Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Orvis Hydros Pliers- a First Look

So a few days after the Orvis Podcast on spring pike fishing that I did went live I recieved a package. Tom Rosenbauer must have heard the interest I had in getting ahold of the new Hydros pliers and he decided to take pity on me. I got a pair of each of the new pliers- both the freshwater and saltwater versions.  

I haven't had time to get them out on the water yet, but it won't be long before they get a whole lot of use. So let me give you the out of the box review for now. Both pairs share some pretty awesome features :
The indentation holds the pliers very well
The sheath is a nice tight fit and has a belt loop on the back. On the belt loop to which the lanyard is attached. One of the things I liked best about the sheath is the fact that it is semi-rigid and has an indentation that fits just behind the head of the pliers. This holds the pliers in the sheath tightly. I held the pairs upsidedown and shook them and they didn't pop out. I think this will easily hold up to most situations on the water. They might pop out if you are doing some serious cheerleading- cartwheels, handstands, etc, but for most anglers there shouldn't be many problems.

The clip and clamp- both very solid
 The lanyard is pretty sweet. I have always prefered spring cord to zingers for most of my gear. I hate when a zinger gives up on me and that has happened all to frequently. That has not happened with coiled cord. The cord is  crimped solidly onto a spring loaded clip on either end. The clip is totally solid and I have been trying to get it to fail (thinking that the clip could somehow get caught on the D-ring on the sheath or pliers and pop loose). So far that has not happened and I don't forsee it happening. Totally well designed. You can take the pliers off the lanyard to use it elsewhere if you wanted to- the freshwater pliers could be useful at home building leaders or on the tying bench.

Check out those cutters.
I really, really, really like the fact that these pliers both have replaceable cutting surfaces. The cutters are super sharp. I have cut everything from 7x tippet to 60 lb wire to 80 lb mono back and forth with both pairs. No problems. Good straight cut every time. Much better than other pliers I have used- I have a nice pair of long nosed pliers from another company that the cutters went on in the first week of use. Not so handy. AND the Hydros come in the package with a replacement pair of cutters and the Allen wrench needed to replace them. Super sweet. To top it off, if it ever comes to it the jaws are replaceable too. 
Other cool stuff- The pliers are aluminum making them lightweight and strong. They are spring loaded so remain open until closed by the user. The jaws have striations to help grip things. There are multiple holes in the handles which allow you to put a hook into to be able to tighten a knot. These are well thought out folks.

Here are some photos and some more thoughts on the different pairs:
Freshwater pair- nice small tips to the jaws to grab onto smaller flies- probably not great for a size 18 or smaller fly, but for most applications for bass, trout, carp and the like they are perfect!

Great color and a nice small size- great for the freshwater angler! 

The saltwater pair is considerably larger and more rugged- just like you would expect for bigger saltwater species. They will be perfect for pike and musky too!
Heavier duty jaws for bigger hooks. The cutters are similarly bigger for heavier wire and mono. 

 While these pliers are not cheap ($139 for the freshwater and 159 for the saltwater), they are built to last and very well designed. The inclusion of the sheath, lanyard and a spare pair of cutting blades are definitely added value.  I am sure that these tools are also backed up by the Orvis guarantee. I have to say very well done Orvis- I am really looking forward to putting them through the paces this year. They will be great on my trip to Florida in a couple of weeks.

PS- thanks a million Tom! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ethics on the Water

If you saw someone fishing like this would you run downstream and jump in the pool just below him?
If there is one thing that drives me crazy about other anglers is a lack of ethics when on the water. Some of it is just from a lack of awareness of the impact you can have on other people that are fishing in the area but some of it is just plain rudeness.
Big wide open river- don't crowd people!

Let me give you an example of a total lack of ethics that I ran into last year. I had three clients out on a trout stream in October but just a couple of days before we had a massive storm front that rolled through and blew out all of the rivers. Things were returning to normal slowly but there wasn’t a lot of water to put these gentlemen on- the bigger rivers were way too high and dangerous to put anyone on. We had found a decent spot that does produce pretty well. It was also right next to the road which was pretty important because one of these guys was a bit older and less than steady on his feet. I got these guys set up spread out along a good stretch with some water downstream that I planned on moving them into after we worked what we were on. Seemed like a fantastic plan.

A car pulls up and parks right in front of our vehicles. Two guys get out and gear up. I thought that it was pretty obvious that I was guiding three people. I didn’t have a rod in my hands and I was walking back and forth between my three sports checking on them. They started down to the river in front of us. They had some trouble getting down the bank and turned around. I kept my eyes on them as they headed downstream. I could not believe what I was seeing. Not 5 minutes later one of these two guys was about 25 feet from one of my clients fishing.  I wasn’t going to tolerate this so I confronted them. I called them out on what they were doing.
The response was “We are just going to take a couple of casts”. I told them that I was guiding clients and it was rude to jump in like that. “What’s the big deal man?”.  Clueless. Absolutely clueless.
Oak Orchard Creek- lots of people and the ethics are lacking

This is not an unusual occurrence unfortunately. I have quite a few other stories just like this one. Now if I pull up to a spot that I want to fish and find a couple of cars already there I move on. If I look into the stream and I see 4 guys there, I am definitely not going to fish there. The last thing I want to do is to fish on a small stream with a pile of other guys. It is really not too appealing to me and I don’t know how it is appealing to anyone else. There are exceptions of course- like fishing for migratory fish on Lake Ontario tributaries- but even when I fish those I walk and try to get away from all the people. Plenty of bad ethics stories there.

