Tag Archives: carp

Summer Fishing in Buffalo Niagara

Summer Fishing in Buffalo Niagara Region

Summer fishing in Buffalo Niagara can be arduous if you don’t know where to go. We wrote about this a little bit last year but have picked up our game a since then (read more water time and conflicts with that work life balance). Here are some general guidelines to help focus your summer fishing plans around here:

Bobby – Bewildered by the Size of Our Smalljaws
Smallies on the Fly – Life is Good
Angler’s Problem #1: Fish aren’t sedentary creatures – they move

Sure, a blinding statement of the obvious but understanding this is critical to fishing around the Buffalo Niagara Region. More daylight = warmer days = warmer water = increased photosynthesis = what was once a great place for fish to hang out in the spring isn’t so great anymore.

When water surface temperatures on the Niagara River and the Great Lakes start climbing it’s time to make a change. Fish start to move deep so you’ll have to do the same. This applies to all species. By now, the spawn is done and fish are filling their gullets and livin’ the laid-back summer life. In other words, they don’t want to have to work too hard to get their sustenance. All you need to do is locate those spots and bring the food to them.

Problem 1 Mitigation: Believe it or not, this isn’t terribly difficult but definitely takes time on the water

There are online resources to get you started. We’re not going to do all the work for you – but just google eastern Lake Erie fishing locations and you’ll be off to a good start. However, these resources are just that – a start. You’ll need a decent sonar and navigation system for your terminal guidance. These spots are deep areas (usually over 20 ft) and border structure. Shoals, defined weed lines, ledges, etc. all attract fish that are just trying to relax and feed. If you don’t have a water craft and a halfway decent sonar and navigation system, it’s going to be pretty difficult to get on fish.

Your presentation should be slow and deep – right through these holding areas. Think of the tackle required to accomplish this. Slow trolling deep divers. Jigging off the bottom. Dragging bait off the bottom. Stripping weighted flies and heavy, full sinking fly lines. If your sonar works, this becomes like a video game. You find the fish, present your offering, and hope. Eyes often glued to the screen. Rod and/or stripping hand at the ready. Oh yeah, I’ll state the obvious here – you need a boat to do all of this. Either buy one or book a charter.

Joe Appreciated a Little Guidance on the Big Water
My Biggest Smallie of the Season – On the Fly Nonetheless
Angler’s Problem 2: Warm water means lower oxygen levels

This is another reason why water temperatures are important. Once they climb into the low to mid 70’s, anglers should REALLY start paying attention. These temps are your indication for the summer pattern mentioned above. At this point – carp will only be on the flats early in the morning. You might find (not consistently but you can get lucky) smallies crashing bait in shallow water in the morning too. However, these are fleeting occurrences and take some serious searching to discover. Generally speaking, at these temps, fish will be deep (ref Problem 1).

The other reason water temperature is important is that the warmer it is, the lower the oxygen content. Once water temps climb into the mid to upper 70’s, it starts becoming a workout for fish. Think of it like us on the treadmill – all day long. Species like musky are particularly sensitive to high water temperatures. They are a big animal and burn O2 fast just to sustain. Leave them alone when the water gets this warm. Muskies are likely to die from exhaustion shortly after the release if you catch them at these temps. If you happen to catch one incidentally, keep the wet!

Joe is Speechless Over this Niagara River ‘jaw

The same general guidelines apply to trout. None of our inland trout fisheries are tailwaters so they warm up quick under the hot summer sun. Particularly when it doesn’t rain for a week or so. Once the inland creeks start climbing into the mid sixties, it’s time for you to leave them alone. Our inland creeks are just about there right now.

Problem 2 Mitigation: Monitor the water temperature

Your sonar should also have a thermometer. If not, buy a cheap one and take the water temperatures. Last night, the Niagara River was a little over 75 degrees. That temperature is only going to go up in the near term. Fish early morning when the water temperatures are the coolest. Fish deep water for species that live down there in the summer and are more resistant to warmer temps. Some examples are walleye, smallmouth bass, salmon, and steelhead.

If you refuse to buy a boat or don’t have the means to do so, find warm water rivers and lakes like the Allegheny River (and it’s tribs) and Chautauqua Lake where you can cast from shore or via kayak or canoe. A better option is to just hire a guide or charter captain (we know a few ). The same rule still applies on these bodies of water though – look for carp or smallies.

Anglers Problem 3: Summer is the time for pleasure boaters, jet skiers, ad kayakers

Summer Fishing in the Buffalo Niagara region is great but it comes with its challenges. Water temperatures and moving fish are one aspect but that’s not unique to this season. Every season offers a different environmental challenge that anglers have to consider. What’s unique about the summer is that us anglers aren’t the only ones out enjoying the bounty of the region. We have a lot of water around here and people love getting out and enjoying it. That comes in all forms. Pleasure boaters just drifting with the current. Jet skiers flying around at mach z. Kayakers paddling around with little situational awareness. And my personal favorite – people taking their kids tubing in fast current and/or high traffic areas.

The big take away here is that us anglers aren’t going to be the only people on the water. I can set my watch by this: at 11:00 AM on weekends, it becomes rush hour out there. Us anglers need to lift our heads up from the water every once in awhile and pay attention to what our fellow humans are doing. Often times, we take for granted the importance of general safety on the water. It’s just something we do (most of us that is). We know that we should respect people’s space and not “throw wakes” at people. We also  know to check our boats for safety issues before we go out. Perhaps of upmost importance, we know the water – when we need to slow and when we can lean on the throttle. The vast majority of the pleasure boating community – well, they don’t. They are just out there having a good time with little regard to everyone else outside their boat.

Problem 3 Mitigation: Put simply – get out early and keep your head on a swivel

Pleasure boaters don’t typically get on the water until late morning – right when that first bite window starts to close. I’m usually on the water at dawn. It’s calm out there and there is little boat traffic – other than our fellow guides/charter captains. As the morning progresses, make sure to pick your head up and look around often. Pay attention to others out there and assume they aren’t paying attention to you.

