October 30, 2008

F5, refresh

roughfisher.com is getting a facelift. You may notice some irregularities with the blog site over the next few days. Some of the major changes to the layout include a WIDER body, a third column, some header and graphics changes, as well as a sell out to the corporate shill.

The web page content on roughfisher.com will soon be dissolved, as Google is phasing out their Page Creator and supporting development of Google Sites. I'll be transitioning everything back to the blog, and will eventually streamline the URL to roughfisher.com (dropping the blog.*). The Blogger interface has been much easier to work through compared to GPC, as the Google servers would not allow users to execute AJAX/perl/php scripts, and other rudimentary functions now standard on many web servers. I spent more time trying to dumb things down to Java, in frustration, and waster my time more than anything else. It's been a failed experience, that fortunately had some good learning value.

The Trout Underground's recent redesign to a 550px body width has left many viewers expecting to see widescreen photos become the standard on angling blogs. Singlebarbed didn't stray far behind and followed suit with some graphical header changes. I'm just trying to keep up with the Joneses. Not to be outdone, roughfisher.com is now coming to you in 580px body width.
Eat your heart out Tom Chandler.

- the roughfisher

October 29, 2008

the brownline 2008.10.29

  • After nearly two decades, Tom Dickson follows up his groundbreaking book, Fishing for Buffalo: A Guide to the Pursuit, Lore and Cuisine of Buffalo, Carp, Mooneye, Gar and Other "Rough Fish" with the The Great Minnesota Fish Book, featuring the amazing illustrations of Joe Tomelleri. A must have for any serious roughfisher.

October 28, 2008

snow capped

It's been a couple days since our October snowstorm, and there's still snow on the ground. Drifts in some of the ditches and field approaches are still 3' to 4' deep. Sloughs, ponds, and shallow lakes even had a skim of ice on them, some lasting throughout the day. You gotta love Minnesota. Where else can a flatlander experience snow and ice 8 months of the year?

Air temps were a crisp 25 degrees this morning, a plus, since the forecast was supposed to be a balmy 15 degrees. The sun was shining with a slight breeze at hand; the day was supposed to warm up fairly quickly with a high near 50. I was hoping a warm front from the SW would shake things up today. The fish must have been on Fall Break.

I got my 8 weight back from Scott last week and hoped to put it through its paces. Flows on the river are still well above the 80th percentile. I was optimistic that the higher flows would bring some fish upstream and up onto the shallows. Not the case, as cold water temps kept the fish at bay (near 41 degrees). I could not find any fish schooled up, and turbid flows kept sight fishing out of the cards. It was tough.

I really had to work for these fish, and bites were few and far between. There was no standout pattern on the water today, lord knows I about tried them all. With water temps as cold as they were, I knew I'd need to slow the presentation down quite a bit. Difficult to do, considering all of the current I had to now deal with due to high flows. I tried to downsize my offerings, but with low fish numbers in this section of river right now, it just didn't make a difference.

It was nice to get back on the water; it had been nearly a month. I tried overlining my 8 with a short, heavy head line, in efforts to improve the performance of my single-handed skagit casting. I was a bit rusty on my first few casts. After several failed drifts, I switched to my 6 weight, and a different fly pattern. My casts started to come back together, and eventually I managed to land a a few fish on the 6. Even though I eventually switched back and forth with my 8, I was blanked on it. It did, however, cast just as well as it had with the original rod sections.

I was lucky to end up with the catch that I did. At least I had variety. I may try to get out one more time this season, later in November. Hopefully flows will subside by then, and the water less turbid. I should have a decent shot at some redhorse and quillback, the only species I predominantly find during the coldwater season. Maybe I'll find a random carp and snag him in the mouth. Until then, I'll be getting my fly tying operation under way, and will be busy gearing up for the hard water season.


- the roughfisher

October 27, 2008

roughfisher's vault 2008.10.27

RIP Merl Saunders, 1934-2008.

