Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Do Trout Celebrate Christmas?

AT left, this evening's eggnog. If you add the right amount of rum, you get the wonderful marbling effect when the emulsion breaks.

I frequently drink my eggs raw. I like eggnog. Go figure.

I'm writing these days. I should be fishing now that it is after Thanksgiving but I haven't made it out. I'm burning through the ink.

Tonight I was at my local fly shop for a talk on modern tech clothing (I wear wool. Who would have guessed?)

The talk centered around "better than wool" and "it breathes."

I wear a lot of wool in the field. The Patagonia stuff I have is nice but so is the twenty year old wool union suit.

I like wool pants. Wool shirts. Wool sweaters.

Leave it to a Scotsman to clone a sheep.

I'm looking at the Olympic Peninsula for a spring outing with the Amber Liquid guys.

What could go wrong?

Bears. (Mountain) Lions. Basic navigation. Booze.

Pretty much covers it.

I have new heads coming in. There's a new 4" Bougle should be here by Christmas. A Cascapedia (4/5) trout reel on order.

Yep, I'm spending treasure on fishing gear. Sue me.

A writing partner and trout buddy has cancer.

You know in the movies when someone looks absolutely normal and is told "you have cancer" and the audience is stunned because she's so beautiful and ... ?

Yea. This isn't like that.

I'm buying some lifetime gear so my buddies can use it when I'm gone and if it takes me another thirty years to fade away, I get to use it.

I think of Warren Zevon every now and again. Mostly, when I'm having a sandwich.

More writing to do. I've got to get at it.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Four Anglers

Above, rainbow trout from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service as hosted on wikicommons. Copyright free image.

There are four anglers one meets with a fly rod.

The Infrequent Angler.

The infrequent angler is solely in the purview of recreation. We meet a great many of this sort. Unfortunately, we meet them in fleeting acquaintance too often. Mayflies share a great many traits with these folks.

The infrequent angler is usually recognized by new gear, squeaky boots, and a single-minded desire to wade directly into the water most likely to hold fish. They usually have a poor sense of space wandering through water they ought not to wander into, wading past anglers they should walk around, and crowding holes that "look fishy." 

They mean well. They false cast too damn often. 

Usually, they take to reasoned instruction like fly to flypaper though caution is needed lest the pursuit of fly fishing seem too much a mechanical process (tab A into slot B and ... trout!). You have to give them space for the mysticism of the water to take hold.

Sometimes it doesn't take hold.

Infrequent anglers are also full of the the enthusiasm everyone finds themselves envying at a later period of their angling career, even if the admission only comes under the influence of a substantial amount of whiskey.  

The call of the infrequent angler is known far and wide: 
"Hey, I got one!"  
Splashing and gregarious photo-ops follow sometimes to the fish's detriment.

I still love these guys though I've created too few. 

Fishing is a contact sport to infrequent anglers. Bigger is better and a fish is a joy. 

Isn't it always?

The Frequent Angler.

I, for example, am a frequent angler. 

Unfortunately, the label has too little to do with the presence of fish in landing net.

The frequent angler reads the trade literature. They cover the casts and techniques and can discuss the merits of a French leader on a ten foot four weight with a reasonably stiff tip. They can spell O.P.S.T and understand steelheaders as a special sub-culture of the sport who may or may not be expecting a fish on the line at any point in the season. 

The frequent angler considers the match-the-hatch and the presentation bias much as denominations of the protestant faith where, after all, isn't there a common end-goal?  Dry fly purists rate somewhere towards Catholicism. 

Wet-fly soft-hackle addicts? Welcome to temple! Mazel tov!

While we're on it, the frequent angler may proselytize angling as a near-religion. The fishing is an excuse to do something out of the day-to-day humdrum existence. 

It becomes a social bias and discriminator of affiliations leading to the spousal cocktail party opening question of "do you fly fish?" 

Knowing wives commiserate frequently with the one telling the other what a Bougle actually cost instead of what the husband said it cost. 

The "frequent" part of the label refers either to: (1) the rate of an individual's appearance in fly shops fondling gear; (2) the number of times "fishing" might come up in social conversation; (3) the occurrence of fishing related publications arriving in the mailbox or (4) all of the above.

Yes, there is an uptick in the number of fishing excursions of the frequent angler over the infrequent; but, fishing itself is merely an endgame whose anticipation is savored much as one might stretch the anticipation of an upcoming extravagant vacation they might not quite be able to afford. 

The call of the frequent angler is widely varied by geography and various seasonal factors but might be generalized as:
"Have you read Marinaro's In the Ring of the Rise?"
The Occasional Angler.

At the pinnacle of  recreational angling lives the occasional angler. The term comes from the west of my youth where severe understatement is a rule and is much a part of speech as the rhyme might be to a cockney cant. 

