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Presque Isle Mixed Bag Pilgrimage – Part 3

Well if Saturday belonged to CW, Sunday belonged to me. We only had a half day to fish today so we left the boats racked up on the fishmobile and hoofed it. Our first stop was an area that we knew to hold some large pike and musky as well as a healthy carp population. The aforementioned were not very cooperative but the carp most definitely were. My first hook up took off screaming across the cove and took me into my backing twice before I brought her to the beach. She was not quite the 20lb slob that CW landed yesterday, but she was my largest to date and a healthy double digit fish (did not have the scale with me… sorry)

Hook up number two turned out to be quite the epic. Once again… two trips into the backing…. then the fish ran right at me…. then back again. For a rather pedestrian sized carp she had some serious shoulders on her. CW had positioned himself in the water and was trying to get some good footage of the battle …

About a nanosecond after this picture was taken, I hear a very loud “SNAP” and the tension in my hands disappeared as I found myself holding 1/4 of a fly rod. It had literally snapped clean at the ferrule between the butt and second section. I dove to the ground picking up the remaining portion of the fly rod and began stripping in line… She was still on!!!! I managed to beach the stubborn fish and sat there on my knees in disbelief. Despite being down one rather expensive fly rod, this ranked up there as one of the coolest fly fishing moments ever for me.

I made my way back up to the fishmobile to grab my second rod (Yes… Mrs. Brownliner…. this is why I needed all of those fly rods!) but by the time I got back the bite was off. I did manage to throw to a few true 30 plus lb fish but they would not eat. I would love to tell you I was a bit disappointed but that just sounds flat out greedy. So CW and I headed back over to the other side of the bay for one last attempt at a bowfin and some more bassing.

I only managed to find one bowfin and it had no interest whatsoever in my fly. After migrating back to some flats we finished out the trip pitching clousers for bass and the fish gods smiled on me once again. I went through a stretch where every other cast was attached to a football shaped bronzeback.

In 2 days, we caught:

  • carp
  • bluegill
  • crappie
  • largemouth bass
  • smallmouth bass
  • bowfin
  • carp
  • gar
  • drum
  • rock bass
  • yellow perch

It was truly the perfect end to an amazing trip. The truth is that we could have been skunked and still had a great time on the water laughing like two teenagers. CW’s main squeeze (“The Meghanator”) made sure to tell him to enjoy his “bromance” before he left for the weekend. Don’t worry hon…. after smelling his waders in the car I kept my distance. 🙂

All in all, great fishing, great time, great friends. What could be better?

Tight Lines,



Presque Isle Mixed Bag Pilgrimage – Part 2

So we awoke early on Saturday to the kind of day that most fly fishers dread. Post front, high winds, and water that more resembled a cup of Starbuck’s finest than anything else. Like most of you, we did not have the luxury of fishing when it is perfect but rather fishing when we can and today was one of those days so we had to get creative. To be honest, I love days like these. Anyone can produce fish when all of the conditions align. But how good are you when they don’t?

We found sheltered areas behind reeds. We found shorelines sheltered by tall trees. We fished slower and more deliberately knowing that visibility was flat out poor. Some days fish are gifted to you and some days you earn them. Today we earned each and every fish. I drew first blood with a pair of solid LMB on clousers just off of a weed bed. The takes were vicious and surprising considering the conditions.

I was so relieved that we got the doughnuts off the board early that I had to offer up the obligatory kiss. Despite my bassing success, the day truly belonged to CW. We both had a few goals for the trip that included Pike, Bowfin, and jumbo Carp. CW nearly had the grand slam. As he was anchored up next to a channel, he heard a fish crashing bait in the reeds. CW tossed a black backstabber in front of the fish, gave it a twitch and a few minutes later he landed his first ever Bowfin on the fly! Check out the beautiful green belly on this fish….

