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,
So the last couple weeks were a bit crazy. My father was taken in for an unexpected triple bypass surgery. There was no massive heart attack, no stroke, no drama. Just the worry of watching your father face the fact that at 70 plus, certain parts need some repair work. I am not a tremendous sky is falling worry kind of person by nature but I’d be a liar if the thoughts of my father laying there with his chest cut open as they used veins harvested from his leg to fix his heart didn’t scare me.
My brother and I both made arrangements to go down and stay with him for a few days to help out. My dad called me a few days before my departure and tells me that he has arranged for his friend Barry to take me out Bass fishing for a few hours on Sunday morning. At first I argued a bit but he was firm about having already arranged the plans. Perhaps I could have argued harder but I could tell it made him as happy as it made me to be on the water.
I am sure it bothered him not to be able to be there…. truthfully it bothered me. Fishing was the glue that held my father and I together through many years where we didn’t see eye to eye on much else. As Barry and I walked the shoreline of multiple Boca Raton water hazards my mind wandered through many of the fishing adventures that my father and I had been on through the years. Hail storms in the middle of Raystown Lake…. Busting bronze and pike in the Georgian Bay….. Watching my bobber disappear as my dad helped me get the tiny hook out of the 100th bluegill we caught on Lake Arthur.
My trip down amnesia lane was rudely interrupted as my black wooly bugger came tight and the dance was on. It was far from the largest bass we have ever pulled out of these waters but it put a smile on my face. I am not much of a religious guy but I found myself giving a nod to the fish gods for the gift and a nod to the man upstairs for the gift of time with my dad.
Dad, get well… get strong…. and keep fishing. You wouldn’t want your kid to show you up with a fly rod next time I am in Florida.
Tight Lines and Loose Pants,
CW and I just got back from our annual trip to Presque Isle Bay on Lake Erie. To say the trip was anything short of epic was an understatement. Despite cold water temps and a crowded lake, we managed to carve out a bunch of sweet fish, cool takes, and even scratched a few things off the bucket list! I will do a full write up on the weekend shortly but here is a video with some of the highlights.
Tight Lines and Loose Pants,
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,
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
Damn…. I can’t believe how long it as been since I posted. I am truly sorry but life has had a funny way of getting in the way of my fun lately. So where were we? I have quite a few things on my mind today so this will be a bit of mish mash all thrown together… consider it like fly fishing chili… a little of this, a little of that in one tasty bowl.
So I have managed to hit the creek a few times but sadly the conditions have just been down right crappy for sight fishing so carping was pretty much out. On the other hand, the smallie fishing has been somewhere in between steady and prolific. A few weeks back CW brought about 20 to hand in a couple hours with some very nice sized chunkers by creek standards. One of the things I love about our local creek is that is is such a pot luck fishery. We were swinging and stripping streamers and mostly expecting the smallmouth bite to be on. CW had an early morning walleye surprise.
Not to be outdone, I ended up with a drum that just about ripped the rod out of my unprepared hands as I was swinging a streamer through a shallow run.
So other than a few trips down our local creek, life has been crazy but good! I started a new job that entails some travel again and I have managed to make the most of my evenings on the road.
A few weeks ago I was in Michigan and managed to fish both the Grand and the Muskegon. I had the pleasure of spending an evening on the Muskegon courtesy of the good folks over at Mystic Fly Rods. (more on that later) Fish were rising and we had a bunch of fun fishing dries to rising browns and bows. Sadly it was too early for the salmon to be in yet but that didn’t stop me from giving it a good college try.
The next evening, I fished the Grand River around Grand Rapids for kings and summer run steelies. Unfortunately for me I was early but some ever cooperative smallies made what would have been a fishless day slightly better. As I was fishing the riffles in town my swung fly came to a dead stop and we were hooked up. As I was attempting to clear my line, my slack got looped around my reel handle and before I could say fudge monkey it was over. All I was left with was this cruel reminder to never fish for kings with a streamer tied on a light gauge bass hook. (note to self made)
So back to Mystic Fly Rods. So most of you who know me are painfully aware that I have made sure that this blog does not turn into an advertising forum for the highest bidder. I have not monetized the blog and I do not intend to. I don’t work for any fly fishing companies and have no financial commitments that obligate me to say anything about anyone.
