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Prepping.

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So the river is going to have a window of fishable goodness this week and I am prepping for some good old January fly fishing. Instead of breaking out the drift boat this weekend like everyone else. I’m taking my usual two weekdays off from the day job to visit some faithful “secret” winter holes I have had the pleasure of discovering early on.

Tying flies and searching for the warmest socks I own, while anxiously thinking about which places to visit and what techniques I should use. I’ve been watching the flows and water temps every few hours. Things are looking pretty good. Grab the streamers, the sink tip, some trusty nymphs and the thermal underpants and hit the river if you get a chance. I know of a few anglers just itching for some time on the river. Okay, more than a few, I’m hoping to beat the madness, if there actually is any, with some early week fishing and an early report for the weekenders since I’ll be in the office.

Till I’m off the river,

Tamarack

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The Truth about fishing in January

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January is typically a month that…well kinda sucks, for fly fishing. At least concerning the trout fisherman like myself. I have chased steelhead in the winter months of the northwestern rivers, but I don’t much care for it in all honesty. I’m a trout angler.

I had to make a run for work and got a chance to drive along the river. A green milky hue runs through the river, swollen from warm winter days and rain. The angler in me was intrigued at how inviting some of it looked. A 6WT with a sink tip and the slow strip with a green streamer was running through my mind. A possibility if the river drops just a tad more and keeps its temp up.

The overnight lows are in the low 30’s and dropping into the high 20’s later next week. If the gods allow it there may be a short window of opportunity to fish the river before the cold nights set back in. I wonder what other anglers are contemplating the same thing? A lot? Should I think about a less known spot if the window opens? Should I prep my boat for a short float? Is there a hole I know that could produce at least one fish to satiate my complete desire to catch a trout? There is and its soaking up my thoughts as I watch the river intently.

An opportunity to fish in January is something to cherish really. Most of the time the river is a slushy trout flavored death trap. Ice chunks, bitter cold, snowstorms, and sleepy fish are all that usually greet the angler on the gray and white days of winter. This is my 10th January on this river. Could be one that goes by like any other. Or maybe it might get a day or two of surprisingly decent fishing.

The truth about fishing in January, in most cases, is cabin fevered anglers, anxiously waiting for the next 40 to 60 days to pass. Tying fervently or torturing themselves by watching fly fishing videos from New Zealand and Argentina.

Tamarack

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Thoughts on Dry Flies

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I inspect the skwalla dry fly at rest in my vise. It still smells of head cement. The pattern is a bit too big for my taste. There are two pieces of foam, dubbing, and six rubber legs hanging off its sides. A mixture of flash, poly yarn, and wing material make up the wings of the imitation. I use a felt tip marker to put some spots on the foam to help break up the solid color. A pattern that has been very successful in the early spring days on the Yakima River. A pattern however, that I have grown tired of using and I feel that a better more precise imitation of the natural has yet to be created.

The dry fly is a very peculiar concept for tying. The angler and the trout are add odds during the creation and tying process.

A trout views the airy world above much differently than the angler. A trout sees an imprint in the meniscus, a particular silhouette that resembles the proper insect, for that time of year, for which the trouts natural instinct tells it to eat because it looks right. Trout do not smell the insect, they do not sense it with bio electric current, they merely see it. A trout has very specific eyes. Eyes designed to see underwater. While they can see the air above their eyes see mere shadows, shapes, and washes of color, light, and dark. They can see just not very well.

The angler sees a dry fly much differently. We see the natural rising off the surface with a flutter of color and movement. We see the insect stretch and dry out its wings before lifting off. We see them fly above the river mating, catch them in our beards while fishing, or see them on the foliage that lines the river banks.  We see the dry fly much differently indeed.

An angler peruses the fly bins searching out the most intricate pattern that looks the most realistic or has the best matched color. I even catch myself picking out ridiculous fly patterns from the bins interested in their make up and effectiveness. A trout just looks for the right looking shadow. I learned over much trial and tribulation; that a simpler, more trouty approach to dry fly tying was needed.

I have maybe 7 actual dry fly patterns that I use. Now I may carry way more in my boxes and for other people, but I tend to settle on the same 7 dry flies patterns every year. The reason for this, is because the trout told me. Trout see dry flies very simply but also incredibly specific. They see a black shadow or outline of the insect from below at upward angles. They operate in a 3D world like we do but their sky has this divider between water and air like a visible, transparent, permeable, ceiling that moves. Its crazy to visualize and think about sometimes.

