Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bowfun 2011 Begins

Kevin and I got out after some bowfin on Saturday. It was not as easy as it normally can be. Lake Champlain is super high- 102.6 feet when we fished it. That is 2.6 ft above flood stage and .4 ft over the previous historical high (set in 1869). Needless to say with 66 billion extra gallons of water fish have a lot more hiding places!  We found a few bowfin to play with though. Males guarding babies. Makes them a lot easier to find.

Bowfin are rarely described as pretty, but the colors on males in the spring are pretty spectacular. The bright emerald green on their fins and belly is just plain awesome. Some males even get tourquoise. Nice to get into some bowfun again! 

To make it even more cool, we were fishing along Interstate 89. Cars flying past, honking their horns. We even had people stop to take pictures.
Kevin's first bowfin this year.
Bowfin business end

The eyespot

Try to find that color on another fish in Vermont!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Revenge of The Gar

Lepisosteus osseus- Vengeance seeking fish.
This one was in my hand- about 2mm long
Last Wednesday I caught the largest longnose gar I have caught thus far- 48". Big fish. It definitely did some serious thrashing around when I landed it. I do remember it hitting me a couple of times, but I really didn't think anything of it. Until Thursday evening that is. I was climbing into bed when the heel of my right hand really hurt. I looked down at the small puncture wound I had there and it was looking infected. So I headed to the bathroom to get more light and a sterilized needle to drain the thing. As I squeezed something popped out- a gar tooth!  The thing got me!  Crazy!

On Saturday morning I was looking at this scrape on my elbow that I got last week. I thought it had been heeling really well but it seemed infected. I gave it a squeeze to drain it and out popped a much longer gar tooth!  Damn, the thing got me twice!  
This one was in my elbow... this one is about 6mm

I have to admit that I think it was pretty awesome that she got me back. It is even more cool that I ended up with a couple of teeth too. Not to mention that I carried them around with me for a while!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Angler Interview: Drew Price

Casting flies for pike early on (and rockin' some serious hair)
Alright, I screwed up and spent time fishing this week instead of getting an interview set up and take care of. Because of that, I am laming out and interviewing myself. It was either that or interviewing my fishing dog. I had a feeling I might have more to say than a toy poodle would. Besides, I wanted to keep her interview for later...

How did you get into fly fishing?

Well, I asked for a fly rod set up for graduation at college (the first time I graduated) back in December 1993. I had been a spin angler for a number of years and I wanted to try something different. I remember going out and trying to learn to cast. Total disaster. But I could tell that this was something I wanted to do. I got help from a buddy, Justin Rogers, later that winter so I could cast half way decently. I devoted a lot of time over the next few years to learning how to cast and catching fish. 

What was the first fish you caught?

I remember it well... I was fishing with my brother Pete on the Saranac River in Plattsburgh in May 1994. I had started tying my own flies and I had this stonefly pattern I had come up with- a pretty cool pattern that I should tie more of actually. I was drifting it along the edge of the river when WHAM!  I had a fish on. It ended up being a big male smallmouth. It was my first fish on a fly ever and on a fly I had tied. Once that happened, it was all over. 

So it sounds like you started tying flies pretty quickly then...

Absolutely!  Within a month of getting the fly rod I was totally obsessed. I had to learn how to tie flies. I went to the brand new Walmart in P-burgh (1993, first Walmart I ever went into) and they had this crappy little kit with a few tools and a bunch of materials. I got a book or two from the library and started to learn how to tie. I began to frequent the local fly shop- the Blue Goose or something like that. I got materials here and there. I ended up with a copy of the Orvis Fly Tying guide. That is the small book with the plastic binder so you can leave it open on your desk. 

I remember having one hell of a hard time with dubbing. I think that took me the longest to figure out. I wish I had some of those first flies. They were so awful.....

What were you targeting those first years?

Well, at first I didn't have a car so I was stuck fishing for whatever I could get to close by. I got waders from Hook & Hackle Company pretty quickly but of course I didn't spring for real wading boots. I fished in old Vietnam style jungle boots for a few years. I fished trout, bass and panfish for a few years. In the fall of 1993 I decided to try for salmon on the Saranac and I lucked out. My first fish was HUGE. I can still remember that fish- a big hen. It was about 10 pounds and still chrome from coming out of the lake. A truly amazing catch considering that I didn't really know what I was doing. I lucked out.

Overall though, it was mostly trout, panfish and bass. I learned a lot, caught a lot of fish, and had a lot of fun. 

When did the bigger fish come into the picture?

That didn't take too long. I got a Cortland 7/8 weight rod in 1995 and started tossing big streamers for bass and pike. I was using commercially made wire leaders then.... they work, but not that well for tossing flies. I ended up catching more than a few pike on that rod. That started the obsession.

