I know… I know. Much to the dismay of many, I am still alive and kicking. The last 12 months of life is a sad state of affairs from a fly fishing perspective. I suppose this is what happens when two little people pop into the world, you buy a 100 year old house in need of major renovations, and start a basically new job all at the same time.
OK… I am done making crappy ass excuses for being a very bad blogger. Wait, sorry, one more lame excuse… COULD THIS WINTER SUCK ANY WORSE? It probably couldn’t but a cool thing happened on the way to Excuseville. This past weekend I showed my sad face at the Penn’s Wood West Trout Unlimited Cabin Fever Expo in Cranberry, PA. Did I see any new gear that I didn’t know about? Nope…. Did I find any super duper deals that I couldn’t pass up? Nope….. So what did you see Mr. Brownliner?
I thought you’d never ask. I saw a few thousand folks just like me that have been dying to get out on the water and it totally ignited a spark. I saw some friends like Dale, Rob, Jim, Jeff etc… who I haven’t talked with in a while. I saw my good buddies from International Angler (my local shop). But the cherry on my hot fudge sundae was having a super cool talk with the infamous Tom Rosenbauer from Orvis.
Despite attending quite a few industry events we had never met. I travel for a living and Tom has made many a boring drive pretty darn interesting for this cowboy so getting a chance to talk for a few was pretty cool. Speaking of Cabin Fever and making it through a long winter, if you are not listening to Tom’s podcast you are missing out. Not only is he talking about some pretty timely stuff but he has a catalog of podcasts from days gone by that are always fun to listen to. You can check him out at http://www.orvis.com/intro.aspx?subject=4047. And don’t be shy about calling or emailing him with questions because he answers many of them in great detail.
The other thing I am totally pumped about is coming around very very soon is the F3T! Yep, the Fly Fishing Film Tour. More fish porn than you can handle in one evening. I am looking forward to seeing many familiar faces coming up in March so don’t miss it!
As soon as I can get out to my garage, CW and I will be starting to re-glass the yet to be named micro-skiff so if any of you have any irreverent snarky name ideas for a carp chasing micro, let me know. I promise not to be absent for so long next time!
Tight Lines and Loose Pants,
So for those of you that have been following this blog for a while you know that I rarely do gear reviews and this is not by accident. I always found it to be a bit transparent when a company approaches a blogger, gives them free crap, and then asks them to say something nice about it so you will all go out and buy one. In the interest of being consistent, I have not received free gear (yes, I paid for it!), I don’t work for Vedavoo, and Scott does not have naked photo’s of me making out with a carp that he is holding over my head…. (there may be said photo’s but to my knowledge, Scott doesn’t have them!)
So I met Scott from Vedavoo (www.vedavoo.com) at the International Fly Tackle Dealers Show in Vegas last month. We chatted for a few minutes and when I told him I was a sling pack kind of guy he suggested I try his out. I currently own an Orvis sling as well as a Patagonia so I was a bit skeptical to pony up for a third but his story was so darn compelling that I couldn’t help myself.
As much as Vedavoo makes some pretty cool gear… I will get back to that shortly…. they truly embody the American spirit. All of their gear is hand sewn (many by the owner himself!) in America with all American made fabrics, buckles, lashings, etc…. If you have ever worked in a manufacturing environment (even a small one) you know that you can send this work over seas for a fraction of the price it costs to make it here. For this alone I tip my sun bleached truckers cap to Scott and his team. I love my country and if I can do my share to support our local economy then that is a band wagon I am more than willing to jump on!
Ok, so it’s made in America, he is a fly fisher, boy scout, helps old ladies across the street, and is an all around nice guy… yada yada yada. How did you like the sling Mr. Brownliner? Don’t leave us hanging in suspense.
OK… LOVE it. So much so that I gifted my other favorite gently used sling to CW as his had seen better days. Let me start with the basics.
It sits perfectly in the small of my back when I’m fishing and is in perfect position when I slide it around front to change flies, tippet, etc… There are multiple ways to attach gear so it is a really flexible platform for those of you that are picky like me. One of my pet peeves about slings or packs in general is that many times gear dangles and swings or is exposed. 99% of the time it is no biggie but it usually becomes a disaster when you get that one shot at the fish of the trip and you realize that your fly line is looped around your hemostats which were dangling from your sling! I found it pretty easy to make sure that there were very few situations where my tools would be in the way yet were very easy to access.
