Wednesday, June 7, 2017

That Sinking Feeling

At left, a bastardized version of the Red Ass as a flymph.

TMC103BL in size 15.

Chartreuse Uni thread because I had it in the bobbin holder this morning.

Waxed pheasant hen tails (trout cannot count!).

Red wire - medium - for the abdomen.

Possum (Wapsi Awesome Possum in this case) for the thorax. Loose dubbed and picked a little.

Speckled Hen soft hackle. One and a half turns only.

Nice pronounced Chartreuse head.

I wrote of last weekend's outing that I was inadequately targeting fish on the bottom of the streambed. This fly will be my dropper on a dry-dropper rig. The wire will do for me what I need in the gentle flow I will fish Saturday night.

I'll probably use a medium Michigan caddis of a CDC DHC variety or a Jingler tied with a wrapped bit of foam in the underbody for flotation if I get around to finishing the flies.

I'm going to get my dozen of these Red Ass whipped up first.

I'm after nice browns this weekend and there is no reason the last six hours of light on Saturday will not yield some lovely fish. I'll be on the water until true dark.

Supper ?

Leaning towards smoked polish sausage on a grill gate beside the campfire.

Breakfast on Sunday morning?

Cat head biscuits and spicy sausage gravy. Strong coffee and lots of it.

You'll be sorry to have missed it.

I'm missing a dinner Saturday with some of my favorite trout fishermen; but, there are only so many weekends in June and come November, I'll be wishing I was out on every one of them.

I have to go. The river knows my name and its whisper calls to me more than a lover's coo.


Monday, June 5, 2017

Tungsten 1P

I wanted to say a few words about the Marmot Tungsten 1P tent tonight. I've some pictures of the thing drying out yesterday after I dashed home to meet a social engagement.

It's amazing gear. 

It's a one-man tent that sleeps much larger than that. The vestibule holds a generous allowance of boots, backpack, and utility gear.

It weighs something in the low 3 lbs. with tie-outs, stakes (MSR groundhogs), and the footprint (included in the price).

Above, the front. The tent opens on the right and the vestibule is the part extending as a beak..

Side view. The tent door flap is on the far left of the picture as is the vestibule.

The back. I've staked out the back for full summer ventilation here.

Side view. That's the included footprint drying  beside the tent and a construction trash bag at the far right of the frame which I use to loose pack when wet.

I put the beast up in the Wisconsin Driftless less than a half-hour before a serious blow. The roar was enough that I suspected a tornado coming over the hill.

The tent didn't flinch. This is a tough piece of well-designed gear.

Stormed on me camping beside the South Branch of the Au Sable Saturday night. No worries. I went to sleep with the sounds of decaying thunder and the certain specific dialect of raindrops off pine trees on the fly of my tent.

The tent goes up in three minutes. It holds you, your gear, a journal for your notes, and a decent book from those of someone else. 

It holds all those things dry.

The ventilation is excellent.

Trout camping has opened up water three and four hours north of here on a "no hassle" basis. I like fishing through the evening until true dark and returning to a campsite and a fire I've staged for just a match.

I'll sleep on the ground; but, I use a pad by Klymit ( here )  which turns a campsite into a lush bed. This "dash up, camp a night, and dash back"  is an incredible indulgence.

It helps that I love a good camp breakfast.

One day I'll be confined to the likes of a light trailer for base comfort. For now, I've got it pretty much like Ernie had it though with added benefits from modern materials.

Try some trout camping. The Tungsten line of tents by Marmot are "trout fishing" tough. (I've the 3P model, too).


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Fish Not Pictured

Dward Tract fishing report, Manistee River, MI.

At left, a fine example of my recent fish photography. A lovely brookie was in this paw an instant before the shutter snapped. He's out of frame in this yet not quite in the water.

I went to the Au Sable / Manistee region for a trout dash camping trip this weekend. Gates had this as the sign: a classic.

I caught these. The big one - a lovely nine-to-ten incher - flipped out of my hand in the upper picture. Those I captured on the digital film roll looked more like this little guy. Lovely, though a little bleached. Only the large fish had a lot of heavy shading.

I can't tell if this fellow has nice color or not. Lost on me.

I fished using this nice little 7' 2/1 #4/5 by Chris Lantzy. It's a lovely mortised handled split cane rod here mounted with a Douglas Argus wearing Wulff TT in #4. The rod does fine with the #4 or the #5 Wulff line.

