Tag Archives: fly fishing

Two For The Price Of One: Soulfish 1 & 2 Review

Authors Note*** I am in no way a trained, licensed, or certified entertainment critic so if there is such a program that prepares or credentials individuals to review movies, I have no knowledge of it.  But I do watch quite a few movies and most of the time, I tend to disagree with those reviews that find their way into print, so, there is the disclaimer.

We (my wife and I) had the opportunity to watch SOULFISH and SOULFISH 2 this weekend as a result of the combination of having to work and the weather being what is was made it a premier chance to stay inside and live vicariously through other peoples accomplishments.

You want to see fly fishing action of the world’s largest Salmonid in Mongolia?  These movies have it.  Dry fly action for steelhead, bucket mouths on fly rods, inshore action in both gin clear water and the stained backwaters of the marsh delta, fish with chompers that would frighten a dentist, huge bones within line of sight of populated vacation areas, these movies have them all.

Both SOULFISH and SOULFISH 2 provide incredible insight to fishing corners of the world that most people would never have the chance to see (or even able to find on a map) let alone fly fish.  This is not the made up, fantasy land of professional actors, these are fly fishers doing what their passion is, fishing pure and simple.  If you take in the sights during the movie, it can give the viewer a feeling of inner peace.  If focus on the action is the impetus of watching it, it can instill a sense of envy.   But instead, take the cues from those fortunate to be part of the videos expertise in the areas fished to provide an insight of their knowledge of the sport that must be paid for through years of fishing or hiring a professional guide(s).

On a note, SOULFISH 2 gives credence to the human spirit that obstacles are not life stoppers, but challenges, that if met head on, can increase the total fly fishing experience.  Mike is a true model of resilience.

My advice, get both SOULFISH and SOULFISH 2 from a fine retailer like Fishwest and watch them when life keeps you indoors, you shouldn’t be disappointed.

I give SOULFISH three dry flies; SOULFISH 2, three dries and a nymph.

Hydro Flask: Not Just Another Water Bottle

One of my favorite new pieces of equipment is my Hydro Flask. I, like most outdoors people, get thirsty on my adventures. I always bring plenty of water with me the problem is that when I arrive back at my vehicle it is less than refreshing having sat in the sun all day. Hydro Flask has solved this problem with a whole line of products that will keep your beverages cold all day.

I know you might be saying, it’s just another water bottle, I did myself, but when I saw the Growler Sized Hydro Flask I thought I would give it a try. The results: amazing! I have come back to my vehicle after a day of fishing to find my Hydro Flask too hot on the outside to hold but when I take a drink, whatever the beverage, it is still ice cold! Now I have several at home, in the vehicle, even at work.

The other really cool thing is that the insulated walls are much thinner than any other insulated product I have ever come across so Hydro Flask is much less bulky and will accommodate much more liquid.

The pros are simple: Superior insulation for long term cooling, variety of sizes & colors, variety of tops to suit your preferences

The cons are much harder to find. I do find that I “need” more of the bigger sizes. Having cool beverages around I am much more inclined to drink so I run out when I use the smaller Hydro Flasks

On a scale of 1-5, I would definitely give all the Hydro Flask products I own an emphatic 5!

You don’t need to take only my word for it; I have yet to find a person who owns a Hydro Flask that has anything bad to say. Most are just happy to know at the end of the days there will be something cold waiting for them before the drive home.

To check out the rest of the Hydro Flask Line Click Here

UMF80LD50MO_s

Product Review: Umpqua Ledges 500 Waist Pack

 

Ledges 500 Moss

Up until this spring I have had the same fishpond Waterdance Guide Waistpack for close to five years without a single complaint. My waist pack was the only exception to my constantly changing fly fishing gear that I use on a regular basis. So when I was told one of the Umpqua Ledges 500 packs was going to show up here at the shop for me to use, I was skeptical.

My intentions were to load the pack up and use it once to learn about and then let the other employees at the shop here use it to learn about the product.  I was less skeptical after I had emptied my much larger fishpond pack into this pack completely. After fishing the pack on the day trip that I planned to be its only trip out with me, I quickly made the decision that I was selfishly keeping this pack for myself.

I wouldn’t venture to say that the Umpqua Ledges 500 is a better product that the fishpond Waterdance, However I would say it is a better fit for me. The reason is that the Ledges 500 is a smaller pack that forces me simplify what I bring with me, but for a medium sized waist pack it holds a serious amount of gear though. It comfortably holds 4 fly boxes in the main compartment along with a sandwich and granola bar, two water bottles, and a flat pocket for leaders etc.

Likes

  • Well planned medium size
  • Internal frame for support and ventilation
  • large main compartment

Dislikes

  • Shoulder strap slides requiring frequent adjusting
  • Mesh material on bottle holders gets flies stuck in it easily

If you are on the fence about medium sized waist packs and have thought about carrying less or wanting a smaller pack the Ledges 500 is definitely worth looking at.

