Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Heading Back To Barrett

Tickets have been purchased and I'll be heading back to Barrett on the 17th. This time I'll have I won't be armed with only second hand knowledge from guys who have fished it in the past. I'll be accompanied by Ed who is extremely knowledgeable about the lake. In fact it was he and Bryan Webb who I gathered information from before my virgin voyage.

I can't wait, its one thing getting good intel on a new fishing spot, it's a whole different matter when someone in the know shows you. From the reports after my first trip, it looks like the fishing has gotten much better. Some conventional fisherman are reporting 100 fish days many in the 4lbs some in the 6lbs and over range. Reports like that were once commonplace, now it seems not so much. Perhaps that is the reason tickets are now so easy to obtain. You can even get tickets at midnight the day before. That was unheard of years ago. Tickets would be gobbled up within minutes (it seemed that way at least). Ed told me that he once fished the lake two or three times one summer and that was a miracle. He said he just got lucky.

Maybe Barretts heydays are over. I don't know. Maybe the ease of obtaining tickets now are due to the price. It cost just under $100 for the gate fee which includes the boat and motor, and an additional $20 per angler. I remember reading it costing somewhere around $40 per ticket and $10 per angler at the marina. In any case the place still fishes fine for me, especially since I never experience those truly epic days of the past. All I know is that these fish are aggressive and hit and fight hard. They will take the fly with no problem.

I can hardly wait. I've been tying new flies just for the occasion.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mont Bell Ebisu

Montbell is an outdoor company from Japan that is not well known here in the states. There are only a handful of outdoor types that I've ever met that have even heard of this brand. It is very popular in Japan, mainly because it is a domestic brand and therefore much cheaper than US or European brands like Patagonia, The North Face, Mountain Hardware, Aigle, etc. I really do like this brand as it is quality stuff although much of what they offer doesn't make it to these shores. One good plus is that some of their goods are still made in Japan. But like the aforementioned brands they are not immune from the perils of the free markets and as such much of their goods are made in China and other third world nations.

I found the Ebisu store, like most things I find in Japan, purely by accident. I was on the train coming home and the train stopped at the Ebisu station. I looked out the window and I saw a huge Montbell sign. It was night so the whole store was lit up. I saw all that merchandise and I quickly noted the stop so I could return another day. And so I did.

This store is nice and has two storeys. First floor is hats, trinkets, boots, backpacks and I believe women's wear. Upstairs is Men's, fishing, camping, tents, bicycling, and canoeing. I had no clue that Montbell made fishing appeal. They make waders, vests, and fanny packs. That stuff never makes it here. Snow Peak used to make fishing stuff as well ( they still might but I don't think so). I've seen in my old copies of Fly Fisher magazine Snow Peak ads for their traveling tying vise. I would have liked to see that.

I bought some beanies and neck gaiters (still made in Japan) for myself and one for my Dad. I also bought T-Shirts, an aluminium tea cup and strainer, and some other small trinkets.

Finding this place is easy. Get off the Ebisu station. It is right there. I believe it is the west ticket gate, if not then go to the other side. It won't be hard to find.

If you can read Japanese here is the store's site.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

San Gabriel Rivers with my new 4'9" 3 weight

Early this month I fished the San Gabriel rivers both the the East and West Forks to try out my new rod I bought in Japan. It is a NAC Microfy49 #2/3 6 piece rod. According to the salesman at Sansui, it is made in Japan. It cost ¥22,000 or $230US or thereabouts. Once I saw it on the rack I knew I had to have it. This rod is very unique and quite a niche product. Slow actioned and tiny, I doubt it would ever catch on here in the states. Although I think it would do well here in SoCal or in the small streams of the northeast. Backpackers would also like this rod.

Well back to the fishing, I fished the East Fork the Saturday of the memorial day weekend. Talk about a circus. Luckily we missed the "diaper hatch" near the campgrounds. Although I wanted to hike deep before we started fishing, my fishing partner was getting a bit impatient and we fished alittle closer than I really wanted to. I can't blame him though the water always looks so good. But I know the better fish are further up stream. It didn't really matter this day, as Ed had to be home for a BBQ anyways, so going in too deep wasn't much of an option anyways.

The river was high and fast. I've fished these waters hundreds of times and never had I seen it with so much water. Wading was not difficult but challenging at some places, especially since I'm used to just raging through this place without a second thought.

The fishing was great. Ed was trying Czech nymphing and I was dry fly fishing. Why anyone would ever doing anything but dry fly fishing here is a mystery to me. So very few waters allow you to dry fly fish and consistently catch fish. Usually you need to wait for a hatch. or me I get plenty of subsurface fishing in the seirras and so whenever I get a chance to dry fly I will. Ed caught several. I'm not sure how many but I got at least 100 strikes on the dry fly. That is a very conservative estimate. At some holes I was getting bit on every cast on my first 20 casts. Amazing. All on the surface. We left so Ed could meet his timeline.

