Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rio's Extreme Tippet: Utterly Ignored Brilliance

Nobody loves me!
Some time ago, in a blog post I read (origin long forgotten), the author provided an alarming account of a speculative concern that Guiness Stout may no longer be offered in the US; lack of consumption being the root cause.  I immediately rushed to the liquor store and picked up several cases.  I have not been able to substantiate the opinion, nor have I been able to stop buying Guiness, but the thought of the possibility that such a wonderful product might be disappearing from the shelves still makes me break out in a cold sweat.  It would be most difficult to sort through Friday afternoon happy hour without my beloved Black and Tan.

As consumers, we have a responsibility to spread the word in praise of misunderstood products.  The motives are self-serving but also prevent the demise of cool stuff across the spectrum.  From time to time, it seems companies invent something that's so cutting edge, so unique, or so outside conventional thinking, that it never takes hold.  I mean, look what happened to the DeLorean, right?  How cool was that thing?

In the category of good fishing stuff I can't live without, Rio Products' Extreme Tippet is a versatile piece of gear that's never absent in my fishing vest.  It's a non-negotiable!  This product is so wildly misunderstood and underutilized that I fear it may be dropped from their product offering altogether.  Recognizing this, I've bulked up on a supply that I hope will get me through the rest of my fishing life.  It's a synthetic braided material, so I have high hopes for a long shelf life.

Dyneema, the chief ingredient in Extreme Tippet is braided together with hundreds of fibers, making it incredibly strong when compared to copolymer or fluorocarbon materials.  It's reduced diameter in contrast to conventional tippet makes this stuff perfect for fast sinking applications such as Czech Nymphing or short line nymphing.  With all the popular attention being paid to Czech style fishing these days, I'm baffled by the fact that anglers won't glom onto the principle terminal tackle used by the Czech fly fishing team to dominate the World Fly Fishing Championships several years back.  Generally speaking, for clear Western tailwater nymphing, I attach a small piece of fluorocarbon to my Extreme Tippet vs. taking it all the way to my first fly for stealth.  This material requires the use of back to back Duncan loops, apposing splices from a Tie Fast Tool, or a quadruple surgeons knot when attaching it to mono or fluorocarbon.

The other benefit, and probably the primary one for Extreme Tippet is that is has zero stretch.  This means it is whicked sensitive to bite detection and lightning fast in reaction to hook sets.  Similar to braided fishing line, this begs the question, can all those bass anglers really be wrong?  Extreme Tippet provides tremendous benefit to nymphing anglers that require a material that will allow them to pick up microscopic subtle takes.  For those of you that enjoy fishing without indicators, there isn't a better material available to sort through tricky currents, drop to the bottom, and give you the feel necessary to detect ticks along the streambed.

For swinging streamers.... well let me just say, HOLY CRAP!  Combined it with the use of stinger hooks in your patterns and you just may never miss a short take ever again.  This presents limitless possibilities for trout, bass, and of course steelhead.  Let me put it this another way, Extreme Tippet with a diameter of 4x has a tensile strength of 15lb test mono, 3x is 20 lbs! If you want a material that will add life like presentation to your streamers or steelhead flies, yet will enable you to stay hooked up come game time, Rio Products' Extreme Tippet is the solution.

If you're a big water large trout angler fishing from a drift boat to the bank- especially when you need to huck huge streamers or large dry flies right to or under overhanging branches, there's just nothing like this stuff.  It's slim diameter lets you impart action in your patterns, yet it's strength gives you all the horse power you need to rip Mr. Brown Trout out from underneath a log jam or gnarled cutbank as you go floating by.

Lastly, for bass fishing, Extreme Tippet Rocks!  It's zero stretch gives you a tremendous upper hand when you're loading up a BASS Master Classic hook set on a huge Bucketmouth, boiling Striper or angry Smallmouth.  I love to use this tippet on a cut down three foot section of Rio's Freshwater VersiLeaders (2.6 ips) combined with shad patterns or Dahlberg Divers.  For frog patterns when you're casting right up on shore and popping back to the boat, Extreme Tippet gives me the confidence that I can mingle with fallen timber, sunken Christmas trees, boat docks, cattails or any other shallow water nastiness and be assured that I will still get my $7.00 fly back. 

