Saturday, April 01, 2006

Potomac River: Shad spotted, not caught, Utility examined

I am an amateur tackle tester. Unfortunately, no one pays me for this service. In fact, I usually end up spending my meager allowance (I'm in law school and on a fixed budget) on tackle of various sorts.

Someone once said that every fly is an idea (It was Kenney Abrames
quoting Roderick Haig-Brown
, Striper Moon
, Frank Amato Publications 1994.) It is a solution to an angling problem. Additionally, every piece of tackle is a solution. I find the tackle created to allow intrepid anglers to fish from shore, as opposed to by boat. the very most interesting. I also believe strongly in utilitarian tackle. We do not need fly rods for every species of fish. What we need are more rods that are good casters with a large range of line weights. Fast rods generally aren't great at casting line lighter than they are rated for and the prevalance of those types of rods is a loss in the face of the utility of slow to medium-fast rods. I like utility rods - for the salt and big rivers, I like two-handed rods that are light enough to allow the occasional one-hand cast; for most trout fishing, I like a medium-action, 7.5-8' 6wt rod. I can fish everything from tandem streamers to midges with this rod.

I gave the first thorough fish of my R.B. Meiser 10'6" 8/9 wt Fast Progressive switch rod. Mr. Meiser made it for me in trade for a bamboo spey rod blank I made.

It's a superb rod in every way. It is very much a spey rod taper, but one that excels at overhead as well as water-based casts. I used a Rio Outbound clear intermediate "10wt" line (425gr). Perfect line for this rod. I still wish that line manufacturers could conceive of a way to put slickening agents in the clear portion of flylines. If the clear part of this or any of the standard clear linesis not wet, it doesn't shoot well. If you dress it, it becomes a floating line...not always the right option.

Since I live in Washington D.C. and do not have a car, my fishing options are quite limited. The most interesting fishing area within easy reach is from Fletcher's Cove up. The Potomac goes from being a giant tidal basin to a river with defined current in a few miles.

I've come to the conclusion today that shore fishing from Fletcher's up to the bridge sucks in high wind. The wind always comes across my right shoulder necessitating akward off-shoulder spey and overhead casts.

I saw small Hickory shad and saw a few guys catching, but the bite seemed to be more than a little off. I fished from 10am-6pm over a 1-2 mile stretch of the river and only saw one guy do well. Unfortunately, he also poached 15 or so shad. I hope he chokes on the bones.

Todays flies were mainly atlantic salmon flies. I've had my best luck on small salmon flies with long, soft hackle. Spey flies have been good producers. I have had no luck on "shad flies" of the kind usually use (barbell eye with bright body and marabou tail; no wing). Even if I did, I like fishing with flies of complex, traditional construction. I feel the power of the 30 mins it took me to tie each salmon fly and it buoys my spirits even when the bite is off.

I threw some Kenney Abrame's homage flatwings for an hour, but the stripers don't seem to either be there or biting at midday. God, are those flies awesome. They look like real fish in the water...clousers and deceivers look like, well, clousers and deceivers. Flatwings are my new tying passion b/c I can bring a lot of what I've learned from atlantic salmon flies and apply it to them.

Unfortunately, the Potomac shore in the area I like would be quite dangerous by night or I would try for some stripers at night...maybe early morning?

And today the bite was off for me. Nada. Nothing. But...a beautiful day!

The Rio Outbound line rocks. It requires so little effort to do easily repeatable 60-70' casts and just a bit more careful power to get to 100'. I like the way this line turns reminds me of the old Rio Accellerator spey line. I wish they still made that one. I used to fish that on an 18' 11-12 wt Daiwa salmon rod in the east river for stripers and for this one spot in brooklyn where there must have been some structure about 100' out, it was money. I could hit that spot over and over again with underhand power and no shooting...with gigantic grocery-type flies.

The best part about fishing in the Fletcher's Cove area is the relaxing time stowing my gear at the end of a day's fishing. There are always children about and usually strutting fisherman. That, with some ice cream and a Pepsi, makes me smile.

And my greatest thanks to my dear wife, Keiko, who works on the weekend so I don't have to.


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