A Couple Old Builds.

Here are a few rod builds I have not yet posted.

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I only snapped one pic as the 9ft six weight. It was a blast to build and my first experience with color preserver and applying a label. Both were successful.

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This build turned out well. I’m hopeful that its helping it’s new owner land copious amounts of fishes!

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Hit me up if you’re interested in your own fly rod from Whitewater Valley Flies custom shop.

Short story- The One That Got Away, Twice.

It was an early September day in the driftless area of Southeastern Minnesota. After a typical day of work I hurried home to prepare for the days true business. September is my favorite month to chase trout as they eagerly devour bugs and other forage with little discretion in preparation for the spawn and impending scarcity brought on by winter. With the flies and rod packed in the car, an apple and a stick of string cheese packed in my gut, and adorned in some drab clothes and old shoes I left the driveway in search of solitude and salmo trutta.

My commute to the stream was not a memorable one. Much like others I probably cranked public radio and raced well above the speed limit anticipating that the extra mph’s might get me to the river before the next fish-obsessed drone hoping to make the best of that precious post work daylight. The stream I chose to visit on this day begins only a few short miles from where I lay my head each night with the best fishing found from a number of access points within a 15 minute drive.

On this fall day temperatures never exceeded 70 degrees and were on the decline by the time I arrived at the bridge around 530 pm. Clouds hung heavy in the sky and carried the true gray of a post rainfall sky. Every surface held a wet sheen and my clothes became streaked with water as I guided my 7′ 9″ three weight fly rod and myself through the tall grass, low branches and various prickly vines that protected the banks of the river. I made my way through the first major gauntlet and found reprieve in the front yard of a cooperative of small, rustic cabins. On the opposite shore a towering limestone wall fortified the bank. Vegetation still lush and green clung to every hospitable inch of the wall, hanging down in search of errant casts with flies ripe for the taking. Sloping above the wall was a forest of pines and hardwoods the latter of which dispensed leaves of various reds, yellows, purples, and oranges into the river to diminish an anglers chances. Wet leaves colored the ground and gave the air a musty yet pleasant odor.

I pushed on a short distance through more undergrowth, the same wall flanking the opposite bank. It was only when I reached the pool whose existence led me through a long work day that I peered into the depths. While small fish occasionally broke the barrier between water and air to nip small olive mayflies my attention was held by something deeper.

I tied on three feet of 5x tippet to my 7′ 6″ leader and set an indicator three and a half feet from the fly, hopefully deep enough to drift a fly right over the dinner table! For a fly I chose a heavy tungsten beaded pink squirrel variant that had fished well all summer.

With noses pointed upstream an army of trout lie in formation hugging the bottom of the milky green pool. This was no small army. Fish from 10-16 inches were common with numerous larger fish commanding the best positions. These positions, I learned quickly, were most difficult to work with the fly, protected by cross currents and a small but inconveniently felled sapling submerged a few inches below the water. In addition leaves peppered the surface aiming to foul up even the most well placed cast.

As soon as I set foot in the icey water a chill shot up my back. I progressed until my shoes filled and my knees numbed. The cold, humid air enveloped my upper body. I dropped my fly and with a flash of blue from my fly rod, sent a side armed cast aflight. Leaning forward awkwardly to avoid hooking a tree positioned directly in the most opportune casting lane I muscled the cast to the head of the pool. The fly plopped down dangerously close to the overhanging sapling and sunk, leaving the bright orange indicator to signal its fate. After retrieving the cast with no take I dropped the fly another two feet from the indicator to ensure the fly hit home. The next cast was the first in a succession of casts which brought fish to hand. Not all were memorable, but some were.

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After hooking into a particularly small trout I caught my first glimpse of The Beast. As the troutlet scurried about the pool a massive shadow emerged from the depths beneath a complex cross current near the opposite bank. The small trout came to hand with minimal resistance as The Beast sunk back into the shadowy depths. Fish came to hand with relative consistency over the next 45 minutes. The Beast would occasionally show himself even coming within a few feet of my now numb lower extremities.  I can’t be certain why but despite ample opportunity to target him I simply continued going after the rank and file cadets still at attention on the bottom of the pool. No change of fly, no cast in his direction.

