Monday, June 29, 2015

Monday Morning Coffee- June 29 2015

Yyyuuuurrrggghhh!! Yawn stretch scratch repeat- it's Monday and it's been quite awhile since I've done this, so let's have some coffee. 

Well it's the end of June and we are at the very peak of the fly fishing season. The hex hatch is in full swing on Michigan rivers and it seems like everyone is getting big fish. I'm seeing a lot of 24"+ brown trout on my social media. I got a 20" rainbow last weekend on the hex but didn't get a good picture. 
Bad shot of good fish

Everything is good right now- the top water bite for bluegills is on, bass are red hot, and the water is still cool and so the pike are biting like crazy. There's steelhead and Atlantics up at the Sault if you can make it up there. The daytime brook trout fishing is outstanding. All in all this has turned into another banner year for fly fishing. 

Yesterday I wrapped up some necessary chores, loaded up my kayak and hit the flats for carp. There was a hard southwest wind and so I paddled the north shore all the way out to Waugoshaunce Island. The roar of the surf on the south shore was deafening. 
Flats selfie

A pattern quickly emerged- everywhere there was a point, carp were stacked up, especially if there was warm water pushing past. I paused at the first point I reached and poked one fish unsuccessfully but left the water for some wading anglers and moved on. The rest of the day it was just me and the eagles. 
View from the cockpit

I found a rather spooky school of carp near another point well past the cut, but after some work I managed to stick one that took me well into my backing. Unfortunately he mucked around and blew the whole school out. 
First carp

I paddled all the way out to the far island and found a happy school of fish at another point. These fish were on a feeding frenzy. They would gang up like cows in a pasture, and all I had to do was keep a fly in front of them. I hooked up 8 times in an hour and landed five more fish. A couple of them had me sweating my Albright knot. I had a ridiculous amount of backing out and my expensive flats line was far out to sea. This happened a lot yesterday. 
Biggun on a hammerhead

Despite spending most of my time paddling I ended up landing 6 carp on 10 hookups and missed a few more bites- a stellar day in my book. Couple that with the beauty of the place, the eagles and seabirds, and the gorgeous sunset on my paddle out and it added up to my best day of the summer- so far. 

Well- I'm out of coffee and it's time for work. Let's get after it!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Monday Morning/Afternoon/Evening Coffee- March 2, 2015

Hhharrccchhhttt! Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat- it's Monday, let's have some coffee.

Who am I fooling? I started this post this morning and then got busy as shown by the following productivity chart.

Anywho, it turned into a gorgeous day here in northeast Georgia- 71 degrees, sunny and pleasant. I even snuck in an hour long run. Wherever you may be, freezing your ass off, scraping your windows, shoveling that snow or stoking the fire. . . I'm not. You have my pity.

run run run

I'll keep it pretty brief today. It is March finally, which means that even if it doesn't feel like Spring yet, cracks are definitely starting to appear in the edifice of Winter. The days are longer. Daylight Savings Time ends next Sunday. The sap in the maple trees back home should be flowing soon, and the steelhead to follow.

One thing that the protracted cold followed by the onset of spring is going to do is kick off the steelhead run in a big way, so be ready. Rivers like the Pere Marquette and many others have been locked up tight by ice for quite some time. The fish have been there all along, but with no pressure they should be ready to brawl and so should you.

are you ready?

I did get out and poke around the Chattahoochee River last Friday, but between archaic rules, and the generation schedule I didn't get much time on the river, and I never did figure out what was going on. There were fish rising to midges everywhere, but my usual offerings that I use in these situations went ignored.

Sunday I followed up on a hot tip from Louis Cahill (of Gink & Gasoline) and drove up into the mountains with my girlfriend in search of a stream. That miserable map application on my phone tried to kill us both. We drove higher and higher into the mountains until it led us off onto a gravel road- a road which quickly turned to wet red clay. We had sloppy winter weather last week, which translated into 6 inches of snow in the mountains, snow which had not melted in the interim. The result was wet red clay roads covered in slush.

