Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fly Fishing For Gar | 1st One Landed

You see them all over the tidal Potomac in spring. They come to the surface in pairs, spawning. They have no interest in flies. You cast over them, to them, behind them, to their sides. No luck.

Then one day you are fishing for snakeheads and bass and they are all around you. You see some chasing bait to the surface. They are no longer in pairs. Solitary fish. You cast  your fly to them and you start to feel the chomp, chomp, chomp on the end of your line.

You hook into one and strip in the line (I'm done with reeling in fish, honestly, I've lost so many big fish this year doing that) and the fish surfaces with the fly in its mouth, then the fly dislodges and flies back at you. You hang  your head in shame as you now have lost half a dozen fish that are as long as a Home Depot yardstick.

These are some primitive fish. They have long beak like jaws with rows of needle-like teeth. Its very hard to set a hook in their mandible. That is what Cathy and I found out yesterday when we lost 8 or 9.

The trick is to get those teeth snagged and tangled up in the fly. Thus the 'rope fly' was invented. This fly is just a piece of rope with loose ends that the fish eats and get snarled. I got home and took the rope handles off the bags of basmati rice. I tied one to a hook. Looked ok. Then I tied on dumbell eyes. Looked better.

I just was not satisfied that this material would get tangled. The plan was for me, Trent (Orvis Bethesda), and Jereme Thaxton to go out and get the fish to eat on film.

I was pondering what tying material I had that would fit this niche. Then I remembered about this stuff from Orvis called 'widows web.' I had used it to tie Clouser minnows back in the day. The flies go tangled up on everything. From the dumbell eyes to the own hook they were tied on. The two toned materials got snagged on each other. I had abandoned the material and it has sat in the bottom of my tying drawer for over a decade. The stuff was tangled up in itself and the other colors it was next to.

I got the green and grey colors out and tied up two flies. I super glued the eyes down and tried to brush out the material. They were a mess. Not pretty but they could solve the problem.

 My morning client had just hooked into a nice largemouth bass. He was fishing a popsicle fly. We kept it on in the same hole and he hooked into two gar and lost them. I tied on the widows web fly and no luck. Our time was up so we motored back to the ramp to drop him off and pick up Jereme and Trent.

We fished that fly along the shores on the way back with no luck.

Half an hour we are back at the 'Southern Comfort' hole. That is what I have named it. You have to fish with me there to understand why. I drop anchor and there are fish all around us. I have on the fly my client was using. Trent is tossing a deer hair Clouser (the only pattern he can tie, it works great for him as he catches a lot of fish.)

Just as the film starts rolling I hook into a fish. I figure its a big bass.  The I strip in the fish to the boat and Trent informs me its a GAR. The fly is half way down its 'beak.' Trent grabs the net and pulls in the fish.

I quickly learned how slimy a gar is. It was slimy and stinky. The next thing I found out is that their scales when facing backward are sharp. I grabbed the fish gently and the scales dug into my flesh. I felt bad as I dropped the fish. I hope that was not on film. So I'm cut up and covered in slime. Trent had handed me my rowing gloves to hold the fish. They were now covered in slime. My finger stripping guard too.

We take some pics with the camera phone as we release the fish. I forgot to measure its length. The weight was never determined as the digital fish scale grips would not hold on the fish's mouth.

And the interesting thing was the hook never touched the fish. The widows web was all tangled and knotted up in its teeth. I held the fish over the side and with my hemostats grabbed onto the hook. The weight of the fish with a couple of shakes loosened the material and the fish was gone. 

We fished some more, several hours in fact. Trent and I both 'hooked' into fish but never landed another. I had on something big at one point. Trent stated it was 'bulldogging' toward the shore. I fought the fish on the reel and lost it. It was bigger than any gar I had gotten into earlier. Maybe a big catfish, carp, or snakehead.

The clouds built up toward the west and a traffic jam of boats coming back from the river told us it was time to return. We pulled anchor and headed for the boat ramp. We'll have more widows web flies for the next time. Be sure of that.

