Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fish Break

I'm buried in work right now.  Buried.  I'm working long days, sometimes 7 days a week trying to keep up.  I'm not complaining, I need the money.  It does tend to put a cramp on blogging and fishing.  And writing.  Writing takes time, takes thought, energy.  When I have the details of three jobs swirling through my brain, not much in a creative way gets processed.  When I'm this tired creativity shrivels on the vine.  It's not writers block, it's just a lack of mental energy- it's all been spent elsewhere.

Today I've determined that no matter what, I'll take my lunch on the water somewhere.  All my work is on or near water.  Today lunch found me in Walloon, on lovely Walloon Lake.  Walloon Lake is a bastion of old-style up north summer cottages.  Hemingway had a cottage there.  They say Michael Moore does.  I've heard Jeff Daniels does too, but who knows?  Walloon Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Michigan, period- from a main body sprawls radiating arms, its crystal clear waters run about 100 feet deep.  It hosts good populations of trout and smallmouth bass.  I grabbed two slices of pizza at the general store, scarfed them down, donned my waders, grabbed my 8 weight and flies and waded out at the public beach.  While doing this I finalized another customer appointment for 4 pm. This gave me 45 minutes before I had to leave.
I waded out, facing into a stiff north wind.  The wind made casting tough, but it also tends to drive fish to the windward shore, cruising for food churned up in the chop.  I waded across fine yellow sand to the edge of the color break, stripped out fifty feet of line, started my double haul and watched the wind pile my line 20 feet left of my aim.  Strip, strip, strip then cast again, harder this time, eyeing the ruffle pattern on the surface, trying to time my forward cast between the gusts- still 10 feet of line left on the water when I cast.  Strip, strip....strip, strip, strip...strip, strip.  Cast again.  Still 10 feet left.  This wind is killing me.  I count to 15 this time, willing my fly to the bottom.  Short strips, 3 inches at time, strip, strip, strip.... strip, strip... the line comes tight, arcing through the water as I strip set.  There's a substantial, angry weight on the other end of the line.  I've worked hard already today, gotten a lot done.  I have two other jobs that need attention, and more to bid.  But at this moment, the only thing on my mind is 3 1/2 pounds of angry smallmouth.  We tussle it out for several minutes before she comes in, fat bellied and ready to spawn.  I love this time of year- the fish have come up shallow and can be caught on a bright sunny day like today, right on the public beach.  I take a couple of photos and send her back.  Ten casts later I catch another, slightly smaller, just as fun.  In water this clear these fish are beautiful, their blazing orange-red eyes stark against pale bronze.  I love these fish.  I'll be back.  This is why I live here- you can take a fishing break.  I make my way back to my truck, one leg damp from the seeping leak that has developed.  Oh well, it should dry enough by the time I make my way north and meet with my next customer.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Morning Coffee- May 23

 Monday...morning...cofffff...eeeeee.... Wow, that was a stretch.  Today's MMC is brought to you by Starbuck's Cafe Estima blend, and reader Robert Vaughan, who supplied the cup.  I'm still drinking coffee from a ceramic cow's udder.  Do they make these in Brook trout colors?  I'm going to start ordering specialty coffees from different roasters around the country and featuring them on this.  Starbucks doesn't need any advertising from me.  It's just become convenient to stop there and buy rather than go downtown to the local shop. I know Starbucks has become passe, but they still offer a consistent product.  There's a couple of good local roasters and I think it's time to support them.  I also have a friend I met in Colorado who is a genius of a roaster, I'll have to order some from him.  If you have a favorite local roaster, forward a link to me at and I'll feature it and mention your name for referring me to it.  I'm a bold roast kind of guy, no flavored coffees, so keep that in mind.  Remember, support your local roaster.

It was not a quiet week in Northern Michigan- I was drawn in OBN's Take Me Fishing contest, I got a night float in with Phil in the CC Drifter, I helped the local TU chapter do bank stabilization work on Monday, I went to 3FT Friday, and fished in The Northern Angler's Carp Derby on Saturday.  I got sick toward the end of the week.  And I worked a full schedule.
my derby partner on the interminable flats of Grand Traverse Bay
I should add a note here about my participation in the carp derby this weekend.  I didn't catch, or even see that many fish, but the ones I did see looked like mini-vans.  It's been a cold spring here and the fish are just getting started.  I saw the least amount of fish, and only one team actually caught fish, but they reported seeing over 200 fish, caught two carp and several beautiful smallmouth, this in an area where the one angler saw 2000 carp a few days before.  It really is gorgeous flats fishing on a grand scale, sight fishing to large schools of big fish, fish known for taking you well into your backing.  The winning fish was 31 inches long and he said it took him into his backing twice.  If you love fishing for carp, or would like the flats experience without the price tag then Traverse City Michigan definitely needs to be on your list.

