Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Road Work: Driftless Miles

At left, Wisconsin from the 1718 map by L'Isle hosted on wikicommons.

Some things pull on you. That 3 wt rod in the corner of the closet ? "I don't even like little trout," you say; but, the rod pulls on you.

Sport. That's sport playin' with you.

I've got something playin' with me now: the Driftless.

I wanted to go this year but as usual things snowballed into what things always snowball into. I wanted to get out to the Columbia, too; but, that snowballed into the same rolling dungheap of responsibility and obligation.

I've got writing to do. I've got commerce to pursue. I've got scotch to drink around  a campfire.

I'm going camping in the Driftless next year.

My reference books are spread all over the desk here as I try and plot a trip. There's a bunch of water I want to see and a dash to Iowa I'll have to make (fishing buddy is from Iowa and those folks have something in them about their state as if they like it or something ...).

Water of interest?

Castle Rock Creek.
Big Green River.
West Fork of the Kickapoo.
Timber Coulee.
Tainter Creek.

In Iowa:
Waterloo Creek.
N and S Bear Creek.

Now, some of you know the waters in this area. I've made the SW Wisconsin cut here.

The next step? 

Finding the small tributary branches with pubic access and the endless "also ran -- but not in the guide book" waters.

I want the chalkstream experience. I'm not sure I'm fully there yet. Gin clear water with lots of limestone and green scuds holds some interest. I'll tie a batch of simple soft hackles and a couple dozen soft hackle dries and head over for some trout hunting.

Camping, of course. It'll be a trout trip on the cheap which is ultimately the sort of trout guy I am. It's a good trip when I pay for gas and roust the rest of the needs out of my fridge and pantry.

I think this might be the sort of water -- certainly the sort of trout density -- that helps the Amber Liquid guys. It'd be nice to fish an open stream where an overhead cast can be made from something other than up-and-down the streambed standing mid-current. Michigan is very brushy.

We need a scouting trip before personal recommendations and I'm throwing myself on that job. I'm throwing myself on the sausage cooking over the fire, too.

SO, the Driftless is an itch I've got to scratch.

Trip planning is about one-sixtieth the fun. It's right there with finding an unopened pack of smoked sausage in the bottom of the fridge you smuggle out to take camping.

It's fun; but, not as fun as the dinner to come.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Planning 2017 Outings

At left, public domain photo of the 1922 British Everest Expedition which worked from the North Face.

They all look so happy here. This troop recorded the first seven deaths on the mountain and failed to summit. Also, first group to try oxygen at altitude.

I don't see their fly rods in this picture.

Outings for 2017?

I'm flying into the Wabakimi Wilderness park in Ontario again. Northern Pike on the fly, walleye on jigs. Toothy critter leaders.

Apart from that, my trip agenda looks local. I'd like to get out to the Columbia but we'll see how that shakes out come fall. The budget is somewhat constrained next year as I prepare the final alignment for Beargirl's retirement. I'll never stop working but she wants to so there is a little adjustment in the run rate that has to be made.

Boardman River - Forks Campground. The Boardman is the birthplace of the Adams fly and I didn't make it there this year. Priority outing next spring. Late May. Will try and catch the early mayfly hatches.

South Branch Au Sable. This will again serve as brown trout homewaters for me as I camp at Canoe Harbor. With a new trout car, I'll have much better access to the upper river including Daisy Bend. Warm April, May. October.

Deward Tract, Upper Manistee. Brook trout central for my efforts. Again, with a new trout car I'll be able to navigate the extremely rutted sand roads for better access. Last year, the three mile hike-in became daunting. There are better places to hike. May. June. September.

Club Stream and Sturgeon River - Green Timbers hike-in. I'll make a Friday-Saturday-Sunday hike-in and wild camp (allowed in Green Timbers) covering both the Sturgeon and the Club Stream. It's taken a bit to get the gear pared-down to make this sort of event comfortable but enjoyable. Early July looks like a good time. Maybe June. Could be June's "big trip" pretty easily.

Mainstream Au Sable. There is a canoe/tent campground upstream of a great deal of angler activity [ Au Sable River Canoe Camp]. Night streamers for large trout. September.

Jordan River. Pocket water fishing in the heat of the summer. Brookie fishing. The waters of the Jordan remain cold. Running the river involves some hikes. Great! July, August.

Fox River, Two Hearted River. These Upper Peninsula rivers are obligatory scout trips. They are deeply linked to Michigan lore. I've a short 5 wt. from Chris Lantzy that is perfect for pulling nice fish out of timber. I look for a fair amount of hiking to be required so say, a four day outing. June, definitely. I'll have to plan my season around this expedition and the end-of-July fly-in to Ontario.

I want to make it to Isle Royale but my outing to Wabi is going to eat into the true expedition time in 2017. Canadian fly-in to a park or boat-in to U.S. park: I'm going fly-in. There's more adventure in a two-and-a-half hour floatplane ride.

How about you?

Time to plan. I've got more snow to shovel here after dinner (blower engine has a compression problem: valve). I'm at about nine inches for the day so far.


Thursday, December 8, 2016


At left, my own image of this year's Trout Unlimited premium for a fundraising effort.

The image is of a large Stanley brand steel insulated vacuum bottle travel mug. It's quite nice. It holds more than a a large cup of coffee -- maybe 18 oz ? -- and has a positive control button for releasing access to the liquids within. Quite nice. Passes the "bear test" here tonight.

Will be a fixture in the new "trout car."

I'm replacing the existing trout car because it isn't suitable for any but the most civilized of access points. It can handle gravel, but not sand.

I kid the Senator about his Subaru as a lesbian-mobile. He has two of the things. Yes, they are driven here in Ann Arbor by a number of lesbians. Yes I'm friends with several. No, they aren't amused by my antics most of the time, either.

