Blue River Fly Classic

Blue River Fly Classic
A One Pattern Fly Event

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Soft Hackle In Question

Pictured above is the soft hackle creation I used yesterday.  The trout couldn't seem to leave this pattern alone.  Ninety percent of the time, when tying soft hackles I use partridge, but with this particular fly I used something else for the hackle and for the life of me can't remember what.  I call it the soft hackle brown because the body is brown, but the hackle is more of a brown/olive grizzly.  It was tied two years ago and sit on the tying desk until this Thursday.  For some reason I picked it up Thursday morning and took it with me.  Glad I did because the trout were on it like stink on you know what.

One interesting note about this fly is the body was antron, and a sparse amount of antron had come unraveled back by the bend of the hook.  This unraveling created the most perfect tapered tailing and I want to believe this was a great attraction to the fish.

Although partridge is the preferred material, and makes some beautiful soft hackles, sometimes I use other feathers and try and make the soft hackle fly as ugly as I can just to see if they'll fish.  Usually they do.

Below is an example of a very long fibre ugly soft hackle with brown body and olive chinchilla saddle feather.  It's ugly, but I'll bet it will fish. When looking at these ugly soft hackles I am reminded of another pattern I hear little about on Blue river and it's one that I would bet money will produce.  I'm talking about the Bird's Nest.

Long Fibre Olive Chinchilla Soft Hackle
You will need:
A size 12 streamer or size 10 wet nymph hook.
1/8 gold beadhead
Brown/Olive 6/0 thread
Medium brown antron
Feather from olive chinchilla saddle
After affixing beadhead on hook, dub a tapered body up to the beadhead.
Using a dubbing needle, pick out a few strands of antron to form a tailing.
Strip the aftershaft off of a chinchilla saddle feather.
Trim the stem and trim five or six fibres from each side to aid in tying on hook.
As you wind the feather, fold fibres back toward bend with each turn.  Then when finishing tie force thread back two or three turns to make fibres lay more parallel to hook shank.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Two Hours To Spare

Actually there were four hours to spare, but counting driving time and the time I needed to visit with Scotty there would be only two hours of actual fishing time.

When I got to the south wilderness I was surprised at the crowd that had already arrived.  Counting the vehicles, I counted nine other anglers, or party of anglers.

I was behind when I got there!

Getting to fish during the week is a rarity for me - usually I am resigned to a part of the day on Saturday or Sunday.  So, I didn't waste anytime getting to the water.  Oh my gosh.... how pleasantly surprised I was at the level of the river.  With the Tuesday evening rain, she is up to about what many of us call normal.  Furthermore, you could see the change in the flow and that was even more exciting.  At least now, a fly fisher can get a decent drift.  I'm still convinced that the flow does make a difference in fly-fishing for trout. 

Sent sailing was the duo of a bugger and emerald greenback brown hackle Crackleback.  The Crackleback would take the first five fish leaving the bugger feeling somewhat jaded.  Finally the bugger would take a bow of his on, but then the Crackleback would take two more.  The Crackleback was taken out of action and the bugger would find one more bow.

The Crackleback - junk fly or just buggy looking?

After the second bow taken by the bugger, a fly that would prove to be the "fly of the day", (or two hours), was tied on.  A size 12 soft hackle brown was employed and from there on it was nothing but non-stop action.  The soft hackle would either capture or loose the battle with every cast.  At first I thought a remarkable pocket of water had been found, so I move to another spot I had watched an angler fish for the better part of an hour without catching a fish.  The soft hackle took bows there also.
The bugger struggled, but caught a couple.

A third spot was chosen to test the soft hackle and he also took bows there.  The two hours seem to pass quickly and some of the bows caught today were pleasantly nice.  Fat with vibrant colors.

The soft hackle ruled today.

If the river would stay at the level she was today, I think the fishing would be fair to good most of the time.  The weather was great as far as temperature, but the wind was brutal today and I'm thankful I took a big stick today in order to cut through the wind.

Nicest bow of the day at a pound and half.

