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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

29
May

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,

MBL

30
Apr

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.

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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.

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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,

MBL

22
Apr

Fly in the Ointment…. Bee in the Epoxy


So the truth of the matter is that the early stages of boat building are not all that exciting to watch.  Pieces are cut, fiberglass is wet, sanding is…. well sanding.  Until the day comes when you start stitching things together and they actually look like a boat it is truly hard to show a ton of progress.

As would be par for the course this year, mother nature has made things a bit more difficult than I would like.  Skiff Central…. I mean my garage…. is not heated or air conditioned and in order for epoxy to cure correctly, temperatures need to be within a certain window.  Needless to say with our most recent snow in April fiasco they were not in said window.  This really slowed things down for a week so I am not trying to play catch up.

Last night I began glassing my last side panel and sandwiching together my transom.  I came out to look and there was the proverbial fly in the ointment… or in this case a bee in the epoxy.  Sadly for him he will meet an even worse face as he will soon be sanded into oblivion.  Goodbye cruel world.

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If all goes well, I should have things ready to stitch together this weekend!

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

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

 

24
Feb

I Think We Have a Pulse!


I know… I know.  Much to the dismay of many, I am still alive and kicking.  The last 12 months of life is a sad state of affairs from a fly fishing perspective.  I suppose this is what happens when two little people pop into the world, you buy a 100 year old house in need of major renovations, and start a basically new job all at the same time.

OK… I am done making crappy ass excuses for being a very bad blogger.  Wait, sorry, one more lame excuse… COULD THIS WINTER SUCK ANY WORSE?  It probably couldn’t  but a cool thing happened on the way to Excuseville.   This past weekend I showed my sad face at the Penn’s Wood West Trout Unlimited Cabin Fever Expo in Cranberry, PA.  Did I see any new gear that I didn’t know about?  Nope….  Did I find any super duper deals that I couldn’t pass up?  Nope…..  So what did you see Mr. Brownliner?

I thought you’d never ask.  I saw a few thousand folks just like me that have been dying to get out on the water and it totally ignited a spark.  I saw some friends like Dale, Rob, Jim, Jeff etc… who I haven’t talked with in a while.  I saw my good buddies from International Angler (my local shop).  But the cherry on my hot fudge sundae was having a super cool talk with the infamous Tom Rosenbauer from Orvis.

Despite attending quite a few industry events we had never met.  I travel for a living and Tom has made many a boring drive pretty darn interesting for this cowboy so getting a chance to talk for a few was pretty cool.  Speaking of Cabin Fever and making it through a long winter, if you are not listening to Tom’s podcast you are missing out.  Not only is he talking about some pretty timely stuff but he has a catalog of podcasts from days gone by that are always fun to listen to.  You can check him out at http://www.orvis.com/intro.aspx?subject=4047.  And don’t be shy about calling or emailing him with questions because he answers many of them in great detail.

The other thing I am totally pumped about is coming around very very soon is the F3T!  Yep, the Fly Fishing Film Tour.  More fish porn than you can handle in one evening.  I am looking forward to seeing many familiar faces coming up in March so don’t miss it!

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As soon as I can get out to my garage, CW and I will be starting to re-glass the yet to be named micro-skiff so if any of you have any irreverent snarky name ideas for a carp chasing micro, let me know.  I promise not to be absent for so long next time!

Tight Lines and Loose Pants,

MBL

12
Aug

Vedavoo Tightlines Sling Gear Review


So for those of you that have been following this blog for a while you know that I rarely do gear reviews and this is not by accident.  I always found it to be a bit transparent when a company approaches a blogger, gives them free crap, and then asks them to say something nice about it so you will all go out and buy one.  In the interest of being consistent, I have not received free gear (yes, I paid for it!), I don’t work for Vedavoo, and Scott does not have naked photo’s of me making out with a carp that he is holding over my head…. (there may be said photo’s but to my knowledge, Scott doesn’t have them!)

So I met Scott from Vedavoo (www.vedavoo.com) at the International Fly Tackle Dealers Show in Vegas last month.  We chatted for a few minutes and when I told him I was a sling pack kind of guy he suggested I try his out.  I currently own an Orvis sling as well as a Patagonia so I was a bit skeptical to pony up for a third but his story was so darn compelling that I couldn’t help myself.