Subarus are however infinitely practical and quite nice vehicles. The inside always seems well proportioned to me though I am a little short of statue. I'm not sure how they fit larger anglers.

The Senator's wagons have great ground clearance hold a ton of gear. I think we went fishing in his with wader bags and all when there was an entire bed frame in the back once.

I've a buddy who is a serial WRZ STI guy -- which is Subaru's fast little compact. It's a monster and plenty quick. I looked at one for a long time some years ago but went with a specially prepared Infiniti G35 with the ATI twin-turbo set-up. I like to go fast and be comfortable.  The WRX was almost rally-ready straight out of the box.

It hurt to crawl behind the wheel.

I never had the G35 off pavement. She was a doll. Black-on-black and loved to eat Pirelli's. Never quite could make the continuous 100+ mph commute. Ninety plus many times but could never make the continuous 100+ club. I had a twenty mile drive that was two rights, a stretch for twenty-two miles, a left and a right. I did many mornings horn and lights all the way. I bought a fast car for a reason.

Can't do that here in Michigan. They drive slow on this side of the state. I mean sloooooooow. Stupid and slow, too. Oblivious, maybe? West side? My type of drivers. Stay right if you don't have the horses.

I grew up where we'd drive six hours each way to play high school football and when Nixon put the speed limit at 55 mph, it was ignored west of Russell. Nobody is going to take eight hours to drive to Denver. That's just crazy.

I know exactly how fast a 500 cu. in. 1974  Eldorado can go if you give it all the reigns it wants. Vonda was a tremendous machine for the day. ( 1965 Miss Arizona, Miss America - Vonda Kay Van Dyke ... family friend and thus, car named for her. Miss Kansas won in '66 and we didn't know her). Snow eater, too. Went to South Bend in January of '78 when the ditches were full of trucks and Notre Dame closed for the first time. Yea. First time ever.

I'm going with something in the rally league this time. More the Paris-Dakar rally. Heavy beast. Factory ready.

It's sad they limit the route of the rally now due to "political unrest." I'm an FAL guy but I'm getting old. I'm not sure I can sling an FAL out the window and drive at the same time. FN FNC? No problem. That's why your elbow bends. Convenient for the driver.

Anyway, the Senator drives a very rugged Subaru.

Kev drives a Grand Cherokee with every available option. If we poured drinks in our vehicles -- which I have done but which I no longer do -- then his would be the cocktail car. Bloody thing is a goat on trail and rides nicely, too.  I always feel I'm missing a martini when I'm in the back. We need more martini's in the back. Should come as a factory option.

Of course, you know what Bogart said on his death bed: "I should have never switched from scotch to martinis." There's that. A man who would know.

Big Bear has a new go-anywhere-pull-anything pickup. It's one of the new Ford trucks. I haven't been in it yet. I've been in one similar (guy who works for me) and I remembered the "presidential" series of continentals when I was in it. Wow. "Work truck" is pretty nice these days. Nothing wrong with that!

Mobes has a pair of Land Rover Discovery specials. One was Kev's from way-back-when (Niles) and one is an out-right acquisition. I'm jealous of both. Troll Hunter?  You've seen Mobes' Land Rover, then.

My mechanic won't work on Land Rovers so easier to get a new brand of vehicle than a new mechanic I trust. I had a '76 110 once that came with parts manuals! Yea. Not the greatest idea I ever had even back then. I had distributor problems with mine. Made it about five months. Traded it to a fellow for '52 International 5-Q that had been an ambulance for the army. I could work on that beast. Diesel. Wasn't allowed to park it at my folks house. Parked it down the street.

So, enough about trout cars -- except I need to order one. I have to do that this week. Takes a bit to do the build-to-order business and these aren't run off the line without a confirmed order. Happens.

We've snow here but only in the smallest sense. Lou the foxhound follows in the little field coat my daughter bought him. When you daughter buys your best friend a coat, yes, you put it on him and take a picture. No, he doesn't especially like it. He likes Erin though. Follows her around when she's here.

She probably smells better than I do. Smell is important to a short foxhound. He's snoring next to me now.

I might need another one of these.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Bark Eaters

At left, birch tree bark as photographed by Mariah.lobely and hosted on wikicommons. Used here for merely the attribution. Nice photograph Mariah, and thanks!

I'm pretty much a bear.

My doctor -- the vet -- tells me to chew on the bark of a couple birch trees, drink plenty of tea, and hibernate. If I still have a cold in the spring, make another appointment.


I've a cold. I've had this cold long enough now I should name it and buy it a Christmas present.

I want to be on the water.

I've some weighted spiders I tied last spring using the last of some tungsten beads I'd found in a bag. I want to get out and try some upstream contact nymphing while the weather is above freezing in the afternoons.

I've trout to hunt on my local restoration stream and oddly, this is one of my favorite times to really work a piece of water thoroughly.

The fly fishers I talk to this time of year are either fondling new gear or casting streamers. I nymph.

I get possessed by the feeling of a trout on the rod lift.

I like the sudden excitement of the wriggle from down deep at my feet when I've no business expecting anything expressing interest in my offerings. They're never large fish -- for me -- but I like the nymphing in the fall.

I dislike contact nymphing come spring. No good reason for that feeling, either.

I was out three times in November last year on my little Mill Creek stream and was able to really fish a section of water thoroughly. I didn't feel hurried and I had no expectation so I could just wade upstream like a heron and solidly fish the fifteen feet of water in front of me. By the third outing, I was confident in just barely leading my fly downstream and the takes managed to hook themselves on the lift.

"Are you there?"

That's the question Dave Hughes asks of the trout in one of his books. I think it is in Trout From Small Streams. I'm not going to dig for the citation this minute but if I'm wrong, it was a good-natured error and not a slight.

I like that routine. I get a kind of itch to be alone on a stretch of water and try to cover it completely while barely moving. I like asking the trout "are you there?" when I'm not impatient for the warming days to come.

