Tierra Del Fuego

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Sea-run brown trout at the finish line

By Geoff Mueller

I’m stuffing waders and boots into bags on a Tuesday night in early April, when Jason Jagger blows up my phone with the news.

Jagger, who spends his January through April months guiding in Tierra del Fuego on the lower Rio Grande, describes a river that’s quadrupled in size. Catch-rates have fallen off a cliff, he says. Fishing has turned into searching for anything with a pulse in brown currents, spewing chunks of flotsam and debris. And while it’s great to know guides in far-off places, at this point his words make me yearn for the home I haven’t left.

April in Southern Hemisphere marks the pirouette of seasons from summer to autumn. Fall’s arrival is also the finale for most lodge operations on the Rio Grande. The wear on the guides’ faces shows when I arrive at Kau Tapen Lodge two days later. Talk of girlfriends in Buenos Aires dominates the chatter. Grouse hunting in St. Petersburg, Russia, awaits some. Mayfly hatches in Ireland are on the cusp of combustion for others. The tribes will soon part ways, destined for comforts that exist beyond living in utter remoteness. Over the past month, the deluge of events Jason had relayed has exacerbated this countdown to the season’s close. But for this gringo, it’s about holding out for a miracle in overtime.

Tierra Del Fuego

Over beers and rod-rigging sessions that first evening, Matthew Solon, head guide at Kau Tapen Lodge, tells me the weather has stabilized. No more rain. Tierra del Fuego’s notorious and nuking wind has mysteriously departed. Although, in a thick Irish accent, he remarks that the fishing still sucks. Days one and two confirm his story. I catch some borderline sea-runs, nothing weighing more than three pounds.

Good news is the river has dropped and water clarity has gone from an Oreo blizzard consistency to a deep tannin color that sparks some measured optimism. That second night, I check the rotation board—the daily list of who’s fishing with whom. It reveals that I’m paired with The Russian, and when we meet on the grass outside the grand lodge the following morning, he’s short on pleasantries and anxious to get rolling. So we load the car for a day of fishing on Max Maimaev’s terms.

Maimaev is one of the top fly-fishing professionals on the planet. In addition to almost 20 years at Kau Tapen, he’s the big cheese on Russia’s Ponoi River—famous for massive Atlantic salmon runs returning to the Kola Peninsula. He’s an expert Spey caster, who has a penchant for the deep wade. And when he opens up, his words stir intrigue into the day with tales of hi-jinx and superlative encounters with asshole French, English, and American clients.

At Dude’s pool on our morning beat, I follow the lanky Russian into the water, up to my nipples. This particular run requires a long bomb to the far bank. So I dig my heels into the riverbed, lean hard against the current, and throw everything into a cast that falls just short. Max implores me to pull more line off the reel. And then more.

“Is this enough?” I ask. He shrugs his shoulders. I proceed. Another cast, a little longer, and my Sunray Shadow fly lands with a standard Skagit “thunk” and begins its slow crawl through glassy water. Lighting strikes at the top half of the swing, and we’re into a good fish.

Russians aren’t known for outpourings of emotion. Take the country’s prime minister, Vladimir Putin, for example. He always looks pissed. Even when he’s shirtless atop a horse, or hoisting a massive pike into the air—dude is all business. And at this precise moment, Max is much the same. As I moonwalk back toward shore, my Russian river commander ambles slowly toward the car to retrieve a really, really big net. We land and weigh the fish: a 16-pound hen, as chrome as a freshly polished bumper—and an end to several days of being shutout.

Maimaev

Sea-run brown trout

All Business

Tierra del Fuego is far from everything, but in this instant it’s the familiarities that strike me: wading deep, lobbing casts in a run dubbed “Dudes”, and that soothing catharsis that stems from finally connecting. I smile, and shout, and practically skip back to the car for the camera. Then I look back at the Russian for affirmation. All I get is a straight face, and something in his eyes that resembles satisfaction.

