Monday, December 2, 2019

Internal Swing Monologue

A Beauty of a Skamania Buck

That's definitely the sweet spot and there has to be a fish there. This must not be the spot. Are they holding right now or moving? Are they in their winter lies or in the transitional water? Hmmm, let's slow this swing down. Slower, slower, there it is. What the hell? Ok, broadside AF...Was that a bump or a leaf?  Why did that Spey Jedi give me shit about having bead chain eyes on a fly? I bet he'd get a kick out of this tungsten cone. He'd probably think I'm "dredging" with this sink 4 tip. This is definitely the wrong angle for this spot. This is definitely the right cast for this spot. This center pinner is definitely going to low hole me. Maybe if I bought the 450 grain, the extra 30 grains would cast better and I'll catch more fish. Nah, I already have like 34 shooting heads. I'm going to pick this guy's pocket. I have no idea what I'm doing. I've caught more browns the last few days than the past five years combined. There must not be any steelhead this year. Maybe, I should go to Malinda's and buy some fly tying material. That is definitely the last thing I need, but I'll probably spend 100 dollars. Gotta get that perfect shade of brown dubbing. When was the last time I nymphed? I can't remember.  There it is, thats the swing. BAM! Now, that is definitely not a brown trout...

Monday, October 7, 2019

My Girl


All dogs are special in their unique ways. Riley was the runt of the litter who had a passive, "you first," personality. She played second fiddle for her entire life to two much larger labradors, one aggressive and the other a big goof. Despite this, her heart was pure and her calming personality made her a favorite amongst family and friends. She garnered the nickname, "Queen Riley," because she majestically took her time in everything except retrieving and water. For me, she was known as, "my girl". I picked her out on an impromptu, just to appease Mom, trip to the pet store. Later, I gave my parents a call and convinced them to go back and get her. Sometimes, those types of decisions end up working out well. 

When one embarks on dog ownership, they are entering into an agreement known as "the deal". Dogs are loyal companions who will shower you with love no matter your mood or hardship. They will always be there for you. For fourteen years, I could count on Riley happily meeting me every single time I walked through that door. When she began losing her eyesight, hearing, and became riddled with arthritis and cancer, it became apparent that it was time for our part of the deal. When they have given you all that they can, you have to make the decision to do what is best for them. 

Thanks for fourteen wonderful years girl...

Monday, September 16, 2019

On the Cape

Salt Pond Bay

The trip began as a mid-week question that I didn't have to think long or very hard about. A roommate trip to Cape Cod for several days seemed like a perfect way to ring in the end of summer. Sometimes, you just have to go for it. When adventure calls, simply answer the bell. I packed a few flies, a 10 weight, and my stripping basket. The days called for bike trips around the cape to cool little towns, their coffee shops, and the various sights that abound. Rather than bike, I played the role of support vehicle. I fished along the way and met up with everyone at each destination. Often, I'd provide a respite for tired legs or a drive back to home base. 

On the fishing side of things, I had no idea what I was doing. I'd hop in the car, peruse google maps, and head to a place to check it out. I caught a bunch of small stripers, had two keepers pop off at my feet, and had an encounter with a relatively large line sider who missed my game changer. The highlight was spotting a great white shark off a beach. I instantaneously knew what I was looking at and so did a bunch of other beach goers in the immediate vicinity. I found a massive seal colony off North Truro Beach, enjoyed the company of friends, and had my fair share of good food. More often than not, it is the spontaneous little trips that mean the most for my soul. 

Add this one to the list...

Monday, August 19, 2019

The Hour of the Mouse

"...this past weekend, Mark and I met to float the West Branch of the Delaware river, one of the only rivers around with consistent cold water and reliable hatches. Last August we had an excellent weekend of dry fly action in much higher flows. This weekend the water was very low. We planned to do a night float, our first, throwing streamers and mouse patterns for nocturnal browns.

Friday, we put in at Stilesville and had a car shuttled to Shehawken, essentially the entire west branch. We put in at 1pm under a sparse flock of cedar waxwings, barn and tree swallows gorging on sulfurs, olives and cahills. The waxwings seemed ill-suited to the pursuit compared to the graceful and unhalting cursive the swallows carved into the sky.

Trout were taking the mayflies from the surface as their wings dried, and we watched a few as they ascended only to be intercepted by the aerial predators. We saw a dragonfly catch and devour a sulfur while flying its zig-zag over a shallow riffle.

