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The Michigan Carp Slam – 3 Carp… 3 Ways!

For the past year, CW and I have been planning our first trip to Beaver Island Michigan with Guide, Kevin Morlock from Indigo Guide Services (insert shameless plug here).  We left Pittsburgh and traveled west to our first stop which was the Huron River in Ypsilanti for a quick stop in to see the good folks at Schultz Outfitters.  The berry hatch was starting, but the river was pretty well blown to hell so we decided after a few hours to make a push up to Traverse City.

We had planned to fish Grand Traverse Bay on our own for a few days prior to catching the Ferry to Beaver Island.  The scenery and the water was nothing short of spectacular, but the fishing was pretty much a bust.  Apparently a large contingency of bow hunters have really put a damper on the carp fishery there.  (people suck if you haven’t figured that out yet) In addition, The Blue Angels were screaming over the bay prepping for The Cherry Festival which basically put down every carp in the county.  Big shout out to the guys at The Northern Angler who gave us some great intel about the bay and put us on some very cool spots to chase fish.

After catching the early ferry over to Beaver Island, we were starting to feel the pressure since we had been riding a 3 plus day carp skunk….. Fear not…..

The Dap

Despite getting some good light, a bunch of uncooperative fish and some blown shots later, we were still “carpless”.  We decided to see if we could find some players in a back bay and with some stealthy stalking in place and a well timed eat, all hell broke loose.

carp on the fly

Boat Shot

After shaking the rust of day 1 off, day two was much more productive.  Put it on the dinner plate, solid eat, crazy run around a tree stump, and the boat shot was complete.

CW managed one as well minus the crazy tree stump dance!

The Berry

After a farewell to Beaver Island and Kevin, we hauled ass back to Ypsilanti in hopes of getting some better berry action and that we did!  The takes were insane and there is nothing more crazy than doing battle with a big fish in a swift river full of logs and obstructions!

If you’ve been at the carp game for any amount of time, you know that some days they make you look like a hero and others they make you look like a chump.  We had our equal share of both but there is nothing finer than spending a week on the road with a good friend chasing fish on a fly, eating good food, learning from an outstanding guide….  And yeah…. CARP SLAM! If we are being technical, the slam wasn’t completed in a single day so maybe it’s not a legit carp slam after all? ;). Something to chase for next time!

Tight Lines and Loose Pants,



Grip and Grin Sin

I admit it.  I am guilty.  No trial, no judge, no jury.  I am throwing myself upon the mercy of the world.  I still take the grip and grin!  I know….  it’s out of favor, played out, and tacky.  I might as well be wearing neoprene camo waders and be dragging a limit stringer of steelhead behind me.  If there is a 12 step program for this, I’m in!

Having said this, the fish gods have a way of laying the karma smackdown upon those that stray from the path of the righteous.  See exhibit A:

My Post.jpg

Yes…. I deserve to look as stupid as I do right here.

Tight Lines and Loose Pants,



Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Fly Fishing Guide

Yes, It’s true.  The guy that is hell bent on doing anything and everything possible on his own hires fly fishing guides!  The better question is why?  The even better question is, should you?  So what spawned this thought?

A few weeks ago, CW and I has a weekend planned at Nemacolin Woodlands with our significant others.  This was a make everyone happy weekend which consisted of spa services, wine, fine dining, drunken entry into animal enclosures, and yes…. FLY FISHING!


We had booked Mike Steiner the head guide at Nemacolin which is an Orvis endorsed resort.  The plan was to do a full day float on the Yough for trout but as our typical luck would have it, mother nature did not cooperate and the river was completely blown.  We ended up going to plan be and Mike guided us to a beautiful day on the Cassleman River in MD.  We stuck bunches of trout, had a ton of fun, and learned a ton of cool things.


So back to my original point.  I am a firm believer in DIY for a great many things and I love the challenge of exploration.  Having said that, here are a some outstanding reasons why you should consider hiring a guide!

10.  Notice the guide fly!  

Guides have to tie a bunch more than the average fly fisher.  Guide flies are typically simple, easy to tie, and very effective.  A guides living is dependent on helping below average fly fishers button up to fish so they are pretty darn good with versatile patterns that can be applied to multiple situations.


