The Anxious Fisherman

I suppose tending to rods, tying flies, taking the time to study rivers, and even going through the mental visualizations prior to even getting into rivers can stir up anxiousness in many fly fishers. I look at anxiousness as an enemy of sorts especially when it comes to the creative process. Fly fishing and the crafts that are the foundations of the sport can seemingly be an intimidating and convoluted amalgam of processes. Athletic and mental dexterity, tools, techniques, materials, equipment, and a myriad of disciplines frame up the very act of fly fishing. It can be downright overwhelming when you look at it all from a distance. This was a topic of conversation that I had with a friend of mine that is a well known fly tyer. We both agreed that if you are “results oriented” fly fishing is not the sport for you. Most river guides will reiterate this behind closed doors but not to their clients faces.

The crafts that are the building blocks for the sport as we know it are all based on skills that take months if not decades to become adept in. Mastery is a hollow term since the creative process is never mastered instead it is constantly pursued. The minute somebody claims to be “an authority” or a “master” than this individual has ceased to evolve. The joy of fishing is about the pursuit, the getting there, and the fleeting moment that makes “the pursuit” worthwhile.

A state of anxiousness suffocates “the pursuit” so rest easy and make practice a ritual, make tying a habit, and make entering a river as intuitive and natural as a conversation with your closest friend.
Happy Winter 2013
                 ~Clint Joseph Bova     


Storing & Conditioning Your Cane Rods

Above: CJ Bova Rod Co. 7'9" 3pc. 4wt.
Some fisherman are pretty ritualistic about long term storage of their cane rods. Bamboo rods are made to take a beating but some simple steps can be taken from season to season to ensure your rod is in tip top shape for your next trip to the river.

~Gently wipe your rod sections with warm soapy water at the end of a season. Use a mild soap like Dove. Once thoroughly dry store your rod in its given rod bag and simply hang it up in a cool closet. You can use clothes pins to hold your rod sack by both ends. Bamboo rods are just fine in rod tubes for extended periods in time just make sure they are stored in a cool dry place. Honestly I get so much use out of my own personal rods that I keep them in their tubes and then rotate them from my rod racks.

~If your rods have water stains or have any scratches you can use Novus products to restore your finish www.novuspolish.com  Novus makes three different grades of polish that will keep the finish drop dead gorgeous. They are incredibly easy to use and will condition both polyurethane and spar finishes. I have been using this product now for many years.
~If your cork grips have been soiled simply wipe them down with a wash cloth and warm soapy water.

~If your nickel hardware needs a polish I recommend Flitz made by TCP Global, typically you can find this product in most hardware stores. You only need to use a very very small amount of this polishing creme on a swatch of t-shirt material. A little goes a long way.

~Spacers are bound to get dirty after years of fishing. Clean your spacer with a small amount of denatured alcohol and a rag. Then apply a very sparse amount of tung oil and wipe clean. If you can find a product called Arm-R-Seal from General Finishes it will help you to keep all of your wood spacers pristine. Strictly a wipe on wipe off product that is very easy to use. I also condition my wood handled nets with this product.

With a little extra time after each season you can keep your rod quiver looking well loved.
~Clint Bova


Dragonfly Passage

 illustration: by Clint Bova graphite on tea stained paper

His pretty dragonfly
darting away
now exposed his boyish rashness
he slid down into the pond
and slipped away
into the shade of melancholy and iris blossoms

~found poem from the 1800's, a children's magazine


Porcupine Damsel ~ Part 2

Tying a convincing Damselfly can be a little difficult given the range of materials that we can get our hands on. Some damselfly patterns look muddled and overworked with markers, others appear so synthetic that they look like they came off sprue in a model airplane kit. A pattern that I came up with after a roadkill epiphany many years ago has payed dividends on the water especially with difficult trout. Extended bodies keep many fly tyers up at night. Many revert to what is available in online catalogs and local fly shops. What you may not see often are porcupine quills. Porcupine quills have changed the way I tie many patterns. This material is very very bouyant and has the tensile strength of a soft drink straw. It IS FLEXIBLE and it easily accepts liquid dyes and marker.

