flyfisherman June-July 2020

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T H E LE A D I N G M A G A Z I N E O F F LY F I S H I N G

flyfisherman.com

June-July 2020

Making Sense of hooks

Summer Hatches Saving the Amazon’s Greatest Tributary

How the Paiutes Saved Pyramid Lake

Stoneflies on the Deschutes

Green Drakes in the Rockies


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Swinging for wild steelhead on a coastal stream in northern Oregon, Barrett Ames swaps dance partners. JEREMY KORESKI Š 2020 Patagonia, Inc.


TH E LE A D I N G M A G A Z I N E O F FLY FI S H I N G est.1969

JUNE-JULY 2020

VOL. 51 // NO. 4

Stonefly Gluttony

Contents

Oregon’s Deschutes River redsides TOM LARIMER

6

Riffles & Runs Certainty and Security in Fly Fishing ROSS PURNELL

32 Bull trout bastion

10 Tight lines Ephemeral but Important, Wormin' for Bass, Summer Memories, and more

12 Horizons The Paiute Fisheaters OLIVER WHITE

Chasing natives in B.C.’s Elk River Valley HILARY HUTCHESON

18 The Migration Shocking Developments BOOTS ALLEN

40 Western Green Drakes

24 Hatches Douglas SKY G, Yakima DoubleHaul, Orvis PRO Approach Shoe, Wyoming Whiskey, and more

30 Newscasts Dave Whitlock Joins IGFA Hall of Fame, Tugur Protected, America's Most Threatened, and more

The iconic summer mayflies of clean, brawling Western rivers PAT DORSE Y

62 Fly Tier’s Bench Making Sense of Hooks CH A R L IE CR AV EN

48 Blood Run

May Romance NO A H D AV IS

on our Cover

Fly fishing with Amazon warriors ROSS PURNELL

54 Stay Connected! flyfisherman.com

72 Seasonable Angler

flyfisherman

Rodrigo Salles of Untamed Angling with a 24-pound fly-caught payara from the Xingu River in Brazil. On his face (and body) is Kayapo tribal paint made from jenipapo fruit and charcoal. Kayapo warriors in this watershed also use payara teeth to cut and scar their arms. They believe the spirit of the fish enters the body of a man through these cuts. To read more about the Kayapo people and their fishing culture, see “BLood Run” on page 54. CHRISTIAN HOFFMAN - PHOTO

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JAY NICHOLS - PHOTO

CERTAINTY AND SECURITY IN FLY FISHING t’s May. Where I live in central Pennsylvania there is no high country, and the snowmelt is always long gone by this time of year. The trout are already fat from the bounty of spring— Blue-winged Olives, grannom caddis, Quill Gordons, and Hendricksons have come and gone. White rhododendrons, mountain laurel, and serviceberries are f lowering in the river valleys, signaling what is to me the annual full bloom of nature. Serviceberry trees are also known in these parts as shadberry trees, shadwood, or shadbush because the blossoms appear when the shad run up the Delaware and Hudson rivers. In this same time frame, the trout are looking up, and the best hatch of the year is just starting. Sulphurs have the trout in Penns Creek, the Little J, and Spring Creek feeding on the surface in the afternoons and evenings . . . right around the time of day when turkeys are gobbling and strutting in the meadows, and you have to step carefully along the riverbank to avoid the curled-up, white-spotted fawns hidden in the willows. Everything in nature is unfolding right as it should. Back in March and April when the COVID-19 pandemic was peaking in America, nothing seemed certain. People were dying. The economy was grinding to a halt. All my friends who work as guides, outfitters, and lodge owners were instantly out of work. They couldn’t fish, their guests couldn’t fish, no one was fishing— and that’s a scary thing. But then May came along and showed me (again) that some things are certain. Even in the middle of a calamity, the seasons will change as though Mother Nature never heard of coronavirus. The trees will blossom. The shad will run up the rivers. The insects will hatch, and the trout will feed.

The rivers, and the insects, and the trout have their own separate threats and challenges, but there’s something about the dependability of nature that provides an immense sense of personal security. I’ve written on these very pages many times about the healing power of fly fishing. How groups like Project Healing Waters use fly fishing to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, how Casting for Recovery uses fly fishing as therapy for survivors of breast cancer, and how The Mayfly Project helps mentor foster children through fly fishing and help them feel a sense of connection with the outdoors. We all appreciate the sensibility of these efforts for those who need it, and right now we all need it. Fishing has always been that one certain escape from the grim reality of life. It’s a time and a place where you can leave your fears and your worries on the shore, step into the river, and let the sound of rushing water wash your brain into a clean slate. And it’s clear that f ly fishing isn’t helpful just for vets, cancer survivors, or foster children—it helps all of us because God knows it has been a stressful, chaotic few months.

Ross Purnell editor & publisher ross@flyfisherman.com rossflyfisher

@rossflyfisher

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M o n d ay August 10 7pm & 10pm EST

“Our river does not have a price, the fish we eat do not have a price, and th e happin es s of our gran dch ildren d o e s n o t h a v e a p r i c e .�

Ta k a k not ire K Aya p o t r ib a l e l de r a nd wa r r ior

In partnership with


In cooper ation with

p roudly p r e se n t t he 90 - minu t e docume n ta ry

wat ch t he t r a il e r on f ly f is he r m a n . c om

Premiere Event

BLOOD RUN will premiere at The Cable Center in Denver,

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CABLE CENTER

Colorado, Aug. 2, 2020, on the 160-foot-wide Comcast Video Tower. Special guests that night will be F ly F isherman editor/publisher Ross Purnell and Rodrigo Salles from Untamed Angling. Also that night, authentic Kayapo weapons and crafts for sale, a silent auction for a one-week fishing trip to Xingu Lodge, and a raffle for a one-week fishing trip to Kendjam Lodge. All proceeds will directly benefit the Kayapo people and help protect their lands in the Amazon.


This year the Trump administration reversed five decades of Clean Water Act protection for nearly 20 percent of all rivers and more than half of all wetlands. This administration replaced what is known as the Clean Water Rule with its own regulation declaring that ephemeral streams (those that flow only after a heavy rain or snow) and isolated wetlands (those that do not have a continual surface connection to a larger body of water) are no longer deemed “waters of the United States” eligible for protection under the federal Clean Water Act. American Rivers and other conservation organizations, along with a dozen or more states, are suing the administration to overturn what we are calling the “Dirty Water Rule.” If you enjoy fly fishing headwater streams for native trout, your favorite waters are now at risk from pollution and degradation, as many of those streams are ephemeral or have ephemeral tributaries, which are no longer protected. Or if you prefer fly fishing for bass, the water quality in your favorite river or lake may have been protected by wetlands which, though not adjacent to a larger body of water, nonetheless provide a natural buffer and filter for polluted stormwater runoff from city streets or rural farms. The new rule eliminates protection of those wetlands and, consequently, will harm rivers and lakes where you and I like to fish. The Trump administration has argued that this change leaves responsibility for protecting clean water with the states rather than the federal government. This ignores the very reason the Clean Water Act was adopted by Congress in 1972: states did not have the laws, resources, and political will to adequately protect and restore our nation’s rivers, lakes, wetlands, bays, and estuaries, the habitats essential to healthy fish populations. Many states still aren’t up to the job, which is why a strong federal program is necessary to meet the Clean Water Act’s goal of fishable, swimmable waters. The Trump administration threatens to take our nation back to the days 50 years ago when our rivers were catching fire. When that happens again, fly anglers and everyone who depends on clean water will remember who lit the match.

BOB IRVIN

Presiden t, A merica n Ri v ers 10

FLY FISHER MAN

Fly Fisherman’s Fly Fishing Made Easy features more of Joe Mahler’s illustrations, available now on shelves and at osgnewsstand.com

WORMIN’ FOR BASS

Peter Cammann’s article “Heresy” in the April-May 2020 issue caused me to reflect on the virtues of garden-variety bait. My mind instantly recalled bass fishing on Lake Greeson, Arkansas, many years ago. My brother-in-law and I located a large school of bass deep between two points. We caught a few of them fly fishing, but nothing like what was under us, so I told him, “Let’s go back to basics.” The next trip we showed up with 12-foot crappie rods rigged to fish with nightcrawlers. We left the lake five hours later after catching 31 Kentucky spotted bass. Yes, I prefer to catch bass with a fly rod and deer-hair popper, but sometimes you just have to go back to basics!

BILL CRAWFORD

Shre v epor t, L ouisi a n a

SUMMER MEMORIES

In “A Walk on the Wild Side” (April-May 2020 issue) Henry Ramsay did a great job highlighting a special type of Pennsylvania trout fishing. His story took me back 65 years when at around age 14, my fishing buddy and I spent a week camping in the hills of Cameron County. School was out for the summer, and our parents dropped us off at the end of a logging road, in a clearing alongside a stream. We fished from sunup until sundown, exploring every feeder stream coming into the river. The brookies were just as Ramsay describes—black, red, pink, oversized eyes from living in darkened water. They could yank 4 feet of leader back under a boulder the size of a car, and make you think you’d hooked into Moby Dick. Yes, there were bears, snakes, and even a bobcat or two, but it all added up to some of the greatest fly fishing and fun I’ve ever had. It’s nice to read that you can still capture the same adventure, excitement, and pleasure on those very same streams—deep inside what I consider the real woods.

JOE MASCIA

Pi t t sburgh, Pennsy lva ni a

JOE MAHLER - ILLUSTRATION

EPHEMERAL BUT IMPORTANT

ILLUSTRATIVE PRAISE

Joe Mahler’s illustrations are fantastic in both Fly Fisherman magazine and flyfisherman.com. They really help me comprehend new casting and presentation techniques as well as knots. In many cases, they are more illuminating than close-up photos. I’ve been a Fly Fisherman subscriber since the 1970s. It has always been a first-class publication, and I thank you for your work and the work of your editors/writers/illustrators for always staying one step ahead of the curve.

ROBERT ELLIOTT

Roches t er , Ne w York [Check out Joe Mahler’s illustrations in Landon Mayer’s article “Line Management,” in our annual publication Fly Fishing Made Easy in stores now and at osgnewsstand.com. The Editor.]

MORE OF THESE

“No Fly Zone” (Feb.-Mar. 2020) by Joe Mahler was another excellent casting article. It was personally valuable to me, and as a professional certified fly-casting instructor, it has also been helpful to share the article with my students. Mahler’s illustrations are amazing works of art, drawing readers’ interest as they clarify his text. I can’t think of a better illustrator of how-to articles, except of course the great Dave Whitlock. Please, let’s have more like these.

MARK PHILIPPE

Burl ing t on, Connec t icu t

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THE PAIUTE FISHEATERS he story of the Lahontan cutthroat is one of survival, against all odds.

They are the largest of the cutthroat species. Naturalist Steve Raymond called them “the last survivors of an ancient race of super trout.” The records, stories, and photos support the idea that these were indeed the world’s largest true trout. The world record was landed at Pyramid Lake in 1925 at 41 pounds. a replica of that fish is still on display at Crosby Lodge. There were even unsupported claims of fish in the 50- to 60-pound range. These are trout so big they don’t look real—they look like obese caricatures. Lahontan trout evolved in the tributaries of ancient Lake Lahontan through the ice ages until about 7,000 years ago, when the 12

FLY FISHER MAN

lake shrank to leave only remnants. Lahontan cutthroat in these lakes evolved into a large predator species by preying on baitfish


Casey Anderson of Pyramid Fly Co. organizes clinics for native children and their families to get them interested in fly fishing, and gain a more vested interest in the Lahontan cutthroat fishery.

MATT WELSH - PHOTO

OLIVER WHITE

How a tribe saved a race of super trout such tui chubs and large suckers called cui-ui. Pyramid Lake is one of the remnants of Lake Lahontan, and it’s supported by the inflow of the Truckee River. It is the only inflow, and there are no outflows. It is the terminal point in this watershed. Sierra Nevada snowmelt flows out of Lake Tahoe, and runs north for 120 miles before emptying into Pyramid Lake. This tiny watershed is unfortunately home to one of the most tragic and educational fishery stories in American history. The decline of Lahontan cutthroat began with the construction of Derby Dam in 1905, on the Truckee River 36 miles upstream from Pyramid Lake. Derby Dam was built to divert water into the Truckee Canal. It reduced the flow of the Truckee River

by 75 percent, Pyramid Lake levels dropped by 75 feet, and Lahontan cutthroat were unable to bypass the dam to reach their spawning grounds. The fishery declined almost immediately. A biologist from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) witnessed the last spawning run of the Lahontan cutthroat in 1938. He reported seeing almost 200 fish averaging 20 pounds. As the water slowed to a trickle from the dam, the last spawning run of the Lahontans was lost, and with it the entire species. The Pyramid Lake strain of Lahontan cutthroat trout were declared extinct in 1943. In just five years, America’s race of super trout was destroyed. In the 1970s, Pyramid Lake was stocked with a different strain flyfisherman.com

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The Pilot Peak strain of Lahontan cutthroat trout bears strong genetic resemblance to original Pyramid Lake Lahontans, which were declared extinct in 1943. Could this newly discovered genetic strain bring back the possibility of 30- and 40-pound cutthroat?

LANDON MAYER- PHOTO

of cutthroat trout from Summit Lake, Nevada, but these fish never reached the gigantic proportions of the former Lahontan legends. In the 1990s, a fish of 8 pounds was considered a big one. This all changed in 2006, when an original strain of Lahontan cutthroat was located in a tiny creek near Pilot Peak on the Utah/Nevada border. A university researcher compared DNA from museum samples of the “extinct” Pyramid Lake fish with the Pilot Peak fish and found that they were genetically similar. By using these fish as broodstock for Pyramid Lake, the fishery has rebounded in remarkable ways. The average size of the trout has ballooned upward, and fish near 20 pounds are now caught frequently—something that hasn’t been seen in almost a century. That success story is remarkable in and of itself, but there is another layer to the onion that makes it even more fascinating.

TRIBAL LAND Pyramid Lake rests entirely inside the tribal lands of the Paiute people: They are culturally entwined with this story on many levels. The Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation is home to the Northern Paiute people otherwise known as the Numu 14

FLY FISHER MAN

or fisheaters. Historically, their lives were tightly connected to Pyramid Lake and its fish—especially the cui-ui. The same dams that destroyed the Lahontan cutthroat also devastated the cui-ui. With the creation of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, the cui-ui became one of the first protected species. In turn, the Paiutes began a long and protracted legal battle to return water to the Truckee River and Pyramid Lake. They ultimately won one of the largest water-rights battles in history. While the dam still exists, the Paiutes now get to determine the flow schedule and can ensure there is adequate water when the fish are spawning. Derby Dam still prevents Lahontan cutthroat from spawning in their ancestral waters. But since the Summit Lake strain was introduced, there has been a joint effort from the tribal members and the Fish & Wildlife Service to restore cutthroat trout populations. Since that time, an “artificial river” is created by pumping water and creating flow in a man-made spawning channel below Derby Dam. A pheromone is released into the water to attract the fish, and as they migrate into the spawning channel they are captured and separated by sex. The milt and eggs of the larger males and ripe females are then manually extracted and stirred together.

The fertilized eggs are hatched and raised in a hatchery for nine to ten months before they are released back into Pyramid Lake. Nearly a million fish are stocked in the lake every year. It is an amazing amount of work, and it’s happened over 50 years to support the cutthroat of Pyramid Lake. The Paiutes have long been the protectors of the lake, and without their involvement and protection, this fishery would not exist today. The community’s involvement is only growing—tribal schools bring the kids to participate, learn, and watch the artificial spawning process. The importance of the fish to the community is ever present, but fly fishers seldom get to see it. The Paiutes have made sure the fishery exists, but very few fly fishers who make the pilgrimage to Pyramid Lake have any idea. They often have little interaction with the tribal community. To fish Pyramid Lake, you do not need a Nevada fishing license, you only require a tribal fishing permit. Barbless hooks are required, and there is no bait fishing allowed. There are no licensed tribal members who are fly-fishing guides. This creates an interesting opportunity to create jobs and put more money back into the local community that has done so much to protect this fishery—one of the few fisheries in


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this world that is improving. Casey Anderson of Pyramid Fly Co. is one of the few fly fishers who has recognized the importance of the local community. He has put on clinics for native kids to get them interested in fly fishing, he has raised money and purchased equipment for them, and helped them enjoy the incredible resource they are so connected to. One of the graduates of these clinics is Autumn Harry, who is now an avid f ly angler and also pursuing a graduate degree in indigenous mapping methods and restoration of indigenous place names. Anderson invited me to visit Pyramid Lake, as he knew of my involvement in Indif ly, a nonprofit I helped found that focuses on creating opportunity for indigenous people. I had never fished Pyramid Lake, so of course I jumped at the opportunity.

