Public Service Announcement Time…

Fur, feather, and hooks. Thread all that together and you have what’s on my mind these days. Winter is generally equated to fly tying. So why not get a bunch of people together to do just that? I can’t think of any reason not to. Well, Master-Fly is the answer. It’s a mystery bag fly tying event loosely based on MasterChef, Chopped, and the such. It’s a fun event with a chance to create something interesting with given fly tying material for not only bragging rights but also cash and prizes.

Here’s the simple, or maybe not so simple, breakdown: 4 qualifying rounds, a semifinal and a final head-to-head. There’s a $5 buy in with buy back capabilities. Each entrant is given a brown bag containing an assortment of great tying materials and hooks. From that bag the tyer creates one interesting, fishable fly in a given amount of time… But wait, there’s a fun little twist. Within 5 minutes of starting, each entrant will also be given a black bag – the mystery bag. The black bag will contain, something, anything really, it just won’t be your normal tying stuff. The contents of the black bag needs to be visually incorporated into the fly. Don’t worry, the mystery item won’t be anything too crazy, like an anvil or a distributor. It’ll be an item with usable material, just not from your typical source. The top 2 tyers from each qualifying round moves onto the semifinal round. And the top 2 from the semifinal round go head-to-head. The winner and runner up win cash and prizes. But note, there’s giveaways at each event, and a grand drawing at the final event so everyone participating or spectating has a chance at some great prizes. That’s pretty much the sum of it.

4 qualifying rounds, one held at 4 different fly shops in Central Oregon:

The semifinal and final will be held on one day at one shop:

Photo Credit: ©Arian Stevens Photography www.flyfishingphotographer.com

Photo Credit: ©Arian Stevens Photography
www.flyfishingphotographer.com

Bring your fly tying tools and vise along with your ingenuity. The prizes and giveaways are awesome and numerous and seem to be mounting by the day. It would be best to learn more and too general stay tuned about Master-Fly by following and liking it on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/centraloregonmasterfly.

For some great inspiration and motivation, as well as some good humor, read what Paul, of Outside Bend Productions, has to say about Master-Fly over on his site - http://outsidebendproductions.com/2014/01/07/master-fly/

Hope to see a bunch of folks at each event, I’ll be at every one of them.

-Troy

Metolius, Sometimes I Loathe Thee

Photo credit: Ryan Brennecke

Photo credit: Ryan Brennecke

It was early, perhaps too early. It was o’dark-thirty in the morning and I was tossing my gear bag out the slider onto the patio as Ryan pulled up. You’d suspect we where going steelhead fishing on the Lower Deschutes. But no, we where not, we were not even heading far enough from town to warrant such an early departure. We were simply heading over to the Metolius for some trout fishing. So why so early? I don’t know: hedge our bets on getting into fish by having more time, give Ryan first light opportunities for his photography, I’m that slow at rigging up. It could be any number of things. One thing for sure, we both thought our departure time was sort of ridiculous. But there we were throwing my gear in the back of Ryan’s truck in the dark of the morning. I looked back at my place and saw… well I didn’t see much. It was dark as hell and all the lights where out. I didn’t stir wife or son. It would be an hour or more before they woke, flicked on kitchen lights, and started their day. By then I would be on the river trying to sniff out the notoriously educated Metolius bows.

The ride out wavered between fishing and having kids; Ryan’s expecting his first born soon and I’m battling mine and the horrible threes. As for the fishing conversation, thoughts where expressed on how hard the Metolius can fish. There’s times when things click and everything goes well, but there are often times when it doesn’t click and there seem to be nary a fish around. We decided we had enough time to fish any water we wanted

There seems to be plenty of evidence to suggest the river is chock full of fish, such as the redd counts being up. Stocking of hatchery reared fish ceased on the Metolius in 1996 and it became a wild trout fishery once again. Subsequently, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife started studying spawning activity via redd counts. According to the study the count went from approximately 150 redds in the mid 1990’s to nearly 500 in the late ’90’s with a huge jump in 2002-’03 of nearly 1,200 redds. It had a drop in 2006 to around 600 and since then has seemed to settle on around a 900 redd count. There’s definitely fish, but they lack the hatchery nature, which is great. Moving fisheries away from hatchery stock and towards a healthy and vital wild fishery is and should be a goal on many rivers. However, it means you trade the gullible sluggish pale hatchery fish for a Ph.D educated strong beautifully colored wild fish. The fishing can lend itself towards difficult, especially when we’re talking about that fishery being on a clear, glacier blue, spring fed river. It’s a trade off, but one well worth it.

