Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dream Fly Rods and Reels

   I recently got to thinking of what would be my ultimate gear list.  I don't usually do that but I have this unbelievable bamboo Fall River Fly rod staring at me from across the room (More on that in another post) and it got me thinking about my dream fly gear.  Or to be more precise 'dreaming of my bucket list of fly gear'.
   After nearly eight years of fly fishing and collecting gear I still haven't brought myself to spend a whole lot on my gear.  My current list of rods and reels currently occupying a corner of my garage is a motley crew of low end graphite rods, a 40 year old glass rod that is willowy, and a few nicer Tenkara rods.  By far my favorite is a 5/6w rod custom made for me by a friend and labeled as "The Flying Dutchman".  I do love that rod.
    My reel selection is another gang of misfit Southbend rejects off eBay, Cortland, and various other lower end reels that perform when asked to but don't do much for the aesthetic value of the fishing outfit.  My best reel is a mid-range Ross fly start that usually is partnered with the 'Flying Dutchman' and a 6w line.
  All that being said, I do not believe that a more expensive fly fishing outfit will ever yield you more fish.  I can just as easily not catch fish on a $1,500 outfit as well as I can't catch fish on a $100 setup.  Fishing has little to do with the brand of gear being used and more with the skills of the fisherman and the conditions of the water.  However I know that we all have a few pieces of gear we would like to have if we had the choice and truth be told fishing with a higher end setup is often easier and less frustrating.  Anyone who has ever had the drag on their fly reel suddenly break free and watch as thirty feet of fly line and backing gets ripped off the spool by the current while you are trying to battle a 14in brown knows just what I am talking about.
    While surfing the web the other day I came on a few pieces of gear I would love to have.  Over in England Hardy reigns supreme, or at least it use to, so what would be better than that classic piece of machinery.  I found a few at the North East Tackle Supplies and the Fly Depot other online sites that would fit the bill.  The G Loomis rods aren't as old as the Hardy but boy do they make a nice rod.  I got the chance to look these over at the SE Fly Fishing Show and had to wipe the drool from my chin.
 Anything from Abel would be killer but the limited edition ones rock.  Way out of my price range but seriously they rock.  I found this one with a killer red fish on it and.... well what can you say.  Sweet.  Maybe someday they will put my art on a killer reel of theirs..... Now that would be a Dream Piece Of Gear!!!

    What would be your Dream setup?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Painting Browns

After a very hectic few weeks my wife and I sat outside on Sunday afternoon to enjoy the peace and quiet of just being home.  With a beautiful sky and the soft breeze rustling the trees my wife settled down to enjoy her new book and I broke out the paints.  It has been over a month since I had picked up a brush and I struggled to get back in the groove but eventually it started to come back.
 With the Wisconsin browns still fresh in my mind I went to work trying to recreate their stunning colors.  Of course no painting or photo can do them justice but I gave it a shot.  This 8x10 painting only took me ninety minutes to complete and it showed, but while working outside one needs to work fast to overcome the fast drying action of the sun.  This PlenAir style is always rougher than the more finished product of working in a studio but when one wants to paint just to do something while enjoying the fresh air, it is a satisfying past-time for any artist.
  One additional benefit of completing a painting is such sort order is that I have additional time to fire up the new grill I got for fathers-day.  That's right, you can be jealous, I got a new grill.  As my loving wife knew before she surprised me, I prefer the cooking power of good old fashion hot coals to the gas powered grills so prevalent today.  But this isn't your dads kettle grill.  Its got a small propane charcoal lighter for starting the coals, and adjustable rack for heat and an easy to clean tray to remove the spent coals.  In short, this thing is sweet and I can almost guarantee that the butcher-shop is going to get a fair amount of business this summer.  Grill ON!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Day 2 In Southern WI

The Browns Amazing Color
Our day two on the southern Wisconsin streams did not start well for me but it ended with some stellar fishing.  Truth is, much of the day could not be expressed in words but luckily I have the pics so for this post it is pretty much just going to be a picture show so enjoy.
That mess of a fly is a large beadhead hairs ear
I nice Brown right after the release
This spring spilled right into a pool that held mountains of trout
This trout got hooked on a large red BeadHead Brassy.  I hooked quite a few on these # 12 flies.  After I lost the last one of these flies I had in the box with a bad back cast into five foot tall grass I switched it up to a smaller brassy which the trout never even looked twice at.  I eventual whipped out a white and red #14 Prince Nymph which hooked a few but by far the best luck came with the good old #12 red.  It wasn't till later when I was looking through the pics that I noticed the ribbon of blood running down the trouts mouth.  The way it looked in the pic it appeared that the Nymph was coming to pieces but I assure you this lovely brown was released relatively unharmed.  A little blood never hurt anything.

Besides the nymphs which the browns eagerly took, a few nice trout took to the air in search of the dries.  After trying many flies in the box I came to the realization that my box of dries just wasn't deep enough in the smalls.  I only had four or five dry flies under size 16 but as you can see from this little guy, 18,20, ans 22 sizes were what the trout really where after.  Next time I will come to the river prepared.

