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One rod to fish them all

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Apr 07 2010

My first fly rod was some contraption from Sports Authority.  I’m pretty sure it was fiberglass, and two pieces, weighed a ton next to the space age composites of the today’s rods, and had the action of a wet noodle.  But what the hell did I know back then?

Around the time that I’d decided to get serious about pursuing fly fishing, I invested in an Orvis Silver Label TL.  A 4 piece graphite rod from their Trident series, it was everything the Trident promised to be without all the bells and whistles.  At 9′ long with a fast action, I had no trouble catching fish, well actually I had a lot of trouble catching fish, but it wasn’t the rod’s fault, it was the fisherman’s :)

Throughout the years, my muscles have learned to compensate for the rod’s nuances, maybe giving a little extra on the follow through to mellow out the unloading shock, or learning the feel of it loading and unloading, but through it all, I could never fish this rod for more than a few hours at a clip.  That was partly a result of the choice on the water I fished (wide streambeds with 40-50′ casts), but I imagined it had something to do with the rod itself too.

It wasn’t until I bought Ivana her rod, an Orvis Trident TLS that it dawned on me that time’s they are a changin’.  The rods were bought nearly a decade and change apart, and although the architecture of the rods hasn’t changed much, the materials have.  The materials in these rods today are so light and so flexy that with the right timing of your power snap, they will literally do all the casting for you.

Now I just want to reiterate, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with my TL, but boy wouldn’t it be nice to graduate up to one of these space age bad boys.  It was about that time that on a whim, I came across Joel at Grand River Rods, who for a price, could put together a custom Sage Z-Axis rod for me :)  I’ll never forget that first email from him laying out the options I had to put a rod together, reel seats, inserts, guides, guide wraps, hook keepers, it blew my mind the options available.  I’d always heard stories of fisherman who went to epic lengths to get the rarest materials on earth into the hands of artisans to put together these works of art, but due to the cost, I’d never considered it.  That is of course until now when I could actually afford a luxury like that.

One way or another, I’m going to be fishing for the rest of my life, and I’ve never been averse to concept of investing in quality tools that will continue to serve you for a lifetime (consider the Silver Label TL).

So after a few round trip communiques, I finally settled on a Struble U25 reel seat in a Dark Nickel Finish (to match the finish of the Lamson/Waterworks Velocity 2 that will come with it) and an Amboyna wood reel seat (I’d never even heard of Amboyna wood until Joel’s email to me).  Joel’s confirmed everything and the reel’s due in some towards the end of April.  For once, I’ve given myself enough time to actually plan every aspect of a trip with more than a week or two to prepare, so he’s got a couple of months to put my new rod together.

There’s also one more “personalization” I’d asked for, to inscribe the name of my beautiful wife on the bottom wrap of the hook keeper (how apropos), so we’ll see what he comes up with.  Now I know a lot of fisherman happen to be incredible photographers, but there’s a woeful lack of high resolution shots of nice rods out on the net, so be prepared for a full spread when the rod gets here :)

Can’t wait!!!

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Tying the CHC Caddis Emerger

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Apr 05 2010

I came across this pattern more than once while looking through Montana fishing sites.

The CHC stands for Camel Hair Caddis…umm Caddis (maybe I don’t know what last “C” is for).  Now I realize half the challenge for fly tying is having the right material, in the right quantity, tied in the right proportions to everything else, and for the most part I believed that.  That is of course until I saw a trout take a nip at a fallen seedling (you know those big brown ones that float in the wind drifts).  Well I’m going to put that theory to the test.

I’m a little short on emerger patterns especially caddis ones, so I gave this tie a shot.  If I had to take a guess at the bill of materials

  • size 14 to 16 Caddis hook (the curved kinds)
  • white or off white antron (although I suspect the photographer’s white balance may have been off and the photo just a hair too warm making it look like off white antron)
  • brown hare’s mask
  • olive or brown 6 or 8 OT thread
  • and of course the camel hair for the wing

So yeah, I don’t have any camel hair, I don’t have dubbing in that exact shade of brown, and I didn’t have off white antron, but I mostly had everything else…so I gave it a shot and came up with this:

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The recipe for this CHC Caddis pattern

  • size 6 Caddis hook
  • white antron
  • grey/brown hare’s mask
  • light brown 8 OT thread
  • dark fine deer hair