We turned onto Camp Sherman road and headed towards what we hoped to be a day where everything clicked. We swung by the headwaters for Ryan to snap a few first light photos for his stock images. I was unsure why he thought wet wading the Metolius (a river with a consistent water temp of 48 degrees fahrenheit) on a slightly chilly morning seemed like a “quick and easy” solution for his pics… But hey, it wasn’t my sack going in the frigid water. Once Ryan shivered out of the cold water we motored down river and stopped at the small quant Camp Sherman store. It’s a place that sells most anything anyone could need or want in these parts. Anything from micros and macros, deli meats, camp accoutrements, handcrafted bamboo fly rods to post cards to send back home saying you might be gone longer than originally thought. They even have some good espresso, which I was in need of. Just one catch. The store needs to be open to acquire any of the said items, at least in a legal fashion. I was in need of more caffeine but not of a criminal record. Damn early starts and not enough coffee.

Photo credit: Ryan Brennecke

Photo credit: Ryan Brennecke

Photo credit: Ryan Brennecke

Photo credit: Ryan Brennecke

We hit a couple spots we both knew fairly well, looking to get on the board early and fend off any skunk. Although quite a few campgrounds had a decent amount of filled sites, there wasn’t anyone on the water fishing, but that was sure to change. Our spots turned up nothing. We didn’t even get a sighting. We tossed a few under some brush and over hanging branches here and there to no avail. The thought and hope was to coach something unseen out. We talked about it being too early, how hatches and fish seem to keep gentleman hours and things will pick up later in the morning. All the normal talks everyone gives themselves when things are slow. Which saying that is in itself funny. The phrase “it’s slow” is used when things are not just slow but rather aren’t happening. It’s comforting self rhetoric.

It wasn’t just us. Later in the day we bumped into two other fisherman, only two so far, who claimed things were slow too. Shortly after leaving them we spotted a nice fish finning under a down tree. Lined up just perfectly where the cast had to be dead on, the drift just right and the hook set and play of the fish well orchestrated. He was the valedictorian of his class. Ryan attempted the fish while I rigged up for the challenge. He tangled and broke off just as I finished my double nymph rig setup. As he was re-rigging I managed a couple valiant attempts, one of which nearly tapped him on his nose. Then one too many bold attempts and I found myself in a tangoing with far too twiggy bush. Ryan, now reset, went back at it while I tried to unweave my tangled web of monofilament. Back and forth it went, ailing attempts to reach such a precisely lying fish. We surrendered our feeble pursuits conjured by our 3 pound (six collectively) human brains to his apparent malevolent, and obviously more sophisticated, pea size brain and perfect position. We however kept one eye on trickster as we backed away.

Photo credit: Ryan Brennecke

Photo credit: Ryan Brennecke

We spotted a few more fish in a deep pool. Couldn’t slam anything down far and fast enough for them nor could they be brought up. The day stretched onward and the conversation during hikes and new locations and fish hunting went towards the eerily missing fishing folks. It was a weekend, why wasn’t there more people on the river? Was that a sign of something we didn’t know? That the fishing on the Metolius has been slow and folks camping out here were “just enjoying the view” and not here to fish? Not only where there nary a fish around, there was hardly anyone out besides us trying to find them. I’m sure they were there, after all there’s the redd counts and fish studies to support it. However, we were getting beat. Beat by the fish, beat by the amount of time we had been hiking, beat by our early rise… We had enough.

