Tag Archives: charter fishing

Experiences vs. Materialism – What’s Your Story?

On the day before the summer solstice, I find myself reflecting on my experiences from this past spring. If you follow us on social media, you likely noticed that the fishing has been incredible. We had a banner spring season – many clients and many fish. I’ll touch on that later. As awesome as the fishing was, the conversations with clients are what really stuck with me. There was a theme that kept popping up – making memories through life experiences is far more rewarding than accumulating material items.

What’s Your Thing?

If you scroll through all our blog posts, you’ll notice the idea of having a hobby keeps coming up. That’s not a sales gimmick to get you to go fishing with us, it’s a notion that comes from the heart. Fishing has been a passion of mine since I caught my first fish (a sunny) when I was four years old.

The overwhelming majority of my fondest memories involve fishing trips or just fishing in general. It’s what’s kept me centered through some of my toughest times and it keeps me looking forward to the future. Do you have something in your life that does the same?

No Thing = High Risk of Depression

The idea that experiences enrich one’s life far more than the accumulation of things isn’t new/original. Google it- there are thousands of research papers written on the topic. However, googling it isn’t necessary. Take a couple seconds and scroll through your news feed on social media. The evidence is right in front of you.

Not sold on the notion? Take the time and do some reading. In my opinion the best, most readable book that addresses this topic of experiences vs. materialism is, Lost Connections, by Johann Hari. That book contains numerous studies and personal anecdotes on the topic. The main idea being that if your means of personal enrichment is the accumulation of things, chances are, you’re also depressed, lonely, and unfortunately on some sort of antidepressant. Making personal connections, finding an activity you’re passionate about (or at minimum very interested in), and frequently breaking routine is the only effective “cure” for this plight.

Anecdotes from the Water

Perhaps more than most, I frequently evaluate my lifestyle by ensuring I create opportunities for personal enrichment. I schedule multiple personal and family vacations throughout the year. When on the water with clients, I cover as much ground as possible, so everyone gets a good dose of regional imagery. I also keep the conversation going with a little bit of teaching and a lot of sharing stories and life experiences. Fishing and catching fish is a given. Getting to know my clients is far more important to me.

I’m encouraged by what I see in the people that I take fishing. For example, last month I had clients visiting the area from Texas. A grandmother, grandfather, and grandson. I asked them what brought them to the area. They told me that they take all their grandchildren on a vacation as a gift for their thirteenth birthday. This grandchild wanted to visit Niagara Falls and go fishing. How awesome is that?!?

I had another client that booked me for 3 days to try fly fishing for musky on the inland lakes. I asked him why he wanted to torture himself with such a thing (kidding…only slightly). He told me that he worked extremely hard all his life and made very little time for himself and his family. When he retired, he didn’t know what to do with himself. He went on to tell me that many other people from the same company committed suicide or passed away within a couple of years of retirement because they felt lost. Shortly after retirement, his wife passed away from cancer. Instead of falling into a deep depression, he decided to travel and experience as many things as possible. Catching a musky on the fly was one of his bucket list items.

Another client that’s become more of a friend, is so passionate about walleye fishing that he was willing to give up a scheduled trip with me to accommodate 2 brothers from Wisconsin. He’s retired but is more engaged in life than he ever has been. He likes being on the water so much that he even joined us on the trip and worked as my first mate. Classic!

Hopes for the Future

One could say that the people who book fishing trips are already on the path I’m recommending so of course I’ve had these kinds of discussions. Correct – but someone/something nudged them in the right direction to get them walking down that trail. Lawyers, doctors, casino pit bosses, mechanics, engineers, landscapers, property managers, painters, mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, tourists, locals – all of them realized at some point that they needed enriching experiences more than things.

It’s my hope that someone not on that path comes to the same realization. If you think fishing might be a good first step – GREAT! Visit the Buffalo Niagara region – all my colleagues in the guide/charter business will echo these sentiments. Although we have different personalities and back stories, we share the same passion for giving people something that will prove more rewarding that buying any material item – experiences that will last a lifetime.

Spring End of Season Update

The pictures will say it all but here are a few notes. Compared to last year, we spent WAY more time fishing the Upper Niagara this past spring. Fishing on the Upper Niagara River for smallmouth bass has been and will continue to be incredible. This year, we’ve been dedicating more time to teaching clients new techniques.

Although a good number of our clients have fishing experience, many have very little. The moving water of the Upper Niagara provides ample opportunity to teach less experienced clients how to finesse fish, how to use crankbaits and jerkbaits, and how to float fish. All have been very effective, and our clients seemed to have enjoyed it more than fishing the harbor and Lake Erie. It didn’t hurt that the action was incredible, and the fish were big.

Winter Charter Fishing in Buffalo Niagara

No…I am not going to go on another rant about avoiding the shack nasties. Hopefully, you understand our perspective on how remaining cooped up all winter is a recipe for a slow, yet assured, descent into depression…or worse. I would like to dedicate some time to challenging a few paradigms about charter fishing in the winter. I’m writing this in order to inform locals about a few natural wonders that go on in their back yard ONLY in winter. It’s also my hope that non-locals will read this and find it so interesting that they feel compelled to visit. Here we go…

That Initial Shock

In our previous blog, we discussed reasons why winter fishing is not crazy.  In fact, we concluded that it’s completely sane. Here, I want to get to the root of why people seem to instinctually respond this way. Last week, a client remarked that he was surprised to see so many people fishing in the winter. The shoreline in Devils Hole and Art Park was lined with a strong number of anglers. The River was lined with numerous charter boats and recreational anglers.

