More Pain then Wadding a Sharp Hook through Gristle

With every Californian intent on their Memorial Day Exodus, I lounged against the garage jamb and waved as my neighbors wadded their protesting kids and worn camping gear into anything capable of towing something else, then followed their neighbors onto the Interstate, all in a mad rush for the woods.

Having competed with this angry mob many times in the past, and knowing the lack of water would compress anglers even further, we opted to splurge on the local private bass water . We knew the cost of a full day’s fishing was much less than the gas, food, and campground fees we’d absorb if we donned our “Mad Max” garb and chased Charlize Theron (and everyone else) up the interstate enroute to the Parched Pristine.

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… not that Miss Theron isn’t worthy of chasing, its the notion that frayed nerves, squealing tires, and campground backing accidents, resulting from too many people crammed into too small a resource, are never a recipe for decompression and relaxation, rather they have the opposite effect.

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But an entire lake filled with voracious gigantic bass, off-limits to kids, unruly pets, and powerboats,  and rimmed with wildflowers and framed by beautiful weather, followed by a fine meal of rice balls and grilled Spam, that’s the makings of workplace water cooler legend.

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To compound our good fortune, our guess as to the lake’s readiness was perfect, and “should’ve been here last week” was forgotten in the howl of,  “gotta be here goddamn right now.” No sooner then we were clear of the vehicle and armed, we were assaulted by hungry bass intent on eating flies, fingers, floating tippet spools, and anything else exposed to the water.

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Morning till noon was the big meal bite, using larger, slow sinking flies resembling frogs or tadpoles. When that slowed the fish shifted to smaller food, Wooly Bugger style flies in drab colors. We caught fish all day long and yielded the water grudgingly around 5PM.

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I’ve seen plenty of manicured trout water; everything from the rough hewn management of a “sugar daddy” conservation group like Cal Trout, to clubs meant for wealthy capitalists like Rising River Lodge and the Bolibokka Club.  Each has its own personality and appeal, but grooming the lake to achieve a singular vision of bass fishing is  quite unique in my experience. Every bush, sapling, and flower individually planted to yield a specific effect when mature –including rafts of dead timber and tules planted around the periphery and lake center.

The notion of mixing wildflowers with fishing makes for an interesting duality. On the one hand the bright colors and gay borders are akin to fishing in a garden, but they assist in stabilizing the earthen mounds from eroding into the lake.

Most certainly the fishing takes priority in your enjoyment of your surroundings, as it is superb, but being able to take your spouse along without having to entertain her may be worth even more.

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I keep thinking that with this as the destination for the first exposure to fishing – wives and girlfriends might seriously contemplate the pastime versus their traditional baptism … shivering as mosquito bait.

No sympathy from me …

With all this amazing good fortune, I found my mortality by midafternoon. My host showed up in his truck and watched me land a fish, and commented, “…you’re doing pretty well, every time I see you – you’ve got a fish on.”

I showed him the left thumb, scraped raw from “lipping” bass, and then unglued my feet from the suction of loose mud at waters edge, avoiding pressure on the blister on my knee from crouching on the side of berms avoiding being “sky lined” so as not to alert my quarry,  and he chuckled. “You’ll get no sympathy from me …”

Can’t say as I blame him – nor was I looking for some, I just had the cathartic realization that fishless fishing has its share of aches and pains, yet even when moon’s align and the Cornucopia spills open, there’s blisters aplenty … and only the wound locations change.

That evening as I hobbled to the bathroom, I did some mental math. Landing a fish requires three squats; the first when kneeling on the berm when casting, the second when extricating your mending line from Poppies and bankside debris, and the last when you squat to lip the fish at water’s edge. Figure (with the Bluegill) you land 140 fish in a single day, and you’ve neatly explained the blisters on both knees and why you groan like Grandpa when you get off the couch.

So you like tormenting the fish then …

Back in the 1980’s I worked the night shift in one of those cold edifices that shadow Market Street. As I left one morning waving at my fellow workers, I noticed a quiet looking number with a shy smile in the company of one of my female coworkers.

