Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Kebari

Christmas Kebari
 Well, Christmas is just about here again.  I'm sure many out there are still scrambling around trying to finish last minute items, myself included.  But I wanted to get into the spirit of things with a Christmas inspired sakasa kebari.  The result was the Christmas Kebari.  I will admit that the inspiration for this fly did not come entirely from the upcoming holiday.  There is a north country soft hackled fly called a Peacock and Red that is similar.  I changed it by adding the characteristic sakasa kebari reverse tied hackle (white or gray Hungarian partridge) and the ribbing is not red tinsel but Uni-floss red floss.  However, I think because it has the main Christmas colors of red, white, and green it could still be considered festive.  I also think it may work well on the water because I find that with peacock herl and the color red you can't go wrong when looking for trout. 
Christmas Kebari
Hook: Mustad C49S
Hackle: Hungarian Partridge
Thread: Uni-Thread Black 6/0
Body: Peacock Herl
Rib: Uni-Floss Red

I hope some of you will try fishing this fly Tenkara style or by traditional western fly fishing methods.  I would also like to wish everyone out there a Merry Christmas and Happy and Healthy New Year!  May 2011 bring you peace, happiness and a creel full of your favorite trout!

Monday, December 20, 2010

What's In A Name?

The Hudson River seen from Newburgh, NY
  Recently, I was asked by a few friends and family members why I chose the name "The North River" for my blog. I went on to explain, to those individuals who are slightly newer to blogs than I am, that in many cases a blog's contents reflects the ideas, values, and characteristics of the person or person's who writes them.  This would include the title.  Though many people find my blog through an interest in fishing, especially fly fishing, other aspects of this blog reflect who I am, where I came from, and where I hope to go. 

View of Storm King on the Hudson
 My family has lived in the Hudson Valley of New York since they arrived from Europe in the late 1700's to late 1800's.  I grew up in small town on the river located about an hour's drive north of NYC and lived there until about 10 years ago when I moved to Long Island with my wife.  The Hudson River stretches from the flanks of Mt Marcy (NY State's highest peak) in the Adirondacks to the mouth of the harbor in NYC.  The watershed is a fairly large area as it encompasses the majority of eastern NY State.  Despite the large amount of development over the last few hundred years along the river (esp in the lower half of the valley to NYC) there are still areas of biological diversity that can be appreciated throughout the year.  Many areas along the river's course such as the Adirondacks, Catskills, Shawangunks, and Hudson Highlands have a rich history and have been appreciated for centuries by European settlers through art and literature (they had been appreciated even longer by the native Americans who had lived there since the end of the last ice age).  During the centuries the river has been known by different names.  To the native Leni Lenapi, the river was known as "Muhheakantuck" meaning river that flows two ways (the Hudson River is actually a tidal estuary or long arm of the Atlantic that reaches as far as Albany).  Today the river is known by the name of the explorer Henry Hudson who explored most of the river's length.  However, at one time the river was called the "North River" by the dutch when NY was a colony of theirs.  This name mostly fell out of favor by the early 1900's.

Looking South from Breakneck Ridge
 It's from from the Dutch that I gave my blog it's name.  Having grown up and lived in the valley for many years it has become an important part of who I am. Most of the experiences that have shaped my life have taken place all along it's shores.  I have hiked, kayaked, camped, and fished everywhere from it's headwaters in the Adirondacks to just north of NYC. I have seen bald eagles on winter ice flows, white-tailed deer in apple orchards and farmers fields, caught brook trout in small tributaries, encountered bears and pine martens while hiking, and watched the progression of the seasons and the renewal of life and death.  It is a beautiful place and it will always be a part of who I am. 

Denning's Point fawn

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Hot Spot

Hot Spot Sakasa Kebari
I have been hoping for the colder temps to ease up a bit the last couple of weeks but that has not panned out.  Most of the local lakes and ponds have a decent sheet of ice on them.  However, there is not enough ice to support any significant amount of weight so any type of fishing is still out of the question.  So today I thought I would write a quick post about another sakasa kebari that I did well with this past year.  This one is called a Hot Spot Sakasa Kebari.  It's very simple to tie and has been very effective (mostly for bass and bluegills).  In fact, this fly helped me land my largest largemouth bass on a Tenkara rod to date.

This guy was landed after a nice little fight.  I already had a small bluegill on the hook when he came along and took both of them.  In most cases smaller bass went directly for the fly.  I think it may have worked so well because the slender black body looks like many insects found in or near the water and the "hot spot" adds a certain amount of attraction without spooking the fish with too much color. Like many other tiers, myself included, ideas for flies come from other sources.  This one is no different.  The Hot Spot Sakasa Kebari is essentially the same as the Hot Spot fly described in Mike Harding's "A Guide to North Country Flies and How to Tie Them."  The only difference being that the hackle is tied in the fashion of a sakasa kebari.  Incidentally, Mike's book is an excellent source of information and ideas for tying north country flies.  For anyone interested in any type of soft hackled fly this is a great book to have. 

The Hot Spot can be tied with various color "spots".  In the book, he also suggests an orange spot which I also tied but I think any tier could come up with some very creative flies based on this concept.

