Trail leading in...
A month without fishing is too long, so I was especially excited to get out Saturday. The day came without a time restriction, but I knew by 1 or 2 o'clock the sun would be high, the bite slow and kayaks prevalent. So I got out around 6:30 and caught my first fish by 7:00. Conditions were great; sunny, but cool and a little overcast. The stream ran at average flow and clear. When I arrived one other car was in the parking lot. I brought two 4wt rods; a Z-Axis and ESN. I badly wanted to fish the ESN, but knew carrying a 10' rod through the bush and the desire to throw dries at some point in the day made the Z-Axis the logical choice. Knowing I had the day, I began with a hike and started fishing where I finished last time out. It felt like fishing a new stream covering water I hadn't seen since winter. I fished like a golfer trying to drive every par 4, maybe a little overanxious from the layoff. Sometimes it landed on the green other times in ended in the sand trap. When I got hung up it tended to be on subsurface debris forcing me to decide either to break off the fly or go in after it and disturb the hole. I made my decision based on the fly and how many fish I felt were left in the spot, but didn't feel good about either choice. Fish were caught on a variety of flies from an Adams, Deer Hair Emerger, GD's Catnip, CDC Golden Stone and 6-8 inches behind them all a Disco Duck. All fish were of average size except for those that came unbuttoned, they were much bigger. I ran into pockets where I could do no wrong and caught a lot of fish, surprisingly, in less than a foot of water. Those fish seemed to be the most athletic making a good account of themselves. Walking the stream I got the sense the river changed more this year than those in the past. Everything seemed wider and flatter, but perhaps it's in my head or just summer conditions. Either way it was a gorgeous day and the fishing was its equal.
This is becoming one of my favorite non-fishing hobbies, hiking up these mountain feeder creeks. Not sure what I'm hoping to find, maybe a pool of wild fish? One thing is for sure they are filled with character, wish the pictures did them justice.
My favorite spot in the house
This year my wife and I decided to complete one “house” project a month to update the look of our five year old home. I’m of the mind set you replace a pair of jeans when they wear out and not when they go out of style, the Mrs. disagrees. So you can imagine we differ on opinions of what needs to be done around the house. I certainly know to pick my battles and she is as passionate about home decor as I am about fly fishing so I steer clear. If you are wondering, the rate between remodel dollars to fishing gear is far from an even exchange. So after painting most rooms, installing hardwoods, complete remodel of the kitchen and deck I am running out of steam. Four months and four projects to go, but the next is one I’m excited about. I get to re-do my office/fly fishing room. On a modest budget the renovation is limited to paint and furniture shuffling, but before I do anything I’ll take you on a virtual tour. I’ll post the “after” when complete, but in the meantime feel free to send me your tying bench/fishing room photos and I’ll post them here.
Panoramic View (from left to right)
Fly Tying Bench – A roll top is the center piece of the room, but it wasn’t always in mint condition. When I moved from Pennsylvania to Minnesota I spent the first six months or so living in my in-laws basement while one house sold and the other was built. I was looking for a fly tying bench, but didn’t want to spend the money on a custom piece of furniture. A roll top seemed the obvious choice with the plethora of compartments and vintage character. Fortunately, I found a listing in The Shopper for $75 in nearby Woodbury. Ironically, the family was moving to Pittsburg and weren’t taking it with them. It took a couple months to re-finish but I enjoyed the project. The desk is paired with a 50’s style chair for $25 which also needed some TLC.
TV – A modest TV to watch Auburn Football while tying. It doubles as a computer monitor if I need to pull up a pattern, video or bug picture.
Beverage Center - "Hey, there's even a fridge! This is great! You could put six packs of be... soda in here. Milk, yogurt. You could put candy bars in the freezer." – Tommy Boy. Really anything you want to keep cold. On occasion I do enjoy an adult beverage so I’ve got some Dry Fly Whiskey to satisfy my thirst and keep in the fly fishing theme.
Couch – Here in the Midwest people go “up north” and folks have cabins or campers lakeside. My in-laws went through an upgrade and helped furnish my office. It’s a sleeper sofa decked out in flies and fish.
Closet – It’s not a walk in, but houses all my rods, waders, boots, miscellaneous gear and for nostalgia a Pennsylvania Stream Map (if you look past the packs you can see it on the wall).
So that’s the tour of my 10’x10’ sanctuary. I’ll post new pictures when the renovation is done, but feel free to email me photos and a caption of your fly fishing space whether it’s a desk, room, garage or closet and I’ll put them up on the site.