NEW OPPORTUNITIES Pyramid Lake is a unique fishery where the tried and proven method is standing on a ladder and bombing casts out there and slowly working them in. When it happens, it happens fast. There are hours of nothing, nothing, nothing, and then the

whole conga line of folks standing on ladders hooks up with fish ranging in size from 6 to 15 pounds. That may sound like little skill is required except for casting, but I would strongly disagree with that sentiment. Local anglers dominate in terms of catching fish, often putting better casters to shame. As with most places it’s the subtle technique adjustments in your fishing that make the difference. The fish and the lake are both remarkable, and stunningly beautiful. I don’t know of anywhere in the world where fly fishers have a legitimate chance of catching a 10-pound-plus cutthroat trout surrounded by the snow-capped Sierra. It’s an amazing fishery, unlike any other I have seen, and when I learned the history and effort that have allowed it to exist today, it made the lake even more captivating and mysterious. It is easy to be optimistic when considering this fishery. The Pilot Peak strain was introduced only 14 years ago, and we have already seen monster fish. Is it possible for them to continue to thrive and bring Pyramid Lake back to where 30- and maybe even 40-pound trout are realistic? A world-class and unique fishery that is exclusively on tribal land, and exists only

because of the Paiutes’ perseverance is an amazing story. There is also an opportunity to work with the native community to increase their involvement with the fishery and the anglers who come to visit. Currently nontribal members have access to only about a third of the lake shoreline. That leaves two-thirds of the lake and the lower Truckee River itself that could potentially be used exclusively by native guides. I’m a firm believer that all begins with igniting a passion for fly fishing. It was great to see Anderson at Pyramid Fly Co. make the effort to ignite that passion within the local community. Hopefully that helps grow their interest and involvement. I could imagine a fishing program on the untouched side of the lake that is available only to anglers with native guides. Or could you imagine being the first person to float the last 10 miles of the Truckee River, and target 20-pound cutthroat trout in a river? Oliver White (white.oliver@gmail.com) is a partner in two fishing lodges in the Bahamas—Abaco Lodge and Bair’s Lodge. He travels extensively, hosting small groups in exotic locations around the world and in the American West.

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SHOCKING DEVELOPMENTS n Evinrude-powered jet sled slowly prowls a long pool on the South Fork of the Snake River. The olive-jacketed passengers sport caps emblazoned with the shield of Idaho Fish & Game. Two of them use long-handled nets to capture belly-up fish that have just been stunned by electric currents emanating from a powerful battery pack aboard the boat. The electroshocking is harmless. If the trout aren’t netted quickly, they regain their senses and flee to deeper water. The fish that do end up in the net—cutthroat, browns, and rainbows—are measured, and these stats are recorded before the crew moves to new water, where they repeat the process again and again. This type of activity is used on rivers across the country to measure 18

FLY FISHER MAN

the health of fisheries and overall abundance, but in the spring on the South Fork, Idaho Fish & Game targets spawning beds used by nonnative rainbow trout. The rainbows are not released back to the river. They are placed in containers and trucked to other waters in




The South Fork of the Snake is one of the best tailwater fisheries in the West. It became famous for its outstanding dry-fly fishing for Yellowstone cutthroat trout, but nonnative rainbows have become more populous in recent years.

ARIAN STEVENS - PHOTO

Rainbow trout suppression on the South Fork of the Snake the state, where they are unlikely to hybridize or compete with native cutthroat trout. It is a dramatic twist in a 15-year suppression program that so far has failed to reduce the relative abundance of rainbow trout in the South Fork. The push for native trout preservation is at the forefront of fisheries management in the West. Major efforts are underway in Colorado and Montana to safeguard greenback and westslope cutthroat populations, respectively. Montana and Idaho are protecting dwindling numbers of bull trout. In Yellowstone National Park, small streams like the Upper Gibbon and East Fork Specimen Creek, and lakes like High Lake have been poisoned to remove invasive brook trout. In Yellowstone Lake the

BOOTS ALLEN

National Park Service has been using gillnets to remove lake trout. In some of these locales, nonnative trout have been long established. In others, their presence in substantial numbers is a recent phenomenon. Idaho’s South Fork of the Snake River falls into the latter category.

THE RAINBOW DILEMMA Palisades Dam on the South Fork of the Snake was completed in 1957, and since that time, the big tailwater in southeastern Idaho has drawn tens of thousands of anglers annually. Fly fishers flock to the river for its exceptional dry-fly fishing and large flyfisherman.com

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PHOTO COURTESY OF IDAHO FISH & GAME

Electroshocking in stable fall water conditions has been used for many years as a means to quantify trout populations in the South Fork. The same tools are now being used in the spring to gather rainbow trout from their spawning beds and remove them from the river. numbers of trout. Population estimates in the 1980s boasted over 4,000 cutthroat per mile, and back then, rainbow trout made up just a smidgen of the total trout abundance. Despite previous decades of heavy stocking, rainbow trout found it difficult to gain a toehold. Things changed in the late 1990s. After two years of record flooding and runoff, the abundance of rainbow trout and cuttbow hybrids rose steadily. By 2003, it achieved near parity with native Yellowstone cutthroat trout. The situation aroused alarm in the region. Idaho was concerned most about the possible listing of South Fork cutthroat under the Endanger Species Act which, in turn, could result in a limited fishing season and curtailment of long-standing water management practices in the state. Anglers worried that one of the most cherished cutthroat rivers in the world would lose its native fish. To counter this trend, Idaho Fish & Game (IDFG) developed a three-pronged strategy in 2004, including the establishment of weirs on tributaries to prevent rainbows from accessing cutthroat spawning grounds, timed releases from Palisades Dam to scour rainbow spawning beds on the main river, and a controversial change in regulations allowing unlimited harvesting of all rainbow and cuttbow hybrids. It was a bold management plan that faced significant limitations. Flows of 25,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) from the dam were needed to sufficiently impact rainbow spawning. This tactic was considered the most effective way to reduce rainbow numbers. Such levels, however, are almost impossible to achieve due to irrigation demands and potential flooding. Weirs have proven successful at 20

FLY FISHER MAN

preventing rainbows from reaching tributary spawning grounds, but they do nothing to limit the even greater spawning activity that occurs in the main river. And while research suggests angler harvest may be the most efficient method for controlling rainbows, it has always been a contentious issue. Most catch-and-release fly

to be the ones to do it.” More than 15 years later, it became obvious that angler harvest couldn’t get the job done, and removal via shocking emerged as a potential savior. Shocking seems easy. Running electric currents through the water brings up heavy numbers of stunned fish in the immediate area. Most who see it are quickly impressed

Population estimates from the 1980s boasted over 4,000 cutthroat per mile. . .but in 2018. . . cutthroat had plummeted to under 1,900 per mile. fishers continue to release their rainbows. Despite all these shortcomings, the strategy showed early signs of success. While rainbow trout numbers remained strong, they rarely exceeded 2,000 trout per mile. The rainbow trout population was static, and cutthroat trout were at least holding their own. But in 2018, electroshock data produced disturbing results. Rainbow abundance had surged to over 3,000 per mile, while cutthroat had plummeted to under 1,900 per mile.

A NEW PLAN OF ACTION Facing the continued deterioration of a native fishery, IDFG considered removing rainbows and cuttbow hybrids during its annual autumn electroshock survey. “We initially considered this tactic in 2004,” said Brett High, upper Snake River fisheries manager. “But our office faced a lot of pushback. We were told in meetings throughout the area that if rainbows were to be removed, they (the fishing public) wanted

by its effectiveness, but there are constraints. Electroshock population surveys on the South Fork normally occur in late autumn, when river levels are low and current speeds minimal. These conditions produce the best results. Data reliability comes from surveying the same reach every year in similar water conditions. In the case of the South Fork, data from the upper river—where the rainbow population is greatest—is collected from a 2.5mile section. This leaves dozens of miles untouched by IDFG. Spring electroshocking theoretically allows IDFG to target spawning beds where thousands of rainbows collect in specific parts of the riverbed. However, in the spring, runoff and increased releases from Palisades Reservoir create higher flows and deeper water. These conditions limit the effectiveness of electrical currents. Timing is also an issue. South Fork rainbows typically spawn for no more than a month before cutthroat begin the same process in many of the same areas.


ELLEN BISHOP

Sometimes you have to think in terms of forever. Western Rivers Conservancy buys land along the West’s greatest rivers to keep them healthy for fish and wildlife and open to all. When we set out to protect a prime stretch of salmon habitat, or conserve a life-giving tributary stream, or create new access to miles of outstanding trout water, we do it with forever in mind. Our goal is to keep our rivers healthy not just today, but for generations. We count on support from people like you, anglers who know the value of clean, cold water, healthy watersheds and public access. Learn more about our work at westernrivers.org.


ARIAN STEVENS - PHOTO

Yellowstone cutthroat trout have disappeared from much of their native range due to interbreeding with rainbows. In the end, IDFG determined an “allhands-on-deck” approach was needed. With limited additional financial support—$7,000 on top of their annual fall electroshock survey funds—IDFG attempted electroshocking in both seasons. In mid-April of 2019, a skeleton crew of IDFG officials in a single jet sled cruised the upper South Fork to target specific beds for a trial run of 19 days over a four-week period. Their goal was 3,000 rainbow and cuttbow hybrids. A total of 5,857 were removed. That might seem like a lot of fish, but it is a drop in the bucket when considering the 2018 survey results of over 3,000 rainbows per mile on the upper river. Nonetheless, when considering the time and personnel limitations of this initial run, the results were encouraging. IDFG plans to double its efforts in 2020. What to do with the trout after they are removed has been a topic of hot debate. Currently the trout are moved to holding ponds throughout southeast Idaho that are used for youth fishing programs. Some people want them stocked in waters where rainbow trout dominate and have a long history, like the Henry’s Fork or the main stem of the Snake River below Idaho Falls. These are all future possibilities, pending public comment and precautions to mitigate disease transmission and impacts on resident fish. Removal will continue in the autumn during the annual electroshock survey, but spring spawning season will be the focus. “Sure, it’s a lot tougher work in spring,” says fisheries biologist Patrick Kennedy, “but we found our method of shocking to produce well. Targeting concentrated fish has its advantages. We capture a lot 22

FLY FISHER MAN

of rainbows before many of them actually spawn. This will impact their abundance over the coming years.” The department is not abandoning their three original approaches. Harvest is still being encouraged, and tributary weirs will remain for the conceivable future. And while it is unlikely that the dam releases required to scour rainbow spawning beds will ever occur, IDFG is working with the Bureau of Reclamation to better guarantee flows from Palisades Dam that benefit Yellowstone cutthroat the rest of the year. Winter is a major focus, when higher flows can be conducive to the survival and development of juvenile cutthroat.

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS Data from the fall 2019 survey indicates spring electroshocking had a positive impact. Results show an increase in cutthroat abundance and a substantial decline of rainbow and cuttbow numbers of over 800 per mile. But this is one year, and a review of previous surveys shows a wide level of inconsistency from year to year. Still, IDFG, conservation organizations like Trout Unlimited, the South Fork Initiative (a division of the Henry’s Fork Foundation), and a large segment of the fishing public are hopeful this new strategy might turn the tide in favor of native dominance. The stated goal of the IDFG management plan is to 1) protect the genetic integrity of native Yellowstone cutthroat, and 2) reduce rainbow and cuttbow numbers to pre-1990 levels, roughly 10% or less of total trout abundance. Rob Parkins, public waters access coordinator for Backcountry

Hunters and Anglers (BHA), believes these objectives are attainable and, more importantly, will lead to a river with as robust a trout population as it has now. “Some will tell you removing 5,800 rainbow trout results in fewer fish on the South Fork,” he says. “All the science I have reviewed says those fish will be replaced by cutthroat, and probably within a year.” “Opportunity is a key issue here,” Parkins adds. “BHA supports these efforts because a stable population of cutthroat means increased opportunity to catch a trout native to its waters. You can’t do that most places in Rocky Mountain states.” Regardless of arguments for and against removal of rainbows, success depends on a number of factors, not least of which is continued public support. IDFG feels this support remains strong. The only question is, which tactics the public is willing to support and, as the lack of participation in harvesting indicates, take part in. IDFG is also considering additional measures. Mandatory kill regulations is one option. This approach is considered extreme by many and unlikely to garner public backing. New technologies that target juvenile rainbows and rainbow eggs are another possibility. “Innovative methods are always popping up in fisheries management,” Kennedy says. “We just don’t know what tools might be available a few years from now.” Boots Allen is a fly-fishing guide and writer who lives with his wife and two kids in Victor, Idaho. His latest book is Finding Trout in All Conditions (West Margin Press, 2016).


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GEAR GUIDE LIGHT & FAST

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hirty years ago, I had one pair of wading boots—Gary Borger Weinbrenner boots with felt soles. I did everything in those boots: I wore them in the drift boat, I waded large rivers with easy gravel bottoms, rock-hopped in bouldery slippery creeks, and I carried those bad boys in my backpack to high mountain lakes and streams. You couldn’t walk very far in them because they were heavy, and the felt soles were like walking on banana peels once you strayed out of the streambed. The soggy wet boots were so heavy on my feet at the end of the day, I couldn’t wait to get them off. The next day when I picked them up, they were still

waterlogged and just as heavy. It seemed they never dried out. Those old Weinbrenners were safe for challenging wading, and poor at everything else, but there weren’t many options. Every decent boot back then was built like a Sherman tank. Light, fast, and comfortable wasn’t an option. Luckily, the options today are far more varied, and new lightweight wading shoes (more like sneakers than boots) have ushered us into an era where you can wear your wading gear in the store, restaurant, and the truck, and hike to the stream all without changing your footwear. —Ross Purnell

Orvis PRO Approach Shoe Orvis’s new all-day all-terrain PRO Approach Shoe is the kind of thing you put on when you’re leaving the house in the morning, and they are so comfortable, you won’t feel the need to take them off until you’re home again. This is a light, rugged, quick-drying multipurpose shoe that is at home in the mountains, in boats, on airplanes, and on saltwater flats. The light weight stems from the seamless polyurethane perforated foot cage that allows water to squeeze out of the shoe almost instantly. Inside, an integrated Ariaprene sock prevents debris from entering the shoe—you can wear this barefoot or with a thin synthetic liner sock for extra comfort. A removable 3D molded OrthoLite insole gives you all-day comfort and performance when you need it—OrthoLite is the same company that makes insoles for highperformance running brands like Hoka, New Balance, Reebok, and Asics, so don’t be surprised when you slip these on and they remind you of your favorite pair of sneakers. The shoe exterior is a non-marking version of the Michelin Outdoor Extreme rubber outsole found on Orvis PRO Wading Boots—it has excellent wet traction in the water, grinds through all terrain out of the water, and it’s comfortable for all-day standing and casting in a boat. An integrated lace hood allows you to easily tuck the laces away so your fly line doesn’t snag on them. $150

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Simms Flyweight Wet Wading Shoe

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hese trail-ready hiker-inspired wet-wading shoes are for hot summer days and for getting far away from public access points. When you are going without waders, it doesn’t make sense to use the same oversize boots. These shoes get you fishing faster, whether you’re picking up supplies at the grocery store, jumping in the drift boat, or hiking to the Second Meadows of Slough Creek. These low-profile water sneakers are designed to be worn next to skin. A sock is not necessary. They are true to size, which means if you wear a size 10 street shoe, buy a size 10 Flyweight Wet Wading Shoe. They aren’t made to be worn with bulky neoprene booties. The comfortable high-cushion midsole allows you to go for miles and get there quickly. If you’ve read about the Flyathlons that have been growing in popularity the past few years—friendly, competitive events where you run a 5k course with a fly rod, and deduct time for each trout you catch—you have an idea of where these speedsters are appropriate. [See “Run. Fish. Beer.” in the Jul.-Aug. 2018 issue.] I realize not everyone is going to run a 5K with a fly rod in hand, but wouldn’t all of us like to carry just a little less weight on our feet, and get to where we’re going with less effort? That’s what these shoes are built for. The nylon web lacing system cinches up smoothly and stashes neatly inside the tongue of the shoe. A Vibram IdroGrip rubber outsole gives you traction to handle mud, clay, wet grass, rocky trails, and anything else nature throws your way. The mesh upper drains water weight quickly, and it’s coated with a TPU film in high-abrasion areas for added durability. $170

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FLY FISHER MAN


NAUTILUS PRO GUIDE DATA SHEET

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Nautilus ® XL Photos by Lucasde Zan and Rafael Costa


NEW & NOTABLE Douglas Sky G The new SKY G ($795, douglasoutdoors.com) by rod designer Fred Contaoi uses what Douglas Outdoors is calling G-Tec Platelets. These are graphene particles mixed into the resin of the rod to help strengthen the structure without adding weight, and the technology has allowed Douglas Outdoors to produce a 9-foot 5-weight fly rod that weighs in at 2.69 ounces. More important, the rod feels lighter while casting, with more concise tracking and a faster recovery period. It has a low swing weight, it can generate high line speeds and power, yet you can dial it back to present dry flies softly and precisely. It excels in the 15to 50-foot casting range. The SKY G is easy on the eyes with REC titanium shape memory CERecoil stripper guides with zirconia inserts, REC titanium Recoil guides, a skeletonized aluminum reel seat, double uplocking rings with nylon bushings, and burled blackwood inserts to complement the matte gray blank finish. G-Tec Platelets are also in the rod coating, making the rod more durable and especially more impact resistant.

