Thursday, December 31, 2015

Peace, Love, Happy New Year!

Okay so in case you haven't noticed this is my new thing; Peace, Love and Fly Fishing! Oh and Happy New Year 2016!!

For the last few days I've been trying to figure out how to cover an entire year of traveling 20,000+ miles, 20 states, 58 RV parks, floods, drought, fires, stellar fishing and being skunked on the water. Let me just say it ain't happening to the extent I had in mind. I've been down the rabbit hole writing other things and there's no time left so here are just a few highlights.

I had high hopes for the White River in Arkansas but a flood the night after we pulled in killed the fishing there.

Birthday fishing with my son. This will for many years be one of the highlights of my fishing life, right there with our camping/fishing trip to Yellowstone in 2012.
Disneyworld! Not fishing but an awesome time none the less. Let's face it sometimes you just have to let the kid inside out to play.

We headed back up through Texas to see friends and family with some sunfish and small bass fishing. I miss those warmwater fish sometimes so a nice fix was just the ticket.

Up through New Mexico for some trouting on the Rio Chama. It's a small intimate river at the town of Chama that's worth a stop if you ever make it through that part of the country. Lots of small to medium sized browns that are eager to take a fly in the morning and evening and at the time we were there one really large brown that beat me on what has become my new favorite light rod.

Colorado Fishing on the Dolores River between Telluride and Dolores. Always a great time there, more on that later.

Made a stop in Gunnison to meet up with some friends. Tom has the inside scoop on a couple nice fishing spots that he shared with me on the condition they both be mentioned only as Forbidden Creek 1 and 2. Thanks for the great times Tom!

Awesome stuff without crowds and more fiesty fish than you can shake a stick at.

In between the two Forbidden Creeks I made a solo trip over to the Taylor River tailwater where the fellow working the local fly shop said the drakes were just starting to come off along the lower and middle sections. It was a super catching day and a loosing day at the same time. While trying to photograph a nice brown mid-river I lost my favorite net. Oh well I've got more. ARRRRGH!!!!!

A stop along the Yellowstone River near Livingston turned to another flood experience like the White in Arkansas but De Puy's Spring Creek saved the day. It was tough, tough, tough fishing!! Those trout are smart, educated whatever you want to call it.

I was able to land four good trout. Well worth the $100 it costs to get on. If you ever have the chance do it!!

The swing over through western Montana through Idaho and into Washington was tough to see. The land was so parched and dry it was hard to look at in that condition. By the time we got into Washington in late August the state had recruited volunteers to get out on several salmon rivers and re-position rocks to make navigable channels for the salmon to be able to get to spawning grounds. A huge sigh of relief has since been collectively breathed as rain and snow have come in spades to that region of the country. As it was at the time it forced Sharon and I to move on just to get out of the smoke. It wasn't all bad though.

Back to Priest Gulch Campground and the Dolores River. No text or photos on that one here. You'll have to pick up the January/February issue of Southwest Fly Fishing Magazine for that story, page 46 in case you're interested.

No fishing for a while after that. We swung down through Las Vegas BABY!! And you know what they say about that..............

Then down to San Diego Swami Beach, Coronado Island and the San Diego Zoo. Big fun even though it was a butt-load of walking......makes me tired thinking about it!

From San Diego we made the short jaunt up to Anaheim for a few days at Disneyland. After all that serious adult time in Vegas we had to let the inner child out to play again, and play we did. We both agree it was our best Disney time yet on either coast.

Back up to the Springs to take care of some business before heading south for the winter. A stop in North Texas to see some family and then south.

We chose Kerrville as our first monthly stop for the winter. I wanted to do some serious fishing and did I ever. The park we stopped at has a catch and release pond. I was able to land some small largemouth bass and sunfish. Good stuff!!

If you think you're seeing the same rod over and over you would be correct. I really need to tell the whole story behind that one.

The biggest thing that happened on this leg of our trip is that I was finally able to meet some cyber-friends (Facebook) for the first time in person. Not only were we able to finally get to meet and fish together were able to catch a bunch of fish. Fishing the Llano with Nick was a hoot. Lots of Guadalupe bass and sunfish were caught and one Mee-Maw lost. Maybe I'll share that story later.

L-R; Me, Chris, James, some old guy in the back, Nick and Robert.

Fishing the Guadalupe with Nick and Robert for stripers was a bust as far as the catching but the company was great. Again a hoot was had by all present. We also had a great lunch that day and met a couple more friends.