It’s April, after all, and it’s time to go home.

Lodge Fire
Kau Tapen Lodge: www.kautapen.com

LACUSTRINE RAINBOW TROUT

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LACUSTRINE RAINBOW TROUT

By Scott O’Donnell

Several of our nation’s largest bodies of freshwater reside in Bristol Bay’s trophy trout region. These lakes are nature’s rearing pens for millions of native sockeye salmon juveniles. Adult sockeye spawn in the tributaries of these lakes, and soon after their eggs hatch, the young fry migrate downstream to the lake. They’ll spend up to three years there (one or two for most) before migrating out to sea. That is, if they don’t get eaten first.

The bulk of the rainbow trout in these systems are lacustrine, or of the lake. They spend a great deal of time in the lakes chasing and chowing on the abundant sockeye protein snacks. (I’m not sure exactly how to say this, but here goes). In the process, these piscivorous demons become wicked mega awesome explosions with fins. (I still don’t feel like I’m getting my point across.) I’m trying to say that these trout are the fastest, strongest, hottest fish that I’ve ever witnessed hooked in freshwater. And I’ve spent most of my life chasing steelhead.

Alaskan Rainbow Trout

There are two lakes and their outlet rivers that host (by far) the most impressive trout; Naknek Lake / Naknek River, and Lake Illiamna / Kvichak River. Like steelhead and salmon the rainbow trout in these lakes are anadromous, but in this case the migrations occur wholly within freshwater. In addition to the spawning migration, the trout migrate from the lake to the river twice to feed. Once in the spring to intercept sockeye smolt on their way to the sea (this one often becomes combined with their spawning run), and once in the fall to take advantage of the spawning salmon. I’m nearly convinced however, that in the latter case these rainbows are so piscivorus that they are there more for the small fishes that are there for the salmon eggs, than they are for the eggs themselves.

That’s when we get ‘em.

Now I’m not saying that these trout are hotter than all the steelhead that I’ve seen, just most of them. Steelhead are extremely varied in their hotness. They vary from slugs to absolute devil fish. Nearly every Naknek or Kvichak fish is a devil fish.

Soon after a short flight from Royal Wolf Lodge where I work, I’m pacing up and down the middle of a gravel island, my heart feels like it’s going to pound out of my chest. I’m shaking my hands and blowing air through puckered lips as I watch my two angler’s speycast large streamers into the Kvichak’s heavy flows. I’ve got a guy on each side of the island. I look like I’m watching a tennis match from the net as I anxiously watch for a hook up. I can’t stand it, I want to yell “Take more steps!”, but I don’t, they’re taking plenty. There’s a hook-up and I sprint the nearly hundred yards to get there as fast as I can, so that I’ll miss as little as possible what is surely going to be an epic battle. I get there and the fish has already run out over a hundred yards of backing and jumped several times. Out of breath, I witness several more runs of fifty yards or better and a bunch more jumps. I can see that it’s not a big one, maybe twenty four inches or so, and I calm down a little.

LACUSTRINE RAINBOW TROUT

Naknek and Kvichak fish get big, real big. Indeed, there’s been several fish taken from the lakes in excess of twenty pounds. You couldn’t realistically expect something like that, but fish from twenty eight to thirty two inches aren’t uncommon. The perfect outfit for this game is easily the Sage 7136-4 ONE (I just want to say that these spey rods are aptly named, they really are the ones), a Sage 6012 reel loaded with two hundred yards of thirty pound backing and a Rio Skagit Max 550gr shooting head. I think that this is such a perfect outfit that I have two identical set-ups. I rig one of them with a ten foot sinking heavy Skagit MOW tip and the other with a twelve and a half foot sinking heavy Skagit MOW tip.
Flies? Well, you know the cliché.

