Wednesday, February 26, 2014

End of the Spillers Curse

Ryan claimed to not have caught a fish in the Boise River in over three years; I can’t say how exaggerated that is, but today I was determined to help change that.  Euro nymphing was the name of the game today, and you better believe I had the Shadow 2!  I had just run into Pete Erickson at the F3T event in Boise, and in his pocket he had a slinky indicator for me.  The slinky is the indication connection between the tapered leader and your tippet to which you tie your flies; according to Pete, it makes all the difference because: #1. It’s supreme strike indication. #2. It’s easy to see. #3. It doesn't scare fish like a big ball indicator. #4. It puts MUCH less drag on the leader. #5. You can grease it up to make it float and fish light nymphs at a distance. #6. The slinky-coils protect against over sets that could break the flies off.  

However!... My wife wanted to let everybody know that the slinky will NOT slink down the stairs... One mark against the slinky.
Picture from SwittersB & Fly Fishing
We fished below the Eagle bridge and I put Ryan in a spot I would fish first, while I walked a bit further downstream.  With the Shadow 2, and my slinky as part of the leader, everything seemed to click.  It was easier to see and lead my flies, and I was catching fish in no time. 

I had brought in my third fish before Ryan walked over and said, “Okay, it’s my turn to use the Shadow!” 
I handed it over to him, and gave him a quick run-through on how to lead his fly and detect a strike.  Ryan caught on much quicker than I, and was immediately into a fish.  Ryan lit up with excitement as he brought in the eight-inch rainbow trout that broke the curse.  

As Ryan continued to pound fish, I took his 9’ 5wt Helios, and switched the flies and leader to a more Euro nymphing friendly set up.  Together, we were catching fish after fish.  While fishing I had notice a larger flash under water, indicating a larger fish was present.  I repositioned my cast, and lead my flies to where I had seen the fish feeding.  Sure enough, it took!  SPLASH! SPLASH!  It leaped out of the water!  Ryan came running to help land the fish, and he got it to the net for a nice picture.

Every once in a while we all deserve days like this, where it seems like you can do no wrong.  The jig-hook flies were preforming well, and the fish were all so very hungry.  With the warmer weather, I was able to try out my new underwater camera.  With over twenty shots of a fish underwater, this was the only one that turned out; I guess underwater photography is not my strong suit. 

Not using an indicator has completely changed my view on nymphing techniques.  Euro nymphing seems to make the angler more involved in the process of nymphing, and there is little to no “real” casting involved.  Lets just say that it can be ridiculously  effective for an anglers that is willing to give it a try. 

 Ryan had caught so many fish at this point, that he changed his fly to a little streamer and caught a brown trout.  Though Euro nymphing was affective, Ryan is a streamer fisherman at heart.  He ended the day bringing in some rainbow trout, white fish, and an aggressive brown trout that shattered the Spillers curse, making it a phenomenal day on the Boise River.  

Friday, February 21, 2014

Late Night

You can imagine the shock in my wife’s voice when 10:00 p.m. rolled around, and I asked if it was okay if I went fishing.  
“Seriously?” She asked, as I started layering up.  Both Colton and Isaac were out fishing, and had just called me for ideas on where to hit the Boise River next.  A serge to fish overcame me, and I geared up to meet them on the river.  

I had geared up at home so we were ready to fish when we met up!  I discovered that Isaac, of all people, had already caught a rainbow trout earlier in the evening.  That only fueled our motivation to hit the water.  Together the three of us walked along the greenbelt looking for the entrance to the river. 
“I hope we don’t run into any creeps.” Isaac said as we walked.
“Three guys walking the greenbelt at night wearing masks and looking for a place to fish...” I said to Isaac, “Look no further than the man standing next to you!”

With the cloud cover, the moon was nowhere to be seen, so we fished a spot near Boise State, hoping the lights would help the fish see.  Back in my college days I fished here at night in the summertime, and at times was successful.  The lights from the building danced on the water, providing hope for the three of us as we shot our streamers out into the river.  

The sounds of textured fly lines zipped through the air, followed by the splash of our fly.  We were getting no love from any fish when something caught my eye.  A large something was swimming upstream on the far side of the bank... 
“It’s a beaver!” I said to Colton, who was also looking. 
“That thing is big!” He replied, as the beaver changed course. 
“Hey now?” Colten said to the beaver, whom was now swimming directly toward him.  
“Stop!” Colton yelled at the beaver, and it was not listening. 
I watched with a smile as the beaver got closer and closer to Colton, saying, “It’s going to get you!”
“Oh, no it won’t!” Colton said, switching his grasp on his fly rod turning it into a bat. The beaver got closer, then veered away into the darkness.  Sadly, the only excitement in that location was the beaver.  Walking off the water we noticed our fly rods had a sheet of ice all around them, and the hackle on Colton’s fly had froze into icy shards.  

