Blanda IV

Blanda –

is a long glacial river running north that has been dammed for hydroelectric power. That turned the river into a major salmon river. The resident salmon is very compact, and has a big tail. I like to smoke the few salmon I harvest. The gentleman running the smoking business can easily peg the salmon from Blanda because of those characteristics. The dam was constructed, and the river was directed into a new channel to the intake of the power plant. This picture explains it neatly.

Blanda IV and how it became gin clear

Blanda IV and how it became gin clear

The dam was built in a good area for a reservoir. The Blanda Reservoir has a live storage capacity of 412 Gl and is the third-largest lake in Iceland. The water is diverted through diversion canals and lakes on a 25 km long route to the station’s intake reservoir. From the intake reservoir, water runs through a 1300 m long canal to the station’s intake, where it is diverted to the turbines in the powerhouse. The drop to the turbines from the harnessed head is 287 m. From the turbines, the water is lead through a 1700 m tailrace tunnel back into the river channel.

Where the glacial and clear water meet

Where the glacial and clear water meet

During summer, when water is stored in the reservoir (the silt accumulates there), the glacial part of Blanda became  much clearer and fishable, and thus becomes a major addition to our to our salmon river menu. Blanda IV now is a clear water river that forms as rivulet fed stream. The surrounding landscape is igneous rock and volcanic soil. Water just disappears into the ground when it rains, and reappears as rivulets that that little by little form the river, which is clear as gin. I think this type of a river in Scotland is called a spate river,  which has no fixed flow. Rain will make it grow, and then the surface falls again. And during long periods of drought the surface is very low. Now you will have big deep pools here and there, and the water just trickles between them. If you see the river like that it is hard to understand how the big fish got into the pools. However, when the water fills the reservoir, glacial water will make fishing impossible in all the Blanda beats.

Blanda IV fishing map

Blanda IV fishing map

Just a glance of the map will tell you that this is going to be a river in a deep V valley. This cannot be a river in an U-shaped valley. The giveaway is its relative straight course, where it has cut a gorge into the rock formations.

Blanda IV gorge

Blanda IV gorge

A lady at the center of previous picture

A lady at the center of previous picture. She is trying to spot salmon in the pool below.

These two pictures give a good idea how steep and deep the gorge is. These next pictures tell the story.

To get to truck you cross a river

To get to the truck you cross a river

The crossing

The crossing

On my way

On my way

Beer earned?

Beer earned?

No son, you go down there

No son, you go down there

 

However, this is a very majestic place. The pools are exquisite in the rugged barren landscape.

 

The pool Krókur high on the mountain

The pool Krókur high on the mountain

The pool Breiðan

The pool Breiðan

The lowest pools are easily accessible but for the rest of the river one needs to be in shape. Probably the best/most enjoyable way to fish this river is to drop the angler/anglers at the very top pool Rugludalshylur. From the road to this pool there is a half an hour walk. Then it is possible to hike down river and fish the various pools en route to civilization.

The friends Skúli and Rossi enjoying a break

My friends Skúli and Rossi enjoying a break

Skúli and Rossi opted for the lowest pools only and enjoyed their time with the beer. The cars you need are definitely of the SUV persuasion.

A glorified tackle box

A glorified tackle box

This one is great for the job. It is built like a tank and can get you anywhere. The only thing that does not currently work is the air conditioning. Do not worry the country is air conditioned. Notice how we transport the rods. Suction cups fasten the rod holders securely to the car.

Now for the fishing – it was great. The pools are small, and the river is clear. Stay away from the water´s edge and lengthen your cast instead. We like to stay 15-20 feet from the pool edges. Of course our lines will sometimes be on the ground, but we counteract that by using a bit longer rods. Sibbi was using a ten footer #7, and I was using a eleven footer #5 that can double as a two handed rod. Anything big has no place in this part of Blanda. We start by using the small flies and

#14 - #16 Salmon flies that work

#14 – #16 Salmon flies that work

if that does not elicit a response we might try small light tubes. When all else fails, out comes the Sunray Shadow tube, and as a rule it will get the salmon moving. Only once did I throw a slightly weighted tube. Be advised  – the rocks in this river are treacherously slippery. I had my wading boots fitted out with metal studs and I slipped at least 3 times. I have no idea why the stones are so damn slippery but trust me they are. For the usual fishing porn – see below.

https://vimeo.com/233997651

https://vimeo.com/234058516

A beautiful vista

Eystri Rangá

My fishing buddy Sibbi and I fished three different salmon rivers this summer. This post is about the first one, Eystri Rangá (Eastern Rangá (á = river). There are two Rangás, of which the eastern is smaller, with a steady flow of 30 cubic meters per second. It is mainly a spring-fed river. It holds salmon for about 22 km. Average early catch is around 4600 salmon with a generous portion of big fish. There are 9 beats with two rods, and you spend six hours on each beat. Anglers stay at a full-service lodge overlooking the river. There are 18 en-suite rooms. Guide service is provided and there is one guide per two rods on each beat.

http://www.ranga.is/veidisvaedi/eystri-ranga/upplysingar/

http://www.angling.is/en/waters/6369/

The East Rangá is about a one and a half hours drive from Reykjavik. It is a medium-size river flowing on the alluvial plain of Suðurland (South).  The upper river is 15 to 25 m wide, broadening to 30 to 45 m on the lower beats. The beats are easily accessible by car (SUVs are better but no monster trucks are needed), and no strenuous hiking is necessary. There are no major rapids or waterfalls along it´s course, but the flow is quite swift and begs for swinging the fly. The bottom is good, sand or earth, with a few rocky areas. However, wading above knee level made me quite aware of the swift current.

The river at the top is flanked by a range of low, grassy hills. The river meanders over Beats 7 and 6 on the alluvial plain. Lower down on Beats 4 and 3 there are similarities to Tierra del Fuego, because of the grassland and winds!

