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.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Pale Shadow

This week's fish porn features two fellows off catching Brookies: Lee Wulff and Curt Gowdy.

We Amber Anglers are pale shadows of these folks. I'm going for brookies on Sunday. Not really in the same league as these two at all.

Gowdy was not known to me through the Red Sox - though he was known that way to my father. He was known to me through "The American Sportsman" and Hank Aaron's 715th.

My outfitter in Canada flies a little Cessna like Lee's, though the crew of us fly in an Otter. I've been in a turbo conversion Beaver and boy, I like that airplane. I could see myself in on of those if I came into real money.

Anyway, these fellows are off in Labrador and it's a great film to watch. Lee tying flies by hand sans vise is pretty cool if you've not seen anyone do it.

Gowdy clearing the campsite is worth a laugh. He didn't put the ax in himself, at least. The producer probably though it would add "authenticity."

Outfitters don't give the guest the ax. Wounded guests make poor testimonial customers.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

...And I'm a Gear Whore.

At left, an overloaded  jingle truck in Afghanistan courtesy US DOD. Thanks to all who did time in outer shitland. The Soviets loved the place. Shows you that travel agents the worlds over lie like cheap rugs.

To borrow from AA:

My name is Spike, and I'm a gear whore.
<Hi Spike>.

OK. Not very socially conscious, there. Fine, I'm an unlicensed gear therapist. 

I fight it every day. Somewhere deep in my subconscious lies a horrid concept that if I have the magic fly, just the right line, the best reel, and the fully-loaded slingbelly asspack, then I will have everything I need to land the monster trout.

I've been in running water screwing with gear and watched a monster rainbow swim past my leg.


I've identified the perfect lie. I've rigged four different flies and made twenty casts only to wander on thirty yards to have a guy in a drift boat float by and pull a 20" trout from exactly where I was thrashing (last year, in fact).

It isn't the gear.

I've ditched a vest because I found myself wondering if I could put a twelve pack in the game pocket (yes - stack them three-on-three).

I've gone from a vest to a large hip bag to a smaller, simpler model to self-limit my gear.

I've room for a pint beer can, a bullet thermos of coffee (Thanks Oracle!), a water bottle, and a nice lunch. Oh, and everything I need in the field including a leatherman, fire kit, emergency reserve field papers, and field wound dressings for punctures and lacerations.

I find myself looking at Vedavoo's backpack. Lusting.

I think if I have a backpack then I can carry the Stanley field-grade coffee system. Yea. Coffee system.

That's the clue, isn't it? 


I try to leave and they keep pulling me back. (Godfather, Part III).

Now, fresh brewed coffee after a couple hours in the water any morning sounds nice. [ Great Video, by the way. We need this guy in the Amber Liquid Anglers.]

Fire would be easy in a solo stove - link over on the right. Oh, fire. That opens some possibilities.

Hot lunch and the solo stove and just a small 7" cast iron pan for sausages in one of those near cooler-grade lunch bags and then a couple refill beers - because it is a backpack - and then maybe one of those fold-up sleeping bag mats for a nap in the sun ....or a hammock! Yes, a little hammock to hang by the river and nap until the hatch and - oh - bug spray. Field glasses. That'd help spot the hatch. Maybe a Griffin 2A vise and I could whip up some spiders in the meantime ...

See where it goes?

I don't know why this happens.

I'm fine in a shirt with two pockets. I can stick hemostats and the tag end of my lanyard with nippers in one, my day box in the other. I'm good. I can clip water to my wading belt if required. I've got a decent knife in my pocket (always).

But it creeps back in when we're weak.

Look - a monocular (which is much smaller than field glasses). Maybe one of those plastic screw-cap cigar tubes - or a roll-up pipe bag in a gallon plastic baggie!

There's no cure. It is a day-at-a-time-disease.

What do you call a cured gear whore? 

No one knows. No one's ever met one.

If you see me fondling a collapsible wading staff/cook-fire tripod/gaff/frog-gig, please stop me.

Remind me that more than two flies on a line are sure to tangle and a man can only use one rod and one reel and one line at a time - and that one set will do for five of  seven days on the water.

I've already got the gear for the other thirteen days of the week.

I'd love to hear of the least used piece of kit you are habituated to carrying on the water. I've a nice whetstone. No, I've never stopped to put an edge on a blade mid-wade.

I could though.

What's your useless gear that gets hauled on the stream? You can tell me.

I'm a unlicensed gear therapist.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Old Flies - Fish Porn

Freyfisher again provides us with an image. This time he's got a photograph of a nice March Brown in parachute configuration.

Wikicommons hosts the image.

I like a parachute fly early and late. It's a big help to someone who isn't attuned to watching the water. None of the Amber guys have a Guide's vision.

Today's video comes from a fellow: Lars Olsson.

Not many here will know Mr. Olsson. He's pretty much Mr. Swedish Fly Fishing.

When my son married a Swede and we traveled there for the wedding, the bride's grandfather talked fishing with me.  I hadn't heard of Mr. Olsson then.  Pelle told me about this fellow who'd driven forward a river conservation program and established a catch-and-release fishery which - to a people who eat fish - had never been tried.

Pelle is an economist and very big on the "tragedy of the commons"  which is an economic theory . Elinor Ostrom - another Swede - won the Nobel in 2009 for her work on the topic.

Catch-and-release where a resource is managed for the enjoyment of all rather than the food source of a few is an example commons management.

Anyway, Lars Olsson is a famous fellow in Sweden and in European fly fishing.

