Saturday, 27 September 2008

An Almost True Fishing Story

I was driving home from a backwoods-fishing trip one time and stopped at a roadside farm market. They had the usual corn and tomatoes but I noticed the proprietor sipping from a cup of something with obvious enjoyment.

He soon offered me a glass of the best home-made, Apple Brandy I had ever tasted. I ended up buying a bottle to take home with me.

As I pulled back onto the road, I saw a local man hitchhiking. Because the trip would be long and quiet, I stopped the car and the man climbed in.

During the small talk, the man kept glancing surreptitiously at the
brown bag on the front seat between us.

"If you're wondering what's in the bag," I said, "it's a
bottle of Apple Brandy. I got it for my wife."

The man was silent for awhile, nodded several times and said, "Good


2008 Newfoundland Salmon Season

Here is a note from Master Guide and outdoors writer, Ian Gall.

I hope he won't mind my sharing it here. It is a pretty good summation of this year's salmon season.

Hi Steve,

The season is just about over here as there are only three rivers open. The lower reaches of the Gander, Exploits and Humber are still open until October 7.

I had a late trip two weeks ago to fish the Exploits. (40,000 fish went through the counter up to August 31.).

Brad Williams and I left St. John's at 6am and drove to Bishop Falls. We stopped on the Gander for a few minutes and Brad hooked and lost one. We then fished the lower Exploits but nothing doing. We went further upstream to Badger and right in the community there is a spot where two small rivers enter the Exploits.

It is all catch and release where we were but in the rivers themselves, you could keep fish.

There were loads of Salmon and it was an easy place to fish. Brad caught three and I caught two on Saturday.

On Sunday, I caught three and Brad caught two.

We found that we could wade across one small river mouth into the Exploits itself and it was great wading with the water about 2.5 feet deep and a gravel bottom.

There were fish all around and when a fish rose you could pin point the area and get it to rise to the fly and even hook it.

On the way back we stopped again on the Gander where I hooked and lost one fish. We were back in St. John's by 5.45pm on Sunday evening.

Brad caught all his fish on small wet flies and I caught all mine on Bombers. It was a short and sweet trip.

The sea trout came in last week into the Waterford River and they were covered in sea lice and bright silver.

Last Thursday I caught around 30. Not very big (up to a pound) but great on light tackle. A friend caught one the other night around 6 pounds.

All in all a much better season over here than last year.

Hope you also have a good fall season.

All the best

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Saturday, 20 September 2008

The Bullfrog, Our Nova Scotian Giants

There are lots of frogs around this year! After the dramatic decline in the past decade they have been making a comeback around my cottage on the Medway. My favourite is the Bullfrog. It is the biggest of our native frogs and spends most of its adult life in- or inches from- water.
They are usually seen as a large head with two googly eyes poking out of the water but an adult can be a full nine inches long from nose to toes. A shiny, smoky, green with long, powerful legs and fully webbed feet, the female is usually larger than the male. Both have a yellow underside and a whitish lower jaw.

Frog Trivia:

The male can be told from the female by his ears being larger than its eyes. The female has ears of roughly the same size as her eyes.

It is the male that makes the call, a deep, harrumph that echoes along the river. It always struck me as funny that the other sound both the males and females make is a high pitched squeak, just before they dive for cover if you happen to startle them.
They hibernate until weeks after the Peepers have been singing the advent of Spring. Bullfrogs start to be seen around the middle of May. They awake with a strong urge and continue their courting well into July.

The female lays her jelly-encased eggs in still water. They hatch in warm weather in as few as four days but interestingly the larval stage or tadpole can take up to three years before metamorphosing into a frog.

The lifespan of a bullfrog can reach sixteen years.

Bullfrog a Delicacy?

Some people consider the legs of the Bullfrog a delicacy. The flesh is a milky white and is supposed to taste like chicken.
When I lived in Vancouver, I saw frog’s legs on the menu of a restaurant and as a lark; I ordered them. They arrived on a plate, surrounded by lettuce and vegetables.

They were a lovely golden brown but unmistakably the severed and cooked legs of a frog. I steeled myself to see this through and picked one up.

