on the water--just one--and that was enough to get me to tie on one of my Cinnamon Ants. There are also caddis coming off intermittently here and there, and the ant makes a pretty good caddis imitation.

This ant pattern is famous, at least for me and my brother, John. It transformed a trip to the Henry's Fork into a Trip To Remember. I caught more 20 inch trout that week on this pattern than before or since.

This one isn't quite 20 inches, but I was pleased that he liked the fly.

But I lost the fish of the day on this fly--and lost the fly. (I know I said the earlier fish I lost was the "fish of the day;" either one could have been.) I was moving to a new spot and was drifting the fly behind me when a fish hit it hard. I wasn't ready, the rod was at a right angle to the fly, and the line caught under my finger when the trout took off. There went the fly--and the tippet--and the trout.

Later, in the gloaming, I had another ant on and was casting to some rises even though I couldn't see the fly very well. A fish came up right next to my fly, and I, thinking it was on my fly, raised the rod causing my fly to dart away, and the fish nailed it.

It was the fish of the day, a very energetic Brown that probably went a foot or 13 inches long. You'll have to take my word for it; it was too dark for a photo.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In the Interest of Accuracy: Coyote

I speculated a couple of posts ago that this animal looked to me more like a fox than a coyote. I was thinking Gray Fox, maybe.
Well, I dug my Field Guide to the Mammals off the shelf and discovered that the Gray Fox doesn't occur in this area. It lives in western Oregon but not, according to the range map, anywhere in Washington.
The Red Fox does occur here, but even the black and cross phases have a white-tipped tail and blackish feet.
The Coyote occurs virtually everywhere, and I learned that they sometimes hunt in pairs, have a sharper nose than a dog, can have a reddish-gray cast to their coat, and have whitish throats and chests. And black-tipped tails.
I also learned that foxes run with their tails held straight out, while coyotes run with their tail held down between their legs. This one is trotting, not running, but there's a definite hang in its tail.
And foxes are much smaller than coyotes. A coyote is three feet long in the head and body, has a tail 10 to 16 inches long, and weighs 20 to 50 pounds. A Red Fox is two feet long in head and body, has a tail 14 to 16 inches long, and weighs only 10 to 15 pounds.
I thought I could recognize coyotes instantly, but this one had something different about it. Perhaps it was the sleek summer coat, perhaps it was seeing it in an unexpected environment.
Whatever. It was still good to have it there.

First Day of School

Why is it a parent waits for this day all summer and then can't believe it's here so soon?
For the first time we have no kid in Elementary School. Isaiah is in Seventh Grade and Jeremiah enters Middle School as a Sixth Grader. Lidia is a Sophomore this year, so now she has the "Freshies," as she calls them, to push around.
There were some jitters for J. about entering the big time in Middle School, but for the most part all three kids were ready.
All reports are that things went great today.
Should be a good year.

