Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Old School

Four years ago, Adam and I still fished for trout, almost exclusively. We still wore vests and bandanas and threw terms around like "trout bum" and "hardcore". We even wore waders in late spring/early summer.

Times have changed.

This morning we are embarking on our annual trip we like to call "A Taste of the Dream," simply because we get to escape for an extended time and just fish. The trip, along with our habits, has changed dramatically over the years. We have gone from a minivan and two weeks on the road to a boat/beach and the most sought after gamefish in the world. However, the core principle hasn't changed.

In honor of this years trip, and at the request of one our most loyal followers (WADE), here is our second ever journey.

The video is of poor quality, highly repetitive, full of copyrighted music, and hot spotting but it is good for a laugh or two.

I distinctly remember on day 10, we had just driven several hours to our latest stop and it was around 2 in the morning. The skies opened up their clouds and it was pouring rain. We hadn't showered in those ten days and we reeked of every foulness you can imagine. I needed a shower. I got out of the car in a parking lot somewhere in the Penn State area, stripped down to my underwear, grabbed some shampoo, and took a shower right there in the rain.

Good times.

So heres to extended trips, all the good times that can be had, all the great fish hooked, landed, or lost, and the core principle behind it all: feeding the need to fish and be in the moment as long as possible.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Deja Vu

One year ago today, I posted Breaking Down The Wall. The day I finally hammered down one of the huge canal carp I had spent the previous year and a half hunting. Exactly one year later, I found myself once again, alone on the canal path on a humid summer morning. This time, it was raining and I could barely see my adversaries feeding in between mats of vegetation. I had several shots at fish, but I had trouble registering the takes as the rain left dimples all over the surface of the dark placid water. 

My opportunity came when I spotted two cruising and feeding fish. One was a true monster and the other a respectable fish. One was a very long male and the other was a much shorter, plump female. I watched them both cruise under some vegetation and decided to have my damsel waiting for them on the other side. Straining hard to see the damsels descending on the edge, my heart jumped when I saw the head of carp emerge and suck it in. In that moment, I had no idea if it was the larger or smaller fish until the fish erupted. It was the big guy. My six weight promptly bent to the cork and my 3x tippet strained as I attempted to subdue the initial run into vegetation and towards structure on the opposite bank. After about five minutes of down and dirty carp fishing, I was bringing him into land and was able to corral him in about a foot of water. I went for the grab, but the fish was still hot, and took off. A repeat followed for another five minutes before I brought him in for good. He was a true submarine, Virginia class, and I struggled hoisting him from his home.

Fishing the canal, the window of opportunity for catching these guys is between 5 am and 7 am on most days. Since it was raining today, that window opened considerably as the rain clouds kept light and pedestrians from disturbing the feeding carp. I took full advantage of that opened window and continuted to fish to feeding fish until 8 o'clock. In that time, I managed to land another large male, a few inches shorter than the first. I also hooked into two other very hot fish that broke me off on structure. It was a day to remember and I finally caught the large carp I had been looking for all spring.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Turn on, tune in, hook up.

There are a thousand different ways to catch a thousand different fish with a fly rod. I have tried maybe 5 of those different ways, and some have been rather questionable, but wading a tidal flat, I would contend, provides a uniquely awesome experience.

If you do it right, you'll reach a simmering intensity of awareness. You're eyes pick up on everything that moves within 80ft of you. There isn't a thought in your head but, at the same time, you see and hear everything. The substrate, coral, mangroves, jellies, rays, crabs, birds, clouds, winds, shadows and hopefully, fish. You engage auto pilot, plugged in to this web of life, and become a predator.

Hours may pass without notice. When you see a fish, (somehow your brain indicates immediately that the shape and shadow that looks identical to the hundred other similarly shaped shadows around you is not a bottom feature, it is alive.) your body reacts. Choreographed hands manage line and somehow you can drop a fly in the right spot, at the right distance, at the right moment. Activating the fly, you become the prey.

The fish might look, it might not. It might follow, it might turn and run. If it eats, you're ushered from the trance by the particular song of whatever reel you're holding on to. You know it by heart.

It is probably a bonefish, but it could be almost anything. Sharks, barjacks, tarpon. The diversity of life in these waters provides a feeling that is the opposite of the universal fear of the unknown: the anticipation of the unknown. If it is a bonefish, you can prepare to see your backing, as they are fast. If it is a horse-eyed jack, you can prepare to fight to keep your backing, as they are insane.

There is always the glimmer of hope that you'll see a sickle-shaped tail. A permit. The holy grail. If the right fish swims by, you'll be ready.

Your brain bathes in endorphins from the moment you strip line off until you return to the shores. It seems to relish the hunt, as though you're finally using it for what it is best at.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Not According To Plan...