This river is best suited to two-handed rods from (13 to 15´), with an intermediate or sink-tip # 8 to 10. Big flies and tubes seem to work best here. The fish are often deep, and the river is cold.

http://www.lax-a.net/iceland/salmon-fishing/salmon-full-service/east-ranga-river/

Beats 4, 5, 6, 7 Eystri Rangá

Beats 4, 5, 6, 7 Eystri Rangá

It was not a “natural” salmon habitat because of the cold water in it. The salmon were not able to spawn there in any numbers. There were at one time some Seatrout around (anadromous brown trout), but now they are mostly gone. The river was turned into a salmon river by growing salmon to the smolt stage. Then the smolt are released into the river. They will migrate to the estuary, and then into the ocean to reach sexual maturity, and return a year or two later to spawn.

Rangárvað (#84)

Rangárvað (#84 refers to the # on the fishing chart) – cast to the other bank.

On a good day the vistas are great with the infamous volcano Hekla, and the ill reputed Eyjafjalla glacier, of flight delay fame, the main points.

Hofteigsbreiða efri (#57, Hekla the volcano at center)

Hofteigsbreiða efri (#57, Hekla the volcano at center)

Big and broad (the glacier at right edge is Eyjafjallajökull)

Big and broad (the glacier at the right edge is Eyjafjallajökull)

The current is rather heav,y and I wade up to my knees if I have to, but not more. By and large anglers wade far too much, and get  too close to the fish. Practicing casting before the trip, especially with an instructor, will increase your catch rate much more than wading.  This river is best fished with a two hander. The long two handed rods are known in Iceland, but mostly for overhead casts by the natives (well, the backcast is usually not a problem). Then they were used for steering earthworms into the gullets of salmon. I know it sounds terrible. but it is true. However, foreigners have always used the traditional Spey techniques with their two handers. It is a bit curious how the Spey casts faded from memory in Iceland because farmers (for instance in Aðaldalur in North Iceland) in the early 19oos  were using long two handed rods with Spey technique.  I hope Icelandic anglers are again catching on and will start using the two handed rod and maximize their advantage. Spey techniques can not be beat in close cramped situations with limited or no back cast available.

I have taken some two handed rod lessons here in Florida from the only certified two handed instructor in the whole state, Leslie Holmes ( http://leslieholmesflyfishing.com ), and have made some progress I think. At any rate I was rewarded with a beautiful salmon on Rangárvað (#84). I was fishing river left, and the fly was on the dangle.  Then snap T placing the anchor upstream of me, and the subsequent roll casts to the opposite bank. The casts were working, and during a swing of a Snaelda everything just stopped, and it was on. First salmon I catch Spey casting. By convention you face downstream, and if the river is on your right you are on river left and vice versa. “Fly is on the dangle”  means the fly is directly downstream of you close to your bank.

Salmon from Rangárvaði

Salmon from Rangárvað

The look on my face holding the salmon is rather constipated (was not), but I can assure you I was very happy, as this picture proves.

Full of high hopes

Happy

There are some places where the back cast is limited. Those are, of course, best worked using the traditional Spey casts. A case in point is the dark steep hill in the picture below. It begs for roll casts.

Dýjanesstrengur og -breiða (#65,64)

Dýjanesstrengur og -breiða (#65,64)

Langhylur (#80)

Langhylur (#80) The bank is a problem for overhead casting but no problem with a roll cast.

There are some very deep pools there, and in some places a sinking tip is good to have. Below I tried a Skagit set-up, and down it went, but the salmon were not interested.

Dýjanesbreiða (#64)

Dýjanesbreiða (#64)

 

We fished beat seven, six, five and four. To fish all the beats you would spend nine days there. These beats had some very varied flow patterns, calling for different approches.  We mostly fished these beats by the time honored tradition of swinging our flies. This means that one casts over to the opposite bank (or the opposite edge of a productive channel) and then the current grabs and swings the fly line and fly across to our bank. Sometimes we strip the fly a bit and experiment with the retrieve. We do not use microflies (#14-#16) here. This seems to be the river for tubes, and big is good. This was my first time fishing Eystri Rangá, so this should be read with that in mind. I will definitely return to this river given an opportunity. The days we were there the fishing was below average, but we managed to raise or catch salmon in every other pool we tried.

 

Rangá - Hekla looming in the background

Salmon fishing and ragtime snoring

My plan was to write about my recent salmon fishing trip in Iceland, but I got stuck on salmon trivia. I also feel that I should first explain briefly how this industry is set up in Iceland. I need to get that off my chest first, as a prequel to the fishing trips.

The Atlantic salmon is a truly magnificent creature. Now that is a boring sentence! – But to me it really is so.  Just to remind the reader of their life cycle I will undertake to summarize the main points.

Salmon before release - Eystri Rangá

Salmon before release – Eystri Rangá

To reach the river, in which it was born to spawn, the salmon faces long odds indeed. The life cycle is from a fertilized egg to the Alevin stage where the fish consume the nutrients of their yolk sac. Then they grow into a form called Parr (those small fish will take small flies). When the time comes for them to venture into the ocean (at 2-8 years) they enter the Smolt stage. The Smolt adapt to the saline environment of the ocean in the estuaries.

