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Wild Rose Tales

Writer and Freethinker

I think I am a Fly Fishing Addict

Hello, I am a Fly Fishing addict. I recognize its hold over me and just don’t care. I’m going with it! I think I was put on this earth for one reason, that’s to fly fish.

I can remember from even as young as five or six not having the patience to sit still for long except for one thing, that was fishing. I can readily point to the people that got me hooked (no pun intended) and instead of blaming them I thank them. I am almost 50 and when I was little my Mom would read to me all the time. I can’t remember any of the stories, except one nurse rhyme and I can quote it to this day:

  Fishy, fishy in the brook,

  Daddy caught him on a hook,

  Momma fried him in a pan,

  Baby ate him like a man.”

This rhyme has no known author and there are different wordings for it, but I find it strange that this is the only one I remember word for word after all this time. I can remember her reading it to me while trying to rock my two year old whining butt to sleep. I think this must have been some fishing spell she whispered to me that started this whole addiction rolling. Thanks mom!

My Mom and I went often. She’s more of a cane pole and shade spot fishing lady but that’s all right. I learned how to hold my mouth right so the fish would bite. Although, I think that line about ’we have to be quiet or the fish will hear us and swim away’; might have been a ploy to get me to shut up which I never did.

When my Dad would take me fishing and I could literally sit all day long, staring at the water just watching my bobber. I knew that at any minute it would go under and I would catch a fish. What kind of fish or what size didn’t matter. I think it’s that anticipation, that feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen or what the results will be, that keeps me going. Each trip if full of possibilities.

Around fifteen, my Dad gave me my first fly rod. From that day on I haven’t thought about much of anything else. He taught me to cast which shows the amount of patience he has. I can still see in my memory what my cast look like and I just laugh at myself now. Pitiful flailing back and forth that was more of a danger to me and those around me than to any fish. I remember him taking me to my first fly shop and to be frank, I thought this must be what heaven is like.

Above my fly bench hangs that first rod. Shellac worn off, handle smooth and colored with time, thread wraps exposed and guides polished from line passing over them countless times. People have asked, ‘why don’t you refinish it?’. I wouldn’t dare, because for me, all those dings and wear marks make that rod priceless. That rod is like a magic wand that holds all my fishing ‘mojo’ from over time. It’s seen more waters than I can count and its seen heat, cold and storms that I can’t believe I was insane enough to fish in. I glance at it often and realize it is where this addiction called fly fishing started. It represents hours of hope and despair as I made cast after cast. It represents some of the largest fish I have ever caught, whose memories still shine bright in my mind.

I still have the first vise and fly tying book he bought me around the same time. Of course I’ve upgraded five or six, well more like ten (see fisherman lie a-lot) vices since then but it still sits in a wooden case on my fly tying bench as a reminder of how it all started. In a way, I’m glad I don’t have any of those first flies I tied back then, pitiful excuses for flies as they where. To me at the time, however, they where works of art. It makes me chuckle to myself when I sit down now to tie one of my favorites from back then, just a Catskill Adams, I tie it now and am truly proud of the way it looks and I’ve done it so many times it just comes of the vice with no problems. Not like the struggle that I remember from back then. I think the idea of proper proportions never occurred to me in those early days. It does go to show you that your parents love you and will flat lie to your face to make you feel good about something you’ve created. I laugh when I think of going in and showing them a fly I made and how they would say it was ‘Nice,’ hilarious, I felt like the Michael Angelo of fly tying. I think back now and they looked more like those clay ‘ornaments’ we made in elementary school, it was the thought that counts I guess. I’ve progressed a lot since then and spend as much time tying as I do fishing.

I can remember reading fly fishing magazines and being excited to get up the next morning and putting what I had read to practice. As I tried to sleep that night, I would see in my minds eye the mist coming off the water as the sun hit it and hear the sounds around me, see my perfect cast (to me) roll out. Every trip made me feel like a kid at Christmas and it still does. Today of course visualizing success is a common technique among athletes and even in business. I feel like Al Gore, I think I invented that.