I have basically two forms of posts- reporting and writing.  If you are new here (welcome!) and you enjoyed  my article "Floating Away", here's a list of "written" posts.  What do you think, should I start a page that lists the writing posts only so they are easier to find?  Here goes:

Local Sausage



On Letting Go

So There I Was....

The Ravens I Know

An End to Fish Pouting

So there you go.  No one read the pieces on Ice and Raven's, but I thought they were really good, or at least I worked hard on them, so check them out if you get the chance. 

It's time to send out a little more blog love.  I've really been enjoying posts from Sanders at Up the Poudre.  I like the fact that the blog world continually gives you these glimpses of other worlds, worlds I may not experience myself, or even know about if it weren't for your blogging.  Sanders packs in some good writing with great fishing tales from the Cache la Poudre river near Fort Collins Colorado.  His photography is solid (how would you take bad pictures out west?) and he openly admits his ongoing recovery as a former North Dakotan.  Keep posting Sanders, I want to see more cutthroat.

All right, it's time to get something done.  Have a great week.  I have several posts rattling around in the pipeline, so keep checking back.  Or just come back Monday and see what damage got done.  Time to make another pot....

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Croff Craft Chronicles- Armor

The wooden drift boat build over at Croff Craft has come quite a ways since my last post, with the addition of casting decks and gear boxes.  Phil says he's taking a little hiatus from the build to do some fishing.  Fish it up Fudgie!
the bow dome going in a couple weeks ago

I can hear what some of you have been saying- "Yeah it's pretty, but would you ever float in that thing?"  "What happens if you hit a rock?".  Nothing, that's what happens.  Why?  Because A. the hull is glass-sandwiched laminated cedar and B. he took it and had the hull sprayed with LineX and several coats of Kevlar.  I wouldn't fire any bullets at it or anything, but this hull is tough, and I have to say, strikingly beautiful.  I'd go as far to say that Phil is on the cutting edge of hybrid hull technology, with the aesthetic beauty of the wood, and the toughness of the synthetics.  His hull design is completely original, without the thwarts you normally see in wood boats, leaving an open design that is beautiful and angler friendly.  I can't wait to get in the front of this one and start throwing streamers.

curved casting decks match boat lines

gear boxes on either side of the rower's seat (not installed)

 If you want more information on Phil's line of custom built wooden drift boats be sure to visit his website or contact him at  Phil is also offering guide trips in these boats now on area streams- everything from steelhead to brookies to night fishing.  If you'd like to check out these boats AND get some fishing in, make sure you contact him.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Floating Away

We float on this liquid ribbon, Keith and I.  We float out of need- we've left jobs and families, obligations and bills, and left it in a hurry, for this, our chance to feel free again, to drift under somber skies, our time measured by a distinct lack of haste, a nonchalance in our approach to this whole adventure- neither of us have really packed right.  Keith had no idea the contents of his gear bags when we left, I had no idea what I had for food or cooking utensils.  People rarely starve or freeze in 24 hours.  It's nice to have food, but not necessary.  We've done this so many times now that there are no shortages or emergencies, only the inconveniences of short-sightedness- I've only packed one rod (which will come back to bite me) and Keith hasn't packed one at all, which he grumbles about as we drift and dig.

We talk and drift and dig.  We talk about our kids, our jobs, our frustrations, concerns.  We drift with the current, dipping a paddle to correct here and there.  I dig- Keith is definitely not in a hurry, but I find speed to be an ally in negotiating the frequent strainers and blow-downs.  This kind of kayaking is blissfully relaxing and we blow off more steam in two hours of paddling than we ever could any other way, any other how.

I portage three times on the float down into camp. Keith portaged two.  He's more aggressive than I am about making a path through downed trees- I've had several close calls in the last two years (including a partial sinking I'd rather not think about a couple weeks ago) and am much more cautious.  I'm more than happy to jump out of my boat and drag it around obstacles.

