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January Sun

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Hit the river for the day. I tied a few flies this morning and hit the river around 10:30 ish. The fog was just starting to burn off when I got to the first spot on the upper river. The flows were up from the shot of rain and snow we got so wading was tough but I managed to fish a few good looking places before moving on. The river was too swollen near Three Bridges for me to try my luck at a few of my favorite winter fishing spots up and down river of there.

I decided to head back into town and hit my old friend the Cle Elum. This river never ceases to amaze me. I hiked upriver today to a spot I haven’t visited in a while. I remember hiking the banks on a early summer day after they start to back the flows off from the dam above. There is a great drake hatch and some of the most perfect looking water I have seen on a river hidden up in the trees. The only way to access it is to walk it or float it and you have to walk a bit so not a lot of people fish it.

The sun was burning off the left over water still clinging to the rocks, moss, and trees when I stripped out enough line for a proper cast. The section I was standing below is where the river narrows between some log jams. There is a deep trough, a shelf, and a large deep eddy on the river right side. A nice 30 foot cast to the top of the trough along the seam between the slow and fast water dropped. Another 30 or so dropped before I finally hooked a fish.

The sunlight was shining brightly through the trees. It hit the water and lit up the mossy and algae covered stones below. Midges flew from the surface of the water and congregated along the edges of the river near still water between the pebbles and rocks. I could see a shape holding in the seam. It flashed. My excitement grew almost uncontainable. I cast far up river, knowing there were probably other fish in the hole. I finally got a proper drift through the cross currents while trying not to spook the fish that was still flashing and feeding below. I did not want to miss my opportunity as the sun could be off the surface at any moment and all could be lost.

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My indicator shot down and I set the hook with a high stick and a pull on the slack line. The fish hung in the fast water and shook slightly. I thought for sure it was a bloddy white fish but as I worked the fish into the slow water near me it spooked and woke up. It took line out with a slow hard pull and went deep. Then the head shaking came and I thought I was going to loose the fish since it was on the bottom size 16 zebra midge. One roll without tension and its over dude. My Winston bent and arced and vibrated as the fish tried to move into deeper water below me.

The trout took too much time in the fast water and I was patient. The beating the river gave me last week I was determined to do this correctly. The fish admitted he had been outsmarted and I pulled him into my nets embrace.

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A beautiful Rainbow Trout. Bigger than I thought as well. A delightful surprise. I did not measure but a proper 16 inches of healthy wild rainbow would have been my guess. A hefty fish as well. The water was bitter cold so I kept it in the net as not to shock it too bad. I took my flies from the trouts jaw, had my moment that I have been longing for all winter long, and released it from the net. I gave the tail a light touch and the trout darted back into the deep water on the other side of the river.

Content. The river only graced me with one trout today. I only fished for just over an hour and spent most of it walking upriver. I saw several trout working the midges underneath but they were easily spooked being in the sunlit water. Sometimes, especially in winter fishing, one is all you get.

I will be floating the upper river tomorrow and we shall see if she will give up a few more for a moment or two.

Tamarack

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Thoughts on Flies…and Winter…or Bleh as it shall be referred to.

In my Harry Potter room, tying a MB Emerger.
In my Harry Potter room, tying a MB Emerger.

Yet again we are given a dose of warm weather and rain.  The river has jumped up a few hundred cfs.  It should settle by the end of the week again.  That seems to be the mode of operation for this winter.  No snow, lots of rain, and a fluctuating river.  Why doesn’t it just be March already, without any consistency its like a precursor to Spring.

UGH! MEH! BLEH!  Its kind of a downer really, all this pretty great weather in between all the rain and frozen H2O particles coming down, and no fishing.  Water temps are still topping out around 39 degrees which is damn cold but fishable, so when the river is in shape it is worth it to nymph or streamer fish some holes.  I am not getting my drift boat out until it decides to officially be spring and with February looming and big snows still anticipated for that month, it looks like it may be a late one.

If I have learned anything about the winters here its this (this is applicable to the months of November through March): “Winter is Coming…eventually…maybe around February 4th…but maybe next week…I don’t know…get back to me.”

DAMNIT!
DAMNIT!

