Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Importance Of De Barbing Hooks - Again

I was out with @gsfeder and Mrs. @gsfeder on Friday night. Greg took the bow with a fly rod while his wife relaxed in a tailgating chair in the stern. Greg tided on a Carolina blue popper and I attached a damsel nymph dropper. It was a slow start for the first quarter mile of lake shoreline. Greg started to get into some fish, a tiny largemouth bass, a nice bluegill, and then a larger bass.

It wasn't long before a big bluegill decided to chomp down on the popper. I refer to these monsters as 'caveman bluegill' as they have that caveman bump above their eyebrows. They usually measure 8-11 inches and will bend an 8wt rod.

Greg was wrestling with his in an attempt to free the fish. The fish had actually fit the entire popper in its mouth. Something that you don't often see.

As Greg was working on freeing up the fish it slipped out of his grasp. As the fish went down to the water the trailing fly got Greg in the hand. The weight of the large fish caused the hook to penetrate his finger straight through to the hook's bend.

I've seen people freak out when the hook barely grazes them. Greg was very nonchalant about the whole ordeal. We had recently had a conversation about debarbing hooks and he knew this one was debarbed. He left the hook in his hand while he tried to unhook the fish. After that proved a bit difficult I removed the popper and tossed the sunfish back in.

It was now time to remove the hook. I always request to get a few close up pictures of the impaled hook. More for educational purposes than entertainment. Sure it makes a great blog post but it also shows others the importance of smashing a barb down for your benefit, let alone the fish. I wanted to get it on video but Greg was against that.

We utilized the 'mono method' of hook removal (see video of me below). Greg wrapped the dropper's leader around the bend of the hook, I pushed down the eye, and he popped it out. No blood. No crying.

Greg did note how sharp that hook was. These flies were tied on Fly Shack Saber hooks. And for the price they can't be beat. And you can see how sharp they are. Get some for yourself.

Anyway, we fished the rest of the sundown. Greg boated several more fish and even had a cold beer waiting for me in the parking lot.

Just a reminder, as soon as you tie on your hook and cut the tag end of the leader, smash that barb.

On a side note, Mollie at the Beer Tie last night showed me a pic of her with a midge through her lip. Maybe I can get her to write up a short story of how that happened.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fly Fishing Piscataway Creek, Md

Part of the process to get my captains license is to go to a hotel in Waldorf, Md. and get a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) badge or something. I had it on my calendar for 1pm today and set out an hour and a half early to get there in time as there is always traffic.

I get there early, finish my TMOS podcast and then go into the hotel. I asked the lady at the desk where the TSA thing was and she said 'TSA is here on Tuesdays' and I asked her what day it was, she said Monday. I'll let Emotion Eric express how I felt:

So now I'm 40 miles from home and have to head back. Negative. I've wanted to work on a lead I got from Bass Fishing Nick for over a year. Tidal creeks in Maryland. I dig into the back of my car and pull out my tidal Potomac river map. I see Accokeek creek nearby and it has a 'gravel boat ramp'. I put the road into my phone GPS and headed over. It was maybe 15 min from the hotel to the water. The roads got narrow and the signs of hurricane Irene were more prevalent. Fallen trees hanging over the road, branches in the road, mud piles from the gutters, etc. I got to the boat ramp and there was mud everywhere.

The tide was out and I parked to look around. I figured I had the time, I had my fishing gear, AND I had my canoe on the top of my car. I pulled down the canoe, packed it up, and then noticed some freshly stapled sings on the wood rail 'sewage discharge, do not enter'. Well that was a gross thing to think about. I decided to go anyway since I was there. I had some rubber boots in the back of the car so I could avoid getting my feet wet.

I pulled the boat in and started to paddle through the hydrilla. Lots of baitfish darted out of my way. I paddled up toward the spatterdock and through a few casts. I caught a spatterdock stem and knowing how thick the stuff is, paddled to get it out by hand. I pulled on the fly and THE HOOK BROKE OFF! Wow.

