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Michael Gracie

Saltwater Flats Flies

Pile of. Flats.

Saltwater Flies

Desk. Pack next.

MG signing off (because composition.)

Blast from the Past: The One-Fly Angler

riograndekingtrudeflyVia the Sports Illustrated Vault, July 15, 1968

Today, in the still-simon-pure world of angling for trout with a fly, there are some who would like to see another fly, the Rio Grande King, banned from all trout streams, especially when it is being fished by Richard J. O’Connor. A 52-year-old career bachelor and the regional manager of Sabena Airlines in Denver, O’Connor must be ranked as a superpurist among fly-fishermen, for when this happy Irishman approaches a trout stream, only his 7-foot tonkin-cane rod and his well-worn hip boots show him to be a fisherman. He carries no creel or net, nor does he wear a fly vest stuffed with boxes of dries, wets, streamers, nymphs and all the other paraphernalia normally associated with fly-fishing for trout. Instead, O’Connor carries only one small Plexiglas box of Rio Grande King Hair Wings—fluffy, nondescript flies that do not resemble, or even imitate, anything in a trout’s diet. But on the end of his wispy, 2.5-pound-test tapered leader, this no-account fly (O’Connor thinks it looks more like an “old reprobate, or maybe a miniature skunk,” than anything else) has accounted for thousands of big trout in a wide range of waters throughout the world—Colorado’s South Platte, the Test, England’s famous chalk stream and the venerable Beaverkill in New York, to name but a few.

Read on.

Had a hunch there was something to reducing the number of patterns in the box, but wonder if carrying a single fly isn’t a bit over- (or under-) doing it.

MG signing off (appreciating O’Connor’s style nonetheless)

Magic flies? Or just magic moments?

A man walks into a fly shop and asks “Do you have any whatchamacallits?”

The kid behind the counter points to the bin. “They are the hot fly this year,” he replies, but selling is unnecessary.

“We were killing ’em on whatchamacallits last Saturday. Best fly ever! I need a bunch more,” the man declares.

Fast forward …

The man is standing in a quiet pool, a whatchamacallit on the end of his leader. He spots fish, but the action is slow. He can’t quite figure it out; meanwhile his buddy is standing one pool up, and catching a few.

The man asks his friend what he’s using. The friend replies “chartreuse bead.” He looks down at his box; an ample supply of whatchamacallits peers back. “Can I grab one of those from you, buddy?”

That set of circumstances may or may not be based on actual events, regardless of specificity as to actors, but an intuitive punter would wager on the former.

Did the man originally “kill it” because of the fly, or because of external factors beyond his control?

simpleflies

(more…)

We interrupt the previous scheduled programming

Taking pictures of flies that will be swung with spey rods in some godforsaken remote part of Alaska and posting them on your blog?

“Poser alert!”

Well…hats to you, cubicle zombies, as you are correct. But I still might suggest finding an alternative profession. Meanwhile, I have an interim trip i.e. next weekend, and here are the two boxes I’m bringing for that…

bucketsofflies

To alleviate any hate….

Guess precisely where I am headed, and I will personally buy you a $25 gift certificate good for any purchase at Trout’s Fly Fishing. This “contest” has not been authorized by the owner of said fly shop, which means the entire prize is my on my dime. Meanwhile, since I won’t be able to fill the tank for a week after the debacle (I roll in a V8, like a good man should), I suggest you get very specific as to venue – I am, after all, the sole (and very partial judge) on the matter.

MG signing off (because I will likely catch a fish on almost all of the bugs, so I might as well give a little back)

Continued Progress

I have been advised not to tie too many flies for the Kanektok. However, a fine gentleman’s fiancé fine gentleman recently inherited my fly tying kit. It was more of a housewarming gift than a wedding gesture, and I was the first RSVP so the bride-to-be can’t cross me off the list now. All I ever tied was carp and bonefish flies, and I’d rather horsetrade for bait anyway.