By around 630pm over two dozen trout had seen the bottom of my net. With cold, damp air permeating my upper body and numbness climbing up my legs I decided the time was now to target The Beast. He chased my last catch almost to the net and instead of retreating to the depths sat tantalizingly close. No overhangs reached for my cast. No cross currents threatened to twist an otherwise perfect drift. Nearby trees held their leaves in anticipation and the water cleared.

After numerous sightings of The Beast I was developing a composite.

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The Beast started with a sharply bent kype jaw and ended with a powerful, squared paddle of a tail. The fish’s body was deep and wide, colored in greenish brown and punctuated by black and red spots circled by silver. The fish’s belly shone buttery yellow. I’d estimated the fish’s length at 25-28 inches and heavy, easily the largest fish for a good distance up and downstream.

I’d made that fortuitous cast without consideration for the inadaquacy of my 7′ 9″ three weight fly rod. The fly nearly bonked The Beast between his eyes. The gaping paleness of his mouth flashed and my bright orange indicator served its purpose. I slowly, yet firmly raised the three weight up and back. The rod nearly doubled over as the fish lumbered slowly, but consistently upstream. Initially he was as uncertain as I was sure he was hooked. After about ten feet of steady lumber he rocketed upstream, out of the pool, through the nest riffle, and well into the next run. I clumsily took chase as the sediment sucked at my feet in hopes of dashing my pursuit. Mud and water splashed me soaking my clothes. With backing beginning to show and my reel screaming in pain I maintained composure.

With all my effort I caught up to The Beast. As I re-spooled my line the fish held at the head of a sharp trough. For a split second I entertained the idea that he tried. Back to even and around 200 feet upstream of our initial rendezvous point The Beast flashed with fire in his eyes and streaked back down stream. The scene played out in reverse, down the run and through the riffle, until The Beast returned to the chalky green pool of his origin. This time he gave me no time to catch up. Well into the backing and worried I’d be bested I gave chase as he continued down stream showing no signs of tire.

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Until this point I hadn’t noticed a large submerged branch, spanning the river like a deflated rainbow. The branch was waterlogged and littered with pieces of dislodged vegetation that clung to the wood. With the cunning of a badger the well seasoned lunker saw an opportunity and took it, swimming under the dirty rainbow and beyond. My reel continued to feed line to the insatiable beast as the fish passed closer and closer toward freedom. I  stumbled and splashed over to the branch and tried to lift it but the branch wouldn’t budge. I tried and tried to no avail. The best course of action was to drop my rod tip under the surface and feed the rod beneath the obstruction so I did. A foot or so in I felt a light “pop” reverberate through the rod. My heart sank into my cold, soggy shoes as I’d realized he was free.

I hung my head in shame, but also in reverence, as The Beast showed clearly who stood at the top of the food chain today. I reeled in defeat as I reeled in the now limp line that the fish had taken with such little effort. My fly bobbed in behind the indicator as the last length of line was spooled. My heartrate returned to normal. The sun had dipped below the horizon and the woods took on a cold, inhospitable shade of blue. I turned homeward and took leave.

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But I couldn’t forget. I struggled to cope. Every time I shut my eyes images of The Beast thrashed behind my eyelids. I couldn’t focus. My wife would ask “can you do the dishes?” but I would here “did you catch the fishes?” Clients would say “you’re taking the wrong route” and I’d hear “you couldn’t land the big trout”.

But I couldn’t simply return to the scene of the crime. (Crime? I was robbed of my sanity by The Beast). He would surely be more vigilant. He didn’t achieve such proportions living recklessly. I consulted a number of experts. Deaner, Tim In The Woods, Sean, Jesse, Trout Walker-they all said “wait a week”. One of them added “when you do go, carry your 6 weight”. Good advise.

