Monday, April 14, 2014

Biology, bendos, and breeding

Despite fishing being a relatively small part of it, I had a relatively eventful weekend on the river. On Saturday afternoon, we met a flyfisherman and biologist who gave us a crash course on local insect identification and collection. Once a month one of us will go out and collect all identifiable mayfly, stonefly, and caddisfly nymphs and adults and send them off for identification and entry into a database. I've always had somewhat of an interest in entemology as it relates to fly fishing, but never pursued it until this year. I recently bought the book "Handbook of Hatches" by Dave Hughes, and am finding it accessible, entertaining, and informative, but there is no substutite to turning over rocks and rooting through streamside vegetation and having a biologist eagerly identify your findings. It's been many decades since I spent this much time looking for bugs in a body of water and I have to say, the novelty hasn't worn off, and I felt myself transported to the marsh of my youth, collecting water beetles and tadpoles. I wasn't the only one, the rest of the guys seemed to have almost as much fun as they do when they're fishing. If you ever get the chance to examine insect life as it relates to the river you fish under the tutelage of an expert, take it!

Beautiful day on the bank

Some literature specific to Swiss mayflies and stoneflies

Examining our catch
Mayfly nymph

Over lunch the next day I finally found the time to take out my old Hardy JET 6 weight for a few tests casts. I threw on an Orvis BBS reel and headed down to the river with the intention to do some nymphing. That plan went out the window as I spotted multiple rising trout. I tied on a dry, and got to work. Unfortunately, the rod and I didn't quite mesh. The line I had on the reel, although it was a WF6, was a line I'd never been particularly happy with and keep meaning to replace. In addition, I really think this rod might be better served with a WF7, I needed to have far too much line out in order to properly load the rod. As if that weren't enough, it was quite windy and the wind was coming from the direction of my casting side. In short, I found it impossible to make a passable presentation, much less a delicate one. Still, fish aren't nearly as smart as we make them out to be, so in short order I missed one strike, then another, and then finally had a foot long brown on the end of the rod. Now, finally, I felt like I could enjoy the rod. Fighting a fish on it was thoroughly enjoyable, but I think I'll relegate this rod to streamer/nymphing duty.

Hardy JET 9 foot 6 weight

And finally, later that afternoon, I took my kids to see the spawning activity of the Common Nase, a migratory fish in the carp family that's in danger of extinction in Switzerland, and has been protected since 2007. Our river is one of the few and best remaining spawning grounds for this fish, which can grow to 20 inches long. Switzerland, like many other European countries, suffers from an addiction to dam building and hydroelectric power, and this fish is a reliable indicator of the health of a river so we're always happy to see them. Amazingly, they always pick the exact same section in which to spawn, only a few hundred feet long, affectionately referred to as "Nase Curve" as the section lies along an undercut, curving section of bank. I tried to get some photos, but the sun wasn't quite right and my reflexes weren't fast enough to catch the fish when they broke the water.

Spawning Common Nase
One of the few splashes I was able to catch on film
Sometimes, you can spend an very enjoyable weekend on a river with a hardly any fishing. It's certainly not optimal though...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Yasuyuki Kabuto of Kabuto Rods

When I profiled the workshops of various rod builders a few months back, more than one of the featured builders mentioned that they'd love to hear input from a universally respected Japanese rod builder and blank designer, Yasuyuki Kabuto, of Kabuto Rods.

Every one of the rodmakers I've profiled in the past regularly use Kabuto blanks for their work, and they're one of the most highly regarded glass blanks available. Kab is well known for his stunning stacked bamboo reel seats, and his friendly nature, to which I can attest!

(Translating the questions and answers from English to Japanese and back into English was a pretty long process, so any mistakes or unclear formulations are solely my fault!)

Yasayuki Kabuto

How long have you been rod building and do you have a day job as well?

I started rod building in 1999. The first rod I used was SAGE 9’0”#8.
I work in real estate business during the day, so I get to work on rod building
after I put my kids to sleep, 21:00~1:00. Since I'm not a full time rod builder, the
amount of production is limited. I barely have free time of my own and sometimes do
wish I had more time to enjoy a beer, watch TV and relax. But knowing the fact that there are customers waiting for a rod, and when I receive a letter of thanks, that's what motivates me and keeps building.

Do you work from home?

Yes, I do work from home. The room I'm using once belonged to my daughter,
and now my 5 year old daughter is begging me for have a room of her own, so I may have to move my work space to even a smaller room. The Japanese housing environment is as small as a rabbit house, so I adore a big working environment. But the good thing about a small environment is that (almost) everything is within reach!

