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,
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,
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!
When I was a young teen, my father took me on a fishing trip to Raystown Lake in central PA. The trip was a striper trip and we went with some cousins and their friends. The weather was beautiful and the lake looked to be in great shape. What we did not know at the time was that it was the year of locusts (17 year) and prolific does not even come close to describing what we saw. I shit you not… thousands and thousands of huge bugs dive bombing into the drink. They would buzz on the surface unable to escape until a fish came up and gulped them down or they drowned sinking to the bottom to a similar fate.
We threw everything in the box at the stripers with not even a strike on either boat. At this point in my life I had never picked up a fly rod so please excuse my trip back into a different era of fishing. As day two of no action wore on, my dad had to make a stop at the marina and use the facilities. I sat there watching the locusts buzzing on the surface near the dock. Just then a huge carp just came up and inhaled it. It looked like a Dyson moving across the surface sucking up every huge morsel in it’s path. A grin spread across my face.
My father was walking back up the dock as I was taking the minnow bucket out of our boat and dumping it into the lake… “What the hell are you doing????” he barked. I looked up at him and asked him if he wanted to beat water or go catch some fish. With that I took the empty minnow bucket and ran up the grass hand picking locusts off the tree’s and the shrubs and depositing them into my now empty minnow bucket. When the bucket was buzzing like a Hitachi Magic Wand, I made my way back to the boat. As we idled out I tied a floating jig head on to each of our spinning rods. My dad just looked at me asking if I was going to clue him in.
When we told our cousins what we were doing they scoffed at us….. “We didn’t come all the way to Raystown to catch CARP!” OK… we said… catch you later. My dad and I pulled off into a cove and hooked a locust onto the jig and let it drift. It didn’t take long. The V wakes coming at the bug here hysterical. It was like an outtake from the movie “Jaws”. I have no idea how many carp we caught that day, but it was a ton and we had a BLAST! By the way, my cousins went home fishless and unhappy.
So what’s the lesson you ask? No, it is not about the virtue of the much maligned carp. Nor is it about judging a trip by the number of fish you catch. The lesson I learned is that sometimes you have to take what the conditions are willing to yield.
Last night on the creek was a perfect example. The water was stained and the clouds had shut off any site fishing so chasing carp was a pretty tall order. After an hour I realized the futility of what I was doing and figured I’d change up. It turns out I had a pretty good night with some very eager and game smallies and a nice Sauger. Some of you might disagree but I try to keep multiple game plans in my pocket so regardless of what happens when you hit the water there is always fun to be had!
So… what would you have done? Continue to chase your intended quarry? Or go with what the conditions presented? Curious to know.
Good Luck and Tight Lines!
So last night I met a few friends to hit the white fly hatch. Tim dropped me a message and we set our meeting time for 6:00PM. After fiddling with my fly boxes (which I do often) and making sure I had all my gear, I took a look at the clock which read 2:30PM… Hmmmm… what to do?
I figured hell, that’s plenty of time to get in some brown lining on my local creek before we meet up. I kissed my wife as she rolled here eyes at me and headed out. Summer always brings such a conflict for me. The temperatures have been ungodly hot and the humidity is off the charts. Stepping into a pair of chest waders is like boiling yourself from the inside. Wet wading sounds like the logical choice until you google a few stories about micro-bacterial infections, chemical burns, and trips to the emergency room. I think I’ll just sweat…. and sweat I did. I had to move my glasses down to the tip of my nose so they would stop fogging up. Yeah, it was frigging hot.
We had just had some rain so the water was still pretty off color but I did manage to jump two nice smallies which both managed to spit the hook out faster than my 10th grade girl friend and this bad boy who I am still not sure how he opened his mouth wide enough to eat my fly
So we finally made it to the creek with a few hours of daylight still intact and we suited up. I decided to once again put on my soaking wet waders despite our decent hike to the spot we were going to fish. Two words… SWAMP Ass… While we were in the car I had given the guys a few pencil poppers that I had tied for the Allegheny and totally forgot to put any in my box because I figured they would be a bit large for the occasion. Sean tied his on for shits and giggles. What ensued was pretty cool. He had fish literally knocking each other out of the way trying to eat this thing. He landed fish after chunky fish as Tim and I pretty much beat water.
As nightfall set in the hatch started to go off and it was pretty darn cool. It was near blizzard conditions and smallies started sipping our dry flies amidst the white chaos. I busted one really nice fish off and landed a few others that put up some nice battles. Anyone who has eve fished with me knows the one thing I never forget is my camera. I reached into my pocket to snap some pics of the thousands of white flies filling the air and the bass that were kind enough to cooperate and of course it was nowhere to be found. Unhappy is an understatement but I guess I can’t complain. I was fishing with good friend, good fish, and good karma.
I came home to Mrs. Brownliner who was still rolling her eyes at me wondering what would possess a grown man to want to stand in a cloud of bugs in the dark waving a fly rod for 8 hours. The only thing I could say was, “honey… It’s the white fly hatch!” insert eye roll here.