After thirty-three years of fly fishing nothing has changed for me. I still feel just like that kid all those years ago. Looking at fly catalogs like they where some dirty magazine. Planning trips and ways to fish new water or even ways to fish water new I’ve been on for thousands of hours. It’s all the same to me, everything is done to either make money or time to fish. People often ask me how do you know what your passion is; well if you love to do something just as much now as you did over thirty years ago I think you can call that your passion.  As for me, however, it’s an addiction. A need, drive, almost like some genetic urge to not swim up stream but to walk in it and catch those fish that are there. Just like those fish are following their genetic makeup to swim and spawn I think I am just following mine to try every thing I can to catch them and if not to at least share some time with them as we both work our way up this stream we call life.

Fly Fishing for Panfish

Often over looked and sometime even sneered at by fly fishing purist, panfish can be a fun and challenging species to fish for. Technical fishing is often linked to Trout but, if you want to find large panfish year round then look a little closer at these exciting fish.

Don’t worry too much about line weights or for that matter rod lengths to start with. You will find that with time you might want 5 or 6 different rods from 2-3 weights up to a 6 weight and in lengths from 6 to 10 feet. Your style and water will help you figure out what works best for you. As for me, my favorite wavers between a 7 foot 3 weight and a 9 foot 6 weight in fiberglass.

Most flies are going to be size 8 or smaller and I’ll let you in on a little secret, a bigger fly doesn’t always mean a bigger fish. While a size 8 will keep most small bream from getting it in their mouths it won’t stop them from hitting it in the first place. Remember a bream mouth is small so it makes sense that small flies get more fish.

Most large panfish didn’t get that way by being stupid. So they tend to stick to deeper depths and tight to cover. The majority of their food is taken below the surface so keep that in mind along with the water you are fishing.

Regardless if it’s a river or still water, study the water and see what’s going on insect wise. Pay attention to what you see flying around the bank. Watch the water and look for any insects that may be hatching. Most of all, watch for the fish. Is it an occasional hit of something on top, or non-stop strikes on the surface? Do they seem to feeding just under the surface? As you learn to watch for the subtlest of clues you will find your success rates increase.

For me it’s mostly still water, so midges are king. I regularly fish size 16 and smaller midges. I use an indicator and occasionally a small weight to get them deep off structure. I use a slow finger retrieve to simulate a slow-moving or dead drifting insect. I find zebra midges, copper johns and glass bead-head flies to work best for me. The colors vary throughout the year but white, rusty-brown, red and black get the job done most of the time.

Mayflies are another insect to focus on, I find my best fly in this category to be a bead-head pheasant tail nymph. Now, when they Mayflies are hatching, I carry several colors of dry flies to take advantage of the occasion. For my area, Cream, Furnace and Grizzly hackle works best for me. Another fly I tie a lot of in summer are damsel flies using foam bodies in the color that closely matches what I see flying around. This is the time to be ready for larger bass. They seem to strike them with abandon very soon after the fly touches the water.

What I am talking about here is hunting big fish. Bream would hit a pencil eraser if conditions are right but if you want to catch large fish and do it year around then you have to pay attention to nature and the cycles of it. For example with a size 18 zebra midge suspended about 7 feet under an indicator and slowly retrieved over a drop off or near some type of cover you will be surprised with the number and size of fish that you will hook. I always scratch my head as to why a fish so large would bother with such a tiny insect but considering the numbers of the insects that are available it makes sense.

In the spring small streamers size 10 or even 12 that simulate newly hatched fry will also work very well. Just watch the shallows and you can see the size and color that match your area. For me its bass fry in a copper brown color.

I do recommend you work on your casting skills. They will be more important than even your fly selection because at times you will have to cast in tight spaces and this is where practice in the yard at home pays off. Work on bow cast, roll cast, side arm cast and learning to shoot your back cast up at different angles. Double hauling and long cast are truly a rare thing the way I fish.

Leaders I like to use are 9 to 10 feet long tapered down with a tippet from 4x to 6x depending on the fly. I use tippet rings for the simple fact that I’m often having to change size or add length to a tippet. It gets worn and frayed quite easily.

Focus on the early morning or late evening when the heat is more bearable in summer. In winter I prefer mid-day for my comfort and heating of the water from the sun.