Being a bit of a bulldog when it comes to catching a fish I've targeted I headed back out a few days later determined to catch a striper. It wasn't the 30 pounder I was hoping for but it was a striper and that has to count for something. Are you kidding me? It was sweet to be able to land a striper for the first time in over 10 years!!!!!!

Our next group outing on the Guad, as it's locally known, was more of a catching day. GRTU had just stocked some of the 14"-20"+ trout they put in the river annually. Nick, Robert, Joe (yet another new friend) and I spent the morning in one location catching trout all morning. Joe had to leave for home after lunch and the others of us caught yet more trout until evening.

A few days later Sharon and I headed for Mission to wait out the cold weather before moving back north. Mission is an interesting place. Nick and I met in Port Aransas for a day of casting practice where I hooked into something nice on my first cast and we spent the rest of the day scouting and casting, casting, casting.

So that's 2015 for J Wood Fly Fishing. During that first group outing on the Guad the subject of blogs came up while Robert and I were wading into the river trying to catch Nick who had bolted out ahead like an antelope being hunted. Robert said he was surprised I hadn't been chronicling my journey here on the blog. I told him how I had been somewhat surprised by the lack of chronicling myself. Covering 20,000 miles was a little more consuming than I had expected. This coming year will see far fewer miles and hopefully far more chronicling. Heck I may even be able to do some back tracking a cover some of 2015's adventures in more detail.

Until then Peace, Love and Fly Fishing!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Peace, Love and Fly Fishing

Yes I know it's been a really long time and a day since I posted here. Seems odd since this has been one of the most event filled summers Sharon and I have had in years.

In part my motivation to write went out the window due to politics and what it's doing to divide the country into segments of people that dislike one another. Looking around on Facebook and in the news there is so much disagreement, division, derision and hate over political and religious differences that I let it get to me; not something I would normally do but there you have it.

It's time for a new attitude though apparently not everybody is on board. It's true! I have already been scolded for posting this photo on both of my Facebook pages. Yes I know politics is in my life whether I like it or not but I am NOT a politician. I vote, I have political opinions and sometimes even share them. But let's face it that IS about all we as citizens can do without actually going to the dark side and/or seeking elected office. I won't go into it any deeper than that because that's what the new attitude is all about.

Peace, Love and Fly Fishing! Leave the politics to the politicians, I just want to catch a few fish and try not to get into too many more fights before I die.

What brought about the change in attitude was finally getting to meet some of the people I've been Facebook friends with for a long time. Some fine men with, I'm pretty sure, varying political and religious beliefs but one thing in common. We all really, really like fly fishing and catching fish.

Just when I was on the verge of loosing my faith in humanity these guys came along and saved my soul. A bit far fetched? No. That may sound a bit too touchy-feely, squishy (insert your own adjective here) for some but the truth is I was right on the dark edge. Spending time with these guys on the water has brought me back to a place that used to be familiar but had become a all too unfamiliar.

So thanks guys and let's get together again in February.

Peace, Love and Fly Fishing!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Saltwater, Birthday Fishing and Broken Rods

Even though I don't get to do it much I really like fishing saltwater. The reason I like it for the most part is you never know what you'll get. Sure this can be the case in freshwater but never to the extent it is in the salt.
Sharon Chillin' at the Hippie-pod

Writing this I can't believe it's been so many weeks since we were in Florida. We rolled in to Panama City back on may 15th as part of our big adventure. We have children and grandchildren there so the visit was for multiple reasons beside fishing. Over the years I've tried to make a point of fishing every time I go there but the last few visits have been so quick and the family growing so much that fishing hasn't been in the cards. This time I made sure there was time for everything.
Steve With the First Fish of the Trip

A few days in my son Steve and I were able to get out to St Andrews State Park. I've been itching to get out there for years and had been eyeing a particular point of interest using Google Earth. I had also been watching the tidal charts for weeks in advance and we were coming in on some of the strongest tides of the month and some of the strongest of the season. I don't know much about the ins and outs of saltwater angling but I do know tides play a huge part in fish movement with the stronger the better.

I would liked to have been on the water at dawn but without an annual pass you can't get into the park until 8:00 am when the gate attendant shows up. That being the case we didn't hit the water until 9:00........well that and the fact that Steve is rarely on time and insists in carrying his entire tackle collection with him, along with a big cooler. Maybe some day I'll be able to teach him how to lighten the load. I will say the cooler does come in handy 4 hours in under the blazing sun when the blue runners are still biting and thirst has kicked in.
Hooked Up!

