People

Guide Profile – Max Werkman

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Four years ago, I received an email message from Max Werkman.  I have saved this email as it is a constant reminder to me, and I refer back to it in times when I ponder what direction the sport and industry of fly fishing is heading in.  With a new generation that is typically pre-occupied with tweeting cat videos, posing half naked on Instagram, spending their time with their noses buried in their phones, or trying to level up in the most recent Xbox game – there are young men and women out there like Max.  As long as we have people like Max involved in this sport and industry, we will be in good shape.  I won’t share with you the entire email, but here’s how it begins;

My name is Max Werkman,  I’m 15 years old and I live in Holland Michigan. I love fly fishing and I always have.  I do most of my fly fishing in my local rivers here in Michigan. I also see that your company is based out of Portland Michigan, so your might know the rivers I am talking about.

I met with Max a short time after receiving this email and was came away from that time we spent together extremely impressed with his passion, thirst for knowledge, and commitment to the sport.  With all of the different opportunities available to find social connections and to be entertained, Max more than anything just wanted to fish.

Since that time I have been fortunate to spend time with Max on the river and feelings of admiration and if I’m being completely honest some amount of jealousy came over me.  I admire Max’s work ethic, energy, and passion that he exhibits while on the water – he works extremely hard and is able to find fish in even the toughest of conditions.  The jealousy stems from my own personal experience in that I don’t think I was nearly as focused, driven, and committed to anything at his age, as he is to fishing.

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Most people Max’s age are spending their summers figuring out which party they are going to go get wild at, living in the comforts of their parent’s homes, bumming money from dad to fill a tank with gas, and working on a tan at the beach.  Not Max.  Max left the comforts of post high school/pre-holy shit I have to be responsible for myself life to gain more guiding experience in Alaska.  Coming back to the Mitt, with a ton of experience Max is ready to spend the day on the water sharing his knowledge and passion for our resources –

Not only is Max and Werkman Outfitters committed to giving their clients a great experience, they are also extremely strong advocates of our environment.  Here is a statement from their website: Click here for more.

“Being from southwest Michigan, we saw the ecological and economic damage that occurred as result of Enbridge’s Line 6 B spill in the Kalamazoo River. Although the clean up has restored the habitat we feel a spill in the Straits would be far worse and more difficult to clean up.  For us, having a healthy wild fishery in the Great Lakes is critical to our livelihood. If a spill were to occur it will effect wild populations of salmon, steelhead and trout not only in the Straits, but as they are migratory, through out the Lake Michigan / Lake Huron basin. In addition, the native smallmouth bass and carp populations that live along the flats in the area will be negatively effected.”

Here’s the Q&A with Max:

What rivers do you guide on primarily?

White River

What’s your favorite method of fishing to deploy while guiding?

Honestly my favorite method of guiding would have to be float fishing. It is the most effective way for me and my clients to catch fish, but it is also a very easy method of fishing to teach as well.

Species of fish that you guide for?

 I guide for Salmon, Trout, and Steelhead as well as Smallmouth bass.

Are oranges named oranges because oranges are orange, or is orange called orange because oranges are orange?

I think that oranges are named oranges because oranges are orange. The color orange was probably established before the food in my opinion.

What’s your favorite thing about guiding?

My favorite thing about guiding is seeing the excitement that someone shows when they catch fish or see/do something that they have never done before. Seeing the excitement of catching a huge steelhead or just helping someone learn to cast a fly rod for the first time is what I love about guiding.

Favorite bank lunch to prepare for clients?

Probably my favorite lunch to prepare on the bank would have to be hamburgers. There easy to cook, don’t take up much space in the cooler, and almost everyone loves hamburgers.

If you could be in a band, which one would it be?

I am a huge metal fan so if I were to be in a band it would diffidently be Avenged Sevenfold.

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If I were to eat myself, would I become twice as large or completely disappear?

I think that I would probably disappear if I were to eat myself.

What do you believe makes a guided trip with you a unique experience?

I am only 19 years old so I am a younger guy, but I have tons of experience. Most clients have never spent a day on the river with someone who is the same age as me.

What makes a good client?

To me a good client is someone who likes to have fun, takes my advice into consideration while fishing, and someone who is willing to try something new.

Would you rather fight 1 horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?

I would rather fight 100 duck sized horse’s because I feel like being taller would be a good advantage in fighting duck sized horse’s.

If your life was turned into a movie, who would play the part of you?

I would want Charlie Day to play me. I think he has a goofy personality like me and he is a very funny actor in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

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What else would be helpful for people to know about you?

I am not a very up tight guide, I like to have a good laugh about stuff on the river. Another thing would be that I can’t control everything that goes on during the day. Weather that is catching fish or not, or if a client is cold I cannot control everything that goes on during a guide trip.

How does someone contact you to book a trip?

Visit my website at www.werkmanoutfitters.com. Email me at max@werkmanoutfitters.com or call my cellphone at 616-403-8780.

 


Guide Profile – Kory Boozer

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Doing something that is different and unique from what everyone else is doing is not always easy.  Carving out your own niche, especially in a copy cat industry like fly fishing, can be tough.   Breaking away from the norm and creating an entirely new set of fly fishing opportunities for his clients is exactly what Kory Boozer from Boozer’s Guide Service (<–clicky clicky) is doing.  When people think of fly fishing in Michigan, trout, salmon, and steelhead immediately come to mind.  Likewise, floating down winding cedar lined rivers the size of a 2 lane road is the typical setting.  Often overlooked are the unbelievable resources of Michigan’s larger waterways and the abundance of the Mitt’s warm water fish species.

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Larger watersheds like the Kalamazoo, Grand, or St. Joe rivers can be intimidating and a daunting task to learn well enough to have success with a fly to most anglers.  Spending countless days and hours on these rivers, Kory has earned a PhD in reading these larger waters, understanding where fish are, and how to best target them.  He is able to show how special and beautiful these waterways are.  Specializing in smallmouth, pike, and longnose gar excursions – Kory offers a unique opportunity for anyone looking for a new experience and to learn how to pursue these great but often overlooked native game fish.

A passionate teacher, Kory gets great joy out of sharing his vast experience and knowledge with fellow anglers.  In addition to his prowess as a fly fishing educator, Kory is an innovative fly tier always and supremely talented photographer.  Not only will you likely catch the biggest smallie or pike of your life, but you will end up with mantle place worthy photo as well.

What Rivers Do you Guide on Primarily? 

Saint Joseph, Kalamazoo and Grand Rivers

What’s your favorite method of fishing to deploy when guiding? 

Streamers and surface flies actively fished from a drifting boat. Fishing from an anchored boat is about as appealing to me as watching paint dry. I want to cover water and find active, hard-charging fish that want to kill a fly.

Species of fish that you guide for? 

Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike and Longnose Gar

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What’s your favorite thing about guiding? 

I love getting folks into the sport and igniting a passion to enjoy and protect our wild and native natural resources. We largely live in a disposable society these days under the premise, if something breaks, you just buy another one or in our case, stock more fish. We should be more focused on enhancing our self-sustaining natural resources and better protecting what we have that can thrive here naturally. There really isn’t anything all that special about a fish raised in a raceway and put here by man. I make an honest effort not to dumb down my program, I do not believe in short cuts, I want my clients to learn to be great casters and how to work a fly properly. I take a lot of pride in my teaching abilities and truly enjoy doing it.

Favorite bank lunch to prepare for clients? 

Good sandwiches, I don’t have time for a grilled shore lunch that takes an hour to prepare and eat, if you fish with me, you are here to fish, not hang out and eat…

If you could be in a band, which one would it be? 

Primus… So we could play all the greatest fly fishing destinations around the globe!

Do you believe that Disney World is a people trap operated by a mouse? 

Clowns and people in big animal costumes kind of freak me out, regardless of what operates Disney World, I want no part of it…

What do you believe makes a guided trip with you a unique experience? 

Passion, hands down… I get more enjoyment out of teaching folks to fly fish and seeing them have a great time than I do fishing myself these days. In regards to the St. Joseph River, I was literally born & raised on the banks of this river, the sheer amount of time I have on this watershed is a huge advantage for me. Some folks go to sleep counting Sheep, I fall asleep rehearsing bottom structure and holding lies on the Joe…

What makes a good client? 

Attitude! I want someone who is positive about learning and is appreciative of how much effort I put into each trip.

Have you ever pondered the fact that fish see people as aliens?  We hover above their environment, in a ship and pull them from their dwellings into the sky? 

