Friday, March 31, 2017

Three Great Flies that are Trout Catchers with Evan Ritchie

Evan Ritchie was our guest instructor on the last fly tying session of 2016/17 season. Evan brought three great flies to share with us before we head out on the rivers, streams and lakes. Evan fishes a lot in the southern part of our province and has favourite places he returns to every year. Evan shared a Caddis fly pattern by Roman Moses, a Tom's Green and a Grizzly Sledge Hammer.

Tom's Green

Hook: Mustad 37160, #10
Thread: Green, 8/0
Tail: White Ostrich Herl
Rib: Fine Gold Wire
Abdomen: Olive light bright dubbing
Thorax: Green light bright dubbing
Wing Case: Tan Rayon
Hackle: Emu, palmered over thorax
Head: Green Flashabou thread

Caddis Fly (Roman Moses), Balloon Caddis

Hook: Standard Dry Fly sizes 12-16
Body: Antron dubbing, colour to match your caddis flies (green, tan)
Wing: Deer hair
Head: Foam

The Grizzly Sledge Hammer (Hans Weilenmann)

Hook: TMC 2487 #8-14
Thread: Black, 6/0 or 8/0
Ribbing: Fine dark copper wire
Wing Post: White calf body hair
Thorax: Peacock herl

Evan shared a great trick with the group. Instead of using dubbing wax, Evan uses mouse glue traps. In Evan's left hand you can see two small pieces of the glue trap placed glue sides together. If you peel the pieces slightly apart, you can run this up and down your tying thread to secure dubbing to it. This works very well and I use it extensively on some flies. It makes the dubbing process quick, efficient and gives the tyer the ability to adjust dubbing amounts very effectively. 

The Caddis fly we tied used foam from the Dollar Store. This foam was purchased at a local store and cut to size. A life time supply of colours can be purchased for $1.00 per colour. 

Tom's Green had a variety of material that was really different. We used emu feathers but rhea feathers could also be used.  Green and yellow raffia also was used and is easily purchased at craft stores or florist shops.

Here is Evan showing the pattern prior to tying Tom's Green. This fly is a crane fly pattern. The crane fly hatch is often very heavy and usually follows the stonefly hatch. This hatch is typically in July in southern Alberta. The key to this fly is to match the colour to the bugs on the river, wherever you are! It is awesome to see an effective crane fly pattern.

The raffia had a nice sheen to it and was quite plyable so it tied in really nicely. 

As we tied the last fly of the evening, the Grizzly Sledgehammer, Evan shared with us that this is a great searching pattern.  He uses it on streams and lakes. It works well for any emerging bugs as it rides in the surface film. Evan loves this fly and has used it everywhere. The key is getting the body colour to match the emerging bugs. Evan usually uses tan or olive and ties it smaller and smaller as the fishing season goes on. If you are on water that is fished heavily, go with a really small size.

Thank you to Evan for a great session. It was an awesome way to end our tying season.

As this was the last session for the year and we are all headed out on the water to use the flies we have tied, we would like to thank all of the fly tyers who presented this year. We learn so much from one another and it is wonderful to see new presenters each year.

Please continue to let us know what adventures you are having by sending stories and pictures through the fishing season and we will post them here on the blog as they come in. It is a way for all of us to keep in touch throughout the spring, summer and fall until it is time to get out the vices again for the next year of tying.

All the best for the fishing season!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Fly Fishing at Great Inagua in the Bahamas

The Bahamas is a great place to fly fish for bonefish as well as several other species! There is a lot of variety and opportunities that can accommodate the most adventurous fly fisher! Last week, I was fortunate enough to travel to Great Inagua in the Bahamas. Our group of 6 stayed at Outback Lodge. Dave Eaton was our leader and joining him were 3 biologists/parks guys; Rob, Mike and John as well as Dr. Bill Young and myself! Because of flight schedules from Canada, we arrived the day before our Bahamas Air flight to Matthew Town! Bahamas Air has new turbo prop planes that comfortably get you anywhere in the Bahamas. You have to pay attention to the flight schedules that head to the out islands! You also have to remember you are on island time. Your flight is often late and you need to factor that into your travel schedule! Everything on Great Inagua is expensive because of the cost to get things there! Gas is twice as much or more than we pay in Canada.

 Food comes by boat or is caught! Sometimes food can be scarce! I am always amazed at what Islanders do to make do! Great Inagua is not a prosperous island at all. There is a great deal of damage from Hurricane Matthew. Life is relaxed and Islanders are easy going!

The big employer on Great Inagua is Morton Salt! They are an enormous operation that shapes the environment on a lot of Inagua! More about that later!

Once our group arrived in Matthew Town, I came to the realization that my bag of gear and fishing clothes did not make it on the flight. I did have my fly rods, reels but no flies, and my kit was in my bag nowhere to be seen. I was not very happy about my luggage not making it. Another one of the guys suffered a similar fate. Fortunately, our bags did get there the next day. I had to fly fish with what I had! My hiking shoes on my feet and the clothes I had in my pack would have to get me by. Fortunately Dave had a small fly shop in his travel bag so I had plenty of flies to get by until my bag arrived! Henry Hugh, owner of Outback Lodge, was there to greet us and take us in two beat up vehicles out to the Lodge.