We made it an impressive several miles in in my little car, before a steeply banked turn slid us off into the ditch. Fortunately the road was banked away from the side of the mountain, and fortunately with a little throttle work I was able to slide my  car down and backward across the muck and out of the ditch.

From there  we made our way back out to the main road, did some reconnoitering and found the stream. It was gorgeous, though my pictures do it no justice. I'm trying to figure out a plan to go back.

I have to go back to Michigan soon to take care of business. I don't know exactly what the summer holds, but neither do you. I'd call that a level playing field.

Well, my coffee was done 10 hours ago. I hope you had a pleasant Monday. Keep dreaming of warmer weather. It's just around the corner.

Let's get after it.

Saturday, February 28, 2015


I'm sitting here early on a Saturday morning poking through my social media and contemplating the future. It is Saturday, February 28th. Since all the various groundhogs are such notorious liars and wastrels, and some downright dangerous, I think it is time to step up. So here goes.

Ahem. . .

I, Jason Tucker, being of sound mind and pasty complexion do hereby Declare, that as of Midnight Next, on the very Eve of March, that Winter is thusly and hereby over. You may commence making your fishing plans for the summer. Any fly tying and gear organizing must be accomplished no later than March 21, or you will be declared in Contempt of Spring.

It is also ordered that you make a List of any and all fishing Plans, Priorities and Trips of which You would like to partake in thereof. You will hint at these Plans to your spouse, significant other or employer as the need may arise. You are exempted from fully disclosing your Plans until you are sure They are set in Stone.

It is also Ordered that you make full use of any and all Warm, Sunny, Warmish, Spring-like, Fair, Favorable, Cook-out, Balmy, Hot, Scorching, T-shirt, Beach, or Summery weather in any way possible from this point forward, even if it means stopping on your commute home to stare at water for a minimum of five (5) minutes. 

This Order shall be in Effect beginning at Midnight March 1 2015. Any resemblance henceforward of the weather to Winter is purely coincidental and may be considered Slanderous. Any and all such weather must be used to Prepare for Fishing.

Note: this order pertains to any and all Activities related to the pursuit of Brown Trout, Brook Trout, Rainbow Trout, Steelhead, all Salmon and Chars not otherwise named, Northern Pike, Muskellunge, Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass as well as other Sunfishes, Carp, Drum and any other Freshwater Fishes of which you may wish to pursue. This Order applies equally to all Saltwater Species.

You're welcome.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

BlueBlood's Brookies

Okay, so today I'm stealing a page out of Cameron Mortenson's playbook. He shared a video by Eric Malone the other day on The Fiberglass Manifesto, and a few clicks later I was here. Go on. Watch it.

Wild 'Bout Brookies from BlueBlood on Vimeo.

I'm sure you'll agree that for a site like mine this little video should be playing full-time in the background.

I haven't attempted to contact Eric, but it appears this guy wants to film similar underwater scenes across America to document it's underwater life, a project I laud and support. Who knows, maybe I can get him to come shoot some footage in Michigan.

And to Cameron all I can say is imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


I pulled into the parking lot, turned off the engine and got out. Wandering over to the bridge, I spied an older gentleman just upstream, mending casts against the bank under a tall tree.

"I just lost a big brown right here" he said. I wished him luck and went back to car to get ready.

My parking in the lot was a little misdirection on my part- just up the road was a metal gate with a trail that wandered over a mile upstream, and away from the main access, away from the crowds I hoped. Much to my dismay, when I locked my car and turned  to take off I could see that someone else had parked at the gate and was now headed down the trail in front of me.

When I reached the river I didn't see the mystery angler anywhere. In my experience most anglers, as many as 70 percent, fish downstream. On the other hand, I almost always fish upstream, and so I made my way up, hoping to have the water to myself. Alas, it was not to be. I hadn't gone too far before I saw him working his way upstream, no doubt seeking some solitude. I turned and made my way back down, and unfortunately into throngs of other fly anglers.

The question is- which is better? Fishing upstream or downstream? Or can an argument be made for each? Let's discuss the merits and reasons to fish both.


