Tag Archives: steelhead

Tribalism and Angling – There’s No Room for It

Why can’t we hairless apes avoid the negative aspects of tribalism?  Acting superior without thought or basis, rushing to judge, haplessly tossing labels around, etc.  All that counterproductive, generally negative behavior even manifests in our recreational pursuits.  As a community of anglers, we need to consider how all this inter-tribal rivalry looks from the non-angling population.  Especially to those that are considering getting into fishing.  We owe it to ourselves to work with one another/try to understand one another in order to demonstrate the overall benefits of this primordial pursuit to would-be future anglers.  For the sake of the sport…for the sake of our environment.

What am I Talking About?

Where is all of this coming from?  I’m not going to waste my time providing examples tribalism within the angling community.  Every angler reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about.  There are what amounts to 3 large tribes in the angling community:

  1. Fly Anglers
  2. Conventional tackle (spinning, casting, trolling) anglers
  3. Center Pin anglers

Within these 3 general groupings, there are thousands of sub-tribes with their own rivalries and distinct languages.  Moreover, one could easily come up with a different, overall tribal grouping.  An example could be catch-and-release anglers and harvesters.  The names of the tribes and their associations don’t matter.  The community of anglers is rife with tribalism.  The argument that follows suits every level of inter- and intra- tribal behavior.

Seek Understanding

People get into fishing for many different reasons.  Some enjoy it right away or at a minimum, find it interesting enough to decide to pursue the passion of angling as a personal endeavor.  Maybe because their virgin angling experience involved great weather and a ton of fish.  Maybe because that first time on the water opened their eyes to how fishing helps relieve stress.  Whatever the reason, many people continue to fish for the rest of their life after that first time on the water.

Consider these budding anglers as a blank slate.  Someone, or a small group of people, will form and shape that individual’s growth.  Unfortunately, far too many beginning anglers start off with mentors that are deeply tribal, hell I’ll say it, radical and close minded in their beliefs.  Perhaps a little naively, these new anglers adopt the ideals and beefs of the tribe with little to no thought.

Why Does this Happen?

Newcomers to a community want aid, encouragement, and mentorship at most and ambivalence at least from the other members.  The act of associating with or considering oneself a part of a specific community/tribe implies a desire for some sort of acceptance.  A pride of belonging.  Such behavior is completely understandable.  However, I am imploring all newcomers to think and ask questions before giving yourself a label.

Regardless of one’s reasons for deciding to get into angling, everyone wants to enjoy it.  Tribal drama, both on and off the water, is an impediment to the enjoyment one should experience while fishing.  If one engages in tribal drama, one will miss out on what should be an enriching and enjoyable activity.

Try to Rise Above the Fray

You can avoid tribalism and fishing, or be a casual observer of the behavior, by becoming a generalist.  There is no “best” way to fish.  There are hundreds of methods with hundreds of their own variations.  All have advantages and disadvantages, and all have radical, tribal instigators.

Ignore anyone who claims, “it only counts if you catch a fish _____.”  I’ve seen that statement many times on Instagram.  Every time I do, I want to throw up.  ONLY COUNTS TOWARDS WHAT?!?!?  Here’s my message to anyone who uses a line like this:

Is your ego so frail that you have to make up some bullshit competition that only you can win because the other competitors don’t even know you’re playing a game?  OR are you just copying a hashtag someone you admire used and now you’re doing it because you think it makes you “cool?”

New anglers should also avoid anyone who claims superiority of method.  As I mentioned above – there is no best way to fish.  The word best is completely subjective.  What’s the definition of the word, “best?”  Does best mean most effective?  Most effective toward what end?  Catching the most fish?  Catching the biggest fish?  Providing the greatest amount of fulfillment?  Only the participant can answer that question and that question is best answered through exposure to a multitude of experiences.

There is a ton to learn in the pursuit of our quarry.  Why not exchange best practices instead of putting someone down who does things differently?  If you think this idea is too soft and sensitive, then just don’t engage.  If your ego is so frail that you really need to hype yourself up, please try doing it in a way that doesn’t claim superiority.  It’s easy – just set an exemplary example.

Where Does Brookdog Fishing Company Fall?

We started as generalists and remain generalists.  A hunger to continue learning and developing relationships with fishy people keeps us motivated.  We’re disgusted by tribal superiority complexes.  We’re disturbed by hapless judgements and the casting of labels.

