Tag Archives: simms

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!

Happy Mothers Day – Show Some Love to the Moms in Your Life

Happy Mothers Day, Mom!

Mothers Day – I’m usually not a fan of contrived holidays but I am a fan of celebrating this one. If it wasn’t for my mother and my beautiful wife I wouldn’t be where I am today – a happy father doing what I love. My only hope is that reading this take the opportunity to reflect on what the mothers in our life have given to us to get us where we are today.

My mother (and father) raised a fire team of 3 boys. She was outnumbered 4:1 dudes to her and made her influence felt nonetheless. It had to be daunting but she did it the best way possible. She let us roam, explore, break ourselves (and each other), and learn by trial and error – the right way in my opinion. She was always there to encourage us and fix us when we were broken (emotionally and physically) and she continues to do so today.

That selflessness opened the door for my passion for the outdoors. Allowing us to wander off to fish or explore the woods for hours on end cemented what came to be the most important attribute to what I wanted in life – a loving wife and a life outdoors. I got just that. Happy Mothers Day mom – I love you!

The Other Mother in My Life

My beautiful and supportive wife, Janice, is the other mother in my life. She does an incredible job raising my daughter – providing her everything I can’t. She’s emotional, caring, loving, and just crazy enough to show our daughter you have to be a little off upstairs to marry/remain married to a fishing guide. We’re an awesome team and I couldn’t live my dream life without her. Thank you, my love – happy Mothers Day.

Please Reflect

As a father of a daughter, I’ve gotten more in touch with my emotions that I would admit around a campfire drinking beers with my bros. Those mothers in my life helped nurture that in me. If you’re a guide or outdoors enthusiast, and you’re married or still young enough that you live at home with your parents, take a moment to reflect on how the mothers in your life have helped you get to where you are now and where you want to go.

Observations from the Water (20180506 – 20180512)

It was a rollercoaster of a week. Those warm temps we wrote about last week stuck around for the first few days and we had some incredible days on the water. Dozens of jaws eating tubes, flies, and stickbaits. One day, the average fish was 5lbs with 2 over 6lbs – insane. Then the north and east winds hit and made things tough. We still got on them but it wasn’t gangbusters like early in the week. It seemed like they responded better to stick baits – but that could’ve been random.

Admittedly, I went a little internal for a couple days. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to wear my bib again until fall but froze my ass off for a couple days. Not cool – rather too cool.

Plan for Next Week (20180513 – 20180519)

I’m hoping the rain in the forecast actually happens this time. The tribs are low and clear. They are full of fish but many are getting on nests and we don’t fish for them when they are spawning. For one – the fight sucks and they don’t really eat. Also, it’s just dirty – they are easy targets and are just trying to raise their young. Let them be.

If the rain happens, we’ll likely spend some time on the tribs just to stretch out the legs a bit. That kinda hard to do considering the harbor and river are fishing extremely well right now – but it’s a lot of fun to throw flies in shallow water to fish that willingly slam streamers.

Give us a call if you want to get out! If you need a video to show you what your in for, check out our YouTube Channel.  Tight lines!

The Fishing Workout – Plus Observations from the Water – 20180408 – 20180414

People normally don’t put physical fitness and fishing together in the same sentence. I mean, why would you? For most, fishing is a way to escape the weekly grind and leave the toils of life behind. Considering it a workout may taint the experience for some. However, think about every guide you’ve ever known. How many are fat? I’m betting not many. You don’t often see fat/out of shape guides. In fact, staying in shape is very important in our profession to ensure focus and efficacy during long days on the water.

Where Did All This Fitness and Fishing Talk Come From?

I turn 40 this year. That age is less significant today that it was a few decades ago because people are living well into their nineties these days. However, it is still a benchmark for some/bears some sort of significance on people’s adult life. Like New Years, it offers an opportunity to set goals, reflect on what you’ve accomplished in life thus far, and look forward to what’s in store for the future.

My personal goal is to get into the best shape of my life before my 40th birthday (30-June). Really, the goal is to look the best I’ve ever looked. Considering I’ve been a paid athlete for all of my adult life (i.e. your tax dollars paid for me to be in elite physical condition while on active duty), I don’t have to do anything too transformative to hit this goal. However, a few tweaks are necessary for me to hit the mark and I have to consider the fact that I need to be able to guide at the same time.

Last Sunday, I injured my back at the gym during a workout I’ve done dozens of times. The injury wasn’t anything crazy. However, it hurt enough to leave me bed ridden and off the water for a day or two. When I was laying around wallowing in self-pity, I couldn’t help but consider, “What if I REALLY hurt myself?” In this line of work, if you can’t move, you can’t fish/guide. If I can’t fish/guide, I can’t feed my family. So what should I be doing in the gym to keep me in shape, allow me to hit my goal, and avoid injury? I have a few ideas.

Guides Are Generally in Shape For a Few Reasons

Back to reflecting on all the guides you know. Again, few are fat/out of shape and there are a few reasons for this:

– We’re always on our feet or on the move. Especially if you’re a guide that runs a walk and wade or rowing program. The other day, a buddy of mine told me he had been tracking our steps on his iPhone. We walked nearly 5 miles. It’s kind of tough to get out of shape when you’re logging that kind of activity on a regular basis.