With my two hours expended, I leave the river having met twenty-five bows.  Today, I left a river that looks somewhat normal and healthy.  I give thanks. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Workshop For The Soul

It was the most gorgeous afternoon on the river Blue today.  The weather was brisk, to say the least, and rather cold at times, but just enough to be both outer and inner refreshing.

As time passes, I believe I am coming closer to what fly fishing is for me.  Quite simply... fly fishing is a workshop for the soul.  It is the place that is sought for peace and inner reflection.  While in the workshop, there is a oneness or singularity.  What happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow does not matter.  What matters is the current, the moment.  I guess some would call it "living in the moment", but perhaps it's a little more than that.  Ralph Waldo Emerson described it and wrote, "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."  Yeah... that's it.

Here on the river Blue, something dynamic happened million of years ago.  It could have been some great upheaval; the shifting of a fault line, or perhaps the work of the snowball earth theory - I don't know, but whatever took place was grand.  It had to me grand in order to carve such a wonderful sculpture of time.

I think Thoreau got it right... it's not the fish we are after.

The rain of this past Friday was unfortunately not enough to change the complexion or life-flow of the river.  Blue is still quite low - as low as I've seen in recent memory, and the flow is affecting presentations.  She's clear as a bell, and in many places the bottom of the river can be seen. 

A light, short stick was employed today.  The TFO three hasn't seen action in quite sometime.  This little rod can cast with deadly accuracy, but being on the bench for so long, line curl was a big problem today.  In the first thirty minutes one leader was completely dismantled thanks to a high tree limb,  The second leader chosen to go into action had it's own problems.  Evidently something went awry in the building process of this particular leader and it was not worthy.  Finally a place was taken on the bank and a leader was constructed by hand. 

The fishing was fantastic, but the catching was slow.  Being convinced midges would be the ticket, one existed  as a trailer at all times.  A good mile of river was explored and along this mile not a single rising fish was witnessed.  Such made me wonder if somewhere there is a Chinese proverb that says, "Do not fish rising fish, when no fish are rising." 

An hour and half later no fish had come to hand.  However, there was no desperation or panic apparent, for I am in the workshop and that in itself is enough.

With the midges failing, the trailer is stripped off and the bugger goes by himself.  A dark emerald pocket of water is chosen.  This pocket was no more than three feet wide and six feet in length, but it is here the bows wait in formation.  The bugger captures bows almost methodically and saves the day... as far as fishing.  The overall day was made as soon as the first footprint was planted in the south wilderness today. 
Two hours had been spent on the river Blue and it was time to go.  I picked up the pace on the way back to the prairie schooner, searching for that labored breath.  As the gear was stowed in the schooner and I took my place at the helm, the sought-for deep breath came... and it was exhilarating. 

It seems that these days the only time I can catch my breath is when I'm with the river. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Job Like Santa Claus Has

Look at him!  Tying flies while sluffing off again.  Notice the cookies on the table?  Yeah... that's commonplace at the Claus homestead.  Mrs. Claus keeps him in a constant supply of eggnog, along with sugar plum and chocolate-chip cookies.  Let's face it... Santa is a kept man.

I want a job like Santa Claus has.  Why?  He only works one day a year for crying out loud!  The other 364 days a year he's laying back, living life large, footloose and fancy-free!  Ever wonder what he does on those 364 days?  I know!  He fly fishes!

And where does he fly fish you might ask?  Hey, this is Santa Claus - he fly fishes wherever he wants to.  He's got his own personal air travel with the sleigh and reindeer.  Just a few examples of where he fly fishes include Alaska, Canada, Ireland, Iceland, Patagonia, New Zealand, Blue River, and Rock Creek... just to name some of the many places he gets to fish.

And gear?  Santa Claus is the ultimate giver of gifts, so every fly fishing manufacturer in the world send him samples of their latest models and innovations.  Fly rods include Winston, Orvis Helios, Temple Fork Outfitters, Sage, and Albright.  Then there are reels - Abel, Ross, Hardy, and many more.  Other gear include waders from Simms or L L. Bean, boots from Patagonia or Korkers.  The guy has it made.

What species does Santa fish for?  Try char, Atlantic salmon, steelhead, brookies, rainbows, taimen, smallmouth, carp, redbreast, bonefish, and on and on and on.

