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Fly Fishing Guidance for Hawaii

Fly Fishing Guidance for Hawaii

Kona and Kauai – September 21- October 5, 2019

 

One of the big blue Trevallys I caught and released

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s taken me over a decade.  But, I have finally figured out how to successfully fly fish the game fish from the shoreline in Hawaii.  This guidance article is for the many fly fishers that visit the Hawaiian Islands (on vacation or otherwise) and want to “Do it yourself” (DIY) fly fish from the shoreline.  I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert here.  I will keep working at it until I am.  But, I have had success and I wish I knew 20 years ago what I just recently learned through literally thousands of casts, trial and error.  I would have had a ton of success if there was legitimate guidance on the internet.  I have not found that yet.  I have read a bunch of guidance on the internet for fly fishing the ocean, even specific to Hawaii, from the shoreline that just does not work in Hawaii.

Background

We have a timeshare in Poipu, Kauai.  It’s at the Marriott Waiohai.  We go for a couple weeks every year; mostly in September.  And we have every year for ~20 years.  I just cannot sit on a beach for hours and hours like my wife does.  I’m not very good at relaxing.  So, I always bring a fly rod.  I have had a lot of success and provided a ton of guidance on fly fishing for trout on Kauai.  But in the ocean in Hawaii I have not experienced much success short of occasional small reef fish and needle fish (Aha).

I snorkel quite a bit and I could always see the big trevallys (Omilo) and jacks I was targeting.  But, I never had success in catching them…until just recently.

This is the guidance that I have been scouring the internet for… for years …it just does not exist…. It should get you some success.

i almost stepped on one of these green sea turtles staring into the water looking for trevallys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other than just not being able to sit still one of the reasons I didn’t give up was one of my favorite “big fish lost” stories.  I lost the giant blue trevally from the cliffs of Mahaulepu on Kauai about 4 years ago.  And I basically was roll casting from 20 feet above the water.  It was pure luck that it shot out from nowhere and took my fly.  I was so surprised I didn’t get a good hook set and lost the fish of a lifetime.

Strip as fast as you can

I might as well start right up front with the most important guidance of all that became an eye-opening revelation to me: Strip as fast as you can.  I didn’t start catching big game fish on Hawaii until I started stripping as fast as I could.  Now, I have been stripping streamers for trout for years.  This is not that.  This is literally stripping so fast a stripping basket is useless.  Don’t bother with one; you wont be able to hit the basket because you’ll strip the line so quickly in such large strips that it will fire behind you missing the basket.  I’m talking full arm’s length strips of the line that fire the line 4-5 feet behind you.  Honestly, this is the guidance for using a stripping basket I had been reading on the internet for years that is just plain wrong.  I use a stripping basket in the surf at home (Carlsbad, CA) and it’s wildly valuable for all the reasons of why we use stripping baskets: line management, preventing tangles, preventing the line from swinging around in the surf and wrapping around your ankles, preventing the line from catching sea weed, etc.   in Hawaii every fish is hunting and being hunted and they are fast swimmers because of it.  You have to strip fast to fool them; to induce strikes.

Trevallys aren’t the only gamefish you nail in Hawaii. this is some from of wrasse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, stripping fast also means the process is very physical.  And it requires agility and practice.  And, overstating the obvious: this type of fly fishing is not for beginners.  Being that said a beginner could really improve their stripping skills on a week-long vacation of practice.  and with that practice a beginner could easily see success.

Now if you have thought this through then you are saying to yourself, “Without a stripping basket that limits me to stripping the line where it won’t tangle and get caught.  That means stripping in the water or on the sand”.  Yes, absolutely true.  This is the handicap; the limiting factor.  Much of the Hawaiian shoreline is lava.  Lava is the exact wrong place to strip line onto.  Let me give you an example. I recently broke this rule.  I saw a trevally crashing on bait fish.  I said to myself, “I’ll run over there make one cast and risk the line getting tangled in the lava.  After the cast the waves pushed my line back into me forcing the line to embed so deeply into the lava it took me 20 minutes to figure out how to free the line.  No one wants to lose a $90 line to lava.  But, it does happen.

i’m pretty sure this is a GT (Giant Trevally). just a tiny version of one

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The limitation of stripping so fast without a stripping basket is the line ends up at your feet, in the water, reef, sand or lava.

So the Hawaiian shoreline is not a lake; you will battle the current and the surf no matter how small the wave conditions.  Any north shore in any of the Hawaiian islands is going to be a challenge to fly fish in winter because of the surf.  Alternatively, you will get the calmest conditions in summer on south facing beaches.  Standing in the water (allowing you to strip the line quickly behind you where it floats) in bays and casting out to the structure that does sit on the edge of the bays will produce success.  The flat water of the bays will also reveal the hunters crashing on bait fish.  Casting into bait balls will produce success.  But, success often means wading out in waste deep water or higher and battling the surge or surf.

Finding water without humans in it or around it is tricky. 

Beaches are a good choice to strip fast because your line will not get tangled behind you.  But, beaches also produce people.  I cannot tell you how many times someone has wandered up from behind me without me noticing while I’m in my back cast to say something like, “I didn’t know you could fly fish in the ocean.”  I haven’t hooked a tourist yet, but I have come close.  So, you would think that fishing the early mornings before the beach gets filled with sunbathers is a good time to fly fish.  Well, yes, but because of the 3 hour time difference from PST and 6 hours from EST there always seems to be people on the beach at 6am that can’t sleep.

So, what do you deduce from this: well, finding the ideal spots to fly fish in Hawaii can mean wandering for a while until you find a spot conducive to stripping quickly which doesn’t have people.  Hiking is almost mandatory.  That is why I like to fly fish on Kauai or the Big Island: there are so many undeveloped beaches and bays on those two islands.  On the busy islands like Oahu and Maui it’s going to be harder to find fishable water without humans.

Read the water / Scout it out

If you are an experienced trout fly fisherman you know where the trout hold; you know where to cast.  It’s not practical to jump into the river with a mask and snorkel to see where the big trout are.  In Hawaii, it can be.  I nailed a big blue finned trevally in front of our place at the Marriott Waiohai in Poipu simply because when snorkeling I saw a bunch of them holding on a submerged reef not visible from above the water.  On the big island I watched the water.  I saw a huge blue trevally crashing on bait fish in the small surf.  I literally got to make the 40 foot cast right in front of his face.  Now that I know I can catch them, I am a lot more observant of them in the water.  Of course, as I have, you will see fish you’d love to cast at, but just can’t because of the lava or the length of cast or the wind or….

Put the wood on ‘em

I have read many a story about hooking the big triggers or trevallies and them darting to the bottom of the reef in a cave to find cover and then losing the fly line because of it.  So when you do hook a fish put the wood on them: Fight them hard.  Do not let them dive for cover.  Keep them on top as best you can.  Because a fish that carries your fly line into a cave at the bottom of the reef is going to tangle your fly line in coral and snap off the leader leaving your expensive fly line tangled in coral 20 feet deep.  Diving into surge to untangle your fly line 20 deep is going to be dangerous if not impossible to retrieve.

What to bring: Everything

There are no fly shops on any of the Hawaiian Islands.  If you want to fly fish you have to bring everything.