Conclusion

Like we’ve said on numerous occasions, the Buffalo Niagara Region is a year-round fishery. Summer fishing in Buffalo Niagara can be a great time of year. Do a little research and invest in the equipment required to find those summer holding areas. Be responsible/respectful in maintaining a sustainable fishery by paying attention to water temps. Finally – maintain situational awareness. Do all this and you’ll be set for experiencing Buffalo Niagara Summers the best way possible – on the water.     

Mike, Tristan, and Maddy – a Happy Crew

 

Buffalo Niagara Winters: Stave Off the Shack Nasties

Buffalo Niagara winters can be painful…if you let them

Although our region is known for an insane amount of snow and frigid temperatures, it’s really not all that bad.  At some point, years ago, we got a bad rap.  I’m not sure how, because Buffalo Niagara winters aren’t even in the top 20 coldest in the lower 48.  We don’t get that much snow either.  Sure, every once in awhile we get a strong blast of lake effect snow but it melts quickly and just creates a soggy mess.

This bad reputation for horrible winters in Buffalo Niagara is truly a shame.  Even some of our locals buy into it.  That kind of sucks because this should be a winter tourist destination (more on that in a minute.  The real issue – just one guy’s opinion – is the wind and clouds.

Days often go by where the sun won’t poke out from the clouds and the winds rage in the upper teens to lower 20s MPH.  That lack of sun and the sometimes screaming wind often keep people indoors.  Cocooning like this creates what’s called the shack nasties.  This disorder causes pale skin, depression, weight gain, and a general malaise toward life.  NO WAY!

We refuse to be bound up indoors!  After all, look  at what we’d be missing if we did.  Oh yeah, the fishing is pretty good too.  Click here for details about our winter fishery. 

The mighty Cattaraugus River
The mighty Cattaraugus River
The mighty Cattaraugus River
Winter Steelheading on Lake Erie Tributaries
Sword and sheath
Parking Lot Prep
Winter Steelheading on Lake Erie Tributaries
TFO Promo
Steelheading = lots of casting

Don’t get the shack nasties!!!  Give us a call to experience this region first hand instead of looking at it on a little screen.

Midas Cichlids are a Blast – if You Can Get One to Commit

Aren’t these guys incredibly photogenic?  This is a Midas Cichlid and he put up a fight well above his weight class. Thanks to Scott Rose for putting me on this beautiful little guy!  Drop Scott a line if you want to chalk-up this species along with many other SFL canal inhabitants (http://www.peacockadventures.com/).

I’m thinking this is going to be a yearly trip for me.  Maybe a destination for a Rediscover Your Region Episode.

Here’s a quick blurb from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission about this fish. Notice what it says about the sporting quality:

Midas Cichlid: Cichlasoma citrinellum

Appearance:
Has multiple color phases (or morphs) ranging from dull gray and black to orange, red, and even white; all young start off gray, looking much like small bluegill or Mayan cichlid, but most change to brightly-colored morphs, starting when they are about three inches long; a mottled coloration indicates a fish in transition; in Florida, more than 95% of adults greater than 10 inches are brightly colored, but this ratio is nearly reversed in their native range; males and females equally likely to be brightly colored; pronounced forehead nuchal hump associated with breeding present in some fish; like most other cichlids this one has broken lateral lines.
Range:
First discovered in Florida in July 1980, now common in the Black Creek and Cutler Drain canal systems in Miami-Dade County. Native range includes Atlantic slope of Nicaragua and Costa Rica where more common in lakes than rivers.
Habitat:
Prefers clear-water, box-cut canals with lots of shoreline crevices that they use to hide from predators.
Spawning Habitats:
Similar to other substrate spawning cichlids that provide biparental care; parents also produce a mucous body covering fed on by young; females mature by 7 inches and males by 8 inches; March through May appears to be the peak spawning season.
Feeding Habits:
Feed primarily on snails and other benthic material including aquatic insects, small fishes, and some plant and animal matter attached to or associated with submerged logs, leaves, rocks, etc.
Age and Growth:
Reaches just over a foot in length, and can weigh over 2.5 pounds; males tend to be larger than females.
Sporting Quality:
Rarely caught on hook and line, but can sometimes be aggravated into biting; no bag or size limits.
Edibility:
Little known, but probably good.

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Winter Vacation: A Quick Trip Down South

Like many Northerners in the middle of winter, images of sunny days, flip-flops, lighter beers, and warmer climes have been haunting me lately. That’s not to say that I don’t love our Buffalo, NY winters and the excellent fishing and other outdoor activities that accompany the season around here – I do – very much so. But sometimes, the shorter days and lack of sunlight can wear me down leaving me contemplating a quick escape. So…I acted on my urges.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it is a personal goal of mine to catch a fish on the fly in all 50 states before I turn 50. In order to meet that goal, I have to average two states per year for the next 12 years. That’s not too tough but spreading the trips out to make them affordable and accommodating to the schedule of a guy with a family and guide service is the challenge. I was sitting around one cold eve, IPA in hand, when I saw a video called 29 Degrees NOLA. It consisted of over ten minutes of high quality fish porn featuring big bull redfish slamming top water flies. I looked over at my wife and said something like, “I haven’t chalked Louisiana yet, my love. Wanna do a trip?”

29 Degrees NOLA from Catch 1 Films on Vimeo.

I purchased plane tickets, booked the guide featured in the video, made the hotel reservations, etc. Shortly after making these arrangements, I found myself trolling Instagram where I noticed that some of the guides in South Florida had been catching some really nice peacock bass lately. My buddy Tony Lohr, of 85th Day Angling, had never caught a peacock bass so I asked him if he was down for a trip. Since he’s been suffering from the shack nasties lately as well, it didn’t take much convincing.