Did you have a boat in those early days?

Nope. My first watercraft was a float tube. I used to spend a lot of time in that thing. Before I had a car I would carry it through downtown Plattsburgh to the lake and kick it around near the mouth of the Saranac. I caught pike down there frequently and a few bass. 

I also remember getting scared to death by carp. I was out there float tubing. I was (and still am) nervous in a float tube. Those things are not for me! I hate them actually. Anyway, I was sitting there getting ready to fish and something big hits the tube. I flipped out, yelled and started kicking for my life. These worm drowners on the bank got a good laugh out of that. It was just one of the big carp out there bumping into me.

Things changed once you got a car though.....

Oh yea.... my first car! The Acadian! My grandmother gave me her old car- a Pontiac Acadian- the Canadian version of a Chevette. Fun little car. No power, had some issues, but it got me to the fish! I started fishing all over- went to the Ausable, fished all over the Saranac drainage, high mountain streams in the Adirondacks, all sorts of places on Lake Champlain. It was great.  I was still limited to fishing most places by foot though. 

I did take the float tube around. I will never forget when Justin and I decided we wanted to fish Butternut Pond for pike. Butternut is south of Plattsburgh near the town of Peru. It had a reputation for big fish but since it was the town of Peru's water supply it didn't have a dock or easy access. What you had to do was to park on the side of Route 9 then climb a fence, run across Interstate 87, climb another fence and you were on the water. Imagine doing that with a fly rod and a float tube. Classic right? It fished great though... lots of pike. I remember a big slab of a crappy too.  It did have some big fish in it. Funny to think that New York state had tried to stock it with rainbows for 5 or 6 years in the 1970's.... they never took. Gee, I wonder why....

Any other good float tube stories?

Sure thing.... I used to fish the lake a fair amount and I would get some nice pike doing that. So much fun getting pike in the tube. I always hated having my feet dangling in the water though. They do let you get close and stealthy to your target species but I have to admit that I have this completely irrational fear of crocodiles. Yea, I know, there aren't any in Lake Champlain. That is why it is called an irrational fear. I was going to SUNY Plattsburgh again to get a degree in Environmental Science at that point too, specializing in limnology (the study of freshwater ecology). I definitely knew that there was nothing that could get me. I just hate not being able to see what is underneath me when I am in the water. I freaked myself out a lot.

One time I remember fishing close to a boat ramp in the tube. This guy started to launch his Sea-doo. There is a no wake zone from boat ramps to about 300 yards into the lake. This no brain guns his wavemaker right off the bat, going from zero to up on plane in a matter of 2 seconds. I got hit with that wave. Hit hard too. It almost flipped me over. If you have ever been in a float tube you know that you are kind of strapped in to it. If I went over I would have drowned. Reason #2 for hating tubes. Reason# 1,293,784 for hating personal water craft (worthless things, absolutely worthless in my book).

I remember going to fish in Wilmington, NY with Justin again in that tube. I tried to walk out in some mud to fish an impoundment on the Ausable. Ever tried to walk in a float tube with fins on while carrying a rod?  Doesn't work well. I ended up face down in the mud. Reason #3 that I hate float tubes now.

What ever happened to that tube?

Well, funny story that.... I decided to get out fishing one day in Plattsburgh. This was in 1998. I went to the lake, and after fishing that I drove up to the Saranac to hit some smallies. Great day fishing the smallies if I remember correctly. As I walked back to my 'vette, I saw this huge blue thing in the back of it. I thought to myself "I didn't have anything blue back there..."

Oh yes Drew, you did.... the outer nylon of the float tube was brown and tan but the inner bladders were blue. I left my float tube sitting in the back of a hatchback car on a hot, sunny day. The air expanded and it ripped through the outer nylon of the tube. That thing was the size of a Homer Simpson dream doughnut by the time I found it. I got a good laugh. I held onto that float tube cover for many years though, thinking I would fix it. I finally threw it out a few years ago. Good riddance. 

Salmon fishing was a huge part of your second stint at college, wasn't it?
Saranac salmon... a pretty typical fish...

Oh yeah... the glory years of salmon fishing on the Saranac. The sea lamprey control program had gone through an introductory period and its effectiveness was proving itself. Everyone was dumping tons of salmon into the lake and its tributaries as well. Landlocked salmon were everywhere. 

I was able to head down to the river after class in the fall and chase gorgeous fish. It was unreal. I taught myself how to make sink tips out of pieces of shooting head and I would use those to get my flies down to where the salmon were hanging out. I got the system down well. There were a lot of returning fish that were really interested in hitting my flies too!  Just amazing fishing. 

