Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Herniator (Modified)

It is rare when one can meet the inventor of a a fly that has become a standard for an area. I had that opportunity today when I walked in to the Eureka Fly shop and met Tim Paxton, the inventor of the Herniator fly. The Herniator is a must-have fly for the Klamath River, especially when seeking Steelhead. The Herniator, as I've been told, is great for slow water due to the soft hackle and wing that will move gently in the water. Fast water evidently pushes the hackle and wing into the body.

Tim told me that the commercial versions of his fly will work, but he added an underwing of peacock. He stated that the peacock underwing supports the outer wing while also pulsating in the water to add another level, sound, to the equation of getting a steelhead to strike the fly.

I decided to design a "fast water" version of the Herniator. The three changes I made were: 1) a cone head held perpendicular to the hook with wraps of lead; 2) Tim's original underwing of peacock herl; and 3) grizzly hackle instead partridge. My hope is that: 1) the cone head will get the fly into the correct depth in faster water; 2) the peacock underwing will keep the outer wing off the hook; and 3) the somewhat stiffer and shorter grizzly hackle will act similar to the hackles of other famous steelhead patterns like the Moss Back and Brindle Bug. I will find out tomorrow when I head back up to the Klamath to try to hook some half pounders.

The fly on the left in the picture above is the standard commercial tie of the herniator: 2x hook, silver bead head, peacock metallic ribbon, peacock herl, peacock flashabou, and partridge hackle. As stated above, this tie is for slower water to allow the partridge to pulsate through the drift of the fly.

The fly on the right is my attempt at a fast water version of the Herniator: a 2x hook, silver cone head stabilized with lead wraps, peacock metallic ribbon, peacock herl tied in at the tips, then tied on top to create the underwing made from the stiffer sections of the herl, peacock flashabou, and grizzly hackle tied in the wet fly form.

So, tomorrow, I put the fly to the test. Hopefully a slug of halfpounders will have moved into Blake's Riffle by tomorrow morning. I would love the chance to test the fast water version of the Herniator in addition to my chamois worm fly.

As a final thought, there must be something about highway 299, a road that travels from Eureka to Redding. Tim Paxton of Eureka invented the Herniator in addition to several other patterns and Mike Mercer from Redding has invented many patterns that are the essential standards for the Trinity River (which follows 299) and all types of water found in the West (and I'm sure they will work all around the world).

Tight Lines All

HTC 10b: Steelhead

I tied flies for a day to make a new box of flies for the Klamath River. Hopefully I would run into a pod of half pounders (small steelhead under a couple of pounds -- usually 12 to 20 inches), adult steelhead, and possibly salmon. I tied a dozen each of Assassin's, Copper Assassin's, Moss Back's, Silver Herniators, Copper Herniators, and a Worm Fly that I hoped would work.

I headed up to Blake's Riffle yesterday evening to find only a pair of spin fishermen entering the water. The entire riffle was vacant of fishermen. I went to the top of the riffle and almost fell in several times on my way out into the water. One has to wade out about 60 feet to thigh high water to be able to reach the deeper water and swing your fly through the deep water and into the edge of the riffles.

I entered the water at 4:30 and was fortunate to have a half pounder "suicide hit" my Assassin Fly on the swing at 5:00. It jumped out of the water twice and I was glad I brought my 7 weight rod (all my other rods are at Lewiston Lake). In the fast water the 12 to 14 inch fish made me put in on the reel instead of just stripping the line in by hand. I got it to the net and took the photo above. Again, I'm disappointed in the quality of the picture, but using an inexpensive water proof camera with one hand while a half pounder squirms in the net while standing waist deep in fast water while standing on very, very, slippery rocks: cannot complain too much.

I ended up catching two "quarter pounders", fish about 8 to 10 inches long. One was silver and looked like it just came out of the ocean while the other looked like a juvenile trout that had not left the river. I also caught about 6 "eighth pounders" or 4 to 6 inch fish, probably smolts. It is amazing how hard the smolts hit the fly as it is swinging across the current.

I fished for 3.5 hours, moving down the riffle after 3 or 4 casts at each spot. After an hour I got my footing down and could move down the stream safely. After 3 hours I was getting tired from casting, stripping line back, and moving down the riffle while always making sure that I was stable in the water. I left with about 45 more minutes of possible fishing time -- usually the best time, but for safety I called it a session and drove home.

I plan to give the Klamath River a couple of fishing sessions until my tennis teams have Saturday matches, leaving my Sundays for grading and getting ready for the upcoming week in school. Although I have fished at Blake's Riffle before, this outing had the feeling of a Heritage Trout outing and releasing the healthy juvenile steelhead back into the water was awesome.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

HTC 10: The Coastal Rainbow

On the way home from southern California I stopped at Lewiston Lake. I decided to fish the next morning to catch the final fish in the HTC challenge. I was told that Lewiston Lake, part of the historical drainage of the Trinity River, would count as a location for a Coastal Rainbow that would qualify for the HTC.

I headed out at 10 AM (real early for me), and there were many, many midge husks in the water. The Callibaetis Mayflies were hatching, lightly, so I decided to fish midges under an indicator. After two hours moving around the lake I decided to head in. On my way in I saw a fish jumping near the northern corner (farthest from the marina) of the island just across from the Pine Cove Marina. I dropped my anchors and decided to give the area a try.

