Andrew Roth

Andy Roth is a fly angler and also a conservationist. His experience with fish and fly rod is international, but his concentration lies within the watersheds of the Midwest.

Go West! A Wyoming Dude Ranch

Posted by: Andrew Roth under Fishing, Family Fun, Trout Updated: August 26, 2009 - 12:20 PM

An experience I will never forget!  Set high in the Big Horn Mountains, Spear-O-Wigwam ranch is the place from which I explored the magnificent Wyoming landscape last week. Horseback riding, hiking, fishing or a combination of these activities was just out the front door in a setting that truly spoke to your spirit and left you with the understanding of how life was lived, in a time long past.
The adventure was nothing short of cosmic.
The 34 horses were driven from their corral each night by a set of wranglers. The horses destination, one of numerous high mountain pastures located within the Big Horn National Forest for an evening of grazing among the shadows of the lodge-pole pines and rocky outcroppings of the Big Horn Mountains. Each morning the wranglers returned to once again gather the horses and push them to the ranch corral, beginning another day's work of packing, training and trail riding. The wranglers, composed of both men and women, were living their dream. Riding, roping and residing in a place that has changed little from the time man's eyes first set upon its wild character. All of them, real people, upholding an ethic of hard work, honesty and a love of land and animal that sometimes escapes the understanding of many who live among the steel, blacktop and glass of the city. This simpler choice of existence, although dramatic at times, beckoned me to look back through a window in time to see the purity of a way of life that has mostly been substituted for by a short sighted thought process that does not include the land and the animals that survive upon it. It was a pleasure to see a group of people living in harmony with their surroundings instead of looking for ways to change it.
The entire ranch is powered by two massive generators. Each night, power to the ranch was turned off. In the morning, the generators were re-started and the wonders of light and power resumed. The absence of  power each night left me to ponder, once again, what it was like to live without these conveniences. The moon and stars shone brightly and fire provided the only additional light. Cell phone service at the ranch was not available, only a satellite phone for emergencies. Those who had flashlights used them to find their way. I preferred not to, only to fully appreciation a way of life that still exists, and in fact flourishes, with fewer modern conveniences. Granted,  just a flip of a switch and all the conveniences of home would be restored, but the thought of life without all the additional technology was somehow appealing.
The moose and mule deer, mountain lions and marmots, eagles and elk all made appearances during the week. In this National Forest, it seemed as though the animals interaction with man was that of curiosity and coexistence rather than fear. This was just an observation but in most of these encounters the subject would stand their ground and stare back instead of flee in terror. It was nice to observe the wildlife at a distance and I couldn't help but feel that somehow these animals felt the same way as I did.
Fishing each day took place in a different location and the variety of scenery was incredible.  Small hidden lakes with streams flowing in and out gave you the choice of fishing still water or moving water. High mountain reservoirs loaded with cutthroat trout, and meadow creeks flowing crystal clear with brook trout hiding in every plunge pool, And the grayling, oh the grayling. The fishing wasn't always easy, but the scenery was always grand and we did find our share of the "village idiot" fish that I often dream about when I go to new destinations.
Overall the trip was magical. The accommodations were perfect without being to fluffy. The food was fantastic and the company was delightful. The common thread that binds this wild country together is the horse. There would truly be something missing without it and Spear-O has incorporated this 4 legged as it should be. Thank you to Ken, Beth and their staff at Spear-O-Wigwam for showing me the paths forged by wild game and followed by man and horse, for taking the time to share your stories, and that of Spear-O-Wigwam in a manner that embraces all who wish to become part of its history, and thank you Mitch for making it all possible.

Fly Fishing Tactics for Mississippi Smallmouth

Posted by: Andrew Roth under Fishing, Bass Updated: August 3, 2009 - 6:08 PM
The cool temps this summer have caused many fly anglers to change their tactics in order to be successful catching smallmouth bass on the Mississippi. Standard tactics for fly fishing the Mississippi during the mid July to mid August period primarily include active casting to the shoreline using topwater poppers and shallow running minnow imitations. This year these tactics have been far less successful leaving many fly anglers to ponder why they’ve been having these “less than spectacular” outings on a river that is consistently productive at this time of year. 
One theory that is continuing to prove itself out is that the fish are just not concentrating in the shallows as they usually do at this time, They are locating on the deeper water breaks and therefor are not as active in the first foot of the water column. Our trip on Saturday helped us to “believe” as we changed our tactics to sinking tips and weighted minnow and crayfish imitations. We did pound the banks as well but had far more success pulling away from the banks and fishing the mid-river breaks and slow deep water pools. Fish were caught more readily crawling slowly along the bottom rather than the active strip, strip, strip of shoreline fishing. A few beautiful, broad shouldered smallmouth were boated and released on a day that would have been slow had we continued business as usual. 
Changing tactics from the “usually successful methods” is many times difficult for anglers to have confidence in. The key many times is talking to other anglers. In our case it was talking to conventional anglers who have spent countless hours on the Miss fishing deep and slow, considering it their normal tactic. 