Where to buy Widows Web Blue Ribbon Flies

Saturday, June 23, 2012

It Really IS A Small World

Just got back from a party hosted by the wife's cube mate. One of the guests was a young lady from Canberra (where we just visited). We discussed the city, its surroundings, and the kangaroos. I showed her pictures I took on my iphone.

At some point I pulled up our friend Steph's picture on Facebook and said "do you know Steph?". You may remember Steph from the Australia podcast. I showed it to Teegan and she said "I know Steph, I grew up with her, sat next to her in Math class."

What a freaking small world. So I took a picture of Teegan and posted it on Facebook and tagged Steph. I was hoping to surprise Steph with this randomness when she next checked her Facebook.

In the meantime, Teegan called Steph and we all chatted. I think Steph was more surprised than us about the coincidence.

It turns out Teegan is traveling the states right now and her father is friends with the host of the party. For some reason she ended up at the house tonight.

As a non-fly fishing related topic, I thought this was truly bizarre and  had to share it with y'all.

Back to the Occoquan tomororw!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Channel Catfish Love Popsicles

Sorry to post t his late, been a busy week. I met my clients on Monday night at Roaches Run. We were tossing sinking lines and sink tips on 6wt switch rods and 9' 8wt rods. The  younger client got cold as it was wet wading at dusk.  He climbed up and stripped out line and had his flies swing in the incoming current from above the tunnel. His dad worked the incoming water.

I told the dad not to neglect the waters along the edge of the pond, under the trees, along the shore. He wasn't having any luck swinging flies in the current. A few casts into the shore line got him a bent rod.

Of course as it was dusk and the water stained, we had no idea what type of rod bending, fight on the reel type of fish this was. I ran to get my net and waded after him. The fish had turned him 180 degrees.

The Orvis Access 908-4 Tip Flex was bent for a minute or two and the fish was reeled in using my "new" Loop large arbor reel. 

 We got the fish to the net. It turned out to be another big channel catfish. This was around 17". Dad didn't want a picture with the fish so I got one of it in the net.

The fish was a little beaten up. Notice the pectoral fin is split between the rays and the caudal fin is missing on the top. The barbels (whiskers) were only about an inch long. We took pictures and released the fish. 

The younger client eventually hooked into something about 80' away and as he reeled it in (1995 model Orvis Madison reel) the line eventually wrapped around the tip top of the rod and the fish was eventually lost. 

If you want to learn to tie this simple fly, click the video below:


Monday, June 18, 2012

Recent Digital Point & Shoot Uploads

It took a few months but I finally found my waterproof point and shoot. Doesn't seem what function its on, the pictures are always over exposed. Its not as good as my old Cannon Powershot but its waterproof.

These baby ducks were all by themselves at Chain Bridge. After a while there was only 1. Either a fish or a blue heron at the other.
 This was the 3lb bass I pulled out of Roaches Run a few weeks ago.
 A few minutes later I pulled in this beautiful snakehead.

 Dan and I fished the next night. Thats how close the planes are at this spot.
 Dan managed a crappie.
 This is Al from this past Saturday. We got into schoolies and largemouth. A lot of casting. He worked hard for his fish.
 Then to the other side of the tunnel. Two 10 year olds and their dads. We only had one hour to fish. The fish started to pick up and bite as our time was up. I gave them some flies to fish after we were done.
 Double Hook UP!

 The schoolies got bigger. Were taken on either a 1" Clouser or a damsel nymph.
 Biggest fish of the hour!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Weekend of Big Bluegill | 1lb

Everyone loves the bluegill on a fly rod. Its the aggressive (I always think of the high school cheerleaders singing that cheer to help me spell that word) nature and their voracious appetite that make them such great fare on a fly rod. From a 1wt to an 8wt, they will bend a rod. Dry flies, streamers, wet flies. They eat everything with relish. 

This weekend turned out to be the hottest weekend of the season so far. It looks like the largemouth were hiding in the Tidal Basin and out in Reston's Lake Audubon. 

I tied up a bunch of multi-color hoppers and dropped damsel nymphs and copper john's about 18" below the dry fly. 

