Eastgate Anglers, LLC
548 County Rd. 2AB
Cody, WY 82414
307/587-3059 307/899-1175

03/22/2014

 

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Fall - Winter Newsletter

September 2013 - March 2014

Be sure to check the Current Fishing report for frequent updates on our conditions and latest fishing excursions.
 

February 3rd

CDC. The perfect fly tying material!

With water fowl season winding down and sub freezing temperatures pushing fisherman indoors for a week or so, twisting up a few flies is the perfect way to spend the day. I am a huge fan of using CDC in all types of flies and I am extremely lucky in that one of my best friends has coerced some of his hunting buddies into plucking CDC off the butts of the ducks and geese they shoot each winter. I just received a huge bag of the material and it was like a late Christmas for me! The price and quality are right and this material may be the single best natural material to the fly tier.

The first use of CDC in fly tying was around 1920 by some early Swiss tiers but really gained notoriety in 1950 by French tier Henry Bresson who called it Cul De Canard or " from the ducks butt". In the 80's it started becoming a very popular material with modern tiers for flies designed to catch fish on the more technical streams like Silver Creek and the Henry's Fork. Now there are lots of guys that specialize in CDC flies and swear they are second to none. I tend to agree when it comes to selective fish. Cul De Canard feathers surround the preen gland on the water fowls back just in front of the tail. These feathers are coated in the oil from the gland that gives these feathers the ability to shed water and keep the bird dry. The feathers themselves are made up of Keratin which has a consistency similar to man made plastic.  It makes for a very strong and resilient material and helps with flotation as it cannot absorb water.  The way the feathers are structured gives them the ability to trap air bubbles. This not only makes them perfect for dry flies but for sub surface flies as well. The trapped air bubbles float the surface flies and give motion to the feathers when under the water. The color of the feathers runs anywhere from grey or dun in a goose feather to dark brown in a mallard and even a nice copper color in a cinnamon teal. Some companies dye the feathers but I like the natural colors.  The natural colors just look right in the water and are an almost perfect match to most of the actual bugs.

There are four different varieties of feather structure. Each type has it's preferred applications. One type is good for palmering around collars and bodies. One type is good for up right wings and loop wings on emergers, one type works well for posts and emerger down wings, and the oiler puffs work for just about everything. If you are buying feathers from a fly shop it may be important to you because they tend to sort the feathers but if you pluck your own you will get plenty of each type off each bird. You should be able to get 20 to 50 useable feathers off each bird.

In my experience just about any fly tied with CDC will enhance the looks of your fly to the fish. When I run into an especially picky fish or a fish rising in really slow clear shallow water I go to a CDC dry fly or emerger. The fish just seem to like them that much better. There may be other flies that may seem more durable or more maintenance free but the CDC has the ability to land very softly, float high, move enticingly, and the color is about as close to the real bug as you can get. They really fool the fish. When it comes to sub surface flies the movement of the feathers under water is second to none. It imparts a built in life to the flies. I have actually seen some unweighted nymphs tied with CDC  rise to the surface under their own power! Pretty amazing!

When tying with CDC the sky is the limit. Wings, bodies, collars, hackle, dubbing, and anything else you can think of. Dun colored feathers from a goose can be bleached with a 50/50 bleach and peroxide mixture to get a nice amber color. One technique that I haven't heard much about that I use all the time is stripping the barbules from the stems, clumping them together, and using them for wings, posts, and dubbing loops. This will enable you to make good use of all your feathers. Stack 3 to 5 feathers on top of each other with the tips even. The number of feathers corresponds to how much bulk you need. With your thumb and index finger grab the barbules on one side of the stem and pull them towards the base of the stem removing them from the stem. Flip the feather and place the still attached barbules on top of the ones you've just pulled and remove them as well. Now you should have a clump of material that can be used for posts, wings, or dubbing loops. Handling the material this way enables you to do the same thing the Magic tool does without the tool! This is not a complicated as it may seem once you get used to it and will allow you to use every bit of the material. Waste not want not!

I highly recommend giving this material a try. There are tons of patterns for you to try in books or on the web. The feathers are readily available to most of us for free if you hunt or you can order some on line! Rene Harrop's patterns are some of my favorites, as well as Hans Weilenmenn, and Marc Petitjean. Experiment on your own or just try adding some to your existing patterns. I guarantee it will be worth your while!

 

 

 

January 22nd

Three fly rigs for the Lower Shoshone

John Barr brought back the use of using three fly rigs in 2002 with the hopper copper dropper set up. Apparently people had been using this set up for years but this was the first I'd ever heard of it. In 2002 I new way more than I do now and dismissed it as over kill and a potential tangling mess. Totally unnecessary with no real advantages. Since then my tune has changed 100% on this set up!

First lets deal with some of the more obvious objections. Hard to cast. This set up is basically a nymph rig and as such is no more difficult to cast. Possibly less so because it is shorter and usually much lighter. You have to use enough power on the back cast to get the flies to straighten out without falling to the ground before you start the forward cast. Really no different from any other cast. Pay attention to your back cast and you will be casting this set up with ease in no time. Lots of tangles. Again, if your cast is sound and you wait on your back cast you won't get the tangles. I think with most people just having 3 flies on for the first time has a psychological effect on your casting similar to learning to casting in the wind. I have had many young kids casting this set up right off the bat. I never told them it was hard and they never had much trouble learning to cast it. Depth of flies is not adjustable without replacing a section of tippet. This is the only real down fall I see. Most of the time I am content to just fish the water I am set up to fish. If things get tough changing the weight of a nymph or adjusting tippet length is really not that much of a problem.

