Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Christmas Trout

Public domain image from wikicommons at left. Those of you of a certain age will recognize some of these ornaments. My family had the small bugle and a matching French Horn.

We used those bloody icicles, too. Usually, putting them on the tree could be could be counted on to result in a fight. Setting-up the tree was known as "the main event."

"A little to the left ... it's leaning. Now the hole is showing."

The Amber Liquid crew is going to meet for Amber Liquids on Christmas Eve at a local watering hole. I can be assured there will be no fights setting up those rounds!

Every fishing group should meet on Christmas Eve for drinks. It should be a world-wide tradition. We shouldn't call it Christmas Eve. It should be "the afternoon I piss away with my fishing buddies." It beats going through the airport.

I'm going to mention here that I bought my wife a synthetic fur for Christmas. [ She won't wear the real kind.] I'd have to work pretty hard to mess-up this holiday; but, I've been known to try.

I've been hiding from my vise.

I intended to tie up a bunch of flies for the Amber Liquid guys as a small Christmas present. I haven't.

I'm in my library now and could be tying but have two serious vocational projects and a pair of avocational writing projects to finish. No tying today. They'll all make due with a pint. It isn't a crew for mush and sentiment, anyway.

I've been trying to give some business this year to my local start-up fly shop. I've done pretty well.

I've spent about five years of fishing budget in the shop upgrading gear all of which was perfectly good to start with and none of which has found a new home despite being relegated to "the pile."  I night have to give some of it away.

"First one is free."

Three rods this year. Yea. Three. By my wife's judgement, they'd all be bargains. They're in the  "Buy Now and Save" class of bargains. Hey, I'm a sucker for pretty varnish. Put it on something blonde and I'll pay twice as much. [ Ba-dump bump. We're here all week, folks. Tell your friends.].

The Christmas Trout has been kind to me this year but it is time to spend nothing on gear and spend more on trips fishing. After all, gear is lovely stuff to fondle and write about; but, time on the water is the joy.

Naturally, my little shop is now a Loop dealer. That stuff is like crack to me.

I wanted to buy a Loop reel when I was in Sweden a few years ago but didn't. I bought a new offshore jacket instead and if you've bought Helly Hansen gear before they became the Scandinavian version of Eddie Bauer you know that the reel would have been the cheaper option.

I'm writing this when I should be either at work or downstream on the Huron fishing for steelhead. I'm hoping the effort will pay off and the Christmas Trout will bring me fair days and cold water in the next year.

I'm buying myself a new Solo stove for Christmas. I'm tired of cold sandwiches and breakfast bars. I want something hot when I'm on a trout dash. I'm getting soft.

Good luck this season. The wading can be treacherous. Hope the Christmas Trout brings you single-malt for the flask.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Two Hands, Please


Above, a park on the Kalamazoo river near Douglas, MI. Picture on the public domain site describing the park.

One of the Amber Anglers has a wonderful vacation home in Douglas and was gracious to extend an invitation to fish the Kalamazoo this Halloween weekend. We were ten minutes from his door to this site.

It gave me an excuse to use a new gem: an Echo Glass #3 10'6" Switch rod. Handle below (borrowed from Echo site ...probably won't mind).

It's a lovely rod. I've used it a couple times and unintentionally hooked a little bass (year round catch-immediate-release restrictions) on the Huron down the hill from my house.  This outing was a chance to really open-up.

The Kalamazoo river is some 200 to 300 feet wide.  The depth runs a pretty uniform three-to-four feet at this stretch. There are a few sand holes but one can wade out pretty far. The current was moderate and the steelhead come up this section. We went after a rain, had three nice chrome fish jump around us, and enjoyed a great session on the water.

The season is pretty young with few moving in the channel, if you ask the fish.

Kevin used a proper two-handed beast: a Sage One outfitted with a beautiful Ross reel. Nice rod. Nearly 12 or 13 feet (cannot remember precisely).  Much different action. Certainly enough rod to handle anything he'd hook.

My little switch rod really isn't entirely suitable for the steelhead. I was just practicing my casts in a stretch too warm for year-round trout.

I intend to use this rod through the fall and spring for some tight-line high-stick nymphing. It allows me good control (well, not with the Ambush line I've re-purposed but it will with something else I put to the test). I can cast seventy or eighty feet, swing, and get some utility out of that style of big water fishing as well.

It is light enough to swing soft-hackles in teams of two and three come spring.

The aim of my two-handed outfit is to compensate for some wading I cannot do to places just out of reach. Also, I want to build up a little experience with something inexpensive before spending most of a grand on something larger for more serious steelhead pursuit.

Do I want to be out in sleet casting for the elusive steelhead? I think so. I'm not sure. I'm certainly not yet $1000 sure.

I re-used some Ambush line I had, a System One clicker, and bought the rod. I'll probably change to a larger reel this week and have a gently used Lamson Konic 2.0 here on my desk. It'll do fine.

Big line winds poorly on tight reels. Give it room to breathe. The Konic is just big enough considering the line is a 5 wt 215 grain head for the 3wt rod.

I'm into the set-up for under $300 out the door remembering that I only had to buy the rod. My outfitter had it on hand and I always like to help by taking stock they have rather than stock they order.

The two hand fishing is a blast. The 3wt switch is light enough in action that a 10" brown will be a lot of fun. His 25" Grand Daddy will not cause problems should he make the trip, either.

The Echo gear is nice, durable, well polished, and comfortable. The price point is great. Kevin's Sage is a nicer rod - it just is. However, it isn't a low entry-cost outfit. If I knew that I'd do five or six outings a year: well. I'd have something a little bigger.

I'm sold on the Echo right now, though. I'd give them more business. The cork is nice. The machined parts are superb. The glass is a great feel. The guides and strippers are large enough and much nicer than you'd expect on a inexpensive rod.

This is professional gear. It isn't something a brother-in-law whipped out in a garage over a six-pack.

The rod is fun. Two handed is fun. Seventy feet on a single Spey roll is just a blast. Big arc swings and huge reach mends are just a joy.

Hope the steelhead are laughing at you. too. Big water is great - when the bitch won't try to drown you.

Watch out for the Muskegon. She's a different girlfriend entirely.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Carp Porn

Let me start by being perfectly clear: I am not a carp fisherman.

I intentionally caught a carp on a jig on Wilson Reservoir in Kansas when I was in 5th grade.

However, one of the Amber Anglers has a real thing for carp. He's not quite right. So, for him I post this particular video.

I could be tempted to Tenkarpa.
I'd have to be really drunk.

Full marks to Scumliner and Kevin Morlock's  crew. [ Is that you Cam Mortenson? ]

Check out Third Coast Fly over in the links once in a while, too.

TENKARPA! from scumliner media on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


Image at left courtesy NOAA from photographer Benjamin Sanford and hosted on wikicommons. Public domain.

My local TU chapter shocked my local creek yesterday. I don't have our pictures yet.

Eighty-six fish in our sample stretch. Pretty good.

The big thing was that I got to see even more of the watershed: up close and personal. Volunteering for these things helps with the whole "where are the fish" business. It's great education about how trout use their hiding holes.

Rain, Breeze, Cool.

Still, fun time. Good turnout.  And, I have the inside skinny on trout water ten minutes from my front door. How can I beat that?

I'm not on the creek enough. I'm going to change that. I've got a stretch now that is fun to wade. Time to make use of it.

Now if I can get the Amber Liquid guys to stop wading into the pod of fish before casting I'll have something.

Oh, new rod: Echo SR 10'6" 3 wt. I'll use it to compensate for places I cannot wade well. I should be able to swing fine with an Ambush line I have lying about initially and will find something in the spring that does more than streamers. The line I have might swing soft hackles fine as well.

I'll have to re-read the two-handed trout rod info over at the Soft~Hackled Journal.

If you get a chance to volunteer for shocking, do so.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

End of Season

Can you believe it? Bloody Kremlin enforces its copyright. Picture at left on loan from Presidential Press and Information Office at Obviously, President Putin fishing.

