In the late 1930's, the Chenille Company created the "aught"( 3/0,6/0, 8/0, etc.) system to indicate the size of thread. This was based on a system where the number or "aught" was the base point and as the thread became smaller additional zeros were added indicating that the thread was finer. As an example, a thread with six zeros ( 000000) translated to a 6/0 thread. As other thread distributors were born after the early 1960's, they followed the same system which was assigning a standard that does not provide as accurate a measurement for the fly tier as denier. In 1988, Tom Schmucker of WAPSI Fly, Inc. in Mountain Home, Arkansas introduced a nylon thread simply called 70 UTC and 140 UTC based on denier, which is the method of measuring thread. This is the system that the garment industry uses for thread to sew clothing. Denier is defined as the weight in grams of 9000 meters of nylon, polyester, rayon thread, etc. There is a correlation between denier and breaking strength of nylon and polyester thread, the smaller the denier number the lower pound/ounce breaking strength of the thread. At the present time, about the smallest denier nylon or polyester for fly tying thread is 40, which would be used for tying midges. The one exception to this denier vs. breaking strength rule is that gel spun polyethylene thread is two to three times stronger that nylon or polyester of the same denier. This transition to a denier rating system will take several years to be completed. Danville and Gudebrod are committed to making changes as they order new labels. UNI-Products has already begun the transition.
As a fly tier and serious streamer fisherman I was very interested in the weighted Fish Skulls that hit the scene a couple years ago. I received my sample pack at the fly shop and tied two big baitfish streamers and crammed the weighted scull onto the front. They both looked great. I really liked the fact that I could wrap some schlappen or rabbit strip tight behind the hook eye and then mount the head from the front, pushing all the material back once the fly was finished. But there was only so much room for innovation. Besides, I have been really into articulated streamers weighted so they ride hook point up…and just couldn’t do that easily with the original Fish Sculls. Now the company has pushed the envelope a bit more with the Sculpin Helmets. These are about the same design, only they lay flat—like the head of a sculpin (think flat head catfish.) Plus they are making an Articulated Shank you can use to easily create a long, jointed streamer. Now, this I am into! When I received this sample pack at the fly shop I quickly cranked out two more with the material provided. I used a #10 TMC 8089 hook because they are big, but light weight—thus easier to counterbalance with weight to force point up. The rest of the fly I made as simply as possible; dubbing underbody, rabbit strips over the back and a couple rubber legs. My analysis? The fly tying world is full of gadgets that come and go…but, these are pretty cool.
I have always been a slow learner. Ask any of my grade-school teachers. Or my first platoon sergeant. But I get by…just takes a few attempts to get it right. Late season canyon fishing, among other things falls right in line. It always takes me over a month to grasp the reality that “the best time to be there is mid-day” means THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY! The tall rock walls make that mid-day window of winter sunshine very narrow. It took me over an hour to trudge down to a remote stretch of river the other day…an area I knew I would not have to share. I only intended to spend two or three hours down there in the canyon, and I knew to hit it mid-day. But I pissed around at the house too long, miscalculated the drive time in the snow…and ended up on the water by Too late. Nothing but shadow. And cold. And no bugs around. I caught three very small brown trout on small midge pupa sunk to the bottom of pools with split shot. After an hour I could not feel any part of my hands. Then I trudged back up through the snow pack. It took twice as long going up hill. I arrived back at the truck well after dark and my back was killing me. For three 7 inch trout. Was it worth it? I leaned back, stretched my aching back, fumbled for my truck keys in the dark… Nope. Not worth it.
Colorado around this time of year. It’s truly a Winter Wonderland- right up until you’re freezing your ass off in ice cold water and there’s no fish in sight. So is Winter Fishing In Colorado really worth it? Hell yes. A much better question to ask is “What are the ways I can keep all ten toes... and maybe even catch some fish?”. So let’s take a look at a few things that can make or break a winter fishing trip.
1. Gear: Picking the right gear is a must. Arms, legs, and so on can be covered by the classic long underwear/fleece combo, plus whatever jacket you like. If it’s snowing, don’t forget to put your jacket over your waders! Feet can have a thick pair of socks, a couple pairs of socks, and maybe even some foot warmers if it’s really cold. Now hands, those are the tricky part. Gloves have to be super flexible in order to handle the casting, and unless you want to be taking them off every five minutes, they have to be fingerless. Hand warmers prevent your hands from moving enough too. If you find a good way to keep your hands warm, please tell me.
2. Picking the Right River: If you go fish in the Winter, you want to make it worth the work. Go to a place where maybe you’ll catch a big fish, because working all day for a fish the size of your thumb will make you question your sanity. Unless you’re me of course. I already know I’m insane. Places like the Taylor and Frying Pan come up a lot because of their potential for monsters, and Winter is the only time of year you won’t be combat fishing on them. Pick your rivers wisely.
3. Flies: One of the differences of fishing in the Winter is that the big fish sitting on the other bank most likely isn’t waiting for a size two hopper. Midges are key, and the smaller the better (If you ask me, and only to a reasonable point. No size 60 hooks please). Do I fish size 32’s? No. Do I have friends that do, and catch fish on them? Yes. The smallest flies I throw will usually hang right around the magic number 24. Ever heard of the 20-20 club? Getting in is a matter of catching a 20 inch fish on a size 20 hook. Go out and put yourself in the club this Winter!