Michigan has so many hidden treasures, like this one- a nondescript stream, in a nondescript corner of the state, complete with its own wilderness areas.  When I cross the Mackinaw Bridge headed north, I automatically lose 20 pounds, my voice lowers, tears appear in my t-shirts at bicep level.  Yes ladies, it is a testosterone fueled dream, but not the one you're thinking.  I just feel rejuvenated, new again, ready to to take on the wilderness, the rivers, woods, weather, and fish.  I'm sure you have your own version of this vision- you unleashed, unhinged, ready to take all-comers, a bad person in the badlands.

Keith is a couple of years younger than I am, and we make a good team.  I organize larger expeditions, 6 to 7 guys (no gals have joined us yet, but you're more than welcome), kayaking 30 or more miles of river in 3 to 4 days.  This isn't much in the world of paddling, but these trips aren't about paddling.  I do the legwork, picking the stream, inviting the crowd, putting together gear lists, setting dates, arranging rides.  I run my own business, and feel that I tend to be overbearing and this is where Keith comes in.  On the river I sit back and let things develop.  Keith is a natural leader, and when direction is lacking he takes over and initiates breaks, meals, reins in absurdity, and organizes the search for camping spots.  I sit back, and weigh in only when necessary.  Floating, just the two of us, none of this is necessary- we know where we are going, how long it will take.  All we have to do is get there, so we slide along, shifting in our kayaks, comfortable in the balance we've struck between boat and stream, more at ease here than in our lives.

This river is strange, disconcerting even, with steep, sandy birch-and-spruce walled banks, banks heavily eroded from consecutive 100- and 50-year floods.  It winds tightly, and several times we realize that we have floated for 20 minutes, only to end up within 20 yards of where we were 20 minutes ago.  The floods have mercifully cut off the longest one of these meaders- the break in the isthmus was a trickle last year, this year we float down into a raging boil that hits the far bank head-on, a tricky maneuver in our 12 foot boats.  Keith's boat is rather flat bottomed, but mine has a more complex hull, multi-chined, with a hard keel line, and all of these boils and hole-turns grab and twist my boat relentlessly.  As we near our goal we realize that the river is not slowing- the beaver dam is gone.  A six foot drop eliminated, and still the water is ungodly high.  We float through boulder rapids, neatly skirting the rocks that would claim us, laughing as we bounce and skim and then suddenly, Shangri-La appears- the inflow of another stream, this one gravel-laden, and immediately I am struck by the shiny gravel ovals- steelhead.  It bodes well.  We turn the kayaks around, push up against the bank, the inlet river also swollen, and we stagger ashore.
making the world safe for campers

 It is heaven, a heaven made of spruce, birch, trickling waters (from all angles), a triangle of land with our boats and our names on it.  We set up camp quietly, and then go look for fish, and fish there be. Fish everywhere.  Fish singly, in pairs, in pods.  I rig up, we rustle, and I mean rustle, some firewood.  Then I fish, while Keith mans my camera.  I manage to hook up on one fish, but it's a tough crowd.  Keith manages some shots, but the light, and my line fails us, and we retreat to the comforts of camp- a fire, freeze-dried food, and fleece.  We have The Campfire to End All Campfires.

rod building, caveman style
This is when Keith gets the brainy idea to build his own rod.  He has a spinning reel with him but no rod.  So he hacks down a little spruce tree and proceeds to strip it, fire harden it, he fashions eyelets out of fish hooks and duct tape and carves out a reel seat, all while I mock and goad him.  But if I've learned one thing, it's that Keith can be a very determined person.  He once built an awesome cook table out of a piece of burnt out pine stump with his survival knife.  He may actually succeed.  Eventually we fall asleep in our tents to the sounds of gentle rain, the insistent gurgle of the stream and the occasional splash of steelhead making more steelhead.

I awake to a loud splash.  The light is gray, with mist and drizzle continuing.  I roll out of my bag, brace myself against the morning chill and wander down to the take out to filter some water for coffee.  As I sit there blearily pumping, shapes emerge, water boils, dark shadows dart and chase- four buck steelhead are fighting, three feet in front of me for the right to tend an 8 pound hen on a redd.  I look upstream and see four more fish, another bed, 20 feet away.  There's more fish across the river along the far bank.  Is it really going to be this good?  I finish with the water quickly, put my coffee pot on and grab my rod.  How cool would it be to actually land a fish in camp, in my long handles?  But it doesn't happen.  I change tippets, change flies, I go back for my espresso when I hear the pot boil and return.  I give it a good go, but aggressive as these fish are, they aren't fooled by me, intent only on their purpose here.  I go back to camp, build a fire and start breakfast.