Clint's Porcupine Damsel:
Hook: TMC 212Y
Thread: Aquamarine 8/0, Veevus Black 14/0
Wire: Fine French Silver wire
Wings: Light Dun hackle tips
Thorax: Beaver Belly dyed with Ritt or Veniards aquamarine
Extended Abdomen: Small porcupine quill dyed aquamarine
Wing Case: Blue Razor Foam .5mm
Legs: Black knotted Pheasant tail
Eyes: Singed 20lb. monofilament painted with Loon Soft head cement
 (for a larger image of instructions click on image below)

Fly Tying with Porcupine Quills ~ Part 1

The North American Porcupine, otherwise known as the Canadian Porcupine, is a large rodent that can potentially change the way you tie flies overnight. 

Porcupine quills vary in size from very short and slender to thick and long, with these variables you can use them for extended abdomens on just about any insect. If you happen upon a porcupine carcass do not pass it up, one specimen can provide you a lifetime supply of quills. I found my first porcupine up in the Alleghenies along a train track. I spent nearly two hours carefully plucking quills using my forceps and placing them into a few fly boxes from my vest. Be careful!

 How to Dye Your Quills:
1) Porcupine quills are hollow making them perfect for extended bodies. Quills are very bouyant. The quills are easily dyed using Veniard's or Ritt. After acquiring your porcupine quills carefully soak them in a warm Dove soap solution. Place them in a large tea infuser and submerge them in the solution for around 30 minutes. After soaking them wash them thoroughly, still in the infuser, with warm water under the faucet. Place each quill individually on a paper towel and let them dry thoroughly.

2) Your quills are now ready to be dyed once you remove the very sharp tips at both ends. Simply use a cuticle scissor and snip the very tips but do not cut into the chambered portion of the quill.

 The above photo shows the removed quill 
points and before and after color

3) Select the size quill you will be using for the specific insect. If its a mayfly you might want a smallish sized quill or if its a Drake a medium sized one etc... The great thing about the North American Porcupine is that it has many different sized quills suitable for a myriad of different insects.

4) Use this recipe for dying your quills:
I use an old coffee maker and pour 8 cups of water into the coffee maker or heat 8 cups of water on your stove top in a Pyrex vessel. Pour 2 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar in and heat to 140 degrees. Then take your liquid dye and mix 3 tablespoons of desired color. Agitate the solution and stir well. Place the quills back into the large tea infuser and place it into the dye bath. Agitate the infuser every two minutes. The longer you keep your quills in the bath the more saturated the color will become so use artistic license when it comes to your desired insect color of choice. After you get the color desired place the infuser immediately under cold water spigot. This stop bath of cold water is an important step. After two minutes under the stop bath take your quills out of the infuser and let them dry on a paper towel thoroughly.

The porcupine quill is the perfect material for extended bodies simply snip it at an angle to the desired length and tie it onto the hook shank. In my Part 2 section next you can see how I tie my “Porcupine Damsel Fly”
~Clint Bova


Seeing the Unseen ~ Fall Revelations

As human beings we quantify and categorically bucket everything we see. We put labels on things and file them away in our minds. When we step outside of this categorical tendency we find ourselves uncomfortable and struggle with placing ourselves into context with the things we cannot see. In nature and fishing the unseen is what we seek. When the unseen suddenly reveals itself Mother Nature stares back at us with a certain truth. This is a sudden glimmer of honesty in its pure form that awakes and replenishes our senses. We seek it out again and again like a child reaching into an empty or full cookie jar high up on a counter top.
            ~Clint Joseph Bova


“The Seasonal Special”

From season to season insect forecasting is always a crap shoot. Every season certain insects can appear in prolific numbers or may not appear at all. Masked hatches, flooding, temperature, barometric pressure, and wind all play an important role in the comings and goings of insects. This accounts for not only water born insects but terrestrials alike. So the question that begs an answer is can we count on the same fly season after season to produce consistent results? The answer is a definite no.

The cycles of mother nature are very fickle. As an example during the fishing season of 2012 Japanese beetles were prolific around our rivers. I even had to spray insecticide on my dwarf maple trees to kill off the beetles. I live less than a mile from the nearest trout stream. Because there were so many beetles in 2012 the fish zeroed in on them. Doug Swisher explains this phenomenon as the “pounds per meat law”. The most plentiful and attainable insects are at the top of the trout’s menu. I used a Japanese Beetle pattern for the better half of the fishing season of 2012 with incredibly consistent results. Coincidentally this season of 2013 (regional to my location) there were literally no Japanese Beetles to be found. The same beetle pattern produced a few results but nothing out of the ordinary as in 2012. So the old stand by meat and potato flys may work but they may not be that “sweet spot pattern” season after season. The season of 2013 I managed to find the fly that worked consistently for my home river and it was a size #20 quilled Blue Wing Olive. I always have that one fly that is the “seasonal special”. I suppose this is why fly fishing is such an engaging sport, Mother Nature keeps you on your toes season after season. Complacency and hard and fast rules about fly selection is a sure way to get frustrated and defeated. Keep your eyes open and keep discovering season after season.
                    ~Clint Bova


