Saturday, October 29, 2016


I Didn't Fish Last Week 

It's Monday morning as I start this blog. Last week i scrambled to vomit 600 words on a Saturday morning and it wasn't my best post. I just hadn't given it a ton of thought. 
This week I will put out a better product. 
All last week the evening temperatures dipped into the low 40s and high 30s. Rumors of fish stacking up kept coming to me via text and FB. Life happens in strange ways.

The rain has come in a nice steady way just as everyone said it needed to happen. The big lake temperatures have dropped and the fish are running and everyone is following them. All but me. 

This week I drove by several closed streams filled with fish knowing that the big rivers are open and loading up. 

I have been thinking about this time of year all summer and preparing to do salmon season and steelhead "right". To actually target those fish instead of trout. It's here and I seem to be stuck out of the water.

I've got a deck to build and a floor to install and a sliding glass door to put in and a remodel to quote. Kids games and practice which I've ranted about plenty. 
Bottom line I imagine I felt a lot like my friends did in September when I was trying to do the "20 days of September challenge" from Orvis. I made 15 days. That's a pretty good month!
Now more than half way through October the table is flipped. I have been out a little more than 5 days. 

On top of being busy I have been slightly detoured by a video a Pensilvania dwelling FB friend posted. The video shows a small river, about the width of an average side street, as he pans the camera and whistles the circus song showing anglers lined up above and below him both sides of the river nearly shoulder to shoulder.  Assembly line fishing. Not for me! Not the experience I want. How can that be enjoyable?  

I most likely will head to the river in spite of these obstacles. The heart wants what the heart wants. My heart wants, no it needs, an untamable sea creature at the end of the line jumping and running to escape me. Fighting for its life not knowing that I will only set it free when I have it in my hands. 

Pause over, and it's Saturday evening. I got to some good water today.
As I was preparing gear for this trip I had my 6 wt phillipson the "sweetheart" as she is know by me and I was gonna put her in my truck but  I'm committed to learning Spey and focusing on big fish. I put it down against my better judgement.  I can catch browns in the Muskegon river with my eyes closed with that rod and handful of hares ears seriously it's one of those things I can almost count on. 
 But here I go again with a rod reel combo and big flies that I don't get yet.  It's tough to deal with in my mind, the scarcity of catching these big fish. I must prepare my mind for a long winter standing in waist deep water a few degrees above freezing. Ice in my guides, frozen reels and fingers. Trust that THOSE fish do exist THOSE fish that will eat a fly on the swing. Be a swinger, my mantra must be.

Seriously, I'm finding that this is a mental game.  I must persevere.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Summer is the time for camping. It's great to get out when it's warm and all the field and fauna are active. When there is little worry of storm or cold. When you can pretty much just sleep under the stars without a care. 
My wife doesn't enjoy camping. My two oldest are out of the house. My two middle kids are at the age where anything with a parent involved is "lame and boring" and one doesn't like bugs especially mosquitos ( who really does?) 
my youngest son probably would go if I asked him but with all the others saying "no" I have written camping off. None of them want to fish
With Speyfest this week I'm looking forward to camping even it is only "car camping" , not backpacking. This past weekend was full of thoughts about gear. digging through camping gear that I haven't touched in a year. 
I know my stuff is strewn from one corner of the basement to the other and stashed in cabinets in the shop avoiding dust. 
Every time I pack to camp I am right back with the 307th ENG BN 82nd Airborne INF DIV. Half moon black and gold subdued version on my shoulder. A voice in my head screaming "travel light freeze at night" so there is room for demolitions, but I'm not walking all night this weekend I'm car camping. I have room for a lantern and a double burner Colman stove and even a cooler.  Better because gone are the days when I could put my head on my canteen on a pile of rocks and red clay and sleep like a baby. 20 minutes ready to rock. Nope, my body aches in the morning my joints need two cups of coffee for proper lubrication. The beauty of this is I have space in the truck for a coffee pot. (Laughing sinisterly)
Certainly, I wish the perverbial "fish wagon", a 1966 ford econoline camper top super van was complete but to no avail remains untouched this summer. It's a tent for sleeping quarters this year.
 A reliable tent though, a Kelty, this same tent survived a Father's Day weekend trip up the Manistee River from red bridge in the worst down poor of the last 100 years.
 Over night US31 washed out and the river came up so high we nearly couldn't get back under the bridge. The DNR heard we were up there and came up to see if we survived. The river was a torrent of bubbly chocolate milk with full trees rootball to tip spinning in corner eddies. Not a single drop of moisture in that tent. 
Other gear isn't quite as reliable. For instance the inflatable sleep pad from Walmart. I've used it for nearly 10 years and every year I say to myself and anyone that will listen. "This thing is junk". I wake up in the middle of the night with sore hips and my shoulder popping out of socket. I roll from one side to the other trying to stay on the mat that I have over inflated hoping for better cushion between me and the cold hard ground and that one root under the exact spot I'm sleeping.
Emotionally draining. I'm a far cry from who I was in the 90s. the beauty of that, perspective. Having those years humping a 100lbs of ammunition and demolitions and a spare pair of socks through the dark cold night only to lie down on a fire ants nest gives perspective. Perspective that says keep this "junk" mat "it's better than nothing".
 An appreciation for the best tent I've ever owned and a longing for my old woobie.
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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Quest for Spey session 1

