If there is one thing I have learned in quite a few years of fishing it is the value of being flexible and versatile in my approach. This week we made our annual trip up to Erie for our warm water extravaganza. I had sight fishing for carp on my mind and chasing smallies off of drop offs and weed beds in my dreams. Unfortunately, the water wasn’t very warm and after being pelted by rain and wind for three solid days, neither were we. As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge from old mother nature, she decided to throw in water that looked like black coffee (the moment your fly entered the water it literally disappeared) and a a shad kill that deposited thousands of dead rotting shad all over the bay.
So CW, Ray (CW’s dad), and I did what any self respecting fly fisher would do… we beat water till we figured out ways to make it happen. I can attest to this because after blind casting an 8 and 9 wt rod a few thousand times I may need to invest in a new shoulder! All kidding aside though, It made for some really challenging and interesting fishing.
By all accounts the smallies just were not in quite yet (not in large numbers anyhow) but we did manage to pick off a few here and there. For me the venerable black wooly bugger was my go to fly with dark skies and dark water.
CW seemed to have some good luck with brown sculpins as well but the action was far from prolific as we had to work pretty darn hard for our fish.
The above picture was a 2 hour window that saw the only blue sky or sun of the entire trip. The other major frustration was that I lugged all of my camera gear up with me intending to shoot a bunch with my digital SLR but the weather kept it in the car… thank goodness for my beloved iPhone! So outside of trout and steelhead, Ray is more of a conventional gear guy and he took us to town on the first day and a half throwing plugs and picking off fish much faster than we were as he covered twice as much water in half the amount of time. Not only did he pick up some really nice bass but landed the only pike of the trip as well.
Mr Bucketmouth is always welcome a the end of my fly line. I can’t even tell you how many trips this fish has saved from a major skunking. It seems when nothing else is cooperating you can always get a few hungry bass to chase. This particular fish was so hungry that after eating the bugger it attempted to swallow a very very small fly fisher along with it.
I have seen a few fish kills in my life but I have to say, this was truly one of the biggest I have seen. The smell at times was unbearable and it was rather unsightly to boot. The shad would be swimming in brain dead circles on top of the water until they died and then they would belly up till they washed up on shore…. It looked a bit like this….
I am not sure if they intend to attempt a clean up or if decomposition will just have to take it’s course? If it is the latter it will make for one really stinky spring season on the bay.
One of the cooler experiences I had was on the last day. Ray had taken off for home and CW and I tried to figure out a strategy to finish out the afternoon. We found a bay that had a bit of shelter to it so we gave it a go. We ran into a few other fly fishers in the lot and all seemed to have the same idea. Luckily there was plenty of water for everyone to spread out and do their thing.
After fishing through some decent weather, a major (I do mean major) front moved in. The thunder could be heard rolling across the bay like it was in your own head. As the front moved through I managed to capture this moment as the skies turned black.
We decided to do what any well read, college educated, fly fishers would do… we stood out in a raging thunder storm in an open bay waving long graphite sticks in the air. After calling CW out for being a woos for not posting a few weeks ago I have to say he did redeem himself. We fished hard and fought the good fight but most importantly had a tremendously cool time doing so. There was something very cathartic about fishing the storm. It was like it washed away a layer of crap that life heaps on you and leaves you almost fresh again. Was it smart? Not so much. Would I do it again? Yep
My rewards were multiple. Any time I give a talk I always tell folks that carp fishing is a sight fishing game and that if I have to blind cast for them I will fish for another species. I still stand by that but after seeing the 30plus pound carp washed up on shore I couldn’t resist. I couldn’t see individual fish but I knew they were working out in front of me by the occasional leap and the muted muds through the stained water. I put a sculpin on my intermediate line and started dredging it ever so slowly fan casting across the flat. My line came tight and it was on. She didn’t put on a blazing run but bull dogged me back and forth for a while before I could back up and bring her to shore.
Fishing out the storm was a blast and hanging with CW and getting a chance to reconnect was the icing on the cake. I would be remiss if I didn’t throw a major shout out to Mrs. Brownliner. She doesn’t read this blog (doesn’t get the whole fishing thing) but while I chased fish, drank good beer, and yukked it up with my buddy, she was at home chasing two 19 month old kids around and covering for me.
If you haven’t got together with your fishing buddy in a while, take the time out to do so. Plan a trip! Even if it is just for a day. Go somewhere cool and have a story to tell when you get home!
Good Luck and Tight Lines
It’s not often that I get to bust CW’s balls because more often than not the sneaky bastard out fishes me. So we had made plans to meet up on the creek for a few hours on Sunday morning while the kids were at school. I drop them off and am on my way when I get this….
