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.

2ndtree800

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.

LMouth600

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.

I’ll settle for the Purple Unknown

Managed to sneak out briefly to scout the latest round of unseasonable weather.  Drought has a way of upsetting all the normal timetables, and this year is proving no different. The creek is already dry before it crosses I-5, so like last year, the only fishing that will persist is the nearby lakes, like Berryessa.

Normally the Bass spawn in Spring, but after an 80 degree weekend in March, I’m thinking we’re in Spring already and by May will be perspiring handily.

I scouted my usual haunts by Markley Cove and the dam proper, but made the mistake of being on the shade side of the cove, so the water was impenetrable until noon.

Plenty of large swirls in the coves as Bass chased Shad, but nothing was visible in the shallow edge – and no beds were present.

Saw one fish caught by a boat fishing a Chartreuse swim bait.

berry_Morning

I stomped the bank throwing my usual mix of Large and Gaudy and was ignored by everything underwater – although I created quite the entertainment for the squadrons of bass boats that rumbled past.

Being early is never bad thing as occasionally “early” yields a fishery that’s “just right”, with only you to exploit it, versus the more numerous, “should have been here last week.”

Purple_Flowers

I bagged it early and spent the balance of the day eyeballing the wildflower bloom. Like fishing, tracking the optimal flower show in a drought year is as bad as timing the bass spawn. A few colors were missing but the Poppies and the Purple Unknown were worth the early morning jaunt.

Science provides inspiration and wisdom does the debunking

I’ve always assumed Renoir and Degas had similar issues with us fly tiers; a couple of decades spent on rigorous painting tedium, and saddled with the costs of painting supplies, groceries, and a roof overhead, true masterpieces were sacrificed for the more mundane portraiture … because painting Madame … paid the bills.

Fly fishing, especially during those cold months between Winter fisheries and Spring, endures a similar tedium, where inspiration comes occasionally, and inclement weather and work combine into  books read, magazines thumbed through, and daydreams of future successes.

I used to find inspiration from periodicals, where fresh ideas and the exploration of new fisheries caused me a fit of tying creativity or made me lust after new terminal gear. Unfortunately, fresh ideas are in limited supply, and periodicals eventually yield to the stale yet profitable, and every Bahamian bone fishing article looks like ISIS reconnoitering Mosul, the difference between the two the color of their sun buff …

With the Internet and its ready access to all of the great colleges, organizations, and  sources of fisheries research, the Scientific community is an underutilized source of freshness in angling ideas. Theories abound on fish, bugs, stream dynamics, global warming, and invasive species, and even a casual knowledge of fish and bug behavior allows the reader to follow along from proposal to conclusion.

The volume of research is staggering, and while much is in its infancy (and is best served as simple topics to mull), a great deal more is mature – and for anglers  seeking new insight into their quarry or craft, become a source of ideas and topics that will never be mainstream enough to grace our angling press, or may feature conclusions that counter current ecological practices and are ignored by our conservation organizations.

In short, if you don’t turn over the stone yourself, no one will turn it for you.

This Spring has seen me start down a thread I found interesting, and resulted in many hours of fervor at the vise. What started simply – as a dissertation on Guppies has led through a chain of other papers, physics, and conventional wisdom, and while both conclusions and flies will always be questionable – the enjoyment of discovery and new inspirations have made the journey completely worthwhile.

The April issue of the Royal Society Proceedings B, has an article discussing the notion that patterns, motion, and coloration of prey (flora and fauna) are inheritable in Guppies, a freshwater fish.

After a great deal of rigorous experimentation the authors concluded Guppies prefer red or orange, and don’t particularly care much for blue. What fascinated me was the discussion that like bees, guppies were capable of honing in on patterns exhibited by their prey (both motion and coloration) akin to bees and birds and the specialized pollination coding on flowers.