AK1

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Scott O’Donnell is a Sage Ambassador and steelhead fly fishing and spey casting instructor on The Northwest’s premier steelhead rivers with Mike McCune. At the forefront of the Skagit Style of spey casting Scott and Mike are responsible for the Skagit style lines that have been dominating the spey market and the wildly popular Skagit MOW Tips. They’re world renowned for their unparalleled teaching abilities and they’ve been making people better casters and anglers for over twenty years.

Wild East of Kamchatka

Wild East Kamchatka

Chasing Rainbows in the Wild, Wild East of Kamchatka

By Michael Hamilton

Ever hook a rainbow so big, so bad ass, that the hairs went up on the back of your neck as the line went tight and your reel started singing Big Bad John? Welcome to fly fishing for Kamchatka rainbows in the wild, wild east of mother Russia.

This is a tale of two rivers that flow through vast uninhabited tracks of pristine wilderness along the mountainous spine of the Kamchatka Peninsula in one of the most remote regions of the Russian Far East. The gin clear waters of the broad shouldered spring fed Ozernaya River and the freestone flows of the Dvukhyurtochnaya River, more commonly known as the Two- Yurt, hold many of the largest native surface feeding resident wild rainbow trout left on earth.

The Ozernaya teems with incalculable numbers of migrating Pacific Salmon, Sea Run Char, Dolly Varden and the largest Grayling in the world. The Two Yurt can see runs of 200-300 thousand sockeye annually. Geographically isolated for centuries, the Ozernaya and Two Yurt Rivers appear frozen in time. Set against a backdrop of symmetrical snow-rimmed volcanoes, precipitous buttes, valleys of birch, aspen, pine, and willow, sheltered swamp-like flowering grasslands and fat berry eating, salmon gorging Brown Grizzly Bears, these rivers represent the last places left on our planet where complete cold watersheds flow into oceans unimpeded by dams. They also offer unimaginable solitude. Consider that both rivers see less angling pressure in a season of 11 weeks than virtually any quality rainbow stream in Alaska will see on a normal weekend.

The Spring Creek Two Yurt

Eastern Promises

The Kamchatka Peninsula lies between the Sea of Okhotsk on the west and the Bering Sea and Pacific Ocean to the east. Shaped like a human spine, it is 1600 km (954miles) long north to south and 480 km (300) miles across at its widest point. Born of fire like creation itself, the landmass beneath the Peninsula is constantly bobbing and weaving like a welterweight contender. Situated on the Great Pacific Rim of Fire, Kamchatka has the highest concentrations of active volcanoes on earth. Approximately 160, some only 110 miles apart, are jammed together like fish in a barrel. With barley pronounceable names like Koryaksky, Avachinsky, Kozelsky, Klyuchevskaya Sopka, Plotsky-Tolbachik, Kizimen, Shiveluch and Bezymianny, they frequently belch sulfuric smoke, bubble up red glowing lava and burst toxic plumes into the Russian sky.

Historically, The Kamchatka Peninsula was one of the most mysterious regions in the Russian empire. The Soviet Military established an elaborate cold war listening outpost in the 1950’s to spy on the west and subsequently kept the area secret for over 60 years. Even Russians had to get special permission to travel there. The isolation did have an upside. The inaccessibility protected one of its most valuable assets – the world’s last remaining strongholds of Salmon, Steelhead, Rainbow Trout, Searun Char, Dolly Varden and Grayling.

In 1991, the reforms of Perestroika changed everything. The Soviet Empire collapsed. The Cold War ended. Perestroika also brought a handful of American outfitters and guides that began exploring Kamchatka’s vast untouched watersheds. These pioneering efforts helped create Kamchatka’s expanding angling tourism market and spawned new partnerships like the one between Russian outdoorsman Victor Rebrikov, owner of Utgard Expeditions and American outfitter Will Blair, owner of the Best of Kamchatka. Their joint venture is the nucleus behind the Ozernaya and Two Yurt fly-fishing programs.