I couldn’t wait. I had to wait. It was the type of trial that builds character. To deny yourself of what burns in your heart. Actually, I just fished other spots until a week after my dance with The Beast. But the temptation was there!

This time I packed all my gear before leaving for work in the morning. After my last obligation I sped to the stream with complete disregard for the safety of anyone around. I finally understood what could compel a man to engage the police in a high speed chase, and I was ready. Fortunately it didn’t come to that! Armed with a 9′ six weight and a laser focus I returned to the pool where he had spit the hook. To my astonishment The Beast sat easily within range, feeding on aquatic insects as they drifted by. His mouth flashed frequently as I observed his feeding rhythm. With his rythm down I plopped a cast down ten or so feet ahead. I could see the fly bounce along the bottom until it reached The Beasts shadowy figure. My attention shifted to the indicator just as it dipped beneath the surface. This time The Beast took flight. His buttery flanks shined in the afternoon sun as he torpedoed into the air before splashing back to his watery domain. Then, with a swift kick of his massive squared tail and a violent headshake, he was free. Again.

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A new rod!

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Sorry folks, this one’s spoken for! A 7′ 9″ three weight featuring a smooth casting medium fast H&H Ftx blank with a fenwick style grip, snake brand guides, and a bamboo reel seat from Proof. She’s headed fer Kentucky.

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Hit me up if ur interested in a custom build or any of the fly rods pictured in my inventory!

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Trip Report: Worm flies and brown trouts

With the wife working and my most recent rod build sitting on the drying rack today was a great day to go fishing! Nighttime temperatures dipped below freezing which slowed runoff considerably. I tied a few pink San Juan worm flies to greet the day before heading to a nearby stream. I arrived on the water at 9am with sunny skies, a light breeze and temps in the mid 20’s. First cast, brown trout!

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This bright chunky fella gave a great accounting of itself. Fishing was a little slow at first. At around 1030 the sun dipped behind the clouds and things picked up.

When they started eating they really started eating! I think flood conditions over the last few days pushed the fosh to pod up in deeper runs and pools because that’s where I found ’em.

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As the day progressed I fished into the headwaters of this creek. The water was clear and trout were spooky. I continued to fish any deeper water and was rewarded with some beautiful colored browns.

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Both of these fish were spotted feeding in small pools. They took the worm fly quickly after the fly hit the water. Despite a brutal winter all fish caught today were chunky and healthy. I fished from 9a-2p and landed at least 2 dozen trout. One small brookie came to hand, the rest were browns. With overnight temps forecast to stay above freezing beginning later this week runoff conditions will resume. Streams will likely be unfishable and with other obligations I probably won’t see the stream for a couple weeks:( Still I plan to keep up on posts as there are always flies to tie and rods to build.

Trip Report: Beating runoff

After watching the forecast all week and driving by a few blown out streams yesterday afternoon I chose to fish a stream this morning close to its source in hope that it would be in fishable condition. I tied up a few San Juan worm flies and hit the road. I approached the stream at around 830 under clear skies. The water held a good stain and probably isn’t fishable as I type this.

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After hiking upstream of a particularly muddy sepage the water cleared significantly. I launched the worm fly into a skinny, shallow run and watched the indicator dip below the surface. This guy fought above his weight, streaking down into the next run where he came to hand.

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That same run produced a solid brook trout! After pulling a few more little brookies and browns I headed back downstream, below the muddy sepage. I tied on a beat up old streamer/bugger pattern and dead drifted it on the bottom. The line went tight, I set the hook, and the battle was on!

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This guy was probably around 15 inches long, the largest fish of the day. After snagging up and losing that beat up bugger I headed home to work on a fly rod. I fished from 830 to 10am and brought approximately a dozen fish to hand! With night time lows below 32 some streams should again be fishable in the morning. Stay tuned as I plan to do the same tomorrow.