West branch trout see an awful lot of pressure from anglers that come here to test themselves. Consistently rising fish will be put down by a dead-drifted artificial that is off in ways known only to the fish.

We spent that whole day looking for risers and positioning the boat to make a presentation. It is challenging but one of our favorite ways to fish. The two eats we each had over the course of the entire day was only a little bit worse than I expected us to do.

As the sun set and we continued our float, our minds began to turn to something new.

We took off our sunglasses and replaced them with clear safeties as the five weights were stowed and a 7wt was readied with 4ft of 20lb and a mouse fly called a master splinter that Mark made some secret adjustments to.

The sky had gone from bluebird to stellar jay to lilac-breasted and then indigo bunting, all foregrounded by chunky grey clouds. Mark began to cast the mouse as the first stars began to shine through the gaps in the increasing cloud cover. Now it was dark and we heard the first sploosh from a fish missing the slowly twitched fly.

Beavers abounded and slapped their tails on the surface, making a sound like that of a bowling ball dropping into the water from a considerable height. There were far more of them than signs visible in the daylight would have had me predict.

Shortly, Mark connected with his first fish on the mouse, an 18" brown that tore his thumb up. I was up and proceeded to go 0/10 over the remaining miles of the river. So many takes, only a few momentary connections. One broke me off and at first I thought I'd snagged a beaver but beavers don't headshake, I think.

My eyes were playing tricks in the darkness and the intermittent light from the waxing gibbous cast one riverside into a darker shadow than the other, obliterating my ability to discern distance or depth of field. I could only imagine a murky visage of where my fly had landed and how it was swimming. 

We were both exhausted. Then it began to rain and lightning. We pulled over. I did not have a rain jacket and began to shiver. Mark's older safety glasses fogged, giving him the sight of a person wearing drunk goggles. Whoever was on the oars began to doze. We finally found the takeout at 1:45am. One fish landed all day. We were asleep at the campsite by 3:00am.

The next day found us riverside by 2:00pm and gearing up for another marathon float, in direct defiance of our sworn vow to not attempt a repeat. The tug really is a kind of drug.

Saturday was windier and there were fewer bugs and almost no birds feeding on the wing. We floated until we found some risers and made some attempts but nothing really began to awaken until the evening. The wind had died and a sulfur hatch materialized. In a long, meandering pool hundreds of fish were dimpling the surface, distorting the mirrored image of the coloring sky. We worked on two fish for an hour before putting them down in turn with missed eats then drifted through the pool casting at rise forms. This kind of proliferation of life and death and metamorphosis and transition is thrilling to see and participate in. We went something like 0/148 through that stretch but this is the west branch so it was alright.

As the sky darkened we pulled over to prepare for the night. I made a thermos of coffee as we split a hoagie and cracked a few beers. We made sure the rod was ready and the knots were strong. The fly already had some teeth marks and was ready to go for a swim again.

We resumed the float in full darkness and almost immediately entered into an incredible feeding window for an hour or so over only a few hundreds yards of water. Whatever causes fish to turn on was turning them on.

Mark had 7 missed explosions in the darkness before coming tight to number 8. "Big fish," he said, as the glint of the rod bowed out of the moonlight and into the darkness, canted over the bow as he hauled slack with his off hand. In a moment I'd netted his fish and dropped anchor. A 22" brown, thick and handsome. Mark was stoked, and it was my turn.

I missed a take on my 2nd cast but hooked and landed a slightly smaller fish, 21", on my fourth. A 17"er came to hand a few moments later, and then another a short while after that. Several fish were missed between them. And just like that, the fishing turned off for good with 7 more river miles ahead of us.

Nothing was splashing but upset beavers and we were satisfied and tired. We decided to row out the float and get some rest instead of letting the river carry us until the early morning.

The crisp multicolored arrangements of the stars were punctured by the glowing green wire of a shooting star. A vantablack mountainside loomed at a river bend bounded above by the satin of the sky and the high gloss of the riffled water. A lone Canada goose stood footed in the midriver current, like he'd been waiting for us to pass by. Browns revealed themselves in the sweep of my headlamp as pale yellow forms, ghosts of themselves, sidling in the flows among the swaying vegetation. An American eel, probing between the rocks, 400 miles from the mouth of this river and who knows how far from its saltwater spawning grounds, became illuminated by my searching headlight. A profound encounter, and brief, as our campsite beckoned. We took turns at the oars to stay warmed in the tailwater chilled air, and were asleep in our tent by 3:00am again."