We had a good day with what we figured later to be over 4 dozen fish landed. The blue runners were the most cooperative of the species we caught. I had three doubles that day. I started out using a 3" blue and white deceiver. I was getting short strikes quite a bit while Steve was hooking up more regularly on his heavy spinning gear. Thinking back to many days on stillwater trout lakes I put on a smaller fly as a trailer and immediately started hooking up on the smaller fly. Fish are fish after all and there is definitely shared behavior between species no matter where they live.
A Big Sailtop Catfish

As part of his arsenal Steve had brought along a big bottom fishing rig and a tub of shrimp. When things slowed down at one point he baited up and started catching sailtop catfish. After he landed one of the biggest either of us has ever seen I got in on a bit of that action. The ones I caught weren't nearly as big but fun none the less. On one cast I thought they catfish had picked my bait so I started hauling the line into to re-bait when something of great proportion and speed took the rig hook, line and sinker, literally. The instant whatever it was hit the 30 lb. fluorocarbon leader was cut as if with a knife. Steve decided to re-rig but never quite got to it. I picked up my 8 weight again and immediately started catching ladyfish one after the other. He got back into the action with me using his spinning gear.

It was quite some time before it all slowed down. By the time we quit we were both worn out and pretty satisfied with our catch. We had hooked and landed ladyfish, blue runners and something unattractive called a lizardfish. Twice during the day my tandem fly rig had been sliced from my leader by something toothy.
Blue Runner

For some reason we didn't go out again for a few days. Tuesday we hit another location in the afternoon but all we could manage was a pair of lizardfish and I got cut off twice. It was time to do something about those cut offs. I stopped into Howell Tackle for a little advice and as it turned out wire leader material. I did a little more research and found an internet article (which I can't relocate as I write this) about using a 3-6" wire leader for fly fishing the salt. Using the instruction I got from the young man at Howell Tackle I made up some 3" bite guards in anticipation of our trip out on Thursday.
Spanish Mackerel

Thursday we were out on the point at just before 9:00 am and so were the Spanish mackerel. We rounded point and saw baitfish fleeing for life. While Steve unloaded his arsenal I got my deceiver out on the edge of a skittering school and was immediately hooked up. The fish hit HARD and I gave a strip set to make sure the hook went deep. Before I knew it I was looking at backing and worried about being cut off by one of the boats using the pass around the point we were on. The next thing I knew there was nothing attached to my line. Once again the leader had been sliced as if by a knife. It was time to actually use one of those wire leaders.

Quickly I rigged up with the wire bite guard instead of the 30 lb. fluorocarbon. Within seconds of getting my fly in the water I was hooked up again. Before I could land the first Spanish mackerel of the day Steven was hooked up also and so it went for well over the next hour. We followed the schools of nervous baitfish around the point catching blue runners and Spanish mackerel.

As the action started to slow I spotted a school of baitfish scatter within easy casting distance. I hauled the deceiver into the edge of the baitfish, made a quick strip and was hooked into something that made a huge swell on the take. I could tell from that instant it was something huge. Like before it was a matter of seconds before I was looking at my backing quickly disappearing. Desperate I applied more pressure to the reel spool hoping to slow the fish or break the leader above the bite guard. It didn't slow the fish at all so I squeezed down on the spool with my gloved hand finally slowing whatever it was attached to my line. I felt really smug for about 2 seconds. That's when my rod snapped at the ferrule. With no hope of landing the fish I wrapped the backing around my hand and hauled back to break the leader.

Down trodden I had to take a break, have a walk on the beach and snap a few photos. As I walked along the beach it occurred to me I had purchased that St Croix rod around 18 years ago as a replacement for another broken rod. I was fishing the Texas coast and hooked into a cruising redfish of outlandish proportions. Three times I had brought the redfish close trying to land it. Each time it would make a surge and take line. On the fourth attempt to land it I was sure it was exhausted. I reached down to tail the nearly three feet of redfish lying on its' side but it wasn't quite done. The redfish surged again, I clamped down on the line and that rod snapped into three pieces. With two more days of fishing left I searched out the now broken St Croix and finished out that trip. Now I found myself in the same position.

With two more days in Panama City and fishing in the Keys ahead down the road it was time to buy another road on the road. I had browsed the local tackle dealers in the days prior and found very little tackle of decent quality. With high hopes of fishing for bonefish down the road I wanted something of really good quality. Later back at the Hippie-pod Sharon was very sympathetic to my plight. Beside everything else it was my birthday. A quick shower later we were on the road to Bass Pro Shops where I knew they would have a good selection of rods. The rod broken in Texas was a Bass Pro rod so it seemed everything was coming full circle.

