Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Morning Coffee- July 25, the Year Thus Far edition

Why must I torture myself like this?  Four night trips in a week, and now it's time to start this all over again?  Must needs coffee some.  No, let me pour.  Is that good?

It's been an odd summer for me, a conundrum of work and obligations, bad weather and high water.  I haven't had a lot of time to fish (see the Jealousy Counter in the side-bar, you won't feel sorry for me) but you know something, it's been quality.

First of all, I started this blog the end of January, and thanks to you all it has been a great success, in my opinion.  Last week this site became a dot com, which feels like an accomplishment.  No you won't have to re-set your links.

Then, my steelhead season was brief but enjoyable.
hey, self-portraiture is tough

I caught my first smallmouth on a fly.

I got my biggest brook trout ever, on a  fly.
16"+ of fontinalis love

Then I did my first bit of flats stalking this year and got my first carp ever on a fly.

I got to fish with Cameron Mortenson of The Fiberglass Manifesto a couple of weeks ago.

My first magazine article was published in The Cedar Sweeper magazine, and last week I got to fish with publisher Chuck Sams and company.  In what was one of the greatest oversights in history I didn't get a photo with Chuck.

Then, on Friday night, this happened.

Night fishing is my absolute favorite thing (I have an article coming out on the subject soon).  I haven't had nearly enough time to go out and do it.  I missed all of the hex hatch.  Several times I was out fishing with other people that I wanted to get fish and didn't fish much myself, or at all.  So when I went Friday, I just hoped to get one decent fish over 20", maybe even a 24".  But this one blows the doors off.
That's right- 28 inches, 8 pounds, all mean.  Let me head off some questions right here.  I caught him on River X with my buddies Y and Z.  I'll just say I caught him North of US 10 and south of the bridge.  I got him on a size 24 trico at 6 in the morning using 6x tippet and my ancient bamboo 5 wt.  I also have some real estate in Libya to sell ya.  I don't mean to come across mean spirited, just don't ask.  It was a great fish, one that could take years to repeat or beat, if ever.  That's probably a lifetime fish.  I'll share what I can of the story at a later date.  I will say that I got that fish on a fly of my own design that I had tied that day trying to fix some design flaws in my other flies.  Very, very satisfying.

I know that everything I'm sharing may smack of a little chest-thumping, and for that I apologize.  It's just that you've heard me do a lot of sniveling about work lately, but thinking about this fish made me realize that I've really had a remarkable year.  So I'll shut up now.

Here's a link to the release video- please forgive the lame music, I had to get it up fast and let Youtube choose it at random.

I will never, EVER, forget the sound of that take, the initial shock of the hook-up, the sheer weight of the fish, the jumps, the shouting, frantically trying to get 12 feet of line back on the reel in the dark, the moment we kicked the lights on and realized how monstrous this thing was, the maneuvering around the lumber, and finally putting hand to a truly, large, brown.  The addiction just got worse.

I think I'll go to work now.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Growing Pains

First the good news- Fontinalis Rising is officially a .com.   This means that I'll finally make some things like stickers and T-shirts available.  They tell me that any existing links you have should still work- I just tested this and it works, so here's hoping. The bad news is that when I made the switch it appears to have erased my blogroll, or rather, it was unable to track it to the new domain name.  Well, nothings perfect.  So, if you see that your blog is no longer on the roll, or if you'd like to have your blog listed, let me know.  Okay, now I'm going to get to rebuilding.

As they say, pardon my dust.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Morning Coffee- July 18

"At least there's poverty- they'll never take that from us" -my father.

Aaauuuuughhhuuuaaauuughhh.  Yawn, stretch, scratch repeat.   Where's the coffee?  Monday again? How does this keep happening.