Yes! This was an actual conversation a client and I had not all that long ago!

If your life was turned into a movie, who would play the part of you? 

Liam Neeson! Great actor and he fly fishes!

What else would be helpful for people to know about you?

I am all about teaching folks new to the sport how to fly fish, it truly does not bother me if someone is a novice, in fact it can be a good thing as they typically do not have any bad habits to overcome. I encourage folks to bring their children as well, there are few things more rewarding to me than seeing kids enjoy the outdoors and watersheds I am so passionate about.

How does someone contact you to book a trip? 

Cell: 269.235.0664

eMail: info@boozersguideservice.com

Web: www.boozersguideservice.com

 


Guide Profile – Brian “Koz” Kozminski

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Networker.  Conservationist.  Educator.  Fly Fishing Evangelist.  Communicator.  If you are at all plugged into the Michigan (or beyond) fly fishing scene, chances are you are aware of the man everyone calls “Koz”.  Originally hailing from the Grand Rapids area and now residing in Northern Michigan, the only thing bigger than Brian Kozminski’s network is his generous and affable personality.  http://www.truenorthtrout.com

Koz serves many roles in the fly fishing community.  First and foremost, he is a defender of our resources – promoting educational opportunities for others to better take care of our waterways.  Koz also has done a great amount of work to promote fly fishing in a positive manner that encourages youths and others to explore the sport and take advantage of our great fishery.  Leveraging his vast network of people involved in the sport and industry, Koz serves as a one-stop hub for endless amounts of information.  It is obvious to anyone that visits his Facebook page, that Koz is a sharer of important information and events that impact and inform the entire fishing community.

While I have not yet had the privilege of spending a day on the water with him (something that will get remedied this year), my numerous conversations and encounters at shows, all of my exchanges with Koz have been nothing short of extremely pleasant and focused on driving the sport forward in a positive manner.  It is obvious that he not only cares deeply about the health of our sport and the resources, but he also has the same level of care for the people in it.

What Rivers Do you Guide on Primarily?

You can find me taking clients on a variety of water, whether wading the upper Jordan Valley, floating its cedar strewn lower or my favorite stretch of the Upper Manistee from M-72 to Three Mile.  Some wadable locales on Lake Michigan for Carp or smallmouth. We will always make a worthwhile trip to Mio on the Au Sable to throw articulated wet tube socks with the best of the Mitt Monkeys around. There are a handful of other northern Michigan streams not as often publicized, but equally rewarding because of their secrecy.

What’s your favorite method of fishing to deploy when guiding?

Anytime you have a client that can cast-> BONUS!

Watching an angler who can negotiate down trees and flip streamers within inches of structure, cast after cast, all day long, can make for a productive day. But I really, truly enjoy being on the river in near complete darkness, all other senses besides sight are heightened and on high alert when you are casting foam and deer hair tangerine sized rodents against the double shadow of a tall grassy bank that seems to move and come alive the longer you stare at it……waiting for the explosion at the surface and the entire universe erupts with chaos.

Species of fish that you guide for? 

Primarily a trout and steelhead guy by nature, but my youth was focused on bucket mouth bass, so it feels good to get back to basics and peruse local warm water species. Smallmouth and carp are so abundant in the Great Lakes and especially the Lake Charlevoix system. Toothy fresh water wolves have become more notably sought after species.

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What’s your favorite thing about guiding?

Best case scenario, at the end of the day, clients learn a thing about fly fishing, its rich and deep history in Michigan. They have a remarkable ‘all day’ experience, from casting & conservation, to bug lessons, and hopefully catching a fish or two. That is not always the case. we have to remember to make the experience fun, so they wish to return. I try to make these things memorable by providing a farm fresh lunch and out of this world scones from the Boyne Farmers Market, a taste of up north to take back home with them.

Favorite bank lunch to prepare for clients?

It used to be a wine marinated hanger steak with fresh grilled asparagus, these days, I have more requests to be ‘heart smart’ and not waste an hour grilling- even though I enjoy a good steak from time to time. Seems lately we are doing a sweet potato black bean quesadilla with pepperjack cheese and fresh ginger guacamole- and people are raving about it.

If you could be in a band, which one would it be? 

stuck on a retro 80’s mohawk, black leather kind of mood- Depeche Mode – seems Dave Gahan & I have hit bottom and are building ourselves back up from scratch. everyday, one day at a time.

Do you believe that Disney World is a people trap operated by a mouse?

Totally a mouse trap. I know people who have worked for the mouse, they rarely ever come out the other side the same. Its like they brain-wash you to the next level, CIA conspiracy kind of stuff. I would like to convince my family we could vacation in Yellowstone for 6 months on the same amount of coin we would spend in the Rat Trap…

 

What do you believe makes a guided trip with you a unique experience?

Specialize in beginners, fresh, local friendly, and genuine. Making a day trip on one of our rivers is an escape from the busy text message, fax, memo, meeting filled world. We just like to take a moment to appreciate the beauty in the nature that surrounds us.  We waste too much of our valuable time on the things that really mean so little.

What makes a good client? 

Practice casting prior to getting in a boat and not be happy with missing a few fish. You dont buy a new set of golf clubs and fly to Pebble Beach without a few practice swings. You need your A-game on any river in the Mitt, some days, it’s the wind, others it’s the fish, current, rain, bugs, the sun, etc. You need to do the best you can to be prepared for connecting with a trout. Listen to your guide, chances are, they have been down this river a dozen or more times than you have…image4

Have you ever pondered the fact that fish see people as aliens?  We hover above their environment, in a ship and pull them from their dwellings into the sky? 

It is true~ like in “Horton Hears a Who” the fish world is a speck on a flower, and their world is equally dependent upon how well we take care of it…

If your life was turned into a movie, who would play the part of you? 

Of course the ego maniac would like Brad Pitt in the lead role, some would say more like Matt Damon- not that bad, but reality is- Anthony Michael Hall(16 Candles/Weird Science fame) is your huckleberry, a sure shoe in for my days on the river and chasing Molly.untitled

How does someone contact you to book a trip?

The usual suspects: calling works- 231 675-1237 or

Facebook

Flyfishbkoz@gmail.com

http://www.truenorthtrout.com

 


2016 Recap Part 2

Something tells me that when I’m an old, crotchety, drunk most of the time old man sitting in a nursing home spending my days planning an escape attempt, I will always remember the summer of 2016. I spent more time on the water this past summer than any other year – and the fishing was overwhelmingly good for the most part.

After more than a decade of suffering the fate of a fishing widow, my wife finally decided to put in more time on the water with me.  She did a really great job learning how to cast and manipulate streamers – and had a lot of success with smallmouth all summer.  It was a really great experience to spend time with her on the water, and the excitement that she showed for each and every little thing that happened made me realize how much I take for granted.

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The smallmouth scene was really good all summer on the local rivers, low and clear water presented ideal conditions to go out and find several each trip.   There were even a few pike mixed into most outings.


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The Bass 1 Fly happened again this year, in our 5th year of the event it has grown to 27 anglers.  It’s the dumbest event on the planet and I never have any fun during it, I don’t even know why I torture myself putting it together and showing up (if you couldn’t tell…..I didn’t win……again).  Heres a pic of some stupid idiot that did win – he’s banned from the event in 2017 (just kidding Sean…..kind of).

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Guide, teacher, presenter, explorer Nome Buckman (more on her in an upcoming Guide Feature) invited me to join her for a day of Musky fishing this summer.  Something I’ve never done before – so I spent countless hours researching and tying and piles of money buying new stuff that I don’t even need.  I even constructed a Musky Medical Kit – I heard shit gets wild and I wanted to be ready.

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Jeff came along for what turned out to be one of the more fun weekends I’ve ever had.  Beautiful scenery, the most intense sunsets I’ve ever seen, and a number of opportunities at fish.

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I got on the board on Day 2 – and I still have all of my fingers, so it was a success.

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Towards the tail end of the summer when the smallmouth become slightly more scarce and harder to find and salmon start making their annual pilgrimage to their spawning grounds – I finally got the Mitt Monkey Intern out into the boat.  Adam is an old pal from High School and an incredibly proficient newer fly guy.  He threw tight loops and hit the right spots with his streamers all day and was rewarded with a 20″ smallmouth – one of the biggest I saw all year.

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If the summer of 2017 is half as good as this past year, I’ll be happy.