Volcanoes surround the landscape

The Ozernaya

I first glimpsed the Ozernaya, a.k.a., the Oz, through a circular port hole-sized window of a Russian M18 Helicopter just before 9pm on the evening of August 8th. I was jammed inside shoulder to shoulder with two groups of anglers. 7 would join me to fish the Ozernaya River. Six others would continue on in the helicopter to the Two Yurt Camp. A mountain of dry bags, duffels and rod cases were piled to the ceiling in the rear of the chopper. As our big burly chopper banked hard left and started its descent toward a grassy meadow filled with a sea of pink wildflowers, I could see below a big broad shouldered river. Nowhere was there barren Arctic tundra that is so common in Alaska. Rather, a vast endless panorama of forested canyons, contoured valleys and flowering meadows. Sourced from cold-water springs, snowmelt and one tributary that flows out of a mountainous lake, the Oz twists, turns and braids through a wild, uninhabited verdant landscape on its 100-mile journey to the Bering Sea. What makes the Oz so remarkably special is what swims beneath its surface. Dense populations of exceptionally large rainbows that range from 18 to 27 inches, with larger specimens a cast away are thick as thieves. (The week before I arrived a 32-inch rainbow was netted after slamming a size 6 Moorish Mouse). Trophy-size Graylings with their distinctive translucent dorsal spines are abundant and eat dry flies at will. Resident Dolly Varden, with olive green sides that shade to a white belly peppered with reddish orange spots, eagerly slam streamers with almost every cast. Most of the fishing on the Oz is wading. However, when the river runs high, as was the case in 2013, we mostly fished from the boat casting tight to the banks or across riffles. Guides run up or downriver in twenty-foot long, flat-bottomed aluminum Lowe johnboats, powered by 40 horsepower outboards. The fishing days begin around 9:30am with all boats arriving back in camp by 6:30pm.

For casting streamers, I used my 7 weight Sage ONE, a floating line with a 6-foot RIO Tapered 10 LB Steelhead/Salmon leader. It was the perfect set up. Without exception, a fish would violently yank the streamer every second or third cast. (Believe it!) You never knew right off what you had on until the fish either stayed deep like a dolly or grayling, or skyrocketed out of the water like an acrobatic rainbow. When I would tire of throwing big streamers, I would grab my six weight Z-Axis and tie on a size 6# Morrish Mouse. You can expect a lot more casting with a mouse before a strike but when a huge bow charges your rodent like an angry bull chasing a rodeo clown around the ring, the extra effort is well worth it.

Ozernaya River Camp

Unlike Alaska’s trophy streams, the big rainbows of the Oz see very limited angling pressure. Beginning in July after runoff and continuing through mid September, only 8 anglers fish about 50 miles of river each week. Angers stay in 4 A-frames that accommodate two each. The cabins are comfortable, dry, and mostly bug free. A word-burning stove provides heat. In the evening, a generator supplies electricity. Breakfasts and dinners are served in a comfortable long house. Lunch is streamside. Hands down, the Ozernaya is the ultimate adventure for anglers who seek high catch rates and who want to battle fat, sassy and uneducated rainbows while discovering true wilderness with a touch of rustic luxury.

wild rainbow

Trophy size Grayling eat dry flies at will

The Two Yurt

The Dvukhyurtochnaya River, often referred to as the Two Yurt, (for obvious reasons if you don’t speak Russian) is as different and chalk and cheese when compared to the Oz. It’s a much smaller freestone river that flows east through the heart of the Kamchatka Peninsula. Historically, the Two Yurt sees annual spawning migrations of 200,00 to 300,00 Sockeye and equally impressive numbers of King Salmon. From Bears to Stellar Sea Eagles, and from rainbows to modest populations of Dollies and Graylings, the salmon biomass of eggs and flesh is by far what feeds the river’s food chain throughout the summer season.

