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Posts from the ‘Musings’ Category

17
May

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:

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

Tight Lines and Loose Pants,

MBL

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17
May

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,

MBL

5
Apr

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.

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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!

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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,

MBL

4
Apr

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!”

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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,

MBL

10
Mar

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.

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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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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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,

MBL

30
Dec

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….

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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.

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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.

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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,

MBL

 

 

 

26
Nov

Yin… Yang… and Fly Fishing Kung Fu


IMG_2479 - Version 2I wrote this for the International Angler blog a few weeks back but I thought it resonated here as well.

I sat in my car…. wet, cold, shivering, smiling!  It had been raining on and off since last night.   The air was that cold heavy fall air that chills you all the way to your bones even though the temperature gauge would indicate otherwise.  I had been standing in a cold river since 6:30AM making countless drifts and even more mends.  My shoulder was sore but again I was smiling.

At one point I saw a group of guys behind me watching.  I turned around to ask the omnipresent question that one asks whenever a stranger happens upon you in a river holding a fly rod…  Do any good?  Nah…. they shook their heads….. telling me it was too blown out and they were heading home.  I gave them the obligatory wave and my internal smirk broadened.  You see, I knew something that they didn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, the day was far from prolific and they were right.  The creek was totally blown out.  It was like fishing in chocolate milk.  As soon as my fly hit the water it disappeared from sight.

Truth be told, I was struggling.  I was picking up leaves on every third cast.  There was so much debris in the water that it was almost impossible to get a decent drift.  My secret was not that I had already hooked up with five good fish and landed two.  (although I wasn’t about to broadcast that fact)  Nor did I know about some secret stretch of water immune from the onslaught of rain and silt.  I had no magic fly.

My secret (which I will share with you now) is the most valuable piece of advice that was ever bestowed upon me as a fly fisher.  There are very few certainties in this great pursuit of ours (other than your guide telling you that you should have been here last week).   But this is the Yin the Yang and the Kung Fu all wrapped up into one.  So here it is…..

REGARDLESS OF THE CONDITIONS, GO FLY FISHING! and fish till you can’t make another cast.  

Why?  Why on earth would I want to do such a thing Lee?  Because……. This is what will make you a better fly fisher.  Anyone can fish a day with no wind, not rain, no high water, no unbearable temperatures, no swarms of biting insects, etc….  But if you do, if you can…. You will begin a journey to a place that far too few get to go.  This is how you become a Jedi master.  This is how we learn, how we evolve.  Persevere and you will learn. The next time you encounter the same situation you will be rewarded with your experience.

We live in a society today that is largely built around a controlled environment.  We air condition, sanitize, sterilize, safety check, and then consult with a large firm of highly paid individuals to make sure our logic is sound.  Sometimes It’s OK to give it a go just to see what you can make out of a crappy situation.   Falling on your face builds character and character is far too uncommon on the river or anywhere else.

I absolutely loved today.  Although not quite as much, I would have loved today had I been skunked.  So next time you are staring out the window and the wind is howling or the rain is spitting, get in the car and go fly fishing instead of going back to bed.  I promise you that you will begin to surprise yourself and the things that you will learn will make you a better fly fisher every day thereafter.

I also wanted to wish everyone a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving and let all of you who follow and read this blog know how much I appreciate the support.

Tight Lines and Loose Pants,

MBL

7
Jul

Fishy Dude/Dudet?


I just wrote this blog post for International Angler and I thought some of you who might not follow their blog might enjoy it as well…..  Stay Fishy My Friends!

http://blog.internationalangler.com/if-you-you-just-might-be-a-fishy-dudedudet/

Tight Lines and Loose Pants,

MBL

10
Jun

Mortality, Dad, and Bass Fishing


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.

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Tight Lines and Loose Pants,

MBL

7
Apr

So You Want to Build a Skiff?


I have been told that I am just a hair on the crazy side on more than one occasion.  The tendency to take the path less traveled somehow seems to find me even when I am not actively searching for it.  So began this journey.   If you knew me as a kid, you would know that I grew up chucking plugs from an 18′ Lund V Hull that my fathers employees aptly named “The Master Baiter”.  (mom was so proud)  My father ended up selling the boat as I got older and have been a walk and wade fly fisher for over 20 years.  Deep down I have always missed having the boat and would often lament to my wife about the day that the kids grow up and I can buy my dream boat.

Long long long story short, I decided that that time was now.  No… the kids are not grown up.  No I don’t have the budget for the boat I had my eye on…. and I truly had no clue what I was going to do.  As luck would have it, my friend Dale Fogg is a pretty handy guy and makes beautiful hand crafted fly tying stations.  He turned me on to J and J Dream Boats (https://www.facebook.com/JJDreamBoatsImagineThat on FB) up in Union City, PA.  Jim and Joan are truly amazing folks and not only do they sell beautiful hand crafted drift boats, but they offer classes for the novice (like me) who would like to build their own.

Now, if you have read any of my previous posts you’d know that I had purchased a small hull with the notion of rehabbing it.  After some sense was talked into my head by Mark Sikora up at International Angler, I realized that the boat did not have enough displacement to carry the weight of what I wanted to do….  So at that fateful moment, a skiff was born!  I found a perfect set of plans for what I wanted to build on Bateau for a fair price but if you look hard enough, there are plenty of free plans available in books or on the web.

My journey started with a FaceBook message and then a phone conversation with Jim and Joan.  They were not only helpful and insightful, but they agreed to schedule a class to accommodate my crazy schedule.   In a full day, Jim walked me though each and every step with hands on experience and patient explanation.

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Not only did I walk away with knowledge, confidence, and excitement, but Jim fed me a lunch of some of the best deep fried blue gill fillets I have ever had!  According to Jim, Joan caught most of them and is deadly with light tackle.

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J and J have sold boats to all different kinds of folks, including some of the most well known guides in Pennsylvania.

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So building a 16′ boat is at times not a one man operation so I recruited my good buddy CW and my neighbor Rich to give me some much needed help.  (I pay in beer, but always really really good beer!)  So this week it began with the goal to have the boat in the water for our late May pilgrimage to Presque Isle Bay.

 

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Yes… I know, I know… It doesn’t look like a boat yet.  The early stages are a ton of prep and joining of boards.  Stay tuned for more to come as things take shape.  We are still searching for a fishy name so if any of you have some cool ideas, let us know!

Tight Lines and Loose Pants,

MBL