Eventually Keith rolls out, we eat, I completely re-rig my rod and Keith strings up the Spruce Goose.  Those fish in camp have me worried- hopefully we'll find some more cooperative fish.  Not too far out of camp I hook up on a small buck, 3 pounds.  He does his merry best, but I land and quickly release him.  I find a deeper pool under a cedar upstream, walking past a dozen fish out on gravel.  I can see the dark shadows in this pool, and on my second drift through, my line streaks downstream while I'm looking away.  This is a hot fish, and I have to jump in and give chase.  200 feet downstream I cross the river, barely avoiding a swim, all the while continually trying to turn this fish away from the various sticks and logs he seeks to hide under.  I'd like to show you this fish, but someone (me) forgot to check the camera settings.  He was beautiful.

the small fish of the day

Keith wanders on without me, and I negotiate the opposite bank.  I'm astounded by the size of some of these fish, a couple must be pushing 15 pounds, but these big ones are all sitting in places that would be impossible to get them out of, and I keep walking.  I land another small fish in the next run up, and then hear brush breaking and voices.  We have company, a guide out of Marquette, with three clients from downstate.  I fish with Keith for awhile, but he's not feeling good and wants to go back to camp.  I confer with these other anglers and decide to leap-frog them far upstream to give them space to fish- I've been wanting to explore the upper reaches of this area for some time now, and there's plenty of fish to go around.

 As I walk upstream I count fish.  Five, ten, twenty.  I've lost count at 44, all steelhead.  I come to a broad flat and count twenty fish ranged across it and I decide I must make a cast.  I flip my line out, into a dark seam of current that has some large fish next to it.  None take, but when my egg drifts behind a rock a large buck, a fish I hadn't seen, grabs it and we're off to the races, the fish cartwheeling and charging, trying to shake the hook.  He relents after a few minutes of this, a beautiful, dark colored fish and I snap a couple of pictures and send him back out to find a girlfriend.

I pass more fish and then come to another large pod. I count at least eighteen, but in the shifting kaleidoscope of water and fish, light and shadow, liquid and air, keeping count is impossible.  Right when I think I've counted them all fresh battles erupt, fish break ranks, charge and slash, wheel and regroup.  I stand mesmerized.  A couple of these fish might be 12 pounds.  I step in and give it a go, briefly hook up, hook up in the trees behind me twice and eventually just stand there and watch, out of breath from excitement, thinking "this can't be real".
there were over a dozen fish in this area, seven in this photo

I wander on, past pods and pairs of fish, skirting fish and places for different reasons.  These are too close to log jams- it would be over quick, and I'm using six pound tippet because of the clarity.  Those I'll try for from the other bank on the way back down.  It's noon now, and the sun is starting to burn its way through the fog and haze.  The river is dazzling amber, fish shine brightly on bright gravel, and the cedars and spruce seem to flouresce green in the fresh light.  I manage to catch another small buck, 5 pounds and then move up to the next open area.  Again I see them, twenty dark shadows hanging in the current, flashing silver when fights erupt.  I make several casts, hooking up briefly on a buck that somersaults downstream even after shaking the hook, but the rest of the fish are unperturbed.  I continue to cast, and after a dozen tries a hen, perhaps the largest fish there, drops back in the current, slides sideways with a dart and my line comes tight.  It starts with just a slow head shake, as she simply tries to get this irritating poke out of her mouth.  She swings across the current towards me and I strip line to keep tight on her.  She heads back across and upstream, and I choose then to enter the current to better put pressure on her.  I angle the rod sideways to turn her head and at first there is no effect.  She is about 34 inches long, and easily ten to twelve pounds, and so far she is only irritated, swinging first one way and then the other, trying to figure this thing out.  Suddenly she realizes that maybe this isn't a good situation, her head shakes become frantic, and she zips downstream, line peeling against the drag, the rod absorbing the impact of the run.  With six pound tippet I don't dare put any more pressure on.  She takes off again, faster, and now I'm forced to give chase.  There's a log jam spanning the river a little ways down.  We're not close to it yet, but this is a big fish, and I'm sure she has it in her to get there.  I put the rod to her, cranking steadily, giving out line (and clearing my knuckles) when she runs in short bursts.  I know that this fish is still fresh, she still just acts puzzled, but I'm wondering if this is really going to be this easy.  She is big, bright chrome fresh, and looks as big around as my leg.  She's only coming in because it's what she wants to do, not because I'm in control.  This is when disaster strikes- I'm cranking hard on the reel, putting on as much pressure as I dare, when there's an explosive craaackkk!! as my rod breaks in two places.  The fish stays exactly where she is, confirming my fear that she's still fresh and when I reel down on her with my broken rod the line parts instantly without the spring of the rod to buffer the tippet.