Hot Spot Sakasa Kebari (orange)

Hot Spot Sakasa Kebari
Hook: Mustad C49S
Hackle: Hungarian partridge
Body: Uni-thread 6/0 black, spot is Uni-thread 6/0 chartreuse
or use any other desirable color

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Mohonk Kebari

The Trapps, Mohonk Preserve, NY
Many flies are tied with a purpose in mind.  A tier may want to create an attractor pattern for brook trout on a small stream or "match the hatch" for a picky brown trout on a spring creek.  Tying to imitate various life stages of an insect can be a driving factor in designing flies.  Sometimes the inspiration to tie a fly comes from an unusual place.  I love nothing in life more than my wife, children, and family but I have been in love with a special place since I was a child known as the Shawangunks.  The Shawangunk ridge runs in a SW to NE path through the lower Hudson Valley in NY.  The ridge is composed of a hard white conglomerate stone that creates a spectacular series of eastward facing cliffs.  In addition, there are five crystal clear lakes and numerous miles of streams and dramatic waterfalls.  Due to the combination of geology and geography there is unique combination of biological communities present on the ridge, including globally rare plants and animals.  The place is special to me in way that makes it difficult to put into words.  But I try anyway. I could create a blog that would focus on this special place only and I would still not be able to do it justice. 

Early fall view of the Trapps

One special memory of have of being there involves fishing.  There is no fishing allowed in the protected areas of the ridge but on the lower slopes where some of the streams empty a little fishing can be had.  It was on one of those small woodland streams that I caught my first wild brook trout with my Tenkara fly rod (also my first fish with the rod and first time I caught a fish with a fly I tied).  The brookie was only about 6" long but in that setting it was one of the most memorable fish I ever caught.  After that day I wanted to tie a fly that reminded me of the Shawangunks.  The result is my Mohonk Kebari.  The name Mohonk comes from one of the lakes on the ridge.  I never had the chance to fish this fly in a mountain stream but I did try it at a local pond and seemed to be a big hit with the bluegills and largemouth bass.  Looking at the fly reminds me of looking at the white cliffs with the areas of trees clinging to the rock surfaces.  Under water the fly takes on a different appearance.  The white floss over the peacock herl has an unusual bluish color that is appealing.  Whether it will be very effective on a mountain stream or not I don't know.  What I do know is that it is a special fly to me and that not all flies have to be perfect imitations or attractors to be appreciated.

Mohonk Kebari

The Mohonk Kebari
Hook: Mustad C49S
Thread: Pearsall's silk thread green
Hackle: Hungarian partridge
Body: Uni-floss white & peacock herl

Lake Minnewaska with The Catskills in the distance.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fly Tying as "Usual"

The Usual
 Well the weather has not been exactly cooperative lately.  Here on Long Island it has been pretty cold and windy for a number of days but the wind finally let up Friday and I thought I would head over to a local lake for some Tenkara trout fishing.  You know conditions for fishing are not good when you don't even have the opportunity to get "skunked."  Seems mother nature decided to put a nice thick cover of ice over my trout.  By the way, does anyone out there think a fisherman could look any more stupid than when he is holding a fly rod and staring at a frozen lake? I personally don't think so.  But if anything, the cold weather gives me an excuse to keep tying flies.  As some of you already know I really enjoy tying and fishing sakasa kebari but among my other favorites are the flies designed by Fran Betters.  The first fly I ever tied was a Haystack.  Since then I have spent a lot of time trying to become a better tier of his flies.  Lately, I have become pretty good at tying Ausable Bombers.  However, my favorite fly of his is the Usual.  This fly was created around 30 years ago when Fran became a little bored tying flies one afternoon and decided to experiment a little.  He eyed a snow shoe rabbits foot and thought that the material must be excellent at repelling water due to the wintry environment it finds itself in a good portion of the year.  He tied it in the pattern of a Haystack and left it up to friend to try it out.  It proved to be a deadly fly and has been with us ever since.  In addition, it introduced much of the fly tying world to a great material for use in tying various types of flies.  The Usual is a great fly in that it can be fished dry and floats like a cork.  With a little tug you can get it under the water and fish it like a nymph or emerger.  It's fibers make it translucent and give it a certain iridescence and it is also very durable.  The Usual is a very versatile fly that is easy to tie as it is only consists of two materials, thread and rabbit fur.  In my opinion I think its a great fly that should be in every one's fly box.