So after landing 4lbs of angry Bowfin, CW switched over to an olive over white Clouser and was hoping for some bass action. Out of nowhere a rather large carp (20lbs to be exact) cruised in front of him. Half messing around, he threw the size 2 Clouser in front of the carp which promptly ate the fly and headed off to Mexico as I watched CW’s backing start to streak across the bay. The sound and sight was nothing short of beautiful. I have never seen a fish kick the crap out of a fly fisherman quite like this but it was a site to behold. By the time she was landed, CW’s gear was scattered, he almost fell out of the boat, and he completely bent the handle on his net….. and it was all totally worth every damn minute!

The only thing missing was the Pike which CW had on and lost at the side of the boat as it chewed through his tippet before he could bring it to hand. It was not to be….. So as mid-day set in the fishing shut down so we did exactly what two self respecting brown liners would do…. we went fishing for Gar! We drifted back into the stagnant swam in the back of the bay and found a bunch of juvenile gar feeding. CW had tied up some gar flies from the same rope as our anchor lines. I had never thrown a fly without a hook before so this was a first. No shit…. it worked! We both landed multiple fish and had a blast as we waited out the mid-day lull with some cooperative fish with teeth a plenty.

As evening fell, we awaited that magical hour of top water mayhem that we had become accustomed. I had a brief flurry of action with 3 willing contestants, but things were pretty shut down. Despite our best efforts, the conditions seemed to have gotten the better of us for the night.

All and all, I could not have been any more pleased with how we fished today and what we were able to produce under some pretty adverse conditions. Mad props to CW on his largest carp to date and one more fish scratched off the species list. One more day…..

Tight Lines,



Presque Isle Mixed Bag Pilgrimage – Part 1

The anticipation had been mounting for months. Locations, strategies, gear, flies, food…. There have been wars that were executed with less planning. I suppose this is what one does when ones fishing time is limited. Ok, that’s a lie. I could fish every damn day and I would still obsess over the details. I suppose you could chalk it up to a bad case of FCD. That would be Fishing Compulsive Disorder of course.

It started with a trip to Sam’s Club. Gatorade…. check! Granola Bars…. check! Water…. check! Salted Beef Products…. double check!!

I dropped my kids off at school on Friday and headed over to CW’s house for the trek to Erie and the maiden voyage of the FishCat Pontoons. Since my fly fishing life began we were wading anglers so this experience is a new one for both of us. After about an hour of preparation, we stood on the banks of the bay with everything ready when the voice of Mark from the shop crept into my head…. “I hope you are ready to get blown all over the bay the voice said”. Well needless to say, he was right. The particular model we were on has a fantastic casting platform and lean bar so you can stand up with stability and sight fish with ease. They also completely screw up any sense of an oar stroke. I have to say, whoever designed this thing was a complete moron for not creating a lean bar system that could fold down when you needed to put your back into an oar stroke. As most of you know, I rarely do “gear reviews” but I have some very strong opinions both good and bad on this topic!

Despite rowing more than I was fishing for the first hour things began to turn our way as the sun began to drop. The first Erie smallie of the trip fell victim to an olive over white Clouser which turned out to be the blue ribbon fly of the weekend. I was drifting a flat in about 10 feet of water and my size 2 Clouser just came to a halt at the end of a strip. That familiar head shake put a smile across my face and it was game on!

One of the more pleasant surprises was finding my way over top of a school of crappie as they took a liking to my clouser over and over again until they got tired of our game of tug of war.

We eventually made our way back to the Fishmobile and re-tooled for the eventing as we moved into our favorite evening spot for some popper action on foot. There is something about that magical hour that gets burned indelibly into my mind. The fading light, the smell, the calmness of the water. I started out with a white pencil popper and as it got darker and darker I switched to a black cup faced popper that made plenty of noise on the glassy surface. After about a dozen stout largemouth found their way to hand we made our way back to the fishmobile by way of headlamp.

The day ended as auspiciously as it began. The heavens opened up and it rained buckets. The thunder and lightning show that appeared outside of our motel was nothing short of epic as we drifted off to sleep with tired arms and wonder of what the next day would bring.

More to Come.