Leader and Tippet Time

Choosing the appropriate leader and tippet can be vital to success on the water. Factors to consider when choosing a leader and tippet include rod length, species targeted, fly style and size, and intended presentation.

Using the appropriate leader and tippet is intrugal to throwing an accurate cast, eliciting a strike, and effectively battling a fish. Leaders connect at the fly line and taper down to connect to tippet on the other end.

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Leaders and tippet are rated on an x scale. A lower x rating indicates a larger tippet diameter and strength. Leaders come in a number of sizes for trout fishing but the two most common are 9′ and 7′ 6″. A longer leader offers a more delicate presentation, a longer reach, and is ideal when fishing for easily spooked fish. 9 foot leaders cast best with a fly rod of 8 feet or longer. A 7′ 6″ leader works best in close quarters, while fishing shorter fly rods, or when fishing more aggressive styles to more aggressive species. Shorter leaders work especially well when fishing streamers.

Leaders and tippet are made of either monofilament or fluorocarbon line. Monofilament line floats better than fluorocarbon, has more stretch, and is less expensive. It is however more susceptible to abrasion. Fluorocarbon sinks and has less stretch (more sensitive) making it preferable for nymph and streamer fishing.

When connecting tippet to leader you must consider the x rating of the leader. If you are using, for example, a 9 ft 4x leader you would use 5x tippet. If you required lighter tippet you would then use 6x tippet and so on. As your tippet progresses toward the fly each section should be shorter than the previous. This progressive taper from the leader through the tippet to the fly allows for a smooth casting loop which helps present the fly most appetizingly.

To determine what x tippet should connect to the fly I’ve been told to divide the size of the fly by 3. By that method if using a size 22 fly you would use 7x tippet. You can typically get away using one size above and one size below, although you may encounter more refusals with too stout of tippet and more breakage with too light.

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In the driftless area a 9ft 4x leader is my current go-to with approximately 2 feet of 5x tippet before the fly. This works best when fishing dry flies or nymph rigs. During sunny, clear conditions I’ll add another 18 inches of 6x tippet. I always use monofilament leaders and tippet since they’re cheaper and the float. As re-tying new tippet wears away at my leader I’ll add 4x tippet to extend the life of the leader. Some use tippet rings, a tiny ring that connects to the end of the leader. Tippet rings allow for re-tying tippet without losing length on the leader.

It is important to have the right leader and tippet to ensure the best presentation. Some fishermen will carry a leader wallet full of different styles of leaders. Things can get complicated quick. Choose the most versitile set up to limit the amount of gear and messing around streamside. You can’t catch a fish without your fly in the water!

New fly rod

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At a steal of a deal I just finished this H&H 9′ six weight streamer chuckin’ bass bug bustin’ custom finished fly rod. It features a moderate/fast action, carbon fiber and aluminium reel seat, snake style guides, and fancy schmancy spiral thread wrapping on a Hook and Hackle blank. Comes with a soft sock style case.

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$150.00. For more info check out the Fly Rods page.

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Trip Report: Wind and wainbows

After finishing up another fly order I decided to brave the wind and cold to see what’s biting! I arrived on stream after a treacherous drive at around 1130am. The water was crystal clear and cold. Unsure if fish would be looking up I tied on a size 18 red brassie under an indicator. Snow remains deep. After a difficult walk to the streamside I launched the flies to the inside seam of a deeper ring and immediately hooked up.

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The biggest fish of the day took the first cast! A few minutes later fish started rising consistently. Tiny midges, around size 22, peppered the banks so I switched to the size 20 Matt’s midge.

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Action was consistent for the next few hours although rises became sporadic after an hour.

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As the dry fly bite slowed be around noon I switched to a black size 18 zebra midge. Fish responded well.

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By the time this guy came to hand my fingers were getting numb. I trudged back up to the car, cranked up the heat, and headed to another spot.

