Fly Tying and Jo-anne Fabrics…

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Brassies

Despite monumental amounts of rain in the Valley of the Sun and road closing snow in the high country, my mind never wanders far from fish filled waters. I spent a good amount of time this week at my vice. My tying is far from perfect, but it has become much more enjoyable because my flies are taking on some resemblance of their desired goal. Starting off, I stopped by the Orvis store in Scottsdale and had it in my mind to spend a Christmas gift card that my very understanding uncle and aunt had given me. It took me less then 15 minutes to blow through the limit, which is actually more time than I had thought it would take. Loaded with tying materials and a good book, I was on my way to start tying up some flies. I started easy and launched into a batch of brassies followed by a more laborious project of the bead-headed pheasant tails. Over time, I actually started to enjoy tying the pheasant tail nymphs and look forward to getting them wet in Arizona water.

Pheasant Tail

I always look forward to Fridays. Generally, I am able to escape from work a little earlier than the usual 4 o’clock quitting time and my trip home takes me home close enough to stop by Cabelas or Sportsman’s Warehouse to say hi and paw through tying materials. This Friday, as usual, I stopped and was looking through various feathers and furs and actually opted out of several purchases because of the price. Usually my thought is, “I’ll just keep my eyes open,” or “maybe I can acquire what I need while I’m hunting.” After church on Sunday, Michelle had to stop at her “Cabelas” a.k.a. Jo-anne Fabrics. Usually, I wait helplessly in the front sitting area of the store specifically designed for men to drink coffee and look dejected. Today was different. Today, I felt empowered and started pawing through beads, feathers, fur, foam, and yarn. I believe I actually walked to the counter with more in my arms than my fiance did. I found that Jo-anne Fabrics is not a complete waste of time. I was able to find much cheaper beads, marabou, goose biots, and foam. Since being turned on to Jo-anne’s though, now I’ll have no excuse to complain when we go to a craft store. I had a bit of fun with foam once we left and tied several beetle/ant/bug contraptions. They are not pretty, but others seem to have success with them and they are extremely fun to tie.

Beetles

I am looking forward to tying more and can not describe how much joy I receive from tying flies, but there is no substitute for standing knee deep in water and feeling that tug on the end of my line. Michelle agreed and looks forward to the day when her kitchen counter is no longer considered “fly tying central.”

Fly Tying

Arizona Javelina Hunting: Final…

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Arizona Javelina Hunting

The score remains: Javelina – 2 Me – 0. Last year was my first year hunting javelina. Since moving to the Arizona, I have had a crash course in western big-country hunting. My experience hunting as a kid revolved around patterning deer and hunting well traveled trails from corn fields to bedding areas. In Arizona, glassing large portions of land searching for specks of color to move has been difficult to get the hang of but these past two years have taught me much. Saturday morning was overcast and windy and the sun never broke through the clouds as Travis and I glassed across a canyon searching for any sign of life. I had made my grid-like sweeps of the hills before me and was getting ready to move to a new vantage point when I caught a fat pig moving from under a tree into the open. Calling Travis over, we rechecked the location of the herd, found some landmarks, and planned the long trek across the canyon. Somewhere along the journey, we lost the herd and were never able to find them again. Mid-day was spent setting up camp and the evening produced nothing other than a few female deer feeding in the fading sun.

Windmill

The final morning of the hunt was clear and cold, but we did not have to sit long. Within minutes of setting up tripods and getting comfy, I spotted a herd moving slowly through the prickly pear. Wind was gauged and hopes were high, but as I picked my way through the maze of cat claw and saguaros, the herd vanished. After regrouping, I learned I had spooked the herd and we climbed to another bluff to relocate them. Amazingly, they were spotted not 60 yards away browsing. They could not have picked a worse spot as they were smack dab in the middle of loose large rocks which made unimaginable noise no matter how slow a hunter moves. Halfway to them, a covey of 50 quail flushed and not long after what remained of the javelina herd could be seen running into the next county. So ends the tail of three weekends of javelina hunting. I cannot complain about the chances I had and blew. Each day out is a new experience filled with God’s beautiful creation with many lessons to learn. Next year will bring another javelina season and maybe I will have a chance to redeem myself…

Arizona Javelina Camp

Pre-game javelina…

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Arrow Making 101
Arrow shafts and fletchings

Trying to work up a little mojo for a weekend of javelina, I began fletching some new arrows. By no means do I consider myself a master of building arrows and I do little more than the finish work. When I first bought my recurve, I spent a good while reading about different arrows. The differences between woods and carbons and right wing and left wing became tedious really quickly . Upon the advice of a friend I bought the cheapest carbons I could, slapped some feathers on, and found they flew as straight as anything else I had shot. The BEMAN Bowhunters combined with weight tubes are extremely tough arrows and can withstand being blasted off of countless rocks by a poor archer. My process of cutting weight tubes, glueing nocks, sharpening broad-heads, and fletching the arrows relaxes my mind and gives me a sense that I have some control over my slight archery abilities. The finished product always brings a smile to my face and a sense of hope for hunts to come. I leave bright and early tomorrow for two more days of javelina. With any luck, I may put my new arrows to work…