– Being on the go means we often miss meals. In the dieting/fitness world, they call this “intermittent fasting.” There are a ton of studies out there that show a 16+ hour gap between meals has numerous health benefits. From weight loss, ability to burn fat, and control insulin levels. I’m not a dietician nor am I a scientist – I’m just providing commentary on what I’ve read.

– We’re outside, enduring all kinds of conditions. Fishing in the cold, rain, and snow, taxes our bodies to maintain warmth. It takes a lot calories to make that happen.

Ideally, a fitness routine that optimizes performance on the water should be low impact but extremely taxing. The program should be something we can do in less than an hour (30 mins is optimal) so we can squeeze it in when we get off the water. Such a program should also be easy to do at home – in the basement or garage – thereby saving gym costs and drive time back and forth.

The Workout

I will propose a few exercises but the exercises aren’t important. You can replace any of these with exercises you enjoy. The main idea is that every workout should be simple, quick, tax the entire body, and leave you exhausted once complete. You can do any of these workouts as many times per week as you want. Some weeks I workout every day. Some week’s I can only squeeze a couple workouts into the schedule. Bottom line, I make time.

Workout 1: Medicine Ball Slam Insanity

The Routine: Do as many as possible in one minute and then rest for 3 minutes. For that working minute, you need to get yourself to the point that you believe your heart will explode. Some element of fear, excitement, and adrenaline should creep up. You need to be completely smoked – so much so that you’ll need the 3 minutes of rest. Do this 8 times – so that’ll take you no more than 32 mins. That’s it.

The Logic: picking something up off the ground that has an awkward shape, lifting it over your head, and slamming it down as hard as you can works every muscle in your body. It’s also a movement you’ll likely repeat throughout the day when on the water. Well, not the slamming portion but hopefully you’ll end up bending over to net fish numerous times throughout the day and doing ball slams will ensure that’s never a problem.

Workout 2: Uphill Sprints

The Routine: Run as fast as you can on the steepest incline you can for a minute then rest 3 minutes. Tax yourself the same way as prescribed in the medicine ball slam.

The Logic: walk and wade guides in particular would benefit greatly from this kind of workout. The incline reduces impact on your joints while taxing the hell out of your legs, heart, and lungs. This will build leg and core strength that will help you last longer when on the water.

Workout 3: Burpee Box Jumps

The Routine: do a burpee next to a 2 foot box. When you complete the burpee, jump up on the box. Then drop down and go straight into another burpee. Do 10 of these in a row and take a minute rest. Do this 10 times.

The Logic: This is probably the most taxing exercise I’ve ever done. It works every muscle in your body. It also reinforces your connective tissue thereby allowing you to walk farther and stay on your feet longer.

Workout 4: As Many Rounds as Possible (AMRAP) in 20 minutes

The Routine: 5 pullups, 10 pushups, 15 squats (no weight). Do this sequence of exercises as many times as possible in 20 minutes.

The Logic: this workout hits every muscle in your body and keeps you moderately stressed for 20 minutes. Think of it as something that would help you if you had to carry a client or fishing buddy that got injured or if you needed to run to get help.

Parting Shots about the Workouts

All 4 workouts are simple, extremely taxing, and short. You can also substitute any number of exercises in place of what I recommended. For example, substitute kettlebell swings for ball slams. Use a YETI cooler instead of a box (thanks Willey). Jump rope fast instead of sprinting uphill. Your options are limitless. Just get the sessions in.

The Diet

This is perhaps more important than the workouts. My diet is EXTREMELY simple. Some would say it’s extreme in general. Bottom line, all I eat are animals. Eggs, fish, beef, venison, waterfowl, chicken, turkey, pork, bacon, whatever. If it was alive and had blood coursing through it’s veins at some point, it’s fair game. I started this by default when I was in Guyana and have kept it up since I returned. The results have been amazing.

I completely understand many who read this will think this kind of diet is either boring, or insane. Google the carnivore diet and read up. It’s not for everyone but it has worked amazingly for me. If you just can’t make yourself eat like this – do your best to eat whole foods. Nuts, veggies, meat, and a little fruit. Keep it simple. Eat only when hungry (don’t make yourself eat 3 meals per day). If you’re only hungry once, eat once.

Final Thoughts

Back to what got me thinking about all of this – the back injury. I hurt my back doing heavy deadlifts. Why was I dong heavy deadlifts? Pride and testosterone – it’s as simple as that. I shouldn’t have been doing them. They are useless for someone in my line of work. That kind of workout won’t help me hit my goal. Deadlifts are also high risk if not executed properly. I’ve been doing them for years but when you are far along in a session, sometimes laziness kicks in, your form suffers, and an injury happens. Never again.

Keep a log and try to outperform what you did on the previous workout. Listen to your body. Use the mirror and how you feel as your guide. Put some of these principles in place and I assure you that you’ll see awesome gains and will perform better when you’re on the water.

