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Michael Gracie

Let’s close this trip out on a good note

INTREPID PHOTOG (WITH THREE CAMERAS, FOUR RIGGED RODS, FIVE LENSES, AND A SIX PACK OF MODELO IN TOW): This looks like a good spot for closing out this trip. I need a really good shot, so don’t splash up the pool when you step in. You’ve been fishing that same fly all weekend … sure you don’t want to change it up? How ’bout a dropper?

YOURS TRULY (WITH ONE PARACHUTE ADAMS, TWO FEET OF 6X TIPPET, AND A THREE WEIGHT RADIAN IN HAND): I’m good.

INTREPID PHOTOG: If there is anything here, it’s gonna be sitting on the right edge. Deeper over there. Sun’s at your back, so watch your shadow. Be careful of that big log behind you. Wanna cast this rod?

YOURS TRULY: Got it. Nope.

Thirty seconds later …

INTREPID PHOTOG: Dude, where’s your fly?

YOURS TRULY: (Sigh)

Another minute goes by …

YOURS TRULY: Satisfied?

MG signing off (because it felt like work, but business was good)

Photo credit: James “You Really Need A Dropper” Snyder

Angler credit: Michael ” No I Don’t” Gracie

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)

Minimalism explained

Ronan Berder writes…

Owning very little is probably one of the most important behaviors that helps me moving forward. I currently have more or less all I need; a few devices to get my work done, a wardrobe that allows me to work, exercise and go by more formal events… and that’s about it. A pair of sunglasses and some other minor necessities, but the grand total of my possessions fits in a suitcase. When I travel, I can pack all of what I own with me.

Read the whole thing. Which will take about a minute.

MG signing off (because “things” are mostly just a hassle)

Thumbing it to Andros South

It’s about quality over quantity. Unless you’re standing on a flat with an empty fly box.

With all the chatter about what a pain in the rear it is to fly nowadays, I decided to stack the deck in my favor by doing FIBFest with the minimal amount of stuff possible. I’m carrying just one bag, a 2,600 cu.in. duffle, and going as cheaply as possible on everything besides rod, reel and line. The goal is to do the entire week without borrowing a single item from either the other FIBFesters or our gracious host (other than maybe a little CPU time). Here is the packing list:

bonefishing gearThe Essentials

  • Scott S4S rods(1) in #6, #8, and #10, in a heavy duty postal mail tube
  • Lamson Litespeed reels in 3X, 3.5X, and 4, plus some spare parts for each(2) (’cause I often leave reels directly behind the tires of trucks that are about to back up)
  • RIO Bonefish 6(3), Rio Tropical Clouser 8, Rio Redfish 8 (for when I trash the Tropical Clouser in the mangroves), and Rio Saltwater Tropical F/I 10(3)
  • Roughly 1,100 yards of 30# gelspun backing (don’t be a sissy, you fingers are going to get cut anyway)
  • A leader wallet with roughly a dozen tapered flouro and Toothy Critter jobbies in it, and spools of CFX flouro in 6#, 8#, 10#, 12#, 15# and 20#
  • A hundred flies in a five buck Plano box that doubles as bass bug storage, and another small ($3) Plano box for when we’re on foot

I’ll note that I’m carrying way more flies than I’ll probably need, but it’s a pretty wide assortment, including some weightier stuff for deeper water. Last time around Norman gave me a nice ribbing for not being prepared when we shot over to the West Side, and goodness knows I cave under pressure as it is.

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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)

Waist Pack Shootout: Simms Headwaters Waist Pack versus Mountainsmith Tour Pack

gear bagI’ve been a lover of waist packs for years, and have gone through several, alternately switching back to vests now and again, but always winding up back where I started. I’ve been using one exclusively for the past year, the Mountainsmith Tour, but another (the Simms Headwaters Waist Pack) recently came my way and I thought it worth doing a little comparison/contrast. So let’s go…

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