Please, if you are new fly fishing or fishing in general, spend a little time and read a bit about on stream ethics. It will really help you understand why you can really ruin someone’s day. Now, I have to admit that I am not much of a traditional angler myself- upstream dry fly only fly fishing makes no sense to me. But, I get the need for a code of ethics and the reasoning behind it
Take a gander at the code of ethics from the Federation of Fly Fishers:  It definitely gives some good guide lines for ethics and ones that make clear sense. There are plenty of other places you can find them too (even in state rule books if you take the time to look at them). 

I’m not going to make this rant any longer than it needs to be. Ultimately what it all boils down to is this: respect other anglers and respect the environment.  Makes sense to me, does it to you?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pike Podcast Follow-up

I wrote this last week just after I did the Orvis Podcast on spring pike fishing as a follow up.  I haven't had a chance to put it up until now. Let me know what you think.

Pike definitely move through this channel
Friday was as nice a day as you could ever ask for in the middle of March in Vermont. Low 50’s, lots of sun and some wind. It had been relatively warm for the past few days and I was hoping to find some pre-spawn pike staging to head into the wetlands of Otter Creek. I knew that if I timed it right I would finally get my first Esox of 2011. On top of that I had a great tip on a location that has given up some really nice pike this time of year. If I were to say that I was excited about getting out I would be making a gross understatement. Even though I knew it was a bit of a crap shoot, I was hopeful.

I got to the first spot, a nice backwater with a small channel connecting it to the river, just before noon. This time of the year it is not necessary to get up at the crack of dawn to get into pike. As a matter of fact it can be rather counterproductive.  With some nice sun to warm up the water the pike will become more active later in the day and that holds true for most of the springtime. I had my fingers crossed that those big ladies that were getting ready to lay their eggs wanted a meal before undergoing their reproductive tasks.  I had some freshly tied up bunny flies for the shallower water and some Clouser Half and Half’s to probe the deeper edges and drop offs near the main river. Deep and slow is the name of the game this time of year. A good dose of luck helps out too.
I worked that open water very well

The backwater was still mostly iced over but the channel connecting it was open and there was an arm of ice free water extending from the channel. I worked that open water for a good hour. I even tried out the ice to see if I could stand on it but since it was the consistency of a Slushy that wasn’t happening. I tried out both kinds of flies in several different colors. Changing the retrieve from a very slow crawl with the bunny bug to an unhurried strip/pause with the Half and Half didn’t make a difference either. The pike did not seem interested. I suspected that would be the order of the day, but it wasn’t going to stop me from trying.
Perfect spawning habitat

I drove along the river enjoying the warm spring sun stopping at likely spots. This watershed provides excellent habitat for pike because of spring flooding. For a long section of this river there are massive wetland complexes on either side of the river which allow the fish to spawn unimpeded. Pike require flooded areas with vegetation to spawn. Submerged vegetation, whether it is last year’s grasses that are now under water, new aquatic plant growth or even downed tree branches allow their adhesive eggs to stay up out of the muck on the bottom which will quickly suffocate them. Large females will be surrounded by several smaller males and can scatter up to 400,000 eggs. Every egg counts considering the massive predation rate on eggs and juvenile pike which is the reason that a very small percentage return as spawning adults.
Yes, that is a river.

Otter Creek in most places is no more than a hundred feet across and often much less than that, but this time of the year with snow melt, there are places it spills out of its bank and can reach nearly a mile wide. Water levels can be 6 or 8 feet above the low summer levels. It is truly a massive wetlands complex and fortunately, beyond some farming, it is relatively untouched. Channelization, wetland removal and preventing a meandering river from accessing its floodplain generally ends up causing greater problems for communities along the river. Along the Otter in the spring the only major problems are road closures and flooded farm fields because of the water levels.
Keep up the good work!

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been doing a great deal of work on Otter Creek wetlands. In the 1950’s and 60’s local farmers who had land that bordered the river often dug channels to help the surrounding wetlands to drain faster and leveled out the soil to make it easier to farm. The ditches could be as deep as 15 feet and would cause the water to flow rapidly back to the river. This was done in hopes of allowing those fields to dry out quickly so they could be used for crops, primarily corn. According to Ryan Crehan, the USF&WS project manager, recently a number of those farmers have decided that it was no longer cost effective to try to farm those lands because of increasing fuel prices and low yields.

One of the goals of the program is to allow Otter Creek to have a water regime similar to what it originally had. One of the ways this is accomplished is to try to fill some of the channels that were dug years ago. This causes longer retention of the water which promotes a healthier wetland complex in the area. One of the added benefits of having healthier wetlands systems is to help mitigate flooding. Otter Creek has typically has several high water events in a year. Wetlands are nature’s sponge and really help to buffer the impacts of severe flooding events. When water is retained in these swamps and marshes and slowly flows back into the main river it can help prevent flooding in communities downstream.
Flooded wetlands are critical for pike!

The surrounding wetlands are obviously of great benefit to pike. This is where they spawn and it supplies excellent rearing habitat for juvenile pike. They are able to find a variety food sources and grow quickly without the predators that they would face in the main river channel. One of the concerns that originally surrounded this program was the potential for adult or juvenile fish to get stuck in the wetlands. In some of the backwaters this problem was alleviated by putting in devices that allowed control of the water regime- water could be retained or allowed to drain as needed. The routine flooding that occurs in this watershed also helps allow the fish better access to the river as well.
Redfin pickerel... on this years hit list!