Driving west on Hwy 98 Sharon and I were chatting about this and that she called out "There's an Orvis store!" Now there are few things in the English language that elicit the same reaction from me as "There's an Orvis store." Traffic be damned I whipped into the next parking lot entrance and backtracked to the front door. Imagine the sound of angels singing Aaahhhhh!

Inside the store things started out slow where Sharon is concerned. She expected a greater selection of economy priced rods to choose from. I had my eye on a Recon. The store had a selection of Superfine glass, Clearwater, Recon and Helios 2. Trying to be a fiscally responsible shopper I wiggled the Clearwater while eyeing the Recon.

As a side note it is worth mentioning that Sharon strongly encouraged me to limit the number of rods I brought along on our big adventure. When I mentioned the possibility of a broken rod along the way her reply was "There are stores out there. If it breaks you can replace it." Famous last words I say! Another key factor in my favor was this all happened on my birthday.
The New Recon Ready For Action

Still trying to maintain fiscal responsibility I had Sky, the salesman, grab the Clearwater and Recon 908-4 rods for test casting. I have cast both rods in the past and knew which I preferred. First up was the Clearwater which casts good but let's be honest not great. Next Sky strung up the Recon and on first twitch I could tell the big difference. I took my time contemplating whether I could be happy with the economy model. I had Sky restring the Clearwater for another test cast or twelve. While casting the Clearwater Sharon showed up on the lawn having browsed all she could inside. We discussed the merits and cost of both rods until she suggested I cast the Recon again. Sky restrung the Recon and on first Cast Sharon noted with great emphasis the difference in the casting stroke between the two rods. I must say she does have a good eye and I am now the proud owner of a 908-4 Recon rod.

Back on the point the next morning there were mixed emotions where the new rod was concerned. An old familiar rod is like a good dog, very hard to replace especially after so many years. On the other hand a tremendous amount of advancements have been made in rods materials and design over that time. Casting the Recon is smoother, easier and the weight in hand is far better than the St Croix. We caught quite a few blue runners that day and it was a good break in for the new rod. The wind was up and the fish were further off shore. I'm not sure I could have reached them with the old rod.

Happy Birthday to me!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Not Another Blog

Oh yes another blog but this one is a team effort. Pinkie and I are joining forces on Hippie Goes A-Podding to chronicle our journey. I've been having some issues separating church and state, so to speak, with our adventure. Trying to keep things chronicled and fishing related at the same time has been the biggest issue. Most stops we've made with fishing planned have been rained out so I just haven't been keeping up. This way I can cover church (fishing) here and we can cover state (traveling) on the new blog.

Hippie Goes A-Podding is up and running. With all the rain we have plenty of time to catch with the first 51 days of our journey across the country.

Now that that's done I can get back to it....

Monday, June 15, 2015

Down the Road

It's crazy that I haven't written more lately, just laziness i think. Life on the road requires adjustments and they haven't all been made yet. Too much napping between seeing the sights and dodging rain storms. Getting rained out seems to be the theme of this journey so far. Arkansas was a total washout. I find it hard to maintain a positive energy level when things we've planned get washed out. I suspect a large portion of the country feels that way right now with all the flooding that's been going on.

Panama City was really good the first time through. Unfortunately for me I had high expectations the second time through on our way back up from the Keys which by the way was a total washout with rain and overwhelming crowds that were downright depressing.

After 6 years in Cody, WY and 3 years in Colorado Springs crowds are definitely NOT my thing anymore. No crowds in Cody and too many in Colorado Springs. Give me water without crowds! Whew, glad that's off my chest. Wyoming has a way of doing that, making you want to ditch the crowds.........but I digress.

Anyway, here we sit in Ingram, TX just west of Kerrville for a week. With lots of open space, quiet and a lack of crowds we have found some peace.

We've been to Disney World, another place that makes you want to shy away from crowds, a second stop in Panama City, a rainy stop in Biloxi and another rainy stop in Beaumont before arriving here.
My plan this morning was to give a nice detailed report of some of the best fishing of my life, on my birthday no less, in Panama City, with my son Steve, complete with pictures. As it turns out I can't figure out how to get the pictures off my phone. That goes for almost all the photos from all our other stops along the way. Anybody out there know how to import pictures to Windows from and Android phone. These photos are from my camera a few days before.

The thing is I've done downloads from my phone to my laptop before after a tutorial from my son Cameron..... then I slept. I feel so old when it comes to this stuff sometimes. Or maybe I'm just lazy these days. Moving down the road has a way of doing that to you, or at least to me.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Life on the Road

Well life out on the road has proven to be a real adjustment, a good one but an adjustment all the same. It’s been hard keeping up with writing with something new to see every day. So let’s see if I can catch you all up.