I looked around and saw an osprey trying to dive bomb some fish, a few herons, and ducks. Not much action. The SAV were thick and with the low tide it was not worth it to fish. I paddled back to the car without having seen a snakehead. I'll give the spot a try again. Maybe tomorrow when I have to go back to the hotel or maybe later in the season.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fly Fishing & Earthquakes

We were out on the lake today. Beautiful day. It was all the better thanks to my Costa Del Mar sunglasses. The extremely blue vivid sky with the puffy white clouds and silver streaks of vapor trails from the planes. The bluegill and largemouth were cooperating. I'm not sure if it was due to the beautiful day or because we were out in the canoe. The canoe is more stealthy than the drift boat. We snuck up on several fish, including one monster grass carp.

Around 1:40 a jet fighter passed over head. It was super loud. Either an F-15 or F-16. I cant tell when they are in flight, just when they are grounded (15 has two seats and fins while the 16 has single respectively). We were rounding the corner of Lake Audubon where the farm geese usually hang out. I looked up as my client cast his hopper dropper rig to the shoreline.

We rounded the next bend and he was tossing his flies to the terraced dock. I was looking out toward the dock where I grew up fishing. All of a sudden I heard this noise coming from the west. It sounded like a HUGE moving truck was passing by, as if one was right next to us. I thought it strange to hear a truck from South Lakes Drive so far away. Then I saw ripples move across the water which turned into 6" high waves. The canoe started to toss back and fourth. It wasn't close to capsizing but it was tossing us around really good.

My clients stated that he was hearing a really, really loud truck. At that moment the phone rang. THW said there was an earthquake going on at home and that stuff was rocking back and fourth. She sounded frantic, as I was on a lake there was not much I could do. I told her to go under a doorway with the baby lady and hung up. I of course then tweeted about the situation. Before I got a full grasp on the whole event the water went back to being calm and the canoe stopped shifting us  back and fourth.

Residents along the lake were coming out of their houses and we could hear them shouting across their gardens to their neighbors about the earthquake.

If you follow me on twitter you may remember I saw a similar event a few weeks ago on the lake. A set of waves came across the lake and hit the shore under our feet. There were no boats on the lake so it wasn't a wake. It was similar to that today. However there was nothing on the news about it a few weeks ago.

On my way home I got a phone call from a 610 number. It turned out to be a wrong number. A mom in Pennsylvania was trying frantically to call her son in Richmond. She got me by dialing over and over again and this time accidentally typing 401 instead of 409. We had a long talk as I filled her in on what was going on as she was unable to reach her son. It was kind of nice to give her some good news as the cell phone were mostly down. I was unable to reach THW and this lady could not reach her son. I said there wasn't any visible damage around here and things were going on as normal, just that the phone lines were tied up. Hope she finally got a hold of him. 

So it turns out the quake was a 5.8 on the Richter scale. I then drove to Orvis to drop off more broken rods (this is getting out of control, that's like 20+ broken this calendar year by me and clients). Every other driver was on their phone. Traffic was a mess. It was worse when I drove home on I395. You would think it was snowing out there. Finally got home.

I realized the real reason the earth shifted today. It had nothing to do with subduction, orogeny, or stress being relieved from tectonic plates. Today is the first day that New Belgium Brewing Company had sales in Virginia. I stopped at Total Wine and loaded up on 6 tall bottles of everything they had. Thank goodness for Fat Tire in Virginia. No more having to put cans in my luggage on the way back from Breckenridge or having people drive it up from North Carolina.

I heard rumors that the Washington Monument is leaning.
Thats it kids, time to drink some more beer.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fly Profiles: Poppers, Sliders, & the Quest For The Perfect Top Water Fly

The first fly I ever owned was a 'hula popper' from my grandfather. It was too light to throw on a spinning rod so I never knew what to do with it. It just sat in the back of my tackle box. As I type this I have no idea where those old tackle boxes are. His rods are hanging up in the garage but the tackle is probably long gone.