I had this really simple fly I called the Salmon Slayer. All it amounted to was a piece of rabbit strip lashed on to a salmon hook with chenille for the body. I tied it in white and yellow. It was a killer!  Especially the white one. Between that fly, Mickey Finns and (especially) Marabou Black Ghosts, I found what I needed to get the spawning run fish to take. It was unreal.

What about winter fishing the Saranac? 

I figured out that there were salmon and browns in the river after the spawn. They would stay there all winter to feed. Folks call these fish black salmon. They aren't the nice, pretty fish you see in the spawn. These are fish that are dark and want to eat. They do take nymphs but in early and mid winter I liked to use streamers. Really sparse streamers at that.

I would rig up my rod with a sink tip and some fluorocarbon (I got into that stuff quickly thanks to H&H) and swing streamers. I would nail some gorgeous fish from some of the pools I knew well, in particular the pool at the head of Webb Island. That pool is totally different now though. Used to be a nice pocket right at the head of it that would hold big browns and salmon. When Kurt Budliger and I fished it this past winter it wasn't what it once was.

Warm spells during the winter were awesome. A little bit of warming (upper 30's to low 40's) would get the fish going. I remember stripping back streamers through Allen Street Pool and getting gorgeous salmon mid winter. Nymphing produced a lot too. The one fish I never caught was a steelhead though. They just didn't show up for me. I did get one in the spring time near the mouth of the river, but never upstream where lots of guys told me they would get them. I know they are there. In 2000 someone got a 13 lb steelie down near the Broad Street bridge. One hell of a steelhead for Champlain.

You keep talking about Hook and Hackle Company... did you work for them or something?

As a matter of fact, I did. I worked for them in the spring of 1998 just after I graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh with a degree in Environmental Science. It was an awesome experience. I worked with all sorts of materials and got to see a lot of different equipment. The owners were awesome to me and I got some great deals on goodies. I loved that place. It has since sold to some equally great folks who moved it down to Pennsylvania.

More of my fishing past coming at some later point (when I forget to get my act in gear again...)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Nice big gar
I got out with a buddy today and we got into some fish, but the top dog of the day was this puppy.... not a bad fish huh?  Let me make it even more interesting.... on a Zombie (one of my special patterns) on a 6 wt Orvis TLS with 3X Mirage tippet- no bite tippet.  She chomped right down on it as it swam by. One hell of a fight later I beached her and got these shots.
48", 12 pounds- my biggest longnose gar so far... so far...

Gorgeous fish

Look at them teeth!

Pretty pleased!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Springtime Smallies

I just had a piece go up on Orvis News.com about fishing spring smallmouth bass. Now is the time folks, read up and if you want some help I am available to guide you too- just go to my website MasterClassAngling.com!

Springtime Smallies

My latest Master Class smallmouth bass- 19"!  Hit me up, I can get you into some of these!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Variety Pack

Got out yesterday for some fishing over the weekend. Results were good. Variety pack!
Silver redhorse- always a blast!

First tench I have ever caught! (good and bad news both)

Early season longnose gar!

Second tench- they look like the unnatural cross between a smallmouth and a carp!

The redhorse like the Meggi Juan Kenobi (a super big version of the EJK)

Kurt got into a nice bass!

Apparently it was a crappie day too!

Kevin gets in on the tench action!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Angler Interview: John Parise

Some good winter fishing for John
I ended up with a friend request on Facebook from some guy named John Parise about a year or so ago. I accepted it and it didn't take long for me to see how passionate this guy was about fly fishing. I have chatted with him a number of times and since I wanted to keep this Friday Angler Interview about anyone that enjoys fly fishing, I thought I would hit him up this week.  Here it is!

How did you get into fly fishing?
   I think I got my first fly rod when I was in grade school. I was probably about 10 or 11, and it was a Shakespeare 4pc kit I bought at K-mart with money from my paper route.  It went unused because I realized that I realized that I'd have much less of a learning curve fishing with a spinning rod, and catching trout was much easier for me with the spin outfit at that time in my life. Fast forward about 10-12 years, I'm living in the north west corner of NJ, and I'm surrounded by trout water, and seeing guys catch trout on the fly made me decide I wanted to do that too.  After my first trout on the fly, I've never looked  back.

New Jersey isn’t often thought of as great fly water, but I know it has its share of fish. Tell me about your home waters.
Gorgeous wild NJ brown

   My local water is the Big Flatbrook. It's a 28 mile gem of a stream, which flows through state and federal lands, so development is minimal, and wildlife abounds.  In my opinion it has the potential to be one of the top trout fisheries in the state, but because of the fact that it is a largely put and take fishery, finding fish in the heavily trafficked sections outside of the stocking season is frustrating.  Where I live in Sussex County I am lucky enough to be very close to PA and NY and some incredible fishing opportunities in both states.

