Thursday, February 28, 2013

On My Mind

Just one thing on my mind right now. Leave the sink tips at home and make sure you've got the grease, 'cause we're committed to the slippery, speak-easy, don't ask - won't tell side of steelheadin' this spring. OK, so I probably won't be abandoning the sunken fly anytime soon, and the water temps are going to have to get out of the 30's first, but I've decided that this is the year it's finally going to happen.

By the way... did you skip the embedded jam? Shame on you. That's vintage 'Keys material, and the bad karma that would riddle you for not listening is certainly not worth it. Find the groove, spin up a floater and get ready, because March starts today and spring is just around the bend.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

If It Ain't Broke...

At the "sippin' and spinnin'" caucus the other night we re-evaluated prevailing theories on fly design for winter steelhead. For the last couple years convention has held that big, bright and flashy was the ticket, but recent outings and grapevine reports suggested that the theory might have holes in it. Perhaps our fish are evolving faster than we think, and if so the only thing we can do is evolve with them, right? So I've been kicking out a steady stream of small, sparse, and natural at the vise and testing convention. 

Still, I haven't exactly been setting the world on fire. In the waning daylight of yet another windy, frigid and mostly fishless day, I met up with Alex for one last pass. I lead through with small, sparse and natural. He followed with big, bright and flashy....

Theory blown. After we landed his fish, I finished my pass through the tailout, reeled up and waved the white flag. Back to the drawing board. With maybe 20 minutes of daylight left I figured I'd better cut my losses and chalk it up to fish karma. Plus, I was on dinner duty.

As I started to walk out, Alex took a shot my integrity.

"You done?"

"Yea man, I think you found the only fish to be found today."

"Come on dude, one more pass. Put a Randy Moss through there."

I thought longer and harder about it than I probably needed to.

"Alright, I'll put one through there, just for you."

I dug through one of my umpteen boxes looking for a remnant tie from last year's binge. The fly had been a standby through last spring. But every change of seasons leaves behind a few forgotten soldiers. I found one buried beneath a pile of unproven newcomers and tied it on. Alex pointed out the ledge that his fish had come off of, and I began working my way down.

In mid conversation, the grab caught me by surprise and the line was slack again before I could even react. Then, another tug. 

"Oooh -"

Slack... a sinking feeling, followed by 1,000 years of excruciating suspense;



Sometimes you have to remind yourself that the wheel was invented a long, long time ago, and it's still rolling along just fine.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

State Of The Union

I still haven't landed a fish, but I did manage to [almost] forget about it for a little while thanks to a busy weekend in the local fly fishing community. 

First, there was the Fly Fishing Film Tour's Cleveland stop on Friday Night. Good to see all the familiar faces and a few new ones as over 500 people attended the sold-out showing. The movies definitely got everybody's blood pumping and I'm sure the Kayak and Expedia mobile sites experienced a temporary surge in traffic as all of us were undoubtedly conjuring up plans for our next grandiose expedition. 

It was also cool to see familiar faces lighting up the big screen, including  WorldCast Anglers' Mike Dawes, friend and film maker RA Beattie, and the one and only Alejandro Vega Cruz (Mr. Sandflea) who stole the show with their chronicling of the Scorpion Reef Expedition. Some Orvis colleagues of mine also put on a great showing in the film Urban Lines. And as for the afterparty? 

No names, please...

Saturday morning meant another round of Fly Tying 101, always a family affair at Orvis Cleveland...

and Saturday night brought around the man meal. Frog legs anybody? 

Good times and good food were had by all, and after a chat with Lake St. Clair's Captain Brian Mezaros I am counting the days until warmwater season and lookin' forward to flickin' chickens at some toothy critters. 

Meanwhile, winter keeps ticking along and the rivers keep blowing out on my days off. 

As anglers we're always looking for signs of hope during this time of year. The arrival of these little guys usually suggests that while we're not out of the woods yet, at least we've turned the corner...

