Monday, February 28, 2011

US Carp Pro Magazine Issue #18

Check out my article about Lake Champlain carp fishing in US Carp Pro Magazine Issue #18.  It is toward the back starting at page 136.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Phil Monahan asked me to put something together for the Orvis News Blog. Check out the first piece I wrote about fishing Otter Creek with Jesse Haller of the Middlebury Mountaineer right here:


Looking forward to writing more for them too!  But no worries, I will keep putting lots of goodness here as well!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Flush Cutters

Much rejoicing for the flush cutter!

yes, use safety glasses
Dave "McFluffchucker" Lindsay is an awesome tyer and a down right cool guy. He has been tying for Pike Trek in England and comes up with some pretty sweet flies on a regular basis. He is also a great teacher for those that are looking for help when tying big flies for toothy predators. His latest post is giving some great advice to folks about how to get rid of the plastic peice on the back of plastic doll eyes. His method uses scissors which works fine, but I have a better method that I wanted to share with him and with everyone else that reads the blog. And maybe introduce you to a tool you haven't used before but might find indespensible... the flush cutter (and they have nothing to do with reducing water use in toilets).

further proof of my geekdom
I found flush cutters when I got into building plastic models again a few years ago. Yes, I am a geek, no need to remind me of what I already know. Flush cutters are an easy way to remove a plastic piece from the sprue, the plastic "twigs" that model parts come in. I was using nail clippers for that, but they don't work that well. And I found out that the flush cutters work pretty well on nails too, but that is another story. Xuron makes some very nice precision tools for and I like their flush cutters the best. You can find other brands in hobby shops, hardware stores and craft stores, but I have to admit that they don't work quite as well- but they do cost about half of the Xurons. 

Properly cutting with it
Here is the great thing about using the flush cutters with doll eyes- they cut the plastic off flush to the eye itself. Yes it will send that piece of plastic zinging around the room, ricocheting into the dog and causing much hilarity, but you really should wear safety glasses. Better yet, point the plastic at a bundled up piece of cloth like a tshirt so it doesn't fly all over and cause further discourse with your already annoyed mate (because of the mess of your fly tying). You will also find the plastic post to dispose of it so you don't step on it barefoot later- take it from me, OUCH!

bye bye post!
Flush cutters are also great for cutting wire for flies. They will cut materials flat on flies too. Perfect for precision cuts that you sometimes need. I use them all the time for trimming all sorts of things from hackle ends to wire. They can be pretty useful on the water as a way of cutting your line and bite tippet- great flat cuts! Drop the cash on a pair of these and you will really enjoy having them on the bench. And you can do some really silly stuff like this too:

yea it ain't pretty, but it is 5:30 am (and props to Fat Guy Fly Fishing for the idea!)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Other Fishing Gear

Beautiful river, but no convenience store nearby...
Everyone has things that they bring along when they head out fishing- rod, reel, tippet, flies, fly boxes, gadgets, etc. When you are in a boat you need to make sure you have PFD's, paddles, anchor, and things of that nature. If you are after big game it helps to have a BogaGrip, big net (or cradle for pike/musky), jaw spreaders and extra hook out tools. Water and snacks are great to have too. But what about other stuff?

What do I mean by other stuff?  Well a first aid kit is a very handy thing to have. After a few seasons of guiding I have found out how useful a few things like bandaids and bite ease can be. Alcohol wipes are great for wounds and for cleaning up things that need to be cleaned (great for getting goop from tape off new items!). I would say that a small first aid kit is something you want to throw into your pack or vest. 