As much as Vedavoo makes some pretty cool gear… I will get back to that shortly…. they truly embody the American spirit.  All of their gear is hand sewn (many by the owner himself!) in America with all American made fabrics, buckles, lashings, etc….   If you have ever worked in a manufacturing environment (even a small one) you know that you can send this work over seas for a fraction of the price it costs to make it here.  For this alone I tip my sun bleached truckers cap to Scott and his team.  I love my country and if I can do my share to support our local economy then that is a band wagon I am more than willing to jump on!

Ok, so it’s made in America, he is a fly fisher, boy scout, helps old ladies across the street, and is an all around nice guy… yada yada yada.   How did you like the sling Mr. Brownliner?  Don’t leave us hanging in suspense.

OK… LOVE it.  So much so that I gifted my other favorite gently used sling to CW as his had seen better days.  Let me start with the basics.

Functionality

It sits perfectly in the small of my back when I’m fishing and is in perfect position when I slide it around front to change flies, tippet, etc…  There are multiple ways to attach gear so it is a really flexible platform for those of you that are picky like me.  One of my pet peeves about slings or packs in general is that many times gear dangles and swings or is exposed.   99% of the time it is no biggie but it usually becomes a disaster when you get that one shot at the fish of the trip and you realize that your fly line is looped around your hemostats which were dangling from your sling!  I found it pretty easy to make sure that there were very few situations where my tools would be in the way yet were very easy to access.

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The aspect of the Tightlines Sling that I love the most is that appeals to my minimalist tendencies.  You can travel with the full deluxe pouch as pictured above, or remove the pouch and still use the sling for a light day on the stream, pond, etc…  Accessing the different compartments is fairly simple as a few buckles hold the top of the pouch snug to the sling.

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The feature that I particularly liked was the tippet spool holder.  Now for those of you that like to carry 0X  through 7X this may not be your preference but I rarely carry more than 3 or four tippet spools at any given time and I loved how there were not dangling spools or protruding holders to deal with.  The sling does not feature any molded compartments or fold down work stations and that is just fine with me as I have never been a big fan and don’t really use that sort of thing.  The Tightlines Sling is an exercise in simplicity and clean functionality which really spoke to me.

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Gear Capacity

This is not a magnum sling or a guide pack.  If you are looking for something to carry massive amounts of gear then this is not the right product for you.  (Check out www.vedavoo.com for some larger capacity bags if that is your interest)  I found the pack was perfect for carrying two good sized fly boxes and all the tools you would need for a basic day on the water.  The only critique I would lay on the design would be the desire for an integrated water bottle holder or to have lashings on the bottom of the deluxe pouch or the sling itself to be able to add one.

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Workmanship

Nothing short of outstanding.  Everything was well stitched and put together with attention to detail.  I looked it over multiple times looking for some “hand made” flaw and I couldn’t find a darn thing.  The folks at Vedavoo adorn all of their products with the red white and blue and this has been well earned.

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So should you pony up the $109 for the Tightlines Sling?  In my book…. hell yeah.  If you are geeked up about wearing products that embody the spirit of quality and have respect for another guys hard days work then you will love how this sling makes you feel inside.  If you are a fan of functional simplicity that flat out fishes well then you will love this pack makes you feel on the outside.  For me it was a win/win and I am sure will enjoy it for many trips to come.  If you are interested in learning more, reach out to Scott over at Vedavoo.  He is a super nice guy and very responsive.  You can catch him at:

www.vedavoo.com

scott@vedavoo.com

Tight Lines,

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

 

21
Jul

Dude…. That is Some Serious Box!


Said Jeff Spicoli to his surfer bro prior to rescuing Brooke Shields from drowning….

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Ok… maybe he never said that but he probably would have had he taken a look at how many fly boxes most of our fly fishing brethren carry for a day on the water!  So today is all about the box.  How many do you carry?  What is in yours?  How do you organize them?  What kind works best for you?

I must confess, I used to be one of those guys that put on a virtual flak jacket with pockets filled to the zipper with every kind and size of fly imaginable to make sure I never missed an opportunity.  After light dawned on marble skull I came to realize that 98% of the time, I fished the same 4 or 5 patterns in a couple of sizes and colors for most scenarios.   It also became apparent that it is almost impossible to be stealthy when you have more gear hanging off of you than a small infantry division would carry.   Some might paint me with a minimalist brush, but that is probably a bit of an exaggeration.   I do however perform a litmus test for each and every piece of gear that I carry and it is a very simple rule to follow:

  1. When is the last time you used said gear, fly, tippet, etc….?
  2. Is there something else that you are carrying that can get the job done in similar fashion?