I’ve field-tested a 9-foot 5-weight SKY G on Pennsylvania’s Cumberland Valley spring creeks and limestone rivers like the Letort Spring Run, Yellow Breeches, and Big Spring, and although it’s versatile in many situations, the accuracy of this rod is what I find the most appealing. Picking up line and delivering a dry fly takes minimal effort, with fewer false casts and better presentations to wary spring creek trout than with many other rods. When nymphing, the light SKY G offers increased sensitivity so you can feel the difference between the slight ticking or grinding of a nymph on the streambed versus the sharper take of a trout. Small to medium streamers fish well, but large or heavily weighted streamers warrant a 6- or 7-weight. When hooked up, the SKY G morphs from a moderate fast-action rod to one with backbone deep down to handle hard-fighting trout and a flexible tip to protect light tippets. The SKY G is currently available only as a 9-foot 5-weight, but there are with 4- and 8-weight versions coming soon. —Dennis Pastucha

Anyone who has snapped a rod tip in a window or door regrets not breaking down their rod or using a roof carrier system. I’ve been that guy, twice, each time feeling a mix of anger, regret, and shame for automatic windows and my own stupidity. The new Yakima DoubleHaul Rooftop Fly Rod Carrier ($699, yakima.com) solves the potential disaster of broken rods and self-loathing while getting you to your honey hole more quickly. It’s a great addition to a fishing vehicle, especially for guides or for your own multi-day fishing trips where keeping your rods strung and ready for action saves precious fishing time. I installed this carrier on a Ford F150, along with the OverHaul HD System mounting platform. Installation was easy, taking less than an hour. No drilling or complex construction, just a few simple measurements to make sure the OverHaul HD System was lined up evenly on the truck bed. The DoubleHaul is built for the long haul. Weighing in at almost 47 pounds, it’s completely rigid and all components are rock solid. It can transport up to four 10-foot rods including heavier-weight rods with large reels. It can be set either at 11 feet or 6 feet long, and is compatible with most Yakima crossbars and other mounting systems. The addition of padded felt inserts inside the reel case ensures the reels remain safe from bumps and bruises. There are four plastic-lined tubes to protect rods. I really like the plastic, as it doesn’t wear on the guides as much as aluminum. Rods and reels sit sideways, which helps protect the guides as well. Security on this rack is top-notch and convenient. The Yakima Single Key System (SKS) locks the roof rack as well as the reel case. The locking case is easy to open and the lid stays up, which is a nice touch for sliding the rod out of the case. Sliding the rods back into the case is easy with no hangups. If you’re in the market for f ly rod roof carrier system, the DoubleHaul not only looks great, but performs above expectations and is backed by a limited lifetime warranty. —Dennis Pastucha

PHOTOS COURTESY OF YAKIMA

Yakima Doublehaul



BOOKSHELF SQUARETAIL

Squaretail: The Definitive Guide to Brook Trout and Where to Find Them by Bob Mallard. Stackpole Books 2019, 248 pages, $40 hardcover ISBN: 9780811736572

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s there a fly fisher alive who does not love brook trout? For many anglers, Salvelinus fontinalis is the fish that dreams are made of. But this is not because of their size. Most brookies are actually quite small. No, anglers cherish brookies because they are stunningly beautiful fish, and because they thrive in cold, clear, highly oxygenated streams and unspoiled wilderness lakes and ponds. The pristine habitats where brook trout swim seem to embody what fly fishing is all about: tempting beautiful, wild fish to rise to a well-presented fly in stunning natural surroundings. Of course, brook trout are not “real” trout at all, but char, closely related to Arctic char, lake trout, bull trout, Dolly Varden trout,

and kundzha (white-spotted char) of Russia and the Far East. The brook trout is native to Eastern North America—various regions of the United States and Canada. The brookie is held in such high esteem that it has been proclaimed the official fish of nine states: Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. Bob Mallard’s superb Squaretail: The Definitive Guide to Brook Trout and Where to Find Them explores the world of brook trout via an attractive, large-format (8½ x 11 inches) book printed on high-quality, glossy paper and lavishly illustrated with beautiful color photos and a few paintings. The photos alone, of brook trout and their

beautiful habitats, are worth the price of admission, and readers can be forgiven for leafing through the book just to gaze upon the gorgeous illustrations. But Squaretail is also packed with valuable information about brookies: where to find them, the best fly tackle and techniques for catching them, threats to their survival, and the best specific waters where you can catch them, all presented in a well-written, authoritative, yet accessible style. The book opens with a recap of the evolution, natural history, and biology


of brook trout, followed by a nuts-andbolts discussion of tackle and techniques. An extensive “Where to Go” section details specific waters and regions where fly rodders can pursue brook trout today, including both the famous (i.e., the Kennebec River in Maine, Big Spring Creek in Pennsylvania, and the Nipigon River in Ontario) and the little-known (i.e., the Savage River in Maryland and Red Brook in Massachusetts). Mallard also covers a handful of “nonnative” waters in the American West and Argentina that offer quality fishing for introduced brook trout.

Another dozen chapters present brook trout opportunities on specific public lands in the U.S., such as the Allagash Wilderness Waterway and Baxter State Park in Maine, Adirondack Park in New York, Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina, and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. “Other Fisheries” explores specific brook trout populations and water types, large geographic areas, and the like: Pennsylvania wilderness streams, sea-run brook trout, “coaster” brookies of the upper Great Lakes region, fishing the Appalachian Trail, and more.

Conservation gets it own extensive chapter, detailing current brook trout population status and threats from pollution, habitat fragmentation, invasive species, overfishing, and poor management practices, but offering hope for the future. Mallard’s book is a meticulously researched work that covers modern angling for one of our sport’s most beautiful and revered fish species. Packed with helpful, accessible information, Squaretail would make a welcome and visually striking addition to any angling library. –Bill Bowers

wyoming whiskey This award-winning small-batch traditional bourbon is made from non-GMO ingredients sourced exclusively from a single farmer in the Bighorn Basin near Thermopolis, Wyoming—a special place if you enjoy open ranchland and rising trout. Wyoming Whiskey’s mash bill is made from 68% corn, 20% wheat, 12% malted barley, using water pumped from a mile-deep aquifer just outside of the Yellowstone Caldera. It’s a dark amber bourbon with a floral nose and a hint of vanilla bean and caramel pudding. On the palate, it tastes like browned butter, baking spices, toffee, and a finish with just a hint of mint. Cofounded in 2006 in Kirby, Wyoming by fly fisher David DeFazio, Wyoming Whiskey is aged in 53-gallon barrels. The 88-proof bourbon is five years old. The same company also makes bonded Outryder whiskey with locally sourced ingredients, but instead of wheat, Outryder uses 20% winter rye.

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riends, family, colleagues, and conservationists from across the country met in San Francisco Feb. 5, 2020, to celebrate the accomplishments of 2020 Conservationist of the Year Peter Moyle. The annual Fly Fisherman magazine award was given to Moyle for his lifelong work in watershed preservation and restoration. Diane Bristol, senior director of community engagement at Simms Fishing Products, was there to deliver a $10,000 check to Western Rivers Conservancy, one of the many groups Moyle has worked with over the years to protect trout, salmon, steelhead, and their native rivers. “I’m delighted that we could be part of this and recognize somebody who’s worked so hard to proDiane Bristol of Simms Fishing Products (far right) presents a $10,000 check to Conservationist tect our fisheries,” Bristol told the of the Year Peter Moyle and Western Rivers Conservancy President Sue Doroff. crowd. “We knew right away that we selected the right candidate, because when the news got out Peter Moyle, who is so incredibly knowledgeable when it comes that he was being honored with the Conservationist of the Year to saving California’s rivers and fish,” said Doroff. Award, our phones and emails back in Bozeman just lit up with Moyle, a distinguished professor emeritus in the UC Davis Depeople telling us ‘this is a wonderful recognition of a really inpartment of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology, has writcredible person.’” ten 11 books, including Inland Fishes of California and Fishes: Moyle has served as a volunteer board member of Western An Introduction to Ichthyology. His impacts on many decades of Rivers Conservancy for seven years, and in that time the nonstudents—many of whom now work for state and federal agencies profit has purchased and protected land and river frontage on the across the country—cannot be overstated. Many of his former North Umpqua, John Day, and many other rivers. Most recently students and peers were at the Conservationist of the Year event, the group bought 47,000 acres of temperate rainforest and creat- held at the historic Log Cabin, a former non-commissioned offied the Blue River Salmon Sanctuary to help restore salmon and cers’ club on the west shore of The Presidio in the Golden Gate steelhead runs in the Klamath watershed. National Recreation Area. Sue Doroff, president of Western Rivers Conservancy, introMoyle also worked directly with numerous other conservaduced Moyle, and thanked Simms and Fly Fisherman for rec- tion organizations throughout his career, including CalTrout, ognizing the successes of the organization. American Fisheries Society, Water Audit California, the Public “What’s really touching and important for us is having the Policy Institute of California, The Nature Conservancy, Earth impact of our work celebrated by Simms, a company on the lead- Justice, and the National Heritage Institute, and leaders from ing edge of conservation in the private sector, and by Fly Fish- some of those organizations were also in attendance to celebrate erman, who knows everybody and everyone, and of course, by Moyle’s many achievements.

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America’s Most Threatened

merican Rivers on April 14 released its annual top ten list of “America’s Most Endangered Rivers,” identifying the Upper Mississippi River in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, and Wisconsin as the #1 watershed at risk from both climate change and floods, including the devastating floods of 2019. The Upper Mississippi includes all the small streams in the Driftless Area, one of the best trout fishing regions in the country. Also on the top ten list are the Big Sunflower River (Mississippi) where the Yazoo Pumps project—called “the worst project ever conceived by Congress”— could drain 200,000 acres of wetlands in the Mississippi Delta,

the Puyallup River (Washington), where the Electron Dam continues to threaten Chinook salmon, and the South Fork Salmon River (Idaho), where the threat of a proposed gold mine is so imminent, the conservation group put the South Fork on its list two years in a row. To see the complete list, visit americanrivers.org. In a break from previous years, American Rivers also added some good news to its ominous list: The Delaware River was named the “River of the Year” and received honorable mention as a national success story for restoration, and a model for equitable and innovative clean water solutions.

R. VALENTINE ATKINSON - PHOTO

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A Lifetime of Conservation


ave Whitlock, a longtime contributor to Fly Fisherman, will be inducted into the IGFA Hall of Fame Sept. 12, 2020 at a ceremony in Springfield, Missouri at Johnny Morris’s Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium. Whitlock wrote his first story for Fly Fisherman in 1975. He retired from his career as a research chemist and then published 15 illustrated features in Fly Fisherman between 1978-79, and 30 more during the next three decades. Whitlock’s influence on fly fishing has been immense. He is an advocate for warmwater species like panfish, largemouth, smallmouth, and other temperate bass species. His story “Stalking the Golden Ghost” (July 1998) was the first feature story about fly fishing for carp published in a national magazine. Whitlock and his wife Emily were among the first to fly fish for dorado in Bolivia, and he wrote “Tsimane Gold” in the March 2010 issue. He is an innovative fly tier known for the Dave’s Hopper, NearNuff Sculpin, NearNuff Crayfish, Sheep Minnow series, Dave’s Diving Frog, Red Fox Squirrel Nymph, and many other flies. Whitlock is the author of several books, including the L.L. Bean Fly-Fishing Handbook, the L.L. Bean Bass Fly Fishing Handbook, Dave Whitlock’s Guide to Aquatic Trout Foods, Trout and Their Food, and his most recent Artful Profiles of Trout, Char, and Salmon and the Classic Flies That Catch Them. Whitlock joins 131 previous inductees, including Ernest Hemingway, Ted Williams, Bill Dance, Mark Sosin, Lee and Joan Wulff, Curt Gowdy, Flip Pallot, and Lefty Kreh. The 2020 class of five Hall of Fame inductees—elected

PHOTO COURTESY OF GAYLE WHITTENBERG

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Dave Whitlock Joins IGFA Hall of Fame

Dave Whitlock, who turned 85 in November, lives with his wife Emily on a ranch near Tahlequah, Oklahoma. unanimously by the IGFA Board of Trustees—includes pelagic gamefish researcher Dr. Barbara Block, billfish angler Jose Campos, marine conservationist Ken Hinman, and offshore Capt. Patrick Gay.

As readers saw in the April-May 2020 issue of Fly Fisherman, the wild, tangled Tugur River watershed in Russia’s Far East is home to the giants of the salmon and trout family. Hucho taimen can reach 6 feet and up to 140 pounds, and the 115-pound IGFA all-tackle world record taimen was caught here in 2019. But the habitat that sustains these incredible megafish is far from secure. In the last few years, this region has attracted a wave of large new mining and logging leases. The large-scale poaching of salmon for their caviar, or “ikura,” is a constant threat. As reported in the previous issue, in 2014 the Wild Salmon Center and its partner the Khabarovsk Wildlife Foundation supported a government initiative that created the Tugursky Nature Reserve, a formally protected 197,000-acre corridor in the lower river. Now that protected area is about to grow sixfold. In February 2020, Khabarovsk’s Ministry of Resources and Ecology announced that by 2022, the regional government will establish the 1.13-millionacre Tugursky Middendorf Regional Nature Refuge. According to the Ministry, the new, expanded refuge will aim to protect nearly the entire Tugur River watershed, its unique mountain tundra ecosystem, its valuable commercial fisheries and hardwoods, and its “most unusual” beauty. Taimen are just one of 22 native fish species that will benefit, along with Manchurian wapiti, roe deer, brown bears, ospreys, Blakiston’s fish owls, and dozens of rare, endemic plant species. The major expansion follows years of advocacy and scientific case-making by Wild Salmon Center and Khabarovsk Wildlife Foundation, with the vocal support of local

GUIDO RAHR/WILD SALMON CENTER - PHOTO

Tugur Protected

The Tugur River recently gained notoriety for its huge Hucho taimen, and is now protected inside the new 1.13-million-acre Tugursky Middendorf Regional Nature Refuge. communities in the Tuguro-Chumikansky district. The Wild Salmon Center is also working at assessing the size and status of the taimen population, understanding their life history, and documenting the role of salmon and marine nutrients in fueling taimen growth and ecosystem health. That work will continue in the summer of 2020 and for years to come. What scientists learn on the Tugur will hopefully drive equally bold conservation measures elsewhere in the Russian Far East. flyfisherman.com

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TOM L ARIMER PHOTOGRAPHY BY ARIAN STEVENS

l u t t o n y i s d e f i n e d a s “ h a b i t u a l g r e e d o r e x c e s s i n e at i n g .” With synonyms like overe ating, binge e ating, and piggishness, glut tony perfectly describes Deschutes River r ainbows during the spring stonefly orgy. From l ate April through the middle of June, the “Lower D” pumps out epic hatches of giant Salmonflies, Golden Stones, and Yellow Sallies. During this time, the hardfighting redsides of this iconic Western river pack on the pounds. For fly fishers, it ’s one of best times to chase trout in the 100 miles of canyon water downstre am of Pelton Dam.


O r eg o n ’ s D es c h utes R i v er r ed s i d es

Any stonefly hatch, regardless of the river, has a tendency to inflate angler expectations. Although this incredible emergence of insects can yield the best dry-fly fishing of the season, it can also be humbling. The secret to stonefly success lies in building a plan of attack based around the life cycles of the bugs. While this article focuses on the lessons I learned during my years of guiding on this high-desert river in central Oregon, most of what follows can be applied to any trout river with a rocky substrate and steep gradient.

