How to tie the Crappie Candy Fly

Wednesday, December 31, 2014 , 12 Comments

While Sarges Crappie Fly may be my go to fly while crappie fishing, when the fish are shallower or perhaps a bit more wary, my next choice is always the Crappie Candy. In fact, a few years ago I even used it in a local tournament where we were only able to use one fly the entire time and I won. I believe the original pattern is by Al Campbell. Typically I tie this pattern in some combination of white and chartreuse, however, I have found an all black body and tail with red crystal flash and red buck tail work very well in dingy water. All bodies of water are different, experiment with a few different colors and see what works in your lakes and ponds. It is an easy pattern to tie and I am sure it will help you catch many crappie, panfish, and even smaller bass. If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I hope you enjoy this pattern as much as I do. 

Size 8-12 Streamer Hook
Thread 6/0
Crystal Flash
Thin Chenille
Bead chain eyes

Step 1
Tie in bead chain eyes near eye of hook.

Step 2
Tie in Marabou Tail. 

Step 3
Invert fly, tie in crystal flash and a thin chenille.

Step 4
Palmer forward chenille, tie off and trim just behind bead chain eyes.

Step 5
Grasp your strands of crystal flash, pulling them towards eye of hook. Secure with thread both behind and in front of bead chain. 

Step 6
Now pull crystal flash back towards the hook. Secure behind bead chain eyes with thread. 

Step 7
Return fly to upright position. Take a few strands of buck tail, tie in both in front and behind bead chain. 

Step 8
Whip finish and cut thread. Add a drop of head cement to both the nose of the fly and atop the beach chain to prevent the eyes from twisting. Trim both the crystal flash and buck tail to a length where they will protrude just to the beginning of the bend of the hook. Fly is finished. 


Where the Wild Fish Are: Video Short

Friday, December 19, 2014 , , 10 Comments

On days I cannot fish or be outdoors, an outdoor video short is generally a good way to put a smile on my face. As such I am going to begin posting a few videos from time to time that I really enjoy and think you guys will as well. I hope some make you reflect, some inspire, and others laugh. To begin, here is one of my favorites entitled, "Where the Wild Fish Are" from Bobby Foster on Vimeo. Enjoy.



Bristol Bay--Halfway There

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 , 8 Comments

In a monumental win for conservationists and the environment, Wednesday, President Obama declared Bristol Bay off limits to oil and gas drilling indefinitely. Roughly the size of Florida, Bristol Bay is home to one of the worlds largest wild salmon runs, a multitude of endangered species, and 40% of the seafood supplied to the United States. The fly fishing community has long been one of the foremost champions of the area and advocating wholeheartedly for its protection. This is a huge first step, but we are only halfway there. While the new policy will do much to protect the area it has no effect on the proposed Pebble Mine. The proposed mine undoubtedly would yield vast troves of copper, gold, and other rare metals worth an estimated value of $300 billion, notably to corporations which aren't even from the United States or Alaska, but at what cost to the environment? Trout Unlimited and even several EPA reports warn of heavy metal contamination, seismic unrest, and heavy acidification and sedimentation of waterways. This area is truly a national treasure and already is an economic powerhouse, generating an environmentally sustainable $2.5 billon for the economy, what kind of country endangers that? Bristol Bay deserves protecting and while I applaud the President for his actions we are only halfway there.


50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish: Book Review

Wednesday, December 03, 2014 , 5 Comments

Let me begin by saying, what an awesome book. 50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish by Terry and Wendy Gunn is an incredible resource to those who travel, are looking for destination ideas, or are just wanting to pick up additional information on your favorite fishing spots. Many a night has found me flipping through the pages of this book dreaming of the next trip that may await me. In actuality, the book covers 56 locations, I agree that "50 Best" has a better ring to it than "56 Best", but I am not complaining in getting 6 more. Of those, as of the date of this writing I have been fortunate enough to visit five: Lees Ferry, The Frying Pan, Norfork, White, and Taneycomo; and I can attest to the information given and even for those places I have now fished several times I still learned a lot. Further, had I owned this book in my arsenal prior to arriving I think it would have helped me tighten my line much faster. Each chapter consults a guide in the area for their expertise and includes a map of the area highlighting points of interest, hatches that occur annually, when to expect them, what tackle to bring, and area guides and fly shops. This has become one of my favorite fly fishing books and serves as a great compliment to another great destination book: So Many Fish, So Little Time. This book deserves a place on the bookshelf of every serious angler and will pay itself back several times over in the wealth of information given to you. The only thing I can't promise it will help with is the travel expenses that will result from you purchasing it. Your destination bucket list will easily double, I promise. 


Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 27, 2014 10 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. A few days ago one of my trail cameras picked up this enthusiastic turkey. Seems fitting to share the picture today. I hope your day is spent with family and friends and time reflecting on all that we have to be thankful for. Beyond all else eat too much and laugh too much. 


St. Croix Avid Fly Rod Review

Sunday, November 23, 2014 , , 4 Comments

While the Streamflex may be my go to trout rod, my St. Croix Avid 4 weight 8' 6" is my small stream fly rod. Utilizing SC III graphite and a proprietary Integrated Poly Curve (IPC) taper, St Croix has put together a very sensitive yet strong fly rod at an affordable price (MSRP $260-$300). The progressive taper creates a moderate action that is a bit slower than many of its' contemporaries offerings but I find this makes a far more enjoyable rod to fish, especially when you are tucked away and communing with nature at your favorite trout hide. Subtlety over speed. Further the smooth transition in the blank allows one to fish a lighter tippet than they perhaps normally would, as the rod itself will absorb much of the initial shock of a take. An absolute pleasure to cast with, these rods are truly at home when a subtle accurate presentation is required. Keep things smooth and don't overpower your cast and this rod will do exactly what you want it to. Finally I find the slower, more meditative cadence required to cast this rod forces me to be more reflective and aware of the surroundings and at the end of the day that what it is all about; getting back to nature, enjoying beautiful water and beautiful fish. 

One last point: if for any reason you have issues with the rod, the customer service at St Croix is top notch and they will do their best to get the stick back in your hands as soon as possible. Made here in the US at their factory in Park Falls Wisconsin, the Avid comes with a lifetime warranty and it has been my experience that St Croix stands by their word and reputation. I have had this rod for several years now and it has accompanied me on some of my most memorable trips and in the process has put more smiles on my face than I can remember. Anyone looking for a classic trout rod would do themselves a favor by considering the St Croix Avid. 


Taurus 627 Tracker .357 Magnum: Gun Review

Sunday, November 16, 2014 , 0 Comments

First things first, this is one fun gun, perhaps my favorite handgun to shoot within my collection. The ergonomics, smooth trigger, and accuracy are just stellar. Not to mention the power, yet manageable recoil only a .357 magnum can provide. An absolute pleasure to shoot. Now to the stats: a 7 round .357 Magnum, weight of 28.8 ounces, a height of 5.4" and a width of 1.531", trigger is double action/single action and includes a hammer transfer bar for additional safety, the barrel is 4" long and ported, and runs at an MSRP of $670. 

Now to the heart of the matter, and perhaps why most of you are looking for a review on this firearm. Taurus has perhaps, shall we say, a tenuous reputation within the shooting community. It is not known for many original designs and to be honest the Tracker 627 is remarkably similar to the Smith & Wesson 686. Secondly, there are many who have had reliability issues. I will touch on both of these. 

As to the similarities to the Smith & Wesson 686. I have shot both, the Smith several times, but own the Taurus. To be honest, and perhaps to my and others surprise, I like the Taurus more. While similar in design they feature radically different grips styles, and though the S&W feels nice in the hand, the Taurus just seems to melt into my hand and absorb recoil better. Secondly, the Taurus comes standard with a 7 round cylinder whereas the 686 comes with 6, though if you buy the "Plus" model it upgrades it to 7 as well. Third, the Taurus is ported and while this does reduce velocity slightly, it serves well at reducing both recoil and muzzle flip--ensuring quicker follow up shots if the need were to arise. The .357 Magnum is no slouch when it comes to recoil, and for many is at the upper end of their tolerance, but the porting does help and it my mind it is just incredibly fun to shoot and puts a smile on my face every time. Of course like all .357 Magnums you can also shoot standard .38 Special and .38 Special +P rounds in it as well, significantly reducing the cost of practicing and marginalizing recoil for those that may be sensitive. Finally, the cost: the Taurus Tracker 627 is $150 cheaper than the Smith. 