I hope you'll give it a try.  Again, my recommendation is self-serving as I want the product to stick around, but I'm confident you'll be happy with the outcome.  It's probably important for me to point out that I have no affiliation with Rio Products nor am I being paid to endorse their product.  It's just really good material.

There are a couple of things you want to be aware of: First, regular knots won't work on Extreme Tippet.  You'll want to use primarily Rapala or loop style knots.

Rapala Knot

Duncan Loops, tripple or quadrupole surgeon knots also work very well to join this product to other single strand materials. An Albright knot is an excellent solution for joining the tippet material directly to your fly lines, but remember to seat it very slowly, working the line into position with non-overlapping wraps.  Two, be careful with this stuff.  It's thin diameter and ultra strength can cut you in an instant when seating knots.  Seat slowly and avoid over wrapping around your hands without a rag handy.
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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bass Mojo: Fishing with Montana Fly Co.'s Jason Goodale

Assorted Deer Hair Candy by Chef Goodale
Cottonwood seeds floating on a calm surface, shorelines choked with overhanging branches, the steady cadence of a Red Wing Black Bird's song, fallen timber, flooded cattails, spider webs, snakes, frogs, skeeters, deer flies, horse flies, and the noxious smell of Deep Woods Off.  Yeah baby!  These are just a few of my favorite things.  This is bass fishing.

A few days ago, I contacted Jason Goodale, signature tier with Montana Fly Company, and confided that I was going through a phase of being a little bored with trout fishing, having been bitten particularly hard by the warm water bug and a pull to explore some new tying techniques.  Mind you, I whispered my temporary disinterest with trout so as not to upset the fish gods.  Knowing exactly where I was coming from, Jason later told me a story about some guys he once met from Missouri while on a family camping trip who were amazed with his trout fishing skill, yet were stunned to learn that he'd really rather be bass fishing.  Puzzled, they inquired, "But you're from Colorado.  You have all these amazing trout everywhere you turn and you'd rather be fishing for bass?"  The grass is always greener I suppose, or in this instance, the pond.

Jason is a bug slinger extraordinaire, master deer hair spinner, and warm water aficionado.  He was born and raised in Colorado, fishing trout streams across the West.  Several years ago, at a fly tying show in Colorado, he spent three marathon days sitting next to Tim Jacobs who was tying bass flies. Jason was churning out size 22 thread midges by the dozens as well as an assortment of Baetis flies while peaking over his shoulder and talking with Tim about all those crazy psychedelic flies spun with deer hair.  That was it for Jason.  After the tying demo, he got to know Tim a little better, spent some time learning a few secret tricks for spinning hair, and then took things to a whole new level.  Having inspected his flies, I can confidently say Jason is one of the best deer hair stackers anywhere. 

I called Jason to talk with him about my warm water project, explaining that I wanted to expand my tying knowledge and wanted to spend some time exploring warm water fishing in Colorado.  Then he said, "Well, I'm off work tomorrow.  Want to go? "  The next thing you know, I found myself on a bass pond banging huge topwater flies against the shore and chasing schools of shad trying to evade prowling White Bass from below.  "Just explode (strip), explode on it Mr. Bass, (strip), blow that fly up, (strip)," Jason would repeat.  It's good to coax the fish a little.

During our cruise around the pond, and in between fish, we got acquainted and I got a valuable lesson on the art of tying bass plugs with deer hair, plus we outlined plans for a more detailed post to properly illustrate the techniques Jason uses when crafting his flies.

We had some time to talk about rigging fly rods for bass fishing.  There is very little information available on the subject when compared to the bombardment of trout fishing tips, techniques and know how.  "People just don't tie flies for bass much [or fly fish for them].  They're either addicted to it or intimidated by it.  There's not much in between," Jason shared.