 


Guide Profile – Matt Zudweg

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Without any shred of doubt, Matt Zudweg is one of the most (probably is #1 actually) supremely multi-talented individuals that I know.  Possessing more creativity in his left pinky finger than I have in my entire being, Matt is able to inspire through his art work, popular sticker creations, t-shirt designs, and innovative fly patterns (Click here to view his work).  That creativity, along with the enormous attention to detail that he exhibits, undoubtedly allows him to achieve great success in not only his creative business but also when he provides his expertise to clients on the river for a day of fishing.

When he’s not guiding clients to enjoyable days on the water, exercising his artistic abilities, or reconditioning classic ski boats, Matt is a leading advocate for Michigan’s precious resources,  working tirelessly to preserve and protect our fisheries.  matt-z

It’s obvious that Matt is extremely passionate about his crafts, but its his humility, humbleness, friendly demeanor, and  genuine enthusiasm for sharing great experiences that makes him a great guide, and even better person.

As a new feature on Michigan Fly, we will be highlighting a new guide each week – please see the end on how to contact to book a trip.

What Rivers Do you Guide on Primarily?

Since 2003 I’ve guided exclusively on West Michigan’s Muskegon River.

What’s your favorite method of fishing to deploy when guiding?

For steelhead my favorite and primary method of fishing is swinging flies with a Spey Rod. For trout, I’m also primarily using switch rods and swinging wet flies (unless of course there is a good surface bite)… although I am a slightly bigger fan of hucking a big streamer for the big guys, if conditions are right. For bass my favorite method is fishing large poppers into nooks and crannies or a streamer fished just under the surface. The take is what does it for me so I tend to be drawn to the method that creates the most exciting strike, although most of those methods are the more challenging ways to produce numbers of fish… I’m ok with that though.

Species of fish that you guide for?

Steelhead, Bass and Trout

What’s your favorite thing about guiding?

The teaching aspect probably. I never really pictured myself as a teacher until maybe 7 or 8 years ago. One of my kids was taking one of those tests to see what kind of job they’d be good at, so I filled one out as well. I was surprised at the time when it said I should be a teacher, but that conclusion has made much more sense to me ever since. I also love the camaraderie.

Favorite bank lunch to prepare for clients?

A good steak and some grilled pineapple.

If you could be in a band, which one would it be?

Definitely something bluegrass and from days gone by like the Osborne Brothers or Flatt and Scruggs. I’ve wanted to learn the banjo for some time now, but I’m not sure I have the musical talent to ever make that happen.

Do you believe that Disney World is a people trap operated by a mouse?

Ahh, this is a question always in the back of my mind, I’ve just been waiting for someone to finally ask it. I’ve come to the conclusion that it absolutely is a people trap and most likely run by a large herd of mice with ambitions of world domination.

What do you believe makes a guided trip with you a unique experience?

I believe my good humor, positive attitude and undying passion for making my clients better anglers is something that I have to offer.

What makes a good client?

The “ideal” client to me is someone who is easy going and looking for a great overall experience on the river. They are motivated to become a better caster and angler, and they prefer angling methods that target the most aggressive fish, rather than using methods that may be more productive for numbers of fish. I have been so blessed to have mostly clients who fit that description.

The “perfect” client also shows up in a 69 Charger painted Hemi orange and let’s me do some donuts at the boat launch.

Have you ever pondered the fact that fish see people as aliens?  We hover above their environment, in a ship and pull them from their dwellings into the sky?

Of course I do. After a certain amount of time fishing alone I think that thought crosses every anglers mind and they come to the same conclusion.

If your life was turned into a movie, who would play the part of you?

Probably Jase Robertson. He seems to have a similar sense of humor, he’s a fair skinned fellow like me and he already has a gnarly beard.

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What else would be helpful for people to know about you?

I love people, but hate crowds. I’m very comfortable around 2-4 people. I love making balsa poppers, antiqued furniture and vintage style signs. I had a life changing moment when I was 18 and dedicated my life to following Jesus. I’ve been married 22 years to the most incredible woman and we have 3 kids that mean the world to us. I feel older than I look but am trying to reverse those. Some people call me Pastor but I’m not officially a Pastor and have no plans to be at this time. Many call me “Z” or “Zuddy”, nicknames I’ve had since childhood. I still jump up and down clapping my hands when a client hooks a swung fly steelhead… it just never gets old. I’ve got a thing for Toyota 4Runners and I’m super thankful for all the opportunities that I’ve been given in this life. How’s that?

How does someone contact you to book a trip?

Through Feenstra Guide Service www.feenstraoutdoors.com or my personal website www.zflyfishing.com or by email matt@mattzudweg.com or even by calling/texting at 231-206-7660 or just yelling my name very loudly.

 

 

 


We’re Back…….

 

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The very first post written on MichiganFly was published on Jan 9th, 2014 – 3 years ago today.  That Michigan winter was especially brutal, temps that reached a high in the single digits for several days in a row and snow that was measured in feet instead of inches.  Dan and I started this as a coping method as we searched for any crutch available to maintain the level mental sanity we both had.  Luckily for us, jumping on the internet and acting like clowns worked to the degree that we didn’t have to resort to our final plan that involved tons of drugs and booze.

We decided at the time that we would operate the blog through the winter months, then bail out of it when time no longer permitted, usually signaled by the polar bears and penguins migrating back to more permanent arctic lands.  So……..we’re back for the next couple of months.  Who’s ready for Tuesday bananas?

2016 was a good year – they are all pretty damned good if you have a group of friends that you spend time with on the water.  Here’s a the start of a brief recap:

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Instead of typing some BS that nobody wants to read here, a video recap is probably better.

A few trout a few steelhead, nothing wrong with that.  Then towards the latter half of spring, something happened that….that changed everything forever.  In our circle a 20″ trout is usually referenced as a “good fish”, anything over 24″ becomes a “giant” and if you topple the 27″ mark, something that has been done once by Jeff (see his work at  Fly Fish the Mitt) its legendary status.

Well, Dan (MichiganFly co-founder) didn’t just set a new bar this year, he took the old one, broke it and shoved it up everyone’s rears.  Never in my lifetime did I expect to witness a 30″ resident brown trout being put into the net – but it happened.

The fish ate a fly of Dan’s own design – the Mitt Fiddle.  Guess what bug got fished by everyone else a lot for the rest of the year?

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Personally, I was on the struggle bus a bit streamer fishing this past spring.  I had a number of opportunities at good fish maybe even a few giants in there – but usually I had my head up my ass and completely blew the chance.  Definitely, something that will be addressed this year.  I don’t know – is there some surgical procedure or something to remove craniums from rectums?

Rest of the year recap to come soon.  Tune in tomorrow for the 1st Tuesday Bananas of the year!


2016 B1F – Chase for the Duke & Lily Cup

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UnHoly Waters (Part 3)

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“Only after the last tree has been cut down, Only after the last river has been poisoned, Only after the last fish has been caught, Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.” -Cree Indian Prophecy

Growing up in rural mid-Michigan, nearly 15 miles from the nearest town, in the rolling rich agricultural ground that is abundant in that region, farming is an essential part of who I am.  Spending the days of my youth picking rocks and weeds out of fields, operating tractors, enduring sweltering afternoons loading hundreds of bails of hay into the loft, and tending to herds of cattle has shaped and molded the person that I am today.  I find it darn near impossible to not root for the small family farms as the industry has evolved and giant corporate like farms have encroached and gobbled up gigantic swaths of land, making it hard for the “little guy” to compete.  I understand the importance of providing family owned businesses with the necessary means to compete in the ever growing global economy.

While supporting farmers and small businesses tugs at my heart strings, I also work very hard to keep in perspective the larger picture of the surrounding world and develop an understanding of other important issues.  The fishing industry in Michigan has been stated to be a $7 billion a year influx into our economy.  Say it with me here, SEVEN BILLION each and every year that is infused into our local economy.  How many local jobs at hotels, restaurants, bait shops, fly shops, gas stations, boat dealers/manufacturers is that?

The truth of the matter is that the great lakes and the waterways that feed into them are substantial to the existence of a healthy economy in our state.

It is troubling to think about all of the potential dangers that our natural resources face, and now they are threatened by additional dangers associated with fish farms under the guise of economical development.  There are many data points that suggest a high likelihood of profound negative impacts to our waters and the fish that inhabit them if fish farms are introduced.  While there are measures that can be imposed or put into place in an attempt to mitigate the potential risks, the possibility of a total demolition is still greater than 0% and I do not believe that is a risk that should be taken.  It’s similar to playing Russian Roulette for money, only someone else is the one pulling the trigger of the gun aimed directly at our resources AND getting the money from it.

