If you missed the F3T in GR this past weekend, Koz has got you covered with a recap
Found this killer PT nymph variant at Frankenfly
Matt Barthels will be tying big streamers at the Muskegon River Fly Shop soon, get in while you can fit in
Get your fill of #glassisnotdead here (Spoiler Alert: theres some badass photos)
Bucket list fish Golden Dorado is explored at Gink and Gasoline
Funny stuff over at Windknots and Tangled Lines, be sure to watch out for the fresh water sharks and Great Lakes Whales
These guys seem like fun:
“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)
For our first official Amateur Hour post, I’d like to chat about a topic that I feel often goes overlooked when introducing people to fly fishing: knots. While doing so, I’ll try my best to knot get too tied up with puns and will just attempt to clinch my speaking points. Ha, OK, I’m done.
I feel that when most people take up fly fishing, they assume knots aren’t that big of a deal. After all, they’ve been fishing since their days in Underoos, and already know how to tie a clinch knot. And that may be so. But rigging up a fly rod poses a whole new set of challenges if all you’ve done is tied Trilene to Rapalas and crawler harnesses (not to say hardware guys are incompetent at tying knots…I’m just saying…well….yeah, let’s…let’s just not). You have to deal with tying super thin tippet material to impossibly small eyes on size 100 hooks that always seem to be trying to impale you while you are seating your knots. You also need to know your way around several different types of line-to-line connections that have ominous words in their names like “blood,” “nail,” “perfection” or “albright” (which is Latin for “good luck holding onto all those wraps, loser!”).
Fluorocarbon tippet is also a must now, which means dealing with the line self-destructing every time it turns over on itself. (You do use fluorocarbon tippets, right? I mean, everyone uses fluorocarbon. I heard the DNR is trying to outlaw it because it works so well. I’m pretty sure it was designed by NASA to tether their space ships to space stations). And, in the end, every single one of these knots needs to be as close to perfection as possible when you rely on them to hold as you try to put the brakes on that solid slab of river-current trained muscle making a hard run downstream for the safety of a submerged Forest of Fangorn (NERD!).
So, now that we’ve established how important knots are, let’s talk about how you can step up your knot game.
Use the knot in which you have the most CONFIDENCE, and that you can CONSISTENTLY tie well in ALL conditions and scenarios.
This amazingly wise piece of advice was shared with me by our very own Chief Rocka (and was probably followed by “Please stop messaging me at 3 a.m. with questions about knots.”). Sure, some people with a lot of time on their hands have said the San Diego Jam knot is the strongest terminal knot in the universe, but if you can’t tie it to near perfection after being on the river all day in cold rain with a belly full of Fireball, you won’t be able to use it. A well-tied clinch knot is better than a crappy tied SD Jam Knot every time.
Remember that practice really does make perfect.
Being able to tie a good knot in adverse conditions (be it chasing steelies in the rain or smallies under the influence) is a product of muscle memory. My advice for practicing your knots? Find the following items and put them in a big ziplock bag, tupperware container or elegant, hand-crafted, wooden keepsake box:
- Two, differently sized spools of line. Those old spools of Berkley from your spinning gear days should work. Or, if you are super rich, actual Maxima and a few sizes of tippet.
- Some old flies with the hooks cut off, and maybe a barrel swivel if you run indie rigs.
- A good chunk of old fly line (you know you have to change that out eventually, right?)
- A set of nail clippers. It’s not like you are cutting those Sasquatch toenails, anyway.
Now put that bag/box someplace where you usually have down time, like in front of your Netflix box. When you are sitting there watching The Good Wife and eating cheesy poofs, practice your damn knots. The goal is that by the time you get to Alisha dropping out of the governor’s race due to a scandal, you should be able to tie your preferred knots with ease and confidence. And, when you are on the river tying, try to tie all your knots the exact same way. Hold the fly the same way, twist your wraps the same number of times, say the same prayer each time, etc…muscle memory is a beautiful thing.
I don’t care if you use nature’s universal lubricant (spit), river water, whiskey or the tears of your fishing partner. Just lube up that line like your life depends on it before you seat it down.
How to teach yourself new knots
As with most problems in life, if you Google it, you will find an answer. Here are some great resources for learning how to tie knots online. I didn’t include YouTube in this list, but I also highly recommend searching there if you are struggling to learn from animated pictures. I will try to link all knots I mention in this post to one of these resources but don’t take that as the end all say all for learning it.
Rio has a good library of knot tying videos and in each one show the breaking strength of the knot.
Rio Knot Tying Videos
Also consider finding a printed guide that has your favorite knots in it for keeping in your backpack (or fannypack if that’s how you swing) when on the river. The Little Red Fishing Knot Book seems to be displayed in every single fly shop I’ve ever been to. I have two of them.
