07 April 2013

Product testing

One of the best and most fun parts about building fly rods is the need to test out what I build and compare them to known and loved rods.
Recently I spent a few hours on some of my favorite bream water doing just that. Trying different flies. Casting at different angles to the wind. Trying different tippet material. Trying different lines. Trying different reels to test for balance. Catching fish. Basically fishing like a techno weenie.
First I fished my 7' 3wt on a James Green e-glass yellow blank. I really like this rod. Admittedly, I have a thing for 3wts especially in the 7' range. The fishing was a little slow but I caught a few early season bluegill. They don't have their colors yet but they are eating well. I was using some size 18 midges mainly. The wind was occasionally gusty but I was able to get my fly where I wanted it for the most part with roll casts and conventional overhead casts. I was using my Kineya Sliced Cavous with a Wulff Long Belly 3wt line.

Next I decided to cast for some bass with a newly acquired mid-70's era Orvis FullFlex 7' 5/6wt. This rod is fun.  I usually don't find many 7' rods that roll cast exceptionally well.  This one does.    I was using an older Hardy LRH reel with a Scientific Anglers Textured Trout WF5 line. The rod casts amazingly with any line but I admit that I didn't like this one that much. Next I plan to test out a DT5 line on it. Anyway, I was throwing a size 8 crawfish pattern and caught several decent 14-16" bass. Not huge but what a friend of mine calls 'fun size'. This is a rod I hope to emulate with future blank designs.
Overall, quite a nice time!







05 April 2013

Driftless Trout Fishing March 2013

Sit down and get ready for some pictures!
A couple weeks ago I went up to the Wisconsin Driftless Area with a couple friends for some early season (COLD!) trout fishing.  It was a blast. 
Here's a post we put together for a couple of the forums we're active on...

Colt and I have been putting together a trip to the WI Driftless Area for about 2 years now. Last year we each went up independently of one another and our busy lives prevented a joint endeavor. This year we were eager to make it happen and we made it up to WI on the third week of the season. Despite the cold weather and snow, we caught a lot of fish on both dries and nymphs.

Colt and I met up with a forum member/friend from the Ultralight Fly Fishing Forum (Bret) on Saturday. And a friend of mine (Mike) met us on Friday and Saturday. Below is a compilation of photos taken by both Colt and me.
DAY 1:

We arrived in Viroqua Friday afternoon and fished a couple hours where we met up with another friend of Colt's, Mike, who is just getting into fly fishing. Fish were rising on small black midges in a smaller tailwater pool. We traded off each catching several average sized browns. Colt was using my McFarland 5'9" 3wt. 3pc. paired with his solid spooled Abel TR Light (he builds a terrific rod!) and I was using my new Studio Thin Line 7'0" 3wt. 3pc. paired with a Kineya 301a reel.

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Colt with the first fish of the trip.
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I had just taken delivery the day before we left of this very special treat to myself.  It's a very special fiberglass rod by maker Studio Thin Line from Japan. It is a smooth and slow rod. The finish work and components on the rod are truly amazing.
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Colt's McFarland 593-3 was the perfect size for most of these smaller streams. It ended up being his favorite rod he brought along (and we both brought several). I really enjoyed casting that one even though I generally don't like rods under 6'6".
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That evening we planned out our next two days over pizza and beer at Dave's Pizza.

DAY 2:

We met up with Bret at the Driftless Angler Fly Shop. Bret graciously offered his local knowledge and trucked us around all day. Because the highs were in the mid 30's, we sought to find some larger fish in the morning. I hooked into a really nice 14" brown right off the bat! 

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After a tailgate style lunch, we made a quick stop at a smaller creek that wanders through the forest with some productive holes. We purposefully took Mike to this pool to try to get him on a fish. After Mike gave it his best effort, Colt hooked into a brown on a pink squirrel. I headed another direction onto a private stretch (keeping my feet wet) and I caught a few on tiny dries.

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Then we fished a more open creek that flows through a pasture. The open pasture made it much easier for Mike to fish.

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Things started to really get interesting on our last creek on Saturday. I was well ahead of the others for the day in numbers. Colt's excuse was that he was focused on trying to get Mike on a fish. : ) So Bret dropped me off downstream ensuring that we'd meet up eventually and Bret and Colt headed upstream, effectively (or not so effectively) giving me the more difficult stretch of water to fish to hopefully even up the score! We both ended up losing track of the number of fish landed/lost but certainly we saw non- stop action the remainder of the evening.

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(Bret leading Colt through a creek that stretches across some "private" land).

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Once again, we ended our day over some beer and pizza at Dave's Pizza.

DAY 3:
Colt and I went on the search for some Brookies and we found them. There were snow flurries all morning/afternoon, yet the fish were still rising to tiny midges. I fished my Studio Thin Line again, and Colt fished his McFarland 6'8" 3wt. We each must have landed 20 plus brookies on both dries and nymphs. These were some of the most colorful fish I've seen!

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Colt's fish of the day.
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This one was really colorful:

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I fished this pool very (too) thoroughly. The pool must have been at least 8 feet deep and it is an excellent example of the stream restoration that is performed on these Wisconsin creeks.
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Here's a link to a short video of me casting my studio thin line 3wt. to some rising fish in the above pool. Note the deep flex to the rod and the snow flurries that were persistent all day long. Fish were still rising to the surface though.

http://s1134.photobucket.com/user/cjohn ... f.mp4.html

Another colorful brookie:
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Me trying out Colt's excellent McFarland 683-3:
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The fish I landed had just eaten another smaller fish:
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We ended up heading out Sunday afternoon and ate dinner at a cool pub/bar in Iowa while the snow continued. Driving was significantly slowed due to the winter storm that was blasting the Midwest. It became apparent that I was not going to make it to St.Louis after what should have been a 4 1/2 hr. trip taking close to 7 hrs. back to Peoria. Further reports of up to 17" of snow in Springfield/St. Louis area only solidified my decision to stay in Peoria Sunday evening.
This is a picture the morning after I stayed the night on Colt's couch. Just a few hours before this I was awoken by voices and flashing lights of a fire truck that almost blasted through my car that slid backwards into the middle of the road down Colt's driveway.
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That's about 3" of ice on the roads with the occasional pot hole. Driving 20-30mph on the way home certainly slowed me down. But the Mighty Soob handled it well, unlike many of the cars and trucks I saw slide off the road.

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Meeting Colt in person for the first time was like finding a long lost brother and Colt's friend Mike, while dealing with a bad cold, was incredibly patient with his learning curve and our incessant spot hopping and gear weenie talk. Bret's guiding and generous hospitality made us feel at home.
Water temps were in the low 40's and the air temps were in the mid 30's. Not too bad really.
Dealing with icy guides was about the worst of it.
Midges were starting to go crazy and I even saw a hatch of black caddis (but the fish were too surprised to eat them). Most of my fish were caught on 18 midge patterns (dry and emerger) with a few pink squirrel nymphs worked in.

In all, I think we had a very productive trip...especially given the circumstances. I think Colt and I each landed close to 50 fish with probably an equal amount lost. I can't wait to head back up there once the weather warms up a bit more!