Author Archives: admin

Success on the Delaware River!

August 5th, 2018

I subscribe to a quite a few fly-fishing magazines; and have for years.   I typically read them cover to cover and I have learned so much from them over the years.  Over the years there has been a number of articles on the very same topic in all of these magazines at least once: “The most technically difficult Rivers to Fly Fish in the US.”.  There are two rivers always mentioned as the most technically challenging in the US: The Henry’s Fork and the Delaware River.

looking downriver from the put in

 

 

My story of me getting humbled on the Henry’s Fork in 2015 is here.  And I will eventually go back and try to have some success there.  Last year (2017) I did fish the Delaware River for about 6 hours and not only did I get skunked but I did not even see a fish.  I caught the river on a blowout day and raining in August (that is an important fun fact in the story).  But, the mighty Delaware did prove how really difficult it was that day.  I tried everything…. At least everything I kow that works on western rivers.  I am very proud to say that this time I had success on the Delaware River!  Of course, there is a reason for my success on the Delaware….and you well know how I love to tell a story.   So, here we go…

Background and Research

As usual, it starts with a business trip.  I had a Monday mid-day meeting at the Verizon HQ in Basking Hills, NJ.  I could not get there in time flying on United even with a direct to Newark on Monday morning from San Diego.  So, I started looking at flights on Sunday.  Sure enough, there was a cheap flight at 6am on Sunday morning.  That would get me to Newark mid-day.

With an entire half of a day on a Sunday in New Jersey, I started the research on where I might be able to fish.  I know NJ has some famous places to fish.  Because most of my experience is in western rivers, I really am a neophyte in fishing the rivers of the east so I knew I needed help.

My internet searching lead me to Shannon’s Fly and Tackle, https://www.shannonsflytackle.com/ in Calafon, NJ.  Within an hour of Newark, the local rivers they fish (like the Raritan) looked close and pretty awesome.  But, it is august; I did know the rivers of the east tend to get too warm to fish in August.

So, it started with an email to the Shannon’s Fly shop and an exchange and the invite to call Len Ruggia at the shop.  When I did talk to Len on the phone he was a wealth of information: so gracious and helpful.  I felt somewhat guilty for keeping him on the phone as he pouredout information.  I didn’t even know if I could get to his shop to repay him for the information by purchasing some flies.

At one point Len said, “if you are willing to drive up north you may want to consider fishing the West branch of the Delaware River upstream from the confluence near Hancock, NY.  It flows cool and cold all year long.  It only has a wild population of trout.  All catch and release”  As he talked, I couldn’t help but think about getting another shot at the Delaware.  But, this time Len told me what to throw and how to throw it.  One of the flies he suggested was called a Cahill.  I had heard of that fly, but I had no idea what it was because we don’t use them in the West… At least I don’t.  And because of that means I doubted we have any bug in the west that a Cahill imitated.  Here’s the definition: A Cahill dry fly is classic Catskill dry fly originated by Dan Cahill over 100 years ago. A basic imitation of a Pale Morning Dun or a Pale Evening Dun, the Light Cahill fly is a standard that ranks right up there with the Adams.

The Cahill, a classic Catskill dry fly originated by Dan Cahill over 100 years ago.

 

When I read that I said to myself, “OK, it’s a PMD, but it’s white.  Our PMs are not pure white.”  and “Great, a hundred year old fly with no modern materials on the toughest river to fish in the US.”  So then I started fantasizing about catching one of those famous wild huge rainbows they have on the Delaware with its most traditional fly.  How could I resist that?

The bonus was I had a box of “Eastern Dries” that was a gift to me from years ago.  I found it in my man cave where I have a plethora of fly fishing and fly tying stuff.  And sure enough there were 6 Cahills in it of size 16 and 18.  I grabbed the entire box and brought it with me to the East Coast.  What the hell, right?

Looking up river as the sun slips over the Catskills

 

The Issues

I was facing two issues, though.  Firstly, the drive from the Newark Airport is 2.5 hours to get to the Delaware River.  Only having ½ day that would mean I’d only get 2-3 hours to fish before it got dark.  I’m the one that always says, “I’ll drive 2 hours to fish one hour.”  And now was one of those times to live up to my bold statement.  The 2nd issue was all the rain in the area.  The river took a huge spike.  I could only see flows and didn’t know if I’d get to a totally blown out river.  but, I couldn’t resist so I set my heart on the W branch of the Delaware River.  Of course, I got a late start out of the rental car facility because, well, it is the Newark airport.  About 2 hours into a very beautiful drive into the Catskills, I called Kelly (my lovely bride of 29 years) and said, “This could be one of the craziest things I have ever done.”

The Story

From a satellite image, I figured out where I could park my rental car and found that location pretty easily.

Finding where to park your rental car in a place you don’t know that allows public access to a trout stream or river is 90% of the battle for a business traveler who is a fly fisherman.  That is why after 20+ years of hard business travel and accumulating great fly fishing spots on my GPS, I created “Tim Huckaby’s favorite US & World-Wild Fly Fishing Locations-GPS Map File”  I have proudly added the West branch of the Delaware River to my “favorite fly fishing spots”.  You can purchase a downloadable version of that  comprehensive map here:

I parked and quickly walked down to the river to take a peek before wadering up.  The River was definitely high… way above what looked to be a normal water line.  But, it was obvious the river had come way down.  I could see a recent, meaning within hours, high water mark where the river must have definitely blown out; probably unfishable because you couldn’t safely get in the water.  But the clarity of the river was still pretty good; almost perfect.  Len told me he fishes up stream from where I was standing.  I looked up stream and because the water was so high I didn’t see any fishable water.  No structure, no pocket water, no pools, no seams, no tailouts.  just a long big ass, river flowing fast and straight for at least a mile.  I looked downstream, there was a creek entering the river that produced a seam, and then it melded into a run.  There was a tree below the run in the water.  I said to myself, “hmmm that looks good.”  I said to myself, “Wait a minute.  There are no cars in the lot and there is no one here.  Just me.  That’s either really good or really bad.”

It was now past 6pm, though.  The sun goes down at 8:30.  So, I wadered up and wandered down stream just 200 feet to the creek / river confluence.  I stared at the water and said to myself, “Damnit, because of the creek rushing in and the way the sun is sitting right on the river up stream, I am going to have to do that 45 degree downstream drift they recommend on the henry’s fork.  Sure the fly gets there before the tippet/leader, but, feeing line at the right inverval is hard, and the set is almost impossible.  Plus, as was Len’s recommendation I was on 7x.  I hate 7x.  Every fly fisherman hates 7x.  God made 7x and the 1 iron at the same time to piss us off.