The aspect of the Tightlines Sling that I love the most is that appeals to my minimalist tendencies. You can travel with the full deluxe pouch as pictured above, or remove the pouch and still use the sling for a light day on the stream, pond, etc… Accessing the different compartments is fairly simple as a few buckles hold the top of the pouch snug to the sling.
The feature that I particularly liked was the tippet spool holder. Now for those of you that like to carry 0X through 7X this may not be your preference but I rarely carry more than 3 or four tippet spools at any given time and I loved how there were not dangling spools or protruding holders to deal with. The sling does not feature any molded compartments or fold down work stations and that is just fine with me as I have never been a big fan and don’t really use that sort of thing. The Tightlines Sling is an exercise in simplicity and clean functionality which really spoke to me.
This is not a magnum sling or a guide pack. If you are looking for something to carry massive amounts of gear then this is not the right product for you. (Check out www.vedavoo.com for some larger capacity bags if that is your interest) I found the pack was perfect for carrying two good sized fly boxes and all the tools you would need for a basic day on the water. The only critique I would lay on the design would be the desire for an integrated water bottle holder or to have lashings on the bottom of the deluxe pouch or the sling itself to be able to add one.
Nothing short of outstanding. Everything was well stitched and put together with attention to detail. I looked it over multiple times looking for some “hand made” flaw and I couldn’t find a darn thing. The folks at Vedavoo adorn all of their products with the red white and blue and this has been well earned.
So should you pony up the $109 for the Tightlines Sling? In my book…. hell yeah. If you are geeked up about wearing products that embody the spirit of quality and have respect for another guys hard days work then you will love how this sling makes you feel inside. If you are a fan of functional simplicity that flat out fishes well then you will love this pack makes you feel on the outside. For me it was a win/win and I am sure will enjoy it for many trips to come. If you are interested in learning more, reach out to Scott over at Vedavoo. He is a super nice guy and very responsive. You can catch him at:
Hey fellow brown liners! I made the finals for the Orvis best in show carp photo contest. Please cast a vote my way so I don’t have to starve my four kids to get the H2! I am the handsome fella with the fly rod in his mouth! Thank you all for your help. :)
Said Jeff Spicoli to his surfer bro prior to rescuing Brooke Shields from drowning….
Ok… maybe he never said that but he probably would have had he taken a look at how many fly boxes most of our fly fishing brethren carry for a day on the water! So today is all about the box. How many do you carry? What is in yours? How do you organize them? What kind works best for you?
I must confess, I used to be one of those guys that put on a virtual flak jacket with pockets filled to the zipper with every kind and size of fly imaginable to make sure I never missed an opportunity. After light dawned on marble skull I came to realize that 98% of the time, I fished the same 4 or 5 patterns in a couple of sizes and colors for most scenarios. It also became apparent that it is almost impossible to be stealthy when you have more gear hanging off of you than a small infantry division would carry. Some might paint me with a minimalist brush, but that is probably a bit of an exaggeration. I do however perform a litmus test for each and every piece of gear that I carry and it is a very simple rule to follow:
- When is the last time you used said gear, fly, tippet, etc….?
- Is there something else that you are carrying that can get the job done in similar fashion?
As most of you could imagine, it was amazing how much gear now sits in the gear box in my car rather than stuffing my bag, vest, waders, etc…. Now let me make a small disclaimer. If you are in a boat with a good sized boat bag this is a much less compelling discussion. If you are a wading fly fisher primarily this may be a revelation that is nothing short of life changing. Almost as mind blowing as realizing that Justin Bieber is really just a Monsanto project that used modified DNA from Vanilla Ice and Clay Aiken.
So fast forward to today. I have ditched the vest and tend to fish three basic configurations. Which of the three is most effective is often dictated by several variables such as, water, species, weather, etc…
If I am only on the water for a few hours or on a river I know well and know what I will be fishing for, I will most often be seen in my waders, a lanyard and one medium or two small fly boxes in my wader pocket along with two spools of tippet. A good lanyard will hold the basic necessities.