Let's be honest.  Most of the year, Santa Clause is a bum.  C'mon now... we all know the elves do all the down and dirty, nitty-gritty work and it's because Santa is sluffing off 364 days a year. But, he does indeed goes to work every year on December 24th.

So, here we have a guy who fly fishes 364 days a year, works one day a year, and is adored by millions and millions of people across the world.

That's the kind of job any of us should want.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Handicraft Fly Fishing Stuff

Can you guess what this is?

I love taking stuff that normally would be discarded and trying to make something useful out of it.  I plan on using the contraption in the picture above in my fly-fishing life.  Can you guess what I intend it to be?

Here's the components:

Some pieces of craft foam that probably would have been tossed.
A recovered coffee stir stick that was tossed.
The end of a toothpick that also had been tossed. 

Now, how will I use this in fly fishing?  Leave your guess in the comments section.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pssst... The Fish Are Biting!

I pulled a threesome today.  I know... it seems somewhat far-fetched that a close-to-sixty year old guy, with stiffening joints and loss of vigor could pull off such a stunt, but... ha-ha-ha, I did!

On the bend of the hare's ear a thirty inch string of Frog's Hair was tied on.  About halfway down the string, an in-line black thread midge was tied on.  Bringing up the rear was the red midge larvae in size 16, which was not the desired size.  The size 18's were absent from the boxes today and their whereabouts still remain a mystery, so the size 16 had to do.  The threesome was born - a threesome of tantalizing and teasing offerings to the trout.

Thursday evening, while sitting in the tying room, I kept thinking about this being the time of season to go to midge patterns.  Then on Friday, a report was received from an angler regarding his journey to the catch and release and good success with midges.  Midges were an easy choice today.  As both ambient and water temperatures fall, it's time to think lower, slower, and smaller. 

Each time I step out of the schooner at the parking area of the south wilderness, I listen to the voice of the river.  Normally, lady Blue's voice is loud, almost like a roar, but here of late her voice has faded and diminished - ever telling of low water flow. 

Standing in the drink, the in-line midge claimed the first bow of the day.  Shortly thereafter, the in-line midge would take the second bow.  Then, the red midge larvae would bring a trout to hand.  The hare's ear was feeling somewhat jaded at this point, but it wasn't long until the two midge patterns were captured by the clutches of an overhanging tree limb and were lost. 

Since the hare's ear wasn't gaining any favor from the trout, the bugger went on with another black thread midge trailing.  Four more trout were brought to hand with the bugger taking two and thread midge taking two.

Further upstream, the black thread midge was given a rest and a red flash midge with peacock hurl gills went into action and this pattern was the prize of the day. 

There is a fly-fisher on the river Blue these days that really excites me.  H.L. excites me because of his passion for this art we practice.  Even though we are years apart, it's amazing how much we think alike and just this week we were both thinking about midges.  Friday in the catch & release, H.L. was doing quite well with midge patterns before taking a swim, which sent him packing.  Now, I'm not going to let H.L.'s cat out of the bag, but he has some exciting projects planned.  He seems to be quite hep with media and has a couple of projects planned in that arena.  He also carries a wonderful stewardship of the environment and plans stream clean-up programs.  And, he also has some merchandising plans in store.  All of these projects H.L. has in the works will only go to further the art. 

At the Cove, I got stuck on trout number thirteen.  The action on the midges suddenly came to a halt.  So, not wanting to leave the river on an unlucky note, the trailer and indicator was ripped off leaving the bugger begging to be stripped.  And, so he was.  Four casts, two trout lost, two trout to hand.  The strip was slow, the fly was low - more evidence of the dropping water temperatures. 

Speaking of the water temperatures - they were quite cold.  After three hours in the river, I was numb from the knees down.  The numbness alone was enough for me to call it a day, but in addition my propensity for pilsner persuaded me that a cold beer would taste mighty fine.  I gave thanks, left the river, and headed to Scotty's for a couple of long-necks.

