Monday, January 31, 2011

Anticipating the Future.

I can't think of a better gift than something that will enrich the memories you make. So, when I was recently given a gorgeous Pieroway 6wt, I began to immediately anticipate the challenges that would be met with it in hand, whipping it back and forth in the wind or bent to the cork, and I created a mental draft of all of the species that I would be testing it against.

Saturday morning walked to the beach and christened it on an aggressive bonefish that blitzkrieged out of a rolling, crystal clear wave to engulf a newly-minted bonefish bunny. I was casting blindly and after two chases from bones and two mistakes on my part, I was anticipating my third shot. I didn't screw up again.

Once hooked, the fish bolted out over the shallow, reefy beach and took a 90 degree turn, wrapping my fly line around a coral head. I've started to rig with 15lb flouro incase I meet up with the big perms that frequent the area, so I knew I might have enough time to wade out and unwrap my line before the fish snapped it.

My line went slack as I approached the coral head. Not wanting to damage the new rod, I followed the line with my hands and unwedged it from between the coral. As soon as I freed the line, the slack on the water immediately tore across the surface, indicating I was still hooked up and the fish had some room to run.

Bonefish are violently quick and this rod handled the accelerations and the direction changes exactly as you'd need it to. The 6wt performed as beautifully as it looks. It has stopping power and can launch a heavy rabbit strip fly into a 15knot wind easily to match the deep blue blank, pewter guides and teal accents. The cork is premium and looks awesome.

I led the fish onto the sand in a rolling wave and asked a local boy to take a picture of it, commemorating my first of many fish on the new stick. He zoomed in a bit too far, tongue wagging in concentration, for a photo of the 6lber.

I released the bone, rinsed off my hands and headed out across the sand back towards my apartment. Cross bonefish off the 6wt list; bring on the permit, carp, largemouth, smallmouth, steelhead, sea-run browns (!), Jurrasic Lake 'bows (!)...

Bonus: Pompano

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Shake Me Down, Not a Lot of People Left Around.

A three day weekend and an intense urge to fish led us to the conclusion that we had to hit the road and head north. Despite ridiculous temperatures we headed into steelhead territory and open water with the intent and high hopes of landing a few slabs. After a brief one hour nap I awoke, changed, and stepped out into the low teens. Not bad for Pennsylvania, but we still had to travel four hours north. As I drove through the night, my groggy eyes were kept open from red bull and some sweet beats. I watched the temperature gage on the truck slowly drop until it hit 4 degrees.  It was then that a question popped into my head; what the hell are we doing?

The Calm Before the Storm.

We arrived a little too early and headed to a local fly shop to buy some gloves. We went all out and got the new Simms (it was a good choice). We then contacted some friends from Chris Michels and Nick Naclerio who would be meeting up with us on this crazy adventure. We told them which access point we were heading to and hit the road. Thoughts of the large sign in the fly shop reading 275 CFS again caused us to question ourselves. What the hell are we doing here?

Hopelessly Swinging Away.

Frozen Solid.

Dead Drifting Tacticians.

It didn't help that the majority of the roads were still covered in several inches of snow thanks to the lake effect systems constantly rolling through the region. In the parking lot, fresh powder was being blown off of trees and down on top of us and into the truck as we geared up. We eventually made it to the trail head and started our hike in through knee deep powder. Eventually we set up shop and after a few casts through likely holding water our lines accumulated too much ice to be casted. Leaving the lines in the water didn't seem to help so we resorted to using our fingers and gloves to strip it off. We were careful though to not take our flies out of the water. Frozen feathers are not quick to defrost and will freeze instantaneously when coming into contact with reels. This usually results in a fly being torn in half and marabou stuck to your reel. After the twentieth time I de-iced my fly line, leader, and tippet I once again asked myself: what the hell am I doing here?

One Last Time Before A Long Goodbye.


Looking for Some New Water.

De-frosting a Sculpin Popsicle Via Mouth.

