Sunday, March 13, 2022

Orvis Mission 5120 Review

Orvis Mission 5120 Trout Spey Rod

Grain Window: 300-420


Instagram Review (click)

Over the last several years, I've predominantly fished trout spey rods on the major river systems and streams of eastern Pennsylvania. After my first two handed rod in 2009, it was only natural to take the techniques I practiced on the Great Lakes tributaries and move them to my local haunts. Since then, the industry has created a "trout spey" monster with specific rods and a myriad of lines to cater to this demographic of anglers. I've fallen so far down this rabbit hole that my buddy Ryan has begun to describe me as a "one trick pony". Out of this obsession, I began looking for a rod that bridged the gap between the short spey rods designed for steelhead and the trout spey specific offerings on the market. 

The search requirements included the need for a rod with more length and power while still maintaining a certain degree of finesse when a 16" trout takes your fly. These ideas arose out of swinging larger rivers with a 11" 3 or 4wt. rods attempting to fish flies on the larger side (3" +). When you add in deeper water, heavy winds, and distant lies, most will struggle under those conditions. I decided that a longer rod between 12' and 12' 6" would allow greater control while the extra grains of a 5wt. would take the burden off the rod when tossing a 4" articulated sex dungeon. The length and power would also come in handy while swinging, or stripping, flies at long range. The tricky part with this situation is finding a rod that does not overpower trout. Almost every major manufacturer now makes a 5120 (Sage, Orvis, G. Loomis, Winston, Beulah, and others) or slightly longer, higher end models from the likes of C.F. Burkheimer, Meiser, or Anderson Custom Rods. After reaching out to an Orvis representative, I had an opportunity to try out their new (ish) Mission series and the 5120. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

A Bittersweet Symphony

July, 2021

I cried when I saw my first redwood. Rounding a bend on Highway 199 in Northern California, I was making my way to Jebediah Smith State Park and the size of the tree caught me off guard. I knew they were huge and majestic but I still couldn't fathom what they resembled in person. Nestled on the side of the highway, the width of the redwood tree dwarfed the roadway. I uttered a few choice words and my eyes watered up. Further down the road, I crossed the famous Smith River and pulled over into a small lot flanked by the towering trees. I stepped into a spiritual experience. Alone on the walking the trails, I was amidst the giants of the natural world. Adding a backdrop to an otherworldly scene, the setting sun's rays pierced through the forest's canopy. The only sounds came from my footprints on the soft floor of the forest, the occasional hoot of an owl, and the random calls of a pileated woodpecker. I didn't want the moment to end. As the sun began to set, I drove my van down to the banks of the Smith and thought about staying the night. Looking back on it, I should have. 

Sitting there, my mind drifted to what the Smith River once was, a steelhead mecca of the "Lost Coast". This was a time before development, and humans, contributed to the overall demise of salmon and steelhead in the region. My thoughts wondered to the current conditions of the Smith, contemplating how any wild salmonid could possibly survive the low flows and high water temperatures. Looking to the future, and a potential winter steelheading date on the Smith, my imagination was in hyperdrive. The idea of walking through the redwood groves with my spey rod in hand is an idyllic image that speaks to my soul. I daydreamed of a receding river filled to the brim with that perfect steelhead green hue. A broad run, and an open bank, welcomes me to prospect for some chrome. With my sink tip digging deep, and my intruder working broadside through a boulder field, I anticipate the grab right in the sweet spot. The anticipation briefly recedes enough for my mind to wander for a millisecond. In that fleeting moment, a deep pull, and head thrashes, signal life on the end of my line as it disappears downriver into the next run. Catching up, I struggle to tail the slab of chrome in the high flows but eventually succeed. Cradled in the water, I admire the unique characteristics of a steelhead with a story to tell. Between the redwoods, the Smith, and a wild winter steelhead, I don't know if it would ever get better than that. I'd probably cry. Pondering whether that moment would ever come to fruition, I finally made up my mind on whether or not I was going to fish for a wild summer steelhead on the North Umpqua. 

Monday, July 19, 2021

"God Save the Queen"

Two and a half days into a cross country road trip and I had yet to string up a rod. About halfway, I texted an old mentor of mine to see if he was close by. After a cup of coffee and some catching up, he dropped me a pin on my intended route. He simply said, "you'll figure it out". Five hours later, I pulled down a long gravel road to a parking lot that read, "no overnight camping," and promptly parked the van next to it. It was nearing 11 p.m. and I passed out. In the morning, I landed a personal best brown trout on a dry fly. If anyone had ever told me that it would happen where it did, I never would have believed them. Not in a million years...

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Small and Cold


Water temperatures on most eastern Pennsylvania freestone streams and rivers reached lethal levels for trout near the end of May this year. All it took was a few days of a heat wave for the thermometer to read 68 degrees and to throw in the white towel. Yes, a brief cooling and some rain helped, but once thermally stressed, the trout are still vulnerable. Morally and ethically, the right move is to give them a break until the Fall. Thankfully, the same area of the state is blessed with several limestone streams, and a few tailwaters, that fish well into the summer. Even then, you should carry a thermometer to be sure. Typically, I'll get a small dose of summer cabin fever and have to hit one of these pieces of water for a trico spinner fall or an afternoon sulphur emergence. The trout are usually eager, unique, and a kaleidoscope of colors. This more than makes up for their smaller size. 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Snook and Sunsets


                                       Sunrise, Snook, Sunset, Repeat...

I never targeted or caught a snook before. During my time in the Caribbean, I occasionally spotted a snook laid up off a beach but my eyes were usually looking for the figure of a bonefish. I didn't pay their randomness with the attention of my time. When I found myself working remotely in Florida, I knew that snook would be a target. If it was warm enough to find them near the house that my Uncle John was renting, maybe I could catch one. With cold temperatures in question, I spent a lot of time hunting for redfish on my SUPyak. This occurred after a full day of work during the worst light of the day. I did have some opportunities, but usually spotted them too late or spooked them putting the paddle down and picking up the rod. Snook were a willing substitute, once I realized that they were an available opportunity. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021


Sunset in the Everglades...

The location came as a recommendation from a friend. After a look on Google Earth, I found a tidal river snaking its way into the Everglades through lengthy mangrove tunnels. I was told to expect gators, the occasional baby tarpon, and willing snook. Nary a word was spoken of spiders. After a 2.5 hour drive south, I arrived at sunrise to a morning chorus. I couldn't help but notice how dark the water in the pond was and what might lie beneath its calmness. My imagination ran wild with thoughts of a gnarly gator sneaking up on me as I made trips back and forth to the Outback. How would anyone know if I got dragged into the depths? What if a giant python wrapped me up deep in a mangrove? What if a ran into one of those nile crocodiles that are now down in the Everglades? Thankfully, the mosquitos interrupted the horror story in my head by finding every inch of open skin. When I finally shoved off into the water I immediately saw a gator in the distance investigating the fool entering his turf. A foggy mist swirled over the water that was dotted by fish breaking the surface. My first cast along a mangrove edge resulted in an aggressive take that startled some long term memories from my neocortex. It had been awhile but I knew exactly what I just felt...


Friday, February 19, 2021

The Power of Encounters

It was 2016 and my fly fishing for musky journey was only a few years in existence. 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 16, 2021

You're Gonna Need a Bigger Net

 "Slow ahead...slow ahead. I can go slow ahead. Come on down and chum some of this shit"

"You're gonna need a bigger net"

"That's a twenty incher"

"Twenty-five. Three pounds of him"

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...