Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

Smiles

One of the perks of being a Patagonia Ambassador are the smiles of my grandson.

THR collage Patagonia

The tradition of the Lilydeer continues

A few years ago my very clever wife made this very special Christmas gift.

the tiny Lilydeer

the tiny Lilydeer

The two small horns are Lily’s puppy teeth.

It graces our home as a reminder of the magic that is Christmas.

The simple things really are the best!

Here’s hoping this finds you safe, happy and in the company of those you love.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Tenkara Mouse!

Fish with a tenkara rod long enough and you will start looking for ways to push the envelope. It is the nature of fishing and anglers, but especially that of fly fishers.

As Mossy Creek Fly Fishing’s tenkara guide, the notion of catching one of our spring creek browns or rainbows using a mouse pattern and a tenkara rod has always intrigued me. Last summer, we dabbled around with it and you only need to see the award-winning film Blood Knot to see the result (Spoiler alert: Brian Trow catches and lands a 19” brown trout with a mouse on a tenkara rod. It is one of the more exciting “eats” in a film chock full of exciting eats).

The Mossy Creek Fly Fishing guides gather two or three Friday evenings a month to down a few PBRs, try out some new flies or just put a challenge on each other. We call it “Fishing Friday.” It is invitation only and very ad hoc.

Earlier this month, I had a chance to replicate Brian’s tenkara mouse mastery during a recent Fishing Friday “mouse only” challenge, landing a 19’ brown trout. That sealed the deal as far mousing as goes -it went from a novelty to a “go to.”

The Set Up

For a tenkara mousing rod, I like the Tenkara USA Ito. As a “zoom rod” — going from 13 feet to 14 feet 6 inches — it has the reach needed to get up and over the weed beds in the water and the tall grass along the banks of spring creeks like Mossy and Beaver here in the Valley. It also has the backbone to cast a big fly and land big fish.

In order to turn over the wind resistant mouse pattern, I use a 14 or 16 foot light floating line that we customize here at the shop. I like the ability to “anchor” a small portion of the line on the water during the presentation and also to “steer” the mouse a bit with the line. I go short and heavy on the leader/tippet combination, running about three to four feet of 3x from the end of the fly line.

The Presentation

Many folks think that nighttime is the right time for mousing and I won’t disagree, but on a very recent guiding gig we had a frenzy of activity at 3:30 PM, in bright sunlight. Brian caught the brown mentioned above in the early afternoon on a bright July day last year.

First, you have to think like a mouse. Look at your surroundings, take note of where you are fishing and think about how and where a field mouse could get in trouble and wind up in the water. That is where you want to aim your cast.

Next, think about what happens when they hit the water. Mice and other small rodents are not designed to swim and it shows in the water. Think about a dog in the water, they are mostly underwater, with just their back and head above the surface. Same with the mouse, mostly just its head is above the water. They have spurts of activity then tire and dead drift. Mice are not going swim long distances or for long periods of time. All these details factor into your presentation.

When you can, make a quartering upstream cast. You aren’t going for a delicate presentation here, you want a splash close to the bank. Mice don’t just fall from the sky like spinners. Make the cast, let the mouse pop to the surface (if it doesn’t get eaten when it hits) and then twitch it a bit. Don’t go wild with the twitches. Try and let it drift near the bank if the current runs that way. If the current moves it toward the middle, then start fishing it like a surface streamer. Short quick twitches followed by a dead drift seem to work well. When the mouse swings around and heads up stream, unless you are in an eddy or really slow moving water, you can start to recast — mice don’t swim upstream to well.

The Trade Secret

On a recent tenkara mousing excursion, after a few good presentations the fish were simply ignoring our offerings. We knew the fish were there, because we could see them. They weren’t spooked and we watched them take a nymph now and then. Of course we could have switched to a dry-dropper or a nymph rig, but instead I tied on a weighted nymph off the hook bend of the mouse.mouse-dropper

It didn’t take more than a couple of casts before the fish started showing interest in the mouse and the nymph and the client connected with a nice 16” rainbow.

The “mouse-dropper” rig has some distinct advantages when fishing a mouse. First, the weighed nymph sinks the back end of the mouse pattern, making for a more realistic representation. Second, the nymph acts like a sea anchor and helps keep the mouse in the seam or current. Finally, and most obviously, is the fact that you have the nymph there to offer the fish if they don’t want the mouse.

Author’s note: This article first appeared in Hatch Magazine.

Caught my eye – 2014 week 50

Here are some things that recently caught my eye (in no particular order.) 

  1. Clarity from Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer > I wanted to share something that happened to me.
  2. John Fall talked about the therapy of fly fishing > I am now a firm believer in the therapeutic benefits of fly fishing
  3. An interesting way to make a cooking fire pit > Tip from the Book: How to Dig a Dakota Fire Hole
  4. Another good friend joined the AFFTA board > Two New Board Members Join AFFTA Board of Directors
  5. What a sailor learned > A Sailor’s Perspective on the United States Army
  6. A soldier pays tribute to the men he left behind > Story Corps: 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon
  7. A wonderful tribute to a black lab named Duke > I Died Today.
  8. Congress finally did something good for public lands (but a price..) > Sportsmen Applaud Historic Move to Conserve America’s Finest Habitat
  9. Navy Beat Army for the 13th time in a row > How Many Times Does Navy Have to Win Before it’s Renamed the Navy-Army Game?
  10. Great political satire on the immigration debate > Native American Council Offers Amnesty to 220 Million Undocumented Whites

STFU it’s just fly fishing…

Now and again the tenkara world gets it’s knickers in a twist about what is and is not tenkara and then the fly fishing community chimes in about tenkara in general and everyone gets butt hurt and sulks.

Well, one of my favorite commentators on current events is the very talented Erika Napoletano, a featured speaker at the upcoming AFFTA Dealer Summit.

She recently graced the pages of the ever entertaining Moldy Chum in  So you’re bitching about Tenkara. Worth watching, listen and learn but be warned, she is NSFW!

UPDATE: The Moldy Chum link is 404, but you can hear Erika’s awesome wisdom on her blog at For Everyone Bitching About Mike Jeffries of Abercrombie and Fitch

Updated: The Sporty Mossy Creek Fly Fishing Hat Road Trip

Dusty and my hat have returned to Virginia and my hat should be firmly in place for the upcoming pirate fest on the James (a story yet to be told…) Here is an update the chronicles the adventures since the original post on 23July.

Dusty kept the hat busy while it was out west and here are some more images from the adventures. The captions are his Facebook posts.

23July: Normally I’m pretty good about keeping track of my stuff, especially if it is a) essential gear and b) a prop for Instagrams. Last month while on a scouting trip I left my favorite Mossy Creek Fly Fishing hat in Dusty‘s truck. No biggie at the time as I was planning to guide with him a few days later and could grab my favorite lid then. Well that didn’t work out as planned and the hat wound up going out west for a solo adventure. Dusty has been good enough to post some photos of the hat’s adventures.

And if you are really late to the party and don’t know what all the celebrating was about then read this from the TU Blog and this from the Orvis Blog. You can watch the Blood Knot Trailer in my post The Tie That Binds.