The next day the lady I worked with asked if I’d consider a blind date with her pal, to which I readily agreed.

To make the story short, I found myself on an East Bay lake, with no fishing tackle, attempting to look interested  in my companion, while fish cavorted about thumbing their collective nose at me. She was a nice gal without any interest in the out of doors, and I tried my best to appear engaging and personable.

As I was wont to do, I attempted to couch my confession into my best “Mac Daddy” moment. I mentioned I enjoyed fishing and the woods, and spent lots of time there. She responded in Big City fashion, how, “.. she would never eat anything caught out of the water as it was likely unsafe ..”, unfazed by her ignorance about where fish lived, I opted for the “catch and release” gambit …

“Yea, I let them all go, actually.” As I pick an imaginary speck of lint off my sleeve, expecting her to think me a swell fellow and consummate sportsmen. Rather than swoon in rapture as I was expecting, she replies, “.. Oh, so you like torturing them?”

(No lady, that’s what this date is all about, really.)

This same scene played in my conscious mind after this weekend’s debauch. Realizing that age and overindulgence are combining forces to ensure that should the fishing be either good or bad, I’m taking more abuse; lumps, scrapes, contusions, and actual blood loss – than the goddamn fish are.

No. I don’t enjoy tormenting fish … I have a yen to be tormented by them. Through my own actions of pursuit and capture I inflict much more pain on myself than I ever do wadding a sharp hook through gristle.

I just … need a nap … before I do it again tomorrow …

Somewhere between tenkara and Hardy

It positioned me on the fringe of acceptable, but I’ve always felt comfortable there given my insistence that a hobby should cost less than a 30 year mortgage. A twenty-nine dollar fly rod and my prized,  eleven dollar “Red Rocket” reel made my ensemble cost less than fifty bucks … and at that price most of the “debutants” I was rubbing shoulders with were shunning me for not propping up my portion of the economy.

… but not before asking what fly I was using to land all them fish, naturally.

The reel was a trifle exorbitant, given that I had to buy six feet of extrudable nylon to use for the venerable “click-pawl”mechanism, and the postage from Amazon was another five, so the reel was ninety seven cents worth of powdered corn husks and six bucks worth of nylon scrim.

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As I’d always stocked my vest with non perishables should a misstep leave me stranded on a trail somewhere, knowing the reel was once plant proteins and equivalent to a Wonka Everlasting Gobstopper, I knew a broken leg meant while awaiting rescue I could gnaw on the spool for precious proteins.

Calories not withstanding, us candy-assed “technological fishermen”, with our fixation on precision engineering and expensive materials from aerospace and the military, have never really thought through the physics of what we do and the cost benefit of what we carry.

Tenkara-style fishing has adequately demonstrated a reel isn’t critical to fly fishing. For eighty percent of us, our quarry is a nine inch, pen raised, pellet eating, softie – not likely to peel line for a city block or give us more than a few head shakes before we stomp life out of it.

It shouldn’t be overly surprising that hot plastic shat via computer nozzle can construct complex shapes whose tolerances make a simple storage device with a classic drag. “Ruby Red” and “Lemon Yellow”,  won’t earn any envious glances from the parking lot throng, and may even draw a few snickers, but parking lot loyalties have always shifted to whomever is catching fish, despite their initial fixation with form and fashion.

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One of the fellows from work had printed out a prototype using Eclectic Angler’s plans, and while fluorescent green PLA was a bit hard on the eyes, the action on the reel was sound. The prototype is about the size of an LRH Lightweight (or Medalist 1494 1/2) and can hold 50-75 yards of backing and a WF-5F.

I was quite pleased with the reel and its simplicity. While reel companies fuss over titanium and composites it’s nice to return to the bare essentials – if for no other reason than to understand how  tackle has evolved into software; new features added without thought for the quarry, the physics, or the ROI.