Now for the good news. The thing that makes this set up so much more effective than a traditional nymph set up is that it is a much nicer presentation. It is nothing more than an ultra light nymph rig. When the water is low, clear, and calm fish are easily spooked by a traditional nymph rig unless the water is very deep. Several weighted flies, a couple split shot and a bobber makes a hell of a commotion when it hits the water. This set up can be presented very nicely and fished through some very shallow water, pockets and weed lines. It is much more accurate than a traditional rig and is fantastic when you can see the fish nymphing. The fish may hear a slight commotion but when they look up what they see instead of lead and a bobber is all natural. The number of bites you will get will increase by double over using a traditional nymph rig in these types of situations. This set up is also very effective as a searching pattern. You have a wide selection of flies in the water all at different depths. This will usually lead you to the fish very quickly. Always a good thing to me.  You can now catch fish on your indicator. How many of us have set the hook on a fish that has just eaten your thingamabobber? Those fish will now feel the hook. I have hooked many fish year round with big dry flies even when there is nothing even close actually on the water. In seams next to faster water it isn't surprising to have fish eat the hopper even in the dead of winter and these are usually some of the better fish. This set up works real well to get small unweighted flies to fish in shallower water. The middle fly acts as a weight to get the last fly down to the fishes level. This is extremely effective on the Shoshone in the spring when the mayflies and midges get going. Getting a little 22 emerger on light tippet down to fish in  shallow water quickly and quietly will let you hook many more fish out of one area. Using this set up on lakes with pressured fish is fantastic. I see guys casting like crazy out at Newton when the fish are midgeing to no avail. The more you cast, the more you are spooking the fish. The fish see your cast and shy away from any unnatural movement including movement from retrieving your line. Just cast this out and let it sit. The fish will take off when it hits the water but shortly will return to feeding once they feel the coast is clear. Just let the wind add action to the flies or give it an occasional twitch just to show it to them. You will be amazed at how many fish will come out of no where to eat the big dry!

The set up consists of a top fly that is capable of floating several nymphs, a middle fly sized to fish the depth and speed of the current, and a smaller fly. I use a large foam attractor with a wing I can easily see as the top fly. The second fly can be anywhere from a #10 to a #18 nymph depending on how deep the water and how fast you want it to sink. The bottom fly is usually something like a worm, a midge, or an emerger of some sort. The bottom fly is almost always the money fly. The length of the tippet depends on the depth of the water. I make the entire set up anywhere from 18 inches to as much as 4 feet. Tippet size 3X to 5X.

As always there is a learning curve and some technique involved to get the maximum benefit from this set up but let me tell you it is well worth it. Having someone demonstrate the set up and show you some of the different applications will help you see how effective it can be. I rarely go to a traditional nymph rig these days around here. Make a commitment to give this a try for a couple days and I think you will be amazed at how your catch rate will pick up. It is also a lot of fun!

Last summer I introduced a couple clients to this set up. I was using a huge pink foam attractor with large wiggly legs of my own design  as an indicator fly that was big enough to float two fairly large nymphs. Those guys laughed at the big fly saying there was nothing that would take that thing. They nick named it the gay tarantula (no disrespect intended). We were fishing some faster water about 4 or 5 feet deep. I had the guys casting way up to the top of the run into the white water and letting it drift through. The two largest fish of the day came right up and ate the big ugly dry as it drifted back almost right in front of us. They must have been following it for a while. A 5lb brown and a 41/2 rainbow! We laugh about to this day. Give it a try, you won't be sorry.

 

 

January 17th

Something about the Swing!

To a steelhead fisherman swinging flies is the absolute top of the list of preferred techniques just like dry fly fishing is to trout fishermen.  It's history goes back to the very roots of two handed fishing for Atlantic salmon and sea run browns in Europe. There has been a great resurgence in the use of two handed rods the last couple years. They are highly effective for covering larger rivers with larger flows. Unfortunately in Cody we just really don't need rods that big to cast that far. We do however use the swing! It is an extremely effective technique for taking large numbers of trout during the winter.

In the winter months it is common knowledge that the fish will congregate in the slowest deepest water. They don't have to waste energy fighting current and their food source is right in front of them on the bottom of the river. The deeper water also gives them good cover. There isn't very much bug activity when the water is as cold as it is right now so there won't be much hatching or surface activity. We call this type of water frog water. During the warmer months we just don't pay much attention to it but this time of year it is where it's at! This is the perfect set up for swinging flies.

There is plenty to learn about swinging flies. You don't just toss it out and let it swing. First of all the water has to have at least a minimal amount of current to swing the flies. You want to use flies that have enough weight to get down on the bottom quickly but not so much that they end up on the bottom all the time. I use a #8 cone head woolly bugger with about 15 wraps of .035 lead. That seems to be just about right for the flows on the Shoshone in the winter time. I also tie a #14 pink soft hackle sow bug on as a second fly about 2' back. The fish will take the sow bug as an emerger as it swings to the surface at the end of the drift. In many instances the motion of the fly swinging to the surface is what the fish will key on.  One fly is weighted and one can suspend. I generally use 0X as tippet (3X to the sow bug). The fish usually aren't leader shy when a woolly bugger is getting their attention.

Patience and presentation is the key to this type of fishing. Make your cast across and slightly up stream. Mend to get the flies down and swing them to bring them up. Generally, once the flies are down I try to just straighten the line between me and the flies with little mends. If the fish seem active you can add some action with strips. If they seem inactive I just let the flies swing slowly until they are directly down stream. Pause the fly at the end of the swing and slowly strip the fly back upstream. Don't get in a hurry and just pick it up at the end of the swing. Lately I'd say 50% of the takes happen stripping the fly back up stream. If you can safely move out into the the river do so. This will allow you to strip the flies up different lanes and show it to more fish. The fish seem to key on the flies running up stream and away from them.

The takes are usually quite subtle. You must stay in contact with your flies at all times. To much slack and you will miss a ton of bites. Cover the water methodically by taking just a step or two down stream at a time and then making several more casts. Once you find the fish there are usually a bunch in one spot. Sometimes and the top of the run, sometimes in the middle of the run, and sometimes on the tail out. Today I fished just one run for about 3 hours and pulled maybe 25 fish out of a 100 yard stretch.

