Monthly Archives: May 2009

Chironomid Long Lining

Last year Chuck G. introduced the technique of Long Lining for trout. A specialized and unique way of fishing deep water without the use of an indicator. Jeff H. forwarded this article, likely written by some folks in BC with some more information on how to set up a long line and how to fish it effectively.

By Jason Majoskey aka Mr Rainbow
Edited by Al Horne aka Horneblower
Illustrations by Dale Sharp aka Sharpy

Over the years I have tried just about every stillwater technique I have ever read or heard about. The method which has become my favourite, and which I now find most productive, is long-lining chironomids, also known as fishing “naked.” It is similar to the “standard” strike-indicator method, except that it uses no indicators. It involves only a floating line, and long leader, and a weighted fly.

At first I was very hesitant to try this method. I was intimidated by the thought of trying to cast the long leaders, and skeptical about being able to detect strikes without the presence of an indicator. One day, however, during a spell of frustrating fishing, I finally decided to give the method a try. To my surprise, I caught three fish on the first three casts. I was amazed at how well the method enabled me to detect strikes and light takes. So was my fishing partner Adam, who was anchored nearby. From that day on we were hooked, and over the next several seasons we spent many days on the water honing our skills. If you’re like I was—reluctant to try this technique—I hope this article will get you through the basics and into long-lining chironomids.

Long-lining is practical for fishing depths of up to 30 feet, and yes, that can mean long leaders. The length of leader used depends on the depth you are fishing. The majority of chironomid fishing is done with the fly one foot or less from the bottom. So, to put your fly in the “zone,” take the depth of the water and add 25% to it in order to come up with the correct length of leader. For example, if you’re in 20 feet of water, you will want a leader with a total length of 25 feet. The extra length is necessary because your leader does not go down straight from the end of your fly line; instead, it drops in a gradual arc with only the last part hanging vertically. The extra 25% of line compensates for this arc, and puts your fly in “the zone”, close to the bottom. Additionally, surface currents caused by strong winds can create even longer arcs in the leader, so a little more than 25% is required on windy days.

I like chironomid patterns tied with tungsten beads to help get the fly down quickly. I do not favour the use of external weights like split shot, because too much weight can sink the end of your floating line and put your fly into the mud, rather than just above it.

You will have to wait two or three minutes after your cast to allow the fly time to sink to the desired depth. Once you are confident the fly is fully sunk, start a very slow retrieve. The purpose of the retrieve is to stay in contact with the fly. If your retrieve is too fast you will lift the fly out of “the zone.” Hand-twist retrieves work well, but rather than using the usual four fingers, use only the first two, to help keep the retrieve slow. Another option is to use micro-strips—tiny little strips that pull in only one-half inch of fly line at a time. Try to keep a loose grip on the fly line incase you get a violent strike. Also, while you’re retrieving, it is very important to keep the rod tip on the surface of the water. If your tip is off the water, your fly line will hang down and create slack line. All slack line is to be avoided, because it reduces your ability to detect strikes and hook fish.

Strikes can vary from violent smashes to subtle takes. The violent ones are obvious, but the subtle ones will feel like a light bump, or just a slight resistance in your retrieve. If it’s a calm day you should also watch the tip of your line for hits. The tip may move in an unusual manner, or start to go under water. You should, however, be able to feel the take at the same time, providing you are doing everything right, and there is no slack in your line. Once I feel a strike, I like to lift the rod and pull down on the fly line at the same time. The key here is to learn restraint: stop the strike as soon as you make contact with the fish. This will usually prevent break-offs.

The most important piece of equipment for fishing this technique is a good floating line-one which floats well and has virtually no memory. Any memory in the line will cause “squiggles”; “squiggles” mean slack, and slack means a loss of sensitivity to strikes, which, again, means fewer fish.