This individual is the one about whom it can be said "they can occasionally catch a trout ... out of a shallow mud puddle on a moonless night." These are anglers whom we mere mortals deign to imitate.

Unfortunately, the mass of internalized knowledge and experience --usually originating on several continents--from pursuing all manner of game-fish results in an unnatural sixth-sense about where, when, and what to fish. It is almost unfathomable as a science to the new angler.

Exchanges with them tend to be somehow exotic as if in a Tokyo whorehouse whose doorman has to recognize your friend only by face. Where else can you find a girl who will read German poetry all night wearing a Kimono revealing nothing but a smile with a ready willingness to pause in order to refill a masu  (that's a portioned sake cup for you old-school sinners)?  

Yes, you pay for her to read the German. No, you don't understand it at the time either.

The point here is that exchanges with occasional anglers can be surreal to the uninitiated.

"Hey, I just got this H2 lightening rod that'll cast a whole line in the lot over there. Want to try it?" 
"A whole line? Impressive. I'll just keep my Garrison here. Your rod might ruin me for the one just 20' away."
My favorite response from an occasional angler is the time I called over after a fellow I knew who hooked four fish in as many casts to ask "What fly are you using?"

The answer?
"I'm using the one that looks like what the trout are eating."
We went to the river together and the fellow had four flies on his hatband. That's it. No box. No bag. No net down a wading belt. A six weight and four flies on a sun-rotted Bailey hat. Kicked. My. Ass.

Of course, he wasn't even in the game I was playing. No point.

The Commercial Angler.

The fly shop owner, guide, instructor, boat builder, outdoor writer, or rod artisan. These sort of folks feed their family from the water. They're not messing around.

They're not recreational anglers any more. Sure, they love to fish. Tiger probably will say he still loves golf but on the course, you are never playing the same game he is. Not. Even. Close.

The game to the commercial angler usual has nothing to do about putting fish on the end of their line. They're so good, they can put fish on the end of your line even when you're not aware they're doing it.

I can't speak to the days and years on the water it takes to get the observational skill of the commercial angler.

Fish with one of these fellows socially and they'll say things you won't understand at the time.

"Wow, he almost closed on that one. Try that cast again and see if he take this time but slow down after every third strip."
You find yourself polishing your polarized lenses and looking through them queerly suspecting something amiss with the 3dx5 SuperClear coating this brand swears makes all the difference.

We've seen this most of the time when getting a new skill from a guide.

They'll tell you something like "Roll it into the foam line then count two-bugga-bugga after the indicator makes a half twist."

We look at them wondering what language that might be. We try the technique, hesitatingly. No joy.

"Here-- like this," they say taking our rod. "Right there, see that? That was the fish."

Blank stare.

"I'll do it again, slower," comes the assurance the guide offers and ... fish on. He'll then flick it off with a wrist move and presents the rod back to you.

"Like that," he says. Increasingly, she'll say it. Sometimes they smile sheepishly if they know you've paid a good used BMW in guide fees through your lifetime.


Like that.

We've all got places to go, just like the guys in the jet boats. I've an uncle that use to laugh at the jet boat guys.

"Where does a guy in a boat go?" he'd ask.

"I don't know," I'd say.

"Somewhere else," came the reply. Often, it came with a fish on the line.

I like days on the water best. Sent a buddy off to the coast this weekend. Probably won't get to spend very many more days on the water with him. Time. Distance.

Makes the days we enjoyed together special. At least he knows he likes water days too, now.

That's something.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Apple Bread, Tea, Sunday Evening

At left, fresh cup of tea, apple bread (think banana bread but with cinnamon and apples covered by a streusel topping) from my local cider mill, and prose.

I'm at the ink but it is a good night here. First real snow of the year this morning. We've had fall flurries but it is now working up to being serious about winter.

I got some new cdc today to try some flymphs tomorrow night at the grotto. There are some beautiful cdc spiders over at the Small Stream Reflections blog (link at right)  and that got me thinking about my early season flymphs.

I like cdc. I like how it moves in the water.

I have an idea for my early season using a parachute-style pheasant tail nymph.

My first thought driving down the road was that it was a stupid idea. I tie flymphs and fish them subsurface to indicate the larval stages between nymph and fly. I'm well in the water column with these "lures." That's how I've thought of them.

Cripples, drowned emergers, stillborn, and the other surface dwelling non-dun? I use a thick bodied soft hackle sometimes with a drop of floatant.

A nymph -- a subsurface imitation-- as an early season indicator? A post on a nymph?

I need something other than a big bushy dry as the early season/early day partner on a dry-dropper. So, I look it up.

Gary Borger has an example on his blog from 2012 (here) of a parachute pheasant tail nymph that isn't exactly what I am after but which contains a good recommendation. The professor states his parachute pheasant tail out performs any other imitation during Baetis hatches.

