Wednesday, January 29, 2014

FR Calendar Winners

The Random Number Generator has spoken and the winners are (drumroll please)-

Lee Slikkers

Chase Howard

Andy La Follette

Thank you to everyone who entered and congratulations to the winners. 

Ok, I'm off to tie some flies. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Morning Coffee- Winter Blues Edition

Aauucchhhtthhppphhhtttt! Yawn, stretch, scratch repeat- it's Monday again isn't it?

I stumble out of bed slowly. The constant rumble of my furnace running all night told me all I needed to know about the weather. Still, I look outside and mumble an epithet at the two inches of fresh snow on top of the foot or more we got over the weekend. 

This blog is less about fly fishing, more of an endless rant about the weather. It warmed up just enough Friday to dump over a foot of snow (again) before dropping back to single digit temps. There's four feet of snow in my yard and the snow banks are starting to resemble mountain ranges. The drift at the end of Walloon Lake next to the road is ten feet high. Businesses and municipalities are starting to run out of places to put it. In spots you can't see the road until you pull out in it. 

I did manage to organize my fly tying stuff last week. I put my old computer desk back together to use as a tying station and bought a bunch of plastic bins to sort my materials into. It's far too harsh out to consider fishing; most if my streams have frozen over solid, so I'll focus on fly tying. 

I have received another invitation to tie with the Mayfly Club Friday. It's at a secret location code named Gobbler's Knob so I'll have to see what that's all about. 

In related news my friend Alex Cerveniak has just purchased a drift boat and if it gets into the mid-twenties this weekend we plan to take it for its maiden voyage on the Holy Waters. Friends with drift boats are the best kind of friends. 

That's all I know this week, and the coffee is gone. Tune in Wednesday to see who won the FR calendar give away. You still have until midnight tomorrow to enter. I'll also post my next installment in the Mousing 101 series. 

It's time to go to work. Let's get after it. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

FR Calendar Giveaway

I made up a few calendars this year as gifts for friends, but I'd like to give a couple away to you my readers. I went to one of those websites ( where you can upload photos, pick a style and then order your own custom made calendar.

I'm definitely not a professional photographer, but every year I seem to get a few good shots. I've included some good scenes of fish and fishing that express the Northern Michigan experience. I've tried to capture the seasons and the fishing as best I can. I hope you enjoy it.

Like I said, I made these up as gifts for a couple of friends, but I've made them available for purchase as well. I'm not really looking to make a buck, just thought if anyone wanted one they can have one. If you'd like to purchase one you can click here or on the lulu tab on the top of the right sidebar. You can preview the calendar by clicking on that tab as well.

I'm going to give away three of these calendars. Just fill out the form and I'll draw the winners and announce them next week. I'll let this run until midnight Tuesday, January 28, draw three winners via random number generator and announce them the next day. It's my way of thanking you all for reading my blog on a regular basis.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mousing 101- Zack Ties a Mouse

Those cute little mice you see in fly shops tied from deer hair, with whiskers and ears and wee little eyes? Forget them. Brown trout do not care about whiskers.

Guys on the cutting edge of nighttime fly fishing are feverishly developing new and innovative mouse patterns and I aim to share them here. Take, for example, this tie by one of my friends.

Local dude and Boyne Outfitters guide Zachary Ginop is one of my favorite fly people out there. He's one of those young guys who has embraced the sport and this love has now born fruit. We fish together on a regular basis, and for some reason it is always a crazy experience. Something off the hook always seems to happen.

I keep saying that Zach is the next young gun who will get his flies into the Orvis catalog. He is a hardcore night specialist, and so I was very pleased when he shared a video of him tying a signature mouse pattern on YouTube.

Without further ado I give you-

This is a great mouse pattern, and something to consider when preparing for the summer night season. Get to it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mousing 101- Mouse Theory

In the spring when the weather and water warms, the frogs emerge from the mud and the mice from their burrows. As the water temps reach into the 60's and the days get longer, usually about mid-May, the bank side grass and water weeds sprout and grow. This encourages the activity of the mice and frogs. Their activity encourages the brown trout to target them.

I heard one guide say that we should probably call this "frogging". It's true that brown trout will eat frogs but it is well known that they target mice. Whether they prefer one over the other is up for debate, but brown trout are opportunists and likely target any critter that swims across the river. The thought process is likely more akin to "fits in my mouth/doesn't fit in my mouth".  

Both mice and frogs regularly swim across the rivers at night. I have observed this frequently. Frogs tend to swim with a kick and glide action with their nose pointed directly at the far bank. Mice tend to quarter across rivers with their nose pointed upstream and their legs kicking furiously. Current speed directly affects the swimming position of both. The swifter the current the more they tend to swim nose-in to the current. Regardless, both critters create a similar telltale wake across the surface. 