Rods: sure a 6 will work.  But casting a 6 into that wind will not.  Most likely you’ll bring a fast action 8; not to help you with fighting the fish as much as it will help you punch the line and weighted fly through the wind.  My current favorite for Hawaii is a Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO) TiCr2 9’0″ 4pc. 300-400GB Lefty Kreh 10 weight which I needed every bit of when fighting a big blue finned trevally on the Big Island.  TFO has replaced the TiCr2 with the Bluewater SG (see below) and now i want one.

https://tforods.com/bluewater-sg-fly-rods/

Reels: sure a trout reel will work.  But, if you bring a trout reel you need to be extra diligent at cleaning it after each use with fresh water.  The salt and sand will kill a fresh water reel.  So, sure you can pull off your fresh water gear for a week.  it may not be worth it for a week’s vacation in Hawaii to buy a salt water fly reel.  They are expensive.

Fly Lines: forget the sinking or intermediate sink lines.  This was another one of my problems that lead to so much failure over the years.  In the surf of San Diego you need sinking lines to get the fly down.  that is where the fish are; in the sand in the depressions and channels.  A sinking line in Hawaii just gets your fly tangled on the bottom (lava or coral) quicker.  You will want to use a floating line.  They are also a lot easier to cast than a sinking line. The predators will frequently be in the top of the water column chasing bait fish.  They can be on the bottom and in the reefs but, even if they are, they are looking up.  That is where the bait fish are; on the top of the water column.  Sure you can get away with a trout line that is a floating line.  But, if you can justify the expense the Rio outbound tropical short is the perfect line for the Hawaiian islands (inshore or offshore) and many other warm water oceans.

Leaders / tippet: 20 or 30 lb flouro about 4-10 feet in length.  No need for fancy tapered leaders in Hawaii.  No need for lightweight tippet you are stripping so fast.  I believe flouro is necessary because it’s so invisible in the water.  But, I have never used mono so I don’t have a standard for comparison.

Flies:  baitfish patterns in small sizes like 4-6-8 are effective.  Also, they are a lot easier to cast into the wind.  For Hawaii, clousers are perfect.  I have not found / tied the perfect color combination yet.  I will in time.  but, from the successes I have had, I suspect white or silver on bottom and very light blue, black/grey or green on top match most of the bait fish.  I like the clouser style patterns because they ride hook up…. reducing the number of snags.  And let’s face it, if there were a single fly you had access to for ocean fly fishing it would be the clouser.  Now, I have also had success in Hawaii with bonefish patterns that imitate a shrimp.  So, I’ll be working on designing a few clouser patterns and a pattern that is a shrimp imitation in a clouser format that I’ll sell on the site, once I know they are proven.

Interestingly enough, and another reason for my lack of success in Hawaii over the years, is that this type of fly fishing is totally different from the way we fish the ocean in san diego with giant anchovy and sardine patterns in 1-0 and 2-0.  in san diego we use giant anchovy and sardine patterns to fly fish off shore for tuna.  To fish in the surf we use tiny sand crab patterns.   In Hawaii I have not found success with large patterns or tiny patterns.

What to wear

There is no shocking news here.  You’ll want quick dry clothes with sun protection including a hat.  It’s fly fishing and you’ll be hunting by staring into the water.  polarized lenses in sunglasses are a must. Wearing glasses while hooks are flying around are a must.  The water is warm.  No need for waders.  But shoes are important.  There are inexpensive “reef shoes” that work great.  Any water shoes that can stand up to the slipperiness of the rocks while at the same time can stand up to the razor-sharp lava are going to work great.  No matter what, you will give the ocean your blood.  Trust me.  it’s part of the deal.

You have to be able to produce a decent overhand cast

I wish it weren’t true, but this type of fishing in Hawaii is just not for beginners.  I know a legion of friends who’s fly fishing is limited to lobbing a bobber 20 feet off the front of a drift boat.  That “cast” is deadly on the Missouri River in Montana, but will not help you in Hawaii from shore.  It’s not like you need to do an 80 foot double haul.  But, you need to be able to overhand cast into the wind; frequently more than 40 feet.

Culture

Fishing licenses not needed when fishing the ocean in Hawaii.  I wish there was a tourist only, inexpensive fishing license you could buy online with that money going straight to conservation.  But, there is not.  You can fish without a license and kill anything you catch (short of in some dedicated marine parks).

Fishing is part of the Hawaiian culture and they do it well with long traditional rods with bait set ups.  And they eat everything they catch.  There is no catch and release culture in the Hawaiian islands like there is in fly fishing.  “I can’t believe you just let that fish go.” is something I now have experienced a few times.  I rarely notice people behind me watching me fly fish (But, I always look into my backcast).  There are exceptions to everything.  But, typically the natives do not typically like sharing the water with tourists.  Of course most of the natives are fishing off the lava cliffs where you can’t fly fish anyways so it’s rarely a problem.  The Hawaiians are fishing to survive.  I am fishing for sport.  And I always catch and release because with so many fish being taken I just don’t feel it’s my right to catch and keep.  I can always go to a restaurant.

 

Bonefish

Heads up: the guidance in this article does not apply to the Hawaiian bone fish.  I have not yet figured out how the catch the Oios (bonefish) without a huge amount of hassle.  Frankly, it may be impossible to have success with bones unless you are willing to sacrifice tons of flies and /or be willing to fish for 4 hours without a single cast.  If you are patient and don’t mind losing 20 flies per hook up you can have success.  When snorkeling I can see quite a few bonefish now that I look for them.  Not, huge bones, but lots of them under 1.5 feet long that sift through the sand for crustaceans.  You fish the bones just like you would in the Bahamas: slowly.  In Hawaii slowly means getting snagged on the bottom.  Now, there are exceptions.  About a half dozen times, I have seen the bones; big bones, run up on the beach in 6 inches of water,  unfortunately every time that has happened I didn’t have a fly rod in my hands.

The Hawaiian Bonefish – i still haven’t figured out how to catch them without snagging a ton of flies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So there it is….  Feel fee to reach out to me by email or download the guidance document which has location information.

 

 

Forks of the Kern: Fall Fly Fishing on the Upper Kern River

October 17-20, 2019

Is that a huck hopper hanging out of that big kern river rainbow’s face? yes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was only the 2nd time I have done a trip to the Forks in the fall…after over a decade of trips into the canyon. This annual trip is with what I call the “gear group” because many of the guys that join this trip are actual reps in the outdoors industry. All great guys; this year 5 of us. I learn so much from them in terms of outdoors gear and food and clothes. I gladly do a little fly fishing guiding (and provide the flies)…which is so fun for me.

The first and most striking contrast to the spring and summer down at the Forks is the colors. It has been consistently shocking how many trees are not pines in the canyon; trees that turn colors in the fall. And leaves that fall in the river providing more interesting challenges (and annoyances) to the fly fishing. The Fall also produces cold nights and cold morning temperatures. Backpacking gear is expensive and I slowly upgrade through time, but man is it cold in October. I need better cold weather clothes and gear. The day time temps are fantastic, in the high 70s. but, the nights get into the 30s.

The most surprising thing about the Upper Kern in the Fall is the Beautiful Colors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other striking contrast from Spring/Summer is the fly fishing. Since I have only been twice to the Forks in the fall, I’m really learning a lot about the difference in the fly fishing that Spring, Summer and Fall produce at the Forks. In the Fall the river is cold. I measured the water temp in the morning on this trip: 44 degrees. By eod it only got to 48. The ideal water temp for trout fishing is 54. That meant really slow mornings. I knew that going in. I have had plenty of buddies and “electronic buddies” from this site giving me fishing reports on the Upper Kern. So, there was absolutely no rush to get to fishing after staggering out of the tent in the high 30s in the morning. On the 3 days I fished I rarely got any action (or saw any rises) before 11am. Plus, let’s face it, wet wading in 44 degree water is…well…not fun. I not only experienced that sharp burning sensation of bitter cold, but also having my feet and ankles go numb. And here is a first for me. just washing my face with river water in the morning gave me an “ice cream headache”.

