Ben’s Cleanup Popper Tutorial

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Disclaimer: This fly has not been field tested so I lay no claims to its durability or effectiveness. On the other hand, if it catches fish, I gladly welcome all credit.

Even though I have not been tying for that long, I still have an inordinate amount of material stuffed into any nook and cranny of my hunting room. Accompanying my wife to the craft store has been my undoing as I go straight to the foam, beads, and feathers and as a result I have gobs of different colors of foam and feathers. I have essentially put myself on hold from buying any more tying products unless they are the essentials. I have never been able to bring myself to buy the little foam bodies for bass poppers and have always looked for a way to use some other item around the house. In my wanderings on line I saw foam being used in quite a few different ways and borrowed a couple of ideas and came up with the following fly. It incorporates quite a bit of the odds and ends on the tying table hence the name “Ben’s Cleanup Fly.”

Enjoy. Let me know how it works for you and any thoughts you have on it.

In the Absence of Fishing…

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I was not able to make it up North on Saturday, and instead spent an hour or so at Lake Pleasant on Saturday morning. The lake was low and I am guessing that it dropped at least 30 feet since I saw it in the spring. Fish we active in the middle of the lake but being stuck on shore was unproductive and miserable. So I opted instead to spend my weekend tying some flies.

Sharing the joys of fly fishing…

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Early morning brown

Even though I make my living as an educator, I found it very difficult to accurately convey the basic principles of fly fishing to a friend. JohnMark and I have known each other since childhood and even though he was my brother’s best friend growing up, I consider him a good friend myself. He was in town checking out the area with the possibility of moving here, and we decided to take a day and do a little fly fishing. Although spin fishing on the Hudson River is JohnMark’s specialty, I attempted to show him a good time on the small streams of Arizona. The evening before we spent a little bit of time in the community greenbelt practicing our casts and awoke early in the morning in order to be first on the stream. It was a beautiful day and after a few fish to hand, I spent the remainder of the day trying to get my friend on to some fish. After several missed takes, he connected on a beautiful 12 inch wild trout. As I saw him admiring his fish and gently release it back to the dark pool it came from, it almost pleased me as much to see someone else enjoying fly fishing as much as I do…almost. He already is asking questions about which rod to choose and I can very easily tell when the venomous bite of fly fishing begins to run its course and take hold of another victim.

 

Labor Day Crazies…

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Labor Day weekend found me lazy and not motivated. I planned to leave early in the morning and set my alarm for 3:15 but something must have happened because when my eyes opened, the bright Arizona sun was filtering through the blinds. I quickly rushed through my morning routine and quietly shut the front door around 6:30 to drive to the Rim. Knowing that my morning was more or less shot and that there would be gobs of holiday weekenders on every stretch of water, I decided to check out a few blue lines that I was pretty sure did not hold any fish. After putting some miles under my boots only to find out I was right, I headed to the one spot that I was sure no one would be. The fishing started slow with only a few fish willing to dart out and attack my fly, but by 2:30 I was seeing steady action. Keeping my fly close to the bank, I was able to induce strikes fairly regularly as well as lose many of my precious flies.

Arizona Brook Trout

As the sun sank lower in the sky, the fishing really turned on with multiple fish feeding in every pool. The strikes turned from half-hearted sips to a last-meal feeding frenzy. The 10-12 inch browns really put up a fight and put a fantastic bend in the 3 weight. What had started as a slow afternoon turned into a fish filled evening with over 20 fish to hand. I said a quick “thank you” prayer for finding some quiet water and hungry fish on such ridiculously crazy weekend and decided not to push my luck with another day. For future labor day weekends, I will probably just hang out at home and tie some flies instead of attempting to find a spot to park anywhere in Northern Arizona.

Arizona Brook Trout

 

Rim Country: Part 2

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Saturday evening, I had a fantastic evening with friends at their beautiful cabin below the Rim. With my belly full of elk spaghetti and homegrown salad, the rain on my tent lulled me to sleep and I woke early and refreshed to fish a fairly popular Rim stream. I had halfheartedly fished a portion of this stream earlier this summer and had made a mental note to spend some quality time throwing my line to the brown trout that fill its water. After some hot coffee and EasyMac for a stream-side breakfast, I softly walked to the edge of the stream and dapped my mini-hopper on the water and was pleasantly surprised to find a healthy young brown trout on the end of my line.

