Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summer Outing: Manistee

 At left, action shot of an Amber Liquid Angler casting on the Manistee in a great bout of tag-teaming pockets. We had to fish to habitat as there were few rises to indicate active fish.

Last weekend - the weekend before the 4th of July holiday - saw a quickly planned outing by some of the Amber Anglers to Grayling, Michigan and the waters of the Manistee. Ostensibly, we came for the Hex hatch.

We fished a wonderful stretch of river called the Deward tract which is blessed with a complete wilderness outlook. There are no homes and no campsites. No canoes, either.

 Deward's namesake is an abandoned logging boom town of 125 years ago.

"Should have been here last weekend."

There were some hex around and some gray drakes and some caddis and ... Look, It was buggy as hell. The hex might not have been driving the bus but there was plenty to use to catch fish.

There were also plenty of fisherman.

It's been warmer than usual and we've made-up for a laggardly spring season with a full push into summer. Bugs have come out and fishermen chasing the hatch descended. The hex is a night-fishing event and with the heat we've had so is fishing with everything else.

The hex however brings out combat fishing and so to escape others we went to the wilderness of the Deward tract.

It's a wild stretch home to brookies and a few browns. The "big fish" was probably a brown I lost just upstream of here and even he wasn't "large" maybe pushing 12". The angler pictured landed a nice 8" brookie which stood for the documented "big fish" of the trip. He has the "trophy cup" at least until steelhead season.

Not all of the Amber Anglers are fans of brook trout. I'm not a fan of combat fishing. There we have it. You can't head to the water at 7:30 PM on a weekend during the hex hatch and expect to claim anything worthwhile.

The fishing was fun and technical. It required solid casting and some stealth. These are not typically Amber Angler strong suits. We did explore and find an off-map "secret access" that is completely undocumented in the popular local books but is a legal and available access point.

In short, good outing (except to a "small fish despiser" who failed to hook a fish, small or large. Makes 'im testy.)

Here's a lovely posed shot of our angler above:

I'll probably use this one at his funeral. We fished together Friday afternoon and really saw some great country. I'd expected more risers but the late afternoon heat ...

This is the same angler as above and this is the more traditional pose when a photograph is requested.

I almost lost my phone in the river during the outing following this pose while doing a one-handed snapshot routine. Luckily, I didn't immerse it and have a Monday morning $700 replace-and-upgrade bill.

I'm getting a new waterproof camera. Never again will I juggle an item I need for commerce over a 7" brookie in the dark.

Alas, this is becoming too frequently an Amber Liquid photo. Ice pack.

We're getting old. It's beginning to show.

Thus, more physical training. Who knew the Stairmaster was a fly fishing training device? When we have to pack-in to find clear water, it certainly becomes one.

We've had a summer outing. Full marks.

Next weekend (after the 4th) sees a casting clinic for two-handed work put on by my local fly shop: The Painted Trout. Two days of instruction on the water - free. Of course there will be instructor tipping and some gratis beverage sharing and some gear buying but formal instruction on Spey? Great deal. Cannot pass it up.

I fished the Mansitee exclusively with an 8' Steffen Bros. 4/5 blank laid up for me as a custom by Mark McKellip here of Michigan. Mark makes stunning cane rods but is a huge glass fan and so will put those in his queue. The rod: perfect for the fishing we did. Could have gotten away with a nice 3 wt graphite on Saturday evening but fiberglass is safer for those of us who stumble in the stream.

Fish. It's a little about the fish. Its a lot about the stunningly beautiful places they seem to live.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Most Important Lesson

At left, a photograph from 1890 by Edward Samuels from the library of congress hosted on wikicommons. That's a fine fish and this fellow has clearly learned his trade well.

I gave one of the most important fly casting lessons of my life this morning. I had my 11-year old grandson casting my 88" Gelsdorf cane 4 wt  in both roll and overhand casts within about 10 minutes of picking up the rod.

He was thrilled.

Now, my grandkids are soft. Way soft.

There are some reasons for this and while I can take some displeasure in seeing their white-bread world and its restrictions, probably best they don't have my upbringing.

I was driving on my own at 12 covering 9 miles each way back and forth to the ranch. Times change. My grandson cannot depress the brake on my John Deere with all his might and so can't even idle it around the meadow.

He lit his first campfire this year (pinecone tinder) - and struck his first match. He's eleven. We haven't progressed from matches yet. Flint and steel next year.


Anyway, he took to the fly casting like a duck to water. He's no bad habits to break having only been fishing a couple of times otherwise (that fact itself a travesty) and does not have the "spin casting" business to break out of him.

More importantly: I was able to be slow, encouraging, and jovial about the whole thing. My outlook was "if it doesn't take ... it doesn't take." Oh, it took.

So, Sunday morning on the last of Bear Camp this week, my grandson learned to put a fly line and leader inside a Hula Hoop from 35 feet away with two different casts.

Yes, I am doing a little Foghorn Leghorn around the house right now.

Broke camp. Put everything away. Beargirl has the sinus infection/virus I fought all week. Brutal but manageable. She's down though and so no harm, no foul. Camp's over and she's allowed to be down if she wants.

I'll take the grand cub bluegill fishing next year. It didn't fit this year and physical activity is not his long suit. Fly casting? Worked well.

Sold him on "fish hunting" with a fly rod ...far different than fishing.


Next week: Amber Anglers' Fish Camp.



Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Golden Chipmunk

Not really a fishing note. Image in public domain hosted wikicommons originally the intellectual property of Phil Armitage who did a great job with the snap and the releasing of such a fine image into the wild.

I have grandcubs up this week and we are camping in my meadow every night.

I did Monday night in a tent ... on the ground. No Pad, cot, air pad, closed-cell foam. I was on the ground.

Yes, I know. My Own Damn Fault.

However, I'm alive and relatively unscathed.

I've earned my "Golden Chipmunk" award for the year, though (sleeping unaided on the ground).

As with most medals of distinction, you don't earn it without a scar or two.

Now, someone help me tie my shoes. Please. I'm a little stiff.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Sling It

Two years ago I moved to a side bag from a vest. This is the gently used (new by my standards) Finn side bag I acquired from a generous forum member of the Classic Fly Rod Forum.

I love it. I can carry a decent lunch, a couple cans of PBR, a water bottle, and all the gear I can possibly need.

I recommend moving to gear that gives you pleasure to use. This side bag does it for me.

Now that the warmth of summer is creeping up in the afternoon, a bag that stays off our backs is a great joy.

Evenings are the best. Get out there and meet some trout.