October 17, 2016

Boulders Fall 2016

 Sam and I were lucky enough to pull off one more Boulder trip before the season ends. We headed out Wednesday evening and like usual we set up camp in the dark. I stumbled upon this site during my last trip to this area a couple months prior; we were blessed to have it and the adjacent lake to ourselves.
 The following morning we walked the short distance between our campsite and the lake; to our dismay the lake's water level was depleated and mostly frozen. We could see pods of Brookies under the ice near the dam and anticipated open water and larger concentrations near the inlet. We found fish but they were very spooky. After some failed attempts, I was able to find some very willing parties to a sinking dragonfly nymph. Sam also found some success with a small fly that resembled a shuttlecock.
 We kept a few Brookies and had a fish-flesh sacrament. I haven't made Bookacos for a number of years. These were delicious but a lot of work.
 That afternoon we hiked to another lake that had left me with soggy waders the last time I was there. Unfortunately we found we weren't the only anglers with plans for this lake. But fortunately they remained away from the prime section which left it open for us. Sam found a winning pattern that evening--a bright orange buzzer--and I found it only a practice in casting.
I was excited to try out my psudo-Mousey McMouseface (see tutorial for the 2.0 version) and gained some hope of breaking the curse of NOT catching a trout on a mouse that has seemed to hover over me. But tonight was not my night for success in that department but I did receive a couple nice blow-ups gave me hope. I tied up two "Mikey McMousefaces" after watching Fly Fish Food's video. I used what braid I had on hand (15#) but the back hook broke off the first fly after a few too many snags in the shoreline vegetation. I think another type of connecting cordage was in order so my 2.0 model implements a furled connection.
 The following morning we ate a large breakfast and hiked to a lake I've been dreaming about since we went there earlier this year. Last spring we hiked to this lake--what felt like straight uphill--from below and gained 1,700 ft in altitude over 2.5 miles. We were hoping that hiking from the top down would be much easier even though it was a mile longer of a hike. Even though it was only a difference of 400 ft in elevation, it seemed like we were constantly hiking downhill to this lake; I was concerned about how the hike out would be. To make matters worse my SD card on my phone would register and I couldn't access the GPS app that has saved our bacon multiple times during other Boulder Mountain trips. But the thought of the large Brooks and Splake we would catch kept my feet moving and I assumed the heart-pumping adrenaline from wrangling these beasts in their fall colors would give me the energy to power through what seemed will be another straight uphill hike.
The lake had more clarity from when we visited it last; even though there was substantially more algea growth. Sam hooked into a scrappy fish within the first few minutes. But other than a few rising trout in the middle of the lake, there was very little fish activity visible much of the day. I did spot a trout resting at the bottom of the lake hidden in some vegetation. I cast past my target and watched as my zonker-strip leech slowly sank. My fly's path swung directly in front of the fish and my heart began to rise as the fish began to take pursuit. But ether a hook-set too slow or a last minute hesitation by the fish took this one and only opportunity to relive myself of the odor of skunk. Sam's fish was the only one to come to hand this day.
During a break from not-catching I had--what I suspect to be--a 5-hour energy that had gone rank. After tipping the container back and consuming the contents I realized there was only about 1/3 of the suspected amount of liquid inside. But I distinctly remember "unzipping" the perforated wrapper off the lid just prior to ripping it down so needless to say it gave me a sinking feeling. About an hour later when it was time to leave, I wasn't feeling very good. I snarfed down some food and drank my last protein milk. The food seemed to help my upset stomach so I suspected I was just having hunger-pains. The hike out wasn't as difficult as I expected and the reflection of the Jeep headlights parked at the trail head came surprisingly quickly. But by the time we arrived back to camp, I felt torn-up. I was so dizzy and nauseated I couldn't even get myself to leave my seat. Sam was nice enough to bring me some water and a few snacks to settle my stomach. But after holding back far too long, I painted the rocks with vomit; luckily that did the trick and I felt dramatically better.
