Under Every Rainbow...

Under every Rainbow lies an infant fly fisherman. 

My new baby boy, Joseph Charles Bova weighed in this month at 5lbs. 14oz. and measured 18" long. A modest sized Rainbow trout. 

Sounds from his room are not the shrill sounds of Disney characters or The Wiggles DVD's. Instead sounds and running loops of A.K. Best tying quilled dry fly's and Doug Swisher doing mid-air curve casts across Montana rivers. Yup Child Services has already been notified by concerned relatives and friends. My faint whispers of chapter 3 from Vince Marino's A Modern Dry Fly Code can be heard at night from his newly painted room. His big Christmas gift was a 5'6" 4/5 wt. bamboo rod that I just crafted over the last month and inscribed on it “Little Fish” with his name and birth date. He's got a little Meisselbach Featherlite 280 reel to put on his new fly rod. Unfortunately the only fly fishing vests that fit him are Christmas ornaments. Oh well all I can do now is wait a few years for a new river buddy.

Its a fly fishing Christmas Miracle.

~Clint Joseph Bova


Boxers or Briefs

Describing actions of bamboo fly rods is a bit like describing a painting you have seen at a local gallery to a slack-jawed friend. If you are really good at creatively visualizing something while somebody else is describing it to you then its not a problem. Fly rod literature for most part is typically comprised of a multitude of adjectives and combinations of touchy feely words that really do not describe the essence of a particular rods action. Until you pick up the rod and actually cast it you can only then fully understand the rods true persona.

As a rodmaker I’ve casted countless bamboo fly rods and the ones I like most are the ones that compliment the way I fish. That being said I gravitate to dry fly rods that are moderately quick, accurate, and light weight. Some load up in close, others spit line like a fire hose, some do both. I’ve casted Leonards, Paynes, T&T’s, and Garrisons and liked them all. I dislike many rods that others like, and like many rods others dislike for pretty obvious reasons. Boxers or briefs? I had a caller once ask me “how far do your rods cast?” my reply was “how good of a caster are you?” We all have arms and wrists that are educated differently, we all have different ways we choose fish, different rivers, different flies, and inevitably there is a rod best suited for the particular need. The choices are limitless.

My favorite clients are dry fly enthusiasts because I know that they are not going to put one of those silly fluorescent line indicators on their leader and triple haul a #2 salmon fly with a trout rod. Although I’m probably going to take some heat for this entry irregardless. Recently I had a really good chat with a customer who lives in upstate New York and he said casting the rod I made for him was like “eating ice cream”, I thought that was a very creative way of saying it was his new best friend. He described the rods action as most complimentary to his fishing style. 

“My favorite rods are the ones I can manipulate masterfully to simply catch fish” 

This has been my personal motto for many years now. I suppose I’ve always trusted my intuition about fish so naturally I make rods to further reinforce those intuitions. Ultimately I am in a happy place since I am able to make “favorite” rods for myself and many others to date. I only wish to continue a certain level of excellence and evolution in my rod building. I also am thankful for the giving few who have inspired me to do so and only hope that I may also be of influence as I grow older. 

Clint Joseph Bova

The Classic Vise Co.

Back in 1995 I purchased a phenomenal fly tying vise from The Classic Vise Co. It is engineered very very well and built like a M1 Bradley. It detents four times in full rotation, and allows me to tie flies as small as #28. I purchased the vise in Canada and am not sure if it is still in production. My little HMH is always well used but The Classic Vise has holding power like no other vise I have used before. This vise is made from very high quality stainless and has endured countless wet hands while tying soaked quills and still shows no signs of weathering. Tools such as these make the craft of fly tying that much more enjoyable. Being a creature of habit it will more than likely be my last vise I ever purchase.

~Clint Bova


Fall Dry Fly Patience

Fall Brown, caught with my 7'6" 4wt. “Shawnee Rose” 
on a #20 Black quilled suspender midge
With a consistent cool breeze the flotsam piles up during the fall on edges, seam lines, and sweepers along the river banks in the North East. This is a period of time when the fish are foraging and becoming quite picky when it comes to surface feeding. I use to fish scuds especially hard in the fall but over the years have taken to surface fishing year round. I simply enjoy dry fly fishing over any other type of fishing period, especially in the fall.

Fall dry fly fishing takes perseverance, patience, and focus. There is so much floating in the water that both Trout and angler become distracted. I have a fly box dedicated to late fall midges, typically fore and aft designs and micro parachute suspender midges in black and gray sizes #20, #24, and #26. With water levels low and typically clear I fish 6x and 7x with a 14 foot leader. I usually fish my “Johnny Logan”, or “Little Mecoche” rods, 4wts. on the lighter side of the scale. In medium sized water I take out my “Shawnee Rose” a 7'6" 4wt. I approach dry fly fishing in November and December with my expectations in check, an open mind, and tend to squint and stare a lot. Walking significant distances, and moving on the water makes it always more productive as well. The subtle fall sipping of a Brown Trout is a beautiful thing to watch. If you decide to place a fly that is not on the Trout menu you will see them make a bee-line for the nearest sweeper or undercut. I have found over the years, based on my location, that black midges are my most consistent best bet. The smaller the better. I use black quills that I strip and dye myself to create a slight segmentation and use either black or med dun hackle.