The Usual
Hook: any standard dry fly hook will do size 12-20
Body & Tail: Snowshoe Rabbit fur from the underside of paw
Thread: Uni-thread 6/0 Fire or Hot Orange (any thread will do though)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Brassie Sakasa Kebari

Brassie Sakasa Kebari
 Seeing that I have nothing inspirational to post about today I thought I would post about a kebari pattern that  I came up with this past summer.  When fished, most sakasa kebari flies that I have tied will float at the surface or within about 10 inches of the surface.  I wanted a sakasa kebari that would sink fairly fast when I had a chance to fish some fast water.  At the time I had no beads to use so I looked for ideas elsewhere.  Of all of the patterns I have looked through one in particular jumped to the front of the line.  Brassie's were developed out west for the same reason I needed one.  They sink well and have a great attraction to them and they have been found to work well in many other waters around the country.  So, like other sakasa kebari variations I have tied, I combined aspects of two flies to make one.  I didn't have the chance to use them on fast water this year. I tended to stick with my Royal Sakasa Kebari when I went looking for brookies (see Nov. post for "The Royal Family).  However, I did try the Brassie SK's at the millpond around the corner a few times.  I found that 4 out of 5 bluegills preferred the taste of this kebari to the others that I had tried with them.  I even picked up a few pumpkin seed's and small largemouth bass to boot.  I look forward to trying them on fast water like I intended but if worse comes to worse they will work on panfish.  On a side note, anyone interested in this type of sakasa kebari should checkout the Nov. 25th Thanksgiving "Tina Louise Kebari"  and Nov 21st post at http://www.troutrageous.blogspot.com/  . He has some great looking flies. In addition, Chris Stewart at http://www.tenkarabum.com/ has another version he calls "Sakasa Copperbari" that is a good looking fly.

Brassie Sakasa Kebari
Hook: Mustad C49S
Thread: Orvis thread tan 8/0
Hackle: Hungarian partridge
Body: peacock herl collar and UTC ulta small diameter copper wire

Monday, December 6, 2010

Lessons Learned

Squirrel Drey
 Yesterday I was driving home from a kid's birthday party when I began to notice Bella was counting.  I thought she was just horsing around with Alina but she eventually said "Daddy, they are everywhere!"  Not knowing what she was talking about I asked her. She explained to me that she was counting squirrel nests (dreys) and that she didn't know there could be so many.  It's that time of the year when the leaves have just fallen and squirrel dreys can be seen almost everywhere. When it comes to little kids, especially my own, I take any opportunity  I can to explain about animals, plants, weather, etc. and share my love of nature with them.  I know a lot of what I say goes in one ear and then out of the other but I hope some of it sticks.  I was happy to know that the little bit of information I had told her weeks ago had stayed with her.  It may have seemed insignificant at the time but the fact that she remembered it and it seemed to change the way she looked at the world is important. Any exposure to nature, large or small, it may not only lead her and other children to better appreciate the environment around them but it will also lead to a better understanding of the world in which they live.  When their time is here and ours is over, this understanding is what will help them to make the best possible decisions to take care of our planet.  I don't believe this means every child needs an African safari or a trip to the Amazon (though those would be cool).  It can be accomplished with a simple trip to the backyard to look at fireflies, overturning a few stones in a stream to look at salamanders, pointing a telescope at the moon, looking at the clouds, or even better....take them fishing!  The point is that a little exposure to nature could go a long way with a small child so take every opportunity to do so.  Thinking back on it, I came to realize that Bella knows quite abit for a 4 1/2 year old.  She knows how many planets there are and that Saturn has rings. She knows the sound a sea robin sometimes makes when out of water, what a bluegill and brook trout look like, that the heart's job is to pump blood, and that a moose looses and regrows his antlers every year.  Maybe I'm doing a decent job so far but I plan to do more. I hope everyone out there with their own kids or nieces and nephews or some kind of connection to little kids will do the same.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Golden Sakasa Kebari

Golden Pheasant
I like to tie classic wet flies. I don't fish with them but I really do enjoy tying them.  I think of them as miniature works of art and many of them have interesting histories attached to them.  Some classic wet flies, such as the Royal Coachman and Grizzly King, are still used today.  The Golden Pheasant is a pattern that goes back to at least the mid 1800's. The Golden Pheasant is described in Mary Orvis Marbury's book, Favorite Flies and their Histories.  In this book she describes another work by a Mr Wells who did various experiments in a water tank to examine the properties of the feathers from a golden pheasant.  He came to the conclusion that in addition to the durability and delicacy of the feathers, that they had the best properties with regard to the way that light interacts with them over any other type of fly tying material.Golden pheasants were bred to get just the right color to attract salmon and trout most effectively.  I'm hoping to utilize these qualities with my next little creation which I call a Golden Sakasa Kebari. I have to admit the idea for this one came from several places, one being the classic wet fly above (which is not tied as well as I would like).  The other idea came from a fly I saw some time ago on-line.  Unfortunately, I can not remember the tier's name or that of his fly to give him full credit, but it was good looking fly. It had a purple body and golden pheasant hackle that was tied in the fashion of a traditional soft hackle.  For my fly, I have tied it with and without he tail.  I think it makes a nice looking fly and I can't wait to try out it's effectiveness.  In the meantime, I have a recipe and photo below for anyone who wants to take a look.