I’m thinking of resting the river until it’s time to chase the Bull trout who chase the Kokanee. It comforts me to think I wouldn’t be foolish enough to repeat this day so soon and expect a different result. I probably won’t, but right now, that’s what I’m thinking.

- Troy

Photo Credit: Ryan Brennecke. Check out more of Ryan’s work – here.

This piece first appeared in H&H Outfitters issue #4 of The Backcast. Check it out – here. You can check all of their issues out – here.

 

Rod Memory: What’s In and With a Rod

B&W Fly Rods

What’s in a fly rod? Sure, some are rolled from graphite, some crafted from split Tonkin bamboo, others are poured fiberglass gel, there’s guides, reel seats, cork grips (sometimes composite) and such. But I’m not looking to go into a “how to make” or a “how it’s made” dissertation on rods. I’m asking what’s “in” a fly rod? What is it that draws us towards one rod over another? To claim one better than another? To choose one from the quiver over another for the day’s fishing? This is not about a general rod company being better than another general rod company. I have my certain dislikes and likes towards companies. It’s a question of what draws us to a particular rod regardless of the company sticker on it. When I’m getting things ready to head out to the water I take a moment to decide which rod is going with me. I’ve thought on this a handful of times and I always go back to one instance where this metaphysical pondering was brought to the forefront.

Me and my wife (girlfriend at the time) were in Central Idaho, about to float a nice stretch of river. As we were getting into the boat the guide looked at my rod I chose to use for the day; it was an old Cabela’s 2 peace, 9 foot 6 weight graphite rod I’ve had for years. After a short snarky smirk the guide commented, “You should really upgrade and get into something better than that rod.” I didn’t really say anything in return, just “Hmm… Maybe.” The thing is, I had other rods, mostly ranging in the mid-price range category, but that’s not the thing. I chose this rod for a reason, it had a purpose to be on that water.

Early in life my folks got a divorce and my mother remarried to a man who became that great father figure, a Dad really. He showed me what true honest work is, responsibility, how to treat women with the respect they unequivocally deserve, and got me into the one thing that obsoletely changed my life – fishing. I remember pawing through those thick Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s catalogs dreaming of my own impressive collection of obviously magical gear; my Dad caught more than me and had far more tackle boxes filled with interesting gummy things and sparkly jingling jigs. The mass collection was my speculation for his success. I didn’t have much money to afford collecting my own mass. I had to work for everything I did and wanted, and pulling chickens and detasseling corn didn’t pay much. Garage sales where my catalogs. And it was at one of those I happened upon a fly rod.

B&W Fly RodsI whipped the water for a good long season with that garage sale rod, wet noodle really. It was the rod I took every time my Dad took me fishing. I would listen to his advice. Sometimes a friend of his would be with us, I would take their advice. I could feel their sideways glances looking at my cast, their cringes with every pile cast, flitches with tailing loops and forward casts. They where patient and kept giving advice, but more importantly they kept telling me – “you’ll get it.” Slowly I learned more about the fundamentals of fly fishing and casting and began to get the hang of it. It must have been the diligence I showed towards the sport that gave my Dad the idea to gift me a rod and reel setup. I imagine he thought it would serve better than the random no-name $10 garage sale purchase I made and was frothing the Michigan water with, or perhaps he thought it was my due. Either way, it was a much better, and greatly appreciated addition to my meager arsenal. Casting came easier with it. I explored many rivers of Southwest Michigan and took it with me when we did our summer long vacations visiting family in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was my every day rod, it was my only real rod.

I fished with my Dad as much as I could, but I got older and began fishing with my own buddies. The times me and my Dad fished together became less and less. I started swinging a hammer and earning better money than on the farms, allowing to expand my rod collection a little and shelving the gifted rod more and more.

I moved West in my early twenties creating an even bigger gap and less of a possibility to fish with my Dad. Shortly after I moved he developed small cell lung cancer, suspected from Agent Orange during his service in the Vietnam War, and passed far too early in life. He never got the chance to visit me out West where he encouraged me to move and always thought I belonged. He missed me graduating from college. He never met my wife and never met his grandson. He never got the chance to fish any of the rivers he dreamt about.

