Sunday, August 10, 2014

the foam beetle

As mild as the summer has been lately, make no mistake, the dog days are here. In the mountains, aside from the occasional stoneflies, there aren't any major hatches right now. While dry flies like the neversink caddis, poor man's stimulator, parachute and wulff adams, among others will still catch trout, the best bet is terrestrials. My favorite of these is a big black foam beetle. They will float any heavy stonefly nymph you can come up with, and your truck too. Maybe not your truck, but they do float well.

I have tinkered with a few different materials and styles the last few years and have finally settled on one that outdoes the rest. I started out tying the original peacock herl bodied foam beetle but that was too wimpy. A few trout teeth and it was done. Then somebody introduced me pearl chenille and rubber legs. I liked the durability but I also had fewer strikes. It just wasn't natural looking with the little plastic rectangles sticking out everywhere. Earlier this year I decided to try tying a couple with a dubbing underbody. I dug through my supplies and came across some Ice dubbing I hadn't been using. Bingo! The stuff is a bit difficult to use being synthetic but its durable, has a nice buggy look and not too much flash.

Teimco 2312 size 10-i prefer size 12 but i'm out
Black thread 70 denier
Peacock loco foam
Chocolate brown ice dubbing
Medium round black rubber legs
White para post

To start, cut the foam into a strip 1/4" to 3/8" wide and cut the corners of one end into a taper. Cut the legs into 1 1/2 inch lengths.

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Wrap down the hook and tie the last 1/16" of the taper above the bend. Wrap it loose at first, tightening as you go to prevent cutting into the foam

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Next comes the hard part. The plastic dubbing doesn't stick to the thread as well as finer dubbing materials, and sometimes comes loose while wrapping. I don't have dubbing wax so the way I found to beat it is to use a little at a time, wrapping up and down the hook in a few layers. Be sure to leave a gap behind the hook eye to tie down the foam.

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Fold the foam over and pull it snug. Wrap to hold it down the same as earlier, loose at first and gradually tightening as you wrap. Don't trim the remaining foam yet. Next tie in the rubber legs. One at a time i fold them in half around the thread, pinch the tips between my fingers, pull them tight and place them with a wrap of thread.

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Cut off a strand of para post, fold it in half and tie it on top of the beetle. I make a few wraps around it to make a true parachute post. Lift the loose foam and whip finish on the eye of the hook. Trim the foam, legs, dubbing and parachute post to your liking. I often use a drop of superglue to help hold things in place.

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I like the peacock foam but it is expensive as far as foam sheets go. It also blends with the water so it makes the para post a must, but any closed cell 2mm foam will do. Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sometimes its hard to beat the beetle

Kyler is the son of a friend of mine, and he is also my friend. He likes punk rock and has a band he jams with, the Gorilla Skulls. You've probably not heard of them. He also likes to fish, though he doesn't get to do much of it as his parents aren't the great outdoors type. I think that people such as the members of  Pegboy and myself are the exception. Occasionally when Kyler has kept his parents pleased and I have the time I scoop him up and let him wet a line for a while. This has been going on for several years. When he was younger I would take him to the clinch and use bait. Now he's older, a little more coordinated and listens better so i have stuck a fly rod in his hand the last two trips.

Yesterday I picked him up and we proceeded Little River Outfitters to meet up with my brother in law, Stu before heading to the smokies. Last year he fished with us on North river and a little on the upper end of Tellico. I was hoping that some of what he had learned that day would stick with him and he would only need a few minutes of refreshing his memory. We stopped at a spot along the road, and after the refresher course I taught him the roll cast he would need on the bigger stream we were fishing. I put him on a nice run that looked like it would hold several trout, and as was expected, he was struggling to get his cast out far enough. He soon tangled his line and told me to fish the run while he sat on a rock and untangled. I sat with him a moment and explained that he had too much slack in his line to cast and how to prevent it, then gladly obliged the opportunity to demonstrate. After a few casts I saw a fish cruise up from the depth and inspect my foam beetle before eating it. I set the hook and was a bit surprised at the rainbow I had just fooled. I know there's some good ones in this river, but he was bigger than anything I actually expected to catch.

