a black post

” ALL OTHER COLORS are reflections of light, except black. Black is the absence of light”.

I recently spent a few days fishing a large wide tailwater river. Most of the time the water’s surface was a silvery-grey due to glare. It looked like the element: Mercury. Many trout were feeding on tiny BWO emergers and bulging in the riffles. The wind was also constantly blowing which further ruffled the river’s surface. All of these conditions (glare, riffles, wind blown water) made seeing a small size 18 fly impossible, even when relatively short casts were made. Deer hair winged emerger patterns and comparaduns didn’t show-up. Same with a parachute pattern tied with a white post. Hackled flies also pulled a Houdini on me (vanished). Hi Vis orange post flies also couldn’t be seen. Hi Vis ended up being No Vis!

The secret to success on the insect rich river that I was on is to consistently place your fly right in front of a selected feeding trout as there are thousands of naturals (insects) drifting towards it and the fish isn’t going to move any distance to eat your fly. Your impression has to be right on target. It is all about accuracy. And in order to be on target you need to see your fly.

The only fly that showed up in the aforementioned challenging conditions was one with a black post or a black wing. And I found that the flies that I had tied with a very exaggerated, robust tuft of black obviously showed best in the silvery-grey, ruffled water.

Many of my favorite trout rivers are wide and flow in open terrain under a big western sky. These conditions give birth to glare which is a serious hinderance to seeing a small fly. One third of the flies in my boxes have black material incorporated onto them in the form of a post, a wing, etc. In the flies below (photo) I used black polypropylene. In some other flies I’ll use black cdc or comparadun deer hair which has been dyed black. The key is something dark; a dark beacon.

Sometimes you can see your fly better by changing your positioning to a fish on a river. However, this is not always possible. Some people fish a two fly rig with one fly being much larger than what is hatching. The large fly is used as a sight and strike indicator to help an angler spot or at least hone in on the approximate location of the small fly. Even large flies, however, tossed some distance on silvery-grey wide open water tend to disappear. Also two fly rigs in windy conditions often get tangled, at least mine do. I always prefer casting a single fly. I simply cast and fish better with one fly.

Trout that are feeding aggressively on a dense hatch don’t seem to notice the color of a post or wing. The size of the fly, its attitude/positioning in the water (on top, in the film, or dangling below) and a natural drift (presentation) are much more important, as is casting accuracy and being a stealthy angler. You want the body color of the fly to be somewhat similar to the naturals but the wing color is less important.

Black polypropylene is inexpensive and with one package you will be able to tie hundreds of flies.

Here are some small size 18 parachutes tied with a black post…

scenes: brief road trip south

rainbow on size 18 BWO dry

Cold at home. In fact snow hit the ground. So I headed south across the border to a Trout Town on a wide tailwater river. The weather was slightly better but still behind schedule for May. Most days it was fairly cool. My dog’s water bowl was frozen most mornings.

I camped in a section called Mid-Canyon to try an avoid the ever present wind. The dry fly fishing was for the most part poor. I rarely saw a head/nose break the surface in spite of some good hatches. Most surface disturbances were trout displacing water when feeding on emergers an inch or two below: BWO’s. I still managed to catch several on dries: Klinkhammers and Parachutes while sight fishing.

There were no sipping trout on the banks or even in collector areas, or on the flats. And there were few fish feeding in some of my favorite side channels. The water was as low as I have ever seen it. That’s a ongoing condition out West. There was high wind and a lot of sun. Not the best conditions to find large rising trout.

side channel

Trout would bulge (emerger feeding) in the riffles when clouds rolled in, then disappeared when direct sun light returned. It was a yo yo (fish up, fish down) event on days with a mix of sun and cloud. Fun to watch as it became so predictable.

home
3 feet of shucks and spent insects against shore
main river
fly shop
another fly shop
side channel

early season

SPRING. It has been slow in coming. Insect activity has also been slow to develop. Hatches have been weak. I haven’t been able to check river temperatures as my thermometer was tucked in a shirt pocket and went through a Wash and Spin cycle. It’s certainly clean now and shiny looking but unfortunately it is stuck at 10c. Not a bad temperature but inaccurate at this time of year. The water is much colder. Warmer weather and water will bring out the bugs and trout.

On cloudy days I’ve seen some midges, some Olives (size 18), March Browns (size12) on one river, and a few Skwala stoneflies. There simply hasn’t been enough bugs to get a lot of the bigger fish “looking up” on the tailwater rivers that I’ve spent some time on. The window of opportunity in my region for quality Spring dry fly angling is brief as just when the fish start to rise, mountain runoff ( high water) begins to threaten. Hopefully a few good days will come. Here are some photos from recent outings. Some early season trout caught on dries…..the start of a new season.

goose eggs
deceased goose

the sand flats

road to the flats

Each night I listen to the surf. I’m camping a mere 60 yards away. Sand dunes separate us. Fireflies hover over the dunes and sea grass on warm nights. I haven’t seen them since I was a child. We used to capture them and place them in clear glass jars. That was a long time ago. They still fascinate me. There is also a chorus of Crickets on warm nights. A soothing sound. Then there’s howling Coyotes during storms which there have been many since I arrived. The Coyotes travel and scavenge the dunes. I saw three together the other day after an violent nighttime storm where the temperature dropped to freezing. They were wet and miserable looking. They eyed me as I drove by. They were big and lean. As big, maybe bigger, than my retriever. I wouldn’t have survived the storm without shelter. Hypothermia would have taken me. They survived. Resilient creatures.