That rod I chose for that float in Central Idaho with my future wife, that rod that I should think about upgrading to “…something better…” was the rod my Dad gave me as a gift years ago. It fished rivers on my move West. It has fished many of the rivers I fished when I was in college in Portland, Oregon. It fished my favorite rivers when I lived in Montana. Since living in Bend, Oregon it has seen my go to spots. My son has wiggled it in the yard while I try to teach him how to cast. It’s not my every day rod, it’s my special occasion rod.

So, what’s “in” a fly rod? Memories. When we where in Central Idaho, about to fish that beautiful river, I thought it appropriate to share that memory with my Dad and show him that river. Do I need to upgrade, no. It’s already the best rod anyone can have.

-Troy

This stems from a short version I posted on the Bend Casting Club website – here

Rugged Creek Review… Sort of…

Photo Credit: Ryan Brennecke

Photo Credit: Ryan Brennecke

A month or so ago Rugged Creek sent me a couple rods, reels and some fly line to test out. I did, but before I mention anything I should say something – my thoughts on them could now be seen as biased. Between testing these new items and reviewing their Classic Switch Rod awhile back, read review - here, I’ve gotten to know them and them me. During a recent conversation they asked me to join their team. After some deliberation, I accepted the offer.

That being said, and before I say anything else, I would like to celebrate by offering a 10% discount and free shipping within the Continental U.S. on your Rugged Creek order. Just call them with your order and tell them Troy sent you. Currently, a promo code is in the works to enter at checkout on their site… but until then give the ol’ fashion way a go. It’ll save you money and you’ll talk to good folks in the process. Head over to Rugged Creek – here and make your list then contact Jake at 208-760-0937 to place your order. This offer is for the entire month of September, 2013. Share this with friends and family, let them know how to get the deal too. Feel free to contact me – troy@lineandleader.com for further questions.

Photo Credit: Ryan Brennecke

Photo Credit: Ryan Brennecke

What follows might sound and seem sales pitchy but I wouldn’t have joined their team if I didn’t think of them as reputable. Additionally, I don’t claim to be the ultimate “fishy dude” or a “world renowned” caster but I know what works well and have gotten good feed back from people I’ve fished with and have tried these rods. First, their good honest folks who love fishing and are budget minded. Second, they recently added a line of single hand rods that really perform. The 5wt is a great all around rod that can cast close in accurately. Nevertheless, if you wish to impress your buddies in the parking lot and launch a smooth long line with a massive double haul, it can do that too. The 7wt has been doing great with big bug demands, stripping streamers to browns and popping mousers to bass. Third, they teamed up with Steve Godshall to work on line devolvement… can’t really go wrong with that. Forth, their Classic and new NXS switch rods are good little sports car rods. Whether it be for nymphing or swinging they’re fun and easy to cast and fish. Fifth, they listen to criticism and look to improve on every step. To me, it just seems smart to get in early with such a company.

Not much of a review because… well I’m affiliated. I’ll leave it at that.

-Troy

On the Up and Upper

It was a slow methodical rigging. Erroneously double checking that every guide was strung. Adjusting straps on an already adjusted pack. Tying tippet on with a blood knot when I knew a double surgeons would suffice for the fishing we where about to do. I wouldn’t say I was deliberately taking it slow, none of us where in any real hurry, nor did I have any reproach in regards to our impending water. I was just sort of… curious. That’s all. Curious how the water would look, how I would fish it.

My last visit to “The Punch Bowl” definitely left an impression on me; any complete submersion would. It impressed enough on me to try on different wading belts until I found the one with the greatest comfortability factor to ensure it’s use.

I’ve gotten severely cautious about my wading, more so than usual. I’ve never considered myself an adventurous wader, but now I second guess what I would have never given any thought to. I was definitely shaken by going down. Any confidants that I did have for sloshing through rushing water, leaping a boulder or two, weaving in, on and around snarled log jams was drowned. But now I’m going back to the scene of the accident. It’s my chance to face the demon and ask “What the hell?” Then poke it’s eye and run the other way.

