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New and Improved

On the brink of the New Year, my mind wanders over the past 80 or so posts and I ask the inevitable question of what am I doing and where is this blog going. I have had numerous encouragements and proposals on what to do with my little world that I have created for myself and my valued readers. As my thoughts began to build into dreams of grandeur, I want to be careful and stay away from the pretentious mindset that my words are gold and everyone is hanging on my every post. At the same time, my number of readers is graciously growing and I wish to provide them with needed content and services.

With that stated, I have updated my site and domain name. All new content can be found on AZWanderings.com. Several plans are in the works and over the next weeks and months, regular readers will begin seeing some more changes to the site and additions to the content. The new site’s layout was constructed by my brother (JSumnerdesigns.com) who worked tirelessly to get things ship shape.  A new review page has been added that will slowly and honestly chronicle some of my favorite pieces of equipment that see regular use. I have also had several requests from readers to purchase a few of the flies that I tie which I take as a huge honor. Always content to tie for myself and friends, I relish the opportunity to offer one or two patterns for sale in the near future in order to gauge interest.

In conclusion, the support and kindness of my readers is invaluable to me. The whole idea of Arizona Wanderings was nothing more than a simple family communication device that has grown and become an exciting project for me that never strays far from my thoughts. I do not consider myself an expert or an authority, but instead a simple man who wishes to enjoy the outdoors and participate in the outdoor community.

Thank you as always and see you on the new site,

Ben

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While I wait for the waters up north to calm down and return to a fishable state, I thought I would brag a little on how kind Christmas was to me. So in order to hold myself over until the next time I hit the water or the cactus strewn hillsides, here is a brief look at the quality items Santa brought me. I have had my eye on a new BBS reel from Orvis to upgrade my old reel that was broken and line that had large chunks taken out of it. The sweetest wife in the world found it easy to shop for me this Christmas.

Much needed upgrade for the 3 weight

As an avid reader, my Amazon wish list grows almost every time I am on the computer. This selection shows a heavy influence of John Gierach but also a Walt Prothero wild card showed up (arguably one of my favorite authors).

Updating the Library

My sister-in-law went above and beyond to make the perfect gift for a helpless fly fisherman and reader. This bookmark will definitely be utilized in my marathon of reading ahead.

Homemade "Adams" bookmark

With all of the traveling that my wife and I do back to New York, fly tying get-to-gethers, or a couple day trip up north, having my fly tying gear with me can be really convenient. I had eyeballed this Fishpond bag for quite a while but had never made mention of it to anyone. My in-laws really went above and beyond with this gift.

Fishpond fly tying travel kit

I have had an old foam target that when my wife said “I do” made the trip to our new backyard. It has raised some eyebrows, and the new puppy has really taken a liking to it. In the end it is still usable but life expectancy is not much longer. This new target will hopefully keep me in shape for the javelina season coming up.

My new lawn ornament

Another quality gift from the in-laws to keep my hands warm during our bone-chilling Arizona winters (but seriously it does get cold here.).

Winter Gloves

I do not know what my brother was trying to say, but it might be that my hunting game could use a little work. If you have not had the opportunity to play the Wii and especially the Wii hunting game, it will change your life.

Staying in shape during the off season...

My mom handed down one of my father’s old tie clips. I wear a tie maybe a half dozen times a year, but this clip will be worn at each of those occasions. This truly is a special gift that I will cherish and hopefully someday pass on to one of my boys.

Sentimental value

After this post, I think I will go do some damage at Cabelas. My wife thinks it is a real shame that the blasted store is so close…

One can never go wrong with...

Drying Station - Front

My break has been filled with shotguns and fly rods and even though our usually clear skies are gone and replaced with rainclouds, I have been busy with some smaller projects. After my furled leader performed flawlessly on a blustery day at Oak Creek, I decided that I had to have some more. So I headed to my friend Bo’s house to rig up a few more and I happily walked away with several gorgeous leaders, spun by my own hand. Bo himself is an extremely talented carpenter and graciously gifted me one of his beautiful fly drying stations. This small piece is just a taste of the work that he has done as his fly tying corner is centered around a beautiful tying station.

Fly Drying Station

More Furled Leaders

Bo also is stating to make his own fly fishing lanyards and as we were talking I mentioned my minimalistic approach to fly fishing, Bo quickly whipped up a perfect “belt hook” for some summer fishing. I think this lanyard would work well for those warm days wet wading in the small streams of Arizona. A big thanks to Bo for his hospitality and gifts.

