Monday, December 13, 2010

Fly Tying with the Afton Angler


This past Sunday in the wonderful winter wonderland, I had the privilege to pick the brain of the one and only Brad Bohen. For those who don't know who Brad is, you should read his blog as well (http://zero2hero-aftonangler.blogspot.com/). He doesn't post much, but when he does, it matters.

Brad is a successful muskie guide in the territory of the Midwest known as Musky Country. What makes Brad stand out from the rest is his ability to fool these toothy critters with nothing more then feathers, hair, and some flash. His company Musky Country Outfitters had a few guides working the waters this past season which combined put over 350 muskie in the boat. This is unheard of for such an elusive species. Now Brad and I have been talking here and there through email for about a year now. I've always had the intention of getting up there and having Brad do what he does best, but I haven't had the chance. Sunday was an opportunity I couldn't pass up and was extremely excited about.

I got to One More Cast in Countryside a little before 11:00 am on a frigid day and was nervous to what I was walking into. From my previous posts, you may be able to tell I have the desire to be a pro fly fisherman (when I get out), but I don't have the experience. Joseph, the owner of the shop, was extremely nice and a great guy to chat with all day. He actually looked over my fly tying skills (which are very novice at best) and instructed me on what I was doing wrong and such. Once Brad walked in, it was time to get moving. We ate some homemade Mexican food made by Joseph and started talking. Brad brought another guide down with him named Tim - another fly fisher who really knows what he is doing on the water.

The fly we were going to learn to tie was Brad's Hangtime. The fly is designed to be fished with sinking tip line and stripped in sporadically while the rod tip is in the water. The fly pictured above is my attempt at tying this fly. It is quite an easy fly to tie consisting of deer hair, long feathers, and flash. Add these three layers and then add eyes. Brad showed us how to apply the eyes, but none of the other tiers actually added them.

Here is a link to Brad's instructions to tie this fly: http://hatchesmagazine.com/magazine/pdf/HangTime.pdf
Needless to say, I met some great people that I'll be in touch with in the future. I have a chance to hit the spring creeks of Southwest Wisconsin with a guide and of course getting out with Brad.

Signing off...here is a trailer for a movie coming out featuring the guys at Musky Country Outfitters. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Tradition Passed On...


In my last blog I announced that I'll be having my first baby in the middle of April. For all you fathers out there you know the thoughts I'm going through. I'm not scared or nervous like I was in the beginning and starting to get really excited and impatient.

My girlfriend and I were laying in bed the other night and I asked if I could read before going to sleep. She didn't mind and asked if I could read to the baby. I told her it was Muskie on the Fly and not the book we bought to read to the baby. We both agreed it didn't matter, and I read about streamers for muskie and the color variations and hook sizes. When I closed the book and turned the light off to sleep, it hit me. I realized at that moment that not only will I be able to take my child fishing (we decided not to find out what we are having), but that I'll be able to pass down all the traditions that I've learned throughout my time out in nature. Most of you that fish know that everyone has there methods of fishing and I'm not talking about fly to spin gear. I'm talking how you fish when you fish. We've all seen people out there throwing corn and bread for carp. Hell, I've done it and it's a good way to hook into a big fighting fish that a child can hold without harm or fear. Or the people that throw a bobber out with a worm on a hook and leave it there. Again, nothing wrong with it, I've done it and will continue to do it under the right circumstances. My thoughts that night when I drifted to sleep were that I'm going to have a child to teach everything I know about fishing to. A little fishing buddy that can fish however he or she wants, but I'll never stop teaching. If we want to throw some worms in the local pond, so be it, but I'll be teaching and showing him or her about different lures and how they work, different areas on the pond and what type of fish it may hold, and lastly I'll let my child use whatever he or she wants out of my tackle box. If the kid is half as curious as I was when I was young, I'll be buying the most ridiculous lures just so it can be tried out.

This is one of the many things I look forward to, passing tradition on...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Long Overdue


It has been way too long since I have posted. I would love to be able to use the excuse that I was too busy out in search of new water and catching new species of fish, but that was not the case. Instead I was only able to get out a handful of times when life allowed it. I will probably never go into detail about the few trips I took these past few months; however, I do look forward to getting out soon. Future "plans" are to hit up the Driftless Area in Iowa with my good friend Mike sometime this winter. The season never closes and it would be fun to find a hatch going on in the winter and catch some wild trout. I really would like to get into fly tying more. I do it once every few months and at that rate, I'll never get good at it. I also have a few books I would like to read (or finish reading.) I am currently reading Muskie on the Fly by Robert S. Tomes and it has really inspired me to chase these toothy critters this coming spring. With my first baby due in the middle of April, I will be wishing for a quick winter so I can get out as much as I can in the early spring. Maybe hook into a few new species on the fly rod and have a few good stories to talk about. I will probably search for carp at the water treatment plant on the Fox this winter. The water is always favorably warm and the carp just sit and suck up bugs. I need to do a better job of reading the hatch at that time and try to mimic it as much as possible.