Tuesday Fishing Report: Famine to Feast

I was hungry for some fish. Not just "fishing"--fish. I wasn't sure how things would go based on my recent experience, but it turned out to be a banquet of a day.
There has been a change in the weather. The extreme heat wave is over, temps pushing 90 now instead of 100, and evenings cooling down into the 60's. That may be one of the factors in a change in my luck.
In addition to catching some fish today I saw more animals than usual. These twin fawns were dawdling on the road on my drive up, the last of a herd of a dozen or so deer already in the pasture. On the drive down tonight I saw a nice buck in the headlights, at least a four-point (that would be an "eight-point" in the east; here, they count one side of the antlers only.) And I saw a fat porcupine waddling slowly along the road.
There was a gusty wind whipping when I arrived at the lake, and it kept up most of the time I was there. The eagle gave me a nice shot as it came sailing in to join me for an evening of fishing.
Because of the wind I decided to troll. I tied on the bead head Wooly Bugger that I had caught that 18 incher on a few trips ago, and it wasn't long before the famine came to an end. (To make up for the dearth of fish photos recently I will give each fish caught today two photos.)
So I kept it up, making big long loops, laboring against the wind and sailing briskly before it, and everything was the way it should be.
They weren't especially big, but they were welcome and welcomed, each one.
The sun went behind the mountain, the wind sat down a bit so that the south end was sheltered more often than not, and a few small fish began rising splashily. I paddled over and switched to a dry fly.
This time I did so without a trace of frustration or desperation. I had caught fish; God was in his heaven and all was right with the world; if I caught no more it wouldn't matter.
So I began with the intention of experimenting. I decided to start with a clear 5X tippet and go lighter if I needed to. Then the question was which fly to begin with.
I have been accosted by Yellowjackets out on the water recently, so I tied on a Yellowjacket pattern I just happen to have. It's an orange foam creation from Orvis, one of several Orvis flies that Brother John gave me. I have it in yellow, too, but didn't have any of those with me.
(Lidia's Caddis was one of those Orvis flies, and I haven't mentioned that I lost the last one several weeks ago. I would have been using it in some of those recent situations if I had it. For some reason Lidia asked me about that fly tonight. She can't get over the fact that the big Rainbow that broke off when she grabbed hold of the leader took her fly. That was months ago now; but you don't do that to Lidia. When I told her I didn't have any more she said, "Order some!" That was not a request, you understand.)
The Yellowjacket got no looks, so, keeping with the Orvis theme, I tied on one of their Tricos. It's a pretty parachute pattern, but it's bigger than any Trico I've ever seen, a #16 at least. So I kept the 5X tippet.
There were larger areas of calm water now, and a few more fish rising, so I cast it out and let it sit. Little fish (DST's as the guides would call them; I won't lower the tone of this blog by telling you what DST stands for) were flipping here and there.
Then a fish came up out of nowhere and porpoised on the fly. I set and levered him up as high as I could, and the 5X held. I should say it was the Scientific Anglers; it may twist and kink, but it will hold.
This was a nice fish, in every sense of the word.
Then this animal came nosing along the shoreline. I had seen it earlier on up the lakeshore with another one, and at first thought they were coyotes. But they seemed much more like a pair than a pack, and the delicate features of face and body on this one--and the reddish ruff--seem much more vulpine than canine. So I'm going with fox on this one. What's your call?
I kept fishing the Trico, and at one point, after checking it for weeds, I flipped it out five feet from the float tube as I got the line ready to cast. This fish slammed it. Once again the 5X held. It was beginning to feel like a miracle.
I caught two more, both small, before it got too dark to see the fly, and released them in the water. Then I trolled my way back to the truck.
Yes, I had the truck. This was the second time I've driven it up. I have a good set of tires on it now--and a spare in the back--but I haven't had any work done on the engine yet. But, and I can't explain it, it hasn't been overheating, and the coolant hasn't been boiling and bubbling after a drive like it used to. Depending on your belief system....
What a day...
...I'm full.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Fun Obsession

