23 February 2012

"Oh My Word!"

The title describes the afternoon and evening perfectly!

What a day!  Last night was our last Deer Hair fly tying class taught by Diane Blair.  Diane taught the class to pass along Mike Verduin's tying recipes, tips, and just sound advice while working with deer hair.  I know I spend an inordinate amount of time creating one Bass Bug, but I expect to fish with them, and I expect these flies to catch fish.

I rigged my wonderful Nikon camera to my float tube's cross bar and shot images and videos of all three flies.  The Ball Joint Popper pushed a lot of water and fished the longest before becoming too water logged.  I had a Largemouth Bass on (didn't get this on video because the battery was dead), until I hit a patch of grass and lost the fish.  The Frog Slider gave me two what I call "Hit 'n Spit" grabs, and Mike's Mouse caught me another Largemouth Bass.  Oh my word! my tyed flies really worked; they caught fish!



Really enjoying geocaching, I decided to seek out one of the more difficult caches in the park.  Granted, it  was 7:30 p.m., but I have a good flashlight, and night caching is oh so tres chic.  I gathered all my cache accoutrements, went back and retrieved my hiking staff, and grabbed Ovechkin (a Flat Stanley-esque stuffed penguin--you have to be a hockey fan to get the irony of a Penguin named Ovechkin--that goes everywhere with me).

Now, I think it is important to convey, I handle things relatively calmly, but not nearly as calmly as Cody.  I rarely scream or jump up and down when I catch a fish.  I calmly enjoy a great sunset or a star-studded night sky.  I do smile rather easily and laugh often, as evidenced by a plethora of lines etched all in my face, but for the most part, I am even keel and usually quite happy.

I set off down the well-laid out and marked Park trail.  About 20 feet down the trail, I was checking out my Cache Sense App, reading the GPSr, when I heard a distinctively clear, low and long growl.  Uh, I stopped dead in my tracks.  I had an adrenaline rush only a junkie could understand.  Instant panic and fear gripped me, then rapid brain overload, and painful heart beating in my chest.  Oh my word, I was scared!  I flashed the light in the direction I heard the growl; no eyes reflected back.  I glanced behind me and began walking slowly backwards.  I talked loudly to Ovechkin.  I clacked my staff loudly and waved it in the air and hit it against the trees.  One of our Read Right books is The Wild Side:  Angry Animals.  One of the stories in this Henry Billings anthology is about when bobcats attack humans.  I replayed that story in my mind, preparing what to do when it pounced on me.  Unfortunately, having 911 ready to push wasn't going to matter, because where I was, no cellular service existed, and while the Park Superintendent lives on the grounds, I was my only help.  I sang We All Live in a Yellow Submarine (a song my nephew got stuck in my head this past weekend), and then when I couldn't remember any more, I sang O Happy Day (yes, I know, something was really wrong with me).  To pre-program 911, I had to stop walking.  Just as soon as I did, that bobcat growled again, not as low, not as long, and not as loud, but it let me know I was still trespassing.  Again, I flashed my light all around and still saw no eye reflections.  I heard no snapping twigs, no soft thudding on the ground, so I took these as all good signs.  I was still feeling fear, though, when it growled the third time.  I reached the pavement and walked very loudly, then sprinted the last 15 feet to my car, where the keys were locked in requiring me to rationally punch my code on the keypad.  I quickly unlocked the car, shoved my stuff inside, and leapt in the driver's seat.  I locked the doors, which sounds totally ludicrous now, especially since that bobcat wasn't opening the car door.

I know, I used bear encounter tactics to deal with this bobcat encounter, but it was what I thought at the time.  Once safely nestled in my car and calming my fears, I drove around to the trailhead, flashed my high beams down the trail to see if I could see eye reflections, which I did not.  I even thought about getting out and walking back down the trail to see if the bobcat would growl again so I could record it, but I then came to my senses and decided it was ludicrously stupid to tempt fate, so I didn't get out.  I texted Cody, stopped by Mickey Ds, and drove home.  What a day!  Oh my word!

11 February 2012

Fly Fish the Southwest

Orvis held their annual Orvis Day--Dallas, today, and of course, Cody and I headed north to hear Rob Woodruff, Doc Thompson, and Steve Hollensed speak about their water bodies' fly fishing expertise, and, as always, Sean was on hand to answer my various and sundry questions about fly tying.

I like that the Orvis Day--Dallas is held so early in the calendar year.  From last year's presentation, I learned various tips from each guide that I could and did apply directly to my fishing in 2011.  I was able to land my pending IGFA Bluefin Trevally thanks in part to Rob Woodruff, who gave a tip about wrist action to make the fish fight the entire rod.  I was able to create my fly Bass Brunch thanks in part to Steve Hollenshead, who gave advice on baitfish and fishing the water column.  I was able to fish streams and riffles better, landing me a rather nice-sized Rio Grande Perch at Oktoberfisch, thanks in part to Doc Thompson's advice on fishing the Cimarron and Valle Vidal.