I tied on a size 16 Cahill and ginked it up.  As I was clipping the knot I heard that sound that snapped my head: A rise!  I stared at the water where I thought the splash came from.  This time I saw the rise.  It was a little fish, but a rise is a rise.  So, excitedly I stripped out a ton of line to feed the downstream drift.  I made the cast.  It was bad.  It landed hard and in the wrong lane.  Plus, I couldn’t stack line out quick enough for a natural drift.  Uggg… I suck.  In the process of pulling back the fly it swung right into the correct lane…. I assumed I ruined it. I assumed I doomed myself to another skunking.

My next cast and drift was perfect:  a small rainbow rose and took my fly…and I pulled it straight up stream right out of his mouth.  Encouraging none the less. Over the next 20 casts I got 5 takes and screwed every single take up before I figured out how to set to the side in the right timing.  Within 10 minutes, I caught and water released a 12” wild rainbow from the Delaware River!  I looked to the sky and thanked the lord and my high school buddy Ken Bendix, who loved to fly fish, and who we lost way too early to cancer.  I know Ken wanted me to catch a trout on the Delaware.  I just felt it.

My first trout landed on the famous Delaware River

 

I casted a few more drifts, but the prior short fight put down the spot.  It needed a rest.  So, I started walking up stream like Len recommended.  I made it about a mile without seeing any fishable water.  There didn’t appear to be any fishable water as far as I could see upstream.  I had to walk up stream in the water because it was so high so it was slow going.  I’m sure in normal flows I was on top of good water, but I had so little time so I chalked it up to 30 minutes of a beautiful hike.  Then, I headed back to my downstream spot where the river had rested.

The Battle

When I got back to the confluence of the creek and the river the sun had already disappeared from behind the Catskills.  That meant I could stand in the creek and cast up stream making a set so much more effective.  But, nothing was rising now.  I decide to walk further downstream to see what was there.  the water was froggy.  There was a giant black bug hatching; nothing like I had ever seen before, like a size 8.  But, no fish were taking it.  I did see a couple white PMDs in the air, though.  I startled and pissed off a beaver that slapped it’s tail at me.  so, I walked back up stream to “my spot”.  The glare made it real hard to see my fly.  So, I started pretty much blind casting up stream, fanning the river from left to right, foot by foot.  As I was making the big 40 foot casts to the right side of the river and trying to deal with the bad drifts coming at  me fast and furious, I saw and heard the take.  I set and got tight.  This time it was clear it was a big fish.  Damnit I was on 7x.  Thank god, my drag was set really loose from fighting the little rainbow earlier because this big fish took off and my reel sung the happy sound.  I palmed the reel to slow it down and turned the fish.  It ran 30 feet, but I managed to pull it back about 20 feet but it also moved 20 feet down river.  I still had not seen the fish.  He didn’t jump.  He fought like a brown trout.  I pulled his head upstream and he just hated that.  He ran down river and I had to follow, my reel singing.  I was pretty much moving quickly through a raging creek to catch up.  Fairly dangerous, but you take risks of falling when you are hooked up with a big trout.  It was in that moment that I saw where the fish was headed and fear struck.  He was headed for the deeper water under the tree.  The tree, of which, many of the branches were in the water.  I was close to the backing.  I have always said, “I don’t know why I read of so many people getting into the backing.  I never get into the backing.  You shouldn’t even let a trout get you into the backing because the fight will be so long it might not recover.”  And this fight was already long because I just couldn’t muscle him on such light tippet.  I could not lose this fish to snags on the branches of the tree.  “I’d rather snap him off.” I said to myself.  So I pulled him hard downsteam veering him away risking breaking him off on 7x.  Then I pulled him hard upstream turning his head the other way.  Those two direction changes seemed to break his spirit.  I was now 300 feet downstream from where I originally hooked him and I knew the long battle was not good for the trout.  I had to land him now.  It was nor or never.  He was tired so he pulled in to shallow calm water pretty easily at that point.  I could see he was a chrome colored rainbow and every bit of 16” if not 17” and well built.  My mission was to let him go without taking him out of the water so he’d survive to fight another day.  That is why I only got a single crappy picture of him.  A trophy selfie would have killed the poor thing so I didn’t do it.  I most certainly don’t need another trophy picture with a huge trout.   As he swam away I screamed, “Woo!!!” to no one.  because I had not seen another human and none seemed within miles of me… on one of the most famous and technically challenging rivers in the US…where I just caught and released a monster trout.

A Delaware River wild rainbow with my Cahill hanging out of his face.

 

Epilogue

It was only after my success and sincere thanks, that I reported back to Shannon’s Fly shop by email that I learned Len Ruggia is the head guide at Shannons.  And you know what that means?  It means next time I have a business trip to the east coast I am going to hire Len to teach me how to effectively fish the rivers of the East.  I cannot wait for that day.  I’m pretty sure I can sneak that day in before winter.  I strongly suggest you do the same.

 

Forks of the Kern Trail: June 28 – July 2, 2018

There is something about my first trip into the Forks each year.  The “lead up” generates tons of excitement and anticipation.  Mostly because I knew the flies we’d be throwing would be the first that the bad ass kern river rainbows had seen in 9 months.   I am not kidding when I tell you I was watching the CFS on the Upper Kern almost every couple of hours in the couple weeks prior to the hike in.

A big Kern River Rainbow scampering away angry after release

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joining me on this trip in were two fly fishing buddies I had met in very similar ways…through the tech industry.  Josh Evans is a local Carlsbad guy and I have fished with him in Montana and Wyoming.  He’s a great fly fisherman and like me, has to be dragged off the river at night.  Honestly, he’s the only fisherman I have every encountered where I said with a cocktail in my hand, “I can’t believe he’s still out there fishing.”

Josh, Ronnie and me hiking way up river over Rattlesnake Creek for a full 6 miles of fishing adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met Ronnie Swafford at a .NET presentation I did at a user group in western N. Carolina over a decade ago.  I told the audience I took that gig because Microsoft paid for my t&e and I always wanted to fly fish the area.  We immediately became friends and he is really good about keeping in touch.  We fished in Colorado last year on the headwaters of the Colorado River near Grandby.  I had an open offer to him: “figure out how to get to LAX and I’ll handle everything from there.”  And I was really excited he took me up on it.

