|Dry Fly Grand Slam by John Berry
Here in the Arkansas Ozarks, a grand slam is catching all four species of trout (rainbow, brown, cutthroat and brook) that we have here in one day. It is a rite of passage for fly fishers and the best way that I know of to cap off a great day of fishing.
Last week, I was guiding a group of fly fishers for The White River Inn, the most luxurious fishing lodge on the White River. They had flown in on a corporate jet from Arizona and were as a group very experienced competent anglers. As luck would have it they arrived in the middle of the Rhyancophilia Caddis hatch, one of our major hatches of the year.
The first day we fished on the White River and they did well. The weather was perfect. It was sunny with temperatures in the mid-seventies with no discernable wind. In the morning, we fished zebra midges and small olive scuds. About one oclock the hatch started coming off. We quickly switched to size fourteen elk hair caddis with a green body and began picking up fish immediately. This was some of the best dry fly fishing I have encountered in some time. My clients caught maybe twenty five trout apiece mostly on the top with the largest fish being sixteen inches long.
The next day they wanted to fish the Norfork to try something different. We walked far into the Catch and Release area. I put Kenny in a nice run and rigged him up with a size fourteen green elk hair caddis. He requested a couple of extra dry flies and a woolly bugger in case he either lost a fly or wanted to try some thing else. I then took his fishing partner, Ray, up stream to fish one of my favorite spots. Ray is a bit older and his vision was not as good as Kennys so he was fishing nymphs with a large strike indicator and catching plenty of fish. I split my time between the two anglers.
As I was walking up to Kenny, he motioned for me to hurry up. I picked up the pace and arrived in time to help him revive a fat twenty three inch rainbow. I stayed with him long enough to watch him to catch a nineteen inch cutthroat and a fifteen inch brown. These and the other dozen or so trout that he had caught previously were all taken on the elk hair caddis. I walked back up to where Ray was fishing and helped him land an eighteen inch cutt.
By this time, it was past noon and we walked back to the access for lunch. I quickly set up the table and over sandwiches, chips and cookies; we discussed the events of the Morning. It had been one of the best days the guys had ever had. Moose Watson, the owner of The White River Inn, stopped by to check on us. Ray was tired from the constant action of the last two days. He returned to the Inn with Moose for a shower and a nap and Kenny and I returned to our spot and continued fishing.
We stayed with the elk hair caddis and were rewarded with several Cutthroats the largest being seventeen inches long. It was almost time to go and Kenny made his last cast of the day. The fly gently settled on the water and drifted a couple of feet when a trout rose and nailed it. Kenny quickly brought it in and I gently picked it up to remove the hook and release it. It was a small (eight inch) trout. I looked at it and noticed bright red spots with bright blue circles around them. I turned it over and noticed worm like markings on its back and white on the leading edge of its fins. It was a brook trout and judging by its intense color and full fins a wild one! I took me a moment to realize that Kenny had just caught a grand slam. It was the first grand slam that I knew of that had been caught on dry flies. This was the perfect way to end a special day.
Since then, I have discussed this with other guides and anglers. I learned that my brother Dan had a dry fly Grand Slam some years ago and that George Peters, a local guide, had done it this year on the White River (they both favor dry flies and long casts). We all agreed that this was the first time that they had heard of a client achieving this milestone. So if you want to set an angling goal for your self, think about seeking the elusive dry fly grand slam. Im working on mine!
John Berry is a fly fishing guide in Cotter, Arkansas and can be contacted at www.berrybrothersguides.com.
You Might Be A Trout Bum By John Berry
I have heard the term trout bum bandied about quite a bit. Heck on occasion, I have even been called one. However, I am not sure that I know exactly what one is. I took it upon myself to investigate this term. I read the very insightful book by John Gierach on the subject. I traveled to the various places where trout bums congregate. I went fishing on the Madison, the Deschutes, the Henrys Fork, the Green, the San Juan, the Yellow Stone and every other trout stream where I thought I might learn something useful on the subject. I attended National Conclaves, Southern Conclaves, Sow Bug Roundups, and the Home Waters Expo. I visited lodges, fly shops, bars and fishing cabins. I have talked to countless anglers. Sadly, I am unable to find a succinct definition. What I was able to identify from all of this learned research is that there are certain indicative behaviors that can predict whether you are a trout bum. The more of these that you exhibit the more likely it is that you are one. I have listed a few of these indicators below.