To someone witnessing and participating in this for the first time, I can see why it seemed a little foreign. If I asked you to picture yourself skiing, even if you’ve never done it before, some image will likely pop into your mind.  I think the popularity and presence in popular media make this possible. The same might be the case if I asked you to picture tailgating at a Bills game.  Or ice fishing in a hut.

Winter sports and many other outdoor activities are popular in areas that experience freezing temperatures and snow.  This is why it’s understandable that people can conjure images of these activities. However, if I asked you to picture yourself floating down the canyon of a river in a comfortable boat while catching big, beautiful, trout, you might start twitching. Your reaction would be like Harland Williams in There’s Something About Mary.  You know – that scene when Ben Stiller shattered his and dreams during a discussion about the length of ab workout videos.

A Winter Fishing Charter is Completely Foreign…for Good Reason

I think the reason it’s so difficult to imagine something like this is because it’s only possible in a few places in the world. Think about this for a second.  How many places can you think of where a massive strait is moving water from one inland/freshwater ocean to another? That’s an immense amount of water to consider. I had clients from Maine here last winter who were blown away and slightly frightened by the size of the Niagara. When there is that much water moving around, even though it gets incredibly cold, it keeps on flowing.

Water that cold takes on a greenish hue that’s difficult to describe. After Lake Erie freezes, it’ll run gin clear nearly every day. Sometimes, one can see steelhead, lake trout, and walleyes peeling away from the boat in over 20 ft of water. It’s kind of surreal.

It Makes Sense if You’re Concerned – but Get Over It

Aside from how foreign floating down a near frozen river in cold temperatures seems to one’s imagination, there is a rational fear or kind of a cringe in response to the idea. “Why would anyone in their right mind expose themselves to water when it’s cold outside?” I get it – but consider this:

Don’t Concern Yourself with the Thought of “Getting Wet”

One rarely, if ever, gets wet on a winter charter trip. The occasional light spray may occur but nothing that has any noticeable adverse effect. In other words – getting wet isn’t an issue. Think about it – when was the last time you heard about someone fishing from a boat in the winter that got hypothermia? If your charter captain knows what he/she is doing, the thought of getting wet passes within minutes of boarding the vessel and driving upstream.

It’s Likely You Already Have the Right Gear to Do This

Even though your chances of getting wet (in an uncomfortable way – hell, your hands better get wet after holding the fish you catch) are low, one still needs to respect Mother Nature and dress accordingly. Often times, this is the biggest obstacle. Many people believe they don’t have the clothing that will allow them to go fishing in the winter.

What you are really saying is that you don’t have clothing that will allow you to spend a few hours outdoors in the winter. Because that’s all it takes for you to go on a charter trip in the winter. If you don’t have that kind of clothing, well, that’s kind of crazy. If you live where freezing temperatures and snow storms are likely and you don’t have clothing that’ll allow you to spend a few hours outside, you need to rethink your situation. Any outfit you’d wear for a long walk outside will work. Warm socks, boots, layers for top and bottom, and a shell or coat that’ll shield you from the wind.

You may be imagining yourself, fully exposed, getting pelted with snow. Clear that image out. Generally, unless we have particularly hearty clients, we won’t fish when the snow is really coming down. Visibility becomes an issue as does deck safety. This is just another way of me saying that you’re likely more prepared to go on a charter fishing trip in the winter.

Consider this as well – the high yesterday was in the mid-20s. The “normal” reaction to that temperature is to think, “It’s too damn cold to go outside.” BUT…it was sunny, and snow was melting everywhere. If you bothered to walk around outside for a bit, you likely noticed that it was comfortable, even with minimal layering. In other words, you should challenge yourself to think differently about what weather conditions are pleasant and which ones are not this time of year.

You’ll Be Rewarded for Taking the Chance

If you overcome the mental obstacles to getting out there and you make a little wardrobe adjustment, you can reap an immense reward.  You can experience catching large, beautiful trout, in spawning colors, in an incredibly beautiful setting. The upcoming cold-weather months are the only time of year you can see something like this.

From the perspective of most people who hire a charter captain for a trip, it’s just great to be out there, making memories with their friends. That’s the business my colleagues and I are in – creating an experience that will stay with you for a long time (we hope).

After all, winter is the season of the holidays. People tend to get together far more often and/or connect with family they haven’t seen in a long time. What are you going to do with your tribe? Sit around and watch TV? Eat some food? Go to a movie? Drink beer? Cool…I guess. For a couple days maybe. Even if that sounds incredible, break your days up a bit, get some fresh air, recharge the liver and fight some fish.

Consider a Winter Fishing Charter…That’s All We’re Asking

As residents of the region, we are aware that winter in Buffalo Niagara is rife with opportunities to have fun outdoors. If you already have a hobby/activity that eats up those few weekends where weather will allow you to get out there, you may not have time for a charter (although, we hope you can fit it in at some point).

If you don’t have a winter hobby but are considering getting into something instead of rotting indoors, I hope this article made you think about taking a charter fishing trip this winter. Let me rant really quick – I don’t care if you are hitting the gym daily throughout the winter, you’re still going to end up unhealthy if you don’t get outside – O.K., rant over.