A trout doesn’t see all the intricacies that the angler does. Instead they see a much more subtle set of details. The most important is the imprint in the meniscus but also, the way the legs set out from the body, the way the wings lay above the body of the natural, the way it moves along the surface, or its lack of movement, is it big enough, or too small, is it in a place that it should be, is there anything about it that is off compared to what the instinct of the trout says it should look like. All these things go through the mind of a trout in an instant as it rises to the surface to snap a dry fly or rises to the surface only to refuse.

As an angler and a tier, learning this was key to my dry fly success. I really listened to the old literature from the early days of fly fishing, the 20’s and 30’s, and then more that came out during the resurgence in the 70’s. They all lead to the same conclusion for me: Match the natural, from the trouts perspective. Certain materials do this best, especially when it pertains to the mayfly.

A mayfly is a tricksy quarry for the tier and the angler. Imitating such a small and intricate insect is a test of both mental fortitude and tying ability. One improper placement of hackle or tail could mean the refusal from the epic trout that haunt the riffles. I have seen it. The big trout coming out from its den. Lurking in the dark slow water in the best spot out of the current and hidden from the eagles and osprey. A perfect cast, the lightest and most unobtrusive drift, the sight of the trout rising underneath, tracking the fly….and then….the big refusal. Utter failure. Complete disappointment in oneself. Absolute encouragement for the next time.

In all reality a simple Adams or Wulff will do the trick most of the time. I have caught some of the most finicky large trout in the riffles of the farmlands and the upper river shallows during the mayfly hatches, with a small and properly tied Adams. The Wulff works very well on bright days for large winged mayflies. The Adams for just about everything else.

An Adams tied in the correct size, proper type of dubbing, correct tail material such as pheasant; that has the correct number of turns of hackle will give the proper silhouette of the majority of mayfly species. Trout see a mayfly, an angler sees an old traditional fly. Not the most colorful and exciting thing in the fly box. But flies are for trout not anglers.

I have found that with some of the smaller mayflies; in particular the Pale Morning Dun of the upper Yakima and Cle Elum Rivers, require a slightly different tying method for more productive results. The PMD of the upper basin of the Yakima is almost a whole size smaller in most cases than its lower canyon counterpart. I find that a size 18 or a short shank 16 are more effective than the larger 16 and 14 of the lower river. Its not so much the length as its the fatness. The upper river insects just seem to be a daintier version. A common thing for upper stretches of watersheds I found after doing more research.

The standard dubbing body flies are just too fat for the upper stretches. I began to tie mine with a quill body. I use a special technique on a dyed feather from a peacock. I tie specific tails that curl the proper direction which helps with the proper shadow upon the surface. I then build a small thread body and then wrap the peacock feather forward creating a segmented quill style body that looks good to a trout and the angler. Simple duck wings tied light and soft, and 4 turns of slightly smaller hackle than proper size and the fly is finished.

The results from this simple change made a huge difference in my refusal rate. The patterns work well on the lower river as well but the quill body does not look as large as the lower river natural. This whole process led me to tie a more effective mayfly pattern in the end. All because of a little difference I noticed in the PMD of the upper river.

My mayfly box is mostly filled with Adams patterns of various sizes and colors and a matching set of quill body patterns.

When I was a younger angler I had every new and awesome looking fly pattern there was, whether I tied it myself or bought it. Perks of working at a fly shop. I have a much different looking fly box now, and less of them.

Concerning the larger dry fly patterns for stoneflies and hoppers. I tie the same foam pattern stonefly dry in the correct sizes and colors. Same with the hopper, in yellow, tan, olive, and pink.

Caddis are a simple matter really. LaFontaine’s Dancing Caddis is the only dry fly caddis pattern I fish. Tied in correct sizes and on the right hook; there is no need for any other caddis dry fly. Except when referring to the October Caddis. The large orange sedge of the fall requires nothing more than an orange stimulator tied in the correct size. I tie mine with a much more subtle dark color and typically use moose hair for the wings.

The Cranefly is the only other insect that isn’t covered by the patterns described above. I have two patterns for that hatch, one with foam. They are of my own design with the help of an old mentor, that has proven effective for many anglers who have had the luck to get some from me. I also tie a standard dubbing body one as well. The trick to the cranefly is the legs. The trout sees a very interesting and specific shadow with the cranefly. To my knowledge there is only maybe 3 patterns on the market that do a proper job in imitating the cranefly.