Where is the bloody snow!?  Literally everywhere else in the country that it is supposed to be snowing it is, but not here.  While I have no doubt that it will snow, and it will probably be one of those miserable snows that just never stops, causes problems.  Then when it all settles it will be March 15th and everyone will be bitching about how the winter was too short.  Dude, the winter was shot like two weeks ago.  Its so late now anyone that has a weather dependent business has already took the hit and is just playing the waiting game like the rest of us.  The upper elevations are finally starting to get better but with crummy snow, warm winds, and rain mixed in, the conditions just plain suck.  I haven’t even got my skis or snowshoes out of storage and at this point I may never this season.  It’s too late to be playing in the snow, too much stuff to get ready for the spring…if it ever shows.  My fear is that the winter will finally arrive…and then never leave.  Like a few years back when the damn snows up high didn’t melt until late July.

I keep looking longingly at my fly rods all secured in their tubes propped up in the corner by the door.  My wading boots have a permanent spot next to the heater in the bathroom where I dry them between wade trips.  I say permanent because I have been out two times since November.  Its driving me bonkers really.  The saying, “Winter is Coming,” can suck it as far as I am concerned.  Pretty sure Winter got lost and when it does show up its just gonna make everyone mad with its tardiness.

The tying has been my salvation.  Without the ability to unplug from the day and the world by visiting the river, my cabin fever gets the best of me.  Anglers everywhere know what I am referring too.  That need to be outside, in the river, the smell of trout on your hands, bugs in your beard, a strong tug, a tight fly line, and a filled net, its becoming overbearing now.  Late February is so close but the weather may have other plans.  The vise is the only refuge I have, besides youtube videos of New Zealand and the Lapland.  I have been taking my time and relearning a few techniques, fine tuning a few newly acquired ones, and getting creative but simple with my patterns.

I love developing new patterns, trying different materials, working out different ways to replicate and imitate the natural.  My need to get into a decent fly shop with a plethora of tying choices, and a wad of cash is increasing dramatically as we get farther into this snow-less winter.  My supplies are dwindling which is a good thing, I get a kick out of perusing the feathers, hair, and synthetics for flies, much like some anglers look at the fly bins.  The other thing that short supply does is it forces you to try new things.  Shit, I ran out of that, well lets try this instead.  Then, bam!  I have a sweet ass new fly to try.  That’s how a few of my more productive patterns came about.

Is this the river of my dreams?  No seriously I found this pic and don't remember what river it is.
Is this the river of my dreams? No seriously I found this pic and don’t remember what river it is.

For me the trip starts at the vise.  Every time I tie a new March Brown Emerger, or Skwala Stonefly Nymph I fish it in my head.  With each turn of the quill or wire I cast the fly into another riffle or run.  When I head cement the fly at the finish, in my head, I am releasing the fish and casting for the next.  Sitting at the vise didn’t use to be that way.  I sat at a vise before I ever picked up a rod, but now, every time I tie its like a little dose of fly fishing on the river.  It gets so bad sometimes I tie flies in my sleep and come up with new patterns for the rivers of my dreams.  It sounds super dweeby but hey, I am a nerd for fly fishing.

The one thing that I am missing is that angler to angler connection.  My Lady listens to me talk about trout, flies, rivers, and everything in between all the time.  We stay up after the minions go to bed and talk about fishing.  Well I talk and she listens.  She thinks its cool.  A little nerdy but she has been watching me develop into an angler and tier closer than anyone.  While I love talking to her about fish, she doesn’t share the same passion for it that I do.  She wants to travel with me to rivers, learn how to better row the drift-boat, and there isn’t another lady I know that can rough it in the outdoors like she can.  She’s the best kind of fishing partner…the one that doesn’t fish, but can row.  My Lady is not an angler and that’s cool and she knows it.

I do miss tying with a group of anglers, talking shit and telling lies.  I saw that the local fly shop is having tying on Sunday mornings and I will try and hit it, but work gets in the way.  I should look into a group of anglers getting together somewhere like a coffee shop or something and tying for an hour or two one day a week.  It would be cool to be amongst other anglers, share patterns and techniques, talk about fish and the river.  I don’t get a lot of that in my tiny little room under the stairs where my vise and materials sit.