Wet wading... and took his shirt off to dry. Pity he's wade fishing with spinning gear. Figures. Knife is for bear, I'd guess.

I know this is how I fish: Shirtless in BDUs. I don't use imperialist spinning gear, however.

Saturday sundown saw the end of regular trout season here in Michigan. I took a couple days off work and rented a cabin on the Manistee.

Last year, the Amber Angler crowd went fishing around the third week in October on a year-round flies-only stretch of the Manistee. We had waders frozen solid in the mornings.

This year, this weekend, and they haven't had frost yet.
I caught a few smallish aggressive browns and a baker's dozen brookies. The largest brown was in the 8" range. The largest brookie came last night at just at  9" (handle reference measurement).

No pictures. I kept 'em all wet.  I had a cell in a dry pouch that an Amber Angler gave me in the spring. Nothing big enough to drag it out, however. I was going for a foot in brown and ten inches in brookie for a photo. Nothing made the limit.

I fished alone. None of the Amber Liquid guys made the trip.

I had lots of old demons come keep me company in the nights. They've been hanging around enough lately we've started a pretty good game of Pitch - just like I played in the days that spawned them.

I had some good fishing and some poor over the weekend. I had decent wades and some beats that were brutal. Michigan's rivers are usually tree-choked banks and shifting sand with muck. The Manistee has a lot of sand and holes that will float you. These holes normally occur adjacent to ten foot of quicksand-grade muck and alder thicket for a bank.

It was Michigan fishing. Blue bird weather, though. Stunning fall days and strong coffee mornings.

I finished the season stalking a trout.

I'd spotted a nice brookie feeding downstream of the cabin the first night. One, I thought.

I couldn't get to him and caught some smaller browns. Friday, I made an effort in the morning to get down to him. I found a path through some islands and around a bend coming at him from back upstream. Didn't hook him, though. Went elsewhere for the day.

Friday night, I'm on the deck recovering from a fairly hard wade on a downstream beat (one which involved a fight with a silt trap that might have ended me). I'm drinking a Bell's Two-Hearted leftover from Salmon Run (thanks Chip) when a fellow rounds the bend coming up precisely the path I'd scouted in the morning.  I'd been watching my brookie, mind you, and just getting around to stalking him in a serious manner.

There's about thirty minutes of sun left, no one else at any of the other cabins, and this guy pops out of nowhere.

Sure enough, he hooks a nice seven inch brookie right in the hole I'd scouted.

He makes it upriver to me (not trying for any other fish in the hole)  catching a couple of the browns from runs and a pool on the way. We talk.

His name is Nick and he's about thirty-five from South Bend (N.D. Irish country) here with the in-laws for the weekend. He had to get out of the cabin (mother-in-law and the grandkid talks) and made a desperation break upstream because his father-in-law wouldn't wade against current.

I congratulated Nick on his fish - said it was the best I'd seen scouting the hole and made sure he knew to come back. Told him he could use the cabin property to wade out and hike the road back downstream.

I felt for the guy even though I thought he'd just taken my fish for the weekend.

He was fine, He went around the island in front of the cabin and in a half-hour was headed downstream back on the main channel. Last I saw of him. I only had three beers for the weekend and was on number two so no, I didn't share. He had that whole clean-cut thing going for him and I'd already asked him back to fish the hole.

Saturday saw hard fishing and a lot of miles. I ended the afternoon standing and watching the brookie hole. More than one fish was feeding.

I suited up again and mucked my way down and around sitting on the bank in silt-grass for an hour when the sun was still too high while watching the river. I rigged three different times.

I tried an upstream presentation twice but the area where I could stand put line-shadow through the water on approach and also put the fish down. I shifted around and up where a feeder from between the islands cut a deep channel that I could just manage to dig-in on the edge.

I cast downstream. I pulled five fish in just a little under an hour. The largest was maybe six inches. That was it, I thought.

The next half hour of twilight saw three brookies and a brown. The largest brookie ran to nine inches. I took him on a five weight Hardy Zenith because my three weight wasn't stiff enough for the seventy-five feet I had to cast. Yea - seventy-five (because I drifted out to the backing knot). I couldn't get closer.

He took it on the dangle - a pair of flies (a flight) but he took the dropper.

Great fish. Bigger than the night before's effort by Nick. Current, me perched on a silt bank, too bloody much line. I just had his lower lip and ran my hand to fly dipping my rod handle in the water next to him. A lift - I fished barbless this year - and he was off.

I went back to my little dock and traded for my Trout Bum three weight (has my name on it) and a little Galvan brookie reel.

Almost dark and two little browns one five and one six inches. I took them from a deep run downstream of the dock on successive casts. Dark now, my season had ended with the brookie I wanted badly, and two browns on successive casts.

Sundown, last Saturday in September, and 2015 in the bag.

I dumped my Finn bag and my trout bum, stood in cold water (46 degrees in the Manistee) and drank a flask of scotch to celebrate the end of season. I might have talked a bit about how important the good end to the season was to me.

This was everything I wanted from fly fishing when I came to Michigan. I wanted the tight little streams of cold water and strong fish on light tackle. I wanted technical fishing when I had to improve from wide open loops to tight rolls slung under sweepers and brush overhanging the banks.

I got it. I got everything I wanted from it. I had a good season.

I'll throw some streamers for steelhead later in the fall with a buddy who likes a big two-handed rod. Trout though: that's the end.

One never knows if this is the last season or not. I had good outings. I saw Osprey and Pileated Woodpecker (the size of a small chicken). I walked-up on a porcupine. I caught fish on flies I tied myself.

I took the big brookie on that ugly white buggy thing (below) tied in size 16 and fished as a dropper.

I ended the season standing in cold water past my thighs drinking scotch old enough to vote held with a slime coated hand.

I did however keep my shirt on.

Hope your end of season treated you as well.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Fall

At left, a brook trout from US Fish and Wildlife. Photographed by Eric Engbretson as part of official duties. Copyright-free image. Hosted by wikicommons.

Thanks to Eric for the great snap.

I'm off for some of these fellows this week. There are browns in the water, too. I'm after nice brookies, however.

My fishing partners have no love for "little fish."

I learned on hungry browns and cutthroat. I'd read about brookies. Contrary to the popular sentiment, one lusts after what one doesn't have. If you grow up without brookies, then they have a magical hold on your soul.

Now, I've got brookies. Feisty buggars. I'd rather a day with ten 8-inch brookies than a day with one 16-inch brown. There it is. I like the take. I like the frantic fight and run. Put one on 3 wt. gear and it is a blast.

SO, I'm off to have a little fall on the last full week of the season.

I'll walk some small water one morning and fish some larger on languid afternoons. I'll finish a murder story. Start another. Eat a couple smoked sausages. Smoke a pipe. Fry a couple eggs. Tie a few Red Ass soft-hackled flies in size 16 and see what comes of it.

Those last hours of the season can be enough to last the winter if we use them correctly. To me, they taste of honeyed scotch and wood-smoke.

I'll pack a little scotch, too. Some Bushmills as well. No too much. Mustn't spoil the senses. I'll have to remember the weekend all winter long.

Or I'll have to remember it until Halloween when I try my hand for steelhead and talk about next season's trout opener.

A flexible mind is essential in this game. Don't let your dogma bark too loudly. It bothers the neighbors and scares the fish.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Fish: Story in Pictures

Most of the Amber Anglers abandoned Salmon Run this year. Many conflicts. Australia, brewery anniversary bash, kids. September has a lot of competing demands here in Michigan.

We have a couple of words on the subject of conflicts. One: we have shirts. Two: we have fish. Mine didn't get to the boat but was hooked, jumped, and witnessed.  My buddy's victory story below.

An Amber Angler all hooked-up. Guide Miles in
the foreground concentrating as well.

The fish on a run.


From Drop Box

Near the boat, and net. The dangerous time.