Well, the biggest news I have is that I finally bought a laptop, my first one, which hopefully will make my blogging more versatile.  I won't have to be chained to my desk at home, can drink my coffee downstairs looking out my glass wall at the river and marsh while I do this.  It will also help me to blog on location.  I'll see how versatile a tool I can make this thing.  My blog suffers from the fact that I only keep abreast of technology as far as I absolutely have to, and then I get right back to the water.  It's a delicate balance- time spent on the water hopefully generating content, and time spent getting brushed up on the tech stuff so that I can generate content.  The outdoor bloggers conundrum.
Eastern sky or western? This is what it looked like when we got on and off the river.
I did manage to get in a night float with Phil last week- funny how the sky when we got off the river looked exactly the same as when we got on the river, a bright blue band on the horizon, the light crepuscular.  There's a lot of things that go "bump" in the night.  No fish pics to share this time, but a lot of action.  I'm still working the bugs out of my night flies (as Cameron Mortenson well knows), but I'm hoping a campfire tying session with Mike Schmidt of Angler's Choice Flies will help with that.  My current gurgler fly is an adaptation all my own, based on the patterns of others, of course, but who of us can really claim to be original these days?  I'd show you my pattern, but as the the saying goes, then I'd have to kill you.  By the way, check out Cameron's post on The Fiberglass Manifesto about our night trip ten days ago.  I thought I'd let him decide whether to tell about his spill in the river, but since he did in his post, here's my version.  We had stopped in an area that we know holds fish on a long bend.  There's a small island on the inside of the bend.  We were to wade to the island and then cross it to the downstream end.  I heard Phil say something about deep water, but I had thought he meant at the bottom of the island.  Cameron is walking in front of me in ankle deep water crossing to the island, and next thing I know he plunges forward and falls in.  Now, I'm not trying to hurt his pride anymore by dredging this up (no pun intended), but this seems to happen to everyone who fishes with me for the first time- call it the FR curse.  More than once I've looked over my shoulder where my friend should be, only to see a hat, or just some swirling water.  So if for some odd reason you've thought to yourself "Hey, I'd like to fish with that FR dude someday" consider yourself warned.  In my defense, the ultra-high water we had this spring rearranged a lot of our rivers.  That spot last year was just a shallow trickle.

I spent the weekend downstate not fishing, but I did end up with a laptop.  I have several writing projects underway outside of this blog- I'll keep you posted if they make it into public circulation, or just post them here.  With a blog you can't go wrong.  My first piece published (by The Cedar Sweeper magazine) was written for this blog and at the last minute I submitted it on the off chance that Chuck would want it- he did.  I'll still post it, once the next issue of The Cedar Sweeper comes out.  As I was saying, with the blog, I can write these pieces and either post them or submit them.  If they get rejected I can still post them.  Not that I'm posting all the junk here (there may be room for debate on that) but that no matter what there's an outlet for all the drivel leaking from my mind.

Well, it's time to get this up and get going.  Lot's of work to do this week.  By the way, being able to blog while staring out my window has already paid off, as I got to see the cranes lift off from their overnight roosting spot in front of the house, and three half-grown raccoons trundled across my seawall while I was typing this.  I'll have to put the big lens on the camera and keep it close from now on.

Let's get after it.....

Some beach grass- I just thought it's soothing to look at

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Angler's Year- July

The sky shimmers like a hammered metal bowl, crisp and bright.  The heat is steady, and even the storms are sedate, flashing and rumbling, dropping some rain before trundling on.  July is nothing if not monolithic, a single event of sky and heat, warm water and warm nights.  There are no transitions in July, not here.  The major hatches are mostly over now.  Oh, there may be a few stray Hexes left the beginning of the month, but those quickly die out.  The rivers run clear and low, and the fish, fattened by two months of steady mayflies, back into the holes, fat and satisfied, trying to avoid the light and bright, and the steady parade of canoes and fisherman.  July may perhaps be the toughest month for fly fishing.

Me, I don't care.  I've just spent three months hammering the rivers.  I like to take a break the first ten days of July.  It's a time to go camping or kayaking, do some work around the house, go to the beach.  There's no shortage of things to do.  But like you, I soon get the itch, my work generally slows down and then it's time to break out the hoppers.  I love hopper fishing.  It's a big fly, easy to fish, and the fish go nuts for them.  You generally don't catch huge fish, just lots of eager browns and brook trout looking for a big meal.  You might even catch a 15 incher.  It's not the point though.  The point is seeing the big splashy strike of a fish intent on killing your fly.  You catch a lot of fish on hoppers.

July may not be the best bass fishing month, but it's a great time to hit the lily pads early and late with frog patterns.  It's awesome to watch a largemouth bust the surface on a frog.  Middle of the day can be tough, but from first light up until 10 am the fishing can be fantastic.  The evening hours can be good as well, though not feverish like the mornings.  In the evenings I'll opt for leeches or streamers.

If you know where to go, summer steelhead put in an appearance in Michigan, but a lot of those fisheries are further south.  Still, last summer I went to one of my local rivers without a  rod, only to find fresh beds in the gravel.  Something big made them.  I want to go back and check it out after this latest batch of storms we just had.  I think that wet wading while fighting a steelhead would do something positive for my soul.