Sorry again for the lack of writing. It is something that I love to do, but always put it off. That will be changing.

I see an adventure on the horizon...and I look forward to writing about it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Midwest Steel Where Art Thou?

This past weekend I was privileged enough to fish with my best friend and long time fishing partner Nate out on his home turf away from home. Nate has lived in the Northwestern part of Ohio now for a few years and it has given both him and I a great area of fishing. The point of the trip was to not only get me hooked up with my first ever steelhead, but also to just let nature take us away from all our worries. Nate has been under a lot of stress lately working on his thesis and I've been getting my hands on every project at work I possibly can. It also makes it easy to get away and fish for 18 hours a day when both you and your buddies girlfriend have each other to keep company.
My girlfriend and I left the Chicago land area at about 7:30pm on Thursday for the grueling four hour drive to Perrysburg, Ohio. After getting in about 12:30am Ohio time we were lucky enough to sit and wait for Nate get back to his apartment from a long night of college work. After our greetings and unloading the car, Nate and I decide to hit up the Chagrin River at sunup the following day which would mean a 4:45am wake up call.
What seemed to be 25 minutes later our alarms blare and wake us up. Both of us are moving swiftly to get the few items two guys need to fish all day (since the car was basically loaded with our gear). The drive of about two hours east flew by. I love fishing with Nate because our trips aren't just fishing and talking about fish (even though it is the main subject of conversation) but about growing up, our childhood, and where things are going. It's a great sense of friendship that we have especially when we get together and it seems like we hangout everyday still. 
Okay, back to fishing.
We get to a spot that Art at his local fly shop told him about. Gear up and walk to the river. The water was moving pretty fast but we were both eager to get in and wet a line. I was eager to get in and wet my drawers since I usually fall in my first time wading a new river. I just thought I'd get it out of the way first thing in the morning of our first day. We fish a deep pool beneath a low dam that was somewhat removed with nothing to show for it (which is the consistent theme this weekend). We came across another fellow fly fisherman which kind of gave us a scoop on the river and actually asked us if we would be up for trying the East Branch. Since neither of us had any idea, we went for it. Three guys hiked a good two miles of river fishing all the eddies and holes we could spot and didn't even see a single fish.
Nate and I moved onto the Rocky River and worked a few spots before having to head back closer to home. His girlfriends family luckily lives right by a creek that will get steelhead in the spring and fall. We had about an hour to kill before our only set plans (other then fishing) were going to happen. We suit up in our armor and hit the holes that Nate knows. I started working a spot that Nate's buddy has fished that has produced fish in the past. The entire day took a toll on me and I shut down. This is the exact wording out of my on stream journal:
Beaver Creek, OH 3/19. A lot of time on the water today. First cast was about 7:25am on the Chagrin. Worked the East Branch all the way up with zero fish to show for it. We worked the Rocky River at a few Fords and a good bend. I'm starting to question if I'm meant to fly fish, let alone for steelhead. Maybe I should stick to spinning gear and working the ponds. If only I could get a fish of some size on the fly. We'll see what happens...
It didn't help my mood that his buddy showed up and as we took our waders off caught a small steelie in the pool we worked. We later found out he grabbed a 11 pounder out of the same hole I sat off of and wrote my "feel sorry for me" journal entry. We went on with our girlfriend duties that night trying to regroup for the following morning.
It led us to the Rocky again which even in the morning I didn't have high hopes for. Worked a few different rivers but it led us back to the creek that destroyed my will to fly fish the night before. In that same hole that Craig caught the monster, a fish kept surfacing. I moved strategically up stream from the hole and casted about 15 feet down stream so my fly will drift into the hole toward me. Well about my fifth cast, I got the beast to bite. The fight lasted about 20 seconds before he snapped me off. I was discouraged but we both didn't really say much about it.
We came back to the spot later that night to really work the creek when the sun is going down. Nate and his fish eyes saw two steelhead that just came out from a jog jam. I was able to get the larger one to take my trailer fly. The fish led me downstream a little bit, hit the far bank, and came right at me. This allowed the hook to come out. I dropped my pole and shut down again. I think I only took about 5 more casts after that to Nate's 40. I just didn't have it in me anymore and the discouragement really set in.
It was about 25hours of fishing in two days, close to 10 miles hiked, zero fish, and two best friends having the time of their lives. It was easy for me to get frustrated and shut down with the lack of fish we encountered this past weekend, but looking back on it, I wouldn't change the time we had for anything. The two of us still probably haven't laughed harder then we did when it was us being us, exactly how we've been for over 16 years now. We were both able to get lost in the surroundings around us and forget about our jobs, our reports, our life that keeps us stressed and on our toes. And even though it was only for two days, those two days will make a difference. Nate, thank you for a great time on the water, I'll fish with you any time. 
As for the giving up fly fishing and chasing steelhead...not a chance. I'm going to hit the waters harder and with more determination. If this style of fishing was easy, everyone would do it. Until the next time out...