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Considering 3D printers are flirting with the $400 price tag already, this capability is likely to be mainstream fairly soon.  While the 3D reel is not likely to replace your existing trove of tackle, I would think it a great way to introduce your kids to fishing. An old rod coupled with a new technology yielding a flashy reel may stimulate your kid into giving Dad’s pastime a try – perhaps even making a life long impression.

Where these will really shine is the casting club’s twice yearly casting classes. Marry these with a couple dozen Chinese manufactured double tapers from eBay, and you can teach the public without fear of theft or breakage.

139 Yards of shattered glass

It was one of those rare opportune moments where a simple resupply of “frog” yarn revealed something really useful at a compelling price … even better …ample tonnage remaining to satisfy any fly tier’s ambition to lay in a goodly supply.

Bernat Boa is a synthetic polyester ribbon yarn that’s strong enough to use as hackle, has enough structural integrity to use as streamer wings, can be wound closely to make 3D shaped minnows, and can be knotted and teased into any number of fish killing uses.

I use it consistently in Shad flies, bass flies, and anything requiring saddle hackles, because the edge binding the polyester fibers is thin enough to wind, and can be tied off securely without inducing weakness due to bulk.

As each skein has three or four colors, it becomes really cost effective due to the additional colors that can be harvested from its “camouflage” coloration.

Yarns that are in consistent demand typically introduce new colors (and retire older non performers), and as I refilled my dwindling supply of Shad “pink”, I noticed new colors that made the material doubly compelling.

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Apparently for Christmas 2014, Bernat introduced a series called, “Bernat Boa Holidays”, that added three additional festive solid colors;  Santa Suit (red), Holly Green, and Blizzard (white).

The white caught my eye immediately as I was tying some minnow patterns that needed a light colored body, and something about the original photograph suggested these filaments might be a form of Antron.

After I took delivery I was pleasantly surprised. This is a much softer and finer tri-lobal filament that has the “shattered glass” brilliance of Antron, but can be dubbed onto a dry fly.

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Where this material truly shines is when it is clipped from the yarn base and mixed into a natural fur blend to offer a sparkle akin to  baby seal. This “shattered glass” effect is great for a medium (trout) sized fur blend, and given polyester dyes readily, additional colors can be made from the white to suit more “earthy” sparkle effects.

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Holiday yarns tend to be limited release but I’ve not seen any mention of these being pulled post holiday season.

Do not buy these colors on eBay as they tend to range in the $6-$8 range per skein. Instead get them from YarnSupply.com or Knitting Warehouse – which has Blizzard on sale for $3.69 per skein.

These are often found in KMART stores as well, but holiday colors are typically swapped quickly to seasonal favorites shortly after the festivities are over.

139 yards per skein makes an awful lot of streamers or dubbing blends, I think you’ll find a multitude of uses quickly.

If the choice is sex or fishing, the fish will get screwed

Ask your average angler whether he’s contributing to the steady decline in fish numbers and you’re liable to get a supersized serving of righteous indignation.

Most fishermen agree that hooking and landing fish generate some  mortality, but they’re just as likely to rationalize the money they donate to conservation organizations, licensing, and taxes paid on outrageously expensive terminal tackle, more than make up for it.

Likewise for the angler that eats fish. As fishermen are keenly aware – our sporting fraternity is among the few groups anxious to see fish propagate, and while we admit to our kill (although understandably quiet about what is freezer-burned and tossed), we’re just as apt to quote similar avenues of compensatory dollars that lessen the impact of our hammy feet on the environment.

Unfortunately those dollars are outweighed many times over by the angler’s yearly outlay on Doritos, Ho-Ho’s, double-decker Bic Mac’s (dripping with plasticine GMO Cheddar), greasy Chili Cheese fries, great slabs of charred red meat, and the butter necessary to slide of that mass down his gullet.

While anglers protest with a pathetic bleat, “… at least we get a little exercise,” – the reality is that we’re fat, and growing fatter by the minute.

And as a by-product of all that questionable gastronomy, our collective diabetes medications are accelerating the feminization of male fish downstream of every sewage outflow.