Ronnie battling a large Kern River Rainbow trying to get him back up stream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backpacking in with 45+ pounds on our backs we hit the trail early, but not early enough to avoid the hot sun on Friday morning.  Typically, I like to lead most of the time because of my familiarity of the trail, my mountain goat like genes, and my awareness of the things in the trail that could potentially cause calamity.  I was just telling the guys about the many animals we could encounter on the trail.   But, sometimes I go too fast and I also like to stop and take pictures.  So, it was Josh that was in the lead, suddenly stopping saying, “Rattlesnake!  Right on the trail!”  Thank god he noticed it before stepping on it.  he backed up and I approached with the camera.  The Western Diamondback rattlesnake was a female, about 2.5 feet long near a water source (where he probably hunted mice) just warming up in the sun.  he was practically paralyzed; couldn’t even summon his rattle yet.  But, I still couldn’t get a good picture before he slowly crept off the trail under a rock.  It couldn’t have been more than ten minutes earlier when I said to the guys, “I know there are rattlesnakes here, but I have never seen one.”

I wish i would have caught this diamond back staring at us, but i just wasn’t quick enough with the camera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well that set the tone for the most animal encounters ever in my many trips to the upper Kern.  Well, Josh came face to a California King snake and 3 all of us saw Gartersnakes in the river at many points.

Results: Cutting the fishing into 3 hour sessions over the 3 days we fished we saw slow times right when we were supposed to (when the water warmed up) from about 12-3pm.  But outside of that range we experienced good, great and excellent fishing conditions.  The morning session on Sunday was one I will always remember.  It started with a first cast hook up of a 14” I managed to land under a tree and never stopped.  I hooked a fish in every hole, run, pocket water, heads, pools, tail-outs…everywhere I fished for about 4 hours.  I have always written in this blog that Kern River Rainbows are really hard to land and that was definitely the case.  but, I don’t want to touch them anyways.  I want them to come off right at my feet to be caught another day and that was definitely the case in this session.  I did hook some big fish (over 18”) and never managed to land any of them.  And that is fine….except for the monster I farmed on a huck hopper by setting the wrong way (up river).  Totally my fault and it’s going to haunt me until the next time I hike in there.

 

A big Kern River rainbow with a caddis nymph imitation stuck in his face that i tie and sell which kills in clear water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We burnt a lot of calories on this trip fly fishing.  From the Huckaby primitive campsite we fished 6+ river miles in both directions each day we were there.  Each day culminated at the site, eating appetizers and sipping whiskey waiting for the crazy evening hatch to start.  in all 3 nights we saw significant size 18 dry fly fishing before it got dark.  One of the sessions was an hour and a half long!  And this is right in front of the site.  at one point I heard Josh say, “this is too easy. I’m getting struck on every cast no matter how bad my drift is.”  exhausted, we ended each day around the campfire eating dinner in the dark.

Me, Josh and Ronnie on the hike in to the canyon on the Forks of the Kern Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Highlights:

I know Josh and Ronnie have their own highlights on the trip, but I have a few I’ll remember forever:

  1. I have come to love guiding kids. I love teaching kids how to fly fish more than fishing myself.  Well, on the trail we ran into a threesome of a dad, son (Jake) and uncle.  They had kmart level spinning rods with giant shiny lures.  They told me they managed to catch one trout, but that Jake, 15, was dying to catch a fish and even got up at 5am to try…and failed.  which made sense considering the gear they had.  I asked where they were camping and knew exactly the spot.  So, I said, “I tell ya’ what Jake, I’m going to try to circle back at the end of the day and we’ll try to catch a fish together.”  At the end of the day Ronnie reminded me about the “promise”.  I was exhausted, but the 2 mile hike to them was the right thing to do.  I encountered them about a mile away.  There were in a great spot, a huge plunge into a deep pool with a 360 degree eddie on the side that always held fish, but really tough to drift.  So, I started with, “Ok, I’ll rig you up with “fly and a bubble” Jake, give me one of your bobbers.  “we don’t have any bobbers.”   Hmmm I said.  And I knew I was going to have to “McGiver” him.  I tied a small piece of wood on the 4 lb line he had on his cheap spinning rod and hung one of the flashy caddis nymph imitations I tie that was doing well about 4 feet under the piece of wood.  While rigging him up I explained the insect cycle and caddiss flies and as much as I could cram in about the science of the river.  I told jake his cast was going to be a lot tougher because of the 4 foot dropper, but if he could get in in the middle of the eddie he’d have a good chance at hooking a fish.  Well, after hiting the overhanging tree and me re-rigging him a few times, and then flat out missing the eddied a few times he managed to hit a cast perfectly.  It sank into the swirl, his wood indicator went down hard and he tightened up as a screamed, “Set!”   Jakes cheap ass rod was bent in half when a huge…I mean 2+ foot fish appeared.  I never got to the “ok, here’s how you fight a fish if you hook one” part and he farmed it….practiically pulling the fish all the way out of the water.  I was screaming “woo!” and jumping up and down and high fiving him telling him how awesome that was.  Jake was slightly disappointed, but excited.  he was telling his dad and uncle all about  it.  well, it was past 6pm and I had to get back to camp so I gave them a bunch of flies I tied that were working and off I went.  I’ll never know how they did after I left … I bet they did well.

check out that fan of a tail. it’s no wonder the kern river rainbow fights so hard 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Josh had to hike out Sunday afternoon in the hot sun. Ronnie and I were sipping whiskey around 7pm watching the river and waiting for the hatch to start.  I looked up across the river and screamed, “Holy F##$ck there’s a bear!”  I ran back a hundred feet to the site to get my camera.  For 45 minutes, sipping whiskey, we watched a juvenile black bear eating some type of berries off the bushes as he slowly meandered up stream.  It was never an issue of an encounter because the river was between us and him.  I have been waiting for over a decade at that site, staring at the mountain side across the river predicting it would happen one day and it finally did.  Awesome.

A black bear munching on berries as we watch from the Huckaby site across the river

 

 

 

 

A Guide To Grayling Fishing

This guest post is from Richard Fieldhouse. Richard is Founder of Barbless Flies, a company bringing the market a wide range of innovative barbless flies, all professionally tied to extremely high standards using first class materials. Richard is a passionate fly angler, and when not at the helm of Barbless Flies, you will find him on his local rivers of North Yorkshire, England, testing out new flies.

Richard Fieldhouse, Founder of Barbless Flies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Guide To Grayling Fishing

by Richard Fieldhouse, Barbless Flies Company, North Yorkshire, England

Coined as the ‘Lady of the Stream,’ Grayling are most recognisable for their distinct markings on their dorsal fin with a blush of golds, blues and pinks on their heads. Being a species of freshwater fish, Grayling are a popular option for fly fishing during the months of autumn and winter when the fish are at their peak, however one can also fish during the late summer. Fishing for Grayling really is a great way to extend your fly fishing beyond the trout season!

