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Fly Rod Breeds and Fast-Action Dogs

By: Josh Prestin Photos By: Josh Prestin

Vizslas are the spawn of Satan terrible dogs. It was the salivating maw of a Vizsla that plucked a handful of egg-laying hens and two gallant roosters from my father’s free-ranging flock, leaving us only a quivering, molting, panic-ridden brood of chickens that refused to leave the coop at all costs. The offending demon responds to “Emerson,” christened so by my sister, who crowned him king of her condo and adopted him for a running companion at a time when she found males of the human variety in short supply.

My first interactions with the beast were outside of his specialization. While Emerson proved a great runner, his talent for carrying chickens by the neck while doing so poisoned my opinion of the breed. A lineage of prematurely butchered roosters later, Emerson inhabits a suburban estate with two adoring owners and four boys whose backyard sandbox shenanigans are guarded by the adoring, skinny, docked-tail-wagging chicken hunter.

What challenged my opinion of Vizslas was watching one hunt Chukar. Its point performance was stunning, fluid, and elegant. After seeing a Vizsla in its element I can begrudgingly acknowledge that Emerson is probably a good dog too, despite his history of feather-filled grins. He serves as playmate for my nephews and hasn’t played assassin in several years. I still disdain his breed, but if pressed, I’ll tell you that Vizslas can be darn good dogs for the right application.

Fly rods are like dogs. They have unique characteristics and qualities that can make or break an experience, depending on application. I’ve seen many customers balk at fly rods in any given price range because of something their buddy said, an industry review, or simple brand presuppositions. While it’s important to listen to input from other anglers, there are often backstories to negative opinions that explain the ruffled feathers resulting from incorrect equipment application.

If you still believe me when I say Vizslas are *necessarily* terrible dogs, you could miss out on a great family companion or hunting dog. The same is true when choosing fly rods; sweeping generalizations are as out of order in our nuanced sport as they are when describing dogs. I’m a dry-or-die, light rod fanatic, so if I tell you that a certain streamer rod you’re interested in doesn’t perform to my standards, take my opinion with a grain of salt and remember that you likely fish in a different style than I do. Rods (lines and reels, too) are designed with specific applications in mind, often to fit a certain price point, and it is unfair to manufacturer and consumer alike to judge an item’s performance outside its intended application. There are always select rods that impress across the spectrum of fishing styles and environments—they receive hype for good reason. Just remember that there are plenty of unsung heroes in the rod market worthy of your cast, especially if you’re in the process of expanding your rod quiver to include more specialized tools.

Oh, and if you ever need help butchering chickens, give me a shout. I know a dog for that. **Josh Prestin is a freelance writer and editor from Boise, Idaho.

Metolius, Sometimes I Loathe Thee By: Troy B. Jordan Photos By: Ryan Brennecke

It was early, perhaps too early. It was o’dark-thirty in the morning and I was tossing my gear bag out the slider onto the patio as Ryan pulled up. You’d suspect we where going steelhead fishing on the Lower Deschutes. But no, we where not, we were not even heading far enough from town to warrant such an early departure. We were simply heading over to the Metolius for some trout fishing. So why so early? I don’t know: hedge our bets on getting into fish by having more time, give Ryan first light opportunities for his photography, I’m that slow at rigging up. It could be any number of things. One thing for sure, we both thought our departure time was sort of ridiculous. But there we were throwing my gear in the back of Ryan’s truck in the dark of the morning. I looked back at my place and saw... well I didn’t see

much. It was dark as

hell and all the lights where out. I didn’t stir wife or son. It would be an hour or more before they woke, flicked on kitchen lights, and started their day. By then I would be on the river trying to sniff out the notoriously educated Metolius bows.

The ride out wavered between fishing and having kids; Ryan’s expecting his first born soon and I’m battling mine and the horrible threes. As for the fishing conversation, thoughts where expressed on how hard the Metolius can fish. There’s times when things click and everything goes well, but there are often times when it doesn’t click and there seem to be nary a fish around. We decided we had enough time to fish any water we wanted

There seems to be plenty of evidence to suggest the river is chock full of fish, such as the redd counts being up. Stocking of hatchery reared fish ceased on the Metolius in 1996 and it became a wild trout fishery once again. Subsequently, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife started studying spawning activity via redd counts. According to the study the count went from approximately 150 redds in the mid 1990’s to nearly 500 in the late ’90’s with a huge jump in 2002-’03 of nearly 1,200 redds. It had a drop in 2006 to around 600 and since then has seemed to settle on around a 900 redd count. There’s definitely fish, but they lack the hatchery nature, which is great. Moving fisheries away from hatchery stock and towards a healthy and vital wild fishery is and should be a goal on many rivers. However, it means you trade the gullible sluggish pale hatchery fish for a Ph.D educated strong beautifully colored wild fish. The fishing can lend itself towards difficult, especially when we’re talking about that fishery being on a clear, glacier blue, spring fed river. It’s a trade off, but one well worth it.