The Fly and the Fly Angler

Posted by: Andrew Roth under Fishing, Fishing Techniques Updated: July 20, 2009 - 3:54 PM

As a fly angler, one of the aspects I most enjoy is tying flies. This art form of creating imitations of food that fish feed on is not only creative, it is a valuable part of the education process while learning about fly fishing. Without a general understanding of fish forage, I believe there will be a missing piece in the bigger puzzle of becoming a successful fly angler.

In nature, the insects and other forage that populate our waters are the food sources that fish depend upon to survive. Fish forage exists in all shapes, sizes and colors and is distributed in wide variation throughout the different cold, warm, flowing and still water environments where fish live. Because the basic premiss in fishing is to fool the fish into eating the meal that is attached to our line, anglers in general should be interested in the identification and life cycles of fish forage, to become more successful at catching fish.

In the world of fly tying there are literally millions of patterns designed to imitate the insects, crustaceans, terrestrials, leeches and minnows that fish eat. Using a combination of natural and artificial materials that are either tied on or wrapped around a hook, anglers from all over the world strive to create just the right imitation of forage in their local waters to outsmart their targeted species of fish. These patterns have specific recipes so they can be copied by anglers seeking new imitations for their own waters or to prepare for travel to fishing destinations they are unfamiliar with. There are no machines that tie flies, so each is a hand made creation.

Fly tying often times lures anglers into researching and understanding more clearly the importance of a question often asked in fly fishing, and in all fishing for that matter. “What are they biting on?” Having the answer............... is the key to your success.

Fly tying classes in the Midwest begin after the first of the year. When the onset of winter is apparent, fly tiers from all over the region begin to prepare their arsenal of flies for the upcoming season. Once the tools and skills are acquired, fly anglers generally tie all season long enabling them to create just the right imitations any time, any where, in hopes of fooling their most challenging adversary.

Keep an eye on Gray Goat Fly Fishing for the upcoming fly tying classes,,,, at a location near you.

Pop the Top

Posted by: Andrew Roth under Fishing, Bass, Fishing Techniques Updated: July 7, 2009 - 7:40 PM
July marks the beginning of my favorite time of year for top water bass fishing with the fly rod. Yesterday’s trip to the Upper St. Croix River would once again prove why our warm water rivers are quickly becoming known by fly anglers as a destination to some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in the country. 
The day started with the normal dropping of the shuttle vehicle at the down stream landing and the launching of the boat. In the last ten years fly anglers have transitioned to western style drift boats to navigate the wide, lower water sections of our larger rivers. These boats are designed to be highly maneuverable around rocks and draw little water. The drift boat also eliminates the need for gasoline engines and the noise created by them. The power source is the strong shoulders of the helmsmen, the current of the river, and the pulling of oars. This factor alone unlocks a sense of adventure from a time long past.
After 5 pattern changes my first fish came on a large yellow popper. This top water fly was cast to bank side targets and quickly “stripped” or “popped” creating an audible bloop, bloop, bloop. The fly imitates a frog or other struggling fauna which can trigger explosive strikes....and it does.  There were bass that leaped from the water and drove the fly down from above, There were bass that suctioned the fly from underneath with no discernible disruption to the waters surface, and there were bass and pike who would wake 6 feet across still water to chase down and slash at my yellow popper. I stuck with the popper the rest of the day. 
We alternated between floating and wading on this day since many of the targets under the shade of trees and along bank side grasses were unreachable from the boat. This added another pleasurable twist to the day with the cool waters of the St. Croix providing comfort to us from the heat of the day. There are few thing that I enjoy more when it comes to fly fishing than the ability to hunt and stalk from my hind legs. Wade fishing is total immersion and focus becomes hypersensitive.
When the boat landing came into view we were all tired and happy.....As it should be.  

Beware!

Posted by: Andrew Roth under Fishing, Trout Updated: June 23, 2009 - 9:48 AM
I noticed the first of the Wild Parsnips in bloom yesterday. Contact with this plant can cause severe irritation, blistering, weeping and sloughing of the skin. The combination of contacting this plant and sunlight can be extremely unpleasant for anglers and outdoor recreators. The reaction is caused by the sun and is called photo-dermatitis. I always wear long sleeve shirts whenever I am out on the streams and this plant is only one of the reasons why. The above photo shows the Wild Parsnip in the foreground and a member of the Genus Angelica(same family) in the background. The Wild Parsnip has yellow flowers on a flattened umbel flower head. The Cow Parsnip will have white blooms, with a similar flower head configuration. LEARN TO RECOGNIZE THE WILD PARSNIP PLANT WITH THE YELLOW FLOWERS,,,,,,,, AND DO YOUR BEST TO STAY CLEAR OF IT.

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