When embarking on your Grayling fishing trip, you’ll need to bear in mind that they’re a pretty smart fish, as they have a tendency to shoal, they tend to corkscrew when hooked and they can also put in a strong fight when caught. One simply needs to know the tricks…

When it comes to fishing for Grayling, it’s important to make the most of the season and to make the most of it, you’ll want to do your research on where to fish, using the right equipment and other tips and tricks you’ll need to know when waiting patiently and aiding in a successful catch of the day. The infographic below, designed by us at Barbless Flies outlines the best way to fish for Grayling by season, as well as where to find the fish, which fly to use and the leader setup.

It’s especially important to remember about the spring prohibition here in the UK, as the fishing of Grayling is officially forbidden from the 15th of March to the 15th of June.  This is because Grayling spawn during the spring season and it’s a big no-no to disturb them during this time! It’s better you avoid this time and wait for the coming seasons for an easier catch.   If you have Grayling in your backyard in the US or Canada you do not have these restrictions, but may have your own local restrictions.

Are you hooked on Grayling? Check out the infographic below and use it as a checklist for your upcoming fishing trip. Enjoy!

 

And Backpacking Gear Review

October 20-23, 2017

Check out the fall colors on the Upper Kern

Check out the fall colors on the Upper Kern

I have backpacked the Forks of the Kern Trail to the awesome fly fishing of the upper Kern River over a dozen times since my very first backpacking trip 7 years ago in August of 2011.  I have been in the Spring a few times and in the Summer many times.  But, I had never been able to go in the Fall; until now.  The shocking thing for me and the group of 9 guys that joined me (ages 12 to mid-sixties) was the colors.  I was shocked to see all the yellow and orange in the trees…and not just aspens.  I had never seen anything in the trees but green in the many years of visiting the Forks.  So beautiful.

DSCF0258

The Upper Kern River crew:

  • Sean McElroy and my son Mark
  • Aaaron Eagleton and his dad (who’s story I featured in California Fly Fisher Magazine)
  • Steve Franco (Aaron’s uncle)
  • Me
  • Martin Loef and Steve Ray (backpacking and wilderness gurus)
  • Larry French (my cousin and life long friend of Martin)
  • Not Pictured: The world famous Warren Lew who took the picture

 The most fun for me was that my son Mark was part of the group.  I have not got to fish with him in a while.  He’s a stick, toning his skills a couple years in Bozeman.  He’s 22 now and I just don’t get as much father-son q-time as I’d like.  At 22 I didn’t hang with my dad too much either.  I regret that now.

As for the fishing this was one of those trips where the fishing matched Solunar theory perfectly.  The first day the fly fishing was good; the 2nd day was average; the 3rd day was not so good.

solunar-kern

These screenshots are from the app, “Fishing & Hunting Solunar Time Pro”.  I have mentioned this app in this blog before.  It’s a godsend.  The regular version is free.  The Pro version is worth every penny of its $2.99 cost.  I use it religiously….although solunar theory is not bullet proof, it does help.  It certainly helped on this trip matching up perfectly to the quality of fishing.  Get it in your apple or google app store.

Backpacking Gear Review

Before I get into the fishing report let me provide some guidance (from an old guy fly fisherman’s perspective) in terms of a backpacking gear review for my fellow fly fishers.  7 years ago when I started backpacking as a means to get to fly fishing I acquired gear in the exact same way many of us fly fisherman buy fly fishing gear when we start fly fishing.  When I started fly fishing 25 years ago I bought the cheapest stuff.  I bought a $60 Cabela’s rod with a $30 Cabela’s reel.  My waders were the cheapest neoprene Cabela’s waders.  As the years progressed, technology helped the fly fishing industry just like it has helped every industry. I started replacing my cheap fly fishing stuff with the latest and greatest stuff.  The best $100 I ever spent was on the Simms Waders that have the zipper.  If you are male over 40 you know what I mean…  Well, when I started backpacking I bought the cheapest stuff too.  And that means the heaviest stuff and the stuff most apt to break down quickly.  The difference, though, between backpacking and fly fishing is that the technology curve is on hockey stick growth in backpacking.  There is just only so much technology, especially electronic technology that you can throw at fly fishing gear.  But, in backpacking….the sky is the limit.  And I am a technology guy.  So I purchased 4 new backpacking gear items for this trip.  And now that it’s over I could kick myself for not doing it years ago.  Because this stuff was worth every penny.

Check out the colors on this monster Kern River Rainbow I fooled

Check out the colors on this monster Kern River Rainbow I fooled

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a summary of the 4 items I purchased and used for the first time on this trip:

Osprey Aether AG 70 Backpack – The 7 years of hard use on my Gregory back pack and its eventual failure was the impetus of all these purchases.  I’d say I got my money out of that Gregory.  I bought it on SierraTradingPost.com for under $100.  The arm straps finally ripped to the point of giving out.  After doing the research I was pleased to see how technical the backpacks had become and how light they are.  From experience I knew I needed a 60-70 liter pack to handle the 1 to 5 night backpacking treks I typically do.  There was one pack and one company that really stands out at the leader in my research.  I convinced myself I deserved the top of the line so that is what I got: The Osprey Aether AG 70.  You can’t argue with “Winner of Outside Magazine’s Gear of the Year Award for 2017” … So light (5lbs 6oz); so comfortable.  I didn’t get the pain in my shoulders after an hour hiking like I always did with my old pack.  This pack balanced perfectly and has this special technology that keeps the pack away from your back so it ventilates.  It has tons of features and gets ridiculously good reviews on the internet.  But, for me, (and for you fly fishers) the best feature of this pack is the top lid that converts to a daypack.  Yes, you snap off the top of the pack and it’s a smaller backpack big enough for all your fishing stuff, food, water, a jacket and more.  I didn’t have to bring a separate lightweight fly fishing hip pack because of this feature.  The retail for this pack is $310 and it’s worth every penny.  I cannot tell you how pleased I am with this pack.