Observations from Last Week on the Water- 20180408 – 20180414

The back injury kept me of the water for much of the week but I managed to get in some water time and net a few fish. The tribs (all except Canadaway for some reason) got low and clear toward the end of the week. They all produced fish but angling get more difficult as the waters cleared up. We managed to hit the lower river for a quick outing before the sleet and wind hit. We did well.

Plan for this week – 20180415 – 20180421

We’ll be on the big water Monday through Wednesday. From Thursday through next Monday, we’ll be in Washington State trying to chalk up yet another region. Stay tuned and give us a call if you want to experience this first hand instead of reading about it.  You can also check out a video version of what we don on the water by clicking here.

False Spring – Being Cold is Getting Old – 20180401-20180407

What is a false spring? I made the term up this past week. Well…in my head I made it up and haven’t bothered to research if it’s a real thing. A false spring is when the images and sensations one so fondly associates with this season don’t seem to come to pass. Things like budding trees, warmer temperatures, increased time outside, the smells of flowers, pairing of animals, birds you haven’t seen in a while showing up, etc. just don’t seem to be happening.

The Vernal Equinox was nearly 3 weeks ago, yet it snowed on us while we were on the water 3 times this past week. Ice continues to choke up most of the Niagara River. I haven’t seen evidence of budding trees anywhere. Mid-day yesterday, while breaking the ice out of the guides on my fly rod for the fiftieth time, I culminated. Being cold is getting old. When will this false spring turn into something all of us usually associate with this time of year?

The Silver Lining of a False Spring

Although I have a high threshold for pain, watching the snow fall as I write this is generating a little bit of anxiety. Admittedly, my first response to watching these big flakes come down is, “REALLY! REALLY!” Although this weather is gloomy and somewhat painful (mentally and physically), there is a silver lining for those who love to catch steelhead.

Many of the steelhead fanatics around here are somewhat excited about this false spring phenomenon. I say somewhat because few, if any, people want it to remain cold for too much longer. However, these cold temps are keeping the steelhead in the creeks and that’ll likely remain the case until early May. I can’t honestly say that I’ve seen a spring run of steel kick off in earnest. Sure, a few chrome fish started popping up before Wednesday’s crazy wind storm, but the overwhelming majority of the steel landed lately have been drop backs.

If the spring run is happening in earnest, it’s a slow walk rather than a run. That’s exciting because catch rates have been high lately. If fresh fish continue to enter all the tribs while the fall run fish slowly drop back, we’ll be in for some amazing days on the water in the upcoming weeks.

Transparency

From a guide’s perspective – that’s great news. From this guide’s perspective – that’s cool BUT I’m longing for change. What I love the most about guiding in the Buffalo Niagara Region is the variety this fishery has to offer. As seasons change, the target species change as well. We’ve been fishing for steelhead since last October. It’s felt like winter here for nearly six months. Although steelhead are a lot of fun and I will happily take advantage of the prolonged pattern of this false spring, I’m also ready to wet the net with something new (read SMALLJAWS!!!). This time last year, we filmed the first part of this video and were guiding clients on the tribs for smallies. Look at the difference.

We’re keeping our fingers crossed for something spectacular to happen. A quick shift to warmer temps might just push a ton of smallies into the creeks while the steelhead are still in heavy but dropping back. To some extent, this happens every year. However, it’s amazing when there is a significant overlap. Every cast is anyone’s guess about what species may hit. However, there is no guessing about the size of the fish – it’ll be big.

Notes from last week (20180401-20180407)

We logged a lot of time on the water this past week. We had clients in from Maine on a fishing bender that they executed like pros. On Easter, we recon’d the tribs to get a sense of when they’d be fishable (recall the ton of rain we received the few days prior). On Monday, we hit the river and had an awesome day. Good numbers and a few nice sized fish. We walked the tribs Tuesday and caught 2 of them just right. Perfect water clarity and temperature resulted in an awesome streamer bite and many fish brought to the net. Then the big storm rolled in Wednesday and messed everything up. Well, it messed up the big water but the tribs recovered quickly and continued to produce fish for the rest of the week.

Plan for the upcoming week (21080408-20180414)

Guess what? According to the forecast, the false spring continues…somewhat. It’s going to be slightly warmer with few lows below freezing. Maybe there will be a day I don’t have to triple layer and wear gloves. It’s anyone’s guess about how long it’s going to take for the big water to clear up. It’s both muddy and filled with ice and Lake Erie still has plenty of ice around. Take a drive down HWY 5 if you don’t believe me. The boat launches on the upper river (U.S. side) are completely encroached with ice. We’d need a snow plow to open them up (call me if you’re willing to volunteer – I’ll make it worth your time). We will be looking at the big water daily and will take an opportunity to fish it if one presents itself. However, most of our time this week will be spent walking the tribs and recon’ing some areas we think have some promise for a new program we’re considering. The forecast looks good for the tribs. Give us a call if you want to experience false spring fishing at its finest.

How to Execute a Fishing Bender

Do you need a fishing bender? Look no further than Buffalo Niagara

We’ve had the pleasure of executing numerous fishing benders all over the country in the past couple of decades. We cataloged many of them in our Re-Discover Your Region series of short films. However, it wasn’t until a client of ours executed a bender to Buffalo Niagara that I felt compelled to capture how perfect this place is for such an undertaking.