To be sure the Smith & Wesson holds some important advantages over the Taurus as well. Most notably it doesn't have the reliability issues reported with the Taurus. And here is the kicker, I had those reliability issues. The first time out the cylinder would lock up every few rounds. Revolvers by their nature are touted as the most reliable handguns. Pull the trigger it goes bang, if you encounter a dud primer pull the trigger again and it moves onto the next round. The first time out this didn't happen. Here I was on the range with my buddies, proud of my new purchase, and the gun wouldn't operate. What an embarrassment. That being said, my experience with their customer service through email was prompt and satisfactory. I paid $50 to ship the gun to Miami and had the gun back in three weeks working perfectly. Now obviously two points need to be made on this, one: the gun should have been working perfectly right out of the box, I shouldn't have had to fork out an additional $50. On this point I couldn't agree more, a product should work when you buy it. Two, going forward can I be confident in its performance? This is a gun that I bought primarily as a woods gun; to provide protection while camping, hiking, fishing, and hunting. I am one of the rare individuals who has actually been shot at while in the woods by a bunch of drunken bafoons who somehow got a rise out of endangering my life. Have that happen to you and it changes your life and it is a situation I never intend to be in again unprepared. Statistically the odds are against it happening again but like a fire extinguisher I would rather be safe than sorry. The .357 Magnum is more than able to handle anything on two legs and for that matter any on four in North America with the obvious exception of a Grizzly. So do I trust it? Yes, since the repair four years ago I have put over 1,500 rounds of .38 Special and 300 rounds of .357 Magnum through it and haven't had a single issue. The trip to Miami seems to have taken care of the locking up issue and I am meticulous in my cleaning of my firearms. Secondly, the Smith & Wesson just looks of a higher quality. I prefer its finish and the tolerances just seem to be more exact and tighter. 

My verdict: go with the Taurus. The feel of the gun, combined with the porting and seven rounds won me over. It just feels right in my hand, is fun as can be, and I am able to get back on target remarkably fast, even while shooting .357. Your opinion may vary and I hope I have provided you with a very comprehensive and unbiased review of the firearm so that you may make your own decision. 

Now just for fun and to demonstrate the gun is far more accurate than I am, I thought I would provide you with a few targets showing its performance on the range. All targets showing .38 Special are 7 rounds while .357 are five shots. Ammunition used in test for .38 Special was Winchester White Box FMJ 130 grain and Hornady Critical Defense .357 Magnum 125 grain FTX. Target is 12 x 12 inches. All shots were in single action. 

.38 Special 7 Yards

.38 Special 25 Yards

.38 Special 50 Yards (not pretty but at 50 yards I will take it!)

.357 Magnum 7 Yards

.357 Magnum 15 Yards

.357 Magnum 25 Yards


Hiking Mount Slate Arizona

Monday, November 10, 2014 , 4 Comments

The original plan was to hike and summit Humphreys Peak, the tallest mountain in Arizona at 12,637 feet. However, an unexpected bout with kidney stone pain the day earlier, which had me curled up in the fetal position on the side of the road, left me wary of being too isolated. Thus my fiancee and I opted for a less demanding hike and after reading many reviews of mountain trails in the Flagstaff area choose Mount Slate. Located 37 miles north of Flagstaff in the Coconino Forest, Mount Slate has an elevation of 8,215 ft and is 4.4 miles roundtrip. To arrive at the trailhead take US 180 north and turn left at FR 191.

The trail itself it easy, well marked, and while the mountain itself is fairly unremarkable the view from the summit is well worth it and quite impressive. From the top, one is able to see Mount Humpfreys and the rest of the San Francisco peaks to the south, desert to the east and west, and far to the north the faint outline of the Grand Canyon. If you are looking for an easy mountain trail in the Flagstaff area that you can complete in a few hours and will be rewarded at the end with a beautiful view, than I would highly recommend Mount Slate. Below are some pictures, hope you enjoy and happy hiking.


