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.