July time is also night time- mousing for browns.  I plan on devoting a post to it.  It may be my favorite form of fishing period, and it heats up in July.  Big fish looking for a big meal.  Fish that make sounds that scare you in the dark.  Fish that hunt.  In July my inner creature of the night emerges, roams freely and stalks the local rivers.  By day I am a wrecked looking creature, bleary eyed, slumped over in fatigue, hardly communicative.  But by night I come alive, alert, and I hunt fish that for most are lifetime fish.  If the days are too hot, the nights are just right.  Fish it up.  My personal best was a 23" brown last year, but I've lost much, much bigger.  Fish that made my 8 weight rod look light.  Fish that ran downstream and broke my 12 pound Maxima as if it was nothing.  Game on. 
My best from last year, Andy Schmidt photo.

I went fishing last night.  My camera and phone batteries were dead, so there's no pictures to share.  I bushwhacked into a remote section of brook trout water and found it as I've been describing- low and clear under a clear blue sky.  The wind threw my casts every which way, and there was barely enough water to call it a trout stream.  Still I persevered and fought my way through the tag alders, the gusts of wind, the profusion of blowdowns and jumbled log jams, the pestiferous creek chubs and deer flies.  It took most of the evening to even see a trout, but before it was over I caught one, an 11 inch brookie that bent my 4 weight glass rod and refused to give up.  Three river bends later I reached the bridge.
things to do in July

In the end, July must end.  The fireworks, the hot dogs and sparklers, the boating and  beaching, the sheer fun of it all.  Speaking as a fly fisherman, it's a lazy month, one spent aimlessly drifting, but isn't that the point of fly fishing?  To have one pursuit that doesn't matter?  It could be, then, that July is the ultimate month, The Month of Casting, the month to do nothing; to catch rays, to cast endlessly, to imagine that this bubble of heat and light and magic is all yours, the clear waters rippling just for you, the fish hiding just to be coy, the summer lasting indefinitely, all yours for the taking. 
July sunset

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Morning Coffee- July 11

Aaaaauuupppphhhhggggnuuuuphhhfffneeehuuphhhggggffff.  What haaaasssss happened to Fontinalis Rising?  Well, a lot of work to start with.  Then a death in the family- my last grandparent died.  I want to write about it.  Sometime.  About the passing of an era.  Yes, it does relate to fly fishing and should interest you.  Mourning is hard.  Moving on.

Has it been three weeks? Well I'm back, with tales of adventure.  Adventures had and adventures to come.

For instance.
TFM with some serious spotting

Phil and I did a night-time mouse trip with Cameron Mortenson of The Fiberglass Manifesto last week.  After talking up how great mousing is to Cameron I really felt the pressure to put him on some fish, and he managed a beautiful 18 inch brown, but the bite seemed to slow dramatically after the first couple of hours.  Still, he got the one and we rolled a couple of other fish that made some noise, so I think it was a successful night.  We met up at 10 p.m. and got off the river around 4:30 a.m., and so my joke to him was that I could say I fished with him and still don't know what he looks like.  This was the first of a five day odyssey of trout bumming through Michigan, so I hope we didn't tire him out too much to enjoy the rest of the trip.  Cameron has been a great supporter of my work, and a source of sage advice when it comes to blogging, so I here wish to thank him.  Thanks buddy, and next time we'll get a day trip in where we can do some photography.

I did manage some time out Friday afternoon as well and took some hoppers with me.  The brook trout were more than obliging, and I managed a few small fish.  The colors and vermiculations on these fish were outstanding, and it made for a gorgeous and quiet afternoon alone on my river.

I took my cousins out kayaking in the Straits of Mackinac Sunday, and snuck a rod in with me in case I found some smallmouth or carp.  I did get out and cast a bit, on a gravel bar that ran a long ways into lake Michigan, but had no takers.  It was warm and humid and overcast, with the hint that rain could be lurking on the horizon.  I gave some brief casting lessons to my cousin's wife Mandy, but the wind was howling which made it tough.  The Straits are a windy place.  Still, we had a great time paddling before bumming around Mackinaw City looking for ice cream and doing some people watching.
Mandy trying to punch a cast in the wind
Well, there's a lot more to tell, but I need to run off to work.  I'm just happy to be back in the swing of things here at Fontinalis Rising.  Summer is heating up, and I owe you the next installment in the Angler's Year series (July) so I'd better get cracking.  My first magazine article to be published came out in the Cedar Sweeper magazine- my thanks to Chuck, and rumor has it that I have a couple more articles to work on.  Summer maybe nearly half over, but there's still a lot to see and do and enjoy.  I'm getting started, right now.
me trying to punch a cast in the wind