Amped, I decided to return the following Thursday (June 3rd). But once I came to the road that leads to the EF, I decided I wanted to try the West Fork and Bear Creek instead. I hiked up to Bear Creek and decided to fish that first. I headed up the creek and hiked in. Still using the same fly from the last outing, the result was much the same as the last. Another 100+ fish day. On some holes a fish rose on every cast. I did not derig from the last outing, I wanted to see how long I could make this setup last. Kind of like a deranged version of the famous one fly contest. Eventually I lost my fly, so I switched and tried others. They were not so effective but still good. I fished to the San Gabriel Wilderness boundary until deciding to head back. The trail was hard to follow and I was tried of bushwacking.

Once out I decide to head up the West Fork. I fished several holes that produced over 20 fish each. Some holes trout were coming up taking flies. After a few hours I had enough and decided to head home.

Some observations from the two outings:

The EF has alot of water on it and moving pretty quick. Some areas were challenging to wade- not hard but challenging. I not used to having the EF move so fast.

Bear creek is a lot easier although the deeper you go in the bushwacking is out of control and obviously the WF is simple because of the controled flows.
There were a ton of bugs on the WF. I was bit all over and even snorted a few through the nose. I never noticed any bugs on the EF.

The fish at Bear creek seem to fight the hardest. The EF had the largest average size.

Fly Fishing goods bought in Japan

Fly Fisher Magazine. Kenshiro Shimazaki tying DVDs, 2 Medium C&F fly boxes.

NAC 4'9" 2/3 weight. This is a fantastic small stream rod perfect for Bear Creek, the San Gabriel rivers or any SoCal trout stream.

Keychains with Japanese Trout

Shimizaki's fly wings

The Hollow body Kit and tool for making extended bodies.

These are C&F's version on extended bodies. Unlike Shimizaki's these use dubbing whereas Shimizaki's use a plastic bag and double sided tape.

The booty. Some items are available here in the states but are considerably more expensive and other just never make it here for one reason or another. One example is the Tiemco wing burners in the upper right hand corner.

Fly Shops in Tokyo

I visit Japan every few years including this year. This trip was to see the blooming sakuras. Every time ever since I found them I make it a point to visit a fly shop or two. I always like to see what products the Japanese have that don't make it here in the states particularly items from C&F Designs.

One store Sansui, a chain located throughout the Tokyo area, is an excellent one. It is split half fly half conventional. There are stores in Yokohama, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukoro, Ueno, Kawasaki among others. I have only been to the Yokohama, Shibuya, and Ikebukuro stores. Yokohama is the largest of the three I've been to, I believe the largest is the Shinjuku store which is the flagship. At least that is what I've read. Shibuya is two storefronts- one conventional and other fly. This store is small and cramped although the selection is still pretty good. Ikebukuro is small as well but is one combined store.

To get to it get off the Yokohama JR station and walk the direction away from Sogo (its a chain department store). While walking you will go up a flight of stairs and back down, continue walking, the underground station will split into four walking lanes, each lane is lined with stores. Pick the 3rd lane from the left. Continue walking until you reach Diamond exit 北 8 or 9 (either one). Go up the stairs on the the left to the outside. Continue walking after only a few yards you will reach a river, if you don't you went the wrong way and turnaround. Continue past the river and you will meet an intersection that can be crossed by overhead pedestrian bridges. Look to your right and Sansui will be there.

Getting to the Shibuya store, get off Shibuya station (there are two stations so it can be confusing, get off the one with the famous dog statue). I'm not sure which exit it is but if you get out and enter the square with the famous dog statue you're at the wrong spot. Go back through the station to the opposite side. Outside there will be a bus stop area, go right and you will reach a pedestrian bridge walk up and then down (still going right). One you walk down the bridge, Sansui is not far from there to your right. I believe the street is Meiji Dori.
If you in the Square with this dog statue, head back through the station to the other side.

Ikebukuro store took me forever to find but I finally found it just when I was about to give up on it. Get off the Ikebukuro station take the east exit. Once outside turn left, you'll past a Parco Department Store (at least you did in 2010). You'll hit a stoplight. Turn left and follow the street, it will diagonal abit. Follow it to the wall the blocks you from the railroad. Turn up and start walking. To your left will be a small park and Sansui will be on the right.
If you you see this you're heading the right direction.

Sansui Ikebukro store.

I forgot to take pictures of the other two.

Another store that I did not make it to on this trip is the A&F Country store in Ginza . This store is located (at least it was back in 2004) in the Matsuzakaya Department store in Ginza. It is located on B2 level. I found this store by accident in 2000, I was heading to the tax refund area and ran into this shop. A&F is similar to what REI is here, outdoor gear but this store had a fly fishing section. It was at least back in 2004 pretty well stocked. Unlike the Sansui stores this store (I believe) allows you to get tax refund for foreigners because it is in a department store if you spend over ¥10,000 (or something like that amount) which is roughly $100US.  UPDATE 6.19.12 My Japanese friend Koji has let me know that A&F is no longer so don't waste your time going to find it.  What a shame.