If your cat is named Winston and your dog is called Lefty, you might be a trout bum.
If your family had to eat Christmas dinner on TV trays because your dining room table is set aside for fly tying, you might be a trout bum.
If you missed the birth of your first child because it coincided with the start of the sulphur fly hatch, you might be a trout bum.
If your fly tying vise cost more than your automobile, you might be a trout bum.
If one or more of your children were conceived on the back seat of a drift boat during a lull in the salmon fly hatch, you might be a trout bum.
If your wedding reception was held in a fly shop, you might be a trout bum.
If your wife wants to do something romantic on your anniversary and you take her night fishing, you might be a trout bum.
If she thinks you finally hit a home run with that idea, she might be a trout bum.
If you have ever worn a fishing shirt to a funeral, you might be a trout bum.
If Wapsi or Orvis makes more than three deliveries a week to your home, you might be a trout bum.
If you can identify every insect you encounter on the river with its complete scientific name (in Latin) but cant remember your childrens names, you might be a trout bum.
If the only time anyone has seen you cry was when you broke the tip on your bamboo rod, you may be a trout bum.
This list is by no means complete. I would not be concerned unless I exhibited more than five indicators.
Have one of your own that you would like to share? Send it to me at email@example.com.
Thinking Outside the Box By John Berry
Last week Chuck Kirk, an old fishing buddy of mine, stopped by Cotter for an all too brief visit during a cross country trip. He was driving from California to New Hampshire and his route brought him within a few miles of my house so he veered off and dropped in. We spent the first night drinking good single malt scotch and talking about past fishing expeditions to Montana, New Mexico, Colorado, and Florida and of course Arkansas. Early the next morning we woke up Lori, ate breakfast and headed for the river. We made a stop at a fly shop along the way to buy Chuck a pair of wading boots and a hat. I loaned him everything else he needed but his feet and his head were too large to fit mine.
When we arrived at the access, the conditions were perfect. The water level was down and the temperatures were in the mid eighties with a cloudless sky. I gave Chuck a few flies that had been working lately and we waded down to one of my favorite spots. He started fishing immediately using my four weight Sage Light Line (my favorite rod) that was still rigged with a zebra midge from my last trip.
He decided to give the zebra midge a shot. He made a nice cast and began catching fish immediately. He did well all day.
I was struggling a bit further down stream. I tried a zebra midge but it wasnt working for me. I finally landed a trout on a scud and pumped his stomach. It was full of caddis larvae. I looked in my various fly boxes and pulled out a fluttering caddis. I caught a fish but the going was slow. I pumped that fish and
really studied the caddis. They were much leaner than the fluttering caddis. The closest thing I had was a wet fly, the green butt. I decided to give it a try but rigged it up as a nymph. It began producing immediately. Lori had also been struggling. I got on the walkie talkie and told her about my discovery. She quickly rigged a green butt as a nymph and began catching fish.
The first fish I caught was a fat seventeen inch rainbow. I was fishing my old, beloved Winston four weight (the second rod I ever bought over twenty-five years ago). This is a very light and soft first generation graphite rod. It was barely up to the task. The rod was bent double and I had difficulty handling the fish in the heavy water. Luckily I had a large net and was finally able to land the bow. The
hot action continued for the rest of the day. I left convinced that I needed to develop a nymphal form of the green butt.
As I walked out, I thought of a similar situation involving Chuck that happened several years ago. We were fishing the Norfork near what is now the handicap access. They trout were taking emergers. Chuck didnt have the right fly. He tied on a light Cahill, which he was carefully presenting to the fish with no success. After a while, the fly got waterlogged and sank into the film. He got a strike almost immediately. He figured he was onto something. He kept fishing the dry as a wet fly and caught a bunch of fish.
The gist of the matter is sometimes you have to think outside the box. Just because a given fly is designed for a particular situation, that doesnt mean that you cant use it in a different manner. There is no rule that says a dry fly must always be fished as a dry fly or a wet fly must be fished as a wet fly. When you match a fly to the hatch, concentrate on size, shape and color. Sometimes the best match may not be apparent. When you get into a situation like this, be creative. You may surprise yourself!