I’m not going to bore you with numbers and statistics.  I would like to encourage you to compare taking a few charter fishing trips this winter to some other options to get outside. I’m confident you’ll find that winter charter trips are an extremely economical, convenient, and extraordinarily enriching option. We hope you’ll give us a call or do some research to challenge or confirm this idea.

Urgency is in the Air – Fall is Coming

Maybe that’s why I like fall so much. When that first cold wind of the season creeps up your spine it triggers a sense of urgency that’s palpable everywhere you look. It’s a season of sensory overload – vibrant colors, incredible smells, tastes you can only experience this time of year. This sensory overload is part of the urgency of it all – it fuels our daily lives in a much more obvious way than any time of year.

For those of us that live in Great Lakes bordering regions, this atmosphere comes from a primordial place. It’s a natural prompt for action – time to start stocking up, food/resources won’t be available for too much longer. For those people that, “don’t do cold weather,” the fall their final chance to enjoy the outdoors before slipping into hibernation and the inevitable case of the shack nasties. Luckily, if you live in the Buffalo Niagara region, there are many options available to get outdoors and enjoy the splendor of the season.

We Aren’t Alone in this Experience

If you have spent any amount of time outside lately, you’ve likely noticed that this sense of urgency isn’t uniquely human. New birds are showing up. The trees are starting to show a little flicker of color change. Animals are becoming more active. The sun is rising later and setting earlier. Most importantly, the fish are putting on the feedbags or are staging to make their spawning runs.

Regional anglers benefit from nature’s sense of urgency this time of year. Regardless of the activity – feeding or mating – fish start to congregate thereby becoming easier to locate and catch. The smallmouth bass, muskies, and walleye that are putting on the feedbags aggressively pursue prey.

The salmon, steelhead, and lake run brown trout start staging in well-known and accessible locations. Just like any predator in nature – large groups of prey concentrating in certain areas is cause for excitement. The urgency that follows is a prompt for action – gotta get mine before everyone else/the opportunity passes.

The Urgency of the Fall – How are you Taking Advantage of it?

What are your fall plans? It’s obvious what our plans are – fishing…daily. This video shows what we’ll be up to for the next couple months.

It is by far my favorite little slice of the year – if for no other reason that it’s fleeting. Salmon fishing in the lower Niagara River is something that’s truly unique to the Buffalo Niagara Region. Deep canyons, crazy colors, and big fish everywhere. Simply put – it’s a marvel everyone should experience at least once. Give us a call if you’re interested.

Observations from the Water (a few weeks ago – 20180908)

I’ve been slacking on the blog lately. Honestly, August was a slow month for business. We expected this though – see our late summer blog.  August was a heavy walleye month and pictures of dead fish on the table lose their flair after you take a few so there wasn’t much to show or talk about. In the future, August will be a heavy vacation month and harvest month for us – getting ready for the next 2 months of solid work.

The walleye bite on Eastern Lake Erie has been great out at upper 50 – upper 60s depths near the international line. We’ve been bouncing the bottom with harnesses in pink and purple and have had few if any problems catching our limit on our full day programs.

The Smallmouth Bass bite had been slow but is kicking into high gear. The river is producing more and more with each outing and those old reliable spots on the Lake are producing more fish. They are feeling the urgency of fall for sure.

I had the privilege of working as first mate for Capt Matt Yablonski of Wet Net Charters a few times this past week. What a blast! It has been very cool to see the salmon make the transition to spawning colors while staging outside the Lake Ontario tribs. It won’t be long before we start dedicating all of our time to the lower river.

Plan for Next Week

Recon work and preparation is the plan. Starting 17-September, we’re booked every day until late October. It’s to the point now that we are considering doing 2/day trips. The boat needs to be in tip top shape. We need to dial in the pattern. Finally, we need to chalk up some family time as it will be scarce for more than a month. We hope to see you out there!

Late Summer Fishing In Buffalo Niagara

It’s late summer people. Even I have to kick myself in the butt to shake the late summer lull. If you’re a resident of the great lakes region, you do everything you can to maximize your summer. Why do we behave this way you westerners and southerners may ask? Because our winters are harsh and some of us hibernate. The problem with this way of life is that many of us take it too hard during the first few months of summer. So hard that by now, mid-August, many of us are worn out. Shake off that late summer lull my friends. There’s still a few weeks of fun remaining.

A Recent Revelation

A couple days ago, I was tying leaders on my boat in my driveway when I felt something. It was something I haven’t experienced in quite some time – a chill. The breeze blew, clouds shrouded the sun, and I got a little chill down my spine. I experienced something similar yesterday when I was fishing with my daughter. It was warmer in the river than outside. Today – I wore a hoody during the morning commute to Lake Erie.

The morning and evening temperatures seem a bit cooler. Days are getting a bit shorter. It’s late summer alright. Do you feel it? Although many of us have had incredible summers thus far, a sense of urgency should be on the creep. There are only a few weeks left until the kids go back to school and schedules start getting a bit more complex. Now is the time to get a second (or third or fourth) wind and get the most out of this last month of summer.

These emotional peaks and valleys us great lakes folks experience define our culture in a way. We take pride in the fact that we can cram a ton of fun into a short period. We work hard and party harder. Delayed gratification is THE ONLY WAY to truly enjoy something. Having something to look forward to fuels our work ethic – I just gotta grind a bit more and then all will be well. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Still – there’s one month left before we really start seeing some change and I want to maximize every bit of it.