Instructions for tieing

  1. Wrap to past the hook, and secure a length of antron
  2. Wrap the rest of the antron back to the forward third and wrap back to get a little body built up.  End your wrap back at the tail.
  3. Now make a dubbing loop.  Get about 4 inches of thread into a dubbing spinner.  Wax the thread, touch dub the dubbing to the thread, and spin away.
  4. Wrap to the forward third point and tie off the dubbed thread, but don’t cut it. Make sure you have a nice hump built in to support the wing.
  5. Tie in the wing (I tied in too much hair, successive attempts will have less).  I used about 5 or 6 very tight wraps and a few lighter ones to pull the wing down.
  6. Now take what’s left of the dubbed thread and wrap forward to build the head.  Tie it off, and whip finish to your liking.

Box is filling up fast :)

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Casting Practice

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Apr 04 2010

75 degrees and sunny here in NYC…and what a glorious day it was.  Grabbed the wife and her fishing pole and headed off to Central Park to work on her casting.  We spent the night before reviewing Joan Wulff’s DVD and like most things, the pros always make it look so damn easy.  Translating her knowledge into actual skill – well that’s an entirely different story.

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Ivana dutifully plugging away at her casts

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After a nice in the park, came back and tied up a batch of these in size 14 and 16 in different color wings.  Of course, it wasn’t until that I tied the 8th one in that batch when I remembered, one minor little detail, a trick to get the head to prop up, build a thread head below it.

Oh well – I guess it’ll be a good test to see if the Montana trout are actually that picky.

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A quick visit to Urban Angler

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Apr 04 2010

One of these days I’ll have to take a photo of my fly tying supply box.  It’s an old beat up OneSport shoebox from a decade and a half ago…I figure it’s got enough material to tie about a thousand flies at this point, and that’s being conservative.  But even with all that material, there’s always one more recipe that calls for a specific fiber in a specific shade, and now with rubber legs becoming increasingly popular in patterns, different mottling.

But my problem was far simpler than that…I was just missing brown crazy legs, well not so much missing so much as never had and now I need a batch.  Right or wrong, they don’t sell these in quantities that allow you to get away with making 4 or 5…You buy one of these packs and you’re set for the next 100!

So off to Urban Angler to raid their fly tying section.

So imagine my surprise when I walk into there and I see about a dozen gentleman and their wives drinking and carousing.

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Turns out Fay Ranches was visiting their clients and decided to bring some wine and beer.  It was then that I met Chuck Davison, one of the partners there and Bill Gray.  What a coincidence.  Montana couldn’t wait for me to head out there, so it was kind enough to send one of their guys out here :)  Well needless to say, I talked his ear off and pumped him for as much intel as I could.

That’s us posing for the cam…

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Not sure what our respective schedules will be when we’re out there, but if the opportunity arises, I’m sure we’ll pop on in and say hello (preferably over a drink or three).

So after two beers and some great conversation, I grabbed my supplies (can you believe it, they had every other color but brown legs – grrrr) and was about to head out the door when Chuck stopped me and handed me some of their marketing material, which contained a fly box with 10 absolutely exquisite patterns.  The flies themselves were gorgeous, but the craftsmanship was second to none.

Here are those little bad boys

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They’re almost too nice to fish, so I’m going to try to tie these by sight (at least the ones I think I’ll need) and keep these guys as reference flies :)

So many flies to tie and so little time.

Oh and almost forgot, I also picked up two tickets to the Fly Fishing Film Tour.  We’ve seen Trout Bum Diaries 2, where the group fished in New Zealand, and there’s something absolutely intoxicating about watching fish coming up to gulp dry fly after dry fly.  I imagine we’ll be seeing more of that at the film tour on 4/6.

Good times ahead.

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A growing family of orchids

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Apr 03 2010

I’ve got too many damn hobbies, but I’d like to think that they all compliment each other and help me to keep some sort of perspective.  Some day in the not so distant future, like maybe when I’m 90, I’ll have to retire and be faced with the question of what to do with all that damn free time.  I’ve decided, I’m not going to wait to answer that question and just do the things that interest me today.  If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s the tragedy of never getting the chance to do all those things you wanted to do.

There never seems to be a good time to invest in yourself (too busy, kids, family, mowing the lawn whatever) – I’ve always been of the opinion that you need to make YOU a priority as often as you can.  That way everyone benefits from the depth of your experience and you maintain some semblance of balance in your life.