It was a good day.
The trout this season are fat and healthy.
Trout on in-line midge.
The colder the weather, the greener the lichen.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Always Looking Ahead

Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu)Image via Wikipedia
In our fishing lives, I figure there are a lot of you just like me in the sense we have big dreams of things to come.  Even though we are in the middle of trout season at Blue River, I'm looking ahead to this coming spring. 

Of course, Charlie and I will be pursuing those wonderful amazing creatures known as the prairie bonefish, commonly called carp, but there are other species that also have my attention. 

This spring, I want to catch and set the next lake record smallmouth for Arbuckle Lake.  Why?  That's easy - there is currently not a lake record for smallmouth on Arbuckle title holder! 

Arbuckle Lake is well known for the big bass it produces and has the potential to produce the next largemouth or smallmouth state record. 

Now, I'm not trying for a state record smallmouth, but rather the lake record which is a program launched by the Oklahoma wildlife department.  Currently, the state record in Oklahoma for the smallmouth species is eight pounds and three ounces.  Sheeeeee... that ought to be a piece of cake, huh?  Well... maybe not.

A six pound smallmouth good easily become a lake record for Arbuckle Lake and will set a benchmark for other anglers to break.  I think it's achievable.  However, there are a few things that will need to be arranged before such an undertaking can be pursued.

To get to where the big bass are, a boat will be required and I don't own a boat.  However, I have a good buddy that does!  So, my plan over the next two months is to polish by patronization skills and basically kiss his butt, until it's sore, so he'll take me out on his boat quite often this spring.  Hey.... it's a means to an end...( no, not his end... you know what I mean.). 

As far as gear... another 8 weight will have to be acquired.  My beautiful Temple Fork Outfitters 8 weight survived exactly two outings before another friend accidentally stepped on it.  I have the reel ready with the sink tip and hopefully that will suffice, negating the need for full sink.

Over the years, I've amassed a good assortment of bass patterns from friends and fly-tyers from near and far. So... current offerings to the smallmouth should be ample. 

Think everything needed is pretty much accounted for, except a healthy supply of Chapstick... for all that butt kissing I'm going to be doing. 
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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Poor Poor Pitiful Me

The older fishermen always said, "Fish ahead of the front", and today looked like a perfect opportunity to do just that.  A curtain of cold Canadian air had tracked south across the plains.  At six this morning, this Juggernaut, fueled by the icy breath of the northern gods, was at the threshold of the Oklahoma panhandle.  Projections showed this bitter beast wouldn't make the river Blue until mid-afternoon... so there was ample time to fish ahead of this front.

Things had been pre-planned; the prairie schooner was already loaded.  With the first cup of coffee at the bunkhouse I visualized just how the day would go.  It would happen at the south wilderness of Blue, along a stretch of water that offered pocket after pocket.  Today, the bugger and hare's ear would marry; being united with a foot-and-a-half long piece of string; then launched on their honeymoon voyage into the savory recipe of the stew of Blue.

With the last sip of coffee, I realized that time was of the essence. Knowing that hard leather across the backside of the schooner ponies would be required, it was time to hit the trail.  However, there was a requirement to first stop at the mercantile I work just to make sure everything would be running smoothly today.  And... it didn't take long to realize, that, this would not be the case today.

It's cold and flu season and people take ill.  As it is with my position in the mercantile, I am expected to run coverage... so today I worked.  This would be a no fishing today for me.

I get somewhat depressed when a fly fishing day doesn't come my way.  I shrink into a sullen, down-in-the-mouth, kick the crap out of the cat, generally crabby person.  When these episodes occur... I don't even like myself.

The workday drug on, but I was able to knock off a couple of hours early.  However, there still wasn't enough time to make it to the river Blue before the Canadian express, clipping at forty nauts, would arrive.  There was no desire to face the wind-driven bitterness, or the bone chilling numbness that would result from such an interlude. Besides... light would have been lost in just a couple of hours.

There existed a choice.  I could either take my sullen carcass to the prairie home, planting my tail in the pouting chair while humming the melody of Poor Poor Pitiful Me, or... I could go to the water.  Waders went on; leaf rake quickly grabbed; prairie ponies turned toward Rock Creek.