Lee paid us a visit on a fishing bender from NYC – it was a success!  He caught lake trout, walleye, steelhead, and a bonus Atlantic Salmon.  What a trip!

You may be wondering what a fishing bender entails. I offer this adapted definition taken from Urban Dictionary: “A term commonly used to describe a period of time (preferably more than 24 hours) spent escaping life’s harsh realities (marriage, work, etc). Fishing hard all day, every day is a must. Anything goes.”

 

The original definition of the word bender involved alcohol consumption. Don’t get us wrong, we love a good beer and Buffalo Niagara is home to numerous, incredible breweries. However, pounding brews isn’t the focus of this short essay. Exploring as many angling opportunities a region has to offer in a short period is what we want you to consider.

Why Go on a Fishing Bender?

So why would one execute a fishing bender? The answer boils down to one thing – time is limited. You may have limited paid time off from work and need to maximize every day you take. Your work/life balance may be preventing you from fishing as much as you’d like. A small sliver of availability may have opened in your schedule and you’d REALLY like to spend it fishing. Whatever the case, a successful fishing bender can cure your mental and physical ailments or fill your bucket with some much needed time outside. The key word in that last sentence is, “successful.”

The Main Ingredient for a Successful Fishing Bender – LOCATION!

A good plan is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT for a successful bender. There are many logistical issues for consideration before kicking it off – flights, hotels, food, rental cars, etc. Of course, you also have to consider the fishing – season, species, guides, gear required, etc. Every angler has different preferences for these things so I won’t anchor on the subject. The most important question one must answer before considering all of this is, “Where should I go?”

Since we’ve done quite a few of these before, we offer the following ingredients for a “bender convenient” location:

– Getting there should be easy. Flights should be inexpensive and of short duration. Even better if there are numerous departure/arrival times offered throughout the day.

Just an example of how affordable it is to travel between major cities. In the above cases, from NYC or Boston to Buffalo, NY
Just an example of how affordable it is to travel between major cities. In the above cases, from NYC or Boston to Buffalo, NY

– Billeting options must be convenient and diverse. From camping to 5 star hotels, the more the better to accommodate all demographics/tastes.

– Tied to the bullet above, ideally, your billeting options should be close to where you’ll be fishing. The last thing you want to do is have to put in some serious road time in the morning after arriving the night prior.

– Diverse options for food – the more the better to accommodate all tastes. It’s also optimal if the region offers something unique – like incredible chicken wings, beer, and fish frys.  Check out these videos to see some examples of a solid fishing bender.

– There should be plenty of guides around that are willing to grind it out with you. It’s especially helpful if those guides can offer you some ideas of things to do off the water.

– Connected to the previous bullet – there should be something to do when you get off the water. You’ll likely be a bit tired after fishing hard all day. Although crashing in the hotel room is definitely an option, it should also be an option to do something entertaining other than sleep. Bar hopping, movies, sporting events, brewery tours, shopping, etc. – whatever interests you.

– Finally, the area should fish well all year. It doesn’t make much sense to plan a trip to a location only to find out there is intense runoff, the season is closed, it’s too cold/hot for your tastes, etc. If it fishes well year round – you’ll always have options.

Where to Look?

Your ideal fishing bender location will exhibit most if not all of these characteristics. Such locations aren’t hard to find. Think about it – every major population hub in this country became a hub for a reason. If that city is over 100 years old, chances are it’s located near a significant body of water. Back then, that source of water enabled the survival of the population and became integral for it’s economy. In many instances, that is still the case today. You’re challenge is finding the ideal spot for you. One that puts as many checks in the box as possible.

Conclusion

A fishing bender is an excellent option to just get away, take a break from normalcy, see something new, and recharge. The best bender locales are easy to get to, offer numerous options to meet your tastes, and will not break the bank. At this point, you probably predicted that I was going to conclude with notion that Buffalo Niagara is the best spot to execute a fishing bender. Well…you’re right. Buffalo Niagara has all of the above and more. Click here to see what I’m talking about. If you have that burning desire for a quick getaway – look no further. Give us a call – we’ll help you plan.

Notes from Last Week (20180325 – 20180331)

Once again, we had wind and unseasonable cold BUT the sun did poke out from the clouds on a couple of occasions. Oh yeah, and it rained! Although we received a ton of precipitation and it blew out just about every creek, we needed every bit of it. Many of the tribs were running VERY low and clear at the start of the week. Not wanting to poke around skinny water all day, we spent all of our time on the big water. The Niagara gave up some gems and rewarded us for getting outside. I’ll let the pictures tell it.

Looking plush with water
An Atlantic Salmon in the Niagara River – a rarity around here
Love that pattern on the back of a lake trout

Plan for Next Week (20180401 – 20180407)

That big dose of rain we received filled up our tribs with some much needed water. By the time of this writing, many will be coming into fishing shape. The weather forecast for this week looks cold and windy but it also looks like there will be plenty of sun. Although we’re not too stoked about the continued cold, the tribs will likely be in excellent shape all week. That’s perfect because this last push of rain likely enabled many spring run steelies to enter the tribs as well as drop backs to move around a little more freely. We’re going to spend the bulk of the week taking advantage of this. We’ll also spend a day or two on the big water – just because. Give us a call if you want to be part of this story.