Sounds like my entire spring -- except for the "out perform" part, of course. I always feel I have to work very hard for cool spring trout. Opener was different last year with a nice warm spring afternoon before the cool spring deluge that followed the next day.

Right in my wheelhouse.

Hmm, here's a fellow whose books I own who fishes a parachute flymph and says positive things about it. Also, the PTN is one of my favorites. I tie them with greater precision than a hare's ear so there's that.

Time to smash together a buoyant, upright floating, white posted PTN flymph with some cdc feathers for the motive attraction.

I don't feel like a complete idiot now.

Wait until I post some pictures. You can laugh then. Luckily, trout enjoy being amused by my efforts. My flies are ... beguiling.

Tomorrow night flies. Tonight prose, tea, and apple bread.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Brook Trout of Unusual Size (B.T.O.U.S.)

Alright, I'll admit it is a Northern Pike as crafted by Robert W. Hines for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and therefor in the public domain as hosted on wikicommons.

R.O.U.S. => rodents of unusual size from The Princess Bride  published in 1973 by Harcout Brace as written by  William Goldman.

A buddy I'm going fishing with casually sentd me a picture of a 17" brookie this morning. Just another fish caught. Meh. [ Let's clarify: he's not a recreational angler. You'd say he was squarely in the "commercial"  category.]

Of course, like most of you I had to wait until I had my glasses, a proper monitor, and a couple cups of coffee to look at the snap.

It's a fish. You've seen them before.

The thing is, we get stuck on size as anglers. We drool over large fish.

I don't give a damn when I'm actually fishing if it is a 4" brookie or a 16" brown. I'm delighted for action.

When pictures come out, it is as if I'm in fifth grade and found a Playboy  [ okay, it was the interview with Jimmy Carter issue. They were everywhere]. Only then, I knew those girls didn't actually exist.

Show me a picture of a 24" brown out of a drainage canal and I believe I can go right out here to the ditch and get one myself.

It's a size thing. Pictures of big fish turn something off in our brains. Mostly, they turn off the spending control part of the amygdala.

I stopped by the fly shop today and made a payment on something beautiful. Useful; but, beautiful. It doesn't hurt that I just love Dirk and Lauren at my local shop. Great people. Friends.

I found out we're going back to the Driftless this year. Two trips. I'm going in the May run. Could use the outing. Hope Dr. Don can make it, too. And Jim. Be great if Jim can come.

I am definitely putting together a camping group on the Black river for opener. Several folks are interested either in camping or coming by for morning breakfast before heading out.

Makes me very happy.

Biscuits and gravy. Hot coffee. I'll probably cook both on a gas stove this year just so I can create a bigger warming fire without burning the grub. We'll need a good warming fire.

I could use a new gas stove for groups, anyway.

Something about turning the knob under a big coffee pot and starting the warming-fire when everyone else is still in their bags makes me feel good. I like the smell of a fire in the morning and the radiant warmth of the first hot cup of coffee. I have plenty of wool and down. I'm good for fire-lighting duty.

It's going to be a great opener. Yes, it is six months away.

I've got trout excitement bad. Watch out, it's catchy.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

No Boat for You

At left, the US Navy carrying my dreams away.

Actually, it is a RIB from Special Boat Team 12 is being airlifted. Either way, I don't get a boat.

I've had a couple conversation with U.P. folks in the past couple days as I try and assess a trip to the Fox, the Two Hearted,  and the Tahquamenon.

Verdict: no boat. One man portage from chest deep holes? No. Don't try.

So, walk in, fish a hole, move on to the next access, fish that hole. It's more a drive-in-and-walk than a float-and-fish type of operation.

So, I've learned something.

Looks like post-Labor Day is also a good plan for Black Fly control options as well.

All this means late season sees me in the U.P. sans bateau.

No loss.

I'm looking forward to putting together a camping group for opener on the Black for brookies. A couple of my trout friends are interested. Coffee, biscuits and gravy, and opening day trout.

I'm going to check out REI for a little better bag. Mine is rated to freezing and opener can demand something with a little more staying power. Hello, Marmot.

Yes, I do take a well sealed stainless canteen of hot water to be with me when it is really cold. Helps ... for six hours. I use a fleece bag liner too. Morning are cold in Michigan come April.


Monday, November 13, 2017

I Want a Boat

Stamp at left from the fallen Soviet Union. Image hosted on wikicommons. The soviets can sue me over the image's use.

It is sleeting outside this morning as I stay at home to take care of personal business. I guess this entry is now personal business.

I want a boat.

That is, I want the experience of traveling down rivers on a carefree current stopping at at the odd riffle or tongue of gravel to catch trout inaccessible to mere wading anglers.

I want to float the Two Hearted and the Fox weaving around the sweepers and past the odd rock or narrow run guarded by thick tag alders and briers.  I want to draw two inches of water on the Black standing to cast at nice cut-banks and holes dug by spring currents.