I relax on the water. I know it is late fall my future promises ice. 

The gift of a trout way past "shoulder season"? Almost as good as a Christmas dinner. Almost.

I've had this cold and haven't been out since early November.

I need to eat my bark, get better, then put my feet in a cold stream.  My herons have gone. I don't think I'll have any trouble with their union if I give their routine a try.

I will put hot tea in my thermos with perhaps a little Bushmills for the flavor.

The trout won't mind the Irish one bit, either.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Fly Fishing Dollars, and Sense

Frederic Halford at left tying flies.

Public domain image hosted on wikicommons. Some sort of attribution ought to go to Mike Cline who is listed as the author. I'm not sure Mr. Cline is the original photographer but I'm happy to have the public domain image to use.

It's the season of shopping. 

They'll no doubt be plenty of chances to acquire fine tackle and other gear during the next six weeks. I have no less then five "fantastic blow out deals" in my email bin now.

Careful, anglers. Careful.

There's a lot of money to be spent in this pursuit. Unfortunately, damn little of your money actually does that much from the trout's perspective.

Yes, that's coming from a man who has bought a couple rods a year for the last half-dozen years.

I've a nice stout 4/5 piece of split cane that Chris Lantzy sold me out of his "ready bin" this spring. I'll post the review here but I've spent more on a dinner this year than I gave Chris for the rod and the rod is a charmer. The point being is that great gear -- meaning gear we can effectively use on the stream -- isn't necessarily expensive gear.

I like SA System One click-and-pawl reels. You can find them for less than fifty bucks with a spare spool (Got a whole collection of spare spools. Easier just buy a whole new reel than fumble with a bunch of spools.) I like my Galvan Brookie too and a I gave a lot more than fifty bucks for it.

To the trout, which is better? The Brookie reel holds a three weight Wulff TT line that can roll cast the skin off a cat. (Catgut reference. No actual cats skinned in the writing of this bog entry). My usual SA has a five weight Wulff TT line.

Now, both reels throw the same class of line just fine. I could carefully buy a half-dozen SA Ones for what I gave for the Brookie and that I bought on a brother-in-law deal from my fly shop owner. Dirk is a soft touch about reels. Don't let that get around.

The point is this: good gear isn't expensive. There is fine inexpensive gear that will catch trout all season long. Trout gear isn't scotch.

Cheap scotch is seldom any good. Once you get old enough tmmo like a decent scotch, there's no such thing as a cheap bottle.

What can you spend money on here in "sale" season?

Decent boots. If they're on sale, buy a good pair. Pinched feet and hammer toes scrunched into a neoprene vise ruin a day faster than anything. I like the old "Centurion" style for cobble bottoms but for hiking-in they're just brutal. We've little cobble here in Michigan and I'm looking hard at something lighter. Once upon a time I used Chuck Taylor high tops with felt I cut and epoxied. Those days are gone.

Lighter boots make the day easier. Consider it.

A new line. Yes, I make fun of Airflo Super-Dri Bandit lines. No, I won't use one. However, finding a line you like at a discount to new is probably a good deal. Haven't bought a line in three years? Haven't washed your line in that time? Might consider a new line. Your old line sucks (water). The finish on your line breaks down with age and use.  The line becomes less a precision instrument. If you're throwing water on the backcast, you are seriously in need of a new floating line.

A Tackle Buddy spinner holder. Yes, this comes from the walleye world where old guys fish with pre-spliced and tied spinner rigs of 30", 45" or even 60" lengths. These hard plastic and rubber devices are little more than waterproof paper towel rolls that prove incredibly convenient to hold pre-tied dropper rigs.(Look here ). When the sun goes down and you need to re-tie, having one of these pre-spun with half a dozen dropper rigs you can splice-in with a surgeon's knot is the difference between catching and swearing for half-an-hour. It'll fit in your bag and for sawbuck, it's a bargain.

There's no fun in packing out because you can't see to tie a knot.

A flask. Look, you've got your priorities. I've got mine.

A decent whiskey. My priorities are working overtime.

That flask needs something more than Jack Daniels. Ditch that domestic bourbon and get some decent Irish Whiskey (which means Bushmills -- the oldest continuously operating distillery in the world, thank you very much). If you grow-up and discover some actual taste buds, a scotch old enough to vote is a nice treat but we're talking bargains here ... and that scotch won't be.

If you're an occasional angler on the water a half-dozen times a year, don't be cheap with your beverage. A nice whiskey travels well and goes down fine after that trophy trout you'll land. Trout have taste and class. They've no proven affinity for Old Milwaukee Light.

New Tippet. I know half of you out there in Troutland are using three year old tippet. I know it. That stuff gets brittle. Don't hoard tippet. Buy it as you need it, seasonally. Now counts as "next season."

A pipe. Now, I'm a cigar man and have been since before I could buy a drink. I had a locker on Fifth Avenue for over twenty years (my tobacconist moved and thus no more locker). I have a weakness for women I cannot afford, scotch whiskey I shouldn't afford, and cigars I shouldn't be allowed to to afford. I still love them all.

However, that cigar will ruin a line or leader if the two should meet. Yes, that's the same advice I give to friends seeing the other woman: let the two meet and it'll ruin your day. My close friends are old enough to be past the stage of infidelity. They cannot afford any other ex-wives.

You'll be sitting on the bank watching the river at some point next year. Hopefully, you'll be doing that a great deal. A pipe is a safer alternative to the cigar. I save cigars for around the campfire or on my deck. The pipe is the field implement of choice. Peterson makes a nice product that won't break the bank.

A Decent Set of Compact Field Glasses. Now, I know there's always too much stuff in the sidebag or the vest. I know it. However, you'll be better served  "glassing" the water than your present "squint and search" method allows. The fish you miss could be because you aren't looking before fishing or you aren't looking well enough at the water you intend to cover.