http://www.unm.edu/~toolson/salmon_osmoregulation.html

The salt excretion from the seawater poses a new problem for them, which they solve by excreting the salt load through their gills. When the fish returns to sweet water the process must be reversed.  Now they can venture into the ocean to grow and reach reproductive size. They are eaten by other predators at all levels of their stages, and very few will ever reach sexual maturity and return to their river of origin. Now the great miracle unfolds. They will unfailingly return to that river. Either after one year in the ocean (these fish are called grilse in the UK) or after 2 years (those are the salmon). As a rule of thumb, the one-year fish will be less than ten pounds and the two-year fish will be more. The salmon must now adapt to fresh water physiology in the estuaries, and still they face being devoured by seals, for instance, lurking at river mouths. The seals in the estuaries earn the wrath of the river owners who will take appropriate measures. After the salmon are in the river they will not eat at all and would vacuum up all their young ones if they did, and now are fueled by the fat they accumulated in the ocean. Those who survive will travel up the river and take up residence in some pool or run that they like. Freshly run salmon are silvery and will have some sea lice attached, but those will fall off after 24 hours in the river. Then their colors become darker as they wait for the fall and spawning. Every year there will be an influx of grilse (one year in salt) and salmon (two year in salt) to spawn. This is probably natures hedge to ensure against catastrophes. Nature is sneaky, and some males will not go to sea, but remain and reach sexual maturity. Females need more energy to produce the roe, I suppose. The big males and females will go at it in the fall. The dwarf males wait behind a rock, and will snatch any opportunity at fertilization.

Mountain pool

Mountain pool

It is a testament to the cynical nature of sapiens that now is the time we fish choose tofor them. Why do I do it? For me the thrill is in the “takes” or “strikes.” To swing a small fly near the surface and see the salmon chasing it and finally turn on it in an explosion of power and speed with water splashing is just breathtaking. I really cannot describe this moment or do it justice but it is an incredible moment and it is addictive. The general rule in Iceland is to release all salmon, but keeping a few grilse is allowed. The zeitgeist is moving towards releasing all salmon, and anglers as naturalists and conservationists will not be taken seriously if they keep killing the fish they love. It certainly makes no sense economically to fish for them to obtain food. Homo Islandicus is a peculiar beast, and the subject of catch and release causes more heated exchanges than any other subject on the fishing blogs, some of which are deplorable. I am convinced that in time all salmon caught in Iceland should and must be released.

Eystri Rangá

Eystri Rangá

On top of the takes the salmon rivers are beautiful and some of their pools one would never see if not through the angling. The surrounding scenery can be a bonus, and these rivers are in varied locations and come in different sizes.

Pool at the headwaters

Pool at the headwaters

Icelandic rivers are the property of the farms through which they run. The farmers form a syndicate around a river. Then the river banks are divided into “beats” to which a rod is assigned. The number of rods varies depending on the size of the river and on its productivity. One needs to buy a rod license for the rivers well ahead of time. If you do not possess a rod license, then it is ” no cigar.”  Below is an example of a “beat” map (svæði). Salmon angling in estuaries is illegal so there is no public access to salmon waters anywhere in Iceland.

Beats 4, 5, 6, 7 Eystri Rangá

Beats 4, 5, 6, 7 Eystri Rangá

The salmon culture in Iceland was probably influenced the most by upper crust Brits fishing the rivers starting late eighteen hundred and up to the second world war. After the second world war the anglers came from all over the world. The season is 90 days for each river with different starting days. The best rivers are run with “hotels,” but some are self-catered – understandably the meager ones. The hotels are best described as luxury fishing camps. Each rod gets a private room with two beds and a bathroom. It is customary for two fellow anglers to share a rod. The daily cycle when salmon fishing runs like this: The morning starts with breakfast, and continental it is not. You need your fat and protein to battle the fish. Now we start fishing at 7 AM and fish for solid six hours. At midday, there will be a two-hour break during which there is a shut eye and lunch because now we are getting hungry. At 3 PM we go at it again and fish for another six hours or until 9 PM. At 10pm there will be a three-course dinner with aperitifs and digestives. When we finally fall into our beds after midnight we are just whipped, yet are slated to be up again at 5-6 AM. The average salmon angler is usually big with thick torso and resonant chest. You might think that we sleep soundly after such an ordeal. We do not! Now it is time for the international ensemble of snoring virtuosos. You despair – you must sleep some – but alas, no quarter is given. There is the Austrian going strong, quite melodious, kinsman to Mozart. The Germans go with resounding tones, think Beethoven. Then there is the skirl of the Scots. You get the picture. It is a cacophony of immense quality. Earplugs are an absolute must.

When my fishing buddy shakes me awake next morning, he greets me with – “my god – you snore like a Brazilian saw mill”.

It truly takes a strong constitution to be a salmon angler.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_salmon

 

Cynthia rollcasting

The “Swedish Chef” visits the Magnolia Fly Fishers

Last weekend I was invited to the Magnolia Fly Fishers in Jackson Mississippi. The idea was that I should give a short presentation on salt water casting, since the Magnolias are headed to the salt in April. Then we would practice the various casting scenarios. Head wind, tail wind and cross wind. I have been working with Cynthia Low their president towards certification with the IFFF, hence the invite.

https://magnoliaflyfishers.com

If you check their website you will find this teaser.

Black Tie, Fish Fry and Fly Tie at First Baptist Church in Byram

Ok, it’s not really a black tie event, but it needed a name so I named it my favorite name.  I keep hoping someone will show up in a tux!   Cynthia, La Presidenta of our club, has invited IFFF certified casting instructor Jonas Magnusson to come to First Baptist Church of Byram on SATURDAY March 18.

  • Jonas will also be providing for “fee” lessons, $50 per hour club special.  This webmaster has signed up for one hour.  I think he may be available on Friday for this as well as some Saturday.  Call Cynthia to book your appointment.
  • Jonas is from iceland and is an expert in spey and switch rods and I think we may get a chance to cast one or at least get a demonstration.
  • Jonas has a website if you would like more information, Every Jonas has a Whale .
  • I love to hear him talk, sounds like the Swedish chef on the muppets to me!”

Who wrote this beauty? This blog practically writes itself. I am not Swedish but my paternal grandmother was, and I speak that lingo, so what the heck.

I started late Friday with Cynthia on roll casts, and we had a nice little pond to practice on. She has put in the hours, and she is nearly where she need to be (see pics).