The trip out to Outback Lodge is indeed an adventure. You follow a very rough road for about 45 minutes or longer to get to the comfortable rustic Lodge that includes 2 sleeping cabins that can accommodate up to 6 guests! I quickly realized that the vehicles get beat up in a real hurry because of the rough roads and sea salt! We got ourselves organized and hoped to fly fish for 3 or 4 hours before dark! Well we got ourselves into one of the vehicles and off we went to the closest flat. The weather was quite overcast but we were all excited. We got to a place that was quite close to a reef! We immediately saw tailing bonefish and we started to stalk the bonefish! Dr.Bill caught a nice bonefish in the last few hours of daylight before we headed back for supper. I had a dry shirt to change into once we got back to camp and no shoes so I had to walk around in sock feet and wet pants until I borrowed some shorts for two days while in camp. That was doable! Conch was on the menu, a local favourite. It was excellent!

Day two was overcast and showery! Dr. Bill and I loaded up a kayak and headed to a creek system that was a 30 minute paddle down the shore! I had never fly fished for bones in a creek system that was connected to the ocean. Once we paddled to the creek we fought a strong wind to get to into the creek system. There is a lot of muddy flats. We did catch 3 bonefish! Rain squalls soaked us several times! No matter! What we did realize once we paddled back to the Lodge, was that we needed to get further back into the creek system to find bonefish in great numbers! A return trip a few days later with a better understanding of the creek dynamics allowed us to have a solid day of catching bonefish. Learning about new places usually takes time! I do know that I need to ask a lot of questions to get a better picture in my head of where to go! That definitely helps with better opportunities to catch bonefish!

There were lots of willing bonefish in the creek system that was a 30 minute paddle to from Outback Lodge. You can paddle up the creek or start hiking from the bay at the mouth of the extensive creek.

The eating area at the Lodge is well set up as a great gathering place to share your day with the rest of the gang! We got our hands on a weather forecast and realized that it was going to be a wet week! 

Well as my buddy Larry would say, adapt and overcome! Hey it was warm but showery. The overcast weather made spotting bonefish challenging but we were up for it!

I was personally excited to come to Great Inagua because of the opportunity to catch tarpon! I have always wanted to catch one on a fly! The tarpon area is Lake Rosa! The lake is a massive shallow lake that has fluctuating water levels because of the water that is pumped into the lake as part of the Morton Salt business! Several of the pumps were damaged during Hurricane Matthew! The lake was low and the lake was churned up pretty good by the wind! My dream to tangle with a tarpon was pretty much a pipe dream! We spent two days trying and yes we saw a few tarpon in the distance but there was a very small chance of success!

Tarpon water was on the right. About 4 inches of visibility!

Well the flats fishing was slow! Not a lot of bonefish! The signature flats on Inagua is close to the Lodge. It has several beautiful beats! Unfortunately for us, the bones were few, hard to find and spooky! I suspect that the bones have also become quite wary with the number of Do It Yourself fly fishers that hit this beautiful flat!

The creek system we kayaked to from camp had the most consistent bonefishing! You did have to get some walking in to find the fish in the back areas but for the most part the bones were quite cooperative once we located them! We did have to pay the price of slogging through mud to get to where we found bonefish.

There are not a lot of flats on Inagua. We had hoped for tarpon but that was a bust! So our gang was covering a lot of the the same ground more than once! That made the few fish even tougher to catch! I personally resorted to a 15 foot, 10 pound leader with size 6 gotchas with a pink head. I also went without beads, plastic beads or very light bead chain for the weight on the fly. That was to get the fly in the game without spooking the bonefish!

One neat opportunity at Great Inagua is the chance to catch box fish, trigger fish, barracuda and lady fish. We did catch all four species during the week !

Box Fish

Trigger Fish

The food at Outback Lodge was excellent! We had more fresh food than I expected! The fare included grouper, conch, snapper, ribs and chicken! The fresh salads were indeed a treat!

The day does not start very fast at Inagua but I guess that is island life! We usually fished until near dark and then bumped our way back to the Lodge in two rather beat up vehicles that had seen better days! Several of us enjoyed watching the sunrise, we even fished right out in front of the Lodge one morning while waiting for breakfast!

There were several days that the sand flies were vicious and we all had red welts to prove it!

Dr Bill caught an enormous barracuda on one flat on the final day! That was awesome!

You encounter some neat creatures on the island too! Flamingos, burrowing owls, parrots, wild donkeys, dogs and boars can be seen on any given day!

Morton Salt is a big business that covers a lot of the island! They have reshaped a lot of the land! A lot of it has been made to have salt water pumped in, evaporated and finally scooped up to be shipped to a lot of destinations including Canada! The land does not have much growing in these areas! The salt areas are desolate and scrubby! Not much can survive there! My thoughts are quite mixed about the impact that Morton Salt has on the environment! Morton Salt is quite a contraction to me! They stress a clean environment, protect the flamingos but their business totally devastates the land!

I have learned a long time ago that there are lots of things you cannot control! Weather is one! The whims of Morton Salt Company, wind and Hurricane Matthew dashed my chance to catch a tarpon! That was was extremely disappointing! It also caused the ocean flats to get refished on a daily basis. The unusually low numbers of bonefish made it tough going! Could have Hurricane Matthew caused the bonefish population to be down, maybe! The size of the bonefish were just ok! I hoped to see the odd larger fish!

I did meet several great fly fishers! Dave Eaton did a good job organizing the trip! Henry Hugh, owner of Outback Lodge runs a good operation! He is busily trying to get everything back to normal after Hurricane Matthew! There was no internet available, one deck was destroyed and the shingles are almost all back where they need to be!

I would recommend just 4 fly fishers in the area if there are no tarpon opportunities! I would think that any booking agent be forthcoming with that type of information!

I learned a lot on this trip! I enjoyed the gang's company and the lodge. The trip certainly had some disappointments but there was lots of positives too!