I adjusted my itinerary to go to South Florida for a couple days following my NOLA trip. What’s crazy about that was that it was actually cheaper for me to fly home through Fort Lauderdale vice leaving directly from NOLA – kinda ridiculous. That’s how the Winter Vacation itinerary came about – two spontaneous decisions that would involve 2 states and a multitude of species. Fingers crossed, it was all going to work out.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans in mind – mainly to test my resolve. When we arrived in NOLA, we were greeted with a 20-degree drop in temperatures, cloudy skies, and 15 MPH winds – none of which were forecasted to let up while we were there. Definitely not ideal for the sight fishing game.

Wind, Clouds, Cold – Not Ideal for Sight Fishing

Needless to say, we skunked. That happens sometimes – and that’s cool with me. When you fish long enough, you know the occasional skunking is inevitable – it keeps you humble, makes you step up your game, and brings you one day closer to that epic outing. If you keep your mind right, you should be having a good time regardless of how many fish you catch. A quality guide will ensure that happens and Capt. Brandon Keck didn’t disappoint. We had fun talking about the business and getting started while we raged around the NOLA flats seeking cover from the wind, clear water, and a break in the clouds – we didn’t find it.

He had a good backup plan that at least allowed me to sight fish – NOLA canal carping. It was tough business compared to our carp fishery here in WNY but we were successful. Brandon’s knowledge of the area’s eateries also provided us with numerous options for regional food. He made a few suggestions and we took his advice – IT WAS INCREDIBLE! Alligator cheesecake, crawfish, shrimp poboys, beer – I gained 5 lbs.

NOLA Canal Carping – You Can Find These Guys Everywhere and They Can Save a Trip

It was a great little trip but that was only the first half. I bid farewell to my wife at the NOLA airport and had my fingers crossed that the SFL forecast that I kept checking every hour would turn out better that projected. It did not. The same front that pushed across NOLA met us in SFL – wind, cold, and rain. Good times.

The Sky is Clearing! YES! A view from the Parking Ramp at the Hollywood Hard Rock Hotel and Casino

Luckily, that nastiness passed and the skies cleared up for us the following day but the cold wx did some damage. It was a struggle to find fish at first but we eventually got into some nice peacocks. Our guide, Capt Scott Rose, had a strong knowledge of the area so once we found the pattern we were on them (quick side note – Scott, Tony, and I all graduated from Sweetwater Travel Guide School. Three guides, from three different states, randomly came together – cool stuff). We pulled off into a random little lake where we saw some tailing carp. I site casted to one that looked more like a dinosaur. Easily over 30 lbs. See the video here (go to the 7 minute mark for the carp action).

The following day we hit the Everglades. What an amazingly diverse place – the birds, the terrain, the gators, and the fish. An incredibly beautiful location to wet a line. We connected to peacocks, largemouth bass, bowfin, cichlids, and gar – it was insane! Scott kept us connected all day and we had a blast.

The Bro Shot to Close Out the Day

 

Sweet Sunset – Evening Frogging

 

Tony’s First Gar OTF!

 

Another Bowfin

 

My First Bowfin Ever!

 

Another LMB taken on a frog

 

Gator! and that was a small one. We saw some over 10 ft!

 

The Terrain in the ‘Glades is So Cool

 

Little LMB Action – How Many Species is That?

 

Peas on the Fly!

 

The Stud of the Trip
Couldn’t do These Trips Without the Support of TFO
Photobombing Tony’s Nice Peacock
Tone with a Nice Pea
Midas Cichlid – so Photogenic
Look at the Colors!

What a winter break! I met some great guides who I will stay in touch with and I hatched some ideas for a future episode of Rediscover Your Region. Now – back to steelies! See you on the water.

Back to the Cold! Nice dusting as a Homecoming Gift!

Check out Capt Brandon Keck here:
http://www.southernflyexpeditions.com/
https://www.facebook.com/southernflyexpeditionslouisiana

Check out Capt Scott Rose here:
http://www.peacockadventures.com/meet-the-guide
https://www.facebook.com/scottrosefishing
https://www.instagram.com/scottrosefishing/

     

Fishing Report – Local/Adventure

It’s been awhile since we put out a semi-weekly fishing report.  To be honest, although we have been fishing, the focus of the past couple weeks has been spending quality time with our families prior to what is going to be a busy fall.  Kids starting school and planning for upcoming trips have been a pleasant distraction from daily outings in one of the greatest offices in the world.  Our local waters have been fishing well, we just completed a trip north of the U.S./CA border, and we’re at the doorstep of making another adventure up there at the end of the week.  Here is the latest and greatest:

Overall Situation Update: 

Recent rains and cooler nights dropped the temperature of the Niagara River by around 4 degrees.  This seems to have turned the fish on quite a bit.  BIG smallies are showing up more regularly now than in the preceding weeks and we can finally target muskies.  The inland creeks are coming into shape – not great shape – but barely fishable.  The long, hot summer and continued above average water temperatures has put the salmon, lake-run brown trout, and steelhead run a little behind.  We also made a trip up to Georgian Bay (pics will follow) – I was a new addition to an annual trip that Nate’s been doing with friends of the family for over a decade.  It was a blast – good people, good food, outstanding atmosphere, strong fishing – count me in for next year.

Inland Creeks – Trout

Although probably fishable, the inland trout fisheries are still a bit warm for our likings.  Nonetheless, anglers without access to the Niagara River have been dredging up some nice trout – if for no other reason than the jones to fish claws at them daily.  That’s completely understandable but we’re going to stick to the big water until there is a persistent chill in the air and the fall pattern is in full swing.

Niagara River – Smallmouth bass, Musky, and Carp

Smallmouth Bass: The Upper Niagara River continues to impress me with every outing.  The smallies seem to be getting bigger and bigger.  It seems like every fish brought to hand has a huge belly.  As many local anglers know, when you fight these local beauties they frequently regurgitate their last meal (providing a little pre-digested snack to their brothers and sisters that follow them throughout the fight).  Crawdads are the most common food we have been seeing shoot from their mouth so we continue to fish those patterns.  Chuck Kraft’s Clawdads in tan (to imitate soft shells) have been the go-to fly.