What item on your bench sees the most use? The least?

The item I use most is my lathe, for grips and reel seats. The lathe I'm  using is made by Sherline from the US. You can't get them here in Japan, so I ordered from US. The only lathes you can get here are big, heavy and expensive. Therefore I choose not to use them.

Another item I use is a specific paint for blank painting. I use dipping when painting a blank.

I hardly use my wrapping bench,as I currently wrap by hand.. One you get used to it, it is so much faster than using a tool. I recommend hand wrapping because you can do that even by sitting on a couch.

What’s your favorite feature of your work space? And the least favorite?

My most favorite in my working environment is the climate. Hokkaido – where I live, the temperature is between 22 -25 °C (72-77 °F) and humidity is between 50~60% throughout the year.  The least favorite part is the size of  my shop– small.

Do you follow any specific routines or habits when working? Music, privacy,etc?

I prioritize safety when working. Besides being cautious when using tools, I also wear a mask when painting.  Secondly, I work quietly aso I don't wake my kids up during the night. I choose to work on the weekends when working on bamboo stacking.

I don’t listen to music. I feel that it's important to hear the sounds of the machines and tools when working.

Do you have any photos or posters on the walls to motivate or inspire you?

There is no space in my current work area, but if I move to a bigger space, I will be able to display more items.

Check out Kabuto Rods on Facebook and on the Web, and read about and see more of his work on the Fiberglass Flyrodders forum, and The Fiberglass Manifesto.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sometimes it all works out just like you'd hoped

Every fishing trip begins with hope. 99 times out 100, that hope isn't realized. But every so often, things work out just the way they're supposed to. Exactly the way you imagined and hoped they would. In my fishing life, this hasn't happened too often, only a few times come to mind.

The first time was in Southern California, on a multiday tuna trip. It was nighttime, we were drifting and there wasn't much happening. Most of the people were inside eating, and a few were standing outside smoking and drinking a beer, and no one was fishing. I caught a glimpse of a fin just outside the floodlights, so I grabbed my rod, hooked a sardine, and cast it out  directly in front of a 5 foot mako. The mako swallowed it with no hesitation, and it was at the boat a short while later, despite the lack of a wire leader. Exactly as I had pictured it.

The second, in Maine. I was visiting my mom, and wanted to get some fishing in. I don't remember how or why I chose to fish for stripers where the Ducktrap river enters Penobscot Bay, but that's where I ended up with high hopes and exactly zero experience in striper fishing. I brought my 8 weight fly rod, but the incoming tide was too strong to get the unweighted fly down, even with a sinking line. Fortunately I also had a saltwater spinning rod and a few frozen mackerel. I threw a chunk on a hook, cast it out, put it in freespool and a had a legal striper on the line in 30 seconds. Exactly as I had pictured it.

Then there was the third time, just a few days ago. I ran into a friend who told how he spotted a huge fish nymphing at the base of a waterfall the previous day, and subsequently hooked it, only to have the fish immediately jump and throw the hook. We walked back to the spot, and saw a few other nice sized trout, but nothing huge. Naturally, as any fisherman would be, I was consumed with thoughts of this fish. The next day, I rushed home after work and collected my gear while muttering a mix of apologies and thanks to my wife. Once I got there, there were some kids chucking rocks down into the pool below the waterfall.  They eventually got bored and moved on, and I cautiously made my way down the rocks to the base of the pool. With a self tied tungsten beaded hare's ear on my Epic 580 (I can't say enough good things about this rod), I cast out, and immediately caught a decent fish of 13 inches or so. Between the kids that had thrown rocks, and the commotion caused by landing this fish, I wasn't too confident about catching anything else. Two casts later, I was happy to be proven wrong. As soon as the indicator stopped, I set the hook and felt a big fish. After a few strong head shakes I saw a shadow, thinking it was a barbel, too big for a trout. I knew I was wrong when a beautiful, fat brown trout jumped and landed back in the water with a much deeper sounding splash than I'm used to. My heart immediately began racing, and I had to figure out a way to get the fish out of the deep channel he was in. My easiest option was the make it to other side of the river where the water was shallower and slower. I headed downstream a bit, and then across the river, my hip waders filling with freezing water as I made my way acrosst the channel. Four more jumps later, and the biggest trout I had ever caught was in my net. Scarred lips, the start of a nice kype, a beautiful, old fish. I never properly measured him, but when he was next to my rod, and curved in the net bag, he substantially exceeded the length from the butt to a wrap at 17 inches, a 20 inch fish for sure. A catch I'll never forget, and a perfect example of why I flyfish.