Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Burning River

We are cold and we are lonely. Though no one will admit it, there is an air of unease in the boat as we slide from one stop to the next, searching. This is a river with many friends but today it has only us to entertain, and we are strangers. The oily black water between her banks is a puzzle, intimate and inviting while at once overwhelming and intimidating. Stare at it for too long, and it will swallow you.

The great salmon orgy of September and October is by now a distant memory but the ensuing smell of death lingers, growing more faint with each passing day. A misplaced step along the bank stirs the sour aroma of rotting flesh and reminds us of what was.

It was not long ago that the forest was ablaze with the colors of autumn. Today, harsh and grey, the blaze is reduced to ashes and embers. And it is these embers, the river's wild steelhead, whose warmth we seek. Bearers of the color torch, they bring light to an oft dim and dark place until spring arrives to dress the forest once again. With chapped cheeks and icy guides and cracked knuckles, we kick through the ashes, searching.

At an intersection of currents there is a spark. It is faint at first but increasingly pronounced as it rises.

A flicker of cherry red becomes a flash and then a streak. It is fleeing but now we have seen its glow and felt its warmth and refuse to concede. For a frantic moment it seems destined to burn out, but we are quick to rekindle it. Soon it grows closer and brighter and suddenly it is a soaring flame.

We are not cold any longer.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dudewater Goes North...

After two weeks without making a cast enough is enough. I'm picking up and hitting the road for the Pere Marquette for a little rehab and neither rain nor sleet nor snow is gonna' stop me. Stay tuned..

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


For the second year in a row I'll be hosting a group to The Kootenai River and its tributaries in northwest Montana. Having done a fair bit of fishing around that state, I found the 'Koot' to be exceptionally remote and stunningly beautiful, even by Montana standards.

The fishing wasn't half bad either...

We'll be staying and fishing with Orvis-endorsed Linehan Outfitting Company, one of the best in the business. As much as I relish fishing new water, I couldn't resist the chance to work with Tim and Joanne again as they took such good care of me and my group last time around. We'll be staying at their river house, right on the banks of the Kootenai in Libby, MT.

The Kootenai is predominantly a rainbow fishery, though there are Westslope Cutts, Bull Trout, and Browns in the mix as well. It is perhaps one of the best dry fly fisheries in the lower 48 and, in combination with its tributaries, offers an incredible variety of water types. Having caught the tail end of last season, I can't wait to see the river during prime time in 2012.

This years trip will be July 21-27 and includes 6 nights of lodging and 5 days guided fishing with lunch on the river each day. Pricing is very reasonable, especially relative to comparable operations in the mountain west, another reason I've opted to stick with LOC. If you're interested in joining me, shoot me an email and I'll be happy to answer any questions you might have. In the meantime, be sure to check out Linehan Outfitting Company's website and blog for additional information and some really cool photos of Kootenai Country!

Dealing With The Shack Nasties

Work, weather and side projects have been conspiring against me and my quest for time on the water of late. I'm not letting it get to me (read: I haven't jumped yet). I've grown accustom to dealing with the Shack Nasties over the course of 24 Cleveland winters and have become fairly adept at getting my kicks via other means.

A little company never hurts either, so the boys and I have been rounding up the fur and feathers, spinning a few bugs and swapping stories in lieu of actually fishing. Last week we even imported a couple of Beauty Salon alumni to join the fun as Jeff and JD were in town for a brief visit. On Sunday we got the whole crew together for a night of shenanigans out at The Conneaut Creek Club.

The good times spilled over to Monday morning, with those of us who were up to the task taking a crack at the clays course. Scores shall remain undisclosed, but let's just say we all managed to keep our names off the outhouse, with Jeff posting an 8/10 on the final station to notch the victory.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group headed to the trout pond to lick their wounds and to their credit coaxed up a few consolation prizes through the ice.

JD and Jeff managed to squeeze in some time on a body of [barely] moving water during their stay as well. Despite the standard adverse conditions, at least one of them (no names, please) managed to secure a new Facebook pic for their efforts.

While I would have loved for those guys to pull on a mess of fish during their stay, by all accounts being able to catch up in person far outweighed the crummy fishing. Without much to look forward to locally, there's been a lot of talk about travel recently. Dates have been set for Alex and I to make a return trek west, I'll be hosting a July trip to Montana with Linehan Outfitting Company (who wants to join me? details coming soon), and a West Branch reunion appears imminent. There have also been whispers about a NOLA redfishing expedition and dare I say, a honeymoon in Belize? As you might imagine, that ball is in the future Mrs. Lampros' court.

Oh by the way, there was a Dudewater birthday this weekend! Haven't gotten a full recap but sounds like there was no puke in the stripping basket this time around... bummer.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Fly On The Wall

All I want is a chance to swim. Meanwhile the other side of the box grows sparser by the minute; Olives, whites, coppers. They've long been the standby's, coming and going in steady rotation. No, that side won't stay sparse for long. A new batch will soon replace those moved on to that Great Wall in the sky. The rest of us - the real steeelhead flies - sulk here like jobless court jesters, assembled in an attempt to round out the color palate and to impress his friends. Pawns, nothing more. But hey, at least it's warm in here. That water looks awfully cold.