Golden Sakasa Kebari

Golden Sakasa Kebari
Hook: Mustad C49S
Thread: Black Uni-Thread 6/0
Body: Pearsall's hot orange silk thread
Tail: golden pheasant tippets (optional) probably should use fewer than in the pic.
Hackle: small golden pheasant feather

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Trout Fin Sakasa Kebari

Trout Fin Sakasa Kebari
In my humble opinion, I think the brook trout is one of the most beautiful fish that one could ever hope to have dangling at the end of his or her fishing line.  Some people set up aquariums to watch tropical fish and soothe their nerves.  I can get the same feeling by watching one of these little guys going about his business in a small mountain stream.  I could easily understand why they can be such a popular fish to catch.  I love to tie classic wet flies and a few months ago I came across several patterns that I thought I might try.  Two patterns I found especially appealing were the Trout Fin and Fontalis Fin.  Both represent a brook trout's fin.  It has been difficult for me to find the origin of these flies but what information I have found amounts to that in years past fishermen who caught brookies would clip a fin and throw it on a hook and use it to induce a strike from a brook trout defending a territory.  I think that's a very clever idea but impractical for me because I practice catch and release.  I have yet to master combining the sections of duck feathers to make a perfect wing for one of these classic wet flies so I had another idea.  I have combine various aspects of other flies with those of a sakasa kebari in the past and thought I would try it with this color pattern as well. The result is the fly seen above.  I'm hoping that either the color or the movement of the hackle will trigger a strike. In any case I think it's a beautiful looking fly and I can't wait to try it next spring.

Trout Fin Sakasa Kebari
Hook: Mustad C49S
Hackle: Gray Hungarian Partridge
Thread: black Uni-Thread 6/0
Body: Pearsall's hot orange silk thread or Uni-Floss, orange
Tail: Uni-Floss, white

Monday, November 29, 2010

You Know It's Too Cold To Fish When......

Upper Yaphank Lake
 With all of the business of the Thanksgiving holiday I did manage to get an hour or two to do some fishing.  However, with the weather conditions that greeted me upon my arrival at the lake, I questioned the sanity in trying to fish. The day was bright and sunny but the wind was blowing at a constant 20-25mph directly in my face with temps in the low 40's. Now, I must explain, if you don't already know me I'm a bit of a freak of nature.  I love the cold. I routinely shovel snow in nothing more than shorts, a t-shirt, and gloves. I will wade into a river in late March with just water shoes on.  But cold AND wind, that can be a dangerous combination.  Even a deer that has fur and spends all of it's time outdoors knows to get out of the wind to stay warm.  I, however, am not always as smart as a deer and had dressed in my usual shorts and light over-the-head jacket.  But damn it, I had just driven 20 minutes and had the urge to fish and by God that was what I was going to do!  I didn't even reach for the Tenkara rod, it would be useless in that wind. So I decided on my 5 ft ultralight spin outfit and some Mepps spinners (as if I had another choice, it was the only other gear I had in the jeep).  I spent the next hour slowly watching my fingers go numb to the point of not being able to have the use of them and realizing that my urge to urinate was going to win out over my desire for some trout.  And that wind, it was horrible.  On a couple of casts I had to rely on my ninja-like abilities to avoid hooking my own nostril or eyeball.  I have to admit, it was interesting to see lure cast out 30 feet or so come directly back at my head like a boomerang.  With me though, when I know it's time to pack it in I say to myself, OK one last cast and I'm done.  "One last cast" always turns into 10-15 more casts.  On this day, that last cast turned into a 13" brown trout.  With a big grin on my face and a quick release of Mr. Trout I was quickly on my way back to the jeep to warm up.  If this was my last trip for the year (my "last fishing trips for the year" are a lot like my "last cast") then it ended on a good note and I can be happy with that........at least for a short time.

Last Brown Trout for the Year?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving....it has become my favorite holiday.  I still enjoy Christmas and Halloween because I get to experience the excitement and joy of those holidays through my children but give me Thanksgiving.  To me its about more than the meal.  Sure, I love turkey and apple pie, but this holiday holds a deeper meaning.  Its one of the few times in the course of the year where I can sit down and share time with the extended family with none of the complications that go with other holidays.  There is no outrageous consumerism or stressful preparation (unless you are cooking for 15 people!).  It is just family, good food, and football.  For that, I give thanks.  Our family has a tradition at the beginning of the meal and that is that we go around the table and each person says what they are thankful for.  This year, as always, I'm thankful for my wife and two beautiful children and the rest of my family. I'm also thankful for a roof over my head and a job that helps put food on my table. Lastly, I'm thankful for those few places that are left where a guy can fish for small stream brook trout in a peaceful setting and enjoy nature.  I hope everyone has a Happy and Filling Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Adirondack Inspiration

Ausable Sakasa Kebari

Well, the leaves are all just about off the trees and the fishing has not been as frequent (or productive) as I would like but there are other things to look forward in the near future.  For one, turkey day is right around the corner.  The other thing to look forward to is more time at the fly tying snack tray table.  Quite often I have ideas floating around in my head (easy for them to float in there with all the extra space) for new flies that I want to tie.  I even keep a little moleskin notebook to jot down sketches and notes when ideas come to me.  The idea for the fly above, which I call an Ausable Sakasa Kebari, came to me a couple of weeks ago when I was tying some Ausable Bombers (there is great info on them at http://www.smallstreamreflections.blogspot.com/).  The Ausable Bomber, as well as the Haystack, the Usual, and Ausable Wulff were all creations by the late Fran Betters.  All of Fran's patterns are made from simple materials that suggest many types of insects that trout feed on.  These patterns have proved very effective on waters around the world beyond the rivers of the Adirondacks in upstate New York where they were first developed.  I plan to spend more time in a future post talking about his flies, but I digress.  Since I like Fran's flies and Tenkara flies such as the sakasa kebari, I thought I would combine aspects of the two.  The result is the Ausable Sakasa Kebari.  I look forward to using it on my next trip to the Adirondacks but I will probably use it before that the next time I'm home looking for small stream brookies.  For those who may be interested in tying some the recipe is below.