Click Here to learn more and shop for the Umpqua Ledges 500 Waist Pack

Marina Flags

Teasing In Cabo

(A sample of the fishing and – the non-fishing – in Cabo San Lucas.)

To me, a “non-fishing” vacation involves fishing – just not the majority of the time.  So even for a “non-fishing” vacation, I research the fishing possibilities well before any flights get booked.  And I’m sure you can imagine why my girlfriend and I wound up in Cabo San Lucas this past March…

Halfway through the trip, I had a full day charter booked with Baja Anglers. At about 7 AM that morning, I hopped on a very fishable 26 foot Glacier Bay catamaran with my captain and mate. Our first stop was getting the bait part of “baiting and switching” from a local pangero; $20 got me a half dozen, 8 inch goggle eyes.

We started fishing almost as soon as we left the marina.   The mate ran the boat slowly along likely beaches and rock outcroppings while the captain bombed out long casts with a spinning rod and a hookless surface plug – the teaser. My job, with a 9 weight and 350 grains of sinking line, was to land a Clouser just beyond the teaser as the captain skipped it back into range.   And then strip like crazy.  Sounds simple, right?

The persistent swell, which was likely great for surfing, was not terribly noticeable when just sitting in the boat.  However, it felt like a mechanical bull was out to get me while  casting.   I have to admit that for the first 15 minutes I was pretty sure that my entire day would be stumbling around the stern of  boat while trying to avoid “clousering” myself and the crew.  Eventually, however, my casting smoothed out.

I actually found it helpful to throw my fly on alternate casts of the teaser.  Every other cast of the teaser, I would merely watch, ready to throw if a fish showed behind it.  The whole routine was a bit hypnotic, even zen-like…

Cabo JacksUntil fish crashed the party.   About every third spot we tried, a gang of jacks assaulted the teaser.  It was very visual – sometimes they were a dark, swarming mass and sometimes they churned the surface.   Regardless, before they could touch the surface plug, the captain jerked it away and I replaced it with a fly.

The jacks were hyper-aggressive.  The first struck so violently, I seriously thought my rod was going to break; I froze and the fish shook off.  A second jack was well into the backing before it came unbuttoned.  I finally landed jack number three and was shocked by its lack of size.  The way it tested my backing knot and bore under the boat, it felt much larger than its 6 or 7 pounds.

When the action slowed down for jacks, the captain harnessed a goggle eye to the spinning rod and slow trolled along the shore, hoping to attract a roosterfish within casting range.  Unfortunately, the roosters did not make themselves available and we changed gears again.

This time we headed about a half mile offshore, towards a loose gathering of other charter boats.   I should point out, that up to this point, we weren’t exactly fishing in the wilderness .  One of the jacks was taken with a construction site as a backdrop; many of the other spots were just off major resorts.  So heading into a pack of boats seemed like no big deal.

“Spanish mackerel and maybe some yellowtail,” said the captain as we took our place in the formation over about one hundred feet of water. Fishing this depth was VERY relaxing.  I believe I polished off a sandwich as my fly sank toward the bottom.

However, once more, the fish interrupted. Something pulled my rod into a deep bend and kept pulling until the backing knot was deep in the water.   I thought it was a big yellowtail, but it turned out to be a 5 or 6 pound Sierra mackerel.

And so it went…  Another half dozen sierras reluctantly came to the boat and a couple were kept for delivery to our resort’s kitchen later.   As strange as it may same in that deep water, the sierras occasionally boiled on the surface and offered a visual target.

With an hour left in the charter, the captain still wanted me to experience a roosterfish, so we went back inshore to a couple more beaches.  However, the roosters played shy and we were soon heading back to the dock, escorted by a squadron of low-flying gulls.

As I left the marina, a few locals filleted my catch for a few dollars.  That night, with the wizardry of our resort’s kitchen, the sierras provided our best meal of the trip.  Sierra mackerel definitely are definitely too tasty for their own good..

Overall, it was a great part of a non-fishing vacation.  But what about the truly non-fishing aspects?  Here’s a few things both my girlfriend and I would recommend:

  • Rent a car and drive out of town. Visit Todos Santos, a picturesque village with quaint shops and galleries.  On your way, pull down a side road and look at the giant cacti. Maybe even find the beach at the end of the road….
  • Take a guided hike to a waterfall in Baja’s interior mountains.  The scenery is incredibly unique. And the water is incredibly refreshing (icy?) if you decide to take a dip.
  • Stay at a resort that is off on its own with a quiet stretch of beach.  Pueblo Bonita Pacifica is one such place. Watch the surf roll up. Watch for whales in the distance. Stroll down the sand to the rocks at either end of the beach.