sand flats
beautiful redfish, caught and released on 5wt

I’m on a barrier island along the Gulf of Mexico. I made the long journey here to fly fish the shallow bayside sand flats for Redfish. The conditions were ideal when I arrived. It was summerlike and calm. I walked the sand flats and spotted a few fish. Some close and some tailing in the distance. Then the weather changed. A series of cold fronts passed through, along with heavy rain and high wind. The storms bent the island Palm trees, flooded low areas and caused Power outages. In between storms there have been some fair days and heat but it is short lived.

bay was always clear

I’ve been patiently waiting for the weather to stabilize. I’ve been waiting for it to heat up so that the shallow saltwater bay/ Laguna warms. But it’s not happening. I saw Redfish (Red Drum) when the water temperature was in the high 60s, low 70s F. The bay is presently ranging from 43F to 59F. It’s too cold. I go out every day in all conditions and search but the fish have left the sand for deeper more comfortable temperatures. I’ve walked several areas often venturing out a half mile or so but there is no sign of them. I came upon some Black Drum when the cool weather first struck but they also appear to have fled the shallows. A number of consecutive warm weather days are needed to boost the bay temperature and bring the fish back but that’s not happening. The sand flats have become lifeless.

structure far out on flats I called the “chair”
standing on the “chair” watching the flats

I have a few remaining days left before I drive home. I don’t think the Redfish will return before I leave. There is disappointment in that I haven’t seen a fish in awhile and I have to remind myself that early on when the conditions were favorable, I spotted and caught several wonderful saltwater fish in the shallowest of water on a fly rod. On those first few days I witnessed what the sand flats have to offer. I witnessed their potential.

Tonight I’ll listen to the surf and the Crickets, and watch for Fireflies. Maybe I’ll even hear the call of a Coyote.

I’ll return to the barrier island along the Gulf coast and walk the sand flats again…

large black drum
smaller drum
can’t drink saltwater, floating water bowl out on flats

.

windy some days
black drum
deceased turtle bayide
nearby port town
turtle shell
redfish
t-shirt shop
shrimp fly…fished my own flies
food trucks-closed off season
calm morning looking back to shore
favorite coffee shop
wading sand flats
home

hollow-head roosterfish fly

A streamer pattern. I only tie them when I’m planning a saltwater trip and such trips are infrequent/rare, and therefore I’m not very good at it. Most of my limited saltwater experience has been spent sight-fishing the Sea of Cortez for Roosterfish on foot. I made four trips several years ago. Each trip of two weeks duration. That adds up to about two months experience pursuing Roosters which are the most challenging species I have ever cast a fly to and the most physically demanding and thrilling angling that I have ever done. Although I learned a lot about the Sea of Cortez and Roosterfish while walking the sand dunes and surf line of Baja, my time there in the grand scheme of things was brief. If North American Borders stay open I’d like to return, pick-up where I left-off, learn more and hopefully get the opportunity to entice a large roosterfish to take a fly that I tied. I’ve been practicing tying streamers on 3/0 and 4/0 hooks. Here’s one tied during the Winter Solstice that I’m pleased with…

salt

Flies for saltwater. Mainly shallow water patterns for sight-fishing on foot. Patterns borrowed from others; some modified. Most are tied light to land quietly in slight water. A few are tied heavier in order to drop to the bottom quickly when needed…

autumn shadows

Shadows are long mid-afternoon. Transition time (Autumn) tends to be swift at latitude 49 degrees. It roars in. There are more leaves on the water than mayflies. The Brown trout are on redds. Dry fly angling is almost non-existent on the rivers I frequent. Maybe there are a few more good days left? Maybe. Probably just wishful thinking.

Shadows are lengthening; shadows created by light…

october

Crisp in the mornings. Sun is arcing low. Noticeable long shadows mid-afternoon. Still windy. Still mainly hanging out in the mountains trying to escape the wind. Still fishing dry flies. Did spend one half day on a tailwater river out on the Plains sight-fishing a slightly sheltered back bay.

Some October photos…a lot of shadows.

sight-fishing a river back bay
back bay rainbow
up high sight fishing
creek cutthroat
creek hybrid: rainbow-cutthroat
flat water fly, size 18
drive to mountains
creek cutt
creek cutthroat
another wet lens shot
small creek cutthroat

gimme shelter

WIND. It has been making rivers out on the Plains challenging. Top water angling out in the great wide open has been poor. So I’ve been looking for calmer conditions, some shelter and hopefully some sight-fishing opportunities up in the forested mountain valleys. Here are some nice cutthroats and hybrids (cuttbows) found in some sheltered streams caught on olives, small and mid-sized drakes, and beetles…

some color

parameters…

When you head out to a river for a day or evening of angling you often have a set of parameters that you operate by. For some people these criterion are broad. For some they are very narrow. The longer you’ve been at something like fly fishing, or any other pursuit, the more you have probably refined the way you practice it; the way you go about it; the path you chose to take. Over time you focus more intensely on some things and discard much of the rest.

Here are some fine trout fooled with small dry flies: mostly ants, beetles and pmd’s in contrasting landscapes and rivers. Some wide flat flows in open austere terrain and smaller clear ones in a treed mountainous landscape. Trout, from the Plains to the Rockies…

irresponsible ranching
brown trout
same brown
rainbow
golden retriever hair pmd
cutthroat stream
cutthroat
clear water
cutthroat
cutt
pmd box
some color