Ausable Sakasa Kebari
Hook: Mustad C49S
Thread: Uni-thread 6/0 fire orange
Hackle: brown Hungarian partridge
Body: dubbed with Australian opossum dyed rusty orange
Tail: woodchuck guard hairs

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Royal Family

The Royal Coachman
 As with anything, whether it be evolution or technology, there will be innovation and adaptation to new circumstances.  The evolution of flies for fishing is no different.  Take the Coachman. It is a fairly simple classic wet fly that proved to be very useful for catching fish.  However, in 1878 a professional fly tier named John Haily working in NYC added his own little innovation to the Coachman and the Royal Coachman was introduced to the world.  The Royal Coachman is an attractor pattern as it does not represent any natural food that trout consume.  This has not detracted from from its effectiveness because it is one of the few classic wet flies that is still in use. The distinguishing features of a Royal Coachman are the peacock herl body with red band in the middle made of silk or floss.  It also has a white wing and brown hackle.  This pattern has been so effective that it has given rise to numerous variations based on scheme of materials and colors.  Among them are the Royal Trude, Royal Bucktail, Royal Streamer, Fanwing Royal Coachman, Royal Humpy, and last but not least, The Royal Wulff.  I would like to introduce another member to the family.  I call it the Royal Sakasa Kebari.  The Sakasa Kebari is a Japanese style (used in Tenkara fishing) soft hackle fly with the hackle facing in the reverse orientation from that of a traditional soft hackle.  This orientation allows the hackle to pulse in the current like a live insect.  The hackle in a traditional soft hackle will tend to collapse against the hook unless propped up by some herl or dubbing behind the hackle tie in point.  I have simply added the Royal Coachman color scheme to a sakasa kebari.  It has proved extremely effective on small stream brook trout and bluegills.  Part of the fun in tying one's own flies is to learn a little something about where a particular pattern came from and why it was used.  The Royal Sakasa Kebari family tree can trace it's roots to ancestors in Europe, Japan and 19th century America.  What is truly amazing though is how they all come together to form a beautiful little fly that can help bring a brookie to hand and give me a perfect day on a small mountain stream.

The Royal Sakasa Kebari

Hook: Mustad C49S
Thread: Black Uni-Thread 6/0
Body: peacock herl with red Pearsall's Silk band
Hackle: gray Hungarian partridge

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Is It Cheating If I.....

13 1/2 " Brown Trout

Yesterday I was determined to go back to the lake in Yaphank and take a crack at those browns with my tenkara rod.  I brought all the flies and gear I thought I would need (including the UL spin rod in case the fly rod did not work out.)  When I arrived it was as if I had never left.  Trout were visible everywhere including some doing those leaps that carried them clear out of the water.  Man, I never get tired of seeing that! I went right to work starting with a #12 orange & herl sakasa kebari.....nothing. Next, I tried a #12 pheasant tail nymph, then a #8 black wooly bugger, then a.....I think you get the picture.  It was frustrating, they were right there all coming to take a look or bite then turning away at the last minute.  Finally after an hour I tried a #12 black bodied sakasa kebari and I got a hook up and a nice 2 minute fight.  Unfortunately, I got a hook spit back at me at the last instant that sailed past my face and into the tree behind me.  I was determined to land one and hold him in my hand before leaving for the day but I did know what else to try. I stood staring at the water then my gear.  A light bulb went off in my head (albeit a very small one).  I noticed a small jar of gulp for trout that I had bought for some unknown reason way back and I thought what the hell? I molded a small wad on the end of my sakasa kebari and tossed it in.  I really try to practice tenkara in the traditional manner that it was meant to be used but since I was already fishing from a lake shore to mostly stocked brown trout I thought it really did not matter.  With in a couple of minutes I had the attention of a few trout and sure enough one inhaled the bait and was off.  He put up a real nice fight and I almost lost him as he went under a small bridge that is over the lake outlet.  I find the fight with a tenkara rod more enjoyable than with a spin outfit.  Your connection to the fish feels more real and challenging. You can't simply muscle the fish in.  The trout came in at 13 1/2" and brought me a rather large grin in the process.  However, I can't shake the feeling that I somehow cheated. Hopefully with the few remaining trips that I have left for the year the trout will be a little more cooperative and I won't have to do that again (even though it was a lot of fun).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What Can Brown Do For You?

