Friday, August 30, 2013


We left early enough that even with an 8 hour drive, catching the evening hatch was still a possibility. The only problem was that we didn't know what the evening hatch was, or where it was happening for the matter. We also didn't know where we were going to be staying, err, parking. Rather than do anything rash, we figured we'd better get the lay of the land from the guys who knew it best. It began with standard shop talk and a request for some information. In fairness, we didn't really give the guys much direction...

"Where were y'all wantin' to fish?"

Mmm, we're not really sure... we have a boat though!

"Well, what were y'all wantin' to fish for?"

Well, we came down here to catch carp, but we hear the trout fishin' is pretty good. And you guys have good smallmouth fishin' too, right? We love smallmouth fishin'.

We danced in circles for a bit before deciding that trout fishing was a good place to start. And then somebody mentioned something about some 30 pound streamer-crushing battleships that were hanging out in the lower river, which got us all screwed up in the head. Not surprisingly we fished with a severe case of ADD on the first day, torn between casting giant streamers or trying to feed dry flies to the oodles of trout that were set up on the surface, gorging on sulphurs. At day's end the results were proof of our lack of direction.

On day two though, with a little help from our friends at the fly shop, we set out with a solid plan: Big flies on sinking lines for big fish. I'd never caught a striper, or even seen one in the water. I had caught their white bass cousins though, and I figured if the aggression/power/size ratio translated.... I shuttered at the mere prospect of such a fish. We angled with focus and patience, re-rowing sections in order to cover both banks, casting to all the likely holding water, working the flies slow and deep and moving a few nice trout. As evening came on though, we'd yet to find any linesiders and with a thunderhead moving in we decided to take a break for dinner and let the storm pass. We hoped that the dusk hour would change our fortune.

The rain came in buckets. We tried to take shelter under an old railroad trestle, which did little to keep us dry. The dogs shot me looks of resentment as the rain spattered against them relentlessly, as if this was my doing. I wanted to tell them that, save for the cold Budweiser in my hand, I wasn't faring much better, but I don't think it would have changed their minds. After 20 minutes or so the heavy stuff had passed, and fishing seemed like a feasible option. We bailed a couple inches of water from the boat and Alex went back to casting as a dense fog settled on the water.

The river was losing it's current as it was swallowed up by the reservoir downstream, and we crawled along at a snails pace. The fog seemed to muffle all the outside noise, and as the day light continued to fade, it captured and reflected the oranges and yellows of the parking lot street lamps that marked the end of our float. It all had an eerie feel to it. I looked left while Alex cast right, looking for some sign of fish but seeing nothing. We weren't waiving the flag yet though. Everyone we'd talked to said if it was going to happen anywhere, it was going to hap-

"Holy shit!"

I snapped my head back to the right just in time to see a massive swirl of silver and iridescent purple all twisted up and thrashing on the surface, the 8-weight rod jolting toward the water. Victor, who'd been sleeping quietly in the back of the boat most of the day, vaulted the rowers bench to get a better view of the action. He knew - we all knew - that this was a big fish. 

When it finally came boat-side, I couldn't take my eyes off of it. The twilight seemed to make the faint purples and blues and greens glow against its mirrored silver sides. I broke my daze long enough to net the half of the fish that would fit, and corralled it into the boat. 

It was just one fish, but after a summer of hearing "you should have been here yesterday," it would feel pretty good to feed somebody else that line the next day; The heavy rains persisted throughout the night and into the following morning, and a hundred miles down the road we learned from our new friends that the rivers we'd left behind were running red with Tennessee mud. Heading for high ground seemed like the best thing to do...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


I guess you could say it's been a pretty good summer for Dudewater.  Since Memorial Day, we've covered a lot of ground - even though admittedly I'm playing a bit of catch up after a long stint on the DL with a "lower body injury."

With a few clicks of a mouse, a card sized piece of plastic, and a handful of phone calls to some old friends in the cowboy state, the plans were made.  Later that night, a friend and I sat down in front of the computer, a Wyoming gazetteer, and a bunch of national forest and BLM maps and started making plans. 

It's important to say that no fishing trip - no matter how close, or what duration - ever goes to plan.  The fish, weather, and water always seem to have their say.  But as an angler, you certain things you want to do - and setting yourself up for a successful trip, guide day, or even a specific cast means making sure those expectations are reasonable.  Ideally you settle on a degree of rigid flexibility, which basically boils down to keeping your options open, and resolving to making the best of what's around.  