Cynthia forming loops

Cynthia forming loops

Cynthia is getting there

Cynthia is getting there

Then on Saturday – I give Cynthia the podium;

Jonas says he’ll travel anywhere in the world to teach…even Mississippi USA.  Yes, we have fly fishers.  Yes, we fish all species and for a short 4 hour drive we have access to some of the best fishing in the world, the Gulf of Mexico.  

Imagine a small town church tucked away in  the wilds of rural Mississippi, light breeze, cloudy sky, and a deep fryer of oil warming for our fried catfish lunch that awaits us after the sessions with Jonas.  Club members give fishing reports, present future outing details;  the meeting a bit sluggish then “UP! Let’s go cast” like a sergeant barking orders wakes the crowd.  Every man and two women head for the field, rods in hand.

We line up like soldiers.  Southern accent communicating with Scandinavian accent; everyone listening intently to every word and instruction.  Jonas moves person to person with a tip here and an instruction there.  Next are group commands.  Once again we line up.  Now let’s cast to the wind.  Wind changes, another command, and we line up again.  Lunch!  That fried catfish is calling.  We take a break.  Jonas eats like a bird, said one.  That’s why he has his figure and we have our figure; we like fried catfish, slaw, hush puppies, turnip greens with fatback, ketchup.  Onward!

Jonas continues with his individual students who booked an hour.  Club members being club members, the one on one became one and a gallery.  The afternoon whiled away as student, teacher, gallery became one unit.  Each member helping the other as knowledge and understanding grew. Prodding, poking, laughter, and challenge punctuated the afternoon.  Success!  We had worked off those fried catfish calories.  

We had a fun day and Jonas’ personality added to it.  Great sense of humor, said some.  He knows what he’s doing, from others.  Mr. C, who just turned 90 said, “Cynthia, I learned something  today.  I learned I don’t know how to cast.”  Our long distance caster and salt fisher said, He identified a tracking error in my back cast I don’t think I could have ever figured out by myself. That and he showed me what he called his no-stop cast which is how Paul Arden generates his wind punching V-loop. I think I can start busting the 100 foot mark regularly now.”

Jonas survived Mississippi and made it back to Florida. He’ll go anywhere to share his passion and love of the sport.  Every club should have an event that includes a certified instructor.  It’s worth every penny and the benefits last a lifetime.  If you’re not in a club, consider joining.  It’s an enriching, encouraging, supportive experience.  

PS  We don’t always eat fried catfish.  There are wonderful chefs in the area.

Crazy Cat Oysters

Crazy Cat Fried Oysters

Glen Davis gave me his stripping basket that looks very promising. You wear it on your left hip and strip into it. Will get back with you on that one when tried.

https://samuraiflyshop.com

Glen also wrote about my teaching.

Build-a-Bucket Workshop, Casting Fun

Well there it is and I thank the Magnolia Fly Fishers for inviting me, and I surely learned a lot more from them. The best way to learn something is to teach it.

Jonas casting

You can’t buy a cast

A fly fishing set up is costly. Let’s look at the ingredients. The fly itself isn’t so expensive, especially if you tie one yourself. Let’s say that it costs 5$ a nice round number. Now we need a leader and we peg it at 5$. On to the fly line itself, and we can easily fork out somewhere from 50-100$ for a quality fly line. The line is connected to the reel through to the so-called backing, and we spend 5-10$ on that. Now for the reel. They come in a lot of different prizes depending on quality, brake power and size. The cheapest reels that are useable retail around 100$, and then the coveted quality and bragging rights reels will take you to 1000$. Let’s put a 200$ reel on our outfit. Then there is the rod itself. I like to organize them into 3 levels of cost. Entry level rods cost up to 200$. Mid-level 200-500$ and then the top-level rods retailing for 500$ and more. By and large the expensive rods will prove to be the best in the long run, but there are some exceptions. This will give me an estimate of (5$ fly + 5$ leader + 50$ backing + 100$ reel + 200$ rod = 360$ low estimate to 5+5+50+500+500 = 1160 high estimate). Most fly fishermen have several rods let’s say three to multiply whatever cost there is in your setup. These are just some numbers, but we can safely agree that the total cost for a fly fishing setup for the individual angler will be in the thousands.

A quiver of rods

A quiver of rods

Now fly leaders and fly lines will wear out and we replace those as we go along. The rod craze is there too. The industry wants you to buy the latest model and by reading the ads you become certain that this one will cure all your casting ailments, right? Then there are the reels. Large arbor – sealed drag and what not, but you got to have it.

Sample of reels

Sample of reels

Now there is the cost of the fishing license. Fortunately, this is not costly as a rule but if you want to fish some private waters or hire a guide, it is going to cost. I am in contact with some guides here in Florida and they all agree. Most of their clients, despite labeling themselves as fly casters, will have significant problems casting in the salt. Think about it – travel to Florida – hotel – food – guide – plus your equipment and the fly does not get out there.

Stephen and Baz

Stephen and Baz

Most people cannot cast the fly. There are several reasons for this but it does not alter the fact that most people are terrible casters. On small streams, it does not matter much you bungle it out somehow, and the current will straighten your line and you are in business. With any kind of wind, it will become a total disaster. Here in the salt on the Gulf shores this becomes painfully evident. There are many fly fishermen that have been fishing for years in rivers and lakes but will realize that when fishing the salt, they just cannot do it.

Leaders and tippet

Leaders and tippet

However, the biggest reason for this is that people do not seek lessons. I know for instance that just three lessons can help an average caster to become a very good caster. The essentials are going to be the same for a very long time, so good help can last you for life. When you look at the cost of the outfit fly anglers flesh out, it is hard to presume it is because of the cost, but people still do not seek proper instructions. There are of course some great casters that have figured it out on their own. Most casters have had some help from friends and fly fishing clubs including me. This type of learning is however fragmented and haphazard and is not based on a platform of knowledge.