Big Agnes Flycreek HV 2 platinum Tent –  Ok, I don’t deserve this tent like I deserve the Osprey Aether AG 70 BackPack.  This tent is pretty much way too nice for me.  I’m officially backpacking spoiled now.  This tent is expensive at a retail price of $549.95.  And there is a reason for that.  Like my dad always said, “in life you typically get what you pay for.”  It’s huge for a backpacking tent: it’s a 2 man tent with a really high ceiling.  It’s super easy to set up.  But it’s number one feature and why I’m so pleased with it: The trail weight for this tent is 1lb 10oz.  I’m not kidding.  When I handed that tent to others…and I did it numerous times, it induces shock on how light it is.  And usually a shake of the head.  My cheapo tiny single tent I have used for 7 years weighs 4 times as much as this tent at 1/3rd of the size.  I cannot tell you how pleased I am to save almost 5 pounds with this tent.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration System –  This little device is the best kept secret in the backpacking industry.  Buy the .5 liter version of this now at a retail price of $40 and you will thank me.  I have watched countless backpackers struggle with large bulky water filtration pumps over the years.  That is why I have been a Steripen fan for years.  I have owned two of them.  Their customer service is awesome and their device is awesome.  They even replaced the bulb in one of my older Steripens so I could get more years out of it.  I have used my steripens all over the world and will continue to.  But, for the Kern…and frankly many of the rivers in the US, the Katadyn Befree removes just as much bad stuff native to US waters like giardia.  But it also filters out everything but the water.  All the little pieces of plant material, dirt, etc. the SteriPen uses ultra-violent light to kill the bad stuff.  It’s a wand you wave in the water for 2 long minutes.  The Katadyn BeFree filters the water.  You just scoop up the river and start drinking.  No waving wands, no pumping, no hassle.  With the steripen I always carried around 1.5 liters of river that eventually got warm.  With the Katadyn BeFree you just scoop up cold water and start drinking.  That means you can literally throw away the water you don’t want.  It’s cleans really easy too. The Steripen weighs 5 ozs.  The Katadyn Befree packs down to tiny and it only weighs 2 oz.  There is a reason it won BackPacker Magazine’s 2017 Editor’s Choice Award.

Big Agnes Helinox Ridgeline FL135 Trekking Poles – The lord didn’t give me much, but, he did give me the “goat gene”.  I’m agile.  I always have been. It’s just in my genetics.  I always assumed trekking poles were for the non-agile that needed stability.  I met a young backpacker in a prior trip to the Kern, Kyle Focht, that set me straight on how trekking poles are more than that.  More than agility and stability, trekking poles also help you to power up hill.  I tried my wife’s trekking poles on a trip in august and was shocked how much they helped.  I knew then I had to get my own.  These FL 135s are my very first trekking poles, so they are good ones, but not the top of the line.  They are made from aluminum, yet less than a pound in weight.  Btw, they also serve very well as a wading staff.

When all was said and done with my new purchases, I had saved close to 10 pounds in load weight.  Like I said before.  I wish I had done this years ago.

The devishly handsome author using his trekking poles as a wading staff crossing the Little Kern River.

The devilishly handsome author using his trekking poles as a wading staff crossing the Little Kern River.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fishing Report

Friday, October 20 – We got an early start on the hike in.  We made it to camp late morning and set up tents, made wood, etc.  In the haste to set up all the beginners with dry dropper rigs and at the same time do a satellite text message to tell my wife had made it, I forgot to zip the pocket with my phone in my shirt.  When I bent over the river to put the food and booze in to keep it cold my phone popped out and sank 18” to the riverbed.  I cussed a storm because that would be the 6th or 7th iphone I have lost to a river or lake.  I was in no haste to pull it back out so I secured the food first and then fished it from the bottom.  It has happened to me so many times before; even twice in the Kern; that I knew it was toast.  At least at the time I thought it was…

We got camp set up and were fishing by lunch time.  I did well.  I swear I would have caught 20+ fish in 6 hours that day if I wasn’t guiding and tying lost flies back on the rigs of the 4 beginners we had on the trip.  In reality though, my most fun of the trip was guiding and doing exactly that.  I’d rather pull flies out of trees and guide a beginner to a fish than catch a fish myself any time.  In any event I caught a dozen quality fish in the 2-3 hours I fished.  I did get a few takes on my size 4 huck hopper.  But, I failed to hook any of them.  Most of my takes were on a large black stonefly nymph imitation.  That is a staple fly of the upper kern.

Check out the size 10 stonefly hanging out of this unlucky rainbow’s face

Check out the size 10 stonefly hanging out of this unlucky rainbow’s face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, October 21st – what I remember most from this day was me hooking another fish and hearing mark from a distance say, “Damnit”.  That’s not like him to be frustrated.  He was mostly hanging with his buddy Sean, guiding him because he was a beginner, for the first day and a half.  btw, Sean caught two fish on this trip.  that is pretty good for a beginner.  Anyways I’m guessing the guiding had to weigh on the frustration a little.  So, that was my opening to help him out…and spend some q-time with him.  We spent the next couple hours together and I didn’t fish at all.  I simply did the “guide thing” and made a number of suggestions and changes to his flies and approach.  Thank God for me those suggestions worked for Mark.  Mark started catching fish and was the big winner that day.  He caught 3 quality fish with me while I was with him.  And for the rest of the trip he did well.  I learned at the end of the day when we all got back together at camp that some of the other guys did not do well.  I had that dwindling solunar performance in the back of my mind and feared what the next day would bring…or wouldn’t bring.

Sunday, October 22nd – We hiked for an hour up river, over the mountain, before we started fishing.  It’s something I have always wanted to do, but never had people with me that were willing to do it…and to go with it the brutal 5 mile hike back to camp after a long day of fishing.  Frankly it’s hard for me to do this because you pass miles and miles of awesome water in the process.  They say….well, I say, “the farther up river you go the better the fishing gets.”  And it makes sense since the fish up river just don’t see the artificial flies like the ones near the confluence.  Unfortunately my fear of the solunar prediction was realized; it was slow…  I think I fished and hour without a take.  And I was getting good drifts.  That is pretty rare for me on the Upper Kern no matter what the conditions.  I wanted to say I couldn’t understand what changed in terms of hatches, but I did have that solunar theory thing in the back of my mind.  I usually can figure out what the fish are eating if you give me a couple hours, but there were few bugs in the air and nothing rising and nothing being spooked and nothing worked for me.  I went hours without a single take.

I caught up to mark and that is when I saw it and laughed; an impressed laugh.  He was standing on a huge rock, close to 10 feet above the water level.  He was in front of a long deep bend in the river.  He had a gap in the trees behind him big enough for a back cast.  So, he was making 50 foot single hauls to the opposite side of the river with a dry/dropper rig.  I wish I was close enough to video it.  It was impressive.  Plus I could see him long distance mending so I can’t imagine the drift was easy.  He sure has become a great cast.  I was still 100 yards away when he hooked up on a big fish.  He battled it for longer than what I would deem normal and brought it to hand and showed me from distance after I screamed, “Woo!” from 100 yards away.  It looked huge.  I guessed over 20”. When I got to him he said, “17”.