I was totally chomping at the bit to get on the water so I didn’t care if there was an ice storm going on, I was getting out there. It was 37 degrees and the water clarity wasn’t great but I could make out the outlines of some fish from an elevated position. Not too long after this exchange it continued something like this…
And of course like most fish, this one has a story. If you read the last post you know that I started tying up some of they hybrid flies that John and Trevor pioneered. I liked them but had in our typically very murky water it was super hard to see the fly compared to the high viz orange blood dot’s we typically throw so I decided to tinker. (don’t I always) The result I thought was pretty cool which is basically a hybrid with a high viz head so it was easier to see a take. I tied it in a couple of different versions to play with.
The first version I replaced the hackle with a bright orange puglisi dubbing brush. It sank a bit slower so I don’t recommend this for faster water. The second I tied traditionally but dubbed the head with some fire orange dubbing. It sank faster but you could see both pretty well.
I had cast to the lead and largest fish in the shoal but she passed it up. Truthfully I did not see her sister following behind make the take and before I knew it, my line came tight and it was game on. I was perched up on a ledge above the creek and had to work my way down stream to get in the water. As I was making my way down, she took off up stream. I looked down and I was already in my backing. As I jumped down into the cold creek waters, I started recovering line and something didn’t feel right. The familiar head shake had stopped and my line had no give in it. I was hung up. My heart sank as my first good fish of the season was gone. I began trudging upstream to to retrieve my fly. I could see the rock it was wrapped around and as I approached I saw my leader with a full turn around the rock and the carp still attached. I gave the line and upstream flip and the fight was on again.
By the time we pulled into an eddy to exchange pleasantries I was grinning at my good fortune.
Is there a lesson here? Hell I don’t know… It’s never too cold and never give up on a fish! So here endith the lesson…
Good Luck and Tight Lines!
The last few weeks in the mid-atlantic have been pretty darn cold but I did manage to hit the early part of the shad run. Beautiful evening on the Rap but unfortunately not too many fish with willing mouths. We did have lucky customer number one so I guess I can notch shad on my belt! On the swing no less!
Attempted some striper fishing as well but no luck to be had. Hopefully the action will heat up as things warm up.
Has anyone got a look at this yet? Definitely looks worth checking out!
Next to hockey goalies, fly fishers could be the most superstitious group of people around. I wish I could tell you that I have somehow transcended such foolishness, but that is just not the case. Perhaps it is my OCD kicking in or being a creature of strange habits, but it goes deeper than that. I have a firm belief that runs deeper than a salmon’s desire to return to their birth place that if I don’t perform certain activities that the fishing will not be very good… or worse yet if I do perform certain activities that things will be a disaster! Not sure if this qualifies as fly fishing religion or not but it is as close as that gets for me so here are a few of mine….
Beef Jerky!!!!!! Jack’s Links Teriyaki in particular. If salted beef products are not present I might as well go home because not only will I not catch anything but chances are I will close my rod tip in my car door and drop my keys and iphone in the fastest flowing water in the river.
Fly Boxers! Yes, now you all know, I am a boxer guy. Probably TMI but if I don’t wear my favorite fly boxers then not only will I break the biggest fish off of the day as I reach for the leader but I will realize about half way through the day that my favorite pair of hemostats have somehow fallen off of my sling pack and are nowhere to be found.
Dual Fish Pendant! Yes, at 43 years old you would think I would have graduated to jewelry that wasn’t attached with rope or hemp but I haven’t. This is actually my second yak bone fish set. The first one broke off while in the river and I never saw it again. The rest of my season was a struggle after that. CW hooked me up with this one and my yin and yang seem to be much more in balance ever since.
So these are just a few of the things that I must do or have! Some things I will NEVER do are things like….
Bananas! Boat or no boat a sure fire way to ruin a good outing is with bananas. You might as well say, Hey he is pitching a no hitter! OR wow, he is only 2 minutes away from posting a shut out! I won’t even eat them for breakfast before because even a partially digested banana can do serious damage.
Store bought flies…. In some very desperate moments I have fished store bought flies but not by choice. If a fly wasn’t tied by me or a friend it will sit in a box in the car for years before it sees the end of my tippet. I don’t know why…. they look and fish just fine. In many cases they look better than my own ties but there is something about fishing my own work that feels vital to the process for me.
So I would love to hear from all of you… what are your quirks and beliefs about what is essential to your fishing success? Do you eat the same breakfast every time? Wear the same shirt or hat? Let’s hear it!
As fly fishers, we have already accepted that in most situations we will catch fewer fish than our bait chucking cousins (second cousins twice removed) and for most of us we are just fine with that. My steelheading roots are here in the heart of Western PA’s Steelhead Alley along the shores of Lake Erie. Most of the fly fishers tend to dead drift eggs, nymphs, and small streamers under an indicator for two primary reasons. The first is that some of the tributaries we fish are just not big enough or are too crowded to swing flies. The second reason is that you flat out hook more fish. So why with runs that “aint what they used to be”, crowds that are ten fold what they used to be, and mother nature making life even more difficult…. why would you want to chase chrome on the swing?