For those as are unfamiliar, flowers are colored (both primary color and patterns of color on their petals) to attract the unique insects and birds that can best pollinate them. So long necked flowers that bees cannot climb into are coded for Hummingbirds, and anything with a long, thin proboscis that it can wad into the barrel of the flower.

This notion that freshwater fish may have similar tendencies I found fascinating, given that if anglers accept this notion it would likely spawn a bazillion new patterns that resembled (in coloration and pattern) everything from Green Drakes to discarded French fries.

As Mother Nature colors her insects to resemble the stream bottom, the notion of red or blue is a bit far fetched, but it does buttress our notion that color of the natural is worth imitating, in either dry or wet variants. Inheritance would also ensure that planted fish, should they survive, would also trend toward the same food choices of wild fish – as both groups must dine off the same menu.

Color and shape are the most copied trait of the modern fly tier, a reflection of the prevailing  “match the hatch” logic that has dominated fly fishing for the last several decades. Patterns in coloration and motion are the “less traveled” path, given how fly tying materials have dictated how the resultant imitation moves.

Natural materials being a bit more lively than synthetics, but only by accident, as many natural materials can be stiffened by the simple act of attachment to the hook.

Having to use a “J-shaped” bit of steel to contain all the parts of the natural is also a delimiting factor. Any discussion of imitation has to also recognize the limitations of physics on our potential options.

After a couple of weeks ferreting out full motion videos of mayfly nymphs in their natural settings, and viewing them for signatures akin to how a bee might view flowers, it is quickly apparent that there is a couple of patterns of color on a typical mayfly when swimming. The first was due to its carapace and color density imbued by thickness, and the second was due to gill motion, and the lightening effect that lateral gills (and the light-colored cilia attached) and their constant motion have on the surrounding colors of the insect.

Mayfly_Pattern600

Should this wild notion of torso “pattern-key” being the missing ingredient in the complete subjugation of Salmonids, I could expect some lofty company. The thought of my Portly & Brazen suddenly synonymous with Gordon, Skues, or Sawyer was pretty heady, but a couple of decades of wisdom tempered my flirtation with ego.

Tying flies with this type of pattern in their torso had some very obvious shortcomings …Physics being the most sinister, as all of my full motion vignettes quickly displayed.

BellyBackIn moving water most fish face upstream. Insects dislodged due to mishap or swimming to the surface come downstream (roughly) head first. Fish on the prowl for targets likely don’t see anything of the abdomen patterning save the wink of dark top or light belly, and only if the insect is swimming in its customary violent tail-centric, up-down, fashion.

In still water the fish can encounter an underwater insect along any axis, and the predative view may not even involve any signature other than motion, the frantic attempt to evade being eaten triggering the pursuit.

Fish_eye_nymphbutt

Not to mention the notion of the fish’s eye not being the same as our stereo flavor, and the exaggerations of coloration that exist when converting a stereo image to an approximation of what we think fish see

… and therein lies the beauty of Science and the unending appeal it has for me and my dull Winter months. A constant stream of facts and theorems that promise future success – all of which must be tempered with angling wisdom and experience, in order to determine which theory will fill next season’s fly box.

What’s not important is whether any chain of facts will result in more fish caught, as the angler cannot determine what he would have done had he fished other flies. What is worthy is to continually question the status quo, given the shaky ground all of our current angling truisms are built upon.

My life as a female, or 50 shades of Bruce jenner

IDThiefBeen distracted of late.

Obviously my dissertation on modern fly tying and its reliance on synthetics has raised the hackles of organized crime, as my identity has been besieged ever since.

First it was all of my banking that was shifted to Anaheim, California. That got my attention quickly enough, and I was forced to backpedal on all those “Southern California lawn” posts.

Then all that extremely good credit I’d built up over a lifetime was leveraged with acres of new plastic, in both my name and my new feminine nom de plume, “Melinda Mendez.”

… and that might not be all bad. “Melinda” gives me that “cover” appeal that my Aging and Portly never achieved, and the angling world will hang on my every word.