Nate with a stud Smallmouth Bass on the Big Water
Nate with a stud Smallmouth Bass on the Big Water

Muskellunge: Due to high water temperatures, we laid off the muskies.  That’s about to change.  As I mentioned earlier, the Niagara River dropped significantly over the past week – it was below 75 degrees as of yesterday.  That’s a safe temperature to begin targeting them.  We made a few casts yesterday and had one VERY aggressive follow and miss on top water followed by a somewhat lazy follow shortly thereafter.  That got our hearts pounding so we will spend much of our free days in the near future casting for these apex predators.  Although it hurt the morale a bit not fishing for them all summer, we saw quite a few out there, so at least we know where to start hunting them.

Common Carp: These guys have been out of the question for a few months now.  However, I have been noticing a few of them showing up in shallower water.  Not enough to get excited about but I will keep my eyes open for targets of opportunity randomly feeding in shallow water.

Georgian Bay Adventure

I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking on this next piece – just a couple of comments.

  1. The fishing wasn’t hot but strong enough to keep us interested.  Next time I go up there I’d like to spend a week.
  2. The scenery was incredible.
  3. You definitely need a boat, preferably one like mine that will allow you to get out there and explore the area.
  4. It is also INCREDIBLY helpful to have Navionics – especially if you want to preserve the lower unit on your outboard.
  5. Finally – we are looking really hard at turning this into an annual hosted trip – stay tuned.

Enjoy!

Nate with a tron - on top water as well!
Nate with a tron – on top water as well!
First big smallie taken on the first morning
First big smallie taken on the first morning
What'd I tell you - the SUNSETS!
What’d I tell you – the SUNSETS!
The sunsets were gorgeous!
The Mercury got us into some sweet places.
The only esox landed - and I wasn't really trying for this little guy. I lost 2 other flies to these guys
The only esox landed – and I wasn’t really trying for this little guy. I lost 2 other flies to the teeth of these predators
All I could do was admire it.
All I could do was admire it.
Like I said - the sunsets were crazy
This scene was our reward for enduring a long day of pelting rain and few fish.
Largejaws need love too - the result of crashing lily pads with deer hair
Largejaws need love too – the result of crashing lily pads with deer hair
It hurt to see that place go but it's already on the calendar for next year
It hurt to see that place go but it’s already on the calendar for next year

Old Crow – Consistency Amidst a Nomadic Lifestyle

I’ve told this story to quite a few people over the years.  The other guy involved in this piece of non-fiction has been reading our blog posts and recommended I tell it – if for no other reason than entertainment value.  What will follow is a tale of exploration, getting off the grid, taking in breathtaking scenery…well, mostly this is a story about a nearly decade’s long relationship with what is now a mainstay on every camping and fishing trip.  From how this wonderful accompaniment in our adventures entered our lives to what it has come to symbolize and will continue to do so in the future, our companion represents continuity over an angling history that spans well over a dozen states and 3 times as many rivers.  “FINISH THE STORY, MAN!  WHAT ABOUT THE ___,” (share this post and message us with the word that fills in the blank and the movie from which this quote came and we’ll mail you some Brookdog swag.  Hint: I mention the guy who said this later in this article).  O.K., here is the story of our friend, Old Crow.

Before you start judging me, my routines, and the story that follows, allow me to drop a few disclaimers.  I am not a cheap bastard (although my family and close friends may tell you otherwise – I’m fiscally conservative).  I’m not an alcoholic but I AM blessed with the gift of high tolerance for anything that is brown in color and 80 proof.  I DO NOT endorse the irresponsible consumption of booze.  With that out of the way, please allow me to proceed. 

It was around 8 years ago, almost to the day, that a close friend of mine and I decided to go on a 10-day bender exploring Maine.  A couple months prior, both of us checked into a new unit (this was during my active duty days).  We met in our Executive Officer’s (second in command) office where we were regaling our new boss with our summertime adventures prior to our arrival in coastal NC.  I just returned from spending the better part of 2 weeks honing my angling skills and sleeping in the dirt on Yellowstone National Park’s fabled waters.   He just returned from a 30-day, 10,000-mile road trip around the U.S. hiking every National Park within reach.  I knew right away that this guy could hang so after we left the office I asked him, “How would you like to have a real reason for hiking?”

There was a brief debate about the purpose for hiking.  He was all about taking in the sites and gazing from picturesque peaks.  I related to this having done much of the same along various stretches of the Appalachian Trail.  I explained to him that although clearing my mind and connecting with nature on long, mindless walks was sometimes rewarding, I was often left wanting for something that challenged all my senses.  “Would you be interested in an activity that gives you everything you currently get from hiking and also rewards you with the opportunity to hold some nature’s living crowned jewels in your hand?”  I proceeded to lay it on thick by explaining this activity would turn into a passion and skill that would engage him on a never-ending path for learning and discovery.  A new fly fisherman was born.                   

He promptly purchased a 5wt and all the accessories required for a beginning angler.  I taught him how to cast around North Carolina, both in salt and freshwater.  With a little bit of confidence behind his belt, we started looking for an opportunity to take in the wonders of nature AND bring some of its slippery beauties to hand.  Maine in the fall was a natural choice.  By the way; make sure to read the state angling regulations before making a visit.  If we had, we would have realized that the Maine fishing season closes 1-Oct – we planned our trip over Columbus Day weekend.   Hmmm – how will we occupy our spare time?  With only hiking and taking in Maine’s wonderful fall foliage to fill our daily itinerary (I know, tough breaks), we decided to make the trip a little more hardcore by staying at backcountry campgrounds as often as possible and partaking in copious amounts of alcohol to facilitate the deepest of fireside conversations.