There's also the utility of looking at all the lovely birdies. (Obscure Missouri Breaks reference but I've a weakness for killers and Brando plays a good one). Seriously, a pair of waterproof compact binoculars good enough for glassing the water will run under $40. More seeing = more catching.

Never take anything on the water whose loss will pain you something sore.

Trout are heartbreakers. Don't give 'em extra chances by overspending on gear.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Camping for Trout: Tent

At left, the wondrous joy of a comfortable cot in the woods.

I've written before that I live far enough away from serious trout water as to make the "trout dash" uncomfortable. It's three-and-a-half hours each way and since trout love dusk, it is a problem to just deadhead a trip.

Driving home after midnight just isn't fun anymore.

I'm cheap  ... tent, primitive campground. [ I don't like a Generator Joe. I go to the woods to get away from the modern trappings of central air and the ubiquitous background music not of my choosing. Primitive camping keeps the plush RV folks at bay. Thankfully.]

I'm writing here about my tent selection because I want to encourage other trout fishermen who live in that three-to-six hour window from good water to consider this as an option. It's much better than when you were a scout. Much better.

Modern gear is great. The nights under the trees will give some of the best sleep you have all year. It's a wonderful experience.

Picking a tent means touching the model you might want. Some of the new tents on the market are super light and consequently built like tissue paper. I'm not going to say bring back the old Forest Service canvas beasts; but, at the same time you have to live with the gear you buy.

Make sure that the durability factor of what you think you want will last you a few seasons or you'll rapidly be unhappy.

I spent a couple months trying various models. I picked something I think could work for anyone.

I went with a Marmot Tungsten three-person model.

It is a great tent for car camping. Plenty of room for two adult-sized cots (I use the Allagash Plus Cot from Byer ) and when it is just me - as usual - it is spacious without being a pain to set-up or pack-up. Still works when I can get Beargirl to the woods. (Okay, hasn't happened yet. Only guest grandcubs sleep in it and on occasion, one snoring foxhound).

It's heavy for backpacking at a field-prepped five plus pounds. Today, that is way too much for a single person to pack. No need. If you haul it in the back of a vehicle? Fine.

The weight trade off? Durability.

The thing is a tank. Super tough and I am hard on gear. It's a great mid-point buy and for the money I think represents a great deal of value for around a dozen seasons. I've thirty-four nights in mine now. Love it. Dry. Cool. Warm enough. Ventilated. Stormproof.

It manages the condensation for one medium sized trout angler and a smallish foxhound AOK. Lou the foxhound looooovees it. Hound. What can I say? He likes sleeping under the stars with me.

Would buy it again in a heartbeat AND I carry the beast when I've got less than a mile to pack gear.  I wouldn't take it up a mountain; but, I'll pack it in for an afternoon.

I've had to wash the thing once when it was sprayed by feral cats (in my meadow with the grandcubs).

Some pictures:

Here I have the rain-fly half-off. I do this a bit in the summer so when I'm wrong about the 20% rain forecast, I'm just pulling the rainfly over and placing three stakes at two-thirty when I hear the big splat of raindrops in the leaves above me.

It's a hubbed pole design and the hub is permanently affixed to the two-pole interchange. The tent hangers for the inner mesh attach in an idiot simple fashion with the large plastic hooks. They feel like football helmet plastic -- way tough for the job of holding up the mesh. No worries here about durability. That isn't true of all manufacturer's inner tent clips.

 Huge d-shaped doors with dual zippers and zipper pulls that don't "jingle" in a breeze.

Side view.  I stake out the tent using eight stakes as a rule. I'm an overkill sort of guy but spreading the rainfly increases warm season ventilation and in the cool season, helps with eliminating condensation and dew when the temperature plunges after dark. I do a bit of the shoulder-season and night-damp is a real issue next to the river. Vent, and stay dry.

 Another interior view. The cot is thirty inches wide and there is more than enough room for setting up and deploying two cots inside.

When I am packing gear. I like the Klymit line of inflatable pads. I have to have a good pad as I'm an old back patient. I'm prone to pretty severe stiffness and with the Klymit pads, no worries at all.

My current Kymit pad -- I'll cover in another review -- weighs a pound, rolls to the compressed size of a coke can, inflates in a dozen breaths, and at 2.5" thick keeps even a heavy side sleeper off the ground and comfortable. Amazing gear.

I like the cot for the springy bed effect. There's no doubt a good cot beats the best pad. However, a bad cot is a useless POS. The Byer cots are amazingly easy to deal with and produce a great sleeping surface if you can pack the the weight. I use them car camping so, no worries.

I can only say from my own experience that the comfort of a good tent makes me willing to disregard almost any inclement weather for a camp excursion. Shoulder season wet requires drying the gear before storing and that can be an issue. However, planning to pack-and-go the second weekend in June is a breeze. You can fish wet. You can sleep dry.

A good tent covers a number of ills. Low cost means high spousal approval, too. Try getting the same level of approval pulling a $50K Bambi into the driveway. Good luck with that! [ Kev -- an Amber Angler -- could easily get away with it, lucky dog. His spouse thinks the vintage Bambi trailers are the bee's knees. Vintage, though. Would need to be vintage.]


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

... Foreign and Domestic

Brook trout, left. Public domain image hosted on wikicommons.

When I think of all the trouble I've caused -- both foreign and domestic -- I am hard pressed to associate any of it with time on a trout stream.

So, following the popular technique of citing a carefully chosen specific event then generalizing its outcome to all manner of "logical certainties" I am here to suggest trout fishing will save the American political system.

Think of it yourself. How much trouble do you really cause when you are in a stream? Really?

If all our politicians spent fifteen percent of their terms on a trout stream, they'd cause fifteen percent less havoc.

Why, go for broke and put them out with a rod in hand for fifty percent of their allotted time in office.