Backing for fly line

Backing for fly line

There is a program run by IFFF whereby budding teachers are taught a certain system of basics. They are then tested and vetted by IFFF. This way of organizing is proven, and ensures that the licensed casting instructors have a common basis, and this basis is proven as a sensible platform to teach fly casting.

http://www.fedflyfishers.org/Contact/Locate/CastingInstructors/tabid/301/Default.aspx

When I started studying in this program (and I was a decent caster at the outset) I had no clue about the 5 essentials. I had inferred something like that during my trial and error stage that became needlessly long. However, when presented with the curriculum of the IFFF program, I made a quantum leap in understanding, and my cast was seriously improved. It took a master caster a day’s work with me to get me to the next level. On basis of that teaching I have been improving my cast little by little. The students that I am now teaching seem to make speedier progress and I find it easier to teach them and diagnose their ailments.

The other important item you cannot buy is a knot.

Ruby Throated Female

Return of Hummingbirds and schadenfreude

“Whoa – what was that”? It is late February early March in Texas. Something just whistled past me as I was gardening. This UFO was small, the size of a big bumblebee or a big moth. No way I could identify it, such was the speed. I rewound the memory spool, and yes there was some sound too. Could it be? I had never in my life seen hummingbirds, but knew they existed in the Americas. My interest was piqued and I did some googling. Yes – it very well could be a hummingbird. I discovered that they will drink a sugar solution if available to them. Now next step was to procure a feeder which I did. The mix is one part sugar dissolved in three parts water. Then you just hang the feeder in a place where the birds can easily access it and feel secure (think like a bird eh?). Now the wait and after a little while I was rewarded when this exquisite creature came to the feeder.

Ruby Throated Female

Ruby Throated Female

 

I was so overjoyed by seeing this bird for the first time that I felt like a little kid. (Those of us who are not grownups by fifty do not have to.)  I must put a disclaimer here. These birds move so fast that it is very hard to get sharp pictures and some of mine could be better. However I use them since they are mine, and if you are interested, go to the net and enjoy their colossal beauty in professional photos.

https://www.google.com/search?q=hummingbird+facts&client=safari&rls=en&biw=1313&bih=1131&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiv1PD8xa7SAhWDRiYKHblbD_cQ_AUICigD

Ruby Throated male on his property

Ruby Throated male on his property

Why do I find them so special? First off they are the smallest birds there are, from 3-5 grams. They can hover in the air, go up and down, sideways and even back. They can cross the Gulf Of Mexico in a 20 hour flight, losing half their body weight enroute. It is very tedious to list all their factoids, so I put a facts website here. What really sets them apart is their rapid metabolism. Heart rate per minute is 500 bpm at rest and 1200 on the wing! I guess it could be called delirium cordis?

http://www.worldofhummingbirds.com/facts.php

They eat insects for protein, and then they hunt for flowers to drink their nectar, which supplies their energy. The plants need pollinators and will provide just enough nectar to keep them flying, doing their job. I already have mentioned my Bottlebrush in a previous post and how the Monarchs love that plant. The butterflies like their nectar a bit fermented explaining their erratic flight! The Hummers just love the Bottlebrush too, and the nectar it provides. Late summer there are probably up to a hundred of these birds in my trees.

Monarch

Monarch sampling the Bottle Brush

They are solitary birds and the males are surprisingly aggressive and territorial. When a male has located the feeder, it is his property, and magnificent aerial battles are fought over the right to have a sip. Of course a male will allow a female to drink from his feeder. I suspect the motivations  are somewhat less than pure, but what the heck, I understand. If the number of males gets to be too much to defend against, they change strategy and all are friends and drink the sugar solution together.

Ruby Throated males in aerial battle

Ruby Throated males in aerial battle

 

In Iceland the migratory birds are the harbingers of spring. Here I have chosen the hummingbird for that task.

It is with perverse joy I write this since today in Iceland there is 2-3´of snow and here there is this glorious spring. It only proves the article of Swedish faith that the only real lasting joy in this world is schadenfreude.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hummingbird

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schadenfreude

Cartagena Colombia

Cartagena – Colombia

Cartagena is a walled city in Colombia on the Caribbean coast. It is renowned for its well preserved architecture. This post is going to be just pictures all taken by Drifa Freysdottir. There is nothing to add, the pictures say it all.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartagena,_Colombia

 

The view over the flat

Redfish revival

The feature image gives you a good idea how difficult it is to spot the fish. The water is a bit tea colored from the prior heavy rains. In the upper left quadrant there is a fish fighting, but you can see the swirl in the water on close inspection.

Redfish being brought in

Redfish being brought in

Redfish are found in the extensive bay systems connecting to the Gulf of Mexico, and also the Gulf side. In the eighties they were over harvested and catch limitations were put in place. The stock has rebounded, and restrictions on their catch are still in place. Today the limit in the Panhandle of Florida is one fish in the slot range. Slot range fish? I took me a while to figure this one out – it means the fish has to be longer than 18 inches and no more than 27 inches long. This is a somewhat curious/unusual rule, but the big Redfish are actually the most valuable spawners of this species, according to research. At any rate we can all agree that dead fish will not spawn. In local parlance the under the slot fish are called rat reds. I find that a poor choice of words for such beloved and sought after game fish. Then we have the slot fish, which you can harvest (but should not). Why do we need to harvest a slot red (they do not come close to the fighting abilities of the big fish) when everybody wants to catch the big ones?  Then over the slot size we call them Reds, and still larger Bull Reds, which is a bit of a misnomer as the females are bigger than the males. They start spawning in the fall and that’s when we see them in huge schools come to the surface in the bays. This phenomenon is called “Running of the Bulls,” but is the “Run of the Cows” really.