When we arrived in Maine, we went to the grocery store to stock up on provisions.  Much to our surprise, they sell hard alcohol in Maine grocery stores (I wish NY would move this route).  Both of shared a penchant for brown so we picked up a handle of the natural choice – Jack Daniels.  With what we thought was about a 7-day supply in the trunk, we pushed north from Portland, ME.  We stopped at the Freeport L.L. Bean store along the way just to see what it was all about and to pay respects to an industry flagship store before finally reaching our first stop – Khatadin.  We hiked and took hundreds of pictures over the next 3 days.  From what we heard from the locals, it was the best fall foliage in years.  Our fireside chats were deeply philosophical, as they often are when making a dent in a handle of brown.

 

Descending A Peak Near Khatadin
Descending A Peak Near Khatadin
Taking it All in Near Khatadin
Taking it All in Near Khatadin
Should've Read the Damn Regulations Prior to Showing Up! Looks greasy.
Should’ve Read the Damn Regulations Prior to Showing Up! Looks greasy.
Fall Foliage in ME - What a Sight to Behold
Fall Foliage in ME – What a Sight to Behold

On the fourth day, we pushed NW to the town of Jackman, ME, where we took a quick inventory of our supplies before pushing off on a 30+ mile canoe trip on the Moosehead River.  It was here that we realized we were out of booze.  “What?!” After only 3 days?  If you’ve never been to Jackman, it’s an old logging town with little in the way of grocery stores.  The only one in town was connected to a gas station and had things on the shelf we were sure had been there for years.  BUT – they had a liquor selection and perched on the middle shelf, a prime piece of grocery store real-estate, was a bottle featuring a black bird.  “Old Crow?,” I questioned.  Let me read the label and see what it’s all about.

“When Dr. James Crow invented the sour mash process in 1835, he revolutionized Kentucky bourbon making.  Old Crow soon became the world’s best selling bourbon.  Through the years, Old Crow has often been imitated but never duplicated.  Enjoy the true original.”  Quick aside – I just typed that from memory having read that label countless times since my original reading.  I, WAS, SOLD!  I quickly called my friend over to review the label with me.  With some disdain, he said something like, “Dude, that stuff’s dirt cheap.”  I immediately retorted, “That’s because they’ve been making this stuff for nearly 2 centuries so they have the process mastered to where they can afford to charge so little while remaining profitable.”  He looked at me as if I was insane but with few other options available, that bottle of Old Crow made it into our cart.

The canoe trip that followed was supposed to take 3 days but we finished it in 1.5.  On the first day, we battled some ridiculous conditions.  From sustained 15mph headwinds to long portages to pulling the canoe along railroad tracks, by the time set up camp we were in desperate need of nourishment and hard drink.  A quote from Hunter S. Thompson captured the moment well with, “Can I get to the bottle of Old Crow and mix it up with the remains of these ice fragments…a cool drink for the freak?”  With our stomachs full of bratamus maximus (another campfire staple that is a species of the bratwurst we’ll discuss in a follow on article) and a strong, soft-woods fire crackling, we cracked the bottle and before long, it was empty.  We haven’t been the same since.

WTF!!! After a long Paddle Across a Large Lake Against the Wind
WTF!!! After a long Paddle Across a Large Lake Against the Wind
What the Hell are You Guys Doing Here? An Owl Stares Down at us Along the Moosehead River
“What the Hell are You Guys Doing Here?” An Owl Stares Down at us Along the Moosehead River
Mama Bears - an Oasis in Jackman, ME. Best Breakfast Ever
Mama Bears – an Oasis in Jackman, ME. Best Breakfast Ever
A Little Foggy From a Bottle of Old Crow the Night Before, Mother Nature Rewards us with Serene Conditions - Moosehead River ME
A Little Foggy From a Bottle of Old Crow the Night Before, Mother Nature Rewards us with Serene Conditions – Moosehead River ME

The rest of the trip included a visit to Mount Washington, the White Mountains in NH, a float trip on the Androscoggin (NH didn’t have a closed season), and a couple nights in Acadia where we boiled fresh caught lobster and mussels over the fire.  We consumed Old Crow throughout.  We were never hung over and we bonded over philosophical conversations I don’t think would have emerged without the stuff.  Apparently, we are not alone in experiencing tendency for fireside philosophy facilitated by “the original.”  I read somewhere that Ulysses S. Grant drank crown throughout his Civil War campaigns and he arouse victorious.  I’m not implying that Old Crow was responsible but surely it had to help.  Right?

White Mountain Waterfalls
White Mountain Waterfalls
White Mountains
White Mountains
One of the Many Mom-and-Pop Diners we Visited
One of the Many Mom-and-Pop Diners we Visited
Acadia National Park - The End of a Bender to Remember
Acadia National Park – The End of a Bender to Remember
First NH Fish - Androscoggin Brown
First NH Fish – Androscoggin Brown

Old Creezy, as we now call it, has made an appearance at our campsites all over the country, capping off days of fishing for trout, bass, musky, carp, and more.  It has come to symbolize consistency in a nomadic lifestyle that is anything but normal.  I am willing to bet that many our fellow vagabonds have something similar that’s ever-present on their trips and we’d love to hear about them.  If you can’t relate to all of this, I’m sorry, but there’s probably a twinge of envy swimming around your head.  Don’t worry, if you go on enough benders and you make it a priority to get out there, something will surface.

 

Eastern Sierra Exploration – Another Chalking Epic

Eastern Sierra Exploration 

On my continuing quest to chalk all 50 states on the fly, my wife Janice and I took a little trip out west to explore the eastern Sierra Nevadas.  Here are the wave tops:

Dates: 9-17 August

Species caught: brook trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, and GOLDEN TROUT!

States Chalked: CA and NV

Water Fished: offshore San Diego, Lower Owens, Bishop Creek, Buckeye Creek, East Walker, Robinson Creek, Truckee River, and San Joaquin River.  All chalked!

Road miles covered:  1100

Bottom line:  it was an incredible trip.  The scenery was breath taking.  The water was beautiful.  The weather was perfect.  All rivers produced and we were able to pick up some Sierra Nevada natives – Golden Trout.  They rival our brook trout in their beauty and eagerness to take a fly and were definitely the highlight of the trip.