Unlike the Ozernaya, the Two Yurt is too small to navigate by jet boat. Instead, large rafts are deployed to ferry fisherman and gear from camp to camp. Overall we floated about a 45-mile section of the Two Yurt beginning not far from the river’s outfall at Two Yurt Lake. The river made countless twists and turns through a picturesque valley framed by towering mesa-like buttes covered with dense stands of Poplar and Aspen. Many small streams and tributaries add to the rivers flow offering anglers a variety of water to fish. The riverbanks were thick with willows, alder brush, and high grasses. Bear trails flanked both banks and were easily visible where the grass had been trampled. The climate was humid even muggy at times.

Each day we would float 8 to 10 miles of river. One guide would leave camp with two anglers and float about a mile downriver. The anglers would spread out and start fishing both sides and the middle of the river. A second raft would follow and stop about a half-mile. The third raft would hold back and anglers would start from there. This leapfrog strategy allowed everyone to fish more than enough water throughout the day. What I liked most was working close to the grassy shore and casting a mouse pattern (#6 Morrish Mouse) straight down the bank. Twitching it out and across the current, I had many rainbows charge out and try to kill the rodent. The rainbows averaged 16 to 22 inches with a few big boys pushing 24 inches. The best streamer on the Two Yurt was the Dali Lama in black over white. It was an almost automatic strike and hook up in many deep slots and swinging it over salmon redds. Sculpins are big and plentiful in the Two Yurt and the fish couldn’t seem to resist the Dali’s flash and motion. I fished my Sage Z-axis five-weight rod and used a floating line. It was more than enough to cast mice patterns and chuck streamers. However, I would recommend bringing a 6 weight if you want a bit more muscle behind casting streamers.

Will Blair, Best of Kamchatka owner

A-Frame cabins accomodate two anglers

The Two Yurt has a total of five fixed camps staked out over about 50 miles of river. Each one features three two-person style A-Frame cabins identical in design to the ones at the Ozernaya camp. A small wood stove can supply heat to dry waders. Each camp provides a flush toilet and a wood fired hot shower. Breakfasts and dinners are served in a mess tent. Lunches are prepared streamside. If you want a true wilderness adventure with excellent walk and wade fishing this is what the Two Yurt is about.

Of Mice and Men

“Every angler that comes to Kamchatka wants to catch a rainbow on a mouse pattern,” says Best of Kamchatka owner, Will Blair. In Alaska, where bobbers and beads are often the norm, Kamchatka rainbows never got the memo. Blair explains that Kamchatka’s bows are aggressive, opportunistic surface feeders that will chow down on a wide variety of prey especially if their quarry is skittering across the surface like a rodent on the run. “Mice or shrews aren’t very good swimmers. They sometimes drown if they end up in water. That’s why they skitter,” says Blair. Well, pity the poor rodent that falls in. Its time on earth is measured in seconds. In spite of pre trip advice on what mice patterns worked the best, anglers at both camps brought dozens of different mice and vole patterns (looked like a nest in their fly boxes) sporting more whiskers and foam that is legally allowed. The only thing missing was a hunk of cheese to bring these patterns to life. Turned out the best pattern was a size #6 Morrish Mouse. It out fished all of the other patterns.

Arsenal of streamers ready to fish

The Two Yurt rainbows that did charge my mouse would literally “push water” like a Trident submarine coming to the surface. The water is gin clear so you get to see the entire attack. Drown it, kill it, and kiss it, however you describe the assault, one thing was certain. Watching a two-foot long beautifully black spotted big-shouldered rainbow porpoise from beneath a grassy undercut bank and absolutely crush my rodent pattern was enough to make my knees shake. “The Kamchatka trout experience is about hunting big fish with dry flies who are also on the hunt. I guess you could say predator hunts prey and prey turns into predator to hunt more prey. Kinda’ wild really,” adds Blair. You simply have to experience the thrill of fishing a mouse in Kamchatka first hand to even begin to imagine the rush.

When I returned back to the states, my wife Pam, asked me, “Is Kamchatka for everyone?” Probably not. However, if you want to experience the best rainbow trout fishing left on the planet, walk in rivers where only a few humans have stepped, and lay claim to visiting one of the most remote, wild regions of the Russian Far East, then see it now. One other piece of advice – when traveling to Kamchatka it is best to expect the unexpected. Take a deep breath and relax.