Along with that little first aid kit I carry a pill bottle with some useful stuff in it too. A pile of Advil. Hey, I am almost 41 now and a little Ranger candy is pretty nice to keep the aches and pain at bay for a bit. Clients seem to appreciate having it around too.  There are a few quick dissolve Claritin can really help me out (I am allergic to a ton of stuff) and it can really make a day much more pleasant for a sport with hayfever too. One of the most important goodies in the bottle is Immodium. Is there anything worse than a case of the Hershey squirts when you have waders on? Put a cork in it and keep on fishin'!
Remember to put your undies on right after "The Inevitable"

In a similar vein, The Inevitable will indeed happen. When ya gotta go, ya gotta go. And you want to make damned sure that you have the ability to clean up right? I used to carry a Ziploc with TP in it and that works out fine but I now carry some baby wipes instead. Nothing better than that baby fresh feeling afterward. I also make sure that I have a small bottle of hand sanitizer to go along with it. 

Yea, I am suggesting that you add a little weight to your pack/vest/whatever you carry your gear in. I do like to minimize what I carry when I can, but these things don't weight a lot but can make a huge difference for you or the people you are with (or are guiding).  Just make sure that  your brother isn't around with a camera when you have a situation you need to deal with, otherwise you will end up with something like this:

Monday, February 21, 2011


A well adapted killer

Perhaps my favorite genus of fish is Esox. I have to admit that Amia, Lepisosteus, Moxostoma, Micropterus and others are right up there too, but there is something special about Esox. For those of you not familiar with the Latin, these are the pikes. Current scientific data shows these fish have been around for about 65 million years. A good amount of time to perfect themselves huh? There are only 5 species currently accepted by ichthyologists, there are several subspecies and a few hybrids even. Despite the lack of diversity within the genus, these fish are really successful. How successful you ask? Well the type species, Esox lucius, better known as the Northern Pike is the freshwater fish with the largest natural distribution. It is found all over the northern hemisphere throughout North America, Europe and Asia. It can even be found in brackish water. Not too shabby…
This pick looks like it wants to kill me, would you like to be a baitfish?

What makes these fishes so successful? If I had to make an educated guess (and I will), I would say that they have developed a form that works beautifully for their niche. They are classic ambush predators that will eat almost anything (fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals,  birds, even toy poodles). Look at that long skinny shape- perfect for an ambush predator. One quick S-curve and they can lunge forward to grab what they want to eat. The head on these fishes has been described as “gator-like” and it isn’t far off. A lot of very well adapted predators have that look: wide mouth, lots of teeth, eyes on top. It works. Ever watch a pike hunt?  Their eyes are constantly on the lookout, especially up. I have seen pike and musky going after stuff on the bottom- mostly crawfish- and it doesn’t quite look right. But something on top… lookout! 

Their mouth is probably one of the best adapted parts of their body. The design is simple- grab something and don’t let it go. Anyone who has had the misfortune of getting their hand stuck in the mouth of an Esox can tell you that first hand. There are teeth to grab prey fast and hard and then there are the teeth on the upper jaw. Several hundred smaller teeth that all point backwards. If you have the chance to check out a pike or musky skull do it. Those upper teeth are pretty impressive. Once something is in there it isn’t coming out easily. Just talk to your buddy “Burger Fingers” about the time he was too slow…
You can see some of the hinging here...

The other cool thing about their mouth is how big it can open up. Really frickin’ big! The mouth of Esox is pretty complex and hinged in several places to allow it to open very wide.  If you have seen a musky flare to grab your fly you know what I am talking about. It is often said that a pike or pickerel can eat something about two thirds their own body length. It is true. I have seen it happen. I used to maintain aquariums for a public aquarium in Vermont and we had two small chain pickerel in the same tank. They were about 8” long. One morning I came in, looked in the tank and there was the slightly larger one looking incredibly fat and with a tail hanging out of his mouth. It survived but if you do a search online you will definitely find pictures of pike that have bitten off more than they can chew and have choked to death on something they tried to eat. Like one another!
That fish will blend in the weeds well...

I think another thing that has lead this genus to success is the cryptic coloration they display. Their markings from the bright patches on a dark background on pike, dark stripes on a lighter background of muskies or the distinctive chain patterning that gives E. niger it’s common name really let these predators blend in with their environment. An ambush predator that can’t be seen is a successful ambush predator! I have been amazed at how well these fish blend in. I am sure that some of their victims are amazed too. For about a millisecond before their demise that is.

