Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Gear 101: #3 Flies


In the third installment of our 101 series we will tackle the very broad subject of flies, which can be broken down into two main categories, dry flies and wet flies.

Dry flies are designed to be fished on the top of the water and mimic the adult stage of a bugs life. Generally, they are fished on the surface of the water in a dead drift, riding the surface in a natural pace. However, other techniques can be employed depending on the fishing conditions. For example, dry flies can be pulled gently across the surface of the water so that they skim along the water instead of drifting, this technique is called skating. Or, you can intentionally pull the dry just below the surface of the water and fish it half sunk. Deciding which technique works best takes a combination of practice and an understanding of the behaviors of the flies you are intending to mimic and the behavior of the fish that you are trying to catch.

Wet flies are designed to be fished below the surface of the water and can be broken down into two smaller categories, nymphs and streamers. 

Nymphs mimic the pre-adult stage in a bug’s life cycle and like dry flies, are generally fished in a dead drift technique. They are cast upstream and allowed to sink, where they drift down river naturally being swept along in the current. Nymph patterns are tied in a variety of sizes and colors. Some nymphs are tied with beads which provide weight to the fly and allow it to sink faster and reach a deeper point in the river. Others are tied without beads, making them lighter therefore allowing them to be fished closer to the surface. Fish feed among the river from the bottom to the top. With study and practice you will soon figure out which nymph is best used in each condition. 

Streamers, like nymphs, are designed to be fished sub surface. Unlike nymphs they are most effective when they are pulled through the water, a technique called stripping. The streamer is cast out into the water and allowed to sink, but instead of just letting it drift naturally down stream as you would with a nymph, the streamer is pulled back toward you, through the water, as you retrieve your line. Most streamers are tied to mimic small fish and various aquatic insects and therefore the movement is the most important aspect. When fishing streamers try different styles of retrieve, alternating slow and fast strips to see what works best. 

This is a general explanation of how to start identifying different types of flies and how to fish them, if you want to dive deeper there are numerous resources available online that go into the entomology, or science, of bug life and can offer you a precise explanation of the different stages and behaviors for each species. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Gear 101: #2 Terminal Tackle

Terminal Tackle

In the second blog in this series we will be covering what we refer to as “terminal tackle,” or the materials that transition us from the fly line to the fly. This is a small category and includes two main items, leader and tippet.

The leader is a tapered length of nylon monofilament. Most leaders are sold with a pre-tied loop at the thick end, which makes attachment and replacement quick and easy. The leader attaches to the fly line and tapers down to a fine tip, and vary in both length and thickness. When you look at a pack of leader you will see two sets of numbers. The first usually corresponds to length, the most common being either 7.5 feet or 9 feet. The second number is followed by an “x” and refers to the thickness of the small end of the leader. These numbers inversely correspond to thickness, meaning a small number refers to a larger diameter. When choosing the right leader think about matching the leader to the flies you will be using. For example, a 3x leader is a good choice for flies size 6-10, a 4x leader is good to use for flies size 12-16, 5x for flies size 18-20 and so on.

Tippet is also made of nylon monofilament but unlike the leader, tippet is not tapered, instead it is a single diameter and comes in a spool. Tippet is generally used to rebuild your leader as you cut into it and shorten it every time you change flies. Tippet is also used to add a second fly to your rig. We often fish two, sometimes three flies at a time, and attaching tippet to the hook of the first fly and running a length 18’-24’ down to a second fly is a trick to add a seamless second fly. Tippet also comes in varying strengths and like leader you will see the spools range from 0x to 7x. The same rule applies here, where the smaller number refers to a thicker diameter and you should always have a variety of tippet spool on you so that you can quickly make adjustments for the conditions while on the river.

Lastly, we should mention that you have an option to purchase leader and tippet not only in nylon but also in a material called fluorocarbon. The benefit of buying leader and tippet made of fluorocarbon is that it is stronger, invisible in the water and sinks faster than nylon. You will pay a pretty penny for these improvements but will likely forget the sticker shock when you successfully land a monster.   