I can tell that the lake is again being stocked. I actually saw fish in the 14 inch range cruising around my boat. I cast my line into the water along the back side of the island and my flies were attacked on 6 consecutive casts. I hooked 4 and landed 2. Then, as quickly as it started, that spot was done -- no more hits.

I stayed in the area because I could see fish swimming by occasionally. The midges stopped flying by and the Callibaetis appeared to be coming off the water a little better. I changed my top fly to a size 16 flashback PT nymph and my bottom fly to a size 18 tungsten bead zebra midge (from a top burgandy zebra midge and bottom tungsten bead blood midge (both size 18)). Eventually, my line was ripped across the water as the largest fish of the day (approx. 16 inches) smashed the PT nymph and I quickly brought it into the net.

I did take pictures of the first fish caught as the 10th HTC fish of this quest. However, again, my Olympus left me with pictures that were disappointing. However, after looking at pictures taken by my old Nikon Coolpix last year, many of them were also out of focus. I think the problem I'm having is that I'm guessing at the focus as I have an active fish in a net with one hand while trying to take a photo with the other. I also cannot see the digital screen very well because of my poor vision at close range (I'm now one of the old guys who has a set of dollar store reading glasses hanging around my neck lol).

So, I have a picture of yesterday's fish that I could turn in to HTC awards, but it is really out of focus and all one shade of green. The photo above is from July 26 of last year and qualifies for the HTC challenge. I'll send in yesterday's picture to the HTC challenge so my qualifying fish will have all been caught between June 29 and August 2, 2011 -- just for the fun of it.

I'm pretty burned out from the southern California trip and four hours on the lake yesterday without enough water. I'm sure I have material to reflect on this summer's experience. I'm glad I did it, as a personal quest, and catching a Golden Trout in it's native waters has been a life long goal for me, and now it has been done.

More later.......including new tennis courts at Fortuna High, a new tennis season about to start, and my 28th school year. Life is pretty darn good.

HTC 9: The Golden Trout

Saturday 7.30.11

After catching the Kern River Rainbow I took a road trip to find the California Golden Trout. It was a long drive on a poorly marked road that seemed to go on forever, but I made it. I headed down to the stream to find another exposed bank in front of another bathtub sized pool, with water flowing into it and then leaving over a bed of pushed over grasses. I had seen this type of flow before during this challenge. Evidently, the creeks get low sometime during the year, the grasses grow to 2 or 3 feet tall within the stream bed, and then the stream returns and knocks them down.

As with the pool that held the Kern River Rainbows, it was only a foot or two deep, and looked like it might hold one small fish. I threw my fly into the water just as I had at the home of the Kern River Rainbows, and after a few casts had my first Golden Trout, hooked, photographed, and released. Catching a Golden Trout was on my Bucket List, and I had accomplished my goal. I spent another hour at the pool, sucking air because of the altitude, and had a dozen or so rises.

Once again, I dropped the fly into the correct area by mistake. It must have been the hundredth or so time the fly dropped into this pool and I figured any fish over 3 inches would have been put down. However, again, the largest fish in the pool attacked the fly and ended up in my net. Again, I could have spent the entire day in the pool, and a week fishing the creek. The fish were packed into the pool and I'm sure they are found in large densities throughout the creek.

I've heard that the Golden Trout was beautiful and in person it appears to look like a fish not found in nature, but painted by an artist on an acid trip during the 60's. I had a wonderful time searching out this fish and it was an honor to have met them.

HTC 8: The Kern River Rainbow

Saturday 7.31.11

It took me an hour to find the creek. It ran through a campground and I saw a family with fishing poles, so I knew it had to be somewhere close. I got out of the car and finally heard running water. I geared up and followed a trail to the creek.

The creek was guarded by willows. I almost ripped my face off trying to get through them to the stream. After two bushwacking trips through the willows I had no fish and lost several flies to the willows.

I left the creek and moved downstream to find a "fishing hole". The bank of the stream had obviously been used many times for chasing fish. The stream led into a pool the size of a bathtub and then moved into a 100 foot glide. I sat down on the bank, high enough for every fish within sight to see me as a giant bird directly above the stream (used to teach physics -- know about refraction lol).

I sat on the bank, with only the leader and a foot of line out of the tip of the rod. I flicked a size 16 cdc caddis into the pool and 'bam', a small Kern River Rainbow was caught and photographed. I spent a half hour tossing the fly into the "bathtub", 10 to 15 times a minute. Just toss, drift, toss, drift, and more than a dozen fish rose to the fly with a few hookups. I was breaking every rule about catching fish but these beautiful members of their species were at high altitude and only had a short season to fatten up.

I really didn't want to hook them. I just was amazed at how many fish were in such a small area.
By accident, one toss of the fly hit the water in the perfect spot and the big fish of the pond hit the fly. The fish seemed way too big for the water I was fishing. The picture above shows the mammoth 6 inch fish, maybe 7 inches, but gorgeous, aggressive, and the king (queen?) of the water.

I still had one more fish to hunt: the California Golden. I let the fish back into the water with gentleness and respect and decided that although I could have stayed for hours, it was time to go.