When it comes to leaders, different people have their own definite preferences. Some just use straight mono with some tippet added at the end, while others use elaborate tapered leaders. Because they turn over, I prefer tapered leaders, but I keep them pretty simple. To start with, I use a standard tapered trout leader, but I cut off the first few feet of it–the thinnest part of the leader– until it is similar in diameter to the next section I will add, which is 8 pound test Maxima Ultragreen. The Maxima is very thick, so adding 7-15 feet of it will help turn the leader over. After the Maxima I will tie in a section of 6 pound Berkely Vanish. Finally, I will finish the leader with 4-5 feet of high-quality fluorocarbon tippet. The amount of Maxima and Vanish used will depend on the total length of leader you are building: the longer the leader, the more you add of these two sections. I recommend that you adjust the length of your leaders by adding or removing line from the Vanish section, and avoid adjusting the length of your tippet, since it is the most expensive section of the entire leader.

If you use a loop connection between your fly line and leader, you can re-use these leaders over and over. When you are done long-lining, just remove the entire leader and store it on an old tippet spool. Now you can put your standard leader on and fish another method; meanwhile, your long-line leader is there, ready to go for next time.

Now that you have your long leader tied, you have to cast it. This is the biggest stumbling block for most anglers, and the main reason they hesitate in trying this type of fishing. The tricky part is getting the cast started: once you have your leader in the air, it’s not that difficult to cast.

So, the first and hardest part will be getting your leader out of the water, because when you come to the end of your retrieve, your weighted fly will be at depths of up to 30 feet. You can not just lift this entire leader up and out of the water; and even if you could, trying to cast such a long leader with only a few feet of fly line out is a recipe for a large, tangled mess of line. What you need for a successful cast is as much fly line out as leader. To accomplish this, and also to bring the fly to the surface, I use a series of roll casts. Each roll cast brings the fly higher and higher, and at the same time gets out more fly line. The number of roll casts required depends on the length of leader and how powerful the roll casts are. It normally takes me about three roll casts to lift a fly from the water, get enough fly line out to cast with, and have line and leader lying straight out on the water in front of me.

Now that you’ve accomplished that, and before the fly has a chance to sink, immediately start false casting. Two false casts are usually enough; (more just increase your chances of tangles and wind knots.) You will never turn these really long leaders over completely, but at least the majority of the leader will turn over, (which again, is why I prefer tapered leaders.) Occasionally, a fish will take while the fly is sinking, and if your leader has turned over you will have a good chance of detecting the strike. On the other hand, if your leader has hit the water in a big pile, you will have created slack, lost contact with the fly, and will likely not hook up with these fish. Finally, always cast directly downwind: it will help keep your line straight and free of slack. Position your boat so that you can cast downwind and sit comfortably, with your rod tip on the water, pointed at your line.

There are a number of reasons I prefer this method over indicator fishing. First, casting without an indicator is much easier and less prone to tangles. Also, indicator fishing requires your eyes be fixed on the indicator to avoid missing takes; whereas the long-line system is a little more “hands-on” and makes you feel more involved than just staring at an indicator. I still use indicators for fishing the shallower water because it’s easier to make quick depth changes, but I use the “naked” method for depths of 15-30 feet. Many anglers like to fish two rods at once, but when I am using the long-line method I prefer to focus all my attention on that one rod. Still, I will often rig up two rods, one with the long line and one equipped with an indicator, so I am ready to cover all the depths. If you want to fish two rods at once, I suggest you use an indicator on your second rod so that you can secure it in a rod holder and visually monitor it, while you work the retrieve mainly by feel on the long-line rod.

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Kamloops BC: Memorial Weekend May 22-24th, 2009

This year I was invited to fish with a group of Canadians at a private lake near Lytton, BC. I hesitantly agreed since it was a pay lake and there are many other lakes in BC to choose from but I agreed to the opportunity as I really enjoy the stillwater fishing of the BC interior, especially the lakes near Merritt and Kamloops. I believe the Kamloops strain of Rainbows are undoubtedly the hardest fighting, hardest jumping and most agressive species of Rainbow trout that I’ve had to enjoy over the past few years of stillwater fishing in Canada. I only wish that it would be nice to have these fish stocked in the local WA waters.

The drive is a bit long, but I suppose if I was going to put in 4 hours to get to Dry Falls, I’d add on another hour and half to make it up the the interior to explore and hunt these powerhouse fish. The reports had been mixed for lakes like Roche, which just came off turnover last week and had experienced its first big Chironomid hatch as well. I had never seen so many Chiron shucks on the water…but I’ll save that report for a little later on, but first we’ll talk about Ruddocks.