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Gear 101: #1 Rod, Reel and Line

GEAR 101

Nobody is born a professional. At one time or another we all stood as ignorant ‘fishermen and fisherwomen to be’ staring at gear that meant nothing to us, oblivious of what anything was, much less how it all fit together. For some of us this moment was when we were too young to remember, for others this moment is now. This is the first of 6 blogs in a series we are calling “Gear 101” and it is aimed at those of you among us who are at this precise point, the very beginning.

#1 Rod, Reel and Line

These are the three most important components in the sport of fly-fishing and they are designed to work in conjunction with one another to perform one task: get the fly from the end of your fly rod out to the river where you want it to go. The process of getting the fly out to the water is called the cast and is often the most challenging aspect to the beginning angler, a subject we will cover in detail later in this series.

For now, let’s skim the surface of how these three basic tools go together.

 The modern fly rod is made from graphite, a mineral that is both strong and lightweight. The rod is made in a taper, thicker at the butt end where the reel is attached and slowly slimming up to a fine tip. Most fly rods are made to break down into either two or four pieces. Guides, which are small circular shaped metal pieces, are attached to the rod. The guides serve the purpose of holding the line and allow it to run smoothly along the rod as you cast. At the butt end of the rod is the reel seat, which is a metal nut that threads along the base of the rod and tightens down onto the reel to hold it into place. The last component to the rod is the cork handle, located just above the reel seat.

Fly rods are given a “weight” ranging from 000 to 14 that corresponds both to the weight of line the rod is made to handle and the type of environment that it is best used in. For example, a 000 rod should be used with a 000 line and best for small streams when you are most likely going to catch small fish, a 14 rod is intended to be used in saltwater, fishing for beasts like Marlin. In addition to various weights rods also come in varying lengths. In the language of fly rods you will often see the specifics of each rod printed in a series of numbers on the butt end piece of the rod. These numbers are deciphered as such: weight, feet, inches – pieces. For example, a rod that has these numbers: 490-4 is a 4 weight, 9 foot, 0 inches, 4 piece. 

The modern fly reel is made up of two parts, the spool, which holds the line and clips into the frame, which houses the drag system and allows you to turn the handle to take in line. The drag system is a mechanism built in to most reels that regulates the rate at which the line is pulled off the reel, think resistance. The purpose of this drag system is to allow you to choose the appropriate level of resistance depending on the size fish you are hooked into. A larger fish needs more drag (resistance) as it will more likely put up a bigger fight. The more the fish has to work the quicker it will tire out and allow you to bring it to the net.

Most reels are made of either composite plastics, which are cheaper and less durable, or aluminum, which are lighter, extremely durable and more expensive. With the more expensive reels you often get more refined drag systems, which allow you to fine-tune your drag while actively fighting fish.

Fly line is the driving force of the entire operation. We often refer to it as the “engine” of the rod, as it is the weight of the line itself that bends the rod during the cast. In spin fishing the entire operation hinges on a weighted lure. This weight is used to pull line out as you cast, thus achieving distance. In fly-fishing we are casting the line not the fly. As you back-cast the rod bends with the weight of the line and on the forward cast the rod springs back and the line shoots through the guides, running freely out to the water.

Fly lines are made up of two parts, the core and the coating. The core is the strength of the line, engineered to provide the backbone and is most often made from nylon, which is braided in order to increase strength and durability. The coating is plastic and protects the core by being pliable and flexible throughout the many conditions you find on the water. The coating is also the place where line engineers have room to experiment. Through different techniques companies have discovered ways to taper, weight and aerate these coatings to provide a line precisely tuned for any fishing technique and situation.

