Tag Archives: walk and wade

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! 

Re-Discover Your Region: The Sublime Chaos of Autumn

For our second episode of Re-Discover Your Region, we explore the raging waters downstream from our first video – below one of the natural wonders of the world.   Amidst the breathtakingly beautiful fall foliage that lines the canyon walls, see how we pursue the anadromous King/Chinook salmon as they make their fall spawning run.  We follow up an awe inspiring day of fishing with a great meal and some equally great beer at Woodcock Brothers Brewery.  Enjoy and please share!
Special thanks for video production goes out to Colton Wright.  He outperformed his last piece of work on this one.  You can contact him at [email protected]  Additional thanks goes out to the Santa Lucia brothers at Santa Lucia Global, LLC for their outstanding drone work – they were critical to making all this come together.  You can reach them at www.santaluciaglobal.com.
 Additional thanks goes out to:
– Woodcock Brothers Brewery – for running a top notch establishment and proudly representing our hometown
Temple Fork Outfitters – for all the rods and some of the reels used
Flymen Fishing Company – for some of the flies featured in the film
Lamson Waterworks – for some of the reels used
Alumacraft Boats – for developing the ideal boat for our big water fisheries
Minn Kota Motors – we couldn’t do what we do without the Terrova iPilot
Mercury Outboards – for getting us where we need to go with a quickness
Simms Fishing Products – for keeping us comfortable and protected when we are on the water
Scientific Anglers – for producing the best lines for our year round fishery and multiple species
Cabelas – for outfitting us with various equipment from tackle to  our watercraft
For more details about our fishery and the options available to anglers and those interested in a fun day outside, please explore our seasons and species pages on our website.  We talk to anglers and people interested in angling all the time and most are surprised that we can still fish throughout the fall and winter here in Western NY.  Oh yes, we can!  It’s our favorite time of year to get out there!.  Give us a call – 716-704-5144.

Re-Discover Your Region: Brookdog’s Breakout in Buffalo, NY

This video, Re-Discover Your Region, is the first of what will be a series of short videos that feature Western NY in its resurgent glory.  From local eateries, to spectacular scenery, to the diverse fisheries of the region, we will explore WNY from the air, land, and water and showcase the area in a new and exciting way.  Please enjoy and share!
Special thanks for video production goes out to Colton Wright.  He is a true artist and an extremely talented producer.  You can contact him at [email protected]  Additional thanks goes out to the Santa Lucia brothers at Santa Lucia Global, LLC for their outstanding drone work – they were critical to making all this come together.  You can reach them at www.santaluciaglobal.com.
Additional thanks goes out to:
Blane Chocklett – for mentorship and guidance
Big Ditch Brewery – for running a top notch establishment and proudly representing our hometown
Mossy Creek Fishing – for some of the flies featured in the film
Temple Fork Outfitters – for all the rods and some of the reels used
Flymen Fishing Company – for some of the flies featured in the film
Lamson Waterworks – for some of the reels used
Alumacraft Boats – for developing the ideal boat for our big water fisheries
Minn Kota Motors – we couldn’t do what we do without the Terrova iPilot
Mercury Outboards – for getting us where we need to go with a quickness
Simms Fishing Products – for keeping us comfortable and protected when we are on the water
Scientific Anglers – for producing the best lines for our year round fishery and multiple species
Cabelas – for outfitting us with various equipment from tackle to  our watercraft
For more details about our fishery and the options available to anglers and those interested in a fun day outside, please explore our seasons and species pages on our website.

Algonquin Adventure: A Musky Epic

We just finished another epic trip to Algonquin Provincial Park!  It was a fly fishing guide vacation that included myself (Ryan Shea), Nate Carr, Tony Lohr (of 85th Day Angling), and Nick Sagnibene (of Adventure Bound on the Fly).  We made the short drive north of the border to this little slice of musky heaven on a Friday and spent 5.5 days on the water.  I usually don’t like to write about specific spots (I’m not going to disclose the river we fished) but I am confident that our fellow anglers won’t blow up this location – it’s logistically taxing to get to and fish.  Unless your idea of a vacation is going to a location where there are no roads, no cell service, brutal portages, unpredictable weather, frigid nights, eating freeze-dried foods, and sleeping in the dirt in the quest to catch the fish of 10,000 casts, what will follow isn’t for you.  However, I’m sure this description piqued your curiosity so hang in there – if for no other reason than to see some of the incredible pictures.  Here is some guidance for a do it yourself (DIY) trip to Algonquin Provincial Park.