Soon Adam and I both transitioned to swinging flies despite knowing full well that our chances of getting a fish to move were slim to none. Nick and Chris arrived and began working the water dead drifting anything and everything they had. It was around this time that Chis lost his wading jacket. Unbeknownst to him, it fell off while fishing never to be seen again. We all had a quick chuckle about that but I would soon top it. I had brought my cell phone with me so Chris and Nick could find us and I never put it away properly. It sat in my jacket pocket slightly above my waist. After snagging a branch on the swing, I ventured into deep water completely oblivious to the fact that my cell phone was slowly submerging into the icy water. I discovered it a few hours later after reaching into my frozen solid pockets. Chalk it up. Number 15 lost from a fly fishing related death. As we headed back to the truck to find Chris and Nick we were covered in ice and my jacket would not come off because the zippers were frozen. We met another angler in the parking lot putting together his spey rod. He shook his head at us and said, "I don't even know what I'm doing here".

Don't Get Your Tongue Stuck to the Frozen Red Bull.

We Were Not Alone in our Lunacy. 

A Hook Up & Subsequently Lost Fish. 

Nick Fighting A Nice 8-10 lb. Hen.

During the remainder of the day, the temperature had risen making fishing much easier. The snow however, kept coming down. Meeting back up with Chris & Nick, we discovered that they had landed a few fish. Lucky them. For the remainder of the day we fished together on a new stretch of water. As the light slowly faded from the sky, Nick hooked into a nice fish that I was able to land for him. The greedy hen took a rubber legged copper john. Before Nick's frozen hands could remain stationary enough for a picture, the fish wiggled free. While this was going on, Adam had slipped on the bank and slid down into the water. Water rushed into his waders and needless to say, he was quite wet. He left the stream early and made the mile hike back to the truck to strip down and warm up. When we found him, he was passed out in the front seat of the truck in his long underwear, blasting music and heat on full levels, and completely sound asleep. We said our goodbyes to Nick and Chris & contemplated driving home. We didn't. What the hell were we thinking?

Let's Take These Inside to the Truck to Defrost. 

A Morning in the Snow.

An Articulated Realistic Stonefly Dead Drifted Through Prime Water.
No Luck.

Usually, our hotel is the nearest Walmart parking lot, but this was no ordinary Saturday. Adam is a devout life long Packers fan, and they were about to play. Driving past our sleeping arrangements we made a long trek (thanks snow) to the nearest Outback Steak House where Adam could yell, clap, and be an obnoxious fan amongst the locals. We ended sleeping in the truck in the hotel next to the outback. We awoke to find five inches of fresh snow covering everything and we headed back to the river. With a new day dawning, we had high hopes to erase the previous day off the books. It didn't work out that way. As we stood freezing alongside the river, with snow accumulating on our shoulders, and a bitter wind attempting to push us over, we decided that enough was enough. We drove home.

With This Middle Finger Salute. 
We Packed It In.

Just in Time For Some Football.
The Truck Has Seen Better Days.

So, what the hell were we doing there? The answer is simple. For one, we were steelheading. The chance to have a large migratory rainbow smash a swung fly and cartwheel downstream is quite an alluring prospect for two anglers with a three day weekend and suffering from cabin fever. Secondly, it was beautiful. The river was covered in fresh snow with more coming down. No matter how cold I was or how dispirited I became from not catching any fish, all I had to do was look up at where I was. Every time I took the time to look at my surroundings I realized that we had entire sections of the river all to ourselves. With solitude being on of the hardest things to find on Great Lakes tributaries, I took the skunking and came away with a new respect for mother nature and the river I love to fish. If I had to do it all again, I would, despite the cold, snow, lost cell phone, and near hypothermia of one of my best friends. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Out to sea.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to accompany some friends on their prototype high-efficiency boat for a test run and, while we were at it, some deep see fishing.
I jumped at the chance and imagined casting my 10wt to some dolfin as they marauded flying fish near some floating debris. This was going to be so epic!

We headed East towards to fishing grounds as the sun rose. It was a surreal place to be as light began to spread from horizon to horizon. An hour later, and we were flushing schools of incredible flying fish into the air as we motored through. We knew that we were in the right spot and let two rigged ballyhoo out behind the boat.