Ruddocks Dam is a little 50 acre lake just north of the town of Lytton. Its a beautiful drive to reach the lake, cutting through the Frasier canyon, alongside the granite cliffs and jagged mountains. There is some sort of peace and tranquility that I find when I end up taking a long road trip, especially in search of hard fighting fish. Usually this group of Canadian fly fisherman end up going to Roche Lake year after year, but this year they wanted to explore a new lake and had heard of big trout and abundant hatches. The hatches were abundant, but the number of fish was a bit of a disappointment. The lake is supposed to have all naturally spawning trout and has been wild since its original planting from the 1920’s. When we arrived at the lake, I immediated spotted clusters of BIG trout swarming near the bank to the east. It appeared that they were spawners and had made gravel beds there. Now, whether or not they actually could spawn was questionable since the lake is only 17′ deep and isn’t a very visible stream or spring that provided the right environment for the eggs to survive. Perhaps I am wrong, but somewhat harder to believe.

I was anxious to get out on the water as seeing those big trout had me searching for even the bigger ones. According to the website, the largest from Ruddocks was supposedly 16 lbs. I can tell you that we didn’t see a double digit # fish, but I did land an 8 lber and we also landed several 5-6 lb Bows. The average size fish was 18″, but as I mentioned earlier, a pure joy to fight them on a 5 wt. rod. When you nab a biger one, its like an arm wrestle with a big truck driver. They are tanks and the last fish for me was a firecracker, running all my flyline and was into my backing with one run!

Fish were taken on a variety of Chironimds: Chromers, Bombers, Rusty Nails, Black, and Brown. They didn’t seem to care much for our stripped leeches, Damsels, Dragon flies or larger patterns. When throat sampled, a buffet of size 16 and 18 Chironomids coughed up the trouts diet. Water temp registed at 58 degrees, skies were sunny and warm, nothing better that this!

It was a bit challenging finding the right fishing spot, as I typically like to explore different locales on a new lake without any topo provided to see if there are any dropoffs, special structure, or conditions that would favor trout behaivour. I knew that Gil and Stone were doing ok in 16-17 feet of water on the west end of the lake, but I opted to anchor up in 14′ of water just between the drop off of 14 to 16′ as I was marking some fish activity. Within minutes I had my first fish on with a size 16 Chromie, I’d released several other fish in that spot and ended up with 11 landed, and 14 hooked. All fish were Rainbows ranging in size from 17″ to 25″, the largest was one of those three that didn’t get to the net, I would say was running close to 8 lbs. Several of those fish were in the 4-5 lb range. One thing about those Kamloops trout is that a 17″ BC fish, definitely doesn’t fight like a WA fish. Many of them would take deep runs and often multiple surface jumps to try and unhook themselves. It was amazing to witness and fish for these beautiful specimens.

The accomodations at the Ranch house, which was about 18 km. from the lake, located off highway 12 between Lytton and Spences Bridge. Its a huge estate and perfect accomodations for a group of 10 anglers. Modern conveniences, full kitchen, and drop dead views of the Frasier canyon. I had the pleasure of meeting many fellow Chironomid fisherman: Sheldon and his son Chase from Chillawack, Harry also from Chillawack. Kerry, John, Reggie, Dennis and Stone from the Vancouver area. Thao T. was supposed to join us, but ended up cancelling out the day before as he had some conflicting plans. A group of great guys, great food, great conversation and decent fishing.

That evening Gil and I decided that we would like to change up the fishing for Saturday May 23rd. It was too many guys at Ruddocks in my opinion competing for few fish. We decided to high tail it over to Roche as its really one of our favorite lakes to fish. Typically that group of guys makes an annual trip out to Roche, but they wanted to try something different this year. I think alot of them wished they had made it to Roche.

Saturday May 23rd: Chironomid Chronicles ROCHE LAKE.