Hollywood Flies (shades not included)
I really appreciate all the people stopping by the site or on social so I’m giving away a box of flies to one lucky winner to say thanks. These flies are from the tying videos therefor I call them “Hollywood Flies.” I’m not a great editor so sometimes it takes a couple tries to get it right so I included the stunt doubles as well. The winner gets a Risen Fly Box with 4 pages of flies along with an HCFF bumper sticker. All you need to do is fill out the form below and include "Hollywood Fly Box Giveaway" in the comment section. I won’t do anything with the information except email the winner (One entry per person please). I’ll randomly pull one entry on 8/16/13. Again, I am truly thankful for all the interest and feedback in Hammer Creek Fly Fishing.
Congratulations to our winner Keith R. and thanks to all who entered!
I used to think fly tying was a seasonal hobby. Get into “Production” mode to fill the boxes during the off season with the occasional mid-season tie to back fill a decreasing supply. Those were the days when I fished more than I tied, but now the space between trips is spent with fur and feathers. Tying keeps me connected to the sport and there is little else that takes the edge off the day like sitting behind a vise. For some reason I feel guilty admitting it, but I may enjoy it as much as fishing. Perhaps it’s more like choosing a favorite child. Certainly both enhance the others experience. One of the only things more rewarding than catching a fish on a fly you tied is catching a fish on a fly you created. With exponential amount variables the combinations are limitless giving the creative tinkerer a sense of discovery. I’ve come up with a handful of patterns, some of which rank among the most productive in my box. At times the final product and original draft are one in the same; others go through many revisions. Though the process is often different, I narrowed my creative process down to a few starting points.
Variants – If the music industry were as liberal with intellectual property as fly tying, Vanilla Ice wouldn’t have paid the Police. A lot of times a good place to start is with a proven pattern and then adding or subtracting. I was on a kick with CDC for a while and added it to just about every pattern I tied. By adding CDC and some Pearl Tinsel to a classic Brassie, the Hammer Creek CDC Brassie was born. All domesticated dogs are said be derived from one gene pool in East Asia. I’m not suggesting the same is true of flies, but flipping through some of the earliest literature you can see the lineage of many modern day patterns. In more recent history, think about how many variants of a Pheasant Tail Nymph we have since Frank Sawyer tied his first and that’s only the last 60 years or so. Sometimes a new pattern is the offspring of two, and even the best do it. Dave Whitlock combined Joe’s Hopper and a Muddler Minnow and got the famous Dave’s Hopper. However, the greatest innovation in fly tying hasn’t come from procreation, but rather in the innovation of materials.
New Materials – Although we pay homage to the classics some modern patterns were an impossibility of an earlier time. We tie in a world where it’s hard to imagine a nymph without a bead head, but it wasn’t that long ago. As mentioned I get on a kick with new or in vogue materials whether it’s CDC, Ice Dubbing, Flashback, etc (and don't get me started on hook variety). It opens up another door of possibilities. One of my favorites, The Pearl, came off a fixation with Pearl Tinsel and you’ll see it in a lot of my patterns. Now I’m stuck on UV Ice dub and have since re-tied several staple patterns to create a twist on the March Brown Spider and Scud. New patterns can also come from the lack of materials as well. If I see a pattern in a magazine or online, often I’ll tie it based on the concept of the fly with materials I like. Or if I follow a recipe and don’t have the proper supplies I’ll make substitutions which may take my mind down an entirely different path. As mentioned the difference between a variant and new pattern is razor thin.
Imitations – Another way I create “new” patterns is through imitations. I’m weak on entomology, but I have a field guide and often will pick an insect to replicate. After all, that’s what we’re doing right? So you have a choice; imitate a pattern of an interpretation of an insect or go right to the source. I find the field reference puts things in perspective and helps especially with proportion. There are some really good entomology resources online as well. I think one of the best is troutnut.com, but often I’ll Google the insect I’m trying to imitate and think through the techniques to get me there. When starting from scratch (or anytime really) remember material often acts differently when wet. The pattern may not look like a spot on ringer to you in a vise, but it’s what it looks like to a fish in water that matters.
Divine Inspiration - I spend an abnormal amount of time thinking about fly fishing and fly tying, but my assumption is I’m not alone. If you’re reading this you are probably of the same mind…scary. Lying in bed at night I’ll think up new patterns to tie. On occasion it will get me out of bed and down to the bench and often it looks different in my head than on a hook. The dissonances between the two are among the most frustrating days. When you hit it right it’s a good feeling. The Disco Duck was a moment when I saw it in my head and tied it spot on first time around. Of all the ways to create a new pattern this is probably my most enjoyed, but least effective. I like to think it through, but I need to have the bobbin in hand to really get results.
Creating the website really started me thinking about what patterns I could claim as my own and in truth pushed me to focus more on originals rather than replications. I only have a handful to my credit, but those are among my favorites to fish. Our community of fly fishers does great job of providing a platform to share our craft. Some of my favorites are On The Vise, Fly Tying Forum and Global Fly Fisher which tightens the tying community and serves as a conduit for creativity. It’s flattering to think maybe somewhere out there an angler is having success fishing a Hammer Creek original.