Kamchatka Notebook (as of 2014)

Traveling to Kamchatka, Russia is ¾’s planning and ¼ execution. Fly to Anchorage, Alaska on a Friday and overnight. On the following morning, catch Japanese owned Yakutia Air Company’s 4 and ½ hour, weekly flight from Anchorage, across the Bering Sea to the Russian port city of Petropavlovsk Kamchastky. Return flights to the US from Petropavlovsk Kamchastky are scheduled the following week departing Saturday evening at 9:30pm. You will need a visa to enter Russia along with a current Passport. No immunizations are required. The Best of Kamchatka’s 4-color brochure covers all trip information including seasons, travel information, and gear. Request direct from:

Will Blair
The Best of Kamchatka
5590 Colt Drive
Longmont, CO 80503
Phone – 530.941.8524
Toll free – 877.707.0880
Mobile – 530.941.8524
www.thebestofkamchatka.com

Arriving via M18 Helicopter

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Michael Hamilton is a former radio and television broadcast journalist. He writes outdoor and travel articles for print/online publications globally. www.troutdogs.com – 206.914.4290

Is it time for a Grip Switch?

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Is it time for a Grip Switch?

By Joe Mahler

Sage Ambassador

When the subject of grip comes up and I express that I prefer the Index on top, the response is usually something like, “I can see using that for little short casts” followed by a schoolmarm-like finger pointing motion. But you might be surprised to find that, when done properly, the index on top grip offers the same power with less effort expended by the caster, than the Thumb on top or the V-grip. The thumb on top is, I believe, the most popular grip used today, so I will use it for comparison in this article.

The index finger on top is a cornerstone of my casting style. I use it when fishing, because it is efficient. I use it in teaching because it makes my job easier and accelerates the learning process. It makes sense to me. As I see it, there are four major reasons for choosing this grip and here they are in order of importance.

Index on top

Leverage
As you know, the rod is a lever. Think of the hand as the lever that works the lever. Comparing the two grips, you will notice that the index finger extends considerably further up the cork than the thumb. Simply put, the longer the lever, less is the effort required to operate it. I have been told that the thumb is stronger than the index finger and I don’t doubt it. But with the added leverage of the index finger, strength is no longer the issue. The key to getting the most from this grip is to apply the power with the finger tip. People are often surprised to find that I use this grip when using 10 or 12 weight rods, but there is no reason to change grip with equipment and the added ease of casting is especially noticeable with heavier rods.

Joe Mahler inset illustration

The Stop
The back cast is the foundation of the fly cast. If the back cast doesn’t straighten behind the caster, problems occur. Usually, the cause isn’t lack of power, but rather a failure to stop the rod firmly without allowing the rod tip to travel too far back. If you were to form an imaginary pistol with your casting hand and raise it so your finger is pointing skyward, you’d notice that the thumb is pointing back in a horizontal position. The index on top provides a naturally correct stopping point for the back cast. In fact, it is difficult to go too far back using this grip.

Attitude
Perhaps the most significant difference in the two grips is the attitude or position of the hand, wrist and forearm during the cast. With the thumb on top, the hand and arm are raised and lowered in the same manner that one would use to drive a hammer or chop with a hatchet.

When the index finger is placed on top, the hand, wrist and forearm flatten – as if to push a door open. This motion encourages the caster to continue the stroke forward, stopping the hand at eye-level, rather than driving it downward.

Accuracy
For the same reason that it is easier to be more accurate with a rifle than a pistol, I believe it is easier to hit a target with the index on top. I favor a more vertical cast than many, and find that when I point the end of my index finger (not the rod tip) at the target I get a more accurate cast than with the shorter thumb. An unwanted curve in the layout – especially at longer distances – can oftentimes be eliminated instantly, simply by switching to the index on top grip, as straight tracking seems easier to achieve.