We just want to fish and have a good time.  Sometimes we use fly tackle.  Other times we use spinning tackle.  We put casting gear to use.  We troll.  Every once in a blue moon we’ll bust out the Tenkara rods.  We’ve also been known to fish under floats.  It’s all fun.  It all works.  Sometimes one works better than the other.  Sometimes they all work the same.  Every time it’s a blast.

We don’t always, “keep ‘em wet” – we respect the hero shot for the memory of the experience it provides to our clients and friends.  Besides, sometimes we eat the fish we catch so when we plan on doing so, why would we “keep-em-wet?”  They are going right into the live well with severed gills moments after that photo and into the skillet a few hours after that.  Sometimes, we’re voyeurs of nature that help people trick our quarry into eating what’s on the end of the line in order to experience a fight and/or connect to something wild.

Stay Drama Free

Label us and others however you want.  It really doesn’t matter to us as we don’t pay too much attention to all the drama.  However, occasionally, we feel compelled to offer our angling colleagues a different way of thinking when we notice a negative trend.  So here is our take on tribalism and angling: avoid it…don’t align yourself with a tribe.  Just be a person who wants to fish and enjoy drama free days on the water.  Well…I guess that’s kind of a tribe of its own.

Winter Charter Fishing in Buffalo Niagara

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

That Initial Shock

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

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

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

A Winter Fishing Charter is Completely Foreign…for Good Reason

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ll Be Rewarded for Taking the Chance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Urgency is in the Air – Fall is Coming

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

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

We Aren’t Alone in this Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plan for Next Week

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

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!

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.

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!

The Dog Days of Winter – is That a Thing?

Are the dog days of winter a thing?

I was out fishing on the Lower Niagara River with Chuck and his bride Sara a few days ago when the concept of the “dog days of winter” popped up. Not even a week earlier, he and I both had strong days in the same spot using the same tactics. That day, however, action was sporadic. Not so slow as to make us lose interest but slow enough for us to start considering if the “dog days of winter” was a real thing. This short but interesting conversation got me wondering if there was anything I could do to prevent or minimize prolonged patterns of slow activity. I haven’t landed on a firm position on this idea yet, but I did determine that a look at myself would be a great place to start.

Dog Days or Not, a Nice Steelhead Always Brings a Smile to your Face.
Do Fish Experience the Same Lulls We Do?

Back to the day Chuck, Sara, and I were on the Lower Niagara River. If you’ve never fished this place before, click here to see what it’s like. This time of year, we fish the Lower Niagara River for steelhead and lake trout. The steelhead are there staging for the spawn and the lake trout are there recovering from the spawn and getting full on steelhead eggs and bait. Bottom line – there are many fish around – the challenge is determining what they want to eat. We tried every presentation and every lure/bait we had in the box and could only just pick away at them. What’s up with that? Why did they turn off so quickly? They are all still down there – we can see them on the sonar so why the hell aren’t they
biting?

Sara with a Nice Winter Laker
Dog Days Defined

This lull is what we labeled as the dog days of winter. I don’t typically use the phrase, “dog days,” to describe anything. However, I’m guilty of empathizing with people when they talk about the dog days of summer. The images that pop into my head when I think about the dog days of summer are a bunch of sweaty bodies hanging out on their porches, drinking something cold, just hanging in there. Sluggish. Lazy. I think (read as I’m hoping) that fish behave the same way when they find themselves in the middle of a stable weather pattern and a lot of heat.

So what images pop into the dome when contemplating the idea of the dog days of winter? I conjured a few. If you’re not from the Buffalo Niagara Region or really any of the Great Lakes bordering states, you’ll likely feel sorry for us:
– A slumped over figure
– More than a few pounds heavier than 6 months ago
– Very little skin exposed/likely wearing a hoodie and sweatpants
– The skin that is exposed is pasty
– Mindless gaze on the face caused by binge watching shows on Netflix/Amazon Prime

Mindfulness is the Key to Breaking the Cycle

I want to believe the fish are in the same situation in the middle of winter. Many of them have been in the Lower River for a few months now. They’ve seen all matter of tackle and debris flow by them. They’ve seen more than a few of their compatriots move to grab what they thought was food only to be violently pulled away in a flurry of chaos. I think it’s safe to say they are in a bit of a rut. Maybe I’m humanizing them too much (I probably am). Maybe I’m not. Bottom line, I have to assume this is the case and do everything I can to prove otherwise.

