Saturday, July 24, 2010

On the Lake: Lake, Ontario, Canada

July 1 - 8, 2010

Some men find fortune in this life ... Such is the case with my Grandfather, who in 1972 was divinely "led" to a Lake in Canada where he purchased two cabins on a couple of acres of land for just over $6000. Ever since then, the cabins have been in the family (along with the BEST location on the Lake one could ever ask for) and to say we've enjoyed Grandpa's investment would be the understatement of a lifetime.

Really, this is where it all began for Jay and I. Dad raised us on rock-bass at the young age of "as soon as we could stand and hold a 3 foot spinning rod". His motto if you want to get someone hooked on fishing - give them a good experience (which worked well on my wife too!). He always took us fishing for rockies because they were so easy to catch at a young age, and as we grew we graduated to smallmouth bass, pike and that path led us to fly fishing for trout, for which I will ever be grateful to my father.

Now, when I go to Canada it's the only time I ever touch a spin rod. The complications of going out in a boat full of people and fly fishing makes it tough. Though, I do find myself heading out in the boat alone some days to twitch damsel flies under the surface, or use deer-hair divers on the surface. Catching smallmouth bass on a popper is a pretty epic experience!

Our lake has pike in it too, though I've yet to land one on the fly. Jay caught a 5 lb. pike on the fly last year, but my few outings this year with a large streamer didn't produce. Next year I hope to correct that.

The fishing was great, the water was crystal clear and the weather was beautiful! Couldn't have asked for a better trip. I even got out one afternoon with Michelle and found a rock bar that you could barely get your popper on the water without a 1 lb. smallmouth crushing it!

Good memories! Old and new.


On the River: Spring Creek, Bellefonte, Central PA

June 28, 2010

Spring Creek in central PA - twice in less than one year, I feel fortunate. This really is one of my favorite places to fish in the world. There's just something about the early mornings, getting up before dawn to fish in the grey fog at the start of a new day. The air is dewy and cool and the midday heats up enough that it actually becomes a good excuse to come off the river for a decent lunch (as opposed to my normal "must not leave the river until dark" attitude). Compared to the West, there is no such thing as wind. Even a menacing wind in the East just has so much less force to it. Also, I find the more gentle river flows, due to less streambed gradient, is a welcome change from fishing the constant pocket-water of the West.

All-in-all, this Midwest-kid that moved to the Colorado Rockies swearing he'd never return, finds himself dreaming of fishing Central PA, Michigan, Virginia and Tennessee more often than is healthy.

This also happened to be the first time Michelle had every truly fished the Midwest or a TRUE spring creek. As you'll notice by the first fish she picked up, within 30 minutes of the first day, she was pretty happy about the whole ordeal. Also, might I mention, that if you've never fished a true spring creek - 7x is a must. You may pick up a few fish on that "cable" they call 6x, but what you need is flawless drifts in slow moving water that the fish has some time to drift downstream with your fly as it examines its prey. All that to say - my wife is pretty awesome hooking, fighting and landing that fish on 7x!

Our days were pretty typical of fishing Spring Creek, by the time things were heating up, the fishing was slowing down. We picked up our best fish before 9 AM, and then had to work pretty hard throught the lunch hours, looking for areas that were deeper, or had a cool spring. Most of the fare was #24 midges (cream, grey) and we did some scud and sow bug fishing as well, but for the most part, fish would shy away from the large size of the scuds and sows.

Most mornings were spent in a stretch that has a large spring on it. There are a few gravel riffles that would hold 20+ fish, all sitting in 8" to 14" of water. They spent their mornings idly snacking on selective morsels that would pass by. If you placed a cast just perfect, mended precisely and changed out your fly every now and then you would certainly get a few takes, just the slightest of flash from the mouth or a feint left or right. Hooking, fighting and landing were the next three obstacles to overcome.