Legion Of Mary, June 22, 1975.
Keystone, Berkeley, CA.

Featuring one of my favorite Merl tunes, Wondering Why, and also Favela.

So long Merl.


I got my Scott rod back from repair last week. The top two sections of my 10' ARC 8 weight were replaced. I'm itching to see how it performs, compared to the original sections. Scott allegedly finds a replacement blank when repairing, to match the characteristics of the original rod, and give the same feel and performance.

My foremost concern when sending in the broken rod, was that Scott would no longer have any blanks of the discontinued ARC series remaining, and would not be able to repair the rod. The only salve was that the replacement rod series to the ARC are the T2H series rods. The specific replacement to my current rod would be the T2H 1088/4 switch rod. When Scott contacted me last month, they informed that they would be able to replace the top two sections of the rod, instead of having to resort to a replacement. So much for getting that switch rod.

I heard the horror stories from other broken rod victims, on how excruciatingly long the repair process was at Scott. I heard one account of an angler waiting three months and counting to get his A2 repaired. Other accounts of a three month wait were quite common amongst internet fly fishing message boards. I guess should consider myself lucky that the repair process only took me around two months. Staffing concerns in the repair shop were addressed by management after the recent reorg. Apparently, I must have benefited from the increased labor force.

The quality of the workmanship on the repair matched that of the original craftsmen. Aside from some wear on the blank and the reel seat, it is difficult to distinguish the original sections from the new. Hopefully it will cast just as seamlessly as the original.

Thanks Scott.

October 26, 2008

old man winter

The old guy blew in to town this morning. An inch and a half of the white stuff on the ground with a few more to come. While Fall will still try to battle it out a bit more with old man winter, the white veil that surrounds was a rude awakening of what is to come and what shall not be.

A strong cold front punched in to the region overnight, bringing stiff winds in excess of 40 mph, and snow. While the ground is not frozen yet, there is little benefit of having the snow around this early. Soft dirt and open water does not equal snowmobiling fun. Sideways snow and below freezing temps does, however, equal no fun on the river. Frozen rod guides and snow blasting in to your eyes is for the hardy fellow. Fine if you're chasing fare such as steelhead, trout, or salmon; not quite as rewarding when searching for the last few stray carp of the season.

I'm not ready to write off the season as of yet. I'm hoping to get another chance or two at some fish before calling it quits. A few warmer, sunny days still likely remain before the onset of polar temps arrive here. The brief reprieve from colder temps should provide for a short-lived binge-fest, hopefully bringing a few fish out of the deep and on to the flats. The old man is nipping at my heels, but I'm not ready to give in just yet.

Just give me one more shot.

October 24, 2008

the brownline 2008.10.24

  • Singlebarbed is at it again, this time uncovering the truths and half-truths behind fly shop material mark ups.
    This week's exposé: Silicone rubber legs.

  • The Trout Underground is about to get his drink on with some fine ales from the Mt. Shasta Brewing Co. Nothing like a bunch of drunk blueliners at a bamboo rod gathering.

  • Pete from Fishing Jones is about to kick some tucanare ass. Peacocks beware.

October 22, 2008

roughfisher's vault 2008.10.22

Tasty treats from Ratdog, July 23, 2002.
nTelos Pavilion Harbor Center, Portsmouth, VA.

A funky show, check out the Victim, Eyes, and Shade of Grey > Throwing Stones. nice!

October 20, 2008

two handed casting with single handed rods, Part II

You may ask yourselves, why should I care about two handed casting when all that I fish for are puny, runt-sized trout? Or, that roughfisher is a damned crazy fool, those streams in Minnesota are nothing like the Pacific NW or Scandinavia. While I won't argue with the crazy fool bit, I will make a case that two handed casts can be utilized in more cases than you would think.

