Housy Mini Report 8/19/19: Low, slow, and small

A quick zip in/zip out (there have been a lot of those this summer) last night from 7:00pm-8:30. I hit three marks in the FFO section and it was tough going. First spot blank, second spot one pipsqueak, third spot nothing until the 8pm to dark slot. A couple on streamers, a half dozen then on White Wulffs (although the white fly hatch is kaput). No real size — biggest was 10″.

The mysteries of smallies on the Hous continue, as I have fished these marks in past years at the same height (200cfs) at the same time of year and same time frame and done gangbusters. This was by far the worst outing of the year in terms of size and numbers.

Where’d you go, bubba?

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Loch-Style Fly Fishing in Scotland: Kate McClaren, I think I love you

I’d been to Scotland before. My Nana and Grandpa, two off-the-boat Scots, took me when I was ten years old. Now, nearly fifty years later, I was going back with my wife and kids.

Chanelling my inner Scotsman. Nae kilt for me, but surely there’s an auld angler within each of us who fishes traditional wet flies.

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Although this was a family trip, it seemed a moral imperative to not only fish, but to fly fish in the homeland of my forefathers. And if I could catch a trout on an ancient or traditional Scottish wet fly pattern, that would immeasurably sweeten the pot. So, where and how to do this? I ruled out Salmon fishing: cost-prohibitive and a greater chance of failure than success (maybe next time). So trout it was. Buddy Matt Supinski hooked me up with Graeme Ferguson, and we made plans this past spring for August 9.

Well, that’s the thing about booking so far in advance in a land thousands of miles away: you play the weather and conditions lottery. And my goodness, did we lose. Cam and I have a knack for choosing disaster weather on fishing trips, and we nailed this one dead center. The forecast called for heavy rain and 10-20mph winds. The Scots call it dreich. That sounds about right.

Brown, swollen rivers meant loch fishing — or in this case, lake fishing. Our mark was Lake Menteith, the only lake in country of lochs. Now, stillwater fishing is not my bag, but I was willing to try. And so we launched in a driving rainstorm accompanied by banshee winds. What the hell — the fish don’t know it’s wet.

We started off with sink tip lines and teams of three flies. I had the first touch, but I didn’t really know what to look for in a take. A botched hook set proved to be my downfall. A while later, Cam was on. If it looks wet and wicked and wild, it was. But a bent rod tends to make you oblivious to the conditions.

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Attaboy, Cam! Trip bought and paid for. These landlocked rainbows reminded me of junior steelhead in temperment and leaping capability. They’re also not shy about going deep — we had several fish sound on us as if the lake were bottomless. This fish took Cam’s point fly, a very Nuke Egg-like day-glo pattern.

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Are we having fun yet? We’d launched around 9:30, and three hours later the rain was dissipating. Graeme suggested we break for lunch, so we headed back to the clubhouse to dry out and re-fortify. A most civilized menu: Carrot/leek/corriander soup (a triumph, Mrs. Ferguson!), meat pie, and scotch eggs (hard boiled, surrounded by sausage, bread crumb coating, decadent).

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Two critical events turned the afternoon tide in our favor: conditions improved (the rain stopped, it warmed up, hatches began, and the trout showed on the surface to feed) and I managed to fire up — in the wind, no small task with matches — a beloved Partagas Serie D No. 4. Floating lines on, first stop, bang! I’m on. You can see from the glassy water just below my elbow that we’re fishing in the shallow water of a cove, sheltered from the blow. We’d drift where the wind took us, adjusting as needed. Graeme also brought a subsurface drogue chute — brilliant! — that when deployed slowed our drift. 

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I bagged another one not ten minutes after the above photo was taken. We moved to a mark where a wee burn was dumping colder water into the lake. I decided to clip off one of Graeme’s buzzers (UK for midge larva) and tie on a fly I’d tied and brought with me, the traditional loch bob fly Kate McLaren. One of the beauties of fishing a team of three is that you often don’t know which fly the fish chose until you land it. Fish on, battle fought and won, and as Graeme netted it, he announced, “You’ll never guess which fly she took. The Kate McLaren.” I loved that fly, that moment, and especially that fish so much I decided to give her a kiss. The trout may look traumatized, but she swam away no worse for the wear.

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Final tally was four for dad, two for Cam, and one very happy father-son team. Our boat, #4 (coincidence?) was a fine vessel. I can’t say enough good things about our guide, Graeme Ferguson: professional, matey, courteous, knowledgeable, capable, and his wife makes incredibly delicious soup. Here’s his contact information: graemeferguson_82@hotmail.com. He does rivers and salmon, too. Highly recommended. Tell him Steve sent ‘ya.

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Housy Report 8/1/19: Ladies & Gentlemen, start your White Wulffs!

The White Fly hatch is officially on! I experienced a heavy blizzard last night below the TMA beginning at 8:45pm. Up until then, the fishing was slow, with a handful of bass coming to surface (Gurgler and Countermeasure) patterns. Decent size fish in the 10-12″ class. But not a lot in terms of numbers. Water was 78 degrees, 250cfs and less stained than yesterday. Same bite pattern: waning as it got darker. Then the White Flies came.