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!

Guyana – Paradise for the Adventurous Angler

Guyana – An Adventurous Angler’s Paradise

Our Guyana trip was a resounding success! It’s no secret – we love to fish and think about it incessantly. We are fortunate to live and guide in a fishery that keeps us engaged year-round and we love advocating for it every chance we get. Although we love our home waters here in Buffalo Niagara, we still have a wanderlust that pushes us to explore new places, learn new tactics, catch new species, and meet new people equally interested in these things. When the opportunity to fish in Guyana for huge dinosaurs and crazy, toothy predators came up via Larry Jones of Guyana Eco Fishing and Adventures  – it got our attention.

This will not be a “how to” article. I won’t discuss tactics and techniques. I won’t discuss exactly where we went other than it was in Guyana. If you want to talk about any of those details or something technical about our adventure, contact me directly and I’ll talk your ears off. This article WILL get to the meat of what everyone wants to see anyway – the fish we caught.

The Players

Before I get into the fishing, I think it’s important to give a quick intro to our team for a couple reasons:
1. We come from various backgrounds
2. None of us are rich or rolling in dough – we’re blue collar kind of dudes who just like to fish
3. We have different preferences in angling techniques – all of which were applicable in Guyana

Here it goes:

Nate Carr

you can read his bio by clicking here. One thing that’s important to know about Nate is that he’s married and has 2 young boys at home (one of which was born just prior to departure – a testament to his wife’s patience with his passion). The other attribute you should know is that he’s a fly fishing purist. He doesn’t judge those that use other techniques, he just knows what he likes and sticks to it.

Ryan Shea (me)

my bio is here. I have a beautiful wife and young daughter that have dealt with numerous deployments and long fishing trips throughout our life together. They are immensely supportive of my passion and offered no resistance to my taking this trip – I’ve been in riskier situations before. I prefer fly fishing when it’s reasonable to go that route but I’m a “right gear for the right conditions” kind of angler. As a charter captain and guide of all angling methods for all experience levels, I want to be good a just about every angling technique so I experiment with everything.

Chuck Yauch

Chuck is almost married and kids aren’t on the near term horizon. His better half fully supports his fishing habits but was a bit freaked out about him taking this trip. When he was in the Navy, he spent plenty of time away from his fiancé so separation wasn’t a foreign concept. However, in recent past, he hasn’t spent more than a week or so away from home so the prospect of going on a 2 week trip in the Guyanese jungle, completely out of contact with the outside world was a bit mind stressful. Chuck’s angling preferences are similar to mine – right rear at the right time. The big difference between us is that I’ll stubbornly throw flies a bit longer than he will.

Mike Trifletti

Mike has a better half too as well as young children at home. He had never spent more than a couple days away from them so separation was a bit concerning/generated a little anxiety leading up to the trip. Other than Canada (which isn’t really a foreign country to those of us who live on the border), he has never ventured out of the country. His angling preferences are like Chuck. Both can cast a fly well but the priority is feeling the tug at the end of the line by any means. Catching fish is always better than not.

What we all have in common is a desire to catch fish whenever we can, wherever we can. We also have immensely supportive families that support our passion. None of us had a chunk of money laying around to go to Guyana so we had to make it a priority and saved for it. In the end – it all came together perfectly.

The Guyana Program

I won’t get too detailed here except to say that it was 2 weeks long on a single river system and we didn’t even scratch the surface. We spent the first week pursuing arapaima and the second week a few hours upstream fishing rapids and fast moving water for the rest of the game species. Bottom line, the program gave us opportunities to catch nearly every game species on that river and we were able to do so.

Logistics on the Guyana Trip

Travel: As I mentioned in the introduction, this won’t be a kiss and tell about how we pulled all this together. Just know we had to travel via multiple airlines, insane bus rides down jungle and savannah trails, and scenic boat rides navigating numerous obstacles just to get to our first camp. The journey getting there took more than a day.

Equipment

We used fly and conventional tackle. Fly rods from 12 wts to 8 wts with matching intermediate lines were key. A big thank you goes out to Temple Fork Outfitters for providing us the rods and Cortland Lines for providing us with the fly line. Conventional tackle ranged from spinning and casting set-ups on medium action to heavy action rods. Other gear like clothing, toiletry items, sleeping bags, etc. were all packable in backpacks we could carry on to the plane.

Subsistence

We could’ve subsisted on “American” food that Larry shipped down there in advance but we opted out of that option as often as possible. We wanted to live as the Amerindians live – off the land. Our Amerindian guides enabled that aim and then some. We harvested just the right amount of fish to fill our bellies and released the rest. We also hunted for them with bow and arrow. Bottom line, we always ate well and what we ate was wild. All of us came home leaner and stronger than when we arrived.

The Fish of Guyana

You’ve heard me boast about the diversity of the Buffalo Niagara fishery nearly every time I post an article. I hate to say it but Guyana has us beat (not by much though). The main appeal is how exotic/foreign the fish of Guyana are compared to anything we see here in North America. They are bigger, more powerful, completely unpressured, extremely predatory, and many have teeth and color patterns that are impressive by global standards. However, what became clear to all of us is that all these fish behave similar to many species we have in North America. What’s more – all tackle types proved effective.