               #20 quilled parachute midge and my fore and aft quilled midge
Fall fishing really is a time for reflection, introspection, and a little space. A sense of pause after a summer that is sometimes filled with a results oriented mindset, during hatches or perfect conditions. I recently had an interesting occurrence on the Mad River down the street from my house. While waiting out some nice browns under a bush for twenty minutes, I sat very still, almost to the point that my leg started to fall asleep. Wearing my floppy green canvas hat and dark ochre colors I must have looked like a pile leaves, or interesting lichens from above.    A chipmunk pounced on my head, scurried counterclockwise, made an audible shriek, and managed to scare the crap out of me. A “chipmunk swirlly”, as a friend of mine called it. I suppose I felt a certain level of cunning satisfaction from this little occurrence because I blended in so well with the fall colors. I could only hope that a trout would jump on my head for the same reasons.
                         ~Clint Bova


The Fall Prayer

Path Walker
An American Indian Prayer
To bring back the natural harmony that humans once enjoyed.
To save the planet from present practices of destruction.
To find and re-employ real truth.
To promote true balance between both genders.
To share and be less materialistic.
To become rid of prejudice.
To learn to be related.
To be kind to animals and take no more than we need.
To play with one's children and love each equally and fairly.
To be brave and courageous, enough so,
To take a stand and make a commitment.
To understand what Generations Unborn really means.
To accept the Great Mystery
in order to end foolish argument over religion.
May your fall fishing be memorable and peaceful ~Clint Joseph Bova


Landscapes by Christopher Greco

                            “Streaming Light and Shadow” oil on board

                         “Late Afternoon Below the Fields” oil on board
                            “Side Door and Back Steps” oil on board
                                  “Beside a Stream” oil on board

                                  “Down River” oil on board

Christopher Greco is one of those rare painters you come across that has a point of view that incorporates old school mediums in a very relevant and current way. His series “A New Painting Every Day” captures a natural rural spirit that is honest and heartfelt. I catch myself smiling when I look at his paintings because I feel as though I am experiencing this scenery along side him. Most of these paintings from his series are all done on location, in a somewhat spontaneous manner, with no reworking.  Christopher Greco resides in Westlake Ohio and continues to produce marvelous work with his oils.
             ~Clint Bova


Guidewater Pants by Patagonia®~Product Review

I have been waiting a long time to find a really functional and comfortable wet wading pant. During the summer months shorts just do not cut it for me because of sun, brambles, poison oak, poison ivy, leaches, deer fly's, the occasional hungry mink, and various other man nibbling critters. Patagonia's Guidewater Pant is the best wet wading pant I've used period. I have used these pants for about a season and have no issues at all with the wear, general design, or comfort. These pants do not bunch up or bind when wet. They are pliable, dry very quickly, and repel water like a raincoat. Finally I found a wet wading pant that works great which is a genuine relief because I have been searching for a wet wading pant that fulfills all of the above criteria. I really have no reason to wear waders during the summer months now. Even my waist high waders are now collecting dust during the summer months which is a relief because I just don't like the extra bulk when its over 80 degrees.
         ~Clint Bova


Divine Inspiration

Recently I was asked by a customer out of Upstate New York what inspires me to lean towards my more “antique-esque” hardware patterns. I definitely have an affinity for some past rod makers one being the late Fred D. Divine who began making rods in 1875 out of Utica N.Y. I always felt that his hardware was somewhat medieval in personality. After going through the armory exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art for the fourth time I started seeing some basic geometries that were very reminiscent of some of Divines tooling and stamping. Meandering about in arms and armor exhibits is a good way to develop a taste for forging and tooling. I soon started making drawings of my own and surrounding myself with little artifacts of “Divine” inspiration. I have a small collection of Divine paraphernalia that keeps my creative juices flowing. Most of my cap and ring sets are slightly reminiscent of Divines “Classic Reel Seat”. The cap is slightly elongated, a pronounced taper, with an even more pronounced domed butt. The rings are chamfered and banded and echo some of the trim detailing not only on the cap and rings but also adapting on the cork check and winding checks. Generally speaking Divines hardware is very elegant and simple. When I glance at the few Divine rods that I own, I break into a Cheshire Cat grin, I am then inspired to stand in front of my lathe for hours and burn the midnight oil.

Thank you for all of the kind complements out of the Mohawk Valley.
~Clint Bova


Simpler Life Simpler Tye

I think I’ve learned more from Canadian ghillies about successful trout fly patterns over the years than anyone else. They seem to excercize the mantra, “the simpler the better”, and I’m a firm believer in this affirmation. For the most part trout food is fairly understated, modest in profile, and buggy. My most consistent and successful fly patterns are fairly dull, not a lot of flash if any, and only carry subtle hints of color variation. I suppose when you really think about it mayflys are two-toned, there are only two colors contrasting against one another on any mayfly with the exception of any varigations. Hues of green, yellow, umber, and rust are the basic color ways. These colors are accompanied by a range of cool and warm grays that range from 1-10 on a gray scale. These are the colors I mix and dye my feathers to emulate both mayflys and caddis flys. Terrestrials are a whole nother ball of wax but even these patterns need not be overly complex and garrish. I’m not a big fan of attractor flys of any kind in part because they are usually over designed in profile and color, and they are somebody else’s interpretation of nature and not my own. So simple streamlined patterns ring true to me. Some of the Scottish guides that I have come in contact with are extremely resouceful, frugal with materials, and creative. This is a great combination of traits for creating simple and effective “guide” patterns. 