I’ve thought long and hard about the proposed fish pens in the Great Lakes and the proposed aquaculture on the Au Sable watershed, and I fail to see the risks that the businesses running those operations would assume, but it is easy to recognize all of the risks posed to ecosystems in and of themselves and to the people that enjoy those resources.

If allowed a scary precedent will be established and it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that these aquacultures will begin to pop up throughout our state like claims during the times of the gold rush.

It brings about the question, is the risks associated really worth the reward?

To see more about this issue, please see Parts 1 and 2 (click links below)

UnHoly Waters (Part 1)

UnHoly Waters (Part 2)

Here’s what you can do to help, go to the Anglers of the Au Sable site and read their statements regarding the issue and make a donation (if you are able to) to the cause.  (Click here for more)

Order a shirt supporting the efforts (Click here for more)


UnHoly Waters (Part 2)

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“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.” – Ansel Adams

In an effort to share and provide further education regarding the issues that surround the proposed aquaculture fish farm on the Au Sable, below you will find a compiled list of documented concerns with aquaculture.

From Natural Society (Click here for more):

Fish farms cause serious environmental damage – Raising fish on farms causes serious ecological harm—by polluting natural waterways and more. The U.S. farmed fish industry is said to have $700 million in hidden costs, which is incidentally half the annual production value of the farms.

Farm-raised fish can be rife with disease – Because they are crowded into areas that are far more compact than in a natural environment, disease and illness can spread rampantly. Oftentimes, these diseases can even spread to wild populations.

From Food and Water Watch (Click here for more)

Massive amounts of antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides are required to keep disease at bay just to keep fish and shrimp alive in overcrowded conditions (typically in nets, cages, or ponds). The risk of contamination is high, both to the surrounding water and within the enclosures themselves.

Uneaten fish feed, fish waste, and any antibiotics or chemicals used in fish farm operations flow through the cages directly into the ocean. This can significantly harm the ocean environment. Caged fish can escape and compete for resources or interbreed with wild fish and weaken important genetic traits. Farmed fish can spread disease to wild fish.

Factory fish farms may interfere with the livelihoods of commercial and recreational fishermen by displacing them from traditional fishing grounds or harming wild fish populations.

From Mercola.com (Click here for more)

The Jevons Paradox says that “as production methods grow more efficient, demand for resources actually increases – rather than decreasing, as you might expect,” MindBodyGreen reports.7 This is precisely what has happened with aquaculture.

Aquaculture has been deemed both ecologically and economically unstable, with “an unequal tradeoff between environmental costs and economic benefits.” In the US, hidden environmental costs are said to cost $700 million a year, which is half the annual production value of the farms.

There are multiple problems that result when farmed fish escape into the wild (which they do, in the numbers of millions each year). For starters, the ‘wild’ North Atlantic salmon that you purchase may actually be a farmed escapee, making it difficult to know what you’re really eating. The escaped fish also breed with wild fish, and research shows that these hybrid-born fish are less viable and die earlier than wild salmon. This could contaminate the entire gene pool and harm the future of the wild population.

From the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (Click here for more)

The main environmental effects of marine aquaculture can be divided into the following five categories:

  1. Biological Pollution: Fish that escape from aquaculture facilities may harm wild fish populations through competition and inter-breeding, or by spreading diseases and parasites. Escaped farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) are a particular problem, and may threaten endangered wild Atlantic salmon in Maine. In the future, farming transgenic, or genetically modified, fish may exacerbate concerns about biological pollution.

  2. Fish for Fish Feeds: Some types of aquaculture use large quantities of wild-caught fish as feed ingredients, and thus indirectly affect marine ecosystems thousands of miles from fish farms.

  3. Organic Pollution and Eutrophication: Some aquaculture systems contribute to nutrient loading through discharges of fish wastes and uneaten feed. Compared to the largest U.S. sources of nutrient pollution, aquaculture’s contribution is small, but it can be locally significant.

  4. Chemical Pollution: A variety of approved chemicals are used in aquaculture, including antibiotics and pesticides. Chemical use in U.S. aquaculture is low compared to use in terrestrial agriculture, but antibiotic resistance and harm to nontarget species are concerns.

Some environmental impacts of U.S. marine aquaculture have considerable immediacy. Since organisms cannot be recalled once they are released, biological pollution is often permanent.

Other biological impacts from aquaculture may not pose immediate threats to endangered species. Nevertheless, potential introductions of marine diseases, parasites, and transgenic fish could permanently harm fish populations and even marine ecosystems.

From Modern Farmer (Click here for more)

The vast majority of farmed fish are raised with methods that are detrimental to the environment (and sometimes the consumer) in one or more of the following ways:

  • Removes unsustainable quantities of water from rivers or ground sources

  • Returns contaminated water to local water bodies

  • Employs hormones, antibiotics and aquatic biocides that damage local ecosystems and have negative effects on public health

  • Raises fish on pelleted feed made with unsustainable ingredients, such as GMO soybeans and the waste products of factory-farmed livestock

  • Fails to prevent the escape of farmed fish into nearby waterways, where they may behave as invasive species and spread disease

From a study titled “A Global Assessment of Salmon Aquaculture Impacts on Wild Salmonids” authored by Jennifer S Ford and (Click here for more):

We have estimated a significant increase in mortality of wild salmonids exposed to salmon farming across many regions. However, estimates for individual regions are dependent on assumptions detailed in the Materials and Methods section, and the estimates often have large confidence intervals. Given that the data analysed are affected by considerable noise—including changes in fishing and environmental factors—the important result of this study is that we are nonetheless able to detect a large, statistically significant effect correlated with trends in farmed salmon production. The significant increase in mortality related to salmon farming that we have estimated in almost all cases is in addition to mortality that is also acting on the control populations.

Here’s what you can do to help, go to the Anglers of the Au Sable site and read their statements regarding the issue and make a donation (if you are able to) to the cause.  (Click here for more)

Order a shirt supporting the efforts (Click here for more)


UnHoly Waters (Part 1)

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“Economic advance is not the same thing as human progress.” -John Clapham

Michigan waters have a history steeped in controversy, tragedy, and invasion.  Ships traveling into our waters from far away oceans have introduced a multitude of invasive species that have resulted in decimating the ecosystems and ravaging the native fish populations.  There have been public political battles waged over the use of the watersheds.  Public outcry arose when a plan to install offshore energy producing wind turbines was unveiled.

Through over fishing, deforestation, and other damning practices that had profound negative impacts to our watersheds, native populations of grayling and brook trout have severely diminished or become extinct. Populations of other indigenous species have declined so much that they are more of a surprise when encountered, instead of a norm.  A love affair developed for dams has lead to substantial blockage of primal spawning grounds for native species, rendering natural reproduction more limited than it should be.  We are faced with the perpetual (seemingly inevitable) threat of asian carp invading our waters, if they haven’t already.  The extent of their impact upon arrival is somewhat unknown, but we can all agree it won’t be good.

Historic low water levels, warming water temperatures, increased imbalances in critical chemical compositions of our lakes and rivers, degradation of habitat, expanded erosion,  additional invasive species, draining of headwater aquifers, and other natural and human induced threats encroach upon our natural resources.  The easy excuse is – these are out of our control.  The reality is, they are a direct result of us as a human race.

Sure, you could argue that as a result of many of these negative events positives have come about.  Positives like the multi-million dollar a year salmon and steelhead fishing industry.  Or the increased ability for anglers to catch limits of walleyes in the reservoirs of dams.  But at the end of the day, salmon populations are collapsing and dams are failing, and there is probably no way to fix either.

Haven’t we learned from the mistakes of our forefathers?  Are we so shortsighted as to think that we can continue to place “band aid” style of fixes to man caused ecological issues and they’ll eventually just go away?  Because we have “solved” issues in the past by introducing new species, doesn’t mean that is a sustainable solution.

Here’s a sustainable solution – realize that our waterways are precious and water is life.  Click for the trailer on a great feature I watched at F3T over the weekend: Water is Life Trailer.  Fish and other aquatic life is are the litmus testers, the canary in the coal mine, that provide insight into how healthy our resources are.