By now, you are all familiar with my plan to get my roommate addicted to fly fishing. It worked brilliantly and he is out and in it as much as he can. The variable in the equation was his girlfriend, who after living with, and experiencing my weekly fishing habits, did not want her man falling into the fly fishing abyss. I started everything off slow, and it took half a year before Derek actually went fishing with me. By then, she had warmed up to the idea. What followed was the unexpected part. Rather than putting up resistance, she embraced the new hobby and was begging to come along for the ride. We eventually caved.

So it was, on a Saturday morning, we awoke early and made our way to the local stream. We took the scenic route to show her the surroundings and to check out the creek. It was a muddy mess. Little did we know but thunderstorms dumped a lot of rain overnight and suddenly my new plan to get the g/f into fishing was looking like a problem. I even told them not to expect much.

Derek and I made our way to a spot we knew held fish. I rigged Jess up and instructed her on a catapult cast that uses the surface of the water rushing downstream to simply lift and shoot the line upstream. From there I talked about drag, fly presentation, and how to mend to get a good drift. After that was settled, we talked about where a fish would lie in this section and soon thereafter, she hooked into her first fish on fly. A stream chub. She subsequently caught her first two trout, a brown and bow. As Derek watched, he too eventually found some fish, and the day began. 

As everyone says, teaching a woman to fly fish is actually pretty easy. For one, they are better listeners and pay attention to minor details. She also put her "lack of ego" aside and wasn't afraid to ask questions when she struggled on her own. Overall it was a good day on the water for the conditions we found, especially considering it was her first time. In the future, look for these two to take over the fly fishing industry, travel to exotic locales, and take millions of pictures that monopolize fly fishing magazines. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


With the Diablo Chupacabra SUP Yak anchored down in the back of the truck I pulled in for one of the last Monday mornings of the school year intent on an afternoon outing. Throughout the day, I occasionally stopped by the office to check on my baby to make sure a student hadn't taken it for the summer. At the end of the day, the temperature in my classroom approached the breaking point, and when I stepped in the truck the internal thermometer had it at a sweltering 108 degrees. Outside it is about 94 with clear sunny skies. Not an ideal situation for an hour long jaunt south to fish a highly pressured bass lake for the first time. 

When I arrived in the parking lot, I was treated to a very unpleasant odor. It smelled like rotting vegetation mixed with sewer. At the put in, there was a vast blanket of the oddest algae I ever laid eyes on and the source of the smell. With no other place to put in, I plopped the kayak on top of it and it never touched the water. It was foul. After several gentle strokes, I made it past the accumulated slop on that end of the lake and into clearer water. As I made my way down the lake, I weaved in and out of very heavy lili pods that ascended 2-3 feet out of the water. Casting into them proved to be futile as my weedless frog rarely touched the surface to entice a strike. For the next several hours, under a brutal sun, I probed shade and structure along the banks without a hint of activity. I finally ditched the frog and tied on a damsel attempting to catch some wary carp. No such luck.

As the sun finally began to set, the air and water temperatures finally started to die down. I began working the other side of the lake, deep into some pads when I finally found some bass. Three successive 12 inch fish out of the very same spot on four casts. After that, despite some great looking water, it completely died off. Around 8:45, I began working my way back to the truck arriving at the brink of darkness and ready for a long drive home. 

Before leaving, I found out what that wonderful looking scum was. Blue-green algae. Not something to mess with and I was probably covered in it. On the way home I hit up a car wash and didn't wash my car. I gave my SUP Yak a nice long bath with a spot free rinse, erasing a dozen outings worth of scum, algae, fish slime, and mud. She looked brand new again, and I slid her back into a really dirty neglected truck.  

Sunday, June 19, 2011

We Talkin Bout Practice

At the put in, I carefully slide my SUP yak into the water and position the sun and wind at my back. One aides in casting and the other illuminates a whole lot more water for sight fishing. Setting up shot with a clear few of a vast mud flat, I wait patiently for the arrival of this sessions guests. Bones. The freshwater variety that mirror an upcoming saltwater adversary to a tee. Out from the glare comes a single cruiser, roughly 4-6 pounds, meandering towards me from a distance of 80 ft. Her golden scales blend in perfectly with her surroundings but movement and shadow give her away. With my line already out, I give one false cast before shooting 50 ft. of line and landing a small fly a ways ahead of her. I leave it sink slowly to the bottom and wait for my prey to come into range. Once a suitable distance away, I give a few quick strips and wait for the body language of the freshwater bone to change. Suddenly, she hits the turbo button and her appendages flare, signaling that she is onto the fly. I stop my strip and the bone rushes the fly, stops dead on a dime, and inhales the offering. Even at 4-6 pounds she fights like a true champ running deep into a mat of vegetation straining my 8wt. and 3x tippet. I give her all I have, testing the rod and the breaking strength of 8lb. line against a pissed off fish using every inch of structure to her advantage. I ease her into my hand and a vision of a real bonefish on a vast Caribbean flat pops into my head. Less than two weeks away, I need all the practice I can get before taking the real ones on. What better way to practice than on some golden bones? Also, contrary to what Allen Iverson may say, practice actually works.