We turned onto Camp Sherman road and headed towards what we hoped to be a day where everything clicked. We swung by the headwaters for Ryan to snap a few first light photos for

his stock images. I was unsure why he thought wet wading the Metolius (a river with a consistent water temp of 48 degrees fahrenheit) on a slightly chilly morning seemed like a “quick and easy” solution for his pics... But hey, it wasn’t my sack going in the frigid water. Once Ryan shivered out of the cold water we motored down river and stopped at the small quant Camp Sherman store. It’s a place that sells most anything anyone could need or want in

these parts. Anything from micros and macros, deli meats, camp accoutrements, handcrafted bamboo fly rods to post cards to send back home saying you might be gone longer than originally thought. They even have some good espresso, which I was in need of. Just one catch. The store needs to be open to acquire any of the said items,

at least in a legal fashion. I was in need of more caffeine but not of a criminal record. Damn early starts and not enough coffee.

We hit a couple spots we both knew fairly well, looking to get on the board early and fend off any skunk. Although quite a few campgrounds had a decent amount of filled sites, there wasn’t anyone on the water fishing, but that was sure to change. Our spots turned up nothing. We didn’t even get a sighting. We tossed a few under some brush and over hanging branches here and there to no avail. The thought and hope was to coach something unseen out. We talked about it being too early, how hatches and fish seem to keep gentleman hours and things will pick up later in the morning. All the normal talks everyone gives themselves when things are slow. Which saying that is in itself funny. The phrase “it’s slow” is used when things are not just slow but rather aren’t happening. It’s comforting self rhetoric.

It wasn’t just us. Later in the day we bumped into two other fisherman, only two so far, who claimed things were slow too. Shortly after leaving them we spotted a nice fish finning under a down tree. Lined up just perfectly where the cast had to be dead on, the drift just right and the hook set and play of the fish well orchestrated. He was the valedictorian of his class. Ryan attempted the fish while I rigged up for the challenge. He tangled and broke off just as I finished my double nymph rig setup. As he was rerigging I managed a couple valiant attempts, one of which nearly tapped him on his nose. Then one too many bold attempts and I found myself in a tangoing with far too twiggy bush. Ryan, now reset, went back at it while I tried to unweave my tangled web of monofilament. Back and forth it went, ailing attempts to reach such a precisely lying fish. We surrendered our feeble pursuits conjured by our 3 pound (six collectively) human brains to his apparent malevolent, and obviously more sophisticated, pea size brain and perfect position. We however kept one eye on trickster as we backed away.

We spotted a few more fish in a deep pool. Couldn’t slam anything down far and fast enough for them nor could they be brought up. The day stretched onward and the conversation during hikes and new locations and fish hunting went towards the eerily missing fishing folks. It was a weekend, why wasn’t there more people on the river?

Was that a sign of something we didn’t know? That the fishing on the Metolius has been slow and folks camping out here were “just enjoying the view” and not here to fish? Not only where there nary a fish around, there was hardly anyone out besides us trying to find them. I’m sure they were there, after all there’s the redd counts and fish studies to support it. However, we were getting beat. Beat by the fish, beat by the amount of time we had been hiking, beat by our early rise... We had enough.

I’m thinking of resting the river until it’s time to chase the Bull trout who chase the Kokanee. It comforts me to think I wouldn’t be foolish enough to repeat this day so soon and expect a different result. I probably won’t, but right now, that’s what I’m thinking.

**Troy B. Jordon operates the fantastic blog Line and Leader.

Forage Fish Campaign By: Paul Moinester Photos By: Brian Huskey

Whether it’s a ferocious top water take, a subtle nymph sip, or the slamming of a swinging fly, I never feel more alive or connected to nature than I do in the seconds or minutes following that take. Through all of the acrobatic leaps, bulldogging, and thrashing, I experience the raw power and majesty of nature. And that experience gets amplified when I’m standing in the narrow confines of a river connected to an anadromous fish, fresh from the ocean and consumed with the genetic urge to reproduce. The sound of line zipping off my reel and disappearing into the water leaves me breathless and renews my soul. When you pursue sea-run fish in a river setting, you try to mimic the foods these fish are presently consuming, if they are eating at all. What they ate in the past is irrelevant in this new environment and something not to focus on. But as I learned from Paul Shively and Tara Gallagher, who help run The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Pacific Fish Conservation Campaign, it’s time for fly fisherman to become more concerned about what these fish eat in the ocean. If we don’t, salmon, steelhead and other sea-run fish on the West Coast may be in even more trouble. I came to Oregon to experience the thrill of catching a steelhead and learn about the threats these fish face as part of my project An Upstream Journey. But after four days of