In addition to the above reasons for choosing the index on top, there is one more subtle point I will offer. As you sit reading this article, reach over and feel the surface of the table, desk or chair. My guess is that you used your fingertips – not your thumb. As humans, we are conditioned to feel with our fingertips and I always encourage students to cast with a loose grip relying on feel. In fact, one exercise that I use frequently is to have the students close their eyes and cast. In most instances, there is no difference between the eyes open and the eyes closed cast. I believe that the feeling in the index finger is keener and sends a sharper signal.

GRIP main

Try it for yourself
Here is a quick tip for the index on top grip. Start by loosely gripping the rod slightly closer toward the butt than normal – I like to place the heel of my hand on the reel seat itself. Pretend that there is a button precisely at the point where the tip of the index finger contacts the cork. Make sure that the fingertip is the only part of the finger that touches the cork. Make your pick-up by placing the rod tip low and applying pressure with the inside of the middle finger to make the back cast, stopping the rod firmly with the index. Now, smoothly move the rod forward in a straight line and in the middle of the stroke, push that imaginary button with your fingertip and let off. I think that you will find that the power delivered by that simple push is sufficient to unroll the fly line and straighten the leader.

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Sage Ambassador Joe Mahler lives and teaches fly casting in the Sanibel / Fort Myers, Florida area. Joe is also a frequent contributor to Fly Fisherman Magazine. You can contact him at www.joemahler.com

Exploring New Zealand’s Backcountry

Karamea River

Exploring New Zealand’s Backcountry

By Ted Chase

When one conjures up images about fly-fishing in New Zealand, it’s perfectly fitting to imagine a grand adventure set deep in the rugged wilderness of South Island. I had been dreaming about returning to New Zealand for the past 8 years; the last time I was there the wilderness almost took my life. Prior to leaving, I spent a couple of months planning and packing for this one month journey. When planning an adventure that involves being flown in by helicopter and left alone in such an extremely remote destination, the first thing you think about is bringing gear that you can trust. Since 1996 I’ve had an intimate relationship with Sage fly rods. I remember not eating for days just to save enough money to buy my first custom Sage, which provided me more than a decade of amazing fly-fishing. Unfortunately after years of abuse and a severe rafting accident, it was buried it in the depths of the Yellowstone River. For this trip though, I picked up a new ONE and packed it in between my older RPL and XP rods.

During the heli in, images of large brown trout swimming in the crystal waters, sipping insects off the gin clear surface filled me with excitement. When the helicopter flew away though, I began to remember the feelings of isolation and fear that I’ve come to know on adventures like this one.

new zealand heicopter

I quickly unpacked my gear and headed to the infamous Karamea River. This is a river that would have any professional fly-fisherman yelling obscenities to anyone willing to listen. I wandered along the water’s edge searching for the elusive monster. You know the one; the one that lurks deep among the boulders.

kahurangi rain forest

Finally, there he was, a large shadow rising in the current. After studying his behavior for a while, it was now or never. I started to slowly pull line and cast… feeling the rhythm of the rod, everything was in synch. As I got into position, I felt the smooth action of the rod and sent my fly through the air… landing it about a foot to the left of the rising trout… then suddenly and to my astonishment the gray wulff was engulfed! I pulled back and set the hook. He leaped high towards the clouds and the fight was on. I scrabbled down river – dodging logs and boulders and swiftly fell off an embankment. Fortunately, the fish had tired and I was able to bring him in for a closer look…

newzealandbigbrownsouth2

brown Trout sage one

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Born and raised in Montana, Ted Chase is professional fly fisherman and wildlife photographer. He grew up fly-fishing on the famous Big Mo, but always enjoys escaping to new worlds in search of adventure. Ted and his wife Mara run the Summit Mountain Lodge, providing premier cabins on the border of East Glacier Park in Montana. The lodge offers a great launching point for anyone looking to fish the rich rivers of the big sky state.