We have the greatest species distribution right here in North America with the muskellunge, northern pike, chain pickerel and grass pickerel (and redfin pickerel but the grass and redfin are just subspecies of the same fish).  I have caught 3 of the 4 of these. Well, that is unless they decide to split the muskellunge into the musky and the masquinonge into two different species, but that is a whole other kettle of fish. I am going to try to get a redfin this year in VT which should not be difficult. I have caught a tiger musky- a natural one not a stocked one and I would like to get a pike/pickerel hybrid too (any help from Mr. Capsey on locating one?).

The one Esox that I would absolutely love to get but cannot get in N. America anymore is E. reichertii. They were stocked in a Pennsylvania reservoir but never took hold well. The hatchery they were in lost all their brood stock and eggs in the 1970’s and the program sank after that. Looks like I will have to head to Mongolia after all….

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Musky Secrets

September fish from 8 years ago
There has been a whole lot about musky on the fly in the media in the past couple of years. There are definitely some very accomplished musky fly anglers out there that have been bringing it to the forefront of the fly community. There are new rods, videos, lines, all sorts of stuff. It is definitely cool. I have to admit it is a kind of bittersweet to me. I have been fishing muskies on a fly for a long time now. My first fly caught musky was back in 1996. I have been pursuing them ever since. 
Musky tat poking through

I love muskies. I would not have a tattoo of one on my left shoulder if I didn’t. I have been pretty careful about what I say about muskies though, especially about where I fish them. Being an apex predator they tend to have small numbers of larger individuals and can be vulnerable to fishing pressure. With that in mind I have kept my musky angling at a fairly low profile. I have also made sure that I don’t give up locations to people when they ask me where to go. I know a number of people who have been upset with me when I won’t tell them. As far as I am concerned, they can go get stuffed- it took me a long time to learn my spots and they just want to me to give it to them?  Usually these are guys that I don’t know from a hole in the ground too. 

Tim and I know where this was... no one else...

Let’s face it, musky anglers have been a pretty tight lipped community for a long time. Great spots for big ‘skies are not something you tell a lot of people about. Pressure does nothing good for these predators. I have made mistakes before. I took a “friend” to a spot a number of years ago under the distinct understanding that he would never divulge where I had taken him. About a month later he tells me about bringing a friend to the same place. I don’t fish with that guy anymore. Plain and simple- if you take advantage of me, we are done. Hell, if I had ties to some friendly, well dressed garbage types, I might have gone for cement boots too…

Hey Marty- I'm not talking- are you?

Feel free to ask me about techniques, flies, leader set ups, gear, etc.  That kind of stuff I am happy to help you out with. The nuts and bolts of angling are one thing. I want people to know what they are doing. I would much rather take you out on a guided trip to show you. But ask me to tell you where to go for musky?  Or even any other species?  Seriously?  If you are asking a guide to tell you where to go to fish for any species that the guide for, don’t expect an answer, especially if you don’t know them. That is similar to asking a guide you have just met to go out fishing with you. Would you go to an accountant you just met and say “hey man, lets hang and do my taxes!” or go up to a chef you were introduced to at a party and suggest that  you host a dinner party together?  Ever consider that you might be asking someone to do something for free they get paid to do? Good guides know their stuff and don’t give it out to anyone who asks them about it or worse, just puts it up online for anyone to see. Leave that to the guides who don’t know what they are doing…

ps- to all the great fly rod musky guides out there- kudos! Especially Brad Bohen- you know your stuff man and you have put your time into it. You deserve all the credit you get. I hope some day we have a chance to wet a line together. I have some great spots for you if you ever make it out east- get in touch!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Redington Predator Rod

New rod and line with a trusty ol' reel (and hand)
With all the angling I do for pike and musky and a trip to the Everglades looming on the horizon, I decided to shed my 13' 9wt spey rod (which has very few uses in Vermont) and parlay it into a new "predator" style fly rod. For those of you who are not familiar with this relatively new group of rods here is the lowdown on them: They were originally designed for the bass tournament trail guys to use flies to pull big bass out of heavy cover using big flies. The rods were short- around 8', stout, and designed to use a heavier than  normal line for one backcast quick casts into pockets in lily pads, under trees and tight spots that bruisers like to hide in. The first of these rods on the market were the Sage Smallmouth and Largemouth but Redington, TFO and Ross have all put similar sticks out on the market. 