Watermaster seems great. A few pack canoes leap out at me.

I prefer the inflatable for stability. I prefer a hard-structure craft for timber and snags. Nothing is perfect.

I'll dump a canoe at the worst time. Same for a kayak.These rigid vessels are best used where recovery and support are at hand. They're not good for solo runs where the risk is a key piece of gear floating down the river from  "inadvertent bear roll."

Inflatables suffer punctures. I can patch anything. I'm a fan of marine epoxy. A meter roll of patch cloth covers many many ills. Still, critical gear floating a mile downstream requires my grossly inadequate spot-and-find technique to be pressed into service.

It is all for naught.

A boat requires a spotter run and that means other humans. There is nothing I can depend upon less than other humans.

Spotters are easy to come by where the aluminum hatch is heavy. Great!

That isn't water I want to be fishing.

Back woods, thirty miles into the forest, a slide down a bridge abutment: that's water I want to travel. It is not water supported by the local livery, fly shop, or even party store. I'm in the boonies and a boat is not a help.

I've thought of the bicycle routine - chain a bike at the run's end and peddle back to the vehicle at the start. Some do it. Has potential merit. Still considering the option.  It isn't like a twelve mile hike isn't out of the pale for me, either. Wouldn't hurt one bit to put on a pair of boots and leg it out. Time, effort. Those things I might find.

The fleeting problem with a boat is that the effort of using it is not equaled by the enjoyment I'd have.

I need a boat for a dozen trips a decade. Not really making much sense here. Of course, without the boat my dream of fishing the Fox next year is almost zero.

I want. That word usually leads to some sort of evil in my world. It wears on the ursine psyche.

An Old Town 119 is hard to beat for the price. Pack canoe. Heavy - but then cheap costs extra effort. Always has.

There are many other great pack canoes out there but they start at three times the price. I'd rather a plane ticket to a destination than a better canoe stored all summer on sawhorses under my spruce trees (and out of sight of frau bear!).

I haven't solved the mystery of remote adventure water yet. It is difficult to access for a reason. That's the reward: difficult. I know what the Holy Waters on the Au Sable becomes when June rolls around. It can be nearly combat fishing.

Three hours more in the SUV and the crowd is gone. The water isn't as well known. The fish are not as pressured. The canoes are few. The wilderness is wilderness except for a few seasonal grouse and deer hunters.

I have a few months to decide. Yes: you'd think there is the option of a guide service. Those fellows cover the known water around here: Manistee, Au Sable, Pere Marquette, the Pine, the Rifle.

Backwoods do-it-yourself is indeed backwoods do-it-yourself. Can't complain about the options if I pick "undeveloped" and "isolated" options for adventure.

Two-thirds of the trip's reward is figuring out how to make it work.

Hello Craigslist! Somebody has to have a pack canoe to trade for Christmas money. That new Cascapedia can wait a couple months.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Year Ahead

At   left, public domain image of Hemingway fishing in Key West in '28.  Image from the Kennedy museum and hosted on wikicommons.

Happy. Jovial. Looking forward to an afternoon of fishing.       

Putin fishing in Tuva, 2007. Image provided courtesy www.kremlin.ru and hosted on wikicommons.

Happy. Jovial. Looking forward to an afternoon of mayhem.

I must not be taking my shirt off enough. Writers and despots get all the hot babes.

I'm looking ahead to '18. I can't believe I wrote that. I long anticipated being dead by now.

2018 goals:

(1) Fox and Two-Hearted, Upper Peninsula Michigan.

(2) Upper Columbia - American Reach, Washington.

(3) Yakima River, Washington.

(4) Outings to the Black River, Lower Peninsula Michigan.

(5) Jordan River and the Jordan River Valley, Lower Peninsula Michigan.

(6) An opportunity I don't expect.

It's a big brook trout year for me here in Michigan. I like brook trout, have the gear for them, and love to spend an afternoon watching them demolish a barbless wet fly. I'm going to do more of that this year.

The Senator won his election last night so I don't expect to see him fishing any time soon. Big Bear likes the camp (and camp cooking) more than the fish. Wilson is moving to Seattle. Mobes has a girlfriend.

It'll be a good year for solo adventure.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Cat Heads

 The ground is sodden. The rivers are blown out and in the trees. We've had rain six of the last seven. Should end for a bit after tonight.

I needed an attitude adjustment.

My early streamer season has evaporated in the wet. The trout are on the beds and I'll hope for a nice Christmas week to try and find something anxious to chase my streamers.

In the meantime, cheese-y biscuits. Cathead biscuits with sharp cheddar cheese baked into them.

Here, the biscuits put to use as a bear's breakfast: ham on cheese-y biscuit.