Several years ago I was fishing the Grand River in Ontario and I was fishing alongside a guide who handed me a “wee tuft” of CDC and Coq De Leon on a dry #22 hook. I was fishing over a very large brown, over 22 inches and he was not budging so I tied on the “wee tuft” and the Scottish guide said “off you go”, and off I went! My little 7' Trails End started bending and bucking. Flashy flys look great in magazines, but when they’re all dressed up and nowhere to go effectiveness is revealed, a second date is undeserved.


Fluid Time Delay

I often find myself looking up, not really knowing why. Sometimes it’s as though I am looking for the wind and always trying to see it.The trees offer me a suggestive response with a flapping leaf or a bending branch. The wind acts as a obscure time piece, and like temperature, the wind is affected by the sun directly and indirectly. The wind does respond to time in a sort of celestial manner. My dog Manny often looks up when I do when the wind blows, he joins in and looks somewhat introspective while doing so. I then try to draw a mental picture in my mind of what the nearest piece of trout laden water is doing. If my dog could fish we would do so often since both of us have a certain zest for solitude and running water. Unfortunately Manny will never bare an opposable thumb so the idea of meandering about with him in streams grasping fly rods is somewhat wishful thinking. Although there is an orthopedic surgeon that I know of nearby that could pull this surgery off, maybe I could trade him a  fly rod for such a surgery? Needed: one left thumb, in good condition, preferably a furry one. The surgeon also happens to be a fly fisherman so I don’t think he would deliberate over the procedure too long. Manny would only need one thumb on his left front paw because he seems to have the temperament of a left handed caster. If you watch this Golden Retriever he seems to sense ghosts in running water. He watches the eddies, reflections, and riffles with a certain kind of introspection and turns his head one way then the next as if he is taking shorthand notes. I chime in and say “whatcha see Manny”, he then responds with a sorrowful look  and ends up sticking his head fully underwater, much like a Blue Heron would looking for a crayfish. 

If our minutes are measured in hours in dog time then their pondering is much more drawn out than ours making them masters of internal conversations and thoughtful doggy introspection. It also makes them much more aware and perceptive than human beings. I am convinced that dogs and trout have this ability and are the real masters of our universe for this reason. Our arrogant sense of time simply caters to our lack of focus and harmony with the natural world. We are mislead by time, we base everything on the speed of two hands in a  circle. We need to slow our clocks down or just simply throw them all away. If every human minute was equivalent to an hour in canine time we would understand why our furry friends are so attentive and understanding.They live seemingly shorter lives because they live on a different clock all together. 

While we embrace time that we’ve been subserviently checking all our lives, we can actually embrace the notion that we spend less time exercising our senses and more time dealing with meaningless distractions based on the relative speed of a clock. We accelerate ourselves for somebody else’s invention. We’ve all haven been given a time handicap. Nearly everything follows sheepishly an unchanged time piece. We are slaves to two hands in a circle. Humans use to live shorter because they spent more hours being useful and partaking in meaningful activity, souls satiated early, no need to live longer, the spirits take them once they have proven their worthiness into the next life. An interesting notion when looking at it from a spiritual standpoint. I had this discussion with a very thoughtful and creative furniture designer many years ago. I suppose this also embraces the notion that “the good die young”. When our dogs are staring introspectively into running water and chasing ghosts are they playing or are they fully focused, and practicing and passing through for some kind of meaningful life lesson portal? Growing up on the ocean and watching animals in and out of the water most of my life has planted this notion in my head over the years. I’m convinced that spending time on the water actually extends your life considerably. Our senses align with a natural time delay, and like our furry and finned friends, we too can momentarily cycle side by side with their god given clocks.
                              ~Clint Joseph Bova

“You do not cease to fish because you get old, 
                    You get old because you cease to fish”


Easy Grilled Rainbow Trout

4 six-ounce fillets of rainbow trout.
1/4 cup of canola oil.
2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice.
1 tablespoon of ginger root, minced.
1 teaspoon of grated lime peel.
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper.

In a suitably sized saucepan over medium heat, sauté the minced ginger and grated lime peel in the canola
oil, until just lightly browned and aromatic.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, then stir in the crushed red pepper.

Once the oil has completely cooled, gently whisk in the lime juice and reserve.

Heat the grill to a moderate temperature.

Brush the grill pan with some oil to reduce sticking, and grill the trout fillets with the flesh side down for about
2 minutes.

Gently turn the fillets and grill for 2 minutes more, or until the trout turns opaque.

Serve the trout immediately with a splash of the ginger/lime mixture.


Sweet Whippings~Silk Rod Wraps

I definitely love wrapping with silk. I have always been a big fan of Pearsall’s silk threads. I honestly believe that the dye batches are the most consistent, color fast, and easily matched. I have been wrapping with Pearsall’s consistently for the last fifteen or so years and have had no guide failures at all. I suppose this sounds a bit like a sales pitch but I’m typically a very reserved optimist and a bit superstitious on top of it all. So I usually keep my happy thoughts to myself. I wrap a lot of rods with white silk which eventually ends up as clear wraps. I have managed over the years to consistently create crystal clear wraps, no glassing at all, no thread tunnel pockets or bubbles by paying close attention to time, temperature, and viscosity using spar. Pearsall’s silk is all I will use to achieve clear wraps to my level of “perfectness” or maybe I just have a high level of comfort and trust with our friends in the UK. My wife has watched me over the years reach scarey levels of deep meditation and severe cognitive dissonance over this particular process. If you approached her on the topic of clear wraps she would wink at you and say I was truly insane. Most people who have seen my wraps would understand my level of OC when it comes to finishing.