Estrogens from birth control medications in wastewater treatment plant effluent have been cited as the likely cause, but research has shown that endocrine disruption is not solely predictable based on hormone receptor interactions. Many other non-hormone pharmaceuticals are found in effluent at concentrations orders of magnitude higher than estrogens, yet there is little data indicating the impacts of these other medications. The widely prescribed anti-diabetic metformin is among the most abundant of pharmaceuticals found in effluent and is structurally dissimilar from hormones. However, we show here that exposing fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) to a concentration of metformin found in wastewater effluent causes the development of intersex gonads in males, reduced size of treated male fish, and reduction in fecundity for treated pairs.

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Given that anglers are never prone to accept blame for more than a few milliseconds, and based on what the medical profession insists we do to correct our behavior, it appears as the act of fishing is now a life saving measure, and should be advertised as such to any spouse insisting on lawns being mown or chores being done …

It’s important we do our part to minimize the effects of our diabetes meds mixing with the existing slurry of birth control and female hormones in wastewater. While we can agree to sacrifice an occasional cheeseburger, we’ll waive any chastisement of female additions to wastewater, as we can all agree if the choice is between fishing and “tail” to save a watershed, the fish will definitely get screwed.

Balance versus Purism, the war continues

purism_suxDry fly purists always insist they practice the One True Calling – and characterize whatever the rest of us do as being coarse and inferior.

Us “normal” fishermen think them perfumed ninnies – whose real ambition is to keep the sport free of common folk and ensure membership is limited to hedge fund managers, bankers, and the monied elite.

Only on matters of conservation can the two factions ever agree on anything, and despite an uneasy alliance, the combined meager vote counts solved little beyond a token attempt at unification and cooperation.

Now Science has vindicated both Dry Fly Purists (DFP) and our Nymph Fishing Insurgency (NFI), as they’ve determined that fish close to the surface are the smartest fish with the biggest brains, and as the water deepens – fish become dumb as fence posts.

Fishes that live very deep are known to have much slower metabolisms than species that live in relatively shallow water and one of the costs of that appears to be a reduction in brain size,” said Dr Iglesias.”

Purists can now achieve the Moral High Ground and insist that dry fly fishing is both akin to godliness AND their fish are smarter …

… and us meat-minded bullies amuse ourselves by tossing cone heads at retards.

There is some solace in our catching twice as many fish as the perfumed dandies, and NFI’ers could care less about which fish is smarter. We know that by the third retelling, our fish are likely to have invented cold fusion – and only our prowess at seduction  saved the entire human race from extinction.

Assuming fish populations are a rough mirror of human diversity, and any morning commute proves there are more ‘tards then Mensa members, suggest there’s little doubt as to why bead headed flies dominate a fly shop’s inventory.

Hopefully it tastes like Chicken

I suppose it’s a study on trade imbalances and deficits, but California may lead the nation in Sushi consumption –  yet is dead last in angler participation.

According to the U.S. Census, 10% of California’s population fished in 2001, tied for the 46th place in participation. Ten years later, California’s fishing participation rate plummeted to just 6% and ranks dead last in the nationCalifornia Sportfishing League

The California Sportfishing League points to the high cost of fishing licenses coupled with our license’s validity being based on the calendar year versus 12 months from the date of purchase like other states.

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But I’m not so sure.

My casual contact with non-sportsmen suggest blood sports are on the way out. The evening news points to every gun owner shooting up his workplace, and fishermen killing what they can, and the uninitiated lack balance and counterpoint to this steady barrage of mis-information.

Television and the Internet don’t seem to be aiding us much. Most of the angling available to general broadcast channels feature commercial tuna and Alaskan King Crab boats – and everything coming aboard is stuffed below decks immediately.

Angling organizations and clubs have lamented for at least a decade on our inability to appeal to youth, and us longtime practitioners dwindle as age and frailty catches up with us.