Our new location provided its own challenges, as the tall skeletal shrub branches threatened to snag our flies with every backcast.  The three of us spread out on the water, and it wasn’t long before I heard the loud WACK of a cast gone wrong. 
“Ouch! My back!” Isaac yelled, clawing at the center of his back to tame the pain of a wayward skulpZilla.  
“And thats why I stay away from him.” Colton said, laughing at his friend. 

It was nearing 12:30 a.m. as we arrived to our last spot of the night.  I got out of my car, and in the corner of my eye saw the shape of a dog that slightly startled me.  I immediately did a double take, and recognized the decoy meant to scare off geese.  I laughed and pointed it out to both Isaac and Colten, and we noticed some geese walking by... completely unfazed by the decoy. 
“I think that thing startled me more than it did the geese.” I said, as we walked to the water. 

"I hope there’s no one under the bridge.” Colton said, as we stepped off the path.  I stopped and turned on my head lamp to light up the shadow created by the bridge, and we came to a halting stop.  There was someone under the bridge, tucked up in a big sleeping bag.  I looked at Colton who looked just as shocked as me.
“I think it’s too late to be fishing, and would like to get some hot cocoa...” I said, in a hushed voice. 
“Sounds good to me.” Colton said, and the two of us got out of there.  We went and found Isaac, who was looking into an ornamental pond for fish. 

“We’re not fishing anymore, there was someone under the bridge.” Colton said to Isaac. 
“Seriously?” Isaac said, shocked. 
“Yeah, so we are going to get some cocoa and warm up.” Colton said, and we took off.

The cocoa was delicious, and together we shared fun stories of our past.  Sure a big fish would have been a better way to end the night, but if you don't have an enjoyable time fishing it says more about you than the trip.  I think the best part of the night was Isaac's reflection of the reason we stopped fly fishing this night. 
“Man, I can’t believe you guys almost got mugged by a guy under the bridge.” He said in a serious voice. 
“What?!” I said, laughing and looking at Colton who was shrugging and laughing as well. 
“There was some one sleeping in a big sleeping bag is all...” I corrected. 
“Still...” Isaac went on, "Scary stuff."

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Owyhee to Ourselves

You know there is something wrong when at 23 degrees the four of us stepped out of the vehicle saying, “It's warm out here!” 

Despite the heat wave, we bundled layer upon layer and rigged our rods appropriately.  After looking around there was no indication of a fish anywhere!  Colton Schofield and his buddy, Isaac, walked downstream to fish.  Anyone within earshot could hear Isaac and the confidence spewing out of his mouth. 
“Last time I was out, a mosquito fly worked awesome for me!”
“I have fished the Green River before...” 
“I’m going to catch 45 fish today!” 
“And I’m going to catch all my fish on this chartreuse streamer!”

Perhaps all his big talk jinxed us, because the first part of the day was very quiet.  Ryan and I had only felt the wiggle wiggle of a fish, before they ended up getting off.  We all gathered back together and headed downstream to find new water.  

Coming across a favorite spot I had to stop and take a look and, to my delight, a fish rose!  
“Whoa!  A fish!” I yelled. 
“I saw it.” Colton said, looking down at the water. 
“I missed it!” Isaac said, straining to see the water.  
“Well I want to warm up.” Ryan said, “I guess that means the fish is all yours, Erik.” 
“Wooo hooo!” I yelled, “I’ll pull the car around so you guys can watch a master at work!” 
“Would you please...” Ryan said, a bit sarcastically. 

The ice shelf sent little ripples through the water as I carefully broke through the ice to get into a nice casting position.  Once I was there, I sat patiently waiting for the fish to rise again... and nothing happened.  I don’t think I scared it down, I thought as I sat and watched.  The fish wasn’t rising, so I thought, maybe it needs something to rise to.  I gathered my line and made a cast.  I watched the puff of my suspended midge float over the spot where I thought the fish was, and the midge disappeared in the disturbance of a fish’s mouth breaking the surface of the water.  I held my breath, but only for a second before I set the hook and felt the glorious thrashing of a fish!  I heard the guys exit the vehicle with sounds of approval.  Ryan hurried down to the riverside to take this picture of me and my fish. 

When it’s below freezing out it’s important to not keep the fish out of the water long; doing so may cause the fish’s gills to freeze, which can have fatal effects on the fish.  I was sure to keep that in mind, and when I released the fish it bolted off unharmed. 

We found more open water and in no time Ryan was fighting a fish. 

I made my way over to Ryan for a quick picture.  Despite the cold, he held the fish halfway out of the water so I could get a shot of the blue mark behind the fish’s eye. 