The details (scroll on by if you have a short attention span and just want to get to the images):

If I could do it all over again, I would’ve went on this trip in the late fall/early winter.  From talking to the various guides and shops out there, CA and NV are in the grips of a bad drought.  Without any perspective on this, it was hard for me to judge but the catching wasn’t great and we tried everything from dredging to dries – the fish really made us work for it.  BUT, hindsight is 20/20 and we still had a great time – no trip is ever perfect.  Besides, it seems like the dog days of summer are pretty painful across the country as it relates to fishing so I’m very pleased with what we were able to accomplish.

Although the catching wasn’t great, every creek produced.  Some wild, some native,  and some stocked.  I find both states’ conservation methods interesting.  I’ll probably write about this double edged sword in a separate piece but it seems both states stock profusely where the waters don’t require it and much of this stocked water is put  and take.  All the water is beautiful and could sustain wild populations of trout if managed properly but I’m guessing the states’ position is that stocking brings large numbers of people to the mountains thereby protecting the lands and maintaining a steady flow of revenue.

There are pros and cons to this methodology for conservation.  Unfortunately,  the avid fly angler is at the brunt of the cons – but I’ll save that for another time.  Still, I was a bit stunned to be standing  at  the headwaters of a pristine creek near Bishop, CA, surrounded by bait dunkers.  We broke contact quickly and moved downstream in search of wild fish – and found some.

The budget for the trip was very affordable – we stayed in a hotel in San Diego and Reno (first and last days of the trip) and camped enroute.  It’s so dry in this part of the country that you never really feel dirty so 5 days without showering didn’t create a problem (nothing a quick dive in a creek couldn’t solve).  We also kept the costs down by cooking our food at the camp site and eating out sporadically if something uniquely local caught our eyes so we didn’t miss out on the regional culture.  We weren’t disappointed.

Other costs included the flight (Southwest was super cheap), rental car (I’ll never use Avis again), gas, guide fees, and a small amount of gear purchased from Walmart when we arrived in Cali – mainly a cheap cooler, propane, lighter fluid, and food we could cook along the way.  Buying some stuff on the ground saved us from having to pack a lot on the front/back end and incurring  baggage fees at the airport.  Plus – a trip into a Walmart always provides an interesting look at a small segment of the local population.

As a quick aside: I always hire guides for half day trips on these types of benders – for a few reasons.  1. You get local knowledge from a pro, 2. You save time by getting on the best water right away – which may ultimately save you money as well since the time you spend searching on your own could cost you a day, 3. You get to meet someone new with whom you can, exchange stories, maybe make plans for the future, and most importantly, learn something new.  Number 2 is debatable as some might retort that finding the primo water on your own is what makes trips exciting.  Sure – if you have a lot of time, that’s true and an important part of a trip.   Don’t get me wrong – most of the chalking on this trip came from unguided exploration but points 1 and 3 definitely came true as well.

Instead of the usual plastering of photos, we decided to play with a movie app on the iPhone that we think captures the trip quite well.  Maybe some day I’ll invest in some high quality camera equipment but until then….If you’re a photographer or an individual that’s interested in filming some interesting fly fishing adventures, drop us a line – we have pages of potential itineraries waiting for execution.

WARNING: fish porn will not follow.  Like I said before, the catching was slow and just didn’t lend itself to taking a lot of fish-in-hand shots.  Besides, we have enough big trout shots in our albums – new species and natives  are more important these days (yeah – that’s what we’re telling ourselves because no hogs came to hand).  Enjoy and please share!  Oh – I love planning these types of benders so if you need some assistance, drop me a line.

Ryan

Click here for the video:  https://youtu.be/p2DfV97QD_U

 

 

 

 

 

The “Thing” About it is…Everyone Should have a Passion – What’s Life Without One?

Everyone should have a “thing.”  Some”thing” to look forward to.  What’s life without one? – Nate Carr on pursuing his life’s passion. 

I’m in my late 30’s now and becoming increasingly prone to making life observations.  Maybe it’s because of my recent transition from military service.  Maybe it’s because I’m married and have a child as do most of my friends and siblings with whom I talk about these things regularly.  Whatever the reason for the uptick in my ramblings, being in your late 30s to early 40s seems about the right age for some intense introspection.  You’ve lived long enough to be an expert at a thing or two, you likely have a family, probably made a little money, and there’s a good chance you own a few big things.  Unfortunately, you are also likely to find yourself in a rut after a few, “I wish I could have…,” conversations over drinks with friends.  I am beginning to see why mid-life crises seem almost inevitable for a huge portion of the population – few people have something to look forward to.

First redfish on a Carolina flat - with John Mauser
First redfish on a Carolina flat – with John Mauser

My parents had me when they were young – early 20s – and as I grew up I recognized that they were younger than most of my friends parents by a wide margin (I make this observation because I am trying to build up an excuse for why I never listened to their advice).  Once this observation took flight in my head, I may have thought their experiences lacked worldliness and made a conscious effort to do the exact opposite of what they recommended.  OK, that’s total bulls*&t, I was just like every other teenager when it comes to taking the advice of your parents.  “What’s the worst thing that could happen?  They’d be right?  So be it then…I’ll come out smarter and better rounded having experienced the flaws in my decision making first hand.” Textbook teenage insanity.  BUT, I didn’t disregard everything.  One nugget my father passed on was to, “always have something to look forward to.”

Doubled up on carp in MT - one of my "epic" trips for the year
Doubled up on carp in MT – one of my “epic” trips for the year

For some reason that stuck – literally – he wrote it on a 3×5 card and stuck it to my refrigerator in my first apartment after college.  That 3×5 card landed on at least another half-dozen refrigerators over the next decade before it was lost after one of my many moves (well, I thought it was lost until I let my wife proofread this and she pulled it out of a drawer).  Losing it wasn’t a problem though, the idea was firmly ingrained in my way of life – one should pursue a passion, passionately.  Such a passion will drive plans for the future, make you want to improve, and become somewhat of an advocate that just has to teach others and educate them on all the fun they’re missing.