The next element you need to know is the attitude of your quarry. Big browns are comfortable at night. They can see quite well on even the blackest of nights but seem to know that you can't. They come out of their hiding places and roam at will. Noises don't scare them. I have hooked up regularly in six inches of water. 

What this means is that you are not necessarily fishing log jams and cut banks. You'll want to target feeding lanes in every setting on the river. The center of a hole where the current dumps in is one prime spot, but so is the tail out where it starts to get shallow. The best spots I've ever found are what I call "throats". They are places in a run or where a tail out dumps into a run in which the current gets funneled into the center of the river and the water is 2-3 feet deep. I've caught all my biggest fish in these spots. The strike is usually instant. The important thing is to work the whole river and not just areas you think of as big fish spots by day.

One night I was out with two friends trying to put a third buddy on fish. We were giving him all the prime spots and so I just started hitting the less ideal water above and below our friend. He did manage to land a fat 19 inch fish, but I hooked up on a fish that was closer to 30 inches that jumped several times before taking me to the wood. I got my fly back so I know he swam free. Any angler given a choice would not have fished where I was. There's no predicting with certainty where those fish will be. 

Another factor to consider is moon phase and what the fish is seeing. Our perspective is of standing above looking down into dark water. For the brown trout the perspective is completely opposite. They are in the dark looking up at the surface which is back-lit by the moon and stars.

Imagine yourself in your house with all the lights off looking out your windows. People can't see in, but you can see out, even if it's dark out. Imagine yourself looking out your windows when it is daylight versus when it is dark. Look at any unlit house during the day and it is hard to see in. If you are inside the house everything outside is easy to see. At night It is even harder to see into the house, but you can still look outside and make out some details.

 Brown trout are at their boldest on completely dark nights, and experienced anglers concentrate their efforts around the dark of the moon. During various lit phases of the moon the fishing can be quite good after dark before the moon rises. A steady bite often fades away as the moonlight hits the water. Conversely, heavy cloud cover during the full moon can make for excellent fishing.

Moon phase often affects color selection as well, and is counter-intuitive. Black flies offer the most contrast on dark nights, making your fly easier to target. White flies on moonlit nights offer the least contrast making them harder for browns to see and possibly spot as a fake. Whatever you do, make sure you switch flies and colors often to find out for sure what they want on any given night. There are no hard and fast rules, but they often do show a distinct preference at times for white versus black.

Cloud cover and the time that the moon rises or sets can make a dramatic difference in the fishing. I have had a steady bite suddenly end when the moon rises at midnight. I've seen a slow bite during the full moon pick up when clouds cover made it dark again. I had one full moon night in which I rolled several fish in every spot. Don't stay home because the moon is out, but just know that darker conditions are more conducive to mousing.

No matter what, after dark big browns come out of their daytime hiding spots and roam the river at will in search of food. Perhaps the most important element  of mousing is the tell-tale wake of your fly across the surface of the water. I'd bet I could impale a sock on a big hook and wake it across the surface and get fish to strike. There are a lot of aspects about flies that I will get into, but the central theme will always be that they make a wake across the surface.

To boil all this down to a few bullet points:
  • At night browns become bold and leave their hiding places to hunt.
  • Learn to see the river from their perspective.
  • Any fly will do that creates a tell-tale wake.
  • Learn how moon phases and lighting conditions affect the fishing and adapt accordingly. 
  • Change flies and colors until you find what works.

In my next installment I'll go over the gear and rigging you'll need to be comfortable and successful at night.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Monday Morning Coffee- Out of the Cold and Back in Action Edition

Yaw-aw- AWN. Glurgle-snarf. Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat. Is it Monday already? Let's have some coffee.

Well the big freeze of 2013 has finally broken. It went from single digits here early in the week to warm enough to rain Friday night. As it happened I was invited to the Uber-secret Mayfly Club to tie flies for the evening and so I went.

I had long heard rumors of this secretive club. Invitations are highly coveted but seldom extended. Once you are a member you are a member for life, but there is no way to apply and no one seems to know who to contact or where their secret headquarters are. What I have been told, in those moments of clarity and honesty on a back country stream, or surreptitiously over beers in some dark dusty North Woods tavern, is that if you get the invitation you go. You don't ask questions. You don't talk too much at your first meeting. And you never give away their secrets.

Would they accept me as one of their own? Would I be invited back? Would I say the wrong things, make some unknown gaffe, perhaps tie the wrong fly and be rejected?