It all hits me then- my fishing is over.  That decision not to bring my other steelhead rod was a bad one.  You make these choices when kayaking.  You would think that I would be angry, sad, depressed even.  But standing there in the sun and river on a beautiful day in May I could only smile, happy to be where I was, watching wild steelhead dart and fight and breed around me.  It was a beautiful, serene, sublime moment, and I wasn't about to ruin it with anger or regret.  I took my rod down and explored upstream, counting fish, stopping to admire a school of several hundred spawning suckers.  Spring.

I wandered back to camp eventually, pausing to chat with the four anglers I had passed earlier, watching as they land a beautiful 30 inch hen, thick and heavy.  I pass on some intelligence on what's upstream, and head back.  After some brief words with Keith I stumble into my tent and take the Nap Of Ages.  Sun on the tent, birdsong and river noise inspire a deliriously blissful somnolence. 

loaded and ready to go
Keith and the Spruce Goose

When I awake Keith is packing.  His stomach is still bothering him and we've decided not to stay another night.  We load the kayaks and float away, making it a point to paddle as little as possible, the sun still shining brightly, frogs shrilling in pools hidden behind the high banks, mergansers and wood ducks whistling their alarm when we surprise them, geese honking in protest as two friends float past on this, the nicest day of spring.

Monday Morning, errr Noon, errr Morning Coffee- May 16

moo to you too...
Monday again? Time for coffee.  You should smell this stuff- it's amazing.  When they get that figured out on the internet I'll share it with you.  Yaaaawwwwaawwwwnnn, stretch, scratch.  Today's coffee is brought to you by FR friend and fan Robert Vaughan of Ohio.  He sent me this mug to feature, and while I have to say that it feels a little odd to be drinking coffee from the wrong end of a cows udder, I love the concept.  If any of you have a cool mug you'd like to have featured in MMC contact me and I'll make arrangements.  Robert and I go way back- he used to work a fly shop here in Northern Michigan and do a little guiding.  Bob is the one who actually taught me what a loop was, and it's just a shame I'm such a poor student.  By the way, Monday Morning Coffee is late this morning due to not getting off the water until 2 AM.  My nocturnal self is back.

Hard to believe another week flipped by, with very  little fishing for yours truly.  I have to quit this working-for-a-living thing.  I live on the water, am working on the water (2 jobs) and cross an awesome trout stream to get to one of the jobs,  so what's the problem?  Long days and a lack of preparation I guess.  Last night was my only time I actually fished this week.  I must do better.

Blogger was down for awhile last week, which put a crimp in my blogging style.  Next time I'll have to write my posts in Word and paste them.  It made for an odd week.  Not that I had any time to write.  I'm getting a laptop to try to expedite things, I think that not being chained to my desk and office will help.  I'll have about five more really hectic weeks this summer before work settles into a regular schedule and I'm able to give more attention to FR.

I want to send out special thanks to young FR reader Jacob Winger- he sent me some flies he tied, Which was very thoughtful.  I'll give these a try.  The ant patterns should work well, and I want to try out that foam job, which is a fair hopper imitation, one of my favorite ways to fish.  Thanks Jacob- it always makes us happy to see a good young guy like yourself getting into fly fishing, and into tying already!  That's great, and keep at it.

seriously, I was not holding an auction

Some friends had a little talent show this weekend and I was asked to do a fly tying demonstration, which I did before the actual "talent" part got started.  I lectured on the evils of hair fashions and feathers and then tied up a big black bunny streamer- something people had a snowballs chance to see from across the room.  My friend Terrance was there as well adding some local color.  I just thought you'd like to see some of the nut-jobs I fish with.  Strange doings in Cross Village.

you don't want to meet this guy in the woods while mushrooming.