The Running of the Bulls armada

The Running of the Bulls armada

Now there will be lots of boats in the bay, and total bedlam when a school is spotted. All the boaters gun their engines, and all the boats will converge at the same spot, putting the fish down. Fly fishing during this mayhem is not enjoyable at all, and I call this type “Olympic style fishing.” The big mommas can release 60 million eggs per spawn! The guys have sure their work cut out for them. Imagine that! Redfish grow fast, and at one year are eight inches long, and three-year fish are 29 inches, and reach 39-44 inches 11-35 years old. So these fish can get quite old. They prefer temperature from 50-80F.

 

The view over the flat

The view over the flat

In January the temperatures drop and now some skill is required to find and catch them. We do not blind cast for them so we must visually locate the fish. Now the crowds are gone, and God is in his Heaven, and we love this time of year. We work on the theory that when it is very cold the fish will move deeper into the channels, and when the weather improves and the sun shines the fish will move on to the shallows and flats and use the sun to warm themselves. But which flats? I have an idea but I am not going to tell. The infrared rays of the sun heat fastest the shallow water, and fish can found close to shore or further out. It is good to have a theory like that and it strengthens our prejudices when positive things happen but it is only a theory until we gain better understanding.

Baz bringing in the Redfish

Baz bringing in the Redfish

So our sets of requirements are reasonably clear. In very choppy water the surface is so broken up that it becomes hard to spot them – so reasonably calm waters. We also need sunshine. The fish can sometimes be spotted on the bare sand close to a spot of sea grass, just parked right to a grass bed. It is exceptional to spot them when on the grass beds. We hike in looking as nerdy as possible in our waders and stripping baskets. We’d only been in the water about ten minutes when we start seeing fish. The trick is moving very slowly to let our eyes adjust to the “background” of grass beds and varying depths of sandy-bottom.

Baz with Redfish

Baz with Redfish

 

When they are on the move that is the best way of seeing them. The back of these fish is darker than the sand, and it is about the only concession they allow us. I am starting to spot fish under Captain Baz’s tutelage. “Baz I spotted that one?” “Good – it is the size of a submarine.” I tend to walk into those.

 

Redfish prior to release

Redfish prior to release

On the flats we fish the reds do not tail at all. When I fished shallow water in Texas I frequently saw tailing reds. Tailing means that they are rooting on the bottom, vertical in the water column, with their tails above the surface. Those are feeding fish and take our offerings if we can get them there. Why they do not tail on “our” flats probably has to do with the hard packed quartz sand we frequent. Their snouts would in all likelihood become damaged.

Redfish being brought in

Redfish being brought in

The moving fish require you to take notice of their speed and direction, and you try to place the fly where your calculations tell you that the fish is going to be and intercept their line of travel. If shallow say two feet then I do not like overly weighted flies. They are boring to cast and land with too much of a splash to my liking. However they need to sink. So try to land the fly softly and have your leader twelve feet long. If you have problems turning over your leader shorten it. When you come tight to a fish strip set the hook. Trout fly fishermen are taught to raise their rod tip to strike a fish and many reds are lost cause of that. DO NOT. When the line comes taut keep the rod pointed at the fish and give a good pull or two with the line hand called strip strike, then you may bring the rod tip up. Remember it is more important to keep the line taut than get it onto the reel. So strip strike and keep line taut. If the fish comes to you do not even try to get him onto the reel. Just pull in line and keep it taut. If he runs away let out line and transfer onto the reel. The reds are heavy and that is how they fight but no spectacular runs await and they do not jump.

 

Redfish with fly inside mouth

Redfish with fly inside mouth – not one in story – fly much deeper

One of the fish caught had the small fly deep in his throat, and we had a hard time getting at it. It got so difficult that we had to put it in the water to freshen its oxygen supplies. What carried the day was a release clamp where you place the leader in the cylinder of the clamp and keep the leader taut then advance the instrument towards the fly where it will hit the bend of the hook and now you push the hook back and voila out it comes. Of course we fish with barbless hooks.

Slick clamp release and Ketchum release

Slick clamp release and Ketchum release

Now our fish was a bit dazed and I hold it by the tail and drag it backwards. Works well in rivers when reviving fish, as you drag the fish against the current. The gill plates (operculum) usually open and water gets to the gills. In the still water this did not unfold, so I grab the edge of the gill plate and open the gill slit, and now I can pump water over the gills by moving the gill plate back and forth. Lo and behold the red recovers and you keep doing this until he starts to try to get away then it is time for “au revoir.” Back home when reviving big Seatrout I tailed them and stroked their bellies continuously and then let go of the tail. Curiously these fish were in no hurry to depart seemed to like being stroked and then just slowly they edge away (there probably is some deep pathology at work in the dark recesses of my mind). I like to think that they have forgiven me my intrusion into their lives (entitled to my alternate fact eh?). It is a special feeling to have these big fish on your hand like that.

Our calculations have been borne out, and our oversized brains have outsmarted a creature with no college degree, and we feel good about ourselves. Understandably we are very happy and the fishing goddess has smiled on us. Back to the car and now I discover that the right leg of the waders is badly leaking with water spilling over to the left side. Her highness has a warped sense of humor.

http://www.buddys-coins.com/fishpage/Redfish.htm

http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/red-drum/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_drum

Waiting for the sun to pop out

Wading for Bonefish cures corns!

Just returned from the midwinter Bahamas wade fishing trip with my friend Captain Baz. Our destination is a band of coral islands at the edge of the horizon. We get there by flying out of Ft. Lauderdale but have to land somewhere in the Bahamas to clear customs and immigration and off we fly again.  Where we are headed there are no fly fishing guides and no other anglers. This is a self-guided trip and it is not easy.

Bahamian islands - gorgeous colors

Bahamian islands – gorgeous colors

We drive down to south Florida, about 10 hours drive with short pit stops. Overnight in a hotel and next morning we fly out into the archipelago and settle in to our little fishing nest. We rent a small cottage and full meal service and a small boat (13´), which can be upgraded (to a 17´boat) at a reasonable charge. A marina and a bar are on site and it being windy was full of boaters waiting for the wind to subside. The atmosphere is laid-back, people are friendly and we are on island time.

