crab flies

Crab Recipes: Crab Cakes; Crab Imperial: Deviled Crabs; Classic Crab Boil…

Crustaceans. I saw a variety of them on a recent DIY saltwater fly fishing trip in late November. The sand I was wading was a whiteish-tan color. Many of the small crabs I spotted matched the sand bottom (coloration) in order to blend in. Creatures in nature tend to camouflage.

Below are some pale size 2 and 4 crustaceans flies tied with a tan/sand colored Furry Foam and weighted lightly (bead chain) for hopefully a soft landing in ultra-shallow water. I used a dime (coin) to cut out the body /shell shape. Although crab shells aren’t perfectly round, if Redfish can differentiate between a round and an oval shell then I’ll have to tip my angling cap to them!

There are many crab fly recipes out there. They range from super realistic to wildly impressionistic patterns. I picked and copied a simple recipe that required minimal materials, matched my novice saltwater tying skills and modified it a little to make it my own. I’ll have to cast the impressions on a future trip to see how they sink and perform when tugged along the bottom, and also to check-out their durability.

Ultimately it is the Redfish who will decide whether the crab recipe is a visually appetizing one, or not…

Fly Fishing the Sand

THERE’S A REDFISH JUST 20 FEET TO MY LEFT. I ALMOST walked by him. How come I didn’t see him earlier? Surface glare! He’s in a foot of water. Stationary. That’s rare. Most are prowling. Most are on the move. He hasn’t noticed me even though I’m close. Maybe I should slowly back away before casting. Then again, he might notice me if I do that. Movement is always risky in the skinny water. No, I’ll stay in place and ever so slowly crouch down and side arm a cast 4 or 5 feet away from him. There. He heard the plop of the fly (maybe too much weight on it) and noticed the cast (fly line). He’s moving away. Accelerating. Now gone. Too bad. He was a good one. Mid to upper 20’s in inches. A missed opportunity and I’m not getting many. Two or three quality shots on a good day. Some days none. Yesterday was a “none” day. The day before I spotted only one. It’s a tough angling gig out here on the Sand.

redfish

The sand flats that I’m fishing are only shin to knee deep, that’s it. Walk several hundred yards out from shore and it’s the same. In the shallow water the Redfish are generally on high alert and usually prowling (moving). I go slow, try to minimize my wading wake, constantly scan the water, try and use whatever light there is to my advantage, constantly fight glare, and hopefully spot one before it sees me. Spotting one from far off heading my way is better than seeing one up close as I get time to prepare, position myself and cast from a safe distance so they don’t detect my presence. Fishing blind is useless out here. I have to see them to catch them. And many things inhibit my ability to see: low light, low and high cloud glare, a wind ruffled surface, sometimes dense morning fog that seems to take forever to burn-off or blow away, and short Autumn days where the sun arcs low on the horizon.

shoreline in distance

Clear, full sun days with no wind are perfect but I rarely get both at the same time. The wind tends to be daily, strong and persistent. A perfect day is a rarity. Maybe a perfect day doesn’t exist. When it is mostly sunny, 11 am to 3:30 pm is my best sight-fishing opportunity. That’s when the sand flats become illuminated. That’s when the Redfish contrast well against the pale bottom. Sometimes I can see them from a long way off…50 yards or more.

barrier island road flooded
redfish

When the light is poor I often only spot one at 20 feet or so, maybe even less. Often they see me first at that range and bolt. Sometimes at that short distance they don’t notice me, so I crouch and I use a roll/flip cast and plop the fly near them and strip. A few have followed my impression almost to the rod tip. So close I end up stripping my leader butt section through the top guides. They follow, see me then flee.

hiking tidal flats to bay
Roman (friend) scanning the water, sand dunes in distance

On the Sand I’ve seen no surface disturbances to give them away. No schools feeding and nervous water to wade to. There are schools of mullet but nothing charging them. I’ve seen smaller baitfish but again nothing aggressively pursuing them. I’ve seen no tails protruding from the water. There’s no real significant structure where they hang out: few troughs, etc. They either show up to feed, or don’t. I usually see them in the afternoon. Of course that could simply be because the light is generally more idyllic for spotting then. They are usually on the hunt when covering the sand; usually moving but on occasion stationary. I’ve seen a few in one spot digging in the sand for prey…lug worms, crustaceans. Those fish are my best chance; the stationary ones; their heads down.

morning fog, intense glare

I came here for the low shin deep clear water, the light sand bottom and the sight fishing possibilities, and of course the challenge. Angling as demanding as anywhere. I drive to the tidal flats as close to the bay as I can get then hike in the rest of the way, always watching the morning sky and light, hoping for that perfect day. Once on the water the search begins; the hunt for Redfish. I’ve seen some in the 30 inch range and had two large ones eat my impression this trip but with no hook-up. Fly casting to a thirty inch Redfish in one foot of clear water…imagine that!

mainland port town

some mangroves on edge of bay and tidal flat (a bit of structure)

redfish
redfish
old port town

stilt structures

redfish

old port town

redfish
redfish
redfish flies for the sand

late october

Late October. Most rivers are closing down. The Brown trout are on Redds. So are the Bull trout. We had our first significant snowfall the other day.