Fishing was tough, bug hatches were thick, and only two fish to hand. This was my third trip to BC and to Roche lake. Roche is near the town of Kamloops and is a large body of stillwater, 326 acres, deepest part is 70′ and hold alot of trout averageing 2-4 lbs with some really big boys up to 12 lbs. Its the most amazing lake I’ve seen as far as invertabrate activity. There are scuds, scuds, and scuds, leeches, water boatman, and of course Chironomids. TONS of Chironomids. Today, Gil and I witnessed thich shucks which covered every part of the lake so that an area of two square inches wasn’t clear from those abandoned shells. If you’ve never seen a nymph rising in the water column to hatch, this is the place to witness it.

We started fishing from the West boat launch in 23 feet of water, we did this for an hour or so without any success. We then moved to other parts of the lake that have been successful for me in the past but it was hard to even buy a fish. NOt many were registering on the Hummingbird, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that fish weren’t there. Many of the boats on the lake were also having difficulties, with fisherman packing up and leaving after no activity. We decided to move to the east bay to fish in 25′ of water but just as I rounded only of the penisulas, I was marking fish, and alot of them in 37′ of water. I told Gil to move on as I wanted to take a stab at fishing the deep water.

I added more flurocarbon to come up with a 35′ leader in hopes of attracting a trout to take. Water temp was 54 in the a.m. and then warmed up to 58. I fished for sometime before I ended up needing a break. I drifted off to sleep, just as Gil was oaring back to me and as the pram twisted in the slight breeze, my rod tip slammed down and the 6 lb trout gulped my size 16 Roche Lake special, a grey Chironomid larvae with silver rib and gun metal bead head. I thought great! We’d found a way to get these finicky fish. Gil ended up hooking one, as so I did, but the time it took was not the activity that we’d hoped for. We decided at 3 pm to pack up and try our luck at Horseshoe lake, just adjacent to Roche. That decision proved to be a good one.

HORSESHOE LAKE: May 23rd, 2009

Horseshoe Lake – Horseshoe Lake is another small lake (12 ha./30ac.) located 2 km. (1.2 mi.) west of Roche Lake. If it hasn’t been subject to winterkill, it can also provide a fine brook trout fishery. Like Rose, fall and winter (ice fishing) are the preferred seasons. Cartop boats can be launched and camping is available at the launch or at nearby Roche Lake.

Just as we approached the lake in preparation to launch the boats, we noticed another Asian guy in a wooden boat. I thought to myself, ‘wouldn’t it be funny if it were Carlo’? He had a couple of fish on, and Gil and I thought to ourselves that it would hopefully make up for the poor fishing at Roche. We quickly rigged up and launched. Made a B line to 17′ water and dropped our bugs down. Within minutes I had my first take down, which ended up to be my biggest fish, a nice 8 lb Kamloops Bow, just a brute that ripped off line. He took a Roche Lake Special, size 16. Then Gil had one, I had one, Carlo had one. It was like this for a few hours until we decided to take off around 7:30 for the 2.5 hour trip back to the Ranch. All in all we landed 10-12 trout a piece ranging from 18″-26+”, not bad for a little 30 some acre lake. In the past, Gil has landed some fine Brook trout between 2-3 lbs at Horseshoe. That would have been a sight to see, but no Brookies today.

I decided to make a loop to see if it was any faster than going back up the Kamloops and onto highway 1 to Ashcroft and then down to Ruddocks. Since Merritt is the real epicenter of the BC interior I wanted to travel through there and also see the Nicola canyon and the Thompson canyon again. Some really beautiful and rugged country. We rolled back around 11 pm, and was surprised to find all the guys up and a hot dinner of New York Steaks, and Lasagna ready for our hungry stomachs. Its nice to have a professional chef as part of any fly fishing group, thanks to Kerry, Stone and all the fellas for making some great meals.

The group had reported very poor fishing back at Ruddocks Dam, with just a handful of fish caught on Olive Damsels, Dragons and leeches. Sheldon had indicated he did ok with a Chironomid, but they all had enough of Ruddocks and was planning on busting out for the last day to fish Tunkwa, Leyton or Logan lake. Im not sure what they ended up fishing, but Gil and I decided to have our last spin at Ruddocks. Which proved to be an awesome experience as we had the whole lake to ourselves.