A kayak tour and some snorkeling – those are a couple things we didn’t do  in Cabo San Lucas.  Someday, I’d like to get back there and try’em.  Maybe in November, ‘cause I heard that’s a good time for striped marlin…

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(P.S. For non-fly fishing significant others and family, Baja Anglers is adept with ALL types of light tackle.)

Bahamas: Wild Kingdom Style

In June last year, Dustin Carlson sent my wife, LeeAnn, and I an invitation to join him and other Fishwest customers for a week of bonefishing at Deneki’s Andros South Lodge in March 2013.  LeeAnn got real excited about the prospect of going to the Bahamas and we immediately committed.  We are both freshwater fisherpeople with saltwater experience limited to surf fishing, we really didn’t know what to expect.

With nine months to prepare, Dustin and the Fishwest staff gave us all of information, advice and guidance we needed, from tackle selection (they found an 8wt rod that Lee could throw all day and not get worn out) and casting lessons to advice on packing lists.

After much anticipation we finally arrived at the lodge and we received the warmest welcome from the Andros South staff (see the post from JC about his sage advice on international travel) Now I am not the kind of guy that likes the white table cloths, fancy furnishings and swanky cuisine, I like the simple approach with a local flair and this place really fit the bill, it exceeded our expectations.  The trip was all inclusive and cooks and staff were local residents that treat the guests like family.  The food was AWESOME, fresh spiny lobster (crawfish), fresh conch in both fritters and fried, grilled grouper that was swimming 2 hours before it hit the home made BBQ, ribs and fried chicken, fried plantains, kasava root boiled in jelly coconut milk, made to order sandwiches for lunch, and coconut macaroons made with shredded coconut that Lee just had to get the recipe for, the best beer (Kalik) that has crossed my palate in a long, long time.  The beach that was postcard perfect and not a soul on it judging from no footprints was just a few feet away from the lodge’s self serve Sack Tide Bar (a tiki hut) and the ocean that’s the most beautiful shade of blue.  The Slack Tide has an interesting piece of memorabilia, a broken poling pole, but more on that later.  We found the guides just wonderful, all of them have their personalities, and are willing to coach and help with casting and catching as long as you listen and you may have to ask for it, depending on the guide as they don’t want to intrude or be pretentious.  Each one of them expressed a genuine concern for being stewards of the environment and only take from the sea what they need, never more and they protect those bonefish like they are their kin.

We got there the day we were supposed to start fishing, on Sunday at 1030 as we were delayed over night in Florida due to weather on the island and the plane could not land (the international airport in Congo Town is very small) and the lodge staff swooped down on us and rigged everything up so we went fishing on our travel clothes and our guide, Freddie, got us on fish within an hour.  There is an old defunct Navy Sub base on an island not far from the lodge that we fished around the early part of the first day and it reaffirmed why I don’t scuba dive, we had a gianormous bull shark that looked bigger than the 17 foot skiff we were in swim past us.  Believe it or not, when I saw the shark I immediately, actually said to the guide without any thought, “We need a bigger boat!”.   Freddie said not to worry, he has seen and dealt with bigger sharks than that “small” one.

The rest of the week we fished the west side as the weather was good, just a little cool, it took an hour boat ride to get there through a tidal creek system, sometimes having to get out and push the skiffs through skinny water.  It was like being at an aquarium.  We saw hundreds of sharks, alot of stingrays, multiple species of fish, sea turtles, various types of crabs, 5 dolphins herding the bonefish on the shore to eat them.

On Monday we were fishing along in the morning, with our guide named Ellie and he said “Good ‘cuda 9 o’clock, 90 feet”.  The locals eat them so I threw a tube lure over it and the barracuda followed the lure to five feet from the boat.  Then I saw a blender, the size of a five gallon bucket, full of razor blades open up and all hell broke loose!  I looked back at Ellie who was on the poling platform and he looked like this may have been a mistake judging by the look on his face.  The barracuda tried to jump out of the water through the fight but it could only get a third of its body out of the water.  A half hour later, I got it alongside the boat so Ellie could get it unhooked as he wanted to let it go, he said it was at least 15 years old and full of eggs.  He really didn’t want to bring it in the boat but had to in order get the hook out of it.  It was five and a half feet long and at least 40 lbs, Ellie said probably 45.  Ellie said it was the biggest barracuda he had seen or landed in 18 years of guiding and they work 6 days a week, October thru June.  We got a picture of him holding it, he (I) didn’t want me to hang on to 45 pounds of real bad attitude that could take my hand, arm or head off.  That fish was the talk of the day in the bar in town and at the resort.  Other guides that saw the photo could not believe the size of the ‘cuda.

