Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pot Roasts & Dog Hair Flies

Written and contributed by Erin Block

Sitting in a pot-roasting house, can make people do crazy things. If I am to be home for the day, or even just the afternoon, I avoid turning that little gray knob to "warm" on the crock -- as if it contains a plague of locusts liable to swarm from that small steam hole on the top, olfactorally overwhelmed until I am nothing but a pile of sniveled senses begging with psychotic hunger upon my kitchen's wood floor. My kitchen's dirty wood floor. Which, makes it all the worse, those bits of "dirt" a.k.a. food, all around, on the ground -- the carrot tops, celery feathers, and potato peels which escaped hours in purgatorial heat. But, they can't duck my glance.

I see you...

There, now you understand this hunger psychosis. I just admitted to talking to bits of vegetable waste composting on my kitchen floor. Honestly though, I have a very strange relationship -- errr, sickness -- regarding crock-pots. Diagnosis: a chronically stimulated nose.

I'm also, chronically, an off the hips kind of girl; and, small hips though they may be, they manage to swing a lot of spontaneity. That day's plan was to avoid the self-inflicted torment cooking on the counter. But, snowshoeing feet got cold. Fingers neared frostbite. My dog Banjo started tearing at ice balls between his toes as though he were a coyote over a carcass. And, crock-pot-roasting or no, ready or not, we all came home... a house full, of mouths now watering.

You know this feeling...yes, you do. Of, being driven a tad crazy having food so close and yet so far away. It must be very nearly the desperation stock feel when their hay is kept just out of reach. As if the farmer measured neck-reach-index, found the wanting 1/2 inch, and put the blue tarp covered alfalfa round-bale just --- right ----> there. I've always thought this to be a mean practice, however pragmatic it might be.

One of the tribe of Mouths Now Watering, was trying to be pragmatic. To work. To get things done, while dinner desire roasted away au jus. But the lone man's work was so interesting, so new, so foreign -- so far away from cornfields -- that the three women Blocked him in. What was he pulling out of that green bag? "Crafting supplies?" the matriarch teased. It was her prerogative, of course, to tease this new man.

And then, Banjo played his note in the wrong measure, entering the kitchen when he did. The sound of a scape, goated the tease on. "Ever tied a fly with dog hair?" That there, is a crazy idea stimulated by a crazy-good-smelling roast.

Run, my! But Banjo played on to the composed tune of tying, as my mother and I finger picked his coat over. Repeatedly.

The man grew serious, deep in design; yet he managed to sneak smiles -- threading, tying, dubbing...creatively tying with a coat. As a true artist, a master of his chosen instrument: the vise.

Inside the light grew brighter, as nature's dimmer switch softly set the evening's mood -- like hands did the table. The torment of noses and dog finally whipped to a finish, a very delicious finish. Yet, crazy things aren't ever really completely finished now are they? Nope.....there's always another roast...

The food was divine, the company and conversation comfortable, the laughs plenty, the dog happy with his fat-trimming coat donation compensation, and The Fly? Incredible.

Erin Block
Coal Creek, Colorado

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rods Lost to Ladies

Written and contributed by Shawn Bratt

A guide friend and I were catching up on each others’ lives, to include fishing, beer and women. While discussing the finer points of each I was reminded of a favorite graphite rod that is now sitting in an ex-girlfriends closet and likely has not seen the light of day since I last put it in its’ tube. During the conversation I came to the realization that that is not the only fly rod abandoned with an old girlfriend. At least two more of my cust
om built rods are now languishing away in a closet somewhere. The conversation evolved to discussing the actual locations of these lost fly rods. Did other guys come along and take up the sport using one of them? Did any rods get pawned out of spite for my love of fly-fishing? Could a rod have been burned like I burned one of their clothes after I caught her cheating? Did a once fine split cane turn into tomato stakes for another’s garden? It’s hard to say what the scorned fury of a woman could do to an innocent fly rod.

For weeks after this original fly shop conversation I searched out other stories of romantically lost rods. I recalled how a close female friend (who casts better than most men) still owned a “lost rod”. Over beers she detailed the tale of how she came to own this lovely Scott 4wt. How the original owner had passed it over as a peace offering in the break-up. Since I am a guy who understands o
ther guys, I was suspicious. I sure as hell would not have handed over a rod as a piece offering. So, did she really just steal the rod? I likely will not know for certain until I have beers with the original owner.