Bruce on pool 85, last Fall

Recently I fished a Cutthroat stream several times with a friend, Bruce. Below are some photos from this season and also last Fall when we visited some of the same rivers. When fishing with Bruce I cover several pools to get a few good trout. Bruce generally stays on one pool and catches many. An outstanding, versatile angler. My dog Abby also enjoys his company as he always brings her a bag of treats.

bruce nymphing
Bruce wading deep
Bruce last Fall, small stream
one of Bruce’s Cutthroats, photo by Bruce
cutthroat, photo by Bruce
photo by Bruce

The photos below are of another outing this Fall where I was privileged to be guided by Vic Bergman owner of the famous Crowsnest Angler Fly Shop: (https://www.crowsnestangler.com/). I worked part-time at his iconic Fly Shop this season and last, and he generously treated me to a day on a British Columbia Cutthroat stream. He stayed in the background and took some action shots and a few fish photos which I fully appreciated as I generally fish alone, and therefore don’t get that type of photo perspective on my blog. Many thanks to him for the day and memorable shots.

fishing a tail-out riser, photo Vic Bergman
hook-set, photo Vic Bergman
landing one, photo V. Bergman
photo V. Bergman
cutthroat stream, photo V. Bergman
nice cutthroat, photo V. Bergman

Mid-October

” If a year was tucked inside a clock, then Autumn would be the magic hour.”

Victoria Erickson

FEW BLUE WINGED OLIVES SO FAR this fall. Consistent with the whole season as hatches in general have been poor. I continue to walk local Cutthroat streams. I’m still finding some late season afternoon rising fish. The searching and sight-fishing in the full sun has been spectacular due to rivers being ultra low and clear. The big stuff (flies) in the slow shallow stretches rarely get a response. I’ve had much more success with small fly impressions such as midges, tiny parachute patterns, hackle-stackers, small emergers and ants. Size 18 flies generally. In the low, slow water the trout are on guard and fairly selective. They carefully inspect all that passes overhead. Rises are slow motion events fully witnessed in the Autumn golden light. Dry fly fishing doesn’t get any better.

shallow, clear

flies

autumn gold

In between pools

Dark in the morning. Dark earlier in the evening. Days are shortening. Fading light…

The brief afternoon light provides opportunity to locate a good trout. It’s your chance to sight-fish; your chance for one on a dry fly.

I have been hiking a few very low, clear Cutthroat rivers the past couple of weeks; walking the long distances between pools where there is very little holding water and therefore trout. I always pause in these sections when I see see a small area of slightly darker water, or what seems to be a slight depression in the river bed. A spot that is just a little deeper than the rest. Often it’s just two or three feet of slow moving water. Sometimes less.

Recently I paused and watched one of these spots after noticing a slight surface disturbance. The afternoon sun felt good and I knelt down on the sand and pebble rock and took a moment to absorb the heat, as I had been wet wading the ice-cold river for awhile. As I watched and warmed-up, a rise occurred. The fish displaced very little water. A small one. It was eating the few afternoon Blue Winged Olives that were riding the slow, shallow flow. I watched for awhile then noticed, just slightly beyond, another fish rise. It displaced more water. A better fish.

I side-arm cast to it down and across from my kneeling position and the trout slowly surfaced in full light and ate my small Olive impression.

low,slow…clear

It is a given that in low water conditions that Cutthroat trout, and trout in general, are going to be in the deep pools on a river. Catching them there is always an achievement especially late in the season after they have been fished-over for three plus months. However, finding a good one in between pools in the shallowest of water is for me much more special. It’s the location. A few trout found in the scarcest of water the past few weeks…

Long leaders, fine tippet and relatively small flies.

clear water, dog’s nose

a river’s nuances

SEPTEMBER. SIGHT-FISHING. IT CAN BE CHALLENGING WHEN there is a smoke filled sky and some high clouds. When the ceiling above me is thick and casting a significant glare on the water’s surface. A glare that’s often blinding at river level. On one of my favorite rivers I reduce glare by climbing its high banks and cliffs. Up high I can see into the water and spot trout when they move into the shallows.

The trout in this particular river often leave the deeper water of a pool in the afternoon and cruise the shallows where land-based bugs get blown, or where insects that have hatched collect. They creep along the river’s edge searching for food. The big confident fish don’t mind the shallows, even in mid-day light. Although confident they remain cautious in the skinny water. And they are always in close proximity to deeper water. That’s their escape route if they sense threat.