It’s Late Summer – Steelhead…Really!?!

It’s been happening more and more lately. Although it’s late summer, social media has been simmering with TBTs and old pics of people gripping and grinning steelhead. There is a substantial faction of the angling community who are already thinking about the fall run. Unfortunately, these folks are missing out on some awesome, late summer angling, going on right now.

My friends, the stockers can wait. Don’t fret – the leaves will change, snow will fall, it’ll get cold, and steelhead will show up. They will also stay around for 7+months so you’ll be able to fill that emotional void and keep it full for quite some time. For now, get outside and enjoy our late summer action on the big water. Flip flops, a choice beverage, and a quick dip into the water to cool off every once in awhile. Don’t have a boat? Give us a call – we can help you out.

Observations from the Water

Smallmouth bass are starting to strap on the feedbags. Like us, they have been in a bit of a late summer lull but that’s changing. I’m guessing they sense that the days are getting shorter and that’s triggering them to pack on the pounds before the water gets cold and prey species become less available.

Higher water temperatures make them want to work a lot less for their food, so they are chowing down on easy meals around rocks and structure. Half-digested crawfish and gobys have been showing up on the deck of the boat – little donations from the stomachs of  boated smalljaws.

We’ve also been doing a lot of walleye fishing. This is a new game for us but were getting it dialed in. From talking to my colleagues, this has been a banner year. Although I don’t have a frame of reference, it’s been fantastic. They are such an excellent eating fish. So much so that I’m going on a walleye only diet for a week. I’ll get ripped – watch!

I also went out with Matt Yablonski of Wet Net Charters for my first summer king trip.  Those fish are incredibly strong – a different animal than the ones we’ll be catching in the lower river in about a month.

Plan for Next Week

Bookings are a bit light. That doesn’t matter though as we’ll be on the water anyway. Bass and walleye will continue to be the focus. The forecast looks excellent. Get out there and enjoy it while you still can. If you want to spend some of that time on the water – give us a call!

The Journey – Revelations About Chalking All 50 States

The adage that it is not about the destination it’s about the journey sounds cliché when you’re young. (Yeah – this is going to be another philosophical piece so if you want the fish porn, scroll to the bottom and check out the pics). Watch, someone will comment that I’m still young (I’m 40).

I may be young compared to many but I’m old in the eyes of my colleagues in their 20s and probably on the older side of the guide community. I digress…the point is that when I set goals when was in my 20s it was all about accomplishing them. As I’ve matured, I’m beginning to realize that the journey is much more important.

The Foundation vs the Journey

When I was in the military, I wore my accomplishments on my chest in the form of badges or medals. Few cared how I received them (I barely did) – it was typical male boastfulness on full display. Kind of like a male peacock spreading it’s feathers or a male brown trout with a huge kype jaw. The display was as much about impressing other dudes as it was to impress the opposite sex.

These days, it’s far less about boasting (I still have an ego – it’s just less dominating nowadays) and more about how I internalize the experiences the journey of life provides. In recent years, I’ve found that reflecting on the journey, living in the moment, makes life much more fulfilling.

The 50 before I Turn 50 Goal

Something like 15 years ago, when I first began fly fishing, I dove in head first. With typical male, testosterone laden thought, I wanted to prove to everyone I encountered that I wasn’t some chump. I wanted to prove that I could fish among the best anglers and make a name for myself.

Since I was in the military and I moved around a lot, the best way I could come up with to do this was to fish as many places as possible, learn as many techniques as possible, and catch as many species as possible. Admittedly, it was all about chalking states and bodies of water – something like earning medals in the military.

With chalking in mind, I began recording my endeavors in an excel spreadsheet – a brag sheet I could bust out like a resume if anyone challenged my abilities. Within a year or so, the idea of catching a fish on the fly in all 50 states before I turned 50 became a goal. It made sense – what better way to test my skills and learn a ton while doing so all while having a statement I could boast to people in conversation.

Goal Setting Isn’t Necessarily All Bad

This mindset had some benefits. It helped me plan trips every year. It kept me focused. It placed a timeline out there for which to hold myself accountable. All tenants of effective campaign planning in the military. However, it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I realized that I was too focused on the goal and not what was happening before my eyes.

Every journey exposed me to new and interesting people. Each journey took me to new and wonderful slices of nature – all distinct yet the same in some ways. As I made myself reflect on these experiences, I realized how lucky I am to have a passion and to have the opportunity to meet others on their own journey that share the same passion.

What Now?

Oh – I’m still going to accomplish that goal. Partially for some of the same reasons I set out to accomplish it back in my 20s. However, the journey has become my focus nowadays. The travel. The people. The fish. The environment. Hell, if that wasn’t genuinely my focus, the journey could end up being a grueling endeavor.

Case in Point

I was in Martha’s Vineyard this past weekend with my wife fishing with Abbie Schuster of Kismet Outfitters. How did I end up in Martha’s Vineyard? I was trying to chalk Massachusetts, of course…and what better way to do so than with a striper on the MA coast? The problem with using weekend bangers to chalk new water is that Mother Nature can foil your plans pretty easily.

As Abbie, Justin, my wife, and I fought big wind and rough seas trying to find fish, I found myself smiling – almost laughing out loud at the hand Mother Nature dealt us. The conversation flowed. We laughed at the situation. We exchanged stories and had a genuinely great time – with few fish to show for it. The journey was the center of attention – landing a blue fish on the fly and chalking MA was icing on the cake. If we skunked – whatevs – we would just come back next year. But we didn’t skunk, and I’ll be back anyway.

