Posts tagged “Steelhead

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


Weekly Review

weekly review

Fontinalis Rising with his always entertaining and insightful Monday Morning Coffee.

If you don’t have one of these you probably aren’t in the cool kids club.  Fiberglass Manifesto beanies are super cool.

What could be more important than slinging 90′ of line you ask…..Gink and Gasoline breaks it down here.

Public Service Announcement: Nomad Anglers in Okemos has moved.

Flat Broke Fly Fishing is thinking of warmer temps and emerging bugs

Frankenfly features a local favorite tied by Jeff from Fly Fish the Mitt

 


Fly Fish the Mitt and Mitt Monkey Videos

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


Weekly Review

weekly review

Zach atThe Itinerant Angler a great piece looking at 10 casting errors.

You have to watch….just watch.

Gink and Gasoline has a great piece highlighting 15 Dirt Cheap Pieces of Gear that are must haves.

The Fiberglass Manifesto does a great job looking deeper into why Smith Fly is a great company with great products.

Killer movie review of a sweet looking flick (The Revenant) at Unaccomplished Angler.

Always, always, always be sure to check out the Orvis Friday Film Fest.

 

 

 


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


Weekly Review

weekly review

Koz at True North Trout reflects back on 2015 and looks forward to 2016in his most recent writings.

Fontinalis Rising offers a a look back at the year that was for him.

The Fiberglass Manifesto details in words and incredible photos a trip to the Pere Marquette.

Persistence pays off at Gink and Gasoline.

Nomad Anglers announces the 2016 Brews and Bugs lineup at all 3 of their locations.

If you care about our waters you should read this article by Josh Greenberg on A Tight Loop.

FrankenFly put together a rad pictorial of his 2015 – highly recommend looking through the awesome photos.


Steelhead Flies

Now that the holidays are behind us, its back to our regularly scheduled programming…….who am I kidding, there’s nothing “regular” about us.

Spent some time behind the vice the past few weeks, spinning proven steelhead targeting nymphs and trying to come up with a few “new” patterns.  There’s really not much new in the world of fly tying, we borrow materials, proportion templates, color schemes, and pretty much just about anything else fly construction related from others.  However, that shouldn’t stop anyone from trying new things, developing new ideas and adding new bugs to their box.

Here are the “new” bugs that I put together for this year’s edition of my steelhead nymph box.

FLY1 FLY2 FLY3 FLY4 FLY5 FLY6


4-4 Steelhead Trip

The last few years we have dealt with severe high water events that have prevented my father from being able to spend much time on the river with me in the spring chasing steelhead, this year has been a nice break from the historical high flows and has allowed us to spend much more time together.

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High hopes for a huge day quickly dissipted after we walked up and down the river searching for a decent spot to begin our day, only to be met with enormous amounts of traffic from other anglers. While its great to see so many people out enjoying the resource, there are days that solitude is preferred.

We spent most of the day hanging out on the bank of the river together having great conversation, exploring topics we would never speak of in front of mom, we also formulated exact resolutions to all of Michigan footballs recent woes – in case Jim Harbaugh reads this, feel free to call us for some free advice.

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Eventually, we were able to settle into a run and our patience was quickly rewarded with finding a few willing players – landing 2 solid fish in a matter of minutes.

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Sure, it was nice to be able to bring a few fish to hand, as they were the reason that brought us to the river – but, the fish were just a bonus.  It’s these days of being in the presence of the man that sparked my passion and constantly encourages me that make steelhead fishing and spring so special.

 


Once Every 7 Years

My brother is a very busy person with an occupation that requires a great amount of attention and effort.  He also is an exceptionally devoted father and husband that spends most of his little free time with his family.  He does have hobbies and passions – fishing for steelhead used to be one of them.

Nearly 7 years ago, he and I choose different passions to focus our free time energy allotment into.  As young men our father had introduced us to the outdoors, and taught us many great lessons – using hunting and fishing as the text books of his classroom.  My brother with limited time to enjoy outdoor activities choose to hyper-focus his attention into hunting, it’s obvious what I decided to pour my free time into.

We figured out that it had been nearly 7 years since my brother joined my father, whom still splits his time between sitting in trees and standing in rivers, and myself on a fishing excursion.   This year everything finally fell into place, our schedules all synched and my brother expressed renewed interest and excepted an invitation to join us.

A few days of planning and coordination only added to my own anticipation to spending a day on the water with my father and brother as we had done so many times long ago.   I was excited to have the gang back together, and it became obvious on Friday night that my brother shared the same sentiment.

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We met at my house early Saturday morning and loaded my 2 man inflatable raft, and my fathers 1 man toon.  After a quick double check of the gear inventory we were off.

My brother, a talented outdoorsman – actually he is talented at anything he chooses to do (don’t tell him I said that though) – jumped right back into the game, as if he hadn’t even left it.

3-28 1A mere minutes into the float, my brother was able to hook and land his first steelhead in a long time.  Years of memories of he and I tagging along with dad, stumbling around on creek banks in oversized waders and packs weighted down by several sandwiches and extra clothing packed by mom, came rushing back.  It was again the way it always was, it was familar.

This was familar to me as well.

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What was unfamilar for me was the food.  As many of you have already gathered, both by my past posts and my growing waist line, I enjoy good food.   On most occassions, I am the coordinator of the riverside lunches.  Cooking for others is a gift given to me by my mother, a wonderful cook that always makes certain every meal is carefully prepared and can be enjoyed by everyone present.  However, on this day I reluctantly relinquished my typical duty of going to great lengths to make sure that even if the fishing sucks, at least there is a great bankside meal to look forward to.  My brother spent much of the day prior, when not filling his flask with scotch or looking for gear that hadn’t seen the light of day in many years, prepping a feast.

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We ENJOYED pork that had been in his smoker for much of the previous day, bacon wrapped BBQ venison tenderloin bites, and homemade baked beans, (once again, please don’t tell him) a meal far better than anything I’ve put together on the river before.   Unlike many days I’ve spent on the river, we didn’t need a hot meal to lift the spirits of the group.

The rest of the day featured a few more shots at fish, and of course getting back to our roots, good natured competition and ribbing ensued.  As I was the only one to not be able to capitalize on an opportunity, it was a 2 horse race between my two companions.  Those two would make a competition out of anything – especially when outside of the supervison of mom.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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It sounds cliche’ at times, but this day truly was not about the fish – they were simply the excuse for us 3 to be back together enjoying the outdoors together as we had so many times before.   It was great to be in their presence again.

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