We started on Friday at the Tidal Basin. Todd and Rachel. It would be really nice if the National Park Service would let me guide there for a living. They won't allow me to work there so sometimes I take people there for fun. 

Lots of kids around. The water was a bit choppy as the wind was blowing. Parking sucked. There was also a national Girl Scouts event on the Mall so kids and buses everywhere. We started off at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and worked our way toward the Martin Luther King. Jr Monument.

We got to the first overhanging cherry tree and Todd hooked up. We kept going and fishing was tough. The water is still stained from the rain a week ago.

Rachel hooked into a strong bluegill and brought it to hand.  

We were under the trees so the picture didn't come out too great. Of course the Washington  Monument has to be in the background. That is the US Mint to the right.

We took the hook out and threw it back in. That is when young Albert showed up. He had a spinning rod and a piece of 'fish' on his hook. He wasn't having a lot of luck.

I cut off his hook and put on a 'foam depot' with a copper john dropper. He tossed it in and got a bite right away. He was so excited I thought he was going to burst. His mom and sister were just down the path. They were fishing without conventional gear. Just a piece of bamboo and mono with a hook. They sat under a cherry tree and fished. You mountain people can have your mountains, and  you beach peeps can have your sand. We get to fish with monuments and the scenery is ridiculously awesome. They had such a great spot.

I cut off the leftover mono and tied on about five feet of 20lb Berkley Vanish. I tied on a hook and they baited it. They tossed it in and a minute later THEY WERE BROKEN OFF AGAIN. This place has some serious fish.

I told Albert I had a friend with the same name. My friend Albert lives in Miami and lives in the same building as Keith Richards. Keith Richards likes to drink orange soda and vodka a the pool.

This kid Albert was not familiar with the 'Stones. He kept asking me to sing to him. He was great. So much enthusiasm. We left him to find more shade in the other direction.

Albert then ran up to us with another fish he caught. I got him with the monument in the background. I told him to use Spam next time for bait. Stuff works like gangbusters.

By the way, Rachel has some really fun nail polish colors. I told her we needed a picture of her nails with a fish. Just so happened that one of the nails matched the fly line. Great pic I think.

Its always nice when a female client shows up with a hair rubber band. It comes in handy when they are casting with too much wrist. Tuck that fighting butt into the band and it shows them when they 'break their wrist.'

Rachel and I were walking along trying to keep up with Todd. We found a baby duck that was abandoned. I pulled it out for a photo opp.

The tide was dropping and the fish were acting slow. Rachel tossed the fly against the wall and a big old largemouth came out to investigate. She twitched the fly and it turned and went back. Several casts later it never returned.

It was a couple of more steps later when she hooked another bluegill. Nothing big but a special fish for someone who is learning the fly fishing lifestyle.

We got a picture in of the fingernails. Before long we had walked really far and cast more times than I can count. The wind started to pick up and the fishing turned off. We called it a day.


I finally got around to fixing my drift boat rowing seat. As my boat has been outside for 5 years in the elements, things get gross. I broke through the seat last month and used a strap from the Home Depot to fix it. I was sitting high. 
Temps were in the low 90s and the wind was blowing. Made for tough rowing. I took out the WAVA ladies (thats an inside story, you'll have to ask). 

Same fly rod set up as the day before. Fishing my old Orvis Madison Disc reel from 1995. Lori hooked into several big bluegill on the lake.  

 We got one bass to leap. The bass just were not cooperating. Not sure if it was the heat, if the fish have not recovered from the flood last year, or if they just wanted something bigger.
 More big bluegill. These fish were bending 9' 5wt rods. Horseshoe style.

 The fish kept biting as we drifted the lake. The three ladies had never fly fished before. The only one that didn't get a fish to hand was Sha-Sha-Sha-Sheila (inside joke.) She hooked several but just didn't set the hook in time to land them.
 Next up was Jack and Rosen (sp?). We got into more big bluegill.
 Still no big bass. It was a bluegill day.
 Big enough that we started to weigh them. This bluegill weighed in at 0.77lb.
 Next up was Melody and "Snook." You know its going to be a good day when your client has a name like that. They are from south Florida. We talked Florida and the Keys for two hours. My new go to friends for when I need to book a hotel/motel and places to eat. They have 30+ years of information to share.
 After 6 hours of rowing I was exhausted. I pulled out the boat and got home and had a great cold shower. Then off to Will/Bill's house for some food cooked on his Green Egg (burgers, brie, mac and cheese balls, corn cobbs.)


