Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dudewaters Fail-Proof Plan for a Successful Day Off

When things don't go as planned, it pays to have options.

Plan A:
Plan B:

Plan C:

The hunting was lousy and the rivers blew out, so we fell back to the vises. If I'm not mistaken in two hours of tying we came up with 11 different ways to tie a white wooley bugger. I queued up some Black Keys on the ipod and, as he often does, John came up with the quote of the day...

"I just like to listen to music that makes me want to drink whiskey."

Amen brother.

Private property...

...along the river?  No problem for this guy.

I came across this gem on Moldy Chum today.  Pretty funny stuff...

Centerpinners - don't get any ideas.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Looking for the one...

It seems like every fisherman these days is after the big fish - the one that's going to take off and get in to your backing, the one that won't fit in the net, or the one whose tail is too big to wrap your cold, wet, fingers around.  That said, we often forget the little things...

The water was up a little bit, and had the green tint that every one of us spends hours of time on the road chasing around.  Honestly, it was the best water I've seen yet this year.  It was a cold morning, but I had really high hopes for the first pool that I swung through.  Nothing.  Alright, I went back to my pack, changed colors, and went through again.  Second pass...and still nothing.  Meanwhile my fishing partner for the day, fly tyer extraordinaire, Greg Senyo, had gone through a couple times with the same result.  Nada.

What could possibly be going on - we were on the right river, there was nobody around, and the water was perfect.  I knew there were fish in that piece of water - in fact if I knew how many were really in there that I didn't catch I'd probably quit fly fishing and guiding right then and there.  Regardless, they didn't eat our flies, and so we moved on.

We took a shortcut through the woods, on an old road, and ended up at our next stop.  We fished, and finally hooked in to a few of 'em.  A mix of bright silver and dark fish, which gave us a good bit of fun for the better part of an hour.  

We moved up again, and Greg tied in to a good one.  After an interesting fight, and an even more interesting net job, he held his fish up for the money shot.

We started to work out way back downstream, and then I ran in to this old dog.  

Although it was a really big fish, it still wasn't quite what we had come there for.

Another quick jaunt downstream had us in to some more of these things, and another nice fish fell victim to the cosmic superfragalisticexpealidocious white bugger.

We were getting warmer now.  So close to what we were after I could almost taste it.  By this point in the day the water temperature had warmed up enough so that the fish were moving out of the holes and runs, and in to the faster water as they made their way upstream.   I stopped at the top of the chute, and watched a half dozen fish shoot through over the course of a couple minutes.  There it was.  I caught a fleeting glimpse of a gray torpedo shooting through the water.  

The decision was made to fish right below this obstacle.  We figured fish would be holding up in some of the slots and buckets below the fast water, and with the number of fish we'd seen in this stretch of river already, we figured our guess was pretty good.

It was.

        By this point in the day just about any steelheader would have been satisfied.  We'd caught a whole bunch of fish, hadn't seen many people, and some of the fish were big.  But not me.  Not on this day.  I was looking for skippers and I still hadn't caught one.

I decided to quit screwing around, and took a second to gather myself, take a leak in the woods, and then got my game face on.  It was time to be serious.  Once I was focused I got on the board pretty quickly with this little guy.  He ate a swung egg pattern (a secret technique for targeting skippers).  The fish went left, right, jumped, dove, and ran itself straight on to the bank.  True skipper style.

As you can see from his bewildered look on his face, this young guy didn't quite know what to do during the photo op.

Daylight was fading now, and I was looking for another to end my day.  Cold air was descending in to the valley, and the sun was beginning to set behind one of the shale walls.  We'd made it all the way back to the first hole where we'd started and hadn't caught anything.  After about a dozen drifts with the indicator rig, I figured that my luck had run out.  I turned around, set my rod over my shoulder, started reeling my line in, and walking towards my pack.

