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!
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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/).
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.
Send us your contact info and we’ll keep you up to date on our adventures as well as discounts on chartered trips!
For our second episode of Re-Discover Your Region, we explore the raging waters downstream from our first video – below one of the natural wonders of the world. Amidst the breathtakingly beautiful fall foliage that lines the canyon walls, see how we pursue the anadromous King/Chinook salmon as they make their fall spawning run. We follow up an awe inspiring day of fishing with a great meal and some equally great beer at Woodcock Brothers Brewery. Enjoy and please share!
Special thanks for video production goes out to Colton Wright. He outperformed his last piece of work on this one. You can contact him at [email protected] Additional thanks goes out to the Santa Lucia brothers at Santa Lucia Global, LLC for their outstanding drone work – they were critical to making all this come together. You can reach them at www.santaluciaglobal.com.
– Scientific Anglers – for producing the best lines for our year round fishery and multiple species
– Cabelas – for outfitting us with various equipment from tackle to our watercraft
For more details about our fishery and the options available to anglers and those interested in a fun day outside, please explore our seasons and species pages on our website. We talk to anglers and people interested in angling all the time and most are surprised that we can still fish throughout the fall and winter here in Western NY. Oh yes, we can! It’s our favorite time of year to get out there!. Give us a call – 716-704-5144.
This video, Re-Discover Your Region, is the first of what will be a series of short videos that feature Western NY in its resurgent glory. From local eateries, to spectacular scenery, to the diverse fisheries of the region, we will explore WNY from the air, land, and water and showcase the area in a new and exciting way. Please enjoy and share!
Special thanks for video production goes out to Colton Wright. He is a true artist and an extremely talented producer. You can contact him at [email protected] Additional thanks goes out to the Santa Lucia brothers at Santa Lucia Global, LLC for their outstanding drone work – they were critical to making all this come together. You can reach them at www.santaluciaglobal.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The scenery was incredible.
You definitely need a boat, preferably one like mine that will allow you to get out there and explore the area.
It is also INCREDIBLY helpful to have Navionics – especially if you want to preserve the lower unit on your outboard.
Finally – we are looking really hard at turning this into an annual hosted trip – stay tuned.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Milder temperatures and that strong douse of rain at the beginning of last week dropped the temperature of the river by a couple of degrees. This prompted us to pursue musky for a couple days and we managed to bring two to hand. The smallmouth bass action was consistent enough to keep things entertaining – catching fish both deep and on top water. Although the rain did help bring down the Niagara River temperatures for a couple days, they are back up as of this writing. That rain also did little to quench the thirst of the inland creeks, all of which are still in rough shape. The NY Department of Environmental Conversation published a drought warning for all the counties in WNY – brutal!
Bottom line: muskies are on but keep an eye on the water temps (STOP if above ~76 and if you catch one, keep it in the water), get your deep water game going for smallies but don’t hesitate to try top water, and stay off the trout creeks until we get some rain – a lot more rain. Like we said last week – now is the time to recon some new water in advance of the cooling trend that has to come at some point. The forecast for the rest of the week and into next looks very promising (except for today, which was ridiculously hot) – with highs in the low 80s and lows in the low 60s – and more rain. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.
This Past Week’s Events:
Long story short – we practiced what we preached the week before and reconnoitered some potential spots for the upcoming months. We weren’t disappointed. Ryan also got a chance to visit some pristine smallmouth bass water in southeastern Michigan. He spent a day on some Jurassic Park like water with the owner of Schultz Outfitters, Mike Schultz. Besides being an entertaining and highly skilled guide, his expertise as an outfitter and industry professional is top notch. He and his crew developed their fishery and outfitting service from the ground up – and it’s an amazing place. A MUST visit for any fan of the smallmouth bass. Top water action, a strong chance at a 20 incher, and total solitude on the river – all the ingredients for a world-class fishery. Schultz Outfitters’ point of contact info is at the bottom of this report.
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.
The easterly and northern wind have made things interesting. We know some guys who say they won’t fish when the wind blows from the east – we’re not sure why. Action was consistent with numerous upper teens fish and one a half inch shy of 20”. Same observations as last week – wind continues to be the challenge around mid-day but the daytime high temps are tolerable enough to stay out a bit longer.
Smallmouth Bass: the smallie bite on the fly picked up a little bit with increased numbers and a few larger fish. 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 6-20ft 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.
Muskellunge: as we mentioned above, the water temps dropped to between 75-76 degrees at the beginning of this past week so we made some early morning efforts to pick up some ‘skis. The river rewarded us with 2 fish – little guys but fly-caught muskies nonetheless. As of today, the water temps are back up above 76 so we are going to lay off these fish for a bit. We continue to see some larger fish on every outing and are marking them for colder days – let’s hope they stick around.
Common Carp: no change from last week. If you want to pursue these guys, go south. Friends of ours continue to catch them on some of the warm water rivers south of Buffalo.
Conclusion: a good week as we continue to dial-in high percentage spots for these dog days of summer. We’re loving the big boat and the amount of access to the big water it provides. Give us a call if you want to get out.