Lest We Forget...

Repost from 5/09

My life moves forward - I go to work, I raise my son, and I spend time on the river, pursuing a hobby that provides me the comfort and rewards that only another angler can appreciate.

Yeah, my life is pretty simple, and it is that way because others have made sacrifices throughout the years. They've left their friends and families to go to far away places to perform their duty so that others, like myself, can ponder something as trivial as the recipe of the next fly.

Most will return home, while far too many have not. So this weekend, take a moment to thank those (past and present) that have served, and to honor all of those who have died - let their families know that you care, and appreciate, the sacrifices that have been made.

And while you're at it, check out Project Healing Waters, a program initiated and conducted by members of the Federation of Fly Fishers and Trout Unlimited. It serves military personnel who have been injured or disabled, and helps aid their physical and emotional recovery by introducing (or rebuilding) the skills of fly fishing and fly tying.

Devils Dogs - I salute YOU - Hit Hard, Hit Fast and Keep on Hitting, brothers.


A Sequel of Decay

Spring time in the Rockies - it can get a little crazy and this year is no exception. If it hasn't been windy as hell, it's been snowing. And when it hasn't been snowing, it's been....rasnowing (thanks Outdooress!).

May? Feels more like March.

Actually, I think this year is sporting the same attitude as last year, and I'm a little worried that we'll jump from winter directly into summer, by-passing those wonderful, mild May days that seem like a long-lost memory at this point.

But the fishing has been good, so I guess I need to put my big-boy underwear on and quit my sniveling.

As usual, the night before a fishing trip is always full of activity in the misanthropic Keebler Elf tree that I call home. There is a lot of running around as I bag and stack my gear, pack my edibles for the next day, and make sure I've got all my bases covered.

With revely at 03:30, I was out of the rack and on the road by 3:45 - absorbing a massive jolt of 'WAKE THE F**K UP' compliments of ice-cold coke, a pinch of cope (slogan: it satisfies!), and Machine Head's The Blackening kicking the hell out of my cerebral cortex.

Arriving at my destination wide awake, and with my brain in the fetal position, I got geared up and wound my way to the water's edge just as it was getting light enough to see.

After several days of heavy snow and lots of rain, I was a little surprised at how low and clear the water was - aside from the trail being a little muddy, there was very little evidence of the past days storm.

I started the morning at the fence-line, and walked upriver, looking for some easy targets and, not finding any, I decided to drift my line through a convenient seam just for grins.

And I nailed one. A nice one, too. And then he popped the hook. Ah well...time to move upriver to some deeper water.

Throughout the morning, it was a see-saw battle between the fish and my 7x - hit one, and the line would snap. Hit another...and I would get him to net. Stick one more and he would pop the hook. It basically went on like this for most of the morning, and I eventually wound up losing all 10 of the 'experimental' flies that I had tied the night before.

Which reminds me - since I left so many of those up on the river, I'm going to be posting that pattern soon, since someone is bound to find one in the mouth of a fish anyway.

Up until about 11 in the morning, the water was low and clear. By noon, it was becoming a little discolored, and by 1 pm, it had risen quite a bit and was as thick as soup. No kidding - there was so much junk floating in the water, it was impossible to fish.

Aside from not being able to see anything, one drift and the line, split-shot and fly were wrapped in thick green moss and other assorted goodies. Essentially the day was over by early afternoon.

Which wasn't a bad thing - I was feeling a bit tired, having only had a few hours of sleep - so getting home a little early was a bonus. And going home early with a stinky net is even better.


Black Mamba

In any subject, there are a few known names that, with the simple utterance of opinion, can change the landscape of their respective industry. In fly fishing, geographically speaking, Charlie Craven and Pat Dorsey are two that come to mind out here in Colorado.

Their names will forever grace the list of who's who in Fly Fishing lore, and rightly so. They've contributed much to the sport and continue to carry the banner for the rest of us river urchins.

My name, on the other hand, seems destined to be attached to a rambling manifesto, written in seclusion at a cabin deep in the Montana wilderness...or so the voices are telling me.