On Tuesday we fished with Sparkles, a guide who has a passion for big bonefish and seeing his anglers catch them.  He wanted Lee to show him what she could do with a fly rod, so she threw a cast for distance, he then told her to cast to a small mangrove so she nailed it first cast.  He then did not question her abilities the rest of the trip.  Most of the fish we missed, we couldn’t see but Sparkles could, so we were blind casting at his direction.  Later in the day, we were motoring out of a mangrove creek when Sparkles pointed in front of us and shut the motor down and got the pole out.  He was pointing to a land point that was a convergence between two creeks and there was a great commotion going on in the water against the bank.  Three adult and two juvenile porpoises were knocking schools of bonefish against the bank and swimming almost out of the water to get them.  He poled us to the point as the dolphins went up the other creek and we watched them feed, breech and frolic in the water.  They are loud when they click and sing, we could hear them in the boat.  Sparkles said that they knock the bonefish against the bank to knock the scales off them so they cannot swim then they gorge on the fish.

On Wednesday, between me and Lee we caught over 25 bonefish, all thanks to Ellie and his keen sense of fish habits and eyesight that would make a hawk jealous.   He took a great deal of pride in our accomplishments that day. Most other days it was between 15-20 bonefish with too many blown casts, mostly because of the wind, but we had some good coaching and mentoring from all of the guides.

On Thursday Lee and I fished with apart with friends from the fly shop, she with Dustin, I with J.C.  Dustin is a superior photographer and wanted pictures of Lee to post on his fly shop website.  And he got some good ones during the week.  In the afternoon, Lee caught a bonefish and was bringing it in when a good sized lemon shark decided to try and eat it.  As Dustin reached over the edge to get the fish for Lee, the shark circled around the boat, came underneath it to get the bonefish.  Lee kept telling Dustin “get your hands out of the water!”  When the shark came out from under the boat, the guide, Charlie, jumped down from the poling platform cursing the shark and hit the shark in the head with the pole and scared it away.  Back to the pole at the Slack Tide, if you YouTube “Hammerhead Hammers Boat”, you will see an incident like what happened to Lee and Dustin.  The guide in the video is Sparkles.   When I was with J.C., he got his first barracuda that our guide, Norman gave a headache too.  JC gave me a lesson in casting unintentionally and showed me that he can sing too.  We caught numerous barracuda over the week and I lost count of how many we hooked.

On Friday it was slow for bonefish because of a cold front, but great for barracuda, we got into schools of them and Lee caught her first one, a nice 3 footer that fed the locals.  But we did catch identical bonefish on two different islands within an hour of each other and have good video of it, both of the bonefish were 26” long and just over 10lbs, which are considered trophies.  I hooked mine first and thought it was big, and when Ellie got excited, I knew it was a good one.  He was jumping around the boat to get a tape measure and the scales to weigh it.  There was a shark that Ellie thought might take it and it got a little intense playing the fish away from the shark.  Lee caught hers when we moved to another island and again Ellie got real excited grabbing the scales and tape.  He was surprised that it was within 1 oz of the one I caught earlier and gave Lee accolades for her angling skills.  He took us over to Leaf Key and I swear we were so far out that I thought I saw Florida.  That’s where we got into a school of barracuda and had a heyday casting and catching them.

Saturday we traveled home, a close to a trip of a lifetime that LeeAnn referred to as “Bahamas Wild Kingdom style”.  This is a trip that I would recommend to anyone, the lodge was clean, comfortable, and with a staff that displayed hospitality unrivaled anywhere we have ever been.    There were fishermen while we were there brought their wives who didn’t fish, but based on our conversations with them, they thoroughly enjoyed relaxing on the beach and shopping in town while their husbands were on the boats.

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 I had been tying flies for months prior to going on this trip and one of goals I had set was to catch fish on every style of fly that I had tied.  That goal was met within the first day and a half and I am already starting to tie for our next visit.  In case any of you go, I am taking orders for custom flies.

Grayling Beached

Tundra Trout

Editors Note: To catch lake trout in the summer, you generally need very deep water and very heavy jigs – maybe even down riggers.  But not necessarily..

Myself, Dad, and our friend Ben squeezed into what used to be a 10 seater Cessna.  Today it was a 5 seater with a lot of gear and supplies.  Even though there was no flight attendant, the food service promised to be superb; a big cooler sat in the middle of the plane – full of sandwiches, chips, cookies, soda pop, and maybe even the odd beer.

We were flying from Thompson, in northern Manitoba, to Keith Sharp’s Arctic Outposts in southern Nunavut.  The word southern is a relative term because the Canadian territory of Nunavut stretches to the north pole.  There were no trees at our destination, just Arctic tundra.  And even though it was mid-August, the water would be frigid and the lake trout would be shallow.  Did I mention that the lakers would also be ravenous? They only enjoy about 3 ice-free months each year.