The proposed aquafarm on the Au Sable doesn’t just impact the fishermen that enjoy the resource named “the Holy Waters”.  It affects the small towns that call the river home, it affects the entire economies in those areas that jobs are created as a result of the thousands of folks recreationally enjoying the resource every year.

Harrietta Hills Trout Farm has championed aquaculture tirelessly in the state of Michigan for a number of years.  Recently, they have proposed significant expansion of an existing farm currently operated as a tourist attraction on the Au Sable into a full blown aquafarm.
In an interview with Michigan Radio authored by Lindsey Smith(Click here for more) Dan Vogler, co-owner and general manager of Harrietta Hills Trout Farm LLC states:

“It gets the community what they want, which is the opportunity to maintain this as a tourist attraction. And it gets us what we need, which is additional production space,” Dan Vogler said. Vogler is co-owner and general manager of Harrietta Hills Trout Farm LLC, the small business that’s leasing the hatchery.

How can he be so sure that is what the community really wants is my question.  Does the community really want to be known for the good old days of cold, clean, fish filled waters that once were?  Do they want to be known for the local businesses that used to line the streets but can no longer exist without the seasonal population booms that come to enjoy the resource?

The article at michiganradio.org goes on to state:

With all the fresh water Michigan has, Vogler believes Michigan could produce much more fresh, locally produced fish, adding value to the state’s economy and residents’ diets.

Here is information regarding consumption of farmed fish found at clevelandclinic.org (Click here for more), citing Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, a registered dietitian and wellness manager for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs for short) sound dangerous. They are. POPs have been linked to several diseases, including type 2 diabetes and obesity. Evidence suggests obesity might be even more of a risk factor for diabetes when POPs are present in your body. And specific types of POPs increase the risk of stroke in women. Why does this matter? Because PCB (one type of POP) levels are five to 10 times higher in farmed fish than in wild fish.

“The benefit-risk ratio for carcinogens and noncarcinogens is significantly greater for wild salmon than for farmed salmon.”

Farmed salmon comes with uncertainty about antibiotic use. Wild salmon does not.

There is an obvious threat to the high water quality the river currently experiences.  Increased discharge of foreign chemicals and fish feces poses a substantial risk to the health of the ecosystem.  In the previously cited interview with Michigan Radio, Vogler had this to say about monitoring:

“Monitoring is very expensive. It’s a lot of lab work and I pay the bill. So as you add more monitoring to my operation, you’re impeding my ability to make a living here,” Vogler said, “The reality is that I’m not a non-profit organization. So if I’m going to be here and run this thing and give the community the benefit of the summer tourist aspect, I have to be profitable. So adding more monitoring burdens without being able to demonstrate how that helps – I’ve got a little problem with that.”

This does not strike me as someone that is overly concerned with the health of the river, to me it seems he is more concerned with operating a profitable business at the potential expense of the resource.   To further complicate matters Dan Sanderson writes for the Crawford County Avalanche (Click here for more):

Instead of grab samples, the fish hatchery operator will be required to take three-portion composite samples collected at equal intervals over the 12-hour period of maximum fish activity.  A weekly monitoring frequency will be required for all levels of production. 

If I am understanding this correctly, the hatchery is being asked to self monitor in this situation.  That would be like asking me or you to turn ourselves in every time we exceed the posted speed limit.  This does not seem like a viable plan to ensure the water quality does not diminish so much that it is destroyed.

At what point do we recognize that we are destroying the very things that give us life?  Apparently, it requires an enormously catastrophic reoccurring event to open our eyes.

Here’s what you can do to help, go to the Anglers of the Au Sable site and read their statements regarding the issue and make a donation (if you are able to) to the cause.  (Click here for more)

Order a shirt supporting the efforts (Click here for more)

 


Feature – Dave Hise, Casters Fly Shop

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I met Dave Hise a number of years ago, I had wandered into the Grand Rapids Orvis shop completely new to fly tying and not knowing my head from my rear in regards to where to even start.  Dave, sitting behind the counter was quick to greet me and offer his help.  I don’t know why, but at the time it was some sort of embarrassment for me to admit I didn’t even know where to start when it came to spinning bugs – instead I started fumbling around the walls of slat board loaded with endless pegs of colorful materials that at the time I had no clue what their applications or purpose were.

I suppose that my lack of comfortability in accepting Dave’s offer to help was probably a result of my previous interactions with other fly shops.  The monumental level of smugness and unhelpful attitude that I had experienced previously left me apprehensive to  seek advice or help.  Instead I opted to pretend to know what I didn’t know, quickly slide into the shop disguising myself as someone “in the know” grab a bunch of materials that I had no knowledge of the purpose, return home and try to figure stuff out.

Dave though, he was different.  It was obvious to him that I had no idea what I was doing – so he pursued further conversation with me.  As a result, I learned more in 5 minutes talking to Dave than I had in the previous 5 months.   This positive encounter substantially changed the path I was on.

Dave has since moved to North Carolina, opening Casters Fly Shop (<- click here).  He has won or been nominated for a number of tying and fishing awards, including a number of nominations for Orvis Guide of the Year.  He has an enormous number of fly patterns (<- click here) that are carried and distributed by Orvis.  Always trying new materials, Dave’s tying style is unlike most, pushing the envelope in developing ways to create fishable realistic patterns.  His flies combine realism that exceeds others and yet are functional to fish.

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Dave’s use of materials and innovation has always inspired me, since the time that I walked into the shop a fly tying rookie all the way up until this point.  While not tied to the exact lofty standards of his flies, many of the patterns that I carry in my box are direct descendants of Dave’s flies.

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Reviews of Dave’s customer service are nothing short of glowing.  His ability to consistently get his guided clients into exceptionally large North Carolina trout is impressive.  The innovation and knowledge that he shares with the fly fishing community has a positive impact on the direction of the industry.

Recently I was in desperate search of a few particular materials that the local shops do not carry, I needed these materials pronto for a demonstration tying event coming up.  Because of extremely poor planning on my part I was in a bind, I had to get the materials quickly.  I contacted Dave and explained the situation – of course he had the materials I needed, his shop has quite literally every tying material imaginable.  But that is not the impressive part, Dave continued to go far above and beyond and took it upon himself to rush ship my order to ensure they arrived in Michigan ahead of the time that I needed them.

In an age where there are endless options of where to buy from, its this extremely high level of customer service that continues to set Dave apart in the fly fishing industry.


There is No Tomorrow

One thing that I have always struggled with, even more so now than in previous years – is the concept of mortality.  There is very much a finite amount of time that each of us will be on this earth, whether we like it or not we all have a clock that will eventually stop.

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78.74 years.  Thats the life expectancy for US males.  Thats it.  As I have nearly reached half time of my own life, it has dawned on me that I frequently don’t take advantage of the opportunities that I have to LIVE.  I spend about 2x the amount of time that I should spend working or worrying about work.  I spend about 100x the amount of time that I should spend wasting time on the interwebs or with my face buried in my phone.  I far too often pass up opportunities to get outside and enjoy the outdoors, in favor for being a couch potato rotting my brain away at the constant BS that streams from my TV screen.  Even if I don’t say it out loud when situations arise, I am always thinking it – “I’ll do it tomorrow”.

The series of Rocky movies are my all time favorites, and it’s not even close.  There is a great scene in Rocky III where shortly after Rocky’s long time trainer, Mick passes away and he is now being trained by his one time enemy Apollo Creed.  Rocky is giving a half assed effort in the ring and in life as he prepares to do battle with Clubber Lang (Mr. T I see you big dog), and simply shuts down as Apollo bludgeons him in a live, in the ring training session.  Rocky sheepishly proclaims “tomorrow”.  Apollo fires back in the iconic scene “There is no tomorrow!  There is no tomorrow!”

Folks, its simple – spend more time doing what you love with the people that you love.  Learn new things.  Travel new places.  Taking on new challenges.  Fish more.

I need to heed this advice, and more appropriately prioritize my own life.  What’s important and why?

So far in 2016 I haven’t had near the amount of opportunity to fish as I would like, but I’ve dedicated an enormous amount of time in researching and planning, tying flies, going through and organizing equipment.  I plan to fish this summer a ton with my wife and my father.  I would love to get my mom in the boat with me, and my nephew and niece.  My brother can come to – only if he pays me for all the flies he will lose and provides the beer though.  Learning all of this new information and tactics has reinvigorated me – it has woken up a part of my head that was on autopilot and/or sleep mode for far too long.

It’s time to make the 2nd half my half.  There truly may be no tomorrow.