One remarkable property of silk is its high tensile strength and its fibers will not easily tear or damage. It is also an elastic medium that can be stretched and then will recover to its original size unless stretched beyond 20-25% of its original length. It has been used in the past in making guy ropes to take advantage of this resilliency.

The attributes of silk all are very positive in my point of view. Pearsall’s offers “Naples”, a heavier diameter silk, which I use for overwrapping ferrules, and the standard “Gossamer” silk thread that I use for guide wrapping and tipping. Again silk has a very high tensile strength but maintains a very consistent minimal diameter. With this in mind it is perfect for whipping threads. Silk evenly absorbs solvent like a sponge, so if you are using spar or even spar urethane blends you can get a very consistent clarity if applied and diluted correctly.

Silk thread has the property of being a very flexible material. For example, a silk scarf can readily be pulled through a wedding ring, and it will quickly retake its original shape without a lot of wrinkling. In addition, silk holds its structural integrity and will not rot. Silk is also more heat resistant than many other types of thread, including nylon, and is actually rather difficult to burn.

Silk takes well to dyes, both natural and synthetic, which results in wide variables when it comes to color especially in threads. Another property of silk is its soft feel, and it retains it shape well, even after having been stretched. In appearance silk has a sheen and luminosity which makes it easier to work with while wrapping under a magnifier. Both bamboo and silk complement one another as raw mediums. They have been used in tandem for hundreds if not thousands of years for swords, suits of armor, and specialized tools. I suppose if a synthetic equivalent to silk was ever developed I would turn my cheek because like bamboo it is truly a gift from Mother Nature.



Bed Bugs & Ballyhoo

I suppose there really is not a mutual understanding between critters when it comes to rural life in North America. It still is everything goes, as it should, and like anywhere else location means nothing when it comes to making sense of our own mortality let alone other creatures. While walking on somebody else’s farmland to get to a favorite piece of water I often rubberneck every few hundred yards.  It never ceases to amaze me the likelihood of finding something interesting poking out of the freshly tilled soil. Early this season while tromping along in a half dazed sleep deprived state wearing baggy waders I came across a big leg. It was severed from the socket in the hip and partially eaten mid-thigh, hoof still attached. I stopped abruptly and just stared at it for a few minutes. I was both mortified and curious. “Where’s the rest of the body?”, I said to myself. I imagined David Caruso showing up on the scene with aviator glasses and a sidling bra-less wonder toting an expensive Nikon with a ringlight. Forensics probably were not in the budget on this one. My imagination wanders aimlessly until it lands on the notion that it had to have been a hungry “meadow yeti” handling this 40 pound hind quarter like a drummy. “Where the hell is the rest of the deer!”, probably in it’s underground yeti lair with all of the rest of the missing person’s that I see up on the entrance walls of the local Walmart. Not a fox, not a dog, it’s too heavy, maybe a hungry fisherman? Nope, too domesticated, would have had to properly dress it first with some kind of cool gadget from Cabela’s. 

Later that night I pulled the sheets over my head and wondered where this three legged deer was roaming, see page 13 of Maurice Sendak's book 
“Where the Wild Things Are”

The next day I returned to the same spot and the severed half eaten leg was gone. These are the things that frustrate me most in life, when you experience things in isolation nobody but you can ever rationalize it, and having a very active imagination makes it even more difficult. I suppose an ongoing open-ended narrative in our minds is a healthy thing, and as a fly fisherman it helps me discover and rediscover how it is I wish to experience the outdoors. So I decided to put up on the message board at the local Walmart; 
“Lost, three quarters of a large deer, or...Lost one left hindquarter of a large deer. Please contact clint at....”


Epoxy Talk

            Recently I had a old client complement me on the durability of my bamboo fly rods so I thought I would take the time to write a little on polyepoxides. If you are interested in the stuff that actually holds bamboo fly rods together for a very very long time you may find this compelling.

My old work colleagues who were employed by GE Polymer Solutions, use to call me “Chemical Joey” (Joseph is my middle name) because my obsessive interest in epoxies. In my past life I was fortunate enough to live side by side with chemical engineers that could give me some very hard and detailed facts about epoxies also known as polyepoxides. Epoxy is a copolymer that is formed by the mixing of two parts. Unlike many traditional glues and water based glues epoxy has a very high tolerance to temperature variables, can be virtually unaffected by moisture or water, and can be subjected to such abuses as extreme flexural strength, impact strength, shear strengths, and peel strengths. Epoxy is definitely the hero in the rod makers world. It solves most if not all of the age old problems rod builders ran into using hide glues, Resorcinol, and water based glues in the past. Epoxy is a beautiful thing because it has both low and high viscosity mixtures which is critical in the construction of a bamboo fly rod and it's different components. Ultimately you want the very best adhesives that will last well over a hundred years and sustain an immeasurable amount of use. 

Like anything else there is a vast amount of variables when considering the right epoxy for the right application. The levels of flexural strength, lap shear strength, and peel ratio vary greatly. For the purposes of rod making my quest for the “majic three” as I often refer to them, are three types of epoxy that fall into three different use buckets: laminating bamboo strips, bonding hardware, and gluing cork. There are similar and dissimilar materials being bonded here such as nickel silver to wood, wood to cane, cork to cork, and cork to cane. So it can get quite complex when considering which epoxy is used for which application. None of the epoxies I use are “off the shelf” because nothing bought in a hardware store can really do the job up to my level of scrutiny. It’s simply a matter of peace of mind. I have never had a ferrule come off, nor delamination, or even loose hardware. 