Friday, July 5, 2019

Cadillac Mountain

The South Ridge Trail on Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

The sunrise atop Cadillac Mountain is famous for its stellar views, easy accessibility, and most importantly, being the first place on the eastern coast where one can see the sun ascend over the horizon. A road travels straight to the mountain top and on each day of the year, one will find a crowd gathered to take in the event. In the peak of summer, the competition is fierce. I had no hope of witnessing the event with a 45 minute drive from my campsite, so I settled for other locations to take in the views. On this particular day, I planned a short circuit hike to complete my second summit of Cadillac. After a hearty breakfast and coffee at 123 Main Street Restaurant, I was able to find some relative solitude on my afternoon hike up the mountain.

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Coast of Maine

Bass Harbor Lighthouse

Selected photos from the drive to Baxter State Park and the journey home through Acadia National Park. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Travelers Loop

Traveler Mountain Overlooking Mt. Katahdin

After Katahdin and a few other jaunts in the southern portion of Baxter St. Park, I embarked on the second leg of my trip. Situated in the northern section, the destination was South Branch Pond and the famed Traveler Loop. The 11.1 mile Traveler circuit bags four peaks: Peak of the Ridges, Traveler, Little Traveler, and North Traveler.  Together, they form a picturesque backdrop to the views of North and South Branch Ponds from the campground. Once on the loop, the hiker is exposed to a constantly changing landscape, vegetation, rocks, and vistas that overlook the woods and waters of northern Maine. It is a stunning hike that surpasses Mt. Katahdin in terms of difficulty and beauty. 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

On The Knife's Edge

Baxter St. Park and Mt. Katahdin

Life can be an emotional rollercoaster. Sometimes you just need to get away and find your equilibrium. I'd been daydreaming of a trip to Maine for most of my school year but never seriously looked into the logistics behind it. On the first day of my summer vacation, I found myself beside a fire with Murphy decompressing, or at least trying to. It was then that I just decided to go for it. I wanted the comfort of the road, a wild place, and a campsite. I pulled out my laptop and found a few locations along the eastern seaboard to book. I hit the road the following morning with my sights set on Baxter St. Park and Mt. Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.  Two days later, I arrived in the buggiest place I had ever been. I was entirely alone and I wanted to do the Knife's Edge...

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Woods and Waters

South Branch Pond, Baxter State Park

Selected shots from camping in the woods and waters of northern Maine. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Lost in Time and Space

Sunrise in Shenandoah National Park

I found myself in my hammock, on the edge of an overlook, torn between taking a nap and the intermittent service on my cell phone. I couldn't withdraw myself from the very reason why I made the late night drive to the park. I sought to free my mind but I couldn't get out of my own head...

Friday, May 24, 2019

Old Rag

Old Rag

After wrist surgery to repair my TFCC tendon and several weeks in a cast, I was itching to escape. My cast was removed on a Thursday and after work on Friday, I found myself packing on a whim. Around midnight, I found myself arriving at the Shenandoah National Park entrance to find all of the major campsites booked except for one. After an hour of driving south on Skyline Drive, I arrived at the campground and was so tired, I slept in my car. I awoke at 3:30 am and began driving north again to catch the sunrise at one of the many scenic overlooks along the road. I took a few short hikes before exiting the park for the day's first mission: Old Rag. 

Old Rag is one of the most popular attractions around Shenandoah National Park and is viewed by many as a gateway hike. It is accessible for beginners but challenging enough for experienced hikers. It had been years since I climbed Old Rag and this would be my fourth summit. For me, it was just what the doctor ordered and served as a starting point for a summer filled with hikes. The rock scrambling was made more difficult because I could only use one of my hands and I had to be extra careful to not hurt my surgically repaired wrist. By one o'clock I had completed the entire loop, reentered the park, rested, and went on several more short hikes. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Spring Smallmouth

Visual Eats...