Arapaima

Touted as the world’s largest, scaled fish, the arapaima is the prize game species of Guyana. Simply put, they are massive, somewhat intimidating, and stealthy predators that are tough to catch. They breathe air by poking their heads out of the water and that’s when you get your shot. Angling for them takes an immense amount of stealth, patience (read enduring a lot of frustration), and precision casting. When you hook up with one, all that anxiety that accompanied your wait melts away. These massive beasts are so powerful they tow your boat around and when they jump completely out of the water, it will scare the hell out of you. When you finally get to hold one, it’s tough to describe. You’re holding on to a multi-hundred pound dinosaur that with a quick head shake can knock you on your ass – and they did just that.

Peacock Bass

These aren’t the monster peacocks characteristic of the Amazon. The biggest ones we caught were in the 6-7 lb range. However, they are insanely powerful and don’t quit when at the end of the line. They are definitely the most beautiful of the species and were our main food source as we found them nearly everywhere we fished. I would compare their willingness to eat and strong fight to a huge smallmouth bass. Both require similar tactics to catch as well.

 

Payara

Aptly nicknamed the vampire fish, these are by far the toothiest predators in that system. They live in and around rapids and behave a lot like cohos or steelhead. They smash baits, fight hard, get airborne quick and often, and take advantage of the fast water they inhabit. Fishing for these beauties always had an incredibly beautiful backdrop of big boulders and rushing water. Except for the baits/flies used and how visual the takes often were – payara fishing reminded me of fishing for steel in the lower Niagara River.

Piranha

Everybody has heard of these toothy predators and images of movies from the 80s where they tear up people and fly around admittedly clouded our impression of them. After a couple days in the jungle, we swam and bathed in the same waters as the piranha and never had a negative encounter. However, these guys took a toll on our flies and baits. Their jaws are some of the most powerful in nature and anglers need to be mindful of that – both in your rigs and when handling the fish. They hit like freight trains and fight way above their weight class. Picture fighting a voracious bluegill except 5-10x the size. Good times!

Pacu

A relative of the piranha, these fish fight just as hard but are a bit more difficult to catch. Touted as vegetarians by some, we found out (accidentally) that they eat prey species just as readily. Same general commentary as the piranha except these fish are by far the best tasting fish any of us had ever consumed.

Swordfish

No relation to the saltwater fish with the same name, we found these fish all over the river system. They always seemed eager to smash topwater baits/flies. We caught a ton of them and they became a silent favorite as when action got slow – a sword always showed itself. Think of them like a gar – they hit hard, fight well, and grow reasonably large – enough to impress.

Arowana

These fish did a great job of eluding us. Only one came to hand the whole trip but we saw many more. The water was unseasonably high when we were there so most of the fish were deep in the trees and inaccessible. They behave like beast trout – they like moving water, sipping bugs off the surface, and holding in pockets on sand flats. Fishing for them required stealth and precision casting – I hooked 2 and both came unbuttoned right away but Mike was lucky enough to get his in a pocket in some dense timber.

Redtail Catfish

I never took catfishing seriously before this trip.  It was a dark night and we were all deep into a 1.75 of rum when Chuck first hooked into one and we all got to see it kick his ass almost pulling him into the water.  These fish are insanely strong.  By far the strongest fish i have ever fought to include the arapaima.  I broke a bait casting rod designed  for fighting large saltwater fish trying to land mine.  I don’t know the final tally on how many we hooked but it was over 15 and we only landed a few if that puts things inter perspective.  We will have to really up our game the next time.

“Hori?”

I don’t know the proper spelling of these little guys but this is how it sounded when the natives identified them to us. We caught a ton of them on the ponds and still water areas. They love timber and shadows and if anything entered their zone, they attacked. From the looks of them, they appear to be miniature relatives of the wolf fish. They helped break up long days on the ponds pursuing arapaima.

Other Wildlife to Enjoy

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed reading this and seeing what we were able to pull off. None of this would have been possible without Guyana Eco Fishing and Adventure Tours. It was 2 weeks of angling heaven. No contact with the outside world, living life simply, and hanging with friends – old and new. We are looking forward to hosting trips there next year. Please don’t hesitate to call us for details or to talk shop. At a minimum – I hope this inspired you to think differently about what kind of adventures you can pursue if you just make the commitment to do so. Tight lines!

P.S. 2 weeks without any contact with the outside world was incredibly liberating. What’s more – we didn’t even touch our cell phones. That really put things into perspective and allowed us to be in the moment like we were kids again.  Here are some pics showing that kinda fun

 

Fly Fishing in VA with Blane Chocklett: Re-Discover Your Region #8

Fly Fishing in VA with Blane Chocklett

I’ve never been the kind of guy that has heros or mentors. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I’m the first born but for some reason I always believed I had to blaze my own path and make my own mistakes. I am by no means advocating this way of life. In fact, it’s kind of ridiculous. As I got older during my time in the USMC, I realized that learning from others by employing best practices and avoiding bad habits is far more efficient. Still, that was a very mechanical way of growing. For whatever reason, as I started developing my plan to become a guide, it didn’t take long for me to develop a more personal approach. Enter Blane Chocklett.