Finally, we gave the site a little facelift just to keep things fresh. We'll probably do a little more tinkering in days to come, so keep visiting often and let us know what you think. In the meantime we've got the hound on the scent in hopes that we might actually be able to share some fish pictures by the time this weekend rolls around...

Friday, February 8, 2013



Editor's Note

This post was written in part as a response to a post by Mike Schmidt over at Anglers Choice Flies titled, "Some Thoughts From The Middle" which was written in part as a response to a post by the guys at Fish Camp Rehab titled, "Standing In The Generation Gap" which was written in part as a response to a post by Matt Tucker over at The Ozark Chronicles titled, "The Conclave Is Dead...The Fishing Is Not." I strongly encourage you to find some time to pay a visit to each of the aforementioned sites and to continue visiting henceforward... lots of good old fashioned story telling and some nice pictures for the "visual learner" in the bunch.

In case you're sitting at your desk on your lunch break and don't have two hours to read the full scope of posts, I'll bring you up to speed on the discussion with a few snippets that struck a chord with me.

From Fish Camp Rehab:

"...Too few old geezer fly fishermen have anything interesting to say.Those who do avoid these organizations and events like the plague except to make a cameo appearance and then go fishing and hit the local watering hole with the young fellas, where they are treated like war heroes.  They’re no fools!"

"When your brand of fly fishing is no longer fun and exciting, that is when your brand of fly fishing begins to die."

"...if we persist on this path too long, we become ridiculous old geezers sitting alone in a church basement next to the White River on a splendid Ozarks Fall day choking down rancid pork and dry chicken talking about fly fishing when we should be out there fly fishing."

From The Ozark Chronicles:

"About the only thing I can tell you about the FFF is that they offer fly casting certifications…………and at the end of the day fly casting isn’t fly fishing."

"Secondly, it comes down to how I value my time.  I am married 35yo guy with two daughters (ages 15 and 10).  I am a partner in a small construction company in a midwest metro area and between work and family, I have very little time for anything else.   For me, after choosing to spend time away from my family and my business, going to a “banquet” is the last thing I want to do.  I have a hall pass and want to blow off some steam and fish"

From ACF:

"Both generations need to understand that the other has something valuable to offer.  We need to leverage those skills towards a common goal of ensuring our sport is around for the next generation to enjoy."

"The guys from the old school have the contacts and capital to get stuff done while the new school has the means to quickly get the word out en masse and mobilize large numbers of people."

SO, without further adieu, here are my thoughts on the subject - take 'em or leave 'em. 

Take a deep breath, Gen X'er; this might take more than 30 seconds.

"I haven't caught a fish in 3 weeks, and I've spent plenty of time trying. Don't misconstrue it - I'm none too pleased with the situation, but I'm also not losing sleep (beer helps, a lot). Whilst mired in this fishless funk I've had ample time to surf the interwebs to see the fish that other people ARE catching and to read/hear what they're saying about it. I've got mixed feelings.

During this same spell I ran into a non-angling buddy at the bar. He mentioned that he visited this blog from time to time and, as a professional web commerce consultant, offered his advice on how I could improve it.

"You should post more. You'd get more hits, more traffic and more advertising $$$. You should open a Twitter account, too."

Hmm. Food for thought. I'm buried up to my eyeballs in loans of all forms and fashions, and a little extra scratch on the side could go a long way. And whose to say it won't yet? I haven't written this avenue off by any means. But, I have my reservations.

For starters, I don't like to mince words and I write when I'm compelled to do so. Until somebody starts paying me to put pen to paper every day (Anybody? Anybody?), I've got bills to pay and fish to catch and I don't have time to sit here and write about or photograph every last one of them. And I'm not down with Twitter, at least not yet (never say never). I'm turned off by the immediacy of the whole thing, by the overwhelming infatuation with knowing what everyone else is doing, everyday, all the time. Clearly the application has its merits and in that regard I suppose, like a gun, it's all about how you use it.

