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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

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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

7
Jun

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,

MBL

12
Jun

Microskiff Build Progress


IMG_1586So building a boat is not as hard as it looks….. However, building a boat is more time consuming that it looks!  I thought for sure I could get her done 3 weeks ago.   Ummmmm… NO.  I still have a good two weeks of solid work to go and that is being optimistic.  I have also spent about twice what I originally thought I would.  Some of this can be chalked up to total rookie status mistakes.  Some of it is allowing myself to stray from my budget for things that I really wanted (maybe not needed) to have in the boat.  The rest of it is truly a story of how a bunch of little things can add up to a lot.

So, do you have any regrets you ask?  Heck No!  I could not be any more pumped about how she is turning out.  My only real regret is waiting this long to do this.  The really fantastic part of the experience that CW and I have shared so far is truly crafting her to be exactly what we wanted her to be and nothing that we didn’t.  That is hard to get from a stock boat off the lot.  The pride of craftsmanship is much the same as catching a fish on a fly you tied or designed but in a much larger scale.  If you have ever thought about building a canoe, jon boat, drift boat, skiff, etc…. The only thing I can tell you is GO DO IT!

I will keep you all posted as things move along.  We will be flipping her this week so things should start to look pretty different.

Tight Lines and Loose Pants,

MBL

9
Apr

Wheels!


So when I started this project I purchased an old Evinrude and a trailer from my neighbor that had been rotting away in their back yard.  The trailer is for a small boat or PWC and has wheels just about the size of the ones on my kids Matchbox car.  I stopped in at a local boat yard and they had a set of used 12″ wheels in decent condition for $40…… SOLD!  One can of white spray paint later and we have new wheels!

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As this build moves along it is amazing the lessons that you learn… some cheap, some expensive.  For example, last night I learned that you can’t let epoxy cure when the temperature in your garage drops down to freezing over night….  Looks like I have some sanding work to do.

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Tonight we will be finishing the hull pieces and hopefully be starting to stitch by the weekend!

MBL

5
Aug

Orvis Contest Help!


Hey fellow brown liners!  I made the finals for the Orvis best in show carp photo contest.  Please cast a vote my way so I don’t have to starve my four kids to get the H2!  I am the handsome fella with the fly rod in his mouth!  Thank you all for your help.  🙂

http://www.orvis.com/intro.aspx?subject=12923

 

14
Apr

One More Scratched Off the Species List!


The last few weeks in the mid-atlantic have been pretty darn cold but I did manage to hit the early part of the shad run.  Beautiful evening on the Rap but unfortunately not too many fish with willing mouths.  We did have lucky customer number one so I guess I can notch shad on my belt!  On the swing no less!

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Attempted some striper fishing as well but no luck to be had.  Hopefully the action will heat up as things warm up.

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MBL

11
Apr

GOT CARP?


Yep!

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Yes… I know, more of a “carpling” than a carp but after the long cold ass winter that still dumped snow in the month of April I was just happy to see the light of day.  Ordinarily I would have been disappointed by the fight which more closely resembled reeling in a wet dish rag but considering the circumstances, I was thrilled to see the take.  I had been busy at the vise over the past month and decided to give John Montana’s hybrid (trouser worm/soft hackle) a try.  I loved the way the fly looked and it’s profile as it sat on the bottom was outstanding.

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I gave one to CW to try out the other day and I was curious to see how he liked it.  As fly fishers, we can be such creatures of habit and sometimes deviating from tactics that work is a tough sell.  CW had been pitching eggs the next day to a pod of carp with no luck.  He dug through his fly box and pulled out the hybrid and decided to give it a shot…. FIRST CAST Hook up!

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Hopefully as things warm up we will see the big girls come into the shallows to play.  Thanks John and Trevor for putting together the peanut butter and the jelly into a great looking pattern!

Good Luck and Tight Lines,

MBL

15
Feb

Fly Tying for Carp and Smallies – Save the Date


Hey All,

Just a quick heads up.  I will be teaching a seminar at International Angler on fly tying for carp and smallmouth bass.  It will be on March 9th at 10:00AM.  There have been so many cool innovations in patterns over the last couple of years and I am excited to share some of what I have seen out there with all of you.

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It should be a couple hours of fun and learning.  Look forward to seeing you there!

Tight Lines,

MBL