Waters are polluted and wild fish don’t come snuggled in antiseptic Saran Wrap, and despite doctors urging us to consume anything with fins, non-anglers are wary and unlikely to replace a hamburger and fries with farm-raised Tilapia.

Now that we’re fixated on Invasive species and fish farming, from the public’s perspective it may reinforce the notion that GMO, tanker bilges, and salmon lice merely prove we’re as inept at breeding as we are at long term conservation.

Fly fishing hasn’t helped with our dogged insistence that the buy-in of gear, outer wear, and titanium vest fodder requires us to dump $5000 before we can learn to cast.

… and don’t forget the “end game” for all that capital investment is a 10” trout that was fed dog kibble prior to being shat into the creek for your pleasure. Five Grand for a wriggling fish you’d as soon toe into the underbrush in not a compelling proposition.

Add into this mix a half dozen agribusiness-friendly Governors and their attendant legislatures, a Fish and Wildlife organization reeling from declining anglers and dwindling license revenue, and the systematic extinction of every species worth catching. Add four years of drought, the high cost of lodging and gasoline, and a 50% reduction in home prices, and you’ve a better reason why the recent economic swoon has rid us of 40% of our numbers.

Since 1980, when annual licenses were sold for as little as $5.00, California’s annual fishing license sales have dropped by more than 55% (1980: 2.26 million; 2014: 990k), while our state’s population has increased by nearly 60%. In 2014, 40,000 fewer annual fishing licenses were sold compared to 2013.

If the 35-year trend remains constant, annual fishing license sales could fall below 500,000 by 2027, or another 49% over the next 12 years. Should this occur, between 1980 and 2027, annual license sales will have dropped 78%. This downward trend could accelerate if fees are increased substantially, or new regulations are imposed that increase costs or barriers to fishing.

The 2014  population of California was 38 million, which is a net increase of about 50% over the self same period wherein we lost or disenfranchised 40% of our fellow anglers. That is damning evidence that the high cost of licenses is only part of something much worse.

By 2027 I’ll be telling fish stories instead of fishing, so my being inconsequential will sting less then folks recently introduced to the sport. Our lack of voting clout will mean dark days for our conservation ideals and organizations.

Figure 1-2 percent of anglers are fly fishermen, and if the overall numbers drop to 500,000 as above – that suggests we’ll be in rarified company …

… and fishing for Pikeminnow.

Too Close for comfort

Roman_Red350Nearly every periodical teases me with some gizmo whose description promises revolutionary change and awesome functionality, and price tailored to a member of the Saudi royal family.

Like you, I have a weakness for gadgets made from the protective titanium bathtub of a decommissioned Warthog, but my budget can only support the early plastic variants of decades past, and am therefore forced to avoid eye contact with my peers when scuttling from creek to welcoming tailgate.

More than once I’ve scratched my head thinking of our fly fishing demographic and the statistics of Who We Are, and would love to claim a bit more education and disposable income than most of the sporting fraternity. On the down side, we still have trouble grasping the notion that an ounce of graphite scrim applied to a spinning rod doesn’t make it base or common, and when slathered onto a fly rod mandrel – doesn’t enhance its value to rival a red diamond, or a pristine copy of Action #1.

Why a bait casting or spinning rod containing as much boron or graphite as a fly rod is one tenth its price, and why we don’t rise en masse to hurl crates of Sage and Orvis into the Boston harbor has  forever eluded my understanding.

All that extra education squandered as we majored in beer drinking with a minor in Sociology or Psychology, and skipped those important Physics classes that would have given us balance and scientific wisdom.  Worse yet is none of them “people” studies sunk home – given the chill with which we relinquish our hole to our brother angler.

When all seems darkest and I resolve to swap fly rods for flower arrangements (to upgrade my friends and peers) the Internet washes up a bit of lightness to restore my mood, akin to Styrofoam at high tide …

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… the $450 bass lure.