THE STONEFLY FAMILY Stoneflies require cool, clean, oxygenated water to thrive, and the giant Salmonfly from the Pteronarcyidae family (Pteronarcys species) is no exception. These flying fortresses are the first

stoneflies to show themselves each season. The emergence typically happens in the Maupin area (river mile 52) the last week of April or first week of May from evening through early morning. During these low-light hours, the bugs crawl onto boulders and vegetation near the river’s edge. Once their nymphal shucks split and the adult insects emerge, they rest for a couple of days before they mate. After copulating, the females oviposit their eggs on the water’s surface in the afternoon or evening. Due to their preference for silt-free water, most Salmonflies are upstream of the glacially influenced White River, a tributary that joins the Deschutes around river mile 45. Members of the Perlidae family (Hesperoperla species), Golden Stoneflies begin to emerge during the Salmonfly hatch, typically three to five days after the first Pteronarcys show up. Most years,


S t o n e f ly G l u t t o n y O r e g o n ’ s D e s c h u t e s R i v e r R E d s i d e s

Salmonflies and Golden Stones require clean, highly oxygenated water and a rocky, silt-free substrate. The Deschutes River upstream of the tributary White River is stonefly habitat that fits this description perfectly. the first Goldens emerge in the first week of May, though they can pop earlier in warm years. Unlike Salmonflies, the nymph migration occurs mostly in the late afternoon and evening. The Golden emergence on the Deschutes is the most important stonefly for fly fishers because there are many more of them than there are Salmonflies. By nature, trout focus their efforts on the most available food sources, and Golden Stonefly patterns usually outfish Salmonfly patterns when both species are present. Goldens also populate more miles of the river. Like the Pteronarcys the largest population is upstream of the White River, however, the lower 40 miles also provides some excellent Golden Stone habitat in areas with heavy currents and big rocks. The smallest and most overlooked stonefly on the Deschutes

is the Yellow Sally (Cultus species). These fun-size trout snacks typically start showing up in the lower river on the heels of the Golden Stonefly hatch—around the third week of May—and can last through June. Unlike Salmonflies and Golden Stones, Sallies emerge through the day. Many fly fishers miss this hatch altogether because they are so focused on the big bugs they never think to look for a size 14 stonefly. When a Yellow Sally falls into the water it has an extremely low profile and is difficult to see, so you have to look for them. The trout have no problems locating these delicate little morsels. When planning to find stoneflies, it’s important to realize the first bugs show up low in the system, and the hatches gradually migrate upstream. Consequently, there can be great fishing in the Maupin area during the first week of May, while the upper river near Warm Springs won’t see any insects until four or six days later. Weather also plays an important role. The ideal scenario is stable, warm weather, the hotter the better. It usually takes a couple of 80-degree days to really get things going. Although central Oregon is known for sunshine, spring storms can push the hatch back by a week or two. If a cold front comes through during the hatch it can radically slow down mating. Although this can make for some tough dry-fly days, it does have a tendency to spread the emergence out and make the hatch last longer.

PRE-HATCH PERIOD During the month of April, stonefly nymphs become active, and their migration toward the shallows coincides nicely with the rainbow trout coming off the spawn. Nymphs swept into the current provide easy nourishment for hungry post-spawn fish. 34

FLY FISHER MAN


Dealing with the Deschutes The Deschutes is a big, brawling river that will test your abilities as an angler. For starters, fishing from a boat is prohibited, and the river’s rugged basalt rock has made more than one angler break dance prior to a full baptism. Consequently, felt wading boots with cleats are advisable. A wading staff keeps you upright and doubles as a stick to bang on the ground to ward off rattlesnakes. Use a 9-foot 5- or 6-weight rod and a floating line with a short front taper and the weight very far forward. This helps make short, accurate presentations with big dry flies. Good examples of these line types are Scientific Anglers Anadro/Nymph line or the Airflo Superflo XCEED. Some anglers prefer fast-action rods for battling afternoon winds, but I enjoy the more moderate-action G.Loomis NRX+ LP 9-foot 5-weight for dry-fly fishing. When the surface action stalls, I grab my 10-foot 4-weight NRX+ for both deep- and shallow-water nymphing techniques.

Larimer s Secret Stone (Golden) Hook: #8-10 Tiemco 200R. Thread: Camel 8/0 UNI-Thread. Tail: Golden goose biots. Rib: X-small copper wire. Foam: Rootbeer 2mm Fly Foam. Abdomen: Golden Stone Hareline Trilobal Dub. Body hackle: Brown hackle trimmed flat. Under wing: Shrimp Fluoro Fibre. Wing: Tan McFlylon. Rubber Legs: Pumpkin Sili Legs. Thorax: Dead orange Sow-Scud Dubbing. Thorax hackle: Brown hackle trimmed flat. Antennae: Gold goose biots.

Golden Stoneflies emerge onto streamside rocks and vegetation, split their nymphal shucks, and the adult insects crawl away to dry their wings. Within a day or two, they mate in pairs and clumps in trees and bushes along the river, and then the females take flight to oviposit their fertilized eggs in the river.

Hook: #6-10 Tiemo 200R. Thread: Camel 8/0 UNI-Thread. Tail: Brown goose biots. Rib: Brown medium copper wire. Abdomen: Golden Stone Hareline Trilobal Dub. Wingcase: Pheasant tail coated with Dave’s Flexament. Legs: Natural Indian hen saddle. Rubber Legs: Brown Flex Floss. Thorax: Golden Stone Hareline Trilobal Dub. Antennae: Gold goose biots.

Spe

Sto

(Golden)

Hook: #6-10 Tiemco 200R. Weight: .015" lead wire. Thread: Camel 8/0 UNI-Thread. Tail: Gold goose biots. Rib: Brown medium copper wire. Abdomen: Golden Stone Hareline Trilobal Dub. Wing: Tan EP Fiber. Thorax: Golden Stone Hareline Trilobal Dub. Thorax hackle: Brown. Eyes: Small monofilament eyes. Antennae: Gold goose biots.

DENNIS PASTUCHA - FLY PHOTOS

Larim


A common mistake on the Deschutes is casting too far. Trout have only small viewing windows in bouldery pocketwater, and complex currents require short, accurate casts and careful presentations.

During this period, it’s imperative to have a deep-water and shallow-water game plan. During midday when the sun is high, a 10-foot indicator setup fished through deeper runs and pockets is standard operating procedure. A wide variety of stonefly nymph patterns work well, though it’s hard to beat a Pat’s Rubber Legs in peacock, coffee, and golden color schemes. When deep-water nymphing, look for well-oxygenated water downstream from riffles, and shoreline breaks ranging from 3 to 5 feet deep. In early to mid-April, when the water temperatures are still in the low to mid-50s, the fish are typically stationed on softer current edges. As the hatch gets closer and the water warms during the second half of the month, the trout transition to faster water. Pay attention to where you’re catching fish—once you find the right current speed you can duplicate this pattern. In the low-light periods seven to ten days before the hatch—especially during the last few hours of the day—trout nose up into shallow riffles and pocketwater looking for migrating nymphs. At times, you find rainbows on the soft insides of riffles in as little as 12 inches of water. In these positions they are hyperaware of predators, so a slow, stealthy approach is critical. Watch a blue heron hunt and you’ll get the idea. Not only does your approach need to be in full ninja mode, your rig and flies need to be tailored for stealth as well. A “short leash” nymph rig with a stonefly nymph and a small dropper set a short distance from the indicator (for shallower water) is the best way to target fish hugging the shoreline. In this kind of shallow water, an unweighted or lightly weighted stonefly pattern is a must. The two patterns I rely on are either a Pat’s Rubber Legs or my own Copper Back Golden Stone. When I designed the Copper Back, I wanted a fly that wouldn’t spook fish when it landed, or constantly snag the bottom. At the time of conception (16 years ago), almost every commercially available stonefly was a boat anchor and didn’t perform adequately 36

FLY FISHER MAN

in skinny water. I also wanted a fly that drifted in the same attitude as a struggling stone in the current desperately trying to find something to cling onto. By design, the Copper Back drifts ass down with its legs extended, a trait that’s critical for fooling large, educated fish.

EMERGENCE PERIOD After the first stoneflies begin to emerge, it takes a day or two before the redsides start keying in to dry flies. During this short recognition period, nymphing tactics continue to produce but it pays to prospect with a dry/dropper, particularly in riffles and pockets during the afternoons and evenings. A jigged Rubber Legs dropped 24 to 30 inches below a golden Chubby Chernobyl can be deadly. Once the fish start zeroing in on the adult insects, some of the best dry-fly fishing of the season follows. This typically happens a couple of days after emergence when the females begin their egg-laying flights in the afternoons and evenings. The fatal dance of fluttering stones dropping to the water to oviposit their eggs rings the dinner bell for hungry trout. The best surface pattern in my box is one a client nicknamed The Secret Stone. The magic of this fly is that it sits low in the surface, yet it is exceptionally buoyant. Unlike some other foam patterns, it lands upright on every cast and doesn’t twist your leader when casting. Best of all, the trout eat the hell out of it. During the hatch, the riffles and pockets that produced in the pre-hatch period continue to produce. However, by this time the water warms into the 60s, and the fish often transition to what my mentor and longtime river guide John Hazel refers to as “deep bank water.” Look for micro eddies and pockets of soft water next to heavy water on outside bends of the river. The most productive lies have large structure, lots of foam, and are close to deep water. Riprap banks, dense tree lines, back eddies,



S t o n e f ly G l u t t o n y O r e g o n ’ s D e s c h u t e s R i v e r R E d s i d e s and deeper grassy banks are all fish-holding locations. When the fish are looking up, the most effective approach is an upstream dry-fly presentation. Short, accurate reach casts and perfect drifts are vital. The most common mistake I see on the Deschutes or any big canyon-type water is casting too far. Typically, a long cast is no farther than 20 feet of line out the rod tip. As a general rule, more complex water requires shorter casts. Deschutes rainbows don’t take kindly to poor presentations. One sloppy cast or a fly dragging through a spot puts trout down—especially larger fish. This type of water requires patience and timing to get the right drift. When I was a guide, I always made my clients watch the river for a few minutes before fishing deep bank water. I wanted them to see that the river has a rhythm. In this type of water, understanding the cadence of the river’s flow often dictates success. At times, the river surges and creates massive upwells. Any presentation with a dry would instantly drag in the washing machine effect of the current. However, if you wait for the surge to subside, the current evens out and presents momentary windows of opportunity. The old saying “the foam is home” holds true on the Deschutes. Foam is the gravy train, and the trout always position themselves under it. The time to make the cast is when the foam line straightens out just after a surge. Mastering this surgical approach is fundamental for effective dry-fly presentations with the big bugs. While there are two or three days every stonefly season where the dry-fly fishing is a full-throttle all-day event, most days the best surface fishing is in afternoon pockets of shade, or during the low-light evening hours. Some days the fish get on drys right off the bat, while other days they may not respond to surface flies until 4 P.M. How do you decide what technique to use? A dirty little trick I devised when I was guiding was to use a strike indicator tied to look like a Golden Stone. I started each morning with a nymph rig, prospecting riffles, pockets, and deep bank water. When the fish started hitting the indicator, I knew it was time to switch to a dry. It’s a deadly tactic that keeps you fishing the most effective technique throughout the day.

POST-EMERGENCE PERIOD At some point during the hatch—typically eight to twelve days after the first bugs emerge—most of the mature nymphs have already made their way to the bank. Consequently, using larger stonef ly nymphs becomes considerably less effective. However, this is also the time when the Salmonf lies and Goldens that emerged in the first week of the hatch begin to die off. Fishing a drowned adult stonef ly can be extremely effective, especially in the mornings. I suspend Larimer’s Spent Stone under an indicator or as a dropper below a dry. The insane dry-fly fishing typically lasts 14 to 20 days after the emergence begins. While fly fishers should target the same successful spots they fished during the emergence period, the biggest change is fly selection. Early in the hatch the fish are unpressured and willing to eat a wide range of stonefly drys. However, the fish get pickier as the hatch progresses, especially in heavily fished spots. It’s not uncommon to see refusals—trout rush to the surface to intercept the offering and at the last second veer off. You’ll also see them bump the fly with their noses, as if they were testing it to see if it is real. A few minor adjustments can make a massive difference in the rise-to-hooked ratio. Many popular commercial fly patterns float on top of the surface, while a real stonefly abdomen rests in or 38

FLY FISHER MAN

under the surface. As a result, low-riding patterns like Larimer’s Golden Stone and the classic Norm Woods Special produce exceptionally well. It also pays to trim off any hackle on the bottom of your fly to ensure it sits low in the water. Also try downsizing to a size 10 or 12 Golden dry. While considerably smaller than the real insects, a little fly can get the nod when the fish get funky. This is also the period when Yellow Sallies make their appearance. Fish that refuse a Golden Stone late in the hatch will often confidently sip a Larimer’s Yellow Sally. Another tool for wary trout is to animate your fly. When adding a little movement, it’s essential that your leader and tippet don’t get sucked under the surface. A short-range tuck cast ensures your fly hits the water before your leader. Keeping your rod high, make small shakes with the rod tip to bring life your bug to life. Try to observe real stoneflies struggling to lift off the surface. They frantically shake their wings for a few seconds, and then pause to conserve energy. Your animations should mimic this behavior. Many

. . . the river’s rugged basalt rock has made more than one angler break dance prior to a full baptism days—particularly later in the hatch—this rod shake is the difference between a slow day and a “Holy crap we railed them” day. While the peak of the hatch is usually the first two or three weeks in May, the trout remember the bugs weeks afterward. It always pays to prospect with a stonefly dry, especially in shade pockets or in the evenings, weeks after the last bugs have hatched. The Deschutes River stonefly emergence has the potential for some serious memory-making days. However, many fly fishers miss seeing the forest for the trees. Be aware that there’s a smorgasbord of other overlapping bugs. Caddis, Mahoganey Duns, Pale Morning Duns, Pale Evening Duns, Blue-winged Olives, Western Green Drakes, craneflies, and midges are all present in May and June. Sometimes, despite millions of stoneflies crawling in the streamside trees, the trout key on what is most available to them. The most successful anglers build a plan based on the life cycles of stoneflies, but are ready to pivot when the trout go off script.

Tom Larimer is the national sales manager for fly fishing at G.Loomis. He lives in White Salmon, Washington.


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Redding, California


HIL ARY HUTCHESON PHOTOGRAPHY BY JEREMY KORESKI


The Elk River originates near the Continental Divide in southern B.C. and flows west, where it eventually joins with the Columbia. Near the towns of Fernie and Sparwood, this cutthroat trout stream is known as a dry-fly paradise, but there are also monster bull trout lurking in its clear, green waters.

Chasing natives in B . C .’ s E l k R i v e r Va l l e y


While bull trout will take dry flies in the spring when the hatches are heavy, their favored food items are juvenile whitefish, cutthroat, and (seasonally) kokanee salmon. Look for bull trout in deep holes and near logjams and other structure where they can ambush their prey.

riving home from a Canadian bull trout trip last fall, I stopped at a roadside flea market, where I saw (and nearly purchased) a refrigerator magnet that said, "Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, I Am My Mother After All." The joke, meant to force middle-aged children to concede existence as nature and/or nurture reflections of their parents, struck close to home. Only recently have I stopped fighting the realization that my hooting laugh and stubbornness are my mother’s. The magnet reminded me of Elk River Guiding Company head guide Darcy Richardson’s declaration just the previous day that if a bull trout looked in the mirror, it would see Mother Nature peering back. “Bull trout are an exact reflection of their environment,” Darcy had told me over beers on the fly shop’s back porch. “Like the beautiful places where they live, they are extremely strong and resilient, but vulnerable and delicate at the same time.” Eric Taylor, Ph.D., professor of zoology at the University of British Columbia, agrees, saying, “I can never separate them from where they occur. They reflect the magnificence of Western watersheds.” While their distribution is historically broad in North America, today 80 percent of the world’s bull trout are found in western Canada. This, scientists say, is where they find the 4Cs: Cold, Clean water, with Connected and Complex underwater habitat. A prime example of this is the mountainous, lush, dramatic Elk River watershed in the southeastern Kootenay district of British Columbia. The Elk and its tributaries originate near the Continental Divide and drain a heavily forested region until its waters ultimately join the Columbia River headed toward the Pacific Ocean. While the watershed is arguably best known for its world-class 42

FLY FISHER MAN

native westslope cutthroat trout fishing, it’s also a magnet for streamer-huckers looking to hook into the big-headed beast of B.C., a salmonid and tip-of-the-spear predator found at the tops of angler bucket lists worldwide. Bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) are technically not trout at all, but char. The common name is a nod to its massive head and jaws. Distinct from the Dolly Varden, a separate but


similar char species, bull trout have been thriving in their once-glaciated environment for thousands of years. They’ve been known to live for up to two decades, and migratory populations often travel more than 100 miles in the fall to spawn in small, cold streams. They are identified by a light dorsal fin free of markings, fins with white edges, and yellow, orange, or salmon-colored spots on their backs. “There are many distinct populations of bull trout,” says Taylor. “And certain populations face threats that others don’t. We have the Species at Risk Act, similar to the Endangered Species Act that protects the bull trout in the United States. Various Canadian populations are given protections based on our studies of their trends in population sizes and threats to their population.” The bull trout of the Elk River system are part of the Pacific assemblage of populations, currently listed as "not at risk." For anglers, this means it’s legal to fish for them in accordance with provincial regulations, including the use of single-hook barbless flies.