I about jumped out of my skin as my rod doubled over, and I turned around to see another silver BB (this one was too small to be classified as a silver bullet) shoot out of the water with my small streamer in his mouth.  After a ten second fight, in which this fish put out every ounce of energy that he had, I had him in my grasp.

It's amazing how in a day where you catch a whole bunch of fish, it's the two smallest ones that stand out in your mind.  These guys crush flies with reckless abandon, sit in the funniest little spots, and for the first three seconds of the fight make you think you've got the biggest trout in the river.

Today Dudewater celebrates the skipper, jack, timmy trout, dink, or anything else you can think of to call these things.  The fights may not be long, but you can be sure that these little buggers will give you absolutely everything that they have, and then some more.  They're definitely some of the most fun fish to catch in our rivers, and I hope we get another big push of them soon.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Bird!

The feast is about to commence at Casa de Fast Jimi. As I was sitting here waiting for the dinner bell, I came across a hysterical video over at Angling Obsession (a cool blog that you should add you to your roll if it's not there already). I can't get the video to embed in this post (any suggestions?) so head over there and check it out for yourselves.
Here's hoping you and yours have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"The sea was angy that day my friends..."

In a quest for my first duck yesterday, I ended up having the scare of my life. As stories of this nature generally do, it all started innocently enough. As we were grabbing all the gear from the truck, we heard shots on the beach. Walked through the woods just in time to see a fellow hunter's dog executing a very impressive retrieve about half way out into the harbor.

Took up our station on the break wall and proceeded to watch thousands of birds flying well out of range. The few that did come in for a look were too high for a shot. The wind was howling like mad and the temperature had dropped significantly over the course of two hours. We were starting to think about bailing when finally a small diver duck flew into our spread. I whiffed on the first two shots, but the third found it's mark. Just like that I had my first duck.

Or so I thought. The bird was 15-20 feet out from the break wall, and the water was relatively calm. Without much thought, we dropped in the little ten foot piece of Styrofoam that was our vessel, I jumped in and started paddling out for what I was sure would be an easy retrieve...

Within the first minute I realized I wasn't getting the bird. As soon as a I'd cleared the wind break from the wall, one of those gusts that had been ripping across the harbor caught me and began pulling me towards the outer harbor. Paddling as hard as I could did little to help, and it became evident I wasn't getting back to where I started. That's when shit got real.

I was heading right for a gap between one break wall and the next, a gap that lead out to the big lake where I could see ten-footers cresting over the foundation of the lighthouse. My only chance to avoid those swells was to make it to that outer break wall and hang tight until someone could get to me. I bellowed to John, "CALL THE COASTGUARD!" and turned the boat to face the outer wall. After the longest minute of my life, the boat banged up against the wall and I was able to stumble out and sprawl on a rock. At that point I did what any true blogger would do: I did my best not to get blown off my perch and snapped a few pictures to aid in the telling of my story.
Ten minutes later I was in the cabin of a coastguard boat wondering how the hell things had gone south so quickly. I was cold, wet, sore, and embarrassed, and I'm sure a pretty pitiful sight, but I was happier than hell not to be sitting on that break wall. Thanks very much to the Fairport Harbor station of the U.S. Coast Guard for picking up another idiot, you guys rock.

So I "almost died" and "my first duck was almost my last" and all that jazz. All I can say is Budweiser never tasted so good!
Lessons learned: Always wear a life jacket, and if you're going duck hunting, it's probably a good idea to take your Labrador retriever with you...

Monday, November 22, 2010


Snuck out early this morning to squeeze in a day of fishing before the rivers blew out. I told Victor we were going to Doggy Disneyland. He had no clue what the hell I was talking about, but was happy to jump in the truck just the same.

Despite relentless rain and wind (or perhaps because of it), when it was all said and done we'd had damn fine day of fishing. Watched my buddy come tight to four big chromers swinging streamers on the big rod, and managed to pop a few myself, albeit using more rudimentary tactics.