I thought the cooler stuffed full of food would be the highlight of the flight but it turned out to be the caribou.  Shortly after crossing the treeline, the pilot was scheduled to land at an old air strip at an abandoned fishing lodge.  There was a fuel cache there; he needed to top up and maintain his emergency reserve.

However, a herd of caribou was lounging on the gravel air strip.  “No problem,” said the pilot.  He had obviously dealt with this before.  “We’ll just give’em a bit of a buzz.”  He lowered the plane to about one hundred feet and roared past.  Lazily, the caribou ignored us.

With the next pass, I’m pretty sure I heard an antler the plane’s underbelly.  The caribou bolted onto the tundra and the pilot landed.  He filled up the plane and the rest of us cracked open a beer and toasted the caribou.

Caribou SwimmingWe also got our first look at the tundra. The bareness of the landscape actually shocked me.  Pictures and video didn’t prepare me for the reality of all that nothingness.  As far as the eye could see, there were no trees – not even shrubs.  Nothing, except for the odd boulder  – and that herd of lazy caribou – was higher than your ankle.

In another hour, we landed on a gravel air strip built by Keith Sharp, our outfitter for the trip. Again, there was nothing higher than your ankle all the way out to the horizon.  The air strip serviced his main facility, Ferguson Lake Lodge.  Although Ferguson Lake had top notch fishing, we transferred our gear over to a float plane destined for a much smaller outpost on the Kazan River near Yathkyed Lake

After twenty minutes in the air, the plane drifted into the dock at our home base for the next 6 days.  It looked like a big, ugly plywood box but it held bunks, a fridge, and a propane stove.  Most importantly, it was right on the Kazan River and there was a boat with an outboard parked at the dock.

The fishing for the next six days was amazing.   The Kazan River at that particular place is more like a narrow lake.  Our box – or cabin – sat right on a severely necked down portion, where the current quickened and swirled.  A few miles downstream, there was a large set of rapids.  We didn’t have a guide; there was absolutely no need.  The rapids held fish, and so did the eddies and riffles beside the cabin.   Both lake trout and arctic grayling…

Lake trout smashed streamers at the base of the rapids and in the deeper eddies beside the cabin.  As long as it was at least 5 inches long, the lakers liked it.  My favourite patterns were purple or grey Deceivers.  I liked to think that purple imitated a grayling and grey imitated a sucker but the lakers were likely more starving than cerebral.  A floating line was all that was needed.

Since three guys in a fishing boat can be a bit of a disaster, we generally just waded.  And there was no bush to crash through alongside the river!  The boat was mostly for transportation.

Regardless, we put on neoprene waders right after breakfast and didn’t take’em off until supper.   There was a good reason for the lakers being so shallow, and a layer of neoprene felt good in the water and out.   Forget about breathability! When it rained, out came the old-fashioned yellow rubber rain suits.

Wading along the shallow riffles beside the cabin, or beside glides and pockets within the rapids, was prime for Arctic grayling. They gobbled down any dry fly or nymph.

A few lakers terrorized these spots and several unfortunate grayling linked angler and trout in tugs-of-war.  Sometimes the trout won; sometimes they didn’t.

The trout that lost these tugs-of-war were not good losers. They were definitely fired up; we learned pretty quick to have a big streamer handy so they could vent their frustration.

The sheer size of the lake trout made them fun to catch.   Most were 6 to 10 pounds but a few heavyweights were closer to 20.   All of them put a saltwater size bend in a beefy 10 weight and a few even exposed the backing. They were thugs that smashed your fly and brawled among the boulders on the bottom. They definitely didn’t like skinny water; just before landing they invariably flew into a thrashing, twisting rage.

The grayling were just as fun to catch, but for different reasons. Although most topped out 14 to 18 inches, their big dorsal fin, purple hue, and aerial tendency made them consummate entertainers on the end of a 6 weight.

In many ways the tundra is fly fishing utopia; there are no backcast-hungry trees, for example.  But the wind tends to howl with no respite from it.  Truth be told, we sometimes used conventional gear to cut through the wind and reach juicy holding water far from the bank.   Any thigh-high boulder became prime real estate during lunch breaks, and all three of us would try to tuck in behind it.

The wildlife was another reason to brave the wind. We saw cranes, geese, article fox, caribou – even a muskox and a grizzly. The caribou were pretty camera friendly but the muskox and grizzly looked way too grumpy to stalk with a camera.

If you’re looking for a technical, match-the-hatch experience, the tundra might not be your place. But the fun factor is huge and so is the adventure quotient.  It’s the kind of place that makes you think you’re first person to walk on it. I think it should be on everyone’s bucket list.