One of the guys that joined me on the trip was a longtime friend, Martin Löef. Martin reps Katadyn….who’s products have made my life so much easier at the Forks. On this trip I had a one liter and a 3 liter Katadyn Befree. They are a godsend. I can’t imagine backpacking without them. I have not used my steri-pen in a couple years because of the Katadyns.

My buddy Martin took this picture of me worshipping the giant NY i hiked down for us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a time where we thought this trip was just going to be me and Martin. I told him from the start I’d guide him and enjoy doing it.   After setting up camp at the huck site, upon arrival, Martin and I did a little bit of fishing right in front of camp. The rest of the group wasn’t due to arrive until that night. I could see right away that Martin had casted a rod before….so that was encouraging. He also expressed the desire to only throw dries flies. Guiding someone with that attitude is a pure pleasure. So, the next day, the first full day, Martin and I headed over the mountain (rattlesnake creek) and didn’t start fly fishing until the other side. There is a run over on the other side that has always produced excellent dry fly fishing for me, so I was still curious to see if it produced under these fall conditions with zero bugs in the air. It requires some agility to get in place and Martin, a bit older than me, is quite the fit, agile outdoorsman. Sure enough the minute we walked up to it, we saw an aggressive rise of a small fish which is typical of the Kern River Rainbow. After I explained where I wanted him to stand (on a rock in the river) and cast from, I contemplated a number of things that were a bit of a concern:

  • That run requires at least a 30 foot cast to be effective. 40 and 50 foot casts with long drifts are more effective.
  • You have to cast straight up stream with the fly coming straight back at you. That is a not only a line management nightmare for beginners but, typically a late setting frustration too.
  • putting a huck hopper on him. there we no rises or even bugs in the air. That rise we saw was on something emerging…most likely a midge. Huck Hoppers in the forks of the Kern tend to induce rises.

No need to teach Martin the Overhand Cast: check out that loop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, purely to check out his overhand (because a small fly is easier to cast than a big ‘ol huck hopper) cast I decided I’d leave the size 16 parachute adams on that I tied on the night before when he was fishing from camp. I’m so glad I did. It couldn’t have been more than 2 or 3 casts before he got a rise to that fly. He was slow to set, as I imagined and there was line g. I screamed “Go!” (I have this weird new habit of yelling “Go!” Instead of “Set!”).   Well, I laughed and congratulated him on fooling the fish. I counted 6 more strikes on his casts without success in setting before I decided to intervene and do a little drift and line management lesson. Once we got that worked out he landed his first Kern River rainbow. Which he fought with the line in his teeth instead of his non casting hand. We worked that out next. But, he kept missing the sets. I could clearly see the trout taking the fly down but he was so slow to set. It’s then he got honest with me. “I can’t see that far.”

“casting beyond your site.” We have all done it. Either because of glare or simply because of that big 60+ foot cast is beyond our site. Setting on the splash (or in this case your buddy screaming, “Go!”. It’s not very effective. Until it is. The truth is that martin admitted he needs glasses or contacts or something to see far. I laughed and told him I’d continue to scream “Go!”. Which I did a few casts later. And this time he hooked a big fish and tightened up on him. He was pulling hard enough to pull the fish’s head out of the water and sure enough snapped that fish off on 5x. it was pretty cool though. Martin missed a lot of sets, but fooling trout is still enjoyable even if you miss them. So, I was having a blast, hooting and hollering. I think martin got 12-15 fish to rise, hooked 3 and landed two when all was said and done. we had a great day together and hiked more than 4 miles up stream from the huck site.

Here’s Martin with one of the Kern River Rainbows he landed on the day we fished together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some other things I noticed that is so different from fishing the spring or summer that will be of help to those sneaking in to the forks this year before it closes or simply any time in the fall:

  • I caught 4x as many fish on dries then I did nymphing. That exact thing happened the last time I fished the forks in October. It was the strangest thing not having success on the nymph and still getting a significant number of takes on top on the huck hopper. I may not have been getting it down far enough in the faster runs. In fact, that probably was the case. My “normal” spring / summer rig is a size 4 huck hopper (that is huge), followed 4 feet down by a large rubber legs which is super heavy, followed another 18” down by a huck rainbow warrior or huck green caddis nymph.   That rig is wildly effective there in spring or summer. I was floating a smaller huck hopper I was prototyping (see below) that couldn’t support the weight of my “go to” rig. So I went without the heavy rubber legs. The only thing is…. I put the other beginners on the bobber; which could support the normal rig and they were not getting a lot of takes.
  • In my trip this summer (august) I noticed an abundance of grass hoppers that were light grey in color and from size 8 to 12.  There are a myriad of different species of grass hoppers down in the canyon and one day I’ll be able to identify all of them. I’m not a total believer in color because I have read a lot of the science and trout see colors differently in different light conditions and distances. What does matter a lot more is size and shape. But, I did tie a number of prototype grey size 8 huck hoppers and, as I suspected because they matched the naturals in size and color they really worked.I caught at least one trout every day right in front of the huck camp. And half of them were quality fish. I believe it’s not so much about that being a great pool, run and tail-out as much as it is the times of day I fished. The point: in the fall, fish until the sun goes down. That last 2 hours as the day closes is the most effective time. And that is most likely because that is the part of the day where the water is warmest.

    Another big Kern River Rainbow with a grey Huck Hopper stuck in his face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The river was just a little too high and cold at 330 CFS for crossing safely. There were definitely places in the river, maybe a handful, over the 6 mile stretch I fished, where you could cross at knee level. But, 1, the river was so cold to wet wade and 2. once across there is no river trail and not being able (or willing) to trek in the river meant it was long stretches of bushwhacking before finding a cross back to the other side.

  • Note: the “Forks of the Kern” trail sign which indicates where to turn on the dirt road that takes you to the trailhead is not only still broken, but, in even worse shape: both poles broken and propped against a tree. It’s really easy to miss now. the directions are painstakingly detailed in the guidance doc, but, the right turn for the trailhead is exactly 36.8 miles from the junction of Mountain Road 50 (MR-50) and Mountain Road 99 (MR-99) near the tiny town of Johnsondale.

 

This years fall “Gear Guys gang” at the Huck Site: me, Garrett, Greg, Geoff & Martin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epilogue

 

Unfortunately, the cache near the huck site has been compromised and pillaged. It’s not the first time. It’s a bit discouraging. But, it’s not like I’m devastated. I have accumulated a cache of extra supplies, tools, fishing equipment and even a spare tent over the years. Those that download the guidance document are encouraged to email me if they want to use it and I email very specific directions to finding it. Many readers of this site have added to the cache every year which is really great. For instance, the tools that others have left behind to help cut back the willows and branches making it easier on beginners have been a god-send. They are now gone. As is most of the cache.

 

I have received some criticism, even within my own awesome fly-fishing club about publishing how special the forks of the kern is on this site; how special it is to catch and release a wild trout that can only be found in a 20 mile stretch of river in the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains of California. Using this site to enlighten and encourage fly fishers to visit the Upper Kern by way of the Forks trailhead has been a mixed blessing in terms of getting the word out on how special the forks is. I believe in conservation by awareness. I believe to stop the slow death of the great sport I love; to have the sport of fly fishing thrive to where it once was, us advanced fly fishers should give away their secret spots even to the point of giving up their favorite holes to beginners; especially young fly fishers. Some of my peers do not share that view.

There is more positive on this than negative. For instance, one of the downloaders of the guidance doc and users of the cache emailed me a few weeks back that he “put some work into the fireplace”. When I got to the site on this trip I was pleasantly surprised. The stonework at the huck site is in great shape right now. best ever. He must have put 2-4 hours into making that fireplace better.