9.  Casting vs. Fishing

A quality guide is an expert at situational fishing and reading water.  They spend their day taking in information around them and processing it into directions.  Pay attention to what your guide is looking for!  If it’s not obvious… Ask!  Next time you are approach ing the water, STOP and be a guide for 5 minutes.  Put your rod down and pay attention to what you see before your fly is even wet.  Yes, you will catch more fish.

8.   Knot Tying

Watching most guides work with knots is amazing.  They typically lean towards a single knot for each situation and they tie them very fast and very well.  This is an area where most of us can improve.  Nothing worse than losing a fish of a trip or even a lifetime because of a poor knot.

7.   Fish Spotting

Your guide will almost always spot fish before you do.  Part of this is that the already know where to look.  The other is a well trained eye and sharp focus.  See that push, flash, refusal, take, etc…..  Most guides are happy to put on a clinic if you ask!

6.  New Techniques

Always wanted to learn to Euro-Nymph?  Spey cast?  Streamer fish?  Interview a qualified guide and turn a guided day on the water into a clinic and walk away with a new set of skills that you can leverage for a lifetime.

5.  Depth Before Location

One mindset that I learned early in my day with Mike Steiner was that he was confident in his knowledge of where fish were and he would change depth prior to changing locations.  Sometimes adding a heavier fly, raising an indicator, or changing a dropper length is all it takes to put you into fish.

4.  Great Stories

Nobody, and I mean nobody has better stories than fly fishing guides.  They spend more time on the water and see more crazy stuff than you can imagine and a good guide can have you laughing all day if you ask the right questions.

3.  Casting Tips

Very few of us don’t have bad casting habits.  If you tell your guide that you’d like some instruction throughout the day, it is amazing some of the little things they can help you to improve.  Tailing loops?  Poor mending?  Running line management?  Shooting line?

2.  Learn a New Piece of Water…. FASTER!

I love exploring but not as much as I love sticking fish.  If there is a piece of water that you have been dying to unlock but don’t know where to start, a guide can dramatically shorten your learning curve.  They might not take you to all of their own personal secret spots but they can take months or years off of your path to having a good working knowledge of the waters they work on every day.


1.  FISH

There are no guarantees, but your chances of getting into some good fish on a guide day are typically better than on your own.  Even on tough days, a good guide has plenty of tricks up their sleeve to make sure you have some success…. Remember, they want a return booking so putting you on fish is how they feed their family.

If you’ve never fished with a guide, I highly recommend it.  It is truly an investment in your fly fishing skill set and a day you will likely remember.  I also highly recommend interviewing a guide on the phone before hiring them.  If they aren’t willing to spend 20 minutes on the phone to see if you are a good fit for one another, don’t hire them!  If you are a novice and want a good teacher, make sure your guide is patient and likes to teach!

Btw, if you are heading up to Nemacolin or the Laurel Highlands in general, you can get in touch with Mike here.

Tight Lines and Loose Pants,



The Swing is the Thing

Today was a day of strange occurances.  For starters, I took a day off of work to go fishing…..  As my typical luck would have it we have been pelted by rain pretty much non-stop for a week.   Then today the weather in Erie took a turn for even colder temps and we got snow.  Yes folks, snow in April…. I’m over it too.

The creek was chocolate milk.  High, fast, cold, chocolate milk to be exact.  Now one might say that it’s hard to describe a 28 degree day in April on a blown out creek as beautiful, yet that’s exactly what it was.


CW and I walked a few miles of creek, made several not so safe crossings, and saw exactly ZERO people.  For anyone who frequents the Erie tribs during steelhead season you know that rare is the day that you have a section of creek to yourself let alone the entire body of water.

Elk Creek is not known for it’s swinging opportunities in part to the makeup of the water but mostly to never really having much room.  With switch rod in hand and smile on face I figured that this was as good a day as any to see if I could swing up a fish or two.  I found a run that at lower waters wouldn’t have enough flow but today was perfect!

Snap T, swing, dangle, step down, repeat……..  Mid way through the run my fly approached the end of the swing and all of a sudden came tight.  Head shake, head shake, game on!