12 3/4" Brown Trout

I was passing Upper Yaphank Lake today and I had some free time so I decided to take a few casts and see what happens. I have fished there before and it has been hit or miss.  I usually prefer to fish the lake outlet.  The water averages 3-4 ft deep there and has plenty of vegetative cover even at this time of the year on either side of the channel leading up to the outlet.  I soon as I arrived and I looked out the jeep window my heart began to race.  There were rises everywhere! The kind of rises that are spectacular to watch.  Gorgeous browns were throwing themselves out of the water.  I began to feel that nervous feeling you get as a kid when you are hoping to get a crack at all the rides before the amusement park closes.  There appeared to be small BWO's coming off the water. Normally I would reach for my Tenkara Yamame but I had taken it out of the jeep to give it a good cleaning.  All I had with me was my 5ft ultralight set up and some Mepps spinners.  I eagerly ran over and started casting.  Everywhere I looked, there they were great looking brown trout 10-15 ft from the shore.  The problem was they were not hitting my spinners.  They appeared to be more interested in the small BWO's.  WHY, OH LORD, DID I NOT PUT THAT TENKARA ROD BACK IN THE CAR? This would have been a perfect situtation for it.  But I persisted with my spin rod, what else could I do.  But sometimes persistence can pay off and it did today.  Just before throwing in the towel I managed to land two nice and healthy browns.  One was 12 3/4" the other 13" on the nose.  Both gave me a nice fight.  It is amazing how landing those two guys instantly brought down my anxiety level and put a big grin on my face.  Sure I would loved to land them on my fly rod but landing them is the main point after all.  What can brown do for you....for me, it gave me great start to the day.

Last brown for today

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Traveling Sakasa Kebari Fly Tying Kit

Traveling sakasa kebari fly tying kit
One of my characteristics of my personality is my need for minimizing or simplifying everything around me.  This has become especially true when I take along a small hip pack for hiking or my fishing gear.  This is probably one reason I have become obsessed with tenkara.  I began tying my own flies almost a year ago and I usually do my tying on a snack tray table in front of the TV with my wife once the kids are in bed.  This has led to a small problem.  A snack tray table really does not have a lot of space, so I have to pick the materials I need from my fly tying supply containers and bring them over to the couch.  Sometimes I would love to just sit down and start tying.  In addition, when I'm traveling,  I would like to tie some flies but usually don't because I don't want to lug all those containers around.  I hoping Santa will bring me a nice bag for that purpose (are you reading this Claudia?).  In the meantime I have to make do with what I have at hand.  The picture above is what I came up with.  This is a whole kit for tying several versions of sakasa kebari and it all fits into an old Altoids tin.  In a little zip lock I have various size hooks and in another bag I have "prepared" Hungarian hackle feathers.  The tin also has three colors of Pearsall's silk thread, a small container of head cement, a large pin, small bobbin, scissors, small hackle pliers, and lastly a small pin vise that used to hold very small drill bits.  The vise works pretty well even though the hook slips occasionally.  Going slow I have gotten the hang of not using a table top vise and my flies have come out nearly as good.  I even have a small tin with a kit for making usuals.  I have also experimented with using old digital camera cases and eye glass cases for making kits.  They allowed a little for room for a few more materials.  However, the Altoids tin was the smallest complete set I could put together and it will easily fit in my pocket.  I doubt that this kit could ever replace my other set up but its nice to know whether I'm stream side, traveling, or just reclined on the couch I can get my fly tying "fix."

All packed and ready to go

Monday, November 8, 2010

The "Isabella"

The Isabella

I have always believed that it is important to introduce my children to a wide range of experiences to help them develop emotionally, socially and creatively.  I also believe it is important to show interest in the things that they enjoy and find important, you never know, you may also learn something from them too.  I have introduced fishing, hiking, kayaking and general outdoor activities to Isabella and she has me involved in coloring, singing and make-believe. It has been fun for all of us.  However, I'm surprised by Bella every so often when she takes interest in something I would not suspect a 4 1/2 year to even notice.  Last week I was tying some flies (sakasa kebari to be precise) when she asked if she could do it too.  I had to explain to her that unfortunately she couldn't because of the hooks being too sharp for little hands but she still wanted to help.  So I laid out a few colors of thread, hackle, and other materials and told her that she could pick whatever she wanted and I would tie it up for her.  The "Isabella" above was the design she settled on.  I must say, its not quite the color combo I would have picked but it is now one of my favorites because it was thought up by my "little girl." If it catches a few bluegills all the better.  I thinking that maybe we'll try this again in the near future.  If her flies don't catch a single fish it won't matter, the time with her will have been all that mattered and no fish could top that.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Colors

