Waters & words : a celebration of flyfishing

Posts tagged “hopper

Zamalek and Butter Beans

Brown Trout release

I was standing in a fast flowing stretch of white water, “picking the pockets”. I had rigged up an 8 foot three weight with the new Rio Creek line which my wife just bought for me.

The hopper had been working well, with many fish coming up to it. I had been hooking half of them. Then I thought of something I heard in a flyfishing podcast about how true learning comes from changing from something that is working, to something else that may not work. As they put it ”trying not to catch fish”. It’s counter intuitive. I like it.

So I put it into practice and tied on a CDC and Elk. It was an almost white one, which doesn’t look anything like the colour of the caddis we get in these parts, but as my friend Ray says, at least we can see it. It does have a dark brown body, so maybe that is the important part….the part the fish sees.

Anyway…I lashed it on with my newfound Eugene-Bend knot, which so far has served me much better than the improved clinch which I have used for so many years, and I set to work.

I was targeting the smooth spots, where white water gave way to flat surfaces. They were still very fast flowing surfaces, and this ‘dusting’ practice required a flick of the fly every few seconds. The fly would sail down the slick, and then start skittering as drag set it. I would try throw a mini mend or lift the rod tip to dangle the fly. Anything to extend the drag free drift by a half second or so.  

I stepped forward to another good looking run. As I had worked up this piece, I had often looked ahead, decided it was all white water here. ‘Time to move on’ I would say to myself…then take a few steps, say ‘hang on a second’ and take the fly from the keeper again. So progress was really slow. As it turned out, we did about 600 metres of river in near four hours of fishing. (and I did a lot of talking to myself).  This run was one of those. As I stepped forward I reassessed and decided it had merit. I started casting again. If you could call it that. Flicking maybe.

On about the tenth flick, I got the seem just right and the fly drifted down closer to me, drag free all the way. You know what that looks like. It’s a minor victory. As it came towards me, in the flash of an eye, a decent Brown rose towards my fly, hesitated, then turned to follow the fly as though it had now been grabbed by a conviction that it needed to clobber it, and clobber it properly! Maybe it was repairing on its earlier indecision. It came straight towards me, and opened its mouth wide enough to have swallowed a lot more that just the fly. It was consumed by a hunger. It was a bit like my mate, who just that morning had greedily emptied way more than his portion  of the breakfast Zamalek quart we were sharing, while I was off opening the gate.

But suddenly the fish made direct eye contact with me. It was as though it all happened in  slow motion. Its mouth wide open, closing on the innocent little caddis. Greed in its eyes, focus at 7mm off its snout. And then in the blurry backdrop it sees this bloody great fisherman looking straight into its eyes.

Unlike my fishing pal, it decided on discretion over valor, and turning hard right, I saw its broad side as it dashed  across the quickening flow in the tail of the pool. It was suspended in the crystal clear slick for a lot less than a moment, and then it was gone, and I was cursing.

#

A little further on, I concluded fishing another little slick. I had given it as many drifts as it deserved, and I had caught and released a lovely little Brown.

While I was deciding whether to reel in and skip the apparently entirely white water above, I threw the fly just a little less determinedly into a tiny patch of bubbles and detritus that was caught in an aimless patch of water. It was one of those spots where the water comes racing past a big boulder and then just in behind the boulder some of the water gets spat out, and dawdles like it doesn’t know where to go next. If it were a midlands river it would have had some foam and scum and more  leaf matter in it. It was one of those places where, if you threw the fly in and lifted the rod tip, the fly would swirl there indefinitely.

I did that now. I tossed the fly in, reached forward and lifted most of the line off the water in front of me to prevent the fly being pulled away.  Then I just guided the rod tip this way and that, in an attempt to float the fly over a variety of spots. One quickly learns that in this fast water, with its mysterious undercurrents, moving a drift an inch to the left or right means the difference between a fish and no fish.

This time it didn’t seem to make any difference.  Or so I thought. But then, like an apparition, this Brown appears very very slowly from nowhere. It just kind of slunk in there when I wasn’t looking. Which is strange, because I was looking. I was looking intently, but I didn’t see it arrive. It just got there without arriving, if you know what I mean. Then it proceeded to turn on the caddis. But this fish didn’t just get an angle on the fly, swallow and leave.  Not this one. Watching it was like watching my buddy eat his after-beer breakfast beans that morning.  Just like he scraped the spoon languidly around the base of the can, to secure every last butter bean, this fish did about two hundred and seventy degrees. It just seemed to keep on turning, like it had all the time in the world. I suppose it did have all the time in the world. Its butter beans were going nowhere. Unlike my share of the beer, which disappeared fast, this caddis wasn’t about to be taken from it.

