Monday, March 23, 2015

A new confidence fly

I might be in midst of slicing my fingers open and burning myself on heat gun nozzles as I slowly learn the craft that is bamboo rod making, but I still found enough time to tie up a box of flies over the winter, and today was the day to put some of those new patterns to the test.

Opening day was cold, the water was fast and high, and no one was catching a thing. I gave up nymphing after an hour or so and switched to one of the new patterns I tried over the winter, and shortly thereafter, landed a big, beautiful brown on a day when no one else caught a thing.

A few weeks later and I hooked and landed a barbel that was over 24 inches on the same fly. (Something I only managed to do on one other occasion in the past few years.)

A solid 24 inches on my favorite streamer rod, the Epic 686.

That fly just earned a spot in the starting rotation, namely, The Complex Twist Bugger from the guys at Fly Fish Food. The name is a little misleading, it's not particularly complex. In fact it's riduculously easy. You can bang out a dozen in no time and fish them hard and close to structure, or share them with friends. They're endlessly modifiable according to whim and availability of materials. (I deviated a bit myself) And most importantly, they work.

Not a pretty fly to begin with, and even uglier when I tie it, but it's quick and it works.

I've never had a fly prove itself so quickly, especially on a day that was otherwise pretty dead. Confidence in a fly is invaluable, I'm sold.

A great video with tying instructions here at, they even sell the materials as well as the completed fly itself.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Vanity on the water

It isn't every day that a professional photographer accompanies you to the water. (At least not for a flyfisherman of my caliber) So when my colleague Sven Burkhard was curious to see what flyfishing was all about after years of me not shutting up about it, I leapt at the chance to take him to my home river. I grabbed my favorite gear and headed down to the river to meet him early in the morning. He showed up with a backpack full of gear, and I lent him a spair pair of waders that were way too big for him. No matter, he didn't know enough about waders to notice or care. We stayed in one spot most of the time, as he wasn't used to wading, especially with an expensive camera and lens in his hands. The shots he ended up taking were awesome. It might have been smart of me not to bring a rod rigged up with a weighted streamer, it made casting nicely much more difficult.

He was almost as excited with the results as I was, and we'll be doing it later in the season, hopefully this time with a fish or two at the end of the line.

To see more of Sven's work, visit his website at

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Epic 686, 8 months on

I've had my Epic 686 for about 8 months now, and it's high time I write up some thoughts.

Afer owning an Epic 580, choosing the 686 as my next rod wasn't particularly difficult. I had the opportunity to cast a 686, I already loved my 580, and Carl McNeil from Swift Fly Fishing is such a nice and knowledgable guy, and runs exactly the kind of small business that is so worthy of support.
But what color blank? And do I try the kit, or have it custom built? After hemming and hawing a bit, I chose nude. Deciding to have it built was easy, I saw what some of the builders out there had done and I wanted a piece of art as much as I wanted a rod. Deciding on a builder was the toughest choice yet, but I ended up having the blank directly shipped to Zeb Tonkavich of Snowman Custom Rod Works. I gave him complete freedom to do what he wanted with the rod, and he spent so much time chatting back and forth with me, answering my dumb questions, explaning things that went right over my head, and just generally keeping me up to date on its progress with photos and the like. He wanted to know what reel I planned to use so he could properly balance the build, and what type of fishing I planned to do. He'd send photos of winding checks he'd machined, and the trim wraps, and the wood he used to turn the reel seat. It was a great insight into high end rod building, and fascinating to see the rod approch completion.

The rod was waiting for me when I arrived in Montana last summer. Zeb worked hard making sure I'd get it on time. And it was worth the wait, and more than what I paid. The thick, handmade rod sock (by Andrea Larko) and the matching painted rod tube were a perfect complement to the rod. It felt fantastic in my hand from the first minute, and proceeded to take the first casts on the R.L. Winston casting lawn, of all places. I'd paired the rod with a Lamson speedster, one spool with a Rio perception line, the other with an Orvis hydros 150 grain depth charge. 

Since then I've used the rod to fish deep for big rainbows in Merrell Lake at Hubbard's Yellowstone Lodge, as well as late summer dries on my home river. Heavily weighted nymph rigs and streamers are no problem in the high waters of spring. It simply does everything well. And in an unfortunate incident I haven't yet mentioned to Zeb or Carl, it even withstands ceiling fans well. It feels great in the hand, great while casting, and great while playing a fish. When I head out the door, unsure of what kind of fishing I want to do, I instinctively grab it because I know it'll do whatever I want. I particularly love it with streamers. Just a few days ago, in the high, fast water of early spring, I was able to exert enough power to bring a big trout to the net remarkably quickly. I wouldn't have put as much pressure on the fish with any other 6 weight, and it might not be a coincidence that both of my biggest trout out of this river to date were caught on Epic glass rods.

In the end, I got a work of art build by a talented artist from Pennsylvania built on a revolutionary blank designed by a renowned caster in New Zealand, both of whom I now consider friends. That I also got a sublime fishing and casting tool out of the deal is just a bonus.