Friday, February 19, 2021

The Power of Encounters

It was 2016 and my fly fishing for musky journey was just getting started. At that point, I'd caught a few muskies while helping Austin Greene film "Pursuing Esox," and I found myself only tying flies that were more like pets than lures. I'd made my way to the Somerset Fly Fishing Show to pick up some feathers and promptly leave. At the show I caught a glimpse of the man, the myth, the legend, Blane Chocklett. I mustered up the courage to go talk to him about a large female musky that was haunting my dreams. As a quiet guy by nature, who hardly ever talks to anyone, I walked right up to Blane and asked him a few questions. After some brief answers, he curtly stated that at a certain point it would be best to simply put in my time. Slightly miffed, it took me a little to realize that he was right. 

Friday, January 29, 2021

Hunters and Hopers

Always so crowded...

I was fortunate enough to spend a few days this November swinging flies for Great Lakes steelhead on the Salmon River in New York. I've grown quite fond of the river over the years and the opportunities it affords two handed casters along with the sheer quality of the migratory rainbows the river can produce. Each year, I learn the river and the behavior of its fish a little more. That can be attributed to time and experience but it also comes from watching, listening, and learning from some of the river's resident Spey Jedi. Guys like Patrick Ross, Chad Gaston, and Isak Kulalic have often left me slack jawed over the past decade with their casts, presentations, or ability to pick my pocket, with a dry line. I'll never forget a day on the river where I witnessed Patrick and Travis Johnson absolutely murder a run with a group of clients while I left the river skunked. Despite some success, there are definitely levels to the game. The aforementioned individuals have helped me raise the bar when it comes to my expectations stepping down a run, even when the river, and its fish, are seemingly not in the mood. To borrow Travis's phrase, I've transitioned from a "hoper," to a "hunter". Below are a few tips to help you have some more success when swinging flies on my favorite Great Lakes steelhead river. 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

GHOSTech Indicators Review


Full disclosure: I was contacted by the creator and owner of GHOSTech, Stephen Cunic, last May and was sent a package of indicators with a note to write a review for the blog. Stephen and I are from the same area of Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley. This product was born on the waters I grew up fishing and still do. I have not met Stephen and we have not fished together. I have not read other reviews of the product and the thoughts and feelings are my own. Please read the entirety of the review in order to understand its best uses. 

Every fly fisherman has used, or uses indicators, while nymphing for trout. For a lot of us, it is how we learned the subtle nuances of a dead drift or how we caught some of our first trout on fly. Indicators are a staple in any angler's kit and the industry has seen a lot of different styles come and go over the years. Personally, I started nymphing as a 12 year old using yarn style indicators. I used different yarn indicators, almost exclusively, until the arrival of the Thingamabobber. The "thing," has since been replaced in popularity by the Airlock indicator and that is what you'll find me using when I feel the need to suspend nymphs. The most recent iteration of the Airlock style is the most popular indicator on the market and probably the most used. With the arrival of GHOSTech's unique platform and marketing, does it beat out the Airlock? In short, no it does not. However, the GHOSTech presents a new take on indicators and has a few unique characteristics to pay attention to. Owning the GHOSTech indicators will round out your nymphing toolkit and make you a more successful angler in specific fishing situations. 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Holiday Swing


Two inches of rain fell on Christmas Eve. The storm and temperatures also melted the snow remaining from a mid-December dumping. As I mentally and physically prepared myself to head home for the holidays, I realized that my hopes of spending copious amounts of time swinging for trout on the larger rivers of eastern Pennsylvania were going out the window. My attention turned towards the smaller creeks and streams that would clear much quicker yet still grant the opportunity of catching some sizable wild and holdover browns on the swing. 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Musky on Fly

Two musky hunters in the distance...

The allure of musky is prevalent across the industry and many anglers are taking up the challenge of catching the top esox species on fly. The increased attention is driving fly design, material creation, resource sharing, and resulting in a wave of new musky specific rods from top manufacturers. What was once a shiny mystique is now more accessible than ever. That accessibility is creating increased pressure on the species, especially in areas of the country where their numbers are high. If there is one thing that muskies learn from, it is pressure. They can easily pick up signatures on their lateral lines from boats, motors, kayaks, paddles, fly lines, knots, and flies in the water column. This pressure results in lazy follows and 180 degree turns away when they approach a vessel or hear any sound/vibration they don't like. For musky fly anglers, stealth and presentation are often a key part of any anglers success on the water, especially on small, intimate waterways. Of course, luck and time are always key ingredients. The main key is an understanding of the factors that influence conditions, and therefore, a musky's behavior. That will always be the most important part of the game. The peak time to catch a musky on fly is in the fall and winter months preceding the spawn. This coincides nicely with the months (November/December) you should NOT be targeting wild brown trout by fishing during the spawn or immediate post spawn periods. This works out nicely for the angler and the wild brown trout we all love. If you find yourself falling down the musky on fly rabbit hole, please consider a few recommendations before partaking...