The first epoxy that is very important is the epoxy that can tolerate high temperature, flexural strength, is waterproof, high peel ratio, and has a very low viscosity so as not to leave a visible glue joint, this is the epoxy used to laminate bamboo splines. It has a slow cure time and needs to eliminate any possibilities of creep, which means the bond does not shift between both surface planes. If it does you will get a set that really cannot be eliminated. Wood glues have this creep problem and really should never be used for anything to do with rod building period. It simply is an inferior glue altogether because of it’s low tolerance to heat and poor peel ratio with similar and non similar media. You would also have to have rocks in your head to think it’s bond can tolerate heat. I have fixed too many other builders rods and seen the havoc wood glue causes.

The second epoxy we use is for bonding is for ferrules and reel seat hardware, it has extreme high impact strength, no shrinkage or expansion, has a slow cure, and most importantly can be used to bond dissimilar media (alloy to wood). Zinc is a difficult property to deal with as far as bonding hardware, and as we know Nickel Silver contains around 60% zinc. Most off the shelf epoxies do not have proper peel ratios to bond properly with the zinc combination. Most off the shelf epoxy, even the really good ones, simply say “metal” which is fairly misleading. Zinc is the culprit here, it needs a slow cure epoxy with a lap sheer of about 4,000 PSI and a peel ratio of about 3.6 PLI, typically this kind of epoxy is used for attaching sledge hammer heads to fiberglass or hickory handles. Typically these epoxies are opaque and do not dry clear. 

The third epoxy is for gluing cork. It needs to have flexural strength, dries clear, waterproof, and has a low viscosity so as not to leave a glue line. Most importantly it needs an extended pot life, why?, because if you’ve ever seen grips with glue lines its because the glue sets up before it can spill out of the ring seams. Bonding strength is not as critical here, but I still use a structural epoxy adhesive. Many people use wood glue for cork, again my one concern is that it sets up too quick and leaves a visible glue line. Many years ago I worked with the glue division at Elmers here in Columbus and had riveting conversations with chemists. I also got to tour their testing lab, I was like a pig in shit. I got into a discussion with a chemist and discussed the properties of white glue compared to wood glue and it comes down to a higher ratio of resin to solvent thus making the working time longer in wood glue neither of which should be used for gluing cork. Sweat from your hands contain chlorides and some urea compounds which will compromise wood glue (PVA) over time. So wood glue really is not the best glue to use for cork even the newer Crosslinking PVA’s that are waterproof. As a side note urethane glues simply do not stack up to epoxies overall strength and desired attributes. Urethanes generally are harder to control, and chemists that I've worked with still consider them more of an “all purpose household glue for specific low risk tasks”.

I have refrained from using any recommended brand names here because like any business I have my own trade secrets but I can leave you a very informative trail of bread crumbs.
        ~Clint Joseph Bova


Little Rods & Lessons From Jack

                 24" Brown caught on a “Little Mecoche” 6'9" 4wt. 2pc.
                       fly used~ #18 Parachute Ant seen in upper jaw

At age thirteen I was a diehard ultralight fanatic armed with a wee Abu Garcia spinning reel spooled with four pound Maxima mono and a cork handled 5’6” fiberglass Shakespeare rod. Growing up on the South Shore of Oahu was an incredible classroom for playing very aggressive saltwater fish on light tackle. I caught my first Marlin at age eleven which dwarfed my smallish frame as well as the 9/0 reel that I caught it on. When I caught my first Mahi Mahi at age eleven on very light tackle I got the fever for life. The O’io, or bonefish was not the fiercest or most popular of quarry’s, the Papio, or Juvenile Jack Trevalle and the Ulua, or adult Jack Trevalle are really the signature sporting fish of the islands. Open any “Hawaii Fishing News” publication (www.hawaiifishingnews.com) and you will realize the fanatical clubs that revolve around this particular species. However small or large these fish will leave you weak in the knees after stripping your reel clean and making off with four weeks of your allowance money in the form of monofillament.

We loved and honored all these fish and actually in the valley we grew up in, Niu Valley, every one of our streets was named after a fish. There was Mahi Mahi street (dorado), Nenue street (rudderfish), Opakapaka street (red snapper), Aku street (skipjack tuna, Ono street (Wahoo), Malolo Street (flying fish) etc... So I actually learned the Hawaiian names for fish before I knew what the English names were. Today I still make reference to this day by their Hawaiian names. The take away from growing up in Hawaii’s saltwater environment and moving later in life to a fresh water world is that in saltwater you experience pound for pound some of the most sporting fish in the world. It really cannot be argued until you have actually fought either an 8 lb. or 80 lb. Jack Trevalle. Both are simply terrifying on light tackle. I watched a friend of mine in the flats in front of my neighborhood fight a large Papio (probably no more than seventeen inches in length) it made two violent runs at break neck speed and snapped his rod like a toothpick. My friend started crying, he was shaking like a leaf and being boys of only thirteen years old at the time we simply felt defeated by these beasts time and time again. It became a regular occurrence to either have your reel stripped clean or rod broken. As we grew older we learned how to play the fish more efficiently and prepare ourselves emotionally for sudden bouts of these piscatorial meltdowns. I was lucky enough to have a mother and father that allowed me to go out for days at a time and fish in some very dangerous waters off of Molokai and Oahu at such a young age. If you asked my father what I looked like when he handed me my first fishing rod he would probably laugh. We were taking a long weekend off to go out to Pats at Punaluu a small Kamaaina motel back in the early 70’s. It was on the winward side of Oahu and the area was prime Papio (juvenile jack trevalle) and O’io fishing  (bonefish). He handed me my first fiberglass rod on the beach and I was so excited I could barely thread the mono through the guides and work the skirted reel. I remember I was about nine years old at the time and I was casting like I was batting in the World Series.