 

Mark Huckaby doing the 50 foot single haul to the opposite side of the river with his buddy Sean fishing the head

Mark Huckaby doing the 50 foot single haul to the opposite side of the river with his buddy Sean fishing the head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I still hadn’t landed a fish that day, though.  And slowly I found out no one but Mark had either.  So, slowly but surely everyone started their long treks back to camp except for me.  I found myself at Kern Flats (which I believe is over 6 miles from our camp) in front of the famous bend which is always good for at least one fish…and nothing.  It was getting late in the day and I knew I had at least a 1.5 hour hike back to the site, skunked.  That is when I said myself, “if I am going to get skunked I’m going down with size 18 dries.”  As I walked back I found Mark and Sean in “their hole” and told them to check in with me on their walk back so I wouldn’t worry. Half of the way back to camp was one of my favorite runs I walked by earlier in the day without fishing it.  It took me a while to get there.  Mark and Sean caught me as I tied on some 5x to the end of my leader, then a light colored size 18 mayfly imitation that was similar to a random handful of naturals I had seen during the day.  They moved on, hiking back to camp.  I moved into position to cast, which meant rock hopping my way closer to the middle of the river so I could get a cast.  I stared out in front of me at the run hoping to see rises where I had seen them so many times in years past….nothing.  From my rock I had to make a simple 30 foot cast straight up stream.  First cast…whack!  6” incher.  Nice.  I fished for 10 minutes and got struck on almost every cast.  I had landed 4 to 12” before mangling my leader because of my quickly tied poor knot when I tied on the tippet.  So, I cut it off and said to myself, “if I can catch my fifth on what is essentially a 6 foot 0x leader, I’ll call it a total success and head back to camp. I had to nip the leader at an angle just to thread the size 18 hook.  Success; 10” er.  I would have loved to stay and whack 20 trout after that full day of being skunked, but walking back that far to camp alone in the dark in that part of the sierras is not smart.  So, I took off happy.  And then it occurred to me.  We had not caught a single fish in front of camp yet.  And we had all fished it hard for 3 days. That that is one of the most prolific spots on the river.  I said to myself, when I get back to camp I’ll throw 5 casts to see if I can break the skunk there.  It was a long 45 minute brisk hike back up and over the mountain.  As I approached the camp all the guys already had whiskeys and were trading the day’s stories.  I looked at Mark with a smile and held 5 fingers up.  He said, “We heard you shout.  We knew you are on.”  I explained to the guys what happened and said, I have to try it here.  So I wandered 50 feet down to the river.  First cast, whack!  I shouted “Woo!” and some of the guys ran over.   After landing the fish I handed the rod to my cousin Larry French and said, “take over”  I headed for a backpacking chair with whiskey and he got a strike too with Warren guiding him.

Mark Huckaby with one of his big Kern River Rainbows

Mark Huckaby with one of his big Kern River Rainbows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epilogue

Through a matter of circumstances, I hiked out alone.  I like to do that at the Forks.  I like to push myself.  I made it from camp to the crossing of the little Kern in good time.  My goal was to hike the 2 miles and 1100 feet up and out of the canyon in under an hour.  With my new trekking poles I was pretty confident.  1:04 – that is pretty good for an old guy.

It was a great trip and fun was had by all.  The real bummer for me is November 15 and the winter looms.  That ends the fishing season for most of California until Spring.  It’s back into the man cave to tie hundreds of flies for the hundreds lost this season for me.

There were quality fish hooked, landed and there were frustrations with trees and slow times.  I honestly believe we learn from our entire experience on the river: from the most advance fly fishers like me to total beginners we are always getting better whether we are catching fish or not.

I believe a totally fun trip was had by all.  I’d love to make that an annual trip with that group.

The view of the flat water on approach to “Huckaby Camp”

The view of the flat water on approach to “Huckaby Camp”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My iPhone: You are not going to believe this.  On that first day we put my iphone in a plastic bag with the silicon desiccant packs from backpacking food and let it sit in the sun for 3 days.  It worked.  I didn’t even try to turn it on during the trip.  When I got to my truck after the hike out I plugged it in and it came right up.  When I finally got to signal an hour later in Kernville all the txts and emails flooded in.

Upper Kern and Little Kern River Fishing Report – August 25-28, 2017

Upper Kern and Little Kern River Fishing Report

Forks of the Kern Trail Head

August 25-28

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Upper Kern River 3 miles upstream from the confluence of the Little Kern River

Upper Kern River Upstream from the Confluence of the Little Kern River

Well, the Fishing under 600 CFS on the Upper Kern is better than it was at 800 earlier in the month.  But it’s the simple fact that you still have to be a good, advanced or expert fly fisher to do well there right now.  In all my experience of fishing the Upper Kern from the Confluence of the Little Kern up river from the Forks of the Kern trailhead I’d saying it’s fishing at a 3 of 10 right now…. understand a 3 at the Forks is a 9 in most eastern sierras waters.  It’s that good.  And it’s my prediction that this upper stretch of the river will not fish well for everyone until it gets below 350 CFS.

You’ll do well if:

  • You are a good or better fly fisherman who can get a tough cast to soft water with a good drift.
  • You know how to and have the skills to drift a big deep hole and eddy.
  • You are fit enough and are willing to bush whack and rock hop and climb to precarious places to get that perfect cast, risking flies to overhanging trees
  • You are willing to hike the 3.5 miles upstream from the confluence over the mtn and up stream of rattlesnake creek.

You’ll do poorly if:

  • You are not an experienced fly fisher: Intermediates or beginners are still going to struggle in the high water
  • Losing flies pisses you off
  • You do not take risky casts…which ultimately means you will lose flies to overhanging trees.
  • You aren’t good at reading the water
  • You can’t get a drift in the seams of fast current
  • you don’t have a handful of casts in your arsenal
  • you don’t know what “soft water” means.

I hooked up about 20-40 times a day in the upper kern depending on the hours I put in and the hiking I was willing to do to find the soft water.  I had a dozen or so rises to my Huck hopper.  I landed a good amount of small to medium sized fish.  I lost a bunch of big fish.  Anyone who says fishing with barbless hooks doesn’t matter is fishing stockies.  When you fish barbless in the upper kern you will get shook  on multiple jumps or you will simply lose fish that bolt straight straight down stream through rapids into your backing where you have no resort but to tighten and lose them.  In this high water there is no way to chase them downstream.  You’d have to swim.  And only brad pitt does that well in movies.