But, the cache has been pillaged and needs to be built up again. What was different about the vandalism this time is that the gear in the cache that was too big to carry away (like the spare tent) and steal was actually hid a few yards away. As if these vandals were going to use it as their own for them and them alone on their next time in. I was lucky to find it.

 

So Fear not. As soon as I can get in next spring I will start building the cache back up and so will the many forks of the kern lovers and readers of this site. But, I have been forced to move the cache. It’s still not completely safe to vandalism again: it’s farther away yet still not a brutally physical hike/climb to find. I’m hoping it will not be as easily found randomly as where it was located for so many years prior so close to the huck site.

 

So, Forks of the Kern lovers: until I get into the Forks again in the Spring of 2020 (assuming a normal winter which this year was not) I’ll be writing about other my other fly fishing and outdoors adventures. And hosting a few guest posts.

Martin rolling out another well loaded overhand cast

 

 

Forks of the Kern – Upper Kern River – August 15th, 2019

In my years of hiking into the canyon to fly fish the Upper Kern River by way of the Forks of the Kern Trail I don’t believe I have ever gone in August. It’s always hot; brutally hot in Kernville in August. Trout don’t like hot. In the drought years the river was just too warm. But, in all honesty in the one of, if not the biggest snowpack years in recorded history, I had been waiting since April, watching the flows almost every day, for that river to back down enough to be fishable. I literally waited 4 and a half months. I can’t believe I have gone in there in April in the drought years and had to wait all the way until mid-August in a big year. It’s going to be a short fishing season on the Upper Kern in 2019. But, August means big hoppers. And there were tons of naturals. I noticed that the majority of them were grey. I have never tied Huck Hoppers in grey. As a result of this trip I now do. BTW, there we also a significant population of yellow grasshopper naturals: Both in wing and body color.

Abby with what looks like a monster…. a little trick i do with the camera.  That trout is 6″

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joining me on this 3-nighter were two of my sister’s kids: my niece Abby, 17 and my nephew Tommy, 15. Tommy went in a couple summers ago with me. This was Abby’s first backpacking experience. Both are beginners as fly fishers.

The river was between 750-650 CFS.  That means the Little Kern River Crossing was easy for me; about at my thigh. But, I’m a “goat” and have 30+ years of wading experience.

Tommy Crossing the Little Kern River.  He’s taller than me for sure and it was over his knees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The key to this hike in and out was going early because of the heat. We left their house in Pasadena at 4am. That got us to the trailhead in time before it got super-hot. Note: the sign at the dirt road turn to the Forks trailhead was broken in both poles and propped against a tree. Very easy to miss.

When we got to the trailhead there were two young fly fishermen hiking out. Since they had fly rods I approached them and asked how the fishing was. After just chatting for a couple minutes one of them said, “Wait, you are Tim Huckaby!” I laughed. His name is Casey and he thanked me for giving him guidance in email. I do that so much I didn’t even remember. Great kid. Passionate about fly fishing. He was in the middle of the California Heritage trout challenge. We need more fly fishing kids in the world.

So we said our goodbyes to the kids and the 3 of us took off before 9am. By the time we got through the Little Kern Crossing I could tell the both of them were losing steam. This is the xbox generation and let’s just say there wasn’t a lot of training by them before the trip. I said to them, “We only have 2.2 miles to the Huckaby site. But, there is a chance that there will be people in the Huckaby site. There are plenty of other good sites before it. But, we may have to double back; to get to the ones after it, it’s another couple miles and over the mountain. And I don’t think we’re up for that today.”   I could tell there was relief by looking at their faces. Well, the last good site before mine is the one with the long cement picnic bench and the remnants of a cabin that burn down many years ago. When we got to it I could tell they were exhausted and hot. I told them, “I have camped in this site before. It’s a good one. Why don’t you guys stay here and I’ll hike to the Huckaby site to see if it’s open. I’ll be back in 20 minutes.”   Again, I could tell by their faces they were relieved. So, I picked up the pace and hiked towards the site I have been working on for years. And sure enough a large family was in the site I developed. Disappointing, but not the end of the world. We only saw 2 groups the entire 4 days in there and one of them was a big family in the Huckaby site. We had not seen a sole until I ran into this nice family. They were super nice people. mom, dad, grandma and 3 teenage kids.   They were going to be in the site 2 of the 3 nights we were going to be there. Not a problem. I love that people use that site. Many take my guidance and improve it. Many have added to my “not so secret cache.” We talked about fly fishing and I offered a ton of guidance. Eventually the dad said, “Wait, you are the guy with the blog! I love that blog.” I smiled and said, “Yea, I’m Tim Huckaby.” He said, “Tim Huckaby, Yes! I need to buy your flies while you are down here.” I said, “You will not buy my flies. But, I will give some to you.” Which I did, of course….twice…the 2nd time with him wandering into our site at night begging me for more of my green crippled caddis nymph and convinced it was the only fly in the world that was working.

Tommy Fishing the deep pools from a high advantage point

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I doubled back to Tommy and Abby and we set up camp in the “picnic table site”. Little did we know what we’d be barraged with over the next 3 days: 5 separate visits by rattlesnakes. At least 3 of them unique snakes. Two of them I had to shoe out of the site with a tree branch. The irony was that on the hike in I said, “I once saw a rattlesnake here. I know they are in here, but I have only seen one over the years.” My guess is because of the big winter we were one of the first to camp in that site this season and the snakes simply moved in when it got hot in June. After seeing humans I doubt they’ll hang around long.

One of the 5 rattlesnakes that came to visit us in the picnic bench site

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is always a calamity backpacking. Little mistakes become calamities backpacking because you cannot easily fix them being so remote and such. And this trip had two of them. The rattlesnakes was the first one.

After setting up camp I started stringing the rods. The first two were rods I use as loaners. It’s not smart to let teenagers pack and fish with expensive fly rods. But, when I opened the reel case for one of them I said to myself, “oh no…” It was a reel with a sinking line on it. In a case that said “floating”. I lent it out and it came back in reverse and I didn’t check before leaving. Normally that wouldn’t have been a crisis. But, I didn’t have any streamers with me!   Honestly it turned out great because we had 2 rods with floating lines, and sure one was a $900 rod being used by a teenager, but it survived. And I guided 95% of the time which is the right thing for Uncle Tim to do in the first place.

Another big Kern River Rainbow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We hiked upriver and both kids caught fish. Abby was the first on the board. What is it with females? They take instruction so well. By the time we left Abby was not only proficient with a fly rod, but figuring things out about how to move into position to get a good drift that I didn’t even tell her about. Both kids landed 3-5 Kern River Rainbows each of the 3 days we fished. There were a lot of missed sets and long releases as you’d imagine with beginners. Abby caught the most (most likely because I spent the most time with her).

Abby with one of her Kern River Rainbows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy caught the biggest fish: a 17” football. I still can’t believe he landed it because it shot downstream after he hooked it. I rock hopped over to him. he was standing 10 feet above the water on a rock so I couldn’t instruct him to chase it. There was nowhere to go (safely). I was thinking the entire time, “…barbless hooks…” But, he stuck him good. I told him, “Tommy, see if you can swing him into the soft water against the rock. Only there will you have a chance to pull him back.” And sure enough he did. Awesome fish.

Every day we saw good fishing until about 11am. And then it just shut down for them until around 4pm. I have seen lulls in the upper kern before, but not that long. It’s august after all. Well, because of the lull these two tuckered out (or just got bored) each day by about 5pm. That is when I snuck in an hour or so to fish by myself while they rested in camp. And I just killed. All dry flying. I can’t tell you which huck hoppers worked the best because they all worked in all colors in all sizes. There is always a late afternoon wind there before the sun goes down so I imagine that has a lot to do with it.