The first and likely most obvious reason to utilize a two handed cast would be in an environment with limited to no room to allow for back cast. On streams with high banks or those dreaded trees and bushes that singlebarbed likes to get snagged in, utilizing a cast without having to perform a back cast is good news to your fly box. While a simple roll cast would serve the purpose here, sometimes you are presented with a situation that does not allow for a traditional roll cast to be carried out. If you've ever tried to make a roll cast alongside a bank with vegetation adjacent to your casting hand, you know how frustrating it gets when your fly line tangles in some grass, weeds, or branches. It downright sucks. This is a case where a backhanded roll cast would work great, or a single spey on your off hand.

Another obvious benefit of two handed casting is distance. Utilizing spey/skagit casting techniques can easily boost casting distances, enabling you to fish waters unreachable to other anglers fishing traditionally fishing their single handed rods. Unless they are Tim Rajeff, you should be able to easily outcast them. The one caveat to distance casting is that you may find yourself overlooking the near water, in attempts to reach the far bank. Coupled with having to mend line over multiple, dynamic currents, this can pose a dilemma to the two handed caster. A longer rod may enable you to high stick nymph runs longer, and may reduce the need mend, but there is a note of caution that fighting fish with a lot of line out may disconnect you from the fish. Especially when the fish is also fighting the resistance of your fly line against the current. I'd like to add that one underutilized application of the long cast, in my opinion, is lake or reservoir fishing. You should be able to cover a lot of water on the lake using two handed casts.

One benefit of the two handed cast is that it is easier on you shoulders and upper body than traditional single handed casting. This may be appreciated by you old farts boomers out there (you know how you are, so don't pretend like you don't know). Utilizing casts that derive their energy from the rod, water, and your lower hand put less stress on your rotator cuff, and when spending an entire day on the river; you can cover a lot of water with minimal abuse to your upper body, casting all day long. The same cannot be said for other methods of casting. Imagine double-hauling a streamer all day long. Your arm would be ready to fall off by the noon hour. It makes my shoulder hurt just thinking of it. I'm still a young buck, but even I can appreciate that. Pass the Tiger Balm.

An oft overlooked advantage of the spey/skagit cast is it's resistance to wind. Compared to other style of casts, two handed casts seem to cast better for me under control in windy conditions. Not having to aerialize a forward and back cast minimizes the effect wind can play out on the prairie here in Northwestern Minnesota. Wind is always an issue here. If I had to cancel an outing just because of the wind, I'd never get a chance to fish out here. It's just part of the environment. Utilizing skagit style casts in these situations have really benefited me. I am able to place casts mid-stream that would have otherwise blown back in my face, using a snap-T or a double spey cast. The line speeds of a two handed cast are incredible and play a big part against fighting the wind, much like a double haul, but without out all the effort.

So, I've pointed out several advantages of using two handed casting techniques, and a couple of switch rods to utilize those casts with, now what? How do we perform those casts? I'm no spey/skagit expert, nor will I pretend to be. If you want a source of two handed casting instruction, check out Sexy Loops or Spey Pages. They have loads of good stuff to fill your brain with. I will, however, explain the main differences between the spey and skagit styles of casting and why you may want to utilize one over the other. Until then, cheers!

More to Come: The fundamental differences between spey and skagit style casting and their applications.

October 19, 2008


So it's been 18 days since I've been on the water and it feels like it's been an eternity. Like having to read four chapters in an evening from that dreadful Structural Geology text I had back in college. Between work, the weather, and a new roughfisher at home, there just hasn't been any time to even think about sneaking away for a few.

Surprisingly enough, I have been handling the stress and rigors just fine. Typically, time spent on the river is a release for all of my worldly concerns. I am probably still riding high on the euphoric of being a new dad. Before long, though, I fear I will feel the urge to return to the stream and unwind. If not for one last dance before winter sets in.