The Little Red Fishing Knot Book
Bonus link: The Yellowstone Angler did a very in depth comparison of tippets a few years back and in their lengthy article, had some awesome notes and discussions on various tippet and line-to-line knots I feel are worth the read.
Yellow Stone Anglers Tippet shoot-out
Apparently fluorocarbon is super-big-time invisible under water and less susceptible to abrasions. As such, it’s perfect for tippet material. I’m way too cheap to buy actual tippet material in fluro, but I do cheat and buy Seaguar Invizx on a spool and use that, instead. The size difference in diameter is negligible for how I fish (my opinion, calm down, Internet) and after a few years using it, it does seem to be a ton stronger than mono tippets. However, I freaking hate tying knots with it. I don’t understand how something that is so “abrasion resistant” can be so abrasive to itself. I would literally tie the damn knots under water and still have them get all mucked-up. Eventually I realized that you just need to be patient, lube er’ up and SLOW DOWN when you are seating it. I still only ever tie standard clinch knots with Fluorocarbon as all other knots have just been disasters for me. I would like to get to where I have confidence with improved clinches, but I’m still working on that. Speak up in the comments if you are a master of the fluoro. Maybe it’s just me.
Finally, a post on knots wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t talk about actual knots. There are a plethora of knots that are useful in the world of fly fishing, and the ones you need to know will vary depending on what line/gear you are using and how you use it. Since I’m far from an expert here, I’m just going to talk about the ones I regularly use and practice. Let’s break this down from reel to fly shall we?
Reel to backing
The Arbor knot is the best bet here. Before I knew this existed, I would just throw a bunch of overhand knots on there and call it a day. My thought was, if the fish I’m fighting has taken me all the way down to the end of my backing, it’s probably a done deal, anyways. But it’s worth using the Arbor knot, as it’s fairly easy and will definitely hold better than your shoelace knot.
Backing to fly line
How-to guides or articles almost always seem to say to use an Albright knot here. Maybe a loop-to-loop, but pulling the whole spool of fly line through the backing loop doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve always used the Albright. It’s really a simple knot, with the hardest part being the management of the nine wraps it calls for from laying overtop each other while you stack them up. Otherwise the best tip I have for you (again…credit to Chief here) is to close the gap between the backing wraps and loop in the fly line before you tighten it down by pulling on the standing end of the fly line VERY SLOWLY. Just leave enough of the loop showing so that when you tighten it down it doesn’t disappear into the wraps of backing.
Fly line to leader
Again, this will vary greatly depending on what fly line you are using and what you are using it for. I see a lot of recommendations for the Nail Knot (with a straw) for this connection, as “apparently” it’s strong and transfers energy really well. I hate this knot, though. First off, you have to have a nail, paper clip or magic tool to tie it (apparently there is a version where you don’t, but I still stand my ground) and even then it’s a pain to get it right, as wrangling the wraps after you remove said nail is nightmare material. Even if it’s tied correctly, the whole principle of how this knot works is crazy to me. You are basically relying on the leader to squeeze down on the fly line hard enough to not slip off under a load. For me, it’s always going to be a loop-to-loop knot. All but one of my fly lines have pre-made welded loops, and once you understand the trick to tying them, perfection loops are a snap. Chuck n’ duckers should be using the blood knot here, but we’ll discuss that in the next section, as the shooting line used in that application is more akin to a heavy leader material than floaty fly line.
Leader to tippet or custom leaders
The blood knot (and if you are insane, the improved blood knot) is widely known and regarded as the strongest line-to-line knot for this scenario. You also need four hands to tie it correctly. Seriously, if you look at this knot online or in a knot book, it will show you need to pull on two tag ends and two standing lines at the same time in opposite directions.. At the very least, you need three hands since the two tag ends are pulled in the same direction. They way I’ve gotten around this is to…..all dentists stop reading for a bit….use my front teeth to hold the two tag ends and my hands to pull the standing lines. Depending on what you have going on in the teeth department and the variances in diameter of the two lines you are joining, this may or may not be a good solution. But I have no idea how to make it work otherwise. I pride myself on tying pretty awesome blood knots, but if I’m having an off day, my back up knot is the Double-Uni knot. It’s essentially just two clinch knots tied onto each of the lines that then smash against each other when tightened down. I don’t think it’s as strong as a blood knot but it’s just as streamlined, and (I think) much easier to tie. The Double Surgeon’s knot is also a really strong line for this connection, but it is super bulky and doesn’t traverse through eyelets well.