Picking away at the Tribs for Steel
Picking away at the Tribs for Steel – look at that Water Color in the Background

Proving otherwise involves a lot of thinking and physical activity. You have to change speeds, angles, tackle, bait, drifts, etc. – and hope you figure out a pattern. Your eyes have to capture and your mind has to absorb all the little details. Your hands will likely be cold but you can’t let that prevent you from changing lures or bait. You’ll likely be freezing but you can’t let that affect your situational awareness. Remaining mindful throughout the struggle is the best way to stay engaged and your best shot of figuring out a pattern.

Final Thoughts

As charter captains and guides, we spend a lot of time on the water and all of us experience slow periods in fishing. Sometimes it’s only part of the day. Sometimes it can last a couple days. For the most part however, we catch fish regularly (we’d better – it’s our job). That’s not to say it’s easy, just that we spend a lot of time doing this so we can get things dialed in a bit faster than the average angler.

When we find ourselves in a slow period, all we can do is a better job of taking notice of what’s going on and experiment with ways to combat the lull. Most of the time we’re successful. Sometimes we aren’t. Those hard periods are the gems – the learning opportunities – OR they are just a message from Mother Nature reminding you that there is a warm couch back home and that you’d be better off going there than floating down a river in the cold. My mother would tell you that listening to what she said was never a strong suit of mine.

Notes on Recent Fishing Activity

Dog days of winter or not, we’ve been on the water.  Yeah, it was a bit slow toward the end of this past week.  All that rain and high temperatures melted every bit of snow and completely saturated the ground and our regional, Great Lakes tributaries.  Just about everything was blown out over the weekend but we hung in there, tried a bunch of techniques and flies, and managed to land some fish.

Although the tributaries were a bit problematic due to high water, the Niagara River didn’t have that problem.  Devils Hole is still running clear and fishing well for this time of year.  Below the power authority, all the mud from Cayuga Creek, the Erie Canal, and Buffalo Creek caused by the rain and snow melt is clouding up the water quite a bit.  The upper Niagara River, although clear, is full of icebergs now as yesterday’s gale force winds blew them downstream from Lake Erie.  We won’t head back out on the Upper until that stuff clears out.

Josh – just happy to be out there.
Josh – this was the first time he had ever gone fishing and he managed to land a steelhead on a fly rod. Nice work, Josh!
Ruben – having a blast. This was his first time fishing – EVER. He hooked 3 steelhead – all of which broke him off (and bewildered the hell out of him). We’re glad he had fun.
Mark – intensely trying to figure this fly fishing thing out.
A Bro Vacation on the Water – Mark, Josh, and Ruben visiting WNY from Cleveland. They planned on going skiing – Mother Nature had different plans
Notes on Upcoming Fishing

We are about to experience a very mild stretch of water.  The tribs will clear up quickly now that all the snow is gone so we plan on spending some time walking over the next few days.  The Lower River continues to fish well for steelhead and the sporadic lake trout so we’ll be spending time on the big water as well.  If you find yourself lookin for a cure to the dog days of winter – give us a call! 

Winter Fishing in Buffalo Niagara – 20171218 – 20171225

Winter Fishing in Buffalo Niagara – 20171218 – 20171225

Winter fishing in Buffalo Niagara can be magical. Right now, as I type this, there are thousands of steelhead and brown trout in the lower river and great lake tributaries throughout the region. While cold weather keeps many anglers and would-be anglers inside, those that avoid the shack nasties will capitalize on relatively unpressured waters. That’s exactly what happened this past weekend.

Look at how awesome that water color was. It almost looks gray from this angle due to the snow
Mother Nature Coats us in White

Starting Friday and carrying on throughout the rest of the weekend, Mother Nature pounded us with snow. Over 3 inches accumulated on my boat (as well as the other boats in the Lower River) as we fished throughout the day on Saturday. It was that really crappy kind of snow too – cold, wet, and penetrating.

Thanks to Matt Yablonski of Wet Net Charters for taking this pic of John and I loving life

Although all of our protective clothing is high quality and waterproof, none of it could withstand 6 straight hours of consistent, wet snow. After about hour 3, we had to warm up with the “My Buddy” space heater on every 3rd drift to be able to feel our hands enough to reel and tie knots. Sound grueling – it would have been but the catching was excellent. Honestly, we stopped counting. Quality steelhead after quality steelhead was brought to the net.