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Mighty DuPage

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to get out with probably one of the most well known Northern Illinois fisherman Ken G. I know a lot of people frown upon Ken and his beliefs on fishing and conservation. He encourages people to share information and to give actual locations. It was an honor to fish, converse, and explore with him this past weekend. I hope to have many more days on the water and/or trails with him.
 Saturday afternoon after a LONG night of drinking I met Ken G on a new stretch of the DuPage that I've never fished before. I pulled up to our designated meeting spot and Ken was already puffing away on his cigar, waded up ready to fish, except he was heading back toward his car. He had been walking around the shore and made the decision that the part of the river we planned on exploring didn't favor our conditions at all. We decided to hit the area that both the West and East Branches of the DuPage River come together. Both of us figured this would be a hot spot since two very different river systems would come together. The East Branch is a very slow moving river that allows a lot of sediment to settle making it very murky. The West Branch has more faster moving water which helps keep the water clear. We were both excited to get into the water and see what was in-store for us.
We both suited up for battle and grabbed our weapons of choice. I've been real stubborn the past season of fishing, and its carried onto this year so far. I prefer throwing flies with a fly rod then spin fishing lately. Ken grabbed his spinning gear and we worked up the East Branch first. The water from shore looked VERY promising. I slowly slide down the bank and went knee deep into mud. I was able to get a few casts in before I climbed out and worked back down stream. Ken had already crossed the river and was going to work upstream to downstream on the West Branch. I worked the mouth of where both join together. Once we were both across from each other we decided to work each shoreline down river. Ken and I worked for about 2 hours that afternoon and went about 300 yards downstream with no fish for our efforts. It didn't put a damper in my mood. I was able to walk and pick the brain of someone very knowledgeable. We walked through the fields toward our parking spots and talked. He inspired me to get involved in the conservation, especially in our area. If I would like to take my kids and grand-kids to the same rivers and lakes I fish today, things need to change.
The next morning a small group of us were going to work different parts of the river and compare notes. I finally met Sam which is another avid fly fisher. Him and Matt worked from where Ken and I had left off the day before. Ken and I walked downstream about another 100 yards and got in again with my fly rod and Ken with his spinning gear. We decided to use the exploration method from the day before. We made it down to the water treatment plant. This is where Matt and Sam caught up with us. We fished the area together for about 10 to 15 minutes before it started to sprinkle on us. With the long walk back to the car we called it quits. There were no fish caught today either, and again, it didn't bother me one bit. I learned much about these rivers in the two days I spent on there but I was also inspired by the three guys I explored with. Ken inspired me to really get involved and do what I can to better our waters and wilderness areas. As we got back to our cars, Matt pulled out a magnificent custom bamboo fly rod that he built himself. He was also fishing with a spinning rod that he had built himself. It was great to see and something that I may want to get into. Then comes Sam. I'm not sure how long Sam has been tying flies, but he is great at it. He graciously gave me a few flies that have worked well for him on the DuPage last season. Now, I've tried to tie a few flies here and there, but never really sat down for an extended amount of time to get decent at it. Thanks to Sam, that is going to change.
Getting out to walk a river, take some pictures, and just soak in the world around me was great. The river systems that we worked have promising water for late spring/early summer. I can't wait to get out again and get a line wet. Until next time...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

It's Starting to Feel A Lot Like...