Blane Chocklett – I have no Idea How he has Such Perfect Teeth
What’s a Role Model?

The manifestation of this personal approach likely came about because my desire to become a guide originated from a passion. It was something I really WANTED to do. About 5 years ago, when the goal of becoming a guide started to gain momentum, I connected with someone who would quickly become my mentor.  Since then, Blane Chocklett and I have maintained a teacher/student relationship though which I continue to benefit to this day.

Who is Blane Chocklett?

Blane has become a household name in the fly fishing community. As an innovative fly tier and ambassador to nearly every type of product used in the game, his reach has grown exponentially since I’ve met him. Yet, he remains humble. Hell, he barely acknowledges it. It’s this kind of mindset – being grounded and in touch with every aspect of our little community that caused me to frequently seek his guidance over the years.

Blane with the Behold Smalljaw Pose
The Blane Chocklett and Brookdog Fishing Co Relationship

Blane has helped me with a lot – both personally and professionally. That’s saying a lot because I’m likely his biggest pain in the ass friend/client. I complain incessantly when I fish with him. From doubting if there are any fish in the river to letting him know that he’s sucking the life out of me, he’s likely relieved to be rid of me every time we fish together. Still, he’s always been there for me.

Blane is a father, a husband, a professional, and an ambassador to our passion of pursuing fish on the fly. He embodies over a quarter century of experience in this game and somehow still keeps getting better looking – WTF! With him as a mentor – I’ll get there someday!

I’m sure some who read this (it won’t be millennials because you guys likely didn’t even read this far) will comment something like, “get off of Blane’s nuts!” I really don’t care if that sentiment emerges in a few people – he knows where all this is coming from. But enough about Blane, on to the video description.

About the Video

This WILL NOT be a steady stream of fish porn. It was nearly 100 degrees with bluebird skies both days during the shoot. As Schultzy would say, “not optimal!” It was a struggle to say the least but we caught some great imagery. There will be some beautiful smalljaw footage, some underwater footage of muskies, and a shock when we get, “’skied.” The video closes out at the new Ballast Point Brewery outside of Roanoke, VA.

All the “porn” aside, the focus of this video is to provide another perspective about one of my mentors. This video short WILL focus on who Blane is, what his fishery is all about, and give the viewer a glimpse into why he has become a leader in our industry. Enjoy!

Blane Chocklett and Brookdog Fishing Company Collaboration
Warmwater Gem – Smallmouth Bass
The Oldest River In the U.S. and one of the Oldest in the World

This is #8 in our Re-Discover Your Region Series.  We have 2 more on the docket for this year and 12 projected/scheduled for next year.  Please show us your support in our efforts to showcase some incredible fisheries and the personalities that explore them by subscribing to our YouTube page.  Click here to begin viewing all.

 

Smallmouth Bass on Midwest Waters: Re-Discover Your Region #7

Fly Fishing for Smallmouth Bass on Midwest Waters: Re-Discover Your Region #7

If you’ve been watching our videos, you likely picked up on a theme – I like fishing for wild fish and go out of my way to pursue them. If the species is native to the drainage – that’s even better. From where we live here in Buffalo, NY to the western edges of the Midwest, one predator dominates the warm water rivers through numbers and voracious feeding habits. That fish is the smallmouth bass. (Note: read that statement again, carefully before you attack me with comments like, “Dude, what the F&*K are you taking about? Musky are the king!” Again, re-read the claim.)

Why Smalljaws?

Smallmouth Bass, smallies, smalljaws, etc. are my favorite fish. Many people ask me why I travel all over the place to catch them when huge specimens are in my backyard in big numbers. Well…I love these fish – perhaps irrationally – but that’s a sure sign that passion is involved. They look a little different everywhere I go. Every drainage where smallmouth bass has distinct characteristics. Topography, gradient, substrate, forage base, biomass, the list goes on. All these variances lead to distinguishable angling tactics. My hope is that learning some of them well help make me a better angler.

Love these guys! Everywhere I find them
Love that Dorsal Pop!
What Sets the Profession of Guiding Apart

On the journey home from every fishing trip, I tend to reflect on what just transpired over the past couple days. When I think about it, what ends up sticking with me the most are the relationships that are built through time on the water. Guiding is the only profession I can think of that puts a group of complete strangers together in an intimate setting, with little to no escape options, for an entire day. That’s kind of daunting when you think about it. However, in my experience, it rarely works out poorly.

Why Midwest Waters Angling Company?

Now, Mike Allen and Kurt Nelson were not complete strangers to me. I met them briefly at the 2016 Hardly Strictly Musky tournament. We didn’t hang out or anything – just said what’s up and went about our way. Shortly after that, I began following Mike and Kurt’s guide service, Midwest Waters Angling Company, via their social media outlets. I saw that they were catching smalljaws on small rivers and many of them were big. I also noticed that they were based in Illinois – near Chicago. Since it’s a personal goal to catch a fish in all 50 states on the fly and IL didn’t have a chalk mark next to it – I had to go.  Kurt and Mike did not disappoint!