From Drop Box


From Drop Box

And relief.

From Drop Box
Victory smile (the fish smiles as well).

The release.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Salmon Run

Image at left courtesy US Fish and Wildlife, Dan Cook photographer. Copyright-free image.

This weekend marks the second annual Amber Liquid Salmon Run.

It didn't start out that way.

My trout buddy grew up in a life like a lot of us: something good, something bad.

One of the very good things in his life was his buddy George. I never met George. I only met the outcome of George's efforts.

George must have been a helluva guy.

Anyway, George liked a salmon trip and when he became ill enough that he couldn't make the trip, I was offered a chance to step-in. I had a blast.

And it's my seat in the boat now.

I'd name this run for George but that somehow doesn't seem quite right, either. A lifetime perfecting the outdoor pursuits cannot be tied to something as small as a single trip. This is the Amber Liquid crew's trip and if George were around, he'd be a welcome member.

I suspect that might sit just fine.

Salmon run here in Michigan and with a little cool and a little rain, it can be just the entry into fall that does a fellow right. You need hot coffee from a thermos in the morning - and maybe a little whiskey chaser.

Hook-ups do all the better with a little scotch in the drizzle. Helps break the disappointment of not setting the hook hard enough or not keep the slack out of the line on that first hesitation before the run.

I'm looking to bring a fish to boat this year. I'd say I'm looking to bring a fish to hand but that'd be presumptuous. Must not tempt the gods' displeasure.

Don't look at the cards until they're all dealt out.

I'm going north.

I'm going with a guide who keeps his mouth shut except when there is something important to say - and that important means about the fish. Outside of the boat the rest of the world doesn't exist. He'll answer any direct question, ask the requisite niceties in the most abbreviated fashion, and focus on the fish.

Nothing like a guide who helps you focus on the fish. Can't stand any other type.

I've got an outfitter in Canada I love. He's a great guy. Put him in a boat and he can't stop jabbering. Wears a fellow out. It's his boat and his cabin and his airplane and he's damn nice about everything even when you're being a damn fool. He won't shut-up, however.

I like fish because they don't talk. They're the opposite of young women.

I can't understand a couple distant associates who are in the young-girl chasing business lately. Makes no sense. Of course, they're distant associates so there's that.

Close friends have vices like expensive whiskey and trout and sometimes fast cars and occasionally airplanes.  Politics maybe. Yes, politics. They don't have women vices - unless they married it.

I marry women I cannot afford. I fish for trout. See a pattern?

This weekend? Salmon.

Moreover, it's salmon with a guide who will keep me from making a damn fool of myself and look the other way quietly when I do. He'll put me on fish and let the rest come.

He'll feed me smoked pork chops.

Pretty good outing - but then I'm fishing with a good friend who will be in the front of the boat and what good is a fish-of-a-lifetime if not for someone who shares that joy?

Even if I'm just filling in for someone else's lifetime.

Not bad work - if you can get it.

The barrier to entry is however too damn high.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Buggy Enough

My attempt at fly photography. Horrendous. I need to actually get out a digital SLR instead of my crappy little Motorola smartphone.

You do however get the idea. Buggy.

It is the white mayfly hatch around here. The Huron has spit out a few that I see here in the evening and the waters up north - where trout live - will be hatching by weekend. They've been seeing a few last week.

This is a wet version. Mustad 94840 on which I've yet to pinch down the barb. Size 16.

Tail is a few Lady Amber Pheasant that I have lying around. No salmon flies this year so I'll sacrifice one Lady Amber for two dozen of these guys.

Body is Wotton SLF in white. Hackle is a Cul-De-Canard in Light dun. Thread is a Pearsall silk in yellow.

Looks like hell and my photography doesn't help. Looks buggy in the water, though.  I have to trim some of the longer CDC strands back. It gets "gummy" if you don't. The long CDC will wrap up on the tippet.

I want to make a trout dash on Saturday but vocational obligations negate it.

Opportunity is the only currency that matters in the end. It is how we're paid for a lifetime of effort. Every time.

Hope your fish are rising.

Saturday, August 8, 2015


You have to understand your roots. I, for example, am a small creek man.

Picture at left from wikicommons and used here courtesy SJu. The ford is a site in the Czech Republic.

My earliest trout fishing came on a creek like this in the mountains of Colorado where a ranch trail crossed a small stream.The country looked just like this in my memory. I had to wear a bush jacket to keep from being cut up by brambles on the hike to the creek,  In those days, a bush jacket was made by Levi Strauss and Co.

I only fished the creek twice and caught only one fish each time. It was a magical place. I never want to go back and find it different than I have it in my mind.

I like small fish. I landed a six-inch brown tonight from Mill Creek down by the cemetery. I haven't been fishing there for a bit as the temperatures have been "summer" and my schedule has been filled with obligations to family and others.

The time of obligatory socialization has passed. I'm free to work, write, and fish once in a while.

If I could fish all the time, it would make the experience less the precious gem it is to me. Tonight was all a summer's evening could be ...less strong drink. I'm on the wagon for no good reason. I don't feel the need for the distraction right now.

So, small creek fly fishers of the world rejoice. There's nothing wrong with a leader as long as a creek is wide.

You've got the gear, boys.

Use it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

In Summer's Grasp

It is high summer here in Michigan just as in everywhere else. We've had some recent heat but nothing like those poor bastards out west are enduring. Still. A little warm to trouble the trout right now.

It won't last long here and the warm will break shortly.

I'm getting gear out, cleaning, repairing, lubricating, and getting everything ship-shape for trout dashing up north come the early fall. I won't have everything tip-top for nightly excursion camping; but, it will be pretty good.

Below - a snap of my new tent:

I've got the fly pulled back to illustrate the nice mesh no-seeum ventilation. There is certainly room for two large Alagash cots (though one will probably be all it ever sees). The vestibules are great for protected storage and will hold all manner of things that shouldn't be stored near your sleeping quarters!

Things that forage in the dark love fly bags filled with treats like jerky pouches  and Snickers' wrappers.

It's a bad idea to store gear in the vestibule. Put it in the trunk of the car with other food.

I've a new lodge carbon steel skillet which I'll break-in this weekend on bacon, eggs, sausage, grilled ham-and-cheese. I'd love to say I've broken down and bought a nice Solo stove (leaning towards Campfire model but really only can justify a Titan model.) I haven't.

I wanted to make a cold-water dash to the Jordan River this year and chase brookies. I don't think it will happen.

I've got a trip for Salmon around Labor Day on the Pere Marquette and a trout trip the last full weekend of the season on the Manistee. I want to get to the Mason tract again this year on the South Branch of the Au Sable and a Saturday wade down the North Branch of the same.

There is a lot of trout fishing to fit into what is just over 60 days left in season proper.

Tent Review: Marmot 3P Tungsten 

I've spent 4 nights in the tent - three of which were in rain. One rain night was a serious storm.

Tent works. It works well. The ventilation is solid. The ease of set-up and take-down is good. I can do it in the dark now if needed. It is not a "dry pitch" design. If it is a downpour, you cannot get it set-up without some trickery. The tent fly cannot go up first.

You need additional pegs to stake  it out properly. I think you're going to want to stake it out properly because water will otherwise run off the fly and onto the very bottom of the seam-sealed section in the middle of the short sides. I had no trouble with this action on the first night I used the tent in "rain" but I did use all guy-out points thereafter. Pegs are easy to deal with even in the dark. Use them. [ I have about 15 in my collection so didn't buy any for this tent which only comes with 4. Tent stakes are handy beasts for all manner of things. Buy some.]

The light diffusing pockets are a nice touch. The overhead room is great. Changing clothes in the tent would be a breeze. The interior length is fine even for a cot-user like myself. The zippers are great and the huge doors (one on each of the long sides) really makes access and egress wonderful. The tent is quick to ventilate, seems to be made of stout stuff, and comes with a footpint for the price!

