Sunday, 17 September 2017

A Year in Fly Fishing, 2018 – David Lambrougton

Every fly fisher needs a calendar to mark important events in the up-coming year. Like dates for New Zealand and its big browns. Or an annual camping trip with friends to a special Elk River spot. Or in search of big steelhead on a secret stretch of the Bulkley. Or your first trip to fabled Patagonia. Or…

Then there are mundane things to remember, like your significant other’s birthday, children and family, who you’ll likely present with some new dry flies, or skaters for summers on a canyon river all to yourselves. And there’s lots of room for even less significant dates to keep, like doctor’s appointments, that become more frequent the more years you have serviced your GOFO avocation (the Gods of Fishing Office). 

My favourite annual of most important duties with a fly rod, is David Lambroughton’s twelve months starting January 1. David has travelled all over the world, and fished some pretty stellar water. He’s also a stellar photographer, with colour saturation that is out of the world. His natural talent for composition brings some satisfyingly large shots to his big calendar that opens to 12 by 24 inches.

2018 begins with a good depth of field, tack sharp, of Swedish versions of dries we tie just a little differently on this side of the pond. And hence to a Kiwi dimple in an open blue-green stream in a grassy green field beneath white peaks. The sage advice beside the days suggests that large browns are loath to spit a really good fly. The other line of text points out that old timers advise singing the first line of God Save The Queen before striking.

Every month has a one of a kind image for you to salivate over for as many as 31 consecutive days. And another of his self evident, yet vital truths of life on succeeding pages: “I fish not to escape life, but life not to escape me.” Sage advice David.

I have had the great good fortune to fish the entire BC saltwater coast, its long fjords, coho, and chinook you can hardly lift from the water. Check out Maximum Salmon for me and good buddy 50-pound spring from Milbanke Sound. I have also done the Inside Passage at 9 knots allowing me to put all the individual fishing destinations into a single overall picture of the entire BC coastline.

David has also spent 30 years on the road. He’s done more than “2,000,000 miles of Global Angling Travel to everywhere in the world I ever dreamed of and many of them multiple times.” The countries include Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Fuji, Tahiti, the Seychelles, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Russia, all over the U.K., Ireland, Europe and North America. 

“My favourite places are B.C. and N.Z. and I love the photography every bit as much as the fishing.” This year will be his 38th winter in New Zealand. I plan to join him in an upcoming year.

To see some of David’s images go to: His calendars are sold pretty much all over the world, including Canada, the U.S., England, Germany, New Zealand and Australia. Locally, they can be found in Victoria at Robinson’s Fly Shop on Broad Street or in Vancouver at Michael & Young on Broadway.

David has a similar past to mine: “Fly Fishing has done so much for me. I got to travel the world and meet all kinds of incredible people that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I would have gladly done it all for free.”

David holds the view that “The best anglers in the world are the ones who love it the most and share it the most.” He also supports various conservation societies and has donate calendars to groups like the Federation of Fishing, The Henry’s Fork Foundation, and others. He’d like his legacy to be turning his work into non-profit charitable causes. 

Help the grand vision by contacting David for a calendar at: He lives in Armstrong, BC, but can be found pretty much anywhere in the world fulfilling the aims of GOFO. Sounds good to me.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Power Mooching

Power mooching is one of the best and most impressive methods of fishing for salmon in the remote regions. Best in the sense of effective, particularly for chinook and secondarily coho. Impressive in the sense that boat handling skills are key to fishing success.

While bait supplies can be a problem, once you have whole herring, it’s best to cut them in a blunt 30-degree angle, when thawing out – both cross section and length wise – behind the gills for chinook and a 45-degree cut on both dimensions on a shorter plug for coho; they prefer faster action and will actively speed up to whack the bait. You stick your bait knife into the belly cavity, twirl it in a circle and draw out the stomach and other organs, leaving a neat hole and unripped-skin-side that helps spiral the bait.

Typically, we use pre-rigged 6-foot leaders with two Octopus-style, kerbed hooks – from 3-0 to 6-0. Both hooks are tied to the leader (leading hook first, leaving a foot to tie on the trailing hook) with sliding knots (also known as a ‘guide’s wrap, and nailless nail knot). Here is a link to tying instructions: Distance between leading hook bend and eye of trailing hook should be less than three inches.