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Note:  This article is based on a trip to the Yathkyed Lake camp of Keith Sharpe’s Arctic Outposts. However, in the accompanying photos, there are shots from different trips to Keith’s Kaminuriak South and Corbett Inlet camps.  Unfortunately, Keith is no longer in the fishing trip business but a quick search of the web yielded one lodge which would likely offer a similar experience:  Tukto Lodge (www.arcticfishing.com).   There are also outfitters who offer guided wilderness canoe trips down the Kazan River.  One of these is Wanapitei Canoe (www.wanapiteicanoe.com/trips.asp?ID=19).

Green Grass and Dry Flies

Fly Fishing the Driftless

Over the past two years, it’s been fun to see the increasing interest in fly fishing the spring creeks of the Driftless region of the Midwest. Those of us who live here and regularly fish this area have known of its natural beauty and incredible angling for years, but as the allure of small stream fishing has taken off around the country, media has helped uncover this rich fishery in the agricultural Midwest.

The Driftless region is an area of land that encompasses Southeast Minnesota, Northeast Iowa, Southwest Wisconsin, and Northwest Illinois. It’s named for an area of land that millions of years ago, avoided a glacial drift, flattening the surrounding landscapes into fertile cropland that is stereotypically thought of when you think of the area.  The result is a pocket of land that geologists refer to as karst topography- land that is characterized by sinkholes, towering limestone bluffs, ridges, deep valleys, caves, and coldwater springs. The region is a stark contrast to the area that surrounds it, the landscape changing abruptly as one travels into the area from the flat farmland to the rolling hills then deep bluffs as you near the Mississippi River valley. Historically a farming region, the area has given way to a host of “locally-grown” tourism options, recreational opportunities, cultural and art events, organic farms, wineries and microbreweries, and unique businesses.  The cold water springs, numbering easily in the thousands throughout the region, feed streams that maintain temperatures in the low 50s, supporting a healthy environment for trout, making it a year-round destination trip for those who love fishing spring creeks.

Throughout most of the Driftless region, 3 major species (brook, brown, and rainbow) of trout are to be found. Iowa has over 50 streams in the Driftless region that sustain trout and many other “put and grow” streams where stream-raised fish grow and mature. This makes for a variety of fishing options dependent on location, physical ability, and skill level. Many of these streams rely on a stocking program with the hard work of the DNR, with an increasing number of them sustaining wild populations of trout. Groups like Trout Unlimited and other conservation organizations work to increase public awareness of these fisheries, help with project workdays, and promote conservation education. The result is world-class fishing in our own backyard.  It’s been said that skill-wise, if you can effectively fish spring creeks, you can effectively trout fish anywhere using techniques that allow the angler to break-down water, cast to difficult areas, and get a fly to where a fish is feeding on the surface or below.

Fishing spring creeks during spring in Iowa means some interesting water conditions and new opportunities. Like waters in other places, snow melt, run-off, and rains mean varying water levels and clarity. This can be a challenge sometimes, but carrying streamers, bwo patterns, hendricksons, adams, and some attractor nymphs is almost always the answer. Streamer fishing almost anytime the water is off-color can bring up big fish, and the flashes of yellow or silver through the cloudy water is nothing short of exciting.  Easier walking and wading without the lush grasses that make casting and negotiating streams in the summer a little more difficult makes up for the uncertainty of weather in the spring.

Summer and fall are one the best times of the year to fish due to a variety of different hatches and bugs on the water. Caddis are a staple of trout diet here throughout the summer, but as the season rolls along, terrestrials like beetles, ants, crickets, and hoppers offer some of the most exciting fishing of the year. These are sometimes simple patterns but offered in the right environment and time can mean explosive takes and beautiful fish. A personal favorite is a foam cricket pattern skittered across pocket water on some of our wooded streams. A dark seam of water comes alive when a brown trout keys in on a well-drifted terrestrial. Even mouse patterns, a fly that swept the fly fishing world after the epic fly fishing film Eastern Rises was released, fished at dusk in late summer can produce some hungry brown trout. Be warned: big fish on quiet water in near darkness is not for the faint of heart when a fish decides to eat.

Because the streams remain a constant temperature and flow, fly fishing the Driftless (in states that permit it) is possible and fruitful through the winter. Granted, telling folks that you are going fishing on an 18 degree day with windchill takes some explaining and maybe some convincing. However, fishing the streams in the winter has been some of our most productive time on the water, with brilliantly colored, eager to eat fish. During this time, nymph fishing is the way to go, with small midge nymphs and attractor patterns. When the sun pops out and temperatures warm to the 20s and 30s, some risers can be taken on small dry patterns with accurate casts and light leaders. Even on a bad day, and we’ve all had them, winter fishing with the cold and breaking ice out of the guides if for nothing else makes you appreciate the warmer weather that is inevitably ahead.