Twisting it and looking at it from all angles to see how best to approach eating it, I settled on the chicken-wing approach. I nibbled the large thigh muscle and slowly chewed it, savouring the delicate flavours of swamp, algae and just the barest hint of dragonfly nymph. Chicken my foot! Frog tastes exactly as you expect it to. The texture is quite nice though.
How to Catch a Frog:

Should you be tempted to try and catch a bullfrog, the funniest and best way is to tie a small piece of red cloth -about the size of a grasshopper- to the end of a three-foot long piece of string. Tie this string on the end of a long pole of about fishing rod length.
Walk along the marsh until you spot a frog, then lower the red cloth to about six inches above the frog. Move the cloth enticingly as though it was alive and the frog will shoot its tongue out and grab it. You then have a second or two to flip the frog within reach before he can spit out the lure.
A great way to entertain the kids at the camp and mostly harmless I think. The guys down south, who harvest frogs for their legs, use hooks baited with the traditional red cloth.

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Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Jesus Fish

So I was driving to work this morning and saw one of those Jesus Fish that symbolizes the driver has a strong Christian faith.

I have only ever heard them referred to as Jesus fish although now that I think about it, that may not be appropriately respectful.

So, while I was driving along behind the Chevy with the Jesus fish, I was thinking.

Wouldn't it be funny if there were a fly and a foot or two of broken line hanging from its mouth?
Then I got thinking, wouldn't it be even funnier to take one of those “Talking Billy Bass”, you know the ones that hang on the wall and wiggle and sing "Take me to the Water"? Anyway, wouldn't it be funny to stick that on the back of your Chevy some Sunday morning before pulling into the church parking lot.
Then I got a little embarrassed. Thankfully, there was no one else in the car with me or I would probably have said all of that aloud.

My friend Jason did the pictures for me-Thanks J.

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Thursday, 11 September 2008

From The Mail Bag – Your Fishing Questions Answered

September 3rd, 2008

Dear Steve,

I do not really read your website but you strike me as a mature and sensible person.

Earlier this summer my husband told me he had taken up fly-fishing. I thought it was marvelous until I noticed that each time he returned from a day or weekend supposedly on the water, he looked quite haggard and smelled of liquor, or worse- perfume.

I finally confronted him. We had a terrible row that ended when I asked him to prove to me that he was really going fly-fishing. We walked into the back garden where I made him demonstrate that he could tie on a fly and actually make a cast. He managed to tie the fly on but then immediately hooked our shrubbery, which was behind him!

I think my marriage may be over. Presently, we have not spoken for the last four days. What do you think?

With Regards,

Mrs. Archie Smith

September 10, 2008
Nova Scotia

Dear Mrs. Smith,

The problem with hooking-up on the back cast is often because one has not applied enough power to the lifting stroke. That will allow the line to fall to the ground behind the caster rather than keeping it in the air and well clear of low obstacles. In the case of casting with shrubbery too close behind, I would suggest a steeple cast or a variation of the spey or roll cast.



Sunday, 7 September 2008

Float Tube Fly Fishing

From the time that the brooks start to get too warm for trout fishing until the fall salmon season opens, one of my favourite things to do is go “tubing”.
The float tube and the fly rod go together like a salmon camp and bull shi…oops, a salmon camp and tall tales.

Why do it:
Tubing is easy to do. It is a wonderfully relaxing and positively deadly method for stalking fish on calm water.
For urban fishing where toting a boat or canoe is problematic it just cannot be beat. The same is true for backcountry lakes and still waters.

What is it?
Float Tubing, Belly Boating or just plain” tubing” is a way to fish lakes and ponds with minimal and easily portable equipment. The tube is either a ring shaped or “u” shaped air-bladder covered with a rugged cloth shell. A seat is stretched across the middle and numerous convenient pockets and D-rings are incorporated into this cover. The fisherman attaches a pair of swim fins to his feet and sits in the tube. By means of a gentle flutter kick the angler can easily move his floating Lay-Z Boy anywhere on the water.

What You Need: A tube, an air pump to inflate it, and flippers to propel it.
There are two types of float tubes, circular and the newer “u” shaped boat.
My first tube was the circular model. I enjoy everything about it except that it is clumsy to get into and out of when launching and landing.

The tube I use most often now is a new, U-shaped one. It is much easier to get aboard and floating.

For tubing, I use a pair of cheap, boot-foot waders. Flippers fit better over the boots than over wading shoes.

Here is a tip: I like to use scuba flippers instead of the strap on fins often sold with the tubes. They fit better, attach more securely and have a lot more power for the same amount of work.

I have a small, hand powered air pump that fits into the back-rest pocket of the tube. For backwoods hike in spots I carry the tube deflated and about five minutes of pumping will get the tube ready for the water. I also have a pump that plugs into the lighter of my vehicle and will use that when launching in a city lake from a parking lot. I leave the hand pump in the tube and feel very comfortable that in a pinch; a bit of duct tape and few strokes of the pump will get me home.