For years as a wading angler I fished exclusively upstream. My reason for doing so was simple- fish face upstream into the current and thus face away from me the angler. If the fish can't see you coming they are less likely to spook, and you are better able to sneak up on them.

While in theory this works, in practice it can be much more tricky. What I've found over the years is this- if you get into position without making a lot of noise or waves then it works. The fish won't know you are there and you can cast to calm unsuspecting fish.

If you mess this up in any way, you've blown it. Trout are very sensitive to disturbances from behind. This seems to be especially true of their blind spots. If there is a disturbance in the water- a splashing angler, or waves made by clumsy wading, or the sound of fly line being ripped off the water, the fish will spook out and not feed again. Otters and birds of prey both try to sneak up behind fish, and trout will react instantly to any percieved threat from behind.

Fishing upstream can be extremely difficult if the current is swift or deep. This is why many anglers choose to fish downstream. If the river is surrounded by private land fishing upstream may well be impossible.

When To Fish Upstream

Any time you can. Despite the disadvantages I still believe fishing upstream is always the optimal approach. Provided you have a stealthy approach, the fish won't see you coming and you can present to them undisturbed.

When fishing small streams. Many of my local streams are far too small to consider fishing downstream. Some flow through silt-laden tag alder swamps, and wading downstream simply kicks up a cloud of dirty water that not only notifies the fish of your approach, but also clouds up the water to where fishing is pointless. Even the gravel streams are far too narrow, putting you on top of the fish before you could cast to them. An upstream approach is the only option on these streams.


Fishing downstream goes against my grain as an angler, but there are some solid reasons and times to fish downstream.

The first is that the stealth issue isn't what you might think. For some reason fish will often continue to feed even though you are in plain sight coming downstream. While they will spook at the slightest provocation from downstream, they will often continue to stay on their lies and even feed until an upstream threat is imminently upon them. This seems to be especially true of drift boats. I have caught numerous fish that hit within a few feet of the bow even as I am bearing down on them. For some reason drift boats don't seem to spook them at all on occasions.

The second reason is when access or current speed dictate a downstream presentation. Sometimes the water you want to fish is simply downstream from the access. If the land is private but the water accessible this will be your only choice. Some rivers are too fast to fish upstream, and it's simply easier to walk down provided you have another access and/or trail leading back to your car.

A very good reason to fish downstream is so that your fly line doesn't spook fish. When casting from behind it is often necessary to land your fly line right over the fish in order to get the drift. In extremely clear water or sunny conditions this can spook the fish. On a lot of the small streams I fish it is simply impossible to get off to one side or other in order to avoid casting over fish.

In casting downstream your entire line will hit the water well upstream of the fish, allowing your fly to be the very first thing the fish sees. If you are casting to a lie quartering across the stream, it's possible to put several drifts over a fish without it ever seeing your fly line.

When to Fish Downstream

When fishing from a drift boat. It goes almost without saying that it is necessary to fish downstream from a boat. They don't call it a drift boat for nothing. Take advantage of the cone shaped area ahead of the drift boat and present to fish that haven't been spooked by the boat yet.

When fishing streamers or soft-hackles. Streamers, skunks, girdle bugs, woolly buggers, and soft hackles all benefit from a quartering downstream presentation. If the season, time of day, or current hatch cycle dictates these types of flies then fishing downstream is a must.

When sharing the water with another angler. That's right- I don't combat fish, and neither should you. If you find someone working the water above you and think you have a fair shot of solitude downstream, then dig out one of the patterns mentioned above and turn downstream.

soft hackles are best fished downstream

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Morning Coffee- February 23, 2015

Hhheeerrrrppphhhhttt!! Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat. It's Monday morning. Let's have some coffee.

The last week was pretty crazy. I'm sure everyone out there has a tale of winter woe. I'm still visiting friends in Georgia. We got an ice storm Monday night, which took out the power and made the rest of the week pretty miserable. We ended up staying in a hotel most of the week just to stay warm.

There is no denying the stark crystalline beauty of an ice storm- every bush, every blade of glass entombed in glass, every tree becomes a crystal chandelier. It is a dangerous and frigid beauty, as limbs fall and take out power lines with them. Monday night my sleep was punctuated by the crash of falling trees (we had to return home when the hotel lost power).