My Hardy Marquis is spooled with the #5 but that reel does not like grit at all. I fished it in the Wisconsin trip and it saw a little of the milkshake water. All cleaned-up now but I think it is about to be shelved for a Red Truck.

Chris' rod is a joy to cast and will roll cast the snot out of the Wulff lines. Perfect for the tight confines seasoning the Deward tract on the Manistee.

Beauty shot of a guide on the mortised rod with the Deward tract Manistee in the background at Stump Forest.

Above is "the hole" I worked on Saturday afternoon. It was a development exercise I set for myself.

I figured three catchable fish lived here in the bend (probably more like fifteen). I was determined to fish for them with dry, soft hackle wet, dry-dropper, weighted flymph under a wool tuft (indicator), and streamer.

You can see the cover, the current, and the dark turn of a hole which is a good six foot deep over there. The water in the foreground was about fourteen inches deep on my shin. I sat, thought, planned, and observed.

I slowed down and contrived to catch three fish.

Flies used.

I studied the hatch. It was largely mosquito as shown here for size.

Pictured is an old old ginger-caddis leftover from before I started tying cdc-DHC exclusively. Not a bad tie, though.

Maybe a little head heavy. Size 16 here.

My hook left less sting than this smashed fellow. He was not a practitioner of the barbless philosophy.

Girding my loins using the default Michigan mosquito repellent: heavy sleeves.

And "no joy."  I fished from a low angle slightly off and upstream so as to use the current to help me with the submerged obstructions.

I stayed low so as not to soil the hole. I got into position and sat for 20 minutes waiting for my bank-side footsteps to fade from memory.

No joy. Odd.

Otter? Osprey? Brown trout in the hole?

I failed the exam. There is something here I did not know or did not execute correctly.


I took nine fish off this stream. Five I took wading downstream returning to my put-in. I "jigged" my soft-hackle in the drift downstream 50' in front of me (full line head + leader) loosing one and hooking five.

What? Why?

My upstream soft-hackle efforts full of concentration and stealth yielded worse results than "playing" a brown partridge-and-orange downstream in the main current drift. No hatch. No spinner fall. Partly cloudy day with a 10 - 12 mph irregularly gusting wind. I had waded up the stream long enough before to consider it fully rested.

Was I "chumming" the stream with my steps? I didn't think so but the results might say otherwise.

My delicate and dedicated fishing of "the hole"  pulled nothing. The fish I did catch from upstream presentations came from places unremarkable (not a visible seam off a sweeper or on/around a obstruction).

I  fished "water" and not fish. I used the "9 box" method of dividing the stream into three ranks (rows) and three files (columns) upstream but within my reach. I fished closest to me across the rank, then the next rank upstream. Then the next. Three or four steps and I repeated.

I have this nasty nagging feeling I'm too high in the water column for fish feeding close to the bottom while lying in the micro draws and troughs of the streambed.

I suspect. I suspect. I postulate. I guess.

I think I am fishing shallow. I will amend the effort next weekend on that trout dash upstate.

Beauty Shot of gear:

I love my Finn Utility side bag. It isn't perfect; but, neither am I.

It's lovely gear. It needs a little Lexol in this snap.

Spike Burger and waffle fries. Fished shallow or deep, these hook me every time. Forbidden food.

"Not for Bears."

The evening fire as I read and smoked the last of some Briar Fox from Cornell and Diehl. Sad to say, it hasn't become a favorite blend.

Next up is Sextant by G. L. Pease. Yes, it is slightly cased by rum -- as if that matters a damn bit.

I've nothing bad to say about a little rum casing in the tobacco from time to time.

Rum is a fine substitute for Irish Whiskey or a decent scotch  in a glass when you're pressed to it.

One must remain flexible, after all.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Driftless Wisconsin, After Action

First, I caught fish. In five days, I brought 26 to hand.

It rained four-and-a-half inches the week I was fishing. It showed. Conditions for me were hard.

My fish were all cookie-cutter 8" to 12" aggressive little beasts which tells me I was a split shot or two away from some of the nicer fish I saw landed.

I had fun. I'll go again in a heartbeat.

It was cold. One morning was thirty-four and wet. That's tough for mid-May around here. It isn't unexpected. Coffee was a morning treat and I tried to make sure my companions had some hot brew waiting as soon as they roused.

We had morning warming fires, too.

 My tent on the left. Dirk's in the background center.

Both tents lived through a sixty mile-an-hour squall a half-hour after being put up. Dirk's snapped a fiberglass pole that was easily repaired. I have to say the Cabela's outfitter's model he had was a lot tougher than I thought. Dry, too. Nothing duct tape and a splint couldn't fix.