After leaving Colorado Springs we headed east for Tulsa and the opening of the Rush concert tour. The weather heading east was a bit of a bugger. We had to stop short the first night to avoid heading into severe storms in Kansas. The campground we stayed at was something to see……..but not necessarily in a good way. I’ll just leave that at that for now.

We made it to Tulsa fine on May 8th for the concert which by the way was pretty damn good. You could definitely tell it was the opening night though but unlike the previous night’s campground not in a bad way. We may have dodged the storms the night before but there was no avoiding them that night. As we left the arena the rain had started in earnest. We drove back to the campground in a heavy rain that just got more severe as the night wore on. I must say that Hippie-pod-R-mus did very well in the rocking winds and driving rain. No leaks, no troubles.

It was a relief to head out the next morning, next stop Mountain Home, AR. I had found a secluded campground/fishing resort online. We were a bit apprehensive about the place but reviews had it as a nice place to stay. The reviews were correct, the setting is beautiful. Nestled in the trees below towering bluffs we were camped with views of the White River right outside our back window. The river had been raised but still ran clear as a bell. I was chomping at the bit through the day getting set up and settled in. With 4 nights booked the promise of great fishing hung in the air.

Late in the afternoon I got my license, did some fishing, or should I say some casting and took a few photos of the river. It was a nice evening until the rain rolled in and pushed me off the water. No worries though I had the inside scoop thanks to a local fly tyer and had plans to hit the Norfork in the morning. According to my source the trout had been taking a wide range of flies, everything from tiny dries to large sculpin size streamers, and doing it quite eagerly. Oh the promise! Promise can however leave you a little short on satisfaction.

As evening turned to night the light showers turned to a steady downpour that lasted all night. Sleep was fitful and when I came fully awake before my 5:30 alarm the downpour had finally started to taper off to a drizzle. By 6:00 am it was light enough outside to tell the river was completely washed out but the Norfork still promised to be fishable. The entire Norfork River consists of a 3 mile run below the Norfork Lake dam to the confluence with the White River.

My enthusiasm waned during the 25 minute drive from camp to my target location. Every small creek I passed over was outside its banks but that still didn’t prepare me for what I found when I arrived at the river. When I pulled into the parking area what should have been an easily wading stream looked like a flooded lake. In fact the river was running back upstream. There was so much water coming down the White River it was flushing the confluence with the Norfork River backwards. So much for promise.

Trying to salvage something of the day and a newly purchased multi-day out of state fishing license I headed for a stretch just below Norfork dam, surely this would pan out until electrical generation started around 11:00 am. Surely it didn’t! A small incoming stream just below the dam was running as high and muddy as every other I had seen that morning. I re turned to the campground to have a good long look at the river there. It had risen easily 7 feet overnight and brought with it a flood of flotsam, dirty brown water and the end of my hopes to fish the confluence of the White and Buffalo Rivers.

Arkansas wasn’t a total loss though. With the advice and directions from our hosts we were able to find a restaurant that served up some of, if not the best fried catfish we have ever had. Fred's Fishhouse doesn't have a website but they also serve some killer onion rings, coleslaw and pickled green tomatoes. The latter was completely unfamiliar but quite tasty.

Not being able to fish made for an excellent chance to unwind and slow down a bit. Had the river been in fishing shape I would have spent every available minute on the water and hardly seen Sharon’s smiling face. As it was we got to spend some real quality time together enjoying the scenery and beauty of the White Buffalo Resort.

The next couple days we made our way to Panama City, FL. The first afternoon we stopped at West Memphis and set up along the Mississippi River. The campground there was reasonable but stark after the beauty we had enjoyed the previous few days near Mountain Home. Our main goal there was to pass over into Memphis proper and have some excellent barbecue. We passed over and had some barbecue but honestly it was a bit of a letdown, not at all what we had built it up to be in our minds. While set up in Manitou Springs we had treated ourselves to the moist brisket ate Rudy’s on Hwy 24 and 31st Street. We found that we much preferred Rudy’s smoked brisket over Memphis style barbecue. Other than the bugs in the evening that as they say was that.

The next night in Birmingham was so uneventful I don’t even remember anything beyond the RV park we set up at was a former KOA……..and more bugs and humidity. You gotta love the south for its bugs and humidity. I/we had grown accustomed to living without humidity. I have to say here that there is something to be said both for and against it. As far as comfort goes anyone who says it doesn’t bother them is lying to themselves, you or in most cases both. On the other hand it sure feels good on the skin and sinuses. Excuse the brief foray into unacceptable territory but by the time we made it to Florida I finally remembered what it felt like to wake up in the morning without a nose bleed and tissue full of bloody bogies.