What makes fishing these places in the Driftless special isn’t always the fishing, but the scenery and sometimes journey to get there. The local charm of out-of-the-way restaurants, casting beneath towering bluffs, watching the fog roll off a cool stream or through a valley during a humid day in summer, or fishing under the watchful eye of a Holstein cow adds to the experience as much as catching fish

Traveling Guidelines 101

Bahamas Customs - South Andros IslandI find myself reflecting on my first international fly fishing adventure. One of my biggest concerns going in was the safe transportation of my gear to my destination. My experiences traveling around the US and internationally playing hockey have taught me to expect the worst with any checked luggage. Countless times (if….and a big if at that) I had received my hockey gear upon arrival, only to find sticks broken, helmets cracked and even things completely gone. These same fears translated to the treatment of my precious saltwater gear while traveling to South Andros in the Bahamas.

Upon doing some research I found the TSA to be more than fair when it comes to the allowance of Fly Fishing Gear. The TSA states that Fly Rods are permitted as carry-on baggage.  Ultimately the airlines state that rods must be taken in a padded case or tube and must meet size requirements for checked items. In a nutshell all airlines allow the transportation of fly rods however I would not recommend trying to carry on a two piece rod. I have a feeling that wouldn’t end well. That is what four piece rods are for anyway. If you plan on carrying multiple rods I would suggest duct taping the tubes together or buying a multi rod case to avoid any confusion with gate agents regarding multiple personal items.

The biggest surprise in all of this was the TSA stance on what they consider “Tackle Equipment”. They suggest that Expensive reels or fragile tackle (aka flies) should be packed into your carry-on bag.

Congotown International AirportThe 2nd tip that was brought to my attention was to dress in something that you would find yourself fishing in. In the case of tropical flats fishing a lightweight long sleeve shirt and a pair of lightweight pants are not only comfortable and easy to travel in but if you get into a bind, and your luggage is lost, you have clothes designed to protect you from the elements.

Finally when traveling through the airport it was brought to my attention that when going through security you should print out a copy of these guidelines to take with you through these checkpoints because all TSA agents may not be 100% on all the rules and regulations.  For more information please be sure to visit the TSA Link Here   (Thanks for the tip Jake)

Overall these rules are probably still more like guidelines for TSA & Airport security personnel to determine so prepare to be flexible, especially when it comes to the transportation of flies in carry-on bags. If these people tell you that you may not bring those items on the plane that is probably the end of the discussion. I personally would not suggest arguing with TSA or security agents. One of two things will happen at that point.  Option one is you going back to your airline’s customer service desk and ask them to recall your checked bag. The second option is that you just leave your flies with the TSA and they go off into the TSA abyss. Either way both of these options will have a negative outcome.

Wherever your fly fishing adventures may take you please do not allow getting to your destination to be aAll Gear Arrived Safely....and worked well! hindrance on your trip.  Wherever your adventures take you please have a great time, travel safely, and most importantly… Enjoy the experience & Tight Lines!

Bonefish Ain’t No Brook Trout

It is never a comfortable feeling to be totally new at something while surrounded by those who already know the score.  To be the only newbie is much like the dream where you wear your pajamas to school.  It feels like every eye is on you and you have to act as if you are in complete control when inside you are just praying that you don’t look as foolish as you feel.

That would sum up my trip to the Bahamas in a nutshell.  Almost everything I knew about fly fishing was put into question.  I am a trout guy.  I fish trout streams.  And here I stood on a sand flat, in the middle of the Bahamas looking for bonefish.

Our hosts for the trip was Long Island Bonefishing Lodge, and they do something called DIY bonefishing.  They load you up on a boat, take you out to the flats, hand you a radio to communicate and then they leave.  It is then up to you.  That didn’t seem like such a good idea for me…at first.  To catch a bonefish, you first have to SEE a bonefish.  If you have never done this before, let me try to explain.  A bonefish is so shiny and clean that they are a mirror of the bottom which means that when you are looking for them, you might think you see sand when in truth you are looking at the fish.  What you have to look for are shadows, tails, unusual movement.  And all of this is going on while you try to move as quietly as possible while also dealing with a wind that at times pushes you around.

So there I stood on the flat.  My nearest fishing buddy was maybe five hundred yards away.  I looked out at the water and the shimmer from the relentless sun, staring into the flat wondering if I will ever see anything at all.  The whole flat looked empty.  This is the first battle you have to face in that the place itself is so foreign to a trout angler.  No riffles, no plunge pools, no risers.  Maddening!

Then I see something that looks different, just a flash of a shape.  I think it is a fish but I cannot really tell because every time I try to lock in on it, the shape vanishes.  Then I see a tail jut up out of the water and I see the fish.  It isn’t an easy spot.  You actually are looking for a part of a fish.  Then I spot another…and another.  Maybe five or six bones are feeding thirty feet from me at maybe ten o’clock.  The wind is whipping across my left shoulder.

