Bella Coola

I had big plans to go to Bella Coola last weekend. There was talk of great coho fishing and I was keen to do some spey casting and landing some bigger northern coho. The plan was to leave Wednesday night and come back Sunday or Monday.

Wednesday wasn’t looking promising because I decided to help out with Emma’s first soccer practice. As well, the forecast was for rain on the weekend. I didn’t feel like driving 10hrs for rain while camping. Thurday morning came, I decided to skip the trip and managed to get a couple days of work in. As luck would have it, this was a great decision. I would still be there if I had gone. I’d also be very cold and probably really tired. I’m sure I would have caught a couple of nice coho though.

Here are some of the types of flies I tied for the trip. I wonder where else these would be good? Maybe the Squamish, it has pretty murky water.

Building A Fly Rod

A few weeks ago I finished building my first fly rod and I thought I’d post a little bit about my experience. First of all, this isn’t a “how-to” kind of thing. If you’re looking for more in-depth discussions on rod building I suggest the following sites:
rodbuilding.org
Rodbuildingforum
Rod building 101

The whole rod building thing started off in the fall when I was beach casting for salmon with a 9′ 8wt rod. The rod was pretty soft and although I could cast my Scientific Anglers Stillwater line okay with it, I would have preferred to get more distance. More practise and skill would help, but so would a new rod. As well, if I could use the rod for steelhead then it would be that much more useful. I was cautioned that the 8wt rod was borderline for steelhead and chum…

So I researched two-handed spey and switch rods. I came across Rob Meiser fly rods and it sounded like he was The Man when it came to switch rods. I decided to phone him up and ask him about building options for a switch rod. Bob was very easy to speak with and he quickly talked me out of the switch rod. Bob seemed to be familiar with the areas I plan on fishing (Squamish, Vedder, Harrison) and he thought that a rod in the 12′ to 13′ range would be good. These rivers aren’t huge and a longer rod probably wasn’t required especially considering that I’ve never two-handed casted before. I decided to go with his Clearwater rod because it was affordable and surely equal to any other manufacturer’s models.
I bought the components for the rod locally from RodBuilder Suppliers. Since I was going to try and build as cheaply as possible, I wasn’t going to have access to a lathe of any kind so I decided to get pre-built grips that I could modify with some sandpaper and a drill.
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For the thread wraps I built a little jig to hold the rod and used my sewing machine to tension the thread.
rod wrapper

Wrapping the thread was pretty straight forward although I did have to re-do an number of wraps because I was unhappy with tag ends sticking out.
first-wrap
Apply the epoxy was pretty easy too. Anyone that has worked with epoxy knows that it can be a pain the butt though. One thing about using 2-part epoxy for rod building is the waste. You need to mix a minimum amount of maybe 1.5ml in order to get an accurate mix together. Of this, you probably only need to use 0.5ml at a time and the rest is waste. In order to create an even layer of epoxy, people either spin their rods on a lathe at 15rpm (or something like that) or they do like I did and hand turn the rods at regular intervals. I mainly stuck to turning the rod 180° every 10min for 1hr, followed by maybe 180° every 20min for the second hour. After that I tried to spin the rod every hour or two. Since I was doing this work after the kids went to bed, I inevitably didn’t do much rod spinning after the first couple of hours. This meant that I had some football shaped epoxy coats. They weren’t too bad though.
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One thing I did finally realize is that with the epoxy I was using, it was really much better to keep touching up the epoxy layer with a brush for the first 45min. That was the best way to avoid sags imo. I was using U-40 LS Supreme. Here is a picture of one of my better wraps.
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For attaching the grips to the rod, I came across some really bad advice on the above mentioned forums. In several places it was suggested that Titebond could be used. Trust me, that is not the solution. I used U-40 rod bond in the end. Putting the grips on was messy and a pain. Because I was using stock grips, the bores were quite oversize from the rod bland diameter (same with the reel seat). I used fiberglass drywall tape to help build up the rod diameter. A lot people use masking tape which probably works okay. Since I needed to add quite a bit onto the diameter I decided to use the more structural fiberglass tape. Getting the tape in place and keeping it in place while sliding a cork grip with a snug fit over it is not easy. The next picture shows the lower grip in place with the reel seat still loosely fitting over the rod.
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Bob suggested that I place the reel seat downlocking which might be better for rod balance.