The leading hook is inserted into the high, or meat side of the cut on the plug, and attached to the plug in one of two ways: the simple way is to insert the point all the way through and then up out of the dorsal or near-dorsal surface, leaving most of the hook ahead of the plug; the more classy, harder way, is to draw the leading hook out the hole in the dorsal surface; then you draw the hook down the left side of the plug as you look from head to tail and insert the point. The hook is pulled right through and then neatly, the eye is buried back in the hole you have made and the shaft pushed in forward, so that the only hook showing is the bend and point at right angles to the flank.

The trailing hook is passed down further on the right side of the plug, the point inserted and the hook rotated so that it, too, comes out of the flank. Then the eye is pushed back into the hole and pushed forward so that only the point and bend show at right angles to the flank.

Alternatively, one can do the simple leading hook set up, and leave the trailing hook trailing, not attached to the plug. In either case, that max three inches of leader between hooks will leave the trailer a short distance from the plug’s tail end, rather than farther.

Each plug as rigged is attached to a ball-bearing swivel on the leader that attaches to a ball bearing end snap on the mainline. This prevents line winding up on itself into a glumph. And a weight from four ounces to a pound is attached from eight to 25 feet above the mainline snap.

Each plug is then scrutinized at the side of the boat at trolling speed to make sure it spirals, with the tail end following the ‘head’ through the spiral, not swinging in a circle with a greater/lesser diameter on the tail end compared with the head end.

Then, two stern or two bow lines are lowered to depth and power mooching begins. The boat is put into gear and the lines rise from 90 degrees straight down to 45 degrees at which point the engine is taken out of gear. As the boat slows, the lines pass down to 90 degrees again, and then the boat is put back into gear. And repeat. It is some impressive to watch a dozen boats in the out-back, following on a pass, grinding a hotspot tight to a rock. You put your boat into gear when the person in front of you does, and when they take it out of gear, you do the same, too.

It’s a ballet of move, slide, move, slide. When a fish bites, the boats work to open a space and that boat moves offshore to play the fish, leaving everyone else fishing. When the fish is in the boat, that boat is allowed to rejoin the ‘circle’ of boats once again.

The high art of the method is shown when underwater structure requires great handing skills. With the double aluminum hull open boats often used in remote areas, two rods in the bow and two rods in the stern, it takes lots of skill to keep all four rods fishing properly, without tangling and off the bottom.

In spots where the bottom structure changes direction, or even presents a dead end, the boat handler is keeping everything fishing at all times – 45 to 90 degrees and so on – even when required to reverse out of a dead-end structure, then swinging the boat to follow the previously covered, or new structure once backed out.

When you reverse in a turn, the bow end swings the most. When you move forward in a turn, it is the stern end that swings most. When you might have 40 feet out, but the structure may come to, say 25 feet, it takes lots of skill to keep the boat and rods working and not hanging up. It also takes lots of skill and quick movement, once you have a fish on, to clear the other rods.

Part of the reason this is a remote technique is that there are more fish in the out-back areas, thus boats don’t grind a rock all day, doing the ‘stick and stay and make it pay’ thing for when the bite comes on.

Places close by that come to mind are the back side of Otter Point on the ebb (although there can be too many boats that don’t understand the power mooching pattern, to allow such a practice), inside the bay structure of Beechy Head, and the dead-end chute off the Chinese cemetery in Victoria. There are more spots, of course, but I leave you to find those.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Flossing or Nymphing?

Duncan Kirkham: Thanks for your advice and help. Having landed a few fish in the Campbell, it seems my style didn’t work as well as it might have: seven-weight, slow sinking, clear casting line, 4- to 6-foot leader, bead head fly in red, blue, and green -- and on the last day, lead shot on the leader to get me down. What struck me is that the fishers on the Campbell had adopted many of the styles that go with European nymph fishing: short line with sinking tip (like a Skagit sinking tip), many frequent casts, long rod held high with no short retrieving, then a quick jerk back if they felt a movement at the end of the line. With that they caught more fish than I did. Does that sound right from what you have seen? 

Answer: Sounds like they were flossing. That would explain the quick jerk at the end of the ‘drift’, the purpose being to set the hook in a possible fish. In flossing, the line, with its weight above the ‘fly’ is intended to put the fly, on a shortish leader, on the bottom where the fish are, in freshwater. It requires the angler to have a good understanding of the structure in 3-D terms and where, in it, the fish will sit, and, where one’s fly will be at any given moment.

Salmon in freshwater often hold for weeks before spawning or moving on. With nowhere to go, and not interested in food, they are only trying to keep a small inconvenience out of their space, hence, a passive bite. This happens most frequently with chinook, pink and chum in that order.