 


Let’s Get These Kids to Colorado!!

Friend and fishing pal Rich Youngberg has a wealth of experience of leading groups of people out into the wild, working as a guide on trips down the Yukon River, as a White Water Rafting Guide on some of the most untamed rivers of the Western US, and leading paddling trips through the Everglades of Florida.  Rich works with young men and women in a Grand Rapids area high school, and has a started an after school fly fishing club there.  His mission is to grow the sport with the youths at his school, and give them an outlet to all of the pressures that they face being a teenager. He states:

“We develop and refine an angler’s skills so that he or she will be comfortable, confident and competent to fish successfully on his or her own in most streams and rivers. We strive to create experiences that will assist students in developing peer relations, problem solving, group dynamics, health and wellness and service learning opportunities through fly fishing. I have met several of the kids in this group and am impressed by their passion and thirst for knowledge.”

Now, these young dudes are planning a trip to Colorado this year and they need our help!  They have started a fundraiser to get their group to Colo this summer by selling these pretty rad t-shirts for $20.  This is a good cause folks, something that is pretty easy to get behind.  Please share this around your network and let’s make this happen, and besides you get a sweet T out of the deal.  See below pic for details:

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If you are interested in a T-shirt, all you have to do is send an email to Rich at:
ryoungberg@nvps.net
www.nvflysquad.weebly.com
Checks made out to Northview Fly Fishing Club


Welcome to Ameautre Hour

When Chief first asked me if I would contribute to this prestigious fly fishing blog, I figured someone blasted him in the head with a musky streamer on a back cast. Then I thought, what if someone has finally recognized my true potential as a savant fly fishing blogger, and now is my big chance to amaze the Internetz with my skills and knowledge?! Unfortunately, my dreams of winning a Pulitzer were quickly extinguished as he revealed that the segments were to be focused towards fisherpeople (I see you fisherladies!) who are new to fly fishing — and as I was the noobiest of noobs he knew, I’d be a perfect candidate. But, I’ll still take it!  Everyone, welcome to amateur hour!

First things first: being “new” at fly fishing is incredibly relative, as there are so many different facets to this sport. So, even though I definitely want to make true newcomers feel at home, some of you pros may find something useful here, as well. With copious ways of putting flies in front of fish, in just as many geographical and seasonal scenarios, there are always opportunities to jump back on the new guy bus. A grizzled, seasoned fly-chucker can find himself lost in the sea of kindergarten supplies as he finally delves into tying his own flies. Or an “out-west” angler who’s used only a 5wt and dry flies to seduce trout-skis from soothing, unobstructed meadow streams may find himself moving to Michigan. As such, he may be coerced into a 20ft, 15wt double-handed skagit rig, and may try to throw six-inch articulated piles of marabou and deer hair for steelhead in large rivers filled with sunken trees that have magnets tied to them (true story: MI rivers are where kitchen magnets go to die). Odds are he’ll be forced down the skill ladder lickety split and feel like it’s his first time on the water when that slab of chrome runs under a log and makes him a fool. But to me, this is what makes fly fishing so great. It’s really hard to find yourself bored or unchallenged (or with a healthy savings account).  Hopefully, this will be a place we can all come together and talk about how lost we all can be in this sport — and maybe even ways we can navigate learning it better.

When not watching YouTube videos of how to catch steelhead on midges and blue winged olives, Adam hones his magical levitating abilities.

When not watching YouTube videos of how to catch steelhead on midges and blue winged olives, Adam hones his magical levitating abilities.

But, as this is amateur hour, I feel the need to prove I’m not some retired river rat masquerading for fake Internet points, and actually someone who is still finding his way around this sport. Even though I can hold my own with the puffy-jacketed, flat-brimmed, old-timey-cigar smokers in a fly shop conversation, I assure you, I still really have no idea what I’m doing. Sure, I tie my own flies (with a vast variance in skill and outcome), have multiple rigs, can tie blood knots in my sleep and have a fairly decent overhand cast (also with varying skill and outcome), but there are plenty of things that still make me Mayor of Newbville. To show you how fearless I am, let’s examine a few of my fly fishing flaws on the Internet, shall we? What could go wrong!?

  • Despite how much I think/talk about fly fishing and with all the money I have put into this never-ceasing obsession, I really don’t even fish that much. It’s not because I don’t want to; I just live on the wrong side of the state in relation to the “good” rivers. Add in life events, other hobbies/passions, and life/family obligations, and it doesn’t amount to too many hours in my waders. I’ve made the best of it (high five to my wife for being awesome, and my Father-in- Law for keeping me from drowning!) but this is the number one reason my progress in becoming a better fly fisherman has been so slow. As my uncle always says (after mocking me and claiming  “trucker” hats are for Ashton Kutcher wannabes): “You gotta go to know.”
  • I’m TERRIBLE at roll casting. Seriously, who has fly fished in Michigan for as long as I have and can’t freakin’ roll cast?! It’s touted as one of the easiest forms of casting and the basis for a good majority of more complex casts — and I’m just the worst at it. A benefit of this (and being really tall), though, is that I’m pretty good at retrieving flies stuck in overhead trees!
  • Real talk: I only barely understand what the crap skagit or scandi or switcheroski fly fishing is all about. I mean, I think I get the premise of it, maybe? Some fisherpeople were having a hard time throwing big flies or rigs and were all like, “Hey, let’s come up with this new form of fly fishing where we make the rods impossibly long so no one can walk through the woods with them and then, THEN, let’s change how we classify all the lines and come up with even crazier ways to rig them up! That will totally make it easier to cast this size six wooly bugger with extra flashabou!” And after THAT, someone over in the corner shouts “Hey! You guys ever heard of centerpin fishing? It’s the only way to fish indicators now!” I’m pretty sure centerpin is a bowling reference somehow…but that’s about all I understand here.
  • I have never in my life fished from a drift boat. Walk-in only. I’m always so jealous of you guys in your fancy, zero-displacement luxury crafts, stealthily making your way (except you guys that can’t use oars) between boat-only honey holes while drinking beer, taking naps and warming yourself over Mr. Buddy heaters. (All the while staring as we earth-bound plebeians are struggling through tag elder with our skagity switch rods you tricked us into buying, and wading up to our belly buttons navigating around private property.)  It must be a magical experience.
  • I can’t tie anything smaller than a size 10. I seriously don’t understand how you out-west guys make nymphs sized in the 20s. I honestly struggle to tie most nymphs that aren’t wooly buggers, eggs or caddis flies (large ones, anyway), as my hands shake like I’m on an eightball of coke (I most definitely am not; I’ve seen The Wire), and there is just so little space to work with, I usually end up with some pretty disproportionate-looking barely-nymphs. Good thing pulling streamers is so fun!
  • Reading water is still like watching a foreign film with no subtitles for me. I can kind of get the gist of what’s going on under there and can usually understand the obvious spots… .but really I’m just guessing most of the time.  Again: a skill best learned by actually being on the water.
  • Finally, I only have ONE fly fishing sticker on my truck… and it’s not even that big!  Blasphemy.

Ok, I’ll leave you all with a video of one of the Golden Girls roll casting like an absolute BOSS….since I clearly can’t.

Joan Wulff: The Roll Cast


Fly Fish the Mitt and Mitt Monkey Videos

A could of vids to help get you through the week.


Head Games

“Being stupid should be painful” – Unknown

This past weekend’s trip I was reminded of a very valuable lesson that I have learned many times over throughout my years of fishing.  It is a lesson that I have shared with many people, both experienced and new in relation to their level of experience.  I committed a cardinal sin and didn’t have my head in the game the entire day while fishing.  As a result I paid dearly for it.

We got on the river around 8:30 AM and within the first 30 minutes into the day I was into what I thought at first was a steelhead.  The bobber on my indy rig dropped, I quickly set the hook and something big and heavy began to move.  At that moment a familiar feeling of elation quickly overwhelmed me as line began to quickly peel out of my left hand and come tight to the reel all in the matter of about 4 tenths of a second.

The feeling of elation quickly turned into grave disappointment when I realized all that had happened is that I had inadvertendly dislodged a piece of lumber from the bottom of the river, and it immediately was caught in the current, displaying many of the same characteristics as a hooked steelhead.  In my frustration I immediately started to “horse” the log in so I could unpin it and get back on with my day.  The stress placed on my rod was substantial and quickly resulted in the rod snapping with a sound similar to that made by the .22 caliber gun my father used to hunt small game with in the days of my youth.