It starts like this…

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If you’re a White Fly newbie, this is a big (size 8-12) mayfly that hatches as dusk, then forms a dense cloud of mating activity, such that it looks like it’s snowing big, chunky flakes. If you turn your headlamp on, they will inundate you (they don’t taste very good — ask me how I know). It’s a late July/early August hatch, and when it’s going the bass will key on the insect to the exclusion of larger offerings. Wet flies swung pre-hatch and chunky dries like the White Wulff, Usual, and Light Cahill will serve you well. (You’ll want to tie those dries on stout hooks.) If you’re fishing spinners they have very long tails, twice the length of the hook shaft.

The hatch can be fickle and come and go, so jump on it this weekend.

…and before you know it, it’s snowing in August. All I had to do during last night’s hatch was pick a rise ring, make a drift over it, use the bucket method of strike detection, then set the hook. I took many fish on a flat that was only a foot deep. Don’t let those dainty, tiny sipping rise rings fool you — with the exception of one fish, every smallie I connected with at dark was in the double-digits length class.

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Housy Smallie Mini Report 7/31/19: No falling in, no white flies

Another quick-hit mission to the Hous. Fished from 7:20pm-8:45pm and the action was much better than earlier in the week, if still not spectacular. This year’s weird pattern continues: instead of a building feeding frenzy with a crescendo at dark, the bulk of the bigger fish came when there was still plenty of light. No white flies yet, but I would think that will happen this weekend. Water was a little below average cfs and 78 degrees, light stain. Some decent sized bass, but no monsters — biggest were in the foot-long range, a very respectable size. Fished subsurface (TeQueely) and on top (Gurgler and Countermeasures). Did take a couple right at 8:45, but they weren’t huge.

Dolomieu the Leaper.

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Don’t neglect the frog water-like shallows. This brute hit the Gurgler in a about a foot of water, right after the bug landed.

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Housy Smallie Mini Report: Two Points

I fished within the TMA yesterday from 7pm-8:45pm and it’s an easy outing to sum up:

  1. The fishing stunk. I found very few bass that wanted to play. The dusk bite reeked even worse, with only a few small fish showing themselves, and even they were keyed on insects. They wanted nothing to do with my bigger flies.
  2. I fell in. Soaking wet, water cascading down your leg, squishy walk out — you know the drill. On the positive side, if you are going to immerse yourself while fishing, doing it on a piss-stinking hot day in 76 degree water isn’t all that horrible. And my cigar remained dry. Little victories, people. Little victories.

No. Not yesterday.

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Farmy Mini Report 7/22/19: Not all change is good

I guided Rand and his son Sam yesterday and the break in the heat didn’t seem to do the fishing — make that catching — any favors. We pounded two confidence-is-high runs with nymphs for three hours and only managed to stick one trout. Bug activity was virtually nil. Then we switched to wets and found only one more fish willing to jump on. We didn’t see another trout caught in four hours on the water. Kudos to Rand and Sam for persevering through a tough bite window. Multiple hookups and tight lines for both of you to come!

Rand swinging his wets over some holding water.

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Like father, like son. A pleasure, gentlemen!

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I had a 20 minute window on the way home so I jumped into some snotty pocket water about 1-2 feet deep to swing wets. Here, the trout were open for business, and I managed three wild stunners, one on each of the flies, a size 12 Squirrel and Ginger top dropper, a size 14 Drowned Ant, and a size 12 Gray Hackle. So maybe that kind of water and method was the key to yesterday, although it was not an appropriate run for inexperienced waders.

The first wild brown came on the S&G.

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My wife says the halos are gold. I’d say the entire fish is worthy of such lucre. Last brown, taken on the Gray Hackle.

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Friday Farmy/Hous Mini-Report: Cold and Hot and Not Much in Between

On Friday I guided Mark on a Farmy-Hous doubleheader. While the air was sweltering, the Farmy was pleasantly cool — and the fishing downright cold. We were nymphing, and in two high-probability runs we could only manage to stick one fish. In fact, we shared the water with close to a dozen anglers at various times between 12:30 and 3:30, and we saw only one other fish caught. Hatch activity was slow to non-existent. Feh. Off to the Hous.

Which didn’t fish much better — at first — and was a totally disgusting sweat lodge into the bargain. First spot in the TMA: blank. Second spot: a few customers. Third spot: Really? Nothing? OK, nothing until 8:15, then the switch was thrown, but even then we weren’t exactly lighting it up. Nonetheless, a strong finish to a tough day, and Mark did a great job of working through it.

Yeah, man. That’s what we like to see. The Countermeasures pattern did its usual reliable work at dusk, particularly in frog water and along the edges. Before dark, we had our best action in the “hot” water: bubbling, gurgling oxygenated flows like this.

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