I love to tie, but I love to fish even more.  With tying for guiding now its a bit more fun because I am tying a huge amount of flies that I normally wouldn’t.  For myself, I typically tie a set of flies at the beginning of the season and that’s all I need.  A set being 6.  I do not intend to tie all of my flies but a majority of them will be tied and not bought.  Why not?  I still tie a set at a time, but I was taught that tying the same pattern 24 times in a row can make tying really boring and mistakes happen when you get lazy after about the 20th fly.  I switch between two and three patterns until I have 2 sets of each.  The next day I may repeat the same patterns or move on to the next hatch.  It keeps it from getting dull or feeling like a chore.  I finish a set of March Brown Emergers, I get tired of tying tiny little mayflies, and move onto a large Salmon Fly Dry, then maybe a Green Drake nymph, and then back to the Emergers.  I get special requests from friends for sets of flies, Craneflies are a big one, as well as my super tasty October Caddis Pupa, and those also give me an excuse to change it up as well.

A little troutsnack party
A little troutsnack party.

The other plus side of tying for the guiding season is I feel like I am working.  Not just tying for myself but tying for clients is a big push for me.  I have tied for anglers and sent sets of flies off in the mail from time to time but never the amount I’m tying for guiding this season. The guides at the shop I used to work for would have me tie certain flies for them.  It saved them having to buy a few before their trip. We also used to tie for each other all the time. Carp flies, for trout flies, a particular guide had some amazing bass flies that I still use, and we all shared patterns and tying lessons. They were notorious for stealing flies from the table before heading out on trips though. So don’t leave flies hanging around.  I always got very critical but always constructive feedback on patterns of mine so I welcomed the less flies in my box.

There is something quite satisfying to hear a guide or angler praise a finely tuned, personally tied fly pattern.  It always made me feel like I was doing something right when my flies were in other anglers’ boxes.  I never got nervous about my flies being out there, but I have always been laid back about my flies. Fish eat ’em for me.

It’s cool that not everyone can tie them, you can’t find them everywhere, and just because you have one doesn’t mean you are fishing it right.  I have met a lot of anglers that just put the fly on/in the water.  Its always a riverside treat to meet an angler or anglers that see you catch a decent fish and ask what you used and you show them something they wouldn’t have in their box.  I am always handing out flies on the river.  I never want someone to get off the river with a bad taste in their mouth.  If a few of my flies help make their day better than of course I am gonna hand them out.  What really get’s me is when they ask how to fish it!  Oh man, yes, lets talk about that.

Flies do a lot of things besides catch trout; they inspire anglers, help concoct stories of grandeur, enlighten and educate on the ways of the river, and each one is a tiny work of art.  Such simple but intricate things; much like the trout they catch, much like the anglers that tie them on.

Tamarack

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Uncooperative Weather

A spot on the Cooper.
A spot on the Cooper.

Well, the weather once again is being uncooperative.  We now have a hydrologic warning in effect as we are expected to get 2-4 inches of new rainfall over the weekend.  What does this mean, it means the river will probably turn into a wonderful muddy high mess.  Anxious anglers like myself will be stuck fishing the trout in our heads while tying at the vise.  Some of you may venture forth to the Basin to fish Rocky Ford.  A way to stifle the fever of chasing trout but I grew up over there and the fish of Rocky Ford no longer appease my need for trout.  Its a bit too much like going to a zoo and fishing for me.

There are plenty of other trouty places to fish but I tend to keep those areas to myself.  Spring creeks and private property, its all about who you know over there.  Fortunately I know just about everyone after growing up there and marrying the daughter of an irrigation worker who introduced me to all the farmers and land owners.  When Bass season hits you will find me over there chasing them down with a streamer and an 8WT.

I will say this about the basin.  Crab Creek is not a place to shy away from.  It is full of several different species of fish including three different trout species.  It can be hard to access with the ranch and farmland property, but there are stretches that are open if you know how to use a map and have a full tank of fuel.  Its typically a streamer gig most of the year.  Chronomids…if you are into that.  I fished myself out of that water living over there and not having access to the river so I don’t go back there very much.  Unless I am bass fishing.

When the Yakima gets all moody and fishing comes to a halt; I tend to spend most of my time at the vise.  I have been tying 12 to 24 flies a day prepping for the coming season.  I tie a lot in all the standard patterns, it saves me a little money, gives me something to do, and keeps that skill fine tuned.  Plus I always end up going to the fly shop and never finding exactly what I want.  There is nothing worse than going into a local shop and not finding the fly you want or need.  I just resort to tying my own.  Ya I could buy that Pats Rubber Legs Stonefly and save myself some time but I tie.  Not every angler does, for me though, the fishing trip starts at the vise.