Planning is CRITICAL:  Remember – your biggest constraint is space. 

Sure, that’s a blinding statement of the obvious when preparing for any trip but in the case of an Algonquin adventure, your life depends on it.  Think that’s dramatic?  Picture this – you’ll spend at least 5 days on the water in a canoe.  Once the shuttle drops you off and you push away from shore, you’re completely on your own.  No roads, no way to call for help, no way to harvest food (unless extremely small bass make it on the menu).  You’re out there…and it’s perfect!  A little careful planning will ensure you have a great time and remain relatively comfortable.  Just remember, your biggest constraint is space – everything you need to survive must fit in your canoe.

A quick view of the scenery and canoe set up
A quick view of the scenery and canoe set up
Short bank break. Take note of the canoe set up
Short bank break. Take note of the canoe set up

Meals:  Eat to survive while maintaining morale.

One thing that will take up a significant amount of room in your canoe is food.  Plan your daily meals carefully but remember that everything must be shelf stable.  There are numerous options available – from freeze-dried meals, to “just add water” food packets, to canned goods, to trail mix.  Of utmost importance in planning for daily sustenance is to consider how active you’ll be once you’re out there.  On a trip to Algonquin, someone will always be rowing.  Someone will always be casting.  You’ll have to hike for hundreds (sometimes thousands) of yards around rapids with a canoe on your shoulders and a large pack on your back.  When you set up camp, there are tents/hammocks to set up, wood to harvest, fire to start, food to prepare, etc.  In other words, you’ll be moving constantly and burning calories at a rapid rate – even more so if it’s cold – so make sure to include calorie rich foods but don’t be monotonous.  A good variety will keep you focused, maintain morale, and sustain high energy levels.

Survival Equipment:  A careful balance between safety, comfort, and cubic inches

Another large space consumer is the equipment you’ll need to survive.  You’ll have to prepare meals, cut firewood, treat small (hopefully not big) injuries, purify water, start fires (maybe in wet conditions), etc.  Like meals, there are numerous options available to accomplish these tasks.  Stoves, small handsaws, fire-starter logs, knives, pots, pans, cooking utensils, headlamps, bug repellent, plates, sporks, aquatabs (to purify water), rope, and many lighters should make your packing list.  I could get prescriptive here but some of this list depends on what food you plan on preparing.

You’ll also need safety equipment like a first aid kit, spare parts for your canoe, and personal floatation devices.  The outfitter you choose can provide this for you – but I’ll discuss that later.  Although Algonquin is breathtakingly beautiful, it can be a hostile place if you’re not prepared.

Clothing:  Keep it simple, get used to being dirty, and dress for the occasion.

This is the hardest issue to discuss as it completely depends on when you plan on going up there.  Anglers can go extremely light in the late spring and summer – shorts, wet wading shoes, and a couple of layers for cooler nights.  Bugs will be your biggest obstacle this time of year – the black flies and mosquitoes are MISERABLE in Algonquin.  Make sure you have bug nets and insect repellent.

If you make the trip in the fall, bugs will not be a problem but there are other obstacles to consider.  Packing clothing for fall weather is far more complicated as the weather can change rapidly.  Fall in Algonquin consists of cooler days and cold nights, which necessitate numerous layers and protection from the rain – getting wet is inevitable but getting soaked to the bone is miserable and potentially deadly.  The biggest concern this time of year is hypothermia – it’ll ruin your day quickly if you start shivering as you’ll have to get off the water and build a fire, which takes up precious fishing time.

Regardless of the season, make sure you have at least one change of clothes in case you get wet as well as a warmer set of clothing to sleep in.  Morale will increase exponentially in the evenings if you can change into warm, dry clothes as you settle in for a meal by the fire.