Finished Product

Arizona Javelina Hunt: part 2

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Saturday was a short day trip back to our honey hole that seems to be teaming with javelina. We arrived before first light and spent the morning glassing sunny slopes with Austin’s dad without any luck. We were back at it in the afternoon and a large herd of pigs were spotted on an upper hillside. With light fleeting quickly, gear was securred and we hoofed it to where we thought the pigs were going to be. The herd was moving much quicker than the hunters and we found ourselves slightly out of position. In the end, Austin was able to connect with a good size male javelina and as darkness fell, we headed towards the truck after a successful hunt. I still have Saturday and Sunday next weekend to try and put something together. Part 3 still to come…

Arizona Sunrise

Arizona Javelina Hunt…

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I was lucky enough to draw a javalina tag this fall and found myself in beautiful northern Arizona sharing a camp with my good friend Austin and a couple of old-timers who could fill an encyclopedia with their stories of hunting and fishing. Last year was my first year out after javelina and, although I spotted them several times, I was unsuccessful in bagging a “pig.” Friday morning found us stuffing gear in Austin’s trailer and rumbling up north, stopping for our last taste of real food at a small Mexican place, and coming to a halt in a shady little spot by one of Arizona’s beautiful gurgling creeks. By 3:30 we were setting up tripods on a small knoll and glassing on of the bigger hillsides near our camp. As is generally the case, Austin spotted a fairly large herd of 15-20 javelina. We made a plan and the stalk was on. Within a half hour I was 20 yards from several of the herd. Luck was not on my side and I was unable to connect with the fat rodents and my commotion sent them scurrying towards my hunting partner. He was also unlucky and darkness found us a few arrows short and javelina-less. The rest of the weekend rolled quickly by with mornings, generally the best time to spot javelina, empty. We got into one more herd later on Saturday, but again could not connect on anything. Hunting camp was a highlight. Big campfires, good food, and plenty of laughs will not soon be forgotten. We still have several weekends left to get back and put some miles on our boots, but are a little less optimistic with the passing of opening weekend. More to come next weekend and I will try to remember to bring the camera…

Glassing

Elk Hair Caddis…

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Elk Hair Caddis

This has become a nightly routine to sit down and tie several flies after dinner. It is quite enjoyable seeing these flies come to life. Even though they may not be perfect or even border-line good, I have never been more excited to go fish and see how they perform. At this rate, It will be well after Christmas before I return to Arizona and put these flies to water and the anticipation is already killing me…

Update from 2011: As I was looking back over some of my old posts, I was extremely embarrassed over some of these earlier flies. I debated taking down the pictures, but I decided not to. I am not a great fly tier now, but I’m not this bad anymore…

Griffiths Gnat…

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After tying several wooly buggers, it was time to move on and start trying some dry flies. Several suggestions came down and I decided to keep it simple. The Griffiths Gnat is a extremely basic dry fly that is tied similarly to the wooly bugger. Sitting down today, I tied up 4 and by the fourth (bottom left) I felt like I actually knew what I was doing. If you look at the picture, you can see the hackle getting smaller and smaller as I realized I needed to use the smaller feathers. I enjoyed myself immensely and am looking forward to tying again soon and maybe using some of the elk hair.

Griffith’s Gnat

Salt River…

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Fly Fishing the Salt River

Reports have drifted to my ears that the Salt River is a toxic hole that occasionally is stocked to please local Phoenix fisherman. In my opinion these rumors have always seemed a little harsh and I decided to always wait to pass judgment until I could form my own thoughts. After fishing today, I can appreciate what others have reported. The Salt River is not the finest river in the West. I was amazed by all the garbage and trash littered on the banks. People say that the River is “mobile spring break party” once the temperature heat up and the tubes hit the water, and I can see from the evidence that this is correct. I was disappointed to say the least. I saw several fish rising later in the day to a Blue Wing Olive hatch, but was unsuccessful in hooking a single fish for the few hours I was there. Not the best experience I have ever had.

The Beautiful Scenery

There were several positive things that I did appreciate about the day. Number one, I did not have to wake up at 3:30 to drive two and a half hours to fish.  Number two, I did not freeze my hands off. Typically on the Rim or in Sedona at this time of year, you would have found me huddled in my truck at daylight attempting to tie a fly to tippet with frozen fingers. Number three, because the fishing was subpar, I was able to scout and look at several different areas that I could possibly fish in the future. Number four, I met a really friendly and pleasant fly fisherman on the river who was fishing with his girlfriend(?). Pete stopped by and gave me several different flies to try as well as a bag of elk hair to tie up some different flies in the future. We talked extensively about tying and he invited me to come to a Arizona Fly-casters meeting and tie with some different members. Always nice to meet good people.

New Flies

Final Analysis on the Salt River… I hate getting skunked. I’m pretty upset with the River and with all the people who leave their garbage everywhere. I was not thrilled, but due to it’s relative closeness and a feeling that I must go back and redeem myself, I will definitely fish the Salt again.

Pure Arizona Water