As readers of the blog have heard me say too many times before, September in Wyoming is the greatest month in my favorite place on earth.  With winter fast approaching, and the already light crowds of anglers that travel to the state having left by mid-August, even the most "popular" water is left empty.  

Already unpredictable mountain weather becomes even less so.  One morning you wake up to sunshine, and the next you're fishing through a soaking cold rain or an early snowstorm that swept over the mountains overnight and without warning. 

The hope is always that the summer bugs are still around - but sometimes that expectation is pretty divorced from reality. After a few cold nights with frost or snow, a more realistic hope is that the fish just remember what a friggin' hopper looks like - and not that there's biblical hordes of them singing along the banks of the rivers. 

But the best thing of September is that it should bring some of the best fishing of the year.  The fish know as well as anyone what shorter days and cooler weather mean, and they're deterimined to make the most of their remaining chances before they dissappear for the season.  Full of color, power, and the weight put on by a summer of heavy feeding - late in the year the fish are at their physical peak.

So now I'm just sitting around in hurry-up-and-wait mode - prepping gear, organizing fly boxes, tying more than is really necessary, and staring mindlessly at every flow gauge within three hundred miles of any place we might reasonably expect to go.  With every click the anticipation builds, and in a few short weeks the wait will be over.  Needless to say, I can't wait.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

"I see your carp..."

And raise you a toothy critter.

Kyle Nonamesplease throwing down a possible trump card in the "What are you fishing for" photo contest. Somebody is going to have to play the creative angle to top this one! Well done mate, and cheers to your pal behind the lens. We're all jealous.

Friday, August 23, 2013


If it seems like the Michigan wrap up is dragging on a bit, forgive me. With the culmination of Tennessee tour, we're now sitting on a full backlog of pictures and stories, writing and editing. With the dawn of steelhead season fast approaching, it won't be getting any easier to find time behind a computer. Thankfully, in the meantime some of our readers have been supplying the blog-fodder for us in the form of submissions to the ongoing "What are you fishing for" photo contest....

Would love to see a few more submissions, especially with the "relaxed" contest rules. The swag is there for the taking. Who doesn't need a new Buff and a fresh fly line??

Since you're probably wondering, the Big Orange came through the Volunteer state with flying colors and made for another epic adventure. As for all that "live blogging" talk about the 3RCC... tough to post pictures of the fish you didn't catch. An awesome time was had by all though and I'm working on the recap as we speak.

Going Down in the UP

Note: This is the third post chronicling a trip from June of this year. Check out the previous two installments here and here.

Wednesday morning Alex and I opt to split from the group and run a longer float. Having grown tired of the shuttle circus we put a call into Dee Dee who arranges for a friend to meet us at the take out and run us back to the boat. We’re on the water hours earlier than the previous two days, but it’s a mixed blessing; for the third day in a row it is scorching hot and the humidity is thick. We counter the heat with cold Budweiser and in honor of the forthcoming holiday, we institute a boat rule that for every bald eagle that flies over, we pop a top and toast to America. Back home you'd be hard pressed to catch a buzz playing by these rules. But eagles are hardly endangered in the UP and today they seem to be particularly fond of the midsummer air currents.

By late afternoon the combination of good fishing and happy eagles has me feeling a little cocky on the bow of the boat. After three days of punching big flies into tight places I'm feeling the rhythm and start calling my shots. We drift past another woodpile and I tuck the fly against the leading edge of the log, drift it for a few seconds and come up empty. Dissatisfied, I pick the fly up and angle the next cast back upstream, over the log and into the pocket. It gets crushed the instant it hits the water. Alex, caught off guard by the cast and the take, makes a quick adjustment at the oars and before I know it I am hurdling into the river, sending him into a roar of laughter. I half swim, half wade over to the bank and hand-line the fish over the log, soaked up to my ears and feeling a little less cocky. I should've known that The River would find a way to bring me back down to earth - literally and figuratively. 


I should have known too that what The River giveth, she also taketh away. After a couple more fish to hand, a massive thunderhead that we've been running from all day finally catches up to us. We spend the last hour and a half pushing for the ramp in the driving wind and rain. 

With the boat finally on the trailer we head to the bar one last time to dry out and game plan for tomorrow. We'll drive east and spend a day on trout water, where another set of storms will chase us off the river again, reducing us to tying flies and sipping whiskey in the Big O. We have three days to solve the mystery of the vast Lake Michigan flats with nothing more than a compass reading and a few pre-conceived notions to point us. We're not sure what we need to find, but we're cautiously optimistic that we'll find it.