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