Of course, whenever I'm on the water the preference is to fly fish, but there would be no fishing today.  This would be a good time to do the final clean-up on Rock Creek.

Today's task called for a pair of wading boots, with some bite in the souls, in order to negotiate a steep incline.  The leaf rake would make all the difference, allowing me to reach a good distance in retrieving the remaining trash.  The task was completed around the time the first tinge of bitter air was noticeable.

With the job completed, the ponies were turned toward the prairie home - a warm safe harbor.  Perhaps tomorrow will be a fishing day.

Rock Creek before.
Much better now.
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Another Big Hole - Fewer Drops Of Water

There are enough big holes being currently dug in the southern part of the prairie ocean wide... and now, it looks like there may be another. 

This past week, Arbuckle Aggregates LLC along with representatives from the Oklahoma Department of Mines held an informal meeting in Tishomingo, Oklahoma.  Arbuckle Aggregates has applied for a permit to mine 575 acres near Mill Creek, Oklahoma. 

At the meeting, and according to local news sources, one lady that opposed the permit stood up and spoke up.  In regards to the mining permit being approved she declared that the establishment of another rock mining facility in the Mill Creek area would be "a premeditated crime against the environment." 

I have to agree.

Last weekend, on the trail to the river Blue, I couldn't help but notice the activity that was going on at the present mining operations atop the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer.  The sand, gravel, rock and boulders are piled so high they have formed mesas.  Unnatural mesas because they don't belong along this landscape - unnatural mesas because they are desecrating the natural landscape.

Their giant claws dig deeper and deeper, scalping the top of the well springs, flooding their own pits, then those pits have to be de-watered. De-watered is synonymous with waste.

Of course at this meeting that was held, the mining company was well represented with their legal staff, ducks in a row, i's dotted, t's crossed. And, the Department of Mines was represented, metaphorically holding up a sign that read "Don't shoot the messenger."  Of course the Department of Mines live by a mandated existence full of proper procedures.

Let's just shoot the messenger... and the mining company too, but not with bullets, but rather a good dose of a passage of a new law that says enough drilling has been done, and there will be no more near this sole source aquifer.

If we fail, then this lush south sea of the prairie ocean great... may very well become a desert.   At high risk are Mill Creek, Pennington Creek, and the river Blue. 

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Calling It Quits

After exchanging with Charlie this afternoon... it's time to bring the Carp Crusades of 2010 to an end.  It's been one helluva ride.

We're not going to get anywhere near the goal that this ol' fool threw down at the carp.  A lot of excuses could be made, but none are.  There were just many things not considered when it was suggested to Charlie we go for 250 before the end of the year.

Never did I consider that there would be downtime and indeed there was.  Charlie had travels to make, and then I pretty much was immobile with vehicle repair for three or four days.  Then... Charlie returns home and trots down to Rock Creek and captures three carp with ease.  Looked like it was all going to plan!  But... never did Charlie or I dream he would return to the hospital for the one of the things we were hoping to avoid with the Carp Crusade. 

Things happen, life turns, and sometimes we have to live life on life terms.  Now... Charlie is going to go on further travels.  In addition, I totally miscalculated the sun this time of year, and quite truthfully we are fishing in shade most of the day. 

Most importantly... the one thing that escaped my throw-down was the call of Lady Blue.  Hell... it's trout season... and you know we have to be there, with the pretty little lady that holds the pretty fish. 

There was a hint in the exchange today that Merc might be coming soon, and, if so, there will most likely be a trio of Lady Blue love struck fly fishers... wading the pleasures she offers time after time. 

Actually, I am relieved that we've decided to give the carp a rest.  We wore them out this spring and summer, and a much-needed-rest... the carp do need.  Besides, there's a book to write.

The book is already written for all purposes.  We just need to put it all together.  When and once we do, we think readers will discover, quite early in the read, that this is a book that's not just about fly fishing for carp, but a book about a fly fishing friendship. 

The book will be revealing and personal.  Readers will learn of the bentwood chair in the dim lit room.  The prose will shout of the doubt, the hope, jubilation, set-backs, and lastly the friendship that fly fishing can bring.