But in flossing, there is no bite. The leader is stretched out horizontally, and it passes into the mouth of a salmon, with the fly extended horizontally past the mouth. The jerk, pulls the ‘fly’ into the outside of the mouth on the opposite side of the fish, setting it. A floss is always evidenced by a fly stuck in a fish this way. Look for it in the operculum on the side away from you.

What fly you use becomes irrelevant because the fly is not catching the fish. But the Campbell has some regular favourites and you should pick some up from River Sportsman. A sparse, conventional Muddler Minnow is a stand out, as can be ones in pink, or blue (which can be useful in other northern rivers), and there are pink, blue and green short streamers, too. These flies the fish intends to bite and does so.

Flossing is not uncommon in salmon fisheries on beaches, estuaries, and in rivers. All that is needed is a current, proper structure, fish stopping at this point, or moving through in high numbers, and the angler understanding all this and setting the hook. In a day of pink fishing you may release a flossed fish or two, without intentionally flossing.

Nymphing, on the other hand, is a method using larval stages of insects, dead drifted (meaning no tension on the line between angler and fly). You keep your rod tip high and fish directly in front of you, meaning the fish are not below you, they are beside you. The rod tip follows the line downstream so that it keeps the nymph dead drifting at all time. A skated or swung nymph is not nymphing as nymphs do not have the ability to swim faster than the current that washes them from their rock and down stream. 

In a passive bite, the fly could be dead drifted through the fish zone, and the fish stops it and then lets it go. You have to recognize the stop and strike it. If you don’t, you will not catch fish. A high rod tip allows the fly to dead drift (however, this is poor technique in most freshwater fly fishing, where you want the rod tip in the water to give you maximum strike distance). Both pink and chinook primarily are passive biters in freshwater, meaning they stop the fly. Chum, when new can have snappy periods where you recognize the strike as pulling the fly line past your rod’s line-finger. Sockeye seldom bite and thus are prime candidates for flossing, while coho actively move to a fly, whack it and take off.

The reason flossing is allowed is that the sockeye fisheries where it is used are meat fisheries: Paper Mill Dam on the Somass and the gravel bars of the Fraser. If a conservation officer came upon someone flossing in the Campbell, it would technically mean a ticket, but the angler could claim they were not flossing or didn’t know what flossing was and thus not be ticketed. And, of course, the Campbell is complicated by having gear, artificial fly and fly-fishing only stretches unlike most other rivers.

As for how you were fishing. I would guess you needed a line with a quicker sink rate and a shorter leader. As always, the purpose is to put the fly on the bottom where the fish are, and the Campbell is a fast-flow river, meaning more sink is better. The reason for a shorter leader is that you want the fly at the same level as the fly line rather than floating above it.

A clear intermediate line would allow you to run a shorter leader but not have enough overall sink rate. Do remember that where you need greater sink, the fly zips by the fish quicker and thus it has less time to see the fly line, decide and whack the fly, even though a black or brown line is close behind, which it evidently does not see.

The reality is that you need to match sink rate with fishing spot. These days lots of people fish below River Sportsman fly shop and below the bridge leading out of town, north to Sayward. These waters are bigger and have more current than some others, both factors in concentrating fish. I would not fish in these spots because the fish have so much space to move around in. They are not concentrated. Having said this, I have landed fish, having accessed the parking lot just below the fly shop, but that was a day of oodles of fish.

The Sandy Pool at the logging bridge, the Quinsam mouth and the Island Pool are other spots. At each, you figure out the structure, where the fish are, how to put the fly through at mouth level and once you are successful, you repeat the same cast all day long. Get yourself a tip pouch and keep all tips you buy in it. I must have 25. Over time, you will come to have a tip for all circumstances, even if it was intended for, say a Spey rod, and you are slinging a heavy rig on a single-handed rod.

Lastly, the Campbell, with its large rocks and controlled flow, is much the same as it was in the days that Haig-Brown fished it. The Island Run, has rocks more than 100 pounds, and a controlled winter flood doesn’t move them, thus the run stays the same year after year. Many other rivers, the San Juan, for instance, is still spewing logging damage gravel a hundred years after the clear-cut, burying rocks and features for decades and then blowing them away. The Campbell shows you its fishing history today. It is a treat to take pinks, standing on rocks that Haig-Brown might have stood on to catch them, too.