Once you find out how the fish want the flies presented it is on! Your focus will be waiting for the little tap you might feel where the line goes under your finger or just a slight pause in the line as it swings. You never know when it will come so you have to pay attention all the time. It is really a lot of fun and it is an interesting technique to learn. Give it a shot the next time you hit the Lower Shoshone and you'll may be surprised at how many fish you'll catch and how much fun it can be!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 14th

The Best Dry Fly Fishing of the Year!

When you bring up the topic of what is the best dry fly fishing of the season most people think of BWO's in April, Salmon flies in late June and Early July,  PMD's and Drakes in mid to late July, and Hoppers in August. These are all great hatches but there is one other bug that in my opinion offers the absolute most beautiful and challenging dry fly fishing of the summer. It just so happens that it starts at a time of the year that has most rivers in run off and continues during a time where many rivers become way to warm in the middle of the day to be good for the fish or for fishing. The another aspect of these bugs is that even though there are many fishermen about this time of year there aren't that many that have what it takes to get to the river when these bugs are out in force. You can have the entire river to yourself with a cloud of bugs in the air of epic proportions. Here's what you have to do.

 

This hatch usually starts in late May and will continue into September and maybe even October. You must arise at 4 a.m. have your tackle and lunches ready and be on the road by 4:30. The sun is usually just thinking of coming up. I like to have a big thermos of coffee and a couple bagels or trail mix to get the system going. It is an hour and 10 minutes to the river. By the time you get to the water you will see clouds of bugs forming above the water as you cross the bridges to your favorite run. There are already quite a few big heads dimpling the glass smooth surface of the river. They know what is about to happen. The Trico spinner fall is about to begin.

 

I fished this hatch last year fairly extensively by myself and with clients and I don't remember a single time we saw any other anglers on the water before 10:30 or so. I like that! The spinner fall starts as soon as the sun comes over the hill and is done by 11 a.m. That gives you 5 solid hours of rising fish. The fishing is noticeably easier early in the season when the bugs first start to appear. These are big fish and they get smart fairly quickly. When the bugs first come off they feed with reckless abandon but as time goes by and their bellies become reliably full every day things can get a lot tougher. Challenge is good for some of us! The hatch usually lasts from late May through July.

 

 Most people fish the river out of drift boats. This is a big handicap with this type of fishing. The water is shallow, slow,  and crystal clear. There isn't a breath of wind. The drift boat makes more noise and gives you a much higher profile which will require you to make much longer and probably less accurate casts. You can get much closer on foot. Stealth is the name of the game. Sneaking into position to cast and having the fish still feeding heavily almost guarantees success if you make an accurate cast.

 

Fly selection is simple. Early in the morning all you will see are small midges (either black or tan), an occasional BWO, and the dead or dying tricos. Some fish are feeding on top, some in the film, and some sub surface so have patterns that will cover all these bases. Throwing beetles and ants early in the morning seems to work for some reason. Duns, para patterns, spinners, and sunken spinners can all work at different times during the spinner fall. I have never really seen fish discriminate between the cream colored females and the black males. I use 5X fluro as tippet to start. If I get a bite regularly I'll go up to 4X but that is about the max you can use with these smaller flies. I often can't land fish on 5X if they are hot but just getting the bite and watching them clean my clock is plenty of fun. One thing I have noticed is that you can get away with flies much bigger than you would expect. The fish are usually rising in a single feeding lane. There are literally thousands of bugs so they won't move much from side to side. If your fly is a little more obvious to them I think this can be an advantage. Being able to present a fly in exactly the same spot with a delicate presentation over and over is a huge advantage. As long as a fish continues to rise he is catch able. If you put your flies right over the fish several times and he doesn't take it's time to change flies. Sometimes you have to time the rise a bit to get a take. Most of the time presentation is the key. Fishing spinners sub surface on a hopper copper spinner set up in the riffels and seams at the end of the spinner fall can be real effective. The fish aren't near as picky sub surface.

 

An added bonus is that big carp also like sipping Tricos.  Most days we would get a shot at 2 or 3 carp that were 15 to 20 lbs. The carp spawn at this time and are abundant and schooled up. They can be even more wary than the trout. I tend to use heavier tippet and bigger flies on the carp. 3X and a hopper, beetle, or small green bugger if they aren't on the surface works well. A worthy adversary!

 

This is an exceptionally beautiful time of day to fish. It's cool, the birds are just starting and everything is just coming alive. You can hear the hum of the bugs and also hear the fish slurping them up! Looking out across water that looks like glass and seeing literally hundreds of dimpling fish is pretty cool. I never get tired of doing this type of fishing. Some days are easier than others for what ever reason but the fish were there rising every day that we showed up. By about 10:30 or so it is over. The sun is up and the water temps are on the rise and the fish sulk back down to the depths to try to stay cool. We head to the freestones in the afternoons. Honestly I think the water was way to warm to fish after noon for most of the summer in the Bighorn.

 

So there it is! Another great option if you have the fortitude to get out of bed and go for it. There is a learning curve to this type of fishing and I noticed that guys that did it a second day had much better luck than the day before. Once you see what the game is you can be much better prepared with your plan of attack. World class fish rising to tiny dries everyday for two months straight with no other fishermen! Why not!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 10th

A Hatch Story

I bought my first Hatch reel in 2006 shortly after they first came out. It was a beautiful reel with a super smooth drag. Easy spool removal with no parts to loose and a nice large arbor. It wasn't cheap but what the heck. I used it for a big fish, big water, and light salt reel and it saw plenty of action. It was a great reel. After about a year I noticed the drag would tend to free spool occasionally when I used a very low drag setting. It was intermittent but very frustrating when it did happen. I sent it in to Hatch during the off season. They inspected it and sent it back thinking they had fixed it. I took it fishing a few times but it still had  the same problem. I basically just put it away and used other reels for a couple years. One day one of my favorite workhorse reels, a Ross Gunnison 3, got gone due to unexpected circumstances. I needed another big fish reel and it just so happened that a friend had another Hatch for sale. I really wasn't to excited about it because of what happened with the first one but I needed a reel right away and the price was right. It was brand new and working flawlessly. I fished this reel for a couple years and it really grew on me. I never had any problems with it and the drag was just so smooth playing fish that it made you smile. Just a sweet reel.