Kansas Dove Opener

Thursday, September 04, 2014 , 5 Comments

Lightning flickered far to the south as I pulled up to the field I had scouted days earlier. The time read 5:47 AM on the dash of my SUV and several others had beat me there. No worries, as each hunter slowly trickled into the sunflower field we all were all able to find adequate room and space ourselves 100 yds or so apart. This was September 1st and marked the beginning of the fall hunting season, anticipation was high for everyone. As the sun peaked over the horizon the first doves began their acrobatic maneuvers hoping to feast on the freshly cut sunflowers. Unfortunately for them they were met with a barrage of gunfire. To be honest it was a little insane. In every direction, from miles in the distance to only a hundred yards away the sound of shotguns erupted. This was my first dove opener and by far this was the most gunfire I had ever heard before. Typically I am the type of outdoorsman that enjoys solitude in nature. When fishing, hiking, or hunting I would much prefer to avoid contact with other hominids, so this was not my usual cup of tea. I have to tell you it was fun though. The guys to my right were ace shots. A bird within 40 yds of them didn't stand a chance, and they were able to reach out to many others. Several times I would see them swing on a bird I thought they didn't have a prayer in downing, but to my surprise they often would take it. 

I on the other hand was rusty. I hadn't touched my shotgun since the end of goose season in february and it showed. The first hour was painfully humbling. However, like riding a bike it started to come back and it helped that hundreds of doves would pour into the field over the next couple of hours. A single or double almost every minute would fly overhead and occasionally a group of a dozen or so would storm in together. 

Forget decoying on the opener; first, the sheer amount of hunters keeps the birds in the air and moving from field to field Secondly, decoyed doves tend to fly low and the last thing you want with that many people in a particular field is low firing barrels. I used a mix of #7 1/2 and #8 shot through an improved cylinder choke. As previously noted, as the morning wore on, my shooting improved considerably, that being said I burned through a lot of shells, more than I anticipated. By 10 AM I had my limit and headed home. One final observation; camouflage and limiting movement till the last second seemed to be the most important factors in getting the birds close, the three gentlemen to my left were decked out in blaze orange and the birds avoided them like the plagued. In the time I was there I maybe saw them down 3 birds. They left just before I did obviously frustrated. I will give the fields a rest for a few weeks and let the crowds dissipate. But soon I will be back, assuredly alone in a field, hunting my favorite way, over decoys in a blind, giving me just a taste of goose season which down here is still two months away. 


Fishing Lee's Ferry

Thursday, August 14, 2014 , , , 16 Comments

Lee's Ferry is arguably the most beautiful place I have ever fished. Gin clear water between towering 700-1000 foot red rock cliffs. A part of the Colorado River system and nestled within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area just north of the Grand Canyon, Lee's Ferry should be near the top of every anglers bucket list. To quote Mark Williams, "You're bound to feel small standing in a river flowing through an ancient ocean in the desert under prehistoric cliffs that rise 1000 feet in the air." Void of the typical hatches we have become accustomed to (caddis, mayflies, drakes) the primary forage for these wild Rainbow trout is midges and freshwater shrimp. In fact rumor has it the Zebra Midge pattern was developed here. Beyond this, the trip to the fishery was particularly exciting as my fiancee and I had gotten engaged the day before, furthermore she not only caught her first trout on a fly rod it was her first fish on the fly. She also was able to catch several on dry flies (cicada patterns) while sight fishing. Our guide was Natalie from Lee's Ferry Anglers, whom I highly recommend. She took the time to really improve Jane's cast and put us on a ton of fish. We caught no monsters but caught far more fish that we could have hoped for. But for me the trip was beyond expectations just to see Jane really excel in the sport and enjoy herself. For a time I even put down my stick and just watched her fish. I couldn't be prouder. I hope you enjoy the pictures to follow and one day find yourself in this spectacular fishery. 

Jane's first fish on a fly rod. 

I included this picture to demonstrate the grandeur of the canyon walls, bottom center is a boat to give perspective. 

Midway in the day we switched from nymphing Zebra Midges and Shrimp in the riffles to sight fishing drys. This is where things got really exciting. 

First dry fly trout. Cicada Pattern. 

A spectacular surprise on our way back the the dock, wild horses.