As most of you could imagine, it was amazing how much gear now sits in the gear box in my car rather than stuffing my bag, vest, waders, etc….  Now let me make a small disclaimer.  If you are in a boat with a good sized boat bag this is a much less compelling discussion.  If you are a wading fly fisher primarily this may be a revelation that is nothing short of  life changing.  Almost as mind blowing as realizing that Justin Bieber is really just  a Monsanto project that used modified DNA from Vanilla Ice and Clay Aiken.

So fast forward to today.  I have ditched the vest and tend to fish three basic configurations.  Which of the three is most effective is often dictated by several variables such as, water, species, weather, etc…

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If I am only on the water for a few hours or on a river I know well and know what I will be fishing for, I will most often be seen in my waders, a lanyard and one medium or two small fly boxes in my wader pocket along with two spools of tippet.  A good lanyard will hold the basic necessities.

  • Nippers
  • Hemostats
  • Desiccant
  • Split shot

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If weather dictates a wading jacket the above scenario doesn’t change dramatically other than the addition of some weather specific gear and maybe one extra fly box.  This might include items like:

  • Gloves
  • Water
  • Buff

Mid

This is most often used for a full day on the water for multiple species in varied water conditions.  A sling pack is my pack of choice but a vest waist pack can do the same job.  My gear list typically looks something like:

  • 3 spools of tippet
  • leader wallet (don’t forget sink tips!)
  • stripping guards
  • 2 medium or large sized fly boxes
  • water
  • food
  • nippers
  • Hemostats
  • Shock tippet or wire
  • Indicators
  • Split Shot

Most of the bulk and wight you can drop is going to come down to fly selection.  Start to think about the flies you use most often that are representative of multiple prey species.  Also think about covering different parts of the water column.  Depending on your species, water, etc… this list will vary drastically for the individual.  Here is a basic example.  My local warm water river/creek supports smallmouth, carp, drum, channel cat, sauger, walleye, etc….  The maximum depth is about 5-6 feet.  I can fish this water effectively with a handful of flies that read something like this:

  • Sculpin patterns
    • Can be used to fish for smallies, sauger, drum, walleye, channel cat, and are fantastic for getting down fast and covering the bottom of the water column
    • Black and brown will cover 99% of your fishing needs
  • Clouser Minnows or Wooly Buggers
    • Also can be used for all of the above species and can be fished for the middle and bottom of the water column with amazing effectiveness
    • Olive over white and Chartreuse over white cover the vast majority of fishing situations for clousers
    • Black, brown, or olive wooly buggers are my colors of choice
  • Blood Dot / Egg patterns
    • Absolutely killer carp pattern and can be fished on the surface with desiccant to imitate mulberries, cottonwood fluff, etc…
  • Carp Soft Hackle Hybrid
    • Killer on carp as well as drum.  Will also play well for bass and channel cats when not in aggressive feeding modes
  • Gartside Gurgler
    • I always make sure to have a few of these in my box for when the smallies get active up top
    • I don’t think color matters all that much but will typically carry in either black or white

All of the above flies can fit in one medium sized box for a day on the water!  One of the most valuable fly fishing lessons I have ever learned is that the 80/20 rule of life applies to fly fishing as well.  20% of your success may very well rest in having the right fly.   The other 80% is vested in your ability to read water, approach the fish without alerting it to your presence, and lastly to make a presentation with your fly that looks natural enough to resemble something edible.

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The above is my “meat box” that I travel with.  Prior to hitting the water, I will pull from this box and fill 1 or 2 fly boxes for what is appropriate for the water and conditions I am about to fish.  As fly fishers we all love gear and I am no different.  Just remember most of it is designed to catch you rather than catch fish.  A very successful Erie steelhead fly fisher I know jokes that he carries two fly boxes.  One is for the two or three flies he uses with regularity and the other is the decoy box he shows whoever walks up and asks what he was using to catch all of those fish!

So once we have pared down our flies to a reasonable selection, how do we go about organizing what we carry?  Remember, you have a 0% chance of catching fish if your fly isn’t in the water so a successful fly fisher will look for ways to maximize that time.  This again is a very personal thing but what works for me is to organize by water column.  I start with surface flies and end with flies that work bottom.   I know some people that organize by  species but I never quite found that to be an intuitive way to think about what I was doing.  I guess the key here is to have a system that works for you so when you need a specific fly that you know exactly where it is and can easily get to it.

Now we have all fished a situation where we just didn’t have the right fly for the moment and I am not telling you to leave your best weapons at home.  Go through the above exercise with your own fly boxes and I think you will be shocked how much lighter and stealthier you can fish.  The last thing I would want to do is insult you, but Dude….. that is some serious box!