Tight Lines,



The Take

The withdraw symptoms were just too much to bear. I was sweating…. the shakes in my casting hand were visible…. I sat in the corner of the living room on the floor rocking back and forth mumbling something under my breath over and over again… REDRUM… REDRUM…. REDRUM…..

Mrs Brownliner for fear of her own life sent me out this morning to go fishing. Just for the record I had been watching a show on WFN on RED DRUM so none of you need worry as MURDER was not quite on the menu just yet. As luck would have it, Drum was on the menu! Not red, but drum none the less.

With about two hours on the water I did not have much time to work with. The water conditions were low but the clarity was not quite there so sight fishing was a bit of a task. I migrated to a few spots I know where I could present from an elevated position which made life a bit easier.

The lone fish I brought to hand was nowhere near the largest drum I have taken from these waters but the take was wicked cool. I was standing on a shale wall about 10 feet above the water. I could see the fish slowly working his way upstream in the slack water just off a current seam. I waited…. waited….. and threw a soft loop out into the current and let it swing back in. Just as he was in range, my fly settled to the bottom about 4 feet upstream. I twitched… he twitched…. he saw it…. his caution was up. One more twitch? No… patient… patient… wait… he veers slightly left and he is on it. Slowly, deliberately…. I can’t see the fly but I see his head nod ever so slightly down a small gill flare… patience…. Hook set! He comes tight and takes off for deeper water.

Both of our mouths are sore at this point. His from the size 6 hook stuck in the corner of his jaw and mine from the huge grin I have pasted on my face from watching this oh so cool take from a spooky fish.

So big thanks to Mrs. Brownliner for springing me this morning and mad props to the drum who reminded me how amazing sight fishing can be!

Tight Lines




Which as we all know is Latin for “the ten cent carp”. What can I say, I woke up with carp on the brain. I have a feeling it was the 30 lb monster that John Montana posted on his outstanding blog this week. Which beckons the age old question…… DOES SIZE MATTER?

So I went to the best source I can think of…. Mrs Brownliner. Well yes and no was the answer. If the fish is so small that you can’t feel it on the end of the line then yes… otherwise NO! I would tend to agree. Some of the coolest takes that I have had have been from some rather pedestrian sized fish. I know many of my salt water brethren that would much rather chase 15 lb tarpon in the mangroves than spend an hour plus playing tug of war with a triple digit monster.


So which excites us more… the take or the fight? If the size of the fish is what counts to you, is it length or girth? CW landed a 20″ trout on the Yough and it was one of the skinniest pencil thin trout I have ever seen. Is that a better fish than a 16″ brown shaped like a football? Can a fish be so thick that is loses its “athleticism”?


When it comes to carp fishing, challenge for me is primarily in stalking the fish and getting them to eat. Running a close second is the fight because as any avid brown liner can attest to they will often test you in ways that most other fish just can’t. But let’s all be honest. Given the chance to tangle with a 20 or 30 lb big lipped monster….. My heartbeat races just thinking about it. Hmmmmm…. maybe size does matter?

Until then, I will have to look at John’s pics with envy and hope for the opportunity to down the road. Who know’s…. maybe this weekend will hold some great surprises in store!


Tying Meat!

I am not normal…..

If you are Mrs. Brownliner you can attest to this with certainty. If you are the Carp Whisperer, you can echo that sentiment as well. In fact, if you have ever read this blog it was probably fairly apparent rather quickly.

Most fly fishers begin with trout. From there they branch out into the salt or other warm water predatory species. Some never branch out at all. As a life long bass and still water fisherman, streams and trout just didn’t speak to me for a very long time. I was used to big water, big hardware, and big boats. So it was logical that my greenhorn years as a fly fisherman were spent chasing bass and stripers in the salt. Double hauling a 1/0 Clouser into the wind made much more sense to me than a reach cast and three mends to float an elk hair caddis with no drag did.

I was living in the DC area at the time and chucking lead in Baltimore for schoolies was big fun. This was also when I began to tie flies. I took a class at the Orvis store in Tyson’s Corner, VA and I was hooked. The idea of creating was absolutely fascinating to me. I went out and bought (on VHS!) Lefty Kreh’s fly tying series as well and I began a journey that has been near and dear to my heart for the past 15 years.