I always put a canvas tarp inside my tent to protect it and help with keeping it clean. I'm also not packing gear more than a couple miles.

If I were packing 15 km for an excursion, I'd probably not bring this tent. If I were living out of it for a week at the end of that hike? Yes, I'd pack this tent all the way.

The tent is a great tent for a trout camp. You can put two guys in it on cots and each has their own large vestibule and door. It'd work.

I'll use it as my single but then, I'm more a "base camp" sort of fellow.

I'll let you know how the carbon steel skillet works after I cook some eggs this weekend.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Camping Bear

Above, a Marmot 3P Tungsten tent: the new Bear Lodge.

I need to get out more and the drive back in summer from my favorite fishery is a ... bear.

It's a three-and-a-half hour dash which is fine on weekends until you fish 'till dark, have a snack, and start back at 11:30 PM.  I don't find that so fun anymore.

So, plenty of camp sites near my preferred fishing. Primitive camping allowed within 50' of  vehicle lanes in my absolute favorite place. I'm fine cold camping; but, I need sleep. It is so much nicer to fish, snack, and crash until the jays wake me the next morning then driving home like a civilized trout bum.

I bought a new tent. I have a great tent - but it is 15 years old and technology has passed it by. The old tent cannot stand a good 8 hour rain. Can't. Ventilation isn't good enough to keep the walls dry and the rain out. Either condensation or rain gets me.

Thus, I have to pitch a tarp over the tent. That's a huge pain anymore. Means the tent is just keeping out the bugs and I need more.

I did the research, kicked the ties, bugged the kids as REI, read online review, researched materials, tossed the chicken bones, and licked some toads (ok, the last part was just for fun). The Marmot is a good tent and I got it from REI at a great deal during a flash sale.

I'll test it shortly in the north meadow and post some pics and review here. I'm, also leaning toward the Solo Stove Titan for a cooking option to move from cold  camping in areas where there is no designated fire pit. The Solo Titan is a wood gas stove meaning woody debris. Contained, safe, allowable, not an open fire, and allowed in primitive sites.

Ah, that grilled cheese becomes a thing of of possibilities. So does a bacon-and-egg breakfast.

First things first. Let's try dry and bug-free for a crash pad. We'll move to comforts beyond my Allagash cot then.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Bear Camping

We hosted Camp Cub for the grand cubs here this past week. Most of June was consumed with activities-other-than-trout-fishing.

Sad, but true.

Now, back on the path.

We did a great job, though. Sleeping under the stars. Watching the moon, Jupiter, Venus.

We used a whole bag of Jumbo Stay-Puff (enough to attract real bears who thoughtfully returned the invitation with regrets).

So artifacts:

Camp with flag before tent:

Excited camper following me past the photo trap.

 Visitor to the meadow and one of her three resident fawns (fawn is small head directly under the thorn tree in the picture's center). The three fawns spend the days in the tall grass.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Trout Camping

At left, a fellow on adventure with his wall tent. Gentleman is Mr. James Willard Schultz in an undated photograph shared on wikicommons by Montana State University's library system for the mere price of attribution. Thanks, folks!

My favorite trout dash lies about three hours from my door. This isn't bad; but, when the fishing is in the evening it can make for a haul to get home.

Thus, I am increasingly drawn to trout camping.

I like tents. I like them a great deal. There is something very wrong with me.

I like everything about camping even the occasional wet socks ( in the days when my self-crafted tarp footprints extended beyond the boarder of my tent).

I've found a nice 3-man tent that is light enough to pack for as long as I'll pack gear these days  which is about 5 miles, really. My days of  heavy hauling for distances are long gone. I'd rather camp and dash off with a small bug-out day-bag than pack the whole pile of accouterments for very far.

Luckily, there is some wonderful gear available. The chance to dash in an early afternoon, fish the evening, have a little late night supper, and sleep for a few hours before heading home in the morning really appeals to me.

I'll let you know how it goes. A solo stove, a Marmot 3P Tungsten tent, a mossy coleman bag, the small cooler soft-side lunch-bag, a five gallon mini-bull of water slung on a stick.

I'll even drink instant starbucks in the field.

Who am I kidding?

I like cowboy coffee just fine and make a damn fine cup of it.

That sound you hear is not a bear. It's a contented fly fisherman snoring under the stars on a trout dash.

It's summer. Don't waste it.

There aren't too many left.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Trout Camp 2015 Spring

Trout Camp for Spring 2015 is in the books. We fished the Pere Marquette near Baldwin.

Obligatory pictures:

New Amber Angler Chris showing the gung-ho spirit on a day where it rained 16 hours straight.

Chris and I fished this section together and you can see why he was gung-ho. Beautiful country. Great river. Good access.

My buddy Chip with whom I fished the morning before the series with Chris above. We had fun even before the Amber Liquid - that's a Two-Hearted in his hand. Yes, named for the Hemingway story. We drink clas here in the Amber Anglers.

I don't have pictures of the other crew. I'm not a very good photographer and none of the other Amber Anglers have stepped-up. Wilson did however give each of us wonderful waterproof pouches this year which served quite well considering the spill rate.

Yes, we fell. We fell a great deal.

Chip and I started off in a section where I knew I'd go down. I left, stopped by Baldwin Bait and Tackle, and bought a Simms wading staff that Wilson has used for a few years now. Saved. My. Ass.


Chip went in twice - full on - on the stretch we started and I left. Soaked him.

I fell the next morning just entering the river. Luckily, I did a "sit" fall and only splashed myself and my dignity. I tripped over the wading staff.

Rumour has it our Alaskan made a brief dip - nothing too bad.

Our chef Big Bear (aptly named) took a bad fall that had me concerned. He floated a hole and at one point had four paws (including the one holding the reel) only above the water. He managed to drain, re-suit, and fish a good hour before deciding to return to the cabin for lunch.

Five degrees cooler and we all could have had some field-expedient intervention. I've ended up field stripped by force wearing someone else's waders, a donated shirt, hat, jacket, and bounce marched back to civilization. I'm alive. We needed nothing so severe.

Conditions were first hot then cold. Wilson made excellent fires. Moberon had wonderful Bell's beverages for refreshment. Chef Big Bear fed us like we were rabid infantrymen with tapeworms. I'm getting old. I can't handle the volume of food I might want to eat anymore.

Our new member who couldn't make the trip sent a bottle of fine amber spirits. He's in.

Steak night was great but for the fact my buddy Chip had to leave us early. These young pups have other commitments. I'm all done bird hatching so my time is my own. Took a long time to get here, though.

One of our new anglers had a free trip up in Canada and couldn't make it. Of course. Free trip in Canada.

One of our original members lives completely in a world of shit and couldn't make it. His life will change. Young lives do. We''ll still be around when his world turns as it always does.

I gave everyone some of my ugly flies. They were not magic flies, alas.

Chris - our new member from the pictures above - was super to fish with and in his first fly fishing camp hooked a fish. He got to feel the fish on the end of his line. Awesome. Not to hand - probably because I gave everyone my barbless flies - but there it is. I had several hook-ups not come to hand too.

Chris and I traded gear for a bit because I wasn't in love with the set-up he borrowed for camp. Nothing wrong with it except that it's a stiff (tree trunk stiff) six-weight that robs some feeling. I made it work fine and so did Chris; but, he got to fish my new 5 wt Hardy Zenith a while.

I lost a nice fish on his 6 wt when I was in current, hooked, and didn't move to slack water soon enough. Broke 5x tippet. No help from the rod but it was my fault. Had the bloody rod in the air like I was fighting marlin and I know better on nice fish. I got what I deserved for that bit of stupidity.

Didn't make a difference trading gear. Bastard is a natural athlete with better than solid hand-eye coordination. He was throwing line just fine in roll and overhead and the lob after about an hour. Takes instruction well. He's as good as any of us just picking up the rod.

Great he was able to hook-up down on the stretch in the picture above. Great riffle before a pool and he had one take a hare's ear I tied.