So, it wasn’t a fish, I broke a rod, and now I have to walk up 144 steep and icy steps back to the truck to re-rig another rod?  Now I’m pissed, but mentally chalked it up to some sort of necessary penance required by the Fish God’s – a toll I’d gladly subject myself to if it resulted in a great day of fishing.

Only it didn’t result in that.

On a river that I know relatively well that had been holding several steelhead as of late, in several cases being the first angler through sections of particular runs, with a good selection of proven flies would usually result a decent outing.  All it resulted in for me throughout the day was losing about $467 worth of flies lost and a helluva of a lot of knot tying.   I’d rather have walked down to the river, opened my wallet, pulled out $467 and thrown it straight into the river (from the top, not the bottom of those damned stairs of course), and turned around and went home.

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After about 7 hours of no fish encounters, Dan questioned whether or not I had the correct depth set on my indicator – stating that I might not be fishing a run not quite deep enough.  At this point my head was someplace else other than focusing on what I should have been, I was more or less going through the motions.  I turned to Dan and assured him that I had the correct depth and to further prove my point I said “watch, if I cast a few feet closer I’ll drag bottom”.

Upon casting in closer to me the bobber lurched towards the river bottom as I had previously, indicating that my rig was set too deep for the water I was fishing.  I turned to Dan and smugly said “see, I told you”.

My confident assertion was met by him emphatically screaming “FISH!”.  I quickly turned around and quickly recognized my bobber nearly a foot below the river’s surface, screaming towards the opposite bank with a large silver steelhead not far in front of it.

I lifted the rod and came tight on the fish.  The physical attachment to that fish lasted about as long as my mom’s apple pie at a family dinner.  All because I was being an idiot and not paying attention, it was over as quickly as it started.

Instead of having an opportunity to land a beautiful January steelhead and erase all of the hardships THAT I CAUSED myself during the day, I added to it because I committed the substantial crime of not having my head in the game at all times.

 

 


The All-Encompassing

This weekend I was fortunate to spend time on the river with friends.  Erich from Nomad Anglers is a dude that I’ve only fished with a few times, but have had frequent interactions with both in the shop and online, he, Dan and I pursued steelhead for the day enjoying the last sliver of decent weather before the inevitable yearly winter lock down.

One of my favorite aspects of fishing is the relationships that are made and the resulting conversations that are had.  Erich made a comment that really resonated with me and provided a really interesting perspective that triggered me to really think about why fly fishing is so unique in relation to other hobbies and pursuits.  It’s obvious the we start fishing for the fish, but soon realize its about way more than that – the fish are just the medium that binds it all together.

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  1. This one is obvious, fly fishing connects you to nature and allows for you to get outdoors and enjoy wildlife and experiences you otherwise wouldn’t be able to.
  2. It’s something that requires an enormous amount of concentration.  Everything related to fly fishing demands substantial amounts of attention.  Casting, tying flies, reading water, rowing a boat, fighting a fish, crossing a stream, tying knots – none are simply mindless activities that require little to no focus.   The devil is in the details, the extreme focus on any task associated with fly fishing provides us with a significant respite from dedication of brain function directed towards work or problems or whatever is weighing us down at any given time.
  3. You can do something fly fishing related all year long.  Today my face hurts when I go outside because of the cold burn of the January air and it looks like I live in a recently shaken snow globe……but I still was able to “escape” by tying flies.  How many golfers out there?  What did you do today in Michigan?  Probably not golf eh?  We have the luxury of still continuing our pursuit by tying flies, organizing materials, building rods, or patching up leaky waders (a once a month routine for some).
  4. The connection to people that you normally would have no connection to.  Fly fishing is something that is enjoyed by people from an enormous range of social and economical situations.  It’s a common interest that links blue collar works with CEO’s of corporations and college students with retirees.  The diversity of the people that share fly fishing and the resulting network of connections that would normally not exist is amazing.
  5. It allows us to maintain a respective level of competitiveness.  As a former athlete a strong desire to compete is part of my being, it’s something that is so strongly engrained in me that it will never cease to exist.   Fly fishing allows for me to maintain a healthy level of competition, I compete with myself and others.  When someone within my circle catches a big fish – I want to catch one bigger!  When someone ties a great new fly pattern, I want to come up with something better.
  6. There is the availability of varying degrees of difficulty.  Fly fishing has an endless amount of levels of degree of difficulty from the different tactics to species we pursue.  Challenges abound.  Because of the substantial challenges associated with fly fishing the learning will never end.  There will forever be something that can be learned in the many different aspects associated with fly fishing.

“To go fishing is the chance to wash one’s soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of sun on blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the decency of nature, charity toward tackle-makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you do not have to decide a darned thing until next week. And it is discipline in the equality of men – for all men are equal before fish.”
~ Herbert Hoover


Mission Objective – Hangin Out

When I first started fishing, every single time I headed to the river I was on a mission, mission to learn from observing other anglers. I would follow other people around, sit on the bank and watch their every move – trying to figure out how and why they were doing things the way they were.

At some point, after I felt I had absorbed enough through observation of others my mission changed every time I went to the river and my objective became to catch as many fish as I possibly could.  It became a purely numbers game for me – it was a badge of honor that I would wear proudly when I reported in with my father or other friends that I’d sometimes fish with.

A few years down the line, the numbers of fish game eventually gave way to quality of fish.  It was no longer about how many fish I caught and it was now about the quality of fish I caught.  I wanted big fish.

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Now…..now, I’m basically back to square 1, but for different reasons.  I find myself sitting on the bank more and more observing others – usually friends I am fishing with.  My fishing pals are all exceptionally talented and of course I learn all kinds of new things from them similar to how I learned from others in my youth, but thats not whats important.  What’s important to me now is hanging out, on the water, in nature with people that I enjoy spending time with.

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Sure it’s all still about the fish – after all they are the reason to bring us all together.  But even more it’s about the laughs, the experiences, the jokes, the banter, the food, and the fellowship.

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A Year in Review – Brown Trout edition

I’ve been really fortunate to be a witness and active participant in seeing and experiencing a number of really great fish this year.  While I really enjoy chasing after all fish species, brown trout has a special allure for me.  Seeing a big brown trout make it into the net is an awesome experience and sharing that moment with pals in the boat makes it all the better.  Here’s a look at this years fish that I had the privilge to witness first hand.


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Fantasy Football Ruined Fishing

For the second consecutive year I commished a fantasy football league filled with a bunch of fish heads.  A motely crue cast of charachters all bound together by our strong affinity to chase fish.  I quickly found out that there is 1 thing these yahoos take as serious as fishing, fantasy football!

I spent most of my season last year getting repeatedly curb stomped but had a good time doing it as the near daily trash talk added good commentary to give me quick breaks from my work day.  This year, I decided I’d spice up some of the weeks by publically calling out particular opponents on weeks I faced them and challenge them to a “side bet” of sorts.  Well, unfortunately for me those curb stompings from last year carried into this year and it didn’t go well for me.

Throughout this I discovered I may have a bit of a repressed gambling problem, as the typical wager was 3 articulated streamers and each week I lost I would just double down the next week to try and win some bugs back.  Let’s just say I burned through a lot of materials this year.

However, thats not where my punishment ends.  Oh no…that’d be way to easy.  My poor decision making and inability to set a good roster of players continues to punch me square in the throat.

Twice this year I lost to Jeff from Fly Fish the Mitt and had to contribute to his already loaded streamer box.  Being that I was going to be fishing with him on this past Sunday morning, I worked late into the night spinning up a version of Galloup’s Boogie Man.

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Jeff, not one to shy away from rubbing a bit of salt in a pal’s wound decided he would immediately lace one of his winnings up and fish it right out of the gates on our streamer escapade.  I quietly chuckled to myself as I sat in the rowers seat and watched him struggle with the bug getting fouled around itself, as it appeared that I unintentionally provided him with a “dud” that had too much space between the hooks and not enough beads to prevent the hooks from becoming entangled with one another during casting.  “Serves him right” I thought – but of course outwardly I appeared apologetic. “Jeeze man, I’m really sorry.  I thought I tied those perfectly.”

A simple adjustment, opening the loop of this cast up a bit, allowed him to accurately sling the bug without it getting tangled.  No worries, the color combination is surely not one we’ve ever seen  work in this particular river – he even commmented on it himself.