I kept moving around looking for those elusive, elongated predators. I checked all the normal spots, keeping watch in flooded areas for movement in the water.  Water was gushing through all the culverts I checked and I put flies into any slower pockets near them. Still nothing. I got to a spot where I have found more than a few willing participants in the past and despite having some ice still on it, I had some hope. A small pike-like fish darted out of cover and moved right past me, not more than 3 feet away. I could not make out what it was at first, but I was pretty happy to finally see something. Moving a few yards downstream I saw it again and this time I got a picture of it. It was small, perhaps 12 inches or so and pretty fat. I knew what it was this time. The short, blunt face gave it away- the littlest Esox- the redfin pickerel (Esox americanus).

I was pretty psyched. I knew that these small predators were documented further upstream but I wasn’t certain they were found where I was. A quick call to Shawn Good, a Vermont fisheries biologist, confirmed the species in the area. Awesome! My first redfin sighting and most likely a chubby, egg laden female on her way to join her larger cousins in the fields spawning. With any luck I will be able to catch one later this year. They are on my “to catch” list and are the only North American Esox species I have not caught. Yet.

The rest of the day was relatively uneventful. I hooked up with my buddy Wesley to check out some of the better downstream spots where the pike come up into. We mostly found those areas still covered in ice and what wasn’t covered in ice was the color of chocolate milk. The pike could be in there too, but there is no way to get at them.  We shot the bull and made plans to hit some of these spots later in the spring after the spawn was through. There are definitely some places that we both really want to hit up soon.

I drove home after the sun had set. I had a great day even though I never had a fish on. Any time I am able to spend time in such an amazing watershed, especially during something as fascinating as spring flooding, I am content.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Angler Interview: Jesse Haller

Jesse with a nice winter brownie!
For the second installment of  the Friday Angler Interview I hit up my buddy Jesse Haller. Jesse is a relative newcomer to the Vermont fly fishing scene but he has a great background with the long rod and guiding. I met him several years ago when I was giving a talk about warm water fishing in Vermont for the New Haven River Anglers Association. His enthusiasm and passion for the sport was obvious and I liked him immediately! Since then he has really done a lot of great things to put the Middlebury Mountaineer on the map as a great fly shop and guide service. He has also been a key figure in putting together the Otter Creek Classic tourney together and to bring the Fly Fishing Film Festival to Vermont this year- both of which benefit the NHRAA.
How did you get your start with fly fishing?

I've been fishing since I was able to hold my 3ft Snoopy rod. Mostly in part to my father, Rick's, love of trout fishing. I think I was around 9 or 10 when my dad took me out one evening with a fly rod, down to Black Earth Creek during some sort of hatch. I don't remember what was coming off, but I remember we were using parachute ants and they were working. I continued learning over the years, definitely trial and error period of my angling career. I still threw conventional tackle sometimes, especially when we were focusing on warm water species. We often vacationed to Northern Wisconsin, to the Chippewa Flowage area to fish for the big toothy fish. This area now seems to be getting quite a bit of attention from fly anglers for its muskie fishing. Things got much more serious for me when I moved to CO. It didn't take long for me to shift into “trout bum” mode, skipping class, and trimming hair from my dog, Eowyn, to tie caddis.

I have heard you say that you got your start guiding in Colorado. Where did you guide and what were you catching?

I'm hoping Jesse was just excited and not getting goosed!
I started in Durango. I was working at a restaurant in the evenings and it freed my summer days to go out and explore. The Animas river was never more then a 5 minute walk away from any of the places I lived. When I finally scored a guiding job, I was low man on the totem pole. I was forced to spend my first season waiting for the summer business or getting an occasional trip that was handed down through the other guides. I was lucky enough to have some great guides take me under their wing, and the first year taught me quite a bit about the “art of guiding”. We spent most of our time guiding the Animas and the San Juan after Browns and Bows, occasionally heading over to the Rio Grande or the Doloras or heading higher in elevation for cutty's. It was also the first time, on my own, I started fishing more aggressively for warm water species. The last summer I was in Durango I had worked myself into some seniority and was busy guiding. That was also the summer, a mentor, taught me how to row, and it quickly became one of my favor ways to guide and personally fish. When I moved to Summit county, it was like a shot of adrenaline. In every direction there was a high quality water system. The Colorado, Arkansas, and South Platte were the rivers I spent most of my time guiding. The Blue River, which was a technical tailwater fishery, was just down the road. A handful more rivers were within a short drive. With Breckenridge's accessibility from the I-70 corridor, I was busy guiding, sometimes not even getting a day off to fish by myself in a week. Repetition on the river and behind the oars gave me a better ability to notice more subtle changes in fish and insect behavior from day to day and how to guide a vast array of different clients. 
What made you pull up roots and head to Vermont?

It was combination of things. My girlfriend, Kate, who I met while going to college in Durango, is from Ferrisburgh, VT. During a extended vacation here in the fall of 2007, I started helping out at the Middlebury Mountaineer. I spent much of my free time out fishing around Addison County and was very surprised by the options an angler had and even more surprised by the lack of fishing pressure. After returning to CO at the beginning of the winter I guided another season in Summit County, and was ready for a change. I had had some dialog with Steve, the owner of Middlebury Mountaineer and Green Mountain Adventures, throughout that year and I decided to come to Vermont. Vermont reminds me quite a bit of Wisconsin and even of Colorado sometimes. I'm lucky enough to have a place up in the Green Mountains, on one of the branches of the Middlebury. 
I can imagine there are some significant differences in fishing Colorado and Vermont. What would you say they are?