Tommy battling a monster…and losing it downstream…until i coaxed it all the way back up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every night we’d have appetizers, then S’mores in that order before dinner. We’d cash in early too exhausted from a long day of hiking and fishing. These teenagers slept so long I ended up doing a ton of work on the “picnic table site.” I cleared the entire beach. At one point I had climbed one of the trees and was sawing off the branches that impeded casting. But, I failed to catch a trout right in front of the site. It was not for lack of trying. The water was just too high and ferocious there.

On the first morning I woke up with the sun and after a coffee I decided to see if my secret cache was in tact. I needed the tools to clear the picnic table site. When I got to the Huckaby site that entire family was sleeping. And the cache made it another year! In fact it was in great shape.

On the 2nd day we hiked up stream to fish all day….Beyond Rattlesnake (the mountain crossing upstream from the Huckaby site). We were easily 3 miles up river when two kayaks floated by. I could not believe it.   I was so shocked I didn’t have a chance to say hi. I said to Abby and Tommy, “I have no idea how they got in here. They must have been dropped off by a helicopter.” I later learned that you can float the entire section of the Kern from the Eastern side by Mount Whitney to the Johnsondale Bridge with a brutal 2 day hike carrying a kayak. Hiking back, as we looked at raging rapids and waterfalls one after another we kept say, “I can’t believe they Kayaked this.”

Over the mountain there are numerous fallen trees blocking the trail. It’s pretty obvious that not a single pack of horses or mules had been on the trail yet this season. I guess there were just not enough resources in the budget of the forest service to clear the trees. I wish I could figure out how to help.

Abby, Uncle Tim & Tommy – those are good looking anglers….

 

 

Fly Fishing Romania

June 8th, 2019

Check out the European Grayling i C&R’d from the Somesul Cald River in the Apuseni Mountains of Romania 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Exactly 2 months in advance of my trip to Cluj, I did an internet search and found Fly Fishing Romania info@flyfishingromania.com at www.flyfishingromania.com. I immediately got an email response back from Smaranda Neagoe. We went back and forth trying to figure out a day that I could fly fish because of my crazy schedule while in Cluj. Smaranda wrote beautiful English so it was easy to plan. I didn’t learn until I got to Romania that Smaranda was a female. That “S” is really soft in the Romanian language so her name pronounced sounds more like “Maranda”. Smaranda (and everyone else involved at fly fishing Romania) made the entire experience one of the best out of country fly fishing experiences I have ever had. And get this. The costs of fishing guided for a full day (9am to 7pm, btw) with two hot meals was less than ½ of what it costs in Montana.

check out that loop!  i am always the one taking the picture so i was really pleased that Alin Hiriscau took some

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My goal was to catch my very first European Grayling. Check that off the bucket list. I think I caught 30+ of them.
All in all, I think I caught 50+ fish. I caught 20 or so brown trout (the ones that are actually native and wild to Europe). And one fish that my guide, Alin Hiriscau, called a “lake trout”. But, it didn’t look like what we in the states call a lake trout at all (which in the US is a huge char). It looked like a rainbow or land-locked salmon (kokanee).

clearly this is a trout…not what we would call in the states a lake trout, which is a char.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It got ridiculous at points; fish on every “cast”. Granted, many of them were tiny. But, European Nymphing, like Tenkara, is wildly effective. It’s like raking the river inch by inch. I’m not totally bought into the European nymphing thing yet. The drifts are so short so you end of “casting” thousands of times. it can be tiresome lifting the rod and rolling a 10 foot “cast” over and over so I frequently changed hands. …and quickly learned I’m a terrible set with my opposite hand. In Euro-nymphing, you use a 10 foot rod or greater. The casts are not as much casts as they are flips of the leader; only 10 feet out of the rod tip up stream to about 45 degrees. The goal is to dribble your “euro-nymphs” across the river bed while trying to keep tension on the line. Yes you are hooking fish just 5-10 feet in front of where you are standing. These fish are not spooky to wading.
But, I barely knew anything about European Nymphing. That is until I met my guide Alin Hiriscau . Alin picked me up at my hotel in Cluj and drove me all the way out to Doda Pilii (a tiny city) in the Carpathian Mountains in Apuseni National Park to the Somesul Cald River (translated as Warm Somes River…which it is not). 2 hours both ways. It was a beautiful drive.

absolutely beautiful river as the sun is going down. credit my my guide and new friend Alin Hiriscau for the picture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alin and I had a great time talking nature and fishing all the way out to the national park. As it turns out Alin Hiriscau is an accomplished competition fly fisherman. Competition fly fishing is not so big in the US at all (although we have a team that I’m told by Alin is pretty good), but it’s huge in Europe. Most of what I have read about competition fly fishing in the US magazines is negative because the competitors end up nymphing only with squirmy worms and mop flies. There is certainly no fly-fishing integrity in that type of fishing. But, Alin on the other hand is a naturalist with huge knowledge of not only the fish and where they lie but also the entomology. That I do respect; I learned a lot from him that day.
After stopping at the local game warden’s house for a fishing license, we wadered up by Alin’s car and hit the water. The river was beautiful and its size was exactly my type of water: crossable almost everywhere.

The Somesul Cald River in Romania

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where he had me start casting was a shock. Right at the put in; 6 inches of water in a tiny riffle on the edge of the river. I thought to myself there is no way in hell fish are holding in that water so I figured maybe he wanted to practice the euro-nymph “cast”. But, sure enough I got struck immediately and did the trout set I’m used to….snapping the fish off. hmmm… I asked him “is this smaller than 7x?” as if it wasn’t my fault; which it was. And he told me “We don’t use that 3x / 5x thing here in Europe. We do it by diameter.” I stared closely at the tippet. My guess: 7x. I just screwed it up by setting hard like I would on 3x in Montana. but, within a couple more casts I backed down my adrenaline and had caught, landed and released my first small grayling.

My first European Grayling… just the beginning of 30+ more that day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that is the big trick of success for the European Grayling: Reading the water. I’m terrible at it. I still can’t figure it out. But, Alin told me where to cast and that is where I did. And every time I said to myself, “you are kidding?” and every time I did. And every time he was right. The European grayling held in the most bizarre stretches of water. In many cases we ignored what I would call typical water that held trout completely and fished slow moving, skinny riffles.
Well, it wasn’t 20 minutes before we saw a rise. I brought my custom Jack Duncan made Winston B3 LS 5 wt and much to my pleasure Alin tied on a parachute adams. I made the 30 foot cast and within minutes we had a grayling to hand. My first grayling on a dry. There was some hooting, hollering, and fist bumping from the both of us on that one. That is when I knew the day was going to be special. We carried two rods (one for dries and one for euro-nymphing) and every time we saw a dry we switched: The tell-tale sign of a good guide. An awesome day for me.

check out the parachute adams hanging out of this grayling’s face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were around 3 hours into fishing when Alin got a call. it was Smaranda. Of whom I had not met yet. The group of six Englishman that she was guiding were not doing as well as me.  So, Alin asked if he could go help them up river and I gladly agreed. I was looking forward to a little alone time with the knowledge I gained from Alin. He pointed out the places I should fish while he was gone so I did…and I did well. we were supposed to meet at the bridge up stream but, by when I got there no one was at the meeting point at the time we agreed. Not a problem. that was an opportunity for me. I fished up stream of the bridge and absolutely killed. Fish after fish after fish. So fun.

