Friday, May 25, 2012

Catskills Recap

Jared, Steve and I headed up to the Catskills this past weekend looking for bugs and rising fish.  Jared and I left Sunday around noon and headed North.  When we made it to the West Branch of the Delaware, we were greeted with high sun, extremely warm temperatures, few bugs and even fewer rising fish.  Around 6 o'clock, however, the fishing began to pick up.  Over the next few hours, I picked up a few fish, but nothing fantastic.  Right at dark, a huge caddis hatch began and the fish turned on.  There were a ton of rising fish and we took advantage of it, each landing two fish during the short burst of action, with Jared's last fish of the night being a good one.  We walked back to the car in total darkness and headed back to the motel where we met up with Steve.  We BS'ed for a while and then hopped in the car and grabbed dinner at Lydia's.  It was a good way to end a good day.

Jared with a nice fish in the dark

The next morning, we had SUPER high expectations.  The forecast called for clouds, little wind, a few scattered showers and high humidity... aka perfect bug conditions.  We got to the water around 9:30, and within minutes I hooked and landed my first of the day, a pretty brown trout.  Jared hooked and lost two right after that, but then the rain rolled in.  The light scattered showers we were hoping for became an all out downpour for a while.  The rain slowed down, but then started right back up again.  The fishing really slowed down after the rain and we kinda sat around waiting for something to happen.  Steve then joined us on the bank and we hoped that the bugs would really pick up.  That didn't happen.  We had scattered caddis, sulphurs and march browns, but not the huge hatches we were expecting.  Sometimes it just works out that way.  Jason Taylor, a friend and customer, met up with us and the whole group continued with the waiting game.  Throughout the rest of the day, we all caught random fish here and there, but it was definitely not what we wanted.  

Spunky little guy

And the release...

The vast majority of the fish we caught were in the 12"-17" range, but there were definitely some bigger fish up.  I saw what looked to be a good fish rise and slowly moved up into position.  He ate again, and I gave him a March Brown emerger.  On the first drift, he engulfed it and it was on.  The fish flew down stream, jumping all the way down.  I got him back up towards me, but when I went to net him, he wanted no part of it.  He took off again and continued with his acrobatic showcase, nearly taking me to my backing for a second time.  I turned him and got some line back, but he decided to jump one more time.  In my case, it was one time too many.  As he jumped, he twisted in the air and landed right on my 6X.  The fly pulled out and it was game over.  Talk about a heartbreaker.  That was definitely the largest trout I have ever hooked in my life, and even though I didn't land him, the whole thing just left me wanting more.  That was not the only big fish of the trip though.  About 30 minutes later, Jared caught a super solid fish way upstream from the rest of the group, so no picture, but from what I heard, it was a hogger.  Jason Taylor also caught a great fish down below the group, so yet again no big fish pictures.  Overall, it was a great trip, with lots of fish hooked, plenty lost or broken off and a bunch of them slipped into a net.  The D can be a fickle river for sure, but the frustrations, hours of waiting and lost fish are what keeps me coming back time and time again.   As a matter of fact, I think I'm going to brave the forecasted rain and thunder storms and head up in about 8 hours or so.  We'll see what happens!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Czech Nymphs - Not Just for the Euro Guys

When the Euro nymphing craze really took off here in the US a few years ago, I jumped in head first.  For over a year, I nearly only fished in either the French, Czech, or Polish style, or some variation on that theme.  I got pretty darn good at it and I learned how to catch a lot more fish, read water better and become an overall better angler.  If you haven't tried these techniques before, I would highly recommend that you give them a shot.  Now you don't have to go out and buy an 11' 3 wt. rod, but learning the basics of these techniques will put more fish in your net.  For more information on the subject, you won't find a better source of information than "Dynamic Nymphing: Tactics, Techniques and Flies from Around the World," an outstanding book written by my friend and world renowned angler George Daniel.  The book is a wealth of knowledge on all things nymphing, from European to American styles and just about everything in between.  Anyway, back to the post.  So when I started using these techniques, I tied a lot of wild and crazy nymphs specifically for the European style of nymphing.  While more fish than I care to think about fell to a good ole' fashioned Pheasant Tail, I also caught a ton of fish using Czech, Polish and other European style nymphs.  Today, I fish with a variety of techniques, doing whatever I need to do to catch fish.  The European techniques are outstanding when the conditions allow for them, but that is not always the case.  Sometimes, you need to throw on the old Thingamabobber and go to town in order to have success.  My time spent learning the Euro techniques showed me just how effective some of the "Euro specific" flies can be and now, I fish them all the time.  So my point is, don't think that just because something is called a "Czech nymph," you can only fish it while Czech nymphing.  Don't be afraid to mix things up, because the vast majority of the time, being able to adapt to changing conditions and giving the fish what they want is much more important than the size tippet you're fishing or the color of your indicator.

So, on that note, here is a quick tutorial on tying my favorite style of Czech nymph.  Pardon the poor lighting in the photos... My tying lamp bulb is shot and I'm just too lazy to replace it, so the old desk lamp is all I've got.

Standard Czech Nymph
Hook: TMC C300BL Competition Hook #8-12 (#10 used in the tutorial)
Lead: .015 Lead Wire
Thread: Brown 8/0 UNI-Thread (70 Denier)
Shellback: Sow-Scud Back 1/8" Clear
Dubbing: Natural Hare's Ear blended with additional guard furs from a Hare's Mask (Just about any color will work)
Hot Spot: Sow-Scud Shrimp Pink Dubbing (Any bright color will be fine. My favorites are Pink, Orange, Chartreuse and Yellow)
Rib: 5X Monofilament Tippet

Place hook in the vise

Add 15 or so lead wraps

Start thread and advance to back

Tie in shellback and rib

Using some type of dubbing wax (I prefer Loon Swax), wax your thread and gently touch the dubbing to the thread.  The wax will grab the fibers of the dubbing.  Rapidly spin your bobbin clockwise until the dubbing begins to twist around the thread.  This is called touch dubbing. Advance the dubbing noodle to about the 2/3 point on the shank.

Dub your hotspot and wrap the noodle forward a bit

Dub the head using the same touch dubbing technique as above. Pull the shellback forward and secure it at the eye.  I usually add a quick half-hitch to ensure the scud back doesn't come loose if I hit my bobbin while ribbing the fly. 

Rib the fly in even wraps ensuring to apply enough tension to give the fly the segmented look Czech nymphs are known for.  Whip finish at the eye.  Grab a marker (Brown Sharpie in this case) and color the front portion of the shellback.  Pick out the dubbing using some Velcro or a dubbing brush.  You're done!

A completed group of Czech nymphs in some of my favorite color combinations.