There are a few differences, the biggest difference is water. The west has so much cold water. The water levels in the west are primarily based on snow pack. All that cold, clean, and highly oxygenated water makes for the best trout habitat. With all that water, it means big river systems. Trout per mile ratios and fish size were commonly high. Vermont's summer water levels are based quite a bit on rain so if it's a dry year, like last year, some of the watersheds will have highly stressed fish. The tailwater fisheries of Colorado offer fantastic winter fishing with healthy populations diptera and in some, mysis shrimp. Extensive use of the river systems in the west, commercially and privately, and implications of water rights, the managing agencies invest into conserving and improving the watersheds and in some cases, teamed with special interest groups, are very interested in doing so. There is a strong fly fishing culture of younger anglers as well. Most guides I worked with were in their twenties.

Vermont has many great fishing opportunities to offer as well. The biggest thing that stood out to me was lack of fly fishing pressure. There are sections of local rivers I can walk and only see my own foot prints. These are good stretches of water and people either haven't found them or don't want to put the time in to get there. There are big fish all over the place in Vermont, you just need to put in a little work and you can have a shot at them. Another huge bonus is access. Rivers all over the west are being privatized. Unlike Vermont, the riverbed in Colorado is susceptible private property laws, so that can limit your options pretty quick. This was avoided in some ways by drifting through these sections on a boat, but now their are some court cases trying to take that right away too. Getting your boat stuck on a rock or anchoring in the middle of the river surrounded by private property, is technically trespasing. Water rights are a huge issue in the west. It's not just Colorado's water, but it's Utah's or Arizona's, so anybody downstream has a say on what to do with the water. In Vermont I can just find a public access point and walk up or down the river where I need to go. I've been chased off of private water in the west by guys with shotguns and a dog or two. 
Jesse has been working on pike fly fishing quite a bit!
I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the extent of warm water species fishing you can do here. For what Vermont may lack in trout fishing(which isn't much), it makes up for in warm water species. Bass, Pike, Carp and several other species have healthy populations in Vermont. The last few summers have been very exciting to try and take advantage of these resources. Lake Champlain has so many choices its hard to know where and on what, species to start. Warm water species are of growing interest in fly fishing and it won't be long until that catches on here. If you look solely at the extent of the Bass Master tournaments in the area, it clearly indicates the quality of the resource.

What about differences in guiding?

It took me awhile to adjust to fish population. I have found that in some situations, that just because it looks good doesn't mean its holding a fish. I have to strategize a bit better, and know that every fish counts, its not like days I've guided on the Arkansas River, where you lose a fish and then you cast into the next seam a foot over and hook up again. I spend much more time scouting then I did before, looking for fish and trying to keep a close eye on hatches when applicable. The bugs and the baitfish are very similar, just the arrival schedule of said insects vary a bit. But other then that, its the same. You need to put you time in on the water, the vise, and love what you do. I've been lucky, I have had some of the best clients any guide could have. No real horror stories, just a few deeply imbedded hooks.

Since you got to the Middlebury Mountaineer it seems like there has been a greater emphasis on fly fishing. Do you have any big changes to tell us about for this year?

Wild fish for Jesse
We have lots going on in the shop this year. Besides just a bigger selection , we are starting to offer the warm water fly angler many more options. From Rods, to lines, to tackle. We are proud to be able to offer our customers some custom flies tied by local warm water guide and Master Class Angler..Uh.?....what's his name?... I can't remember? Sage, Fisknat, Cliff Outdoors, and Umpqua are all new to us this year, on top of an already fantastic group of dealers. But what I'm most excited about is the addition of Float Trips this season. I recently purchases a 13ft raft with fishing frame for guiding with. This is the same rig I guided out of for years in Colorado. I spent the last two seasons dragging my 2 person cataraft, with the help of fellow guides, in and out of some rivers trying to find places to float. Scouting for put-ins and take out's was a big challenge. Sometimes we found great water, other times we found ourselves in a sea of neddles. Drift fishing has always been one on my favorite ways to experience a river. With the ability to stand and fish from the boat, it puts almost every riffle, seam, and cut bank within casting distance. I'm really excited to get back behind the oars to guide again. Besides trout we have some great bass water to float.

What separates your guide service from some of the others in the area? 

Jesse is gonna get you suckas!
I don't know if it separates us from anybody else but we have a few characteristics we are proud of and we think that we do them well. Experience, Professionalism, and loving what we do. This will be my 7th season as a full-time guide and 10th year in the industry. In that time, I worked for some good shops and I've work for some not-so-good shops. I've seen what works and what doesn't. I've used those experiences to help shape something that not only benefits our clients but hopefully the sport in general. We have a great staff, the owner, Steve Atocha has been very supportive of pushing this movement forward and allowing me to take the reigns. I'm really excited to have guide, Wesley Butler on board this year. He personifies what passion in guiding is all about. He is a talented angler, teacher, and oarsmen. He has that X factor, that you can't quite put you finger on but it sets him aside from others. He works hard to not only offer his clients the best information and opportunities, but to improve himself as an angler and tyer every chance he gets.

I first met you at a meeting of the New Haven River Anglers Association. You are now heavily involved in the organization of the NHRAA and have set up a couple of great events to help raise funds.  Tell me about the idea for the Otter Creek Classic, how it works, and where people can join in the fun.

