Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gear Review: Orvis Clearwater LA II Reel

My original 6 weight fly reel started to show some serious drag issues this past fall and winter. So I started looking for a new reel that also had spare spools that can be purchased. Then, this past February, I renewed my Trout Unlimited membership. As a thank you, I was given a $30 off coupon if I bought something from Orvis and spent $100 or more.

So after my birthday, but before my Guided trip on the North Platte, I bought the Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor II reel and a spare spool. I also purchased their last year's model Wonderline in Olive to go on the reel. I hope to review that line at the end of the season.

Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor Reel

Upon receiving the reel and spool, I liked that it came with a soft cloth pouch for the reel. Unfortunately no such pouch is included for the spool. This is a cast aluminum reel, but feels a perfect balance for my 6 weight rod. It was also slightly lighter than my previous Bass Pro reel. To change out the spool, is easy. You simply push in a metal lock and the spool comes off.

To adjust the drag, there is a large knob (as shown in the picture above). The drag is sensitive and very easy to use. The only downside to the drag, is that if you get the reel wet, the drag will squeek and groan until it dries out. So I suggest that you take apart the reel and lube it up immediately to prevent that from happening to you. Since that initial trip, I haven't had the issue again.

As a lefty, I always have to adjust my reels to right hand retrieve. This reel is very simple to convert. Simply remove the spool, pull out the part holding the nut and flip the one way bearing. Then you have your reel converted. Much easier than some other reels I own.

Overall I like this reel. Upon notifying Orvis about the sound it makes when wet, they quickly responded to ensure I was a satisfied customer. I liked that. Prior to this my only experience with anything Orvis was a 9 weight rod from the mid-90's that acts more like a 10 weight that was purchased from a local benefit auction.


  • Bargain price at $79 for a reel that also allows you to purchase spare spools.
  • Easy to adjust drag system, that has been reliable so far.
  • Large Arbor that allows for quick pickup of your line onto the reel when you are trying to bring that monster rainbow to hand.
  • Drag seems to need lubrication out of the box.
  • No smaller version for light weight rods.
I do believe that this reel will become my standard reel on my gear that is not ultra-light. I would like to buy one more spool for an intermediate sink tip. Currently I have this reel spool with a full sinking tip and a WF line. With the 6wt WF Wonderline that I have, it comes dangerously close if you put a full 150 yards of backing on to running out of room. But a 6 weight line is also the maximum they recommend for the size I purchased.

Get out on the water! I know I am!


Monday, May 28, 2012

Fly of the Week: Hackled X-Caddis

This week's fly of the week is a modified version of Bob Jacklin's X-Caddis. His version of the fly doesn't have any hackle on it. and rides a bit lower in the water. I like this version since it floats easier and needs less dressings to keep it floating. Also be sure to look at the end for a killer modification that makes Brookies go crazy.

Hackled X-Caddis


  • Hook: Standard Dry fly Size 12-16. (Pictured on size 14)
  • Thread: Olive 70 denier
  • Body: Tan Possum/Antron Dubbing
  • Hackle: Grizzly Hackle
  • Tail: Florescent Green Antron
  • Wing: Cow Elk Hair

Tying Steps

  1. Tie on your thread about half way down the hook, and wrap a layer reward. Tie in the Antron Shuck. Trim so it goes just beyond the end of the hook.
  2. Tie in a Grizzily hackle by the base first, shiny side out.
  3. Apply dubbing wax to about 1.5" of thread and touch the dubbing to the thread.Wrap the thread forward, periodically pushing the dubbing rearward as you take the thread to the tie in point for the elk hair.
  4. Now wrap the hackle forward and tie it off. Keep the rest of your hackle for later.
  5. Cut a clump of elk hair, stack it by the tip and tie to the hook. Use several wraps both on and in front of the hair.
  6. Cut the base of the hair close and cover with wraps.
  7. Take the remaining hackle from earlier and it in by the tip near just in front of the hair.
  8. Wrap the Hackle providing a lot of base and tie off.
  9. Cut off any remaining hackle and whip finish.

Memorial Day Bonus Modification

Brook trout seem to love red, so I like to add a tail of red antron as the trailing shuck. This will be absolute killer on brook trout in my experience. Try it out yourself. The pictured Caddis Fly uses Peacock Herl for the body instead of dubbing. But I feel that both bodies work equally well.

Bloody Butt Caddis

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Gear Review: Cabela's PackRat Fly Vest


I purchased the Cabela's PackRat Fly Vest back when I started fly fishing in 2008. Since that time, it has gotten a lot of use on the river, in the boat, and in the back of my truck. It's fairly durable, it holds a lot of stuff, and best of all it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. The one I own is size 2-XL.