If your are fortunate to read Japanese, here are the two stores websites.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Darne R13 Shotgun

After a long required 10 day wait, my Darne is finally come home. This is a R13 27.5 inch barrel 12 gauge with a POW grip. Chokes are mod and full. The condition is excellent, there are only a few handling marks. None of them are all that noticeable. The wood is ok and not particularly figured. I would have preferred a sub gauge but I can live with another 12. Like most Darnes, this model came with the safety on the left hand side. This will make for some awkward shooting in the field. I'll just have to make due. Although I cannot confirm this, I've been told the reason for the left hand side safety was so that the shooter could see whether or not his gun was on safe when he mounted.

I'm excited for this upcoming season as its been a good wet year. There should e great opportunities for this shotgun to get on birds. I'll use this mainly for chuckar, pheasants and ducks but it will see action on early season mountain quail, doves, and valley quail.

I can't wait to take it to the clays course and give it a try.

Close up of the R13 Engravings

R13 Markings and Proofmarks

Darne disassembled

The unique sliding breech.

I love these quirky french guns.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Barrett Lake Fly Fishing

Mike and I fished Barrett Lake on Wednesday the 16th for the first time. It was 1976 the last time Mike fished for largemouthes, for me, not that long but its been a few years. I have longed to fish this lake since reading an article about it in 2001. From then on I had heard fish stories from fellow fly anglers of 100 fish days. This has always peaked my interest but unfortunately I was never able to land any tickets. Barrett is different than most lakes in SoCal. It's not a year around fishery and it limits fishing to Wednesdays and weekends. Also only 100 anglers are permitted per angling day. To top it off entrance to the lake is done by purchasing tickets from Ticketmaster. Tickets are hot commodity and sell out rather quickly. I was never able until now to get any of this tickets.
We arrived at Barrett at 5am, the first available time to be escorted into the Lake. The first thing we noticed was how cold it was. Luckily I brought my fleece, I had considered leaving it at home. Mike had not brought a jacket either and lucky for him I had a spare in my Rover. While parking Mike notice several anglers walking to the marina with a trolling motor. He had mentioned that he had one and should have brought it. I had forgotten to ask him if he had one prior to this trip, although I meant to do so. Live and learn. It would have definitely helped.
I started fishing with Bryan Webb's unnamed popper fly. This fly in my opinion is the greatest top water fly around. Unfortunately we fished for several hours without so much as a bite.

After 2 or 3 hours I switched rods to a 150 grain 5 weight. I started with a some woolly buggers but since the drift was fast I think the fly was moving too fast to imitate a leech. After sometime I switched to a rattle shad fly I tied years ago. This fly literally has a thousand casts on it and has never produced anything, not even a bump. I thought the fly was useless. After a few cast I got hit for the first time. I missed. Kept retrieving and finally hooked up. It was a dink largemouth but it got the skunk off the boat. I continued with this fly, catching several more, until I lost the fly in some submerged cover. I only had one of that fly but I had another version so I fished that. I caught several more on that fly.

I was catching some many that I decided to use other flies that have been in my bass box for years and have hundreds of hours without a hit. The bass bunny was next and that fly was catching bass. After losing it I switched to the bristleback, more fish. After knowing that these flies would catch fish I moved on to an old faithful-the classic deceiver. The old classic didn't disappoint. Caught several with it.
All the bass were not big, in fact most were very similar. Pretty cookie cutter. They averaged a pound give or take half pound or so. The largest was probably 1.75 pounds. Nothing special. Today it was about numbers not lunkers. Not bad for a first time trip. I later learned that this area, the Hauser arm, is not really known for the big bass but for its ease of catching large numbers. That is not to say they aren't big ones there. But most in the know hit Hauser when their normal big bass spots are not producing or when they are just looking for action.
These largemouthes are northern strain, not the Florida strain that dominate the other SoCal lakes. I have caught several Florida strain in my lifetime but I must say pound for pound the northern stain fight alot harder. One fish even burned my finger while setting the hook. I didn't even get cut when I landed a 150lbs tarpon years ago.

This fishery is quite amazing. I will be back. I've been pestering another friend, Ed who knows this lake quite well, to hurry up and pick a date so he can give me the lowdown on this place.
I fished with T&T helix 5wt saltwater rod with a floating line, Scott S3S 7 wt with floating line, and a Sage XP 5wt with 150 grain line. Next time I'll just bring the two 5 weights and maybe a 3 wt for panfish.

After fishing Mike treated me to dinner at Hodad's. This burger joint is said to be one of the top five burgers in the nation. Mike and I had never tried it and since it was not too much out of the way, we decided to give it a try. Their claim to fame is there bacon cheeseburger. It was good but top 5 in the nation? I'm not quite sure about that.