Thursday, January 30, 2014

TYING TROUT FLIES - ITS FUN EVEN IF YA DON'T FISH

My treasured 5 wt, 4 piece graphite Winston Fly Rod with Lamson reel

It's been over 13 years since I've revisited a passion I've enjoyed for much of my adult life and it's only recently that I've had an impulse to search out all the necessary components required for a trip to the trout stream.  The rod and reel in the photo above is a high quality system that at one time allowed me to achieve a level of skill at fly fishing that I never dreamed I could acquire.  I've had several different fly rods and have enjoyed them all but this Winston, to me, is the most useful trout weapon I've ever held in my hands and that includes hand made Scotts, Powells, Orvis and a few bamboo rods made by private rod builders from the up state New York region where it is said fly fishing had it's origins. 
Tennessee's trout fishing is very different than that of Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, Wyoming or Montana to name just a few states I've fly fished in.  The aforementioned states have cold mountain as well as meadow spring fed creeks and streams, most of which contain wild rainbow and brown trout that grow quite large.  The western states are famous for their cut throat trout, a trout that grows to good size and is recognizable by a brilliant red slash under it's neck.  Oh, I could tell some stories about Wyoming trout fishing.

Tennessee on the other hand has decided to dam up all it's rivers thereby affecting the fish habitat on the streams and creeks that flow into the created reservoirs interrupting the natural ebb and flow, so to speak, of any trout residing in water cold enough to sustain them.  Trout require cold water and natural Tennessee trout can only live in the mountainous areas where icy cold water is the norm.  That would place most native trout in the Great Smoky Mountains and the (Appalachian) Blue Ridge mountain chain.  Tennessee Wildlife Resource's Agency, however, stocks trout in the tail races of the dams that are capable of maintaining a cold enough flow to sustain trout for sport fishing.  Our neighboring state of North Carolina and even Virginia have numerous mountains that allow an elevated trout fishing experience.

My almost daily visits to the tail waters of Cherokee Dam (Holston River) has ignited some sort of spark in me to give fly fishing a try here in Tennessee.  Visually, the water on that tail race looks like prime water for trout with innumerable pockets and water seams that trout love so well.  I went home after a trip to that part of the river and started searching for my trout "stuff".   I found it in several boxes that I mentally  labeled nonessential when I bought this place and pushed them off into dark corners of the house.  Those boxes contain a life time collection of all the equipment necessary to tie (create) any trout fly imaginable.  Yes, tying trout flies, to me, yields as much or more enjoyment as the actual fishing experience does.  I needed a table to organize the tying equipment on and place the thread spools and tying tools in their proper places.  I already had the hand made wooden boxes from another era that would hold the necessary feathers and other tying accoutrements.  This set-up operation would take awhile, but what the heck - its snowing out and zero degrees.
The table would also allow Douglas a more prominent place to rest where he could be close to me and I could enjoy his company.
 The operation was off to a good start.  Everything was dusty and each tool had to be wiped clean and rubbed with a silicone cloth.  Many feathers were totally useless - eaten by bugs over the past 13 years but many were untouched and like new.
It was necessary to lay out all the tying components including feathers, hooks, artificial furs, plastic this and that's and tools to include the three premium fly tying vices that were so enjoyable to use.
 Above and below are just a smattering of essential components required to tie flies with.
The drawer below contains plastic bags filled with synthetic artificial fur of many colors used to create and bind fly bodies onto a fishing hook.  It's no longer necessary to use the fur of live animals.

The above shot shows colored fabric as well as turkey and duck feathers along with peacock herl and a myriad of other essential tying materials to include deer hair.  Isn't this fascinating?
After inventorying everything, I placed it in drawers or on top the boxes while I decided which drawer I wanted to place each item.  This is turning out to be a lot of fun as well as whetting my appetite to go fishing.  And, finally the tying vices were cleaned and placed on the tying table ready for use.  These are very high quality vices I selected years ago due to their simplicity and ease of use as well as durability.  They are lifetime built and could easily be handed down from generation to generation.  Trouble is there is no generation to hand anything down to. 
The shot above shows the three precision tying vices used to hold the tiny hook while the fly is built upon it as well as the foam blocks holding the many tying tools necessary to complete quality fly builds.  You'll note a large plastic box to the right side of the table that contains many spools of colored thread used to wrap and secure the materials to the fishing hook.  It's a lot of stuff but necessary to create quality trout fishing flies.  Below is an example of trout flies created with the equipment above.  They are delicate and tied using the Catskills method of tying that I learned many years ago in another life.  I doubt many anglers use that method today, and that's ok.  It's whatever works for you.  Many of the flies in the box are not traditional although I enjoy tying traditional trout flies more than any other build.
Above is a small box of tiny trout flies suitable for fishing spring creeks in Pennsylvania or Maryland.  They'd probably work on North Carolina mountain streams.  I'll have to check out the insect life over there.  Incidentally, the flies in that box were tied 15 years ago if I remember correctly.
The flies in the shot above are delicate and indicative of the skill required to produce these intricate pieces of fluff.  Note that the hook has no barb.  I shall harm no trout.
 The flies below are termed wet flies meant to fish sub-surface
 These tiny flies have caught many 18 inch brown trout as well as countless rainbow trout in Pennsylvania and Maryland.  They are good Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia flies but they won't work here in Tennessee.  A larger fly is required here due to the wide, fast tail waters exiting the dams.  There are other rivers famous for trout in Tennessee but I've not fished on them and know little about their fish resources.  And then ya got the bass fly.  Below is a deer hair surface fly used for bass.  It does not require the skill level to create as delicate trout flies because it is created from deer hair that is tied to a hook and shaved and trimmed with razor and scissors.  Bass are a whole different critter than trout and the flies required to catch them are designed using an entirely different tying method.   Maybe later I'll do a step by step procedure on the creation of a trout fly for you if there's an interest out there.
I realize that this post won't interest many folks who read this blog but maybe there is a fisherman out there who would enjoy it.  It's a cold night and I had nothing else to do.  Hey - its a blog..