Today, each guide still presented on their home waters, so what could we "experienced" guests learn?  Plenty!  I do not believe if we sat to dinner with each guide for two hours, that we would come away knowing 1/16th of what they know and teach, but we would leave more knowledgeable and be a better angler if we applied what information they shared.

Rob Woodruff, left
Rob Woodruff shared his knowledge on fishing the Lower Mountain Fork, which I personally find a difficult  place to catch trout.  It kicks me in the tail every time I go, but I keep going and keep applying each new piece of information with a little more success each trip.  Rob is excited about the Lower Mountain Fork and believes that it's best fishing is still yet to come, which is good enough for me.  Afterall, Rob is a former Aggie, and Aggies do not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate those who do.  Rob said you have to have your game on when fishing Evening Hole, but that some really nice sized fish are pulled out of there.  The Re-Reg Dam, Zone 3, has some major improvements coming, and while the main riffle leading to Rock Garden is a hot spot for the small stuff, Rob shared where some Big Browns hang out in that Zone.  Hmmm, I am thinking.

Doc Thompson, middle
Doc Thompson gave his expertise on fishing the beautiful waters of Northeastern New Mexico.  For the  first time just last month, I traveled through Doc's "neighborhood," and those are some beautiful rivers he has.  I finally made the connections that both Cody and Doc have shared regarding fishing the Cimarron--the private waters v. the public waters, trout behavior, fishing pools--both emerged and submerged.  I even learned what a Trico is.  The Cimarron is definitely on our Rocky Mountain Tour.  Working and fishing a pool, a riffle, a bubble line were even more valuable this year to me.  How I remember stuff, I do not know, but I do.  When we were on the South Llano last October, the water levels were lower than in recent memory.  Something Doc had said in Feb. 2011, I applied to fishing a riffled chute on the South Llano, and I was able to catch a really nice fish.  So when Doc talked a little more in-depth about fishing pools, I listened and am waiting for my opportunity to apply what he taught.

Steve Hollensed
Steve Hollensed presented Lake Texoma and Lake Murray to us.  I like maps.  (I was the quirky kid who was given the map each month when the National Geographic magazine arrived, and off to my room I'd go for hours studying and reading that map.)  Steve included a slide from the Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife Conservation.  From its department only, not including the Texas requests, Steve showed us a map of every zip code who had requested a Lake Texoma fishing license.  Maine, Puerto Rico, Alaska, and Hawaii were the only places not represented with at least a request.  All other states had a minimum of four license purchases!  I am amazed by that statistic.  I was also amazed that the Stripers travel 88 miles up the Red River and 67 miles up the Washita River to spawn!  We learned rod size, line, location, and time of the year to fish for Stripers, but what I liked best was the information on how to fish for the Smallmouth Bass following those Stripers!   Lake Murray's Smallmouth action was also presented, and I feel it is a must destination for Cody and me.  Having worked as an '09 Park Ranger in Deer Lodge, MT, I was extremely excited about Steve's Skwala Hatch trip, since we fished those rivers on our own that summer.  Cody said to put it on the calendar for Spring Break 2013.  Yes!

Cody has always talked about Crystal Creek Lodge.  I never quite grapsed what the big deal was with this  Bristol Bay lodge, until today.  Oh my word, they have some gorgeous, behemoth Rainbow Trout as seen in their presentation photo.  Cody wants to catch a 30" Rainbow--a bucket list want.  I want to catch a King Salmon on a fly, as well as chase more Dolly Vardens and Grayling.  I really enjoyed Unalakleet and catching these species, but the Bristol Bay Watershed has more of the species, larger sizes of the species, and isolation.  Flying out on a gorgeously maintained DeHaviland Beaver and fishing waters where we are the only people on the water is pristine fly fishing.  I get it, now; I really get it.

Sean Polk, left
I'm seeking good wing material to tye damsel flies.  Margaret Christian taught me a really good pattern that I love, except that the wing material, Swiss Straw, doesn't hold up well to water.  So, I asked Sean his opinion.  Instead of just trying to sell me a fly, Sean graciously shared why and how he tyes his damsels with a technique he learned from Kyle Hand, and Sean took the time to demonstrate a step that I just was not mentally picturing--all this undivided attention on a very busy day.

It was a great day for us, and I can not wait to see what adventures await where I have the opportunity to apply what I learned today!  Thank you, Orvis one and all.

08 February 2012

Deer Hair Flies

So one of my goals this year was to learn to spin deer hair well and create flies that catch both the fisherman and fish.  Not long after the year began, Diane Blair of the Blair Flare fame decided she would offer a Tuesday night class on tying Deer Hair flies to the first eight or nine folks that enrolled.  Most of the recipes, tips, tricks, and methods Diane is sharing originated from Mike Verduin (who has to be rolling over in his grave laughing at some of the stuff I'm doing).