While far from the largest steelhead I’ve ever buttoned up or even the prettiest, this was the first fish I have ever stuck on the swing on an PA trib so beautiful it was.  CW managed a small hen as well and we both walked away feeling good and celebrating another day on the water.

I know I say it often, but I’ll say it again.  Sometimes the most imperfect days are just…. perfect.

Tight Lines and Loose Pants,



Changing the Game

Some things happen quickly, others are long overdue.  When I moved into my new home a few years ago, I spent most of my time attempting to make sure I settled two little ones and two teenagers into their new digs.  I suppose it’s logical, but the first casualty of our new surroundings was my “man cave”.  Subsequently, my fly tying station and surrounding stuff got stuffed into a not so appealing corner.  (Innver voice sternly stating, “Nobody puts baby in a corner!”)

With the promise of thawing rivers and hungry fish I managed to get my mojo back and carve out some me space and me time.   Being a serial saver of things (translation: borderline hoarder) I began going through my fly boxes and I just shook my head.  I literally had patterns in boxes that I tied 15 years ago and had yet to see the water.  Some of them I didn’t even like when I tied them let alone now.

The purge was on!  I honestly think I put an entire chicken and half a deer into a garbage bag.   Before you say it, these were Frankenstien creations that were not even worthy of donation.  With all of this new found space I sat down to tie with vigor and passion.  Being that this was a bit of a “Game Changer”, my inner voice with a loud whisper said, “hey!  Why don’t you tie some Game Changers!”


If you have never tied one, they are not a difficult pattern, but they are time consuming so be prepared to invest some time.  I opted for a slightly shortened version of the feather game changer and am super stoked to get it on the water.  With smallie season getting into full swing soon it just felt right.

So what’s the point?  (not that I ever actually have one).  This is the perfect time of year to CHANGE YOUR GAME!  Shake it up, purge your fly box clutter, learn some new patterns, and get plan some amazing trips.  It’s been a long winter for most of us and I for one can’t wait to get out.

See you on the water!

Tight Lines and Loose Pants,



Gear Prep Obsession

I know that there are a ton of fishy folk out there that love our pursuit.  I see you out there trying to carve out your own piece of solitude on a river, or scheming how to get more time on your favorite lake or pond.

What I often wonder though, is are you all as obsessed as I am with the process of gear prepping?  Perhaps it’s a bad case of OCD on my part, but if that’s the case I will own it with pride because I LOVE gear prepping.


I started to run down a list of the things I do prior to a day on the water and I suppose it’s pretty funny.

  • Fly box selection and arrangement
  • Check all flies for barb and rust (sharpen as needed)
  • Primary rod rigging
  • Secondary rod selection
  • Replace tippet from last trip
  • Check tippet spools for any that are running low
  • Pack water, snacks, toilet paper, etc… in the sling bag


  • Make sure I have stripping guards, sunscreen, bug repellent, hat, glasses, etc…..
  • Wax rod ferrules
  • Pack appropriate net (which often never leaves the car…. love-hate relationship with nets)
  • Check headlamp batteries
  • Make sure I have spare polarized glasses in the car for multiple light conditions


  • Convenience store stop for teriyaki flavored beef jerky, cheddar cheese combos, and a Mt. Dew as this combo is the appropriate homage to the fish Gods in order to increase the chances of a good day.  If it is the second Saturday and just after a full moon a bag of powdered donuts is added to for potency.
  • AM playlist cued up and ready on my iPhone to get in the right headspace for my drive.  Often consists of Zac Brown Band and other feel-good tunes……  If the day turns out to be frustrating the drive home tends to be more like Social Distortion.
  • Lay out clothing based on the weather report and placed either in the bedroom or living room so after waking Beth up with my 4:30AM alarm clock she can hopefully fall back to sleep without me fumbling around the room like a newborn giraffe.
  • Pack bag with backup clothing for either a change in weather or the likely chance that I fell in the water.
  • Remember to wear my lucky underwear


  • Check flow gauges
  • Call Carp Whisperer and geek out for a bit because it makes me feel normal hearing   that he is as stoked as I am
  • Double check bag for hand warmers


I could keep going but some of you might start to doubt my already doubtful sanity.  I’d love to know, what are some of the ways you all prep?