The idea spawned from some of the guide tournaments I fished in while in Colorado. Getting the opportunity to fish against some of the best guide's in the west was a great challenge and it pushed me to become a better angler. It was never really about competing but more about getting people together for a good cause, socializing with other guides and anglers from all over, and challenging myself. When I arrived in Vermont I really wanted to continue competing, but on closer examination the opportunity wasn't available. So I created the Otter Creek Classic Opening Day Fly Fishing Tournament. Its a catch and release tournament, so anglers need to have a digital camera or cell phone camera to document their catch. Entry is $25. You are allowed to fish from sunrise on opening day, April 9th, 2011, until you return your scorecard to the Middlebury Mountaineer around 3:00pm. I tried to keep it simple as far as judging, the event is scored in total inches of trout caught. There are stipulations on minimum trout size. All fish must be netted, measured, photographed and safely released to score the points from that fish. The boundaries of the event are the entire Middlebury and New Haven River systems and a large section of Otter Creek. A more in depth list of rules is available on the Middlebury Mountaineer website ( The event is sponsored by almost all of our Fly Fishing product dealers, but we get a large amount of help from Patagonia. For the first time in the event's 3 year history, guides and industry professionals are separated from amateurs creating two brackets, each having a chance to have their name engraved on the OCC champion plaque. We offer prizes for competitors who place, the biggest overall fish and a raffle for everybody who competes. Last year we had almost $2000 in prizes. Most importantly all profits from both the OCC3 and FFFT are donated to the NHRAA for conservation use.

Has the OCC been very successful in the past?  Do you have any future plans to expand or change the event at all?

The first year it was a pretty small event, we had around 15 competitors. Last year was almost 40. We were able to give several hundred dollars to the NHRAA, so I think any time you can assist with a group like the NHRAA, its a success. I believe many competitors would agree that the events have been a success in the past as well and that's important, because if nobody participated then the event wouldn't exist. Each year we have had a great group of anglers come out, I see a lot of commrodary in the group too, its an excellent when anglers come together and get enjoy the sport as a group. 
Every winter leading up to the event I get more and more ideas for the OCC. This year was the addition of the Fly Fishing Film Tour. The whole event is really a celebration of another opening day, finally getting to start working on all the things you were thinking of doing all winter long. In the short term, I'd like to include a team event too. Where 2 anglers fish as a team. I always enjoyed team competition. Looking down the road I would like to host a series of events over the course of the season. Perhaps a warm water species event and a cumulative final points event. 
You have been instrumental in bringing the Fly Fishing Film Festival to Middlebury as part of the Otter Creek Classic. How did that all come about?

The FFFT is a great event, I used to go see the movie when I lived in Colorado. I wanted to expand the OCC event a bit, but I wanted to have something that anybody could participate in, not just a fly angler. People who are just fans of fishing or the outdoors will enjoy the movie. With all of the profits going to the NHRAA, conservation has never been so easy. Patagonia and our sales rep Peter Whitney were pivotal in bringing the event to Middlebury. Patagonia is a strong supporter of both events and watershed conservation in general.

When will the FFFT be hitting town and where can people get tickets?

Middlebury Mountaineer and Patagonia will be hosting the FFFT at the Marquis Theater, on Main St, in downtown Middlebury on April 8th, 2011 at 7:30pm. Competitors of the OCC are having a pre-event meeting that night at 6:30pm at Middlebury Mountaineer and will be headed over to watch after the meeting. Tickets for the FFFT are $10. You can buy tickets in advance at the Middlebury Mountaineer, (802)388-7245, we will also have a will call for people traveling to the event. A few tickets may still available on

Let’s get back to some fishing… What do you personally want to catch that you haven’t caught yet?

Well the list is long but high on that list would be a ocean run salmonid, either steel or salmon and a gar. There are several fish I have caught, but not in this region, that I would like to get to the net. Muskie and Carp are big on that list. 
Is there some fishing you really want to dial in better this year?

I really just want to keep growing as an angler. I still can walk away from an productive day on the water and feel like I could have done some things better. There are a few VT water systems I would really like to understand better.

Anything else that comes to mind?

Jesse working a seam for trout this winter while fishing with me
I am optimistic for the future of fly fishing, but we must continue to work hard to maintain our fisheries. Fly fishing historically has set a lot of boundaries. I felt for awhile that fly fishing was a very privileged sport. A certain amount of “snobbery” exists. As the sport progresses, its refreshing to see affordable equipment, anglers of all tactics sharing water, and a younger crowd starting to show more interests. The stereotypical vision of a old man standing in the river, with hip waders on, casting only dry flies to rising trout is starting to fade. The new wave of anglers are scouting for carp or bass, or learning to throw Skagit style spey rods. Its that next generation that is really important. If we can't spark interest in fishing in age of smart phones, all the work and tradition will be slowly lost. The “A River Runs Through It” generation is coming to an end, so whats next? Climate change is warming our water and native stocks of fish are being wiped out, replaced with put and take fisheries. Every angler who loves their sport needs to do what they can so we can not only maintain what we have accomplished but make it better for everybody yet to come.

Thanks for having me Drew

Jesse- the pleasure is all mine!  If you are in the Middlebury, VT area and are looking for a trout guide or some fly fishing gear the Middlebury Mountaintaineer should be the place to stop! I am definitely looking forward to spending some more time on the water with Jesse this year myself.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Orvis Podcast:Fly Fishing for Pike

 You should definitely take a listen to this week's Orvis Podcast with Tom Rosenbauer (if you don't listen in weekly already, you probably should!). I think you might hear from someone you might be familiar with if you are on this blog.

Let me know what you think!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Interview: Cordell Baum Jr.- the Bonefish Whisperer!

Now that is a BIG bone...
So this will be a new feature on my blog- a weekly interview with another angler. To initiate this new endeavor I thought I would hit up Cordell Baum Jr. a.k.a the Bonefish Whisperer. I first heard about Cordell from my good friend Marty. Marty and his son Jake went down for a couple of days of guided fishing with him on Biscayne Bay about two years ago and they had a great time despite some crumby weather conditions. Marty said that Cordell and I were very much alike in many respects and we both love to fish for big fish out of a canoe.  Well, Marty has decided to get us together in about a month. I am heading down with him and his brother Tim for a few days with Cordell. So I thought it would be fun to let folks know a bit more about him.