Unfortunately, the only writing I’ve been doing is clearing what remains of my prior identity and swearing with great violence of late. I freeze credit, file police reports, put fraud alerts on all the credit bureaus, and then find my mail has been rerouted elsewhere.

As I’ve been on the periphery of this line of work for some time, I’ve been quite lucky. I already had a credit watchdog prior to the attack, and like all the other 80,000,000 Blue Cross-Blue Shield-Anthem Health users, I am finding out that Internet is not much of a pal anymore.

Internet 1.0 was porn, 2.0 was e-Commerce, and 3.0 appears to be Cyber war … so the festivities are just getting started.

The Unnecessary Drought in Fly tying

Ever watch someone attempt to match a bug in the wild? Minimalism usually overrides complexity as tying while traveling restricts the fly tier to a small subset of the materials than are available at home. Little packets of dubbing compress nicely, and a half dozen necks covers just about everything fished dry.

As your pals cluster over your “canvas” insisting, “ …it was a bit more brown” – and how, “…the ones near me were about a size 12,” invariably the resultant bug when duplicated enough to quench demand, is always dry.

Not the “dry” of dry fly, rather the dry of the desert … bone dry, the opposite of damp.

As the only “fish” able to survive out of water are Snakeheads and our prehistoric ambulatory ancestors, the inconvenient truth is fish live in water and to catch them your fly must get wet. As simplistic as this sounds, this notion eludes most fly fishermen, as attempts at imitation are done using dry materials, under bright lights, rather than wet materials under the dim light of dusk, or under refracted conditions.

Dry_62

The Bad News being that under morning or evening conditions, damp flies change color drastically, and while our painstakingly crafted imitation was anatomically correct and the proper color, its damp, darkened variant may only catch smaller fish forced into the unpopular lies, and the desperate fish that rushed to the bait regardless of its color.

The magic of realistic imitation is a mixture of known and unknown, which makes the topic complex and the outcome so varied. On the one hand,  our quarry cannot be queried as to what it just ate, and if it doesn’t, we assume it “smart” – able to count the extra six legs our hackle contained. On the one hand fish are  stupid, and any object carried by the current and resembling something living, is eaten without hesitation.

Due to the cost of our tackle and collective ego, fly fishermen insist their quarry is an agile, canny, predator – that can only be seduced by a similarly gifted angler. The reality of “pea-sized” brain and the “instinctive eat” is dismissed as belonging only to drinking buddies or the angler’s offspring.

In actuality, flies are darker when wet than when dry. Fish are likely to eat them, but may not eat them with the gusto reserved for the predominant hatch, and refusals can be more common than a properly colored imitation.

This darkening effect is enhanced by many factors, most important being the underbody and the thread color used to construct the fly. Attempts at exacting imitation of form or color must include an understanding of how thread colors influence the fly when fished.

wet6

To illustrate the phenomenon, both of the above pictures were taken of the same flies under marginal light conditions. The “dry” picture flies look reasonably identical other than the bits of thread color showing at whip finish or the post of the parachute wing.

After immersion in tap water, the bugs tied with darker thread reveal their true colors – which no longer resemble the coloration of the original pattern,  and in this case, only the yellow and tan versions remain unchanged.

Dry flies are much more vulnerable to the bleeding through of thread colors due to their light coloration and sparse dressing. Fur absorbs water, and most tiers attempt to reduce this absorption by minimizing the amount of fur used in the body.

Nymphs have less exposure to this issue – but are not immune by any measure. Most nymphs tend to tied with darker colors, and thread to match making their color less susceptible to the skew induced with dampness.

Tying flies with neutral colors may not be as fashionable, but they will preserve the intent of the dressing better versus adding unforeseen consequence.  For flies dressed in the warm spectrum of yellows through brown, tan thread will neither add color nor darken noticeably, it is the preferred neutral “warm.” For light dun through the olive spectrum, a light gray thread is the preferred “cool” neutral.