Observations from the Water (20180715 – 20180721)

The bass bite has been awesome lately. I don’t really need to say much more than that. They have been where they are supposed to be – deep buckets near shoals and on sandy bottom with good rocks. Both the river and eastern Lake Erie have been fishing extremely well. The bass have been packing on all the weight they lost during the spawn. I’ll let the pictures tell it.

Plan for This Week (20180722 – 20180728)

We’re booked every day. We will continue to fish Lake Erie with a little bit of the river mixed in. Give us a call if you want to get on the water. The bass action will continue to be excellent for the months to come.

The People – Why We Keep Doing What We Do

Disclaimer: I’m not a spokesperson for all guides by any means. I am junior in this business with only a little over 2 years under my belt. Although I may be relatively new to this industry as a professional, I feel compelled to write about my observations…for posterity sake. It would be an added benefit if my colleagues actually read the content and provided meaningful commentary in response. Either way, I believe what will follow to be of sound logic and will resonate with most if not every guide out there. Here is the position: Our clients, the people around this country, are the reason we continue to do what we do.

What’s So Interesting About “The People?”

Even as a junior guide, I still spend a great deal of time on the water – a huge percentage of my conscious life. I’ve seen a lot of our local water and caught many fish around here. Some of what I see is part of routine. Other aspects emerge through exploration. Regardless of how the day unfolds, there are 3 common threads woven through every outing:

1. The People on your boat will likely catch fish or have some really close encounters (*for the musky anglers)
2. Mother Nature will throw some sort of obstacle in your way and you’ll instinctually work to overcome it, trying to do so without detection by the people on the boat.
3. Unless they are repeat clients, the people that hire a guide are all different and require different “techniques” to ensure their day is as awesome as possible.

Meeting whatever challenges emerge as part of threads 1 and 2 isn’t terribly difficult for guides. In fact, it’s probably something that occurs very “naturally” in the life of every guide. We’ve been fishing for much of our lives. We’ve caught many fish and have seen many fish caught. Point number 3 on the other hand isn’t necessarily an instinctual endeavor.

The complexities of meeting new people are highly engaging and differ with nearly every outing. For me, it’s the most exciting part of guiding. From the introductory handshake and the first look in the eye; to explaining what’s going on for the day; to building rapport; to seeing that look of panic on their first hook up; to maintaining rapport for the entire time on the water. It’s all a blast.

Report from the Last Couple Weeks (20180701 – 20180714)

In keeping with the theme of “the people,” I wanted to take a quick moment to write about the great clients we’ve had over the past couple weeks. If you just have to know about how the fishing has been – it’s been excellent. We’ll let the pictures tell it. Back to the people – every trip has been a ton of fun for it’s own reasons. The demography has been interesting:

States/Provinces Represented:

Arizona
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Maryland
Texas
South Carolina
Arkansas
Massachusetts
North Carolina
Virginia
Local

Professions Represented:

Lawyers
Marketing Specialists
Outdoor Industry Professionals
Retirees
Engineers
Law Enforcement
Realestate
Department of Forestry

Get the idea? The diversity is immense in just these 2 demographics. How many professions do you know that put people, often complete strangers, into an intimate environment from which “escape” is somewhat difficult for 6+hours? I can’t think of any. I don’t know how many of my colleagues have considered this but to think that thoroughly enjoying this aspect of the job isn’t the central characteristic of why we do what we do is lunacy. We all love it (some more than others) but we all do LOVE IT – it’d be a rough go if we didn’t.

 

Plan for Next Week (20180715 – 20180721)

We have a few client trips early in the week and then my wife and I depart for a weekend angling getaway in Martha’s Vinyard. Stripers on the fly – new species, new state! Give us a call if you want to try to sneak in a last minute trip this month or get something on the calendar for August.

Getting Older and Feeling Better – Fishing as a Fountain of Youth

So I turned 40 today. I’m not a big birthday person so I’m bordering on hypocrisy writing this but I mention the fact that I’m getting older for a reason. Although I’m officially middle age (I guess), fishing is keeping me young. As a charter captain and fishing guide, I have the privilege of doing what I love every day. It’s amazing how that kind of lifestyle makes getting older unnoticeable.

Getting Older Should be Synonymous with Getting Wiser

Some people reading this would assume what I love is fishing. Sure – I love fishing, that’s pretty well documented. However, what I really love is guiding. I get to meet people from all over the world (mostly the U.S. though). It’s endlessly entertaining. Everyone is different – ages, background, ethnicity, culture, political views, religion, etc. Exposure to this kind of diversity is invigorating. It’s enrichment for the mind that makes getting older a badge of honor instead of a curse.

All these folks are stranded on a boat with me for about 8 hours so we get to know one another decently well. Although we are different in many ways, exploring those differences helps me gain new perspectives. Making these new acquaintances, engaging with them effectively, and trying to learn a thing or two serves to keep my mind sharp. Hell – it better. If it didn’t, it could be a grueling experience on some of those slow days. Ultimately, the act of forming these relationships makes getting wiser inextricably linked to getting older.

Resonance Makes Getting Older an Enjoyable Journey

Some of these folks choose to fish with me again. Others are tourists just passing through that I never hear from after we shake hands at the end of the day. Whatever the extent of our relationship – the effect of our time on the water together is never fleeting. I grow with each experience and each experience enhances my ability to make the next trip a bit more enjoyable for all parties involved.