Beargirl's dean gave me the coffee mug and as I was driving everyone around last night in the deluge, I used the mug this morning. Michigan played a night game in a storm's aftermath and so I was transport officer. Spousal duty.

I like biscuits in the morning when I'm camping.  I like biscuits when I'm not camping, too.

The recipe is idiot simple.

Six biscuits cooked for 22 minutes at 425 in a conventional oven.

1 1/2 cup of flour. King Arthur AP unbleached works.
1/2 tablespoon baking powder. (use a little more if yours isn't a new tin)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda.
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons dried buttermilk
2 tablespoons shortening
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup water.

I mix the dry and cut in the butter and shortening with a fork until coarse grains form. I bag the mix.

In the field, I grease a Banks fry-bake pan, add the water to the mix until the biscuits are large crumbs of about ping-pong ball size. I give the dough a good minute to sit then mix again by hand. The minute rest allows the moisture to saturate the dough and with a good three or four squeezes it is ready to form into balls the size of a cat's head.

Too much kneading and the biscuit is tough. Too little and there isn't enough developed gluten to split them with a fork and have them stay together.

I use a generous cup of cheese when I decide to make cheesy biscuits.

My new OPST heads haven't arrived yet. I'm going to use them for some two-handed trout here this fall. I'll let you know what I think of them when they're here.

Brown ale. The weather calls for brown ale. And biscuits.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Wax On -- Fine. Wax Off? Maybe Not.

At left, some Bailey's Fly Tyer's Wax.

Yes, that's a small KaBar and it was just sitting on my desk so I used it for a size reference. I wear one when I go trout camping and the library shows a little wear from a hard-run at late-season trout.

There's a story behind this but let me show another picture.

Here's the puck of wax. I removed a piece on the left -- too much -- for a Monday night session here at the Beer Grotto.

I read about the Bailey's Wax--probably named for Dan Bailey-- in an article I found in the magazine FlyFishing & FlyTying as written by Magnus Angus. (Article Here). Mr. Angus does a great job on his review of the product and I encourage you to have a look.

However, you do need to read all of the words. I might not have done that.

This Bailey's stuff is a dubbing wax. Great - I need it for dubbing and if it has sufficient tack (it does) I can use it for my hand-tied whip finishes and never smell the Hard As Nails again on a Sunday morning. (Enough of that you in the peanut gallery).

I sort of ignored the wise words of Mr. Angus about using spirits to remove the stuff from his fingers. Missed that part entirely much to my peril.

The stuff melts if you stick it on your paw. It softens. It also spreads a bit.

Imagine pine tree pitch with a bad attitude from a Christmas tree gathering expedition in your prospective father-in-law's new Mercedes which he has graciously loaned you for the day to take his daughter to get the seasonal pagan symbol.

Oh yea, the stuff went everywhere.

Now, dubbing with the stuff was amazing. I'm a dubbing loop fellow and I've never had such wonderful bottle-brush dubbing spins as when I used a bit to help my dubbing adhere in the early twists (I don't use a weighted little spinner).  There is no comparison between low-tack stick wax and this Bailey's stuff.

Though trying my new wax with a generous dollop--read "too bloody much"-- on my left index finger looked very cool, it rapidly emerged that I might have done something unwise.

A bit of loose dubbing stuck to my finger and I thought "no problem." Then a bit of trimmed deer hair stuck to my paw as I was tying up some Warden's Worry bucktail streamers and had some trimmings on the table.

Then the  hen feathers -- red -- stuck to my fingers as I was using a few barbs at a time to make the tail per the tying example of Joseph Bates in his Streamers & Bucktails. The increasing tackiness of most of my fingers and some of my tools was becoming a problem.

Then my beverage suck to my fingers.

No, not the wax hand fingers. The glass stuck to my other fingers on the hand which didn't even have the wax globbet clinging to it.

Hmm. Time to clean up.

Soap? This stuff laughs at soap. Laughs.

Luckily I was in a bar and there were some "counter grade" spirits readily at hand, as it were.

So, a little goes a long way. Wax that is. I used enough for something like ten tying sessions on my first try.

Advice: a small flake one-half the size of a dime shaved, kneaded, and adhered to a finger  and not a finger joint would be plenty for at least a dozen fully dubbed fly bodies in size six or eight.

The package is wonderful: that's a screw cap aluminum container and the wax is packaged in parchment within.

The wax is completely non-tacky to start. Knead it for ten seconds and place it on the surface of one medium sized bear paw and ... aggressive pine tar resin.

Works great to dub, though. Works great.

It's a tool. Most tools require a bit of knowledge to work well. Bailey's wax falls in that category.

I bought mine from a great guy named Christopher Stewart at Tenkara Bum ((Tenkarabum.com). Awesome service.

I like the stuff. I like what it did for my dubbed bodies.