I hooked a lot of these....landing them was rare. notice that black rubber legs in the shot. they do well on the upper kern year round

I hooked a lot of these….landing them is special. notice that black rubber legs in the shot. they do well on the upper kern year round

a Big Kern River Rainbow with a size 10 rubber legs hanging out of it's face

a Big Kern River Rainbow with a size 10 rubber legs hanging out of it’s face

I did, though, catch something very rare at “the site”.  I caught a 20” brown.  Browns are rare in the upper kern.   I have never caught a big one.  It was after dinner and a couple whiskeys.  It was almost dark.  I made a couple casts w’ my hopper / dropper in the big hole and my hopper went down slow.  I tightened and felt weight.  But, there was no jump.  8 times out of ten the kern rainbows jump.  It was dead weight…no head shake.  My buddy mike and I both said, “it has to be a sucker.”  When I got it in we were shocked.  I big male brown with many years behind it.  It took a flashy rainbow warrior I tie which is weird.  I must have totally lucked out and drifted it right into his face.  Clearly this was a rainbow eater to get that big.  Mike wanted me to kill it because it’s not native, but I couldn’t.

Very rare in the Upper Kern: A Big Brown

Very rare in the Upper Kern: A Big Brown

 

The Little Kern River Upstream from the Confluence

The Little Kern River is fishing really well right now; really well.  And it’s no wonder since it has been a trickle for over 4 years of drought.  I pulled multiple fish out of the tailout just 200 feet up from the Forks of the Kern crossing.  Quality fish too.  not just little ones. But, I did not and still have not caught any goldens out of the little Kern above the confluence.  They have all been rainbows.  I wonder how far you have to bushwhack to get to the goldens from there.  I’d love to talk to someone who knows.

But, in fishing the little Kern right now, all the bullets from above apply…. Even more.  There is no little kern river trail.  It’s a complete bushwhack, frequently requiring river travel as the only means to get up stream.  It’s small water, but raging and deep in spots.  The rocks are much more slippery than in the main fork of the Kern so fishing your way up stream is slow even for the most agile and fit.  And because of the canopy it can be dark…great for fishing, but not so much for walking upstream in current in 2+ feet of water.  I went down….water to my neck….almost broke it and my Winston rod in the process.  Was it worth it?  totally….  But, I was alone.   That is not a place to be alone.  No river trail.  No humans.  No nothing.  A bad accident there could really be bad.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I don’t have a lot of success or experience in this section of the Little Kern River because I chose not to fish it, on guidance and common sense during the 4 years of drought: warm and low and too stressful on the fish.  But, I spent 2.5 hours fishing it and absolutely killed.  I fished about 1.5 miles up from the confluence.  I had takes in almost every stretch of castable water.   There are a lot of tailouts, pools and pocket water.  I had multiple fish runs (which I did not have on the Kern).  And I hooked some big fish in that little river.  notice I said hooked.  i am no beginner.  I have caught thousands of trout on a fly rod in my close to 30 years of fly fishing and I have never found harder fish to land than the kern river rainbows.  I hooked 4-5 big fish in that little river and landed zero.  The behavior is pretty much the same: set the hook.  The fish jumps.  Then the fish either jumps multiple times going ballistic until the barbless hook gets shook or bolts downriver into the backing.  I even had a big rainbow go so fast so far down that little stream that after snapping off, I had to walk it backwards untangling most of the 100 feet of my fly line from all the rocks and willows it tangled on it’s run.  One day I’ll hike the Forks trail and dedicate a full day or more to the little kern.  It’s not safe to do that alone.  It takes a unique fisherman to want to do the bushwhacking in small water that I love so much.

Gunpowder River, Hunt Valley MD

July 11-13, 2017

Through the years I have had so much east coast business travel.  I had totally given up on finding a river within driving distance of DC that support wild trout and is fishable year round.  The area gets hot and the rivers that are within striking distance like the Rose and those in West Virginia flow low and warm in the summer and many of them close.

Another nice brown from the Gunpowder River....with a bullethead skwalla sticking out of his face.

Another nice brown from the Gunpowder River….with a bullethead skwalla sticking out of his face.

Well, when the world famous Harmon Cabins on the North Fork South Branch Potomac River told me no way in July I almost gave up.  That would have been a 2.5 hour minimum drive from DC.  I just couldn’t look outside that radius.  It would have been too much.  2 months before my trip, I totally lucked out on an internet search and found the Gunpowder River in Maryland.  The Gunpowder River is a tail water that supports reproducing trout (Browns, Rainbows, Brooks).  Most of the river is not stocked; it doesn’t need to be.  The Gunpowder runs cool all summer long because of a “below dam” release.  The river is small, but even in low flow there are many spots where the river is not crossable.

It’s located in Gunpowder Fall State Park, which is a public recreation area comprising six non-contiguous areas covering 18,000 acres in northeastern Baltimore County and western Harford County, Maryland.  The area is absolutely beautiful.  And low flows of summer means easy wading, but a stealthy approach and long casts will reward you.

After finding the Gunpowder River on the internet, another targeted internet search yielded Backwater Anglers fly shop located just outside the park border.  I immediately contacted them and arranged for a guide for me alone on Wednesday and then for my buddies Tom and Loren on Thursday.  I got a reservation at a cheap local hotel in the Hunt Valley and started to get excited.  I was going to play hookie from work for a couple days and fly fish.  It was an 11 day business trip so, I wasn’t feeling too guilty about doing it since I work the early mornings, nights and both weekends anyways.

The Gunpowder River

The Gunpowder River

Well in DC, on Tuesday my keynote demo went really well and my afternoon meeting postponed.  I looked at my watch, 2pm.  And that is when I decided to try to beat the traffic out of DC and make it to the river for a couple hours to catch the evening hatch.  It was slightly tricky figuring out where to park my rental car, but with a little research, I found the closest place to the fly shop.  It was a huge paved parking lot and the State Park signs identified it.  But, there was no guard shack to take my money.  I wondered if I was in the right place.   It was.  I walked the trail down to the river and was the only sole there.  I stepped into the river and as I was slowly getting into position I saw a rise.  My first cast produced a 8” brown.  I knew it was going to be a good evening session.  When I staggered out of the river a couple hours later I had landed ~15 fish and easily lost twice that.  It was getting dark by the time I exited the river; the fireflies let my path back up the trail. “Tomorrow, guided, “ I said to myself, “was going to be a good day.”

IMG_0943

My guide, Gene Howson from Backwater Anglers is a 27 year old Scotsman.  With that Scottish accent he sounded so old on the phone.  I was a bit surprised he is so young.  Gene suggested an early start, 630am because of the weather; hot and humid.  I’m glad he did.  We did well.  Gene took me to a lot of places.  When we first entered the river there was a mist that gave it kind of an eerie feel.  I had not fished in the East in so long I forgot about that mist.  We didn’t see a single other angler.  We caught a lot of fish, but it definitely shut down mid day just like Gene predicted.