Light winds can be advantageous for you because you can drift a fly with it and the slight ripple can give it an enticing jigging motion. Watch that strike indicator! The strike will be more subtle than you would think of a warm water species. Often it will just be a slight pause if the fish just inhales the fly and starts to quickly reject it. The other and most common way is just a slow steady disappearance of the indicator.

Most people think the bigger the fish the harder the take but I’ve observed over the years that large panfish seemed to have a more subtle take. Young fish tend to think they are sharks and hit everything hard and fast. So watch for the slightest twitch or the slowly disappearing indicator.

The most important advice I can give is this, be patient. Work an area slowly and steadily, move you cast in a fanning pattern. If that doesn’t work, adjust your depth and repeat working the area. It might take several tries of depth and speed of the retrieve to find the fish but when you do it will be more than worth it.

Bottom line, don’t think that fly fishing for panfish is something to do between trout trips. Instead think of it for what it is. A challenging and rewarding species to target that will require as much skill and patience as trying to catch the traditionally thought of fly fishing species. I find it good to keep a fishing journal so from month to month and year to year I can track which flies and methods work best.

Remember, use realistic looking aquatic insects flies, work the area slow and steadily and watch the water.

Practice your casting skills!

Most of all relax and enjoy every minute you can spare on the water.

Dad Fishing

Fly Fishing with Dad

    For the first time in a while, I got to fish with my Dad. It has been awhile since we’ve been able to go together. Life sometimes seems to get in the way. Or maybe we let it get in the way.

    We met up at my house and went about an hour away to the Sipsey Fork River. It is a classic tailrace river that is a put and take fishery but considering we live in the deep south, it’s a rare thing to fish clear water that is about 58 degrees and much less for rainbow trout. The next closest trout fisheries are at least several hours away.

    We pulled up to the parking lot and started putting our gear on and rigging our rods. My dad is a former green beret and commented that getting waders, vest, and other gear on reminded him of getting ready to get in a helicopter. It made me laugh because luckily on this trip nothing was going to shoot at us.

     After walking the half of a mile down to the river the true fun began. The river wasn’t crowded thankfully and the water was flowing well with perfect weather. Being that my dad had never been to this river, I pointed out the spots that I had taken some nice trout from. Not that he necessarily believed me, I have a tendency to maybe stretch the truth about where I caught fish and what fly I was using. He had good reason to be suspicious. One freezing January day years ago my Dad, Uncle and I were fishing the Tennessee River. As my uncle and I landed one stripper after another with a pink marabou fly, of course we gave him a green one, dad landing nothing. Dad kept asking what fly we where using and we continued to be a bit vague about what we had on. He finally it figured out. I still chuckle at that, so now its a running joke that you can never trust me once I get on the water.

    We both rigged to fish midge larva since there didn’t seem to be any hatches coming off, besides, this river is a midges paradise. As we fishing our way up the river we stopping to talk to each other about fish we had spotted, the flies we had tried and the mountains around us. As time went on more fisherman arrived and we gladly shared pools and talked about things we might try to get a fish on. To this point nothing had produced a fish, a few takes, but nothing else. Later in the day, Dad and I were fishing a long pool together when a boat came floating down with a team of scientist that monitor the trout in the river with radio tags. As she stood in the front of the boat with her antenna waving around I simple asked if she could just point out where the biggest trout where that would be nice. Of course she jokingly said that was cheating. I’d prefer to think of it as a prudent use of technology.

    We had just had two weeks of heavy rain and high water and all the fishing seemed to be holding higher in the river than we got to that day. At least thats my excuse for why I failed to land a fish.

    As the sun started to slide behind a ridge to the West I was fishing a pool and my dad has moved up to fish the run into that pool. As I stood there, the sun streamed over the mountain at just the right angle that cast the river in a shadow but lit him up in rays of gold. I stopped fishing and just watched him, the master in action. He finally paused and sat on a boulder and just watched the river. I wondered what he was thinking but didn’t want to intruded on his thoughts. There was no need to anyway, I know we where thinking the same thing, even though we didn’t land any fish that day, it doesn’t get any better than this.

One of many trips to come.

     So if you get a chance to fish with your dad or a good friend, don’t pass it up, a river is more enjoyable when you share it with someone.