Not only have these rods found a serious following with the bass crowd but pike and musky guys love them too. Marty got a Largemouth a couple of years ago and I have fished it a couple of times- but not as much as he has!  Great rod and it has become THE topwater rod to use on musky trips. Saltwater guys love these rods too, especially for snook and baby tarpon in the mangroves. They put the flies into the roots and pull the fish out. Quick accurate casts with a minimum of false casting, and then right back at it. No messing around with a fish on either. These rods are intended to have a lot of backbone!

with a name like Predator how can you go wrong?
After doing a boatload of research into the various rods out there and then looking at what I got for my spey outfit, I settled on the Redington Predator 9 weight. This rod had everything I wanted and reviews showed it to be the best of the lot. It had even been rated by a number of guys as better than the Largemouth... I got the rod a couple of days ago and I got a Rio Outbound Short Tropical F/I 10 wt line to go with it. The first line I tried it out with was a Cortland 444 Lazerline 10 though. That rod was fast and accurate with the 444!  One false cast and it was out there!  Pretty awesome. Putting an old heavy Clouser minnow on the line didn't change the speed or accuracy of the rod either. I was able to put the fly right where I wanted it every time. Any issues with the casting were my fault, not the rod's.

dodging dung for accuracy
I got out this morning again with the rod to give it another go. So I have to admit that using a fly line designed for tropical heat when in Vermont in February isn't perfect, but the rod and line still performed accurately. And let's face it, 42 degrees on February 18 is downright tropical in Vermont! I put on a short piece of 25 lb mono and a heavy Clouser again. The rod performed admirably!  It put the fly right where I wanted it. Check out that picture- right between the two piles of dog poop! (the two poop colored arrows point them out!) and it did that consistently until I finally hooked one poop tarpon and tore it apart... damn things with their paper mouths... maybe a 6/0 hook was too big...  I also wanted to test out the power of the rod so I tossed it at my neighbor's snow shovel that was firmly entrenched in a snow bank. I hooked that thing with a good hard strip set and put the cork to it.... the Battenkill Large Arbor reel helped keep that shovel in line and I eventually used the butt end of the rod to pull the thing right out of the snowbank! Some great reserve power there... and yea, cabin fever has set in... I need to fish!

I am impressed with this rod at this price ($199). I will do a more thorough review once I get it on the water with some real fish, but for now I have to say that it is a pretty awesome buy. I will stick with it until something better comes along.  I was talking to someone at a rod company a lot closer to home the other day and made the suggestion.... hopefully I could field test something they come up with on some pike and muskies this summer! Hint hint ....

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Releasing Fish

Caught two years in a row.... catch and release works...
For most fly anglers a great moment is watching the fish we just caught swim off unharmed. I have to admit that for me that is very rewarding. I can remember many awesome fights and seeing that fish head back to the depths that it came from. There is one brown trout in my home river that I caught twice in two years that I go keep an eye on from a good vantage point. He has been caught by me twice, hooked a third time and he is still going strong. Definitely a great example of how catch and release works. A critical element in catch and release is knowing how to properly handle a fish. And that changes depending on the species.

One of the most critical elements of proper release is the length of time out of the water. Most fish can be out of the water for a few seconds without much harm. That leaves plenty of time for a photo or two. If you need or want more pictures, keep the fish in the water for a while before pulling it out again. Pretty simple. This holds true for most fish. Being out of the water damages a fish’s gills. At a certain point that fish will die. It suffocates. Try this sometime- hold your breath as you hold the fish out of the water. That gives you a bit of an idea of how the fish feels. 

Out of the water less than 30 seconds...