At age 43 monofilament has long given way to fly lines and bamboo rods with fairly traditional light reels. Lures have transcended into hackled dry fly’s no bigger than a fingernail, and emotionally, well let’s just say I still cry if I lose a twenty inch Brown trout. Having an extensive background in saltwater fishing has helped me later in life. I often shudder when I read or hear other fly fisherman talking about smallish fly rods as being “dangerous” to fish. I think if you took this opinion to the late great Lee Wulff or even Vince Marinaro they would dress you down pretty quick, and as I recall they both were fairly environmentally conscious men that loved smallish rods. The fact of the matter is that it takes no longer to bring in a fish on a 6’ rod as it does on a 8’ or 9’ rod of the same weight and tippet diameters. If the fish is played correctly you can bring it in as quickly as you want. If you walk a St. Bernard or a Shitzu both can give you equally a hard time on a leash, it’s how you lead them and hold the leash that matters. I always use the dog walking metaphor because it really holds true in regards to playing the head of the fish not the body. With a small 6’ or 7’ bamboo rod you can leverage a large fish with the right leading language. The Jack Trevalle will teach this lesson very quickly, on any tackle. Having been punished time and time again by such aggressive saltwater fish growing up made me go down an internal list of criteria in my head when I’m playing a large Trout or Salmon on light tackle. I would definitely say being from the islands that the Brown trout is a formidable fighter. Like the smallmouth bass (hold my tung and wait) the Browns personality is pretty aggressive at 15” and up. After landing a large fiesty Brown trout I often murmer under my breath, “wow, your a Jack in Brown trout clothes”



Bench Dog

Standing for long hours leaning over a bench, planing, straightening strips, pressing nodes, turning cork, and squinting a lot at 8/0 silk thread you realize that time passes very quickly but that time spent working at the bench is time well worth spent. For the processes and manipulations that go on during the course of building three bamboo fly rods at a time, which is how I work for the most part, one also realizes that solitude can be found not only on a river but standing in front of a well crafted bench.

About twelve years ago I had a wild hair and decided to build the ultimate rod making bench. Fred, a master cabinet maker from the west coast, was a good friend I worked with for many years and always wanted to make a traditional cabinet makers bench. One day during the fall of 1998 we decided to go for broke and took a trip to a Homish lumber yard and purchased some very large pieces of beautiful maple. We spent a lot of time designing, customizing the plans, and eventually resawing very large heavy blocks of maple to make two benches 7 feet in length. Having access to our model shop at FITCH day or night we had access to a Powermatic 24” bandsaw, large jointers, massive table saws, not to mention 4 lathes, a five axis router, 4 Hurcos (C&C machines), a large spray booth, mortiser, two large drill presses, a large power planer, and a ton of layout space. We spent roughly three months making these benches that weighed close to 500 pounds a piece. We used traditional mortise and tenon joints and milled all the hardware. We mounted the old large blue Record vises into the benches, which were of the same design and size that were used to build the British Spitfires of WWII, these imported vises unfortunately are no longer available.

Years later my bench has really become a best friend in many ways. It’s original odor of tung oil has given way to the distinct smell of bamboo. The bench is like a Swiss Army Knife because it can transform itself in multiple ways to meet the demands of all the processes involved in building split cane rods. The importance of a good bench is that it becomes an extension of your body. 

The bench acts as the ultimate vessel that houses everything you need to practice your high craft. Occasionally I treat it to some indulgence and give it a good wiping of tung oil for being such a good friend.



Streams of Consciousness

In the lap of recent generations lies the predisposition to have things in our own time, in our own space, and at our own pace. It is unfortunate because it points to our lack of attention to detail, patience, and understanding. Nature has little tolerance for these cumulative traits. The nature of fishing in general is really an ongoing exercise in looking from the outside in and finding a sense of pause within ourselves. If we go to a river with little or no expectations, and we merely accept her for the moment we find that the focus is taken off of the results and placed on process, introspection, and sense of wonder. We can then in many ways relive our childhood joy and innocence time and time again.
As we grow older we put pressure on ourselves to be in places on time, be productive, up on current weather and forecasts, and generally trying to predetermine our experience before it has even started.
If we experience these destinations in this manner, we are really setting ourselves up for disappointment rather than a basic sense of happiness and wonder that fishing brings to us all. Sometimes I like to approach a piece of water with no rod, no pack, nothing, and just sit. It’s hard at first especially if you happen upon a hatch or even a nice fish. I always leave with a smile because it’s a healthy form of restraint that allows us to better understand why we enjoy being on rivers in the first place. I love looking at a beautiful painting of a little rural stream it sparks the inner child in me on many levels. You cannot step into this water, you can only look at it with a sense of elation and pause. A stream of consciousness that takes our imaginations to a place with no expectations or sense of time, here in our own unforecasted moment there remains only endearment and wonder.
~Clint Bova


A Repurposed Home

Like all things in nature there is co-existence or no existence, and when it comes to the resourcefulness of wildlife everything is up for grabs. On a sunny afternoon back in 1996 I came upon a group of DNR conservation officers doing some fish shocking in some fairly unobstructed and nondescript water, nothing more than typical meadow stream water. I pulled out of the water and went up the embankment to get out of their way. It was a long mundane shallow run that stretched for 50 yards, slightly riffled water that had no real “fishyness” in personality. There were no pools either upper or lower to this location. 