Sunday, December 6, 2020

I Swing Alone

I swing alone, yeah

With nobody else

I swing alone, yeah
With nobody else
Yeah, you know when I swing alone
I prefer to be by myself

Wednesday, October 14, 2020


If there's anything that 2020 has taught me, it is to live in the moment and take advantage of the time that has been afforded. That means different things to different people but for me, it translates into doing what makes me happy and spending time with those I love. The year has forced all of us prioritize, adapt, and make the best of an overall shitty situation. Everyone has personally experienced, or knows someone that has experienced, loss, heartache, death, or a myriad of other problems related to Covid-19. The importance of family, friends, and hobbies were thrust to the forefront of our lives as a means to escape the never ending cycle of bad news. To rise above the fray, I found solace in the river. The ebb and flow of the current, the sound of water rushing between my legs, and the constant presence of wildlife lifts me up. It has, and will continue to be, an equilibrium check that balances my soul. A constant reminder to work to live and not live to work. 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Well, La-dee Frickin' Da!

New Fish Mobile Coming Spring 2021

The bountiful amount of time spent on the water in the Spring of 2020 granted me a lot of time to think about life. I came to realize that there is so much out there that I have yet to see and do. The window of opportunity that I have to accomplish some adventures is only dwindling. With Covid-19 numbers this summer resulting in a second wave, it had me seriously questioning the likelihood that school would reopen in the Fall. The threat of teaching an entire school year remotely from a computer sent a shiver down my spine. If I'm going to be asked to do that, I'd rather do it from somewhere cool. In late July, I began searching for a used van to convert into an RV with the hope that I could travel while teaching remotely during the 2020-2021 school year. The process was intense and the competition for a quality used van resulted in several missed opportunities. It seems, large numbers of people had the same exact idea I had. I ended up getting a 2019 Ram Promaster in the 159" wheelbase. With it sitting in the driveway, the van building process is getting underway. It turns out I was a little overly ambitious with my plans but I am not fretting about it. With the help of Big Poppa Pump, we've decided to do things the right way. Whether that results in an adventure mobile in the short, or long term, remains to be seen. There is a lot of work to be done and my eye is turning towards 2021 and a summer of adventure. Just don't expect me to chronicle every moment of the build or ever use the hashtag #vanlife. That won't be happening, even when I'm 34, single, and living in a van down by the river...

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Variable Fly Design for Carping the Column

From CarpPro Magazine Issue 3 (Click)

Fly-fishing for carp in deep, stillwaters has presented a unique set of challenges for my friends and I over the years. Conventional carp flies and strategies wouldn’t work for us so we had to forge ahead on an entirely different set of ideas. Most of the credit for this innovation has to go to Adam Hope, who has spent more time doing this than anyone I know.  His original “Damsel” fly was able to crack the proverbial code that afforded us success on our difficult home waters. The Damsel fly featured certain characteristics that could be replicated in other patterns. This breakthrough allowed us to develop a series of interchangeable variables that achieve different sink rates for carping the water column. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Evening turns to night...

The last of the day's light faded on the horizon as the sky slowly morphed through the color spectrum from blue to yellow and then orange to purple. On the river's surface, the trout's interest in the evening's sulphur hatch also began to wane. The rises that were once steady were now sporadic with activity moving from the head of the run to the tailout of the pool. The hope of a strong emergence that would bring the largest trout in the river to the surface never truly materialized. A few trout were fooled and many more were not. Such is the game at the end of a hatch cycle when the fish have seen a season worth of patterns and presentations from all manner of skill level. In the moment, I was content to sit, watch, listen, and breathe. Out of sight, out of body, out of mind. Darkness slowly took over the river as the air temperature dropped significantly from the intense heat of the afternoon. Fireflies dotted the tree line and resembled yellow beacons moving over the body of water. Looking up, stars began to dot the night sky and several bats zig zagged across the sky picking off all manner of bugs using echolocation. It was a perfect night that was just getting started...