Stillwater Tactics

Stillwater Cover2

Stillwater Tactics and Selecting the Right Rod

By Brian Chan

Like most other outdoor activities the equipment we use to go fly fishing is constantly being refined. This is well illustrated when you look at the diversity of fly rods that are made with more and more models being designed for quite specific fishing techniques or casting situations. The continual growth and interest in stillwater fly fishing has benefited immensely from not only changes in rod design but also fly lines that are almost perfectly matched to specific rod actions. One of the most successful approaches to fishing productive stillwaters is with floating lines used in combination with long leaders and sinking flies or with strike indicators to suspend flies. Both tactics are extremely effective in catching trout in lakes.

Trout feeding behavior dictates where in the lake we fish. They spend the majority of their time feeding within the shoal and drop-off zones of the lake which is where most of the aquatic insects and other important invertebrates live. Depth-wise this means feeding is concentrated in water from 25 to just a few feet deep. However, within the prime depth ranges trout will often only feed on larval, nymphal or pupal insect life stages and other foods sources in a very narrow depth zone. More specifically, midges, mayflies, damselflies, dragonflies, caddisflies, leeches and scuds are all effectively fished with floating lines. Often, much of the trout’s feeding occurs within a couple feet of the lake bottom where food densities are greatest and there is less exposure to predators. Floating lines allow flies to be presented at precise depths whether with a slow retrieve or wind drift with a sinking leader or suspending under a strike indicator. The end result is your flies spend more time in potential feeding zones. Casting and retrieving full sinking lines in shallower water will often result in your fly passing quickly through the prime feeding depth zone.

fishing the edge of the dropoff2

Casting floating lines and long leaders with or without strike indicators is made much easier when using longer rods. This means rods in the 9.5 to 10 foot range. There are numerous advantages to fishing longer rods with the primary one being the ability to manage longer leaders which can sometimes be more than 20 feet in length. The longer rod provides greater leverage which in the end helps keep the fly line higher off the water when false casting. Float tube or pontoon boat anglers which sit low to the water will benefit even more by using longer rods. Casting long leaders with strike indicators is often made easier by opening the casting loop. Double hauling with super narrow loops can spell trouble when using a 20 foot leader, a couple of flies and an indicator. It is a lot easier to slow the cast down and open your casting stroke so that the fly line, leader, indicator and fly or flies land in the proper order with no leader tangles or knots. The longer rod makes this type of casting and fishing much easier. A 50 foot cast is more than long enough when fishing strike indicators. Super long casts will only result in you being unable to see the slight dip or bobble of the indicator as the bite occurs.

Floating line nymphing using long leaders is also an excellent way to cover the shallow water zone. The theory behind this tactic is to use a leader at least 25% longer than the water being fished. The goal is to wait for the fly to reach the desired depth zone and then begin the retrieve to imitate the selected food source. The leader and fly will be moving through the water column on a gradual angle thus the longer leader will ensure the fly can reach and stay in that zone while a retrieve or wind drift is used. Longer rods make it much easier to accomplish this.

My personal favorites are the Sage VXP 5100-4 and the Sage ONE 4100-4. Both will make the long cast with long leaders for nymphing over the shoal and drop-off zones of the lake as well as lay out indicator setups using slower, more open loop casts. Remember the objective is to have our fly in the trout feeding zone for as long as possible before having to cast again. Having the right equipment for these specialized fishing situations allows us to not only be more successful but increase the enjoyment of the experience.

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Brian Chan is Sage ambassador for British Columbia Canada. His lifelong passion for fly fishing has resulted in his spending literally thousands of angling days on these world class waters. He has shared his extensive knowledge of aquatic biology, trout ecology, entomology, and lake fly fishing tactics with others, through a number of magazine articles, books, and instructional DVDs on fly fishing. Brian has been featured on many TV fishing shows and is currently a regular guest on Sport Fishing on the Fly and co-host of The New Fly Fisher.

light coloured shoals and dark water dropoffs3