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A few more came to hand before I called it a day at 145pm. With winds gusting into the 30-40mph range casting was tricky. A faster action fly rod would have been best to punch casts through the wind but I chose a 9ft moderately slow four weight. While I piled up a few casts into the wind the softer blank protected the lighter tippet I used today.

What’s been going on?

After hangin’ with the wife this am for her birthday I had hoped to do a little afternoon fishing. Mother nature threw up a roadblock in the form of a bunch of rain. Instead of braving the elements I stayed in and worked on a few projects.

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First up was some time at the vise. I’ve languished on an order of 8 dozen juju baetis flies for the last few days and finally got them done. You know what sucks? Tying 8 dozen size 24 baetis!

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I’ve also been laboring over two new rods, one is a custom three weight destined for Kentucky and the other is a 9′ six weight for inventory (pictured below). Let me know if interested!

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I hope to finish the six weight tomorrow and the three weight by the end of the week. Stay tuned!

Navigating Runoff

With spring on the horizon and a thick blanket of snow covering the entire driftless area this is a great time for a post about navigating runoff! Fishing can be lights out if you know how to read conditions that prompt fish to eat. Conversely by knowing which conditions shut down the bite you can  avoid a slow day on the water and earn some brownie points to cash in during more optimal conditions.

As a basic rule trout will bite when stream temperatures rise and will stop biting as stream temperatures fall. It is therefore important to understand what conditions impact stream temperatures this time of year. Air temperatures (along with wind, precipitation, and/or sun) act as a valve, turning on runoff when temps exceed 32 and shutting it off when temps dip below freezing. As that valve opens ice cold water seeps into the creek and stream temps decline shutting down the bite. If night time lows never dip below freezing the valve never shuts off and fishing will be slow the next day. When night time lows do dip below freezing that valve closes and stream temperatures are able to moderate, then rise. Night time lows must be below freezing for fishing conditions to be good the following day.

So we have a day with highs above freezing with the previous night time low is in the 20’s. What is your best window of time to catch fish? Your best start time will be between 8am and 10am. Runoff from yesterday was stopped by night time lows, today’s runoff has not yet started, and air temps are on the rise which is warming stream temps. Fishing could be good until as late as 2 or 3pm but may only last until 11am or noon. Sunny skies, higher air temps, wind, and rain all reduce your window of opportunity while calm skies, cloudiness, and cooler temperatures slow the rate of runoff and lengthen your window. While on the water a small thermometer can be a great tool to monitor temperatures in real time.

As the ground begins to thaw meltwater will begin to carry sediment and streams will muddy. If you know when and where to fish the bite can be outstanding. The same rules apply from above although where to fish becomes increasingly important. Even if night time temps drop below freezing muddy water does not clear up that fast. By fishing closer to the source of a stream (just like after a heavy rain) you are less likely to find unfishable conditions. In watersheds surrounded by agricultural land streams muddy faster and clear more slowly than streams with a healthy riparian buffer.

What flies fish well in these conditions? After a long winter trout will dine on just about anything drifted past. Trout appear more lethargic as stream temperatures drop so larger and moving flies may fish well for a window before losing effectiveness. When this occurs dead drifting smaller flies lower in the water column can stretch the bite window. Various minnow and leech patterns fish well this time of year. Colored zebra midges, brassies, scud, pink squirrels, and small mayfly nymphs are effective as well. Midges will continue to hatch in decent numbers and small olive mayflies should arrive toward the tail end of runoff giving the angler another dry fly option. When the water caries a stain you can’t beat worm patterns.

Whether you have a long commute or live close to good trout water it’s a kick in the pants to put in some effort only to find streams unfishable. Some valuable resources to consult in preparation for fishing around runoff conditions include 24-hour precipitation maps, USGS sreamflow data, weather forecasts, and local fly shops.

Although trout fishing can be hit or miss during runoff by paying attention to factors that impact stream temperatures and planning your angling time around optimal windows you can consistently catch fish throughout runoff.