Chasin' feathers tomorrow, report to follow.

Powerful Stuff


You know how it feels; When the shit hits the fan, there's no consolation. There's no substitute. You have to be out there. Not even Dudewater can fill the void... you have to be on the water!

But it doesn't always work out, so you find other ways to fill the void. Fishing buddies are critical -in times of desperaion you can turn to them without having to spell out the problem. They empathize, they console you, and you work together towards a solution: "Fuckin' 'eh man, let's go fishing."

In between you do what you can to maintain sanity. Tie flies. Watch "Metalhead" for the 47th time. Check flights to Fernie, BC (and realize that you're not going to be able to afford a wilderness steelhead expedition anytime soon). Tie more flies. Look at Google Maps. Listen to music.

I don't know about y'all, but music fuels my passion as much as anything. I Drive to a soundtrack, I fish to a soundtrack, I live to a soundtrack.

I've been bumping a bunch of new tunes in the Tiny Dancer (my truck) of late. I'm really digging an arist by the name of Sean Hayes. I came across him as I was running down the artist list for the "Eastern Rises" soundtrack, and thought his song "Powerful Stuff" was a perfect compliment to these pictures from last week. You can fire it up by clicking the link at the top of this post.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Mission Statement

There are many times when I wonder why the hell I waste my time writing for a blog that I don't think many people read. Each time I think about this, I come up with some reason why I should keep writing, and tonight I'm actually going to write about it.

I caught my first steelhead at the Gates Mills dam on the Chagrin River. I was in 6th grade, and I was fishing a pink tube jig (no weight, naturally) on a spinning rod. That fish started me along a journey that has since consumed my life. For the past two years, every cent of income I have earned has been derived from this sport- whether it was tying flies, guiding, speaking, or writing - it all was connected to the passion I've had for fishing that began one Halloween on the Chagrin.  Fly fishing has become my life.

My mother was born in Missoula, Montana on July 12th, 1956. Soon after, her and her family moved to a small town in Wyoming nestled between the Bighorn, Absorka, Carter, and Pryor mountain ranges. My grandparents still live in the same house today.

My grandfather used to tote me around when I was a boy - he'd do the fishing, and I, of course, would do the heavy lifting, reeling in every trout he hooked. Rainbows, cutthroats, browns and brookies all fell victim to his flies and my aggressive reeling tendencies. As I got older I began to fish on my own, and he gave me the proper education a budding fly fisherman needed. I was taught to respect the rivers I fished and the fish that lived in them. I learned to appreciate all the things that came along with fishing, besides the fish themselves.

If none of this resonates with you, stop reading now.

Over this past weekend I saw numerous anglers violate some of the cardinal rules of fishing that I was taught by my grandfather. Treating the fish they caught like garbage. Leaving behind coffee cups, fishing line, bait containers, spawn sack netting, and other pieces of trash that they were either too lazy or too oblivious to carry out on their own. The deepest level of fisherman's hell is reserved for litterbugs and those who don't have the dignity to carry a fish back to their car, but instead drag it twenty feet behind them on a piece of nylon cord as they walk through the middle of the woods. Shame. Shame. Shame. To those who litter, detract from the experiences of others, or leave the river in a worse condition than it was found in, I hope you all fall in.

Our sport - not just fly fishing, but fishing in general - is reaching a critical point. Will new anglers join the madness? Will they get the bug like the rest of us did? Will they pass along this passion to others? As anglers you have to ask yourself if you are an angler who inspires others to go fishing, or are you someone that gives them a reason not to.

To the father who takes his son fishing,
to the guy that picks up what his fellow angler left behind,
to the fisherman that gives a struggling angler a couple good flies or a few fresh pieces of bait,
to the guy that turns them loose not because he doesn't want to keep them, but because he figures someone else might enjoy catching that fish as much as he did,
to the fishermen that give a damn about more than catching fish,

Thank you.
Someone like you is the reason I love what I do today.
May your knots be strong, your drifts be tight, your flies be right,

and may you catch a billion of these.