RUNNING OF THE BULLS While the Pacific population of bull trout near Fernie, British Columbia will chase stripped streamers all year, they offer a treat in the spring when they eat surface dry flies. In late fall, after spawning, migratory bull trout in certain zones of the system get their strength back before heading to their wintering areas by protein-loading on dying kokanee salmon that have reached the end of their life cycle. The Elk’s resident bull trout are there all year, but migratory bull trout that winter in Lake Koocanusa make their way up into legally protected streams like the Wigwam, Michel Creek, and Skookumchuck Creek. In an effort to protect these fisheries, the government regulates these classified waters by requiring permits for both guided and nonguided fly fishing. Elk River Guiding Company owner Paul Samycia says, “We’ve found that many anglers don’t want to mess with having to stay up until midnight when permits go up for sale on the government website on March 1, so they book with us. Each outfitter gets a limited number of rod days. We aren't allocated very many, so we usually sell out by the end of January.” B.C.-bound fly fishers should get organized well before the season, since understanding where and how to fish the various, dynamic waters can be daunting. For example, if you hope to book a walk-wade trip in June with the goal of catching your bucket-list bull in the Wigwam, you’re out of luck. “The river opens June 15, but the fish won’t be up there until July because they are migratory,” says Samycia. Understanding the terrain is also key to success here. Since the rugged, catch-and-release-only Wigwam is restricted to wade anglers only, a hearty hike is in order. On previous Elk River outings, I experienced something guides confirm is a natural occurrence on the Elk system—species tunnel vision. I became so enthralled with catching a personal best bull trout that I all but forgot that I was drifting my fly past my all-time favorite fish species, the native westslope cutthroat trout. “But I understand how that happens,” says Samycia. “If you really want to do well with bull trout, you’re going to have to focus and put your time in. You have to work for it. If you get tempted to put that streamer rod down and fish dry flies for cutthroat, you could be closing the window on your opportunity for a once-ina-lifetime beast.” This time around, Samycia had a scope-broadening solution.

Bullish Tackle

For bull trout, Elk River Guiding Company recommends 9-foot, 8-weight rods with floating lines and 12-foot leaders. The trick is to get the fly down low, in front of the upstream-facing fish. Heavy sinking lines are counterproductive because you have to strip them too quickly to avoid getting snagged, which doesn’t give the fly enough time in front of the fish’s face. The most effective flies are white streamers like size 2 Dolly Llamas. All flies must have a single, barbless hook, so if you’d like to fish an articulated streamer, you must first clip off the forward or rear hook and clamp down the barb. Using two flies at one time is not permitted in B.C.

He planned an afternoon of walk-wade, precision dry-fly fishing for rising cutthroat near Fernie, followed by a full-day float focused on bull trout. On the first afternoon, the late day sun played Midas with the mellow waves and flushed its rich light through the Tiffany wings of mayflies landing on our hat bills. Native westslope cutthroat bellied up to the gravel bar’s subtle drop-off, 3 feet from the water’s edge. As we worked slowly along the rocky bank upriver, some fish faced the same direction sipping ants, while others turned aggressively downstream to chase minnows, and still others went tail-up to lip nymphs from nearly every level of the water column. True to the autumn season, we found the flyfisherman.com

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Across much of the Lower 48 bull trout have been extirpated or are at historic lows. In southern B.C., however, the Pacific population of bull trout is healthy, and visiting fly fishers have an opportunity to hook "lifetime fish" each day. most success with terrestrials, and had fun experimenting with tiny, green-colored flying ants. It was good to reaffirm why cutthroat are my favorite fish. The next day we set out early, rafts equipped with 8-weight rods, floating lines with long, 15-pound-test leaders, and white Dolly Llama streamers with single, debarbed, size 2 hooks. We also anticipated finding a zone laden with tapped-out kokanee salmon, so we had a rod rigged with a 5-inch-long orange and yellow kokanee pattern. Samycia started with the kokanee pattern, and it paid off quickly. Before lunchtime, he had our fish of the day bullying him through a midriver trough. The 30-inch monster didn’t run into the backing or jump, but challenged Samycia with a beastto-beast tug-of-war. “This guy could bust a hole to China with that head,” said Samycia, letting the fish take a few inches of line before reeling in a few feet, a retrieval dance he repeated until guide Dylan Forster, who had waded up to his wader rim, scooped it into the too-small net. “I needed to keep gaining on that bull because if he got too 44

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much control it would have taken longer to get him in and I don’t want him to use so much energy since this guy is getting fat for winter and has a date with the kokanee buffet.” While no one could deny the bull trout’s colossal head and kype, the tail stole the show. Easily the largest paddle I’ve seen on a char, the nearly transparent tail was dotted with silvery-white spots and peach-colored along the edge. It spanned wider than my splayed hand. It took just two powerful tail slaps to propel the creature back toward its place at the table. In the afternoon, we worked smaller streamers along the rugged outer banks along a heavy forest, liberal with shelter for predatory fish. Even at depth, the gleaming white Dolly Llama pattern stood out in the clear water, sliding (not darting) through trenches and along submerged logs and rocks where our targeted species lay. Each time that the ploy worked, I could see the bull’s giant head lead its body in a slow, lateral shift before propelling into a come-at-me-bro assault on the streamer. During one retrieve, however, I had the streamer so low in a trench that I couldn’t see the white rabbit. When the pattern



b u l l t r o u t b a s t i o n - c h a s i n g n at i v e s i n B . C .' s E l k R i v e r V a L L E Y

To get a closer underwater look at these upper echelon predators, see the six-minute companion film Bull Trout Bastion on the Fly Fisherman magazine YouTube Channel. The film, with author Hilary Hutcheson and guide Paul Samycia shows what it’s like to spend a few days in a watershed where Western native species are holding strong. /flyfishermanmagazine got smacked by a Mack truck, the truck didn’t stop. It pulled, steadily and hard. The fish didn’t seem to care that it had been hooked, but, to me, he seemed quite aware of his predicament, since he turned on his tail and bull-lined it 75 feet toward a logjam downstream. The logjam screamed certain misery, and I wouldn’t let my mind imagine the fish and all my f ly line creating a dreamcatcher in the submerged strainer of limbs and forest debris that had gathered in the late spring during runoff. Superguide Forster expertly moved the oars to backrow up an eddy so we wouldn’t float closer to the logjam. We both got out of the raft, and as I waded to control the fighting angle, Forster ran toward the logjam and used his net to spook the fish away from wood. As the bull trout changed its course, it came at me like a blitzing defensive end, and I had to switch from the reel to a hand strip to get the line in fast enough to keep up with the tension. With the fish now just a few feet from me, it went head down again, starting a classic tug competition. But Forster was ready with a scoop as soon as I was able to coax the fish’s head up. Afterward, another massive paddle strike sent the bull trout back to the depths.

INDICATOR SPECIES Scientists say bull trout are an indicator species for general ecosystem health, and are particularly vulnerable to human-induced habitat changes. “That’s why people who fish are so worried about the increases in selenium and nitrate contamination in the watershed,” says Richardson. Anglers who float the Elk near the town of Sparwood will see a riverside coal mine, one of Teck Coal’s four coal mines operating in the region. While the view can be jarring, coal mining has been integral to local livelihoods since the 1890s. Artifacts recognizing the area’s prospecting history are scattered around Sparwood and Fernie. Today, the operations employ approximately 4,000 people and ship more than 26 million tonnes of coal, mostly to steel plants in Asia. But in recent years, disquiet is growing on behalf of fly fishers as well as scientists, lawmakers, and environmental groups in Canada and the United States, as rainwater washes through large piles of mining waste, sending toxic levels of selenium and nitrate into the watershed. “We don’t want to be all doom and gloom,” says Richardson, “And we know how important extraction has been here. But even though we may feel like the ecosystem is healthy, we see certain changes like increased algal blooms. Then we hear that the contaminants in the river and in Lake Koocanusa are going up, and they were already way higher than they should be.” River pollution could continue for centuries if current trends continue, says Lars Sander-Green, science and communications analyst for Wildsight, an environmental organization in southeastern British Columbia. “Selenium poisoning can cause 46

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reproductive failures for fish,” says Sander-Green. "And there’s no long-term plan to stop it. British Columbia doesn’t have a solid program to make sure mines pay for proper cleanup. Strong federal regulations could make a major difference, and pressure from people who care about this place could be the key.” Teck Resources in March 2020 reported dramatic declines in cutthroat populations in the Fording River—an Elk River tributary that passes through a mine site—but says it is trying to stabilize and reverse the trend of toxic substances in the the watershed. Teck spokesman Doug Brown says the company plans to spend more than $1 billion by 2024 to clean up its effluent, and has already repaired and recommissioned a treatment plant now operational at their West Line Creek mine site. Two new plants will be operating by the end of the year, he said. Sander-Green isn’t convinced. “Even with the short-term treatment plants, what happens when Teck decides it’s done mining? There’s enough waste to impact the river for a thousand years or longer, and the company won’t be running treatment facilities that long. Fishermen need to speak up in favor of a real long-term plan.” With threats to the river in mind, if bull trout are indeed a reflection of their environment, the image within the mirror becomes less clear, like the topsy-turvy Lewis Carroll novel Through the Looking-Glass in which nothing is as it should be. The threat has the potential to encourage anglers to look beyond the tips of their 8-weights and consider the full weight of human impact on a fishery that’s thrived throughout history. Most days, Darcy Richardson’s passion for the Elk River Valley is reflected in his clients’ experience on the water. “It’s just fun to watch people catch fish,” says Richardson. “When they hook into a fish and I see their reaction, it’s like looking in a mirror because I know I’m just as excited.”

Hilary Hutcheson started guiding fly-fishing trips as a teenager in West Glacier, Montana. Today she continues to guide the Flathead River system, and owns and operates her fly shop, Lary's Fly & Supply in Columbia Falls, Montana, where she lives with her daughters Ella and Delaney, her partner Ebon, and their three-legged Labrador Jolene. Look for her climate solutions film The Drop to be released in summer 2020.



WESTERN

GREEN DRAKES

T h e i c o n i c s u m m e r m ay f l i e s o f cl e a n, br aw l ing W es t ern riv ers PAT DORSE Y

rowing up, I spent two weeks with my dad every summer in the Gunnison Valley, fishing small creeks, untamed freestones, and the world-class tailwater below Taylor Park Reservoir. The highlight of our summer vacation was the arrival of the fabled Green Drake hatch that begins in late June and continues through the first part of August. Some of my most memorable days onstream with my father were on the Taylor River a few miles upstream from the small community of Almont.


PAT DORSEY - PHOTO


When you are fishing from a raft or drift boat, launch in the morning a few miles upstream of the peak of the hatch. String up multiple rods to cover different situations as you float downriver.

PAT DORSEY - PHOTO

If you’ve experienced a Green Drake hatch, then you know exactly what I am talking about. The thrill and excitement of a multi-day road trip during the Green Drake hatch is as good as it gets. Some of my favorite locations in Colorado include the Gunnison, East, and Taylor rivers, as well as the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers. The Eagle, Blue, and Yampa rivers are good options too. While my experience is based mostly in Colorado, these mayflies are widespread across the West wherever there is fast, rocky water free of silt and pollutants. In Wyoming, the upper North Platte and Encampment rivers have incredible hatches. In Idaho, the Green Drake hatch is the most important seasonal event on the Henry’s Fork, and the story is much the same on tumbling, highly oxygenated rivers in and around Yellowstone National Park, on many Montana rivers, and throughout the Pacific Northwest.

TIMING THE HATCH Being in the right place at the right time is critical for success. Otherwise you may experience only sporadic Drakes, or miss the hatch entirely, and wonder what all the hype is about. Drakes start hatching as early as June 15 at lower elevations and last through the month of July in cold, high-elevation streams. Depending on snowpack and weather, the first week of July is usually a good time to find these insects somewhere on watersheds with good populations of Green Drakes. Green Drake emergences often progress upstream a little each day, starting in the warmer lower elevations of a river and working slowly into the headwaters. Targeting the heaviest concentration of the hatch is often one of the biggest challenges. It’s a good idea to check with a local fly shop or guide service for up-to-date information on the exact location of the hatch. Water temperatures, river levels (from spring runoff and downstream irrigation demand), and weather patterns can affect the speed at which the hatch travels upriver. For instance, if the 50

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water is low from a lean snowpack, the hatch starts earlier in June, and moves upriver quickly because the river is warmer, which accelerates the development of the mayflies. To the contrary, if flows are above normal levels due to a heavy snowpack, the hatch is delayed a week or two due to cooler water temperatures. For walk-and-wade anglers, the hatch is straightforward— show up in the right location about noon in anticipation of the duns coming off around 1 P.M. Prior to the hatch, I recommend nymphing the faster riffles and runs with a Green Drake nymph imitation, or swinging a soft-hackle in the transitional zones. Floating the river with an inflatable raft or drift boat is more complex. The best advice I can give is to launch your boat several miles above the hatch, making an effort to stay upstream from the peak of the hatch. The hours leading up to the hatch are a good time to fish with a size 12 Parachute Adams trailed by a size 14 Elk-hair Caddis, methodically pounding the banks, looking for opportunistic feeders. Don’t rule out seeing Pale Morning Duns or Yellow Sallies, as these hatches tend to overlap each other during the first two weeks of July. If you see trout eating these other insects, make the appropriate fly changes. If you’re not getting the results you hoped for with dry flies, try nymphing with a #10-12 Hare’s-ear trailed by a size 16 beadhead Flashback Pheasant Tail or a size 16 PMD Barr Emerger. I routinely take an early lunch on the leading edge of the hatch and carefully watch the water for emerging duns. Once I begin seeing large olive mayflies on the water, I move downriver and look for rising trout. Green Drake hatches tend to last for an hour or two depending on the weather. Drakes bring up some of the biggest and wariest trout to feed on the surface. Don’t be surprised if a 20-inch rainbow gobbles your Green Drake. Green Drakes tend to be a late morning or an early afternoon event, but they are highly weather dependent. The best hatches occur on overcast or rainy days because the high humidity tends to delay the development of the duns, keeping the naturals on the


W e s t e r n G r e e n D r a k e s T h e i c o n i c s u m m e r m ay f l i e s o f c l e a n , b r aw l i n g W e s t e r n r i v e r s

HATCH-MATCHING STRATEGIES There are two species of Western Green Drakes: Drunella grandis and Drunella doddsii. Don’t confuse them with the mayflies called Green Drakes in the East (Ephemera guttulata)—those are completely different larger, burrowing mayflies. Drunella grandis and Drunella doddsii duns look similar, although the latter is slightly smaller. They are both Western Green Drakes, and it’s not uncommon to find both species in the same river, so carry several different sizes (#10-14) of Green Drake imitations to match the hatch.

Green Drake nymphs are crawlers and thrive in large cobbled substrates with moderate to fast-paced currents. Green Drake nymphs are easily identified by their robust stature and rugged appearance. Their large size differentiates them from other mayflies, as mature nymphs are almost an inch long. Green Drake nymphs are dark olive, with three tails, stout abdomens, thick boxlike thoraxes, and squared-off heads with prominent eyes. My favorite imitations are #10-12 olive or natural beadhead Hare’s-ears, Stalcup’s Green Drake, Barr’s Tung Teaser, or Mercer’s Green Drake Poxyback Nymphs. Prior to emergence, mature nymphs migrate toward slower riffles and runs where their availability to the trout increases exponentially because they are poor swimmers. They frequently become victims of catastrophic drift and become hearty meals for opportunistic trout. Their emergence begins underwater, then the crumpled-up dun floats to the surface to dry its wings and take flight. Soft-hackles and emerger patterns fished on the swing or near the surface are deadly for imitating these rising duns. Because of their large size, Green Drakes take much longer to dry their wings and escape the surface in comparison to smaller mayflies. When a hatch starts, I clip off my Green Drake nymph and switch to a size 12 Mathews’s Sparkle Dun, Cannon’s Snowshoe Dun, or a Parachute Green Drake. Low-riding patterns work best most of the time, but on occasion a standard hackled fly performs better than a parachute or Compara-dun. I recommend fishing with one of each type to cover your bases. I also

There are two species of what we call Western Green Drakes, and one is slightly smaller than the other. They both often occur together in the same watersheds, so carry imitations from size 10 to 14.

JOHN JURACEK - PHOTO

water longer. Bright and sunny days accelerate the hatch, and the duns escape more quickly . One of the best Green Drake hatches I’ve ever experienced was on the Taylor River, one mile above Almont. Afternoon rain showers are a common occurrence in the Taylor Canyon, and this day was no different. My buddy and I showed up to the river and it began sprinkling. The skies were dark up in the canyon, so we knew what was heading our way. We put on our rain jackets and headed to the river and immediately starting hooking trout that were feeding on Green Drakes in 18 to 24 inches of riffle water. Within 15 minutes the skies opened up and it began pouring. Strange as it might sound, the harder it rained, the more the Green Drakes came off! At one point, there were two dozen trout feeding on the surface within my casting range—one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen.