Dry fly, wet fly, nymph or streamer? (or a combination)

   If I had my druthers, it's dry flies all day, but being a realist I know that is not always the case, so I tend to employ all of them, and stick with the one that produces the best at that given time.
As you know I am a bit of a warm water nut. What kind of warm water options are available in the Garden State?

  Take your pick!  We've got 'em all from carp to crappie, and bluegills to bass( LMB &SMB).  My usual time for targeting warm water species is when it gets too warm to trout fish.  I've got a few nice local ponds and lakes I frequent for bass, and pickerel, and haven't even begun to scratch the surface on all of them.  Last year I spent a lot of time on the mainstem of the Delaware River, targeting smallies.  It's a great fishery for them, and most all came to hand on my own ties, so that's a real kick for me! 
I have been told there are some great options in the Pine Barrens- is that someplace you have hit up? And if you have…. Have you run into the Jersey Devil yet?

   Unfortunately, my knowledge of the Pines is limited to the times I drive through them on the way to vacation at the shore.    
   As far as the Jersey Devil, all I can say is not YET!!!
You got up to the Delaware this spring for a float. Can you tell me about that?

West Branch of the Delaware
    Sure.  I do a trip with 18 guys to the West Branch of the Delaware in the Catskills in early May.  We do it pretty nicely too, we stay in cabins right on the river, eat and drink and smoke cigars like kings, and fish early and often.  Most years the  flows are decent enough to wade comfortably, somewhere in the range of 400-800 cfms.  This year however, we had major rains the week prior to our trip, and the river crested over 10,000 cfms.  So at that point we knew that wading would not be in the picture for some time.  We arrived to camp in the rain, and the river was down, but still flowing at 4500+cfms.  The first official day of camp found 90% of the group driving to find fishable water, the second day however was a different story.  One of my buddies has access to a drift boat, and we floated 12 miles of the river.  We fished hard and pounded the banks with big articulated streamers, and were able to boat 3 fish.  Now some guys may say "damn, only 3 fish" but I will say that a 12 mile float with no fish would have been a LOOOOONG day.  It was a good day with great friends and I look forward to doing it again
I know from conversations that you tie your own. How long have you been tying?

   I've been tying for about 2 years now and really enjoy it.  I really wanted to start tying my own, after many seasons of buying flies that would produce fish, and realizing that I could tie them just as well, and not have to pay up to $2 per fly.  I was lucky to have to major upgrades in my tying in the last year.  The biggest of which was a dedicated tying area, in the basement portion of the addition I put on my house last winter.  I share the office with my wife, and my half was turned into my tying area.  The 2nd was the purchase of a new vise.  I got a Regal Medallion in March and absolutely love it! 
Sweet caddis John!

What do you enjoy tying up most?
   I enjoy tying everything really, but if I had to pick one thing specifically, it would be streamers, and the bigger the better. I can crank em out, and I find you can incorporate much more of your own personality into them, versus a traditional dry or nymph pattern,

Tell me about what your local Trout Unlimited group does? I know that some folks would think that you guys might be busy removing mob victims from your streams, but I am sure the reality is a bit different?
John with a nice Delaware brown

  We do A LOT!!!!  We are currently involved in a major effort to improve my local stream the Big Flatbrook.  We are doing things such as stream cleanups and riparian buffer plantings, we've also started a float stocking program which covers a little more than a mile of river.  It in my opinion has really improved the fishing over that stretch, due to the fact that now people are forced to walk away from the "normal stocking points" and actually look for fish.  We are also in the permitting stages to do some major in stream restoration work in the a portion of the river that we are stocking.  We have contracted a company to do the work, and hope to be doing  the work in the coming months.  I will tell you that we have found some very interesting things on our cleanups, but mobster bodies aren't on the list!
Has it been difficult for you to find people to help you out?

   As far as volunteers go we are very lucky to have a great membership that is always willing to help, as well as folks from other chapters in the state.  I've noticed in my short time as an active member that there is a willingness to "cross volunteer" and help out another chapter with their projects, this I find to be a great thing.

Do you ever get a chance to hit the salt up?

Not as much as I'd like, but yes.  The closest salt water for me is a 100 mile trip one way, so when I do go I make a long day out of it.  I've had some super days fishing bait, and plugging, but have yet to catch a fish from the surf on the fly.  I hope to change that this summer!!!
So you are offered a trip anywhere to fish anything… where do you go and what do you target?
Back to Florida for some Poon!!!  A few years back, my wife, daughter and I visited a couple we are friends with in the Cape Coral area.   While the ladies were lounging pool/beach side, the fellas were out chasing fish.  I jumped two BIG ONES, but got none boat side.  It was a rush unlike anything I've ever experienced and would do it again in a second!
Alright, being from Jersey, I have to ask you… have you hooked Snooki (or hooked up with her)? Or would you be more inclined to hook into a snook?
   Definitely the fish...I gave up hunting trolls years ago ;>)

