Learning Curve 2018>>

January 9, 2019

After a year of fishing, a year that has taken me from Utah's mountains to the famous flats of Andros, I have realize just how much I've learned about everything: fishing, life, hiking, travel, adventure, etcetera. It was a year that gave me the opportunity to mark three fish off my bucket list, and two destinations. I fished streams and rivers, alpine lakes, sub-alpine reservoirs, and my traditional array of warmwater hot-spots. I love this sport because I am constantly learning about fishing, and fish, and everything from the vise to the water. Hopefully through these experiences I can cut down the learning curve for others, if only a little.

Beaver Ponds

After kicking around the idea of a short blog article over fishing beaver ponds I realized this would be a great bullet point on the learning curve list. This past year I had the opportunity to fish dozens of beaver ponds on several streams and rivers. In the mountains, particularly those with wide valleys and gentile gradients, beavers run rampant and can create strings of ponds with impressive durability and size. Fish, for the most part, love beaver ponds because they force the current to slow down, and form deep pools perfect for lounging and otherwise relaxing out of the normally swift water.


Successfully fishing beaver ponds is a skill that can net you some large fish on small, mountain waters that may otherwise get overlooked. The key to unlocking this potential lies in the approach. Stealth is paramount, as the fish will likely be spooky in the slower more placid waters. When possible, approaching from downstream, using the dam as a barrier between yourself and the fish is the best way to go about it. However, sometimes do to brush, other obstacles, or even the height of the dam itself this just isn’t possible; in these cases crawling or kneeling may be required, extra effort that will not go unrewarded.


The aspect of stealth does not end at the approach. Your flies and leader must also promote a quiet, minimalist presentation. I prefer using large dry flies, or terrestrial patterns, with small droppers such as nymphs or beaded soft hackles. On large beaver ponds small streamers like wooly buggers and leeches can work great too, but go easy on the weight since even a slight plop can spook these ultra wary trout. For the same reason, strike indicators are almost always too loud and provocative, but sometimes the channel of a beaver pond can be nymphed quite effectively. On spread out, freshly flooded beaver ponds that have spilled into the surrounding woods a big foam beetle or ant can be deadly against cruising brook and cutthroat trout. These sight fishing opportunities are always a blast in mid summer when many fish have retreated for deeper pools.


Beavers’ are incredible architects and engineers, ones that don’t run water on Saturdays, and always keep the trout, and trout fisherman happy. I’ve seen some beaver dams spanning forty or fifty yards like a wall of wood and mud packed together with the precision, and determination, of a thrifty blue collar workforce. Many ponds are worth the hike in themselves, and can hold more fish than entire stretches of the same creek from which they’re formed; do not overlook them.


You’re Own Built in Strike Indicator!

Although it was only five o’clock in July the sun was low and the valley growing darker by the minute. After fishing the pocket-water beats downstream I’d found a string of long slow beaver ponds and meadows where the river coursed steadily through the mountains. The water drifted by slowly, and the fish were finicky, spooky, and downright paranoid. The three rising cutthroats downstream of me had already spooked, but the two hugging the far bank upstream were still steadily slurping emergers. I considered the many ways I could spook them too.


I settled on a soft hackle called the guide’s choice, one of my favorite patterns, always sure to either trick the fish, or send them running. I shorten my leader to a mere five feet, ridiculously short for this kind of fishing, but I had an idea. My cast was perfect, and it had to be, the fly landed softly about three feet a head of the fish, and my line slapped a couple feet behind him. The current picked up the shooting head and pulled it quickly downstream straightening my fly out and dragging it casually to the surface. Sure the fly was heading downstream, but only momentarily, and the general movement was enough to trigger a strike. I saw the fish flinch to the left, then the fluorescent green line stop. I set the hook, and landed the fish a couple minutes later.

That is the built in strike indicator. When fishing to spooky fish or trout in odd situations that don’t allow for much mending, and line management, sometimes it's best to fish the line as your strike indicator. Shorten you leader and fish more or less upstream. Cast to a pool, pull the line tight, then watch the neon fly line for movement and strikes. It’s Kind of like an off brand, white trash version of euro nymphing, but without the requirement of skill, technique, and an accent.


The Wonders of UV Glue

I am a little late to the UV Glue thing, mostly because five minute epoxy is cheaper, and I typically have five minutes to spare. But, UV Glue is certainly worth the extra monetary expenditure especially when I found myself browsing the internet for one of those over priced fly tying dryers that spins to keep epoxy from running and clumping. At that point I was just asking to spend more money for another pointless tool that would sit in a plastic tub and be forgotten about. At least UV Glue takes up less space.


Probably the greatest thing going for UV Glue is the cure time it has when subjected to the light of a UV flashlight. It dries almost instantly which is obviously convenient but also keeps flies from being lopsided and asymmetric, and we all

know how picky fish can get with asymmetric flies. Being quick is also perfect for small patterns that require just a dab of glue for a wing case or back, epoxy is too slow, and almost not worth the extra effort.


UV Glue also dries very clear, much more clear than the average five minute epoxy from the local hardware store. Lots of epoxy has a slight yellowish finish that isn’t nearly as appealing to the eye as the smooth hard case of UV. Again, not to suggest the fish care all that much, but if they don’t bite it I would certainly claim otherwise. Surely it couldn’t be my own ineptitude. Right?


The addition of UV Glue on the bodies of small midge and nymph patterns adds serious life to any fly pattern. Sure thread looks realistic enough, that’s obvious, we’ve caught fish like that for years, but a thin coat of glue adds a shiny glint to a fly like wax on a sports car. The same coat also adds durability to flies tied with weak materials like quills and scalped peacock herl that sometimes break and fray after just a few fish.


And if you’re one of those people who believe fish can smell super glue, then thin UV glue also works as a great finish for fly heads without as strong an odor. But if you’ve resorted to blaming the smell of your flies for your fishing woes, then you’re either overthinking it, or simply out of luck.


UV Glue is a modern engineering advancement that has been used to bind together airplanes, and bass boats, and smartphones, but perhaps its greatest use is the art of fly tying. Or perhaps that's personal prejudice. Finally we can create perfect flies, that look so real and aesthetically pleasing we wouldn’t dare fish them. It’s like a magical elixir for fly tiers, spread a little on and boom it looks perfectly professional, easy as that.


Talk to people

The best way to learn anything is from somebody that already knows how to do it. That is a fact of life. In the same breathe its easy to see that the best way to learn an area is from someone who has lived there. When I moved to Utah I had done my research, I had figured out were the best fishing holes were, and how to fish them. That is until I realized that the west is a far different beast than Missouri's Ozarks. 

Every little trickle out there is a trout stream, every one. You can't drive an hour in the desert without crossing a trout stream, or so it seems. The first night I was there I had dinner with the management of the quarry I would be working at. The foreman told me about this sweet little brown trout stream right behind work. I'd never heard of it, I went home and Googled it (as my generation does), and nothing came up. Naturally, I had a pang of doubt in the back of my mind. 


I fished it as soon as the snow stopped falling and the dirt road paralleling it was drive-able, or at least to the point that I could stop without being worried about getting started again. It fished great. It was only fifteen minutes from work, and I fished it about a dozen times over the next few months. Fisherman should always listen, learn, but not repeat. There are some places better off left to the locals, it keeps them off the "famous" stuff were the "real" fisherman go.  


As the saying goes there are two rules in life: 1. Never give out all the information. 


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