Yea, there are tons of small brown trout in the Somesul Cald River too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Alin did catch up with me, It was time to do lunch and I had already caught so many fish I could have called it a day easily. We hiked back into Alin’s car and then drove up stream to “the lake”. That is when I learned the river, was not a tailwater, but a headwater that drained into a huge dammed lake. We pulled up on a gazebo on a gated house property and walked up to 6 Englishman sitting at a picnic table drinking beer, smoking cigarettes and cigars. It was too perfect. When I got within 20 feet I said something like, “Is a lowly American allowed to hang out with you guys?” that got the expected laugh and within seconds I was handed one of their beers. …which quickly became two… and they were “tall-boys”. Does that sound like me or what?

left to right: Smaranda, me, “The Englishmen” and Alin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, these 6 Englishmen, a bit north of me in age were the most fun group of guys I have met in years. they were on an annual fly fishing guys trip they had been doing for some 45 years. They were all from Northern England; the Norfolk area. And their accents were so strong many times I had trouble understanding them. I’m sure I sounded funny to them too. With some form of awesome home-made soup and bread for lunch we laughed and laughed to the point where I could comfortably call them limely bastards and you can imagine the trash talking I was getting from them about being American and our current president. We weren’t in any rush, but Alin (and I) wanted to start the afternoon session so Alin told me we were going up stream farther than before. On the way though he stopped for a car going the other way. so we got out to say hi. I didn’t figure it out immediately but, it was Smaranda’s husband Liviu (spelling?). She had mentioned she was hoping we could meet so I was pleased. Well, we immediately hit it off. He has the same excited fly-fishing passion I do. But, he was needed to help guide the Englishman so off he went back to the lunch site to gather them up.

Ok, maybe a few too many trophy shots of me holding the dorsal fin of a grayling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alin and I hit the river. Well we tried to. it was a bushwhack…which I normally love. But, I didn’t bring my simms G4Z waders (heavy duty). I brought really cheap light weight wading pants which I love…but are too fragile / thin for bushwhacking. I was careful as I could be not to rip them as I followed Alin, hopping trees and and ducking under branches. I guess they had quite the storm in the winter that knocked down many of the trees. When we got to the water it was not like anything we had seen earlier… it looked much more like trout water of the west, heavily forested with pools and pockets. Alin and I did well; on both nymphing and dries.

Look closely at the colors. so different from a trout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then it was time for him to help the Englishmen again. This time he told me to fish up stream alone…that I was headed towards great water and that he’d circle back in an hour or 2 to track me down. Awesome. I get to fish alone in a beautiful forested river. And the trout are rising. He left me with both rods and frankly I should have told him to just take the euro nymping rod with him because I had done so well there was no reason not to dry fly for the rest of the day….which I did. and I did well without him.

just amazing colors of the European Grayling….with a European nymph hanging out of it’s face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could see a fisherman working his way downstream towards me about 200 yards up stream. That was a surprise because I literally was in the middle of nowhere. I did see a rise upstream and targeted a 45 foot cast. Whack! It was a bigger fish that rose to my dry. And I quickly realized it was going to be my best battle of the day. because of the way it fought I could tell it was a big grayling. When I did get it close it did something really non-trout like that almost caused me to lose it. it stopped fighting then lunged at me and circled around me from the back. That motion from fighting on the left to behind me without me turning to fighting on the right had to look really awkward to the fisherman working his way towards me. but I did manage to land it and release it still pissed off. I’d say 14-15” which is big for that river.

another grayling railed on a dry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I looked up the fisherman was waiting about 100 feet up doing that polite fly-fishing thing we do not to spoil my water. It was one of the Englishmen! It was then that I noticed another rise out of the corner of my eye on the left. I called and motioned him to me. I have more fun guiding than fishing so I told him, “There is a fish right there rising. I want you to catch him.” He fought me on it. Which is expected from the gentlemen that are fly fisherman. But, I handed him my dry fly rod and insisted. But, it was going to be a tricky, truly expert cast, to hit a 4 foot drift protect upstream by a plunge pool guarded by rocks and downstream by branches in the water. So I emphasized how difficult the cast would be and not to worry about the flies. That I had hundreds of them. His first cast worked. Unfortunately I don’t believe he had the confidence that a fish would rise because when it did he wasn’t ready and set just a split second too late. To me that is a win so I was hooting and hollering and screaming “Woo!” I think I said something like, “I bet we can get him to rise again.” And man we worked it hard. He made a number of casts. Some good; some not so good. We may have lost a fly or two to the bushes and branches. I don’t remember, but I would have tied another one on quickly. And sure enough he did get the fish to rise again and this time his downstream set was fine. But darnit, sometimes that hook just comes out pointed inward and doesn’t catch. I was still hooting and hollering because it’s hard to get the same fish to rise twice. But, I could tell he was disappointed. I was not. I called that a win. I think we casted at it a few more times, but that grayling was not dumb enough to be fooled 3 times so he went downstream; I went up. and we agreed to toast to it later at the house.

Me and Alin, competition fly fisherman and great guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I worked my way upstream I caught one more on the dry. I was approaching water that Alin told me was the best in the river. It was a plunge pool. deep for this river. It was truly nymphing water, but I wanted to stick to my self-agreement of dries only for the rest of the day. It didn’t work. and that was fine. It wasn’t long after that Alin tracked me down. We fished our way upstream bit and did well. It was now 7pm. He said, “We can fish until it’s too dark to fish if you’d like.” Can you imagine a guide from Montana saying that?! I could have easily. I had the stamina and my guess is the rises would get better. But, we were invited to dinner and cocktails with the Englishmen and that seemed the like the right thing to do. As it turned out it was the fun thing too. They poured me their gin and we ate and laughed and told fishing stories. Me and Liviu talked forever about rods and fishing. we are “two peas in a pod” me and Liviu. As it turns out he’s actually a surgeon in Zurich and does the fly fishing business on the side with his wife because of his love for it. The clock was ticking, though, and we had a long drive back to cluj. So I shook hands with the Englishmen. I hugged Smaranda and Liviu promising to return (I will) and telling them that they are welcome in our house any time and that I would take them to the Sierras.
If you find yourself in the Cluj area on business or on vacation I strongly suggest you contact Smaranda at Fly Fishing Romania info@flyfishingromania.com / www.flyfishingromania.com. I give my day 14 hour day a 10 out of 10. I learned there that they have cabins they rent and are building in the area to provide a full lodge like experience. So, the next time I go to Cluj I’m definitely going to book a house with them and do a long weekend with Kelly and our Romanian friends in Cluj. Alin told me there are so many more rivers there I need to fish….

Smaranda’s car – I just love that logo

My fly fishing 101 article in Backpacker Magazine

I gotta’ tell ya’ I’m pretty proud of my article, “Backcountry Fly Fishing” in the current (May/June 2019) issue of Backpacker Magazine.  I have written hundreds of published articles and 3 books.  But, those were all in technology.  Being able to write for Backpacker; now that is the big time.

I stepped into the REI in Seattle yesterday and after futilely searching for the magazine I asked one of the guys working there, “Where do you keep Backpacker Magazine?”  He walked me to the magazine aisle.  I grabbed 3 copies and he immediately said, “Why do you need 3 copies?”  So, I started into my story with “For my wife, son, and daughter and if you’ll oblige me I’ll show you why.”  Within minutes I was like a celebrity handshaking the manager and such.  So funny.

The editing process was brutal.  So different from anything else I had ever written professionally.  But, it was fun at the same time because of the attention to detail by my editors.  I had never ever experienced that before.