- Split shot
If weather dictates a wading jacket the above scenario doesn’t change dramatically other than the addition of some weather specific gear and maybe one extra fly box. This might include items like:
This is most often used for a full day on the water for multiple species in varied water conditions. A sling pack is my pack of choice but a vest waist pack can do the same job. My gear list typically looks something like:
- 3 spools of tippet
- leader wallet (don’t forget sink tips!)
- stripping guards
- 2 medium or large sized fly boxes
- Shock tippet or wire
- Split Shot
Most of the bulk and wight you can drop is going to come down to fly selection. Start to think about the flies you use most often that are representative of multiple prey species. Also think about covering different parts of the water column. Depending on your species, water, etc… this list will vary drastically for the individual. Here is a basic example. My local warm water river/creek supports smallmouth, carp, drum, channel cat, sauger, walleye, etc…. The maximum depth is about 5-6 feet. I can fish this water effectively with a handful of flies that read something like this:
- Sculpin patterns
- Can be used to fish for smallies, sauger, drum, walleye, channel cat, and are fantastic for getting down fast and covering the bottom of the water column
- Black and brown will cover 99% of your fishing needs
- Clouser Minnows or Wooly Buggers
- Also can be used for all of the above species and can be fished for the middle and bottom of the water column with amazing effectiveness
- Olive over white and Chartreuse over white cover the vast majority of fishing situations for clousers
- Black, brown, or olive wooly buggers are my colors of choice
- Blood Dot / Egg patterns
- Absolutely killer carp pattern and can be fished on the surface with desiccant to imitate mulberries, cottonwood fluff, etc…
- Carp Soft Hackle Hybrid
- Killer on carp as well as drum. Will also play well for bass and channel cats when not in aggressive feeding modes
- Gartside Gurgler
- I always make sure to have a few of these in my box for when the smallies get active up top
- I don’t think color matters all that much but will typically carry in either black or white
All of the above flies can fit in one medium sized box for a day on the water! One of the most valuable fly fishing lessons I have ever learned is that the 80/20 rule of life applies to fly fishing as well. 20% of your success may very well rest in having the right fly. The other 80% is vested in your ability to read water, approach the fish without alerting it to your presence, and lastly to make a presentation with your fly that looks natural enough to resemble something edible.
The above is my “meat box” that I travel with. Prior to hitting the water, I will pull from this box and fill 1 or 2 fly boxes for what is appropriate for the water and conditions I am about to fish. As fly fishers we all love gear and I am no different. Just remember most of it is designed to catch you rather than catch fish. A very successful Erie steelhead fly fisher I know jokes that he carries two fly boxes. One is for the two or three flies he uses with regularity and the other is the decoy box he shows whoever walks up and asks what he was using to catch all of those fish!
So once we have pared down our flies to a reasonable selection, how do we go about organizing what we carry? Remember, you have a 0% chance of catching fish if your fly isn’t in the water so a successful fly fisher will look for ways to maximize that time. This again is a very personal thing but what works for me is to organize by water column. I start with surface flies and end with flies that work bottom. I know some people that organize by species but I never quite found that to be an intuitive way to think about what I was doing. I guess the key here is to have a system that works for you so when you need a specific fly that you know exactly where it is and can easily get to it.
Now we have all fished a situation where we just didn’t have the right fly for the moment and I am not telling you to leave your best weapons at home. Go through the above exercise with your own fly boxes and I think you will be shocked how much lighter and stealthier you can fish. The last thing I would want to do is insult you, but Dude….. that is some serious box!
Kerplunk!!! Kerplunk!!! If I didn’t know any better I would have thought I was standing in the middle of a faux water hazard at a city park driving range…. golf balls making pronounced splashes as they descended into the water with force. (9.8 meters per second squared for all you physics buffs)
Thankfully, I was not on a driving range but rather a beautiful Michigan river watching golf ball sized berries plunk the water at 9.8 as 10-15 lb river carp gobbled them up as they bobbed in the current. As luck and poor planning would have it, I did not have any mulberry flies so I made do with what I had. I found some pink over sized egg patterns and drowned the suckers in floatant and plunked them down hard!