This all started with my quest to find the best top water fly. It all goes back to high school graduation. I spent that week at home, fly fishing. Everyone else was at beach week. I decided to use my graduation money to buy an Orivs fly rod outfit and a pile of flies. One of those flies was a Sneaky Pete. The fly was made of balsa wood with a chartreuse coating of paint, some painted on eyes, rubber legs, and some feathers in the back.

The fly was tied with the narrow side forward, or convex. This is known as a Slider. The fly goes through the water with a gentle motion and the rubber legs twitch when the fly is retrieved.

I tied on the slider to my 7' 5wt rod and took my first cast with the new rod onto Lake Audubon. I threw the fly about 10' off the dock and felt an immediate tug and saw a huge splash. A big largemouth bass took the fly and the fight was on. I fought that fish to the dock and ended up putting it in a sailboat that was full of rain water. I ran home to get my mom and camera and got a picture of the biggest bass I had pulled out of the lake.

I fished that fly for four years on the Rappahannock River where I went to college. I caught all sorts of smallies and sunfish on it. It was all sorts of beat up with rubber legs missing, chips in the paint, and pieces of wood missing. I had been tying flies for several years but was unable to make a fly to match this fish producing machine. THW will tell you that I don't throw out a thing, and I think she is correct in several instances-the fact that I wear t-shirts that are over 20 years old, ticket stubs from concerts, old magazines, and flower pots with dead plants (I store them under the condo stairs) etc. I still have that slider from 1995!

Skipping ahead after graduation I started to work at the local Orvis store. I began fishing for smallies in the middle section of the Potomac. I asked the fishing manager what was the best top water fly for this section and I thought he would say the Sneaky Pete. He said it was the 'Mr Bob's Lucky Day Popper'. This fly was smaller than the Sneaky Pete, had a concave face, and was referred to as a popper because it had the flat face. That meant the fly would pop and push the water upon retrieve rather than slide through it.

I purchased a handful of these flies. They were different than any fly I had ever previously fished. The fly was locally made by a dude in Dumpfries, Va. It was made from dye injected rubber which would not crack, chip, or break. It had stuck on eyes, rubber legs, and a tail that were all securely attached. The fly could be tossed against rocks, docks, trees, bounced off structure etc and not fall apart. The flies came in lime green, yellow, red, black, and white. I started off fishing the black ones to give more contrast against the bright sky. I caught all sorts of fish on that fly. Largemouth on Audubon, google eye bass in the mountains, smallies in Fredericksburg and D.C, and all sorts of bluegill in between.

That was a drought year. The Potomac was super low. I went out to Riverbend to fish the Mr. Bob. I caught a small bluegill in a pool that had been mostly cut off from the rest of the river due to low water. A huge bass came out of the weeds and tried to eat the bluegill off my line! The fish were destroying the flies. The rubber legs were getting ripped off, the eyes were being bitten off, yet the body remained in tact. I began a morgue of destroyed poppers on the lining of my car's trunk. Just a rubber body on a hook.

The following summer the Mr. Bob was still my go to fly. Tom and I fished Lake Audubon one night after work. There was a flying ant hatch going on and the fish were feeding out in the middle of the lake. I had never seen this. We kicked our float tubes out to the center and began to cast our 3wt rods into the mayhem of rising fish. We were throwing the black poppers and with a minimal twitch a huge bluegill would take the popper and start pulling us around. A few weeks later I walked down to one of the docks at dusk and crept out onto the wood with ninja like stealth. I tossed the popper to the edge of the dock and was immediately into a fish. Probably the biggest splash from a fish ever on that lake in 30 years. I was into a strong fish and before I knew it the fish broke me off on a 4x leader.

A few weeks later in the summer I began to tie the damsel nymph on as a dropper and started to catch some huge pumpkinseed. I now began my dry-dropper set up for bass. By the end of the summer of 2000 the quantity of Mr. Bobs poppers started to dwindle. We were not receiving any new shipments in. I began to buy up what ever poppers we had in stock. At the quantity ran out I began to fish Mr. Bob's sliders. We had plenty of those in stock. This fly is pretty much the same as the popper but in reverse.