futilely swinging flies and drifting beads to nonexistent fish, I took the day off to meet with people leading the charge to protect the fish I couldn’t catch. If you’ve spent any time in recent years chucking streamers to striped bass on the East Coast then you’ve probably heard of Atlantic menhaden. Dubbed “the most important fish in the sea,” menhaden are a small, schooling forage fish. These oily fish serve as a lynchpin in the ocean food chain and are a vital food source for everything from striped bass to whales and seabirds. But substantial commercial fishing pressure on the East Coast has decimated the menhaden population, which is threatening the health and viability of the striped bass fishery. The same nutritional attributes that make menhaden and other forage fish like anchovies and sardines a highly pursued dinner in the sea have also made this protein-rich fish a valuable commodity on land. Despite their diminutive size, the tonnage of menhaden caught on the East Coast exceeds that of any other fish. These fish are not destined for your dinner table, not directly at least – they are ground up and used as feed for farm-raised fish and agricultural animals, fertilizer, and pet food. With the meteoric rise in the global demand for farm-raised fish, chicken, pork, and beef, forage fish populations across the planet are experiencing dramatically increased pressure from commercial fishing operations. This trend is highly problematic considering that regulatory regimes throughout the world routinely fail to appropriately monitor and manage forage fish populations. Combine this regulatory shortfall with the

behavioral characteristics of forage fish that make them particularly susceptible to overfishing, and you have a lethal combination. With menhaden and other forage fish populations across the globe in decline and on the brink of collapse, commercial fishing operations have their eye on the sardines, herring, anchovies, and other forage fish that inhabit the waters off the West Coast – an enormous and somewhat untapped resource. And that’s where the Pacific Fish Conservation Campaign comes into play. The campaign is entirely preventative. It’s an attempt to learn from our past mistakes and to properly manage a resource that is vital to the U.S. economy and iconic species like salmon, steelhead, tuna, and humpback whales found up and down the West Coast. The objective of the campaign is simple and reasonable. It’s not trying to ban commercial forage fishing operations. All the campaign is working to accomplish is to suspend the expansion of forage fishing until a regulatory regime is implemented that can properly manage and monitor this critical resource for the good of the ecosystem. It’s a pragmatic approach that takes into account the pivotal role tiny forage fish play in the health and vibrancy of the entire ocean. As the campaign likes to say “these little fish are a big deal.” And thanks to the campaign’s work, people are starting to take notice of these critical little fish. But there is still a long way to go before a sustainable management plan is implemented that will protect forage fish and ensure the Pacific Ocean ecosystem continues to thrive.

**Paul Moinester operates the blog An Upstream Journey.

Family Fishing By: Alex Hudjohn Photos By: Alex Hudjohn "Hey babe, you should fly fish with me when we get to Yellowstone." Thats what I said to my wife Kat a couple of weeks before we took off for a ten day vacation in Yellowstone National Park. I had always dreamed of fishing in Yellowstone. It was just the two of going and I didn't want to just leave Kat back at the campsite while I spent hours on the Firehole River. She mulled it over for awhile and reluctantly agreed to give it a shot. I was so excited. I had been trying to think of a way to get her in a pair of waders for years and here was my chance. We took off for Yellowstone and spent the first few days just roaming around the park and watching wildlife. I think it was the third day when I asked if she wanted hit the river. She said she would and we took off for the Firehole. We got to the river and I set up her rod for the day ahead. To my surprise Kat was very excited to get on the water. She put on her Boggs, rolled up her sleeves and took off for the water. After a short lesson in casting and getting the hell out of her way, Kat was swinging along with me and chasing trout like a champ. She caught fever! I was really excited and for a time, I just stood in the water and basked in the glory of my achievement and her new found pleasure. It was such a rewarding feeling to see her so excited about chasing a rising fish. She fell in, got wet, it rained on us but she didn't seem to mind. She did't catch a fish that day but she had a blast. We started discussing what type of waders she should buy and wether or not we should invest in her own rod. We even

stopped off on the Deschutes River on the way home from Yellowstone. Sharing my love of fly fishing with my family is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Watching my wife or my brother struggle and overcome the beginning stages of the sport and finally reel in their first fish on the fly is an amazing experience. The joy they get from fooling a little trout is just awesome and I love the fact that H&H and all of our customers have brought this joy into our lives. If it was not for this business, and this sport, there is a good chance we would never get to enjoy the experiences we currently do. I am so grateful for the opportunity to spend this time with my family, work hard along side them, fish hard along side them and offer our products to such an amazing group of people. We are all truly blessed to be a part of H&H and the fly fishing community.