I was reading a bass forum on the usefulness of the new (Dyneema) braid was in bass fishing. Most of the participants commented on its fine diameter, and one fellow pointed out the 100 pound test was equal in diameter to his old 20 pound dacron standby – and had the added ability for him to hand-over-hand himself down the line to fetch lures.

As you might expect there was a flurry of questions, and he revealed his newfound obsession for Roman – Made lures from Japan, and as most were $150 – $450 each, he opted to swim down and retrieve them when snagged.

While I admire his sudden frugality, I wasn’t buying the overall story. Anyone throwing $500 dollar bills in Harm’s Way is doing so for the rush of endorphins that come with your losing the entire food budget for the month.

I figured he’d likely had a track or football scholarship – one of those unfortunates that peak in college, have a short NFL career, and are attempting to salvage the adrenalin rush of lost youth.

In summary, the one class in Psychology I was required to take at City College Harvard … suggests that I require at least one group to point fingers at and question their fishing sanity. The notion of us fly fishermen BEING that group, is of course, unthinkable.

Another reason to watch your footing

Despite drought and water rationing, dwindling fish,and fly rods costing as much as a house payment, we’ve got news that will swell our dwindling ranks with eager young converts – hell bent on saving both split bamboo and the environment, regardless of the costs.

perspirationFishing has always been framed as a bothersome exercise, unappealing to successive generations of urban youth, whose refined senses and exposure to woodlands being the neighborhood green-belt where they crap their overweight pooch …

With Hipsters and Millennials in the “sweet spot” demographic, Science has tailored a perfume which will release its scent in proportion to the volume of sweat given off by the wearer, ensuring tradesmen and anglers, and their inattention to hygiene, will be the new “retro” – and our parking lots will be crowded with bearded, flannel wearing anglers, whose flowery bouquet will turn the stomach of everyone nearby.

… and any SOB with the temerity to actually fall into the water will likely change the smell of the entire watershed …

Now carpenters, pipe-fitters, and long-shoremen will be whistled at by the secretaries streaming past on their lunch break, as construction sites will be characterized by “Prairie Blossom” or “Denali Rose” … and investment bankers, with their avaricious demeanor and icy handshake will smell coarse and common.

In addition, the perfume system also has the ability to remove the bad odours that come from sweat. The ‘thiol’ compounds that are responsible for the malodour of sweat are attracted to the ionic liquid, attaching themselves to it and losing their potency.

The breakthrough could have major commercial possibilities, potentially providing a new way to develop products for the huge personal care market. QUILL researchers are currently working with a perfume development company to identify a number of product ideas that could eventually be sold in shops.

   –  via Science Daily 4/2/15

Can slow release mosquito repellant be the game changer that’ll propel our sport into ranks enjoyed by the NFL and Major League Baseball?

My struggle with diaphanous

While much of the struggle involves spelling the damn word correctly, the remainder of my frustration is having to refine the fly tying equivalent of , “less is more.”

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Fly tying being the art of “taming cowlicks”, wherein us tiers deploy spittle, cement, and thread to lash as much as possible onto the hook, and anything we can’t dominate with finger pressure or more thread gets trimmed away…

… yet, I’m on the converse of that road, attempting to invent transparent by adding materials versus subtracting them, and it’s an unmistakable sign the idea was sound but the execution is likely flawed.

Much of what the local bass are eating are minnows. Observation of what few I could see near shore suggest there is a mixture of opaque and diaphanous qualities to the fish. As most of my traditional minnow styles are not working, despite my best attempts at matching colors and sizes, suggests something else might be the issue.

I’ve been fiddling with colors and visibility, but to date that has been fruitless. A few fish follow the imitations, but none have taken the fly. Contrasting the gaudy strumpet I am towing through the water with the natural suggests I need tone down both glitter and bulk.

Bulk is not easy to remove, given how water tends to flatten and streamline dry materials, and lightening bulk typically results in diminishing the profile of the fly – making it more like a pencil In the water than the traditional “pumpkinseed” minnow shape.

While struggling with a lot of other issues I did manage to come up with an elegant solution allowing me to remove bulk without sacrificing the fly shape.