Flows in the region have been sky high, rising above flood stage to near spring flows. It would be obtuse to not correlate the fall flooding to poor agricultural land use practices in the region, but I'll leave that to another rant. Regardless, flows on the Otter Tail are well above the 80th percentile, which makes for difficult fishing conditions this time of year. Not only are fish scattered, due to cooler temps and fall migratory patterns, but higher flows makes for more difficult drifts and access to certain stretches of productive water nearly impassible. Increased turbidity from run-off makes sight fishing impossible; blind nymphing and high sticking are the only effective techniques to use right now. It is a numbers game, and right now, the cards are not in your favor.

I'm sure by the time flows finally subside to normal, that I'll be available to chance an afternoon stream-side. By then, the water should run low and clear. Sight fishing is the only advantage to chasing roughfish during the cold-weather season. Since few fish remain, being able to spot them is the only saving grace. Of course, tricking them to taking your fly is another feat. I'm sure snow flakes will be chasing my ass by then too. Nothing like having to fight jack frost and Cyprinus carpio. Hopefully some of you are out there fighting the good fight and sharing your stories, so that too I can live through them for the time being.


October 17, 2008


I realize it's not fishing related, but it's Friday in mid-October.

Gopher Hockey Time!

Some Fat Tire Ale, Johnsonville brats, and family.
A perfect combination.
I love this time of year.

Go Gophers!

October 15, 2008

rubber legged hares ear nymph

This little badboy is a deadly assassin. The rubber legged hares ear nymph. It looks so unassuming that you'll likely pass it over when thumbing through your fly box for that go to fly. When tempted with the juicy offerings of a roughfisher swimming nymph, X Factor nymph, or the ominous Darth Clam, sometimes the subdued fly gets none of the glory, like the kid picked last on the playground. Unfortunately, for the fish, the RLHE is an effective fly pattern, especially when a strong front or colder temps move in.

Hares ear nymphs are great flies to use anytime, but are especially effective during the late season under cold weather conditions. Fish are typically put off during this period by big gaudy flies. That gargantuan crawfish pattern that was nailing the carp a month ago will likely send those fish fleeing all the way to Lake Winnipeg. A low-key fly like the RLHE will be subtle enough not to spook fish; it is small enough to cast with a minimal splash. The rubber legs are that little extra something, that extra piece of meat that will drive the fish to take the fly. It also provides for subtle enough movement in the current to appear lifelike.

This fly is a simple tie. I use the guard hair from a hares mask to form the tail. Dub on a tapered body using hare fur, or my secret weapon, dubbing from the hair brushed off the family brown tabby. I tie in a wing case using peacock herl, and some silicone legs, all on a heavy nymph (stainless salt) hook with a black bead head. If you need to add an extra bit of flash, you can tie in a wire rib, or use flashback for the wing case. I typically skip the flash as the subtlety of the fly speaks for itself.

You can catch just about any species of fish on this pattern, but it is especially effective on finicky carp and elusive quillback. On slow days when nothing is seeming to move fish, go subtle and tie on a RLHE nymph. It can make or break a day on the water and be the difference between a caught fish and the dreaded skunk. Sometimes more is less.

Simplify man.

October 13, 2008

two handed casting with single handed rods, Part I

There has been an influx of new hybrid rods entering the market over the past few seasons. Most major manufacturers have added at least one switch rod model to their lineups. These rods are capable of handling the torque and rigors of two handed casting, as well as perform single handed casts, meanwhile are small enough to be manageable and used on smaller streams, and in more situations. Having an extended lower butt section makes it easier to perform two handed "spey" and "skagit" style casts. The main reason these rods are not classified as a spey/skagit rod is because of their shorter lengths. Yes, fly line selection helps play a big part in delivering two handed casts, but the truth of the matter is, you can perform two handed casts using any kind of rod, using any type of line.