The Master of Ceremonies greeted me at the door. I told him the password I had been told to say. The door closed. I stood there on the steps wondering if I had been given the right one, had pronounced it wrong, or maybe I just didn't look right, standing there in my scuffed leather boots, carrying a metal RC radio case that holds my tying gear.

I stood there for what seemed an eternity, growing increasingly nervous. I had blown it I was sure. But then the door opened, and the MC handed me a Fat Tire and motioned for me to come in.

While their identities must remain secret they were all pretty normal guys. Excellent fly anglers no doubt, and superb fly tyers. We started off eating french bread pizza before settling in to tying. I sat next to an older gentleman that we'll call "Frank". He was given to saying things like "the longer I fish the fewer flies there are in my box" and "When I fish the Madison. . ."

He had all these great stories of fishing the Pigeon River Country, which he told while tying marabou streamers for catching the brook trout he loves. I was still a little nervous and, not wanting to screw up this opportunity, I failed to watch and learn. It's a pity, as Frank was tying up some beautiful flies. I played it safe and tied Au Sable skunks, a simple pattern, but a very old and local one that I was sure I couldn't screw up, and besides, I use a lot of them each summer.

By the time the evening was over it had begun pouring rain onto the snow-packed roads and so I said my goodbyes and headed home, driving slowly on the glare ice. I'm still in a probationary period, but I'm hoping to be a permanent member soon. I have been very careful here in not giving away their secrets. Perhaps someday I too will don the green jacket emblazoned with a Hexagenia dun.

Sorry about the lack of pictures, but it seemed like bad form to be a blogger at such a club, and I can't reveal identities anyway.

No, I'm not kneeling on this fish.

I also got out and fished this weekend. I met up with Alex Cerveniak Saturday, and then fished by myself Sunday for a little while. We were after steelhead, but as Alex says, it's more like trout fishing this time of year. I caught two cookie cutter steelhead jacks as I call them, one each day, from different streams. Each was about 16-17" inches long, dime-bright, hard fighting and beautiful. No monsters, just some fun fish and a great way to kick off my fishing for the year. I think I know how to get into some big fish. I'll leave my 8 wt. steelhead rod at home and fish with my 5 wt.

sorry it's blurry. It was getting dark

So that's all I know this week. The cold and snow are due to return tomorrow, so the weekends fishing will have to get me by for a while. The coffee is gone and it's time to go to work.

Let's get after it.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Monday Morning Coffee- Deep Freeze Edition

Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-chuh. Yawn stretch scratch repeat. I see there's another inch of snow on my car so I'd say let's have some coffee. It's certainly cold enough. 

I was going to grouse about the weather, but since most of the eastern US is experiencing a big storm and Arctic chill I won't join the great social media echo chamber except to say that what is an "event" for most of the nation has been our steady weather pattern for over six weeks now. We've had few days that have even reached into the 20's. 

I wish I had some fishing to report on but I haven't fished since early November. If it's a mild weekend like they're predicting I will definitely fish then.

What I will predict right now is that the coming season is going to be epic. Torrential rains in October/November had all the rivers brimming and then subsequent snow and cold have kept them in good shape. This winter may be hard to endure but it will be great for the bugs and the fish. It will also help keep summer water temps low which will increase fishing opportunity. 

I won't bore you with any other drivel, but  I have been working hard on my Mousing 101 series. Look for the next post- Mouse Theory- to drop tomorrow. 

Whatever you do stay warm and safe out there. Let's get after it. 

Here's a gratuitous brookie pic to remind you of summer. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013/2014- Past, Present and Future

So 2013 is over. I don't want to do one of those year end posts and I don't do New Year's resolutions.

But I am starting to mull over some things for the coming year, so I'm just going to do a brief wrap-up and look forward. Here goes.


The Jealousy Counter

If you haven't already noticed I have what I call a Jealousy Counter on the right hand side of this blog. It's the number of days I've spent fishing during the year, often while you were stuck in rush hour traffic in Detroit or Chicago or Denver or wherever you hail from. According to it I fished 87 days last year. I was well on track to hit 100 days, but then I decided to write a novel in November, then the weather decided to turn bitterly cold and snowy. So 87 days it was. 87 glorious days. Turn the page; the Counter is reset.

The Highlights

If I had a highlight reel from last year? I had a lot of good trips but any trip that involved Alex Cerveniak, Chris Reister, Tom Hazelton or Zach Ginop was a great trip, with apologies to everyone else I fished with last year. All of you were great and I'm really thankful to the long list of good people I shared the water with last year. To Brian Kozminski, Tom Menas, Richard Swan, Ethan Winchester, Dave and Jeff Karczynski, Josh Greenberg, Brett Watson, Cameron Mortenson, Christian Horgren, Jon Odykirk, Matt Erny, the Drake Rustbelt Spey Gang and anyone else I may be forgetting- thanks for sharing the water with me. Let's fish again soon.