How did you get started with fly fishing?

I started fly fishing around the age of 12yrs old I guess. My mother had remarried and we packed up and left the summer before 6th grade. My dad had always taken me fishing with him from Chesapeake Bay thru Hatterras so that was all I really wanted to do. I found a old bamboo fly rod and old reel among my step-fathers stuff. I only knew fly fishing from what I seen in those days, the early 70's, it wasn't much. I was more interested in all the insects and also how fisherman knew them. I also found a book on trout fishing and flies by Joe Brooks and used to study it and daydream. From that point I realized that my life had changed and my dad wasn't there to take me fishing plus everything changed radically such as species and environment. I would sneak the rod and I fished where ever I could find water. I was already fishing at extreme high level for my age with conventional gear since age 5 or so back south. My 1st fish was before I can remember but I know it was a "puppy drum"

Before heading down to Florida you were living and fishing in Alaska. How did you end up with the nickname “Rainbow Jesus” (watch this video to see him in action)?

I invented it while fishing on the Kenai River...was thinking about the song "Country Jesus" by ZZ Top while putting the wood to the rainbows and dollies...I have the exact moment on video...I 
liked it immediately, others not so much

So what made you decide to pull up your roots in Alaska chasing rainbows and salmon to move to South Florida to start all over again with the flats?
Cordell with a rare vegetarian bonefish

I would say fate...I had no plans on leaving Alaska for any reason, I hate traveling.  I met Angela and she was of course in Miami. I knew nothing of Biscayne Bay or anything pertaining to flats fishing here, nothing. I didn't believe there to be much action so I didn't even try until I lived here for 8 months...when I caught my 1st bonefish it changed everything I thought I knew about fish. My 1st bonefish was pushing upper 14lbs...wading!!! For me literally a life changing experience...
Bonefish are a staple for you, what would you say the big differences between the bones in the area you fish compared to those found in the Keys?  And what is the difference in fishing them?

I would tell you the Keys fish must be much easier than Biscayne Bay...I hear many stories of guys telling me how huge they are and how many they caught...usually the same guys that really struggle or can NOT catch fish here...the state records are NOT from the Keys, they are from Biscayne Bay...unless you try to weasel out on a line class record...I have never fished the Keys while here...I have never fished anywhere except right here in Miami, I don’t want easier fish. Same for permit. How many Biscayne Bay Permit do you see posted on fly? They are certainly here but much tougher to catch. I would say the difference is the Keys is a good place to learn so you can come here in the Bay and be ready.
A truly stunning permit!

Can you describe your style of fishing/guiding to everyone?
I am a fly fisherman above all else, not a guide. I guide because I get ask so many times to take people fishing or to help them out. I try to curtail the fish for the level of skill of the customer but it’s up to the customer to have their "A GAME", I fish with them just like I would fish alone and I often put them in situations that can expose your casting skills both good and bad, the truth is the truth and you might have to relearn things to be successful my way, I really on absolute speed in have 3 seconds to cast and get the fish if you want to be successful...I take the fish as they come, no chumming. Basically I am dialed in to the environment and have little say over what happens.. When fishing with me you are assured that you are on going all out and that I have all the experience needed to be successful. I have been 100% successful on EVERYTHING I have ever targeted, including multiple GRAND SLAMS of the Big 3...I am the only person in history to do this from a canoe fly fishing much less in Miami...

How many rods do you have rigged in your canoe at one time and what do you rig them with or for?
Usually 2 rods in the canoe while on the flats and even up to 3 rods...usually something like a 6wt-8wt-10wt...I would have the 10wt with a crab fly in all likelihood, a Dread or Speed Dart on the 8wt and perhaps a small top water on the 6wt... if taking only 1 rod I would take a 9wt and use a Electric Dread without question. The Dread with ensure that no matter what species you see you have a very good chance to score...I would use 20lb FC bite tippet to have a chance on tarpon and snook. I rarely go over 25lb bite tippet...
What are some of the most unusual fish you have caught out on the flats (so far)?

I would have to say the Sawfish. I got it out on the flats a couple yrs ago. it was approximately the size of the canoe, about 14ft...the thing is I got it on my 8wt and I think 10lb tippet...I was thinking that it was a lifetime catch but not much was said...Boxfish are kinda odd but fun to watch...
Alright, the photo I have seen that gets me the most excited shows you with a bull shark you landed on a fly while wet wading... please share the story about that fish....
Don't try this at home!

All true...the bull shark was maybe 7ft or so. Just before June each yr I notice the bulls gather in numbers at most every canal gate waiting for them to open and discharge freshwater. June begins rainy season and you can set your watch by it, it will rain June 1st no matter what and they know this....when Miami floods out they open the canals to drain the flooded streets into the can imagine the monsters that are waiting for this to happen...any fish that is in the canal will get dumped like peacock bass, cichlids, tilapia, mullet etc....this goes on for a good month or can count the huge dorsals from land because they are about 30ft from shore in water about 2ft...I got that shark while children where swimming and wading about 20ft away from me...I don’t recommend that anybody hold a bull shark like I did, you will probably get bit...his huge head is actually wedged between 2 chunks of coral and I had just removed the hook...actually I had the tail up so he couldn't swim and bite me and it looks like I am posing but not was a frozen action shot

It seems like you do a fair amount of canal crawling too- quite a variety of freshwater fish to be targeted as well. Do you have any favorite species?
Gorgeous exotics in the canals

The canals I fish all the time...I will even use the kayaks for peacocks in certain canals and I can also target salt or fresh water depending on where I fish...usually it is best to walk so you can constantly cast...I am about CATCHING fish not just using a canoe or kayak to say so...lots of times walking catches fish when all else fails and it sure is easier...most people I find basically refuse to fish it because they actually have to walk and do the work...the ones that use it like I do are the ones with fish pictures

What is it you enjoy about the freshwater fish?