I have been using Scientific Anglers Mastery Steelhead Taper fly line on both my 9'6" 6 wt and 10' 8wt this season. The SA Steelhead taper has a longer belly than traditional Weight Forward lines, enabling longer mends and advertised roll casts to 70'. I initially started casting the rods chiefly with roll casts and realized that I was missing out an a whole array of techniques that could enable me to cast further and with less effort, meanwhile keeping my fly in the water longer. I also realized the limitations that a roll cast presents when wanting to change the direction of a cast. I started utilizing two handed casting techniques and opened up a whole new section of water previously unreachable, revolutionizing the way I fish. I unknowingly adopted the skagit style of casting. Now I'm known down at the river as the guy who "roll casts" to carp.

On my 9 wt, I typically fish my Rio Clouser line with it. It has an oversize front taper on it, great for delivering heavy, bulky flies. I am able to utilize two handed casts with it just fine. The extra weight (grains) of the 9 wt line allows me to cast further than my 8 or 6 weight rods. The key to roll casting and skagit-style casting is to keep in mind that the line on the water's surface serves as an anchor point, which is utilized to load your rod. It is the interaction between the surface tension of the line on the water's surface which will affect your ability to perform the cast. In essence, most two handed spey/skagit casts, and their derivative forms, are based off of the roll cast. Master the roll cast, and you are ready to move on to learning two handed casting techniques.

One thing to keep in mind is that many of the newer blanks that high performance switch and spey/skagit rods are wrapped with are often reinforced, to handle the multi-directional torque of loading the rod that two handed casts produce. Using a heavy grained line to perform two handed casts on a single handed rod may add stress to the blank that it was not designed for. Cast at your own risk. Another thing is to make sure your ferrules are TIGHT. This could have been one reason my Scott broke on me this summer. I believe the ferrules may have come slightly loose from performing two handed casts. When I hooked up with that carp, if the ferrules were loose, that would have likely resulted in a broken rod. From what I have heard from other anglers, loose ferrules is quite common when performing two handed casts. Use of ferrule wax may be a cheap investment to keep your rod sections from separating and the potential catastrophic loss of a rod.

Coming up: The applications, fundamentals and differences between the spey and skagit styles of two handed casting.

October 10, 2008

Switch it up

I have been contemplating picking up a switch rod since last winter. I've debated the utility of owning one on numerous occasions. Although I came close to pulling the trigger on a switch rod, I instead opted for the longer single hand rod (10') to see if that would accomplish what I wanted and needed on the water. It turned out, over the course of this season, that the rod performed beautifully, but that I was always trying to reach a spot on the river about 5-10 yards further than I could roll cast. I found myself starting to utilize two handed casting techniques, without knowing the formal names of the casts, in order to reach this section of water. It worked because I was able to reach fish that really seem to hold well in that stretch of river. BIG fish. It appears that I should have went with the switch rod all along.

I'd like to pick up a switch rod over this winter, though I haven't decided if I want to get a Scott T2H 10'8" 8wt, or a Beulah 7/8 Switch rod. New for 2009, the Scott A3 11' 8 wt might be worth a look at only $335. The quality and craftsmanship of Scott rods are remarkable. They make some sweet sticks. But the Switch Rod series designed by R.B. Meiser for Beulah look intriguing. I'd like to get a hold of Beulah sometime in the near future and talk to them regarding their switch rods and lines, as well as discuss the possibility of building a carp rod. Now that would be cool.

So beware all ye blueliners out there, the apocalypse is near. The revolution is upon us as fellow patriot KB will soon be joining the ranks of the switch rod army. Come join us as we march along brown stained rivers, two-handed rods in hand.

Come join the brownline revolution.

October 8, 2008

brief hiatus

Hey all, for obvious reasons, posting has taken second fiddle to the new roughfisher. Not to worry, I'll be back in the saddle soon and blogging again. Thanks for your patience.



October 2, 2008

the New Roughfisher

With the day's light arose a beacon of hope.
A savior was to be born to deliver from us darkness.
A prophet of the fly, the rod, and the voice of pisces.
A true master of the angle; Lawai'a
the New Roughfisher

October 1, 2008

sunset comes twilight

Today was a trial in patience and perseverance. Nothing was in sync; there was no rhythm. As the day awoke, frost and fog burned off in the morning sunlight. The air was crisp with a light northeast wind. A cool autumn day. I had put a lot of pressure on myself to have a big outing, even though I knew conditions would be tough. I faced off with a stiff upper lip.