Highlight of my trip having a new guy hook-up. Made me feel we have a chance at being something other than old guys waving sticks.

The wet weather didn't sit well with all the anglers. I like shitty weather. There's something wrong with me and I wade like a club-footed T-Rex. Rain helps my approach. Maybe the late-summer/fall camp will have blue-bird weather.


Well, not many.

Fish are not the reason we're at it, anyway. They help. So do smoked oysters, steaks, s'mores over the fire and salted-chocolate chip cookies. The meat pie Chef Big Bear made was amazingly tasty. I love meat baked in crusts. Damn fine food.

Now, back to improving our skills.

I've got a new wading staff. Won't be leaving home without that little beauty. I keep a bail-out bag in the car, too. Clothes will fit most. Always helps.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Fish Camp News - Prep Section

Spring trout camp is almost here for the Amber Angler crew. This year: Pere Marquette.

The reports seem to show bugs hatching. Cool.

They also show the side effect of this lingering spring in that part of the world: salmon fry. Lots of salmon fry.

So, with the solid week of rain predicted and the abundance of fry: streamers.

I know it is Michigan and the history of Kelly Galloup but I'm not a fan of 7" sex dungeons. I'm not.

Kelly does have a lot of smart stuff to say, however. His take on induced action from almost neutrally buoyant streamers is a good one. So, I'm tying some bottom dredgers and some neutral streamers that can be worked for action.

We'll be trowing fry-sized streamers which is fine with me. Size 10 dry fly hooks work just fine for small bucktails. They're easier to pry out of the back of someone's neck, too.

Streamers are their own type of evil. Here's a take on the problem from some pretty amusing film-makers.

Streamers Inc from scumliner media on Vimeo.

Just in case some of the Amber Anglers need something more - here is a bit of streamer help from the folks at Red's who happen to shoot nice video, too.

I have both an 8 wt and 5 wt Ambush line from Wulff. I also use a Joan Wulff and a series of TT and TT plus lines. I love the stuff.

Lastly, Andrew Toft shows some wonderful technique. You have to get through the language and accent - as well as soft volume. Wonderful stuff, though.

As a qualifier: I know this stuff is new. I spent all winter with my edition of Gawesworth's Single Handed Spey Casting,  Macauley Lord's  L.L.Bean Fly Casting Handbook, and Rosenbauer's Prospecting for Trout as well as books by Dave Hughes (2 books, actually), Sly Nemes (also 2 books), and Bob Wyatt. My favorite read is Joan Wulff's New Fly Casting Techniques. She really helped clean up my delivery stroke.

Yes, I cast like a girl. If that girl is Joan Wulff, I'd wear that badge to my grave. My golf game has a lot more in common with Dottie Pepper than Tiger Woods, too. Most amateurs ought to be looking more at LPGA style of play than PGA. Those PGA guys are in a whole different universe.

Joan has spent years teaching complete idiots to cast well. She's working on me through her books. Joan is to the technical aspects of casting what Dave Peltz is to technical golf. If you want to know why what you are doing is working against you, Joan can explain it and put you on the right track. She's a doll.

I've gone to school over winter on better technique, better water reading, and better attention to details about behavior, environment, and the clues to trout all around me.

Now I have to clean-up my fly presentation. It's all about presentation.Well, and not being a complete idiot about the flies you use. Maybe it isn't "all" about any one thing.

Yes, I need more days on the water. We all do.

I'm getting better. I'm disappointed that the spring outing doesn't look like the soft hackle bonanza I'd hoped. Trout practice for steelheading with streamers can be a lot of fun.

I'm tying flies. I'm practicing my spey technique. I've outfitted my rods.

I'm stretching that avocational enjoyment just as far as it will let me. I've got to get more out of limited days on the water. I'm working it.

So will you.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ugly Flies

I tie ugly flies.

AT left, plate one from the 1860 volume by Henry Wade Salmon Flies from Rod Fishing. Public domain image without copyright from wikicommons (and a redundant disclaimer, to boot).

These are wonderful flies. I have a soft spot for salmon flies. I have a soft spot for salmon. I have relatives who only mean "salmon" when they say they are going fishing.

The first time I saw a Spey rod in the mortar house (where we kept both types of mortars), I thought it was some sort of buffoonish prop. Now, I'd read all of McClane's New Fishing Encyclopedia at this point but still had never seen a Spey rod. At least, it didn't stick.

I had a copy of the encyclopedia thanks to Book-of-the-Month club.  We bought a lot of books at my house and sometimes I got to spend the bonus points that came along. The volume came from the windfall.

So, Salmon flies. Gems on hooks, really. I can't see the colors anymore but I remember them. I remember the iridescence.

I tie ugly flies. Luckily for me trout eat ugly things.

I started back at the vise a couple months ago after last tying flies with any serious intent in my uncle's basement in the summer of 1980.  I had a Thompson clone around here somewhere that I bought at a curio shop in Kansas in the late 1980's. I've used it a few times over the years. Never more than three or four at a time and years between. My materials finally got buggy (the hair) or brittle (the feathers).  Some of the feathers were OK still. A few.

So, back at the vise. It has taken a while - and a new pair of glasses - to get back to speed in tying. I had a hard time even whip finishing by hand when I started back.

So, a couple hundred flies and I'm doing fine. I've even learned a couple new techniques. Shocking, I tell you.

This all matters because I've tied a bunch of flies for the Amber Liquid guys to use at spring trout camp here in a little over a week.  They're functional flies (and the amber liquid guys don't read the blog so no worry on the surprise).

They are however, ugly.

There's a lot of rusty brown and black bodies and grey and brown hackles. There is some flash and a few nice 18 partridge and yellow tied with silk. They're not "pretty."

Most are a little lumpy or the hackle is a little far back (don't crowd the eye George would tell me over his own glasses as we drank Coors beer and tied) or the lead winds on the butt indicating that it is a weighted nymph protrude a little far or aren't too tight.

You get the idea. I'm going to give them to the Amber Angler guys and they will suspect I am trying to rig the "big fish" contest we have at each fish camp.

Some won't know trout eat ugly. Crippled duns, wingless spinners, dead sculpin, caseless caddis.

Mayflies are beautiful. Iso larvae are just ugly little guys.

So. I tie ugly flies. I'm happy with them. The trout eat them. I don't think trout get "beautiful" on the plate nearly as often as we'd like to believe.

I double whip finish so they don't come undone. I think the batch I give the Anglers I will dab with Sally Hansen's. I don't use the stuff but lest something come apart in the water, I'm going to be doubly sure.

The ugliest ones I'll naturally save for myself.

Big Fish trophy is in the bag.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Mason Tract - Chase Bridge Version

Out and about scouting trout this past weekend. I found a great deal of sand. I wanted to go to the Deward tract on the upper Manistee, but  I couldn't pass down the rough county "road" off paved CO612. The road needs a Subaru at a minimum.

Went to both Goose Island campgrounds on the flies-only stretch of the Manistee. Sand sand sand. If it rains, you're stuck. Here I was lucky and escaped. I'd say it requires a pick-up or non-cross-over SUV.

I then backtracked to the Chase bridge entrance to the Mason tract for the south branch of the Au Sable.


The road is paved all the way to Chase bridge. There is a nice parking spot for half-a-dozen cars though there is a canoe launch so spots on weekends in summer are going to be tough to find.

I idled down the two-track Mason Trail Road which was in fine shape for a good 1/3 of a mile into the Mason track. It was "family sedan on picnic" worthy with several pull-outs for one or two vehicles. As you see in the pictures it too is not a place to be is a rain squall blows through.

That said - here are the recon photos:

 The road about 20 yards past where I pulled over. Full-sized SUV or Jeep. No doubt. The ruts are about a foot deep. The mud is slippery as snot. I almost fell in a little spot off camera as I walked up!

This is a trail marker on the Mason Tract hiking trail which also serves fly anglers. Very clear markers. Nice branding.