It wasn't long before the two reels started to scream and the two young boys with us jumped into position to reel them in. One of the boys was having trouble with it, so the other boy handed his rod off and helped to tag-team the fish towards the boat.

We eventually landed the two smallish Horse-Eyed Jacks and released them back in to the sea. They were less than half the size of the fish I caught back in August and could see the strain these small ones put in the stout deep sea trawling rods. Remembering the blisters on my hands from that long ago battle, I rigged our last ballyhoo and let it out behind the boat.

Hours passed as those around me caught small mackerel and the like, as I just focused on nothing in particular, waiting for the hit...

The 7 knot trawling speed accentuated the beastly hit from the fish as I set the hook and began to pump and reel, pump and reel.

I hoped it was something I hadn't caught before, but it turned out to be a barracuda. He had mauled our last bait and our chances with artificial lures looked slim for the rest of the day.
We spent some time searching some small bays for ballyhoo.

Alas, the schools of dolfin and wahoo never materialized. Perhaps during our next outing I'll get my shot.

The boat performed incredibly well. It is fast and light, with two small engines. After almost 12 hours on the water with the engines running almost constantly, we only used $90 worth of fuel. The attendant claimed that the large Bertram fishing boats would use upwards of $800 in fuel alone to cover the ground we covered that day.

Also, in a Bertram you can't do this...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Plan.

Before summer of last year, my roommate's boyfriend was hired in Delaware and moved into the flat. Naturally, he had many questions about all the fly fishing gear, pictures, magazines, and paintings hanging and strewn throughout the place. However, school dismissed and I disappeared for most of the summer. I returned to even more questions and now he wanted to try it out. However, are schedules didn't provide an opportunity. Most weekends, I was fishing somewhere out of state while he was either working or tied to his girlfriend's ball and chain. I slowly devised a plan, a takeover of sorts, to free him from his chains and get him out on the water to experience something new.

The process began slowly. I didn't want to scare my roommate. She knows full well the disease that I suffer from. I'm an addict and the last thing she wants is her boyfriend disappearing for days at a time on his only days off. She even fired me a few warning salvos whenever I mentioned upcoming trips to the river or the local fly shop. So I decided to start somewhere. At first, I strategically placed beginners fly fishing books throughout the apartment. Soon, reading commenced which brought more questions. I then gave him a fly rod, reel, and a leader and had him out on the grass for a few casting sessions. For Christmas, I gave him a box of flies, leaders, tippet, nippers, and forceps and the promise of finally taking him out to go fishing. He was amped. Little did he know but he was standing on the edge, about to fall off a cliff into fly fishing oblivion.

First Time Fly Fishing
Weather: Nor'easter Snow Storm
Temperature: 25 Degrees (w/o wind chill)

A Demonstrated Cast and Mend Produced This Yellow Rainbow.
My Bad.

A Saturday eventually came and we had nothing to do, so we went fishing despite the freezing temperatures, anchor ice, and snow storm. I figured if he was really serious about fly fishing, this would be a pretty good test. He purchased a new license off the internet while I prepped the gear. Soon we were stream side observing various trout from a bridge. I pointed out the tell tale signs of fish, likely holding spots, and where we were going to fish from. He didn't see anything and then I realized that his Oakleys were not polarized. With borrowed glasses he was spotting fish like an eagle. We headed to the water along a shelf of anchor ice. I instructed him on where to cast and after a few mishaps he was rolling. He kept missing the lane, until finally after a few choice words, his lone caddis landed in the sweet spot. I told him to set and despite his delayed reaction he hooked up with a nice sixteen inch rainbow. After a brief struggle the fish came unbuttoned from a simple rookie mistake. Tension. We moved slightly and I took his rod to demonstrate how to cast and mend to extend the drift downstream. While mending on my only cast, the indicator dipped and I robbed him of another chance. Soon though, he hooked into and landed his very first trout on the fly. A pretty little brown.

Some Open Water.

Coming Down Sideways.

Nothing Like Your First Fish on the Fly.