I think it takes me back to a time of self discovery when my parents divorced I was very young. I fished to be like my dad. My dad never fished freshwater so I had to learn on my own. It was my escape and actually my entire life every summer...I worked to master bull gudgeons(bait) thru blue crabs and carp...looking back I was much too young to be alone fishing there. Also remember that for me here freshwater means peacock bass, jacks, snook and tarpon
I have heard you describe yourself as a “hack tyer” but it seems like you have come up with a few innovative flies of your own and they obviously catch fish… why do you call yourself a “hack”?

By refusing to learn to tie properly...I never learned the fancy knot to whip finish, even now I do 2 1/2 hitches to every fly I have ever tied. Also I have never used head cement but always rely on super glue for all my needs...I even coat my flies with superglue as a final touch...I have taught myself whatever it is I do...I see it like a backyard mechanic, there are good ones for sure but without the piece of paper stating you have went to school and been certified by instructors you will never really be considered a mechanic...I have 2 flies with their own link for the public to share and they both show in detail that all the rules are broken...yes, the flies do work
Can you tell me a bit about your go-to fly- The Electric Dread (sounds like a Sabbath song)- how did you get the idea?

I wanted to have a signature fly in Alaska for rainbow/ many tiers that are obsessed I made creations every single time I tied. Experimenting with new things I really liked the DEAN RIVER LANTERN.  Again the design shows my strong trout influence...sort of a nymph type ribbing and shell and also shrimpy look from Polar Shrimp took 2 years of thought to get it to its current status...also I did it out of spite to show all the naysayers I encountered here that they should shut up when it comes to me. I received nothing but grief from the get-go when I invented it and showed the locals with lots of jokes and laughing from my distracters. Now they sell at the fly shops and even bait stores here and I get people wanting me to send them out all the is without question the best fly IMO in all of Miami for Biscayne Bay, better than the Merkin and right there with the Clouser, like it or not. The Electric Dread has caught every single fish in Miami from the Everglades thru the flats and I have all the pictures to prove it.

Finally- what can a client expect out of a day (or three) with you on the water?

From me they can expect the truth and 100% effort. I take it as it comes. If you have booked a trip during high probability weather then you should expect to take shots at whatever is out there. If it is not meant to be then so be it. Bad weather will shut you down every time no matter who you are. Nobody goes fishing without getting shots more than me. The fisherman will get extensive insight as to why the fish are here or are not here and either way it goes they will be a better hunter with new perspective. If the fisherman can make a hookup the chance of a dream fish of a lifetime becomes very real and usually is the end result...I have never had anybody complain that caught fish. If they (the fish) are there then I am confident to find them but it is the CUSTOMER that must deliver at that point, remember I live and die with each fish with you, your victory is my the end of the day you will be spent no matter what. I routinely outlast every fisherman so you will be brought to your breaking point if that's what you want and maybe even if you don’t want it. I realize that I will have my work cut out for me with YOU and your goombas so I have been "secret training" for you guys. I am looking forward to finally meeting you in person and taking plenty of fish photos for my website.

Well Cordell, thanks for the interview and the three of us “goombas” are dying to get down there!  It is coming up quickly and we are all excited. To book a trip with Cordell, hit up his website. You aren’t going to be disappointed!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Pike Saber

First Pike Saber Pike back in September

Limb earning the nickname with the Saber
I have fished pike and musky for a long time now- my first pike on the fly was in 1994 and muskies followed a year or so later- so I have fished a lot of different rods. Now I have found my favorite! Last year PikeTrek came out with a line of rods specifically made for pike fishing- the Pike Saber. These rods have made a pretty big stir in the pike fly fishing community with folks like redneck pikemaster Ken Capsey, McFluffchucker himself Dave Lindsay and musky man Brad Bohen leading the charge.

Pike Saber Pike

I first got to try out the Saber last fall on a trip to one my favorite haunts with Mr. Capsey. Ken earned himself the nickname “Limb” during that trip for his uncanny ability to hook and land overhanging tree branches, but that is a story for another time. I really put the Saber to the test that day fishing with heavy flies and a sinking leader and also rigged up with a full sink line and one of Ken’s big Money in the Bank flies (pretty awesome fly by the way). The rod performed beautifully in both situations. Big Clouser Half and Half’s and tungsten cone heads were no match for the power of the rod. I could not wait to get a Pike Saber of my own after that!

The Pike Saber is a very fast action 10 weight rod. It loads very well and it is very accurate. Many other fast action rods are more like casting with a broom stick- if you don’t have a weighted fly it is a pretty unpleasant situation. This is not the case with the Saber. I have done a lot of casting out in the driveway with it because of the bloody snow and ice in this overly long winter we have had in Vermont.  The Saber loads well with just the line. Uncle Greg Strelley of PikeTrek  has recommended that you give the Saber a go with an 11 wt line to see it really flex it’s muscles- I intend on doing just that soon.