Like the old saying, 'put a bunch of monkeys in front of a typewriter, and eventually they'll write a novel' the same holds true for me: put me in front of a vise and eventually I'll come up with something useful.

And nowadays, thanks to the eggheads over at DARPA and their ingenious use of networks, it's easy to share that 'usefulness' with other like-minded individuals - as opposed to the 'not so useful":

"Hey guys! Here's a fly that absolutely sucks! Enjoy!"

Now raise your hand if that would be something you'd be interested in. I didn't think so.

So, in the spirit of playing nicely with others, here's my little contribution to the sport via modern technology. No, it probably won't change the world of fly fishing as we know it, but if it manages to work for just one or two of you out there, then I've done my part by paying it forward.

Sure, it's nothing to write home about and, at first glance, it reminds you of any number of other flies - it's what I refer to as the 'tastes like chicken' syndrome.

Midges are a dime a dozen in our business - and throughout the years, there have been all sorts of variations - and each one captures a little essence of reality that triggers a response from the fish. As a result, a lot of the flies can (and do) show some familiarity between them.

And who's to say that a little familiarity between consenting flies is wrong? Not me, especially when I've been hitting the sauce. Or when a fly can pack a wallop like this one seems to do.

Ironically, this one started out looking a bit different than what it is now - the real larvae that I based this pattern on is actually light-green in color and is as scrawny as a runway model.

I was really proud of that initial tie, but just for grins, I decided to whip up a few in white. And I'm glad I did, since the white was the clear winner - both with Jerry (who graciously volunteered to test drive the original pattern) and myself.

After several mad-scientist-like tweaking sessions in the wee hours of the night, I finally settled on the pattern that you see here. And it works.

But more than that, it's simple, which for me is the selling point of any pattern. As I've stated before, I have the attention span of a circus monkey. Couple that with my caveman-like fear of anything too fancy on a fly, and you can pretty much guess my preference for tying: if I can't hammer out a dozen in about 10 minutes, I'm not interested.

And finally, the name. Sure I could continue to call it the Thing, or Experimental Fly...but something this good deserves a name. Something cool that conveys it's lethality...like Black Mamba.

For those not familiar with the Mamba, it's an African snake and going by the name, if you were to assume it's black, you'd be wrong, my sticky little friends. The only black on the snake is inside the mouth, which is the most dangerous part.

Born in Colorado, and successfully tested on the waters of the famed Cheesman Canyon, I hope it brings as many fish to your net, as it has for me and my friends so far (just use something stronger than 7x if possible).

Hook: #18 Tiemco 2487
Thread: 8/0 Black UNI-Thread and 8/0 White UNI-Thread
Thorax: Fine White dubbing
Wing Case: 4 Pheasant Tail Fibers
Bead: 1/16th Tungsten (Black or Gold)

My apologies for the crappy screen-caps - I don't own a digital camera that takes macro photos - so I basically go the video route and take caps from that. If anybody has some suggestions for a digital camera that takes good macro shots, let me know!

Step 1

Well, it looks like I've done the hard part for you - but in case you haven't been paying attention, start by putting the bead on the hook, and wrapping your black thread to the back of the bend.

Once there, give the thread a few spins around the hook to build up a nice little round nub - not too big, but big enough to give 'baby some back'.

Once you've got that, loosely wrap your thread back to the bead and tie if off. Cut your thread and get your white spool ready.

Step 2

Attach your white thread like you normally do, and after getting it secured and the tag end clipped off, take some head cement and wet the black thread.

Now, take your white thread and loosely wrap it back to the 'nub' and, once there, start building your first segmentation, making it slightly smaller than the initial black.

Once you're done with that, move up the hook slightly, allowing some of the underlying black thread to show through, and start the second segment...and so on, until you reach the top, about a 1/4 from the bead, making each segment slightly larger than the previous. On a size 20, you should come out with 4 segments.

Step 3

With your grubby little digits, go ahead and fetch about 4 fibers from your pheasant tail and tie them onto the hook...and then take a moment to watch the episode of Spongebob that your child is watching on TV - go to step 4 when finished.

