B.C. Boat and Sportsmen's Show
The Fish Finder

Archie has put together another one of his favourite flys and describes in detail.

"Ja, you are doing zat all wrong." I turned slightly offended, toward the speaker.a giant - standing well over six feet tall, face bronzed by countless days standing in reflected sunlight. I envision him walking through a doorway and judge he probably has to turn sideways. "What do you mean I'm doing it all wrong?"

We are standing on the shore of the Kitimat river, immediately above the highway bridge, some eighteen miles north of town and I am getting fishing lessons from a local legend. I thought I knew it all back then. I had been fishing for steelhead for over ten years. I had caught fish on the Thompson, Vedder, and Nimpkish rivers and the day previous I had landed two beauties a couple of miles downstream from where we now stood. I knew what I was doing, dammit! Still, I realized I was not in Deiter Abraham's league.and I listened carefully to his words. "You are casting too far from shore and your float does not drift properly." More instructions followed, all delivered in a thick German accent, the words rumbling out of his mouth like gravel falling from the back of a giant dump truck.I was rapt with attention.

I first met Dieter when a mutual friend snuck me in the back door of the small pilot hatchery - adjacent to the engineering offices at the local pulp mill. Rick and I caught Dieter trailing a small, hookless lure up and down the length of the holding tanks, which were all filled to near overflowing with salmon fry. The tanks were crude.made with welded together 45 gallon metal drums, but the returns of fish we all now enjoy are a testament to how well they served their purpose. Dieter looked up, startled by our laughter and Rick asking him "What the hell are you doing?" "I am training zem!" I could fill pages with stories about big D, but I mention him here chiefly because of the gift he gave me that day above the bridge.

I had already made at least a half dozen casts before he first scorned my efforts and I was pretty convinced the fish he was cleaning had been the only one in the run. Still, he was big D - so I humoured him and cast exactly as he said. When my mouth opened in shock, it must have looked like a pie plate.I landed three fish in three casts! The fish were exactly where he said they were! He went on to lecture me on how to properly tie egg balls (roe wrapped in nylon) and finished our time together that day with a question. "Haff you ever had a steelhead hit your float?" I admitted that indeed, it had happened a couple of times in the past.and it made me nearly jump out of my skin each time! "Zen you need a fish finder." "A fish finder?" I asked. He reached inside his vest and fingers the size of Kielbasa sausages retrieved a plastic bag filled with brightly painted, teardrop shaped, cork floats. "If you use one of zeze, you will get float hits at least 50% of ze time." I still have that float.

Three days later, I floated down a section of the Kitimat, known locally as steelhead alley, fishing with two other friends, using my new 'fish finder'. After four runs, I had landed six fish to their two and every one of those fish slammed into my float before I hooked it! After the first fish, no one watched their own float anymore.all three sets of eyes followed the bobbing course of my white and orange treasure! After the seventh fish, I refused to use it any more.I was terrified I would lose it! Half the paint had been scraped off by teeth marks! Hundreds of hours fishing have taught me that the 'fish finder' is not infallible.water conditions have to be right, but I have watched dozens of times since that first time - laughing at the shocked faces and exclamations of "Holy shit! Did you see that?" from unsuspecting friends and clients when I slip one of those brightly colored pieces of cork on their line.never once telling them what to expect.

Dozens of fish, caught on more than twenty rivers across the province over the intervening years have convinced me that the most crucial component is the colour. This was particularly reinforced while fishing the lower reaches of the Yakoun River, on the Queen Charlotte Islands several years ago. I was fishing in front of two very good rods, using roe and they followed behind. Zieg was also using roe and Mike, ever the sportsman was using a gooey bob. We were following a 'back of the bus' system, where whoever caught a fish had to move to the upstream side of our makeshift production line and we were all having a banner day. As such, there was lots of good natured jostling for position.if you had the misfortune to hook a snag, all you would hear is a laughing jibe of "equipment failure!" and both guys would blow past like you were a tree stump. I was feeling pressured to fish faster.if I dallied too long, their floats would come poaching down in front of me like bulldozers, forcing me downstream. At least, that is my excuse for casting right over the fish. "Hey! There's a huge fish right there!" The water was crystal clear and I was pointing at a monster doe, laying suspended in the current some eight feet from shore, just above the bending tailout of the run. This was water I had already fished and I hadn't touched a thing! From where I now stood, the sheen of reflected sunlight was completely eliminated and I could see every feature of the bottom, all the way across the stream. Zieg's green, Styrofoam float was drifting approximately twenty feet upstream from the fish. I could see his weight and egg ball bobbing and scraping its' way along the pebbled bottom and when the float was within six feet, the doe flicked her tail and glided straight toward his line.