I think it is important to note, I can not use scissors well, articulately, with any kind of accuracy, or for their intended purpose.  I can use them to stab someone's eye out or poke a hole in something, but I just struggle with the art of cutting, and to me, it really is an art.  My Mom swears it is because I would not play with cut-out paper dolls when I was a child, but I think I wouldn't play with the paper dolls because I could not cut.  Seeing my frustration with scissors, my Dad taught me how to tear paper using the straight edge of a counter top, ruler, or something, and so from 1st grade on, that is how I cut.  For my circles, I would tear a square around the circle, get Dad's X-Acto knife and straight-edge templates, and cut my circle.  For 45 years, I have made it through life quite well employing this cutting method--until now, that is.

Why this diatribe on scissors and cutting?  To create a deer hair fly that works, it has to be cut and shaped into a respectable form!  Uh oh, for me, because there is not one straight edge, not one X-Acto Knife, and not one cutting method I can successfully employ other than snip-snip.  Five years ago, my parents gave me a really good pair of Anvil Ice curved scissors for left-handed folks, and they work very well (Mom and Dad still receive The Fly Shop's catalog from that order).  A plethora of new, really sharp razor-blades abound in my travelling fly tying bag.  Diane gives great instructions.  I-just-can-not-cut!  I mean I went Sweeny Todd on last week's fly, the Fruit Cocktail--see pictures below.  I could not even stick in legs there was so little hair left.  However, at least my hair was packed in pretty tightly, not Mike George tight where the fly is shaped with sandpaper instead of scissors, but it was really tight.

I am pretty proud of my Mike's Mouse from two weeks ago and my frog from last night's tying lesson--learning to tye a bottom color, a separate top color, stack, and tie in spots, but it takes me a very lllllllloooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggg time to trim and cut.   Cody resolved the way to get my catches on video by buying a Joby Gorilla Pod  (my camera shoots great video in an HD 1080i format with a simple, one-touch button).  I'll just wrap the Gorilla Pod legs around the tube's crossbar, push the button, and video my fly being hammered by a bass--hopefully.

Last week, I fished my Mike's Mouse, and it did fish well and caught a fish; no pictures because I couldn't figure out how to hold the camera, rod, retrieve line, and shoot video, but Cody saw it.  I was thrilled to no end and behaved as if I had never caught a fish before in my life.  Usually, I am a pretty cool customer and act like I have successfully fly fished in my life, but I was very excited over this mouse.  I haven't taken the frog out for a test, but I have the perfect spot to field test it.  Of course, I will have to edit out the girlie screams and whoops, if my fly catches fish.  Someone asked me why I was fishing my flies after taking such exact tongue-holding, excruciating efforts to create it.  My feeling is that after spending all that time spinning, tying, shaping, slicing, and cutting, the bloody thing had better well work, and the only place to see that is on the water, 'cause it sure ain't ending up in one of TailWaters' fly bins!

1st & 2nd weeks flies
Joby Gorilla Pod




  
3rd Week's Badly Cut Fly


Rather lopsided


4th Week's Spotted Frog




01 February 2012

Lake Springfield Fun

What a beautiful day to go fishing, especially for bass.  With Texas Parks Pass in hand, I met Cody after work at Fort Parker State Park to fish the ever-so-fun and beautiful Lake Springfield.  Now, Trout Stocking occurred Sunday, so a plethora of bait chunkers lined the eastern shore.  Cody and I were armed with our float tubes, so away from the crowd we kicked, including the bratty kid who kept slapping the minnow bucket against the water--encouraged by his dad, nonetheless!

Mike's Mouse caught a LMB
It was Largemouth Bass and Bluegill fun on small weight rods--too warm, 79 degrees, for trout, but that was okay with me.  The CodyBugger and GirlieBugger were hot flies catching fish after fish, 19 total in about two hours.  As dusk approached, I kicked towards the south to fish the stumps.  I couldn't resist it; I tied on my line my Mike's Mouse pattern that I learned to tie in Diane Blair's Deer Hair Class.  First plop on the water, hit.  The fish tried it again, but this Mike's Mouse is tied on an 1/0 3388 Mustad, and that fish couldn't open wide enough.  I had another hit-and-spit, and then, it was FishOn! my Mike's Mouse.  I tried to act like I'd caught a fish before, but I was pretty excited.  I tried to figure out how to capture this on video, with no success.  I messed around with the camera enough so that after leadering the fish and hoisting it out of the water, it shook the fly before I could get a picture (next time, I won't forget my net).  However, Cody saw all the commotion from afar, which was good enough for me.   Daylight eclipsed, and it was time to hike back to our cars, giddy and gleeful.

Geocached the Park's official stash, which was a good one, and left my signature fly fishing cache!  What a  fun place!
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