Above, the campground at the West Fork Sportsmans' Club.

We saw plenty of this: chocolate milk.

Bohemian Valley here. I've a hundred pictures just like this of seventeen other streams. Heartbreakers, really.

Nice public lands down on Tainter Creek.

Dirk fishing the cliff face on the stream from above. He's a commercial fisherman and a fly shop owner. He did well. Here he is preparing to pull a nice fish out of the hole.

I learned just watching him fish. I learned watching him not fish, too.

Another perspective. We fished the rain (fourteen hours of it) on Saturday. I came back and fished another six hours on Sunday and pulled eight fish from here.

One of my choices in the mud. The next cast pulled a fish out on it.

A better image of the hillside from Sunday. The water had cleared considerably. That pool is eighty yards long, twenty-five wide, and barely moves.

After facing mud, I was willing to try and fish my most difficult environment: the long slow pool.

I worked on technique, rested the pool, worked again. I had success.

We did a lot of scouting. Regrettably, this is the only shot I have of Dr. Don that wasn't of his back. I have several of his back bending down to unhook a fish.

He's leading a scouting party here.

Obligatory cow shot. Coulee is at the left just out of frame.

I fished the Driftless in perhaps its worst state short of flood. I still caught fish. I had fun.

I lived five days in a one-man tent and saw it shrug off a tremendous spring blow.

I wore wool and Capilene every day.  Half our party bailed halfway through the outing due to weather.

I'd go back tomorrow.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

New Fishing Companions

United States Department of Agriculture picture at left.

I've got some new fishing companions. This week I'm going over to Viroqua and the Driftless area as you've read here.

Cows feature in that landscape. Sometimes, they feature in the water.

I'm behind on many things but I'm making an adventure trip -- though the adventure is only in going someplace I've not already been.

Next year's big trip: the Upper Columbia.

There are only so many days. Those you spend fishing aren't counted against the total.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Trip Planning

At left, British Map from 1776 surveying part of New York from 101st to 118th street with information on the rebel disposition and location.

Rebels. Heh, heh.

I've got a big outing to the Wisconsin Driftless coming here shortly and I'm beginning to gather my stuff.

It is a camping outing so the camp gear is ready, warmed-up, and can be loaded from the "ready pile" in the corner of my library into the new trout car in fifteen minutes. More problematic is the food prep and staging ... and the always treacherous "state of the flybox."

Is anyone ever exactly ready for an excursion?

John Gierach writes about this topic _Trout Bum_ or _Fly Fishing Small Streams_ or _All Fisherman Are Liars_ or ...

What the hell, just read 'em all. He's covered enough for most a decade of long winters.

I'm pretty sure I'm recalling a passage from _Small Streams_ where he discusses at length the evolution of his fly box and the travel set-up he embraced at least in this mid-to-early career phase of his writing when he did a great deal of road time to various spots with various fly-fishing luminaries. All the fishing partners who made it into his writing are renown for catching trout out of a mud-puddle.

I like a limited fly box like a lot of anglers but I'm also afflicted with a taste for the shiny, the new, the exotic.

I have about as much control over my fly box discipline as I do over my impulse to buy fly rods. I lived for fifteen years with a very serviceable (though slightly heavy)  fiberglass 6wt in an unusual 8'8" configuration. My dry flies during this time were often large and bushy (summer fishing, and usually late summer fishing). My wets were heavy leaden beasts to dredge the bottom of fast waters ticking over boulders (I remember thinking once that there had to be rivers somewhere that had stones on the bottom smaller than basketballs). My streamers were all-purpose black or olive beasts in #4 or #6.

It was however years before I knew one could "strip" streamers instead of just hovering them on the drift. That tells you there was a grave deficiency in steelhead exposure in my early angling experiences.

I used "the rod" on every sort of fishing I encountered. I did use it to cast #18's on the White River and it would work. I've put 3/8 oz. jigs on 20' of 2x tippet and caught walleye for dinner in holes of a river the outfitter said held big trout. I put the "big trout" story down in the books as credited to cheap Canadian moonshine spiked with vanilla extract to try and mask the essence of kerosene.

You think guides are broke, try talking to an outfitter.

I eventually killed the rod -- with a little help -- when the tip completely de-laminated about the third time it had been shut in a pick-up door.  No, I don't leave my rods anywhere near a hinged automotive appliance but sometimes you might say something across the camp like "bring my rod from that birch over there" as you drown the coals and your buddy is obliged to remember something out of the truck after picking up your rod and ...