We both like two outfits handy at all times.  In Jason's case, the first is a 9' seven weight fast action rod with a double shad streamer rig flung with Scientific Angler's 30' head 200 grain Streamer Express Line.  The head and handling line is small diameter so it sinks quickly.  I liked everything about the line with the exception of the running line - the memory sucks.  Only a few minutes after stretching it, the line coiled back up, making it difficult to handle in the boat.  I'd be temped to remove the running line and attach a 50' section of Shark Skin .032" running line so that line would really shoot, without the complication of a coiled up mess.

The goal in fishing the shad patterns on the pond was to lay out a cast to the bank, make one or two strips to deeper water, let it sink, and then strip like hell back to the boat.  A two handed strip with the rod tucked under your arm worked most effectively.  "Streamers are what we throw when we have to.  It's like nymphing, not something you want to do, but something you gotta do when necessary," Jason commented.

Top water was what we were after.  As the sun started to set, rings and boils started popping up all over the pond, which brings us to rig number 2.  The witching hour was upon us.  The second outfit was a stiff 9' eight weight rod rigged with Rio's Clouser Line, ideal for turning over huge flies using its reverse compound taper and bullet front end taper.

As we crept along the shoreline, we fooled more than a few bass.  The trick was to land the fly within inches of the shore and strip it back through the fallen timber or submerged cattails.  We started with a terrific top water popper and then moved to a couple of Jason's amazing diver patterns (pictured top post, left side).  The diver imitates bate at its most vulnerable, allowing the bass to remain under the surface in relative security before the ambush.  The trick to fishing this bate is to draw most of the slack out of your cast and then make a quick firm strip drawing the plug under the water with a distinctive BLOOP.  I like to rest the fly at the surface until the rings disapear and then give it another strip.  Quite often bass will hit a topwater plug when it's sitting very still.

I enjoyed an amazing evening of bass fishing with Jason and look forward to getting into the details of the techniques employed for stacking deer hair.  I can't wait for the next go round.

Get out and do some bass fishing!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bass Beware - Lefty's Red & White Hackle Fly

Bass Beware!
Lefty Kreh is by all accounts an undisputed heavyweight famous feather spinner and world class fly angler.  He's one of my favorites simply because he ties so many patterns that are mirrored in my youth.  His patterns are just plain old fishy, not particularly difficult to tie, and they serve a variety of purposes for both fresh and salt water applications. 

For reasons I can't explain, I've been bitten particularly hard by the warm water bug this season.  Consequently, I suspect I'll be spending more time on lakes than poking around streams this summer, or at least that's going to be the case during this crazy runnoff.  We'll have to see if old man trout captures my attention when conditions improve a bit.

During my trip down memory Bass lane, I thought I'd spin up a new warm water box and bring a few of my closest blogging friends along for the journey.  Hopefully, these patterns prove to be just as useful as they were so many years ago.  Regardless, I'm sure going to have fun tying them up!  I hope to cover a lot of ground in this series, some old nostalgic patterns, and some new stuff I find particularly intriguing, plus I may even throw in a few brown water inspired personal patterns if the mood strikes me.

The first thing that I find important in fishing warm water species is covering all my bases, or in this case depth levels.  Not unlike nymph fishing for trout, if you're not getting bit, you need to make a change.  Usually the change needed involves an adjustment in depth, though variations in color and pattern size is also important.  Failure to adjust depth is the number one mistake I see new trout-fly anglers make when dragging nymphs through holes, but I digress.

I prefer to carry very few patterns in my bass pursuits, but I concentrate on learning those patterns infinitely well.  In addition, I focus on being able to fish them at varying depths using a variety of different tools in both materials used to tie the pattern as well as rigging necessary to present the fly.  Basically, I want to be able to fish many of my patterns deep, very deep, on the surface, and most importantly just beneath the surface - where small bait is at its most vulnerable and visible.