After about ten minutes I realized that they were netting fish that quite honestly were between 18 and 22 inches and in the cooler they went. Again this was water that typically most fisherman would pass up at first glance and this particular area was really no more than 16 to 24 inches deep. I was a bit dumbfounded by the size of these brown trout relative to the stream geometry. 

About a month later in the evening I mustered up the energy to sit on the bank in the same location till about ten at night and wait to hear some predatorial sipping and chomping. I was happily greeted by these sounds. I entered the stream slowly and turned on my headlamp and hugged the embankment. Soon I saw wakes and silt trails of darting fish in the flat runs but they went directly into the embankment. Like meadow stream banks they are level and the grasses lead towards the edge with a slight undercut but not much. I had often seen muskrats in this area and came to the conclusion that these larger browns were foraging in the night and were in lies during most of the daylight hours. Lies that could very possibly be muskrat dens yet positioning themselves so that they were still getting oxygenated water from upstream so as not to be in a passive position.   

The muskrat (Ondatra zibethica) is not actually a rat, but is classified as a rodent because of its teeth. These smallish critters have four large yellowish incisors in the front of its mouth. These animals also have flat molars for grinding vegetation. North Eastern muskrats average about 2 pounds in weight and 2 feet in length, including a vertically slightly flattened 8-to 12-inch tail. The waterproof fur is soft and thick and is generally dark brown on the back and sides, becoming light grayish brown on the belly. The muskrat has a stocky appearance due to the apparent lack of a neck. They are nesters and gatherers and love to bore holes in undercuts and embankments. They can be transient from season to season which is intriguing to me from the standpoint that the abandoned den can be repurposed as a fish lie. After some skepticism on my part I decided to come back the next day and wait out these larger cave dwellers. There was a little olive hatch coming off of the water and there were some super sippers, big bulges, and purposeful takes. I hooked into a nice 17inch brown that took off straight into the embankment. He bolted into a muskrat hole and popped my tippet. I looked up on the grass and sure enough there was a second hole going straight into the ground. It was as though a whole new process flashed into my now lathering brain. We typically look for obstructions, root wads, sweepers, weirs, riffle runs, tail waters, and deep holes as the usual suspects. But this was a new twist for me. To this day I now look for larger browns differently in meadow streams, and shallow spring creeks, an undercut is a good lie but a muskrat hole opens a bigger opportunity especially when you consider the dry fly potential late in the evening and early in the morning. So for all of the bridge trolls, pocket water pals, pool people, and sweeper loafers, you may consider looking for some less noticeable, unsung, unloved pieces of water for the big ones.
                                                                 ~Clint Bova


Spring Quilled Midges

Sometimes when it’s cool and breezy in the early spring, nothing is seemingly coming out of the water. If you really want to catch a nice trout on a dry fly you have to pull something out of your vest that is part of the buffet line menu for the surface feeders. 

Most often trout throughout the day are still pecking at the surface in the not so hatchy moments. Prior to the Hendrickson hatches it can be discouraging but with a little patience and a keen eye you can feel like your beating the winter blues. Little black midges are quite common during these times of year. Not only are they nearly impossible to see in flight but they are nearly indistinguishable when they are emerging and floating in the surface film. As we all know black midges are hard to fish especially when they are size 22’s and smaller. During certain parts of the day it’s very hard to even see a midge cluster because of reflections and shadows on the water. The trick is to create something that is very small like the naturals but is easy to see so you don’t miss strikes. Being a die hard dry fly guy I don’t even carry nymphs or streamers in my fly boxes so I had to devise a way to keep catching fish on the surface in the off season. These same patterns are actually quite effective very late in the season as well, from late October through end of November.

Over the years I’ve developed my own tactics by doing lots of sight fishing, and casting very small midge emerger patterns. Prospecting, i.e. standing in the water and simply casting dry fly’s in likely areas just does not work that great in early spring and it is not a preferred way of fishing for me personally. If you carry a monocular and spot fish ever so slightly pecking at the surface you may be pleasantly surprised. Sometimes you may find they are Shiners or Chub, but most of the time it’s a trout looking for something to nibble on the surface. The little sucking action is very deceiving during the early spring, they are conserving energy and will not move far from their feeding lanes. So the little nibble can be quite a large fish, they are not going to throw surface bulges like other times of the year.

There are two fly’s that I use almost exclusively, it is the Black Quilled Midge Para Emerger, and the Black Quilled Fore & Aft. I have tweaked my patterns around a bit over the years to my liking using quills, mini silk thoraxes, hackle hues, and different hook types. I fish these on 6x and 7x, and coincidently lose a lot of them too. So I tie up about a dozen at a time. Remember midges do not have tails!, so if your tying up a natural and want to mimic a trailing schuck a few fibers of undyed mallard flank works great. These two patterns are definitely my old stand by’s to transition myself from winter to spring and keep me satiated with my dry fly obsession during the colder parts of the season.

