Monday, October 31, 2022

A Not So Fleeting Fall

Early Morning Gloom...

Seasonal changes can often be abrupt, or they can linger into the next season. In most years, the fall transition occurs suddenly giving way to winter winds and cold temperatures. The leaves begin to change and a few days later are being blown, raked, and swept off yards across Pennsylvania. In others, the change is gradual, the leaves reach their peak, and a weather event never comes to signal their doom. It can be downright breathtaking to be on the river during this time. The only thing prettier is a colored up brown trout preparing themselves for their yearly procreation. The fall of 2022 will be remembered for a long time...

Friday, July 29, 2022

Four Years

A typical summer sunset from the back of the van...

After three straight days of trout fishing in the Flaming Gorge, I found myself with a signal at a prominent overlook. I reconnected back to the world, caught up with family, cooked a meal, and checked my boondocking apps looking for a place to stay. Rather than drive far, I decided to head down a long dirt road that I'd been watching numerous off-road vehicles, kitted out trucks, and a few RV's turn onto. By the time I decided to follow them, I had no idea if there would be any spots left, or if they'd welcome me alongside them. With the lack of four wheel drive in the van, along with a scant amount of clearance, I always find myself rolling the dice in these types of situations. As the last light faded below the horizon, I turned off the main dirt road down a riveted finger being ultra careful to not bottom out and/or get stuck. It led me to the edge of a cliff overlooking the lake and a clearing where vehicles had previously parked. I set up shop, grabbed a cold one, and checked out the stars before hitting the hay. In the morning, I made some coffee and walked to the edge of the cliff. I immediately spotted a prowling carp in the shallows. The last time I casted at a carp was almost four years ago but the image in front of me was stirring something within my fly fishing soul...

Monday, July 11, 2022

Buster Wants to Fish


When I arrived at my Uncle Tony's house in Colorado Springs, he promptly informed me that, "buster wants to fish". That iconic line from A River Runs Through It made me chuckle as I realized my Uncle wanted to trade in his red Hills Brothers can of worms and take on a more worthy pursuit. After a stint in the Navy, and a career at Berwick Electric, he finally retired. His good friends had gotten him a substantial gift card to Angler's Covey and he wanted to get rigged up for a retirement of fly fishing and other bucket list items. Before we went shopping, I took him out to the van and picked out a few different styles of trout rods for him to cast. He liked the most expensive one and ended up buying the rod, a new reel, line, vest, net, pliers, tippet, and flies. In other words, he was fully kitted out. I convinced him that he didn't need waders yet. We tried to avoid the crowds and fish some beginner friendly water within the South Platte system and settled on Tomahawk. It was pretty cool to get him going in the right direction and let him go out on his own. It took a little bit, but he started catching some fish on his own. I hope he continues the pursuit and finds that a fly rod can take you to some awesome places filled with experiences that you won't soon forget. 

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Tangled Up in Blue

Cabo San Lucas

I flew out of Denver International Airport. At the various concourses, it seemed as if every fourth person had a fly rod attached to their carry on and all of those people sported various forms of fly fishing paraphernalia. On the plane, I counted at least six fly rods and sat across the aisle from a guy reading a popular fly fishing magazine. During the four hour flight, I occasionally took a peak at the articles that were mostly salt themed. I resisted the urge to talk to him because I wouldn't want someone to talk to me in the same situation. However, that didn't stop me from eavesdropping on various conversations on the plane. I heard about destinations, pangas, sailfish, grande roosterfish, ladyfish in the surf, and coastal dorado. All of this made sense as we were flying to the tip of the Baja Peninsula, an epicenter of inshore and offshore fly fishing. From the airport these anglers would disperse in various taxis to their destinations, outfitters, guides, and the fish of the lifetime that awaited them. I was simply part of the herd...

Sunday, June 26, 2022

The White

Heaven ain't too far away...

When I was 12, a family friend named Stephen Konopka found out that I was interested in fly fishing and bequeathed to me a giant stack of fly fishing magazines and Orvis catalogs. In one of those magazines, was a picture of Rip Collins' world record brown trout that came out of the Little Red River in Arkansas in 1992. At over 40 pounds, it was hard for me to fathom that a brown trout could get that big and that it was possible to land on light tackle. The magazines, and the images inside of them, were a large part of why I ended up getting a fly rod outfit for my 13th birthday. The rod put me on the path that I've been on ever since. One day I knew that journey would eventually bring me to Arkansas, just like it did with anglers from around the world. Rip's giant brown literally put Arkansas on the world's radar as a fly fishing mecca for trout. Since then, the legend of the Ozarks only grew and my desire to to fish the Little Red and the White River intensified. This summer, I made my way down south, and found myself with a few days to play on a famous river. 

It lived up to the hype. 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The Dreams of Spring

Springtime dreams...

With swing season in the rearview mirror and temperatures on the rise, the mayflies of spring begin to stir. Nymphs, in various stages of their life cycle, become a more frequent part of the drift. The two handers get put away and the fishermen's routine changes to the tune of the hatch. It typically starts with gordons, then hendricksons, cahills, sulphurs, and finally slate drakes. The usual suspects like caddis, blue winged olives, and the occasional stoneflies round out the daily diet. Four and five weights come out armed with lengthy Harvey leaders tapered to whatever you can get away with. Boats and rafts are launched at unusual hours frequenting smaller sections of river with floats that last well past daylight hours. Anglers are on the hunt for subtle bank side rises and the occasional gator mouth breaching the surface. It is all so fleeting, forcing anglers to give up their daily routines and strain relationships to be on the water, and in the moment, for as long as possible. Battles are lost and some engagements are won. Victories involve smiles, laughter, shit eating grins, and lifelong memories with friends and family. 

These are the dreams of spring. 

Thursday, March 31, 2022

The Swings of Winter

Brown trout perfection 
on the 5110 Loop Opti NXT 

I start fly fishing for trout again in early October when the water temperatures drop into the 50s and I'm sure the trout have recovered from the summer. A man has to have a code. 

I stop fishing for trout at the end of October once I see the first signs of trout pairing up. Even then, it might be a little too late, but a man has to have a code. 

I don't pick up my trout spey rod again until after the Christmas holiday and I'm pretty sure most of the spawning is done. Even then, it might be a little too early, but a man has to have a code. 

A growing, albeit vulnerable, wild brown trout population is spawning and I want to let them do their thing. A man has to have a code. 

The guides can continue to guide everyday, anchoring their drift boats on the gravel tailouts "fishing," but a man has to have a code. He goes musky fishing instead...

In the winter, I could grab a box of nymphs and a bobber, but I don't. I know I can do that. A man has to have a code. 

I opt for the two hander, the swing, and the oft chance that a fish will move in near freezing temperatures to eat my offering. A man has to have a code. 

The handicap continues until the mayflies start to stir and the first trout begin rising. A worthy pursuit forcing me to put the trout spey rod away. 

A man has to have a code...

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Orvis Mission 5120 Review (Line List Updated)

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.