Because I landed in the skillset section of the magazine the space restrictions made it ridiculously hard.  Trying to describe how to do the overhead cast in a few hundred words….

That had to be the toughest thing I have ever written.  I literally could write the entire content of the magazine dedicated to learning how to fly fish.  I got two pages.  Dominated with pictures and graphics.

I have got a ton of positive comments from my fly-fishing buddies and friends who are also subscribers.  And I have say right up front that the reason is looks so good is that they gave me a professional photographer and a professional graphic artist.  The “Read the Water” graphic is so good I have never seen a better one in any fly fishing magazine.  And I subscribe to a lot of them.  the pictures of the hand full of flies in recommended sitting in the water…. Epic.  Again, I have never seen better pictures of flies.  So, really the credit goes to those two talented creatives.

The most fun part to write was the “It happened to me” section.  It’s my favorite section in every issue of the magazine.  Every subscriber knows it.  it’s where an expert admits making mistakes and barely avoiding (or not) total calamity.  Well, I told my lightning story.

 

 

 

That magazine is so meticulously put together.  I have been a subscriber forever, but I have a new appreciation for those brilliant people at Backpacker.  They must have one hell of a party after they publish, they work so hard.  So thanks to Dennis (the Editor in Chief) for the opportunity and the Casey and Zoe for all the help in editing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you want to subscribe to Backpacker Magazine go here

Lower Madison River and Glow in the Dark Huck Flies

January 14, 2019

Who in their right mind fishes mid-January in Montana in 36-degree water with 28-degree air temperature?!  Well, me, my son Mark and my buddy Eric do.  And the best part is: we had success!  We fished two different stretches of the lower Madison River.  if you are familiar with the Lower Madison, we first fished the launch at Warm Springs which is close to the entrance to Bear Trap Canyon.  And then we tried a session farther downriver by the bridge.  We only fished 2.5 hours or so; mostly because we waited for the warmest part of the day.  But, also because it was so frickin’ cold.   I swear by the time it was done not only were my feet numb, but the numb went up all the way up to my knees.

If you are a frequent reader to this blog, you are well aware that one of my top 5 fun things to do is fishing with my son Mark; now 23.  Mark is a stick.  He reads the water well and his overhead cast matches up to the best of ‘em.  And he’s only 23!  Well, the reason we were in Montana is that Mark has moved back to Bozeman to complete his degree at MSU.  Clearly that is pure joy for me because visiting him is such a “sacrifice” for me.  😊   I drove with him in his car with all his stuff all the way from Carlsbad, CA to Bozeman.  1200 miles in two days.

Rounding out the group was my buddy Eric Schmidt who is quite the stick himself.  I met Eric on a fly-fishing trip to the Bighorn a few years back, put together by a mutual friend, and we have been friends ever since.  Eric lives in Bozeman.  He’s a professional photographer and filmmaker and director.  By staring at the pictures in this post you can see why that makes sense.  Check out Eric’s work on his site here: Eric Schmidt Photography

I wish i was 23, good looking, an expert level fly fisherman with a season pass at Bridger… Photo by Eric Schmidt https://www.ericschmidtphotography.com/

I only saw one rise all day.  Eric saw a handful of heads.  I really tried to induce a rise, but with 36-degree water temperature it just didn’t happen.  Interestingly enough we did experience a midge hatch; just not the rises that went with it.

There’s one thing I’ll never get used to when fishing in Montana in January: sheets of ice floating down the river, smashing into me, and startling the bah-Jesus out of me.

Glow in the dark flies

Part of the reason we caught trout in mid-January on the Madison river had to do with some conventional fishing reading I stumbled into on the internet over the holiday break.  Long story short, conventional fisherman, especially in salt water, have been using glow in the dark materials in their lures with success for 50+ years.  I thought to myself that glow in the dark would translate to fly fishing; especially in winter when the trout are hunkered down in deep pools.  So, a little internet research later I had made a number of glow in the dark materials purchases; from flash-aboo, to larva lace, to foam, to blah  , to the actual tying thread.   And I started tying the flies I already knew worked in winter (like the Huck-midge cripple and the Huck-bow warrior with glow in the dark wing cases and abdomens.  And guess what?  After sending samples to some guides and advanced fly-fishing buddies they proved the glow in the dark flies worked in the field and practically begged for more.   In addition, on the Madison in January we proved that glow in the dark huck-nymphs kill. So, after some more perfection through testing i will probably offer those on my site.

But the story gets better.  I read about fly fishing constantly.  I’m obsessed.  And I love learning.  I read that all in the fly-fishing competitions the professional fly fisherman from all over the world only use squirmy wormy patterns in competition because they are so effective.  Like a San Juan Worm, a squirmy is a pattern that imitates a worm; just with a more realistic worm like material.

Trout love worms.  We all know this.  We were all kids at some point.  Now, I’m not a big fan of making fly fishing into a competition in the first place… especially if none of the professionals are throwing flies that imitate bugs on top or below the water.  But, if every professional is fly fishing worms then what is the point?  I guess that is a discussion for beer. But, being that said, when the fishing gets tough, especially with beginners, I don’t know a single guide (including myself) from here in California to Montana and everywhere in between that doesn’t turn to a san juan worm when things are slow.  Or when a river is blown out.  Or even more effective, the squirmy wormy.  This is why I’m afraid to unleash what seems to me like cheating: A squirmy Wormy tied with glow in the dark materials.

Here is how it went down: On the interweb, I stumbled into a company in china that makes what looked like the squirmy wormy material, but really bright green glow in the dark.  I figured for 10 bucks if they stiffed me it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.  When the material came from china I almost fainted.  It took it into a dark room… my God.  It is awesome.  My next dilemma was finding or inventing a squirmy wormy pattern that I like.  The problem with fishing Squirmys is that they are one fish flies.  They just are not durable at all.  in many scenarios, for me, that is acceptable.  But, for many guides durability is important.

All the flies I sell on my site I have invented either with my ideas or by taking a grouping of techniques from the masters, adding my own ideas and calling it good.  Well, the Huck-Glow-Squirmy is very close, if not identical to a pattern I found on the internet called “The Durable Squirmy Wormy”.  It was created by a professional fly tier named Clark “Cheech” Pierce; he really does deserve the credit for the pattern.  I don’t use all the same materials for different reasons, but, it is similar.  You can find how to tie it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RE0G8pJg7w.  You can find Cheech and his amazing work on his Fly Fish Food site here: http://www.flyfishfood.com/p/about-us.html. I have not met Cheech, but from his bio he sounds like a hilarious guy I’d love to fish with one day.

So, after some initial testing of the Huck-Glow-Squirmy I have to tell you it’s like cheating.  I will not fish with this fly.  It’s too effective and I’m too advanced a fly fisherman.  But, if I am to guide a kid or beginner this is the fly for when the trout are hunkered down in deep pools… and in many other winter or low light scenarios.  This thing is going to kill in the deep pools of the upper kern.

Here’s a great story of how effective Huck-Glow-Squirmy is.  The day after I left Montana my son ran out to the Gallatin.  It’s only 10 minutes from his apartment.  Even though all the fishing reports said the Gallatin is too cold, all the edges iced, and the middle a slush and unfishable, he went to check it out.  And sure enough it was unfishable where the only castable water was total slush in the middle with icebergs floating by.  So, he said to himself, “I’m out here.  what the hell.”  He tied on one of the Huck-Glow-Squirmy I left with him to battle test in the field.  he casted to the moving part of the Gallatin into the slush and the fly didn’t sink though the slushy ice.  It drifted for a 2 count on top when a big brown came up from ten feet on the bottom and hit the Huck-Glow-Squirmy on top!  Mark battled the brown to his net over the ice and quickly figured out how to get it back into the river unharmed.  My guess is he had to toss it.