Avoid Feeling Older by Putting Yourself Out There

Everyone should make getting older fun. I try my best to do just that. It’s for this reason that I don’t really care about my birthday – it’s just another day. Yesterday was great, so was today, and tomorrow will be too. I’m not some naive idealist – read my bio and you’ll know where I’m coming from. I’m just a guy who likes to fish. Better yet, I’m just a guy who likes to guide.

I put myself out there with every client – on every trip. When was the last time you did that? If you don’t know – give fishing with a guide a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised and will likely start thinking about getting older a bit differently.

Observations from the Water (20180624 – 20180630)

It was an awesome week that ended up with some serious heat. Water temperatures have been climbing and the summer pattern is really coming into full swing. Bass are moving deeper and getting shoal oriented on the lake. Post spawn bass are on the feed in the river too. Every outing has been productive on all tackle types. We’ve been covering a ton of water just for the hell of it. It’s been a lot of fun and ultimately helped set the groundwork for next week’s program. I’ll let the pictures tell it.

I also had the privilege of fishing in the Basseye Tournament. Our team placed 4th. Not too bad considering I made an effort to teach my team some new techniques and show them some water they had never seen before. I look forward to making this tournament part of my annual program.

Plan for Next Week (20180701 – 20180706)

We’ll avoid the river like the plague on the 4th as a nightmarish number of boats will be on the water. All of the other days will be spent on the lake shoal and rock pile hopping in search of the biggies. Give us a call if you want to get out there!

A New Pattern and Warm Weather – Finally!

Finally! Warm Weather and a New Pattern

At long last, a new pattern is here. If you’ve been reading our posts for awhile now, you know that I lack patience. That comes into play when I’ve been doing the same thing for a prolonged period. Last September was the last time I fished without my bib and warming layers. Finally, this new pattern of warmth and sunny skies over the last week allowed me to fish without gloves and only a long sleeve shirt to keep me warm. It also marked the waning of the salmonid runs and the beginning of pre-spawn smallmouth bass action. We’re very excited about this change.

Don’t get me wrong, we love catching steelhead, lakers, and lake run browns. However, we’ve been longing for warmer temperatures and smallmouth bass for about a month now. It’s weird when you think about it – here in Buffalo Niagara, these species are available to anglers for over 7 months out of the year. Another month and a half is dedicated to king salmon and cohos (for those captains like me that only fish the lower river for them in the fall). That leaves about 4 months of the year dedicated to smallies. I’ve missed them. Finally, they’re back!

Observations from the Water (20180429 – 20180505)

We have been thoroughly enjoying this warm weather and the new pattern. By new pattern, I mean fishing different gear, for different species, on different water. We got our last jabs in on some steelhead this past Monday and Friday and picked up some huge numbers – not many big fish though. We poked around the Buffalo small boat harbor on all the other days and found smallmouth bass right away. We caught them on flies, tubes, and bait. It seemed like everything worked. We’ll let the pictures tell it.

Plan for next week (20180506 – 20180512)

We will continue to exploit the new pattern until it isn’t new anymore. We found smallies in all their classic spring haunts over the past week but aim to continue to scout new spots that aren’t loaded with anglers. This awesome weather is a blessing and a curse. It marks the beginning of pleasure boaters, WAY MORE weekend warrior anglers, and ultimately a ton of traffic on the water. We are going from having the water nearly to ourselves as charter captains to now sharing it with everyone else. It’s cool though – it’s a new pattern, I’m fishing in flip flops, and I’m happy. If you want to hit the water with us, click here and we’ll call you right back.

Check out this video to get a glimpse of what’s in store for you if you book a trip! Don’t be deterred by the fact that it’s fly fishing focused – we specialize in ALL TACKLE types and experience levels.

Tight lines!

Reconnaissance – the Cure for Slow Fishing

Reconnaissance – the Cure for Slow Fishing and Getting in Touch with your Fishery

“Just drive down that road, until you get blown up,” – General George Patton, about the role for reconnaissance troops
“Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted,” – John Marsden

Viewed through the lens of modern warfighters, General Patton’s methods for reconnaissance were extremely crude.  Although a bit simplistic, he makes a valuable point for anglers who often get comfortable in routine. I have to check myself daily from going to that reliable water I know will catch fish. A recent reconnaissance mission put us in touch with something we believe worthwhile to explore. “Just driving down that road” taps into something primordial that we anglers cannot experience from working our reliable haunts – the excitement of fumbling into the unknown.

Although this started philosophical, that’s not the direction this essay will follow. We want to give our fellow anglers a methodology for “fumbling into the unknown.” Before starting down that road, we’ll drop one last plug as a quick aside to set the stage this “how to” piece. Over the past few weeks, conditions in Buffalo Niagara have been less than ideal. Cold, wind, bright skies, no precipitation (low water in some of the tribs) have been the bane of our fishing life lately. Sure, we’ve caught fish everywhere we went but it has definitely been a grind. So much so that we felt compelled to give fishing a rest and recon some new water we can fish when it warms up.