I thought you’d never ask. Up until this year, I had always looked at spey casters and two handed rods with equal parts envy and ignorance. I had no idea how to do it and I had never figured out where to start. It seemed less complicated to run a drug detox program for Lindsay Lohan that it was to incorporate an entire new dictionary with terms like grain weights, skagit, single spey, double spey, snap-t, perry poke, sustained anchor, yadda yadda yadda…. (you yadda yadda’d over the best part, oh I mentioned the bisque) So last year I purchased a switch rod, a skagit set up, took a class, watched a bunch of video, and have practiced as much as I had time to. Do I look like Simon Gawesworth or Ed Ward? Ummmm, not really but I am starting to get the hang of it! I owe a big debt of gratitude to Bob and the guys up at International Angler for my intro spey class. I also owe a huge shout out to April Vokey over at Fly Gal Ventures for an outstanding class on intruder style flies and teaching me how to tie tubes.
So the past 12 months has bought a few pretty cool firsts. Back in the fall I caught my first salmon on the swing and I felt like there was perhaps a light at the end of the tunnel. This week was huge as I caught my first steelhead on the swing. It was far from the largest steelie I have ever caught and with near arctic temps the fight was a bit subdued as well but I have to tell you…. THE TAKE WAS ABSOLUTELY FRIGGING AMAZING!
As my 10 feet of T14 and intruder came to the end of the swing, I paused on the dangle. Not because of my spey casting prowess, but because my fingers felt like they were about to fall off. It was 21 degrees not including the wind chill. As I attempted to breathe life into my frozen fingers my rod lurched forward and was almost ripped from my hand. I recovered and after a spirited battle, my first steelie on the swing was complete.
So after losing my swing cherry, I took a day to meet up with CW in Erie. It was supposed to be cold so I figured the crowds would be at a minimum. As I drove through Ohio, the snow began to fall and fall it did. It came down so hard and fast that I sought shelter off the road and waited it out till morning. Morning came and it was still coming down. By the time I met up with CW, this is what the parking lot looked like….
Yes, those are the cars of two crazy fly fishers who for most of the day were the only people on the water. Why were we the only people on the water? Well it wasn’t really water at that point. The best way I can describe it is attempting to fish in a slushee. Nine casts out of ten I couldn’t get my three split shot or my fly to sink down below the slush. Other than foul hooking a sad looking hen, the day pretty much went like this….
Ice cubes anyone????? The day was still a win as we took a beautiful walk up miles of snow covered creek, talked like old friends do when they haven’t seen one another for some time and laughed about crap that only guys spending the day without their wives/girlfriends can laugh about. So if you have yet to pick up a two hander, give it a try and remember…
The swing is the thing, the tug is the drug, and ice pretty well just sucks.
Tight Frozen Lines,
Sometimes what defines a company is not how they react when everything goes well, but how they react when they don’t. I was visiting a Southern city recently and stopped into the local Orvis store to get some advice on local waters. Unfortunately, the staff was not able to help me in the way I was hoping. I have always had a good experience with Orvis so I was a bit surprised by the interaction. I stewed on the experience for a bit and decided to write an email to Orvis customer service.
I expected a standard response via email of thank you very much for taking the time to reach out, we are sorry you were disappointed, blah blah blah…. I got that. (minus the blah blah blah) A few days later I receive an email from one of the regional managers from the Orvis retail division. He really wanted to get a better understanding of what happened and how they could improve the experience. We spoke for about 30 minutes and I was truly impressed with the companies reaction.
About 1/3 of my rod stable have Orvis tags on them and I own a few other reels and accessories. By no means am I an Orvis Endorsed person yet it was vitally important for him to make sure that things went better next time around. Thanks much to the good folks at Orvis for not only putting out a quality product but for taking the time to make sure they were going about things the right way. Figuring out how to make things right that didn’t start out that way goes a long way in my book so mad props Paul…. nicely done.
After a year of planning, packing, saving, and working we have finally done it. Casa De Brownliner has relocated to Beaver County and I find myself in a new house with a honey do list about a mile long. From a fishing perspective I am on a whole new river to explore and I couldn’t be more excited about it. I am still within driving distance from my old stomping grounds but there is something about new water that holds such excitement and mystery.
According to the Mrs. there is a boat in my future but that remains to be seen if that is the near future or the distant future. I suppose time will tell. Anyhow, last night I was trying to make my way through a sea of boxes in the basement and I came across the boxes of fly gear stacked in the corner. For many of us, this is tying season as we wait for the thaw. For those of us who fish 12 months, it could be tailwater fishing, chasing chrome, or even winter carping like the good folk over at http://www.thisriveriswild.com practice. Right now I have access to neither….. I feel a bit like David Hasselhoff at an all you can eat burger and beer buffet with no money. It seems like everyone around me is managing to get on the water and I am standing there with a hammer and a pry bar.
The closest thing I have to fishing right now is the http://flyfilmtour.com in March which is hosted by my good friends at http://www.internationalangler.com. They say good things come to those who wait, but waiting has never and will never be my strong suit. So until my time comes you can bet your favorite fly that I will be chomping at the bit and getting that twitch every time I pass the river.