The vest in its first summer.
Storage wise, it hold everything I need and keeps it easy and quick to reach. On the front, it has two zippered pockets at the top, along with velcro pockets infront of the zippered ones. I keep my two primary fly boxes in the zippered pockets. The fold down pockets hold my floatant on one side and my indicators on the other. The fly patch is a weak point, as it doesn't always hold the flies very well. I have probably lost a half dozen flies or so on the vest. Also on the left chest pocket is a slide for your forceps. It's very handy and as long as i don't overstuff that pocket doesn't get in my way. If I put to much gear in there the handle will sometimes catch my fly line.

Below that there are two long pockets that zipper close. I keep my larger streamer and terrestrial flies in these pockets. On the outside of those are 4 smaller tippet pockets that are great for carrying your tippet, and a small tape measurer. Be careful with these pockets though. Sometimes it can be tough to tell if you closed it all the way and things will fall out. I haven't lost anything, but I wouldn't put my keys in there!

Inside, there are 2 additional pockets. I use these to keep my license, leader, and fly retriever. There are also 2 long pockets that line up with the lower front exterior pockets. One of these is water resistant, and holds my maps. The other pocket holds a snack or trash depending on what part of the day it is.

Rear View
On the back side of the vest is a large full length pocket that is zippered.This normally holds my gloves or a rain jacket quite easily. There is also a D ring for clipping your net too. I keep my net on this and rarely have trouble getting it off while fighting that large fish! Additionally there are 2 long vertical pockets. I usually keep my sunscreen in one, and a bottle of water in the other. Many timesI don't carry anything back here, as the weight will make your vest slide backwards and be uncomfortable.

Lastly there are 2 large straps. For me these straps were realatively useless. Both straps tore off holding a small 4 piece empty rod tube while I was fishing in the back country.

Lastly there are additional D rings on the front and a rod holder to hold your external gear. All works well, and I haven't had the need to attach any of my retrievers into the fabric directly.

This vest lasted me four strong years. It would probably continue going, but I've lost some weight, and as a result I was just swimming in this vest. I am moving into my new vest now. I'll let you know how it goes later this summer. I thought the vest was very comfortable, wasn't hot, yet never made me feel cold. The neoprene collar is actually a nice touch that kept that part dry so my neck didn't get irritating by being up against a sweat soaked collar.

Overall this is a great fishing vest for those new to the game.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fly of the Week: Sparkle Caddis Emerger

Welcome to my newest feature... Fly of the week. Each Monday I will be posting a fly that I use on the waters here in Wind River country. This week's feature is one of my favorite flies. It works well being dead drifted, can be skated across the water, or on the swing. The materials of this fly allow it to sit low in the water.

The shuck on the back resembles female caddis flies laying her eggs, with an egg sack, or an emerging caddis fly with a trailing shuck. I have had the best luck with this fly on brown trout. Though, I've also had luck with Rainbows and brookies.

Hook: Standard Dry Fly - Size 10-16. (tied on size 12 in the picture)
Thread: Olive 140 Denier
Body: Chartreuse micro tubing
Underwing/Tail: Olive Antron (Feel free to change this color)
Wing: Elk Hair Body


Step 1.Tie on your thread near the front, about one eyelet length behind the eye. Lay in a base wrap down to just past the barb.Then run your thread back to the front.

Step 2.Tie in the Micro tubing and run it on the bottom side of the hook to the rear.

Step 3.
Tie in the Antron at the rear and run your thread forward to a 1/3rd of the way down from the eyelet.

Step 4.Make tight wraps with the tubing to the position of the thread in the opposite direction that your thread is. Tie it off and clip the excess.

Step 5.
Tie in the Antron, leaving a small loop that extends just past the end of the hook.

Step 6.
Clip off Elk Body Hair and brush out the underfur. Stack the hair. Position the hair on the hook so that the tips are even with the Antron Loop. Tie it it with 2 loose wraps then pull tight. I find it easiest to put the hair on the near side of the hook and let the tightening process shift the wing to the top. Put a couple more wraps on the hair, then pull back the base of the hair and make 3-5 wraps in front. Then go back and put another 3-5 wraps over the wing. Lastly bring your thread back in of the hair and tie it off with a whip finish.

Step 7.
Trim the base of the hair to form a small head. Lastly, put a dab of head cement on the wraps over the wing and in front where your whip finish is.

Other Tips
I like to put some floatant grease on the underside and on the head when I fish this fly. Also don't be afraid to tie off an unweighted dropper to attract more fish as well.

This Brown approves of the fly!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book Review: Trout Eyes: True Tales of Adventure, Travel, and Fly Fishing

I recently found myself wanting to read a book about fly fishing, but not instructional, something more along the lines of what else people think about when they are on the water. As I was looking through the Amazon Lending Library, I came across William Tapply's book, Trout Eyes: True Tales of Adventure, Travel, and Fly Fishing published in 2007, and this book definitely looked like it would fit the bill.