Using a #4 kirbed (point offset) streamer hook, I built a small bulwark of chenille halfway down the shank, after first sliding on a small brass cone.

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After whip finishing and adding a drop of cement behind the cone, I retied the thread onto the front of the shank to add a bit of ribbon yarn. I picked a light pink to correspond to gill coloration, and took a couple wraps of the material in front of the cone.  The brass cone flared the material further adding a more pronounced 3-D cone shape to the fly.

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This “spread” effect of the underbody will cause any material added onto the fly to spread further, giving the proper silhouette without relying on bulky materials for form.

Taking about 35-40 strands of white marabou – I spread them out along a “dubbed loop” – with about 3/4” of the butts on one side of the loop, and the remaining tapered tips on the other. When spun, the butts (with their thicker stem) add bulk to the area containing the pink ribbon yarn, and the less numerous tips add a bit of color behind the fly, without adding opaqueness.

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Add three strands of original holographic green flashabou to the top of the “marabou hackle”, and then add about 20 strands of gray marabou in a clump onto the top of the fly.  The gray marabou should be about 1/2” longer than the white, and the flashabou should be the longest of all, just peeking out from the other mats to make an enticing flash behind the fly.

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Add five strands of a Montana Fly barred Ostrich plume (sexy looking but nosebleed expensive @ $9.00), to the top of the fly to add a bit of coloration.

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The result is an amorphous lump of materials that will lose opacity when dampened. The bulky area around the bead will retain its mass and color akin to the real baitfish – but the nether underbelly will vanish as the grey marabou, tinsel, and ostrich is longer than the white, making it appear diaphanous and transparent.

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The final effect when wet is light and airy with the bulk up front. Note that instead of slimming down to nothing the fly retains the all-important  minnow shape.

The local fish inhaled it with great gusto this weekend, but the unsavory brutes that haunt the local creek would have been just as eager to inhale the twist-off cap from a Budweiser … so additional research is needed.

The problem of the few is how they keep getting fewer

There’s enough latitude in “fishless fishing” to blame lack of success on a plethora of unsavory possibilities. Water too cold, fish too lethargic, too warm, too bright, drunken revelers heaving glassware, boaters heaving breakfast, or simply the flies you knew were going to work don’t … and won’t ever.

With my constant dickering with patterns my fly box differs from one week to the next. Having the right fly at the right time is the hope – but more often it’s having the right fly with the wrong action, poor sink rate, or wrong color.

The lake fish have been giggling at my expense, so I opted to sooth my battered ego on shorter water, where some of my fly tying misdeeds could be observed along with the quarry.

The culprit was easy to spot. The new Flashabou Mirage I’d added to the sides of the pattern were so gawd-awful bright as to make me blush. My minnow imitations looked stiff and the Mirage made them so blindingly apparent that everything scattered away from the flies like they’d been scalded.

The local reception was likely a mirror of what I’d been getting at the lake, but with a Type VI shooting head and extra weight, all that frantic fish scatter had been invisible to me.

There’s nothing wrong with the Flashabou Mirage material, it simply announces itself like a New Orleans harlot, something well suited for salt water or depth, but inappropriate for lake fish not yet on the prod.

Knowing the creek was entirely “thin water” and will dry up this year, I took Meat on a scout trip to see where the Winter scour had left the deep water. The Siphon hole had a new tree laying halfway through the run – and a second tree had dropped into the run below that. This would be welcome in any normal year, but instinct suggests with a drought this intense, it will shade only the occasional rattlesnake.

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I trimmed off most of the gaudiness from my test flies and was rewarded with the occasional fish. “Winter” conditions are always sparse on fish due to the flooding that occurs, and while our last quality rain was a few months ago, what fish remain are few, scattered, and small.

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Fine for us fellows intent on testing flies. Hungry visible fish are always the best option to refine experimental patterns for general use – or find out that some brilliant idea is less so, and only fish on the brink of starvation are vulnerable to your latest efforts.