Most fish were in the solid 14" range with a few pushing the 20" size mark, and I briefly spotted a 24" monster, but it wasn't long before he bugged out and headed for a more protected spot. It is truly an amazing river! Every time you add an inch to a fish, you find him sitting in a tougher drift. The ones in the 18" range were generally found sitting in impossible locations with about a 6" drift window, making a realistic drift very tough. But that's the beauty of it, though we weren't there for a hatch, Spring Creek has some epic hatches, and those are the times when the "big boys" become much more available.

Without making this post a small novel, what can I say? We spent 3 days enjoying the weather and the water, with plenty of fish to throw in. That's not bad considering I would have enjoyed myself with no fish.

Tight Lines,

(Side note: we did spend one morning at Big Fishing Creek. Which was a boyhood favorite. However, I'm not sure if we just timed something wrong, but we hardly spotted a fish all morning. Maybe we picked the wrong stretch to be on, maybe the river has fallen on some tough times. Sadly, it was a disappointing morning, mostly from not living up to memories.)

On the River: Norfork River, Arkansas

June 3, 2010

Ahhhh Arkansas! Land of my fly fishing birth! One of two really. I started fly fishing somewhere around the age of 12. Jay (big brother) is 5 years older than me and he started somewhere around that age too. A friend of our fathers had a fiberglass rod in the rafters of his basement and he gave it to Jay. After about 5 years of Jay being self-taught, on mostly bluegill and bass, he started to pass it off to his little bro (me).

I don't remember which came first, Arkansas or Pennsylvania, but I do know that the very first places I ever fly fished was the Norfork and White rivers of Arkansas, and Penn's creek in Pennsylvania.

Ever since then, we try and make a pilgrimage to Arkansas every year two and they are almost always worth it! The times it's not is when you show up for 5 days and the water is high the entire time.

That wasn't the case for this trip (or at least not exactly). We had been watching the Norfork flows pretty closely and the rhythm was the generators shut down at 9 PM and turn back on at 12 noon the following day. The White was out of the question since it was mostly running at full generators.

If you've never fished these rivers they are tailwaters, but they water flows are dictated by power demand. On low flows, I think the Norfork runs around 70 cfs, but when they turn the generators on the river becomes a raging torrent at about 6000 cfs. Kind of a dramatic change ...

Nevertheless, fate was kind of on our side and we adjusted accordingly to make our fishing day from 5 AM (on the water, in our spot fishing) to 12 noon.

This trip was prompted from an article that told of the "rebirth" of the river due to massive flooding two years prior (I think it was two years ago). Jay and I can attest that the rivers were getting a bit stagnet, with algae blooms replacing the beautiful cress grass and vegitation. Fish were looking sickly and bigger fish seemed to be more scarce. The rumor was that the flood gutted the river, blew out the algae, and washed a bunch of dead baitfish into the river below. I don't know about all those factors, but I can say that the slime of the river was gone, the underwater vegitation was looking better than I've seen it in many years, and the scuds were ... abundant (to put it lightly).

We had a great trip! Most of the grey mornings were spent blind fishing gentle riffles, and once the sun was up it was a sight nymphers dream! There were also risers to be had on midge and baetis, but the vast majority of fish were active sub-surface.

It's always hard to say what was my favorite, because I love the subtle strikes of blind fishing, but how can you go wrong with sight nymphing? If you've never fished the area before, you're probably asking how I can compare blind fishing with sight nymphing, but this place is different. There are so many fish that will be tucked up into 8" deep, broken water that it really means blind fishing is unique and nothing short of awesome! So, you end up blind fishing these shallow, broken riffles that a two-year old could walk across without much trouble, but if you pay attention to these lightning micro-strikes, you lift up on a 14" rainbow that you never even saw there! It's pretty sweet.

As far as flies and tactics go, it's pretty straightforward nymphing. You can fish standard runs all day long, or you can fish tight (as described above), or you can get crazy and fish flat water for bigger fish, feeding lazily on midges. Our staple flies ended up being the Gammarus Scud and a #24 Cream Midge with a thread head (which we don't currently sell, but we hope to correct that sometime soon!). Sow bugs were working well too, just not as well as the G-scud.