Bugs. What can I say? I wonder if that’s why so many people in the south smoke, to keep the bugs at bay. That’s all I’ll say about that.

By the time we arrived in Panama City the next day it was after 2:00 pm, the air temperature was somewhere around 90 and the humidity around 80% due to the heavy cloud cover. I grew up with this type of weather and after being away from it for a few years wonder how anybody makes it past the age of 21. It wasn’t quite what Matthew Broderick’s character in “Biloxi Blues” declared Africa hot but it was damned close. I had a long nap and a very large glass of iced tea!

Life on the road is about changes and adapting. So far it’s been doable but not without a nap in the afternoon. The only issue I’m having with afternoon naps is time to write. There’s quite a bit to tell yet. We have already been to the Keys and back to central Florida. I'll be glad to tell you all about it but I need a nap first.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

And They're Off

Okay not just yet……….

For weeks now Sharon and I have been getting ready for our Big Adventure and finally the day is near; tomorrow in fact we’ll be on the road. The house sale seems to be all but a done deal although nothing is final until it’s final..............but……… with any luck at all the last papers will be signed Friday morning and that as they say will be that. We however are cutting out early because of an important date.

First stop Tulsa, OK via an overnight stop in Salina, KS. Tulsa may seem a weird place for a first destination but not when you consider our purpose in stopping there is to be in attendance when Rush kicks off their R40tour.

I have been a big fan for most of those 40 years and since this is likely their last big tour we want to get in on it. It took a few years but I finally converted Sharon and many a road trip has been declared “all Rush all the time”. Not to worry we also have Sinatra and Beethoven road trips too just to keep us honest.

So far the list of reservations for our Big Adventure includes a few days on the White River near its confluence with the Buffalo. I hear there may be a few brown trout and smallmouth in the area.

From there we will mosey our way down to Panama City, FL stopping off in West Memphis, AR. I hear there may be some barbecue in that vicinity but it’s just a rumor.
For the last week we have been living in our new little house, affectionately known as Hippie-pod-R-mus, in Manitou Springs on the other side of town.

I had hoped to kick things off with a report of plucking a few small trout from Fountain Creek but that didn't happen. Between the run-off of heavy low elevation snow-pack and heavy rains that creek is completely unfishable.

I suppose I could fish the creek but with zero odds of catching anything and extremely high odds of drowning it’s not my idea of fun.

Better luck with future plans I say. This promises to be quite the journey over several states. There is bound to be some fishable water along the way somewhere.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


Anyone over a certain age knows that life, if anything, is a series of changes. Just when you think you know what's going on things change. Such is life in the Wood house and at J Wood Fly Fishing. The past few years have presented one challenge and change after another as I have tried to build a brand and some type of presence in the fly fishing world. This while moving around chasing doctors to find one that could fix a failing knee implant. All the while trying to build something that has never been clear what it is. Are you confused yet? Well I am, or at least I was until clarity set in.

The knee is fixed so now where do we go from here both geographically and otherwise? That's always the real question whether you're trying to change things up or just standing still.

The thing is, going through the changes that have come our way the last few years has brought a certain level of clarity. Some days at least it feels like clarity and others the edges are still a bit fuzzy, but not nearly as muddled as past vision. Then again things didn't seem so muddled until the epiphany struck. That's just how an epiphany works. It came like a car crash out of the blue and just when I thought everything was under control. Just like the incident when I pulled out in front of a large truck coming round a blind corner. There it was out of nowhere moving at 75 miles per hour and not a damned thing to be done to stop it. Wham! Shit hit the fan and when the dust settled the world was no longer the same. The difference between a car wreck and an epiphany is the epiphany just keeps coming, at least this one did. Ignoring it is not an option but following through isn't as easy as it might seem.

When I was younger the world was my oyster. All I had to do, all any of us has to do is just shuck it. The only hitch is the big picture gets in the way. You know that big picture don't you? The one we begin feeding on from the time We come of age. It gets hold of our conscience and starts telling us about stuff, possessions and money, the American Dream! As it turns out some of us just aren't cut out for that. Sure it worked out fine on TV for the Cleaver family but this isn't TV and few of us are Cleavers. So what's the solution? Rewind, regroup and restart.