Step 4

Next, take a small amount of fine white dubbing, and build the thorax of your fly. Once you've wrapped it, go back over it with your thread a few times which a) gives it a nice little profile and b) holds it in place and keeps it from swelling up like a balloon when it gets saturated.

Step 5

Pull the pheasant tail fibers over the top, and secure them down. Clip the ends and whip finish this one off.

Now that's a painless tie, is it not? Your creepy Uncle Ron would not steer you wrong...

Step 6

Coat the entire fly with a generous layer of head cement - body, thorax, wing case...get it all nice and soggy. Hell, coat yourself, too, if you're of a mind. Why not?

Once it's soaked in really good, use a small piece of paper towel, or the corner of Eva's favorite shirt, and 'squeeze' the fly to get the excess out.

Now, take it out of the vise and let it dry.

Step 7

Stop putzing around and take that thing out and catch some damn fish, already!

And send me any pics you get of a fish you caught with this fly so's I can post it up!


Stone the Crow

The 1st of May - known as May Day and traditionally associated with labor relations and Socialist ideals. Who cares, I'm going fishing.

After my last outing (which I never got around to posting), I was thinking of heading to the Frying Pan, or even the Taylor river, for a weekend away and some sub hunting, since the only fish I've been pulling lately have been small.

But given the wacky Spring weather that we experience here along the front range of the Rockies, those plans were quickly changed.

From clear, blue skies and temps in the high 70's to golf-ball sized hail, tornadoes, rain/sleet/snow/a visit from Joe Biden in the space of a couple of hours. Yeah, it can get ugly real quick at this time of year.

With the high passes looking to get their share of grief (which they did), I made a game-time decision to stay close to home and, once again, found myself on familiar waters.

As it turned out, the Platte was itching for a fight, and I was more than willing to oblige.

Like a bug to a zapper, I was drawn to the same spot that I've been on since January - and like a bug, I got smoked. The night before, I had changed out to 7x, anticipating the lower flows and sketchy fish - and by mid-morning I was a pathetic 3-9 in the netting department.

After several hours of fishing, the angles, rocks and fish all combined to methodically beat my ass into a prone position. I finally decided to change out my line to 5x, and that only helped the Platte to pitch a shut-out.

So, I took a lunch break to regroup - changed my line back to 7x and finally decided that I had had enough. For the past four months, I've been hell-bent on trying to make my fishing as tough as possible - I had paid my dues and then some, and now I just wanted to fish.

After an hour's break, I moved up-river to an area that provided 'normal' fishing, and within the space of ten minutes, I had landed two nice fish - a harbinger of the 'Grade A' beat-down I was about to level on the Canyon.

A lot of my success had to do with the fly I was using...it had produced all morning under brutal conditions on the rock...but unleashed here, in some decent water, it was downright deadly.

But also, after months of a self-imposed exile between two boulders, fighting the impossible drifts, angles and depths, fishing on straight seams was almost effortless.

I'm convinced that all of those days spent on that uncaring rock were more valuable than all of the fishing trips of the past few years, combined - no amount of magazines, books, bullshit sessions or hired guns could have taught me what I've learned there.

As a result, I was nailing obscene numbers - some popped off the hook, some snapped my line, while the unfortunate ones found their way into my net. Some were big, some were small and others were just right - but it didn't matter, since it was turning out to be a day that was off the charts. The gloves were off, and it felt good to kick some ass.

After a rough three weeks, it was nice to relieve the frustration by dropping the hammer on some fish - most of the time, I didn't even bother with video - I was in the moment and enjoying the sport, and wound up with the single greatest day of fishing I've had in recent memory.

A few times, when it was convenient, I did pull out the camera, but as backwards as it may sound, the largest fish I caught, I didn't film. In the 21 inch range, he put up one helluva fight - and when I finally managed to get him to net, I found myself out in the water, and my camera was on shore, next to my backpack. Without hesitation, I released him.

For the most part capturing video or thinking about this blog were not at the forefront of my mind this time around. Actually, there wasn't much going on in my head - I had tuned out work, life...everything. For about 8 hours Saturday I had escaped into a place that I sorely needed to be.

It was just me, the river, and the fish. And it was epic.