Really, if you wanted a bigger, picky fish, you needed the cream midge with 7x and a micro indicator. That's where the money was at.

All in all, we landed a ton of 12" to 14" fish, a good amount of 15" and I think five 18"+ fish. Never really spotted any Monsters in the 6 lb.+ class, which was a bit of a shame cause that is our favorite target.

A good time was had by all, and the days were filled with friends and family. Ben joined us for the trip and I think he will chime in and verify that our tales of Arkansas were not too highly exaggerated.

Until next time,


On the River: East River, Gunnison, Colorado

May 15, 2010

A short jaunt to the East River during one of my favorite seasons to fish it! Sadly, living in Colorado Springs now, that is a statement you won't get to hear much from me. In the Gunnison days, we really could head out to the river for an evening hatch after work. Living a minimum of an hour from trout water makes that a little tougher to do.

I love fishing the East River in the pre-runoff season because you can hit days where the water is just starting to come up (i.e. greenish murky) but is easy to wade, and the fish are stuffing themselves with any and everything being washed down the river by the slightly increased flows.

If you are just beginning your love affair with this sport and are in need of some encouragement here is my best suggestion: Buy some flies with a tungsten bead (AB hare's Ear, AB Pheasant Tail, AB Prince Nymph) and fish them below an indicator in slightly off-colored water. It's the best time to catch fish when they aren't too spooky, are feeding like crazy, and lots of nymphs that the hare's ear/pheasant tail genre are in the water. The strikes will be solid!

Having said all that, that is pretty much how our few hours went. Numerous fish, slamming a single Hare's Ear set about 3 feet below an indicator.

If it's not pre-runoff season, just look for summer days when there has been a light rainstorm recently and you may get a taste of what it's like!


On the River: Cheeseman Canyon, South Platte River, Decker, CO

May 9, 2010

Well sir, I'm back in the saddle again ... After a ton of packing, uprooting our lives, and then replanting in Colorado Springs (not to mention squeezing in a fair amount of fishing in the mix), Michelle and I (and Allen Brothers) are officially residing in Colorado Springs, CO.

Oddly, this post is from when we were still living in Gunnison, and made a trip out to Cheeseman Canyon in the spring to escape the "frequent snow storms" in Gunnison (yeah ... we had weekly snow storms until the end of May, it pretty much stunk!).

It was a beautiful day on the river. The wind was pretty brutal, but what else can you expect in the spring? Really, it was the only draw-back to the day, because it forced us to fish a heavier weighted system than I wanted to (yeah ... it was windy enough that you couldn't mend without sending your whole rig flying into the air!)

Fishing was the usual Cheeseman Canyon fare of Blacktail Baetis, Gammarus Scud, and Grey midges. Nothing really happening on the surface of the water. The flows were about the lowest I've ever seen them on that river, so it was quite fun from the perspective of sighting fish (when the water wasn't broken from the wind). I hooked into a few nice fish early on that weaved me through a few boulders, and one fish even took the "bat cave" and left me snagged deep in the bowels of the earth DIRECTLY UNDER a bus sized boulder!

The first "traditional run" we started fishing had a few tanks lined up and it wasn't too long before the right drift turned them. In all fairness (and I'm sure Colorado Angler can confirm), I think they were fish that had been recently stocked in the Wigwam section and had migrated up. They looked like a special strain of rainbow that only rich people normally get to fish to (plus, the silver coloration indicates they hadn't been eating the nutrient rich food source from Cheeseman Canyon for very long).

Regardless, Michelle and I were both happy to land one of them. In fact, as you can see in the picture below, Michelle was quite ecstatic! They had some serious power, and it's probably the biggest fish she's ever landed on that light of tippet (7x). Never underestimate the power of a 2 weight! (yes, for all you naysayers, she landed it in under 4 minutes)

A few other nice fish were hooked, some other large "tanks" were turned, but all in all we didn't land too many fish that day.

I'm really looking forward to making Cheeseman some of my home waters ... once we get all unpacked and I hit the river some more, that is.

Tight Lines,