Landlocked salmon on the Saber
I have had it out on the water a couple of times in the past month in the few windows of opportunity for me to get out to chase pike. The combination of time off work, good weather conditions and open water has been limited. But I have put the Saber through the paces so far. One trip was exclusively for pre-spawn Esox. The river I fished gets a good push of fish up near a dam. Because of that dam the water remains relatively ice free all winter and provided a great spot to find fish. The first place I fished was a deep hole between two faster currents. Awesome spot to find pike and I did. But there was no room behind me to cast. I was a bit concerned about such a fast action rod being able to roll cast. I have to say that I am no longer concerned! It roll casted beautifully and I even was casting single handed spey with it. I missed a nice pike in that first spot but ended up landing a salmon (the story of that fish is on the Orvis News blog). 

I didn’t really get to test out the fish fighting abilities of the Saber with that landlock, but I did on some pike last fall and it worked well. I can’t wait to get some even bigger fish on it in April. Marty, Tim and I are heading down to Biscayne Bay for some on the water action with the Bonefish Whisperer. The saber is going after some sharks, barracuda, tarpon and jacks folks. I think those should be appropriate to put the Saber through some testing!
Welcome to the Dark Side....

On to the most controversial thing about this rod- the fighting butt. I have read things from people on some blogs and forums that say they won’t fish the rod because of the metal “Death Star” fighting butt. I say- get over yourself and think outside the box! It is not your typical terminal end to a fly rod but so what?  It works great and allows you to add weight to the rod to balance it out better. I think it is a great idea myself. Pike Trek has made accommodations for those of you who want a more traditional rod too- the Saber is now offered with a cork butt. Personally I don’t want to hold to tradition- I have gone fully to the dark side!  My black Saber has been matched up with a black Mirage V reel. I have felt a disturbance in the force and it is me!

To sum the Pike Saber up best is to tell you about Marty stopping by one afternoon and giving the rod a test cast. After the line flew through the guides the first time, he turned to me and simply said definitively “I want one”.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sharks and Cuda

The Bonefish Whisperer with the Bonefish Predator!

I am getting really excited about heading down to south Florida with Marty and Tim... really excited. It is now only a month off. I should have an interview up with Cordell Baum Jr on the blog here in the next few days. I do want to get into my first bonefish or maybe permit, but I have to admit that I am thinking about teeth. Sharks and barracuda my friends.... big predators, big teeth. Both fish are notoriously difficult to get on flies but that is not going to stop me from trying. I have a new rod and reel to try out- both are made to handle big boys like what I want to get. I will be putting up a review of the Pike Saber here shortly... great rod folks!

Anyway, since I have the "gun" I need, time to think about "bullets".  I think these should speak for themselves.
Shark fly- simple and effective

Pretty similar shark fly- on the TMC 600SP- great hook!

Big red shark fly- has bull shark written all over it!

'Cuda Tube Fly

Big Pike 'Cuda fly... love the pink!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Toad Puppy

Olive Toad Puppy

Last year I was toying around with a new streamer pattern. I wanted something big and juicy that larger browns would hammer. I had some specific goals in mind when I started designing this thing: it had to be big, have a big profile that would move some water, and it had to have a trailing hook. Ultimately I wanted something that was going to get those big browns really mad. They have a tendency to bite at things that invade their territory.

I took some inspiration from some of Kelly Galloup’s patterns I put together a 5” long streamer out of rabbit strip with a head from Hareline Dubbin’s Sculpin Wool. I used a nice big hook for the front- my favorite streamer hook the TMC 9394 in size 2 and I used some beading wire with a size 4 TMC 105 as the trailing hook (turned up). This combination with some copper flash and and rubber legs to help fill out the space under the wire worked out really well. I put in bead chain eyes and lead wire to weight it. 
Toad Puppy variety pack

Kevin and I put it to the test in late April of last year. It was a week after the trout opener and it had just rained. The rivers which had been fairly low and clear because of an early snow melt were on the rise and discolored from some rain. Perfect streamer weather. We put on our rain gear and headed out. We armed ourselves with 6 wt rods and put on Rio’s sinking Versi-leaders on the end of our lines. Those leaders are the bomb for getting flies down. I have a trick I use with them to make it a bit easier to work with huge streamers. I tie off about a foot or so of heavy tippet (15-20 lb) to the Versi-leader, tie a small swivel onto that, and then finish out with a couple of feet of 12 lb Mirage tippet. I use a non-slip mono loop knot to put the fly on the end of this rig.
Spot with Toad Puppy hanging from his jaws

We hit the river fairly early in the morning. The water was cold- about 40 degrees F- and stained grey with about a two foot visibility. Basically, it was great conditions for what we were trying to do. We headed to a place I knew a big brown was hanging out. I had caught him there the year before. Sure enough as I swung that fly through the hole he had been hanging out in I had a hard take. A few minutes later Spot was in my net and after a couple of pictures he swam away once again. Kevin had a hard take at the tail out of a pool a couple of hours later but a dulled hook spoiled his hookset.

The following day I headed back out to work the river again. I ended up landing two more fish- both browns- in a matter of 45 minutes of one another. I thought the second was a rainbow at first because of how it jumped. I would not have hooked that fish if it weren’t for that trailing hook too. Shortly after that I had another fish on.
Pike like the Puppy too!

Big trout like that are often called toads by anglers and I had told Kevin that we were going toadin’.  With that in mind my fiancĂ©e Beth came up with a name for the fly- the Toad Puppy. This fly has proven its worth on big browns (nothing under 20” so far!) and on pike. I haven’t tried it on bass yet, but I suspect it will be a killer.  If you are interested, I have them for sale on my website.  Time to get out toadin’ is just around the corner!