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PAT DORSEY - PHOTO

Western Green Drakes

Parachute Adams, Parachute Greek Drakes, Mayfly Cripples, and deer-hair extended-body Green Drakes should cover the bases for dry-fly fishing in freestone rivers and tailwaters such as the Fryingpan and Taylor rivers. recommend carrying a few spinners, as in some watersheds they are extremely important just before dark. Trout eating Green Drakes produce splashy rise forms, which can mislead fly fishers into thinking they are eating fluttering insects like caddisflies or Yellow Sallies. Careful observation removes any doubt about what the trout are feeding on. Watch the naturals and pay close attention to what the trout are actually consuming. As previously mentioned, it’s entirely possible to have caddis, Yellow Sallies, and Pale Morning Duns hatching at the same time. Green Drakes often skitter on the surface a bit before taking flight, which induces aggressive takes. I find a traditional hackled fly works better when the trout are keying on Green Drakes struggling to get off the water’s surface like this. Compara-duns and Parachutes perform better on warm sunny days when the duns take flight quickly. A standard hackled fly portrays movement better than a low-rider sitting flush on the water’s surface.

PRO PICKS

JOHN JURACEK - PHOTO

Steve Henderson, a 25-year veteran guide and owner of Henderson Fly Fishing in Steamboat Springs, swears by a Hare’s-ear for imitating Green Drake nymphs. Try seining the Yampa River and you’ll see why—the substrate is loaded with Green Drake

Green Drake nymphs have thick thoraxes and strong, powerful legs for crawling and grabbing onto rocks in fast current. 52

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nymphs, and the fish are always aware of their presence, regardless of the time of year. “The Hare’s-ear is an extremely versatile fly. It is my go-to nymph for imitating Green Drake nymphs. Green Drake nymphs are crawler mayflies. They have oversized legs for holding onto and crawling around rocks in the faster parts of our Western rivers. The thorax sections of the nymphs are large and wide in comparison to the abdomen. I tie my Hare’s-ears with a buggy thorax section with plenty of guard hairs picked out. The abdomen section is dubbed tighter to represent the slimmer section of the naturals. The finished fly should have a similar proportion to a body builder; wide shoulders tapering down to their feet,” says Henderson. “My favorite colors are natural, black, and olive in that order. Effective sizes are #10-14. I forgo the Mylar tinsel (gold rib) in favor of copper wire. This gives the fly a more natural look and makes it extremely durable. I am particularly fond of adding a copper tungsten bead to my Hare’s-ears.” Henderson typically uses a #10-12 Parachute Adams or Parachute Green Drake for imitating newly hatched duns. “I find Parachutes work most of the time, but if the trout get picky, I use a deerhair extended-body Green Drake pattern. I clip the hackle to ride flush on the surface, and the wing angles slightly forward. The fly lands on its feet 99 times out of 100 and fools extremely selective trout.” Will Sands, a guide and manager at Taylor Creek Fly Shop, is a true authority on Green Drake hatches. The shop is near the junction of the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan, and both rivers are known for their legendary dry-fly fishing during the Green Drake hatch. Sands recommends a Mercer’s Poxyback Green Drake Nymph or KGB (Killer Green Bug) for the Fryingpan. “I like technical ties for discriminating tailwater trout. A freestone like the Roaring Fork is a different story—without any question my favorite fly there is a 20 Incher. Although it was originally tied to emulate a stonefly, its profile is truly drakelike.” When Green Drake nymphs begin to emerge into duns, Sands is a huge fan of Umpqua’s Mayfly Cripples, and offers this advice: “Grease or powder the deer-hair head, and do not dress the marabou abdomen. This positions the fly half above and half below the surface, which is deadly tactic for selective fish.” As far as dry flies are concerned, Sands uses a custom-tied


T h e i c o n i c s u m m e r m ay f l i e s o f c l e a n , b r aw l i n g W e s t e r n r i v e r s Sparkle Dun because the coloration of the Green Drakes on the Fryingpan is dark gray wings with a dusty olive/gray abdomen. Many anglers believe they are seeing Gray Drakes, when they are actually Green Drakes. “We recommend our Taylor Creek Custom Sparkle Dun (the dubbing color was created specifically for the Fryingpan). It has a Sparkle Dun profile, tied sparse, which is essential for technical waters.” On the Roaring Fork, Sands suggests an H&L Variant or Furimsky’s BDE (Best Dry Ever) Green Drake. “These patterns are high-floating with a robust profile that works well in rougher waters where exact color is not necessary. They are visible bugs that can support a nymph or help detect strikes on other flies that are harder to see in choppy water.” Sands also encourages fly fishers to carry plenty of spentwing imitations. The spinner fall occurs just before dark and provides anglers with technical and rewarding dry-fly fishing. “Grease the wings on Stalcup’s Emerger, then pull and twist the wings out spinner style. This is the best spinner pattern I’ve found.” Jason Booth, co-owner of Gunnison River Guides, is one of the most respected guides in Colorado. Each season he anxiously awaits the beginning of the Green Drake hatch because it provides some of the best fishing of the summer. “Green Drakes are the largest Western mayflies. When they hatch, every fish in the river keys on them,” says Booth. “The best time to fish Green Drakes on the Gunnison is late June to July 10. On overcast, windless days the hatches last for a couple hours. The hatch usually reaches the Taylor River the first week of July. Here it slows because of the cool, consistent water temperatures, which provides great fishing the whole month of July.” Booth’s favorite Green Drake nymphs are #10-12 Mercer’s Green Drake Poxyback, Stalcup’s Green Drake, and 20 Inchers. “Drake nymphs are deadly in soft water margins, especially in the transitional zones that funnel into some of the deeper runs,” says Booth. Once trout commit to eating the duns, Booth’s favorite dry flies are CDC Parachute Green Drakes, Mayfly Cripples, Furimsky’s Foam Green Drakes, Colorado Hen Wing Green Drakes, and CDC Flavilinea Duns. He typically fishes with a tandem rig, mixing and matching to find which pattern is working best.

to drift fishing, when you’re on the move and have little or no time to make changes. Once I locate a rising fish, I prefer a downstream delivery so the first thing the trout sees in your fly, not the tippet, leader, or fly line. Upstream presentations can put the fish down, so I try to avoid them. To reduce cross-current drag, I use a reach mend and add some slack to assist in a dead drift. It’s important to let the trout come up and eat your fly, then allow the trout to dip its head below the surface before setting the hook, otherwise you may be premature. One of the biggest mistakes I see is anglers casting their flies too far above their targets. The farther you cast your flies ahead of a rising trout, the greater the chances of drag occurring. Drop your fly just 24 inches above the rising fish and make the appropriate mend. It’s important to keep your dry flies dressed properly to keep them floating. I start with a paste floatant, then use powder or crystals when the fly becomes waterlogged or a trout has eaten

Drakes bring up some of the biggest and wariest trout to feed on the surface. Don’t be surprised if a 20-inch rainbow gobbles your Green Drake. the fly. I am a huge fan of Shimazaki Dry-Shake. Simply drop your fly (with the tippet attached) into the container, close the lid, and shake. Your fly is instantly ready to get back on the water. With CDC or Snowshoe patterns, do not use paste floatant. I recommend Frog’s Fanny. It’s perfect for delicate dry flies, especially CDC. The handy applicator brush allows you massage the dry-fly powder into the wing to keep your fly floating. If you haven’t had the opportunity to experience a Green Drake hatch, you’re missing out. Hopefully this gets you all fired up and ready to come see it for yourself.

TACKLE & PRESENTATIONS I recommend using a 9-foot 5-weight rod for nymphing, and a 9-foot 6-weight for dry-f ly fishing, especially in the wind. During the height of a Green Drake hatch, I routinely fish with two dry f lies, so a heavier and stiffer rod helps with precise deliveries. I typically use a 9-foot 4X tapered leader, then add 18 to 24 inches of 4X tippet material. If I am fishing out of a drift boat or raft, I rig up multiple rods to reduce downtime and be prepared for multiple simultaneous hatches. On one rod I’ll have a size 12 Sparkle Dun trailed by a size 12 Quill Gordon, and on another a size 12 Parachute Adams trailed by a smaller offering like a PMD or Elk-hair Caddis. When wading, it’s difficult to carry multiple rods, but there is also plenty of time to change rigs in comparison

Pat Dorsey is a co-owner of Blue Quill Angler and has been a guide on the South Platte River for more than 25 years. His most recent book is Fly Fishing Guide to the South Platte River (Stackpole Books, 2019).

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ROSS PURNELL PHOTOGR APHY BY CHRIS TIAN HOFFMAN AND UNTAMED ANGLING

I f i r s t r e a d a b o u t t h e K aya p o p e o p l e i n N ati o n a l G eo g r a ph i c. The story e xpl ained how this primitive, indigenous group in Br a zil resisted construction of a dam and reservoir on the Xingu River. The tribe had no mone y or i n d u s t r y, b u t t h e y s t i l l r e f u s e d t o s e l l t h e i r p i e c e o f t h e A m a z o n r a i n f o r e s t.


The clear Xingu River runs through a pristine, roadless remnant of the Amazon rainforest about the size of Maryland. The Kayapo people who fish and hunt there are fighting to save the river and their way of life.

The Kayapo leaders wrote a letter that spoke to me as a fly fisher. It read: “We do not want a single penny of your dirty money. We do not accept Belo Monte or any other dam on the Xingu. Our river does not have a price, the fish we eat do not have a price, and the happiness of our grandchildren does not have a price.” I was impressed by their foresight, and their courage. How could people with nothing stand in the way of Brazil’s insatiable appetite for electricity, lumber, and grazing land? What made the Xingu so special? Years later I met Rodrigo Salles, a fly fisher from Brazil who had also read the very same article in National Geographic. He was similarly inspired, and he reached out to the Kayapos with a proposal to jointly operate catch-and-release

sport-fishing operations in the Xingu watershed. When we spoke, Salles and the Kayapos had already started a lodge on the Iriri River (a tributary of the Xingu). Salles told me what made the Xingu so special—it’s a massive, clear river f lowing over granite bedrock. It’s the best place in the world to catch a fanged predator fish called a payara. These aren’t piranhas, they eat piranhas. And Salles told me that the Kayapos revere and respect this fish above all others. In the villages along the Xingu, young men catch these fish on their path to become warriors. They take the long fangs of the payara, and a village elder uses the teeth to cut and scar the arms of the fisherman. This ritual gives respect to the river, and allows the spirit of the fish to live on in the blood of the warrior.


The Xingu River, at the mouth, is about three times bigger than the Columbia River, but it is wide and shallow with rocky shoals, sandy flats, rapids, boulder gardens, and stillwater bays. Because it flows over a granite plateau and there is no agriculture, the Xingu is always clear.

ECONOMIC ALTERNATIVES In the dry season of 2019 the Amazon was burning with more than 80,000 uncontrolled fires, most of them started by intentional slash-and-burn clearing, the most cost-effective way to create open spaces for farms, cattle ranches, mines, and roads. Normally in the rainforest these fires move slowly or not at all, but an unusual dry spell turned standard deforestation techniques into a firestorm. While smoke drifted over the Kayapo Indigenous Territory— and other indigenous people in the Amazon watched the jungle disappear under the weight of farms, wildcat mines, and lumber operations—Kayapos in the small villages along the Xingu River in the southern Amazon were busy working toward a different future. What they envisioned was a catch-and-release sport-fishing operation on the Xingu that could take advantage of the Kayapos’ reputation as hunters and fishermen. The operation would create jobs and develop an economy based not on extraction but on sustainability. When the guests go home, the river and the jungle would remain places where the Kayapo people can hunt and fish to sustain themselves and their culture. Salles, a partner in the outfitting business Untamed Angling, first fished the Xingu in 2016 at the invitation of tribal leaders. What the chiefs wanted was a sport-fishing project modeled on the already successful Kendjam Lodge on the Iriri River in the far west side of the territory. But what Salles found in 2016 was a river that was overfished . . . not by the Kayapos but by outsiders who came into the tribal lands from Sao Felix, filled their boats with peacock bass, pacu, catfish, piranhas, and corvinas, and 56

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took the cargo back downriver. Worse, the Kayapos got nothing in return for the fish that were stolen from right under their noses. A few Kayapos were hired to help navigate the river, which in places is shallow, rocky, and punctuated by treacherous rapids. But after they learned the way upriver, the poachers returned to help themselves again and again. Salles advised the Kayapo elders that there would likely be no outside interest in sport fishing if this type of commercial harvest continued, so the nine Kayapo communities along the Xingu took action. They bought a patrol boat, and hired their own surveillance team to monitor and control access on the Xingu where it flowed out of the Kayapo Indigenous Territory near the village of Kokraimoro. The boundary here is a demarcation line that is clearly visible from the air. Google Maps shows a pristine Amazon jungle inside tribal lands, and a patchwork of mostly farmland outside where the jungle once stood. Kayapos on the Xingu put a stop to the plundering of their river, and they noticed that within one season, their own subsistence fishing was improving—immediate results that indicated the lower river was repopulating itself from reaches far upstream, where exploitative fishing never occurred. By protecting the river, their families already had more food on the table. As the river came back into balance, the Kayapos saw more and more peacock bass, wolf fish, catfish, piranhas, and also more predatory payaras. While payaras had never been a commercial target, they do depend on a robust fishery to prey upon, and they were an important indicator that the river was enjoying a resurgence.


B l o o d R u n F ly F i s h i n g w i t h a m a z o n wa r r i o r s

BATTLE SCARS When Salles heard about the comeback of the Xingu River, he made immediate plans to return. A jungle fisherman for all of his adult life, Salles and his partner Marcelo Perez own and operate some of the world’s best-known jungle fishing operations for species such as golden dorado, peacock bass, and arapaima. His fly-fishing passion right now is the elusive, challenging payara (Hydrolycus armatus). Very little is known about payaras, and much of what we do know comes from the aquarium hobby community, where they are sold under various pseudonyms such sabertooth barracuda, vampire fish, and dogtooth tetra. They require large aquariums and they must be kept in solitary confinement, otherwise they tear their tank mates to pieces—even other parayas—so they have a well-earned reputation as dangerous, solitary predators. When Salles called to invite me on an exploratory trip to the Xingu, he was excited because the Kayapos had sent recent reports of catching many payara, some weighing more than 20 pounds. In a lifetime of fly fishing for payara, Salles had never caught one over 20 pounds, but he assured me that the Xingu was the best place to target a fish of this size. On the Xingu, Kayapos revere the payara as one hunter respects another, and the fish play a central role in Kayapo culture. In villages like Pukararakre and Kamotjam, all young men perform a specific rite of passage into manhood: They catch and kill a payara, and a village elder afterward uses a payara tooth to cut and scar the arms of the successful fishermen. Before the scarification ritual, a young Kayapo is just a boy. After they earn their scars, Kayapo men become warriors and respected fishermen. The Kayapo actually believe that the spirit of the payara enters your body through the bloody cuts, and by hosting its spirit,

you become more like a payara. You become a deadly hunter and a more effective fisherman. The ritual is not a one-time event. Many of the men in the village have multiple sets of scars from different stages of life. As you catch more payaras—and collect more scars— your stature in the community as a fisherman and a hunter grows.

VAMPIRE FISH I was aware of vampire fish, but thought of them as an oddity, a rare bycatch you couldn’t really target. But Salles thought the Xingu might be the first place in the world where fly fishers could successfully make them a primary quarry. He wanted to test that theory with me in an exploratory trip in August of 2019. It would be his fourth time on the Xingu, and I’d be one of the first North Americans ever to fly fish there. The question was, could we figure out how to reliably catch them on fly tackle? Payaras are vicious predators that stab and spear their prey with their long fangs. Their favorite foods are red-belly and black piranhas . . . and other payaras. They have large eyes that allow them to hunt the shallows at night, a habit that makes them “vampires” in more ways than one. In bright sunlight they live in the dark crypts of the deepest holes, where they hide from the light and ambush their prey from below. They also hunt the rapids of the fastest whitewater, where rocks and boulders create hiding places and ambush points. In both cases, getting a f ly down to the fish is problematic. Rapids that are 12 feet deep and slow water that is 60 to 80 feet are equally difficult. This isn’t optimum territory for f ly tackle. But getting our f lies in front of the fish was just the beginning of our challenges. Bucketmouth predators like tarpon, taimen, and striped bass engulf their prey whole, and fish hooks are designed exactly for

Payaras use their fangs to stab and spear prey species like piranhas. On the Xingu, the locals revere this fish, and warriors use the teeth for a scarification ritual that allows the spirit of the fish to enter a man’s body.