Enough prepping!  Let’s get out there and chase some fish!

Tight Lines and Loose Pants,



When the Going Gets Tough……

I have long envied fly fishers who have the luxury of flexibility….. meaning they can leave at the drop of a hat to fish when conditions are prime.  They often have the best probability of epic days that become stories of legend.  Insert guide speak……. “you should have been here last week”.   Most of us, me included, were not born under such a lucky star.  I have a real job, real bills, and four very real kids that require me to be a very real dad.

Once a year CW and I head up to Presque Isle Bay for a weekend of warm water fun.  The beauty of the fishery is that it has such versatility that regardless of what is going on there are always fish to be had if you are willing to be flexible.  It is not uncommon to have caught over 10 species of fish in a weekend of fly fishing…. No joke.  We have had to work around early spawn schedules, late spawn schedules, shad kills, rain, wind, oppressive heat, back problems, leaky waders, marital issues, even gastro-intestinal issues…. All to chase fish.

This past weekend I think we finally hit the one variable that we had never had to deal with.  Upon arriving at the bay it blew our mind to see the water levels to be over 5′ higher than normal.  There was literally water creeping up into parking areas.  Now if you are a fly fisher in a boat, no biggie.  If you are a wading angler this is a major issue.  Roughly 75% of the places we would ordinarily wade to get to fish were now off limits.  Throw in a nasty algae bloom, some storm fronts, and a cottonwood fluff hatch that looked like a snow storm and it made for some crazy conditions.


I have long stood by the philosophy that what separates really good fly fishers from others is the ability to problem solve and persevere through less than ideal situations.  I wish I could tell you that we overcame and kicked ass… Or that we caught that one fish of a lifetime and made it all worthwhile…. We didn’t.  What we did do was got wet as water slipped over the tops of our waders, cast our arms off for 3 days, laughed at each other, drank beer, and oh yeah…. managed to scare up a few fish.

The largemouth were gone.  The carp were nowhere to be seen (see tear rolling down my cheek).  We didn’t even see more than a gar or two which is highly unusual.

Far from the bonanza that we had imagined in our heads.  No worries.  Sign me up…. I’m ready to do it all over again!  See you on the water.

Tight Lines and Loose Morals,



Great Balls of Fire!

Yes folks.  It appears the rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.  Still alive, kicking and causing trouble every chance I get.  Anyone that knows me can attest to the fact that despite attempting to be a well rounded fly fisher, more often than not I am stomping around in warm water haunts.  I will be the first to admit that my trout kung fu is not as strong as many but better than…. well, not sure if it’s better than anyone but no matter.  The point is that this weekend I got an invite from my buddy Tim to head out to central PA to chase some trout so I accepted the invitation eagerly.

We fished the catch and release trophy trout section of this particular river, the weather was perfect. The sulphurs and green drakes were going off,  so we had hopes for some prolific action.  We fished the lower section of river all the way to the mouth.  My high sticking shoulder was numb and I thought it looked like a good place to huck a few streamers and maybe scare up a smallmouth or two.  Tim and Scott were a ways upstream so I had some time to kill.

I tied on my go to sculpin pattern…. false casted a few…. and shot some line out into the current and let it swing back around.  Once the sculpin crossed the eddy I began to strip it in with long deliberate strips.

I looked behind my fly and a ball of orange rolled up.  Wham!  fly hits a brick wall…. Did I just snag a carp?  Head shake… head shake… head shake…. Nope, not a snag.  Did a carp just wallop my streamer?  I was beyond excited as my brown lining roots tingled.  After a day of 14″ trout the idea of a heavy weight scrap on my hands was exactly what I was hoping for.

The fish took some line.  I gained some ground.  After a few minutes of a good back and forth tussle, the fish started to tire.  As it came out of the depths I just about fell over.  this was no carp.  Not only did I just stick my first golden but it was an absolute toad!  As I landed the fish, I could feel my hands shaking with adrenalin.  This was the biggest trout I had ever caught.  I looked around and I was alone on the river with this beautiful fish.   Yes… yes… yes…. I know the “hero shot” is over done.  Keep em wet.. I get it but I had to get a picture of this fish.