My buddy hooking yet another

In the end we caught a ton of fish, had a great time, and created some killer memories that will last with us a lifetime.  I was sure glad I made the trip, hurt hand and all.  If you have never fished in the southern area of Wisconsin before and you have the opportunity, TAKE IT!  I have never seen so many fish in so many miles of water.  We never really hooked into any huge monsters but we saw them and I know they are there.  Maybe next time I'll coax one to bit but for now I am satisfied with the amount I have hooked.
 After a long day we had a beer and took the opportunity to rest and eat a picnic table placed stream-side in memory of an angler you once stalked these same waters.  I could not think of a better tribute to that angler who I never knew than to pass on a place for future anglers to rest and reflect on a stream he obviously loved.  I drink a toast to you.

Friday, June 8, 2012

An IL & WI Trip Filled With Fish, Family, & Blood

Wisconsin Brown
It is hard to compress a few weeks of vacation in Illinois into one quick post so I'll spare you the details of my sister-in-laws wedding, the family stuff, the various places we went and people we saw, and I will pretty much stick to the fish I caught.  I will warn you however that this is one very long post.
Its worse than it looks!
My first few days was faily uninteresting.  I fished the Mississippi river and caught some white bass, saw about four large Northern Watersnakes swimming the shore line and spent my mid mornings biking nearly 100miles on The Great River Road, a section of which spans from Savana Illinois to Moline.  Unfortunately on my fourth bike ride, and the one on which I had been planning a longer 60 mile round trip ride, I took a 90 degree corner at about 20mph that happened to be filled with loose gravel.  A long and painful story later, I spend six hours in the ER getting gravel removed from my hand and stitches put in.  My first investment when I get home will be a pair of bike gloves so this kind of pain wont happen again.
One Big Stripper Hybrid
A few days later, after convelessing on a couch, my brother in-law made it out to fish the Mississippi before the festivities of our other sister wedding.  If you caught my last post then you will remember this fish and the story behind the catch.  If you haven't read it then flip over and check it out or simply check out the photo.  It speaks for itself.  I will also mentioned that I still remains the biggest fresh water (non cat) fish that I have ever seen.
    After that catch it was on to the wedding and other family events but as soon as that was over I packed the car and headed up to the Driftless area of SW Wisconsin for two days of fishing that areas legendary brown trout.
    I met up with a friend of mine from college and his neighbor and for ten hours we stocked trout up and down this stretch of river that I have only read about.  I was amazed at the amount of trout stacked in this stream.  Pilled up like cord wood in late fall, these wild browns were amazing and for a guy that is use to hunting elusive trout in the low PH waters of the Blue Ridge mountains, these cow pasture and spring fed stream trout were a dream.
A Trout In My Good Hand
    Beautifully colored and extremely selective, these trout behaved unlike any I have ever fished.  I was told that the water levels were low for this time of year and that might have accounted for their reluctance to take my droppers but I still managed to trick a few into taking the hook.
    I also took some time to help a new fly angler land his very first trout.  After watching him cast to some selective trout, I handed him my rod and gave him a few pointers of shooting line and the pin-point casting (neither of which I can claim to be a master of) and then I cheered with the enthusiasm of a school boy when a trout leaped from the depths and took his sedge.  I even clapped my hands, completely forgetting the still oozing wound from the bike accident.   Its amazing how rewarding it can be watching someone new to the sport hook into a beautiful trout on a dry fly.
A New Anglers First Trout On A Dry
From then on we fished for a few hours more and I took some amazing pics both of trout and the landscape.
One of the pics I fell in love with was a pic of a thistle that bordered the stream.  The angle in the background was my buddy who shortly after this hooked into a nice fourteen inch brown.
Thistles On the Stream

In case you are wondering, these thistles hurt every time you run into them in the tall grass.

    Finaly at 10pm wee checked into the hotel and made our way down to the local bar for some Wisconsin beer and some down home cooked meals.  Sharing stories of the day on the water and the past trips we have taken, we all looked forward to the following day.  This Wisconsin trip was only a two day event but it is just to big to cram into a single post so day two will have to wait.  And if you ever get a chance Fat Squirrel and New Glarus's other brew, Spotted Cow, are two great beers you need to try.  If there are only two things you ever try from the state of Wisconsin, do yourself a favor and try the Cheese and Beer..... The trout fishing ain't so bad either.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Big Upper Mississippi Striped Bass

I haven't posted much over the last few weeks mostly due to a lack of things to post about. I have done a fair amount of fly tying, did some fishing and did some art but until today it all just kind of seemed bland.  This morning, with a massive weather system raising the river 2 1/2 feet in 24 hrs and dropping the temps down to a chilly 43 degrees, I met my brother-inlaw on the banks of the mighty Mississippi river just north of the Moline, IL.    We launched the boat with little expectation of catching anything due to the weather but still were eager for the morning on the water.
In the first five minute he had hooked into this hawg and took us on a ride below the lock and dam.  For seven minutes we speculated that he had either hooked into a big channel cat or Mississippi flathead.  What we didn't suspect was that he had hooked into the biggest Mississippi striped bass I had ever seen.  I have fished that stretch of river nearly my entire life and nothing I had ever seen had even come close to the size of that bass.  It was a fantastic catch and I got the video and pics to prove it.
In the end we took the pics, looked around unsuccessfully for a scale, and then let the beast go for another angler to catch.  We never even discussed keeping it and it wasn't till later that I thought what a great trophy that would have made, but me and my brother-inlaw are much alike when we fish.  He still might look down on my fly fishing since he is strictly a spin guy but we two are never late to the water, we beat the sun to the dock, and we simply fish for fun.  The trophies and creel limits are an afterthought and only the pics and memories are what mater. Well done bro.