Saturday, May 23, 2015

Fish Camp News - Prep Section

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

The reports seem to show bugs hatching. Cool.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Streamers Inc from scumliner media on Vimeo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So will you.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ugly Flies

I tie ugly flies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They are however, ugly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ugliest ones I'll naturally save for myself.

Big Fish trophy is in the bag.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Mason Tract - Chase Bridge Version

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

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

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


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

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

That said - here are the recon photos:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the Au Sable, that's pretty good!

Great day on the water. Just what I needed.

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

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fish Porn ... a day late

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Shore Lunch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, May 4, 2015


Fish porn edition a day late here.

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

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

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

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

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

Not that qualifier.


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

Well, you'll have a clue now.

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

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Trout Industrial Complex

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

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

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


Hello lambs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You're being "marketed."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What makes your day enjoyable?

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

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

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

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

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

I'm delighted over 8" brookies.

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

I like cinnamon jolly ranchers and spicy beef jerky.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's part of it.

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

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

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

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

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

New. In. Box.

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

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

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

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

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

Would I like to you, Lambchop?