Now is where amateur hour ensues.  The fish is now in the shallows with me tailing it as my other hand attempts to unzip my jacket, dig through my wader pocket, unleash my iphone, and hopefully take some kind of picture that does this beauty justice….  Epic Fail.

I have no exact measurements, no weight estimates, no grip and grin.  To be honest, I really don’t even care.  Every once in a while if you put in your time, the fish gods smile on you and reward you with an experience.  For that I am eternally thankful.


Fly Fishing DIY Addicted #glassisnotdead

So I am not sure what has got into me lately but over the past year I seem to be obsessed with building rather than buying.  Perhaps I am getting in touch with my inner frontiersman?  Whether it is my home renovations or my fly fishing I cannot get this vintage, repurposing, build it yourself mentality out of my mind.

If you have been following me at all, you know I am building a skiff which will launch in March.  (yes, that is a hard launch date!)  I think that was my leaping off point.  Yes, go big or go home!  A few weeks ago I decided to build my first fly rod and I am totally pumped about it.  My wraps are not quite perfect and I definitely made a few mistakes for my first build but overall it came out pretty darn sweet!  The blank is a Blue Halo glass blank, 8′ 5 wt 3 piece.  I outfitted it with a half wells grip and Ti plated guides and aluminum reel seat.  It looks like CW and I are heading out on Jan 2nd to do some damage so I will let you all know how she fishes next week.  Big thanks needs to go out to Cameron Mortenson at TFM since almost every resource I pulled for the build came from his blog.  And before anyone bothers to point it out, yes I know I overlapped a few wraps and yes I know I have a bubble or two in my epoxy….

IMG_2935 IMG_2934 IMG_2933 IMG_2932

For any of you that were wondering about dipping your toe into rod building, the basics are not all that complex.  It does take a fair amount of patience and a willingness to do a bit of learning but if you can tie flies you can build rods.  No disrespect to Zeb Tonkavich, Shane Gray, or any of the other folks that are true artists when it comes to building rods intended.  That is a whole other level of build and finish.  I was just thrilled that nothing has fallen off (yet) and it doesn’t look like a 3rd grader put it together!  Hopefully I will take a few more risks with my second build and we can see how we do.

My other holiday endeavor was to start building my own dubbing brushes.  I thought about building my own station but when I added up the cost and the time, the good folks at Twister System already had this thing wired… get it?  wired!  So I picked up one for me and sent one over to CW for his Birthday.  I quickly spun up a few squirrel tail brushes and pumped out my favorite sculpin pattern.  Yes, I know I need to tie up a bunch of midges for Friday but I couldn’t help myself.  Something inside just had meat on the brain.



Yes, this is madness!  Where does it stop?  Do I start sewing my own clothes?  Forging my own tools?  Brewing my own beer?  Wait a moment.  OK, sanity is creeping back in.  Definitely not brewing my own beer.  There are some things that I just can’t compete with.


So what have we learned today?  Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and build something!  It is part of our primal nature.  For the stuff you aren’t going to build, Ditch the big box stores and support your local shops!  Otherwise you will be asking some clueless dude at Bass Pro the next time you need help.  I had someone reply to me the other day that they didn’t live near a local shop so that is why they shopped big box!  Sorry, I’m calling bullshit.  Almost every local shop that will survive the next 5 years has a pretty darn good web presence and good customer service over the phone to support it.  Many will even ship for free.  So buy local or at the very least, stop calling for free advice and then buying somewhere else.  That just makes you a douche.  Just sayin….

Anyhow enough preaching.  I hope you all had a fantastic 2014 and are looking forward to a very fishy 2015.

Tight Lines and Loose Pants,






There is “Fish Porn” and then there is FISH PORN…..

So after three different friends sent me this link I figured it was a sign that someone had to post it so it might as well be me.  Fair warning, this is NSFW!  That means NOT SAFE FOR WORK… or kids… or spouses…. or jealous carp.

I mean seriously, I love carp.  You know I do.  And I’m not afraid to admit I have watched a little porn in my day.  But can’t honestly say the thought ever crossed even my twisted mind to combine the two.  It takes a lot to render me basically speechless but yep… Just don’t know what to say.

And just for the record… NO, I didn’t buy it… yet.

Tight Lines and Not so Loose Pants,