Underbodies and the controlled visibility of their thread color is a powerful tool to assist a tier if the effects are planned and understood. Buffering a bright underbody with external fur can yield a “gelatinous” coloration that due to visual effects adds dimension as well as color just like the real bug.

As beginning fly fishermen we are destined for numerous stages to our fishing careers. Choosing to tie flies being one, awareness of our prey and its favorite food groups being a second. Discovery that angling theory is a mix of myth and word of mouth – inevitably leads to entomology and the scientific process … and the desire to imitate versus attract. In our maturation as an angler, it’s inevitable that precise color and exacting imitation will become a dominate chapter, one of many phases we’ll endure in our journey to “Opinionated Old Sumbitch”, the Jedi Master of fly fishing.

A celebration of our myopic and irrational

I’ve always been fascinated how physics, logic, and religion alternately hold sway with anglers, and how quickly we drop one to seek a convenient explanation from the others.

Given the fervor of our practitioners, fishing may also hold a goodly number of lay theologians; those whose use of deities are limited to epithets, and those who couldn’t endure the restrictions of religious study, and opted for a sociology major instead.

Only historians, theologians,  and anglers discuss derivations of ancient events and derive modern theories that explain the unexplainable – and like religion and history, most attempts at learned angling discussion flare white-hot, as our ranks are home to   half wits, zealots, and the unyielding.

never-argue-with-stupid-people

Bass anglers and fly fishermen are the worst of the lot and the least cognizant of their behavior. Add together a bit of religion, arrogance, science, and stubborn, suspend disbelief and ignore physics, and you’ve got something that describes their angling theory and behavior.

… and as I listened to a pair of bass fanatics agree on the only three colors of rubber worm needed to catch bass, I was reminded of our version, the “Adam’s Guy”, and how ardent he was that “ …the Adam’s is the only fly worth fishing , and I catch all my fish using it.”

With an ear cocked to the debate on rubber worms, (which had turned from discussion to a more congratulatory tone) I noted that while the obligatory “fist-bump” was in order, both had confessed to owning a garage full of the unloved color spectrum. Most being blamed on destination purchases – based on bait shop banter, and the balance from YouTube videos (and magazine articles) featuring snuff-dipping felons manning tinny microphones apologizing for winning everything while flinging, “… drop shot, with a Dirty Plum Senko chaser.”

Naturally us long rod fanciers pick on the Bass crowd with great glee, but they’re a mirror of current fly fishing theory. Both groups are equally insufferable in their misapplication of knowledge, both assume the outrageous cost of their tackle makes up for their lack of study or practice, and most lack real knowledge of their surroundings or their quarry, and are content to quote whatever dog-eared rag they’ve stacked by the crapper.

I suppose the fly fishing crowd can claim a moral victory in that they don’t despoil lakes with fossil fuels, but the reality is our leader packages, discarded indicators, and candy bar wrappers are a close second.

Bass fishermen giggle at us because of the nosebleed costs of fly rods, but don’t consider they are uncomfortable without a half dozen rods pre-strung, and how the combined cost of all those reels and terminal gear equal or exceed the cost of our rod.

As both groups represent a relaxing hobby gone terribly wrong, its interesting neither dwells on the actual cost of their catch, as both insist on releasing everything before they’re weighed. This is a convenient mechanism, given any serious study on the subject will be waved in their face by their Better Half, and used to stifle any sarcasm regarding drapery treatments and domestic expense.

All this imprecision results in shaky estimates and gross exaggeration of catch rates, which we gleefully relay to our confederates with clipped syllables that brook little discussion.

“Mr. Adam’s” is equally unwilling to discuss his myopia, and while it may not serve him well hiring a guide to fish a strange river, as he’ll scorn any patterns presented by his handler, it won’t lessen his ardor at force feeding every nearby dimple with his notion of perfection.