I still had a bit on the back of my left forefinger this morning sort of matted into the hair; but, I burned it off. Clean now.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

New Wax

New wax came today. I'm going to use it this weekend on some dubbed-bodied bucktails. I'll let you know.

Am I the only one who gets excited over the small inexpensive part of our sport?


Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Season Turns

At left, a public domain image as hosted on wikicommons. From a 1920's text by Louis Rhead.

I've a fly fishing friend leaving shortly for Seattle.

We've only been out together for a good dozen times.  We've fished a number of Michigan's great streams starting with a "fish camp" weekend at the Red Cabin on the Pere Marquette in  2010.

I don't expect him back to fish Michigan again. Work commitments, travel, and all the usual suspects including a reticence to leave a wife at home with little alternative entertainment. He travels enough for work that he hates "just leaving" as so many of us will do casually. I myself am doing good to come home at anytime.

His departure coincides with the end of season and there we have it.

I am however excited for 2018. I've got Joseph Bates' book on streamers and am taking it to heart.

I fish Michigan. I need to master some streamer techniques.

Couldn't hurt the fish count, either.

I ate sausage and apples and drank Bell's Octoberfest beer last night. I'm doing fine.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Streamer Dreamer, Return of Gear Porn

Thinking of going after those winter pigs?  Thinking of all those problems you had this year getting into position against banks, dead-fall, swift water?

Thinking trout spey?

Look. I know trout spey is the "hot" business. I know it is our fly fishing equivalent of chasing fireflies on a summer evening when you are six. I know technology does not solve problems.


I have a Winston Boron IIIx 4wt. I have Wulff triangle taper lines (roll cast machines). I use Wotton SLF dubing.

Ok, maybe technology can contribute to the on-the-water experience. It isn't a substitute for competence but then, my mechanic uses more than a pair of vise grips and a hammer most days.

OPST: Olympic Peninsula Skagit Tactics.

OPST home.

These guys have micro-heads that seem to work for trout guys. Yea, I know.

"Heads" for "trout guys."

When did those words start coming together in a sentence?

I've spent time here these past four years improving my casting. I started using single-handed Spey techniques and found joy. Water I could access grew. Success on the water grew. Frequently, I could fish where I wanted instead of where the river conditions dictated.

I fish Michigan brush-piles -- er, rivers -- and not Colorado meadow streams.

Fast water. Deep water. Runs where I cannot get good footing (slippery clay). High banks. High banks with leaning brushy vegetation. These are all still problems.

I do think there is something that can help: OPST micro-skagit heads.

I'm going to try them. I'll let you know.

I'm buying several heads. I'll fish them on my fours (epoxy+boron and fiberglass), my fives (graphite, glass, and Hardy's epoxy and silica), and a big five/six (glass).  I won't use it on my cane. My collection I small (2) and I've protective of these bits of grass.

I do use a three frequently; but, I don't really need to change anything for the water on which I cast the three. It's fine as it is. YMMV.

I'll report. The super short head is attractive. 2018 might be a year of the swing -- streamers and soft-hackle teams. Still playing with that. Never too early to get a jump on next year.

I need a new seven.

I have two Sage sevens and both are two-piece rods -- wait, gave one away [ Trident ] and ... Look, I don't like graphite in two-piece. Seems hideously impractical. It's graphite, for dog's sake. It isn't anything like cane. Cut. It. Up.

Questions? I found a fellow to help answer some of them. Oliver Sutro seems to cover the basics quite nicely.

Listen for yourself.


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Monday Night Flies

My fall began on the first of October as it did with so many of you. Our Dexter fly tying group started meeting here at the Beer Grotto. Scene at left: materials, Bell's Best Brown Ale.

Very autumn.

My local fly shop The Painted Trout successfully completed their move to a new shop on Dexter-Ann Arbor road. I'm glad for that because they're now next door to the Beer Grotto and thirty steps from both the coffee shop (Joe and Rosie's) and Dairy Queen.

It was a great night to catch-up on the summer's fish tales.

Here are Brian, Lauren, and Jim looking at last week's photos of Brian's steelhead trip. He went fishing with Jeff Liskay on the Dean River in British Columbia.

Brian is an excellent spey caster. Ties large classic feather-wing flies, too. Nothing like my dumpy little beasts.

Lauren is an owner with Dirk of The Painted Trout.

Jim is a fine artist and a soft hackle fellow addicted to brookies (like me) and -- gasp -- the mop fly. Anyone have a tan colored mop head?

Above,  a Jingler tied after a Borcher's Special. Turkey body donated by one of my jakes. It is a poor feather a little too stiff. Still, it covers the tiny bit of closed cell foam lashed to the spine of the hook.

I had a little trouble detecting strikes when fishing with too much line out this past spring. I hate the indicator but will relent on a dry-dropper set-up.