At about 3 am I stepped outside the tent and raided the cooler; my hunger returned with intensity. As I sat back in my camp-chair I looked up towards the sky and allowed my thoughts to wonder. The vastness of the starry-sky enveloped me as I recanted the details of the trip thus far and thought of my family--hopefully sleeping restfully--back home. Regardless of the stressors in my life that lately seem to consume me on a regular basis, I was at complete peace and comforted at this moment. Gratitude filled my heart as I thought about my wife and each of my sons. Tears welled up as I began to thank my Creator for all the good that I have in my life. No problem I may have is insurmountable; but at times I forget this.
The following morning we made the hike back to "soggy-wader lake"; the short hike helped relieve the aches and pains from the previous day's excursion. This time we had the lake to ourselves and it remained that way the remainder of the day. We both received a few bumps on subsurface patterns the first few spots we tried but no hook-ups. Once we arrived at the "prime water" things changed. Fish were making aggressive strikes to the surface as if they were chasing rising bugs. The lake has very little room for a back cast, but I noticed when I visited it a few months ago there was a large flat rock that allows me to get 40+' away from the shore and a 360* shot at fish. I stepped onto my perch and began to cast a #14 Purple Haze (my go-to dry fly) towards active fish. I watched as a large buttery-brown figure slowly rolled over my fly and enveloped it. I wasn't confident I would be able to stay connected as the fish weaved between rocks and tried to break me off. With the fish safely in the net the rush of excitement washed over me.
The bite was on heavy for another few hours and this nice Tiger was followed by many more chunky Cutts and smaller Tigers. The type of "catching" I had hoped and anticipated this entire trip finally came to fruition on our last full day of fishing...
As the sun set and the fishing slowed I paused to take in the moment. The Boulders are truely sacred and I'm blessed to have them some close to home. Autum is my favorite time of the year and feeds my soul. The fish and the foilage explode with color and crisp air soothes the lungs.
Although the sun was setting and the chill was beginning to pierce through me, our last day on the mountain wasn't over. The mission to catch a trout on a mouse would provide the closure to an otherwise excellent trip. I rigged my 2nd (and last) "Mike-mouseface" and began to work the banks and cast along downed logs. Not until dark had enveloped the sky did I begin to have consistent action; that is reaction to my pattern. The sound of the toilet-bowl flush renewed my hope, but connection eluded me. I've read varying tips on how to convert a strike into a solid set, but regardless of how I tried to set, not set, rest, and retrieve I came up empty handed. After a few hours of psychological abuse I returned to my initial mousing-spot and cast into the darkness. I think one particular fish loved to wait until my mouse nearly humped the tip of my rod before it decided to play. This time I was ready and anticipated the "cat and mouse" game. I held steady after the first blowup, muscles clinched, and on a hair-trigger for the follow-up blow. When it came I side-swiped the pattern and finally made a solid connection! I yelped in excitement; it finally happened. With that I was ready to leave and I'm sure Sam was relieved to no longer be held hostage.
With spirits lifted and a burst of energy, Sam and I hiked back to camp to enjoy another of our favorite camping meals; BBQ pork tacos. My wife makes the BBQ pork in a Crock pot and then I package it in a vacuum-seal bag (with refried beans). It makes for easy cleanup as you can heat it up in boiling water and just squeeze the contents out on the tortilla. With some cheese, shredded cabbage, hot sauces, and sour cream you'll have one of the best camp meals imaginable (except maybe some Lloyd's BBQ ribs)...
 Cleaning up camp was bitter-sweet. It was a very rewarding trip and can't wait to share these moments with my sons (when the cold and hiking won't detract from their ability to enjoy it). We stopped at one last spot on the way home hoping to catch a nice Brown or Bow to round out the species lists; I love fishing this river in the fall. But bright sunlight and froggy water equated to only flogging water. I'll grit my teeth through the next season with anticipation for the next Boulders trip in the Spring...