Mr. Adams being right … as even a single suicide fish will buttress his theory beyond credibility. He’s conveniently ignored the notion that the Only Fly theorem can be explained by the Commutative Law of Mathematics – which describes why the angler who uses only a single fly for their fishing will catch all their fish on that fly.

commutative_law

This is known in scientific circles as a “truism” … a fact that cannot be argued regardless of the amount of alcohol consumed.

Fly fishermen insist that a massive gold bead on the front of a mayfly imitation actually imitates a mayfly, which might be true if mayflies rode motorcycles and the more numerous Diptera passed a helmet law . This learned scientific notion a derivation based on the original fly being a realistic imitation – and the addition of glitter, opalescent rib and bulbous shiny helmet making the original work even better.

Other realities are never discussed, as they make a mockery of everything us anglers holds dear. How fish only have a split second to eat – before the insect consumes more calories to catch than it’ll contain when eaten … and how even the wildest of bloodlines will eat a cigarette butt should it be presented upstream and at a dead drift …

… downstream presentation making it a vile thing – akin to trash.

The most damning notion is how many male-dominated (male-originated) sports share the same mythology. Like the fable of the Well Chewed Fly; despite a dozen undamaged replicas in the box a damaged fly increases its allure with each fish hooked, regardless of deteriorating appearance.

Crash Davis: I never told him to stay out of your bed.
Annie Savoy: Yes you did.
Crash Davis: I told him that a player on a streak has to respect the streak.
Annie Savoy: Oh fine.
Crash Davis: You know why? Because they don’t  … they don’t happen very often.
Annie Savoy: Right.
Crash Davis: If you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid, or because you’re not getting laid, or because you wear women’s underwear, then you *are*! And you should know that!
[long pause]
Crash Davis: Come on, Annie, think of something clever to say, huh? Something full of magic, religion, bullshit. Come on, dazzle me.
Annie Savoy: I want you.

- from Bull Durham

Religion and fishing have numerous literal links. Jesu Christo and his over-limit angling habit being the most obvious. Both avocations share legions of zealots – yet fly fishermen have yet to detonate a vest in a public setting, suggesting their fervor, unlike the religious variant, has practical limits.

My theory is that all truly talented fishermen are guilty of irrational behavior and myopic outlook, as it’s the armor needed to endure icy waters, extreme temperatures, and  the lack of hygiene of our fishing buddies. We’ve always considered these trials as proof of our devotion, as they are so off-putting to our detractors.

Like celibacy among priests, anglers require suffering to endure the unknown, and both the Meaning of Life and Why Fish Eat, are intangibles and destined for debate until climate change or Thermonuclear devastation makes both moot.

At some point we’ll see stability, but not yet

I’ll call this site “Singlebarbed Too” in honor of my horrid punctuation skills.

As we speak two sites exist due to my migrating the content from one account to another. Site “one” has a BASS graphic as the header image, and “Too” has the tied fly header.

So far this morning the DNS update has made the default site Singlebarbed One, and now at midday it has become Singlebarbed Too.

I’ll assume all this will quiet down within 48 hours, but it may prove a little odd if you comment or post, and it appears to vanish – as it has done twice already.

No worries, it will stabilize at some point.

It’ll take More than fries and a smile

The title appeared innocent enough, but its import sent a chill down my spine.

Inference and Science are never mixed without trouble, as inference is the opposite of scientific rigor. While I instinctively understood that my “connecting the dots” was a leap of faith, the conclusion was so hellish as to ensure our beloved pastime is threatened …

“ Female bats are fussier than males when it comes choosing where to eat in urban areas …”

Knowing that Mother Nature often shares her constructs across species, and buttressed by my personal experiences that Human Females share the same tendencies as  bats, suggest this behavior is present in  fish as well.