He did loan me his new Scott rod all rigged up as a consolation for ruining my "only" rod -- an act simultaneously conveyed with the scolding that I out to know better than to bring only one rod and the pained expression of giving the keys to your new Ferrari to your son on prom night.

I resisted the urge to slam the Scott wand in the tailgate. My 6 wt. rod had undue sentimental valuation.

Fly fishing opportunities dried up significantly after that trip anyway as I too became "poorer than an outfitter with an aviation fuel bill due." For the record, I can't afford another ex-wife.

Somewhere in here is a confession that while I have tied all winter long to fill my soft-hackle and flymph collection, I've waited until now to seriously address small nymphs and scud. I have to tie a couple nights this week and increase my load of "hackled scud" in chartreuse and the olive-threaded variant of a no-hackle "pink squirrel."

I've got enough hare's mask and possum to do the job.

I could use some more partridge-and-yellow in #15 just to be comfortable.  

Couldn't we all?  


Wednesday, May 3, 2017


Image at left courtesy Barras as hosted on wikicommons. I believe Bowser there sums up the spring to date here in Michigan.

The South Branch of the Au Sable is back to its tricks of setting forty-nine  year high-flow records.

I'm to get nearly three inches of rain in the next forty-eight hours here on Mill Creek.

The Huron is deep in the trees. The new rain will make it crawl its banks.

I'm ready to throw streamers but high water, high wind, and low temperatures seem a lot closer to fall steelhead than spring Hendrickson trout.

Looks like I'm working as an ink slave this weekend instead of perfecting my dry fly delivery.

It might be time to look at the Douglas SKY 6wt, though. That'd be a good excuse to throw streamers all weekend.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Town Corner Lake Campground, Black River

A note: the information I find on state forest campgrounds is somewhat insufficient. There are public domain descriptions and a lovely set of facts published by the DNR; but, I find woefully little physical information as to those things that matter: layout, privacy, scenery.

I want to know that my campsite is not merely a road turn-off. We have those in Michigan: campsites that are merely turnoffs from the county road. Seeing one makes me wish for better pictures on the DNR site. Perhaps, any pictures at all on the DNR site might help. Surely they have a couple interns who can take some snaps in summer.

When I am king ...

 The Pigeon Forest surrounds the Black River. As such, the roads are indeed forest roads. They'd recently had their spring maintenance when I arrived but the roadside -- for there are no ditches -- showed evidence of some  fall/winter adventures which may have buried more than one hunter's truck.

It's fifteen miles from paved lane back into this campsite. Be advised that your minivan may not be the vehicle to drive should you get caught in an inch or more of rain. In many places, the road is carved deeply into the forest floor and shows signs of holding a great deal of water.  Above left, the entrance sign.

The campground is sited on the edge of Town Corner lake. There are several of these deep pocket lakes in the Pigeon River country (the area is known colloquially for the Pigeon River and not the Black or Sturgeon which also flow through the timber).

The above panorama gives you an idea of the stunning beauty of these forty to eighty acres pools. In summer, this campground would be a delight. The water was forty-three degrees when I was camping. That's a great deal of "brisk" liquid mass by the campsite. The morning breeze did make the hot coffee a special treat. Wih a wool sweater and a down vest, I could appreciate the slight morning breeze over a hot tin cup of brew (annodized aluminum, actually.  Olicamp make a fantastic field mug. It is the old enameled camp mug improved. Really. ).

There was a hard freeze Friday night as well.

There is well water -- off campsite 4.  Only a dozen campsites are at the campground and they're well spaced. About two-thirds are on a quarter-circle directly above the lake. Campsite 1 is in a dell right opening right onto the water yet directly at the entrance, It would have a lot of traffic and thus dust rolling by throughout the day. Still, a special site.

 A typical large camp site pad. Some are quite large as shown here. Others are merely generous. None are small.

Fire pits and picnic tables. No hang posts. Be advised.

Lake in background. The lake's edge is ten yards down a hill from the campsite's back edge.

 Above, site 11 after I set-up base. I expected a little drizzle Friday night so I deployed the tarp for a dry vestibule near my tent if I chose to sit and smoke a pipe.  I carried a small tarp and did not rig for serious wet weather. Sunday was due for more than an inch of rain starting around dawn. Monday would see more of the same. I took off on Friday to make a camp in early afternoon and explore. Saturday was trout opener and I planned to fish all day.