Gotta see a man about some more flies

Not yet Deneki Outdoors approved, but don’t think I haven’t covered my bases. I just hope Andrew has an unlimited text plan.

MG signing off (wondering what else he might need)

The carp fly box for the post-graduate generation?

The Bikini-Clad Fly-Fishing Girls Mayan calendar is almost out of pages to flip, and I have been somewhat…choke, cough, choke, cough…inconsistent in my fly-fishing endeavors this year. Kind of like the BLS’s labor reports, only fly-fishing isn’t particularly laborious.

Albert Einstein once said “the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” The truly learned and wise just blame it on the flies. Hence, I introduce to you the…uh…carp fly box for the post-graduate generation?

The left side of the box are my half-baked knockoffs of real fly anglers’ patterns. The other side comes from one Scott Spooner, the newest addition to the Taylor Creek crew. And a fine addition indeed. You may have heard of Mr. Spooner’s fly tying obsession acumen through the infamous Nate O’ Taylor blog. Nevertheless, the eternal skeptic in me decided to put the hot shot to the test – I mean who on God’s green earth can’t tie a fricken trout fly (that is, besides yours truly)? I then pulled some unachievable bullshit out of my ass, kind of like my professor did back in Finance 4905 developed an intricately detailed test: produce some flies for quarry that he is not familiar with, based on a detailed set of specifications:

1) They must fly straight at upwards of 200 mph (or 20 mph in the case of my best casts);

2) They must have lots of profile, and bulging eyes and flailing tentacles (akin to how I look in a strip club); and

3) When they land they must sit upright (unlike how I am usually positioned at my desk).

Doctor Spooner knows how to follow instructions (or he wouldn’t be a doctor, so shut your cakehole), and produced the following…

(more…)

An Andros South junkie’s secrets revealed

I know an Andros South junkie. This bonefish addict rolls over to the casa one evening, and over some cheap pizza starts spilling his secrets.

I also know a loudmouth…me! So I’m coughing up one of these precious tips. It’s Paulson’s Bunky Shrimp, a dead sexy Idylwilde pattern I was told is one of the must-have flies for the southernmost part of The Bahamas. After checking this fly out, however, I realized I’d like to have a few in tan (they’re offered from the factory in just pink), and maybe a bit bigger. So I brewed up my own.

They’ve been tied a little sparser than normal – in size #2 I think they are already have good profile yet remain light enough for the shallow flats we’ll be hucking across most FIBFest days. I used thicker eyes (out of 60lb mono, since that’s all I had), and tossed a little blaze orange thread on the back for a spawn sack of sorts. What’s the body composed of? Quite possibly THE toughest material to find, and I wound up placing a lot of calls for a lot of samples before making the score.

The source? That I WILL keep a secret for now.

MG signing off (and watching my back because I ran my mouth)

Editor’s note: Yes, that’s the infamous 957 Vise in the picture. Still kickin’ baby!

Recycling flies

fly-fishing flies recyclingEver rifled through your fly box and asked yourself…”what the f**k was I thinking?”  You know this or that fly isn’t going to work, or at least you know something else will and you aren’t willing to waste a cast.  Or you might be far from home, which would only exacerbate the pain of bad fly choice – do you play with fire, or hedge your bets?

I burn easily, so may I suggest making some room in your box…by reclaiming those hooks and bead chain eyes.

MG signing off (to recycle some flies)

Adventures in Fly-Fishing Retail – Episode 1: Back To The Roots

This much is certain: fly-fishing has entered a new age. The quiet sport is now rock n’ roll extreme, and it won’t be long before anglers are swooping into canyon tailwaters via parachute. Vin Diesel is bound to be Orvis’s future spokesperson, and I wouldn’t rule out white label video games with John Madden’s voice for narration.

It’s all about the marketing. But you already knew that.