Having said that, if you are looking for an extremely well made fly rod, that casts beautifully, and won’t cost you a mortgage payment, you MUST check out Mystic. They are an American designed and made product that is not your typical value slot rod company. The M series is a sweet stick with a fast or med-fast action depending on the model. I have thrown their 5 wt for trout and their 8 wt for chrome and both feel fantastic in the hand.
One of the more interesting things about the rod is the length. They come in 9’3″ and 10″3″ in the rods I used and I don’t know if it was the taper or the extra 3″ but I loved them both. This of course beckons the age old question as to whether size matters and does an extra 3″ actually make a difference. I was not in a good position to answer so I did what any good journalist would do and called in an “expert”. So I called…. No, not Lefty Kreh…. Not one of the Rajeff brothers… Nope, I called my wife (who by the way has never picked up a fly rod in her life) and she assured me with her best spousal grin that a rod can be too long or too short depending on the water you are fishing but in most cases an extra 3″ can make all the difference. In any case, you can check them out at www.mysticoutdoors.com.
Hopefully it will not be this long before my next post as I am heading out this Saturday with the good folks from www.internationalanglers.com to learn how to spey cast! It has always bothered me that I had not learned so this is my golden opportunity to change that. In the mean time….
Good Luck, Tight Lines, and don’t worry about those extra 3″!
Last week was a banner day on my home creek. I guess all the stars must have aligned correctly because I was one fish away from a sweep… What is a sweep you ask? A sweep is much like a grand slam on steroids. The creek I am talking about has the following species on a pretty reliable basis:
- Channel Cat
If you wanted to stretch the species list there is the odd largemouth, wayward trout, and a variety of suckers and not to be forgotten the rumor of musky although I have yet to see one.
I’m not sure what got into the water (other than untreated sewage) but everything was eating this day! Carp? Check… brought six of them to hand which was a personal one day record for me.
None of them were giants but this nine pounder gave a very solid accounting of itself and even smiled for the camera.
The bonus of the day was my very first ever leather carp which for some reason we just don’t see very many of around my local waters. Stop snickering John Montana…. I know… it looks like a carp only smaller! Now being that I don’t see these very often, I am assuming it is a leather by it’s scale pattern. If I am mistaken and this is a mirror (which we also don’t see many of) please correct me!
So as the carping slowed a bit, I switched gears and hooked a few smallies as I worked my way upstream.
I was pitching a rabbit strip against a retaining wall when my line came tight and much to my surprise was my first Sauger of the year in only about two feet of water. I must admit, as much as I love their markings, they tend to put up about the same fight as Paula Jones gave Tonya Harding in their celebrity boxing match. Pffft.
After a bit of a lull in the action I came on a deeper pool and the sight fishing was off so I started swinging a fly through this pool hoping for a few more bass when once again much to my surprise a drum chased down my fly and put a smile on my face.
A few minutes later as I was trying to untangle my fly line from my waders, I felt a tug on my line and thank you very much for playing….. I think the fly was almost as big as he was but that sure didn’t stop him from impaling himself on the hook.
So for those of you who are keeping score at home, this left me one catfish short of the sweep. A slightly more desperate man would have rubbed his fly in chicken liver and had a go but not this man. I just marched my ass home feeling greedy for even being disappointed. The fish gods smiled on my this day but made sure I went home just humble enough to come back to try again. Despite dodging diapers, water heaters, and various other forms of human waste, I consider myself a very lucky man to have a fishery 5 minutes from my house that can produce this in a day…. by the way…. saw one other fisherman all day. Big smiles 🙂
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:
- largemouth bass
- smallmouth bass
- 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?
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…..