A glimpse of the storm
Wednesday we drove the two hours up to the Orvis Down the Hatch Fishing Festival at Highland Brewing Company in Asheville North Carolina. I got to see my good friend Erick Johnson of Scientific Anglers and talk fly lines. They have a new brook trout taper I'm interested in trying. Fellow bloggers Cameron Mortenson and Mike Sepelak were both there, and I got hang out with them too. It was a good time, though it was more of a corporate event for Orvis personnel and Orvis endorsed guides. That was fine. It was a good excuse to get out of the hotel, talk fly fishing and swill a couple of beers.

Cameron and Mike at the show
from left: SA's Erick Johnson and Cameron Mortenson
With ice in the forecast for the weekend and the power back on Thursday we made a decision to get out of Dodge. We loaded up the car and headed to Sarasota Florida.

Friday sunset
There is something very cool in the fact that you can drive your way to good weather. With enough time and gas money you can go from snow and cold to sunny, warm and palm trees. The weekend mostly involved visiting friends, biking and running, but Saturday evening we watched the sunset on the beach at Nokomis, then ate amazing seafood at some joint on a canal.

After dinner we wandered outside and sat on a canal-side bench under the street lights. Bright green water rushed past as the tide came in, while men stood on the bridge overhead, tossing lures into the darkness, retrieving them back into the pool of light. There, in that boiling green surge, large shadows rolled and swirled- snook, feeding on hapless baitfish caught in the cauldron. Repeatedly the lures sailed out, landed in the darkness and chugged back past us, and repeatedly large silver shapes, their lateral lines picked out in black, followed those lures back upstream without striking. Now and then a boil or splash announced a snook taking some confused baitfish from the surface.

Saltwater is always dramatic, exciting. It was easy, sitting there in the darkness as the snook swirled and rolled, to imagine the endless possibilities of Florida. I'm going to have to get back down there soon with my fly rods.

Well, my coffee is done and it's going to be a busy week. Let's get after it. I'll leave you with a few more Florida shots.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Monday Morning Coffee- Coffee Edition

Yyuuuurrrrpppphhhhttt!! Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat- It's Monday morning yet again, so let's have some coffee.

Or let me say "let's have some GOOD coffee". I did get out fishing last week but it wasn't much to tell about. I happen to know that a good number of you out there are either enduring, anticipating, or digging out from a sizable storm. If you're further north it is so cold that the mere thought of going outside is enough to induce sympathetic frostbite, so let's think warm thoughts, namely coffee.

I've been drinking coffee since I was eight years old. This explains why I am so tall. When I was nineteen I moved to Brooklyn, New York for a few years. Call it my Great Escape from rural life. I got out, went to an entirely foreign place and got a taste of the world at large.

Down the street from where I lived was a tiny place called Cranberries Deli. It was on Cranberry St. Cranberries had the richest, darkest, chewiest coffee I had ever tasted. It was almost a meal by itself, and it opened my eyes to the real possibilities of coffee.

It was a few years after that that Starbucks came onto the national scene. All the talk was about Seattle style coffee. For better or worse Starbucks changed the way we think about coffee, and for many of us changed the way we drink it. I was drinking espresso, lattes and cappucino in Little Italy before most of the people I knew had ever heard of it. Starbucks brought all that into the popular lexicon. Starbucks was lauded as an American success story.

Nowadays the pendulum has swung. Judging by all the hip people with laptops I still see hanging out with frothy hot drinks at Starbucks, I'd say the chain is still fairly popular, but a new generation of Starbucks Haters has emerged. I capitalized that because they seem to make it their profession. "Char-Buck's" they call it. "There's better coffee than Starbucks" they glibly say.

As a matter of fact I had some random young woman rip into me last week for saying on social media that Starbucks is good coffee. Something to the effect that I've never left North America and may as well drink camel piss as drink Starbucks. I politely suggested she would know. I can also say that I have drank excellent local coffee throughout America, the Caribbean and Europe. I've had bad coffee everywhere I've gone, and I've had coffee that sent me to another world.