Happy as hell and dressed for the occasion. I was ready to experience the rising vibes of what was to be an evening frenzy.
Happy as hell and dressed for the occasion. I was ready to experience the rising vibes of what was to be an evening frenzy.

Racking out:  how to get a good night’s sleep in a primitive campsite

This section is simple – the most important item required here is a sleeping bag rated for the projected temperatures of the trip.  Don’t be afraid to go bigger here – the better you sleep, the more focused and energized you’ll be on the water the next day.  If the nights call for temps in the 30s, go with a 25 degree or 0 degree bag.  If it’s going to be in the 60s, go with something that’ll keep you comfortable in the 50s.

For overhead cover and protection from the hard, rocky ground, you can go with either a tent/tarp and inflatable mattress set up or the leaner profile afforded by a hammock and rainfly set up.  Both have pros and cons but I’ll say this much – make sure you practice setting up your hammock and rainfly prior to going up there.  Let’s just say getting into your sleeping bag and remaining comfortable throughout the evening can be an exercise in futility if you aren’t used to hammock life.

Fishing Equipment: Few of these fish have ever seen a human let alone a fly – they aren’t picky feeders. 

Under normal circumstances, I keep my fly selection simple – focusing on what fish are feeding on at the time.  My Algonquin fly box is even sparser.  The musky up there, if they are active, are anxious to kill anything that enters their zone so if it displaces enough water or makes enough noise, a fish will attack if there is one around – more to come on this topic.  It’s always difficult to talk fly anglers off the ledge of having every fly imaginable at their disposal but I am serious when I tell you that all you’ll need is a small boat box with about a dozen 8-12in musky streamers of your favorite colors and a few big top water flies.

To get your flies out there, you’ll need 12wt rods with 450 grain sinking lines for streamers and 10wt rods with intermediate and floating lines for top water flies.  You’ll also need redundancy in all the rods you bring – plan on at least one breaking (we broke one and lost another – long and painful story).  Think of it this way – you’ll be casting big flies all day every day, will frequently switch from subsurface to topwater tactics, and will break your rods down for every portage.  Something is bound to happen to a rod and the last thing you want is to be confined to one method of fishing.

You should also bring plenty of 40lb fluorocarbon, wire bite guard leader material, wire cutters, swivels, snaps, hook sharpeners, mouth openers, and a good net (not a cradle – although more space efficient, they are tough to use when operating from a canoe).

Look at the battle wounds on those topwater flies
Look at the battle wounds on those topwater flies
A little souvenier - a musky tooth embedded in a topwater fly
A little souvenir – a musky tooth embedded in a topwater fly
Another topwater beast - 2 big ones from the same drift!
Another top water beast – 2 big ones from the same drift!

Packing it all up: Maintaining a snag free casting platform while ensuring efficiency during portages. 

Notice that there are five distinct paragraphs leading up to this section.  That’s how we binned our packing list.  We rented four, 100L dry bags from the outfitter and filled them as follows: 2 x bags with clothes, waders, boots, hammocks, and rain flies – one bag per boat if you’re fishing with 4 anglers.  1 x bag with survival gear.  1 x bag with food.  1 x boat bag per boat with fishing equipment.  Rods were either in hand, folded up in a rod carrier, or set up and stationed off the back of the canoe.  If you do the math, each canoe had 2 anglers; 2, 100L boat bags; 2 rods that were set up (1 with sinking line and one with floating line); 2 rods that were stowed; 1 boat bag; and 2 PFDs.  This created plenty of snag casting space in the bow for the angler and plenty of legroom for the angler on the oars.  I told you planning for this was complicated!

Provisioning: a reliable outfitter with quality equipment will save you time and $$$

We rented boat bags, some safety equipment (we could’ve rented all of it but had much of our requirements already on hand), and canoes from our outfitter.  The outfitter also provided the shuttle service.  There is only one outfitter that services the area we fished: Algonquin Bound Outfitters.  Click on this link for more details.  They are extremely helpful and can help you plan a detailed packing list and itinerary.

The fishing:  If you’re a musky head like us, there is no better place for numbers amidst incredible scenery. 