This is one of the reasons I have issues with the professional bass tournaments. Ever watch the weigh ins? They hold their trophy bass up for pictures and the audience then toss them into a laundry basket to get weighed. How long are they out of the water?  A study was done to see how long bass can be out of the water. Survival rates were over 90% when the fish was out of the water less than a minute. It dropped to 50% at two minutes and then dropped dramatically after that. Those fish are released after tournaments and they swim off. Delayed mortality is what is not usually seen. A tournament in 2009 in Plattsburgh, NY showed this. Several days after a tourney on Lake Champlain dozens of dead bass washed up. Delayed mortality- so much for your much vaunted catch and release bass guys! Do it right or don’t brag about it.
There are fish that can handle being out of the water for a while. Bowfin, gar, carp and catfish typically deal with it better than trout, pike, bass and the like. They are fish that are adapted to lower oxygen environments and are generally tough as nails. This doesn’t mean that they should not be handled carefully and treated with respect though.

I would not have landed this fish without a net

Nets do make a big difference in safe handling of fishes. I used not use a net much but in the past few years I have seen what a difference they make. The type of net makes a difference too. Make sure that you have a net that is appropriate to the size of the fish you are catching and it is better to err on the side of too big a net than too small a net. The material of the net and the size of the holes in it matter too. I started to use rubber nets a few years ago and in my opinion they are the best way to go. The rubber does not rub off as much slime as nylon nets and an added bonus is that they don’t get droppers stuck in them either. Big bonus for us dirty nymphers. In the end a net decreases the fight time which increases the survival rate of the fish. The one group of fish that I will suggest not using a net is the pike/musky family. These long slender fish can be damaged by being put in a typical net. This is where a cradle can come in very handy. Cradles are made specifically for these fish and they work out very well. I strongly recommend them.

Learn how to handle the fish you are targeting. I fished for pike with someone that I used to guide with last year. I caught a good sized pike and got it into the canoe. It thrashed out of my hands and shot to the other end of the canoe where this guy was. Instead of trying to handle it (because he did not know how to handle a pike of that size) he literally kicked it back to me. Yea, he is willing to guide for pike still. I pity the client that goes with him. There will be a good chance that the client will get to deal with the fish and the client will probably know what they are doing more than the guide will.

Kevin shows how to do the snake grab on a pike

Fish that can bite back definitely require special handling. I have had some close calls with muskies and my buddy Marty got nailed last year. It wasn’t bad, but I have seen some pretty messed up fingers thanks to pike and musky. You really want to do some research on how to handle these fish- read and talk to folks who fish them. It will help protect you and the fish will appreciate it too.

Two areas of the fish that should be off limits for handling are the eyes and the gills. This should be pretty obvious to anglers. In Northern New York fishing circles there is the notion that the best way to handle pike and muskies is to grab them by the eyes. This is fine if you plan on keeping the fish, but releasing a blind fish is not the way to go. I caught a blind musky and kept it years ago. I know it was handled in this manner.  On the same token, keep your fingers out of the fish’s gills. The gills are very easily damaged. I was handling a carp a couple of years ago and it struggled and my fingers slipped into its gills. The fish started bleeding immediately and while it did swim off when I let it go, I found it the next day dead. It was an accident, but it really struck home. 

I know a local guide who has to take a pile of pictures of the big fish he catches when he is by himself. He moans about how hard it is to take hero shots with a self timer. I have taken shots like that myself but I make sure that I do it in a manner that does not damage the fish. The last pictures I saw of a big fish this guy caught his fingers were firmly in the salmon’s gills. Please learn how to handle the fish. Or even better- just take a picture of the fish next to your rod in the water. But that isn’t as cool is it?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fly Lipp Fun

Chartreuse Wobbla... wobble, wobble, wham!

You might have seen my previous post with some experimenting with a cool product- Fly Lipps. These awesome lipps are just what predator flies need to get them to do some sweet dance moves to put the smack down on some big fish!  Putting them on the bottom of the hook lets the fly dig deep crankbait style, but putting it on the top will make it ride up and create a commotion that screams "dying bait right here!".  Sound like something I might like? You bet your sweet bippy!