Example trail segment. Nice pathways. Minimum walk-around or widening. Easy passage.
You share the trail. Bear marks (I didn't photograph the scat). The log is about 19" in diameters. The dark spots in the shredded parts are teeth marks bigger around than my finger about two-and-a-half inches deep. Not porcupine. Definitely bear.

Trail marker. Map. Very clear. This spot marks the intersection of the Mason trail with a designated pathway leading to the river.

The river from the access point above. Lovely wading section.

Hendrickson and caddis on the water. Caddis rising slowly from rippled sections. Hendricksons dive bombing.

I fished soft hackle flies that I tied. I hooked four fish. Had two to hand.

Three small browns (2 in the 8-inch variety and 1 smaller 6-ish) and a 10+ inch bookie. It was a blast.

The brookie I caught two minutes after entering the water, spotted him feeding, fished to him, hooked him. Right out of the chute. Had him to hand for a wet release - barbless.

I fished an 88" adaption of a Leonard taper by a local builder. It's a nice 4 wt bamboo which is to say it is a solid rod able to roll and mend and carry a lot of line (nearly the whole fly line at one point).  I fished a 5x then 6x and finally 7x flouro tippet and managed to get good drifts on fish I targeted.

I was lazy and fished downstream or nearly downstream about half the time. I used the long line to help spread my drift without wading into sight range. It paid in terms of active takes during the drift but too much line let me miss more fish than I hooked.

I knew what was happening but I was having fun just feeling the thrashing fish on my fly even when he only barely hooked-up (just enough to know I had a fish but not enough to even see or say "hooked").

The breeze ran maybe 3 mph. Mosquitoes are out in force. Ticks are out in force. They'll be some bug spray and too-frequent showering at trout camp in a couple weeks.

I'll try not an be so lazy next time and wade upstream to stalk my fish. This was a two-brew and cigar outing. Ate my sandwich in the car on the way up. Spikeburger at Spike's Keg O' Nails and then home.

Best news of the day? Waffle fries are back at Spike's.

Chase bridge is a wonderful piece of preserved timber and worth many more visits. A nice gentleman who has retired to those parts gave me the clue on the wading here. Locals love it. There are good four miles that are nearly always passable with only a couple tricky parts.

For the Au Sable, that's pretty good!

Great day on the water. Just what I needed.

Of course, Sunday I stopped at the local shop and bought just what I don't need. Hey - it was a deal.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fish Porn ... a day late

I've been engaging in technological activities other than fishing. Sad, but true.

I have tied a ton of flies lately. Most of these "poorly tied flies" will be gifts for the Amber Angler guys so that they have excuses not to catch fish (was using jack's useless flies again).

Anyway, while we contemplate the application of technology, here's one that has merit.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Shore Lunch

At left, a print from a glass-plate negative from the Brooklyn Museum donated to the public domain as having no known copyright restrictions. Image is on wikicommons.

The gentlemen anglers - suitably well-dressed for dry fly men - have lunch in 1900.

I sent my mother-in-law a Zingerman's rueben sandwich kit for Mother's Day. The Amber Liquid guys will probably be appalled (Zingerman's holds little cache with adopted locals. I think they've been spoiled by other US locations where good food abounds. It doesn't abound in very many places. Certainly, quality deli treats do not).

Amber liquid guys don't read this blog, anyway. They're living the life of adventure - which means they don't dream of fish at night as I do. I dream of other things too, but fly fishing is the nice part and I don't wake my wife when dreaming of it.

Sending the gift to Marion got me thinking about shore lunch.

Now, I'm fortunate in that my guides have fed well despite mixed encounters.

Mostly my guide problem stems from either not being prepared for the technical job at hand (bonefishing) or not wanting a new best friend (too numerous to count). I don't go fly fishing to have discourse about, well - anything. I'll take direction but I'm not wanting to play 20 questions and that's now (I am much more mellow now than say twenty years back).

All my guides have been good field cooks. Some qualify as amazing cooks. I personally have never had a bad guide cooked meal.

I almost foundered at the Hideway Lodge in Emo, Ontario a few years back prior to a flight out. Wow. What a breakfast. (Special order. I think our pike/walleye crew have used that card.).


Lunch I make myself  when fishing for trout tends to be cold and sparse. Maybe ham and cheese. Most likely some jerky and something else (survival ration?).

I'm going to change that this year. I might not have hot, but I'm going to have good.

Corned beef and swiss sounds pretty good. I like dry sandwiches for travel. I might have to go wet by separating the contents and doing field assembly. There's and idea.

I really want to get a solo stove and do a sausage-and-pepper-and-onion in pita type feast. [ link at right].

I'm trying to beat the gear-whore curse.

I bet fishing partners might be easier to tear away from whatever family obligation they have going with such a treat, though.

I'm going to think on this shore lunch business for trout.

Why should walleye guys have all the glory (and fried fish)?


Monday, May 4, 2015


Fish porn edition a day late here.

Season is on us and you need to know how to remove a hook.

I haven't had one cut out with a scalpel. I have seen it done. Sometimes it needs to be done.

I personally have had a shank cut off and the barb pushed through as a removal technique.

Not something I want to do again. That's "the wrong" way. Saying that, I'm not still wearing the hook. I tried to do it to a guy too when I was young and stupid. He ended up grabbing the thing with forceps and yanking it out himself. Tough old bastard.

The skin in your hand is surprisingly tough. Pushing a barb through is a bear. Better to try to back it out BEFORE you start messing with it.

Not that qualifier.


If you aren't sure - then wait. Use a little tape and just pin the thing in place. Yes, the barb will work deeper if you move the part you impaled. Remember I said wait when you didn't know what to do.

Well, you'll have a clue now.

SO - enough soapbox. This one shows an alternate method. I've pulled two of these off myself and one off a buddy. Works.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Trout Industrial Complex

AT left, a copyright-free image from wikicommons thanks to the Queensland State Archives.

From the film The Magnificent Seven, screenplay by William Roberts:

If God didn't want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep.


Hello lambs.

I tell you here in these pages that you are being mislead, deceived, and lied to.

The Trout Industrial Complex is no different from the automotive industry, the consumer product industry, even the durable goods industry.

We miss the label "brighter, whiter" or the old salt "new and improved" or my favorite "new for 1958." That's about the only difference.

When you are a public company and you have investors who are interested in growth, as a CEO you have to produce growth. Most common institutional investors are generally loathe to invest in declining markets - those industries whose comprehensive gross revenue number decline year-over-year.

SO, we come to the recreational products industry and the segment near and dear to all of us: fly fishing.

You have noticed the uptick in the frequency at which gear catalogs appear in your mailbox. 

 You go to your local fly shop and see gear and gadgets which your father would not be able to identify. Hell, you might have to ask about some of it yourself.

Worse, you pull up to your favorite stream and there's a suburban in the lot covered - and I mean covered - with manufacturer's stickers like some 70's era Winston Cup stock-car and you don't recognize most of them.

You're being "marketed."

There is the prevailing notion that newer is better. There's the idea that the right gear makes the fishing better because it makes the catching better.

There's the idea that if you are not spending to keep up with the latest gear, well. You're a second-hand Joe and maybe ought to consider a different sport because, after all, serious anglers use  a Helios 2 tip-flex 10' 4 wt or, well. I guess dry fly isn't for you.

Guys that make fishing shit generally have to keep selling you new fishing shit, attract new guys to the sport to sell new fishing shit, or advance model/design/styling/label to make your old fishing shit old embarrassing fishing shit so you buy ... new fishing shit.

I know a guide (who doesn't like me at all) whose gear was frequently held together with tape and who can catch more trout off rusty bits on his sun-visor in a tea cup than most of us will catch in a season. He uses an ancient RPL 6wt a bamboo-loving client declared as shit back in the day and gave it to him in lieu of a tip.  He hates the thing. Won't spend money on his own gear, though. He knows that the gear doesn't matter.

