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

Balance

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 to 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...


Saturday, May 23, 2020

Contact


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...

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Chalk Filled Erasers

Awaiting Magic Hour... 

In 8th grade, I was part of the “Green Team,” and I had a math teacher who was a local fly fishing legend named John Mauser. He had a Dave Whitlock painting hanging in the classroom of a big brown trout eating mayflies and hosted a canoe trip every spring on the local river. Having just started fly fishing the summer before school, I spent untold hours daydreaming at that painting. Recently, I found my class shirt that has a walleye across the team crest representing Mauser. After twenty years, it still fits. I threw it on last night and went for a long walk on the canoe trip waters. I found a scene very similar to that painting and fooled a beautiful brown on a dry fly. I’d like to think Mr. Mauser would be proud and not throw chalk filled erasers at me. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Carping the Column

From CarpPro Issue 1 (Click)

Tired and defeated, I turned around on the canal path and began my hike back to the truck. After nearly two miles of walking, I didn’t see a single sign of Cyprinus carpio, but during my hasty retreat I almost missed the only fish of the session: a large common that was slowly cruising in the middle of the water column. I led the fish significantly, landing my damselfly in its path. As the carp approached, its predatory instincts took over as it keyed in on the easy meal. A short while later, I released the twenty-pounder back into its deep-water lair. It was yet another cruising carp that fell victim to a mid-column presentation on fly. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Dry or Die


At its core, fly fishing was born out of matching hatches and targeting rising trout. Anglers hone in on the hatch cycles of midges, caddis, mayflies, and stoneflies and closely mimic the stages of their lives with recreations bound on a hook. It requires a certain level of detail and skill with the rod and vice. On the water, it necessitates patience, careful observance, and a keen eye. It also helps to be a good caster. These days, so much of the aura of the industry is centered around catching the largest fish possible and that entails throwing meat. Large articulated streamers, mouse patterns, or tight lining jig flies all are very productive but lack the intimacy of dry fly fishing. The aforementioned techniques are also far easier than fishing dries, especially on highly pressured waterways like the Upper Delaware. Over the years, I have yearned for time on the water during the hatches of Spring. Living in Delaware doesn't afford many opportunities for high level dry fly action and being relegated to the weekend isn't great for timing emergences and good conditions. A positive byproduct of Covid-19 was the ability to work remotely. This led me home and to a river with an under appreciated hatch scene. I found myself with the ability to leave work and head to the river every afternoon. I got in touch with the pulse of the river and experienced the progression of hatches, the response of the river's trout, and found the intimate side of the sport that I sought for so long. I lived the river, and in turn, discovered a few of her secrets. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Woah, Big Gulps huh? Alright...Welp, Cya Later!

The Freshwater P4P Champ  

It was April Fools Day, and the stealthcraft raft drifted on its own accord down the middle of a popular Pennsylvania watershed home to a population of world class smallmouth bass. I stood atop a custom casting platform placed over what would normally be the front seat. I labeled it "TRONS," to serve as a reminder of the float's goal but also to quickly measure and release my quarry. As is the norm, the raft spun in the current, got redirected from wind gusts, and occasionally was pushed into prime lies, overhanging branches, and log jams. Floating alone while trying to cover many river miles is a frustrating and rewarding experience. You have to make due with the opportunities that present themselves and quickly forget all those that pass because someone else isn't on the oars. I could anchor up and dissect each little lie but the float would probably take me four days to complete. 

I had just gotten down from my platform in order to steady the boat in the current. I stood back atop the casting perch and saw my target. A root ball at the base of a large sycamore tree. I quickly double hauled into a side arm cast and threaded a 7 inch articulated fly under the overhanging branches. As the fly approached, I stopped the forward motion of the cast causing the fly and leader to jackknife to the side. My fly landed parallel to the bank a few inches from the base of the tree. I immediately gave a hard strip causing the deer hair fly to make an audible and visual commotion on the water. As the fly paused, the largest smallmouth bass I have ever tangled with engulfed the fly from the rear. I set the hook and triggered a moment of chaos that won't soon be forgotten. Two water clearing leaps and several bulldogging bursts under the raft bent the 7wt. H3 in half. I let out an audible grown as my net slid under the smallmouth. Thick, muscular, and long, she measured a solid 22 inches. 

Moments like this are what make smallmouth bass such an enticing fly rod target. Their tenacity once hooked is legendary. Interacting with them on large flies careening around the surface is an adrenaline filled blast that will always have me coming back for more...

