Monday, August 16, 2010

The B.C. Strike Indicator

The dry/dropper combination is one of the most effective ways to approach fish in shallow water or suspended just beneath the surface.  First of all, the dry fly tends to spook less fish than the bobber.   Sometimes fish prefer the dry, and the dropper can be eliminated.  At other times, fish key in on the dropper.
Fishing in British Columbia presents another challenge.  Anglers may only fish one fly per rod.  The dry/dropper rig is illegal.  I developed the yarn indicators below for fishing in British Columbia, but I believe that they will be quite effective on spring creeks, tailwaters, and desert lakes.  

I am a big fan of parachute flies, so I designed this indicator to be a parachute fly without a body or a hook.  The best hook for this rig has light wire and a large eye.  To construct the indicator, secure a clump of yarn about 2 inches long and the diameter of a large pen to the front 1/3 of the hook shank.  Then double the yarn back so that both ends are secured parallel to the hook shank, sort of like a trude style fly.  Unlike the trude style fly, the yarn should extend along both sides of the hook.  Sometimes, I add dry fly hackle before I finish the indicator.  Sometimes, I just build a neat head at the hook eye. Next, I use a pair of wire pliers to cut off as much of the hook as possible.  The result is a parachute tied parallel, rather than perpendicular to the hook shank. I add super glue and/or head cement to the indicator following each step in the process. 

On a my recent trip in July to the Upper Columbia River in British Columbia, I found a pod of rainbows rising along a gentle seam.  The first couple of fish rose aggressively to an X-Caddis, but soon the others began to ignore my fly.  I picked us a few more fish on a CDC caddis.  However, there were several fish that would not eat my dry fly.  I tied one of my yarn indicators to the end of my leader and added another 24 inches of 4X leading to a size 16 soft hackle.   I made my first cast over a spot where a fish had been rising sporadically.  My little yarn indicator disappeared into the river and I set the hook into a beautiful 17 inch rainbow.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Scotty's Birthday Bonanza

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend a carp and smallmouth fishing clinic.  The teacher was my good buddy, Scott, and he schooled me well.  On the two days following his birthday, Scott out fished me 5 to 0 on his own flies.  To think I knew Scotty when he was practically in diapers (9th grade).
Day 1:  Scotty wades out on a gravel flat looking for carp.  Scotty spots a fish. Scotty casts.  Scotty sets the hook.  Scotty tells me he has a small carp on the line.  Turns out to be a 5 lb. smallmouth.  Too bad the camera is in the boat.
Next, Scotty lands a 12 lb. carp.  Luck!
Finally, I get the camera from the boat in time to take a picture of Scott's next carp, a 15 pounder:
 I start asking Scotty where to fish, which flies to use, how to present the fly.  I start looking back at Scotty every few minutes in order to see if he's doing anything differently.  Is he standing in deeper water?  Is he stripping the fly more quickly or slowly?  What size hook is he using?  What color are the dumbbells on his fly? Finally, I snap off a large carp on a San Juan worm.   Scotty responds by hooking another big bass that jumps and throws the fly.
Surprisingly, Scotty is ready to go in for dinner by 4:30.  His arm is sore. 

Day 2:  Scotty lands a 3 lb. smallie on the second cast on a Barr's Bouface he tied over the winter. 
Should be a great day for me!  Not so much.
Next, Scotty lands a 3 1/4 lb. smallmouth on an olive Meat Whistle.
 I finally give in and start fishing with Scotty's flies, but it's too late.  The fish can smell my skunk from deep in the river.
At noon we give up and head back home.  I can't wait to get back out there to show those fish who's the boss!

Friday, August 6, 2010

My Lucky Bobber

Finding the right strike indicator has always been a challenge for me.  When I lived in Montana, I relied on my lucky bobber, a big orange corkie.

I'm sure I spooked a lot of fish with that bobber.  I remember presenting a tandem nymph rig, with my big lucky bobber, over fish rising to midges on the Madison River.  The bobber would instantly put the fish down.  It took a few trips that spring before I learned that rising fish don't respond well to big orange bobbers floating over their heads.  The midge hatch was fantastic that year starting in February.  Finally, in early May, I started using small dry flies, which led to some success. 

A few years later I started spending several weeks each summer fishing the Bow River in Alberta.  I noticed that individual fish would rise sporadically in some riffles and inside seams.  Upon seeing these random free rising fish, I would continue to cast my hopper/dropper rig or my tandem nymph rig with bobber.  I never had much luck catching these fish.  Finally, I learned to immediately change rigs upon seeing a fish rise.  I would nervously clip off my large hopper, add 3 feet of 4x, and then tie on a size 14 caddis pattern.  90% of the time those random risers would respond to my caddis emerger within the first three casts. Many of these fish turned out to be quite large, including a 23 inch brown I caught on an elk hair caddis just outside of Calgary.

Nowadays I use the Thingamabobber when fishing rivers.  It comes in many sizes and colors (including black, my favorite), and it floats and casts beautifully.

The quick-release strike indicators above work well for fishing chironomids and leeches in stillwaters.  These indicators can be purchased from  Phil Rowley's Fly Craft Angling Shop or Waters West in Port Angeles. With these lovely bobbers, you can fish a fly 25' or more below the indicator.  The only problem arises when they don't release properly.  Nevertheless, I carry a baggy full of them everywhere I fish.

Of course my favorite way to fish is naked, or with no strike indicator at all.  This method is particularly effective on stillwaters in water more than 10' deep.  You feel the strike just as often as you see it, and there is something very satisfying about fishing sans indicator.
In my next post, I will reveal my homemade yarn indicators.