Monday, May 16, 2011

White Suckers Can't Jump

Beth pretty pleased with her sucker (no, not me).
…but redhorse sure do! I am sure that a lot of folks have seen that I am chasing suckers with a fly rod a lot. More than a few of you are probably asking yourself why?  Well let me tell you my reasons:

1)    They are a native fish! White suckers and redhorse suckers (more properly just redhorse) are native to the Champlain Valley. As a matter of fact the white sucker is the most widely distributed fish in Vermont. The fish reproduce naturally and have very stable populations. While I do enjoy fishing trout there is one undeniable fact- brown trout and rainbow trout are non-native fish (a side note- it irks me to hear of people saying that there are “native” browns- can’t happen- they are European!). I much prefer catching wild fish to stocked ones and I can promise you that there aren’t any stocked suckers in Vermont.
that's a big fish- the new state record actually!

2)    They get big. Really big sometimes. My biggest white sucker so far was that big female I got that tipped the scale at 6 lb 5.44oz. Last year I submitted 3 white suckers for the Master Angler Program- none under 20 inches. This year I have submitted 6- all from 19.5 to 25.25 inches. These are big fish. I have caught numerous smaller fish in the 15 to 18 inch range too.  Then there are the redhorse which get considerably larger. I have caught redhorse well over 10 pounds. I will use the more commonly fished for trout as a comparison- big trout are caught, but not in those numbers.
Rejoice over the fight a fish like this gave you!

3)    They fight hard. A big sucker will definitely put a bend in your rod and put a smile on your face. I am sure a few of you have hooked into a big sucker when you are trout fishing and thought you had a trophy brown, but yet were disappointed when you landed a big sucker. No disappointment here!  I am always pleased with the fight of these things. They will run and pull line off your reel. Redhorse jump too. Up in the air a few feet- yes I said a few feet. They are about as acrobatic as a rainbow at times.
I like dead drifted nymphs right on the bottom- R. Horse

4)    Challenging. Big suckers can be a challenge to get to take a fly. It isn’t that simple to get them to take. I know that if I am targeting suckers of any kind that I am in for some tough fishing. The fly needs to be right on the bottom and it needs to be absolutely dead drifted or they won’t be interested. They will change their forage habits too and there are times that you have to match the hatch to get them to take. I have run into big caddis egg laying events where the redhorse would only take a soft hackle fly that was similar to the drowned adults. Remember this- they feed on the exact same stuff that trout do.
If that isn't pretty, you have bad taste.

5)    They are handsome fish. Alright, someone is going to stop dead in their tracks and argue with me on this one, but hear me out first. I will admit that their faces are sometimes not the prettiest  ( but they are perfectly designed to do what they do- feed on the bottom)(and they are good kissers). The coloration on suckers can be downright gorgeous though. Male white suckers get a racing stripe down their sides when they are in spawning mode. Look at close details of sucker scales. The intricate patterns are very eye pleasing. Then there are the redhorse. The color of these fish is like aged bronze. And the fins. Oh the fins! Outside of tropical fish I can’t think of many freshwater fish that have such vibrant red coloration to them- especially in the fins.
That is a cool looking fish!

I love to fish for suckers. They are good looking native fish that get big, fight hard and can be tough to catch. What more could a guy like me ask for?  Oh yea, they are all over the place and not that many other people fish for them. That helps too.
Scale detail of Catastomus commersoni

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Friday Angler Interview- Mike Daley a.k.a The Rusty Spinner

(Editorial note- Again, this was not published on Friday- between Blogger being down for over 30 hours this week and a lot to do, I was not able to post this interview on Friday... but I will still keep striving to get interviews done on Fridays when I am able to!)

Hendrickson hatch brownie
One of the great things about the interwebs are the ability to network with other folks with similar interests. I was very fortunate to have been introduced to Mike Daley who writes a popular blog called The Rusty Spinner. We share a lot in common and have had a lot of conversations- but not in person yet! Mike is a great angler that I look forward to spending some time with. He has is own take on things and tends not to mince words too. Check out his blog when you have the chance.

How did you get your start in fly fishing?

I started fly fishing the way so many other bug chuckers do; my father taught me. That is to say that he taught me as best he could. My dad was never a fly fisherman, but for whatever reason, he put a fly rod in my hand when I was just six years old. I distinctly remember catching my first trout on a fly that year. It was July of 1979, and an eight inch Battenkill brown took my hendrickson dry just downstream of what is now the covered bridge museum in Shushan. My great-aunt and uncle owned a home there, and I spent nearly every weekend that summer trying to repeat the miracle. i don't remember it happening. Everything aside from Dad's initial casting lessons came from books and time on the water.