When was the last time you set out on a reconnaissance mission? Across the country, winters often carry a stigma for being tough. As this trying period is now ending, many anglers (us included) start getting excited for the more reliable spring fishing season. In western NY, that means steelhead, lake trout, and smallmouth bass. If you are just waiting for ideal conditions and relying on what you did last year – guess what – so is everyone else! That means that the same crowds/dense concentrations of anglers you experienced last year will be in play this year. How can you avoid this problem (around here it is definitely a problem – fistfights break out on some stretches of water)? If you don’t know how to begin, here are a few simple rules to get you started.

Nick and Nate capitalized on a solid recon session in PA this past week
Find the breadcrumb trail

Though, our favorite water to recon is the scarcely or totally unknown, forgotten, or otherwise underutilized fisheries – many bodies of water that you want to explore may be brand new to you but old hat for someone else. Take advantage and find the little nuggets lying around on the internet (while understanding that not all of it may be reliable). Use your favorite search engine with general terms of what your looking for and start following the trail. Use the collective knowledge that is already out there to build upon and take it to the next level.

Wait for it; this is going to be earth shattering, BUY A MAP!

Whether you are just getting into fishing or have been an avid angler for years, if your vehicle does not have some sort of detailed map/atlas/gazetteer, buy one ASAP and study it. There is some potential in every blue line and dot. We use Delorme Atlas and Gazetteers for every state we fish. Canada has a similar product for all their provinces. You’d be amazed at how many blue lines and dots as well as state/national lands are within reach. It can be daunting and generate some anxiety.

Formulate a plan

As a former United States Marine, this was my specialty. For anglers that have “normal” jobs and only have time to fish/conduct reconnaissance on the weekends or holidays, TIME is your most precious resource. Developing a plan will ensure the most effective use of your time. Once you have a map, plan your route carefully, looking for the best roads to take you to potential access points. There are a couple sub-rules here as well.

In the Marine Corps (and I’m sure this is in the corporate world’s lexicon as well) we have a saying, “eat the elephant one bite at a time.” That Atlas we mentioned in rule 1 contains a lot of information. As you start out reconnoitering an area, cut it up into manageable pieces and explore one piece at a time. Before long, you will thoroughly cover a large portion of your area.

Bring a supply of food and water with you to avoid making stops – besides, if you are venturing off the grid, there may be nowhere to eat. Lack of food and water will cause an early culmination on your mission or may serve to suck the confidence out of you.

Get familiar with Google Earth

This program is an invaluable tool for doing preliminary, off-water reconnaissance. The software allows you to explore satellite imagery of any given body of water. Though it may not be as useful for small mountain blue line streams, it is a key tool to have in your bag for larger bodies of water like lakes, ponds and rivers. Take advantage of the historical imagery to see what a given piece of water looks like in the low flows of summer or high flows of springtime run-off.

For lakes and larger rivers, you can even identify structure like weed beds, flats, deep water and rocks to help formulate your on-the-water plan of attack. If floating rivers is your game, you can map out a float and even measure the number of river miles to ensure you don’t find yourself looking for the pull-out long after dark while wondering if you somehow missed it.

Do not bring fishing equipment with you

We put this rule out there with some reservation but remember the point of the mission: to gain information that you can use for a future outing. Your purpose is not to fish. I know, that sounds crazy, especially if you end up recon’ing some new water and see fish just begging to be caught.  That’s understandable but remember the intangibles of fishing – embrace the excitement of discovering something new and develop a plan to go back.

Some may think not bringing gear is crazy so here is a compromise.  If you must bring a rod with you, don’t get caught up growing roots in one spot. Keep moving and cover ground.  Recon is about seeing a large enough slice of water that will allow you can form some broader conclusions and decide whether further, in-depth exploration is warranted.

Consider the environmental conditions

This rule is perhaps most important during summer recon missions. When you look at the water, consider what’s been happening with the weather lately. Is it low or boney? Maybe that’s because it hasn’t rained in weeks and that should trigger you to look for areas with deep pools where fish will likely hold until the water levels rise. Is the water raging and looking like chocolate milk? Well, that’s probably because it rained recently…or is it? In that situation, you at least know that the body of water is part of a viable drainage. If you visit a pond or lake, is the shoreline encroached with weeds? That’s probably because water temps are up and long periods of light are allowing the aquatic plants to grow. Try to picture this body of water in the late fall or spring.

Visit the tax assessor for the area

This may seem somewhat outdated as there are some apps that can do something similar.  However, tax assessors have maps that show what land is public and what land is private. Tax assessors are also locals to that area. Developing rapport with them may connect you you to a slice of angling heaven you didn’t know was there.

Conclusion

Getting out there is the best part of fishing – at least it is for us. If you fish often enough, you know there are days you just can’t buy a bite. Recon’ing is another way of getting out there. In the best of circumstances, you’ll find water you can call your own for a bit.  Worst case, you’ll find an area devoid of life but will have a better knowledge of the area. What do you have to lose…really?

Results of Last Week’s Time on the Water (20180319 – 20180325)

As we alluded to in last week’s blog, personal commitments kept us off the water for much of last week. We did get some water time in but it was a struggle. North winds, east winds, cold, low water in the tribs, etc. challenged us daily. We spent a HUGE amount of time on reconnaissance missions in preparation for the next 2 weeks.

Tony “The Zone” Lohr of 85th Day Angling continues to enjoy his winter vacations here in Buffalo Niagara

On the Docket for this week (20180326 – 20180401)

The weather looks good. The wind looks a bit dicey on a couple days but nothing too problematic. Temperatures will be in the upper 40s and low 50s! Finally, after about 5 months, we can fish without a beanie or gloves. It’s gonna feel weird. There is a good amount of precipitation in the forecast as well. That’s awesome because we need it. As we wait for that rain to fall, we’ll be spending all our time on the big water – picking away at fresh and drop back steel and lake trout. Give us a call if you want to get out there!