Monday, June 8, 2020

Slate Drakes

The beginning of June is a unique time to be fly fishing for trout in Pennsylvania. The official start of summer is only a few days away and water temperatures are questionable. When the thermometer reads 65 degrees, it makes me one wonder if what I'm doing is morally right by the trout. When it reaches 68 degrees, it officially becomes time to shut it down. A long hot day can cause the temperatures to balloon as the sun heats the rocks and the water. A few cold nights in a row and all of sudden the water temperatures are back in prime territory. In this zone, slate drakes are emerging and mark the end of my trout season on PA's freestone streams. At this point, the large majority of streams are already unfishable due to the aforementioned water temperatures but there are a few that remain colder, especially the further you move north. Late afternoons can produce some emergences of the big bugs and some spectacular dry fly fishing. Just make sure to carry a thermometer...

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Into the Mystic

Let your soul and spirit fly, into the mystic...

On the verge of deep sleep, a distant rumbling cut through the nightly chorus and stirred me out of my stupor. I peered out of my hammock and into the upriver void. The approaching sound of civilization reminded me that I wasn't alone and that my location was still connected to its industrial past. As the train rounded the bend, its lights cut through darkness and fog. Each passing tree creating a flickering effect, like a strobe, that reflected off the water and into my rain fly. I laid transfixed on the light making its way through the gorge as it illuminated the journey ahead. 

The image stoned me to my soul. 

Saturday, May 23, 2020


For all intents and purposes, I was hungover on the morning of day three, completely exhausted from the dehydrated, adrenaline filled, all out fishing of day two. I sat in the raft for some time listening to the morning chorus, missing out on what I soon realized was a nice streamer window. My body and mind slowly adjusted to the amount of water I consumed and I summoned the energy to start moving. 

This was the day I started to mellow out a bit. I no longer felt like I had to cover every inch of water and instead, became part of the ebb and flow of the river. I settled into a daily routine that involved copious shade filled breaks, swinging sessions, and a lot of water to prevent dehydration in the sun. 

A few days prior, I planned a rendezvous with my sister for my first resupply. Would she be there at our scheduled time? Would I make it there? Did my Dad tell her that I needed shoes? Would work mark the end of the excursion? These were the thoughts on my mind as I pulled up the anchor and began drifting further downriver...

Friday, May 22, 2020

Foam Lines

Drunk on the wildness of the moment...

I awoke in a cocoon tucked into the bottom of the raft. It took a minute for my senses to orient to their surroundings and for my mind to wrap around the fact that I never left the river. Condensation covered everything and saturated my sleeping bag. I bemoaned the fact that I forgot a towel and resorted to using my hooded sweatshirt to wipe down the seat on the raft. I rummaged through my packed gear in order to find my Jet Fuel french press and then realized that I forgot coffee grounds too. This time, the replacement was a Cliff coffee bar in order to find a small jolt of caffeine. I sat down to adjust, eat breakfast, and scanned the pool for any sign of rising trout to the dead spinners on the water. Like the night before, there wasn't much going on. The river exhibited that morning calmness that we all know and hold dear. I eventually got on the oars and preceded to float a few miles through more skinny water until I got to familiar territory. Each stroke brought me closer and closer to better wild trout water. The day called for high temperatures, bright sun, and a good amount of wind. It ended up being a slow day overall, periodically broken up with some stocked and wild trout. In the evening, the river came alive producing an hour of top notch dry fly action that I will never forget. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

If I Go, I'm Goin

Just do it...

The reality of the trip existed in my head for over a month. A constant back and forth between "this is going to happen," and "real world responsibilities getting in the way." Sure, I dabbled here and there to get ready for the float. I ordered essentials like MRE's, energy bars, and compostable wet wipes.  I even prepped drop boxes for multiple resupplies and created an itinerary for family and select friends. In terms of fishing preparation, the daily grind of school, and nightly excursions to fish the hatches of May, left the state of my supplies in complete disarray. When I realized that the window of opportunity was closing and I got the green light from my work schedule, I began to pack in earnest. I remembered fishing related necessities like finishing the deer hair heads on two streamers and ended up forgetting basic needs like shoes, utensils, and a towel. 

The drive to the river left an odd feeling in my gut. Typically, I'm excited and highly anticipatory. At first I didn't understand the feeling I had but as we got closer to the destination, I realized that I was nervous. The weight of the excursion was on my shoulders and thoughts of being alone on the raft for two weeks sowed some seeds of doubt. Rather than thinking of the brown trout that awaited me, I found my mind wandering to named rapids that I had yet to conquer, the lack of cell phone service, and limited availability of assistance. I called Matt on the cell phone and he put my mind at ease. As is his usual refrain when it comes to my fishing exploits, he reassured me and simply said, "keep living the dream". The dark cloud of work loomed over my head, but it was declared over. I kept telling myself that I had nothing to worry about. 

Fuck, I forgot shoes...