There you have it, a surface explanation of the most basic tools of the trade. The depth to which you can continue to explore and learn is relatively endless as companies are constantly refining manufacturing techniques and materials. However, all you need is a rod, reel and line, oh yeah, and the fourth most important element is time, lots and lots of time.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

How to Ease the Winter Fishing Blues

When the snow starts to pile up and the outdoor temperature gauge produces numbers in the single digits that is the signal for many of us that the fishing season has come to an end. While there are a die-hard few who don’t mind frozen fingers and icy guides, the majority of us must now face the winter fishing blues. Here are a few suggestions on how to battle those blues when tight lines are found only in our dreams.

1.     Tie Flies
The winter is the perfect time of year to re-fill half empty fly boxes. We recommend you start by building a fire, pouring a whisky and putting on your favorite record. If you need inspiration the internet is an unparalleled resource for learning new patterns. We also have a library of tying books at the shop that you can come in and browse. If you have never tied a fly but want to start we can help! Remember, every fly you tie is a future fish.

2.     READ!
When is a better time to catch up on fishing related reading material than when you are housebound and the snow is piling outside your door? Again, we recommend you start by building a fire, pouring a whiskey and putting on your favorite record. Books, blogs and magazines on fly fishing abound. Whether you are looking to learn a new technique or just want a story that whisks you away this is the time of year to do it. Lord knows we won’t be caught reading when the hatches are coming off the water in sheets.

3.     Watch Fishy Films
As the sport of fly fishing continues to gain popularity so has the act of making films about it. With wearable and flyable technology that allows us to go higher and deeper than ever before, the ability of the tech savvy everyday angler to capture the essence of the sport is getting scary good and the internet is full of killer videos ranging from small clips to full length movies. Of course there are the classics, who doesn’t love A River Runs Through It, but there are a plethora of other films out there to be discovered, both story driven and instruction based. Again start by building a fire and pouring that whisky, leave the record player off for this one…

  Here are some websites that will help get you going:

              Charlie's Fly Box 



Thursday, December 1, 2016

Patagonia Women's Spring River Wader Review by Emily Roley

Review: Patagonia Spring River Waders for Women
By Emily Roley

I started fly fishing back in the year 1992 when I was 13. I was a teenager with a babysitting income and purchasing gear was out of question so I gratefully took whatever second hands my father passed down to me. I remember the extra fabric in the waders folded around me like elephant skin and I had to layer thick, wool socks to try and fill the extra room in the men’s size 10 boot. But I fell in love with the sport, despite the oversized gear.
As an adult woman, with a slightly better income, I have a myriad of options for gear designed specifically for women and I recently acquired Patagonia’s Spring River waders. I must admit that I am smitten with them. The cut and seam construction follow my contour without clinging, specifically through the thighs and hips. I am an angler who enjoys scrambling over obstacles to get the perfect cast and I have found that I have enough room to stretch and crawl without constriction. The gravel guards are made from the same fabric as the waders instead of transitioning to neoprene, this gives the waders a uniform fit and feel all the way down to the boot, which partially accounts for the legroom and comfort.
These waders are crafted with an in-wader suspension system that unclips at the back, which makes a riverside bathroom break easier without having to remove pack or jacket. It takes a little practice to figure this out but it is a super use full feature. The best part of the suspension system is that you can slide the top of the wader down, transitioning these chest waders into pant waders and back again as the weather shifts. In this northern New Mexico region we often see dramatic shifts in weather and I greatly appreciate the ability to transition my gear with such ease.
The upper cut of the wader is contoured, hitting above the breastbone for full coverage. If I had to have a negative critique it would be that this high profile brings the fabric high under the armpits, which feels bulky and can be irritating. The front, fleece lined hand pocket is a lifesaver and I will never purchase another wader that does not have this feature. Lastly, the 100% waterproof pocket on the chest interior is very well designed as I can flip the pocket out and store my phone for quick, picture taking access without the worry of it getting wet when I bend down to net a fish.

In one sentence I feel entirely spoiled in these waders, not having to sacrifice fit or performance while on or off the water. I have learned a lot from age 13 to 37, one lesson being that having the perfect gear is not a necessity in this sport but it certainly is a pleasure.