Blood Run

In the Xingu watershed, peacock bass hunt in shallow bays and at the mouths of tributaries, smashing topwater flies such as sliders and poppers.

mouths like these. The mouth closes, and the hook engages itself on the way out. Payaras, however, have tall, narrow bodies, and their mouths are built for stabbing and spearing. They stab your fly in an attempt to wound and injure, and they often return to further victimize your fly, but amid all this sideswiping and tail-nipping and body piercing, it’s difficult to get a solid hook-set into their jawbone.

POTENTIAL LODGE When Salles and I arrived in August 2019 at our campsite near Kamotjam village we were greeted by Alec Krüse Zeinad, a zoologist and author of the book Peixes Fluviais do Brasil, a 360-page compendium that illustrates and identifies more than 200 fish species. With him was Ireo, a local chief from Pukararakre village, and seven other representatives from different communities up and down the river. I could plainly see by the scars on their arms that these men were experienced and successful payara fishermen. I could also see they were curious about our plan to catch these fish on flies. Kayapos catch payara (and catfish and everything else) by handlining with a piece of bait, a hook, coat hanger wire that is looped at both ends, and a spool of heavy 100-pound-test nylon monofilament. (Without wire, nuisance piranhas will cut off the hook.) As we unpacked our fly rods, reels, and lines, the Kayapo men crowded around, watching us with some degree of skepticism as we pieced together our rods, threaded our fly lines, and tied our flies to thin knottable wire. It was clear most of them had never seen such fishing tackle. Compared to their simple and deadly handline rigs, our tackle looked like Rube Goldberg machines. These Kayapos knew nothing about fly fishing, but they were to be our guides for the next four days of fishing. They’d show us 58

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where the payaras were, and we’d try to demonstrate that fly fishing was a practical method. If all went according to plan, the Kayapos would learn how to position the boat, and where fly fishers could potentially stand or wade to fish rapids and steep drop-offs. If we were successful, Salles planned for paying guests to camp in the same tents for a few short weeks in October 2019, and then, in partnership with the Kayapos, to construct an actual lodge for operation in late 2020. The Untamed Angling model that has been used with native groups elsewhere is a simple one. The indigenous group builds a lodge they own, and it’s on their land. Untamed Angling markets and operates the lodge, and hires native guides, boatmen, and camp help from the local population. Native people are paid individually for the work they do, and then at the end of the fiscal year, Untamed Angling has an open-book meeting with their tribal partners and splits the annual profit 50/50 with the tribe. According to its 2019 report, Untamed Angling hired 393 natives, and contributed $534,802 to nine different ethic groups in 55 villages in Bolivia and Brazil. That money is used to improve the quality of life for all the natives through projects that provide clean drinking water, medical and dental care, schools, and solar panels. To get the ball rolling on the Xingu, all we had to do was demonstrate a viable sport fishery. The other sources of revenue for Kayapos are fruit like acai berries, and nuts like Brazil nuts, cumaru, and cacau (cocoa). It’s been said that the cure to cancer may lie in some unknown plant in the Amazon jungle, where unequaled biodiversity means there are plants that haven’t been “discovered” by outsiders, and we don’t yet know their potential uses. Studies have shown that one square kilometer in the Amazon jungle can support more than 1,100 tree species alone. (In Yellowstone National Park you might find 11 different tree species.) The Kayapos treat trees as you might treat your grandmother,


F ly F i s h i n g w i t h a m a z o n wa r r i o r s with great care and attention. The pharmaceutical industry buys all the cumaru nuts the Kayapos can produce. It’s a source of guaifenesin, an expectorant and bronchodilator used in many cold remedies. A ton of cumaru nuts is a cash crop of about $10,000, but that’s just one of the many reasons Kayapos don’t cut down their trees. The lodge at Kendjam was built on a sandy beach along the Iriri River because Kayapos refuse to clear trees for any kind of development. Some of them have seen the clear-cuts outside their boundaries, and they know that logging and agriculture result in dirty, muddy rivers, and a loss of their ancestral hunting lands.

EXPLORING THE XINGU The Xingu is unusually clear for a river of this size. With an annual average discharge at the mouth of 775,000 cfs, it’s roughly three times larger than the Columbia River. On Kayapo land, it’s clearer than the Madison. The headwaters flow over a massive granite plateau, and the roots of the jungle envelope the soil. It’s a region where there is up to 1,200 inches of rain annually. The river can rise and fall up to 30 feet during the wet season, yet there is practically no erosion. It’s far different than the other Amazon tributaries you see flying into the Xingu, rivers that are brown and muddy all year due to clear-cuts, agriculture, and hydraulic and placer mining. Although it’s a massive river, it’s very fishy, and the clarity helps you easily recognize almost unlimited structure and underwater terrain. It’s wide, with extensive sandy shallows, rocky shoals, islands, and a network of channels—in some places there may be 12 or more major river channels where only one of them offers passage deep enough for a propeller. In the rocky shallows there are wolf fish (trahira), pacus feed on leaves and nuts in giant back eddies, peacock bass hunt the sandy flats and mouths of tributaries, and in the places where the river funnels into deep holes, there are massive catfish, schools of piranhas . . . and payaras. After a long day of travel, we arrived on the Xingu with just enough light for possibly 90 minutes of fishing. After stringing up our rods, we ran upriver in 30-foot aluminum johnboats to a place where the river had over the eons eroded a slot through a ridge. Rodrigo called it Serra Encontrada do Xingu which in Portuguese means the Meeting Hills of the Xingu. Ireo said his people had always called this place the Meeting Hills since the beginning of their oral history. Here the river was constrained into one massive deep pool, and the low evening sun made the glassy surface look like liquid mercury. The massive river moved quietly, but howler monkeys roared from the high ground on both sides of the river, and screaming hyacinth macaws flew in pairs overheard. We could also see payaras rolling at the surface both above and below us in a pattern that showed where the river was deepest, or are least it showed where the fish were visibly concentrated. Why payaras roll at the surface in the morning and evening is unknown. They exhibit the same slow roll you see from tarpon, but tarpon breathe air, and payaras do not. It seemed to me that the payaras were at the surface just to make an appearance. They seeming to be intentionally herding their prey, making schools of fish agitated and fearful and driving them deeper to where the payaras could make unseen ambushes in the darkness. Even though there were many fish at the surface, Salles assured me we would need to get our flies mega deep to catch the fish in this particular pool, so I used a 10-weight Orvis Helios 3

rod, 400-grain Scientific Anglers Sonar Jungle Titan fly line, and 7-inch-long 4/0 black-and-red Bad Attitude Baitfish with a rattle inside. I figured that down in the depths, payaras might be able to track the vibrations of their prey, as well as use their nocturnal vision. What we learned in the ensuing days is that the specific fly doesn’t matter as long as it’s mostly black, and long with tons of movement. To keep the fly deep, you have to move it slowly, so it must have inherent mobility to give it life. We made the longest casts possible at an angle across and slightly upstream, and then reaching down, we dipped the rod tip straight down into the water to push the intermediate running line down to a deep starting point. We tried various countdown

They take the long fangs of the payara, and a village elder uses a tooth to cut and scar the arms of the fisherman. This ritual gives respect to the river, and allows the spirit of the fish to live on in the blood of the warrior. times from 10 to 20 to 30 seconds, and then a slow, crawling/ twitching retrieve that imparted as much life as possible, but didn’t draw the fly up out of the strike zone.

GOING FULL KAYAPO When I heard the stories of the Kayapo scarification ritual, I was intrigued. I don’t have any tattoos, yet have often wondered what tattoo would or could fairly represent my passions as a fly fisher? Would it be a trout, a tarpon, a giant trevally? Could the artist fairly depict the beauty I saw in nature, a moment, or a memory? The scar from a payara tooth doesn’t attempt to paint a picture for anyone except yourself. It’s not a depiction, it’s a primal reminder of the lengths we’re willing to go to catch an extraordinary fish. All fishermen are at least a little superstitious. I know some who won’t bring a banana on a boat, others who have a lucky hat, or a special shirt that helps them catch more fish. We all have a secret weapon. The kayapos believe the cuts from the tooth of a payara allow the spirit of the fish to enter your body. You capture the soul of the fish and you become a better angler. The scars become your totem, a symbol that you belong to a very dedicated class of fishermen. That’s some powerful mojo—why wouldn’t I want that? I originally thought that if I traveled to Brazil and caught even a single payara, I would ask the Kayapos if I could participate in the ritual. But on our first night of fishing, it quickly became apparent that to impress Kayapo guides like Ireo, and to be accepted as their peers, we needed to catch something impressive. Fish under 10 pounds barely raised an eyebrow with our Kayapo guides, but every time a giant rolled at the surface they’d point and exclaim tepwatire abatoy! (Tep means fish, tepwatire is literally toothfish, and abatoy means huge.) flyfisherman.com

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B l o o d R u n F ly F i s h i n g w i t h a m a z o n wa r r i o r s These Kayapo warriors were like all fishermen everywhere around the world—catching fish is fine, but catching a giant is something special, and Salles and I decided that to gain their respect and earn our scars, one of us needed to catch a fish they’d admire. On that first night we set our benchmark at 20 pounds, and we promised each other that we were on a “blood run” to catch a worthy payara and earn our stripes. On our first full day on the river we fished for payaras for only 90 minutes at dawn and then again at dusk. When the fish were rolling and obviously active, we got almost constant action, but when the sun was high, the payaras stopped rolling and we went in search of other species. While fishing deep for payara, we caught other species like black piranhas up to about 10 pounds. There were also smaller red-belly piranhas that sometimes scissored our f lies to pieces, but they are too small to get their mouths around a 4/0 hook. When our f lies were getting nipped by piranhas it meant there were likely payaras nearby. We caught many corvinas from 8 to 12 pounds, often at the end of the swing or when we were retrieving the f ly for the next cast. Corvinas are strong, acrobatic fish that Zeinad described as a freshwater drum species. They are delicious, and we often kept one for dinner. We also regularly caught a whiskerless type of catfish called palmito that also jumped and fought nothing like a catfish. These tasty fish didn’t have scales, something piranhas seemed to appreciate because every time we landed a palmito, it showed multiple fresh bite marks. When we left the big payara holes, we fished at the mouths of small tributaries, and in lagoons and sandy back bays for peacock bass. After slinging heavy flies and sinking lines, it felt good to scale down to floating lines and 8-weight rods, and make accurate casts with a small foam Gurgler into fallen timber, reeds, and rocks along the shore. The surface strikes were super aggressive from quality peacocks of 8, 10, and 12 pounds. In the rocky areas we scouted for wolf fish in the shallows. If you like to wade, and you like to sight fish, this is your new best friend. Wolf fish are a little tough to see because their camouflage color scheme makes them closely resemble the granite bottom of the river, and unlike other fish—bonefish for instance—movement doesn’t give them away. Wolf fish sit stock still on the bottom, waiting for unsuspecting prey to swim close, and they use their short-distance explosive speed to grab their prey with vicious canine teeth, then swallow them whole. The very best wolf fish spots are often small, cool-water tributaries. Small streams run under a shady canopy all day, and at night they cool off rapidly. The main river is exposed to the sun all day and with black rocks on the bottom, it is warm. Wolf fish like to get up into these cooler tributaries, and you frequently find yourself in small-stream situations with a closed, overhanging canopy, fallen logs crisscrossing the stream channel, and a wolf fish sitting in a spot as large as your bathtub. In these situations, you creep and crawl into position and often make a roll cast, bowand-arrow cast, or just dap the fly due to lack of casting space.

the hook in. More important, a trout set lifts the fly up out of the strike zone. Often you’ll feel the payara, you strike and get nothing. Then the payara attacks again, and then again in just a matter of seconds. It can be a frustrating series of hits and misses, but then sometimes you connect—really connect—and your rod lurches down while the fish cartwheels into the air at an obtuse angle 80 feet from the boat. With fish this strong and this fast, there’s often a ripple in time between where your rod is pointed and where the fish is jumping. Payaras are beautiful, acrobatic gamefish with small scales, silvery sides, iridescent blue backs, and a body shape not unlike a tarpon. The hard, bony gill plates around their eyes are opalescent like abalone shells, and those two giant, daggerlike teeth completely disappear into recessed slots when they close their mouths. Kayapos traditionally kill and eat their payaras, so for them, taking a tooth for the scarification ritual is not a problem. But when Salles landed a 24-pound payara, he was faced with a dilemma. In decades of fishing for these noble gamefish, he had always practiced catch-and-release. Payaras are like tarpon or permit—too valuable to harvest—and his goal was to partner with the Kayapos to create a sustainable sport-fishing operation on the Xingu. Killing this giant specimen would set a bad precedent. “No problem,” said Alec Krüse Zeinad, the zoologist who accompanied us for the trip and identified many of the fish species. Zeinad had seen hundreds if not thousands of payaras caught with a hook and line, and he said the 24-pounder (shown on the cover of this magazine) was the largest he’d ever seen. But he also said he had seen many payaras missing a tooth, or with a new small tooth just growing in. “They are like sharks,” said Zeinad. “They can easily lose a tooth and grow a new one. They grow quickly.” Using a pair of long-nose pliers we removed the fly and broke off one of the long, curved and yellow fangs for both of us to use in the scarification ritual. It was the best way we could think of to release the fish and still honor the Kayapos by participating in their rituals and their celebrations. Ireo nodded his head in appreciation as the giant payara regained its strength and swam away, and I knew that what Salles had started here was worthwhile. Because of fish like that, these men—all of them leaders of their communities—would have paying jobs without extraction or harvest, and the communities will benefit from a small number of premium-paying guests. We also showed that old customs and rituals can thrive alongside new ideas like catch-and-release fishing. Kayapos have always felt that an intact jungle and a clear-running Xingu River have value, but now there’s an opportunity to actually earn some compensation for protecting and preserving it. More important, the sport-fishing project here is a chance to preserve their culture and their heritage as hunters and fishermen. These people weren’t born to be farmers or miners. They are legendary warriors, and they will fight to keep their lands wild.

THE CEREMONY

Ross Purnell fished with Rodrigo Salles in August 2019 on the Xingu River where they filmed the 90-minute documentary Blood Run. The film will premiere Aug. 2, 2020, on the 160-foot-wide Comcast Video Tower at The Cable Center in Denver, Colorado. The event will be a fundraiser for the Associação Floresta Protegida (Protected Forest Association), a nonprofit indigenous organization representing 17 communities and about 3,000 indigenous Kayapo people in the Brazilian state of Pará. The film will premiere on Outdoor Channel on August 10 at 7 and 10 P.M. EST.

On our first full day on the Xingu, the payaras taught us many lessons: how to swim the fly deep and slow, how to turn your body sideways so you can strip-set by drawing your elbow up and away from the fish—and then to strip-strike again, and again until that fly finds a home between all those teeth. You should never trout set because you won’t generate the power you need to drive

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CH A R L IE CR AV E N

Video available at flyfisherman.com

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PHOTOS COURTESY OF UMPQUA FEATHER MERCHANTS / JAKE BURLESON

U n d e r sta n d i n g sizing, shapes, a n d p r o p o rti o n s


t’s rare for me to spend a day teaching or working in the shop without some poor soul asking me to explain the merits of this hook or that hook, and the reasoning behind why I might choose one brand or model over another. There’s

good reason for this. Like tying thread (see my story “A Tangled Mess” in the Feb.-Mar. 2017 issue), hook sizing and nomenclature seem almost purposefully confusing, so let me give my best shot at clearing up some of that confusion. To make sure I address all the right questions, as I write this article I have ten different size 14 hooks sitting on my desk. No two are the same size, length, or shape, and gazing upon them does nothing to shine any light on why they are all so different, so let’s start at the beginning and talk about how hook sizes work. To understand how hook sizes and styles

On curved-shank hooks, the shank and bend are often continuous with no clear line of distinction between where the shank stops and the bend begins. The spear of the hook is the length of the tapered point to the barb or, in the absence of a barb, where it would be. The throat is the distance/depth from the point of the hook to the inside of the bend.

ANATOMY OF A HOOK

bump still helps anchor the point in a fish. It also helps retain a dropper tied to the hook bend. The point obviously is the sharp part, but it goes without saying that some hooks are sharper than others. Almost all hooks today are chemically sharpened, which means after the mechanical sharpening, the manufacturer uses an acid

HOOK: UMPQUA XBG580 BLK BEAST

SHANK

EYE

THROAT BEND

1XL

2XL

GAP BARB Detail of the flattened, forged bend of the new Umpqua XBG580 BLK Beast hook. Forging strengthens the bend of the hook and makes it less likely to straighten out on large fish and strong tippets. SPEAR

vary, it’s important to define the parts that make up a hook. The hook gap (sometimes called the hook gape) is the distance from the point to the shank. The shank is the (usually) straight portion of the hook between the eye and the bend. Some hooks, however, have curved or humped shanks that are not straight at all. Curved-shank hooks mimic the shapes of many insect larvae and pupae, as well as the body shapes of crustaceans. A curved shank can orient the rear of the fly under the surface in floating patterns like the Quigley Cripple or the Klinkhamer Special. The bend is where the shank starts to curve, as well as that entire radius encompassing the curvature down to the point.