Belt Hook

Met up with some local fly fishers/tiers and grilled some burgers and swapped some flies. A fly swap is a great way to become exposed to new patterns that may not find their way into your box on a regular basis. These guys have some real talent and I am looking forward to wetting these flies and getting into some fish. My photos do not do the flies justice…

Jason's Clouser Minnow

Bo's Leech

Gary's Dry

The evening did not contain any fly tying but focused on the building furled leaders. Jason has learned the art of building these leaders and brought over his jig and showed us the technique of spinning and wrapping thin fishing line into beautiful leaders. After several failed attempts on my part and great amounts of patience from the others, I was able to walk away with one and am hoping that over break I will be able to head over and rig up a few more. I am always looking for an alternative to the store bought mono leaders which carry so much memory and inevitably waste valuable time on the water as I grow frustrated over wind knots. Hopefully with this upcoming time off I will be able to put some time in testing these leaders on the cold frozen streams of northern Arizona.

My first furled leader...

Appropriately decorated...

A friend once told me that if you’re not losing flies you’re not casting in the right spots. For the most part he was right and the fish that were caught this summer came with a price of losing many hand-tied flies. Looking forward to the weather turning towards spring, I have started compiling a box with go-to-flies so that next summer when I am on the road I can steadily refill my creek-side arsenal. I would like to send a belated thanks to some other Arizona fly fishermen, Alex, Aaron, and Kyle, over at Fat Guy Fly Fishing for the perfect fly fishing art with which to adorn the front of my fly box.

The Box

The flies I have been stockpiling are bugs that have consistently produced here in Arizona and even back on the Adirondack streams of New York. Quick run down of what I have tied:

1. The mini-hopper (green, brown, and orange)

2. Sparkle Parachute

3. Parachute Adams

4. My version of an Ausable Parachute

5. My take on the Hopper Juan

All great flies, which are fun to tie and fish. Anyone else started their bulk winter tying?

An assortment of floating colors

AW Crayfish

This is a good pattern to drift or strip through those crawdad infested streams and lakes that can be found throughout Arizona’s high country. A couple of people have emailed looking for more specifics, so here are the basic steps for tying up AW Crayfish. Enjoy…

Materials:

Hook: #8 streamer hook

Thread: Brown 6/0 Uni-Thread

Tail and Arms: Cheap assorted marabou feathers (local craft store)

Eyes: Bead chain

Rib: Vinyl ribbing

Dubbing: Simi-Seal

1.In the first step, I like to build a little platform of dubbing. This will help at the end when the fly is completed to be able to actually find the eye and tie a knot.

2. These feathers can be found at your local craft store in assorted colors. I used to only use the bottoms as marabou tails, but now the tops have a use too.

3

4

5

6

7

 8. In this step, I like to actually post the two “arms” much like you would on a Wulff pattern. This keeps the two arms separate once the fly becomes wet. 

9

10

Finished Product

Underside

Preteding like I know what I am doing for the guys...

Spent an evening with some new friends on the west side of Phoenix. It was nice to only drive a few streets over for a tying event when most are posted for the other side of the city. Bo, Gary, and Jason were all stand up gentlemen that were more than willing to share and impart their wisdom to me. It is always interesting to hear what others are throwing and where they are fishing. I look forward to more get-togethers with more photos of the flies and happenings of the evening.  This was the first of what hopefully will be a bi-monthly event and if you ever find yourself out Surprise-way, feel free to join. Thanks again to the guys for letting me tag along.

*Photo courtesy of Jason Jones

My new crayfish pattern to tempt the browns up north...

 

Mini-Hopper

At a few requests, here are the fairly simple steps to tying the Mini-hopper. I cannot really take any credit for this fly as I have taken most of the ideas from other sources. Together it really does the trick as a summer terrestrial or caddis imitation pattern. Without further ado here we go:

Materials

Materials needed:

1. Dry fly hook (preferably #12-14)

2. 2mm foam (I have found just about any color I tie up produces. The brighter colors are nice for rougher water. I buy sheets of foam at the craft store for a fraction of the price posted at most “fishing” stores and the craft store has every color of the rainbow.)

3. Dubbing and matching thread (I prefer black 6/0 thread and Hare Tron Dubbin in black. The dubbing is mixed with some silver and has a nice sparkle to it. The matching color is nice, as you tie in most of your material in the same spot.)

4. Elk Hair

5. Barred Sili Legs (I have tied both green and orange and have not distinguished much of a difference between the two)

6. Super Glue (Makes life easier when your fly can stand up to the punishment all day or until you lose it in a tree)

Thread Base

1/4 inch strip of foam

I usually add a dab of super glue before attaching the foam with strong thread wraps

Tie in stacked elk hair

Tie in barred legs

One more dab of super glue before pulling back the foam and tying it all down

Whip Finish and Trim up the Foam

Underside

Topside

The Fly Box

The winner of the fly box is Troutrageous. Email me your address and info at benjaminsmith835@gmail.com and I will get that out to you ASAP. Thank you guys for all of your kind comments and encouragement and thank you for making the first year a success.
Ben