The other thing I do is start looking at maps.  Just today, I got out the good old Green Trail Maps, of which I have over 30 now, and started looking for blue lines to explore.  I spent a lot of time in my early years of fishing, blue lining creeks and streams because I didn’t have a boat.  That made the Yakima and lower Cle Elum un-fishable during the summer months for me.  I started following the river up.  I found that the farther I hiked in the better the fishing was.  The Yakima above the lakes where it runs wild and a torrent, the Teanaway and all its forks, the Tanuem and its forks, the Naueum, the Cle Elum all the way up to its headwaters, and the Cooper above and below the lake, I explored them all.  There are many others too but I won’t name them here.  Some have no names and are just little marks on my maps and a quick entry in my journal.  Trout in all of them.  Some not so big, and some bigger than anyone would believe.  I did it, not to become the best guide, or to be the best angler, or to chase the trout really.  I did it because I wanted to see it, understand it, I needed to know what was going on up in the headwaters of the river I loved so much.  Its all connected, and the fish are throughout and I wanted to know, just to know.  The angler in me is constantly looking for new water and instead of traveling all over the state or the world I thought it was best to start small and start here.  If in the process I get to share it with others great but I am enriched to this day because of the time I spent wading upriver.

There is one river that I visited two times last year.  It is no secret that I have hiked around 1500 miles in this area over the past few years.  I have been on most of the major summits here and hiked to a long list of lakes and creeks all over the area.  This one river though, it has haunted my days and nights since the fall.  This little known river is passed by hikers, backpackers, backcountry horsemen, and hunters every season.  I have only heard of a handful of locals fishing it.  I hiked along this river last fall and will be returning this summer to really get intimate with it.  I took bug samples the last time I was there.  A heavy presence of Caddis, but also mayfly nymphs, and some of the smaller stoneflies were all present.  The reports from over a decade ago say that there was not a very large population of anything in the river.  Once a hallowed stream for native Westslope and Bull Trout this area has been left basically un-fished since the early 90’s by my research.  The Waptus is a very inviting river.  The area I encountered is in a very well known area but very little people fish it.  The few locals and backcountry horsemen that would give up any bits of information were encouraging but secrets were withheld, you can just tell sometimes.  I have seen some very angler inviting things during my time on the trails in that area.

In my hiking and backpacking the river seemed to let a few secrets slip through.  Maybe because I didn’t have a fly rod with me.  There was the time I saw a large male bull trout lording over a pool in the upper Cle Elum last year.  Or the time we spotted a pod of them where the upper rivers come together near Salmon La Sac.  WDFW guys still don’t believe me but agree its totally possible.  I also have caught enough rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout out of the upper rivers and streams to make me wonder why the Waptus and a few other places are left alone.

Access is a big issue.  If you can’t guide it then people don’t know about it.  With the majority of the area I am concerned with being on National Forest or Alpine Lakes Wilderness Land, the chances of guiding or sharing it with others for commercial use is never going to happen.  But that’s okay really.  It means it will only be shared with those willing to make the trek, put in the time, and means I get solitude or friends to fish with.  I do know of one outfit that can guide on some of the upper stretches outside of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness but demand is low and the good water is still off limits in my book.  Again, not a bad thing.  Some water just shouldn’t be anything other than for the angler or anglers to discover.

A baby brown trout from a small blue line.
A baby brown trout from a small blue line.

The other thing I have found is the old “keep that a secret” which I get, I just don’t always agree with.  I also don’t like someone telling me that I shouldn’t fish an area because others may get the same idea.  If you tell me not to fish something, I’m gonna fish it.  I have hiked a lot of the trails…I mean a lot, so blue lining a river or stream through the mountains is just normal for me.  Taking a 3WT and seeing what I find is always an experience.  Even though you have some issues with access and landowners I have only ever had one shotgun pulled on me for trespassing; I wasn’t, but the old guy was afraid I was going after his gold claim.  While I have never actually broken the law, I have met some scary land owners that didn’t take kindly to me fishing in front of their cabin.  I even had a Ranger ask me what I was doing fishing a certain stretch as he said there were no fish in it.  I proved him wrong with a quick look at my phone and the dozen or so trout I had caught that afternoon.  Secret places are good, but without people knowing about them how can we protect them?  I keep several areas to myself still but I share a lot of them as well.  If an angler actually takes the time to hike into some of these areas and discover them, then they have earned my respect and the right (in my eyes) to fish them.  Some of these places are not the easiest to get too and all of them make an angler feel respect and awe.  Most anglers understand what that is and they cherish it, some don’t, but they aren’t the ones hiking in for a few days with a backpack, living off of freeze dried food, getting lost in the wilderness for trout.