I recently was going through some fly boxes as I was prepping for my annual trip to Presque Isle with CW and I found some flies that I had tied back when I had first began. I recall at the time being very proud of some of my ties and even more so when they yielded a take. Evolution is a funny thing…. My hackle turns were sloppy, my heads were not finished well… in general, they looked like they had been tied by a child. In many ways they had.

So as I sat down to the vise to tie for my trip, I couldn’t help but to notice the attention to detail that only comes with years and mistakes. It took me ages before I was comfortable tying flies for trout. I don’t think I even owned hooks smaller than a size 2!

So as I sat down and began to tie, my mind started to wander down amnesia lane. I had vivid memories of pulling specific patterns from the jaws of specific fish. I remember driving a chartreuse over white 1/0 Clouser Minnow into the back of my head while fishing some bridge pilings at night in Virginia Beach…. I think I still have a small lump from that one a decade later.

Tying meat is just different. Big hooks, big profiles, big dumbells, big popper heads, big weed guards, etc…. Hopefully yielding big fish! The truth is I have enough flies tied to last for years yet I still tie more. At times I wonder if it is a sickness or some kind of compulsion? I give flies to friends…. hell I give them to complete strangers as well. (good karma)

So just for the record….. this is the first fly I ever tied. I landed a massive 12″ grunt on it and promptly retired it to the top of my desk where it remains!

Where has your tying journey taken you? Fond memories? Crazy stories? Love to hear them if you care to share. And if you have never tied meat…. go for it! It will give you a good excuse to go buy that 8 or 9 weight rod you had your eye on.

Good Luck, Tight Lines, and Lots of Beef Jerkey,



Fly Fishing for Carp Seminar – Save The Date

With everyone’s busy schedules filling up fast I figured I would throw an open loop out for everyone to save the date. My good friends at International Angler in Pittsburgh have been kind enough to ask me back again this year for another fun filled couple of hours to talk about my favorite subject! No…. not wet T-shirt contests (although more people would probably show up for that talk) Once again we will delve into the fun in the mud world of fly fishing for carp!

I can’t promise to solve the mysteries of Atlantis, big foot, or the Lock Ness Montster. But I can promise to break down fly fishing for carp into some very simple recipes for success. More details to come!

When: Sunday, June 10th at 2:00PM

Where: International Angler – 5275 Steubenville Pike Pittsburgh, PA 15205


What Do You Believe In?

In the immortal words of Crash Davis….Well, I believe in the soul, the c*&$#, the p*@!*, the small of a woman’s back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days….

I couldn’t have said it better myself when it comes to life and baseball. But when it comes to fly fishing, what do you believe in? We all have those special flies that we just trust, that we know deep down in the cockles of our hearts that just plain work. Perhaps it’s traditional fly with a pedigree to match? Or is it a junk fly that you would never tell your friends at the trout club for fear of ridicule? Or better yet, is it a recipe of your own creation? What is it about our pursuit that you have as much conviction in as your own religion? Maybe fly fishing is your religion? What gear would you never ever do without? As I was sitting down at the vise prepping for my annual weekend trip with CW to Presque Isle Bay it got me thinking. What do I believe in?

Well I believe in the Clouser Minnow, the wooly bugger, the back stabber, the blood dot, the white zonker, that fly fishing shows should divulge how many days on the water it took them to piece together 20 minutes of crappy footage. I believe that Lefty Kreh partied with Elvis and taught him how to throw a perfect loop. I believe that inconsiderate anglers that can’t respect your space on the stream should have their line cut the next time they get too close. I believe in the eugene bend knot, barbless hooks, over sized guides, full wells grips, fingerless wool gloves, and giving flies to complete strangers to honor the fish gods. I believe in the perfect drift, the double haul, buying your crap from your local fly shop rather than online, consuming salted beef products prior to during and after every day on the water. And I believe in still holding out hope for a long week in a secluded cabin with my wife and April Vokey….

Good night and Tight Lines