Yet another angler reminded me of a particular evening back in college. A relationship had ended over a rod. The two were fishing together and at the end of the day—when putting away gear—she closed a car door on the butt section of his old graphite 3wt. He lost his mind. Things were said and the relationship ended promptly. Later that night he and I had drank to the memory of that sweet little 3wt.

Other fishing friends seem to demonstrate better self control with the ladies. These guys are puzzled that I would actually lone a good rod to a girlfriend for the day, let alone entrust her with one as a gift. I understand their skepticism, but do not enjoy spending as many
nights alone as they apparently do. I suppose many of us male fly fishermen, above anything else, just hope to introduce our wife or girlfriend to our own joy of fishing. We often speak fondly of times and relationships when things are new and blossoming and the prospect of a lifetime fishing partner is still there. Those were my own feelings as I was building that first lost rod—now most likely hidden in her closet or in a thousand little pieces under a sea of landfill.

In the end, I am left with a decision. Do I contact these women from my past? Do I find out where my fly rods are now? No way. I guess I am left with only hope. I hope they all did the good thing and passed the rod along to some eight-year-old stranger floundering on a local trout stream. In my fantasy, she would hand off the rod to the
startled kid, telling him that this object will certainly help his casting, but may be the key to ruining relationships for the rest of his life…

Shawn Bratt--
Boulder, Colorado
Green Drake Bamboo

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Boulder Canyon is Waking Up!

Spring is slow coming in the high country...but, with these beautiful sunny days the creeks are beginning to wake up early this year! If you decide to drive up your nearest canyon creek this weekend, take warm clothes and some small, weighted nymphs. The trout on Boulder Creek seem to be keyed in on midges and small mayflies... Find some open pocket water and run a two-fly nymph rig though it. A #20 black bead-head Zebra midge pupa with a #22 black or purple JuJu Baetis behind it will do the trick. Go during the middle of the day for best chances at feeding fish.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Conception of the Geezus Lizard

The creation of the Geezus Lizard hinged entirely on the conception of the ferruled dubbing loop tail. I have tried for years to build a worm-like fly, or fly appendage, to mimic the rubber worms conventional bass anglers have in their arsenal. The long, narrow look of a worm undulating and jerking near the bottom of a pond or lake is well known for triggering big bass strikes…conventional bass fishermen have know this for decades, one of the reasons long, soft plastics are one of the most frequently used lures. I tried chenille, rabbit strips and a whole assortment of other tying materials…but the end result always looked like a bag of chopped assholes leaked onto my tying desk.
Once I grasped the concept of ferruling a long dubbing loop, it all fell into place. I used durable thread and dubbing wax and some real nice, long fibered dubbing that I could rake out. Then I sexed it up a bit by using two separate colors on either end of the dubbing loop, giving the worm a segmented look. The yellow tip on the tail was a nod to all the old “Mister Twister” tails on the jigs and soft baits I fished to smallmouth bass as a kid in Ohio .
The rest of the Geezus Lizard is modeled after bass flies I have tied and fished all my life. Simple, “pig-n-jig” type stuff using crosscut rabbit strips and rubber legs. The only slight modifications were the true jig style hook and the wire ribbed scud back on the underneath of the fly. This does two things, it makes the fly look a lot cooler…and, on the practical side, it allows the fly to zip right back down to the mud after it has been jerked by the angler. This gives the Geezus Lizard a very unique action it the water, very closely matching the way a spooked crayfish darts out, then immediately tucks back to the bottom. This action has the same effect on bass as a two inch, wounded bluegill listing to one side and darting about erratically! The bass just have to pounce!
I have fished the Geezus Lizard primarily for largemouth bass, but it has been a devastating fly for smallmouth bass, large trout, northern pike and some friends have even used it for reds off the coast of Texas ! It can be fished deep and slow, or fast and shallow…in rivers or stillwater!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Singles Awareness Day

Happy “Singles Awareness Day”! This is a jovial holiday that I have celebrated for many, many years. It is a day when I would traditionally get together with all my other (very single) fishing buddies and toast our freedoms and make off-hand slanders about the opposite sex. So, here’s to all you lone wolves…trout bums…and carp heads! Cheers! And, for all you out there who do have someone amazing in your life who loves you…well, happy Valentines Day to you. Tell that person (who obviously has questionable taste) that you love them, too…(trust me, it is going to get you off the hook and allow for some fishing time later this Spring with our single friends!)