The lake from the back of campsite 11 on Saturday morning. Stunning.

The ducks were back though I didn't catch any in this picture. I suspect wood ducks down along the back corner of the lake for I saw a pair fly out low across the water.

The woods are full of bird survey solicitations. These are the first I've seen and I'm impressed.

The Pigeon Forest is home to a large number of migrating songbirds and the survey will yield interesting data about density and population. This particular sign is a couple miles from the campground though there is one in the campground itself and at least three others within a half mile.

 Obligatory camp cookery shot. Supper Friday evening was a "field risotto"  of  smoked sausage, peppers, onions, and celery  seasoned with garlic, cumin, and paprika. Think "wilderness creole rice." The risotto is surprisingly easy to master over a fire: saute the rice thoroughly before you start adding the liquid; and, then add the liquid in three batches stirring well at each addition.

Wonderful meal. Pita packs small and cleans up the pan as well. I eat out of the pan when camping alone.

 Opener breakfast. Cleaning water boiling. A mug of strong coffee from the second pot staying warm as I snap pictures. Biscuits baking in the Banks Fry-Bake at rear.
Cat-Head biscuits. The photo is a little bleached. They're golden on the bottom and a nice uniform brown on top. The tips of the tops haven't started to darken to dutch brown yet.

Key: don't knead the mixings past incorporating the liquid. I use water in the field because I make the dry mix with powdered buttermilk, butter, and a touch of not-lard (concession to the physician ... not-lard) and store it in the cooler when car camping. I add water to the gallon bag, smash it around, let the dough sit a minute, one more smash to make sure the dough holds together, then scoop out four nice cat head sized  biscuits. The crumb is perfectly light and uniform.

Fifteen minutes in the kitchen prepping the food makes a big difference in the quality of chow at the campsite.

I hope this helps other folks thinking of dashing to the Town Corner Lake State Forest Campground. The Black River fishing is good and the campsite is far enough off the beaten trail to be a dependable weekend dash destination.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Black River Fish Report

Forest road 49 doesn't make much of impression at first sight. The path here in the picture runs for about half a mile back to a small parking area where a trailhead exists for the fishing trail. The road in place is indeed a logging road. High clearance is required in spots.

 Halfway to the trailhead, you pass this gated entry which the logging has made superfluous.

"Keep it wild. Walk in." Or, drive right around over there ...  There is a pathway leading to the Blue Lakes from this junction.

A tail goes from the parking area for a half mile to the river proper. The trail then turns sharply and follows a bluff over the Black River.

You see the river below you as you hike along looking for game trails or those paths created by anglers here before you.

The river above is the reward when crawling down the game trails. The far bank is a private club -- the Blue Lakes Club -- which has cleared the forest for shooting alleys in their deer harvest.

These bloomed in the underbrush. The blooms are roughly the size of a dime.

These lived in the river.  The big fish was near 14" but I dropped camera and fish on the photography effort. Luckily, the camera is waterproof. The fish above came out of the same hole and was 11". Nice brookie.

Most of the eleven I landed were more like this:

Overall, it was a fantastic opener. Most of the fish came during a two hour period when the Hendricksons actually hatched. I was shocked. These fish above came on a partridge and yellow.

I started with this fly:

A purple and snipe.  Some smaller fish came to hand but the real action didn't start until the Hendricksons showed up. Most of the brook trout were over six inches but under nine.

I caught a pair of the five-inch variety near my campsite on Friday evening. I was glad to see the larger fish on Saturday because while I had a three weight outfit with me, the breeze didn't allow for its use.

This rod was perfect for rolling the soft hackles across-and-up and managing the drifts on downstream work across-and-down.

Winston 8' bIIIx in #4. That's a Douglas Argus reel and a Wulff TT line in #4. The outfit was perfect for the Black. It's a roll cast machine that is long enough to manage line when fishing in close quarters. A large rod would be a burden and something smaller might not yield the roll casts necessary to shoot line under obstacles.

Great opener. Happy season. My weather ran into the mid-50's with a bit of overcast. There was a modest breeze but nothing that wasn't manageable with a four weight. I had a great camp and while it did freeze on Friday night, the day's warmth still allowed for a decent late-afternoon hatch that was a delight to see.

 A view down the river. The bottom was almost all cobble. Deep holes stopped short of five feet. Most ran to three and the stream edges allowed easy passage. Looking under the rocks, I can see the stream is filled with mayflies throughout the season.
Tinned clams and Two Hearted Ale. Opening day late lunch. Thanks, Mobes.