The card - it's still around pops!
The card – it’s still around pops!

So, there’s two strands to follow here.  What do you do if you don’t have a passion and how can you keep things engaging if you already have a passion?  If you’re lucky enough to already have a passion, I hope you can relate to everything written so far and what will follow.  However, you’re really not my target audience for this writing so I’ll get this out of the way really quick.  Remember, “Always have something to look forward to?”  At minimum, I schedule two epic trips per year.  By epic, I mean at least 6 days off to somewhere I’ve never been, likely off the grid, to experience something new.  These trips usually take place in the late spring and fall.  I also plan at least one weekend getaway per month with friends and family.  Somewhere close that’s not logistically and financially taxing works best.  The next level is getting something one the weekly schedule – I’m thinking bowling or pool.  Something casual on the surface but breeds competition you can ultimately laugh at after being humiliated.

The schedule - gotta keep it packed
The schedule – gotta keep it packed

What if you don’t have a passion?  It’s not too late but I am trying to figure out if a passion chooses you or if you choose it.  Either way, if you don’t have one, start experimenting with various activities.  Fly fishing is one you should start off with, although I am a bit biased on the subject.  Nevertheless, fly fishing is one of those activities that allows for limitless travel, constant learning, and pursuit until senile or immobile.  In other words, a lifetime of things to look forward to.  Whatever activity grabs you and causes you to obsess about it is something worth pursuing passionately (I’m almost biting my tongue writing this – I AM NOT ADVOCATING FOR ILLICIT ACTIVITIES).  Just put yourself into a position to have an experience that could be the one to suck you in and give you a new lease on life.

How can you make that happen?  Go back two paragraphs.  Start throwing things on a calendar and commit to them.  I had a boss a few years ago that I really respected who said, “Things get real when you put them on your schedule – BE BOLD AND PICK A DATE!”  Great advice.  Fill your schedule up – I guarantee there a few fly fishing guides around that can help you out.  Once you hook up, you’re hooked.

See ya!
See ya!

Brookdog Fishing Report – 20160717-20160724

Brookdog Fishing Co. Fishing Report

20160717 – 20160724 

Overall Situation Update: The Wavetops

There was a glimmer of hope at the beginning of the week when the temperatures were low and there was some rain in the forecast but the end of the week and the weekend changed all that. Hot air temps continued and the rain didn’t come. Temperature readings on the upper and lower river were in the high 70’s as of this writing and the inland creeks are mere trickles. What does this mean? It’s too hot to fish for muskies for risk of killing them. Bass are deeper and harder to find (at least in the river they are). Carp are off the flats. It is too risky to fish for trout in most of the inland creeks for fear of killing the fish.

Bottom line: please lay off the muskies until the water temps get back into the low 70s, get your deep water game going for smallies, and stay off the trout creeks until we get some rain – a lot more rain. Now’s the time to scout out new water and prepare for the cooler weather and rain that’s bound to come. We’ve managed to scrape up a few smallies on every trip but 3-5 is a banner day at this point.  Relief may be on the horizon – we just got a little rain and there is more in the forecast.  We’ll be paying a lot of attention to this.

This Past Week’s Events:

In an attempt to network and explore a little bit, Ryan and his family visited the Finger Lakes Museum at Keuka Lake and linked up with Natalie Payne, the museum’s Executive Director. Although development is in its infancy, the Finger Lakes Museum will be an informative tourist attraction in the region that, “inspires, educates, and entertains,” while providing, “a place where centuries of cultural and natural history come to life.” Natalie Payne and her team of dedicated volunteers are off to a strong start toward accomplishing this goal.

As part of their fundraising efforts and public awareness campaign, the museum has been hosting eco tours of Keuka Lake. Ryan took part on one of these tours and walked away eager to learn more and visit the area again. If you are looking for a quick family get away of the non-fishing sort, take the quick 2-hour drive out to Keuka Lake and go on one of these eco tours. The town of Pan Yan is a nice place to stay and you’re sure to have a good time.

Of course, some fishing on occurred on Kauka Lake as well. Surface temps on Keuka Lake were near 80 so it was a bit sluggish. Besides, with the family on board swimming in the bath water aside the boat, focused fishing was an exercise in futility – good times nonetheless. The Finger Lakes region offers immense promise for this upcoming fall. We’re looking forward to scratching the surface in the upcoming months.

Sunset on Keuka Lake
Sunset on Keuka Lake

20160722_131636949_iOS

We also had the opportunity to participate in the Rushford Lake Conservation Club Youth Fly Fishing Clinic with our friends, Nick Sagnibene (of Adventure Bound on the Fly), Ryan Welch, Chris Lee, Chris Garcea, Steve Wascher, and Peter Zaffram among others.  This was a great opportunity to introduce the passion of fly fishing to the next generation of anglers.  From tying knots, to casting instruction, to entomology and fishing regulations classes, the kids got a good dose of what our crazy world is all about.  It was a great time and we encourage all local anglers to follow  Rushford Lake Conservation Club on Facebook to remain abreast of ways to help preserve our fisheries and anglers for years to come.

We spent the remaining days of the week in the upper and lower Niagara River. The lower produce nothing (didn’t even move a fish) and there was still a fair amount of floating moss around – enough to aggravate you every few casts. The upper river didn’t produce much either but we managed to land a couple on every trip. We’ve seen decent numbers of smallies and freshwater drum on every drift but they are trying our patience – hook ups are hard to come by.

Inland Creeks – Trout

Same as last week – please keep away from them until we get some serious rain and cooler temps.  We’ve heard some reports of tricos hatches – right on time for those guys but with water levels as low as they are and temperatures as high as they are, we’re going to stay away until conditions improve.