You may be asking at this point, if you haven't dosed off. "What's the big epiphany?" The simple answer is this, the world is our oyster. That is the first part anyway. The second part is you can not start a new life while towing the old one along. It weighs you down and impedes growth. But here's the tricky part. How do we shed that old life and all the dead weight that comes with it? As it turns out it's easier said than done but not that hard if you just do it! Just do it! Just do it! Just do it! Just do it!

No that's not me stuttering it's the voice in my head and out loud saying it over and over as I/we shed our excess possessions; all those things we have accumulated over the years that have shaped our self image and perceptions of those around us as well as where we fit in. On close examination change is long overdue in a big way.

Big Adventure

To say I have been slacking at blogging of late is a real understatement. What I haven't been slacking at is getting ready for relocating away from Colorado Springs. The first question people ask when I say we're leaving is "Where are you headed?". The answer to that is a bit tricky, but the short version is we are not quite sure just yet. Somewhere in the Pacific Northwest is the front runner. Beyond that it's up in the air.

Here's where the conundrum comes into play. Kind of like the old Green Acres TV series Sharon and I have slightly different ideas of Nirvana. Left solely up to her we would live smack in the middle of downtown in some big city. Left solely up to me we would live as far away from said city as possible. We have always had a knack for working these things out in the past. I'll let you know how it works out.

But not so fast! A little traveling is in order first. So if we can ever get the house sale closed (it's not as easy as some would have you believe but I'll leave out that drama) we will be on our way. For years it has been a fantasy of ours to just bee-bop around the country with little specific agenda and see what we can see.

My goal along the way is to fish as many places as possible. Sharon's goal is to see as many sights as possible. From where I sit at the moment the two seem to be coming together nicely. We are both looking forward to many evenings by a fire outside The Hippie Pod sipping cool adult beverages. Now that's the life! Reservations have been made for the first leg of the trip in Arkansas, Panama City, Orlando and Key Largo all of which should provide us with fishing, sight-seeing and lots of evening beverage sipping.

We're pretty stoked about the whole Big Adventure.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Whether you fish moving or still, cold or warm water the Debutante is one of the most effective and versatile flies you will find anywhere.

Soft hackle flies have been around and catching fish for a very long time because fish simply can’t resist the action of the hackle collar. The Debutante is no exception. 

The fly I now call the Debutante started out life as a completely different pattern. Desperate to find an easy to tie damselfly nymph pattern I began twisting marabou barbs on a hook. One thing led to another and I found myself fishing a super simple pattern (called Non Specific) that consisted of nothing more than marabou barbs positioned and wound on a hook to produce a tapered silhouette with a slender undulating tail. It fished (still does) really well for both trout and panfish but I seldom leave things alone when there’s tinkering to be done.

This is the time I should mention that over many years of tinkering with it marabou has proved to be one of the most reliable and versatile fly tying materials you can strap onto a hook. This has been proven many times over in widely varied situations when fishing flies of identical silhouettes tie with other dubbings. When observed underwater marabou catches light like no other material. The light refraction qualities of marabou falls somewhere between most natural fur dubbings and Antron fibers.

The next incarnation is what I now call the Twisted Damsel. This pattern has a double tail, one short and one long with bead chain eyes and a touch of flash in the tail. Again it is simple but deadly anywhere damselfly nymphs are present. I have been tempted to tinker with this fly many times but it’s so effective that tinkering seems a bit ridiculous. This is something that’s hard to learn in fly tying and design. When it works really well stop jacking around with it!

The next incarnation took me back to the Non Specific and the addition of a soft hackle. Next came a rib then a bit of weight tied with and without a tail. At the time I was fishing East Newton Lake outside of Cody, WY. East Newton is one of those places where, as a fishing writer fishes you either write about it or wish like hell no one else ever had. The trout are big and picky most of the year. At North Fork Anglers, the fly shop in downtown Cody it’s accepted knowledge that if a fly consistently catches trout at East Newton it will catch trout anywhere.  It took a long time to make the Debutant one of those flies.
The extremely clear water at East Newton made it easy to stalk trout in the shallows and judge their reaction to different stages of the development of many flies. It also turned out to be a great proving ground for trout running the weed bed edges and those keying in on mayflies as well as caddis throughout the year.

The recipe used for the Debutante has been revised so many times it takes up nearly 50 pages of notes. The combination of materials was determined by underwater observation and the reaction of trout when they see it. Almost universally a trout will react curiously when the fly moves into their field of vision. The speed and action that the fly is fished will determine whether the trout will take.