What you very likely don’t know, however, is that my first retail experience was undertaken during my junior year in high school. Back then I worked as a stock boy in a women’s clothing boutique. This job had quite obvious benefits, a discussion of which is beyond the scope of this post. But let’s just assume I felt myself one lucky bastard at the time. Fast forward and the idea of a fly fishing bum wannabe working in a fly shop, even in the very limited time frames for which I have been proffered, should also seem like a boon. But it took just one day to realize that fly fishing retail is much more than just fun and games.

See, this Tucker Ladd guy (a.k.a. the Boss) has heard the tale: I’d caught plenty of salty and/or warm watery fishy creatures before I ever set eyes on a trout. It’s the exact opposite path to that which the majority of fly anglers take, but the Boss doesn’t forget anything.

Did I sell a dozen high-end rods and reels my first day? Take potential purchasers out all afternoon for casting demonstrations? Help female customers in and out of the Goretex waders I insisted they try on over and over and over again?

Nope.

Like any other retail business, to sell product you must display product. And display properly. Hence, the low man on the totem pole spent the day moving, sorting, and organizing flies. Mostly saltwater flies, big ones, with extremely sharp hooks. Fancy that. No gloves allowed either.

Trout's Fly Fishing

My fingertips are still bleeding. Those are, however, some darn sweet flies.

MG signing off (to find a workers comp claim form)

Can you ever have too many fly boxes?

dry fly boxI’ve heard the statement over and over again: you can never have too many fly boxes. I’ve always wondered about that.

What if you are getting tired of carrying them? Would rather have the space in your pack for food and drink? Do those boxes wind up glorified storage, like Tupperware operates in the leftovers realm? I know many folks who never eat what lingers more than a day in the fridge, and a while back I got an inkling the same might be the case for flies. I’ve since kept track of what I’ve cooked, and what could now be deemed a science project.

As far as trout flies are concerned, I have roughly ten mainstays – they’re my pizza and PPJ PBJ. While I haven’t chased trout as much as in years past, those ten flies have accounted for 90+ percent of production, with the elk hair caddis and the buckskin making up about half that. If I tossed in a few new streamer and hopper patterns I lucked out with, it would be immeasurably close to 100%.

I also noticed that some flies have been sitting in one box or another for more than a decade, put there for very particular situations such as microscopic midge hatches on the San Juan quality water. I’ve used the regulars in those same places since, and done just fine. Further, a few months back I watched a buddy toss a big yellow sallie in a sea of small yellow sallies – the fish all around us rejected that fly like it was radioactive. I don’t carry yellow sallies, but I did have a plain ole’ caddis in just the right size. We tied those on, and they saved the day.

As of late time on the water has skewed towards bass and carp, but with an even narrower distribution around the mean. Roughly 75% of the bucketmouths I’ve taken were fooled by a single popper (albeit with some variation in color), and the rest by either a Clouser or a Jawbreaker (again in different colors). When it comes to the ditches, I’ve used a handful of flies for smallies, and just two patterns on the goldfish. That’s correct…every carp I’ve caught this season has been on one of two patterns (in two colors), with the color tan accounting for 8 out of 10 fish.

carp

Sight fishing for carp has been a constant reminder of that week in Andros. Where I used just four flies.

Over the last two seasons I’ve cut the number of rods I own in half. Actually, more than in half, as seventeen sticks are now seven. The goal was pushing limits – understand the finer qualities of each piece of equipment in a wider variety of conditions. Reducing predawn decision-making was a side benefit. So far it’s working out – one rod has been damaged since, but I didn’t lose any time on the water because of it. Recent observations suggest the utilitarian method could be applied to flies too. Trick fish with fewer patterns, substituting something very close for an exact match and then overweighting reliance on delivery.

Can you ever have too many fly boxes? I’m not sure just yet, but last weekend I found my hat getting handed to me while nymphing. As many folks who have fished with me know, I’m not wanting for dredging tools. Yet despite zero apprehension regarding multi-fly rigs and truckloads of lead, I was forced to turn things around.

With a single dry.

MG signing off (to balance quantity, size, color and namesake, with method)