I finally got out on the water with my Spey set up. An echo TR 8136-4 and Ross CLA 6 that I bought used but in excellent condition. The reel came with backing and a 520 grain skagit head. I purchased a 1mm running line and two additional heads from eBay (me being me). 

On the grass. 
I learned quickly that yard casting a Spey rod is not like yard casting a single handed rod. The problem is anchor. When casting a single handed rod you develop load from gradually increasing the length of line. In Spey load is generated from surface tension and on the grass there isn't much.
A friend told me how to make a grass leader to help with this but I haven't yet. 
On the water
The first thought I had was " how am I gonna move this much line without hitting myself in the face" answer, start short. As I started I realized my hands already knew some of these movements. This seams, at the beginning to be glorified roll casting. Casters that frequently fish tight skinny water with 6-7' rods know most of the moves. You have to use them in skinny water or risk snagging the salad.  I don't recall hearing anyone on these waters saying anything fancy like the "snap t" . They just say flip your line up stream and roll cast. 

With the line short it really seams the same.  Roll casts to control your line and where your fly is on the water.  Used so you don't snag the brush or yourself. 

Then you get some line out and you can really feel what this big stick can do. First cast, I threw the distance of my mid to long overhead cast. And the benefit of no back cast ... Awesome!!

Now let me be clear because everyone says no back cast but in reality you can't spay cast against a brick wall. (Absolute... ??) you need space for your "D loop" and keep in mind 13-15' overhead(given your sanding in the water)

Line control, line control, line control.  Obviously important. Second nature maybe if you double haul often or throw streamers where you need to strip as soon as the fly hits the water. I'm somewhere in between.  In Spey seams that you need your bottom hand on the line almost always. It's either stripping line in or holding loops. 
And while we are talking about line. How bout the welded loop to loop connections, all the smart people out there in the industry and we can't figure out a better connection or better guides that won't hang up coming in or out. Click click click when there isn't any pressure and better hope you get that thing through the tiptop when the fish gives you the chance. Still better than knots I guess. 
I'm headed to Spey fest in Newaygo, MI at the end of the month hopefully the gurus will have answers for my complex questions like which is better anchoring up stream or down stream in opposing wind. Hmmm 
Hoping to be a better Spey caster by months end. 
I'm interested in your thoughts so Please leave comments.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Quest for Spey

On the road in wandering I've found the surf casters. Their cults form in places like Montauk, Tybee island, Fire island, Newport Beach, and Kalalock. Big rods, big reels, big lures, and long casts. Its a formula for success. Success to a fisherman ... Fishing.  

The idea is big water, big empty water filled with fish. Wait... What?The beaches of Lake Michigan in my case, or the mighty Muskegon River. 
The idea, in all its glory, of course has a wingman, the long cast. Dressed for success with an important tool, a big rod.
I was afraid of Spey rods because of all the big numbers and I'm not just talking about the ones written on the rods. When you talk about big Spey rods you must also talk about big reels and those have big numbers to. I just didn't want to face Spey like a man. So I didn't I convinced myself that a big spinning rod and reel would satisfy me. Maybe some big lures to go with it. 

So in my usual way I started surfing the web. What gear would I need to surf cast. (Lake Michigan) 
Clearly, I have a disorder that involves being different. (Another story some other time) 

There isn't any info out there about this silly thing, surf casting a lake. Who does that? Next best thing, Atlantic coast surf casting.  

Stripers are just big bass, really big bass and salmon are ocean fish anyway so the gear has to be close enough. Right? 

So in my usual way I got back on the web and promptly found a 12' vintage glass surf rod. A Garcia. Then I set to finding an enormous spinning reel, a DAM Quick 550n. (your nuts if you think I'm gonna learn to use a bait caster on top of it all) I had a few other spinning rods in the shop covered in saw  dust and cobwebs even a reel attached to one.  I dug them out and lined them up. 