The Debutante is definitely a great stillwater fly for trout, panfish, carp and the occasional bass. If you’ve spent your fishing life thinking large bass won’t feed on small insects it’s time to rethink that position. The only reason I don’t usually use the Debutante to target bass is that the small hook gape seldom allows you to land a large bass. Tying one over a size 10 is difficult except with the absolute largest marabou feathers. I have been able to tie some up to a size 6 but it’s rare and I hold onto those for special occasions.

The method of fishing varies greatly depending on what the fish might be keying on at the time. The Debutante is designed specifically NOT to imitate any one insect or insects in general. There have been times when a olive brown or pale olive version has been used to imitate small baitfish species with tremendous success. For these reasons the best I can say in general is to try and imitate the dominate food source at the time in size, color and action.

Darting the fly quickly around shallow weed edges is an excellent way to trigger a baitfish strike from a lurking trout or panfish.

Working the fly with short erratic strips near the surface is a good way to trigger strikes during a mayfly or caddis emergence. For particularly selective trout during caddisfly emergences the tail can be clipped of to give a better silhouette of the caddis pupa.

During periods of little to no hatch activity work the fly around underwater structure or weed beds with really slow, short, deliberate strips. This is the time to try using a larger point fly and a Debutante as a dropper. Many times even really big trout and panfish will take the smaller fly in favor of the larger point fly. My go to in this situation is usually a Super Dragon (another and later incarnation of the Not Much).

Venturing out onto rivers throughout Wyoming and Colorado the Debutante has proven to be highly effective used as a nymph or emerger. Dead drifted like a standard nymph the soft hackle, tail flash and peacock thorax adds to the fish attracting ability. Used with a down and across or Leisenring lift technique put the fly in front of emerger feeding fish for excellent results. Just match the size and color to the insect they are keyed on.

Where the Debutante really shines in moving water is inducing strikes from extremely selective trout. I first read about the technique in Challenge of the Trout. When a really finicky feeder is encountered that won’t take other imitations try this technique. Move to a position across and slightly downstream of the feeder. Measure your cast and “splat” the fly even with or just behind the eye of the trout 3-6 inches out from the trout’s eye. When executed properly the feeding trout will instinctively turn and strike the fly. The take is always fast and vicious with a very high hook up percentage. This is an experience every fly fisherman should enjoy. The takes are spectacular!

For all you tyers out there here are the recipe and tying instructions. Photos coming soon.

Hook-   S80-3906 3X heavy nymph
Thread-   Color to match thorax
Tail flash-   2 strands Krystal Flash
Tail/abdomen-   Marabou barbs
Thorax-   Peacock herl
Collar-   Partridge, grouse or hen pheasant soft hackle

1-      Start the tying thread 1/3 of the way back on the shank from the hook eye. Trim the tag end and move the thread to the middle of the shank.
2-      Catch in the Krystal Flash and cover the butts forward to the thread starting point.
3-      Catch in the ribbing wire and position it on the back side of the hook.
4-      Wind the thread back to just over the hook barb covering the ribbing wire and Krystal Flash while keeping the Krystal Flash on top of the hook shank. Cut the Krystal Flash leaving a tail equal to the hook shank length.
5-      Move the thread forward in one open wrap a distance equal to 4 thread widths and let it hang.
6-      Select a group (18-16 barbs) of long slender marabou barbs from a blood quill and strip them from the stem so that the tips are as even as possible.
7-      Measure tips to a length equal to the entire hook length less the eye. Transfer that length so that it is over the position where the thread is hanging. The barb tips will be positioned over, and slightly longer than the tail flash.
8-      Take one very snug thread wrap making sure the barbs are positioned exactly on top of the hook shank.
9-      Make 3 threads back to where the thread stopped when tying in the tail flash.
10-   Fold the butt ends of the marabou back over the tie in point and take two very tight thread wraps moving forward. This action locks the marabou barbs in place.
11-   Wind the thread forward to the original starting point and let it hang.
12-   Grasp the butt ends of the marabou in a rotary hackle plier. Twist the marabou barbs into a slender tapered rope.
13-   Wind the marabou forward to the starting point where the thread hangs and tie it off securely. Trim the excess butts.
14-   Tie in 2-3 strands of peacock herl and wind a thick thorax on the hook to 1 hook eye length behind the hook eye.
15-   Prepare and tie in a soft hackle feather by the tip. Do NOT cut the tip as you normally would on a soft hackle fly.
16-   Fold the tip back over the top of the thorax and secure it in place.
17-   Wrap the hackle, tie it off and trim the butt. Take several thread wraps over the hackle stem to train the hackle fibers backward creating a shroud around the fly.
18-   Whip-finish.