Coxing Kill

Every season has its own special characteristics that make it its own.  Here in the northeast spring, for me, is right around the corner with the arrival of the black birds and the emergence of crocus flowers.  Summer is underway when I see the first fireflies and the days become more humid.  Winter arrives with the first snow fall that can cover the ground in a clean white blanket and I can go out and track animals and get a closer look at their personal lives.  But of all the seasons Fall is by far my favorite.  The signs of its arrival are clear when the geese are flying south and an early morning walk is proceeded by your frosty breath hanging in the air.  The main event, however, is the show put on by the trees.  I look forward to no other seasonal change more than the changing of the leaves.  Though fall comes every year and the trees change every year, don't be fooled, no two autumns are ever the same.  The variables that effect the colors seen every year are endless.  The previous summer may have been too dry or wet, hot or cold.  But all of these come together to yield a peak display that may last for only about a week and then is gone in a heart beat.  In some past autumns I feel cheated as an untimely storm with lots of wind may rob the trees of their moment in the spotlight.  I then have to wait another year for the chance at another display.  But what all of this has taught me is too appreciate every moment of it I can when the moment does arrives, because it may never come again.  Some people say they wish those colors could last the whole year.  I hope that never happens!  It is the brevity of the fall colors that makes them special. It is like the fisherman who practices catch and release.  One moment your standing in the stream with a fly in the water and then you feel the first little tug, then comes the fight, and then the moment when your bring a beautiful little brookie to hand in his magnificent colors.  You hold him for a moment to admire his (or her) beauty and slowly and gently release them back into the stream and watch them dart away.  It was incredible for an instant but it had to end.  But there is always the thought that you will have another chance at him (or her) or one of their brethren and that they may look a little different but they will always be beautiful.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hope for the coming winter blues

Iron Blue Dun Sakasa Kebari

The smell of crisp autumn air and chilly nights are beginning to be felt more and more here on Long Island the last couple of weeks.  This is by far my favorite time of year.  It's hard to beat the sights and sounds of brightly colored leaves, pumpkin picking with the wife and kids, and other signs of the changing seasons such as migrating animals.  But I find this time to also brings a little of that "bummed out" feeling because I realize there are fewer days of good fishing in front of me than behind me for this fishing season.  Sure, around here, the NYS DEC has stocked a few ponds and tidal streams with trout to help ease some  who need their "fix" through the colder months, but many of the open seasons for sweet water fish will be ending soon.  I'll do my best to get out their as much as I can, much to the dismay of my wife, but the days are growing fewer.  However, there is a bright spot to all of this.  With less time spent outside that can only mean more time inside and that means FLY TYING! (again to the dismay of my wife).  I became "hooked" (lousy pun intended) on tying flies even before I purchased my tenkara rod this past march.  I was hoping to use some with a spin bubble on my ultralight spin outfit.  By the way,  who ever came up with that method of fly fishing certainly did not have the concept of delicate casting in mind.  I digress,  fly tying has become more than a way to save a few bucks on lost or overly used flies.  The history, stories, and intended use of many of the thousands of pattens is utterly fascinating.  I think I spend just as much time reading about flies as I do tying and creating them.  Learning about just a few patterns has led me to understand the beginnings and evolution of the sport and even a little about the history of the places where they were created along the way.  For example some of my favorite types of flies to tie are the north country flies of Scotland and England, the sakasa kebari of Japan, and flies tied by the late Fran Betters in the Adirondacks of my home state of New York.  There is literally a lifetime's worth information on fly tying and experimentation that could be done. So on those long dark nights in winter with no fishing to be had I probably won't even miss being outdoors in the pursuit of a brookie or largemouth........Yeah right! Who am I kidding I'll probably be going nuts and taking Claudia there with me.  But at least there will be something to help pass the time.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Bella and her prized 10" bluegill

Recently I was reading another blog that I have come to enjoy, "The Average Joe Fisherman."  One post I was reading was about words of wisdom from a father to his son and this got me thinking about a recent fishing trip I had with my father this past summer.  We spent the day fishing a reservoir where he first taught my brother, sister, and I how to fish when I was young.  There were countless summer evenings when he would come home from work and we would all quickly finish dinner head out to get some worms then on to the lake to fish until the sun went down. He spent many hours helping all of us to bait our hooks, take fish off the lines or help my brother untangle his lines from the surrounding trees. It's a wonder my Dad ever had time to get his line wet before it was time to go.  But in the moments in between he always was there to give advice and little pearls of wisdom on subjects beyond fishing.  When I look back at those long ago summer evenings I find they are some of my fondest memories.  When we went fishing on that same lake this past August we talked about those memories and what my family was up to lately.  Even today, at my age, he still has  advice that I could profit from.  When I got back home I felt a little sad knowing that I can't fish with him as often as I used to but I now have the opportunity to make those memories with my kids.  Bella is only 4 1/2 and her attention span to fish with daddy is limited (notice the bike helmet in the picture above) but I'm laying the foundation for what I hope will be fond memories for her someday.  As she gets older I hope that I can give to her and her sister what my dad gave to his children, not just a pastime and ability to fish, but good memories and strong family connections that will last a lifetime for them as well as me and Claudia.  By the way she was using daddy's tenkara rod and a #8 black wooly bugger.  Wouldn't you know, that bluegill was larger than any I caught in that pond this year.  Maybe she can give me some advice!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Moose on the loose!