One day just out of curiosity I googled problems with the Hatch and there were a few problems with the early drag spacers. They would sometimes stick and the drags would just lock up. The company had made some changes to the parts and now there were no problems with the new ones. They also covered all the older drags under warranty. The drag system came in a cassette that you could just change out using a little Allen wrench that came with the reel if you wanted to just do it your self. There was a video of how to do it on the internet. I was busy guiding at the time and never got around to sending the old one in.

Fast forward to this year. A friend and I were fishing the Wind river canyon and as we were driving to a new spot we heard something. I looked in the rear view mirror just in time to see my rod slide off the top of my car and hit the pavement. I spun around and just as I saw my rod and reel lying in the road a truck coming the other way ran right over it. I got out and retrieved it and it was fine. Just kidding, both the rod and the reel were annihilated. That was a major screw up! I decided to send it in anyway and see if they could fix it fully intending to pay for what ever it needed as this was not what you would call a manufactures defect. A couple days later a Hatch co owner Danny Ashcraft call and asked what happened to the reel. I told him it got run over by a Mac truck and was there anyway they could fix the reel. He just laughed and said it was the worst he'd ever seen and it was toast. Then he said he'd have a new one in the mail today and it should be here in two days. Was there anything else I needed. I couldn't believe it. A $550 reel and they just handed me another one knowing that it was all my fault. Then I remembered the other reel. I told him the story and asked if he would be willing to send me a new drag cassette as well. He said no problem! I thanked him immensely and told him I was a customer for life and would tell everyone I knew about this incident so here it is.

This is an example of customer service up and above the line of duty. An example of some of the best customer service I have ever seen. On top of that the reels really are some of the nicest out there. They aren't cheap but you will get what you pay for and more.  As far as the problem I had with the first one, there can be issues with any brand new products that won't show up until they've been used for a while. Intermittent problems are very hard to diagnose. The company was more than willing to back their product with a quick repair and great service. You can't expect more than that. I highly recommend these reels and the guys that run this company. If you give these guys a chance they won't let you down! A Great Product!

(Note on fixing the early Hatch drag problem I had.) I was under the impression that these drags were completely sealed when I first got the reel. When I was replacing the drag cassette I took a look inside and there was moisture and a little grit in and around the discs. I cleaned it with compressed air and the original drag worked fine. The drags are pretty tight but water and dirt can still somehow get in there. All you have to do is loosen the Allen head screw, remove the cassette and you can check to see if the drag is dirty. A quick blast of compressed air and you should be good to go. Takes about 3 minutes tops. Good to know if you use in the salt.

December 17th

Fishing the Lower Shoshone this winter.

We've had a very different season due to weather this summer and fall and the weirdness continues this winter. Normally the minimum flows for this time of year are 250 cfs. We are still at around 400cfs which really makes a difference in the fishing in a river corridor as tight and steep as the Lower Shoshone. It is a lot of water if you get used to seeing it at 250cfs in the winter.

We've had so much rain this fall that the reservoir seems to still be stirred up making the water a little off color even now.  The river had really been looking good and is coming back strong the last couple years after the huge flush it got several years ago when we had 300% of snow pack. The bottom was clean and the bugs and fish were making a nice come back. After walking many stretches of the river this fall I'd estimate that the sediment load put in the river over the last year was at least double that of what it has been the two years prior. It is especially noticeable the farther you get from the dam. Most of it comes from the South Fork side irrigation water. It's not that the water is picking up soil off the farmers fields but that it is coming in laden with sediment from run off up high in the system. There is a ton of that nice clean bottom covered in deep sediment now and a lot more vegetation.  What that means is that the bugs like may flies and caddis that require clean gravel and provide good dry fly fishing will be pushed out and bugs like sow bugs, midges, and aquatic worms will come back. You can kiss the killer dry fly fishing good bye if the sedimentation continues at this pace. That also won't be good for the fish trying to spawn.

The fishing has been a lot different than the past two winters.  Anyone who has actually been fishing the Lower Shoshone this winter can attest to the fact that good dry fly fishing has been almost non existent for the last couple months with maybe the exception of an hour in the late afternoon. Even in the canyon there has been a huge drop in dry fly activity compared to years past. For good dry fly fishing there is one thing you absolutely must have and that is good hatches. We just haven't seen very much hatching this fall in the Shoshone. Could be the cold weather, higher flows, who knows,  but even before the cold front I hadn't seen that many bugs on top or fish rising. The other factor is good clear water.  The water still hasn't really cleared up yet from the late season rains that stirred up the reservoir or the load of sediment from irrigation water. We just haven't had the bugs or clarity  that are conducive to good dry fly fishing on the Shoshone this fall and winter. Also, with the higher flows the fish don't seem as prone to rising.

The catching also has been a little slower than the last couple years.  I've been fishing hard lately and almost every fish I've caught has been in the bottom of the deepest, slowest pools. If the water has current, almost no bites. Nothing much on edges, pour overs, or seams. Just slow deep water. In the GAF shocking survey this fall they noticed that there seemed to be less fish  and they weren't spread out like the past couple years. This made them come to the conclusion that numbers were way down from last year and that is possible. It also  might just mean the fish are hugging the bottom of the deepest holes with the sub 0 temps we've been having lately.

If you want to catch fish right now swing your flies across the deepest slowest holes and runs and slowly strip them back up stream keeping them right on the bottom. Sometimes they take on the swing and sometimes on the strip. If you position yourself in the middle of the stream you can then strip your flies up through the middle of the run which has been working well. The swinging to the surface or upstream movement seems to be the trigger. Down stream retrieves are far less effective. Fish don't like to be chased by their food. Be patient and thorough and you will get 5 or 6 nice fish out of every good looking spot. Start at the top of the run and work down and across like you would to work a steelhead run. Sometimes they are at the head of the pool, sometimes in the middle, and sometimes just in front of the tail out. I've been using heavily weighted streamers with a soft hackle on the back. Lots of fish on the streamers the last couple days. They are looking for a big meal. I have used some dry droppers on occasion but they haven't been near as effective in the Shoshone as they have been over in Thermopolis lately.