You grew up in an area of New York that is noted for some great fishing and you fished hallowed waters (the Battenkill) from an early point. How would you rate the river today compared to yesteryear?
Yesteryear? Wow, am I really old enough to have fished in yesteryear? I guess I am. (yes Mike, you are...)

Truth be told, the Battenkill has never been quite the fishery that its reputation suggests. That isn't to say that there aren't a lot of fish. The fish are most certainly there. That isn't to say that there aren't some big fish. They're also there, and in surprising numbers. What characterizes the Battenkill - and to my memory has always characterized the Battenkill - is that the fishing can be very, very difficult.
One of the problems facing the river is a general lack of mid-stream and bank-side cover. As a consequence of this, crystal-clear water, and relatively high fishing pressure and recreational use, the fish are extraordinarily wary. Nowhere else in the country have I seen a seven inch brookie follow a #20 BWO imitation for seven or eight feet downstream, only to turn away at the last moment. I've always been of the opinion that if an angler can catch fish in the Kill, then he or she can slay them just about anywhere else.

I'll take a moment here to say just how pleased I am with all the work being done on the Vermont side of the river. The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, Trout Unlimited, and the Orvis company have devoted enormous sums of money and quite a bit of time to improving the fishery. Over the past two or three years, they've been installing woody debris along the river's banks. This is what is needed to reduce mortality (as a result of predation) among yearling fish. The state stopped stocking the river years ago, and installed no-kill regulations along much of the river's length. The result is a burgeoning population of native brook trout, and more frequent catches of young browns, which were rare a few years ago (again as a result of predation ... damn mergansers).
Dry fly upstream, nymph with indicator, wet fly swung or stripped streamer? (and why?)
I love it all, but if conditions are right I will always run a streamer first. There are few things I've experienced as a fly flinger, that I think compare to the thrill of a big fish attacking a big fly. And it's not only the initial take that so impresses me, but also the visual nature of the experience. Just as it's a thrill to see the upturned snout of a large brown trout take a dry off the top, so too is it a thrill to see a large fish charge through the water in pursuit of a stripped streamer. The experience has - with some frequency - left me shaking, smiling, and disappointed all at the same time.
Hendricksons are coming off right now and it seems like you are having way too much fun out on the river… is this your favorite hatch of the year or is there another that gets you just as excited?
Sulphurs, drakes, olives, trikes, and ephrons ... I love them all, but there is something special about the Hendrickson hatch. In my neck of the woods, the Hendrickson is the first mayfly to emerge that has the effect of bringing genuinely large trout to the surface. It is also the first hatch after what has been a long, cold winter. I look forward to it for months, and have been known to grade my whole season based on the strength of the Hendrickson hatch.
You just joined the switch rod revolution. So Che Guevara, tell me what you think of it and some applications you are thinking about beyond the typical anadromous fish that are normally targeted with these rods.
Che was a maniac and a murderer, and every teenager who wears a Che T-shirt should be punched square in the face - by a twenty year-old Mike Tyson - for idolizing the devil. (See? I told you Mike doesn't fool around...)
Having said that ... switch rods are sublime fishing tools. They are versatile in ways that single-handed rods simply cannot be, and as such, their application goes well beyond steelhead and salmon. I fish my 11' 8# switch for run-of-the-mill stream trout. Even though the rod is marked as an 8# and throws a 450 grain line with authority, it has an incredibly soft tip and allows me to play smaller fish as I would with a 4# or 5# singlehander. I can perform single speys, double speys and snap-Ts with little effort, and all these casts come in handy when there isn't room for a backcast (there often isn't any room on the rivers I fish). I also use the rod when fishing from my pontoon boat. The added length helps me keep line off the water, and to get just that much more distance when I really need it. This is a bonus when carp fishing, and getting too close is sure to spook the fish.
Many folks come to you with questions about Orvis CFO reels and indeed your blog has a section devoted to these classics. How did you get into them?
When I was a boy - and to a certain degree even now - I was fascinated by fishing magazines and catalogues. I remember having once sent away one of those little cards Orvis used to include in so many publications. You know the ones ... three dollars for ten flies, a fleece fly wallet, and a three dollar coupon on an order. Well, I sent away the card, included three dollars cash in the envelope, and have received an Orvis catalogue ever since (shrewd marketing). 
Those catalogues were my first introduction to the CFO, and I have admired the reel ever since. I started my collection when I went to work for Orvis in the old red clap-board store in Manchester, Vermont. The new store is beautiful, but I've some really fond memories of the old place.
What makes CFO reels so special to you?
The CFO is special for several reasons. Foremost, it is an incredibly simple yet efficient piece of engineering. It does its job incredibly well. I like to think of the CFO as the Hardy Lightweight perfected. It uses a check mechanism that is similar to the Hardy reel, but the CFO's spool sports an exposed rim that allows for palming. Early versions of the CFO were among the first mass produced reels, which were machined from solid aluminum stock whereas the Lightweights and most other reels were cast. There's a certain elegance to the porting, as one would expect of a reel designed by Stan Bogdan. The many variations and "special editions" appeal to the collector in me. The prize of my collection is a gold anodized and hand inscribed variant that was manufactured and sold in 1979; the reel is absolutely mint, and I have its original case and paperwork. The chronology and history I've included on my blog (http://therustyspinner.blogspot.com/p/history-of-orvis-cfo_03.html) was a labor of love, and I suppose that more than anything else it is that history that draws me to the reel.  
Very Carpalicious!
We have talked about alternative species a lot and you seem to have the warm water bug for this year. What are some of your plans (without giving away locations)?
As much time as I spent fishing the Battenkill when I was a boy, I spent many hours more fishing the Hudson and its tributaries for bass, pike and carp. It wasn't a question of preference or passion, but rather opportunity, availability, and mobility. As a kid, I relied on my father for a ride to the Kill; the Hudson was right down the street. I'd like to get back to those warmwater roots a little bit this year. Pike are definitely on the agenda, as are carp and bass. I'll chase them in the Hudson as I always have. I'd like to take a largemouth in excess of eight pounds. That one is probably a pipe dream, but not impossible given the water I fish. Bowfin and musky are on the list, but it's anyone's guess if I'll have the time to make those trips. 
What is it that has you so excited about these species?
Smallies on the top!