Fly fishing with Bees ~“The Tee-Knee Bee”

Bees have a special place in my fly box for some very good reasons. When the weather gets hot and inconsistent trout will break from their lies and rise for a bee with unfettered enthusiasm. Another reason to keep a stash of bees in your bonnet is because bees are very helpless and awkward when they get stuck in the surface film making them easy prey for trout. A trout does not have to expel too much energy for a morsel of bee protein. Unlike a water scrafing cranefly or damselfly the bee is about as helpless as a baby in a swim diaper when it takes the plunge.

Bee patterns often are in the boxes relegated for panfish but you don’t see bee patterns in many trout bum boxes. Trout take bees with the same determination and voraciousness that ants evoke. When the weather is exceptionally hot I have found that a bee can bring some pretty stubborn fish to the surface. Most of the bee patterns that you see in catalogs are not specifically called out as “trout flies” they have gotten typecasted as “Panfish Flys”. This has always been a nagging question in my little head, “why do bees get the cold shoulder when it comes to the commercial tying world?” My guess is that fisher people are more prone to leaning towards the meat and potato flys such as ants, hoppers, and beetles...My mantra has always been “if the trout are not taking ants in the heat then put a bee on”.
Above photo: The two flys in the foreground are tied with black and yellow quills and Coq De Leon wings, my original pattern towards the rear I use yellow and black beaver belly dubbing along with Wood Duck for winging material. Knotted black pheasant tail is used as a rear set of legs on both versions. Both material versions have proven to be very effective over the years.

 Above photo: Aero Wing Dry Fly from Tiemco makes a great winging material if you wish to fish this fly in lower light situations or in faster water. The only drawback with Aero Wing is that it is a bit
slippery to work with so a good dubbing wax such as Loons High Tack Swax is a must. 

 As seen above and below is a pattern that I’ve developed over the years for weary trout during the summer months. This is a smallish fly tied on a TMC 531 #18-20. I’ve had great success with it in some very difficult and frustrating water. My bees have saved many of my fishing days in July and August.
 “Tee-Knee Bee”
Hook: TMC 531 #18-20
Thread: Veevus Black 14/0
Body: Black Beaver Belly & 1 Black & 1 Yellow Quill
Legs: Dyed and Knotted Black Pheasant Tail
Wing: Coq De Leon or Wood Duck Flank or TMC Aero Dry Wing
Hackle: Black (note: dub black just behind hook eye three or four turns)

 Some unique things about my bee pattern is that it uses one yellow quill and one black quill for color segmentation of the abdomen then wrapped over a loose clump of black beaver belly. The quills add floatation to the rear of the fly and keep the bee with its bum on the surface. The wing is variegated ginger Coq de Leon but you can use wood duck flank if you wish. The nice thing about CDL is that its very stiff and extremely durable. Additionally I use knotted black pheasant tail for a rear set of legs.

This pattern works great in slow spooky runs as well as broken water and pocket water. Recently I had some great success in a tiny Brook Trout stream in the Alleghenies, the Brookies thought that they were “the bees knees!”...just had to do it .

Clint Joseph Bova


The Bishop's Rod

      above: A new “Isaac Zane” for Bishop Skip Adams of Upstate N.Y.

I was particularly pleased with the finish and contrast of this rod. The blued hardware and light spalted Koa reel seat is a gorgeous combination. The custom winding check and swelled butt lead your eye right up the length of the fly rod. The light honey colored cane contrasts well with the fine red tipping. A Bishop chess piece profile for the ferrule plug was a special little finishing detail.

There has been a noticeable spike in interest and orders for my #7952 7'9" “Isaac Zane” 5wt 2pc. tapers. This is a wonderfully crisp dry fly and nymphing rod that roll casts great and can handle many different fishing situations from small to medium water. It is my personal favorite taper for prospecting on new water. Comes with either a down locking seat with a traditional domed cap, or down locking slide band. The rod itself has a very distinctive swelled butt with silk wraps that are either black with intermediates or clear with fine black or red tipping.