One last bit: I am considering a declaration that 2018 is the year of the brook trout. Too often we measure success by size. A six-inch brook tout has all he size we need. I'm thinking about it.

The 1990's constituted the Al Franken decade. Maybe 2017 should be the International Year of the Brook Trout.

I might have to approach some of the fishing press I've met.

Monday night fly tying.  Fall. Brook trout.

It is good to be with old friends.

Have a brown ale.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Give 'Em the Juice

I've heard from a couple people about my mid-summer hiatus.  I was adventure fishing in Ontario.

Safer there for me. Less to go wrong. Fewer witnesses and none I can't trust.

Today was the annual fish survey shocking event on Mill Creek here on our little restoration stream in Dexter.

Morning orders.

A many-legged collaborative organism.

Sometimes playing "what the hell is that?"  If those words don't invoke a memory of Steve Martin, you're way too young.

I'd link to the routine from the original SNL; but, a shitload of lawyers are employed to ensure you never get to see the material again. It isn't a bad general policy towards much of the 1970's.

 Bill: our organizer-in-chief. He does a great job of making things move forward. Thanks, Bill.

The Carlos Fetterolf Brown Trout Lounge for recovering fish. Carlos was a huge force of personality in our AATU who passed a couple years back. We're all the worse for it. He would have liked the trout lounge, though.

Under the bridge. Mind the trolls.

Our tech team: more degrees than Death Valley in the summer.

Action shot: data.

Get. The. Data.

Front and center on shocking pole and net: Kristin, our TU aquatic biologist. She's the boss.

The state of the trout: fine. The trout are doing fine. Maybe natural reproduction. Maybe.

The count this year: on the order of 30 to 40. Given the heat the last two weeks and the low water conditions, that's fine.  Big fish migrate upstream to the springs. We still found 16" fish. Not bad.

Great gig and always enjoyable. Good to see the volunteer crew again.

Hi, Chris.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Fished the Twelve Streams

At left, my Michigan trout fishing bible since coming to the state; Twelve Classic Trout Streams in Michigan by Gerth Hendrickson and Jim DuFrense.

This past weekend I finished fishing these twelve streams by wading the Pigeon and the Sturgeon.

This is a photo heavy post in part because I could find little to help me plan my outing but for the Twelve Streams book. I want to make some of it easier for the rest of you.

This is the Pigeon at the Pigeon River State Forest Campground. There isn't a "flies only" sort of area around here -- at least one enforced. So, spin fishermen with Mepps spinners compete with streamers for aggressive fish. Several guest told me of "keepers" they'd landed.

My largest fish here? 6" brookie. No browns.

Campsite fifteen.

My camp. I went light but was comfortable.

View to the neighbor campsite: pretty obscured. Except for the drunk guy trying to induce coyote howling for a couple hours after dark on Saturday, the campground was quiet despite the many many towed rigs.

There is running water here. The DNR has developed an artesian spring about 20 yards from campsite 15. Very nice facilities.

A road bridge over the Pigeon some miles from the campsite. This spot is "Tin Bridge" and takes a bit to find. You want to approach the stream from the west.

This is Tin Bridge Road from east of the bridge. I suspect a beaver in the lowlands has altered stream flow but that is running water in the roadbed and no, I didn't know if there was a culvert washout down there so I passed even with the heavy off-road gear I drive. An axle in a culvert at dusk is a pain in the ass.

I thought I'd pass on the experience, this time.

Upsteam from Tin Bridge on the Pigeon. Pulled five brookies here. Largest: six inches. No browns.

I saw a lot of this over the weekend. Pigeon River country is wonderful but remote. There's a fair bit of hiking to do. This was a typical trail.

This is a typical Pigeon Forest road. There is a lot of this too and at night, it helps to have a good map. The landmarks are few.

The highlight of the trip was a pack into Green Timbers to fish the Sturgeon as my last of the Twelve Streams.

Green Timbers was originally a private park for the McLouth Steel company employees. In 1982, the State of Michigan took over the area and has largely left it alone.

Green Timbers is a great bit of wild Michigan. The Fontinalis Club -- and no, the club won't let you in -- is the neighboring property. That's the industrialist club founded at the turn of the century whose membership includes Fords (yep, those Fords as in your Ford truck) and others so exclusive you don't get to know they're members. Green Timbers is however public land and shares some of the same water. Go figure.

All you have to do is hike. Figure a little more than five miles round trip.

After two miles but before three, you come to the McLouth bridge. Remember, this was a steel company.

That's a fourteen inch beam. Helluva bridge for no traffic at all. You don't see that sort of thing every day.

The trail to the bridge -- once a road -- is s overgrown that 16" spruce trees in the roadway demand your careful foot placement on the hike in.

Lunch spot. Very nice and very welcome.

From downstream looking up.