One day in congress means one obligatory day fishing.

There'd be a lot less Mickey Mouse and a lot more attention on habitat maintenance and improvement projects. Maybe there'd be some legislation about egregious fly line proliferation, too.

Okay, okay. I'm not really that bigoted. I respect another angler's right to buy a line called "Super-Dri Bandit" if they want to. I will however make fun of them.


Trout: save the fish, save the vote.

Look - it's a better platform than anyone else has going right now.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Camping for Trout: Water

I love getting away to fish for trout. My best trout water lies some three-and-a-half hours away. Camping makes a trout road-trip a relaxed, enjoyable weekend outing.

The issue with camping and with hiking-in to remote locations involves water. The trout have plenty. We anglers however struggle a bit.

Water is heavy to carry. It requires prior planning for provisioning. It's precious and requires rationing on-site.

None of these attributes do much for trout hiking and camping.

I've carried water in coolers for car camping which is fine unless I'm hiking six miles to my fishing spot. Packing sufficient water is inconvenient and frustrating given that my ultimate destination is water. A good filter system gives me almost unlimited supplies for coffee, hydration, cooking, and even hygiene.

Wild sources for drinking and hygiene as an alternative? Not so good. Infection and diarrhea are not good souvenirs of a weekend trip.

The Grayl filter set (pictured above on my desk next to a large coffee cup) is a practical reliable solution. I've used it this past year. I'm delighted. The thing fits into my side bag when I'm on the water and in camp keeps me from wondering about the "potable" water available from campsite wells.

The water processed through the Grayl filter also tastes great. You can read the specs on the Grayl website in the link below. Virus, bacteria, cysts, protozoa, heavy metals: removed.

 Mine is an older now discontinued model which weights one pound. The current 'ultralight" model omits the aluminum sleeve in favor of a composite bit for an empty weight of about 11 oz.

The thing works like a coffee press and it works well. Filter capacity runs about 40 gallons for a $25 filter. Pretty good for clean water.

The web site is here.

Above, the component on the left is the outer sleeve.

The component on the right is the inner sleeve with the modular filter (the plastic colored bit) on the bottom.

They work together and process 16 oz of water in about 20 seconds.

Initial position. Fill the outer sleeve with water and set the inner sleeve on it.
 Press the inner sleeve down into the outer sleeve.
Done. Finished position. The inner aluminum sleeve holds the clean water. The top has a solid positive control built-in so the whole unit is a reliable transport bottle for your now clean water. It's got a bunch of silicone gaskets that keep the clean part clean, the dirty part isolated, and your pack dry.

The top -- closed. Open below.

Open -- note the nice large opening hole. You drink, not sip.

I give this the full Amber Angler endorsement as a useful bit of kit. If you're on the water or interested in trout camping, you save a lot of time and frustration with the Grayl filter bottle.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Another Project

At left, the look of incredulous doubt from a foxhound.

I bought a new rod today -- sort of. I spoke for one that I'll buy for myself as a Christmas present before Christmas this year.

I bought a 3wt Fenglass rod.

Now, I've a got 3 wt and it's got my name on it. It is however graphite. Bushwacking is not the best place to use that particular rod.  It's delicate.

Thus, a relatively inexpensive Fenglass that I can put a little Galvan Brookie onto spun with a Wulff TT line I love. Remember, this is Michigan and I've lots of stream completely blocked off from breeze. Dusk and dawn are almost never a problem with wind, either.

I'm going to track my little local recovery stream -- Mill Creek -- for a good fifty outings through this time next year. It'll make a good local article if I can't get any of the angler magazines to bite. I probably can because over an entire year, even and idiot with a camera like me can get good snaps. Pictures help.

I've not tracked a piece of water reliably in a diary before and it seems a good use of some ink. I'm here four miles from the stream, have an interest in its restoration, and have an interest in saying something meaningful to folks who might want to fish it. So, a little pen and ink work.

It'll give me something to shop around next winter. " A Year, Fifty Outings, and The Soft Hackle: A Lesson in Classic Flies." Editors pick titles. Probably a good thing given this one. Too long.

Lou likes the idea of coming into the woods with me. He's not so sure about the water. He's not much on wet paws. Foxhound.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Jordan River

Above, The Jordan River Valley in the Northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan from the trail that runs through its namesake. Somewhere down under the distant trees lies the cold clear water of the Jordan.

I'm taken with this water. Smitten.

Now, my first outing was a sodden mess. The campsite is a pack-in of about a third of a mile up a serious hill from a makeshift wide-spot-in-the-road parking lot. The road which runs along the Jordan itself is a one-lane affair upon which I was fortunate to have to myself as I'm still driving my roadster.

The water though is clear and cold and isolated. I've found my mid-summer retreat for the dog days of July and August. My hand could stay in the water for a count of forty before my fingers would hurt.

The trip was on weekend of 10 September. The water is cold.

I'm fortunate that The Senator has a family place in a wonderful "up north" resort town quite near the Jordan. He was gracious enough to scout this area for me a couple weeks before my trout dash and without his appraisal of the terrain, I might not have made the trip. I owe him for this little bit of heaven.

I'll run through the trip report here with some pictures.

Campsite here and below. The location is a great reverse-slope defensive posture nestled in the trees for less wind. The bugs will be fierce in July. On my trip? No bugs.

Campsite on day two as I try to dry ... well, everything. I rigged the tarp on the first night before pitching the tent as rain threatened. The rain held off for sixteen hours until I was two-and-a-half hours north on the trail.

Then, it rained like a cow pissing on a flat rock for four hours straight. You know how much warning you have that it is going to pour on you when deep into a forest trail? That's right. Thirty seconds.

Post hike paws.

Commando dries faster so off with the base layer.