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We spent some more time working on the roll cast and hit a few more spots, but Kyler was really struggling with the big stream. Not wanting to sap his confidence I decided to take him much further upstream to a small, much colder stream that fishes as good as it looks. There are rainbow and brook trout everywhere in this tributary, some quite large for the stream size.

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We jumped in and Kyler hit the water first. I spent some more time coaching him on the where and how, and soon he was casting easily and getting a perfect drift. The trout were as promised and eager to take the beetles I had tied. His timing on the hook set was off and he never seemed to get the feel of it. I watched as fish after fish smashed, pecked or slowly sucked his beetle under and not one came to hand. I joked with him that he wasn't getting any lunch unless he lands one.

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Kyler fished ahead and I followed up, casting to the spots he had missed or couldn't reach. Eventually we found Stu. He said he was catching plenty on a san juan worm, so I dropped one off Kyler's beetle. The very next cast he hooked a little brookie that fell off when he reached for it. Soon he landed two little rainbows and lost several more trout. The san juan came through for him and it saved his day. Not to mention his lunch...

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

slow on the clinch, at least for me

i had the rare chance to fish twice this fourth of july weekend. originally i planned to fish chilhowee lake friday and the clinch saturday. brookfield energy now owns most of the dams along the little tennessee river, the ones formerly owned by alcoa. with the change in ownership the tva generation schedule website is no longer listing the release schedules for the new owners, or for those of us who use the lakes they create. or in my case, the river below the dams they operate. i emailed brookfield and they replied...

Thank you for your email.

We are working at putting the information on our Smoky Mountain website ( We need to go through some IT details but the water release info should be available in the next 10 days.
Thank you for your patience,

Best regards,

thanks vanessa!

so i decided to double dip on the clinch instead. friday morning i rolled into the ramp above the weir before sunup. i unloaded the kayak and threw my gear in, first to hit the water. its a little eerie paddling the foggy river in the dark, you have to use the ridge tops and know the tree line to navigate the river. the sound of the weir helps keep you oriented as well.

as soon as there was enough light to see my strike indicator i started casting a double zebra midge rig. i was getting bites almost right away but couldn't seem to sink the hook into any meat. i changed spots and finally got a little fight.

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after landing the rainbow not much else was happening. there was an occasional rise but the water around me seemed to be pretty dead. i paddled upstream and switched to a dry/dropper rig. the wind had picked up so i chose the smallest parachute pattern i had, a size 20 BWO. i didn't expect any topwater action, the fly selection was for the wind, not the trout.

soon after the switch i picked up a nice brown near some submerged logs. this would be my last bite of the day, the river seemed to die once the sun hit the water. i tried in vain anyways.

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saturday morning i decided to try a different spot downstream. once again i was the first on the water. while paddling downstream to my intended spot i saw several fish rising. i had seen people anchored in this spot before and wondered why. i didn't look like much, but there was some action so i decided to give it a few drifts. my #16 parachute sulphur went under and i had a fight on my hands! soon i landed a fat rainbow that looked like it had been recently attacked. i suspect it was a bird, there were several different species hanging around.

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so i said i was using a sulphur. the biggest part of the sulphur hatch seems to be over with but i am still seeing a few floating on the water. i heard the afternoons are better but the flow schedule didn't jive with me hanging out that long.

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i fished my way down to my intended spot with a couple of bites along the way, usually resulting in a new midge needing to be tied on. when i got too my spot not much was happening there, except for people showing up that apparently had it in mind as well. i fished there for a bit with no action so i paddled back upstream and spent the rest of the day ignoring the riffle and fishing the flat water above it.

on my next drift i saw my sulphur once again go under and i set the hook. instantly out came a trout, with an orange belly, 3 feet into the air. i had over 40 feet of fly line out that wasn't fully tight yet. it was a pig, and i never had a chance!

down to the last of the midge that had been producing bites, i decided the 7X tippet clearly wasn't up to the task and switched to 6X. i believe it was too late however, once again the sun hit the water and the bite went dead