Complacency Kills Angling Prospects

Does Complacency Kill in Angling?

Back in my military days, Complacency Kills, was a phrase embedded in our heads starting in basic training. The theory behind the idea is that if you become complacent, you lose situational awareness.  If you lose situational awareness, you could end up getting yourself and your fellow warriors killed. Yeah, that’s a bit extreme if you try to directly apply that example to what you do on the water – but maybe not.

I could site numerous examples how complacency could kill you (or injure you severely) if you don’t pay attention to what’s going on when you are on your boat in the middle of winter with ice cold water flowing by at 225,000 cubic feet per second. However, that’s a different blog for a different time. Complacency could kill your chances of catching fish if you end up lulled into the rhythm of flowing downstream on the same drift repeatedly, watching your float/bobber/indicator, using the same bait/lure/fly.

Taking a Different Angle

Situation: You pull up to a small tributary to one of the Great Lakes with the intent of fishing a spot you’re confident will produce. After getting set up and making a few casts, you hook up, reinforcing your confidence that there are a ton of fish in that spot. Do you:

1. Move on to another pool or location in search of more
2. Catch a couple more from that spot if you can and THEN move on to another spot
3. Stay in that spot all day and catch as many fish as possible as long as the action permits

I’m willing to bet that most people would choose (3). Is that complacency? Well…yes, it is. Is that a problem? That all depends on your perspective. If you don’t fish that often and you just want to feel the tug, I’d say it’s not a big problem. If you fish often AND you remain in the same spot and keep catching, I’d ask you to think about what that pool around the bend might be holding. After all, didn’t you just catch a few fish? How many do you REALLY need to land to feel satisfied? Don’t answer that aloud – you’ll likely learn something about yourself you didn’t want to know.

Guiding Considerations

If you’re a guide and are fishing with clients, the answer to this question is A LOT more nuanced – well, it is for me. Maybe it’s a good call to stay to keep your clients happy – nothing breeds happiness on a fishing trip more than catching fish, right? The problem with staying is that you may beat up that pool and ruin your chances of catching fish there the following day with a different set of clients. Another problem with staying is that your entire day will be spent in one spot and nothing breeds complacency more than remaining stationary. Yet another issue with staying and slaying is that you leave your clients with the impression that this little slice of water your on is the only thing around worth fishing.

Making it Personal

Everyone who knows me well will tell you that I’m decisive – to a fault. I like to move. Exploration is key. Wondering what’s going on around the bend is always on my mind.  Changing things up just to see if it works is always at play.  Personally, on my own time, I would chose option (1) from above – no question. If I catch a fish from a spot, I may make a few more casts but if I don’t catch something soon thereafter, I move or change things up. With clients, I roll with option (2) as it’s a healthy compromise to keep me sane and to keep my clients happy.

On my own time, I nearly ALWAYS leave fish to find fish and I’m not bothered if by doing so results in me not catching another fish for the rest of the day. If I end up skunking at the follow on spots, at least I learned where the fish are and where they aren’t. However, more times than not, moving on results in catching more fish in more locations and keeps me sharp while doing so. Complacency doesn’t even emerge as a potential problem. Could I have caught more fish if I just stayed put? Maybe…maybe not. I’ll never know and that doesn’t bother me. Who am I kidding?!? It bothers the hell out of me, it’s one of the things that fuel my continued interest in angling, and I hope it will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

Conclusion

It is not the intent of this little “think piece” to provide the reader with a recommendation for how to fish. There are plenty of instructional articles out there that do an awesome job teaching anglers about what to do in these kinds of situations. There are a dearth of articles that ask the reader to think about what they would do and why. It’s my hope this article accomplished that end. There is no WRONG answer to the question above. However, complacency may end up playing into your decision when you are on the water – especially when it’s cold, you can’t feel your fingers, and it just started snowing. Try not to let it.

Fishing Report from last week (20180312-20180318)

What a week! Lots of fish. We fished a lot of water and all of it produced. Although the week started off slow, from Tuesday onward, we saw awesome action. I’ll let the pictures tell it. We caught fish on every tackle type and all produced well. Water levels on the Great Lakes tributaries were excellent as were the numbers of fish present. The big water was clear as well and full of willing fish. The only thing that wasn’t optimal was the weather. Cold, warm, frigid, snowing, melting, blowing – this seems like a never-ending winter in Buffalo Niagara. The only thing keeping me sane these days is how awesome the fishing has been through all of it.

*we got lucky and caught a few pike – purely on accident.  The lucky part was that this happened the day before pike season in this part of the state closed the following day.  If you see them, leave them alone to spawn.

On the Docket for Next Week (20180319 – 20180325)

Personal commitments this week will keep us off the water for a couple days. That’s somewhat a good thing in that this ridiculous, frigid weather is going to continue. Highs won’t break freezing for much of the week and winds from the north will make those cold temps feel even colder. We’ll hit the big water at least a couple days but will likely spend most of our time walking the tribs. Many of them will be low and clear, which means we’ll have to go into stealth mode with lighter leaders and sparse baits/lures/flies. We’re up for the challenge. Are you? Give us a call if you want to find out!

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