Niagara River – Smallmouth bass, Musky, and Carp

Wind continues to be the challenge by mid-day – as well as high temperatures. This past weekend was chaotic as well. There were MANY pleasure boaters out and the raft “flotilla” from Niawanda Park added to the chaos. If you are going to fish the Upper River or Lake Erie, get out EARLY.

Smallmouth Bass: the smallie bite on the fly continues to be slow but nice fish are coming out of every outing.  We continued to use fast sinking lines and flies that imitate goby minnows and crawfish.  A slow and deep retrieve over rocky bottom at depths between 8-15ft produced fish. We’ve been seeing numerous smallies close to Lake Erie and in Lake Erie. The trick is getting down deep and staying there.

Big Shouldered Smalljaw!
Big Shouldered Smalljaw!
Todd Smith With a Pig!
Todd Smith With a Pig!
A Gorgeous Upper River Smallie
A Gorgeous Upper River Smallie

Muskellunge: The water has been too warm to fish for muskies for fear of killing them once caught. However, there has not been a trip yet where at least two muskies didn’t show themselves. Most of the time, these fish emerge from nowhere and follow the boat for a bit – taunting us. WE KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE! And when the temps drop, we’re coming for you!

Common Carp: no change from last week. If you want to pursue these guys, go south. Friends of ours have been picking them up on some of the warm water rivers south of Buffalo.

Conclusion: At this point, you might be thinking that it’s pretty rough out there for a fly angler right now – and you’d be right. So be it though, hitting the water is better than staying home and you still have the opportunity to learn something every time you’re out. Banner days are ahead! In the interim, keep grinding away and keep your line wet. If you live in Western New York, you have a penchant for delayed gratification – add these dog days of summer to your list of markers for great things to come.

Dawn at Niawanda Park - Every Day is one Day Closer to that Epic Outing!
Dawn at Niawanda Park – Every Day is one Day Closer to that Epic Outing!

Here is Natalie Payne’s contact info:

Natalie Payne
Executive Director
Finger Lakes Museum
PO BOX 96
Keuka Park, NY 14478
315-595-2200
[email protected]
http://www.fingerlakesmuseum.org/

A Mad Devil With a Dull Spirit – Fishing Envy

Brookdog Heaven
Brook Trout – Algonquin Provincial Park, ON

“Chances are that when someone is hating on you, it’s not about you at all. It’s about them. It’s their fear, their envy, their boredom, and their insecurity.” – unknown – but I found it on the internet and liked it

Picture this – you’re on a river with a buddy banging banks with streamers and both of you are catching fish at about the same clip.  As the day progresses, you both hit the afternoon lull that typically happens when the sun is high and the sky is clear.  Your fishing buddy is about a hundred yards downstream from you when suddenly you hear a loud shout, a bent rod, and what you perceive to be intense focus – you know that stance – slightly off balance due to adrenaline and shaky knees, both hands on the rod, eyes fixed.  I don’t know about you but when I see this happen I usually sprint over (I fall A LOT so there’s often a trip and some banged up knees or elbows in the process), assist in landing the fish in whatever way I can, and help snap hero shots afterward.  I do all of this instinctively but until somewhat recently, there was always a feeling of jealousy that came with it.  “Where’s my beast?”   “We’re using the same fly and fishing the same water for @u$ks sake!”   Sure, I suppose that’s only human nature but I’ve noticed that those jealous feelings don’t pop up nearly as much these days…Why?

We’ve written about haters before (see Fisherman Immortalized) and this isn’t haterish behavior I’m talking about.  Every human is inclined to get jealous from time to time, especially when your main hobby or passion is an activity that lends itself very well to bragging, showing off, and in turn, listening to others brag and watching them show off.  That little bit of envy can be a good thing if it makes you pay more attention to what the other guy/gal is doing well and helps you sharpen your game.  However, when jealousy has the opposite effect – like some bitterness toward the other person or an inability to genuinely compliment the other guy on a job well done – it’s time to check yourself because you’re not having nearly as much fun fishing as you could be.  I’m not going to lie– I’ve definitely felt that way to some degree on a number of occasions over the years and somehow checked myself without purposefully setting out to change the way I act.  I think this is how it went down…

I believe it all began when I set out to catch a musky on the fly.  All of the guys who brought fly fishing for musky into the mainstream (i.e.  Brad Bohen from Musky Country Outfitters and Blane Chocklett from Blane Chocklett Fly Fishing) will tell you that it’s a team sport.  When it takes thousands of casts to catch one fish, the boat gets stoked to see it caught and to behold its toothy gnarliness.  At least, that’s what I was led to believe going into targeting them for the first time.  However, that wasn’t really the case – I was jealous of other guys in the boat when they hoisted big fish and was frustrated with many challenges of repetedly casting to no avail.  That all changed after I caught a few and it finally sunk in that catching a fish like a musky (permit, bonefish, west coast steelies, and Atlantic salmon to name a few probably fit into this category as well) is so difficult and so improbable, especially compared to other game fish, that it is truly a special thing when an angler brings one to hand.  At some point, not all that long ago, I began to appreciate this and it changed the experience of fishing for me.

I became fully conscious of this change last season as I reviewed the numerous pics my buddy Nate sent me of him holding large musky and trout caught on the fly.  At the time, I was stranded in North Carolina awaiting my discharge from the USMC and didn’t have the time or ability to fish – the schedule was too tight and my means too limited – so I had to live vicariously through him for a few months.  I’ve always admired his ability to catch fish over the years but for the first time I felt truly proud of what he accomplished without a hint of envy.  One time, while I was reviewing the latest email of his exploits, my wife looked over my shoulder and said, “Doesn’t it drive you crazy to see him catch all those fish with you stranded down here?”  I replied in earnest, “No.”  There’s always something to learn while you are on the water about how to catch more and bigger fish and you can learn a lot more when you’re with someone that can teach you a thing or two.  If you don’t get too distracted, take a moment to learn something new about yourself too – that knowledge is often more rewarding.

 

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