Gene Howson, Backwater Anglers Crossing the river through the mist

Gene Howson, Backwater Anglers Crossing the river through the mist

The next day Gene took all four of us to another new spot on the river.  This place was the most beautiful of all.  It was in a canyon and took a hike down to the water.  I took my high school buddy Dan Cerniglia with me.  I hadn’t seen dan in a couple years.  We got into a habit of fishing at least once a year together, but when he went back to American Airlines to fly 737s his schedule became unpredictable.  I totally lucked out that my trip to DC was on a couple days when dan was off.  Gene lead Tom and Loren, my buddies from the msft .net partner advisory council.  It was such awesome trout water.  But it was slow.  Still a totally fun day.  and we did burn some calories.

Dan Cerniglia, keeping that tight loop while smoking a cigar

Dan Cerniglia, keeping that tight loop while smoking a cigar

I have been studying solunar theory for over a year.  I have disproven it numerous times by getting skunked on good solunar days…and the exact opposite, killing on days that should have been poor fishing.  https://fly-fishing-blog.timhuckaby.com/solunar-theory-as-applied-to-fly-fishing/   Solunar theory basically says animals are more active when the sun and moon are closest to the earth.  Anyways, I did look at the scoring (I used an app called “Fishing and Hunting Solunar Time” )  and the scoring for Tuesday (out of 100) was 64, Wednesday was 33, And Thursday was 13.  That would explain why Tuesday afternoon / night I did so well.  And it was slower Wednesday and really slow Thursday.

The gang: me, Dan Cerniglia, Tom O'Connell and Loren Goodman

The gang: me, Dan Cerniglia, Tom O’Connell and Loren Goodman

All in all I fished 4 different locations on the Gunpowder and found every type of water: runs, pocket water, pools, riffles, tail-outs, heads, steep canyon water and water falls.  The fishing was really good at times and challenging at times.  I caught a lot of brown trout.   I even had a sucker rise on me.  Nothing huge….although I bet the Gunpowder has some exceptions.  Most of the fish I caught went 4” to 14”.

It’s a beautiful place.  I can’t wait to get back.

If you are on a trip in the DC area I strongly suggest you contact Gene Howson of Backwaters anglers.  He’s a great guide and a great kid.  Contact Gene by phone at 410-357-9557 or by email

 

Seven Tips and Tricks for Fly Fishing in the Fall

This guest post is from my buddy Jon Holman who runs the No See Um Lodge – a family-owned Alaska fishing lodge on the Kvichak River.  John has been guiding and flying since the age of 19 and is licensed and certified as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, AI (Aircraft Inspector), Coast Guard Captain First Aid and CPR First Responder.  When not running the lodge during the Alaska fishing season, he can be found flying, hunting, fishing and scuba diving around the world. No See Um is truly a bucket lister for any fly fishing enthusiast!

Fly fishing in Alaska

Fly fishing in Alaska

Seven Tips and Tricks for Fly Fishing in the Fall

by Jon Holman

Spring and summer always get great press. Both promise beautiful weather, productive waters and fish that almost volunteer to hit your fly. Where does that leave September through November? It leaves fall fly fishing in Alaska to anglers who look forward to the change in seasons because they know this last stretch of action rocks.

Honestly, we don’t try to keep it a secret. On the other hand, we can’t complain about having the riverbanks all to ourselves. If you don’t mind a little chill, shorter hours and big ‘bows, get that rod ready for one more trip. You still have plenty of time to enjoy the tail end of some of the best fly fishing on the planet.

Trophy trout catch with the help of John Holman

Trophy trout catch with the help of John Holman

How to Finesse Fall Fly Fishing: Seven Simple Tips

You know temperatures are going to be colder than usual. The seasonal salmon egg smorgasbord is just about over. It’s time to switch up flesh patterns and throw some leeches and sculpins too. The steelhead and dolly varden may work you a little harder, but you have an advantage they don’t. You have this list of seven smart fall fly fishing tips.

Rainbows put up a healthy fight!

Rainbows put up a healthy fight!

  1. Don’t Get Up at Dawn

Sunrise isn’t really a big part of fall fly fishing and neither is sunset. Trout and salmon handle the cold better than we do, but even they take it easy until mid-day. Once the water warms up a little bit, they’re a lot more interested in your flies, so don’t set the alarm clock for daybreak.

  1. Watch Your Shadow Casting             

Those long shadows that make our autumn landscapes so beautiful can get in your way when you’re sneaking up on fish. Actually, they give you away. The fall sun throws shadows farther, so keep your silhouette from frightening potential catch with some distance casting.

  1. Try Long and Light

You can also minimize scaring the fish by throwing a long, thin leader with a light tippet. It doesn’t make casting easier, but it really helps especially when you’re working low water.

  1. Get Their Attention

Sometimes, it seems like you’re trying to see through a carpet of fallen leaves and twigs. All that stuff on the water surface makes it harder for fish to see you too. Put a little action in your fly with a small twitch. Try short, slow strips. If nothing works, consider the setting as an opportunity to sharpen up your target skills.

  1. Pack Plenty of Streamers

You can’t go wrong with streamers in the fall. Whether you give them a standard swing, bang the banks or go with a dead drift, big streamers catch big fish. We nominate sculpins and leeches as the official autumn patterns for fly fishing. They’re that productive.

Fly fishing flies used in Alaska

Fly fishing flies used in Alaska

  1. Fight Ice With Cooking Spray

Iced-up guides happen when you’re fly fishing in the fall. We wish they didn’t, but a little cheap cooking spray goes a long way towards keeping them clear. If you’re concerned about rod resins and line coatings, just dip your guides into the water. They’ll freeze up again, so be prepared to rinse and repeat.

  1. Buck Tradition With a Tenkara Rod

Move past moving parts. Find out what fixed line fly fishing is all about. Get into the zen of focusing on technique instead of equipment. Yes, we’re definitely Tenkara fans. No, it’s not for everybody, but it’s a great way to enjoy fly fishing in conditions that give reels and guides cold-weather headaches.

Take Time to Enjoy Your Time

If you like the idea of landing 15-pound rainbows and chasing the last of the coho runs, why let a chilly forecast stand between you and an unforgettable fishing experience? Our incredible backcountry takes on a special glow in the fall, and you practically have the entire place to yourself.

We’re here of course, and we really enjoy sharing this time of year. Now that you’re armed with smart tips for fall fly fishing, come on up, and join us in our Alaskan fishing lodge. Don’t worry about the weather. If an afternoon gets too cold, we’ll just wait it out in the hot tub. There’s always plenty of time to enjoy your time here at No See Um Lodge.

Landing Rainbows in Alaska

Landing Rainbows in Alaska