Soon after, Colten hooked a fish.  Being the youngest, he always has someone telling him how to land a fish, as if he has never done it before.  I know from experience that it gets annoying always being coached, so I keep my mouth shut anymore when he hooks a fish. 

We had all hooked fish at this one particular spot on the river, so we called young Isaac over to try his luck.  He was the only one of us who hadn’t caught a fish yet.  He lobbed his heavy chartreuse streamer into a shallow spot, despite our suggestions not to, and immediately got snagged.  He reefed and pulled on the fly, but it was not going anywhere.  So without warning, he stomped in the river and retrieved his fly while blowing out the hole.   He held up his fly that was caked with moss and gunk yelling, “I got it!”

We laughed off the situation, and decided to call it a day.  I can’t say it was the most productive day out on the Owyhee, but it definitely was fun.  We did spend some time with Isaac teaching him how to control his line and mend; he did catch on quick, but has some practicing to do.  Hopefully next time, the Owyhee will be clear with more opportunities to throw a dry fly.  

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Czech Nymphing the Boise River

I spent a considerable amount of time rigging up my leader for Czech nymphing today.  Pete Erickson's formula is a simple, effective leader set-up that consists of a 9’0X tippet, amnesia indicator section or a slinky (which ever you prefer), and a three-foot section of 4X fluorocarbon to a tippet ring with more 4X fluoro to your heavy point fly.  Off of the tippet ring, tie on about eight inches of 4X to the ring itself, and a smaller fly.  It took me a little while to build it up and, in the end, the leader was about fifteen feet long. 
“Be sure to use a heavy point fly when you are starting Euro nymphing.” Pete’s voice said in my head. “It will make it easier for you to learn.”  So that is what I did, and I was off!

When Euro nymphing, the slightest disturbance can mean a fish ate your fly, and if you don’t react the fish will spit it out.  So when my red amnesia jolted back, I reacted in a flash!  I quickly set the hook, doubling over my ten and a half foot Shadow 2... and I had a rock.  There I stood for a long time, before gathering the inner strength to break off my flies.  

After a quick phone call to my brother, Kris, I walked to the special spot we never got to fish together while he lived in Boise.  The long walk was worth it, as almost immediately my Euro nymphing was paying off.  I set the hook on a nice fish that startled me as it rocketed out of the water.  It's big!  This slab of a fish was jumping and jumping, and with every loud splash I thought it might come unbuttoned.   The leverage of the Shadow 2 payed off, as I brought in one of the most colorful rainbow trout I have ever seen in the Boise River.  

“You didn’t disappoint, Brother.” I said out loud, looking at this gorgeous fish before it bolted off.  From then on, the Shadow 2 seemed to be bent with a fish.   

Both the rainbow warrior and a green caddis pupa killed it today on the Boise River.  Czech/Polish/Euro nymphing is a cool and effective technique to use, but I must admit, I still have a lot to learn.  

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Nymphing With the Master

It was below freezing when I stepped outside of the vehicle to gear up for a day of fishing, and boy could you tell!  The cold stung my hands and face as I finished gearing up; even my nostrils were freezing with every breath I took of the dry, cold air.  Despite the conditions, fishing was a must today.  After all, I had the opportunity to fish with local European nymphing master, Pete Erickson, and stillwater guru, Phil Rowley

I've gotten to know these guys through my involvement with the local fly fishing expo, and it was only a matter of time before we would have the chance to fish again.  After our quick hellos, they started gearing up. 
“Erik, just to let you know, Pete and I are the slowest when it comes to gearing up.” Phil said as he grabbed his waders out of the back of the SUV, and he wasn’t kidding.  He immediately became distracted, and stopped gearing up to show us his reading glasses with the lights.  
“I look like an alien!” Phil said. 
“Check out these cheaters, Erik! They make me look like an alien... when I have the lights on.” Phil said very happily.
“I thought you looked like an alien before you had the glasses on.” I said, as he continued to gather his supplies.  

Pete was extremely particular about how he wanted each of his rods set up, and rightfully so: he designed them!  Pete has been working with Echo on his new Shadow 2: a well-thought-out hybrid European nymphing rod that won’t break the bank.  
“Here, line up this rod, Phil.” Pete asked, as he held out his 10-foot Shadow fly rod to Phil.  
“This is how a MAN rigs a rod!” Phil said, as he started threading the line through the guides.  

"And this is how I do it.” Phil said immediately after.  

“Before I forget!” Pete said, “Erik, we brought you a few beers and a cigar...” 
Those of you who know me, as Pete and Phil do, know I simply didn’t acquire the taste of beer, let alone a cigar.  
“Gee, thanks!” I said sarcastically.  Phil patted my shoulder, saying, “We really didn’t bring you anything, but this way we don’t look bad, and you think we didn’t forget about you.”  
“That really is awfully considerate.” I said, as we made our way to the river.  