Lesson Learned – Endure and You Can Reap the Rewards

I don’t have a ton of pics to show. Knock me or doubt me all you want on the quantity and quality we landed that day. Honestly, we got to the point that we’d rather have functioning digits to reel in the next fish than freeze for that quick snap. It was the right call.

She was new to the river. Her scales reflect that gorgeous snow covered scene

Aside from the steadily falling wet snow, conditions were excellent. Yeah, there was a north wind, but it was slight. Water clarity was perfect and there were a ton of fish around. We struggled on the first couple of drifts using eggs until I made the call to switch to plugs – we were rewarded on the first drift. It’s always cool to see a plan come together. Plugging is great because it’s a little faster paced than bouncing eggs and egg patterns, the hit is awesome, and it saves my hands from the ceasing up that would occur if I had to steadily re-rig new egg sacs.

Look at all that snow. The fish couldn’t tell. They loved it.
John with a grip and attempted grin (frozen face)

Conditions were perfect by every measure on Sunday – and we didn’t fish at all. That’s always devastating. If we’re not booked, we often have to balance personal and family time with the urge to fish. Considering we had some last minute Christmas shopping and other personal commitments in the way, we ended up passing. It hurt – I’m sure those that did fish Christmas Eve had an awesome day.

Looking Forward

Looking at the extended weather forecast, this week is going to be brutal. Although we pride ourselves in fishing in some harsh conditions, angling in single digit and low teen temperatures isn’t really worth it. Any slight wind slices like razors on exposed skin. Line freezes on reels and guides. Trolling motors get a mind of their own. Random mechanical issues pop up. Clients end up going internal quickly if you aren’t catching fish on nearly every drift. These are just the obstacles frigid temps pose for big water winter fishing. Walking and wading the creaks around the region offer different challenges when it’s insanely cold.

On the inland creeks and great lakes tributaries, frigid temps pose similar problems. Guides freeze up on fly rods. Feet freeze from wading. Hands freeze from landing fish (if you do). Shelf ice and slush forms on the water thereby preventing a good drift. Bottom line, we won’t be on the water this week.

Always Have Something to Look Forward To

Although not fishing for the next week or so will be painful, we’re comforted by the fact that we depart for Guyana next week. Arapaima, peacock bass, wolf fish, arawana, and more await our flies. Thinking about two weeks living with Amerindian tribes and catching true river monsters that likely have never seen humans is comfort enough. Stay tuned!

We hope you enjoyed your Christmas Holiday and are able to do the same over New Years. We also hope that this little piece gives you a different way to think about winter in Buffalo Niagara. Although winter fishing around here can be grueling sometimes, it often rewards mightily. Especially when you can experience a winter wonderland of snow, ice, emerald water, and big fish. Give us a call if you want to experience this first hand.

Avoiding Shack Nasties – Buffalo Niagara Fishing Report – 20171204-20171210

Fight Against Shack Nasties

Shack nasties are the leading cause of crushed morale during Buffalo Niagara winters. I’m not sure if this time of year has the same effect on everyone but my mindset changes as winter approaches. I can’t escape the sense of urgency I feel when the days are short and the temperatures are cold. Making matters more complicated: days when fishing conditions are even somewhat permissible start seeming few and far between when you have far more time in a day to think about fishing vs. actually fishing. When conditions look like they are going to be “worthwhile” your schedule has to be clear. If not, the opportunity flows on by.

A Look Back

We avoided the shack nasties at all costs this past week. Insane winds raged across Lake Erie all week. Gusts into the upper 30s created huge rollers that churned up the lake and sent mud downstream into the Niagara. Visibility in the River remained less than a foot all week. That pattern pushed us onto the tributaries in search of Steelhead and Lake Run Brown Trout. We had an amazing time. I’ll let the pictures tell it.

Just to avoid the shack nasties, we also managed to get the boat out onto the Lower River on Saturday. Yeah – there was only inches of visibility down there – confirmed. It was very cold but I wanted to run the new boat in those conditions. It didn’t disappoint. However, the fishing was brutal – as expected.  After getting my boat off the water, I decided to take my daughter for a walk around Goat Island to get another look at conditions from a different angle.

A Look Forward

There’s more wind in the forecast this week. We’re trying to remain optimistic but the outlook isn’t great if, like us, you’re hoping for decent clarity on the Lower Niagara. On the other hand, the tributaries are in great shape and many are teeming with fish. If you’re willing to brave the 20 degree temps, you’ll likely find yourself alone in front of a ton of fish.