To those who don't, I hope these take over your fishing world.


Jim's got the bug!  And how about that sixty degree November weather!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Fish Porn

It's amazing what happens when you run in to a push of fresh fish.  Chaos. Madness. Dudewater.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Day

If you fish our area long enough you'll find yourself obsessively checking things like weather reports, stream flows, forecasts, etc.  After it rains you start counting the hours, monitoring the flow gauges like you're possessed, and waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat to dreams of green water, screaming drags, and really big chromers.

This fall hasn't been a cakewalk.  No water, no fish - it's that simple.  So for anybody who cares about steelhead fishing in our area, the rain we had the other night was a welcome respite from a dry nightmare that just wouldn't end.  I was working today, and had the pleasure of fishing with two gents from the south.  These guys have both fished all over the world, and as a guide, when you know that about your clients coming up, it adds a bit of pressure.  There's not many ways that northeast Ohio can be compared to Alaska, Labrador, New Zealand, or anywhere like that - but when our fishing is good, it's just as good if not better than anywhere in the whole wide world.

I was a little nervous about what the water was going to look like this morning.  The gauge had dropped, but kind of stalled out, there had been a little more rain overnight, and there was still a lot of standing water in the drainage.  I'd stayed up late the night before tying big chartreuse, orange, and cerise sucker spawn; better to be ready for the worst.  I showed up just after first light, walked down to the river, and held my breath as I looked over the bank down in to the water.   After looking at the water only one question remained.  Is this going to be the day?

Our fishery has "boom potential" unlike any other.  Basically, if you run in to a fresh push of fish on an Erie tributary, chances are it's going to be a day you're going to remember for a very long time.  However, fish these rivers enough and you'll notice that things don't always happen the way they should - sometimes the water is perfect, but the other half the equation is missing.  Fish aren't always predictable, and they don't take angler concerns in to consideration when making their spawning runs in to our creeks.  Some days where conditions suggest that even trying to fish is futile, the creek gives fish away.  Other days when the fishing should be incredible the water is fickle and nothing comes easy.

  Today was one of those days where I thought it could have gone either direction.  But it didn't.


It was "the" day.

Operation Day

Taking the hard drive in for emergency surgery this morning...

Let's hope she can be saved. If so, among the thousands of pictures on there are some really cool shots from my last outing, which I promise to share with you. If not, I'm going into a deep state of booze-fueled depression and it might be a while before you hear from Fast Jimi again...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dude Down...

Dudewater is a poster down as of right now. My external hard drive, on which I have been storing all of my pictures for the last 3 years, crapped out last night. For now I'm just praying that the data can be recovered. Stay tuned...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Our favorite color...


There's nothing better than setting the hook, and having it take off like a bat out of hell.  Or feeling the fish head towards the surface, and seeing a silver missile explode out of the water.  They're in the best condition of all the fish in the river.  Chromers are clean, fat, and most of them haven't seen a fly in months - so they're more than willing to eat the one on the end of your line.  When you find one, you can bet that he or she has company nearby.  What's not to like?

Some of my best memories while steelheading have been running in to massive pushes of chromers - the stars align and they all seem to be in the same place, thinking the same thing.  When you're in that place you're in for a day you won't forget.  Let's hope that the rain forecasted for later this week puts the silver fish in their "happy place" and sends them south.

That said, as we wait in anticipation of rain and crappy weather, here are some of Dudewater's favorite chromer shots to make everyone feel all warm and tingly inside.

She's a bright one.  Well, her color anyway.

Dudewater follower, Chuck, with a slab from the early fall.  Priceless.

They show up in the winter, too.

Fast Jimi with a good one.  She's a dime.

Doodaddies.  The tell-tale sign.

Surfs up!

A "freshie" with a little bit of fall in the background.


Bring on the rain.