It's fascinating to me to try and figure out how fish are effected by subtle changes due to weather, flows, or food. Seemingly small things can make a big difference. Bottom line is you can't just assume things are the same as they were last year or the year before. Change is eminent and if you want to catch fish you have to stay out there, keep your eyes open, and keep fishing. I am constantly reminded that when you get to the point that you think you know everything there is to know, you find you really don't know much at all!

December 9th

Costa Rica Tarpon

Carlos and I pushed the boat out of the creek mouth into the surf just as the sun was coming up over the Caribbean. The seas were flat and the tide was just starting to come in. Howler monkeys invaded the mornings silence claiming trees to feed on for the day. As we idled out past the breakers I began rigging rods and choosing flies. We rounded the point and in the distance we could see mist in the air over the breakers at the mouth of the river about a mile away. There were always fish there. We approached the river and began to see frigate birds, gulls and pelicans heading toward the river mouth in search of bait fish on the incoming tide.  As we got closer we could see pelicans dive bombing schools of bait just behind where the waves were breaking. A good sign. We got in position for a drift and began to see tarpon rolling through the schools of bait showing us heads, backs, and tails like a pod of huge rising trout.  I grabbed a rod, stripped out the fly line and patiently waited until we got close enough to make a cast. A huge fish rose about 70 feet in front of the boat.  I made a quick haul and laid out the cast about 15 feet in front of the fish. I let it sink like a bait fish that had been injured by a pelicans attack. I began a slow deliberate strip and felt a bump. I kept stripping and as the line came tight I set the hook hard. A huge tarpon exploded out of the wave clearing the water by 6 or 7 feet and repeating 4 no 5 more times as I struggled to clear the line. The reel screamed and there went 100,200, 300yds of backing. Carlos cranked the boat got turned around and began to follow in hot pursuit. It was a huge fish. We were going to be here for a while.

That was the dream I was having as the plane landed in San Jose. It was also the closest I came to hooking a Tarpon the entire time I was in Costa Rica. Bottom line, we arrived the exact day the rainy season began. The seas came up the rain came down and the fish disappeared and even the baby tarpon had lock jaw. I fished for about two and a half days before I succumbed to defeat. It just wasn't going to happen and there was nothing anyone could do about it. This can be a very trying realization after looking forward to a trip like this all summer. That's just the nature of tarpon fishing. Sometimes they are EASY and sometimes not. The thing to remember is that it's not how hard you fall but how you get up that counts. It's kind of hard for life to suk when your in Costa Rica in 80 degree weather when it's below 0 at home.

The great thing about Costa Rica is that there are plenty of other things to do besides just fishing. I have always had a love for the jungle and now I had 7 days to explore and learn. We lucked out by hooking up with Leslie and Jorge of the Toucan ranch. They run a private shelter and relocation center for injured birds, sloths, and assorted other animals. Kind of a Humane Society for indigenous animals and any other animals people bring to them. They are privately funded so they get no government assistance. Food and vet bills can be pretty high so if your looking for a charity to donate to this is a good one. Just in the day we were there people brought in 2 injured sloths and a couple birds. One of the sloths had to have a limb amputated do to electrocution.

They have about 2 acres full of compounds for the animals to recover and also a large piece of land adjacent to the jungle to release the animals that are able to go back into the wild. They also have a toucan breeding program which is very cool. They have two real nice apartments that you can rent on the property which is close to San Jose so it is an ideal place to stay. Not in the city madness but close enough to get to the airport without any trouble. Rent goes to feed the animals. They made arrangements for a taxi to pick us up at the airport and had a rental car brought out that we could use while we were in the country. Awesome people!

It was very cool to get to actually come in contact with these animals. Really, a once in a lifetime experience. Sloths, parrots, owls, otters, monkeys, porcupines, weasels, kinkajous, toucans, ect. Seeing these animals up close was just amazing. You see all kinds of stuff in the jungle but it is usually running through the brush or up in a tree. I highly recommend checking this place out if your ever around San Jose.  

The next day we drove up through the mountains and over to the Caribbean. The mountains are the real Costa Rica to me. It is cool up there. The mountains go from sea level up to 11,000 ft. That makes them look twice as big as the ones here. There are 5 active volcanoes. There are coffee and sugar cane farms and nice little towns with great people and killer food. The vegetation is unbelievable! Lots of flowers and beautiful plants grow wild. Huge trees pushing 300ft. The jungle is steep thick and impenetrable where things have been left natural. Once you get down the other side and back to sea level it gets hot and humid and is covered by banana plantations. We don't understand rain like they have down there. One morning we got 6 inches in a couple hours. I mean rain! The Caribbean beaches are fantastic. Pristine with very few people. Lots of good surf breaks. The place we stay is right on the beach and very nice.

Carlos turned us on to his friend Florintino or Tino for short. Tino is a professional jungle guide who has done ecotourism all over the world. We started in his front yard and ended up seeing dozens of cool things in the 2 block walk over before we ever hit the jungle. The guy is super knowledgeable and showed us stuff we'd been walking by for days. I highly recommend getting at least a day with a guide. I saw more in an hour with Tino than I did in a week of walking in the woods by myself. He showed us how to see things that were hidden right in front of us. The diversity of the jungle is just beyond belief. Everything has a purpose and is connected to everything else. There is a primary jungle that has never been touched by man and a secondary jungle in which man has tried various things like rubber trees and coco. One is just a little thicker than the other as the jungle has reclaimed the land. I've never seem so many kinds of trees and plants. Huge trees! Since the trees grow year round they don't have rings so know one really even knows how old they are. Monkeys are all over. We saw a leaf cutter ant mound that was 30' by 40'. There were so many ants that they had worn a trail through the brush. Eyelash vipers resting in the brush. Poison dart frogs on the trees. Birds of all kinds. Cayman and crocodiles. Snakes! Bugs! Bats, you name it. It was everything I had imagined it to be.

