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TFM Stickers and a Sweet Piece of Glass – Gray Wolf Products – Swift Epic 686 !

For those of you that have ever cruised in the “fishmobile” you know my love of fly fishing stickers.  What can I say, I love to fly the flag of brands and causes that I support and associate with.  So with being a recent glass man (Thank you Shane at Gray Wolf… more on that later!) I had to hit Cameron at The Fiberglass Manifesto up for some sweet TFM stickers.  Right now it is spitting freezing rain outside so they will have to wait another day or so before making their way to the vehicle.


No disrespect to Cameron’s sweet sticker swag but the truly big news is that I am now the proud owner of my first custom build glass rod courtesy of Shane Gray at Gray Wolf Rods.  So first a disclaimer.  I have received nothing free or even discounted from Gray Wolf or from Carl at Swift Fly Rods down in New Zealand.  I wanted to talk a bit about the build experience, the service supplied by both, and the excitement around how the rod turned out and the frustration of not being able to fish this beautiful stick yet!

Let me start with the blank selection first.  I wanted to build a glass rod primarily for carp and smallmouth.  I liked the idea of being able to load a rod in tight situations and make a smooth accurate presentation.  (something that can be a bit more challenging with todays faster rod blanks)  The rub was I also needed the rod to be able to throw a larger weighted fly than most trout situations mandated.  No disrespect to the larger rod manufacturers offerings but I needed something heavier than a 5 weight, longer than 8′, and with a bit more backbone.  After reading, and reading, and yes more reading, I came across a great review on the Swift Epic 686 that Cameron had done.  It even came complete with a picture of the rod with a sweet slab of bronze attached to it.

If there is a guy out there that knows his glass from his ass, that would be CM so who was I to reinvent the wheel.  I interviewed a couple of Rod Builders all of whom were great sources of information and I felt the best fit for me was Shane.  He listened well, gave good advice, and was incredibly responsive to emails as well as calls.  The truth of the matter is that custom rods are not for everyone.  They are not cheap by any stretch (nor should they be for the artistry that goes into them) and they don’t typically carry the same type of rod warranty that you get with factory rods.  The flip side is that you can get the exact rod you want… exactly how you want it…. from wraps, to reel seats, to stripping guides.  Your rod, your way!

Which leads me to Swift.  The Epic is categorized as “fast glass” which is not to be confused with “Helios 2” fast but is definitely more stout than many of the more traditional glass blanks on the market.  (see Swift’s site for more technical details)  I was a bit unsure of a line pairing so I hopped on their site and sent an email through their contact tool.  I was truly a bit surprised when the response I got was from the Director, Carl McNeil.  We had a great email exchange and he was extremely helpful in helping me choose a taper that matched my targeted species and casting style.

The only thing left is to take this beautiful rod on her maiden voyage.  If you are in the market for a custom build I can tell you with absolute sincerity that you won’t be disappointed with what ends up in your hands from Swift or from Gray Wolf.

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Tight Lines and Loose Pants,



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,



Never too Cold to Talk CARP!

So many of you might be in total trout, steelhead, or musky mode so leave it to CW and me to still be talking all things carp!  (OK, I was fishing for chrome yesterday too but don’t tell anyone)  We will be speaking at the Orvis Pittsburgh store on Saturday from 3:00pm – 5:00pm.  We will be talking carp behavior, tactics, gear, flies, etc…..  Look forward to seeing you all there.

Tight Lines and Loose Pants,




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!

Tight Lines and Loose Pants,



The Butt Muncher

Ok….. I suppose most flies are just variations of existing patterns.   Here is a pretty cool variation of John Montana’sHybrid” carp fly.   The differences are subtle to the point where I am not sure it deserves it’s own name but a cool tie never the less.

Tight Lines and Loose Pants,



Someone Put a Hex on my Skiff!

OK… with all of the weather challenges, newbie mistakes, budget constraints, etc…. One might read this and wonder if that is true.  But seriously….. no joke…. Literally…. Someone put a HEX on my boat!  Last night CW and I went out to the garage to start drilling holes in the transom and this is what I found hanging out in the flotation foam of the bow.



Being that I live not a quarter mile from the banks of the Ohio River I suppose this is no grand shock but it still made me smile…. Even though it might technically be a Hex (assuming my absolutely crappy entomology skills identifying this bug correctly as a Hexagenia Limbata) I will instead consider it a good omen and a harbinger of things to come.

Now if only I can finish this boat before the first snow.   Ughhhh!


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,



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.


Tight Lines and Loose Pants,



Presque Isle on the FLY!

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,



So It’s Starting to Look Like a Skiff!

Well damn!  I must admit I had a few nervous moments as the pieces were being prepped and cut but if my eyes don’t deceive me this looks a bit like a boat.   OK, maybe I was only a little worried but it was super exciting seeing it start to take shape.  Yeah, I know the photography sucks on this but the only thing I had with me was my iPhone as my brother had borrowed my SLR for a conference he was attending so hopefully you get the idea.


Big time thanks to my buddies Bob and Rich because this part is most definitely not a one person operation.  After running out of wire and having to strip out some scrap romex, we managed to get it basically stitched together.  Now that things are in one piece and my tiny garage space isn’t as much as an issue I am excited to see things start to accelerate quickly.



It is pretty amazing how much the properties of the wood start to change once you have a few layers of glass and epoxy soaked in.  You can already feel it begin to take on the rigidity and durability that comes along with it.  The next step is to put spreaders into the hull and give her some shape.  Once that is set we can fillet the seams and go to town.  Keep your fingers crossed folks as this will be coming down to the wire for our trip out to Presque Isle this month.

Tight Lines and Loose Pants,