I took the fly to the Low Water Bridge on the South Fork of the Shenandoah river. I remember that day well. There were so many blue winged olives coming off the river I could here them cracking out of their nymphal shucks. I was covered in emerging mayflies. A storm started to roll in and I began to fish my way back to the car. I threw out the slider to the deep hole above the bridge. A few titches and I was into a big smallies. It was the biggest smallie I had caught on a fly. I took a piece of tippet from a spool and cut it to the length of the fish. It later measured 16".

I was learning the key to fishing these top water flies was a slow retrieve. Just enough to make the rubber legs twitch and for that cone nose to push the water. I was now leaning more toward sliders as I had started in 1995.

So now its 2001 and there Bob has gone out of business. I was told that no company other than our store wanted to keep is flies in stock. He stopped selling them. I had my surplus and was fishing the bajesus out of them in the summer. I took the mangled flies and tied on tails to keep them alive for just a bit longer. I fished them for half a dozen or so more years. They were my go to top water fly when I worked at the Mountain Lake Lodge (before the locals torched it to the ground).

I had to find an alternative fly to replace these magical sliders. I was running out and I wanted to save some for future occasions. I set out to my fly tying table and thought of all the properties I wanted in a new fly.
  • Krystal flash tail like Mr. Bobs which gives it balance and creates illusion of size
  • Foam body to keep it afloat and durable (to bounce off rocks etc)
  • Rubber legs to laterally extend the size of the fly to make it look bigger and to enhance movement
  • Dorso-ventrally flattened to eliminate weight and to splat
I set out with my foam, rubber legs, and saltwater krystal flash for the tail.Version 1.0 -->

This is what I came up with. I called it the Scorpion Bug as it looked to me like a scorpion. It floated on the water, was flat so there was not the extra material involved to make it tall -look a the side profile of the poppers and sliders above, they all have height. Height adds material and material adds weight. There are no eyes on it because frankly, a fish never sees eyes. The eyes just add more weight anyway. The broad and flat body lands with a splat and gets their attention. The rubber legs twitch and entice them to eat. Dead drift it on a river for fierce strikes.

I began to field test the fly out on Lake Audubon. It was working.

The first problem was the foam was rotating on the hook. I had to solve that problem and an underbody of chenille did that. Round two of the scorpion was field tested and the improved body worked. I then changed out the tail material to super hair.

The other issue with the fly was the time it took to tie it. I figured I could get my mis en place ready with cut rubber legs, cut foam, cut chenille, and get the hooks ready to go. All of that could be done while watching T.V. I was now able to cut the time in half to crank out a dozen or so scorpions. I experimented with several colors and have settled on lime green and chartreuse. I had to stock up tail and leg material at the Somerset show last winter as they are hard to find in these parts.

Last summer I began my career as a full time fly fishing guide. I began putting the scorpion bug on my clients rods immediately (with a damsel nymph dropper of course) and we started to get results. Its the fly I use when I get time to go fly fishing for warm-water species. I'm still waiting to get a snakehead on this fly. Scorpion fly 3.0 now has a weed guard for this purpose. We're hoping to toss it up on the spatterdock to entice out a snakehead.

Shoot me an e-mail if you want some custom tied scorpions for yourself. rob@robsnowhite.com. Each fly sells for $3

Monday, August 15, 2011

Recent Fly Fishing Pictures

Wow, I'm exhausted. I had my first day off in 11 weeks the other day. I had this on my list of things to do but never got to it. Today I only had 4 hours of work. And rather than putting in my canoe to go after some snakeheads, I decided to be a good husband and dad and come home to relieve THW so she can go to the gym. Baby lady is sleeping in her rocker. I was hoping THW would drive to the gym and stop off at the auto store next to it to get me some fuses (my driver window won't open) but she wants to run the 4 miles round trip. Who does that?