Our cottage

Our cottage

The resident nurse shark

The resident nurse shark

The local scenery

The local scenery

On arrival at noon all the bigger boats were already gone and we only had available a thirteen foot long skiff. A 13 ´skiff for one grown male and another a bit overgrown in the Atlantic is not ideal. The wind was blowing from the east with occasional whitecaps. Our target for this day was down wind of us so we sallied fort downwind in excellent spirits and found our flat. The wind was supposed to die down anyway.

The thirteen feet 30 HP skiff

The thirteen feet 30 HP skiff

Bonefish will come up on flats to feed when the tide is rising and vice versa will leave on falling water. They are maddeningly hard to spot and years of experience are needed to see those fish. There needs to be a sun otherwise you will not spot them at all but they cannot hide their shadows but are working on it. We have to figure out the likely spots where they will come on to the flat and likely leave by the same place. When on these flats they can be found in very shallow water and go into the Mangroves and disappear there in that thicket. So it can be difficult to find these fish. When spotted they are very skittish and the fly has to be placed in front of their traveling line. Thus lots of moving parts and much to go wrong and it does. Fly has to land softly otherwise you might spook them. In short very difficult fish.

Bonefish two feet away

Bonefish two feet away

Bonefish noir version

Bonefish noir version

The tide is up on the flat

The tide is up on the flat

A Mangrove outpost on the flat

A Mangrove outpost on the flat

 

Flats and Mangroves

Flats and Mangroves

 

The first day Captain Baz caught a good size Bonefish on a brand new high-end rod. It is always a good omen that a new rod catches fish. Now if you look at the picture of the Mr. Bone you see that dapper little pencil mustache he is sporting. He looks a bit French to me or maybe Belgian – there it is Monsieur Hercule Poirot? Baz’s  fish spotting vision is legendary and I rely on his spotting the fish. It is like hunting with a pointer and sure enough when I see him bent a bit and his butt sticking out I know he has a scent of a fish. Then he gives the coordinates for instance 60 feet ten o’clock from him and I triangulate and it works out pretty well. I am starting to spot those fish but nowhere near where I need to be.

Bonefish with pencil mustache

Bonefish with pencil mustache

Baz with a nice Bonefish

Baz with a nice Bonefish

 

Bonefish being released

Bonefish being released

A released Bonefish

A released Bonefish

A released Bonefish

A released Bonefish

Now time has come to return to the marina but the wind has picked up and the waves are now 2′ high. Our small dinghy is not built for such waves and underpowered (30 hps). Baz sails the boat into the waves and I sit on the center thwart* clutching the rods watching the waves. You see where this is going? A wave throws the bow of the boat up and then it comes down obeying Newton’s law. I on the other hand am airborne flying up and back having torn the thwart off and crash down on my back in the boat in front of Baz a bit later. He managed to pull his feet from boat zero. Landed flat on my back and my first question was understandably  “Did I break the rods”? Of course I broke Baz’s rod setting me up for a predictable “I sure am happy I got to break it in before you broke it” from Baz. Oh well that is why we carry backup rods on all trips.

The tide is up on the flat

The tide is up on the flat

Folks generally have no clue how we go about wading flats chasing Bonefish. This is how we do it. Wading boots are needed and I like to wear neoprene socks. On top of the boots we have a gravel guard to reduce the sand and grit that will invariably find its way into our socks and boots. The gravel guards just decrease it a lot. We don shorts and it is best to wear something that dries fast when we get out of the water.

Wading boots socks no gravel guards

Wading boots socks no gravel guards

Long sleeve shirt for sun protection and fingerless gloves and a buff is called for. We top it off with a cap where I like the underside to be black to reduce the glare. Polaroids are vital otherwise fish will not be spotted in time. For fly line management I recommend a stripping basket. I know it looks nerdy not dressy at all but by Jove it works.  Then you can have ready line to cast and you are in better control. It is also nice to place the rod transversely in the basket when waiting and looking for fish.

Baz with a stripping basket

Baz with a stripping basket

We like fast rods if we can load/bend them. If we cannot they are useless to us. My recommendation to anglers is to use a 7-9 weight rod and pick the one that is your fastest and the one you can load comfortably. Do not fall for the marketing craze that wants you to buy the latest fastest rod absolutely a miracle yada yada yada. While I am at it there is no need for a Bonefish rod or a Bass rod or any specific rod for a certain type of a fish. The fish do not know and do not care. You need a rod that can cast your fly reasonably well and can handle the targeted species that is all there is to it. The line to use is a floating line and there are many excellent to choose from. I favor lines that are true to their size meaning I do not want it half or a whole step heavier than the standards set. Now when my casting has improved that is just what suits me. If you are a fledgling caster and load your rod better by over lining that is just fine and no cosmic rules have been broken by doing that. We use twelve feet long leaders and this trip a #8 Gotcha carried the day.

Gotcha #8

Gotcha #8

If you are in a situation where the leader does not turn over shorten it. We cast the line straight and lay out the leader straight (stiffer leader is better than a soft one for that). Then it is a good rule to strip once to get all slack out of the system and then let the fly sink to the bottom. Then you play with the strips and retrieve. All the usual casts and deliveries need to be mastered but there is one that Baz is a wizard at and actually his loops are sharpest when he uses that cast. When he has a fish to the right of him and feet set 90 degrees he does not turn his body he just sends the line out by this sidearm backhanded cast.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5NLo7nTwnw

This type of fishing is physically difficult, to say the least. We did six – seven hours of this every day, wading looking and just being one with nature. However it does a lot of good in the psychic department of our bodies. When a big fish takes your fly and you feel its power and speed you realize the force of life. There is then the pulling and giving back and forth and I am reminded that I am also an animal of the same nature and I need to be humble and cognizant of that fact.