Winter is a good time for writing... and a good time to spend on the river Blue.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

December's Breath

On the road to the river Blue,
December's eastern sky is windswept.
Clouds painted with broad brush strokes,
on a horizon serving as canvas.
Colors of a forlorn grey hue.

Round bales standing in the field,
evidence of winter cattle prosperity.
Ducks on a gentle prairie lagoon,
resting from the hunter's wield.
The wind is mean today,
will it cause trout austerity?

December's breath is bitter today.
Fewer souls on the river Blue now,
early season anglers have vanished.
Like hard-earned money from the wallet,
of a veteran Saturday night drunk -
practicing the occupation of getting polished.

Those left - old salts, true lovers of the art.
They face the wind, cold, and pain.
Bitterness embraces the lot of them, but still,
head on to torment, for time grows shorter.
Tearing eyes, frozen guides, steadfast -
forward in the time that remains.

December's breath finds me today,
lays steely heavy in my chest.
So very numbing to the fingers,
these seeking eyes grow wet.
But, time pushes forward with me,
in the stew I slowly wade.

The Rocking Chair is the target,
a place foreign to fur and feather.
A favored place of the bait fisher,
a cradle from the weather.
Bugger and midge are the team
into the pool they drift.

First drift brings a trout,
but more trout would be not,
Upstream is calling - another course,
through a channel, a north fork.
So-long granite chair, I make a new way,
fishing you will wait another day.

The first fish is give a name,
as the second and third at Glory.
The wind is brutal at Glory,
and I hear the south wild call.
There's more fish to be counted,
and more fish to be named.

Counting all the fish, naming all the fish,
a compulsive disorder by a compulsive man?
There's Silverside, Aurora, Nova, Starchaser,
then Flash, Jumpin' Jack, Rascal, and Pegasus.
Each new fish counted, each new fish given.
Nineteen fish counted, nineteen fish named.

Pools and pockets are so rewarding today,
the south wilderness is quite kind.
The harbor known as the Cove,
is where the treasures were hid.
Awaiting battle with the fur and feather,
and angler of the cold season weather.

There are no timepieces on the river Blue,
except the timepiece of time itself.
Forever passing, never stopping,
ticking at it's own rhythm and rhyme.
Time today has passed for me,
and it's now time to leave the river.

On the trail out by Coyote Pass,
two bucks locked in battle.
Driven by that deep natural desire,
glorious nature in it's essence.
To the victor goes the spoils,
Focused, they never since my presence.

December's breath blows down my neck,
as I slowly climb that last steep hill.
Thanks are given to the creator,
for all the wealth and thrill.
December's breath - we'll meet again.

The Rocking Chair
North Fork behind Glory.
Trout named Silverside.
South Wilderness trout.
Trout named Aurora.
Eastern fork of the south wilderness.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Down, Across, Swinging

Fly fishing in a riverImage via Wikipedia
Oklahoma Trout Fishing By Fly

The memory is still as fresh as yesterday.  It happened a good, good number of years ago however.  This angler's first trout on a fly-rod. 

The fish came on a down and across cast.  The sudden surge in the tippet was a tell-tale sign to a raw and fledgling fly fisher to do something.  Line hand went rigid, rod tip lifted, fish came to hand. 

As it is with Oklahoma fly fishing, the down and across cast can be very effective on all of our trout water.  On Blue River, when fly fishing, there are a number of opportunities to practice the down and across cast.  Some pools that come to mind include Seventeen, below Horseshoe Falls, the fast current at the top of Ted's Pool, the Riffles, and the sandbar at Dividing Line Falls, which is the northern boundary of the South Wilderness. 

With the down and across, we have several chances to encounter waiting trout.  By casting down and across, our fly can search the outer seam, then swing through the current, and penetrate the inner seam.  Most likely, a trout will nail this presentation at one point or another.  If not, and once the fly is in the inner seam, we can employ a slow or random strip. 

Flies that work well with a down and across cast include the streamer family.  Patterns such as Matukas, Muddler Minnows, Zonkers, Wooly Buggers, and the Black Ghost almost always produce well.
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