I feed out twelve good strips of line and make a cast.  The aforementioned wind grabs my fly line and pushes it to my right, well out of the path of the fish.  I strip in some line and try again; only this time I move my cast to compensate for the breeze.  This time I get it close.  Not spot on…but close.

Then as the fish move in my direction I begin stripping in line.  Feeling the take I set the hook and feel pretty good about the fact that I didn’t trout set.  Hook up.  I feel the frantic shake and raise my rod.  As soon as the rod is in the air, I look down at my reel.  In seconds, I am already into the backing and the spool is generating some serious RPMs.  Then…nothing.

I start to reel the line in thinking that I have lost the fish when it runs again.  More backing races out the rod tip.  I reel.  It runs.  I reel.  It runs.  Then finally, the fish tires and is close enough to grab.  I pull the bone out of the water and it is maybe two feet long and solid muscle.  This fish is built for speed.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I had drawn a crowd.  Setting the fish free, I get high fives and hand shakes.  I am now part of the club.  The club of the adrenaline fueled sport of bonefishing with a fly rod. And I still have no idea what I am doing.

A mountain trout angler. Out of my place. Out of my element.  Using a rod that is more than double the rod I usually use. And I am having a ball.

Epic Hatches and Other Rural Legends

Results

“The hatch is just above the bridge!” said the voice from the phone.  While this may be a rather innocuous phrase to the non-angler, in me, it induced an involuntary fist pump, a silent whoop, and a sudden onset of Steve Martin’s Happy Feet in the middle of my office cubicle.  I was calling the fly shop in Ashton for the sixth consecutive day, asking about the salmon fly hatch.  Ignoring the strange looks from my fellow office workers, minutes later my friend and I were escaping the gopher farm and racing our way across the Idaho desert toward an afternoon of casting orange bellied behemoths, more akin to miniature Goodyear blimps, than the delicate creations normally presented to Henry’s Fork trout.

The guy in the shop answering the phone each morning understood completely and likely would have had a similar reaction to mine if the roles were reversed. Surely he had been tolerating the daily inquiries, in anticipation of the fulfillment of the unspoken agreement that we would be stopping into the shop to purchase a few of his handmade creations in exchange for the information we anxiously pursued.  It is my adherence to this type of arrangement that helps to explain the many boxes of “local flies” that continue to fill every pocket, pouch, and sleeve in my fly vest.  Indeed, you can never have too many flies. You just don’t have to carry ALL of them with you everywhere you go. Last year, I consolidated some of these into boxes that would only be inserted for a trip to that specific locale.  The alternative being a vest more suited for combat training than fly fishing.

Eventually, every angler decides to target a specific hatch of insects.  Sometimes it is on local waters; sometimes great distances are traveled in hopes of fishing the often finicky, always ephemeral, and like most things in nature unpredictable, and yet potentially epic insect hatches.  I once shared a flight home to Idaho Falls with a couple from New Zealand who were targeting the Mother’s Day hatch on the Madison.  We all found it amusing that we both wanted to circumnavigate the globe to fish each other’s home waters.

Some believe that these epic hatches are nothing short of urban legends; or perhaps rural legends as it were.  My wife has yet to experience a true dry fly hatch of any kind.  Last June, in an effort to remedy this situation, I scheduled a guided trip for us in Yellowstone National Park.  The week preceding our trip it rained nonstop causing the rivers in the park to swell well beyond their banks.  I still remember the look on our guide’s face as he implored us saying “please don’t make me take you into The Park today”.  We gladly changed our plans to float the Madison and had a fantastic day throwing rubber legs.  While my wife landed countless trout that day, an insect hatch remained in the same category as our elusive friend Sasquatch.

Trout Food...I find it interesting that while trout play a critical role in this pursuit, the primary focus is on a species of insect. This change in focus allows anglers to tolerate what, under other circumstances would be considered unbearable conditions.  Combat fishing; which is normally avoided by all but the most oblivious, some might say imbecilic, of anglers, is suddenly kosher.  It seems that when the fish are eating flies as if they were a bunch of skittles that have been strewn about the floor of a day care center, an occasional tangle with another angler is abided by all.  The solitude so often sought in our sport becomes a party where proximity is only limited by the propensity to catch each other, wasting precious fishing time.

Ed and I had a blast splashing down sofa pillows that day on the Henry’s Fork.  Despite having wings, salmon flies are clearly not designed for flight, especially in the windy conditions of Eastern Idaho. I have to admit that having giant bugs crash land into your head and proceed to crawl up your body in search of who knows what, is a bit unnerving.  Eventually I discovered that the brim of my hat is their preferred vantage point.

Whether it be cicadas, green drakes, salmon flies, bikinis, stones, or sallies, chasing something that may or may not happen when and where you end up adds another dimension to an already fascinating obsession.   I just heard that the green drakes are coming off on the Middle Provo and my happy feet are shuffling toward the truck…