Spring smallmouth bass in the Mid-Atlantic region is a hotly anticipated event that must be taken advantage of. For a few short weeks, the bass put on the feed bag as they prepare for the spawn. This short period produces some absolutely bonkers fly fishing. On one particular day this Spring, we simply stopped taking pictures as cookie cutter 16 inch bass kept coming to the boat on seemingly every cast. If you didn't hook one, you at least had an interaction. It was an adrenaline filled day as bass after bass visually attacked streamers from 4-8 inches. These experiences are often best shared with friends and family and I will fondly look back on these moments for the rest of my days. 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Highs and Lows

Signs of spring...

Over the past six seasons, I've made it a point to meet up with friends in central Pennsylvania. This usually occurs over my spring break and this year it featured a few highs and a lot of lows.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Wrist Chronicles

Two handed trout...

Still in a brace for my injured wrist, my fishing opportunities were relegated to fishing left handed, or using a two handed rod. With it being spring, I had no problem bombing streamers with a skagit head and trying my hand at catching some local trout. For a few weekends in March I got out alone, with Ryan, or my father. As the wrist slowly felt better, I even got out on the oars a little bit. I considered it my own form of physical therapy. Little did I know at the time, but I actually needed wrist surgery. The doctor wanted it performed immediately but I opted to wait in order to take advantage of the fishing season. Sometimes, you have to have your priorities in order...

Monday, March 11, 2019

and I ran back to that hollow again...

A beautiful Maryland tailwater...

The Gunpowder River in Maryland is a gem of a wild trout stream just north of the city of Baltimore. I have fond memories of fly fishing with my brother Matt on these waters. When he started fly fishing, the Gunpowder was his playing ground. When he lived in the city, I would often make Friday night runs after work to fish the sulphur hatches in the spring. At night, I would crash at my brother's house and hang out in the city. On the weekends, we would always make sure to fish the river for a day. With the river being chock full of beautiful eager brown trout, we always had a great time. Despite the large populations of small trout, there are some big fish in the Gunpowder and those moments are permanently entrenched in my long term memory. Those recollections will always bring me back to this little hollow to find some fly fishing vibes on any day of the year.

Monday, February 25, 2019


Urban Angling

On a cold winter Sunday, Ryan invited me to check out his local haunt. Nursing a fractured wrist, I rigged up a switch rod for some two handed fun and drove north. Any jaunt with Ryan into the electric city always produces some memorable moments. Besides the large wild and holdover trout that call this river home, one can always expect to be reminded of the urban center through which the river flows. On a typical outing, you will be dodging hobo encampments, drug deals, and losing flies into a wide variety of junk that the river collects. On this day, my favorite scene was the Christmas tree decorations of plastic sheeting, tarps, blankets, and other debris that were hanging from the river's trees from the last high water event. They added an additional obstacle for any errant backcast. No longer a secret, the river is chock full of anglers that are willing to put up with the scenery to catch gold. Try and be the first person to fish your favorite stretch in order to take advantage of the relatively eager trout. That, or try and mix up techniques/flies to show the trout a different look. It is urban angling at its finest. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Winter Jawns

For a split moment, my competitive nature returned, as I launched myself at full speed into the air to block a disc during an indoor Ultimate match. I wrote off the ensuing injury to my casting wrist as a simple sprain. The pain never really left. So, I finally went to the doctor to reveal a slight fracture. After a few weeks in a brace and cabin fever setting in, I decided to go fly fishing. The plan was to fish left handed and ply my trade on some small streams. In reality, I think I needed the fresh air, the crunch of snow under my feet, and the sound of rushing water between my legs. As always, the wild browns of eastern Pennsylvania were an added bonus whenever I managed to make a decent presentation...

Friday, January 4, 2019

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

Swing it like you mean it...

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade". On each five hour drive north this winter, that proverbial phrase popped into my head. It was triggered whenever I looked at the weather or flow forecast. I realized that the chances of catching some nice steelhead on the swing were greatly diminished and that it was going to take a lot more effort than usual to bring some nice ones to hand. If your three trips of the year coincide with 2000+ cfs flows, you are in for a difficult task, especially when your steelhead philosophy is that of "swing or go home". When it is combined with rapid drops in air/water temperatures, days of downpours, or large increases of the flow a few hours before you arrive, you try and make best of the situation. Our persistence and positive attitudes paid off with two relatively good trips that flanked a steelhead skunking. The big pulls and nice casts will always bring us back, no matter the conditions and no matter the shenanigans that one may encounter on a highly pressured Great Lakes tributary.