The Waptus is one of my main areas of exploration and discovery for the season once the snows let me in.  I also am looking at areas on the Peninsula and would like to go after Sea Run Cutts again.  I spend a lot of the winter planning out trips and jotting down notes on areas of interest.  My maps are colored with circles and notes for areas.  I may never get to all of them but that is part of the fun.

I am also traveling to another state this month.  My Lady and I are taking the minions to Idaho to visit family for a week and I have been reading river reports, calling shops, and looking at maps for the areas of South Central Idaho.  While my family is visiting and what not I will be chasing trout on new grounds.  I visited a few of the rivers in the Idaho area a few years back.  The Big and Little Wood, Snake, Silver Creek, and a handful of others.  Its January so I don’t have my hopes up but it beats having to look at the muddy Yak for a week.  Plus a change of scenery is always nice for a while and my cabin fever is telling me I need a change.  Montana is also very close and I am making a return trip to the family in the spring so a whole new set of maps and phone calls will be made.

That’s one of the things I love most about fly fishing.  I can spend almost a decade learning a river and then take all that knowledge and apply it to others and learn all new things about trout, flies, and rivers.  Fly Fishing is a never ending process.  There is always something new to add to the arsenal.  There is a reason why people get so involved in fly fishing, its just rather hard to explain to those who aren’t.

Tamarack

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Sometimes the river and trout…win.

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I took the opportunity to fish an old but familiar section of the upper river Tuesday afternoon. The weather was somewhat pleasant and the river was calm and warmer than usual.

I cut through the woods and was invigorated when I stepped into the rifle before me. It had been a while since I had been on the river. October was a great month and I fished through the first part of November before the cold snap hit. But too much time had passed.

I brought my trusty Winston due to its ability to chuck nymphs and streamers equally. I swung streamers on my way down river and was brought no luck. When I had hiked and fished a mile or two down I switched to the nymph. I worked my way back up river through the pools and deep runs. I worked the water with patience and a game plan. I cut the water into sections and worked lanes and changed depths until I found fish. It worked.

I found a large pool with a root wad halfway sunk in it. I worked my way closer to the structure adjusting my depth as it got deeper. I was fishing a single Skwalla nymph under a small yarn indicator. The indicator bounced and bobbed faintly as it drifted closer to the roots. I set the hook with a light lift and then a strong tug when I felt the fish shake. I was late on the draw and the fish was off as quickly as it was on. Unfortunate.

A few pools upriver I had my chance at a proper January trout. My indicator shot down. I had switched to a the typical turd sandwich of the Yakima with a stonelfy nymph trailed by a zebra midge. The shit sandwich is when you trail a San Juan Worm. At least that’s what I was taught. A productive method when fishing on the nymph and nothing is happening.

This fish hit hard and did the typical rainbow pull to deeper water. I saw a quick flash as it started taking more line. I let out the slack I had pulled in.

Now this is where I noobed it up and the river and the trout beat the angler.

I let out too much slack as the fish pulled. Of course a smart large fish took the opportunity to make me feel like I did when I first started fishing this river. It rolled and shook off after teasing me with its immensity. Bad Luck. Drop the ball. Angler Fail.

That was the fish of the day. Sometimes you may only get one chance at a fish during the winter. I mishandled both opportunities that the river saw fit to grace me with. There in lies the truth about fishing sometimes. Every once in a while, the river and the trout, win.

For those of you who are heading out this weekend to fish. Grab the streamer and the nymph boxes. The water will still be up a little but I would recommend sink tips or long leaders on your nymphs rigs. I tie a hand tied leader for winter nymphing that is 10 feet long with a super stiff butt section to turn over double and heavy rigs. I also use a sink tip with a nymph and swing them under the top currents in the deep runs. Small Olive streamers, skwalla nymphs, or other standard nymph patterns are typical. You might get lucky and see midges coming off and can get fish to take the zebra as a trailer.

Let me know how the fishing is if you get on the river. I will be working and tying through the weekend. Trying to find enough time to chunk out 2 sets of flies a day as we get closer to the season.

Tamarack.

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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