Thursday, October 17, 2019

Muddler Season

A nice sea-run cutthroat trout took my Muddler fly.

   Ordinarily I start tying my autumn muddler flies around the first week of September. But this year I was busy, so I am trying to get caught up on them now. We've been getting some crummy weather here, so there's enough time. I tie them on traditional salmon style hooks, with an upturned eye, simply because I like the way that they look. I use the TMC 7989 ("light weight dry fly") in #6 and #8, and the Gamakatsu Traditional Series T-10 6H (heavier) and 3H (lighter) in #6 and #8.  I use the smaller hooks for sea-run coastal cutthroat trout fishing on the saltchuck. From around mid September through November, the big October Caddis hatch is on out here on the Olympic Peninsula rivers. And I like the muddler for that fishing. Last Monday we had a nice mild day here, and in the afternoon I was out in the dory, fishing with a friend, and we saw a big fluffy caddis fly on the saltchuck, in shallow water. It was skittering along on and just above the surface, the same way they do in the rivers. If you're fishing on the saltchuck, near the streams, you might see this. 

Surface skating muddler flies.

I don't tie enough of these flies, often enough, to get good at them. Each one is different from the next, they are not consistent. I guess I could work at that and get there with more uniformity. But I do like all of the little variations that each one features. The fish seem to like them too. 
On the Gamakatsu T-10 6H hooks these muddlers 

get down beneath the surface right away.

     I like fishing the muddlers creatively, using  a variety of presentations and tactics. Sometimes I let them swing and swim like a little baitfish. Other times I will skate them on the surface, letting them skip and skitter along like a big caddis fly. I can cast them upstream and let them drift on the surface, and swing them out to a hang downstream, and jig them there a little before retrieving them. Most of the time I like to give these flies plenty of action, no matter what I am fishing for.

My own Hoh River Steelhead Caddis muddler.
    One spring morning I was walking on a Hoh river trail and came upon a bedding area where the elk had spent the night. There was elk hair rubbed off all over the place. I gathered some up and took it home. It turned out to be a nice color match for the October Caddis we see there in the fall. (I use  Arizona Sparkle Dubbing Skip's October Caddis #21 for the body.) This is my steelhead caddis fly. I tie these on the lighter weight TMC 7989 dry fly hooks so they skate on the surface nicely. Sometimes I grease them. Sometimes I don't. Once they get soaking wet they get under the surface a little. The secret to this fly is to keep the elk hair wing very sparse. Dry line steelhead and cutthroat fishing!

     We are getting some much needed rain here now. The Early half of October was uncommonly dry, and the rivers were too low to fish. And now the rivers are getting some seriously good flows, and a bit too high to fish in most west-end Olympic Peninsula locations. But the saltchuck has been great between big windy blasts. Yesterday was our first big wind storm here. And it was howling. Speaking of wind and waves. When these big season changing winds do come, usually out of the southwest quadrant, you can sometimes see how the wind will push bait downwind toward a lee shore.The bait can be found milling about in the surf, and right up onto the beach sometimes.

    A few days ago when this recent blow was building up in the morning, it was hitting 15 to  25+ knots and pushing some steep waves. I walked out of the coffee shop and saw hundreds of gulls all bunched up near the beach, facing into the wind, riding the waves, and feeding on the  sandlance, that were teeming in the shallow water near shore by the thousands. Lake fishermen know to fish downwind on the drift. The bugs will eventually end up on the downwind end of the lake. The same can be true of the bait on the beaches. If you can get into a small boat, and row in manageable conditions, you can work along a stretch of beach this way, just like the ghillies do on the U.K. lochs- casting and  drifting down on the bait- casting as you go. Then when you get too close to shore to cast anymore, you row back upwind and move over a few yards, and drift and cast your way back downwind to shore again. It's nice when you have a friend do the rowing. The cutthroat know where the bait are. You should too. I did this last week myself, in the dory alone, in a steady 10+ knot wind and chop, and I found a really nice 18 inch cutthroat waiting for me close to shore in surprisingly shallow water. Pay attention to the big wind changes, and the winds that last for days. That can really move the bait around.

Gulls feeding on a lee shore.

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