Terrance hands out the "Getting Lost" award to his daughter-in-law

 Well, I have to get some work done today-  it was too cold (light frost) to get started early anyways, but my excuses are wearing thin.  Let's get after it.  Oh, that's right, you already have, it's just me sitting at my desk halfway through the day.  Have a good week- I have some decent posts in the lineup for the week so keep an eye out for them.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

National Fishing and Boating Week- FR Takes the Challenge.

I'm always looking for an excuse to spend a week fishing and what better time to do it than National Fishing & Boating Week?  OBN has put its members up to blogging about our outdoor activities that week, with the opportunity to win some cool stuff and good exposure from the folks at Take Me Fishing.  I'm game.  The question is, what does one do for National Fishing & Boating Week?

I'm not sure if you've noticed, but I'm a big fan of the fishing here in Northern Michigan.  There's far more opportunities here than I am ever able to take advantage of.  What I will do are the following:

  • I'll attempt to fish every day that week for at least a little while.
  • I will attempt to catch as many species as possible.  When I catch one species I will roll on to the next.
  • I will fly fish as many styles as possible- dries, topwater, streamers, nymphs etc.
  • I will fly fish as many waters as possible- rivers, lakes, ponds, creeks, the Great Lakes.
  • I will share all of these experiences, something I don't normally do.
  • If I get drawn in this contest I'll photograph, video and share as much of this as possible.
Species? Brown, brook, and rainbow trout for starters.  Pike, large and smallmouth bass, and bluegills.  Then what? Carp, perch, maybe even walleye on the fly? Muskies?  Who knows.  There's all kinds of sub-categories- stream browns, night browns, lake browns, stream smallmouth etc.  The point is that I will fish as many and varied waters and species in order to highlight what we have.

Sound fair? Here's the proviso.  I still have a day job, like most of you, and don't think I'll have any time off that week, but what better way to highlight the fishing experiences of the average angler?  So my fishing that week will be done before and after work, at night and on the weekend.  By doing this I'll be able to demonstrate that fishing doesn't have to take a lot of time and expense, you just have to be willing to get out there.  See you on the water.

This is my National Fishing and Boating Week contest entry sponsored by Take Me Fishing and the Outdoor Blogger Network.
Oh, the possibilities

Friday, May 13, 2011

So, You Think You Want To Fly Fish

What is wrong with you.... I mean welcome.  Welcome to the fold.  Come right this way.  Over here you have our $500 waders.  Here you see the rod that you must have to properly catch the trout- it's $700.  Did I mention that you need these $400 dollar boots?  This Abel reel will suit nicely, it's only $860, pissant for someone such as you. Now we'll move on to accessories.

Not for you?  Me neither.  I have other things to spend my money on, like cameras and kayaks and fishing trips.  But you've always wanted to try this fly fishing thing.  You've seen "A River Runs Through It" or maybe even "Eastern Rises" and now you want to give it a go. 

Here's the deal.  You don't have to spend $1000 to get started, but you do have to spend something.  Too many times I've seen people buy crappy gear to "try out" fly fishing and then give it up because they didn't enjoy it.  While you shouldn't do this, you don't have to sell a kidney either in order to start fly fishing- there's lots of great gear to be had for reasonable prices.  Remember, you will get what you pay for, but the law of diminishing returns also applies ($700 doesn't get you that much more in a rod than $300 in my opinion). 

Don't go to Joe Boxer sports shop and just buy a rod- there's a lot of junk out there for $29 that will just frustrate you.  Buy an entry level rod from a reputable source. Don't spend less than $50 for the rod. Do go to Joe Boxer sports shop for the reel- I bought a $130 Pflueger reel at Dunham's for $20 two years ago.  Deals like that come along every day.

Wait, I'll write the list.

5 weight rod, 9' in medium action.
A cheap reel from any source- those old Pflueger Medalists are classic, cheap, and they still sell them for $20.
5 weight, weight forward floating fly line.

I am not writing a compendium of gear here, I just want to help you get started with gear I'm familiar with.  I'm going to make a couple of assumptions here- you're mostly interested in fishing dry flies for trout, you'd also like to dink around with bluegills or bass and pike, and you want one outfit to do all this.  One size does not fit all, but the closest you'll come is a 5 weight.  It will handle a lot of different situations, is a fair match for most trout, with some finesse it will handle bass and small pike, and is still fun for the bluegills.  It will throw small streamers, but be warned it is not intended to be a streamer rod.  It's a perfect middle of the road, daytime setup.  I've used my 5 weight Temple Fork travel rod for local trout, panfish and bass, took it out west and indy fished big San Juan rainbows with no problems, and caught a huge brown at night with it last season.