Urgency overshadowed an otherwise beautiful fall day. Knowing this could very well be the last outing of the season, I pushed hard and over-pressured the few fish remaining within casting distance. This was not effective. I rushed almost every drift, trying to force the fish to take. They just weren't having it.

I covered a bunch of different water today, but just couldn't find the fish. They had moved on, even from spots they were holding in the other day. I have to believe that a majority of the carp have moved on to the wintering spots, wherever that may be. A mission for another day. I fished a stretch of skinny water that held relatively few fish compared to the other day. I tried to make it count. I had a couple hookups, several were foul, but I had one big fish on that had my drag screaming as it took line downstream and across. I overzealously tightened my drag to keep from losing the fish downstream. Ironically, this lead to my eventual undoing, as my non-slip loop knot pulled free as I got the fish near shore, leaving the hook firmly planted in the beast. The fish returned to the depths with nary a look.

I tied on several different patterns before a carp finally settled on my offering, a rubber legged hare's ear nymph.

I ventured upstream, in the chance that fish were congregating in the spillway. Some were. Unfortunately, they weren't interested in my flies, and one poor victim fell prey to a ridiculous excuse of an angler. This fish easily went 20 lbs.

a murdered buffalo

The redeeming factor to the day would come hours later. After searching water and cycling though patterns, I finally ended up with a plain old beadhead hares ear nymph. I settled back on a stretch of water that has held quillback all year long. A few false hook-ups got my hopes up, only to result in disappointment. I drifted my nymph along a current seam and watched my fly line just barely quiver. I strip checked my fly and felt resistance. I set the hook. As I lifted my rod, I saw a flash of silver and the broadside of a silhouette that is unmistakable. Quillback!

As I played the fiesty devil to the net, I was careful to keep tension on my line, yet watched the angle of my rod and line to avoid breakage. As I landed the fish, I raised the net for the telltale inspection. This is where the catch makes or breaks you, finding where the hook was set. The subterminal mouth and large fleshy lips of the quillback make hooking this fish inside the mouth, very challenging. Often times, the fly is spat out before the hook can be set, or a line strike occurs, resulting in a fish being foul-hooked on the outside of the lips. The soft nature of their lip tissue also come in to play. Fighting a fish too hard can have the tendency for the hook to pull free.

Half the time I land these fish, the hook pulls free while in the net making confirmation of a fair catch difficult. As I reached for the fish in the net, I went to unhook my fly, only to find it lodged on the outside bottom of the fish's lip. I was disappointed. Another foul-hooked quillback I thought to myself as I pulled the hook free. Only then did I notice that the fly and my tippet did not come completely free. When I pulled the fly loose and tried to unwrap the tippet from around the fish, I found that is wasn't wrapped around the fish, but rather it was caught in the fish's mouth. Closer inspection revealed that the fly line was threaded through the quillback's lip, and what I had earlier identified as a foul-hooked fish was to the contrary. When landing the fish, the fly must have caught in the netting and pulled through the fish's lip, from the inside. The brief sense of disappointment quickly turned to excitement and jubilation. My heart was pumping. You gotta love adrenaline. This was a fair caught fish. I pushed the fly back through the fish's lip and pulled the tippet and fly out though the mouth, and released the fish. Now I can be done.

Another solid way to end the day. A quillback caught to both start and end the season. More than I had ever expected or hoped for. My expectations for the season were simply to get a handle on the bigmouth buffalo and finally land one on a fly. Mission accomplished. An unexpected result of that mission was the opportunity to catch some redhorse and quillbacks. It was unheralded not just to catch one, but several. A perfect bookend to the 2008 season.