Casting and Fishing Strategies:
Casting from a tube will feel a bit odd the first few times you try it. The big difference is that you are closer to the surface of the water and need to keep your back cast higher than normal. To offset this, the tube is pretty stealthy so you can fish much shorter casts until you get the hang of the high back cast.

A good way to catch fish and get a feeling of security in the tube is also a great bass fishing tactic for tubing. Kick out about fifteen or twenty feet from shore and cast back toward land. Target the fly a few inches from dry land and retrieve it toward the deeper water. You can work your way around the whole lake without ever straying into very deep water.

The “fish from shallow to deep” tactic works well for trout and pickerel too.

Another dandy tubing trick to keep in mind:
When bass fishing in a warm lake if you start to feel noticeable cooler water around your legs, stop immediately and back up a few feet; you have just found a spring. Often a spring entering in the midst of a warmer lake will be a honey hole for late season trout. They will often stack up in the cooler, oxygen-rich water.

If you are tubing in cooler water and start to feel warm water around your legs just give your buddy a dirty look and get out of there.

I am assuming that as a fly fisherman, you already have all you need for fishing but for tube specific stuff, a small net bag and a light cord stuck in one of the tube pockets might come in handy on windy days. You can fill the net bag with rocks from the shore to make an anchor. You can also, if the wind is right, tie off to the end of a branch or clump of weed to hold your place.

If you keep a few fish a landing net is essential for the tube fisherman. For a catch and release belly boater a pair of forceps on a zinger will work from the tube just as well.

A roll of duct tape is handy and easily carried along as is a short, high volume hand pump. The truth is; the biggest threat to the tube is a stray fly hook. The chances are that even a hard striking hook will not likely pierce the heavy cloth cover and the air bladder. But even if it does, the resulting leak will be so small and slow that you can comfortably head back to your landing spot as soon as you notice the tube is getting softer. Worst case; pull into the nearest dry land, cover the leak with a bit of duct tape, give the tube a few strokes of the pump and head back towards your landing spot.

I once noticed my tube getting soft when I was a long way from my car. I immediately started fishing my way back but as luck would have it, I got into a fabulous fish and then another. I ended up about an hour later still comfortably fishing from a tube which was now only about half-inflated.

The worst that happened was that as I settled lower in the water, occasionally a squirt of cold water would get down the back of my waders when I leaned to set the hook on a bass rising to my bug.

Even were the tube to deflate completely there is second bladder in the backrest that will easily support an angler and all his gear for the kick to shore.

A float-tuber should keep a whistle or other noise making device attached by a lanyard to him, not the tube. Just in case you do need to call for help from a less than obvious place or to alert an inattentive boater to your presence.

Some tube users wear a PFD or other flotation for extra security.

To sum up, you must feel secure in a tube to be able to enjoy the experience. Whatever safety device you can think of, whether it is a life jacket or a flare gun, if you feel better having it then it is needed. However, the best safety device I can think of is “common sense”.

Tubes are easy to repair should you get a small leak in the air bladder. Leaks around the valves are more difficult and you should likely just buy a replacement bladder. They are readily available and often less than half the price of a new Float Tube.

To repair a pinhole in your tube, remove the inner bladder from the cloth cover. Partially inflate it and rub a little soapy water over the bladder until you see bubbles starting to form in the soapy water from the air escaping through the hole in the bladder. Use a sharpie to draw a circle around the leak. Deflate the tube and dry the area around the leak.

If your tube came with a patch kit use the patch and special glue supplied.

Here is a tip: use a little piece of fine sand-paper and lightly roughen the surface around the leak. Also, lightly roughen the patch material before gluing.

If your tube did not come with a patch kit, do all of the same steps as above but use Contact Cement and a small piece of wader material or rubber for a patch. Put contact cement on both the surface being patched and the patch itself. Let the glue set on both for about ten minutes then press the patch into place. Put a small weight on the patch overnight and it should be as good as new.

Here is a tip: If the bladder has extra material extending past the seams. Clip a small bit of this extra material to use as the patch. Do not forget to roughen both the patch and the tube surface very lightly before gluing.

Usually it is easier to avoid leaks.

First, never over inflate the tube. When the outer covering comes tight and the tube is firm, that is enough. More air after that point is just stressing the air bladder and not making you float better or for longer.

If you have any questions –drop me a note or leave a comment here. I will be happy to share what I have learned about this great way to fish.

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