Soon the snow started to come down hard, the wind picked up, and the temperature dropped creating ice on the fly line, leader, and fly. Despite this, we walked a good half mile upstream and attempted to sight fish to a pod of stationary fish. As the sun began to set, I was cold from not fishing and I told Derek it was time to go. I started to walk downstream and realized that I was not being followed. I turned to find Derek still fishing, intent on fooling one last fish. It was then that I realized that I created a monster. He was hooked. I would probably be facing the wrath of girlfriend in the coming weeks as he progresses deeper and deeper into the infinite realm of fly fishing. My bad.

Never Doubt The Green Caddis.

Heading Off the Water.
A New Fly Fishermen is Born.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Family Affair: Part Two

Heading off the water, the three of us were in search for a local motel to shelter our tired cold bodies from the weather. We settled on the first unit we came across, despite my father's trepidation, and forewarnings of past experiences. He made the arrangements over the phone, which involved a honor system of sorts. It required a secret password to gain access to the key for the room. I guess it was too cold to come let us in. My brother and father settled down quickly while I took to the vice to replenish lost flies that actually worked for us. While I worked on the vice, my father and brother passed out on the beds and I followed soon thereafter.  

No Shadow Casting Here.

Early the next morning, we arrived where we left off the evening before to find even tougher conditions. The temperature dropped creating anchor ice and floating icebergs along the slower water. The already low flows were also down another 1-2 feet. After rigging up my father, he took to the water and was soon into his first fish of the day. After the first fish of the day, things slowed down for a few hours with only a couple hookups before the sun crept onto the water. After my brother landed his first of the day we relinquished the water and hiked upstream to try sight fishing to fish.

Big Poppa Pump Strikes First.

Matt Provides a Helping Hand.

Two Cold Anglers Celebrating A Moment.

Rocking His 1975 Varsity Jacket, Poppa Pump Releases His Slab.

Matt Working A Net-less Land.

Admiration & Release.

An Average Fish Finds the Bottom of My Net.

Our plan to sight fish with the sun at our backs failed soon after we worked our way upstream. The sun receded behind advancing clouds and failed to reappear. However, a warm front was pushing through raising air and water temperatures providing a respite for our frozen hands and feet. Instead of relying on the sun to reveal fish, I used elevation and the reflections of tree trunks on the water. The tell tale outlines of steelhead could be seen after careful inspection. Often after spotting and fishing to a single fish, my eyes would slowly adjust and reveal more adversaries. After landing a few fish including a very beat up brown trout, my father called us downstream. Arriving, he instructed us on several steelhead he had spotted all by himself. My brother and I took turns dead drifting nymphs and micro egg patterns downstream to the fish. After a brief battle I was able to subdue a large and beautiful hen. 

Sight Fishing Conditions: Low, Clear, & Super Skittish Fish.

A Small Buck.

My Best Steelhead of the 2010.

One Pretty Hen.

After releasing the hen, my brother and I spotted several nice steelhead under a fallen tree in the water. To get a closer look and eliminate the glare, we used the log as a platform from which to fish. My father's warnings went unheeded as we worked out way out onto the frozen log often using a broken branch to balance on. I made it my mission to catch the other large steelhead my father had spotted. It was a huge buck that dwarfed the hen I caught earlier. I dubbed him destined to take and after botching the first two times he took my presentation, I nailed the third time. With a difficult hook set from a top my log, I lifted hard and he ascended in the water column throwing his kyped jaws back and forth. My size 16 patten popped out and I lost my chance at the largest steelhead I had seen in quite sometime. After letting the scene settle down, I replicated the feat except with a much less desirable fish. This closed out my 2010 fishing year and the trip with my father and brother. We took to the road as the sun descended on the horizon reflecting on our first fishing trip together in over a year. It was great to get back on the water with these two and see them get into some fish. Hopefully we can make it happen again sometime soon.

A Dangerous Perch.

Several Fish Were Using This Fallen Tree as Shelter.

Hooking Up.

Poppa Pump Comes to the Rescue.

My Last Fish of 2010.