With only an hour to fish I was extremely luck that the good folks at Schultz Outfitters (www.schultzoutfitters.com) put me on some great spots in a hurry. I could see the storm clouds beginning to roll in and knew I was on the clock. The water was a bit high and moving quickly so getting a good drift was a challenge but after toying around with a few different angles a pair of yellow purple stained lips broke the surface and it was on. Hook set… came tight…. and off to the races. Before I could blink a good sized carp was in the fast current and the line was zipping off of my reel. She was heading straight for a huge brush pile and I knew I was in trouble. As I tried to chase her down I knew it was over. I put the wood to her and tried to turn her but between the girthy fish and the fast current the only thing I felt was my 3x popping as I grinned knowing that round 1 went to the fish.
I tied on a new fly and plunked it down under the tree. Mend.. mend… mend… bang! This time the fat fish bolted for open water and downstream. I chased her down and side pressured her into some slack water and I knew I had the advantage at that point. Five minutes later I was bank side with my prize. For a fish that I chase on the bottom 95% of the time, seeing them eat on the top for berries or cottonwood just lights me up.
After releasing the fish, I could hear the the thunder heads getting closer and as I peered over the trees, things went black. I high tailed it to the car as a the lightning began and stripped my waders off as the hail stones bounced around me. Needless to say, I grinned the whole way home!
Carping is no longer the other white meat. You don’t carp fish to prep for a bonefish trip…. you bonefish to prep for carping. If you are not ready for the coming carpocalypse you might want to go out and purchase a reel with a respectable drag, check your backing, put on a stripping guard, and go tell all the dudes you hang with at TU that you just followed Darth Vader to the dark side.
Heading out to Vegas for the iCast show so if any of you are going to be in Vegas look me up! A friend is launching a very cool new product so for any of you who do any significant wading and chase big fish, this is for you! Carp, Chrome, etc…..
I will be posting a full product review from Dale Fogg after his trip to the Colorado next week.
Finally got some time this weekend to put the video together from our Presque Isle trip last month. We got pelted with rain for three days straight so not nearly as much footage as I was hoping for. This trip was a clinic in having to earn your fish. After chucking a 9 weight with a sinking line into the wind for three days I thought I was going to need shoulder surgery. All well worth it in the end!
Enjoy, Tight Lines,
I just started my first ever boat rehab. I am super psyched and super clueless. I will keep you all posted on my progress as it develops. This is a 12′ bombed out skiff that will eventually be re-glassed, have fore and aft casting decks, and a nice Yeti in the middle that will double as a poling platform as needed. I am shooting for a spring launch as CW and I have a pending date with the carp flats of GT Bay!
Wish me luck! I’m going to need it. If anyone is interested in selling a 9.9 HP short shaft tiller in good working order, let me know!
CW could have easily taken the shot himself but he was cleaning my clock as he was about 8 fish in and I was riding the skunk. Not sure if it was out of pity or consideration but I had no problem taking either at that moment…. I threw my brown wooly bugger upstream from the swirl, gave a quick mend and as my fly drifted into the slot I gave a quick strip and it stopped dead. It wasn’t until my 7 weight was completely doubled over did either of us realize what a big favor it was. The strong fish dug deep and bulldogged me longer than I would have expected and by the time it surfaced we were both pretty stoked.
By say Lake Erie standards, not a huge fish, but considering the small creek we were fishing it was definitely a fish to remember. Lately I have been obsessing greatly over purchasing a boat. (that hasn’t changed) There is something to be said though for walking a few miles of stream with a good buddy. The leisurely conversation, the periodic joke at either’s expense, the slowly changing scenery, the ability to slowly analyze currents… structure…. subtle depth changes. All are things to be enjoyed while walking a creek. So is getting caught a mile from your car in a torrential downpour which is exactly what happened leaving two guys soaked to the bone and laughing as we made our way back.
As luck would have it, we managed to catch a bunch of fish long before the rains began.
Life lately has done plenty of ”getting in the way” of a good day of fishing so my appreciation for getting out is at higher than normal levels. I hope you all manage to enjoy your holiday weekend and are able to carve out some time to walk a stream with a good friend.
Good Luck and Tight Lines!
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