But I digress.  It was Christmas and as most folks do for theirs, I was desperately struggling to find that perfect gift for my wife.  Through some strange coincidence and maybe with the help of some extra sensory perception, we both ended up getting each other plants without ever having so much as mentioned them in passing.  She bought me a bonsai, and I bought her two orchids, one of which was “in spike”.

For her I bought a Sedirea Japonica and a Dendrobium Tobaense

The Sedirea both during spike and after bloom.

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The Dendrobium when we received it, hairy little sucker isn’t it.

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What we think is a “spike” forming almost 4 months later.  The prize for a job well done of not killing the plant ;)

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we hope this will look like this some day soon

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They were pretty compact plants, very “uncommon” next to the likes of your standard Phalaenopsis, or Cattleya, and unbeknownst to me at the time, they were gateway drugs to that madness that is orchid collecting.  These plants and the evolutionary twists and turns that they took to survive to this day are simply fascinating to read about.

Around the 2nd week of March we visited the New York Botanical Garden to go see the visiting Orchid display of Cuban orchids.  I’ve seen orchid “shows” before, this was something different.  They turned the entire conservatory save a few rooms, into an orchid ecosystem, from rain forest, to temperate mountain climes to bogs and swamps.  We saw orchids of every size and every shape and every disposition (we found a few that we called a “crying baby”

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and “mad scientist”

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.

Then we went to Longwood Gardens some weeks later since they were having THEIR orchid show.  I thought we saw a lot at the NYBG, Longwood’s collection was just insane.  Absolute orchid overload.  After 4 hours of a seemingly endless array of orchid collections, we found ourselves in the heated tent that for 3 days would serve as an orchid depot.  Every single orchid under the sun you could imagine was on sale and if it wasn’t there, they’d get it for you.  I shudder to think the money that was spent by folks far more professional in their desire to grow these babies.

As for us…we opted to add 4 more to our collection.

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From left to right, a hunter orange Epidendrum (aka Sun Valley Dragon Fruit), a pink Epidendrum (aka Pacific Rose Pink Moment), a Dendrophylax Lindenii (aka “Ghost Orchid” of Fakahatchee swamp – google that), and Leptotes Bicolor.

Our humidifier’s quite angry with us after promising it it might get the summer off.  No such luck there unfortunately.  We’ve got the plants now so we have to tend to keeping them alive and doing our best to encourage them to fluoresce.  I’d say that after seeing their root systems go absolutely bonkers after we started feeding them some low dosages of fertilizer, they’ve at least got a fighting chance.

Hopefully we’ll have more to to show in the coming months, because good lord do they photograph well.  Oh and speaking of photographs…take a look at the set up shot for the photo of the Leptotes (for all you photography geeks out there)

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Enjoy :)

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Fly Tying Session #1

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Apr 03 2010

Happens every time I go fishing…Get surprised by great weather, plan to go fishing, then realize I have no flies tied for the period I’m fishing.  You’d think after 15 years I’d have a decent enough collection.  Well actually I did, but I’ve got this thing for mounting my flies on every tree along the Beaverkill.

Not this time…this time I’m going to be ready.  Armed with my copy of Brian Grossenbacher’s book “Fly Fishing Montana: A No Nonsense Guide to Top Waters”, I set out to tie every damn fly in this book that I’ll need (which apparently according to the time we’re going isn’t too many”.  I figure every fly would have to get tied 8 times.  2 for me, 2 for Ivana, in 2 sizes times ummm 7 or 8 patterns… Aye carumba that’s a lot of flies…but you know what, it’s not impossible.  Figure 2 a day for 30 days, that’s already 60 flies right there right? It only takes about 5 minutes to tie a fly, so I figure it’s not a bad plan.

But wow – it’s been like 3 years since I tied a fly, and maybe 10 before that.  All the little lessons I learned (how to tie a parachute hackle for instance) that rely on very specific nuances and order to get the fly just right were suddenly completely unknown to me.  Of course we’ll buy whatever’s hot at the local guide shop, but man – what a pleasure it would be if we caught a fish on a fly we tied.  That’s pretty much the holy grail of fly fishing as far as I’m concerned.

So here’s what we have so far:

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Left to right, a marabou muddler minnow, bwo with hi vis wings #18, and bead head prince #14, elk hair caddis (courtesy of Fay Ranches)

14 down, 66 to go.

And of course the obligatory setup shot for the photography folks :)

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