SPRING! No fishing or adventure stories here. Just excited that spring is right around the corner. Walking to my car this morning as the sun was starting to come up, I heard birds singing there sweet songs. Not only did it put a smile on my face, but it also gave me a little extra hop in my step. The sun was out and it really just lifted the my spirits. Spring is slowly becoming my favorite season. I know a lot of people that get down with the shorter days and long drawn out winters that us chicagoans have learned to deal with. I'm one of those people. I'm usually not myself during the winter months and the next few weeks will allow me to come out of my shell. Enough about me, this is about the great time of year that starts "life" all over again. Between the baseball season, a few softball leagues, the great tasting spring flavor Sam Adams White Ale, and countless hours on the water, there is no better time of year. Lets keep the lines in the water and our feet on the substrate. Be safe out there this spring with the water levels changing lets return to where we came from after every adventure out. Good Luck this spring. I plan on making it a season that is unforgettable.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Let The Games Begin

Last week I took a trip out to Ohio to visit my best friend and long time fishing partner for a weekend of fun and games. It was great to catch up with him, and talk about our plans for this coming fishing season. Between the beers and meals, we were able to head over to his place of business, and one of my favorite stores on Earth, Bass Pro. I was able to get my latest fly reel lined up and couldn't wait to try out the 3wt. I was ready to fish the moment I got the reel back in my hands, and this morning, I did just that.
I planned all week to fish the DuPage River in the South Naperville area. Although I was targeting Smallmouth Bass and Rock Bass, I really wasn't planning on feeling any weight at the end of my rod. My voyage today was to get the new rod/reel combo a try, to get my waders wet, and to do what any suburbanite does, get lost in the wilderness.

I got into the water and instantly was amazed by the clearity of the river. The flows and levels were at a nice, safe, wading level and I couldn't wait to get in and move around. I started up river to a few islands that I've fished in the past that has great current and undercut banks. I only fished for about 1 hour in this spot, but I sat down on the upstream point of the island and just took in my surroundings. This trip was also different from others as I left my phone in the car. I realized if I'm going to allow myself to get lost in the world around me, then I have to keep the distractions out. Not sure how long I sat in this spot since I didn't have a watch on me either. I took everything in and took notes and pictures. Obviously it still being winter, there were no birds to hear, or fish rising at all (I've seen different types of Chubs and other baitfish rise during the summer in this spot) but I did get to see how the water moves downstream and where it changes. I feel I learned a lot from that trip to the river today.
There was no fish caught today, but like my best friend Nate told me, spending an hour or two on the river taking notes and pictures can mean a lifetime of great outings.
I look forward to prove his point...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Winter Blues

I know its been a while since my last post. I've allowed work get in the way of life again, but at least for good reason this time. I was recently awarded a trip to Las Vegas for me and a guess. Everything is paid for and the employees that were picked to go (top 20 employees out of the 350 in my office), get awarded again out there. It's has been stressful and kind of taking its toll on me, but I wouldn't change it, right now at least. I'd rather spend my time behind the computer now then when its gorgeous outside and the fish are biting. Not saying they aren't biting now, but unless you have the fancy goods to ice fish, you really don't know what or where to drop a line.

The weather around Chicagoland these past few days gives me a little hop in my step. It makes it feel like Spring is right around the corner and that gives me a hop in my step. I know this spring season has a lot instore for me outside the office. I've decided to hit sports full go again this coming year. With my knee feeling the best its felt in a long time, I don't want to look back on life 20 years from now and ask myself "why didn't I do as much as I could when I was younger?" With that said, the trips away from the area doesn't seem like it will be as often as I would like them to have been, but I'll still get away when I can.

I look forward to getting out this upcoming year. I have a few trips in mind that I would like to hit up. The spring steelhead run up in Wisconsin is something I'm going to try this year. I know I have the Walleye Run out in Ohio planned for the middle of April which is always my favorite trip. There have been talks about a Lake Wisconsin trip this year which would probably be icing on an already fish producing cake.

My best friend's family has a lake house in Merrimac, WI right on the gorgeous Lake Wisconsin. This is really the only place I traveled to fish when I was younger. My first trip up to Wisconsin was when I was 12 years old and I remember it 12 years later like it was yesterday. That was my first time catching White Bass, Sheaphead, and Walleye. That first trip really inspired me to always take at least one trip a year even at that age.

The trips up north continued till Nate moved out to Ohio for school, and I haven't been back up there since. I believe our last trip was 5 years ago, and was the best trip by far up there. Three guys, a trunk full of booze (no PBR, I didn't discover it yet), and an entire lake full of fish to be hunted. I miss those times but they will never be forgotten.

Until next time...