I'm like a kid in a candy store with my new gear and my big plan. Wide eyed and naïve. "I'm gonna catch big fish on the big water," grinning ear to ear. 
I loaded up my spinning gear (that sounds strange) and headed to the lake hoping no one would be there. I definitely didn't want other fishermen to see that I had no idea what I was doing. I was fine but my ego was taking this hard. 

Who knew, 2 PM on a 85+ degree Thursday, the only fisherman besides me is a 12 year old with his escort, mom. 

It's the middle of summer the water is too hot the Sun is too bright and there are too many people on the pier. I fished and found that I still wasn't satisfied. 
I'm cutting this fishing story off right there because I could go on but this is about gear. 

Spey Spey Spey !!!
Calling me. 

Me being who I am wanted fiberglass. How many rod manufactures are rolling fiberglass these days. Well, a growing number but seems that not very many of the companies are rolling big glass. Most aren't even rolling switch length. I didn't want a short rod. I wanted full Spey length I wanted 15'. That's just where I was. Compensation for shortcomings? Maybe.  

Honestly, I was having my very first reservations about fiberglass being the best rod material available. I love the deep bend feel of glass both in the cast and when there is a fish on, but I was beginning to think maybe it wouldn't cast as far as I wanted it to. 
In addition there aren't as many guys as you would imagine selling used fiberglass Spey rods. 
I wasn't gonna drop those big numbers on something I may hate casting. 
I quested onward. Scouring for sale adds on all the major pages and FB but the right fit wasn't out there. I thought to myself, "I'm not gonna find this rod until I spend $1000." Not gonna happen right now!

Then, a rod dangled on the web in front of my face and I pulled the trigger. 
It's not glass. it's not vintage. I don't care. I'm going to learn to Spey cast! I can't wait to get it in my hand. 

Naïvely grinning ear to ear, "I'm gonna catch big fish on big water!"

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Lake temps examined

I geeked out this week!! 

I, like so many of you, watch the lake surface temps. I hope for temperatures to drop into the 50s so the salmon will come to shallow water. During the time that I have been watching lake temps I notice an interesting occurrence temps at the surface several miles off shore dropping to the 40s. First I thought that these must be false readings caused by some phantom equipment malfunction, but I continued to notice them and what seams to be a loose pattern. 
It seems that a day or two after we have heavy winds and storms these cold "spots" appear on the surface. The geek in me wanted to know why.
Was it the influx of rain water from the rivers, was only a portion of the lake doing the notorious "flip" I didn't know. 
So I started some investigative work.

I'm was thinking lake currents could be one cause, pushing the cold water up from the depths, an upwelling. As I searched the web I ran across a video about stratification which is fancy for the layers in the lake, three layers to be precise. I'm not gonna go too deep here you can learn like I did through the video. But the interesting part is that the density of water causing these layers relates directly to temperature. It is the dividing factor, and the dictating factor in the thermocline. Which is located in the center layer of the three.

Deep water fishermen take note if you aren't already informed. Winds push warmer surface waters towards the shore where the depth of this warm water "builds" basically tilting the layers and the thermocline. Bring it closer to the surface at the other end of tilt. As the wind stops the water driven towards the shore recedes like water in a tipped bucket returning upright. It then rocks back and forth under the surface each rocking motion tilts the layers and the thermocline AND mixes the layers. 
That is an important factor in these upwellings  as it mixes and rocks warm surface water seems to roll to the bottom under the force of the wind as this happens cold water is driven to the surface in an upwelling. 

If we agree that the fish follow the thermocline and these cold water upwellings knowing where they are can hugely effect finding fish. 
Coho prefer temperatures in the mid-50s F. and generally are found nearer the surface than chinook. After 60 degrees F. coho tend to go deeper or lakeware in finding their preferred temperature. Coho may be found in water temperatures from 45 to 60 degrees F., with a peak feeding temperature at 54 degrees F.

Welcome to
I think most experienced boat captains already know this, but for a weekend warrior learning this can be helpful as opposed to going where the other boats go. 

The implications of these things for a shore and pier fisherman can be figured as well. I'm sure hydrology has some wicked formula for calculating how long it will take for the rocking motion to occur given an average sustained wind and the size of a body of water including depth. Please hydrologist help us understand. 

There is another thought that comes to my geek head. How the salmon move may be less tied to water temp in itself and more tied to food. Thus it may be less important to know what temp the salmon like and more important to know what temp their food likes.