This isn't a biography, autobiography, or even a story. Rather it is more a collection of articles, and descriptions of Tapply's fishing trips from childhood through his latest adventures. A big portion of the book is a reminder to spend time with your family. He retells stories of his Dad lying on his bed at a nursing home, while he describes his latest fishing adventure. His father listens intently, eyes closed, relying on the vivid details so that he believes he is the one fishing and catching that wonderful small stream trout.

As I read the book, I kept pausing and finding myself reliving my childhood memories with my Dad. I would go back and think about our fishing trips on the local lake for Crappie. Often times, I would have one rod out with a bobber and minnow fishing for a crappie. My other rod, would be rigged up with a spinner bait, and as we sat anchored off the point, I would cast my spinner bait into the grass. Then one time, my spinner bait was hammered, I pulled back and set the hook, on a monster large mouth bass. It was HUGE by my standards, but really probably a 3 or 4 pound bass.

Similarly, he retells a story about how his Dad and him went to this pond every year. Each evening they would go out to "Volkswagon cove" which was home to large boulders in the water that looked like beetles submerged in the water. He would cast out onto each rock and every cast would bring in a smallmouth bass.

I happened to read this book just before my birthday, before I knew about my guided trip. Perhaps it was Freudian, but my wife double booked herself and had to host her book club the night before my guided trip. As a result, I had a free spot on the boat with me. If you have followed this blog then you know... my Dad got first dibs on the free spot on the river boat and flew out to meet me up for his first fly fishing trip.

Dad proudly holding a N. Platte Rainbow
The memories from that day will always stay with me. Watching my Dad battle and land his first trout on the fly rod. Not having to undo a wind knot himself, or even rig up his rod, being pampered by our excellent guide at Wyoming Fly Fishing Guide Service. I do believe I learned to cherish that day with my father even more partly thanks to this book.

The book describes his many return adventures to the rivers out west. How he remembers them, compared to how they fish now. Like most he is of the mentality you should have been here back then. But if I was there back then, he would have been annoyed by the kid skipping rocks through his favorite run most likely.

As it is, this book is a short read, probably a week at most of leisurely reading time. However, the effect of the book will have you wanting to get out on your stream, river, lake, coast line, or flats throwing that fly to your favorite targets. It certainly did for me. I certainly believe this book is a worthy addition to any fly fisherman's library.

Cya next time!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Preserving Fishing in "The Park"

I have only lived in Wyoming for eight wonderful years. However, I grew up visiting Yellowstone National Park as a child, teenager, adult, husband, and this summer, as a father. As a child, my parents brought me out here in a 1984 Subaru Legacy. The car was tight on space, even for me, and I barely remember any of it. I remember bits and pieces of the scenery, and a tiny bear that my parents bought my sister and I during the trip. That bear barely made it back to Ohio, since I carried him everywhere on that trip by his "leash". On this trip, I barely knew what fishing was. This was around the time that I threw all of my Dad's bobbers into a lake to fish like him once! My main memories of this time period are all the bears going through the trash cans, and lots of tree cover.
My Sister and I holding our bears overlooking Yellowstone Falls in August 1984.
In 1996, my parents, and my girlfriend (who later became my wife!) made the trip back out to Yellowstone. We saw the sights, did a few hikes, but again, no fishing, as my Dad and I would be the only ones, and neither of us had ever really considered fly fishing. Our main goal on this trip was to locate the elusive porcupine, my favorite animal. We failed, only finding a couple that had been hit by cars *sigh*. This was my first trip back after the great fires of 1988. The place looked completely different to me. The ground was still raw from the fire in most places, with mainly grasses and a few flowers growing.

Eight years later though, my now fiance graduated from college with a Masters' degree in Meteorology and accepted a job here in Riverton, Wyoming. At the time, I lived in Maryland, outside of Washington DC. I promptly spammed my resume through the small community until I found somebody willing to hire me. Then I moved here over Labor Day weekend in 2004. Since that time, we have found ourselves back to Yellowstone a half dozen times, each time to view the scenery and wildlife. Each time, the park has looked more and more how I remember it as a 5 year old kid in amazement. The pine's are now taller than me, the fire torn landscape is largely disappearing with new thick forest growth.

In 2008, I decided I wanted to try fly fishing. I bought the gear, and managed to catch my first fish on the fly in a stocked lake inside the Wind River mountains.