“Its shorter than an 8’ rod but more flexible river-wise than a 7’6”...its a great throughout the season go anywhere rod”

“This is my new go-to rod when my fishing situations are most variable. It is a very accurate rod that loads great in tight or out far. Aesthetically it is second to none”
~Dave McKenzie / Charleston WV


Spirited Hands - By Clint Bova

At the fingertips of everyone on our planet lies the ability to look something up, find hopefully reliable information, even overnight drugs to our households. If we back away from the blue iridescent rectangular watering hole we realize that we are relying on somebody elses notion of what an interface is suppose to look like, what somebody else's concept of a product is suppose to do for us, and that we fit somewhere into this role playing world very well. We are handed things daily to react to but they are other peoples ideas not our own when we play the spectator in the technology world. Sure we can play along in this vast schoolyard, but the confines beyond the playground fences is where our fathers and ancestors played. Ironically these are the rich experiences we yearn for in our market driven world of not only our computers but televisions. We are simply handed tools or artifacts, and play along with these experiential visualizations passively.

It would be a grand experiment to take everyones passive technology away one day and see our true spirit of resourfulness kick back in. After all, inventiveness and change kicks in out of frustration and need, sometimes out of desperation and near death. Using our heads and hands in a spirited way is a kind of flattery of the gods. They graced us with proportion, reason, a sense of urgency, and most important a need to survive.

If I think of the most resourceful fishing tool I’ve ever laid eyes on it would be something called the “Hawaiian Eye”. It was a shiny black Cowrie shell fashioned with a bone hook attached to it. It was quite simply one of the first artificial lures developed by humans. Primarily used to catch octopus it evolved into a more familiar gap and shank geometry over hundreds if not thousands of years. Like the Apollo 13 mission I often wonder if these resourceful indigineous peoples had brainstorming sessions to develop these gerry-rigged survival contraptions with easled dry erase boards, infinite amounts of coffee, cigarettes, and dozens of Sharpies. I suppose hunger is a driving force for the evolution of fishing tools. Fishing is considered a pastime in the world today, not counting the commercial fisheries, so because the imminent danger of starvation no longer lingers in front of us what evolution takes place is on a different less threatening level. What then is the evolution of the fishing experience. Is it to make sport fishing easier with technology, does that bring new or deeper meaning to it? Does technology outwit fish, surely. Does it make us feel smarter, of course it does. Does it give us a false sense of accomplishment?, most definitely. If we can hit a deer with our car moving 75mph, why shoot it? The same holds for trout fishing, if you have a Clorox bottle and a little privacy you can pretty much wipe out a quarter mile section of river. Simply eliminate the need to purchase a 40k Bass boat that goes 55mph with another 30k in fish finding technology including rods and reels. Is this really taking the quality of the fishing experience to a more meaningful level? The products allow fisherman to make the choice of how they want to experience fishing passively or actively, they make the choice. Passive fishing refers to the old guy in the lawn chair sitting by the freeway staring at a bobber for hours. Active fishing refers to the finding of fish and the process, whatever it may be, in which we pursue our quarry. If you are not in pursuit then you are just sitting and waiting for a fish to happen to come buy and swallow your offering. Ultimately both passive and active fishing brings enjoyment of somekind or else people simply would have stopped doing it a long time ago.

Every fisherman reads magazines and sees advertisements of new products that look like they work well, they purchase them only to find out that maybe some of them do work but might feel season after season that they simply change substrates, carbon fiber, silicone overmolding, or color. Some of them turn away from the slick photoshoped ads and decide with a gutteral unidentifiable need that maybe they want to biuld a bass skiff, a rod, a lure or fly and embarque on a more explorative experience with this sport. The sometimes weathered or unweathered fisher person suddenly asks himself or herself the question, “what if?”. It is then that the hands of the fisher person are awakened to re-discover and prompt a creative visualization, to take a raw something, and make it into something useful that brings pleasure to them ultimately. We learn to make the experience more meaningful by using our hands in a spirited artful way. It is then purely our own unique idea of how we wish to experience the act of fishing.