We walked beaches, went to preserves, snorkeled, ate and in general just had a nice vacation. We met a lot of vary interesting people. I can't deny that I was disappointed about the fishing at first but by the end of the trip I had almost forgotten it was the reason we came. The thing is that the journey is really what we are after. The accumulation of knowledge is what makes things happen in the future. I learned to tie a bunch of new flies and new knots. I can now rig myself and have all the equipment that I need for the salt. I know exactly what to take and how to pack and I feel a lot more comfortable in the woods down there. Slowly but surely things are coming together. When I'm truly ready it will happen. We have been truly blessed to be able to go and do the things we've done in the last couple years. Not catching tarpon  is only going to make it that much sweeter when it finally does happen. Maybe next time! Enjoy the picts!

 

November 20th

Tarpon Fishing for Beginners

Setting up a do it yourself tarpon expedition and being successful can seem to be and is a daunting task. Tarpon are a long way from Wyoming and in all honesty the best way you'll find a good DIY tarpon destination is to learn about one from a friend or fellow guide and to go check it out on your own. This may seem a bit risky but I guarantee it will be well worth the effort. For some of us a savings of between 2 and 4 thousand dollars is worth doing a little leg work ourselves. The savings on just one trip will probably cover the purchase of all your equipment.  I've never gone anywhere to look for fish that hasn't been a great adventure whether I caught the fish I was looking for or not.

Fishing for tarpon is an investment not only in gear but also in the time it takes to learn a completely different type of fishing with a fly rod. You will need a big 4 or 5 piece rod, a reel with a great drag and plenty of backing capacity, a couple of fly lines, some material for making leaders, and some tarpon flies. The best way to start is to try and borrow some equipment from someone first just to see if tarpon fishing is for you. If you can't borrow it then do your research and go with what the pros recommend. You really don't want to get cheap quality stuff for this type of fishing.  I'm a gear junky anyway so I just bit the bullit and bought the stuff. EBay is a great place to look for some great deals on quality equipment if your on a budget. There are tons of good deals on name stuff that has only been used a couple times.

Top tarpon rods are made by Hardy, Sage, Winston, Orvis and Loomis with Loomis being the favorite of most season tarpon anglers I talked to. I ended up getting a 12wt Hardy Sintrex, a 10 wt Sintrex, and a 12 wt Sage XI3 based on condition and that I got a great deals on them.  That covers both big and small tarpon and gives me a back up rod if something gets broken which is quite prevalent when fishing for 100lb fish with a fly rod.

 There are several companies that make good tarpon reels. Abel, Nautalis, Hatch, Hardy and Tibor are some of the more popular ones. I went with Tibor. The ones I got aren't the lightest nor do they have a sealed drag but they are some of the simplest most well designed reels on the market.  They have a great drag, they can be taken apart with a dime,  and have probably landed more big tarpon than any other reel out there. There are plenty of guys that sell their gear after only using it a couple times so it is very rare to get a used reel in poor condition. I took them apart to tune them up and they have very few parts to loose and even a set of spare springs that come in the reel foot of every reel. Most came with between 250 and 300 yds 30lb backing and a fly line.

The two fly lines you will need would be a floating line and an intermediate sinking line depending on where you will be fishing. Having a back up of each is a very good idea as there are no fly shops in most of the places I've been fishing. Also bring material to make plenty of leaders. I started with store bought  igfa 20# class leaders but I'm not trying to break any world records so have gone to making my own. I use a 6' section of 60# mono down to a 4' section of 30# mono and a 60# to 100# bite tippet about 2' long. Hard mono is better. There are many knots that will work. Just make sure you can tie them to be very strong quickly. I use a Huffnagle knot at the fly, slim beauty to connect two pieces together and an Albright at the fly line. If you want to fish a double line a Yucatan knot combined with the slim beauty or a Bimini is a good one. Knots are the weakest link in your tackle so really pay attention to doing them right. A little bottle of super glue is a good investment.

Flies can vary greatly from spot to spot so do some research to find the ones that work best in the area you will be fishing. Salt water flies are a breeze to tie if you are already tying for trout. Materials are cheap and everything is big and easy to work with. You probably won't need a ton of flies but having several different popular colors and patterns with several different sink rates (sizes) will give you what you need in almost every situation. Expect to pay between 6 and 7 dollars a fly (if they are on good hooks) if you buy them.

Fishing for tarpon requires that you become comfortable casting a big fly rod. The funny thing is that at home that rod will seem ridiculously big and stiff but when you hook your first tarpon you will feel extremely under gunned. Practice before you go. Being able to cast accurately in the wind is a huge advantage. The rod will seem a bit heavy at first but remember, you won't be endlessly casting all day. You see a fish you make a cast. Setting the hook is one of the most difficult things for a trout fisherman to do right. You must keep the rod down and pointed at the fish while using a firm strip set. Never raise your rod to set the hook. Keep the rod pointed at the fish and when you come tight pull down and to the side with the rod while strip setting. I try to strip and set until the fish takes the line out of my stripping hand. Then use that hand to clear the line until the fish is on the reel. It seems simple enough but all this can happen in about one second and many tarpon are lost because you just didn't get a good hook set. It's just part of the game. If you do get the hook set prepare for one of the coolest battles of your life. A tarpon will usually come 6' out of the water when you hook them and then make a huge run and come out of the water again. You'll get back 100yds of backing and he'll go back out 75. Then you'll get back 100 and he'll take back 50 and so on until he's close to the boat. Then he'll go around the boat, under the boat, or even over the boat until you can subdue him. I've never seen a fish fight as hard and as long as a tarpon. It's unbelievable the first time you see it happen. They are truly an amazing fish on a fly rod.