Reister clowning around. Every day on the river with Chris is non-stop fun.

The Hex hatch was awesome. I'll be taking several days off in June for it this year.

Alex with a great Hex fish

I didn't mouse enough in '13. That is going to seriously change.

I didn't flats fish enough, but the times I did were epic.

Riester with a good fish

Mike Sepelak came to visit in August. He stayed 2 nights and fished 2 days before family business called him away. Mike my friend, come back any time. I promise I'll take you on some sure-bet fishing next time. I promise.

at least the flowers were pretty. Mike in the Valley of Giants

5 Days, 5 Rivers, 5 Great Lakes. My trip in early November with Alex Cerveniak was briefly epic. Five days isn't long, and we barely scratched the surface of the waters we fished. But it was a great trip, one I will never forget, except for the parts I can't remember.

To Tom Hazelton- our trips (tap on the nose) were epic, but since I don't dare talk about them this is as far as it gets. Let's do some more.

Lessons Learned

Get the tools out of the guest room and "move in" to my place. I moved here over two years ago, but there were rumors it was going to be sold again and so I never finished unpacking. Several friends had to sleep in less than desirable conditions. Everyone makes the "bachelor" excuse for me, but it's getting a little tired now. Tom, Brandon, Mike- next time you come to fish the guest room will be a bedroom and not tool storage. I may even put a blind up on the window.

apologies to my friends who slept here. Yes that's a paint sprayer in the background

Always have a mouse on hand. I night fished fly hatches a lot, several of which didn't happen. Tying on a mouse sealed the deal, even a couple of times when the bugs did pop but wouldn't touch my fly.

Fish more. I waste so much time and opportunities. I get into a rut like we all do. There is so much of this state I have never fished, so much of my home waters I have never seen, and too many opportunities wasted. I should be able to fish five days a week here no problem. I should be able to do that all year and never fish the same water/fish/hatch twice. There are a number of BIG fish opportunities that I don't capitalize on because. . . (insert excuse here).

Land those big fish. I'm tired of "the one that got away" stories. I hooked up on perhaps my biggest brown ever during the Hex hatch last year. It too me into my backing before breaking me off. I hooked up on several big brook trout this year. I didn't land any of the double digit steelhead I hooked up on. There's always an excuse as to why we don't land fish, and yet I see dozens of big fish on magazine covers and in social media. It's time to start paying attention to detail and get the job done on a regular basis.

2014- What's coming, and what to look for.

Run Run

I took up running as of last July and have done fairly well at it, far better than I had imagined. I don't really get warmed up now until I've run at least 3 miles, and 6-10 is pretty easy. I've done two 13 mile runs, and so I've signed up to run my first half marathon Memorial Day weekend. I plan to run one every month after that, hopefully culminating in a full marathon in the fall. What does this have to do with fishing? Nothing, but it has made me a much happier and fulfilled person. There is something about the freedom of running that reminds me of childhood.

Write Write

I started a Fontinalis Rising book last winter but it is only half finished. Then the week before November I saw an ad about National Novel Writing Month and resolved to write a novel in that month, which I did. My goal is to get both books into print this year. The Fontinalis Rising book will be a collection of my best and most popular posts, but will also contain lots of new material, stuff I had intended for the blog but never published. Call it a 50/50 mix.

Fish Fish

Alex Cerveniak says we're fishing 200 days this year. I say why not? It will take a darn good reason for me not to stop off somewhere for at least an hour. I live Up North for crying out loud. I cross five trout streams EVERY DAY on my way to work, and pass several lakes that brim with every species the Great Lakes have to offer. No more excuses, no more wasted fishing opportunities, no more wasted life.

Tie Tie

It's time to stop pretending to be a fly tyer. I need to fill my boxes with my tried and true basics, but I also need to sit at the feet of the Masters and dial it in. As much as I love fly shops it's time to stop buying flies.
lots more of these to come. 2014 will be the year of the Esox

Blog Blog

Monday Morning Coffee. Hot and on time.  Good original content. I'll answer every comment. And by the way, please comment. It means more if you comment here on this blog than if you comment on Facebook or another social media post. If you had the feeling that FR was going away, think again. One thing I will say is that I enjoyed blogging a lot this year because I started doing it my way. I know my way isn't the best way, but blogging is a labor of love. Feel the love. And keep checking back on FR.