I saw it once. He was retiring an olive intruder and I caught a glimpse. In fact, I smelled them before I saw them, the thick aroma of hardened fish slime too strong to ignore. Hackles torn, colors faded, I couldn't help but envy them. Retired to a life of luxury, they spend their days telling stories of bullet train rides upon the jaws of steelhead and comparing battle scars. Others, memorialized in picture, live forever. I'll never join them; of that I grow more certain by the day. The best I can hope for is to get lost in a log jam or hooked on a piece of shale. At least I'll have gone out honorably. As some of the veterans like to remind me, there are less desirable fates for a steelhead fly.

What's this? Daylight. The shadow of a lurking hand over the left side of the box. Standard. But the shadow shifts, hovers over my head... everything goes dark for a moment. Suddenly I'm being strangled by a piece of 20 lb. test fluorocarbon and now, now, holy shit, I'm flying!

Straight towards that tree. This is it, I'm done. One cast, one lousy freakin' cast and I'm done. But he must have checked the cast; Suddenly I'm submersed and falling, pulled by some unknown weight. Now I'm swimming slow, steady. Pulsing feathered appendages, kicking flashabou tails, trying to act like I've been here before. Nearing the bank there is less and less water covering my head. The current loosens its grip, I begin to fall. And just like that I'm flying again.

I might puke. This has gone on too long and frankly I'm not sure I'm cut out for it. Maybe he was right to ignore me all those years. Maybe there is no place for a pink and blue steelhead fly on a Midwest river.

A thundering jolt and the world goes black again. What the fu-


I'm flying again, but not of my own accord. Whatever this thing is, it's pissed. At him or at me, I can't say, though I suspect the latter. Regardless, I seem to be bearing the brunt of its discontent. If I was thinking about puking before, it's over now; I purge a couple loose threads. God I wish he would've pinched my barb. This thing is ruthless. And it smells like shit.

Before long it's over and I'm in the winners circle. He's snapping pictures, I'm trying to make sure my feathers are full and my collar's not inside out. It's just like I dreamed it. Soon I'll be drying out on a patch with a picture window view, telling sories about my own bullet train ride. And I won't be alone for long. Hang in there Pink and Orange!

Friday, January 20, 2012


As we're buried under layers of snow and a blanket of cold air that seems as if it'll never be pulled away, the "unseasonably warm" temperatures of a week ago seem like ancient history.  It's impossible to say for sure whether the best winter steelhead season in recent memory is officially over or not.  Despite the fact that it's the end of January, there's still some incredibly warm days forecasted for the next week.  However, I guess that it's important to remember that good fishing doesn't last forever, but winter in Cleveland always does.

Over the past month I've been lucky enough to be fishing my home water of northeast Ohio, with a handful of exceptions, almost exclusively.  The duality of an intimate relationship with a piece of stream so close to home is simple; when she's fishing well, there's nothing better, but for a young fly fisherman with a bit of a wild side and sense of adventure, it's easy to look past and in the belief that greener pastures lie elsewhere.  Thankfully, for a variety or reasons and a bit of luck, I didn't fall into that mind trap this time. 

Most of the time I've spent on the water of the past month has been by myself.  Considering the time of year and weather (even on a warm day), this shouldn't come as much of a surprise to any of you.  I've long believed in the importance of basic mental health (not in a clinical sense of course, but simple in the idea that it's important to do what you want and to be happy while you're doing it) and sometimes these solo expeditions on a cold, snowy day are exactly what's called for to maintain that sense of well being.  When no one in their right mind is around, the snow is barreling in sideways, and even the ambient noise of the moving water is deadened by layers of fleece and frozen precipitation, it's easy to slip into that happy place.  

A week or so ago Jim had the day off from work, and surprisingly enough, I had a free day as well.  As I was driving back from the West Branch of the Delaware, we talked and settled on a time and a place to meet rather quickly and readied gear for the next morning.  A few hours after daybreak I picked up Jim and his trusty hound, and we started driving along the river and before long we parked in a familiar place and started heading upstream.  

The first pass through the run was promising - one really solid grab, and another light, but certain, pull in the tailout.  I blew them both.  I'll just chalk those up to road burn and a lack of sleep from the night before - but even those are pretty sorry excuses.  When you're swinging in water temperatures below 35 degrees, no excuse provides comfort for a missed grab.  A few fly changes and more passes through some promising water gave up nothing, and with no tangible results to show between us, we decided to make a move.

As we walked down the next place we decided to fish, I continued down the bank to set down the extra gear we always seem to drag along with us.  I'd barely set everything down, when I turned around just in time to see to see Jimmy's line jump, and him set the hook into a fired up fish on his new "Big League Chew."

We swung through a few more promising runs with nothing to show for it, and decided to make one more move to a hit or miss spot.  The afternoon was beginning to fade into evening, and it seemed that lately that last part of the day had been the magic hour.  I'd be lying if I said we had high hopes for the last run, but after a couple of casts, I got hammered with one of the hardest strikes I'd had all winter.

After that, it only got better.  The fish were hot, and as the sun got lower, the more they seemed to want our flies.  The last two fish we landed pretty much summed it all up. 

We walked back to the car, and sat down on my tailgate.  There wasn't really much to say, but we agreed that we'd just experienced one of the best hours either of us had ever had steelhead fishing.  After experiencing fishing like that there's a part of you that wishes that this is what it was like every day.  Then, after you think about it, you realize that it probably shouldn't be.  If success was the norm, then it wouldn't be long before it lost its luster.

Friday, January 6, 2012

They're baaaack....

Looks like the Fly Fishing Film Tour is coming back to Cleveland after skipping us last time around. Looking forward to it...