RUDDOCKS DAM: May 24th, 2009

Since we had to make the long drive back to Bellevue today, we decided to sleep in a bit, have a hearty breakfast and then fish Ruddocks to give it an honest whirl. This was a fantastic experience as we were able to enjoy the peace and quite of a private lake to just ourselves. We werent alone, on the trip we crossed paths with a 350 lb Black bear, coyote which decided to mark his territory on another coyotes poop in the middle of the road. There were also numerous Loons, Cormorants, Ospreys, Bald Eagles but not many swallows.

There is a campsite and outhouse near the entrance road to Ruddocks which is on the west side of the lake, the deepest water of 17′. We decided to park the truck there and set up as it was the easiest launch, retrieve and just gorgeous scenery. To leave your truck unlocked, have all your gear spread out and be able to have fresh clean air, water, and scenery was a treat. Im not sure if I’d go back to this lake, but it was definitely a good experience all together.

Gil and I made it onto the lake around 10:30 as we noted the hatch didn’t really take off until 11:00 from Fridays fishing. We ended up with very little activity. Poking our bugs down deep, there were few take downs if any. We sat, fished and waited. Once the hatch died down, our fishing improved. I can speculate that places with rich bugs its difficult to compete with the naturals. Because there is so much biomass for the trout to select, they are likely staying in one zone and pigging out on the table offerings. When we did sample their stomach contents, we found loads and loads of size 16-18 Black, Chrome, Brown, and some Green. Chironomids. Around 2 pm the hatch died down and we started hooking for fish consistantly. I also ended up with a nice 7 lb fish and decided to pack it up around 4:00 pm to load up the truck, have some food and prepare for the drive back. Gil however stayed on until 5 pm. As I watched him, often he had double take downs, and on one of two occassions had fish on both rods. He was able to land both of them! This is the kind of action we expect when the fishing is hot, but I think were still a couple of weeks away from the really good fishing to come.

Carlo had mentioned that Chuck G. was also up in BC and camping out for 2 weeks with his group and was fishing the Cariboo, lakes like Forest and Dragon. I look forward to hearing how he did. Im sure by the time he swings back through Kamloops, Roche should be RED HOT. Gil and I thought that this might be our last Chironomid trip for the season as we’re thinking of getting ready for the salt and salmon season. But I might be inclined to make another trip up the BC to fish Big OK (Island) lake and Roche. Its just stunning country, wonderful camping potentially great fishing.

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Off To Kamloops!

Well, the weekend is a near and we’re packed and planning our trip up to the BC lakes to fish Ruddocks Dam and perhaps check out Island, Marquart, Lundbon and maybe Roche if we can squeeze out some time. Our initial goal was to fish Ruddocks hard as we’d paid for accomodations and the use of the lake, but based on our research it hasn’t been the most enticing so far. Yes, there are supposedly some big wild trout, up to 16 lbs, but according to the owner/operator ‘a good day is 4 or 5 fish’??? What? OK, I am a bit worried now. Originally, we were going to go ala carte’ and use their provided Jon Boats, but now its turned to stacking two prams in the back of the Toyota, and making the almost 300 mile one way trip to see what we can find.

Oh well, I guess its the spirit of adventure and a chance to fish some new water. Stayed tuned for reports coming after our BC adventure!

We’ll be fishing just outside of the town of Lytton, you should be able to see Merritt to the south east for reference.

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Ring and Ling? … Japan versus USA

Last week, May 1st, was the short season opener for the month and half long Ling Season. Last year, Thao T. and I had it dialed with many Lings hooked, played, landed and released. This year, we were hoping for a repeat. Todays fishing buddy was Jeff H. Since Jeff and I both have Koffler’s, we decided to launch them at our location ‘X’ and proceed to row a ways out to one of my favorite Ling hideouts. Since I don’t have a saltwater boat, I’d even done with this with my SpringCreek Pram and the Clackacraft 16′ FB model. Not that nice when you have 3 guys all casting away, so it was good to be in our own separate boats, doing our own thing.