The fire rings are super-sturdy and set up as heat banks for cold-weather camping. This was the first night's comfort burn as I smoked a pipe and read a little Kipling. I like poetry in the wilds. I'm partial to Sandburg, Hughes, Frost, Collins, and Kipling; but, Vachel Lindsay isn't beyond the pale.

It is an accepted fact that trout themselves are among the most literate of fish. One does well to keep this in mind when pursuing them.

Mountain Leader trick: fire starting in the rain. Don't use much of that handbook in most of my day-to-day world. I do always have a tinder patch wrapped in foil in my pocket when I'm away from the gentry.
Works, though. Top-down broiler to dry the wood below as it works its way down. This is fire in a steady drizzle which subsequently burned strongly through two downpours.

Not everyone was bothered by the rain. This ornamental turtle is along the north side of the trail leading to the campsite. I've not seen other yard-art in Michigan trout areas. Cute, though.

The river -- up from the downpour. I was able to fish here in the lee of a grass islet. I was also able to snap an intruding finger in this shot. The water has a cast to it in this picture but in reality, it was a  very mild stain. I could still see down four feet to the bottom even in this spate.

An old bridge crossed here back in the day and the footings are still present. Brookies dashed in the current here.

Just downstream from the footings about thirty meters. The flow had two natural seams and out of the closer one, I could manage a little contact nymphing where I got one nice brookie before knocking him clear with my clumsy - and excited - net work.

I had a field supper here before returning to camp for round two of the downpour.

Plug for good gear: I've been using these furled leaders from Cutthroat Leaders the last two seasons and really like them. I like to tie my own leaders and am pretty particular about taper performance and turn-over. These Cutthroat leaders are memory-free, soft on the drift, and handle my soft-hackles quite well. They're not for heavy two-fly dropper rigs. This is a nymph leader I tried out. A little gimmicky. Meh.

Furled leaders are great at single fly surface, film, and sub-surface work.

 Loaded for brookies.

These are all mine in a fly wallet Chris Lantzy made for me. His link is over on the right and Chris is an consummate craftsman. Great gear. Classic stuff.

More flies. The flies in the two plates here are all mine but for the parachute models on the top row. A guide buddy tied those. Notice they look "shop fresh" while my flies all have a "crushed bug" sort of appeal. I'm after fish, not fishermen.

Sorry Steve, my ants are the middle-of-the-thorax sort of hackles things.

This is the exterior of the fly wallet above. Great in the shirt-pocket. Holds too many and of course, that's the number of flies we want on the water: too many. I couldn't tell precisely what I'd need on the Jordan so I went heavy.

I've a history of going heavy when the opposition is unknown.

I'm planning 2017 now. The Driftless looks like a good bet for a soft-hackle sort of fellow. I'm not likely to make it to the Test next year so, probably a road trip to Wisconsin is in order.

I'm flying on a float plane into the far wilds of Ontario with some serious murderers in the middle of summer. I've already started my toughening for that trip. No place for a turned ankle or a back that "goes out."

I do need to practice my "fillet 'em with an ax" parlor trick.

I need to sharpen my ax.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Under Instruction

At left, Lauren -- one of the owners of The Painted Trout -- casting my 3wt Echo 10'7" glass switch rod with a 5wt Ambush line and a 10' floating Versileader.

I just liked the way the line showed up in this photo as she gets ready to execute a forward segment on a single-spey. I can't take pictures of myself casting the rod because I'm casting the rod. So, I gave it to Lauren to take a few snaps during an on-the-water segment of a spey class this summer The Painted Trout hosted with Jeff Liskay instructing. Jeff really helped my casting.

A picture of Jeff demonstrating here at left. Great patient instructor. Best I'v had.

I gave a soft hackle class Saturday. I was a little surprised when ten people showed up.

At left, my "Late Summer Ghost"  which is a little mop of a fly but has done pretty well in the last month. Herl, no doubt.

Anyway, I taught the basics of the Partridge-and-Orange, The Black Magic, The Starling-and-Herl, the March Brown Flymph (Dave Hughes' variant), and the Jingler tied on an interpretation of the Borcher's Special.

I learned : 5 flies are a bit much. I need note cards to make sure I don't talk too much which is damn hard because there's just so much history wrapped up in Soft Hackled flies that I can't help but bring up those little nuances from the literature. I should also make sure all the materials for tying a couple of the flies we're discussing are pre-apportioned and ready to go.

I made some decent sketches of the flies and the principal assembly stages for each. That should help the students later when they get home.

The worst part was however that with ten students -- surprise -- instead of maybe six, I had to hand out my originals so only have an annotated bibliography on my computer left as any part of the class prep. I'll have to re-cut the drawings if I ever do this again which in itself probably isn't such a bad thing. I do wish I'd secured my originals at home in my library before going to the class but no matter. Only ink.

They were a good bunch of fly tiers. I couldn't have asked for a better more enthusiastic group anxious to work on North Country flies.

This truly is a golden age of fly fishing. The reference materials get better and better.

I've been thinking a great deal about The Occasional Trout and think it is time to consider the condensed intermediate text for the occasional trout angler.

The problem with elegant works is that they are devilishly difficult to follow. I've got a couple wonderfully elegant volumes on orbital dynamics and they are crushingly difficult to absorb. The volume on Lagrange transfer and the Poincare solutions just about broke me. It took about ten years for me to internalize the computational methods and approximations.

I need to spend some time with the plans for The Occasional Trout. Winter seems a good schedule assist.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

I'm Shocked, I Tell You ...

Florida Electric Chair
At left, a public domain picture of the Florida electric chair constructed as a replacement for the '23 model as deployed in 1998. It's oak.

Saturday saw a fish shocking survey of Mill Creek, the small trout stream here in Dexter, MI  that Trout Unlimited ( the AATU chapter) is rehabilitating with help from the Michigan DNR.

The hot summer took its toll. Stretches that previously saw upwards of eighty fish saw five collected yesterday. The hot summer did us no favors.