Finding a place to stay is not difficult with the internet. Read reviews and find your price range and that's it. You have to realize that your first trip to any new place is a recon expedition. Every now and then you will get lucky and find the best place for you on the first try. Most of the time once your in the area you can look around and talk to people and you can usually find the perfect place to fit your needs. Guides are found once you get to the location as well. Guides are like fish.  Usually where you find one you'll find more. Find the local eating and watering hole and start asking around. Really what your looking for is a guy who knows the area and tides and has a dependable enough boat and mentality to keep you safe. Go look at the boat. That can tell you a lot. These guys have usually been fishing the area all there lives and are a wealth of knowledge on everything you need to know. Some are not professional fly fisherman so to speak but if you are both willing to work together you can have some great times. We've had guys turn us on to all kinds of alternative fishing if the tarpon decide to be difficult. Be open minded and you'll have a great time. Make a deal on price up front. Some really good guys need a little cash up front to get gas. Find out who's bringing water and food and how long you expect to fish per day. We usually fish sun up till sun down but make sure everything is clear up front. If one guy doesn't want to do it there is another that will gladly make the money. It's sometimes possible to rent boats yourself but hiring a guide for at least a couple days is the best idea. Some places where the tarpon are found can be very dangerous if you don't know what your doing. Most of the places I've seen would have been a disaster if I had tried it on my own.

Transportation is another consideration. Transportation is easy to find and you can usually get a car delivered right to the airport. I recommend getting a car. Public transportation can be very cheap but if you have a ton of luggage and a bunch of expensive fishing equipment you can become a target on the 7 hour bus ride on top of the mountain. In most countries the people are super nice and it is very safe but anyplace that is remote and there is a lot of poverty things can go bad if your not careful. I've never had a bit of trouble anywhere but an ounce of prevention.

Trip insurance is another thing to get if you can afford it. It costs about $350 on average. It covers a fly out in a medical emergency which can be $20,000 or more and all your possessions if stolen. All it takes is once and you'll wish you had it.

We're heading back to Costa Rica this week for a couple weeks. I can't wait to hit the water with Carlos at the mouth of the river. Big schools of rolling fish, schools of bait, and feeding fish. The tarpon are there and the seas are calm so it will be up to me to see if I can get it done. I'll have a full report when I return and if anyone needs any info on places just give me a call. I'm just getting started in this myself but I have already made some good connections all over the Caribbean. 

Destination fishing is never cheap but if you can save a couple thousand per person it can be the difference between going and not going. I have always liked the freedom of doing it yourself. It can be challenging but things always seem to work out. Is it worth it? That depends on you. It has definitely been worth it for my wife and I.  I love seeing new places and meeting interesting people. A nice beach at 85 degrees when it's 9 here is a very nice change and can make a long winter seem shorter. I always look forward to going but I always am glad to be home as well. See you in a couple weeks!

 

 

 

November 12th

The fall is finally here and with the guiding season finally winding down it's time for reflection the past season. Again, this was the best guiding season I've ever had! Busy, busy, busy! I truly want to thank everyone for their continued support and great times we've had on the water together. Your support is what allows us to live the dream and we really love what we do. Guiding does get to be work but with some awesome waters to fish and a steady stream of great people to fish with it is one of the best jobs on the planet. I've yet to loose my passion for this beautiful area and I really enjoy the people I've met through fishing.

 

This year was we had an extreme amount of moisture all year for Wyoming. It was great for the fisheries. All our fisheries will be in great shape going into the 2014 season.  We had to move around quite a bit last year to stay ahead of the rain but it made for some interesting fishing on some not so tried and true streams. It was great to have people who were willing to try new stuff and it was well worth the effort. We found some new and unique stuff to fish which just gives us that many more options to try in the future. I know I learned some new things and as long as I'm learning I'm having fun! I hope everyone did as well.

 

First off this fall I am heading back to Manzinillo Costa Rica to try for some big tarpon and snook. My buddy Carlos Authurs and I will get to fish together again at the mouth of the Sixaola river on the border of Panama. We'll get a chance to try out the Hardy Sintrex rods. They've really been a hit in the salt as well as their trout models and if they make it through the huge tarpon of Costa Rica the hype will be true. The seas are calm in the fall and it will be awesome to see the big schools of big tarpon rolling at the mouth of the river. We are also going to try some kayak fishing in the Gandaco reserve which will be very interesting. I might even get a chance at some sailfish and roosterfish on the other side if I get my tarpon early (a big if). Then it's back to rod building for the rest of the winter. I'm still working on perfecting tapers and will be fishing these prototypes all winter to see how they fish and hold up under Wyoming conditions. Rods in the morning, research (fishing) 10 till 2 and back to rod building in the afternoon. It's a tough job but someone has to do it. If things go well we will try to get in a couple of spring trips as well. Maybe back to Andros for big bones or Belize. We'll see.

 

Amazingly, guys are already starting to book trips for next year. If it's anything like last year it might be a good idea to book early so you can be sure to get the days you want. I know it's hard to plan that far in advance but I can at least pencil you in and we can make adjustment as the season gets closer. We've already got a good bit of snow in the hills for next year. Fishing can be killer in March and early April as well and you can get some real whoppers in total solitude at that time. Clear water and lower flows means great dry fly fishing.

 

I want to thank everyone again for some truly memorable days this past summer. As always it was great to see everyone and I will look forward to getting together next year and having a blast exploring north west Wyoming waters with you. One more thing, remember, fly fishing is EASY!

 

September 16th

Fishing has been interesting the last month or so. It's been hot, the water warm and low, and rain has had lots of streams to muddy to fish in many places. We have had to move around quite a bit to stay on good water and keep the fishing interesting. Nothing has been what I'd call outstanding but we have been able to find some really solid fishing most of the time. The smaller creeks and the Lower Shoshone have been fishing consistently well.