Trout On A Mouse: Boulder Mountains

 It's been a goal of mine for a very long time to catch a trout on a mouse. It seems kind of silly how long I've been pursuing this goal and I'm a bit embarrassed how much I've tried without success. I did quite well catching bass on a mouse when I fished my grandpa's farm pond years ago. And I've had a fair number of blow-ups without hook-ups. But I can finally check this off my bucket list after a lot of persistence and probably more patience on Sam's part during our last trip to The Boulders (report soon to come from me and/or Sam).
I was so excited with this accomplishment I thought I would post a step-by-step of my improved "Post Boulders Mouse". It's a rip off (aren't all patterns kind of rip-offs of others) of Fly Fish Food's "Mousey McMouseface" with my own little twist. Without going into much detail, this was the only mouse to elicit blow ups this last trip (and I had a ton!) but something wasn't right with the hooks I used and where I put them. This is my 2.0 model and hope to give these a test-run soon...

 Post-Boulder's Mouse
Hook: Allen MP003BL back #10 & MP002 middle #4; articulation shank or make your own =front "hook"
Thread: GSP or Kevlar
Tail: Small piece of zonker strip, suede leather strip, furled cordage
Body: Rainy's "Evazote foam" & Zonker strips 
 Small piece of zonker tied hair side down; I colored the hide with brown marker after I tied it in.
 About a 5 inch strip of suede leather strip tied over shank of the hook. I pull back the leather and whip finish at the eye of the hook.
 I start the thread on the next (middle) hook and take it out to furl the cord between tail hook and middle hook.
 I secure about 10-12 inches of cord (I used a piece of the inside of para cord; braid or backing would be better) into my vise and color it with a marker. I "thread" the tail hook onto the cordage and begin to twist clockwise as much as I can. I then slide the tail hook to the middle of twisted cord and then double over the cord and twist the double-over cord counter clockwise as much as I can (making sure not to let go of tag end of doubled over cord). Clear as mud?
 I carefully remove the tail assembly and secure the middle hook back into the vise. I attach the furled cord to the middle hook similar to how one would attach articulation wire in an articulated streamer.

Given the multiple steps of this fly, I ensure durability by using CA glue on most tie in points. I' had never tried this exact glue before this, but I've had success with "instant nail glue" as it's thin and cures quickly; I got this from the dollar store. 

 I tie in the back legs onto the middle hook (1/2 a "squirmy wormie worm"). I then tie the leather strip onto the middle hook but forgot that step in the next picture. I fixed this mistake before going on further...

 Tie on the strip of foam (just wider than the gap of the hook) initially folding down around the shank of the hook.
 Once secured, pinch the foam the opposite way so it folds up and secure the rest of the way to the back of the middle hook.
 I like to dub some glue on the underside of the foam  once it's tied in (notice I fixed my mistake of forgetting to secure the leather strip)
 Tie in a zonker strip and palmer it around the hook all the way to the eye (with just enough room to tie in the foam)
"Part" the hair on top back because it's not going to do you any good hidden under the foam.

 Pull the foam forward and tie off. I trim the "head" on the foam quite close to the tie down area and glue the "head" back onto itself to allow for more movement between the middle and front "hook".
 I use the largest gauge stainless steel wire I could get (I bought this from Bass Pro Shops) to make articulated shanks. I think this is leader material (that's the section I bought it in) but either way it does the job. You obviously can use pre-made articulation shanks too.

Using a few pairs of pliers (mainly a set of round nose) i bend, twist, and swear until i can get a shank close to the right shape. I'd give a better tutorial on how to do this, but it mostly involves luck and being cheap.
Hook the shank into the eye of the middle hook and place a healthy thread base down and a coating of glue.
Tie in another strip of foam and zonker. Wrap the zonker up about half way and tie off.
Tie in another set of legs and then resume wrapping the zonker strip the remaining length of the shank.
Tie the foam over the front section leaving about a shank's length of foam out the front.
Cut a V-notch about halfway back on the foam extending beyond the front.
Fold the extra foam back. Tie the now formed head with the ears extending back and the bulb in front of the tie down spot. I apply glue in the crease of the tie down area before and after tying the head.
Trim the legs to size.

Give it a final inspection and go mate it with fish lips. Here's my youngest son Cooper giving me some pointers.