"It's going for your hook Zieg!" I watched incredulous as the fish quietly closed her mouth around the roe and shouted at Zieg that he was hooked up! Zieg looked at me puzzled, but lifted his rod tip anyway.and with a swirling splash, the fish was gone! He hadn't felt a thing! I watched as the fish made a wide sweeping turn, apparently unperturbed by the feel of nylon in her mouth and settled back to her same perch. Mike was using a large white float and I could see his rubber artificial bait suspended below.now drifting downstream toward the fish, but still thirty feet away. The fish reacted very differently to Mike's offering. When the float was still at least twenty feet away, the doe rushed toward it like a freight train! I watched in shock as it made a tight circle under the float, looking up as if to bite it in two - before settling down nearer the bottom.and again I shouted "you've got it!" Amazingly, Mike too felt nothing and he also missed the fish. I watched in awed amazement as each of them cast again to the fish and the whole ritual was repeated, each of them again feeling nothing more than a slight tug. There was no doubt about it.that fish keyed on Mike's white float from an incredible distance away! Finally, on his third try, Zieg managed to hook up and a few minutes later, we were snapping pictures of a dime bright, eighteen pound hen. She fought like a sack of sand, but none of us cared.it was still one of the highlights of our entire trip.

Now it is many years later. These days, my drift rods mostly gather dust, retrieved on occasion when I have friends visiting or when I am guiding clients who lack the proper gear. I fly fish because fishing with a drift rod has lost most of its' challenge for me, but I still remember the lessons learned. Several years back, my brother experienced the excitement of using a 'fish finder' on a day when conditions were perfect and the following spring, he brought some dry flies that he had fashioned from Styrofoam. They are awkward looking things and both of us felt silly casting them.perhaps that is why we gave up on them so easily. After my experience with the fly I am about to describe below, I will be experimenting with trying to refine a dry that works as well. I came to the idea when I was having a slow day with the Kitimat Kombo and thought to try and combine the two concepts. What I was shooting for was a fly that followed the design of the 'Kombo', but adopted the colouring of the 'Fish Finder.' Like the float developed by big D, it seems to work best when fished in a slightly colored and dropping river, but that could probably be said about most flies. All I know for sure is that I caught four fish with it on the first day I tried it, covering water I had first fished with a regular Kombo. I now carry both in a range of sizes and consider them both my 'go to' flies for those days when nothing else is working.

Tying the fly is exactly the same as for a regular Kombo.all you do is substitute two shades of pink near the tail and follow up with the majority of the speyed portion in white. In honour of Dieter Abrahams, the skipper suggested I call it a 'Fish Finder' and I agreed the name fits perfectly.

Hook - size 1/0 streamer
Tail - pink rabbit strip
Body - flat silver tinsel
Underwing - soft pink saddle hackle
Wing - white over light pink over dark pink marabou.tie in a few strands of silver flashabou after the first course of marabou
Head - glass or tungsten bead

After the hook barb has been filed smooth, slide the bead head over the hook bend and place it next to the eye
Tie in a tail of pink rabbit strip, at least twice the length of the hook shank.
Wrap a tinsel body to cover the bottom two thirds of the hook shank.leave at least three eighths of an inch room behind the eye to tie in all the wings.
Tie in the pink saddle hackle, aiming all the barbules toward the hook point.
Tie in a clump of dark pink marabou (tying tip.tie in the extreme tip of the feather first. It makes it easier when wrapping the marabou strands) and wrap, spey fashion - toward the eye of the hook. Be careful to not overlap turns of the marabou and pull the individual strands back toward the hook point with the fingers of your free hand with each wrap of the feather.
Tie in a few strands of silver flashabou.the ends should extend a little shorter than the marabou strands.
Tie in a clump of light pink marabou and wrap as per the darker shade of pink. Brush the marabou tendrils back with each wrap.
Tie in a clump of white marabou and wrap it tight to the back side of the bead head, ensuring the bead is locked rigidly in place. The white colour should dominate and be equal in volume to the combined mass of the two shades of pink. If you come up a little short, don't overdress with marabou - just shove the bead tight to the marabou and tie in a conventional eye between the bead and the eye of the hook.
Whip finish and glue with head cement.
Archie Begin
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