As I finished off another foam filled stonefly pattern this evening, the tier in me pondered at what new designs I could come up with that could eliminate foam. I am not the biggest fan of foam flies. They plunk on the water like foam, natural insects don’t plunk like foam does.

Even though I personally tend to settle on the same patterns when I fish alone I have several different patterns that I tie and purchase for dry fly fishing when with others and running my boat. I love to try new patterns, incorporate new things in my tying. I am always open to new things and patterns and sometimes fish will let you know what they want.

Right now I am working on new patterns for the Skwalla Stonefly that are a throw back to the stonefly dry patterns of the old days with new materials and techniques incorporated. There are days that I look forward to working at my vise as much as I look forward to getting on the river.

Nymph tying on the other hand…whole different ball game.

Tamarack

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The Joys of Technology!

I spent the majority of last night and today staring at my phone and computer while I updated, fine tuned, and tinkered with my new website.  I have been looking at the best options for credit card transaction via my mobile phone and an app.  I have been getting necessary paperwork edited, revised, and printed for insurance and permitting.  It feels good to be doing stuff again.  I am literally counting down each day as we move closer to late February when the Skwalas are on the move.

Since this thing went up I have already been contacted by some old friends, guides, and a few other trout bums who thought I dropped of the face of the planet.  I am not still in Alaska people!  I live right in Cle Elum and work in Roslyn when I am not on the river.

I am super stoked for this new gig.  I don’t know how many times I have talked with the people in Olympia about my license and was assured that once everything is turned in and the fee is paid, I will be official.  Its a really easy process but an important one for me.

My vise has been getting a workout lately as I have been tying for the coming season.  My body is also craving the exercise of being on the river.  With no snow I am unable to ski which is a great way to get in shape for rowing.  But a smelly gym and a rowing machine will more than likely be my main source of workout as the winter creeps on.  Fishing is not happening right now but I keep a close eye on the river flows and temps several times a day.  The angler in me waiting for a winter window to open for fishing but it hasn’t happened yet.  Its the first thing I do when I wake up.  My wife keeps asking me what I am doing on my phone in the morning and I just tell her I am thinking about trouts.  I always check the flows in the morning, just in case, there is a good enough excuse to blow off the day and hit the river.  Even if its cold, fish still gotta eat.

As the winter moves along and January sets in, I long for crisp foggy mornings, warmer spring days, and hungry eager trout.

Share this with your friends and family, I will continue to blog and write here.  Get some dialogue going about fishing!

Tamarack

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My First Official Post

Hello Everyone!

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It has been a while since my last post. In fact the last post was when I was hiking the 8th summit of a hiking contest. Everything about this page and blog has changed. This page will be an official premium wordpress webpage for my new fly fishing guide service, Tamarack’s Guide Service. I have been working towards this goal for some time now and have only recently been able to pursue it with full attention. This page will be a hub for my new business but it will also be a place for me to share my passion for fly fishing through media and writing. I have also been secretly working on short films about the rivers here and now have an excuse to use them here.

I will be ready for the start of the fly fishing guiding season like many here in the Yakima River Valley. I trained with some of the best guides on the river several years ago, I learned this river from one of the great old timers. I have spent the past 8 years honing my tying and fishing abilities on my own, with others, and learning, teaching, and doin’ some more learning along the way.

I have spent the past 4 years fine tuning my drift boat skills while putting in the time to learn how to row as a guide with helpful and willing friends. I have spent hundreds of days along the banks of the rivers here. Hiked to remote lakes and streams, fished creeks with no names, rivers that no one thought had fish. I continue to explore the blue lines of the map here. Guiding was inevitable for me as I want to share this with all who are willing but I have to make a living and support my family in the process. I always tell people that if I could live and support my family off of the vibe I get from people when they share that moment with a trout or nature, I would be content. (Little hippy vibe there)

Many of you follow this blog because of what I did with my old gig. I invite you to continue to follow this and learn about my truest passion when it comes to the outdoors and life. Fly Fishing.

While I was chasing the goal of guiding the mountain trails and snowy passes with my previous endeavor, my drift boat and fly rods went slightly neglected. Being an independent, licensed, insured, and taxable fly fishing guide, has been soaking up the winter days in preparation for the coming season. I’ve also spent the majority of the winter tying flies something I have missed. I didn’t want to put too much out until it’s all official but the insurance lady told me too. This website is the product of having to have something up that explains services for insurance. Hurray being a grownup!

Its been a rough go for a bit but the spring is coming and new things are happening. Its time to sit down at the vise and get ready.

Tamarack