The rest of the morning proceeded in like fashion and aside from spooking several of the resident monster browns, I had an extremely nice day with many fish to the net. Even though I saw a weak BWO hatch on the water, I stuck with a yellow mini-hopper as it continued to produce in pool after pool. Around 9 or 10, I spotted some fluttering caddis on the foliage around the stream and figured that these insects could have been the reason for my success. The stream bank was also loaded with wild mint plants that gave of a fresh and pleasant aroma throughout the entire day.

At the end of the day, after I have struggled to take of my soaking wet neoprene booties to reveal stark white feet, after I break down the rod, after I roll down the windows and turn up the country music, I smile and know that on Wednesday, when the week seems to have no end, I can reach back in my minds eye and put myself knee deep in the stream. Those snapshots while I’m fishing keep life in perspective and I welcome all of the unexpected pleasures that seem to happen while I’m in the field. I just hope and pray that these waters will still be here to keep me sane in the years to come.

Rim Country: Part 1

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Leaving the house at 2 in the morning to get to my deer stand before first light is just one more reason for me to like fishing more. A heavy rain had drenched the woods and made my approach quiet, but in the end it did not seem to matter. I sat in my blind until 10:30 and then got down to the good stuff. I caught more browns in this particular stream than I ever had before and most were of a decent size. My mini-hoppers are still producing and I am not one to make changes when things are going so well. Just a few photos from Saturday to share…

 

Deer Season (or maybe I’ll just go fishing…)

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Deer season started Friday while I was busy at work, but my stands have been set for a couple of weeks to allow nature to get back to normal. I drove up early Saturday morning to try and sneak in before the sun peaked over the ridge. I had set up two stands, one a tree stand and the other a pop-up blind. Truthfully speaking, I really enjoy hunting out of the blind better due largely to the concealment factor. I make it a point to sit almost all day and I like to read, drink water, fidget, and lay down for several power naps without worrying about my movement throughout the day. So as I pulled my truck up to walk to my stand I notice another truck already parked along the road. As I walk down the beat up ATV path, I come across another truck and about the spot I would turn into the woods towards my blind, another truck is parked with 4 guys gearing up, talking loudly, and having a beer…at 5 in the morning. I made an executive decision to turn around and sit in the tree stand, but already my day felt ruined. My best laid plans had gone awry and my spirit was greatly deflated. A long story short, the only wildlife I saw was a pack of blue jays which squawked so loud all morning it gave me a headache. I sat until 11 when the sun was high in the sky and I decided to make another change of plans.

I was on the water by noon, fly rod in hand and a smile on my face. It was a Saturday, the Rim was crowded with weekenders, and I had the small stream completely to myself. The fish were eager and hungry even during the hot midday of August and the mini hopper proved again to be extremely effective. I fished every pool slowly, taking my time, until the monsoon rain opened up a few hours later. I took shelter under the large pines that guard this creek and as I stood waiting and watching, I took stock of my situation in life and wondered again why God continues to bless me in every way. I have a beautiful wife who does not raise her eyebrows when I tell her I am going fishing or hunting, I have a job I enjoy, I have a roof over my head and food in my belly, and I am standing next to a beautiful mountain creek catching wild fish on dry flies. God is good and I thank him for these things.

Lesson of the day: Always bring your fly rod when you go hunting, just don’t expect to hunt too hard.

Back to School Fly Fishing…

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Rainbow Trout

I finished a fantastic week at school where I have a great team and really nice students. I am looking forward to this year and all of the great things that are going to happen. Having said that, the first week is always tough trying to get those old gears working again, not only for the students, but teachers as well. By Friday afternoon, I was feeling the exhaustion starting to seep in and knew that a day on the stream would fix all that. I was able to hook up with a younger guy, Jake, from church and at 4:30 we were on our way to the Rim. We fished one of my favorite streams that is loaded with wild rainbows and heavy browns and rarely sees visitors.

Rim Brown Trout

The fishing was good, but not as outstanding as usual. Normally every pool and riffle will have a hungry trout ready to nip at whatever is in front of him, but for some reason the bites were fewer and farther between. We focused on dries for much of the day but had some success when we fished the dropper later in the day.  We ended up with 15-20 fish between us and some of the colors were absolutely stunning. Unfortunately the upper portion of the creek was busy and full of day users who had been walking and swimming in the creek. We decided to call it a day and fish our way back down. It was a beautiful day that warmed up fairly quickly, but a great way to spend a Saturday after a long week of work.

Brown