“art is, after all, only a trace-it is like a footprint which shows that one has walked bravely and in great happiness.” (Robert Henri)

We then question whether a feathered hook, rod, or reel can be considered art or craft, I suppose that’s for each of us to decide.
~Clint Bova


Spidey Senses~The Irresistible Arachnid

Fishing spider patterns is a favorite activity of mine in the late spring, summer and fall. Many of the spring creeks that I frequent have adjacent fields of corn, soy, feed grass, as well as tall overhead trees and brambles. Spiders are prolific here and as much as I hate them I do love fishing with them. I have tried many patterns over the years most of which were not my own. Most of them were either too clunky, too overdressed, or just downright stupid looking. If I were to cast a wad of sheet foam and rubber bands to a big Brown on most of my usual digs I would be typecasted by most of the coherent fish instantly. After years of hit and miss I settled on my own pattern that just seemed to meet my criteria as well as the Trouts.

When your standing in a “hot river” in the middle of the day and you spot a massive brown that just will not budge for the most ingenious morsel you have in your box whip out a spider. Spiders are protein intensive, they are like baklava on a silver platter. Arachnids are simply irresistible to most trout. I have found that they will move across a spooky pool for a shot at a spider snack. The strikes are jolting and very deliberate. Here is my simple pattern that you can tie in less than ten minutes with a little practice and the right materials.
Hook: TMC 531 #12 (shown with) or TMC 100 #12
Thread: Black Veevus 14/0
Abdomen: 1mm black Razor Foam folded on top of a black dubbed
beaver belly abdomen wound with black midge hackle (see underside photo below)
Legs: Knotted black pheasant tail 
Sternum: Tie on all six legs of Pheasant tail and set the legs
with dubbed thread on mid section
Hackle: Hackle collar wound behind first set of legs (note: hackle collar sets legs in a forward position, only six knotted pheasant tail legs, the hackle collar represents the fourth set of legs moving)
Head & Mandible: Bring Razor Foam forward in front of hackle collar whip down, dubb head and whip finish in front of dubbing with wet thread.

This pattern has always been a great stand by when nothing is on the surface or the fish simply will not budge. Once you get the hang of setting the legs its quite simple to tie and I have passed this fly on to other fishermen on the most frustrating days with great success.

Clint Joseph Bova


Custom Critical Hardware

From butt to tip everyone of my rods are totally custom. Nothing is pulled from a hardware drawer or added on from a vendors catalog as an afterthought or shortcut. Every reel seat, cap and ring set, winding check, cork check, threaded barrel, ferrule plug, and rod bag is created specifically for it's intended rod. All hardware is machined from the highest quality nickel rod stock.

All of our bluing is done using a labor intensive process called “slow rust bluing” which is how very old firearms are blued and restored. Nickel can be treated in a very similar fashion with the use of additional powdered additives. All of my bluing is done the same way fine firearm restoration finishes are created. The result is a dark charcoal black finish with a lot of depth. Look at “blued hardware” from other component companies or rod makers and what you will find is a very flat uniform finish with no depth. Again if you look at a fine custom firearm you will immediately notice the depth of the finish. Feel free to call me or have me send you samples of my complete line of rod tapers, and hardware types.

 If you are paying a premium for a bamboo fly rod it better be totally custom. This is critical if you truly want an “heirloom” quality hand split bamboo fly rod. If you have a dream rod in mind with custom hardware feel free to call me for more information and pricing.     
~Clint Joseph Bova


Loon Outdoors~The Best Water Based Head Finish & Non-Toxic

For a long time I've been looking for the best all around fly tying head cement. After using Loon's Water Based Head Finish I've found that it does everything I need in a highly controllable non-toxic solution. It's viscosity is perfect for seeping into wraps. The finish dries flexible but NOT rubbery. If you tie a lot of dries it's an exceptional marriage of uses such as hitting parachute posts with horizontal hackle collars, locking in wings, setting splayed tailing fibers, wetting threads on micro patterns, and controlling the amount of head coverage you need.

This stuff is truly amazing. After years of using cyno-glues that spew vapors and dry burning the materials in the process this glue is literally a breath of fresh air. Years of head cement drying up and “gooing out”, having to thin glues, scraping dubbing needles, etc...all this fuss was a real pain in the butt. This stuff just wipes up with water when it's still wet. When dry the consistency of Loon's Water-Based Head Finish is like a harder version of silicone but crystal clear and of course non-toxic. It's called “head Finish” but it really does it all. The big bonus...it has absolutely no smell and I do not need to worry about my Canaries dropping dead or running to the Doctor with a sinus infection after tying a box of flies! Kudos Loon Outdoors.

~Clint Bova