Well, I'm back. I've been pounding away on my next book, which is a tour of fly-fishing waters throughout the western United States -- and Mexico. I explore how each water taught me something important about hooking -- but not always landing -- fish on flies.
Anyway, I now have the time and energy to put at least one post a week up on this blog, which makes me really happy.
Actually, this is coming to you from beautiful Central Oregon, where I lived for several terrific years -- my daughter was born in Bend. I love fishing Central Oregon, and I'm on the Crooked River this weekend. The Crooked is The Place to pester wild trout in winter, and this is a popular spot this time of year.
Why? Well, there are a lot of wild rainbow trout from Bowman Dam -- which is a short drive from the town of Prineville -- for more than 10 miles downstream. The Crooked is a tailwater, which means that the water flows from the bottom of the dam, so means it's a bit warmer and keeps the fish active all winter. A tailwater is often a man-made spring creek, and the Crooked sure looks like a spring creek, which long stretches of weedy, flat water. A long and hard cold snap will freeze over parts of the Crooked, but those episodes never last very long.
The highway follows the river from Prinveville to Bowman Dam, so access is very easy. Don't tresspass on the privately owned -- and fenced -- sections. First, it's wrong to do that, and you just might find yourself sharing a pasture with a big, cranky bull.
I came here hoping to find trout rising to blue wing olive mayflies, and I wasn't disappointed. Central Oregon often gets a warm spell -- with afternoon temperatures climbing to the high 50-degree range -- in early March, and that's what's happening on this trip. This warmth gets the bugs moving a little faster, and size 20 blue wing olives have been hatching -- and vanishing into the greedy mouths of rainbow trout.
The fish are really looking for the mayflies, but scud flies swung in the soft, slow water -- and dead-drifted in the riffles -- are working very, very well when bugs aren't hatching.
I'm at the Crooked, but I find my thoughts drifting toward fishing sea-run cutthroat in Puget Sound and Hood Canal. Chum salmon fry are starting to wiggle out of the stream gravel and head downstream to the saltwater of Puget Sound. This is a great time of year to prowl a pebbly beach near a stream mouth and cast streamers that imitate baby chum.
You can find lots of posts on fishing baby chum on this very blog, but I noticed that I have never talked about the cast that I use to put these heavier flies on the water. My favorite chum fry fly is Bob Triggs' Chum Baby, and it comes with a brass or gold bead at the head. You almost have to use a double-haul cast to get the line speed needed to cast these heavier flies more than 20 feet. I rarely use a double-handed rod for cutts, and I rarely cast longer than 50 feet or so, as these fish usually hang out in the rips and dropoffs near shore.
That said, a double-haul is the best way to zing these flies -- or salmonflies or hopper flies -- around with some authority.
My friends at Redington recently sent me some cool instructional videos, and this one is a terrific introduction to the double-haul cast:
A few thoughts about this video:
Did you notice all the bugs flapping around? I doubt that I could have concentrated on demonstrating a cast when there were probably nice fish rising.
Second, I often use a gentle double haul when I'm casting any fly farther than 30 feet or so. The double haul lets me cast without working too hard -- or thinking too hard -- about getting my fly out there.
Finally, I would recommend practicing the double haul -- if you are new to this cast -- for 10 minutes or so each day for about a week. At the end of 60 or 70 minutes of practice on your lawn, this cast will feel natural. I also would start out practicing with a short line -- no more than 30 feet or so. Timing is more important than distance when learning this cast.
I really learned the double haul when I was still a kid and watched Lefty Kreh demonstrate it at a big fishing show. I was fishing poppers for bass quite a bit back then -- I'm still addicted to fishing poppers for bass -- and I found that the double haul worked great for turning over that big fly and putting it on the target. In a sense, fishing bass poppers really taught me the muscle memory for the double haul.