I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking here but I will say one thing pictures can never show – these fish are voracious predators.  Sure, musky are never easy to catch but in Algonquin, they are FAR EASIER than the norm.  We boated 25 fish in 5.5 days and almost every fish took top water flies!  Making matters even crazier is that we hooked very few of these fish on the first take.  Nearly all of them would crash a fly, miss it, and keep coming back as if it was pissed off that the thing wasn’t dead yet.  We had fish buttoned up, come off, and go right back after the fly as if feeling a sharp hook was some sort of defense mechanism of its prey.  Some came back to the fly more than a half dozen times!  REDICULOUS!.  Enjoy the pics.

The primitive campsites were great!
The primitive campsites were great!
Getting ready for muskies in the mist
Getting ready for muskies in the mist
Yet another miCROski - you seeing a trend yet from my exploits? They were still beautiful though. And the takes!
Yet another miCROski – you seeing a trend yet from my exploits? They were still beautiful though. And the takes!
Tony's first 'ski on the fly - his look of relief and bewilderment is classic!
Tony’s first ‘ski on the fly – his look of relief and bewilderment is classic!
The big fish of the trip - one of the few taken from deep water on a streamer
The big fish of the trip – one of the few taken from deep water on a streamer
Tony casting into the dusk
Tony casting into the dusk
Another downstream shot - take note of the placement of the net and additional rod
Another downstream shot – take note of the placement of the net and additional rod
A little fall foliage as a backdrop to some epic fishing
A little fall foliage as a backdrop to some epic fishing
Tony posing for the shot - take note of how much space he has in the front of the canoe
Tony posing for the shot – take note of how much space he has in the front of the canoe
Me with a miCROski - I couldn't keep the little guys away from my fly
Me with a miCROski – I couldn’t keep the little guys away from my fly
Look at that smile! It's as if the fish knew it was posing for the camera
Look at that smile! It’s as if the fish knew it was posing for the camera
Look at how beautiful this guy is. The fish, of course. Nick's not too shabby himself
Look at how beautiful this guy is. The fish, of course. Nick’s not too shabby himself
Taking it all in before shooting a rapid
Taking it all in before shooting a rapid
Me with yet another miCROski
Me with yet another miCROski
Figure 8s were key as those fish kept coming back for more - Nick making it happen rain or shine
Figure 8s were key as those fish kept coming back for more – Nick making it happen rain or shine
One of Nate's topwater skis - look at that background too
One of Nate’s topwater skis – look at that background too
Grease flowing through conifers
Grease flowing through conifers
The net is alway at the ready
The net is alway at the ready
Nick with one if his first studs
Nick with one if his first studs
We got into them almost immediately
We got into them almost immediately

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Nate with an Algonquin stud
Nate with an Algonquin stud
View from one of 5 campsites
View from one of 5 campsites
The beauty never ceases
The beauty never ceases

Fishing Report – Local/Adventure

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

Overall Situation Update: 

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

Inland Creeks – Trout

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

Niagara River – Smallmouth bass, Musky, and Carp

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

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

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

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

Georgian Bay Adventure

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

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

Enjoy!

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

Old Crow – Consistency Amidst a Nomadic Lifestyle

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Eastern Sierra Exploration – Another Chalking Epic

Eastern Sierra Exploration 

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

Dates: 9-17 August

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

States Chalked: CA and NV

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

Road miles covered:  1100

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan

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

 

 

 

 

 

Brookdog Fishing Report – 20160717-20160724

Brookdog Fishing Co. Fishing Report

20160717 – 20160724 

Overall Situation Update: The Wavetops

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

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

This Past Week’s Events:

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

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

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

Sunset on Keuka Lake
Sunset on Keuka Lake

20160722_131636949_iOS

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

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

Inland Creeks – Trout

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

Niagara River – Smallmouth bass, Musky, and Carp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Natalie Payne’s contact info:

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

A Mad Devil With a Dull Spirit – Fishing Envy

Brookdog Heaven
Brook Trout – Algonquin Provincial Park, ON

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

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

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

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

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

 

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