So, with this blog post I’m going to make the Huck-Glow-Squirmy available for purchase on my site.  Just be responsible with it because I feel like I have invented a nuclear weapon and consequently am going to regret it because of my “narcissistic” ethical structure.  😊

The Case of the Bad Guys and the Renzetti Traveler 2304

The passenger side window on my truck was smashed in, my fly-tying vise, tools, and materials stolen from the front seat.  Think about that for a minute before I explain.

I parked my truck in front of my sister’s house in Pasadena, CA….the swankiest part of Pasadena on the San Marino border.  If you are not familiar with this part of the world let’s just say my brother in law has done well. I didn’t think anything of parking there. Huck truck is 11 years old.  It’s been broken into 3 separate times…by bears.  But, never by humans.  There really wasn’t anything in the truck of value….except for my fly tying stuff.  Also realize that Los Angeles is not the fly tying hot bed of the world.  My guess is that 1/10,000th of the entire population of LA would even know what fly tying materials and tools are.

I was to stay the long weekend at my sister’s house and have an awesome time with my nephews and niece.  And I figured there’d be a lot of down time to tie flies on their kitchen table and to show my nephews how to tie flies.  so, before I left our house I painstakingly cut up a bunch of foam strips to make huck hoppers, grabbed all the other materials needed, tools and vise and packed them into my brand-new Fishpond Road Trip Fly Tying Kit.

On Saturday morning I wandered out early to my truck to grab the fly tying stuff… and I immediately saw all the shattered glass.  My first thought was what in the heck was in there that these bad guys wanted.  Huck-truck doesn’t even have a nice stereo in it.  the speakers are blown out (thanks to my son Mark).  And it has a cassette deck.  I’m not kidding.  It has a cassette deck.  I immediately determined the only thing these bad guys stole was my fly tying stuff….because short of my garmin gps, which these bad guys ignored, that was really the only thing in my truck of value.  And then it hit me.  They saw the trendy fishpond bag with a flashlight in the middle of the night and thought it was an ipad or computer.  You can imagine the dumb asses faces when they opened it up and said, “What the F is this?!” as they threw it out their window or in the trash.

Huck-Truck with it’s window smashed so that bad guys could accidently steal my fly tying stuff

What’s interesting is that the Pasadena City Police Department sent a forensic unit to check out my truck. I had just washed it a few days before so the scenario was perfect for “lifting fingerprints” from my truck.  The officer took my finger prints (to distinguish them from the bad guys).  And then said, “See here.  There are some really good prints from them.  here’s how they broke your window.”   I was kind of skeptical until he said, “Oh yea, we’ll catch these guys.  It’s just a matter of time.  Criminals like this just aren’t that smart.  These prints will help tremendously.  I bet we already have these prints on file.”

And this is the part of the story where I learned about car insurance.  I thought to myself, “I have insurance.  This is nothing more than a hassle.”   how wrong I was.  It is true that USAA (who I adore) fixed my truck’s window at my house the very next day (after driving the 100 miles back home on LA freeways with what is essentially the window down).  But, with a $500 deductible, I learned when talking to USAA on the phone, I was basically out of $500 of fly tying stuff…including my vise.

Clearly, I couldn’t live without a vise.  But, the cost was going to have to come out of pocket because the insurance basically only covered fixing my smashed window.  It was hard enough this summer just keeping up with the fly orders coming in on my site.  So, I started the internet research.  Like everything else fly fishing in my life I start with the cheap stuff then upgrade through time.  I started tying on a $20 vise many years ago.  The vise I had been using was rotary, $125ish.  Through internet research I narrowed the choices (on the basis of convincing myself I deserve it) to vises that carried retail price tags between $200 and $300.  At that point I did what I always do: I wrote an email to my buddy Mark Boname who is the owner of the Platte River Fly shop in Casper Wyoming for guidance.  Mark recommended the a Renzetti Traveler.   “Ooohhh” I said to myself, “yea, I deserve a Renzetti.”  But, I was confused by that name “traveler”.  I didn’t need a travel vise; I needed an everyday like vise.  With a little more research, I figured out that the Traveler line of Renzetti vises are not really travel vises at all.  I wonder if I am the only one that got thrown by that?  from the Renzetti web site I could see they just released the “Traveler 2304 Cam Vise 6×6 Pedestal Base Model” which seemed perfect.  One email to Mark asking if he could sell me that one and boom!  Order placed on www.wyomingflyfishing.com/ within 10 minutes.

This is where this article turns into a product review.

The Renzetti Traveler 2304 Cam Vise 6×6 Pedestal Base Model

The Renzetti Traveler 2304 Cam Vise 6×6 Pedestal Base Model

If there is one thing I say a lot, quoting my dad it’s, “Timothy, in life you typically get what you pay for.”  And that is so true about this vise.  I don’t know how I have lived so long…tied for so long without a professional vice like this one.

Hooks don’t Slip

Firstly, the hook just simply doesn’t slip from the jaws….at all…  you have no idea how awesome that is unless you have tied for 25 years plus with a vise that slips.  And if you look at all the reviews out there about the Renzetti vises the not slipping thing comes up first almost in every one.  Renzetti says this vise can accommodate hooks from as large as a 4/0 to as tiny as a 28.  There is a little knob adjustment on the jaws that faces you that gives you the ability to adjust the jaws with precision from large hook sizes down to small ones.  This vice makes tying so much faster.  This feature alone, makes this vise worth it’s price tag.

Right and left-handed models

Wait, what?  Yes, this vice comes in both right- and left-handed versions.  This was so confusing to me I had to call Renzetti directly on the phone because I couldn’t find anywhere what the hell that meant.  And, of course, I got awesome customer service just like you’d expect from a company with that Renzetti’s reputation.  So, here’s the deal.  If the jaws of your vice point to the right as you are facing it, you are tying right handed; it’s a righthanded vice.  And conversely, if the jaws of the vice point left as you are tying it’s a left handed vice.  The reason is that Renzetti puts the controls in front of you for easy access (like the precision jaws adjustment knob I mentioned earlier faces me so I don’t have to awkwardly reach behind the vice to adjust).  So, I tie right handed; I purchased a right handed Renzetti vice.  Clearly, Renzetti thinks these usability things through….although I wish they’d let me write the content for their website that explains this stuff….

The Bobbin Cradle

I have to admit when I purchased the vice from www.WyomingFlyFishing.com I said to myself, “I’m going to have to figure out what the hell that arm thing does.”.  All my prior vices did not have a “bobbin cradle”.  Shoot, it wasn’t until I read the little parts list that came with the Renzetti vice that I even figured out what it was called.  So, armed with the search phrase “How to use a Bobbin Cradle Fly fishing” guess what came up as the first match?  a video from Renzetti on YouTube with over 10,000 views on how to use a bobbin cradle:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpmZh7PFl1w

So, I’m one of over ten thousand people that couldn’t figure out what the hell that arm thing was for also….  As the video suggests it takes a while to get used to and configured for your preferences, but now I’m convinced I can never live without it.  Having the bobbin cradle has changed the way I tie flies and the speed at which I do it.  I don’t know how I ever tied flies without a bobbin cradle.  See the reoccurring theme here?

Notice how the thread is held out of the way so that i can wrap the silver ulta wire on the epoxied huck-midge

Summary

Well, I’m a good news / bad news guy and I just cannot find any negatives on the Renzetti Traveler 2304 vise short of it’s price tag which lists at $299.  IMHO if you are tying more than 100 flies per year, then you’ll adore this vise.