It's a process and we all know that. It's still tough thinking we've lost a couple of years worth of fish population -- at least.

Surveys from far upstream did show good fish hold-over numbers and here in the past month we've seen the biggest trout for the year landed in the Sloan Preserve area upstream of where we conducted shocking.

Still, we've a lot of heat-murdered trout anyway we look at it.

We can hope this year was an exceptional year. '79, '80 and '81 were unbelievably hot on the plains were I was at the time. The winters were a bitch, too. On the average it worked out.

If we're going to average out this year here in Michigan, I'm going to need to lay in more firewood.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Not Just Excited, Fishing Trip Excited

At left, copyright-free image from Helsinki. Bear Fishing.

Actually, this bear is in Kaivopuisto which is the difference between saying "it's in New York" and "it's on the corner of 49th and Park Avenue." [ think Waldorf Astoria neighborhood].

If you're a Cold War spook, Kaivopuisto is where you went to sip coffee on a bench when you were in town. It cut down on walking distance for all the household staff of the various diplomats' residences.

I lived with a Finn for three years, once upon a time. Now I have a side bag from a firm called Finn. Coincidence? I fenced with the Swede. The Finn would only drink (at the Jazzhaus in Lawrence, Kansas).

There's excited - little kid Christmas excited. Then, there's fishing trip where no one else will be on the river excited.

I've got the latter. Makes the little kid business look like a waiting room at a dentist's office.

I might have to get on my local stream tonight. I stopped by my fly shop yesterday to fondle gear. I'm even tying - gasp - streamers. I tie really ugly streamers.

"Put the  Pearsall's down and step away from the vise."

I need to do the day job. It'll make the day pass - sort of like making a kidney stone pass.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

South Branch Au Sable Fall Camp - Mason Tract

 At left are a pair of pictures from a wonderful piece of wilderness: the Mason Tract on the South Branch of the Au Sable.

These are older pictures from a trout-dash a year ago. The Mason Tract Pathway runs along the entire west side of the twelve (fourteen ?) mile stretch of uninhabited public land (exception - six cottages on east bank about halfway through ... legacy places). The top picture shows the posted waypost and map.

The bottom picture shows the South Branch nearer the south end headwaters  in their typical spring condition. Water will be lower now.

Banks are intermittently weedy/marshy rushes, timber and sweepers,  and Michigan fly-eating brush. The bottom is firm and alternates between cobble, gravel and a little sand/muck (especially near the swampy southern end).

The Amber Liquid guys are all ready for a great fall outing. We'll have a little rain before we set-up camp then a little cooling and some nice fall weather. We've got Old Del as a base (24 foot Airstream trailer) and a Vizsla pup for entertainment.

The early fall has a nice BWO hatch, a strong ant/beetle bite, and good micro-streamer action.

I'm anxious to get the guys on this section. They enjoyed the Deward Tract earlier this year though there was some brook trout grumbling about "little fish."

My answer? Buy a three weight! [ the Senator did and he got a nice one].

Anyway, the Mason Tract is the same sort of remarkably undeveloped protected wilderness with ... brown trout. Large browns, actually.  If I can put the Amber Liquid guys on just one, I'll have them hooked on trout camping this great stretch. Time ont he water is what they need. The fish are here. The bite is here. Time, gentlemen. Time.

Below - official breakfast of Amber Liquid Anglers. Yes, thin mints. They're made with real girl scouts.

I need to post the photo recon of the Jordan River yet. Might be a winter project. I know I'll be fishing the Jordan in July and August next year.

This weekend, an early fall Au Sable trout camp. I'm barely able to sleep I'm so excited. I love this water.

Oh, refilled both flasks just in case of rain. Yes - drank one of Bushmills and one of Glenfiddich while waiting out the Jordan downpour. That's a lot of whiskey; but, it was a lot of rain.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

I'm Only Going Over Jordan

At left, copyright-free image of a brook trout from:
Brook trout fishing : an account of a trip of the Oquossoc Angling Association to northern Maine in June, 1869 / by R. G. Allerton.

This work is in the collection of the Ernst Mayr Library of the MCZ, Harvard. Image hosted on wikicommons.

I'm going to the Jordan for a trip to hunt brookies. The Jordan River Valley is a nearly pristine piece of Michigan managed by the state almost from the time it was first clear-cut. The second-growth forest is mature, protected, and isolated from the hordes who usually descent on rivers like the Au Sable on weekends. I'm in the upper part of the river valley - the rough part. The trees lie in the braided stream as so many matchsticks blown from a giant's makings box.

It can be treacherous. It can be a dangerous wade. There are a lot of pinch points from the timber. I'll be careful. Rain on Saturday and so subsurface.

The upper has a few browns and many brookies. Most of the brookies are small though I'm hoping to cover enough water to find the exceptional specimens. We'll see.

I've an old-style fly wallet in brown leather done up for me by Chris Lantzy over in the sidebar. I've loaded the felt pages with my arsenal for this weekend: wets. There are a handful of drys and attractors and a good dozen nice caddis which I'll use as indicator flies on some dry-dropper rigs.

I'm going with "the coug", the black magic, the partridge-and-orange ( and olive, and primrose yellow), a couple of nice dun-hackled scarlet spiders of which I have great hopes, and some #20 and #22 soft-hackled tricos just in case.

I'm loaded for ... brookies. I'm hoping not to encounter bear. I'll sling my food just to be sure.

Hemingway traveled all over Michigan fishing, usually alone. I'm doing the same with this trip. I've got some things to work over and the fly rod helps with that. I've got that flat metal taste of brass and scotch on the back of my tongue. There's a murder in the ink I need to work out.

I'll have pictures. I'll post a report.

I'm too close to being a character of E.H.'s these days to enjoy his writing though I will read some on this trip. I've demonstrated a considerable ability to piss away an endless stream of opportunities in life. I'm sounding like "Three Day Blow" now.