Back to the lake at 0800. No traffic, the best time to drive in DC. I met Chris.  He just had a kid and is just as tired as me. We fish hard on glass like water for 3 hours. His wife bought him a half day trip. It was hot enough that we decided to fish 3 hours and he can use his 4th for a trip to Gravelly one night. 

Big bluegill again. Lots of fingerling largemouth. Schools of them, a half dozen at a time. They would nip a the damsel nymphs but not take them. 

Lots of turtles, geese, wood ducks, a cormorant, and more. One friend on the lake claims the flood from last year is the reason her hydrangeas are blooming the best in 20 years. I agree, the  hydrangeas along the shoreline were busting with blossoms. It was hot. We needed Gatorade. 

Next up was MJ. She is so enthusiastic and learns so much on each trip. We could not believe the amount of tiny bass we saw. None of them had interest. The first leg of the lake was slow. Just a few bluegill. We spooked some carp in the carp flats. No love from carp. 

As we crossed the lake I was looking at some condos. MJ tossed the foam hopper rig on her 4wt Orvis Clearwater to the left side of the boat. There was a huge explosion and the fight was on. This was no ordinary bluegill. It was peeling line off her reel. After a vicious fight the fish was landed. We put it on the scale. The first measurement was OVER A POUND. The fish weighed in at 1.01lb. 

 I handed the scale to MJ with the fish. She got it at just a smidge under 1lb.
 Next up was Pete and Kades (sp?). The first leg of the lake was again slow. It picked up on the 3/4 mark. They had a great banter going back and forth. Did the fish we caught during casting practice count? Did the fish that touched the boat and fell off count? Did the first fish on a dry fly all day count as 2? It was hilarious.
 Neither of these guys had fly fished before. it didn't take long for them to pick it up.
I'm exhausted from walking for 3hrs Friday, rowing 6 hours Saturday, and 7 hours Sunday. It was 94 when we took the boat out today. Saw some kids swimming and jumping off the drain. Haven't seen that in over 20 years.

I've got lots of e-mails to get to and several fly fishing gift certificates for fathers day.

What is the biggest bluegill  you have hooked? Where? When? On what fly? What rod?

 Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Got My Snakehead Mojo By Eating One

This is a theory I had back in 2010 that if I ate a snakehead and inherited some of its spirit, that I would be able to eat one. Well I got one while electro-fishing with John Odenkirk of the VDGIF. The folks ate the fish at a cook out at Fletchers on 9/11/10. I had clients so I missed out. As you know, I caught one accidently while carp fishing last year.

Per the last post, you know that I ate a snakehead over the weekend. Today was a bad day. The baby lady was up just after 0500 and was a sad pixie. She is teething and her body is going haywire. She has a cold. I spent most of the day wiping snot from her face. The wife told me to go fishing after work. I did.

I wadered up at my evening spot, grabbed my 8wt with a 30lb-->20lb mono leader and the old Orvis curly tail bunny fly, weedless, in purple.

I waded the shores as the tide rose. I felt a tug and pulled in a nice 3lb bass. It was a great fish but I was disappointed. I kept fishing. The pic is on my point and shoot and its in my car so no pics.

I moved down the spatterdock and cast again. I felt a tug and set the hook. I immediately noticed the black and white splotches. A snakehead. I almost crapped myself. As the last two big fish I hooked were lost when I fought them on the reel, I stripped in the line.

After a brief fight I got my mouth grips in its mouth and held it high. I shouted to my friend Andrew in his canoe and they paddled over half way. He took lots of pictures.

 The fish was all sorts of tangled up in my line since I stripped in the line and gripped the fish over the line. This is what happens when I leave my net in the car. I actually need it. That and having eating the fish over the weekend = good mojo.