Lefty's Red and White Hackle Fly is an all time favorite of mine as a fly that tackles the duty from 3" to 1' in depth, although I also have these patterns tied with red and black lead eyes in my box in order to get them deeper if needed.  It is one of the very best small mouth patterns on the planet and will serve double duty as a terrific baby tarpon or snook fly in saltwater around mangroves.  I'd have to guess this might also make a good pike fly when the cold water wolf moves up into the shallows.

The fly calls for a size 1/0 - 4 Mustad S71S.  I prefer TMC 811S for it's wider gap.  Although more expensive, I use saltwater hooks for most of my warm water flies primarily because it inspires me to take saltwater trips.  I mean, I've got the flies ready to go, right?  Might as well go.

This fly does an excellent job as a searching pattern that bridges the gap between deep-running and surface offerings.  It's started with a sprig of flashabou at the mid point of the hook that extends 1 1/2 times the shank length off the bend.  I prefer longer tails and bushy bodies for most flies as I can always trim them at the river, flat, or lake to suit the conditions at the time.  It's pretty tough to add material!

Next, I tie in some white saddle hackle for the tail.  I select between 3-6 feathers per side and tie each side in individually, making sure the tails flares out opposite of one another once attached.  This gives the fly that life like flare between strips.  I peel off the soft webbing from the shaft of the feather, leaving only course rachis and barb near the tip (this is approximately 3/4 length of the entire feather).  Then, I trim the excess shaft once it's attached.  Although not called for in the pattern, I tie in a grizzly hackle on each side of he fly.  This does two things: One, it introduces a degree of contrast which I prefer in most streamer patterns to break up the fly, introducing a wider arrangement of color, giving the fly a more realistic fishy look.  Two, grizzly hackle just looks damn cool!

Starting at the mid-shank,  I palmer alternating red and white saddle hackles into the pattern, ending in red, wrapping them forward to 1/8' behind the eye of the hook.  Throw in a whip finish or two and some hard as nails and it's ready to go.

Variations to the this pattern include Chartreuse vs. Red hackle,  adding Chain or lead eyes to achieve different depths, replacing the Grizzly hackle with medium barred rubber legs for light weight patterns designed to be fished at or just beneath the surface.  This pattern is primarily fished around changing structure as a searching pattern.  It's deadly to scoot it from a shallow over the lip of a rapidly descending drop off, or among dead-fall logs or standing flooded timber (tie in some 30 lb mono to cover the hook in order to make it weedless).

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Virtue of Small Fish & Rigging for Skip Casts

This past weekend I took my son out for a bit of worm dunkin at a local pond not far from the house.  When it comes to fishing with youngsters, there's one rule: slay fish... fast, furious and often.  Copious amounts of blood in the water is just the ingredient to capture finned attention for such an occasion.  We spent an hour or so pulling in a couple dozen Bluegill, some Warmouth, and a few Perch and then decided to head home.

You know that rule about always remembering the fish that got away?  Well, during our outing, while I was tending to my two year old daughter who innocently decided to investigate an ant hill, not realizing those suckers bite, my son hooked up with something significant.  Muted beneath the screaming of my ant covered daughter who had been abundantly wronged by mother nature, I could vaguely make out another discernible scream, that being Zebco drag.  "What's that," I say to myself.  At the same time my son starts screaming, "Hey!  Hey!  I think I've got something big.  Dad, help!"  I leave my daughter instantly to fend for herself to see what's tugging on my son.  I later realize this is sadly NOT a character defining moment in my life.  Thank goodness her mother was on hand to sort out the ant drama.

Bass food!
As I rush to approach my boy, I show up too late; a lost fish that served it's purpose ten fold.  He hasn't stopped talking about it for the last two days.  Mission accomplished!