But let's not go there.

Most of all, as it pertains to the fly fishing industry, I am turned off by the gratuitous pimping that I see from fellow anglers, most of them from my age group (under 30). "We" want so badly to set ourselves apart that we share every waking moment of our lives, every fish we catch, every fly we tie, in hopes that others will shower us with praise. Be that as it may. It is a simple fact of life that fisherfolk love fishporn. Big fish hero shots will never die, nor should they (look no further than this blog). All I ask is that we mix in a little humility. Some experiences are meant to be internalized. Humility is a sign of intelligence, demonstrating an awareness of a world beyond the self, an understanding that your good fortune is due only in small part to your own doings. Call it Buddhist bullshit, call it Zenmaster nonsense, call it whatever you want. But please, get out of your cyber bubble and stop being a douche.

Did I lose you?

Sorry. Here ya' go:

Now please, keep reading.

During the most recent lapse in Dudewater posts, two friends and I loaded up a jeep, drove 5+ hours in the dark through one of the worst winter storms I've ever seen, with a drift boat in tow, "slept" for 5 hours in the parking lot of a Michigan truck stop, nearly died of methane asphyxiation, woke up and drove 3 more hours - just to go fishing. We spent the next 48 hours in a drift boat full of water, fishing in the pouring rain and freezing our stones off. We were chasing steelhead. We landed 0 steelhead.

On the afternoon of the second day another boat pulled up aside us mid river. The vessel was occupied by two local guides - no names, please. Both were older than us -"tweeners," if you've been following the conversation - who could easily have blown past us and snubbed their noses at a couple outsiders. Instead, they anchored next to us and made small talk. In short time we were passing around moonshine and tossing each other beers while lunch cooked on the grill. They told us stories of places we'd never been but hoped to visit someday, and we told them how much we appreciated them sharing their river with us. It was a happenstance of The Brotherhood at it's finest, and catching or not catching fish was a sidebar.

This is the beauty of our sport; It is transcendent across demographics, across socio-economic status, even across language barriers. It began before us, and if we're careful, it will continue long after we're gone. But only if we're careful. We are a strong contingent. We are small, but we are mighty. If we dissolve, we are nothing.

So how do we bridge the gap? First off, we look the influencers of the old guard (the "war heroes" that Fish Camp Rehab refers to) in the eye, shake their hands firmly and say "Thank you." Better yet.... we ask questions. Then, we listen to the asnwers. We don't tell them the way we like to do it. We can learn a hell of a lot more by understanding the way it used to be than by telling Bob Clouser or Lefty that we like to tie their patterns with craft fur because it moves better. That may be true, but instead how about asking ole' Bobby about the days when you didn't need craft fur or anything other than a few pieces of bucktail on a hook to put 100 fish in the boat on the Susquehanna -  and how we get back to that?

Listen up boys and girls: Before you click "post" again,  Spend some time in thought. Tomorrow is NOT promised and only our legacy survives us. I am not saying don't share your experiences, but consider your effect on the resource and your peers. It all boils down to respect - if you're not dishing it, don't expect it in return.

And let's be perfectly clear here: This is NOT "New School VS. Old School," "Left VS. Right," or anything of the sort. There are far too many frivolous whose-side-are-you-on ultimatums being placed on us by the national media as it is. But a flat brim and surfer shades don't pre-qualify you for the brotherhood. They won't exclude you either, but you'd better bring a sixer and some good stories to the table if you plan to stick around. And please, don't take yourself so seriously.

The brotherhood (sisters welcome) of fly fishing is strong, but it lacks a unified voice. And that voice should be saying this: We want more public fishing access and better protection for species and habitat, lest we should all end up fishless. It's time for my generation to get our shit together and let the old guard know that with all due respect - and I mean that - we'll take it from here.