As I mentioned, chasing warm water fish hearkens back to my youth just a little bit. So I suppose there's some nostalgia there. The real appeal, however, is two-fold. First, the fish are nearby and readily accessible. I can walk out my front door, hop in my car, and in five minutes be rigged up and tossing flies for pike, bass or carp. Second, the size and power of these fish can leave a bug chucker shaking in the bow of a boat. It's about the pull, the explosion only a truly big fish can provide.
Okay, you are offered a dream trip with unlimited budget. Where are you going and what are you fishing for? (my money is on farm pond bluegills….)
Oooooooh. So many options. Unlimited budget means unlimited stops along the way, right? Kamchatka comes to mind. New Zealand is almost cliche, but hey ... it's freaking New Zealand. The UK for carp. Mexico for bass. Canada for pike. Wisconsin or New York for muskies. Mongolian taimen ... Costa Rican sailfish and roosterfish ... I really dig roosters. Amazonian peacocks ... and whatever the hell else will chase a fly in the Amazon.
And yes, I'd finish it all off fishing for farm pond bluegills ... with my three kids ... probably be the highlight of the trip.
Ben Jose- pretty fish, not so pretty man...
This is something I think about a lot: you and I have not met yet. Our mutual friend Ben Jose introduced us on Facebook and we have had a running dialogue and many phone chats since then. I feel like I know you already. So do you think that social media has a big role in fly fishing, for good or ill and what do you see that role evolving into?
Likewise Drew. I'm glad Ben made the introduction, and I look forward to the day we might flog some water together. 
I don't think one can over-estimate the impact of social media on our sport. The internet, blogs, Facebook, Twitter ... these technologies may seem frivolous at times, but I'm at loss to think of any other institution or invention that has done so much to bring together so many varied and oftentimes disparate ideas. The new media gives us a new perspective, and new ways of doing things. Consider, for example, tenkara fishing. Tenkara would not be what it has become without the internet, blogs, and Facebook. 
If there is any drawback to social media it is that it lacks, and - to my way of thinking, at least - cannot provide that most essential quality of human interaction ... the ability to look another man or woman square in the eye, shake his or her hand, and know that you've met a person to be trusted. Anglers - competent anglers especially - are suspicious by nature, and inclined to carry their secrets to the grave. The only way to ever truly learn anything from these men and women is demonstrate the strength of one's character. I don't know that this can happen in a Tweet or weblog.
Where does it all go? If I knew that ... I'd be a wealthier man.  
You had the steelhead bug pretty badly this past winter. I was hoping to get out with you one day. Tell me about your season.
Happy Birthday Mike!
I have the steelhead bug even now, Drew. I don't know hat it ever goes away. I imagine steelhead to be the piscatorial equivalent of heroine. Have it once, and it's all you'll think about until you get your next fix. 
This season was by far my most successful - if success is to be measured in terms of the fish brought to hand. I don't necessarily know why I did so well. It may be that there are more and better fish in the river than there once were. This certainly seems to be the case, but I haven't any empirical evidence to prove the point. It may be that I'm just a better steelheader than I used to be. God knows that I like to think that I've managed to improve over the years. It may just be that I spent more time on the water this fall and winter than I ever had previously, and if there is any single universal truth in fly fishing it is that you can't catch fish if you haven't a line in the water.
How does it feel to be labeled a “dirty ass nympher” in the minds of some steelhead aficionados? 
Dirty Ass Nymphing works...
It hurts Drew. It really, really hurts. Even now I can feel my eyes welling up with tears.
Actually, to anyone that would make the mistake of trying to label me, I would suggest they find better ways of wasting their time. Do I nymph for steelhead. Yep, sure do, but I swing flies too. And truth be told, I tie cleaner and more elegant traditional spey flies than most of the guys who would choose to brand me as a dirty-nympher (that's more a comment on their lack of skill than it is my particular prowess).
I wrote something a while ago about this very thing ... http://therustyspinner.blogspot.com/2011/01/open-letter-from-dirty-nympher.html
Finally, are you going to be able to show the error of the trout snob way to Ben or do you think you will have to beat it out of him? (Ben cannot see the point of fishing for anything but trout and salmon- for being a relatively bright human being he can be obnoxiously stupid at times)
Ben's a good man. He'll come around. If I can just get him into that first carp ...