Its been a busy month and super hot. I rarely noticed the 100 degree temps. It became normal to be out in the heat, except my clients spend most of their time in the air conditioning, we had a couple of close calls with heat related exposure. 

So on to the pictures. Just remember, it doesn't matter the size of the fish, just that we are catching fish. 99% of my clients in these pictures had never picked up a fly rod before. Throw in the fact that they are fly fishing in the hottest summer on record here and during mid day. 

Here are the pictures with a little narrative of each: 

 Helicopters over the Tidal Basin. We had a fish break off a 20lb leader that night. Why use a 20lb leader there? Because THE FISH CAN BREAK SOMETHING THAT STRONG !!!

 This client made me feel really good. She said she had the choice of meeting the Dalai Lama or go fishing with me. You can see the made an amazing choice.
 Th is Domingo. I found him stuck in a tree between two trunks. He was washed down the Potomac during a flood. He now sits next to me on the boat.
 This is an earring a girl made from fly tying materials. She showed up at the last tpfr.org beer tie to check out our materials. Most ladies are using our feathers as hair extensions.

Last week we had the perfect conditions for fly fishing at Gravelly Point. It was raining (no really, it actually rained up here) and it was dusk.  Throw in an outgoing --> slack--> incoming tide. She caught two of these in about half an hour.
 I had a group of 9 anglers last week. It was a bit chaotic. Throw in the fact that the Potomac above Great Falls has been fishing like crap. Now one got a fish. Not a single angler in 4 days got a bite. However the fish were biting, they just happened to be biting us. Every so often you would feel a bit on your legs. And the water had about six inches of visibility so we had not idea what type of fish.
 One of the 9 clients. She is photographing a damselfly on her hand.
 Here is a dragonfly niad coming out of its shell to become an adult. The technical term is 'ecdysis'

 Here it is again with two anglers in the background.
 Found these at the store. French fry holders for your car, as if Americans need any more reason to be glutenous in their cars.
 A Bill Skilton beetle in a client's fly box. What a rare find. I was so jealous.
 First fly caught fish by a client. 
 She follows it up with a nice bass on a dry fly.
 Father and son at Roaches Run.
 Roaches Run spatterdock
 This is where the snakeheads hang out.

 This client knew what he was doing. If the fishing wasn't so awful he would have gotten a fish. Props to his wife for bringing me a Snapple.

 A banded Kilifish, a favorite food item of the Snakehead
 Here is that dragonfly niad again. It was really fast in the water. I had to swipe at it several times in the shallows before I could get it.
Hellgrammitte egg case on a rock.
 Bald eagle!
 Deer crossing the river!
 First fish on a fly rod. Look at the caveman forehead on that fish.
 Double hook up.
 Tiny Elvis would say this sunfish was 'Huge'
Kissing the fish with out any prompt from me.
 And a largemouth bass.
 And a tiny largemouth bass
 Here is a blacknose dace.
 Some kids that go to my high school. Go Seahawks!
 Tiny bluegill
 Potomac river bluegill
 Potomac River sunfish
 A nice smallmouth bass to get her ahead in the fish count

 The picnic table in the middle of the river?

 I had some time to fish for myself one evening. I of course went to the Tidal Basin. On my first cast I caught a bluegill. That's the culprit below. It broke my Orivs Access 9' 8wt rod.

 To prove how bad the fishing has been on the middle Potomac, we watched this cicada drift for fifty yards or so yards toward us and not get eaten.
 I had another group of 9 last week. Rather exhausting.
 One of the guys had a damsel nymph crawl up on him to hatch.

 The guys were getting rowdy.
 A close up of the damsel.

 You can't see from the water spot on my camera lens, but I caught a big turtle.
 Yup, thats better

 One of the nine caught a fish, a yellow perch.

 This is her first fish on a fly rod.

 Then her husband caught a monster redear sunfish.

 This is one small bass.

 Today I caught this baby shad on a bead head pheasant tail nymph.

Thats it for recent images.