That’s when the throat punches started rolling in.  On his first shift he brought a few fish to hand.  Then on his second shift, Mike Tyson punched me square in the neck and this fish decided this terribly tied bug looked good enough to eat.

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He continued to fish the fly for the entire day and of course landed not only by far the largest fish of the day, significantly more fish than I did as well.  Wasn’t it enough that I just paid my dept and suffered the humilation of proclaiming my Fantasy Football superiority only to be embarrased?

Stay tuned for the report following me paying my bet to Dan, as I practically have to row him around the river the whole day without me even fishing.  Fantasy Football sucks.


Do We Really Have to Debate? It’s Just Fishing.

Lately it seems that there have been an extraordinary amount of “lines drawn in the sand” regarding the different tactics that fall under the larger encompassing umbrella of fly fishing – which of course belongs to an even larger scope…..called just FISHING.   Lately I’ve seen streamer fishermen blast non streamer fishermen, I’ve seen swing fishermen blast non swing fishermen, I’ve seen indicators draw substantial amounts of disparagement, it goes on and on.

It seems to me that often times these proclamations and assertions are often times made to:

  1. Establish one’s own relevance in a particular community
  2. Create some fashion of social segregation amongst anglers that utilize the different methods
  3. Push an individual’s agenda – perhaps a marketing propaganda campaign
  4. Just someone being a straight up peckerhead

To me the most disconcerting element of this type of behavior, is often times it is done under the guise of “progression”.  I get it, we aren’t cavemen and we should always be evolving and adapting.  However, just because someone uses an indicator or decides to swing a spey rod instead of pulling streamers, should they be left to feel bad about it?  Should they have to fear suffering degradation either in person or over social media just because they utilized a method that was not seen by some people as “sporting” or difficult?  At the end of the day, shouldn’t only a couple of things matter?  Things like:

  1. Was the method used legal and ethical?  Ethical is a tricky situation, I can totally understand how there is a lot left up to interpretation and that is probably a different dicussion for a different time.
  2. Did the person respect the resource?
  3. Was he/she being respectful to other anglers?
  4. Did they enjoy their time?

This year my wife began to take more interest in fly fishing – something she previously had ZERO ambition to put any effort towards.

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Why is it that I HAVE TO explain to her that it’s okay that she uses an indicator when she fishes, even though she read online that it should be outlawed?  Why should I have to explain to her that pulling streamers is not the only way, as a matter of fact it might be one of the least effective ways, of catching fish?

My professional life is spent working in Human Resources, as a result throughout my years spent in corporate life I have come to understand there are really 2 types of people in any work environment.  Those that want the company to succeed, therefore furthering their own success or those that are only looking out for themselves.  Pretty easy to figure out which environment is better to be a part of.  None the less, it’s not surprising that by lifting everyone up around you, you also have additional opportunities for ascension.

Why is it that so many of us in this sport/industry work so hard to push our own personal agendas and mock folks that utilize methods different than our own, often times creating social divides?  Instead of putting forth that same effort towards promoting the sport/industry in its entirety?  At the end of the day, we are all suffering as a result of it.

Fishing can be so many different things to different people.  There was a time for me that it was about going out and catching a bunch of fish, then it became going out and catching the biggest fish.  Now for me, its about going out and having a great day with some pals and enjoying the unbelievable resource that are available to us – thats been my progression.  You can be a bait, swing, steamer, indicator, or whatever fisherman – I say “GOOD FOR YOU! It’s awesome you’re out here doing this!”  I don’t care why you or anyone else is in it – at the end of the day, it’s just fishing.


The Internet is Ruining Fishing

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – “The internet is ruining fly fishing”.  The most common reason that I see floated around explaining how/why the interwebs destroyed fishing is the “hot spotting” that goes on.  I’d argue that the biggest way that the internet is ruining this sport is it, in my opinion, has created an increased population of anglers that join in on the cult like “hero” mentality.

Fishing is a recreation for most, a profession for some – but has become a pecker measuring contest for several.  Why?  Why do many people feel the absolute need to be accepted to the “in crowd” that is nothing more than a bunch of key board jockeys spreading propoganda, from the protection of hiding behind a computer monitor.

All types of fishing have a long and rich history of “fish stories” or “tall tales” – its part of the unique culture of the sport, healthy exaggeration of one’s accomplishments.  With the increased popularity of forums and facebook though, these harmless truth stretches have become so outlandish that it, in my opinion, has moved the culture of the sport/industry a very negative direction.  A culture of over-exaggeration has been adopted, just as a means to fit in or keep up with all the other non-truth tellers.

I will be the first to admit that I am probably wrong in how judgemental I am – spending countless hours envying the photos of many fine fishermen, making assessments of ‘how good’ of a fisherman is by the proof provided by a few simple photos.  In  an effort to keep up with the successful anglers though many will weave sophisticated tangled webs in an effort to join some exclusive club.  Why is that important?

The keeping up with the Joneses mentality as it regards to gear is mind boggling to me as well.  Its okay to be a gear junkie, I totally get it – but it doesn’t buy you more success.  Just because you look the part doesn’t mean that you are.  My gear game is relatively weak, my entire streamer fishing set up cost me no more than $350 for the complete rig.  Same for the rest of my rigs – I wear beat up, patched several times over waders, and a jacket that smells like a sweaty gym locker because it has been with me through several years.  I don’t fit in with most crowds I suppose as a result – but  I don’t care.

Sure, you are right to accuse me of “hiding behind a keyboard” after all, I do have a blog.  However, the only propaganda that I hope that I spread is don’t be an asshole, and be respectful of others that are enjoying the exact same resources as you.


Midwest Fly Fishing Expo

Coming to the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo this weekend?  Come see me in the Mystic booth – cast a rod, shoot the breeze, show me a pic of your fish, smuggle me some beer, cast a rod again.

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“Who’s Your Buddy?” These are my Buddies.

Another fantastic read (as all their other stuff is – I’m sure you know the site well), that Louis at Gink and Gasoline put together titled Who’s Your Buddy? (click the link to read more) really struck home with me.

“We spend a lot of time selecting our gear, choosing the water, tying the flies, setting up the boat. There’s endless talk about waders and boots and reels and lines. Don’t forget that the most important piece of the puzzle is the guy standing next to you. Choose your fishing buddies wisely. Wives and girlfriends come and go but a fishing buddy is a serious commitment.” -Louis Cahill, Gink and Gasoline

I keep frequent company with a ridiculous motley crue cast of characters.  A band of drinking, fighting, fishing, swearing mauraders that all operate and function in the ‘real world’ under the guise of normal, mostly socially acceptable, humans – some of them even professionals.  Introduce water, woods, nature, booze, and fish to this pack of hooligans and they morph into entirely different creatures that probably would be unrecognizable to their co-workers, family members, and neighbors.  I suppose I fit the bill in these regards as well.

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We have helped each other sometimes make poor decisions, given bad advice, we talk about ridiculous things, there is a language understood by each of us that is nothing more than some form of jibberish that would be entirely foreign to any semi-educated adult.  I’ve lost count of how many far fetched inventions we’ve discussed or how many times we’ve solved pressing matters such as world hunger and the economic crisis.

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We’ve helped each other break into our own houses. We’ve waited, huddled together in the pitch black in areas where bears and meth cooks out numbered us while cars were shuttled.  We’ve happily risked our own lives and tempted death by drowing to land fish for each other.  We’ve also been there for one another when things in our ‘real lives’ were broken.   We’ve gone to war for one another.

We came together as sometimes single outcast misfits from other groups, or perhaps in pairs of free agents looking for new guys to fish with.  Some of us were new in town and didn’t know any better when they were drafted by a group member and now they are in too deep to get out.  We have others that have joined in looking for a dose of irresponsibility in their lives, and we have others that need the little bit of structure that we do have.

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Myself and my pals aren’t perfect.  We annoy one another sometimes, we don’t always understand each other, and sometimes we even get angry because someone did or said something that was really stupid, even by our low standards.  Our friendship isn’t this nice, neat, tidy little corner of our lives that we just get together and fish every now and again.  The relationships that started on the river someplace spilled over into the ‘real world’ and became a larger part of who we are.  We are different with each other when we are in the ‘real world’ than we are when we are on the water – its something that has to be done to be socially acceptable to those that aren’t us.

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These guys are my brothers, they are the ones that have shared some of my best and some of my worst moments with me.  They have each taught me what to do and often what not to do, both on and off the water.  More so than anything, fishing wouldn’t be what it is to me if I didn’t have them.

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