Gar on the Fly – Sick!
We were only an hour away from this – downtown Chicago
Cheers to Midwest Waters and Another Good Shoot
Enjoy the Video and Please Share!

I’ll let the video speak for itself. Just know before clicking that there will be plenty of fish porn and amazing scenery. However, take note of the dialogue and the personalities at play. That’s the undercurrent of every one of our videos and Midwest Water Angling Company is no different.  They have their own brand – playful and professional.  Entertainers when the action is slow and laser focused when the action is hot.  Passionate through and through. Enjoy!

Big Thank You Goes out to

Colton Wright – for producing this.  Even though it took forever!

Kurt Nelson and Mike Allen (http://www.midwestwaters.com) – for hosting us and being professionals.  Click their names to go to their site.  Here are their social media outlets:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MWatersanglingco/
Instagram: @Midwest_waters_angling_co

Mike Davis – I’m not saying you’re the best oarsman out there but…

Penrose Brewing – (http://penrosebrewing.com/)for hosting us

Disclaimer:

Because we’ve completed 8, Re-Discover Your Region Episodes, more and more people are getting exposed to our content and the response seems to be positive. A few people have asked me how we choose who we will feature or where we are going to go. It’s not a science or anything but it needs to be some combination of these factors:

1. We know you, enjoy spending time with you, respect your knowledge, and believe we have much to learn from you.
2. You’re a new guide, like us, and are going through the pains of starting your business and trying to break into this small industry.
3. We’ve never been to your state and want to chalk it up (of course you have to have some sort of portfolio that leads us to believe you know your fishery and can put us on fish)

Look at who we’ve featured so far and who’s on the docket for the rest of the year (Chris Willen and a musky collabo we’re developing) – I think you’ll see every episode fits at least one of these criteria.
If you’re interested in a collabo, don’t hesitate to contact us. Click here to see all the places we’ve been. If there’s a gap, help us fill it!

Penrose Brewing – (http://penrosebrewing.com/)for hosting us

IT’S AWESOME NOW AND IT’S ONLY GETTING BETTER: A Sustained Spring Pattern

Fishing Report: Sustained Spring Pattern

Put simply – the spring pattern persists – and we’re stoked about that! The Niagara River and Lake Erie smallmouth bass fishing is incredible now and it’s only going to get better. This spring has been very mild and decently wet. Although it’s horrible to see the effects all this water has been having on some of the people that live along the Lake Ontario shoreline, the fish will benefit tremendously. Cool temps and high water will hopefully keep them in this big water spring pattern for a long time. The “typical” spring patterns have been at least 2 weeks behind schedule due to these factors…and we’re not going to complain. I’m still wondering what “typical” really means these days – I guess what it really means to all us anglers is we have to get out there regularly and remain flexible.

RIck with an Ear to Ear
Intensity Pays Off

We’ve seen only a handful of smallies on beds in the lake and none in the river. All the fish we’ve caught were along staging lanes where the bottom is sandy and loaded with rocks. Depths vary widely, between 5-25ft. The offering has been pretty consistent – anything that represents a small baitfish has been the most productive. However, speed of presentation and the fish’s willingness to eat varies throughout the day. All I can say here is once you find them, start slow and speed it up until you dial in the right approach.

Always Admiring These Beauties
Perfect Specimen

This rain and mild temperatures have also been awesome for our inland trout fisheries. This time last year, it was “uncharacteristically” hot and dry. That’s definitely not the case this year. Water is up and cold and trout are feeding off the surface. We haven’t been out there too much but many of our friends have. The few times we got out, there were plenty of bugs around. From sulphers to march browns to caddis – the evening rise is getting increasingly better. Once we get a stretch of consistently warm days, it will explode!

Sipper

Business Report: Brookdog Fishing Company’s Latest and Greatest Adventures

In case you missed it, we published our latest video featuring Schultz Outfitters. Click here to check that out if you haven’t already.

A couple weeks ago, we travelled to the foothills of the Colorado Rockies to film an episode on some of the areas famous trout water. The imagery is incredible. The guides we featured, Jack Wickman and Cameren Shinabery, are buddies from Sweetwater Guide School. Both are finishing their first year guiding. Click on their names to check out their social media profiles and their programs.

Jack with a Cheesman Canyon Beauty
Thanks to Cameren For Putting Me on this Brownie

That Colorado episode should hit the web by 9-June so subscribe to our YouTube channel to receive the notification. Our next shoot will feature Ben Rogers of Chasing Tails Fly Fishing down in Southeastern PA. Smallies, musky, and trout on the fly – good times! Stay tuned! Following that shoot we will feature the following Guides/Outfitters:

Brookdog Fishing Co (yeah, us again) – WNY – Smallmouth Bass, Trout, Carp
Midwest Waters – Illinois – Smallmouth Bass
Blane Chocklett – Virginia – Smallmouth Bass and Musky
Sedona Fly Fishing Adventures – Arizona – Trout
Chris Willen – Wisconsin – Musky
85th Day Angling – Maryland – trout

…and 2 special/passion projects that will be truly incredible.

Drop us a line if you want to connect instead of reading about it.

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