The distinguishing click and following hiss of a snapped beer can tab rang out and awoke me from my trance. I notice Jake and Arian, standing, patiently awaiting for fishing to begin and rigging to end. I ended my internal conversation and grab the cool perspiring can of beer Arian was offering me. “We’ll just kill a little time here until it get’s closer to last light, then head up river to the other spot. The good one. Last time I was up there they were just smashing it.” Jake proclaims with a slight, sort of maniacal, chuckle. We all smile with the prospect of getting into some hard hitting brookies.

I was about to crack the beer as we started towards the trailhead. “You don’t mind if we partake in libations around you, do you?” I ask Jake knowing he’s been free of the habit for a little over three years now.

“Nah. I don’t mind at all. I just can’t have any. I have this allergy – every time I drink I seem to break out in cuffs.” He chuckled. We all share the laugh and head towards fishing, leaving my internal conversation and vehicle roadside.

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

The first spot we stop to fish is “The” spot. As we approach I start doubting that it is the spot. I look towards river left bank. This can’t be it. There’s no giant branch obstructing the edge of the pool where I went in off the point. Below the pool is a down skeletal tree but not as I remembered it; as the big bushy trunk where I bassmastered the brookie out from under.

“So, this is it?” Arian asks.

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

“I’m not sure. I’m pretty sure it is, but everything seems off. It’s possibly the next hole.” I answer with uncertainty and walk down the bank peering into the water looking for recognition, either from me to the river or the river to me. It doesn’t seem threatening. I feel sort of bewildered to the reason why such a seemingly tame waterway would drag and shove me like a cattle catcher on a locomotive. I recognize the tree in the shallows above the pool and the submerged limps towards the bank. I walk to the point and look into the pool. Yup. This is the brute. The one that dragged me down but managed to break free of. It’s the abyss. I look at it some more. I look into it. I look all around it. There’s a slight, but definite, change to everything. There’s a softer, sorrowful tone. I guess as the season wears the punch softens. There’s change in both of us but not quite to an unrecognizable difference. I unhook the streamer from the guide wire, let out line and toss it into the current.

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

After a few strips of a streamer it seems nothing is going to come out or up for a take. Perhaps that’s how it’s suppose to be. Just a gentle reintroduction, get reacquainted before more fish are let to hand. I feel comfortable and start fishing deferent areas of the Punch Bowl. I throw the streamer a few times below the pool. Then wade across well above the pool, and try a small seam on the other side.

I spot a couple small risers but have little desire in re-rigging. I get a good solid tug on the streamer but miss the hook up. Arian’s taking pictures in between a few tosses of a dry fly. Jake’s on the other side of the river spotting for fish in the deep pool, his rod leaning next to him rigged with a two nymph setup. Fishing is slow all around. Someone, not sure who, mentioned time. It’s nearing low light and for us to motor over to the other spot for smashing action during last light. I reel in and head back towards the trailhead behind the other guys.

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

The “good hole” as Jake put it, is a slow flow but nipple deep wading experience. Stripping streamers hounded out a few pumps here and there but nothing buttoning up. Jake switched to a Chubby Chernobyl for some reason or another and buttoned up and got a brookie to hand. I switched… yup. Arian made a comment about the amazing wonders of the Purple Chubby Chernobyl. I’m not really focused on the fishing. I slip back into an internal conversation - It’s the little wonders and what ifs amazing us the most. Often things are just on the edge of working and you need to figure out that slight change in order to get things to click. Sometimes things fail completely and you have to look at it as a learning experience and not a failing endeavor. Was my complete submersion a utter failing? Not really. I got the fish. I learned to always wear a wading belt. Best of all, I got a story I’m sure to yarn out every once in awhile around angling friends. I went back, faced the demon, but found that it wasn’t really there. I didn’t have to poke his eye and run the other way.

-Troy

Don’t forget the following:

Check out Beattie Outdoor Production‘s video “Spring Stoneflies” with Jake – here

Check out Arian Stevens Photography – here