 

Now that things are starting to cool off the fish are becoming more active almost everywhere. Streamer fishing is starting to get very fun and will only get better as the fall settles in. The lakes are finally cooling to the point of being fishable. The irrigation water is slowing down and I think we are on the verge of some of the best fishing of the season.

 

I am starting to see the fall hatches starting. BWO's and mahoganies are showing up now. Fall caddis are fluttering around in places. As the water drops on the Lower Shoshone the dry fly action should just get better and better. The river has been looking real good. The vegetation is dropping back and the bio mass very healthy. Right now with the flows at 800cfs the fish don't have to come up to feed and most are feeding sub surface. These flows are in my opinion ideal for floating and throwing streamers. The fish are already starting to chase flies and it should only get better as the water temp drops. Once the flows come down the fish will begin to look up. When Willwood is clear the fish are already taking dries well. This section is not floatable until after the canals are shut down. It has not been fished all summer and promises to be fantastic this fall for nice rainbows, cutts, and a few browns once there is some water in it. Corbett is also looking very good. Lots of nice browns and cutts in this section. It's been just a little to off color most days but already a 24" brown has been caught in there with lots of fish in the 15" to 18" range. It's going to be fun!

 

The lakes are also coming into shape. The fish have been laying low in the heat but are now starting to be able to feed up for the winter. The action has picked up considerably the last week or so. I've been seeing lots of cruisers and the fish in the deeper reservoirs are starting to come up and feed. Sunshine is very low but if you want to see some surface action show up early or just as the sun is dropping and the whole lakes are rising now. It's the best dry fly I've seen out there. Browns, brookies, and splake should start thinking about trying to spawn fairly soon.

 

October is one of the best times to get into the bigger fish and the Bighorn is the place to do it consistently. The water is still very warm but starting to cool a bit. Once the water temp comes down the fishing will be phenomenal! Midges, BWO's and Pseudos will have the fish looking up and nymphing and streamers will be great in the deeper holes. I always catch the biggest browns of the year over there and this year is looking to be even better than last. Here it comes! I can't wait.

 

February 3rd

CDC. The perfect fly tying material!

With water fowl season winding down and sub freezing temperatures pushing fisherman indoors for a week or so, twisting up a few flies is the perfect way to spend the day. I am a huge fan of using CDC in all types of flies and I am extremely lucky in that one of my best friends has coerced some of his hunting buddies into plucking CDC off the butts of the ducks and geese they shoot each winter. I just received a huge bag of the material and it was like a late Christmas for me! The price and quality are right and this material may be the single best natural material to the fly tier.

The first use of CDC in fly tying was around 1920 by some early Swiss tiers but really gained notoriety in 1950 by French tier Henry Bresson who called it Cul De Canard or " from the ducks butt". In the 80's it started becoming a very popular material with modern tiers for flies designed to catch fish on the more technical streams like Silver Creek and the Henry's Fork. Now there are lots of guys that specialize in CDC flies and swear they are second to none. I tend to agree when it comes to selective fish. Cul De Canard feathers surround the preen gland on the water fowls back just in front of the tail. These feathers are coated in the oil from the gland that gives these feathers the ability to shed water and keep the bird dry. The feathers themselves are made up of Keratin which has a consistency similar to man made plastic.  It makes for a very strong and resilient material and helps with flotation as it cannot absorb water.  The way the feathers are structured gives them the ability to trap air bubbles. This not only makes them perfect for dry flies but for sub surface flies as well. The trapped air bubbles float the surface flies and give motion to the feathers when under the water. The color of the feathers runs anywhere from grey or dun in a goose feather to dark brown in a mallard and even a nice copper color in a cinnamon teal. Some companies dye the feathers but I like the natural colors.  The natural colors just look right in the water and are an almost perfect match to most of the actual bugs.

There are four different varieties of feather structure. Each type has it's preferred applications. One type is good for palmering around collars and bodies. One type is good for up right wings and loop wings on emergers, one type works well for posts and emerger down wings, and the oiler puffs work for just about everything. If you are buying feathers from a fly shop it may be important to you because they tend to sort the feathers but if you pluck your own you will get plenty of each type off each bird. You should be able to get 20 to 50 useable feathers off each bird.

In my experience just about any fly tied with CDC will enhance the looks of your fly to the fish. When I run into an especially picky fish or a fish rising in really slow clear shallow water I go to a CDC dry fly or emerger. The fish just seem to like them that much better. There may be other flies that may seem more durable or more maintenance free but the CDC has the ability to land very softly, float high, move enticingly, and the color is about as close to the real bug as you can get. They really fool the fish. When it comes to sub surface flies the movement of the feathers under water is second to none. It imparts a built in life to the flies. I have actually seen some unweighted nymphs tied with CDC  rise to the surface under their own power! Pretty amazing!

When tying with CDC the sky is the limit. Wings, bodies, collars, hackle, dubbing, and anything else you can think of. Dun colored feathers from a goose can be bleached with a 50/50 bleach and peroxide mixture to get a nice amber color. One technique that I haven't heard much about that I use all the time is stripping the barbules from the stems, clumping them together, and using them for wings, posts, and dubbing loops. This will enable you to make good use of all your feathers. Stack 3 to 5 feathers on top of each other with the tips even. The number of feathers corresponds to how much bulk you need. With your thumb and index finger grab the barbules on one side of the stem and pull them towards the base of the stem removing them from the stem. Flip the feather and place the still attached barbules on top of the ones you've just pulled and remove them as well. Now you should have a clump of material that can be used for posts, wings, or dubbing loops. Handling the material this way enables you to do the same thing the Magic tool does without the tool! This is not a complicated as it may seem once you get used to it and will allow you to use every bit of the material. Waste not want not!

I highly recommend giving this material a try. There are tons of patterns for you to try in books or on the web. The feathers are readily available to most of us for free if you hunt or you can order some on line! Rene Harrop's patterns are some of my favorites, as well as Hans Weilenmenn, and Marc Petitjean. Experiment on your own or just try adding some to your existing patterns. I guarantee it will be worth your while!

 

 

 Tight Lines!

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