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Quarantine


Solitude and Home Water

I found myself in a cabin in West Virginia during the first few days of the lockdown. After the trip, I had a long drive home to contemplate the next few weeks of my life and what I wanted to get out of it. While most decided to stay indoors and binge watch an endless amount of television, consume alcohol, and scroll for hours on end, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity at hand. As selfish as that may sound, I have never been one to sit around and allow others to dictate my schedule. I decided to head home and leave my apartment behind. The decision meant copious amounts of fishing on my home water during the peak spring trout season. That was something I had not experienced since high school, a long sixteen years ago. Thankfully, Governor Wolf did not close the outdoors, our rivers, and our woods like some states, and angling/recreation was permitted. Although my parents welcomed me with open arms and wanted me to stay in the house, I couldn't consciously do that until more information was available and the recommended two weeks ended. I slept outside, in my car, and eventually lived out of the garage for over a month. Less than ten minutes away was a river of endless opportunities on the fly rod and I intended to take full advantage of the time and solitude it afforded me. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

A Real Singularity


There is a quote we've all heard about not being able to step into the same river twice. The river isn't the same, and neither is the angler. No other river encompasses this more for me than the Savage. Usually I am there with my brother. Sometimes with friends. Once with my wife. Once, alone. Each pilgrimage has found me at an inflection point or a singularity in my life. While my last visit had me contemplating impending fatherhood, this most recent visit had me daydreaming of what it would be like to bring my son here someday.

This time, as well, the aforementioned truism inverted upon itself as we found the world to have changed each time we returned to shore. Lockdowns, shelter-in-place orders, quarantines, ominous newscasts and their portents of an impending horrific sloughing-off. A societal inflection point. A real singularity.

None of that existed between the banks of this little river. The most anxious thought that could occur within the dome over water bounded by the tailwater fog was whether or not this beautiful brown would break you off in the deep pockets. Nothing from the world outside of the river manifested upon anything that was done along or within it, or on anything that came from it. Emerging from the sanctuary to get food or make contact only made us want to retreat into it again. 

As the inexorable end to the trip loomed nearer, my thoughts turned to parting ways with my brother. We'd probably be going our separate ways for a while, and the uncertainties of the immediate future and the precariousness of life seemed all of a sudden more visceral. Were we living in the good old days without fully realizing it?

This river makes me want to pare down my kit, to make the interface with its ecosystem as uninterrupted by conscious calculations as possible. To be able to focus on what provides satisfaction. A few of the several flies that I know work, some tippet, a net, hemostats, a beer tucked into my waders and my brother working upstream on the far bank opposite me. Keep it simple. Here, and elsewhere. And enjoy every minute of it.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Reminiscing and Moving Forward


A whole life in front of me...

There I was, laying in a hammock on the deck of a sailboat in the middle of the Caribbean. The Milky Way loomed overhead, clearly visible amongst an unfathomable amount of stars. The gentle swells of the ocean slowly began to lull me into a sleep and the only thing keeping me from dosing off was the occasional gust of wind. It was "only" day three of an excursion mooring off several of the British Virgin Islands scattered across the Lesser Antilles. My brother, Matt, rested in an adjacent hammock while Adam slept on seat cushions sprawled out on the main deck. In the main quarters below, were the Haider brothers from Austrian Outdoor Sports, Stephan Dombaj of the Fly Fishing Nation, and our gracious host Alexander Davidson. During the day, we hunted for bones, perm, and tarpon before reconvening in the evening to talk about our experiences and plan the next day's adventure. Occasionally, we found ourselves taking a dingy to the mainland for a quality meal, drinks, and camaraderie.  It was an epic trip during a summer spent in the sand, sun, and heat. I was living the life and was too young to fully comprehend the moment...

Monday, January 20, 2020

Finding Winter


Winter Gold

The dead of winter. For most serious fly fishermen, winter represents a greater chance at solitude, and the power that one can find in being alone. Few people are willing to leave the comfiness of a warm home to venture into low temperatures. Far fewer are eager to stand in 34 degree water silently hoping for a tug at the end of their line, as they slowly lose feeling in their toes. Thankfully, nature and the elements are often all the company one needs on the water. There, they can find solace in the ethereal beauty of a snowflake, the intricate formations of ice, or the way a gust of wind can cause tears to form in the corner of their eyes. Small moments like this, easily make up for cold extremities. 

The bees knees of fly fishing in winter is the the silence of snowfall. Standing alone in the middle of the river, swinging a fly, with only the sound of the water rushing between your legs is therapy for the mind. An equilibrium check from the rigors of work and the constant barrage of a negative news cycle. Living in an area where snowfall can be scarce, it is an easy decision to search for and find these experiences. If you yearn for that moment of chill, make it happen. 

Find your winter.