*this year I’ll be celebrating the latter…

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fly Shop Dirt Bags

Attention all fly shops! And I do mean ALL fly shops! There is an active crime spree...targeting small fly shops specifically. There are four people in this ring, two men and two women. The men engage any shop employee, while the women break down as many as 4 high-end fly rods, hide them under a long coat and leave the store. They are all in their late 20's to early 30's, dark/olive complected and speak English with a foreign accent. They have hit many fly shops already in the past week. They are traveling in a very new maroon Volkswagen Jetta (van?) with Illinois plates (K714248). They hail from Rockford, Illinois. The names of the two women are Zofia Zdanowska and Anna Aduba. The photo was taken at a fly shop in Longmont, Colorado two days ago.... PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO EVERY FLY SHOP AND FISHERMAN YOU KNOW!
BREAKING NEWS! (Monday 5:41pm) Longmont PD just reported a VXP fly rod, a bamboo fly rod and a Sharkskin line found in a duffel bag in Longmont!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Streamer Hydrodynamics (for geeks only)

As you have probably gathered, we at the shop are not dry-fly purists...nor are we exclusive to trout. We spend a exorbitant amount of time fishing and developing new (and occasionally better) flies for saltwater and warmwater. Most of these flies are what can be lumped into the streamer fly category. "Streamer" is a very general term encompassing a wide variety of flies tied to imitate shad, young trout and sculpin to crayfish and leeches.
We have an almost daily conversation here at the fly shop about new streamer designs and ideas (sometime on the bazaar side...if someone left the lid off the jar of Softex!). Part of our morning routine, apart from flipping the lights on and the OPEN sign by the front door and getting the coffee dumping the fruits of our previous nights tying labors onto the conference table to be perused through and criticized by our co-workers. This very honest feed back (sometimes brutally honest) and constructive exchange of theories and ideas is maybe the best perk of working and being fully submersed into the flyfishing industry.
The biggest questions of a new streamer are always, "How does it look in the water?" and "Does it ride right?".
The most valuable tool a streamer guy can have is a test tank! You never want to waist time on more than one prototype if the first fly acts weird or doesn't keel correctly. At the shop we keep a small aquarium full of water for this purpose. At home I use the kitchen sink, or the bath tub. I can only justify filling up the tub if I have a bunch of different prototypes that have already passed the shop tank or sink tests...and I have the time to jump in for a soak when I'm done! (Another damn good reason to crimp your barbs!)
The most mountainous obstacles to overcome present themselves to the streamer tyer when they are attempting to "flip the hook" or make the fly ride hook up. This enables the fly to be fairly snag resistant and often the other materials will cover the hook, making the fly appear more lifelike. The best ways to achieve this has always been some sort of counterbalance, usually in the form of a dumbbell (although, Rob Kolanda has devised a technique using tungsten nymph body weights to do the same thing). The object is to put more weight on the top of the hook shank than the weight of the entire hook bend, spear and barb. This can be relatively easy to do on light weight hooks such as the Tiemco 8089 and the Gamakatsu SC15, but very difficult on super heavy hooks such as the Tiemco 800s and the Dai-Riki 810.
Two tricks I have learned for dealing with severe cases of Sideways Fly are the "lift kit" and the "eye tweak". The lift kit is a technique using two strips of lead wire to be tied between the eye and the hook shank to push more of a dumb bell's weight away from the center of gravity. This is sometimes necessary when you are tying with a preformed Real-Eye from Spirit River, because they have very skinny arbours, unlike cast lead dumbbells that have fat arbours. This skinny arbour actually allows some of the weight of the eyes themselves to be on the wrong side of the hook shank.
The eye tweak is nothing more than taking a pair of pliers and turning a normally straight eye hook into a down turned eye. This ensures the line will always be coming down to the fly at a 45 degree angle, helping the fly behave correctly. (However, I do not recommend doing this to a Dai-Riki hook. They are too brittle.)
One final thought for those of you getting creative on the vise...AVOID chenille, estaz and any other pre-made body wrap material! These things are unarguably trite. You want your new creations to have a sexy, lifelike and original appearance. Learn to use a dubbing loop to build your own streamer bodies.

If you found this article interesting, check out the comments below...there is some excellent stuff contributed by good friend Evan Jones (author of Fly Fishing in Patagonia).