Prior to placing the upper grip onto the rod, I used a file to shape a recessed bore that would fit the reel seat.
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Once that was done I used a white paint pen to write on the rod. Epoxy was then put over top of my signature and hook keep wraps. Again I had problems with some sags and uneveniness with the epoxy. I decided to sand the bumps flat but instead of putting another layer of epoxy on, I sprayed on a couple of thin layers of instant dry glossy lacquer. The lacquer filled in the microgrooves left by the sanding, and the final finish was perfectly acceptable.
sand epoxy before varnishDSC_0895

The rod was now done. It then took me several weeks more to get together the rest of the spey rod setup. I opted for a Pflueger Trion 1912 reel, an Airflo Delta NW Skagit line and an Airflo Ridge Running Line. This setup will be good for winter steelhead and learning to cast. Maybe next year I’ll get a shooting head or something like that for beach casting. The reel was bought off of ebay and I bought the lines from Pacific Angler.

finished

closeup

Yesterday (Dec.16) I finally had a chance to try the rod out on a river. Whistlerflyfishing and the local Loop pro staff put on a casting day on the Squamish river. Pat from Whistlerflyfishing gave me some good tips and had me making casts within a few minutes. When he tried the rod, after 2 casts he had a big smile on his face and said that it was really nice feeling rod, and very sooth. I think Pat also commented that the rod worked well with a nice smooth casting stroke, which makes sense for any quality rod I’d think…

Beach Fishing

September and early October found me beach fishing on the north shore about 10 times. I started at the more well-known spots by Ambleside and Cates Park. This was a “pink” year which is the return of Pink salmon for spawning every 2nd year. My set up was simple, I was using a 9′ 8wt fly rod with Scientific Angler Stillwater clear intermediate sinking line. For flies I was trying an assortment of simple, sparse pink flies, along with a few chartreuse colored flies. My first few times out the fishing was slow. I would see a few fish rolling on the surface but no bites. In fact, I didn’t see anyone get any bites my first few times out.

Eventually I came across a pretty good area for beach casting. I also lucked out with some timing. There was a low-tide at around 5am, which also corresponded with first light. This meant that I could go fishing early in the morning before the kids got up (weekends) or before work (weekdays). In one week I managed to get out 5 times I think. Although I didn’t catch anything I did get a few bites at least. Judging from what I could see in the other people fishing, I would guess that 1/3 of the guys fishing managed to land a salmon.

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I also tried my luck one day on the Fraser River but didn’t see any fish or get any action. It was a nice day to be outside though.

By the end of the couple of weeks of fishing I was managing to cast maybe 70′ with the line. If I would have been able to get another 10 or 20′ it would have been great, just to be able to cover that much more water. While I’m sure I can get longer casts with this rod with more practise, I also think that it’s not the greatest rod. It’s very soft and flexy, and requires a very slow cast. The tip tends to flop quite a bit. So I’m in the market for a replacement. More on that later…

East Kootenay Creek Fishing

A couple of weeks ago while visiting the folks in Invermere I had the chance to go fishing with my buddy John Z. We decided to check out Findlay creek since we thought there would be some good spots to fish from and it’s not too far to drive to. Our first look at the creek showed us that the water was getting pretty clear, which was a good sign for fishing.
Findlay Creek

The trick was to find some good spots to fish from, as the lower part was quite the canyon.
Findlay Creek

A few more clicks up the road revealed a lot of access to the water. Once we parked and got geared up, it didn’t take long to land the first fish.

Hey Dolly

A short while later I caught a cutthroat on a nymph, using an indicator. I would never have set the hook without the indicator. Using my 4wt I didn’t feel a thing but I saw the indicator dive under water.
Nice little cutty

Here’s a short video of the creek and how it was flowing. I figure another two weeks (right about now) and the water will be totally clear. As well, the creek was flowing pretty good and was pretty pushy. You couldn’t wade very deep, much past my knees and I had a hard time standing. I actually slipped once.
I’m not sure where the best spot to fish this run would be. There were a few seams to hit, and we were mostly throwing out streamers and swinging them down. I’d be interested in hearing how other people would approach this run for fly fishing.

Findlay Creek from Doug Smith and Vimeo.

fly tying

I’m thinking about tying some flies, and I put together a page that lists flies I’ve typically used over the last few years. For now I’m pricing things out, as I don’t want to spend much $$.

First Fish of 2007

I caught my first fish of 2007 on the weekend. These were actually the first fish that I have caught in several years. I caught them at Trout Lake, which was about 10 minutes from where our family was staying in Halfmoon Bay.
cutthroat

I hit the lake early Sunday morning in my float tube. I had a few nibbles on my sinking line, then I started getting really cold. On my way back to shore I hooked a nice little cutthroat that did a lot of jumping. Later that afternoon I had some time to kill so I went back to the lake and cast from shore. BTW, am I the only one that has trouble casting a sinking line on a 6wt rod? I think the heavier line needs a stiffer rod. With some patience and careful attention I was able to get the line out maybe 40ft. Obviously this isn’t a big concern when cruising in a float tube. Anyways, I managed to bring in another cutthroat from shore.

I saw a bit of action on the surface in both the morning and afternoon. There were some whiteish type bugs skittering on the surface and flying around a bit. I’m not sure how well a dry fly would have worked. I did see a guy casting a dry line from a float tube in the afternoon but I didn’t see him hook anything while I was there.

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