You won't find that particular sensibility within a hundred miles of a fly-fishing show, however. Gear "is here."

The guide's an old front-range communist who was just smart enough to keep his mouth shut about it  until some young kid showed up with a recon-cut wearing a painted leather jacket that said "this machine kills communists" on its back.

I'm bitching, so I'll get to the point.

What makes your fishing enjoyable? Not catching - I'm not talking about catching. I'm a fly fisherman. Catching is immaterial.

What makes your day enjoyable?

I like Squadron Leader in a beat-up briar and Glenfiddich old enough to vote.

I like a slow flexing rod that reminds me of a crappy piece of fiberglass I carried around until I crushed the top section in a door for the third time in her life (cabin screen door this time) and she de-laminated for good.

I've got a couple damn fine pieces of fiberglass now. Glass is not dead.

I like warm feet and cool knees. I like enough breeze to keep the worst of the mosquitoes away but not enough to cause my light casting any trouble.

I like the last hour of almost-light. I like the first hour of that, too.

I'm delighted over 8" brookies.

I like a warm beer I forgot about in my bag late in the day. I like a cold beer at 9 AM I'd intended to save for lunch. I love finding hot coffee left in the thermos after lunch.

I like cinnamon jolly ranchers and spicy beef jerky.

I like threading and tying a fly in about fifteen seconds. Doesn't happen nearly enough.

I like hearing my buddies laugh at jokes I didn't hear.

I like fishing so quietly I don't flush the chickadees from streamside brush.

None of this has anything to do with a Sage TXL-F fly rod.

What the duck does that even mean?  TXL-F? Christ, you're not going to shoot down a MIG with the thing. Can we please shit-can the "tactical" naming around here?

Fly fishing is expensive. I'm not going to defend that.

It's a couple hundred dollars to step in the water and another couple hundred to catch your first fish and that's if you've got a buddy who can protect you from the marketing hype of  "might as well buy good gear" when you personally know exactly shit about good gear.

Nobody starts with a Jim Payne or a Bob Summers - and that is good gear. The rest of it is just "ok" gear which frankly, is good enough.

Cheap is usually crap and expensive is usually - well. It's sending someone else's kid to college.

Expensive gear sure isn't more fish than a kid on the bank with a cane pole and worms. It was a long time until my biggest trout was not one caught with worms as a kid. I still haven't caught one bigger in Michigan and I've been here seven years.

The circumstances which make fly fishing fun are the places in which we tend to practice the sport, the times at which we do it, the people we gravitate towards to do it with, and the solitude of standing in cold water waving a stick and largely not catching fish.

I stole a bunch of that sentence from better writers I've read, I'm sure.  They probably aren't surprised or upset, either.

That's part of it.

The new gear, the sponsor labels, the hottest "new" fly - none of that shit in the catalogs or the ads means any more than the pile of crap in your yard from your neighbor's labrador. You knew he was going to shit in your yard the day you saw the puppy out with his kids and you hoped he might turn into a decent duck dog because you could sure use one come November.

I don't have any problem with the cost of solidly built gear that you learn to enjoy. I don't see why a decent rod doesn't have a fifty-year horizon of use. Keep throwing it, and chances are you'll learn to use it just fine.

Don't buy something that makes you hot and sweaty. You'll regret it. Think of having it on your person when it is eighty and sunny (I'm in Michigan. 80 and sunny is now "hot." Yes, I know it isn't hot in Georgia. I lived through a summer stacking hay when we had 30 days in a row over 100 so I know hot, mister. 80 is now hot).

Don't buy gear you have to baby. Don't buy camo anything. Digital camo fly box? Really? Silver - maybe not. Green is good. Go with green.

I spent money this week on a Hardy Marquis reel. Nothing too bad for price  - but it hasn't been made in fifteen years (this one is forty years old) and the gentleman I bought it from wrote me a letter and told me how he'd bought it for a grandson who doesn't fish and now he himself cannot wade any longer and hoped I'd enjoy its use.

New. In. Box.

Leather case. Paperwork. Kid's name in pencil on the bottom.

I'm not sure I know a sadder story right this minute but I'm damn sure that a new Lamson ULA Force SL reel at three times the price will never mean as much as this Marquis I have on my desk.

The Trout Industrial Complex understands exactly shit about "the why." If they did, they'd try to sell you that, too. Maybe packaged like a candy bar.

Try new Redington Solemn Reverence ZV-DNW Mk3 in salted caramel. It'll melt you heart. Casts 70' in a parking lot, too - in case there are any trout hanging out 70' feet away in a parking lot.

Dog knows I've caught a shit-ton of fish there.

Would I like to you, Lambchop?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Opener, and Fish Porn

At left, frontpate taken from the 1855 Art of Angling by Charles Bowlker. Interstingly, most of these flies are ones you know.

 No. 1. Red Fly. 2. Blue Dun. 3. March Brown. 4. Cowdung Fly. 5. Stone Fly. 6. Granam, or Green Tail. 7. Spider Fly. 8. Black Gnat. 9. Black Caterpillar. 10. Little Iron Blue. 11. Yellow Sally. 12. Canon, or Down Hill Fly. 13. Shorn Fly, or Maiiow Buzz. 14. Yellow May Fly, or Cadow. 15. Grey Drake. 16. Orl Fly. 17. Sky Blue. 18. Cadis Fly. 19. Fern Fly, 20. Red Spinner. 21. Blue Gnat. 22 & 23. Large Red and Black Ant 24. Hazel Fly, or Welshman's Button. 25. Little Red and Black Ants. 26. Whirling Blue. 27. Little Pale Blue. 28. Willow Fly. 29. White Moth. 30. Red Palmer.

Opener today. I went to the Huron and threw a little 4wt bamboo whose reel seat has just been replaced. She's a fine firm action. She'll do.

I then proceeded to fish for smallmouth with an 8wt swinging Mickey Finns on a two-inch-per-second versileader. One especially stupid 8" smallmouth took the fly.

All in all, great opener. I also needed the practice with the big rod and the Ambush line. Had a blast.

Below, fish porn. Especially nice fish porn, too. The trout chasing damsel flies must think they taste like chocolate chip cookies.

Great stuff. Happy spring.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Everything Old is New Again

At left, a picture of Mile Howell of Rochester, Michigan fishing in June of 1939. Image by an uncredited photographer of the Department of Agriculture's Forest Service.

Everything the fellow is wearing looks new. If you look closely, it even appears the reel has come off the rod in mid-cast. I suspect it is a staged photo for some official purpose.

He's not wearing a wading belt and I suspect that becomes an essential piece of kit very early in a wader's career. I've done without and cut myself out of my waders before just to get up the bank so I've a little understanding here. I'll pull the belt out of my pants to use as a wading belt before I go missing one again.

Everything looks new.

I've a bunch of used gear - that is, gear acquired used from another angler - and I like all of it.

I also have one of these I acquired from another angler in an unused state.

At left, an Essex Side Bag from Finn Utility.

It is an expedition quality piece of gear. It costs as much new as a very nice reel.

I was fortunate and got it at deep discount partly because it was customized but mostly because the fellow I bought it from talked to me about fishing then told me the price he wanted. I protested but he said he wanted it used well and long.

So I'm using it.

I also love it.

I've had a vest forever.

I had a nice second-hand Filson (the guide model with all the little pockets) that I left a ham-and-cheese sandwich inside and which my dog destroyed getting at the ham-and-cheese. That particular dog also ate an ex-wife's birthday present purse soon after she opened it.

The dog and I didn't last much longer in the house after that. I probably shouldn't have laughed.

The dog passed the hardware in about a day. I was a little worried until then.

The Finn Utility bag has all the hallmarks of being made both by someone who knows what they were playing at with fishing gear and by someone who knows their craft. 

I'm going to have a lot of fun with this thing for the next couple of decades. You'll understand if I try and stretch that into three or four decades. I could blather on about it's function and design but the simple truth is: the bag works as needed, not just as designed.