Good Luck and Tight Lines,
As the dog days of summer set in and the trout gasp for air like an asthmatic searching for his inhaler any of us with half a heart begin searching for other fish to harass for the next month or so. For the highbrow trout purist who would sooner take a dump in his Simms G4 waders than to intentionally throw a fly at a carp or cat, smallies seem to be the moderately acceptable alternative. They are the annoying uncle who you still invite to your family functions despite the fact that he tries too hard to be cool and double dips the salsa bowl with his unwashed hands while everyone else watches in horror.
Me… what can I say… I don’t mind slumming it and that Uncle that rubs you the wrong way… I think he’s frigging hysterical. (even though I still won’t dunk a chip in that salsa bowl)
Summer smallies can be as much fun as a man can have if you are minus two twenty four year old blondes in a kiddie pool with 25lbs of cherry jello and a fly swatter. Something about watching them explode on a white popper as the sun is setting over the water that is absolutely magical. (now if only I had a cherry jello fly!)
Anyhow…. I digress. Last week CW and I headed down to the Allegheny for an evening as Mrs. Brownliner was kind enough to give me a free pass for the night because I was a good boy. Well maybe I wasn’t a good boy, but I wasn’t in trouble like I usually am. So we headed off into the fading light throwing poppers, eating beef jerky, and telling bad jokes. All of which are integral parts of the experience.
The fishing was not crazy and we didn’t catch record numbers of fish, but we did manage to scare up a few bronze backs looking for a fight and had a great time.
So if you are looking for a great time fishing this summer and want to cut the trout a bit of slack, get out of that kiddie pool (the blondes are not on their way!) and chase some summer bronze…. BIG FUN!
Good Luck and Tight Lines
So last night me, CW, and our friend Tim hit the Allegheny for some evening smallie action. The action was a bit spotty through the night, but Tim truly laid the smack down on us when it was all said and done. I think he brought 16 fish to hand to my 3… Ouch! Looks like I need some practice. None of the fish were very big but it was fun picking up some evening top water action with some good friends.
After capping the night off with some Primanti’s and a beer courtesy of CW, I made my way to work this morning.
When I opened my car door in the parking lot I just stood and stared……
How in god’s green earth is a man supposed to concentrate on work when the pending spinner fall is upon us? As luck would have it I still had my camera gear in the car from last night so after a low grade iphone shot I had to bust out the camera. Unfortunately I did not have my macro lens with me but I did manage to get a few good shots.
After getting a pass from Mrs. Brownliner to fish last night I would be in one serious dog house if I bolted again tonight…. but damn is that tempting. Should be a great spinner fall.
Good Luck and Tight Lines!
Ok… I know we have all been there. The infamous “one more cast”. My dad heard it as he tried to get the boat off the water when I was a kid. My mom heard it when we would be on our family vacation at Deep Creek Lake trying to get me off the dock and up for dinner. My wife has heard it wondering how one man could be on a creek for so darn long… and of course I hear it… every single time I fish! The only problem is I typically go through a relatively long negotiation of “one more casts” before I finally coax myself off the water.
You see, “One More Cast” is the fisherman’s equivalent of the bottom of the 9th bases loaded full count fantasy we imagined in little league. The fish of my life is waiting for me… waiting for that perfect presentation. I must say, in 40 years on this planet I think each and every “One more cast” has come up pretty much empty with me mumbling something about me getting them next time blah blah blah….
Today, however, proved to be a very interesting day. My fishing day was far from prolific. I had brought 3 average sized smallies to hand and dealt with coffee colored water that pretty much shut site fishing off completely. I had worked it hard today covering a large chunk of water and I had neglected to bring any of it to drink. I was making my way back to my car and a cold beverage from the convenience store when I came upon the very last eddy before the bridge and my exit. I had already spooled my line and was pretty well cooked. Oh hell, “one more cast” before I call it a day. (Ok… maybe there were two but it seemed like one!) I swung my fly through the eddy and out the tail and my line came tight! Snag? Nope…. head shake right off the bat. The fish bull dogged hard and flashed it’s back. I thought it was a drum at first and then it broke water. I have caught larger bass in Canada and in large bodies of water, but this was hands down the largest creek sized bass I have ever caught. Not only was it the perfect end to a day of fishing, but it reminded me why you should always make “One More Cast”!
Good luck and tight lines.
I have heard this debate rage amongst fly fisherman for years. Who is the most game of the game fish? In my humble opinion I would have to lend the crown to Mr. Bronze Back Himself. I am eternally surprised at how large a fight you get out of sometimes a relatively diminutive smallmouth bass. To the point that when you finally bring said fish into vision you can’t help but chuckle to yourself and say, “Really? You? Are you Kidding?”
For those of you that are not lucky enough to live on or near a fishery that supports these gamers, I highly recommend a road trip! Not only do they fight very well for their size, but they readily take flies of all variations and are particularly fond of top water presentations when the conditions permit.
In addition, unlike the venerable trout family, you can find smallies in a range of water temperatures. Sometimes even occupying the same streams as trout yet will also be in a warm water lake or river. I guess we all have fondness for what is available to us and I am lucky enough to live on a fantastic smallie fishery and always look forward to the warmer months when they get active and start chasing flies!
Good luck and tight lines!