Now as we wade these flats the ocean is warm and no waders are necessary. Sometimes the bottom is firm and sometimes muddy and you think that this is it you are being sucked down. Sometimes you are wading in an area where there are lots of depressions with a 5” hole at the bottom. Needless to say your imagine all kinds of creatures living there and they are just waiting for you to make a mistake and then they will act. Vedius Pollio comes to mind and his pool of lampreys.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vedius_Pollio

In the series on my colleague Dr. Lecter there is a scene like that.  Then there is one in the deliciously decadent Borgias series (season3). This mucking around invariably leads to sand and grit accumulating in you shoes and socks. We ignore it just a part of the deal.

No need for pedicure

No need for pedicure

Now I have to cancel my monthly Pedicure as my feet are now scrubbed clean of corns from all that friction and sea water.

https://vimeo.com/202311347

* Thwart is the board that runs between gunwales and is used to sit on. I could not use the word boat seat cause it was just too lame. In Icelandic the word is þófta and I am indebted to my linguistics adviser Professor Joe Mozur friend and neighbor for digging this beauty up.

 

The practice field

Getting certified IFFF CCI

In Iceland I just fly fished rivers and lakes. I did not fly fish in the salt there and I doubt that it will ever become a big sport. The North Atlantic is just so cold and the waves are unforgiving.

Skjálfandaflói (DF)

Skjálfandaflói við Náttfarvík (DF)

I moved to Corpus Christi in Texas in 2007. There are few rivers there with the type of fishing with which I was comfortable. I passionately hate fishing in discolored water. That lead me to fishing the Corpus Christy Bay and the area south east of Shamrock Island and it took me a long time to figure the salt out. There were not at that time many fly casters there. I teamed up with a local guide Steven Utley and he taught me the area and I helped him with the casting. I mostly fished from a sit on top kayak and cast sitting down which takes some time getting used to. The area south east of Shamrock Island was perfect for kayak fishing and I loved floating around the area taking in nature and fishing. There is a channel there from the Bay into the Gulf with breakwater structure on each side from which I fished and there I got connected to my first Spanish Mackerel and have come to love fishing for them. I did not try my luck in the Gulf itself while living there.

Osprey

Osprey Corpus Christi Bay (DF)

Steven Utley

Steven Utley casting from a kayak

IN 2009 we relocated to Gulf Breeze Florida (south of Pensacola). There I have been fishing with my friend Basil Yelverton a local guide and from that experience (plus Texas) we put together an iBook (see Books page). Fishing the salt is very hard because everything is moving. The boat is rocking the fish are busy going every which way and then there is the blessed wind. Experienced fly casters from fresh water scenarios are known to have a meltdown when they realize that they cannot cast at all in these conditions. At any rate it became painfully apparent to me that I had to up me game in order to be able consistently to cast from a boat in the wind and all that.

So I did just that, pouring over YouTube and websites – basically self-taught. Cast until my arm was falling out of it’s socket and then cast some more. There are some very good casters here but most local casters have difficulties in the salt. The usual resultant reflex is to tie “the top secret classified nuclear fly” that is going to save them. It does not matter which fly you have if you cannot get it out to the customers. I hope we will slowly change the emphasis onto casting. Others and I have been busy teaching casting at so-called monthly clinics for the Club members.

Oleta Webb

Oleta Webb casting a switch rod

My friend Baz noticed that I was becoming a better caster so he suggested that I do the CCI with the IFFF. “What is that”?  I had no clue. I researched this a bit and since I am retired this could be a good niche for me. I have been teaching my whole life (coaching sports – teaching med. students – teaching residents etc.) so this would be somewhat in my comfort zone. 

Santa Rosa Island

Baz with redfish

I decided to go for it and became a member of the International Federation of Fly Fishers (IFFF). Contacted their office and was guided to a certain MC (master caster) Leslie Holmes as a possible mentor in February ’16. We spoke on the phone and were instantly on insulting terms and he took me on. He sent me a ton of stuff and more practice ensued. Then we had a weekend session in Boca Grande in April. Well that was quite the eye opener for me. I could cast some he gave me that but my faults were many and varied and mercilessly pointed out and corrected.  After that I returned to the Panhandle with more practice and we scheduled a tune-up and a practice session in late August. The goal was to become a certified fly casting instructor (CCI).

The practice field

The practice field for my ICC

Three days before going again to Boca Grande Leslie calls me and asks “are you ready”? Sure I am ready my arm is falling out of the socket but I am ready. Leslie arranges to have me tested Sunday 8/28 and off I go. We had a dress rehearsal on Saturday where I suddenly got ripped a new one. My problem was/is overthinking and being a bit of a nerd I was too verbose. When I understood what was expected I reworked my answers to the various tasks on the test and made ready. It must be handed to Les that after he had deconstructed me he built me right back up. Sunday morning I meet Captain Pete Greenan and Captain Rex Gudgel my examinators. They quickly settled all jitters and I passed the test. I have been involved with teaching and testing In Iceland Sweden Scotland and once in Africa and I can tell you that Pete and Rex were very competent and the whole process well thought out and solid (mainly because I passed). Les’s teaching was spot on and I plan to work with him again.

Pete Jonas Rex

After having passed the CCI test

I have certainly made some colostomies in my time but not with the finesse and elegance that Les does it. But Les my patients were always under anesthesia.

Leslie Holmes

Leslie Holmes during lunch break Boca Grande

Well there it is.

(DF) Drifa Freysdottir picture

Baz’s website

http://www.gulfbreezeguideservice.com

Pete´s website

http://www.floridaflyfishing.com

Rex´s website

http://bocagrandeslamflyfishing.com

Leslie´s Website

http://leslieholmesinternationalschoolofflyfishing.com

Local fly clubs website

http://www.ffnwf.org