My first fish on the fly rod
The following year in 2009, we made a week long trip to Yellowstone, staying in West Yellowstone. My wife promised me that we would spend at least part of the time fishing. I was excited. After talking to a few people in the fly shops, we settled on fishing the Soda Butte. It was crowded, every bend was packed with people, and I only had 1 cutt even come up to my fly before refusing it. Later on we tried a section of the Madison. I managed to do an OK job of casting, as I remember several people pulling off and taking pictures of me knee deep in a riffle casting my fly, but still not catching anything.

My wife and I standing outside the North Entrance in 2008

Then one evening, the hatch was on, and we could see rises forming all along the Madison. My wife suggest that we give it a shot. Pine moths were all over the water, and the trout were happily eating away. I had a humpy in my fly box, it looked closest to them, so I tied it on and used it. A little while later I had my first Yellowstone wild trout on the end of my line. A whopper young of the year fish about 4 inches long. Even though, it was so small, I was all smiles. The barbless hook let the fish go before my wife could get the camera ready. Even with that, it was one of my first trout on the fly rod.

Since that summer my fly fishing abilities have increased marginally. I only have wind knots once an hour instead of every other cast. However, I haven't made it back to the park. This summer, we'll be taking our daughter into the park. She won't remember any of it, as she'll only be 18 months old when we head in. However, my hope and dream is for her to be able to enjoy the park as I have been able to over my lifetime so far.

I have seen the park recover from those fires of 1988. As such, I believe that nature, with our help can win the battle against Lake Trout. I don't know how they arrived, though, my guess is likely due to somebody transporting live bait or releasing their catch from one of the lakes that already had lake trout into Yellowstone Lake, not knowing how much damage they were going to cause. I joined Trout Unlimited in 2011, partially after reading about their efforts to reduce the lake trout population found in Yellowstone Lake. I hope my readers out there, also consider joining this healthy cause.

Fairy Falls in 2009

Additionally, I hope that when my daughter is old enough, that I will be able to take her to Yellowstone and experience a chance to fish for wild Cutthroat trout. That is why I want to help preserve the native cutthroats found in this wonderful park.

Tight Lines all,

“This is my submission for the Trout Unlimited, Simms, the Yellowstone Park Foundation and the Outdoor Blogger Network – Blogger Tour 2012 contest.” However, I truly believe in everything I say here. I hope you all make it a priority to keep your local treasures, as well as those not so close to you in shape so that the next generation may enjoy them as well.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Helping a Friend Read the Water

Sunday, for the second time, I went with a friend on the water. The first time we went out, we alternated prime spots for each hole. I ended up with the only 2 fish on the day. I attributed it to that the fishing was slow.

Yesterday, I decided to give him every hole first. The morning started off slow, but finally around 10:30-11am, the fishing started to pick up for me. He had moved on ahead and I stayed at a hole for about an hour picking up fish after fish. I was hopeful that he was having similar success knowing that he was also working some previously very productive holes.

Eventually, I moved ahead to see how he was doing. I was dismayed to find that he had not caught anything, nor had a strike. Perhaps these holds were void of fish today, or the fish just weren't hungry. As he moved on, I  hit the hole getting into a number of white fish, and even a couple more brown trout. So I figured, OK it's not that the fish aren't biting, he's doing some wrong. So After he finished exploring I took him back down to the most productive hole on this stretch of the stream. I showed him where to cast his fly, and worked on having him mend. He still wasn't having much luck. Eventually he got a wind knot, so while he worked that out, I put a cast into the seam and pulled out a decent white fish.

After that, we looked closer at his setup. He was fishing a weighted nymph, but did not have a weight on the line. We added a sinker to his line and tried again. I worked on him opening up his cast, as he threw off the first sinker in short order. Then we worked on his mend. Then on one good cast through the seam, he got a solid take, but missed the hook set. A few casts later, he didn't miss the set and soon brought his first mountain whitefish to hand. As he was unbuttoning his fish, I cast into the hole and promptly had a tank of a fish on the line. We could easily see the fat slab of whitefish on the end of my 3 weight rod. I managed to bring him to net. he was curious how big he was, so I broke out the tape measure, and he measured out to a whopping 18 3/4". Certainly not a bad size fish to pull out of a stream that I can almost jump across. After that, I had to head home to spend the afternoon with my family. He stayed at the stream. Hopefully finding a few more lunkers to bring to net or hand.

My friend has the basics down quite well. However, he mainly fishes still waters. So didn't have a full grasp on reading the water, and what it takes to keep your fly on a natural drift. Hopefully the tips I gave him, helps him grow, and soon he'll be slaying the moving water as I did yesterday.

So my lesson today for anglers is, if you are hitting loads of fish, but your fishing partner isn't, then take a second to examine what they're doing. With a few simple tips you might be able to help make their day more enjoyable on the water too. Fishing is always better when all are feeling a tug at the end of their rod.

Tight Lines,