I've quite a grand collection of "didn't work out" mostly because I cannot let the good efforts of others stand for me in any way. I'm compelled to cast the line myself.

I'm beginning to think there's a story in that.

There's certainly a trout in it.


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Where Are They: Fish Porn

At left, copyright-free image for visual impairment.

I don't have a great deal of faith in video instruction. The lessons don't stick as well as does on-stream experience.

For the Amber Liquid guys who might have let their waders dry a little too long this summer, I offer this series from Orvis on the Sunday Fish Porn videos.

You could do worse than review these lesson segments.

Finding Trout.

Just about as instructive fo the "calm approach" technique, a lovely bit of brook trout hunting here:
Native Brook Trout from Derek Philippon on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Later Summer Distractions ... and Flies

Late Summer Ghost
Late Summer Ghost
Late summer and the vocational pursuits trump piscatorial adventure. Sadly.

Everybody has the summer blues. We need to be fishing but the weeks slip away with the other required activities of daily life. At first family, then the heat, and now the day job.

It's how it goes until we reach season's end and wish that we'd found one more outing, one more fish.

So, next best thing: the vise in the evening. (As my spouse would say: the vice).

Steve has a great fly over on the Soft-Hackle Journal here called the Turkey & Starling Nymph.

I've just received a huge handful of cock pheasant tails from a friend and so, used what was at hand.

The fly pictured here is a size 16 pheasant-tail soft-hackle using a peacock herl head for my friends: the brookies.  It is wire-ribbed and designed specifically for a buddy who likes to fish the same fly all afternoon.

This will do it.

I've increasingly come to like soft-hackles tied in the style of having the herl in front of the hackle. Some of the old spiders in Robert Smith's The North Country Fly: Yorkshire's Soft Hackle Tradition clearly follow this line of approach. I like the style because it enforces a clean-eye design. Summer flies for me often become over-crowded so much so that I have a box of "not quite" flies that didn't make the cut. Eye-crowding is the most common offense.

I should say it is only a varient of the pheasant-tail soft-hackle flymph so hardly anything original or distinctive. I do like the lighter hackles in fall and they seem to work (I've only done the lighter hackle for two seasons though so we're early in the objective evidence stage).

Late Summer Ghost:
Hook: Umpqua #16 (any)
Thread: Pearsall's in scarlet.
Tail: generous pheasant tail barbs more than you'd think would look good on any mayfly.
Abdomen: Pheasant tail ribbed with ultrafine in gold or silver.
Hackle: Ginger or bleached hen. Three wraps (which you'll think too many as you tie).
Collar: three strands herl counter-wrapped short and secured with a couple thread wraps running through.

This fly really isn't a very good spider. It is however a damn fine micro-streamer, iso, or pupae in the drift. It works. I don't know why but when in the water it looks "buggy."

Bushy tail. Longish active hackle. Herl. 

Weighted, this Late Summer Ghost is nice in a snap-jig motion. I'll tie some this week with four-to-six wraps of non-lead at the rear of the shank to be covered with larger pheasant-tail barbs. Sacrilege!   Weighted soft-hackle! Yep. There it is. 12, 14, 16, 18 and unweighted in 20.

I'll tie these aplenty and some Cougs (the coug) and some 18/20 CDC-only Caddis  [with thanks to Ed Engle for the pattern (Ed's book: Tying Small Flies)]. These should take care of my buddy at fall fish camp and give him plenty to fish even if he only ties on one pattern a day.

Now if I can just do a little more field research on the water I'd be all set. I've got some fox-squirrel and bucktail streamers I'm anxious to try.

In the meantime ... the vice. Er ... vise.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Weather Has Broken

The weather broke here about 8 days ago. It started raining again.

Today's highs will be in the low 70's.

It's time to think of trout again -- since we won't be killing them on the release.

The little beast at left is "The Coug."

The tiny bit of herl and a grey soft-hackle hen just killed brookies for me last fall. 14/16/18.

I used scarlet floss to wrap the body and create the tag. Pearsall's silk in scarlet is used on the fly but any thread will do. Old fat brookies need glasses to read so use that to your advantage. This follows the GISS principal for nothing at all. Pure attractor play.

I'm reading Ed Engle and his small fly tactics. Time to think of "the coug" in size 22. I'd love to hear from small fly fisherman who have used the small-fly in the soft-hackle variants.  I'm wondering about drift and drag though I take plenty of fish tight-line so just haven't sorted the small fly business in my mind. I've thought myself a presentationist from early dry-fly training but fish a tight line a little less than half the time with little difference in results.

Can it be that trout just don't care?

Local Hatch:

Ephoron's are hatching here on the Huron. In two weeks they'll be up north.  I'm tying soft-hackle Ephoron's after finishing this entry. Sunday morning at the vise. You commune with your gods. I'll commune with mine.

Mill Creek:

The shocking mid-summer in my Mill Creek restoration stream was disappointing. Few fish found in the public access part which runs through Dexter. Heat. Hopefully, the fish went upstream to springs and holes. Hopefully.

Good news is that shocking efforts far upstream in cooperation with some local landowners showed good fish including a 23" - 25" trophy trout. They're in there and for a small stream, this is the sort of fish-of-a-lifetime which makes a small stream angler's pulse quicken.

I'm eating berries and nuts for breakfast. I am however dreaming of campfire cooking. It'll be a couple weeks until I can make a dash north to trout-land. Vocational commitments.  You have to pay the trout bills sometime.

Soon time for this (Lou the foxhound is helping in the picture). I could use some fall.

From the Field:

And lastly , a series of action photos from our last Amber Angler outing. Cast, drift, screw with your gear. It's a technique Amber Liquid guys use all the time. Strike inducing, even. Maybe as much as the Leisenring Lift. I know you've used it. We should give it a name. Suggestions?