I waited patiently for Mr Brown to finish his theatrics, and when he was quite done, I said “Thank you sir” very politely, and without a sneer, I lifted  into him.

The fish came off.

As I changed back to the hopper, I got to thinking that this was one of the more unusual breakfasts I’d had. But then changing things up does make life  interesting.


Hopper time

Hopper

Late summer and autumn, with tall grass stems about the river banks, always signals strongly to me that there could be hoppers on the water. Add a gusty wind, and I consider it a sure thing….in theory at least. Perhaps a “likely thing” would be more accurate, but either way, using a hopper as a prospecting pattern suddenly seems like a good idea. Not being one for standard patterns, I always try something new at the vice.

Here’s what I came up with this time:

That one is a #16. You can see the fluorescent colour of the yarn spotter as well as the thread shining a tad garishly. That is just because I included a UV torch in my lighting when I took these pictures.

Here is the #14 one, with no spotter….a bit easier on the eye, you might say:

For those interested, the materials on these things are:

Body: Kapok dubbing done in a dubbing loop (don’t try conventional dubbing technique with this stuff, it just reduces to a thin needle)

Under-wing: 2 different colours red CDC (the one is also fluorescent, so you can see that shining through too)

Bullet head, and wing: Deer hair

Legs: Sili legs (fine, barred)

I used the fluorescent yellow thread simply because anyone who has tied a yellow bodied fly with dark silk will know that when it is wet, it shows through like inappropriate underwear. By putting a bright colour under the “dirty yellow” Kapok dubbing, I hope it does something more appealing.

I look forward to trying these on the water.


Photo of the moment (112)

I gave this young fellow a lift the other day as I drove up the river valley.

Hopper (1 of 1)


Image

Photo of the moment (53)

Hopper (1 of 1)-3


The Duckfly Hog Hopper

hog hopper (1 of 1)-2

I discovered this pattern just recently in an excellent video by Davie McPhail.

You tube video by Davie McPhail

I liked it instantly.  It ticks a lot of boxes for me. It is light and springy. It could be one of several things: A cranefly, a small hopper, a half hatched cripple, a hatching midge, and just about anything else your imagination can muster. Exactly what you want in a searching pattern.

The  one in the video is on a #12. That is rather big for me, unless it is the hopper you have chosen from the list above, so I tied my first ones on a #16. To start with I made a beginner’s mistake by trying to put on similar quantities of material to that evident in the video. The result was an overdressed fly:

Hog Hopper (2 of 2)

Notice how it looks bulky, and lacks that sparse, buggy, springy feel that one should be after? 

The smaller one is better off with a single CDC feather , and just a sprinkling of deer hair fibres. I think I could even trim the dressing more than I have done in the picture at the top of this page.  Take a look at McPhail’s one again:

Duckfly Hog Hopper

The colour combinations that you could try are endless. I put a spotter post of yarn on one, and left the wing off another.

hog hopper (5 of 8)hog hopper (7 of 8)

hog hopper (1 of 1)-3

I contemplated converting it to a parachute pattern. But just as you can’t have bacon on everything, I realised I was bastardising the pattern beyond what was reasonable, and I reverted to something closer to the original.

This one is tied on a klinkhamer style hook, and with longer more gangly legs, so that it is somewhat more of a cranefly:

hog hopper (4 of 8)

If you have a look at “Sedgehog” patterns, and the “Duckfly” (an Irish midge pattern), you will see where this pattern came from. To Davie McPhail:  hats off to you! I think you have a winner here.

I read somewhere that creativity is the art of putting existing ideas together, that no one has ever thought to put together before.  This pattern is a truly creative one. I look forward to putting it over some fish.


Close encounters with Trout

Several years ago I was lucky enough to join a Kombi load of fly-fishermen, and travel down to the unlikely destination of Somerset East in the Cape to get some trout.

On that trip, Maurice Broughton and I were assigned a beat on the tiny Naude’s river, and with our guide, we had an enjoyable morning hunting trout in the better pools.

At lunchtime we found a lovely willow tree growing in a patch of lush grass beside a pool in the stream.

We settled down to some sandwiches, and if memory serves, a chilled bottle of wine!

While we were sitting there, enjoying the tranquil setting, a small trout began rising at the head of the pool. He rose a few times, right up in the funnel. Right up where the water cascaded over some stone into the pool.

He only rose a few times and then stopped. Maurice and I began to postulate as to what he might be taking. We decided it was a terrestrial of some sort, because nothing was hatching, but a light breeze buffeted the veld grass beside the water.

It was then that we decided to have some fun.

(more…)