Leader to fly
And now the bread n’ butter knots: terminal connections. Look, there are SO many knots that can work here, so please re-read my first bullet point about using what you can confidently and consistently tie in all scenarios. I’ve been down a handful of roads here, but have come full circle and with the exception of my trout streamers, always tie either a standard clinch or improved clinch knot. These knots will never come out on top in a terminal knot strength contest but come on, it’s literally called the “fisherperson’s knot,” for Pete’s sake. And as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I bet every single one of you reading this post (all 12 of you) already know how to tie it. For me, I just had to get to the point that I could tie it LIKE A BOSS. I will say that for whatever reason, I still struggle getting the improved version to seat correctly on my heavier leader material. But from a line tensile strength standpoint, my tippets usually break off before that knot comes into play anyway, so I haven’t been super concerned about it. However, I’ve debated going back and mastering the Trilene Knot. I used to tie it a lot for terminating my leader to swivel for indicator rigs, but lost confidence in it. For my big nasty trout streamers, I will often tie a Non-Slip Mono Loop for even more dip-in-the-hips action. It’s a fairly simple knot to tie, but again, takes some dedication to get right every time. For me, the struggle has been getting the loop size to not be ridiculous big. But I’ll get there, as I really like the drunken swagger it gives my streamers.
I’ll end with a quick P.S.A about the line itself. No matter what size or material of line you are using, make sure you are checking it for nicks, frays or extreme kinks frequently throughout your fishing escapades. I know you don’t want to hear this, but if said anomalies are found, you need to change out that section of line as they are DRASTICALLY reducing the tensile strength. Unfortunately I’m speaking from experience here.
Alright! That’s all I have to say about that. I know we aren’t really a heavily comment-orientated blog, but if you are so inclined, I’d love to hear what knots you all run!
Peace out girl scout!
A couple years ago I was on a streamer trip with friend Joe Donati. It was a day in late May and the weather was warm and overcast with water a bit up and stained, perfect for pulling bugs. Joe had landed a few nice trout and we came into a straightaway with grass tight to the bank. I was rowing and Joe noticed a trout shoot completely out of the water for some right along the bank. We dropped anchor mid-river and watched for a bit as more fish along the bank proceeded to come flying out of the water with reckless abandon. We soon realized they were going after damsels hovering near the grass. We sat there for a while just watching one after another taking shots at these bugs that were obviously driving the trout mad. Neither of us had anything remotely similar to a damsel so Joe just went with a hopper pattern and was able to get one to go. I took some video that really doesn’t do the moment justice but worth sharing.
After telling Bob this story that evening he laughed and said that he’d just taken the two or three damsels he had parked in his dry fly box out because he never thought he’d get a shot at fishing them.
If you’ve been living off the grid for the past couple years and haven’t seen this amazing video of trout crashing damsels then check this out.
Nothing makes a fish bigger than almost being caught. ~Author Unknown
Far more often than any of us would like fishing outings conclude with thoughts of “what the hell happened” or “what went wrong” instead of the glorious celebratory end to the day that we all yearn for. As I look back upon my past few years pulling streamers I have experienced a fair amount of success and have been fortunate to come face to face with a number of quality trout.
Thats all fine and dandy, and I feel honored to have been able to put a fish in the net – but thats not what drives me. I am unequivocally motivated by the fish that I had brief encounters with. Those ones that showed themselves in a lightening quick flash as soon as my streamer descended into their habitation OR the ones that charged the stripped bug all the way to the boat and inexplicably turned away without commitment OR (and the worst ones of all) those fish that ate or tried to eat and in a fit of excitement and stupidity I trout set the shit out of and they quickly came unpinned.
I spend way more time than I should trying to figure out how to elicit a reaction from a predatory fish with a brain the size of a dime. I lose sleep at night because of it. It’s a sickness in which there are only 2 cures – more whiskey than my bank account could afford or more time spent on the water. The biggest problem is, far more times than not I have a brief encounter with a fish that undoubtedly in my mind looks somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-3 times larger than it really is if I were to actually catch it and get a tape on it. The fish that we don’t catch seem to always be potential record breakers that would land us piles of “thumbs up” on Facebook, never before seen levels of street cred, piles of endorsement, and an endless stream of friend requests from women not trying to sell us Oakley sunglasses (seriously, what’s up with that on Facebook right now?).
The persistent challenge that exists of cracking the code of trout drives me. If it were easy I don’t think I would do it as much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not saying that if I had the ability or opportunity to walk out my door and start railing 30″ giant browns one after another any day of the week, that I wouldn’t do it. Of course I would – I’d also probably be unemployed. What I’m getting at is that the ever changing challenge of catching these fish on streamers is what gets me going. If I could go out and rail 30″ giants, I wouldn’t feel the need to devote so much time and energy into figuring this stuff out.
The sad fact of this is….this is a game you can never really win. There will be days that you are ahead in the score column, but in the end the fish will always be victorious more times than not. So, the reality of this is I’m going to spend an enormous portion of my adult life trying to win at a game that is impossible to win. Sounds like a great plan to me.