Bull moose near Beacon, NY-Photo from City of Beacon PD

I'm always interested in whats going on "back home." One of the ways I keep abreast of things is by reading the Hudson River Almanac.  I have subscribed to the electronic version for more years than I can remember.  But after posting about one of my favorite animals yesterday (the Brook Trout)  I find that one of my other favorites has made an appearance in the town directly across the Hudson from where I grew up. Though New York (specifically the Adirondacks) has a small population of moose, they are a very rare sight in the lower Hudson Valley.  I, for one, am very glad to see the young bull make a cameo.  A few hundred years ago they used to more common.  There even used to be elk there too (one of the last was shot around 1801 near New Paltz).  Even though there are still a few large animals that call the valley home, such as black bear and whitetail deer, The moose's appearance is a cause for celebration.  I know that some people see this as a cause for concern and that moose and people need to be protected from one another but I think he should be left alone.  He'll make his way to where ever it is that he needs to go in what ever time it takes him.  In the meantime, I think everyone should take the time to admire such a great animal from a safe distance.  How often will you get the opportunity?  What the moose represents is far more than just some large lumbering animal that's out of place (at least by our standards).  It represents a part of the wild that is no longer available to many of us outside of Maine, Alaska, or Canada.  The moose is an animal that prefers to lead a solitary life in the beautiful setting of the great northern woods, it has incredible strength, and when push comes to shove is not an animal to be trifled with.  It should be admired and not looked at as a convict on the loose. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Brook Trout

Did I ever mention that I like to fish?  The answer to that would probably be.....Yeah, only a 100 times.  Claudia will tell you that it's more like an obsession (nature observation and fly tying being the others).  However, if there is one fish I love to fish for more than the rest it would have to be Salvelinus fontalis.  Also known as the Brook Trout.  The brook trout is not really a trout at all but a member of the char family.  It has lived in the northeastern US since at least the end of the last ice age.  I admire it for its hardiness to make a living in such a harsh environnment such as a small mountain stream.  It can endure the coldest winters and the toughest summer droughts.  About the only thing it has a hard time dealing with is pollution, rising water temperatures, and invasive species (all of those are our fault).  I also love it for its incredible beauty.  The colors and patterns are quite striking.  If it were placed in a tropical river or ocean coral reef I don't think anyone would think it was out of place.  The small streams that they can be found in can be equally beautiful.  There are many times I find myself just sitting beside  just such a stream watching the world go by.  The web of life that can be found in and around any mountain stream is facinating.  Eventhough I live on Long Island I manage a few times a year to go upstate and do some hiking and fishing in such places.  My latest addition to my list of addictions would be Tenkara fly fishing.  It is perfect for this type of pursuit.  I will probably talk about Tenkara in a later post but a good website to go to to learn more about it would be TenkaraUSA or TenkaraBum.  All the brookies I caught this year were released safely back into thier watery worlds.  For a moment though, each one was like holding a small jewel in my hand.

Many of these small guys were caught on flies that I tied. My two favorite flies to use on small streams are a royal sakasa kebari and an orange and herl sakasa kebari.  I'll give my recipes for them in a later post.

Royal Sakasa Kebari

Orange and Herl Sakasa Kebari

Friday, October 15, 2010

A nice weekend

Bella and Alina enjoying an apple at the orchard

 It the simple things that make life sweet.  I spent a weekend at my parents house (Newburgh) with my wife and the kids.  It was our anual trip to papa and nana's house to do some pumpkin picking and get some cider and apples.  This is always my favorite time of year.  I was a little disappointed with the falls colors.  Perhaps it was the long dry summer or that were are just a little too early.  It doesn't matter its always nice to be here.  The weather was outstanding with clear skies and highs in the low 60's and lows in the low 30's....Perfect!  The night skies were gorgeous.  The milky way stretched from horizon to horizon.  and the Andromeda was plain as plain can be right overhead.  I miss such unobstructed views at night (without so much light pollution).  I even managed to get some hiking and fishing in.  The girls and I also made it up to Awosting falls for a nice morning stroll.

Bell along the Peterskill above Awosting Falls

On Friday evening before the weekend started I took a quick run down to the mill pond in Setauket for a quick 1/2 hour of Tenkara fly fishing.  Most of the time was spent catching and releasing bluegills.  I was using one of my Hotspot (charteuse) sakasa kebari.  Before leaving I hooked one more bluegill that could not have been more than 4" long. As I was pulling him in a large dark shape darted from the overhanging branches of the pond and inhaled the poor little fellow. In a split second the bluegill passed my #12 sakasa kebari from his lip to that of a 16" heavy largemouth bass. I don't know what happened to the little guy but I didn't care because I now had a real fighter on my hands.  After 5 heart pounding minutes I slowly brought him up to the bridge for a quick look and let him go.  My Yamame held up well and it was quite a challenge.  A nice way to start the weekend.

HotSpot Sakasa Kebari

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Awosting Falls - Minnewaska State Park Preserve

The first step into any new venture always seems to be the hardest.  Trying to find the right words, the right pictures to include in this blog has had me thinking for quite some time.  Then I remembered why I wanted to do this in the first place.  I wanted to write this blog mostly for myself as a way to organize my thoughts and keep an electronic journal of my observations of nature and fishing experiences, things I have been writing by hand for some time now.  If along the way my family, friends or anyone else read and enjoyed it or made them think a little more about the world around them, then all the better.  Like many other things in life,  it will probably not be perfect from the start.  It may have to be reworked or corrected at times but that's OK.  The ultimate goal is to learn from, appreciate, and enjoy the journey.  It is said that every journey begins with the first step and this is mine......

The Trapps - Mohonk Preserve