That fish planted more than one seed though, a renewed interest in visiting my warm water roots had taken hold.  In that moment, I determined that I would be back in a day or two, unencumbered by youngins', and armed to the teeth with a full arsenal of warm water flies.
Typical of the morning fishery
The pond was littered with overhanging Willows and fallen timber creating the perfect summer shady habitat for shore cruisers.  Time to break out the skip cast rig!  I grew up in the Midwest, bass and pan fishing from one farm pond to another.  Each of these fly traps were wooded with overhanging trees, bushes and other nasties, all with a fierce appetite for flies.  These situations call for a rig I devised as a kid which has now been perfected by Sage in their BASS series rods, the skip cast rig.

This poor chap had lost his upper lip to an earlier angler
This outfit is pretty much nothing more than an overloaded fly rod with a couple of fine tuning customizations added in.  A mid action rod performs best.  As a kid, fiberglass was the bomb!  The goal is to generate an enormous amount of load on the rod using heavily over weighted line and water load from a roll cast.

I expected to find mostly small pan fish in this pond so went with a Winston B2T 3 weight and a #5 weight Rio Grand line.  If I were fishing for Bass, I would use a 5-6 rod and #10 Rio Grand line.  I like Rio Grand for this purpose because the tip section is over weighted with a piece of stepped up line (a #10 would have a #11 tip), giving me a rocket launcher for the tip of my sword.  For good measure, I attach a 2' section of Rio's sinking leader (2.6 fps) to form a tight small surface level loop as my cast approaches the overhang.  Basically, I want the large loop of the roll cast to break down into a smaller directional fly cast loop just as it enters the area of the shore where trees are overhanging.  From a boat, I will make this cast from approximately 30-35 feet away with low trajectory, almost side arm, giving me a compact D loop.  My goal is to get the bug moving at a high velocity and bounce on the surface just before it reaches the overhanging trees.  Then, it should skip just above the water's surface all the way to the shore.  It takes practice and ruining a few holes while you paddle in to retrieve miscalculated casts from trees, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be amazed at how accurate it is, and how easily you can deliver a cast under overhanging trees - where the fish are!

Damnit!  What are you doing here?  This is a warm water bit.
I did come across a few larger fish while banging the shores with streamers in the afternoon
Stupid trout!  Boo!
Fishin is cool!

Thursday, June 2, 2011


 Tuesday following Memorial Day Weekend; a good day to fish.  The crowds are gone, those feverishly racing back to work to make up for an early departure the previous Friday.  The river takes a deep breath after shaking off a thrashing of strike indicators floating through one hole after another.  The fish are relaxed in low flow and clear surroundings, podded together in social networks to rest after a three day onslaught of anglers seeking a moment of personal grace from the pace of modern society.

As I approach, the river is calm, basking in a brief moment of collective security, lonely, peaceful, in a state of refined elegance and beauty.  Today I'm an intruder,  someone or something out of place in the natural order of things, robbing the river of much needed inactivity.

I'm waiting, waiting on a hatch and then a rise, waiting on a big game draw result, waiting in anticipation of the upcoming bird season.  I'm waiting for some tires I ordered that still haven't shown up, waiting on a corporation to finalize a job offer, waiting for the new grass seed in my yard to germinate.  I'm waiting on life.

Seeking relief, I bounce from one piece of holding water to another, occasionally making a cast to a few energetic feeding fish, but more often than not just watching the water and fish at play.  The fishing is technical and hard.  I take a few fish, one brown trout, a couple of rainbows, and a plump stunning lone cutthroat hiding behind an inconspicuous boulder near the tailout of a riffle.

Happy with my results and renewed by the repeated lesson of the importance of patience, I make my way back to my truck for the quiet drive home.   On my way, I recognize a nose poking up in a pocket of calm water, then another and another.  I am rewarded by a small BWO hatch coming off in the afternoon overcast sky, taking witness to a few fish consistently rising to a timely hatch.  They too were waiting, and they were rewarded.  Another lesson? 

Unprepared and lacking a suitable imitation, I am no longer waiting, but rather wanting.

The South Platte River - Deckers Area
CFS: 100
Conditions: Clear and technical, fish gathered in pods
Flies: drowned caddis, BH Barrs flashback emerger, Red Headed Stepchild, black loopwing RS2, buckskin