Make_Trout_Want

For most this will be a yawner, but knowing most of the freshwater fish in the world live in environments rich in Estrogen and are steeped in female hormones, and noting Science has indicted the water treatment folks with their callous extermination of gonads of all types, suggests the bulk of our quarry are at minimum transgender … or are already female.

As such they’ll develop the rarified palate and be doubly difficult to catch.

What Science has yet to explain is whether a “sale” tag on the fly will make them eat more often, or whether they’ll simply browse your fly box without touching anything.

For those scoffing at my reach of the available facts, note that like Human males, male bats settle …

Males, on the other hand, seem to be less particular and are just as likely to be found settling for poorer-quality woodland patches next to built-up areas. (Via Physorg)

Both species having low self esteem in common, and don’t pay much attention to the quality of what they stuff in their gob …

In male cuttlefish, mated behaviour was not affected by female receptivity; however, familiarity with the female did affect male mating behaviour. Males exerted a strong preference for unfamiliar females ..  (Via Physorg)

Males settle … and in females, prefer some “Strange” …

I don’t make this stuff up, I infer it, which is way better.

All of my Grammatical tendencies exposed

My continuing struggle with apostrophes is second only to my use of labels to paint the opposition… both being growth areas should I ever aspire to write traditional ‘Zine fodder.  While I’ve given up attempting to decide when it is proper to use an apostrophe, my  struggle with epithets has become “throwing the widest loop possible” .. thereby angering everyone.

In this instance it was my incorrect and chronic use of the term “Metrosexual” to describe myself and those as toss flies in anger.

Erroneously, I had assumed clean shaven, sweet smelling, and well coifed, to be a liability in fishing – as both fashion, perfume, and fat free milk, repelled fish akin to human urine.

lumbersexual

Thumbing through my gaily-colored-but-ever-shrinking fishing periodicals showed little resembling the anglers of my California streams. No chapped lips, roman noses, scuffed boots, and missing teeth, and unlike my locals, no one is ever depicted walking, most are escorted by drift boats and liveried guides.

While the balance of the multi-page spread hawked monogrammed Puce self-wicking shirts, rather than the killing tools of my sport, their spokespeople looked out of place and uncomfortable with mosquitoes, water of any kind (except in Bourbon), and fishing of any type.

As I couldn’t imagine these airbrushed dandies advancing up the survival-skill-food-chain, given their inability to wear the same shirt for most of the week, and reluctant to learn how the reapplication of mosquito repellent can overcome pure “Sourdough” that is companion to a watery debauch, I had sought to diminish them with a potentially appropriate – yet hastily chosen epithet.

Further study on the subject suggests anglers (especially the effete fly fishing kind) are not so much a Metrosexual as we are “Lumbersexuals.”

The distinction is significant.

A “metrosexual” is someone aware of the imbedded fashion associated with outdoor activity, and has a suitable closet to match. Function is unrealistic, given there is no reward in being successful, so much as cutting the appropriate figure while hunkering over the après’-fishing craft beer.

Metrosexuals spend more time in front of a mirror than an aging starlet, and have sanitary rituals and niceties that are foreign to most men, and appreciated mightily by females.

If a metrosexual drops his Standard-station bean burrito in the dirt he will consider it unclean. Then he will separate the plastic wrap from the organic elements and look for separate garbage cans for each.

Metrosexuals are sensitive and have high self esteem, which is why they excel at selling fishing tackle and are such poor fishermen.

A “Lumbersexual” is a fellow that retains one or more studied outdoorsy elements to his lifestyle. Carefully manicured chin stubble, plaid shirts, shooting jackets, or owns a hunting dog breed that ignores verbal commands and “points” only Siamese and coffee-ground covered chicken bones.

… and before you get all apoplectic – recognize that Fishing, by any definition, IS that lingering outdoorsy affectation … so we’re all guilty.

Wide, wide, loop.

From around the web: Emblematic of confused state of masculinity today. As a comedian I know puts it, men today have full beards but shaved balls. "Folksy on the face, creepy on the balls."