The reel doesn't matter, by the way- it's there just to store line.  If you're just getting started, and chasing small to moderate sized fish, drag isn't a factor.  Definitely do not drop a pile on a reel if you're just dipping a toe in the waters.  I'd spend $200 on a rod and put a $30 reel on it and be perfectly happy for this kind of fishing.
I am not sponsored in any way by any gear manufacturers, but I'm going to drop some names.  Like Redington.  Their Crosswater rod sells for $60-$90, and is a great entry level rod.  $129 gets you the Crosswater combo at Cabela'sLL Bean has a beginners combo for $100 to $120.
If you want a really sweet casting, under-priced rod for a little more dough, you'll love the Redington Classic Trout series.  I have one in 3 weight, and it brings tears of joy to my eyes when I cast it.  I got in on the ground level when they were only $130, now they sell for $150.

As for the line, it's not hard to find a basic weight forward floating line for $30-40, but if you go the combo route they often come with the fly line and backing.  Combos can be a good way to go, as long as you didn't buy the one in the clear plastic box at Walmart.

So let's say you bought the 2-piece Crosswater for $60, the Pflueger Medalist for $20, and a fly line for $30.  My calculations say that's $110.  Not bad.  Sure, you probably need waders (get breathables. $100-$150), you need flies and leaders, skip the net if you want, you'll want some line nippers, floatant and a few other things, but by my calculations you could pull this off for less than $300.  Get a friend to teach you to cast.  Spend your evenings on the internet learning- Fly Anglers Online, Youtube, and Midcurrent are great resources. Obviously you could spend a lot more on gear, classes and guides if you like.  I'm just trying to get you out the door and on the water.  This post should get you a rod, reel and line, I'll continue this as a series and give my thoughts on waders next.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Monday Morning Coffee: May 9

Aaauuuaaauuauagggghhhh!!!!! Monday again already? Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat... Did this weekend really happen? or was it just a dream? I dreamed of floating down a river and camping in this beautiful spot, then catching steelhead, sitting around the campfire, my buddies fishing rod was a spruce tree.  There were mushrooms, lots and lots of mushrooms.  It all runs together.  I need some coffee.  I'm running a little cafe Estima in the press this morning, we'll see how that stacks up against the others.
Wait, let me check- yup, I have pictures, so it must have happened.  What  a whirlwind weekend- work Friday, then load up the truck and run north, kayak into a remote location and camp, fish (successfully) Saturday, then kayaked back out.  Worked Sunday afternoon, and then found morels by the POUND.  It felt a little like a charmed life this weekend.  My kayaking adventure was only 24 hours long, but was one of the great trips of my life.  Good things come in small packages I guess.  I'll do a post about it soon.
one of the great campfires of all time

With temps warming into the 70's this week, the bug hatches will start soon.  Hendricksons have started on the Au Sable I hear and the trout fishing here should be pretty sweet from here on out.

In other outdoor related news, the morels have started in earnest- I found 4 pounds last night in an hour, and it looks like it's going to be a banner year.  This is a good thing, the last two years have been awful for morels.  By saying this, of course, I am inviting all people from Ohio to come up and trespass on private property.  We used to have people wandering around our back yard every spring, they were always from Ohio, and their answer was always the same- "Oh, we thought this was state land."  Right.  You can always tell the state land here by the vegetable gardens and the houses spaced every quarter mile on the road.  I had thought this behavior a little odd, but when I lived in Ohio for two years (also known as the Dark Ages) I found out that they teach their kids to say this in the public schools.  So yeah, come on up, wander wherever you want.  Yeah, that dog is friendly.  Go ahead, pet him.
They're back!