The hook eye is the loop at the front of the hook through which you tie your tippet. The eye can be turned up, turned down, or straight (ring eye). Turneddown eyes are the most common, though straight-eye hooks have gained significant popularity in recent years. Straighteye hooks swim better and more in line with the tippet in the case of streamers, and in very small hook sizes, they obstruct the hook gap to a lesser degree. Up-eye hooks are common in heavier steelhead and salmon patterns and traditional trout fly patterns. The barb is the small sticker angled away from the point, intended to make hook removal difficult. Even if you pinch the barb down (as I recommend) the remaining

bath to dissolve the hook point, making it sharper. With these terms defined and understood, let’s look at how they relate to one another, most specifically, the relationship between the hook gap and the shank. Hook sizes historically are based on the gap of the hook. The size of the hook has nothing to do with the shank length, only the gap. So all size 18 hooks ought to have the same size gap, right? Well, in a perfect world they would, but in this day of unbridled design and outright lies, this “standard” is very loosely employed. To truly understand hook sizing, we’ve got to start off with an imaginary “standard” hook and extrapolate from there. A standard hook is supposed to have a flyfisherman.com

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HOOK SUGGESTIONS Barr’s Net Builder

Olive Scud

Fat Angie

Rust y Spinner

UMPQUA C300BL

TIEMCO 2487

DAIICHI 1167

TIEMCO 101

GAMAKATSU C12

UMPQUA C500BL

FIREHOLE 317

DAIICHI 1110

CHARLIE CRAVEN - FLY PHOTOS, UMPQUA FEATHER MERCHANTS AND DENNIS PASTUCHA - HOOK PHOTOS

Competition-style hooks as shown in Barr’s Net Builder and the Two Bit Hooker - Jig are often finished in black, are always barbless, and feature a long point and spear length to aid in hook penetration and piscatorial retention.

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Mole Fly

Screaming Banshee

Duracell

Two Bit Hooker - Jig

TIEMCO 2487

TIEMCO 2487

UMPQUA C450BL

UMPQUA C400BL JIG

DAIICHI 1130

DAIICHI 1130

UMPQUA XT500 BN JIG

GAMAKATSU J20

jujubee midge

Flash jujubee Midge

Barr’s Vis-a-dun

Chubby Chernobyl

TIEMCO 2488

UMPQUA XT040 BRONZE JB

TIEMCO 101

UMPQUA XT050 BN5X STUBBY T

GAMAKATSU C12-BM

TIEMCO 2488

DAIICHI 1110

DAIICHI 1182

FLY FISHER MAN


LEARN TO TIE THE SWIM COACH

Articulated patterns such as Charlie Craven’s new streamer the Swim Coach use two hooks—the Swim Coach has a size 4 hook in the rear, and a size 2 in the front.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF UMPQUA FEATHER MERCHANTS / JAKE BURLESON

hook shank equal to twice the width of the hook gap. It is with this “standard” hook in mind that we can begin to understand the variations in gap and length and how they relate to one another. As I mentioned earlier, this “standard hook” is really a fantasy, and in all my years of tying I have yet to come across this perfect example, but using it as a baseline is a good way to understand hook sizing. Once the baseline is established, hooks vary far and wide with extra-long (XL) or extra-short (XS) shanks, wide-gap (WG), extra-heavy (XH) or extra-fine (XF) wire sizing and offset points, among other variations. Extra-long hooks have a shank length longer than two hook gap widths. These are often denoted as 1XL or 2XL, all the

way up to 9XL in the case of some streamer-style hooks. The additional increments in shank length are based off the diameter of the hook eye in these cases, so a 2XL hook has a shank length of two hook gaps plus two eye lengths. Conversely, extra-short hooks are reduced by that same hook eye length increment, so a 3XS hook has a shank length of two hook gaps minus three eye lengths. These variations allow for flies of various lengths and shapes, and accommodate the addition of beads and coneheads without increasing or decreasing the hook gap disproportionately. Lengthening and shortening shank lengths seems to make reasonable sense and is easy to follow once you have an idea of where things start, but when you

start adding in gap width variations, everything goes to hell. Many hooks these days have a nonstandard wide gap, that is, a gap wider than the standard half a shank length (which could also be correctly construed as a shorter shank, just to confuse things further). Wide-gap hooks allow more room for thicker-bodied flies, and they increase the chances of the hook finding a home in a fish’s mouth. The increments in which a hook gap is increased are by hook sizes. For instance, a 1X widegap size 14 hook should have a gap equal to that normally found on a size 12 standard hook. A 2X wide-gap size 14 should sport the gap normally found on a size 10 standard hook, and so forth. For the record, I have never encountered any hooks

SALTWATER AND SPECIALTY HOOKS Choosing a hook for your trout flies is a complex decision, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg if you also tie steelhead and salmon flies, saltwater patterns, baitfish imitations, or poppers for bass and other species. The Umpqua U505 is 2X-heavy, 4X-long hook, so there is plenty of space to accommodate a long popper body without obstructing the gap or crowding the hook bend. The kink in the shank ensures the hook won’t spin—even if you use adequate glue, a foam popper body will twist on a straight-shank hook. For deer-hair poppers, each hair clump is spun onto the shank independently, so a straight shank is adequate. [For more information on foam poppers, see Charlie Craven’s story “Double Barrel Popper” in the

April-May 2019 issue, or watch the video instructions on our YouTube Channel. The Editor.] Saltwater hooks are more expensive than trout hooks, and most are made from rust-resistant stainless steel. The Umpqua XS420 BN5X FLATS has a black nickel finish to help it resist the effects of salt water. Freshwater hooks also come in a variety of finishes. Red Gamakatsu Octopus or red Daiichi 2553 hooks are popular for trailing or stinger hooks in flies like Intruders and other long streamer patterns, because fly tiers have recognized that old-fashioned long-shank hooks lose more fish than long patterns tied with a short-shank trailing hook.

Streamers, L arge Jig Pat terns

Stinger hook Tube Flies

Salmon, Steelhead Flies

Bonefish, Permit Flies

Salt water Popper Flies

UMPQUA XS506 BN JIG

DAIICHI 2553

UMPQUA U503

UMPQUA XS420 BN5X FLATS

UMPQUA U505

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labeled with a narrower-than-standard gap, though some of the wide variety of available hook bend shapes certainly contribute to narrowing the hook gap. To add complexity, also consider the variations in wire sizing. Some hooks are made of wire heavier (X-heavy) or lighter (X-fine) than what would be considered standard, so a size 14 1X-heavy hook is made from wire normally used on a standard size 12 hook, and a 2X-heavy size 14 would be made of wire typically used in a standard size 10 hook. That same size 14 in 1X-fine would be made from wire normally used in a standard size 16. Obviously, heavy wire hooks are stronger and physically heavier for bigger fish, or for sinking flies quickly. Lighter wire can be advantageous in keeping small, delicate dry flies floating. The trade-offs are that the wire size can get too big to provide good penetration on a hook-set, or in some cases the wire could be too light to stand up to larger fish and strong tippets. With the basic nomenclature and sizing understood, let’s move on to the difference between good hooks and bad hooks. In nearly every case, it boils down to the tempering and forging process used to strengthen the wire. Tempering is a complicated heat-treating process that renders the steel wire used to make hooks both stronger and more elastic. A batch of hooks with a bad temper can be brittle and break easily, or they can be soft and bend out of shape on the fish of your dreams. I won’t pretend to know the ins and outs of the entire tempering process, as I am just a guy who has wrapped a few miles of thread around hooks and thrown them at an awful lot of fish. I can say that I have yet to find an inexpensive hook that is worth tying a fly on. Quality hooks don’t straighten, bend, or break as easily as cheaper hooks. To put it in

perspective, expensive hooks are still the cheapest pieces of tackle you own, and also the most important. I can’t think of anything worse than tying a bunch of great flies on garbage hooks.

MODERN HOOKS The influence of competitive fly fishers in recent years has made competition-style hooks extremely popular. According to the rules of FIPS/Mouche, the official governing body for international fly-fishing competitions, the hooks in these contests must be completely barbless. While the competition hooks that have evolved from these events come in all shapes and sizes, they often feature a very wide gap, and a long point and spear to better hold the fish in the absence of a barb. For some reason, many of them tend to be black, a feature that adds a degree of stealth and dare I say panache if not for any more practical advantage. I would be remiss if I did not mention the growing popularity of jig-style

hooks—also adopted from the competitive fly-fishing scene. Flies tied on jig hooks with heavy tungsten beadheads are filling fly boxes across the country. Jig hooks for fly fishing are typically barbless, and are available with the hook eye set at 60 degrees or 90 degrees in relation to the hook shank. The 60-degree versions have a more exposed hook gap, but require a slightly heavier bead to keep them riding with the hook point up. Regular 90-degree jig hooks ride hook point up more consistently, but are more prone to break at the bend due to the aggressive reshaping of the hook. Jigs are very effective at hooking fish in the top of the snout, a perfect place to find good purchase and steer the fish during the fighting and landing process. That’s one reason competitive fly fishers use them. The biggest advantage, however, is that they are less prone to snagging the bottom. I hope that the preceding has helped provide a general understanding of how hook proportions and shapes affect fly design and your own tying. The hook is the foundation of what you build, so it’s important to choose the right hook for the job. As with thread, there is no real base industry standard, so styles and baselines range widely among manufacturers. These rules of thumb tend to apply broadly to all hooks, but are more accurate when taken into consideration among hooks of the same brand, and even then there are always a few outliers. This broadly sweeping guideline is just that, and should be used as such. Good luck! Charlie Craven co-owns Charlie’s Fly Box, recently moved to 7279 W. 52nd Ave. in Arvada, Colorado. He is the author of four books, most recently Tying Streamers: Essential Flies and Techniques for the Top Patterns (Stackpole Books, April 2020).

Pro Tips, Tying, Destinations, films and more

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CONSERVATIONIST OF THE YEAR

WHO'S NEXT?

Peter Moyle

F ly F isherman's 2020 Conservationist of the Year Peter Moyle served on the board of directors at Western Rivers Conservancy during its successful campaign to create the Blue Creek Salmon Sanctuary. The nonprofit purchased 47,000 acres of temperate rainforest in the Klamath watershed and conveyed it to California’s Yurok Tribe in February 2018, protecting Blue Creek from the Siskiyou Wilderness all the way to its confluence with the Klamath River. In Moyle's tenure, the group also purchased the 211-acre Swiftwater County Park in Oregon and transferred the land to the BLM for protection within the North Umpqua Wild and Scenic River Corridor. Western Rivers Conservancy also protected ten miles of the John Day River and nine miles of Thirtymile Creek, creating Oregon's Cottonwood Canyon State Park.

Past Recipients:

2017 Rich Simms 2018 Sandy Moret 2019 Joe Hemming To read about their accomplishments go to flyfisherman.com and click the Conservation link under the News tab.

visit flyfisherman.com/conservation or email conservation@flyfisherman.com


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• 1 day Trout ($196) and Smallmouth ($196) schools taught by Harry Murray and Jeff Murray • Guide trips, visit us online for tackle by Scott, Orvis and Winston P.O. Box 156, Edinburg, VA 22824 Phone: 540-984-4212 • Fax: 540-984-4895 info@murraysflyshop.com www.murraysflyshop.com

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Continued from page 72 I professed, perhaps a bit too loudly, that the streams were too small for three people. My father and I had specific runs and pools that the other knew were favorites. I couldn’t determine the best way to tell a sweetheart that “No, you can’t fish that eddy. I caught a six-incher on an Elkhair Caddis there three years ago. The fly was stuck on a spiderweb over the stream and the trout jumped and ate it, so now I’m the only one who can fish here.” I reached a space of no faith in potential lovers. While I hadn’t come to a place where I could admit it, the trout and the beauty of my backcast were the only romances I was interested in during a Sulphur hatch. Where could I find someone else who would volunteer to walk up these shifting rocks for six hours of their day? Brook trout are kind. They don’t demand an angler be on the water at dawn. Instead, they like strong sun and take their time waking. May days began after 9 in the morning when my father and I hiked up one of the many small streams on the Allegheny Front. We’d string up at the first pool and watch their furtive movements. Deep in the hollows, we’d be lost in the haze of climbing waterfalls and drifting the soft water along boulders. Our motions of desire to cradle the pumpkin-orange bellies were only stymied by our pausing to admire ginseng flowers and lung-blossoms of lady slippers. The long light of those same days ended on the banks of the big river we’d wade for the brown trout that only began to rise in half-light. Maybe I was embarrassed by my obsession. Addictive personalities run through my lineage, and to abandon a person I cared about for an entire month seemed a possibility, but wrong. When I peeled off my waders and shirt, and smelled the thrice-dried sweat of a

day of hiking, I questioned what woman could endure such sour scents. When I ate my gas station burrito at 11 P.M. and told my girlfriend about the misses and connections of the day, would she envision

seventeen inches and fat, and as I let it slide into the off-colored current, I thought about how, and if, my wading would change with a loved one present. Would I feel more confident with her downstream? Would I worry about drowning and about her resulting sorrow? I believe I’ve now been saved. I’m in love with a woman whom I met on a brookie stream in May. She wasn’t carrying a fly rod, but an electroshocking pack and vials to collect and measure the impact of pollution on brook trout populations. Her hair was the color of acid mine drainage, but her nose was freckled like the sides of trout: “rose-moled,” like the poet wrote. She loves me back. In the time we’ve been in love, we’ve spent Mays without each other; whether that be from my own adolescent stupidity or her studying abroad. I’ve come to believe that May, in all its rising splendor, is that much fuller when a trout is sagging in her net. This coming May is the last May I’ll spend on my native streams for the foreseeable future. We’ll marry in June and move to Missoula for her to finish her Ph.D. I’ve heard that May in Montana is not kind to wading fisherfolk. I’ll sit and wait for the snowmelt to quit its swelling, and for May to pass so I can spend my June searching for native cutthroat. This love pulls like a brown trout in the deep of a pool, side flashing and catching the current so I have no choice but to follow it downstream.

Her hair was the color of acid mine dr ainage, but her nose was freck led lik e the sides of trout: “rose-moled,” lik e the poe t wrote.

trout or my indigestion? After rains, when the river rose, trout hid under the honeysuckle-choked banks, and I often waded farther than any mother would desire. The orange and pink mayflies clung to my armpits, careened into my cheeks. I was so deep that I’d become just another island where bugs could rest. It was here in my wavering stance that one night I fell in three times trying to reach what I believed to be a twenty-inch-plus wild brown in a backswirl. My foot hooked a sunken shopping cart on my third baptism. It released me quickly but held on long enough that water filled my nose and fear seeped into the back of my brain. The brown in the eddy ended up being

Noah Davis grew up in Tipton, Pennsylvania, and often writes about his fishing experiences along the Allegheny Front. He recently graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts from Indiana University, and his book of poems Of This River from Michigan State University Press will be published in August. flyfisherman.com

71


MAY ROMANCE NO A H D AV IS ILLUS TR ATIONS BY AL HASSALL

broke up with every girlfriend I ever had before May. When the light of spring

grew longer, the trees budding enough that the sun slanted and kaleidoscoped the water, a desire rose in my chest like mayapples spiraling from the leaf duff. This desire was only sated daily by hours of casting into the current of coldwater streams, miles of hiking for trout on the mountain, and evenings spent waist-deep in the valley’s river. And every morning, this desire returned, demanding relief through rising fish. My lack of romance during these thirty-one days each year evaded my recognition through high school and my first few semesters of college until a fishing partner raised his eyebrows after I mewled my loneliness. “You should know that, Noah. I thought you knew you were doing that.” May was the month. Other months held their own splendor, but by calling central Pennsylvania home, and by being a person in love with trout, my entire year revolved around May. I didn’t want distractions in May. Like Gus Orviston, the one-track-minded hero of David James Duncan’s novel The River Why, my still-adolescent brain perceived romance as an unwanted detour from the business of landing trout. I had to be dialed-in every day, on every rise. The pubescent stage of dating demanded a presence in the evenings—taking my girlfriend to the movies, an ice cream stand, or a mini-golf course, but instead I devoted these hours to fishing. May light hung in the ravines where the river bent like heavy grapes on a vine. The mayflies spun in this light well past darkness, and the brown trout rises in the current looked like white flowers in black soil. Their splashes kept me on the river until late at night. I know it was selfish, ending romances just before the most holy of months, the unwillingness to share the sacred. I was afraid that fishing with my father would change with the introduction of another person. My father and I understood each other’s wading and casting paths, and I couldn’t reason why I should ruin the efficient days of catching fish to instead be caught by a girl.

Continued on page 71 72

FLY FISHER MAN



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