A pair of sand traps -- steel, of course -- are in the water above and below the bridge bend. Fish from the banks. I caught .... brookies. The largest ... six inches. No browns.

My "Twelve Streams" tribute shot. Oarsman: the official beer of guys packing in on a warm afternoon to complete the Michigan lower peninsula 12 river sweep.

Wild camping is allowed in Green Timbers and some folks have done a nice job of keeping some areas all policed-up for use. No trash. Trimmed underbrush and grass. Nice.

The Sturgeon is rough. I'd say it is practically unfishable. The cover and blow-down is worse than the Jordan river. The whole thing has a snag-pool-snag type of run to it alternating in ten meter sections. Sure, I'd bet there were some great fish in some of the holes.

I couldn't fight my way to them (no trail, no wade approach).

There is easily 10000 man-hours of heavy work to trim sweepers and cut trail though the public land I saw.

Pigeon Forest country can be tough. Forest trails after logging require something better than a Subaru or Mom's grocery-getting SUV. I fought axle-deep sand and water on several occasions.

I wouldn't have been able to get to several spots without the new super trout car. It's a 4Runner TRD PRO and it needs all of that suspension travel. Seasonal roads can be a bit rough at speed.

There are still publicly accessible waters that don't require such efforts but where the water is easy to reach ....

The Pigeon River is nice and seems to be coming back from the yoga-dam failures of Song-of-the-Morning Ranch ( a yoga retreat that twice decimated the Pigeon ... the dam is now out thanks to litigation, the DNR, Trout Unlimited, and a few other conservation bodies. Thanks, all). I fished cobble and gravel exclusively and saw some great breeding habitat for trout while standing in cold water.

The Sturgeon is a slog. It runs through some awesome country and probably holds some huge trout. You'll earn them, though. It's good hike-and-fish training.

Next year: I complete the Michigan grand-slam: the Fox and the Two Hearted.

I'd say Papa Hemingway would be proud; but, he wouldn't.

There is a price of admission for accomplishment and it is usually paid in sweat through singular effort.

I'll see you in the woods.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Summer Camp

I'm not dead. It's been a big run since June.

I'll cover some in a couple retrospective posts here.

In July, we did have trout camp here in Michigan.

Fish camp involved some preparation. This is the start of a Sunday morning tying session. Those look like hobbit feet at the edge of the desk. Not sure where those came from. The Senator must have been at my desk. ( He didn't make camp. he gets a little abuse for it.)

The boys indulged me for the second year and we did camp. Great fun. My tent at left which has been featured here many times before. I love this little Marmot Tungsten.
 A somewhat more spacious number that Kevin uses. Pretty nice rig. I see smirks about the giant domed rig - but wait.
Damn nice cot. Palatial. Not a great picture of Kevin and in his defense, the lens is doing some funky foreshortening here.  It's the lens.

Solid restorative sleep is important. This rig gives him a solid domicile, storage, and a great bed. I'm jealous. He says it sleeps great. Can't imagine it wouldn't.
 Then, there is Big Bear's tent. Base camp. Nice rig.
 Rusty the Vizsla keeps things secure from those pesky grouse.
 And he guards our contribution to camping and leisure: the generator.

It ran the coffee maker. No. I'm not kidding. We used it to run the coffee maker.

Yes, the coffee was good. Damn fine use of technology.

What, you ask? Coffee on the morning fire? Hmm. Morning fire. Best we just skip the whole narrative of bears in the woods and disputes over fire.

Think of the generator as an engine of harmony. It did its job well.

Brook trout to hand.

Nice brookie. Not the biggest fish of the camp but I was very happy with this fellow. Stalked him in mid-day. Got him on a bushy Jingler tied after a Borcher's Drake pattern.
Fish camp '17 and ... we're eating again. Big Bear kept us fed well. We had great eats.

Great weather. Everyone caught fish. Beautiful summer fishing. Great company.

We missed The Senator but it is election year. He had a close primary which he did win back the beginning of this month. We'll forgive him for absence given the race; but, he was missed.

Now, the bittersweet. Kevin -- the contemplative fellow on the far left -- is leaving us. He's been "called home to corporate" in Seattle and is gone this fall.

He's a considerate fly angler. He's put together several of our fish camp trips. He's a great partner for a day on the water.

He'll be missed.

What this means is that our little local group is going to have to get on airplanes to go and fish destination rivers.  They'll probably be some group outing loss to that reality as expense, obligation, and vocational concerns all will contribute to restrictions in our numbers.

We've have some fun these past years. It's been easy to get out.

I mentioned everyone caught fish this camp. We'll have to just catch our next fish together somewhere else.

Estes and Rocky Mountain National looks like a good middle ground and of course Steve Bird and the Upper Columbia have been calling for a couple years.

We've had a good run. We've had it easy. We've had it cheap. They've been good years.

Thanks, Kevin. We'll see you on the big water.