Western Flies in Southern Waters By John Berry
Every time I go out west, I spend a lot of time cruising fly shops. I look at patterns and tying materials trying to get ideas for things that might work here. One of the things that have always amazed me is the size and numbers of terrestrial patterns used there. I have spent a lot of time fishing in the Smokies and I know that terrestrials are important there. The patterns there are traditional Eastern patterns made of natural materials (fur and feather) that are fairly realistic in their appearance and the same size as the naturals. I fish them often and I know that they work here in Arkansas. The western terrestrials are as a group totally different. They are often made of foam with rubber legs and almost always have some sort of quick sight on them. They are oversized and resemble nothing I have seen in nature. When I first saw them I snickered and passed on by. I thought they were some sort of joke perpetrated on anglers from back east that didnt know any better. I never bought or tried a single one of them.
The first year that I guided for Hooked On A Cure I drew Jack Dennis as my celebrity. Jack is the real deal. He has had the top fly shop in Jackson Hole for thirty-eight years. He has written several books on fly tying, produces fly tying videos and regularly appears on television. If that isnt enough he was one of the founders of the One Fly Contest and is captain of Team USA in the Fly Fishing World Championship. I was naturally excited to have an angler of his caliber in my boat.
When we started out I gave him a few local patterns and explained how we normally fished around here. As we were drifting through the Jenkins Creek area he said I see noses poking up. He stopped and tied on a large ant with a trude style wing and rubber legs. It looked like nothing I had ever seen. He immediately hooked a fine rainbow. In fact, over the course of the day he hooked and landed a lot of fish. I didnt count but it was certainly as many as any one else boated that weekend. At the end of the day he gave me a fly that I used it as a pattern to tie a few.
Over the next two years, it became a standard in my box. I found that the trude style wing made it easy to see and the rubber legs gave it some realistic action particularly in broken water. I especially like to fish it at the end of the day in riffle water. It produces fish after fish and has become my favorite attractor dry fly.
This year, I was lucky enough to draw Jack again. I talked to him about my success with the ant and he told me that I would be impressed with the latest pattern he was fishing, the 747 ant. This thing had a black foam body, rubber legs, a plastic wing case and two parachute posts. Yes, I said two parachute posts. This makes the fly easy to spot even when it is seventy feet away. Over the course of the day, Jack caught plenty of trout and fished no other fly. He would cast into likely spots and mend to achieve a perfect drag free drift. He would occasionally twitch the fly to imitate a struggle on the part of the ant often triggering a vicious strike. When we had drifted through areas with rising fish we would motor back up and pass through those spots again. At the end of the day he gave me the fly (the only one he had) and one of his fly tying videos that featured the 747 ant. I have eagerly added it to my repertoire.
I may not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I figured out that the gaudy western flies that I once smirked at can produce trout. All it took was a competent angler with confidence in the flies to demonstrate that they will work on our waters. This gives me a new weapon to add to my arsenal. Western attractors dont be afraid to give them a try.
Grass Carp By John Berry
Last week, the Damsels (the North Arkansas Fly Fishers ladies organization), had an outing and invited my wife, Lori to attend so that she could coordinate their involvement with the Outreach Program at this years Federation of Fly Fishers Southern Council Conclave. I thought it was a great idea until I learned that the outing was to be at Dave and Emily Whitlocks home and I was not invited. Worse yet, there was to be a pot luck dinner (I have attended a Damsel pot luck dinner before and the food was fantastic. Everyone was told to come early so they could fish the pond. The email even stated that the pond was loaded with fish.
I was excited. Dave has been my fly fishing idol since I began fly fishing over twenty five years ago. He does it all, teach, write, draw, tie, and of course fish. He is one of the great innovators of our sport. Emily is no slouch either. She is a renowned teacher, lecturer, conservationist and angler in her own right. Lori patiently explained that this was a Damsel outing and the only way I could attend was to dress in drag. I dont look that good in mens clothing let alone womens. Reluctantly I accepted my lot in life. To console myself, I went fishing at Rim Shoals with my cousin Quin. We did well and caught some nice fish.