Friday, May 13, 2011

New State Record White Sucker!

Gorgeous white sucker!
 On Monday I went to the post office and mailed out some paperwork to the state fisheries biologists and I just got confirmation- I am the current holder of the state record for white sucker (Catastomus commersoni)!  This beast of a fish is a whopping 6.34lbs (or 6 lbs 5.44 oz if you prefer). It was 25 1/4" long with a girth of 14" around the dorsal. Folks, this is one of the biggest white suckers I have ever seen and I have seen a lot (and targeted them for years). To give you some comparisons, the IGFA All Tackle World Record for white sucker is currently 6lb 8oz. My fish is about 2.5 oz from the world record. They don't get much bigger than this!
How is that for a big sucker?

Before you ask, yes, I was intentionally fishing suckers with a fly. Yes, I am crazy. No, I am not the only one who does this (right Jean Paul?). Yes, I will do a lot more of it in the future (like this weekend).

Eggi-Juan Kenobi firmly in place
A big thank you to Dave Hise of Casters Fly Shop for coming up with the Eggi-Juan Kenobi fly. That thing is a killer on lots of fish, but especially on suckers. I am hoping to play with a few redhorse this coming weekend on those things!

I did have to keep the fish because it was a record. I did feel some remorse for removing such a large, old fish from the wild but the species is in no immediate danger (being the most widely distributed fish in Vermont). I promise that I didn't just huck the fish off a bridge or something though: this sucker shall live on! My friend Al Moorehouse took the fish and is doing a skin mount for me. Thank you Al- for all your help!!!! (Name suggestions are welcome!) 

This feels magical!

Gives us a kiss Precious!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It's Pickin' Up!

My first of the season!
The season is getting going- better late than never. After record flooding and fairly high water levels in many Vermont streams and rivers things are finally pulling back together. More importantly- the fish are on!

I headed down to "the Creek" and found it surprisingly uncrowded. Very nice to see but indeed unusual for the past year or so. I did see one guy and quickly realized it was Tyler from Classic Outfitters. Just before I went over to talk to him I hooked up with my first smallmouth of the season- a spunky 18" hen with a round belly full of eggs. Pretty sweet!
Tyler "swinging" for gar

As I walked down to see what Tyler was up to, he said "Do you have any gar flies?" and pointed to a 3 foot fish in shallow water. He had it slash at a Zonker a couple of times but it stopped responding to it. I set him up with a Clouser I had that I thought might get the fish interested. I should know better and carry gar flies with me- this isn't the first time I have seen these critters around in May.  Despite my help the gar wouldn't eat. 

My first MC smallmouth this year (not the last!)
I got another nice fish- this one 19.5", a Master Class smallie! Just what I was after! After a couple of photos she went back in. My guess is that she was about 3 lbs or so. This fish is what a lot of guys will tell you is a "5 pounder". Five pound fish can be found but they are a rarity to be honest and they are usually at least 22" or 23" long.

I got into another fish close to where the first one came from. Another gorgeous fish at 17" and it jumped quite a bit. Not two minutes after releasing that fish I had a bump... I thought it was a small fish when it first showed until it tail walked over a branch... this was a good one! It went in the air a couple of times and I brought it in. Another fat female but this one was a bit longer- 20.5"! This fish was pushing 4 lbs too. Very pleased about that!
That is a piggy! (I do mean the fish)

I told Tyler what I was doing and showed him the technique I was using to get their attention but for whatever reason they weren't responding for him. He did get a couple of nice bass on Sunday but sometimes these early fish can be fickle with color and presentation. The first fish that show up are female and they can be a bit more difficult than the males. They have a preference for different flies than the later fish do. If you want to find out what those flies are you will just have to hire me to take you out!

And so it begins....