Up high you can observe a trout’s feeding behavior. You begin to realize that it has a route that it cycles through. A repetitive hunting path. They often travel along river’s edge then circle back downstream through the deep pool water, then re-enter the shallows and creep upstream along the edge/bank again. As long as there’s an occasional reward (food item) they’ll repeat the cycle. Sometimes they deviate slightly. They’ll travel higher up in the pool or start their cycle lower down closer to the tail of the pool. If they are not finding a lot of food they might cross over to the other side of the river/pool and feed in a similar fashion along that edge. They generally stick to one pool. It is their home; their neighborhood. And the biggest fish seem to pick the river’s largest pools. A river’s nuances…

Sun angle, wind, and river temperature can change a trout’s feeding location in a particular pool, and other variables like a strong hatch or the presence of predators. Things can change as the day unfolds. It is never static. You have to be observant. You have to pay attention.

Sometimes I’ll walk for hours along the river’s banks or up high before I find a trout in the shallows. Sometimes I don’t see any. When I do locate one I’ll try and get a read on its hunting route; its cycling pattern. Then I’ll quickly make a presentation plan and from my elevated perch work my way down to the river’s edge. It all seems easy from up high but once you are at river level it changes. A trout often becomes much harder to spot, especially when there is glare. It’s easy to lose sight of it. When that happens I try to remain patient and still. I crouch and keep watching the water. I’m looking for any shadowy movement. It is probably around. It’s usually closer than I think. Trout on a cycling path don’t move fast. They just inch along.

When I locate a trout at river level I don’t want to “hit it on the head” in the shallows with my chosen fly, especially if I’m casting a terrestrial pattern that has some bulk/weight. It might bolt if I do. I try to cast just slightly upstream and off to the right or left of the fish, let it notice the “plop” and then hopefully watch it move over and investigate.

My fly choice has to be convincing. If it rejects it, it will glide back to the deep. That might be it for the day. Gone! If it decides to eat, it is often a slow motion take so I’ll have to be equally slow with the hook set. I match “slow with slow”. A hook-up in an a large pool often means I’ll probably hear the tick, tick, tick of my backing knot as it passes through the rod guides.

It’s engaging, visual angling and always exciting. The more you understand the nuances of a particular river the richer your angling experience.

Some photos …the drive, the river, some trout…

my transportation
Digital Camera
windshield shot…the drive
cuttbow..not sure
smoke filled sky heading home

cutthroat trout

“WELL THAT FLY DIDN’T WORK and he’s still rising. Change fly! Let’s go smaller. Nope, no response. Try again. Wow, same response. Change fly! Let’s try an ant. Nice cast. He’s looking. Closing in. Nope. He rejected it the last second. Wow, tough fish. Throw the ant again. Hmm. No go. Change fly! Let’s tie on a Klink/Emerger. No response to that. Change fly! I see some Drakes in the flow but the fish is ignoring most of them… but not all. Try this CDC version. Nope, he didn’t even move over to take a look. Toss it again. Change fly! I have a Drake Emerger pattern. Let’s try that. No luck. Maybe we need to rest the fish. Let’s go upstream. We’ll come back later. Hopefully he’ll still be rising then…wow, picky Cutthroat. Hard to walk away. Look at him still feeding. Some naturals passing overhead. He only rises to some; not others. Passing on the Duns, sometimes…maybe he’s mainly cueing in on Emergers. Well he just took a Dun but then let several others drift overhead. He ignores some, then eats the odd one. Yikes, challenging trout…we will come back.”

Cutthroats. Simply beautiful. Some say they are easy to catch. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes, however, they are as challenging as any other trout. It depends on the river. It depends on how much food is in the flow. It depends on angling pressure. It depends on water clarity. It depends…

Late season low water can make things extra challenging. You have to try and stay out of sight; and don’t move too fast; and don’t drag that dry fly; and don’t do this, or that, or they’ll disappear. They’ll go hide in a log-jam. Remember, Cutthroats have been around for several million years. They’ve survived. They’re always on alert…

one of Roman’s best

I recently spent four days fishing with a good friend, Roman, on different sections of one stream. A clear, pristine cutthroat stream. We pulled-up fish in the faster water on dry flies and came across several fish rising occasionally in slow water. The slow, flat water fish often required multiple fly changes in order to be fooled and a few tough customers couldn’t be enticed. With our fly selection we went big, we went small, we went slim, we went chubby, we tried low-riding patterns, emergers, terrestrials of varying sizes, a nymph dropper, lighter tippet…We caught many but a few couldn’t be fooled.

Some say Cutthroats are easy. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes, however, they are as hard and challenging as any other trout. Here are some photos from our four days of walking clear water in pursuit of this beautiful trout. All Cutthroats were taken on dries. All released…

clear water

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terrestrial box
flies that often worked
pool with a log-jam… always a good spot
cutthroats were thick