This little guy showed up at my desk lamp tonight. My call is the Tiny Blue Wing Olive. And they do mean tiny: #22. Must have hatched at the river.
It leads me to reflect on tiny flies and my experiences at the lake recently.
I have admitted my failure to catch fish on the last few trips, and described trimming a tiny trico fly to imitate a little black, white-winged fly that was on the water the other evening--to no avail.
First, the reason I've gone to tiny flies is that the hoppers aren't working. That's another part of the mystery. I have faithfully tried them on almost every trip, inside the weedbeds, outside the weedbeds, in the middle of the weedbeds. Fast retrieves, slow retrieves, intermittent retrieves, no retrieves. Nothing.
I've also tried casting them to feeding fish out in deep, open water: "grasshoppering the hatch," if you will. Believe it or not, this has worked in the past, but it hasn't worked recently. So, rather than countering the hatch, I've been trying to imitate it as closely as possible.
Now, what I haven't talked about are my recent tippet decisions.
Those who fish know those are crucial to success or lack of success, and might even have wondered what tippet I was using in a given situation. If you told me a trout came up and refused a #16 caddis dry, I'd wonder what tippet you had on. So...
In general, the calmer the water the lighter the tippet required to fool the fish. Conditions recently have been generally much calmer than earlier in the summer.
I have been using Maxima 4X when fishing hoppers and bigger caddis, and also when trolling bigger flies like Wooly Buggers and the bead head leeches. It has worked, and with the dry flies has been essential in dredging the fish out of the weeds. It occurs to me, though, that with the recent lack of success with hoppers I might need to try them with a lighter tippet. Better tie up a handful of them for that experiment.
When I have gone to smaller flies--Griffith's Gnats, for example, or trolled soft hackles--I have used 5X. I've lost some flies doing that, and thought it would be good to get some new 5X. So I got some Scientific Anglers tippet material but was unhappy with it. It twisted and kinked badly. So I bought some Maxima 5X.
The Scientific Anglers tippet material was clear, the Maxima is brown. It seems when I began using that I stopped catching fish. Coincidence? Maybe, and the color may make no difference; but I have to say the Maxima 5X seems much thicker than the SA 5X.
So when I tied on that trimmed trico--a #20--I used some old Maxima 5X, seemingly less stiff than the brown, and clear to boot.
I still didn't catch anything, and in fact have had clear refusals with it.
So what I'm thinking now is that I need to go to a 6X tippet. I have some, and even 7X.
The interesting thing is that the fish I have been casting to are coming up in the midst of thick weeds. There are weedmats on the surface all around the open water they're in, and weeds probably no more than two or three feet under that water.
So if I should get a take by going to lighter and lighter tippets, there's no way I could net the fish, especially some of the big boys I've seen flaunting their dorsals. At least I don't think so. At least my rational side doesn't think so. But there's another voice in my head saying, "Maybe you can...and wouldn't that be something!"
But even if I can't, at this point just a take would be a victory, so I'll take my chances.
Next time I'll start with the 6X and a tiny dry--maybe a Tiny Blue Wing Olive--and if that doesn't work I'll go with a tiny nymph and a strike indicator.
First I'll figure out how to get a take; then I'll figure out how to play a big fish with 6X in heavy weeds.
Meanwhile, I'll eagerly anticipate that magical moment when the hoppers--tied on thick, ropelike tippets--begin to work again.
Isn't this a fun obsession?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Football: Season On the Brink

The boys have been waiting for this day. They picked up their equipment for football. Jeremiah will play in a town league while Isaiah will play for the Middle School Seventh Grade team. Practices begin this week.
As an English major, I was amused that they used literature books to prop open the door of the weight room where the equipment for the Middle School teams was doled out.
Jeremiah wants to be a wide receiver and/or running back.
Isaiah wants to be a fullback and/or linebacker.
Of course, they had to insert all the pads in the right places and try on the full uniform this evening. And take a few hits.
Get ready for regular game reports.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saturday Fishing Report: Smokin' But Not So Hot

So this was a "fishing trip." It was a "trip," not a "break." And it was "fishing," not "catching." Alas.
I could blame the smoke, I suppose. There was a new fire somewhere to the south, and the lively south wind had filled up the valley with acrid smoke. It cleared out somewhat by day's end, but while it lasted it leant a surreal atmosphere to my futility.
The truth is I really don't know why I'm not catching fish. I tried trolling and dries, but I spent most of the time casting dries to actively rising fish. It's what I dream about and wait for, but, though I had the fuel and the flame, I couldn't get a fire going. Heartbreaking, really.
I was sure I had come up with a fly that accurately imitated the bug on the water, a tiny black fly with light wings. I took a trico and clipped the tail and trimmed the hackle flat on the bottom. Looked good to me. So I fished it to death.
Usually I can count on the small fish to be stupid and hit anything on the water while they're feeding, but not today. I had some shots at some big fish enthusiastically feeding, but they would come up six inches from my fly. Over and over.
The message was clear: if they had thumbs they would have been thumbing their noses at me.
Even the bead head leech, usually surefire, has been letting me down.
A rational person would ask, "Why am I wasting my time?" A fisher person asks, "What can I try next?"
Oh well. Like the smoke, this too shall pass.
(A Reminder: Remember you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. There's another cool flock of crows in that last one.)