Beyond next week, it’s the holiday period so expect an increase in pressure on the tributaries. If the wx stays cold, that increase should be negligible. There are a couple, short recon missions we are contemplating as well. However, before we know it, January will be here and we’ll be on a flight to Guyana.

Think About it

Avoiding Shack Nasties all winter will lead to a healthy mind and body come spring. Humans need fresh air and sunlight. We need stimulation beyond what TV provides. We have many plans to get out and about throughout the winter. Considering the strength of the fish populations on this year’s spawning run – it’s going to be an awesome winter. Give us a call if you want to experience it for yourself.

Thanksgiving Weekend Fishing in Buffalo Niagara

Thanksgiving Weekend Fishing – Classic Buffalo Niagara Fall Fishing Conditions

Thanksgiving weekend fishing is sacrosanct to many anglers around Buffalo Niagara. Nearly everyone has a long weekend that affords a good amount of time on the water. If spent well, prolonged time on the water provides plenty of time to reflect on things OR to empty the mind completely. I’m very prone to reflection so I guess you know what route this piece is going to go.

Been awhile since I've gripped chrome that I caught myself
Been awhile since I’ve gripped chrome that I caught myself
Such a Beautiful Fish – Be sure to release these fish as quickly as possible. Admire for a second and send them home.
Beginnings of a bumper…
Quick Update on the Fishing

I don’t like to get too deep into what I’ve been doing on the water. There are quite a few, high quality, fishing reports that come out daily if not weekly. Social media also provides near real-time intelligence these days so you don’t need me to get into the details. I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

Dave with a beast! Such a Beautiful Fish – Be sure to release these fish as quickly as possible. Admire for a second and send them home.
Don with a quality steelhead
That’s the biggest fish I’ve ever caught!

Conditions have been very unfavorable. It’s been windy, the temperature has been highly erratic, and the river is running near brown. On the bright side, there are a ton of fish around. Lake trout and steelhead are in the Lower River very thick. Even when the conditions are very unfavorable, we’re still catching fish. Plugs on a 3-way rig have been the key to success.

Trout Double!

Just a Blonde in Buffalo

Our clients over the Thanksgiving weekend were a lot of fun. One of our clients, Beth Potozniak is the founder of the local blog, “Just a Blond in Buffalo.” Here’s a little bit about her and her blog from her website:

“Welcome to Just a Blonde in Buffalo! My name is Beth and I’ve grown up in Buffalo, NY all my life. I am an experienced event planner in the Western New York area and have a passion for bringing a simple idea to reality. I love to try new things and meet new people. Having had the opportunity to travel all over the world has made me appreciate this city I have called home, so much more.”

Beth admiring her first steelhead
What a trooper! It may have been a little chilly out there but that didn’t stop Beth from smiling!

Beth is a fellow grassroots advocate for the Buffalo Niagara Region. Her passion for just getting out there and meeting/seeing/experiencing what this region has to offer is awesome. Facing tough conditions (wind, cold, and muddy water), she remained tough and brought fish to boat like a pro. Check out her site and follow her on social media.

What I Learned Over Thanksgiving Weekend

1. I’m not crazy when I say that it’s better to be outside freezing and catching a few fish than sitting inside melting into the couch. I informed all my clients over Thanksgiving Weekend that conditions were far less than ideal and every one of them stuck in there and went anyway. Why? It’s better than sitting around inside!

Muddy water, cold air, wind…WHATEVER! “It’s better than sitting inside,” said Mark.

2. Some interesting tolling motor maneuvers that I’d have to show you. I bonded, on a philosophical level, with my Minn Kota Ulterra. Fishing though adverse conditions will sharpen your boat control skills.

Pautzke Pros-staffer, James Swearingen, came up from Pittsburg, PA to see what late fall fishing in Buffalo Niagara was all about. Click here to visit his site.
Hank with his personal best Lake Trout
Hank with a Coho – a prize catch around here – and his first

 

3. Connected to number 2: Regardless of water clarity (within reason – i.e. no logs, debris, etc. – flood conditions kind of poor clarity), if you can control the boat on a good drift, you won’t skunk.

I hope that we’ll see you out on the water. If you want to experience it instead of reading about it, give us a call. Click Here!

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