I can tell you that being in the Koffler is NICE!!! Stable, confident, tracks wells and has higher sides than the Spring Creek and similar to the Clack which gave me a better feeling of security in the open water. I would be careful about the weather and also limit fishing to just me in this boat, even if its rated for 2 people. As always, I carry all the safety gear and am cautious of my surroundings.

After a few casts, I’d snagged bottom, while trying to undo that, Jeff snuck away to the spot where I told him that it might be good. As I rounded the corner, his rod was doubled over and he had a big grin on his face. Rockfish! I asked him how long he’d be there, he said it was his second cast. I thought to myself it was going to be a good morning. Cast after cast, he was dialed in the zone for the Rockies, but no Ling. I on the other hand was having some difficulties connecting. I was trying a new tie this morning, a big nasty tube bunny leech fly that I was experimenting with with little success. I didn’t feel too bad, as I’d called my other buddy Thao T. who was on another part of the sound and had some difficulty connecting with anything.

Jeff was planted on the location X, when all of the sudden, WHAM! His rod doubled over and line goes screaming out his reel. I could tell by the head shakes and the fight that it wasn’t the typical Rockfish, but a Ling. He agreed… and brought this little tike to the boat. It taped out at 24″, a bit smaller than the size limit, but worth the early wakeup and late night fly tying session. I think he enjoyed himself alot as its similar to Smallmouth fishing, but the takes are alot more ferrocious.

I decided to take a break with the full sink line and tried my 6 wt. with shooting head type 6. I’d tied on a small pink Clouser and within the first couple of casts was onto my first fish. Lots of willing Rockfish but still my eyes were set on boating a Ling. After my 10th Rockfish, the tide started changing, and the wind was kicking up a little. I decided to free drift down to give it a try and cover as much water as I knew there were some good kelp beds which might hold some Lings. After an hour of that, I took a breakfast break on a sand bar and admired the beautiful morning on the sound. The salty air, clear water, all made for a nice backdrop.

After our BC trip to the private lake, Im hoping to hit Roche in mid June and then I’ll likely wrap things up for the Chironomid season and focus my sights on Salmon. Im still on the lookout for a nice used boat, so I can get out to Neah Bay and do some top water fishing for Bass and Coho. Hopefullly this year will be a nice one to compensate for the poor previous year.

In the meantime, I was able to buy a used truck. After missing my Tundra, and testing many rigs from Ford, Chevy, Dodge, and Toyota, I decided on the Toyota. I am a loyal fan and now after this fact finding mission, I’ll likely not buy American ever. My 20 year old Toyota was in much better shape than all of the 10 year old domestics I was seeing. Shopping for an inexpensive, and 4 wheel drive truck with low miles in good shape isn’t an easy thing to do here in the Northwest. I’d even resorted to locating a T100 in Colorado and was ready to make the flight out to pick it up, when this truck came along.

This hard to find 22RE motor with automatic extracab came with brand new 31″ tires, new brakes, just clean as a whistle, keep in mind for a 20 year truck its rare to see any of those domestics on the road in decent shape. I fixed a couple of minor things, such as burnt out bulbs, and replaced the Halogen headlights to a brighter whiter version. Also added was a 2″ tow ball and custom eye hooks for the safety chains and a custom angle iron track to accomodate the Thule rack, which I bought off a guy on Craigslist for $70. I can throw two prams in the bed, attach the Koffler to the tow ball, and be off to BC or to Montana at the drop of a hat. I can’t wait to make a roadtrip now and don’t mind parking this rig or worry about scratching it up as its a fishing rig that will hopefully provide me with several more years of service. I get 19 mpg with city driving and I am hoping to get 24/25 on the highway with the prams loaded. Yea the power sucks, but I’d rather have reliability and good fuel efficiency over monster tires, torque and gass guzzling V8 or even V6 power.

This truck took me back to post college when I had a solid axle. (1985) 22RE, SR5, X-cab, 5 speed. I had over 250K miles on the clock and that thing would still run and run and run… Don’t change a good thing! I love that little 22RE motor, it doesn’t burn or leak a drop of oil and its very easy to work on…looking forward to putting on 200K miles out of this guy.

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