So let's see, in this weeks pipeline there should be another Croff Craft post, I should probably do a post about morels, and I'll try to put together a trip report from the weekend.  Phil had a major setback in his schedule for the boat, and you would never guess why- it's because of the tornadoes in Alabama.  I know it sounds like a lame excuse, but it turns out that the material he's coating the hull with comes from a warehouse in Tuscaloosa or thereabouts, and the phones and even the roadways were down.  They just got the material in and they're spraying the hull today. I'm going to make one last push for steelhead this week if I can, but work is a major factor now, so we'll see, and my thoughts are increasingly turning to 3 weights and trout.
Oh yeah, some of this went on

So have a great week, let's get after it.

it's a little blurry, but you get the point

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rise Fishing Rod Demo

I'm very excited to have received a rod to test from Rise Fishing.  I was looking for an 8 weight rod to use in a variety of situations- sight fishing flats for carp and smallmouth, throwing streamers long distances for browns and steelhead in surf at river mouths, and possibly even rolling big flies at night for big trout.  I must thank Cameron Mortenson of The Fiberglass Manifesto for putting me in touch with Amanda Switzer at Rise Fishing.  He may be the Guru of Glass, but Cameron definitely has his ear to the ground in the world of fly fishing.

First impressions are positive- The case is sharp, the rod is a beautiful glossy dark blue blank, the reel fits snugly  in the seat with dual up-locking rings.  It seems to balance well, and I like the dual stripping guides.  I love the laser etched fish logo in the reel seat. I also like the fact that each rod comes with an extra tip section.  The ferrules fit very snugly without binding, and it has alignment dots.  I took it to the water front park in Boyne City on massive Lake Charlevoix.  I was able to punch some 40 foot casts, but the wind was blowing so hard that the ducks were struggling, so I'll have to wait to give it a proper test. I'll definitely take it back down there to chase some of the massive smallmouth that call this lake home.

I plan on giving this rod a workout at the Carp Derby being put on by The Northern Angler in Traverse City May 21.  I really hope to be able to lean into some Grand Traverse Bay golden bones with this one.  I'm also planning a "secret" outing to a more remote location later where it should really be put to the test.

Again, my thanks to Cameron, Amanda Switzer, and Rise Fishing.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Monday Morning Coffee- May 2

So look, I did five posts this weekend- FIVE.  I have to get some early morning steelhead fishing in before work and then get to two jobs today.  It's going to be a long day, a long week.  So here's a cup of coffee on me.  It's very hot, very delish, so sip it, savor it, and if you like, take a look at what I've posted already.  I did a new post on the drift boat build at Croff Craft, two this weekend on the new whitewater park (on a fly fishing blog? I know, but the pictures in yesterdays post are killer) in Petoskey, yesterday I continued the Anglers Year series on cute little May, and Friday I finally published the shocking untold story of Cardboard Kirk with some juicy gossip he told me about Rebecca and The River Damsel, so check it out.

Some of you may have noticed that I didn't do my overnight kayak/fly fishing extravaganza, solo or otherwise- it got postponed due to high water and scheduling.

I'm going to go way, waaay off topic and send a little blog love out to Betsy at bRaYcon Love.  It's not an outdoors blog, but if you love good writing, check it out.  I've long had this gripe that Michigan is sadly lacking in literary culture- even Steven Rinella moved to Montana, or is it New York now?  Michigan is full of stories that no one is telling, and Betsy has gotten in on the ground level.  Her latest post is called "The Decapitation" and if that doesn't get your interest I don't know what will.  I loved "The Butcher", an inside look at growing up here and a coming of age of sorts.  bRaYcon Love is only six posts long, so check them all out.  I hope she'll keep writing.

All right I'm off, but before I go, I can't resist posting a couple more pictures from this weekend.

All right, I'm out the door.  I have steelhead to catch.  Let's get after it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

'Yak Attack!

As promised, I returned to Petoskey's new whitewater park.  It did not disappoint.  My post yesterday did not do it justice- I walked the whole thing today and it is beautiful, very well planned and laid out, and judging by the crowds of people using it I'd say it's a home run.

The kayakers were out today and the action was a blast to watch.  I'll shut up now and share some pictures.

First to come along were this awesome father and son team in a tandem whitewater boat, which I've never seen before.  I hope you can see in the pictures that they totally disappeared behind these waves- it was awesome.

They really are in this picture

Here they come

That smile really says it all.  That's some quality family time there.

Next up were these two guys in play boats.

It was impressive watching them appear then disappear behind the standing waves.  Next I caught up with them as they did a little play boating in the standing waves near the takeout.

he's up...

he's over...

and he's good!

It was worth coming down for all the right reasons- beautiful sunny weather, a pleasant walk in the park, and whitewater action that makes me want to run out and buy an old Subaru and a play boat.  I'd better go fishing before I act on that.