So I present you with my latest two creations- Diver Down and the Wobbla. I can't wait to get these flies in some real water, but for the time being bathtub testing shows these flies to be working just like I expected them to. I know, it is definitely not the same. With the winter we are having in Vermont it just isn't easy to find open water to test them out in- especially water that is legally open to fish. If someone has an indoor pool they will let me use I would love it!
Diver Down- a little VH anyone?

Diver Down is going to be a killer. There is a lot of foam hidden underneath all that bunny. It floats like a cork- until you give it a tug. Then that lipp digs it under the surface really nicely but it pops right up to the top shortly there after. I am going to do this in a much bigger size (think musky- wait, I always think musky- not a bad thing!). Lots of color schemes come to mind too.... I love this fly! I suspect it might get the attention of snook and reds and tarpon and a few other critters when I head down to Florida in April too...
Red and white Wobbla- reds and pike beware...

The Wobbla is a fun fly too. The way the lipp is put on there will keep the fly wiggling back and forth near the surface of the water acting just like a hurt fish. Think that might get some much desired attention from predators looking for an easy score? Oooooooooh yea... That wool head is going to push some water too. This fly will definitely get snook moving out of the mangroves too. I might put some silicone on the wool too.... Gonna be fun!

 I know I only have them in the two color schemes right now, but that will change shortly- lots of colors planned!  I just haven't had all that much time to play with tying recently. These flies will be for sale on my website shortly too.  I think weedguards will be on them as well. I love new patterns, don't you?  But I love field testing them more....

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Fatt Lipp

Barred Chartreuse

I got some Fly Lipps in yesterday and started toying around with them a bit. Cool product. It will all a lot of motion to a fly- making them ride up or down in the water column and give them an interesting side to side wobble too. After I ordered the product, I started thinking about a fly design that would be great using it. And I came up with a good one!
Classic Red and White- pike will love this...

I call it the Fatt Lipp (duo-double consonants- gotta love it, right?).  It is big, will move a fair amount of water, has a lot of natural motion in the water before the Lipp gets it moving around even more. I tie it pretty tough too so it should last. Nice big ol' hook on it to put those pike, muskies and other critters on the end of the line. I think it is going to be a winner. Hopefully Barry will let me know what he thinks after he gets my package...
Better view of the lip...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Flies for Sale

Champlain Crawdad
****Warning- Shameless Self Promotion Ahead!!!*****
Crease fly

As part of my new venture, Master Class Angling, I am now offering custom, hand tied flies for sale. I have been tying flies for 18 years and I provide a very high quality product. I am only using chemically sharpened hooks on the majority of my flies, and I will hand sharpen larger hooks that require it. My flies are not discount internet flies- these are the flies that I fill my personal fly boxes with. I also use techniques to strengthen my flies so that they do not fall apart after a few casts. As long as the fly doesn’t end up on the bottom, in a tree or lost in a fish they should last you for years. I still have (and use) pike and musky streamers that I tied 10 years ago.
Crystal Bugger

Being a warm-water focused angler, I am not going to offer dry flies. I am offering a wide variety of streamers and nymphs to catch species such as pike, musky, carp, bass, bowfin, pickerel, gar, and of course trout. Many of my larger streamer patterns are also excellent for saltwater fish too. Some of the flies that I have for sale are my own signature patterns- flies I have developed myself. Look for more new flies from me in the future as well.
Saranac Stonefly

The list of flies that I will be offering should be up on my website within the next week or so. If you would like any of these flies in colors, sizes or weights I do not have listed please get in touch with me. These flies will not be the only flies that I tie; please email me with custom fly requests, I am more than happy to tie whatever you want. Along the same line, if you require large quantities of flies please contact me for discounts and a time frame for completion.

I am looking forward to supplying you with high quality, hand tied, custom Vermont fishing flies!

Drew Price
Field testing flies for suckers...