I picked this video today partly because of the wonderful cinematography and delightful presence Mr. Olsson makes as the film's subject, but also for the enormous grayling the film features and Mr. Olsson's wonderful gear. That's a good used car in his hand there, boys. I think that's a Vom Hofe reel. They run about $2000 plus - if you can get someone to part with it.

Look for his wool-pages fly book he pulls from a pocket after complaining about the Yellow Humpy.

The fact he loves wonderful old wet-fly patterns and shows us his dry-fishing technique is a plus.

Happy Easter.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Special Edition - Porn

Cam Mortenson over at The Fiberglass Manifesto turned me onto this in his blog post but for my Amber Anglers who don't spend all their days cruising fish sites, here it is:

The Redicooler (pronounced properly as the /rəˈdikyələr/). A fine piece of April Fool's that we can only hope comes true.

 We've all been wanting Yeti coolers. Here's the model to buy. Christmas is coming, boys.

Yes, I believe that is Oberon from Bell's Brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan there in the last second grab. It's what I have in my side bag when fishing in summer (when I don't have Two Hearted).

That, Mr. Marketing, is brand awareness.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Drinkin' in the Drift

At left, a jug of corn liquor from Weston Missouri as photographed by Ken444444 on wikicommons and allowed for use here by way of attribution.

Thanks Ken.

One of my buddies from another state saw our little bog here and wired me in response to my limited fly box assertions. (here)

After reminding me that it didn't matter because I don't catch many fish anyway,  he called me "crazy drunk" for a limited box this year.

He said I should just go whole hog and use only one fly if I felt that I could do well enough to avoid selling my gear on Ebay fishing with a limited box.

I'm not worried that will happen. I have more gear now than when we last fished together. Too much trouble to sell it.

I did want to briefly bring forward a few facts related to the limited box I'll push this year.

(1) My presentation matters most of all. If you've seen my dragging flies, you'd know that. Clean up the presentation and start adding up the fish.

We're all going to fix that technique before we start spending money on guides in remote places.

(2) I picked my flies with some care. I cheat. I hedge. I have all winter to read.

Tom Rosenbauer in The Orvis Guide to Prospecting for Trout has a section (p. 88-89.) where he relates a little statistical background on trout and feeding. He uses this as a transition section after discussing the daily behavioral drift during the night.

Behavioral Drift: For those who did not take Invertebrate Biology (I was a physiology track guy and never took it myself), the drift is a phenomenon of freshwater streams where certain invertebrates "let go" during the night allowing the current to seed them down the river to a new habitat.

It's a bug's version of cows moving around that pasture.

The bugs drift with the prospect of landing in fertile fields for whatever it is they eat and thus avoid "eating themselves out of house and home" if they were to stay in one place. They use the current and drift probably because they move relatively poorly on their own.

Trout feed during the drift. Usually it begins late at night (driven by ph changes in the water chemistry) and ends just before dawn.

Two types of insects have however been found to have daytime behavioral drift: Caddis pupae and larvae; and Baetis larvae.

You know the Baetis as a type of mayfly. You know it as the Blue-Winged Olive.

In Michigan, the pre-adults of these species are among the most numerous in our streams. 

Finally, The Pheasant Tail (Soft-Hackled Pheasant Tail for me, thank you) is a dead ringer for the BWO nymph.

Ann Miller's excellent Hatch Guide for Upper Midwest Streams which  I believe all of the Amber Anglers have as an autographed copy (Thanks Ann!) shows on page 28 a Blue-Winged Olive nymph.

Ann however photographed the insect against an opaque background.

As trout see them in the drift, they're a little translucent against the hard sun and it is here where the Pheasant Tail is a dead ringer.

Ann shows flies to use: the 80's Baetis, the Peek-a-boo baetis, and the BWO bead head the first two tied by Mike Schmidt and the last by Tim Scott.

I say the pheasant tail does a damn fine job, too. Tom makes this point in an illustration and he's way better at this than I will ever be.

I'm not a trout.

I'm also not an aquatic biologist and Ann is.

If you don't have her book, ask in your local fly shop. They need to have it on hand. I've read it twice this winter which is to say I've been entranced by the wonderful photography and sharp "punchy" prose all winter.

We need local fly shops. They sell service and knowledge. Buy from them. Please.

(3) Trout eat some flies more than others even when all food sources are available.

Tom Rosenbauser cites two studies to support this claim.

In Wisconsin, a study of autopsied trout stomachs and compared that to same-time drift samples. The ratio of 1 indicates that an insect was as prevalent in the stream as it was in the trout. A ratio of 2 shows trout ate twice as many insects of a type proportionally to how many were in the stream sample.


Caddis fly larvae has a ratio of 2.1

Mayflies ... 0.5

Tiny midge larvae? 6.4

Are you fishing small enough? I must not be.

He goes on to clarify that in a New York study conducted in the 1930's, caddis were the first food choice of trout but for the months of May, August and December when mayfly nymphs were a first choice.

Hare's Ear is a great caddis.

I'm not a fellow to play fair. In this game, the trout has the upper hand. I'm not above using science to gain an edge.

An indicator over a nymph?  I'm not that desperate. I'll go all tight-lines, please.

One has to draw the line somewhere. Bobbers and live bait are kissing cousins.

Not all the Amber Liquid Anglers feel this way.

I'll laugh at their bobbers. I'll curse the fish they catch with them.

Then I'll offer them Scotch from my flask.