Meanwhile over at the Whitlocks, Lori was having the time of her life. The outing was a farewell party for Emily (she and Dave are moving to Oklahoma). There was a festive atmosphere and most of the ladies were drinking margaritas and chatting inside. Not Lori. She and a couple of diehards were out at the pond fishing their hearts out. She caught a nice bream on a marabou jig.
About that time, Dave came out. He went to the dock and began tossing out handfuls of fish food on the pond. The surface of the water literally began to boil. Large catfish started to feed voraciously. Dave clipped off Loris fly and tied on a small fly that matched the fish food. He attached a strike indicator about six inches above the fly. He then instructed her to cast into the maelstrom. She cast and patiently watched the indicator for a couple of minutes. The fly absorbed water and began to slowly sink. All of a sudden, the strike indicator went down like the titanic. She quickly lifted the rod driving the fly deep into the fishs mouth
The fish made a long run bending Loris rod almost double in the process. She was fishing a Sage six weight rod, a Ross reel with a disc drag, floating line and 4x tippet. This is heavier tackle than Lori usually fishes and during the fight she was wishing for more. The big fish took several runs, but Lori hung with him. She regularly fights large trout on light tackle, but this was something different. The fish was larger and more powerful than anything she had ever hooked. Several Damsels noticed the commotion and walked down to the pond to get in on the action. Some one asked what size tippet she was using. Lori said 4x. They gasped and said that 2x was the norm for the large fish here. Dave said that it was a challenge to land big fish on smaller tippets and besides Lori was doing fine. Finally, after a long struggle, Dave deftly netted the fish. It was a huge Grass Carp. Dave estimated it to be well over nine pounds. It was the largest fish Lori had ever caught. She continued fishing until dark catching a 6½ pound catfish in the process.
When it was all over, Lori thought about how much she enjoyed the outing and how great it was to have someone rig you up and net your fish. Normally she is guiding and does this for other people. To have Dave Whitlock do this was a thrill. She had read several articles about carp fishing but never realized just how exciting it was. Now she understands.
The Fishing Vest By John Berry
The first item that most people acquire when they take up fishing is the fishing vest. This piece of gear, invented by the immortal Lee Wulff, should be the last thing you buy. The reason is simple, you tend to over buy. We all know how to choose the proper vest. It's obviously the one with the most pockets. A vest with 28 pockets is twice as good as one with 14 pockets. The problem is that as soon as you buy one with 28 pockets, you will return to the fly shop until you have filled every pocket with stuff whether you need it or not. Just because a travel iron or complete set of Ginsu knives will fit into one of the pockets doesn't mean that you will actually need them. My clients frequently complain about how tired they are or how much their back hurts at the end of the day. I ask them how much their vest weighs! I can't tell you how many times it is in excess of 20 pounds. The important lesson here is that while a lot of pockets are handy, you do not have to put something in all of them. You could even leave a few completely empty!
The fabric that the vest is made of is important. While the heavy cotton canvas models are durable but slow to dry if wet, the light mesh vests will be significantly cooler on a hot summer day and will be significantly lighter and take up less room in your duffel bag. Color is a consideration also. Lighter colors will be cooler in the direct sun while a green vest will blend in with the trees better while fishing a small mountain stream in the Great Smoky Mountain National park.
You cannot buy a vest that is too short or too large. Always buy a shortie, because with a regular vest it is too easy to wade over the tops of your lowest pockets. This maneuver causes you to stop and dry out your fly boxes or throw away that fine Cuban cigar that you were going to relish this afternoon when you caught a hog in your favorite hole. As for the proper size, be sure to try the vest on over the heaviest clothes that you will be fishing in. If you fish all winter make sure that it will fit over a down jacket or a couple of pile jackets and a rain shell. Size it for the winter not the summer when you are fishing in a T-shirt.
Finally, consider fishing without a vest. If you are bream fishing you can put everything you need in a shirt pocket. The British don't wear fishing vests, They prefer a shoulder type field bag. Personally, I prefer a simple pouch that hangs around my neck. It has six pockets and I don't use two of them. It does have two D rings that I attach the items that I use the most to. This way I don't have to rummage through pockets to find my tippet or fly box.
The proper vest should make your time on the water more enjoyable!