So the next time you gather up your gear for your next fishing trip, give your brother a call and see if he would like to join you. Call up dear old dad the next time you go for a hike and see if he'd like to tag a long. You never know, they might just say yes. Look, I know family can drive you crazy sometimes and believe me we have our ups and downs, but the time you get with the ones you love goes by pretty fast. If they are willing to join you, take them up on it. You wont be disappointed. Thank you for supporting H&H and the fly fishing community. We are all in this together.

Smallmouth On The Fly

By: Gaberiel Bizeau-Regis

It's Friday night and I'm leaving Toronto for Ingersoll, Ontario, for the weekend. Armed with my 5 weight rod, a pack of 3 and 4 X tippets and a box full of bucktail streamers no bigger than size 6. No, I'm not going after brook trout in some Canadian hidden small stream treasure, I'm going bronze back fly fishing for three days in Southern Ontario!

I love bucktail streamers, and some fly fishers (including my dad) laugh at me when they notice the ridiculous amount of Black Ghost and Mickey Finn I still carry in my streamer box. The thing is, I love tying them and I still love using them! A lot of fly fishers seem to have abandoned bucktails for the more popular and bigger meaty streamers made of marabou or synthetic material.

Going small for big fish demands a minimum of control and practice because you can't accelerate things. Have you caught a smallmouth bass on a fly before? These beasts can be pretty feisty and they won't end up in your net if you're not being careful. With a finer leader, you could get snapped really fast if you give it just a little bit of slack. So be patient! Since smallmouth tend to go airborne quite often (and that's one of many reason they are a blast to fly fish for) it's good to lower your rod at that moment, just like atlantic salmon and tarpon fly fishers.

I spent a year in the Ottawa region along the mighty Ottawa river, it was then that I discovered smallmouth fly fishing! I went to the local fly shop and bought big streamers and poppers plus some thick leader to turn over these huge fish candies and headed up to the Ottawa river bank. Result: a whole lot of nothing! No attack whatsoever on my streamers and definitely no top water action! This river is full of trophy size bronzeback so I knew very well that it was me and nothing else. It was then that I tied on a finer

leader, opened my trout fly box and tried an old Mickey Finn that, judging by it's appearance, had seen a lot of action in the past. BOOM! First cast, first smallmouth of my fly angling life! After that evening, I never looked back and I caught them all spring and summer using only small trout bucktail streamers!

My goal in this article is to make you take your old bucktail streamer fly box out of the shadows and give it an other chance. Go look in your Dad's or Grandpa's old rusty fly box to find some gems or search on the web for ideas of what to tie. The bucktails that seem to work like a charm for me are pretty simple: good old fashion Mickey Finn, Black Ghost, and, because sometimes it's good to match the hatch, a black nose dace. If you get tired of them, hit your tying bench – pack a bunch of peacock earls together and tie some Alexandrias, the streamer off course, not the wet fly. This streamer can be a life saver when everything else seems to be failing. Other streamers like the Catskills, Jack Schwinn or the Beaverkill are also very good choices!

This type of fly fishing is the best of both worlds, connecting a little new with some old classics. Bronze back fly fishing is relatively recent in the fly fishing world compared to trout. The time of only doctors and lawyers fly fishing in luxurious lodges is becoming rare and more fly fishing bums are taking over the fly fishing culture, going after a vast variety of fish - the “trout only” mentality is also disappearing. Smallmouth fly fishing is a perfect example of that new mentality! You can find them everywhere in North America! They strive in the Eastern USA to Northern Ontario and the St-Lawrence water way, all the way to the West in California! They are all over the Great Lakes too, in great

number, and in size!

Because bucktail streamers are not the biggest flies, you're not always going to hook giant fish, but no matter the size of a smallmouth bass, it's always a good fighter. But don't worry, you will catch big fish on small flies! Just give it a shot.

**Gabriel Bizeau-Regis is a fly fishing blogger who operates A Trout Ate My Homework.

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Backcast Issue #4  

In this issue of The Backcast. Paul Moinester from An Up Stream Journey talks Forage Fish, Josh Prestin discusses finer points of dog breeds...

Backcast Issue #4  

In this issue of The Backcast. Paul Moinester from An Up Stream Journey talks Forage Fish, Josh Prestin discusses finer points of dog breeds...