We could see fish rising as we approached the water.  
“What are they rising on?” Pete asked, squinting to see a bug. 
“Midges.” I said. 
“Midges... The only bug stupid enough to hatch in these conditions.” Phil said with a chuckle. 

Pete and I got into position to cast our dry flies to these willing fish.  Casting the 10-foot Shadow 2 was different than what I thought it was going to be.  I expected that I would need to adjust my cast for the additional power a 10-foot rod provides; instead I was slowing my cast down, allowing time for the rod to load.  With a forward thrust I could see the loop of my line fully extend, presenting my fly with the kind of delicacy one would expect for a spring creek.  The targeted fish took my fly, but I only felt the slightest bump of its take. Missed him...  

I continued casting the Shadow 2 to become familiar with it, but it was short lived.  The cold was catching up with me.  After only a few casts, every one of my guides was frozen with ice that stopped my line from leaving the rod tip.  

Pete was experiencing the same problem so we decided to head upstream, find Phil, and do what we came here to do: Euro Nymph!  As we walked up, Pete was pointing out good runs to fish. 
“That looks nice.” Pete said. “That's where you should fish, Erik.” 
Pete went on, “Look at this spot!” Pointing to another part of the river,  "I bet there are fish piled up there.” 
Phil was walking with us, listening to Pete as he went on. 
“Check out this shelf!” Pete pointed to a run where the water flowed in a shallow trickle, then dropped down about six feet. 
“I bet that is a good spot too!” 
“Hey I found a spot!” Phil interrupted, pointing downstream. 
“Right there!” 
Now Phil pointed at the sky...
“And here!”
“Oh, and over there!” Phil said excitedly, pointing in every direction.   

“Gimme that!” Pete said to Phil, who was holding the 10 1/2-foot Shadow 2, rigged for European nymphing.  Phil had already been fishing European style with major success, so he handed the rod to Pete, and my instruction began. 

A fire hose of instruction and information was being hurled my way, as Pete fished the run.  The difference between Czech, Polish, and French style nymphing was being explained in full detail, along with the proper way to lead, swing, and finish each attempt before starting another drift.  

"Okay, Erik.  This next spot will be perfect for you!" Pete said, as we walked to a new run.  I stood, waiting for a fly rod that wasn't handed to me; as Pete started fishing the very spot I was to fish.  
“Did you see that?” Pete asked, as he set the hook on a fish. 
"What?" I asked. 
"The movement in the indication section of the leader." Pete said, bringing in his fish. 
"Yeah, I saw it!" I lied. 

"What a great instructor..." Phil said, as Pete released his fish. 
"Take note on how he recommends a great spot to fish, then steals the water before you, his student, gets a chance to fish it." Phil ended with a chuckle.  I leaned over to Phil and said, "Why do you think I said I saw the indication there was a fish?  I didn't see a thing, I just want to fish."
"Okay! Okay!  Here you go." Pete said, handing me his creation, and I immediately started fishing.  A few quick pointers, and I was already in my first fish!  

"There you go!" Pete said happily, as I released my fish and immediately went back to fishing.  Pete was telling me how to "lead" my fly into areas I couldn't present a fly to, and boom!  Another fish! 
"Let me see that rod!" Pete insisted, ripping the rod from my hand after I released my second fish. 
"Seriously?!" Phil protested, "He only got two!"
"It's killing me! I have to fish it!" Pete said with wild eyes. 
"And he already got two!" Pete continued, trying to validate his actions.  Pete proceeded to catch fish after fish, with no thought of giving up the rod. 
"Okay!  Hand it here!" Phil said, after Pete's tenth fish. 
"You're a terrible instructor!" Phil said, with a laugh. 

From then on Pete didn't fish.  He coached both Phil and I, as we nymphed the river with tons of success.  In the end, Pete got his chance to fish again, but this time to rising fish.  After switching from a small fly to a tiny one, he caught his last fish of the day. 

Pete reluctantly stuck his hands in the water, in order to get the tiny dry fly out of the fish’s mouth.  After popping ice out of his guides, and trying to warm his hands, Pete asked the question we were all needing to hear; "Are you guys cold enough yet?" 
"I know I've had enough fun for one day." Phil said, and we all walked back to the vehicles, half frozen.  

Phil opened the gates to get us out of our parking spots as we headed back to Boise.  On the drive home, I had plenty of time to reflect on the day.  I said to myself, self, I says... Perhaps I can convince John, (the owner of Anglers, where I work) that he needs to buy a Shadow 2 for us employees to "try out" in the shop... I guess we will see how that goes.