Buy one and use it if you have a chance.

A couple of the Amber Anglers have moved to  new sling packs this year. They bought them last winter on end-of-year gear sprees. I'm anxious to see how they like them.

 The designs look wonderfully useful; but, I know I hate something around my wrists (like shirt sleeve cuffs)  and I can't stand a sweat-soaked pack hanging against me.

These new technical bags look to have solved these sort of "close to you" objections.

I'm impressed with a lot of the innovations which are on the market. 

I wrote earlier that the Vedavoo fishing backpack designed for wear while wading looks awfully well engineered. I could be tempted if I knew I wouldn't load it up with stuff (see earlier posts: I'm a confessed gear whore).

Brady bags, Chapman bags - these are the things of classic angling. Hardy made a few nice side bags in their day. Now, here in the USA  (Maine, actually) we have the Finn bag. It too will be a timeless classic. I'm glad to have one.

I'm always on the lookout for great used gear.

I'm looking for a Payne 204 right now.

I think I'm going to join our friend in the top picture and have a new one made by a fine rod maker I've come to know. I'll talk about his products later in the summer but they too are on a par with the Finn Utility bag. First class work.

Something about a strong 5wt, rod,  a fly wallet of wets and soft-hackled flies, a tiny day box of a few choice dries in case anything is rising, and a summer evening.

I had snow flurries of a pretty determined sort blow through here yesterday.

I bought and paid for all the winter I need. I'm selling the used pieces cheap.

Make an offer, steelhead guys.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Brookies - UP

Today's fish porn edition features some pretty nice amateur video of a group fishing the heart of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in 2013.

These are impressive brookies.

On my list is to make the trip to the Fox and the Two-Hearted, do the bushwacking, and have a Hemingway moment where you earn the fish through blood sacrifice to the bugs and brambles.

Brookies this size look to make that trip possible (that, and the fact I have a pretty respectable Driggs River clone).

Thanks for the video, guys. I enjoyed it.

Amber anglers will as well.


Fly Fishing for Brook Trout in the heart of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan from Into The Wild Fly Fishing on Vimeo.

Friday, April 17, 2015


AT left, a copyright-free image from wikicommons as taken by a US Army photographer in the performance of official duties.

Ike is speaking to "E" company of the 502 Parachute Infantry regiment, 101 Airborne Division prior to D-Day at Greenham Common. The officer with the number "23" around his neck was Lt. Wallace Strobel.

The intent look on his face is because his Army Group commander is illustrating the firm thumb-on-top stop position of his casting stroke.

No, I'm not kidding.

Ike talked fishing with the troops before combat. As president, he fished for trout while staying at Camp David.

He's got the right attitude in the picture. It's a battle. Technique helps in the accuracy of the presentation.

I'm tying some flies tonight that will help with presentation. I'm wire weighting some sparse soft-hackled flies to use on Mill Creek - my local trout stream.

Last night was our local chapter's TU banquet. I've had better meals in coach on airplanes. I think I'm going to have to get on the committee next year. I think the local country club did us no favors.

Of course the meal didn't get any help from that fact I managed to win bupkis.

Lightening struck int he same place quite frequently last night. There were several five and six time winners. Fortunately, I think the fundraising efforts progressed nicely. My Mill Creek derives all of its revival fortune from these efforts.

I have treats for fish camp now nearly a month away. I have ten boxes of girl scout cookies duct-taped closed in my pantry.

Duct tape is not rated as bear-proof. It is a powerful deterrent, though. Bear-discouraging.

Our house is infested with bears.

I'm back to the vise. I need to practice my catching technique.

We have to remove the influence of the trout industrial complex on our fishing. My own flies are a good way to start.


Monday, April 13, 2015

North Branch Report

I'll let the pictures tell the big story.

Lovells. This is where I went. This is the scenic side of the road. No, I'm not kidding.

This is the ice on the trail of grass and pine needles on the way to the water.

This is the river: the North Branch of the Au Sable around Powerline.  That's about 100' wide.

Pretty typical lateral cover. There is a lot of this sort of thing. The woods are still late-winter ugly. I like it but I don't see color very well.

The bottom: a mix of gravel, organic drift,  and small cobble in places. A little edge muck - very little.

This is the flag of the north country at the moment. Everything is for sale. Pick a property, make an offer.

Amber guys could buy a cabin if our wives wouldn't kill us. Some of the Amber guys have cabins. They're social and entertaining cabins, though. They're not fish cabins. (I.E. no smoking cigars or meats inside).

Typical North Branch cabin.

One of many DNR signs replaced for spring denoting the area as flies-only, open year round.

I swear I didn't see the branch when I took the picture.

Four weight 8' Steffen Bros. glass blank built out for me by Mark McKellip of McKellip Bros. here in Michigan. First rate job. Yes, that's a custom stacked leather handle. Mark does the best in the business with these.

That's a Scientific Anglers System One 456/ Daiwa 706 click-and-pawl Hardy Marquis clone. Best clone made for the money. Lovely line holder. I have a whole collection of these. Haven't paid over $45 for any of them.

They're rugged and easy to love. Wulff TT line in 4wt. Rio Versileader in 10' 2ips sink rate.

Handy little device stolen from my Walleye fishing gear.

I can't see to tie-up size 18 or multi-fly rigs at dusk. So: Tackle Buddy. This is the small 5" model is about 1" in diameter. Holds 8 pre-rigged gear set-ups with just a little perfection loop on the bitter end and a wrap from the little rubber nipple.

When it comes time to tie-in, I nipper the loop, put it in my catch-all pocket, and tie on to a sacrifice piece of flouro from the versileader with a Seagar knot. (Seagar Knot). I tie subsurface flies on flouro tippet and leader.

I tried to make my own very nice wood-and-felt rig jimmys over the winter. They're not so good. The glue for felt gets hard and the felt isn't thick enough and ... I'm not going into the gear manufacturing business.

Smith Fly has a new rig-patch and there is my favorite: the Rig Jimmy. I went with the Tackle Buddy - I think I gave $5 for 2 in a package. I still have one with my walleye gear. I could be persuaded to dig it out if someone wants it.

For class, the Rig Jimmy is nicer (but about 6x as expensive for 1/2 the utility).  Nice, though. Lovely.

This is an upstream from the start of my wade that gives a good perspective of the river here above Lovells.

Car temperature as I left. This is probably when I should have gone onto the water; but, it was Sunday and it's seven hours round trip to get here. Nice drive though (my trout car is fun to drive). 69 degrees.

Street sign adjacent to the DNY access point which is an easy place to get in or come out of the river. Powerline is an access point at ... a powerline. It's easy to find. The DNR site is unmarked from the road. Look for this marker on the adjacent property.

Fish? Two on hook. Neither to hand. I'm going barbless this year and the first I flipped on hook-set and the second I pulled free in a little over-aggressive surface action flippty-do before getting to the net. Very nice fish on the second loss.

I had trouble managing the sink tip.  I didn't roll strong enough to get it up. I might have liked a 9' graphite instead for the conditions. I had one, but used the 8' glass because I had it, too.

I also fished downstream on the swing. The wind was up and it wasn't a nice day for easy casting. Wind was coming down the river and so I too went down rather than trying to fish structured lies going upstream.

I did make some nice casts after the first half hour. I did a lot of snap-T one handed but the tip would plow before I shot the roll out over the water. I ended up making a lot of overhead casts in mid-stream. Lost two flies - one to tree trying to sneak under it, one on a break off.

I did poorly on hook set. I have some very hard hits and either pulled the hook or didn't get a solid set on a 16 soft-hackled fly.

I traded to a size 14 pheasant tail and had no hits on tight-line nymphing. All the action - and there was good action - came on the soft-hackled fly.

All the action also came in the bottom-third of the water column on - surprise - good drift segments.

So, great day. Not great catching. The issue? Me.

I don't have a downstream hook-set down for soft-hackled swing. I do better upstream to individual lies. I'll get better.