Quilled Midge Para Emerger

Hook: TMC 2487 #18-24

Body: Black dyed quills

Thorax: Pure silk dyed black

Wing Post: Turkey flat

Hackle: Black or dark dun saddle hackle

Black Quilled Fore & Aft

Hook: TMC 101 #20-26

Body: Black dyed quills

Hackle: Black, medium dun, 

or ginger hackle.


Of Trout & Men

"My wife wonders why all women do not seek anglers for husbands. She has come in contact with many in her life with me and she claims that they all have a sweetness in their nature which others lack."
~ Ray Bergman

Over The Shoulder

“Somebody just in back of 
you while you are fishing 
is as bad as someone

looking over your shoulder 
while you write a letter 
to your girl”
~Ernest Hemingway


{Popillia japonica} Japanese Beetle

Through the dog days of summer in many parts of America a strange mylar-like terrestrial shows upon many trout streams. The Trout seem to just sit quietly in the shade of an overhanging tree or shrub and wait for these crunchy morsels to drop from the heavens above.
The stout Japanese beetle plops down every few minutes soon after an often violent slurp turns a quiet pool into a variable tsunami.

Most beetle patterns today are tied with a myriad of synthetics including mylars, foam bodies, and various rubber legs of all shapes and sizes. If your a tyer that likes to use natural materials like myself, that tends to shy away from synthetics, a simple selection of quills and peacock herl will be great mediums to achieve this pattern. It’s a very convincing imitation that is easy and as familiar as tying your favorite Catskill dry fly with very similar materials.

1) Build up a black dubbed body with a slight egg shape profile on a #16 or #18 straight eye dry fly hook. Tie in two peacock herls along with two black quills that have soaked for thirty minutes or more. Let them extend behind the hook.

2) Begin to wrap the peacock herl first. Then wrap the two quills individually around the body in a spiral not to cover up the herl but rather to segment it and reinforce it.

3) After both the peacock herl and the tag end of the quills are wrapped towards the head of the beetle fasten them down and pull them back with a few wraps of black thread. Clip the herl and quill legs so they extend just slightly behind the bend of the hook.Tie in some black hackle for a few turns near the head.

This pattern can be fished dry or just under the surface in fast water. Remember to be careful when striking fish that come up for beetle patterns, the strikes are often sudden and it’s easy to strike too hard and pop tippets.


A.K. Best & Vince Marinaro

I was very inspired at around age 29 by a man who I thought really had a honest and contemporary perspective on fly tying. He used a lot of traditional materials but used them in a way that was innovative and thoughtful. Not only did he resurface some of the forgotten materials but he taught how to use them in a highly functional way. A.K. Best has since then been very inspirational when it comes to my own personal tying experience. The use of quills is something that now riddles my patterns as well as the use of hen hackle wings, and silk dubbing. I still dye my own rooster and pullet capes myself as well as strip and bleach my own quills. His hands on approach allows me to get exactly what I want when it comes to color, proportion, and profile. Back when e-mail was not as accessible I wrote back and forth to him quite a bit and he sent me some feathers in the mail. He introduced me to Coq de Leon feathers and their many uses especially when it came to tailing. I did not like artificial tailing for duns or spinners so he enlightened me on the many uses of this highly prized feather. Now I still get my Coq de Leon from Argentina and employ the use of this feather in a myriad of ways. I have used many of A.K.’s dun patterns over the years and they have always proved themselves time and time again. I never quite warmed up to post or cut wings but fell in love with his winging techniques using pullet, which once learned, these wings are actually quite easy and fast to execute. Most of the dry fly’s that I tie are A.K. inspired with the exception of my terrestrial patterns. A.K. seems to be a blend of Catskill, British, and good ole’ Yankee know how when it comes to fly tying techniques and patterns.

A Modern Dry-Fly Code by Vince Marinaro is book that I have read from cover to cover about thirty times and much of his dry fly perspectives are similar to A.K.’s. Both definitely hold a certain conviction when it comes to profiles of fly’s, color, and proportion. Again they are more inclined to use natural materials and do some very creative improvisation to manipulate these materials. Hackling duns for example Marinaro style is very intriguing and also very difficult. If you’ve ever tried the “x” criss-crossing manipulation while winding hackle it can be very fickle. A.K.’s method of creating a uniform and sparsely hackled fly is much more obtainable, and fast. Although the thought behind Marinaro’s technique is spot on. I personally tie it both ways depending on what kind of water I am fishing and the size of the fly. I was able to obtain a lifetime supply of porcupine quills from a veterinarian and tie Marinaro’s hopper pattern that floats perfectly with the two outrigger-style quills. A.K. uses quills the same way, for buoyancy, and layers them on larger fly’s creating a kind of life-preserver making them float like corks. Traditional Catskill-style fly’s that use quills are so thin that you cannot see any contrast to create the illusion of segmentation. A.K. uses a thicker section of Chinese Rooster quill and overlaps the quill on itself to create a more profiled abdomen.

Both of these men were and are very giving when it comes to sharing their perspectives and craft with the world. I feel blessed that I was inspired by them so long ago and still employ and evolve their techniques today.

Recommended Reading:
Production Fly Tying by A.K. Best
Fly Tying with A.K. by A.K. Best
A Modern Dry-Fly Code by Vincent Marinaro