My bone of contention with the Haters is that 90% of Americans out there would not know what good coffee is without Starbucks. Outside of major cities like New York, Seattle, or San Francisco, there were no local roasters, no coffee shops as we know them now. There was no coffee culture. A coffee shop was where you drank bland Bunn-O-Matic with your cinnamon roll. Odds were that the cinnamon roll was handmade in-house and very good, and that the coffee was bland, pale, weak, and roasted in a giant far-off factory.

Starbucks changed all that. Their coffee had flavor. It was dense, had bite. It challenged people. All of a sudden they were willing to pay $4 dollars for a coffee drink. It didn't take long and other chains came along, but more importantly, small mom-and-pop or boutique roasters and coffee shops sprung up all over the place, not just in cities, but in small towns too. Now you can get locally roasted coffee in most counties of the United States, if not most small cities and large towns.

"There's better coffee than Starbucks" they say, and they are right. But Starbucks offers a consistent product. You know what you're getting, and it's not bad coffee.

I'm going on about this out of frustration. I try to support local roasters all I can, but frankly some aren't worthy of support. They got no game.

I spent a good part of yesterday driving around Athens Georgia sampling the local offerings and so far I'm not impressed. I spent $45 dollars on coffee beans, and the only one worth drinking was the Starbuck's Komodo Dragon blend I bought for back-up. I even tried to enlist the help of the baristas, who were almost clueless. It's a college town, so what can I expect?

 Now, I have very specific tastes in coffee. I love espresso and espresso drinks including lattes and cappuccino, no flavors please. Every morning for the last twelve years I have drank a pot of french press. French press requires richer, darker roasts, but it yields a superior cup of coffee at still a reasonable price and amount of effort. To be fair, the Other coffees which I was sold probably would make a decent cup of drip coffee, if that's your cup of tea. It's not mine, and they made horrible french press.

I'm very blessed in that my local roaster in Petoskey Michigan, Roast&Toast, roasts excellent coffee. Yes it is far better than Starbucks. The freshness of the coffee comes through, but it is also a tribute to the roaster- whoever is doing the cooking knows their stuff. Their coffees are rich, complex and satisfying every time. Even when I make a mistake and choose the wrong beans for french press it's still pretty good.

I've had several transformative coffee experiences- my first coffee fixed for me by my grandmother with lots of sugar and cream, my first Cranberries coffee. There was a small cafe in mid-town Manhattan where I first had Sumatra Mandelhing. It was so good it brought tears to my eyes, but I never found that cafe again no matter how hard I searched. There was this place in Dearborn Michigan called the Mad Hatter that served some Mexican variety, again so good I nearly O.D.'d. I've had too many good European and Levantine coffees to relate here just now (and no, not all coffee in Europe is good).

The best coffee I've ever had was roasted by my friend RC Gartrell in Telluride Colorado. RC was a bit of a Renaissance man- a punk rocker, father, husband and good friend, but he was a coffee roaster par excellence. All of his coffees were to die for, but there was one from South America he roasted that was supreme. Anyhow, I've lost track of RC. Last I knew he was lured away from Telluride by a growing national brand. I'm sure he's still roasting great coffee.

This post wasn't meant as a plug for Starbucks, but only my observation that the Haters have the convenience of living in the Babylon that Starbucks built. It's easy to hate the Emperor, while loving the Empire.

I'm also laying down the gauntlet for you Athens Georgia- with your plethora of coffee shops and roasters, where is your game? What have you got besides catchy names and pretty packaging? Bring it if you got it. And by the way, your selling me 12 ounces of coffee for more than I pay for a pound of better coffee at home is none too charming either. Knock it off. If you're turning product over fast enough you can sell it in bags like everyone else and skip the fancy cans.
nice 12 oz. package

Well with a week of nasty weather ahead I don't know that I'll get out fishing but I hope you do. I'll be in Asheville NC Wednesday for the Orvis Down the Hatch Fishing Festival at Highland Brewing Company. Other than that I'll be tying flies and writing.

My coffee has been long done, and I expect yours is as well. Let's get after it.