Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Young Angler's Luck

A co-worker of mine approached me about guiding her son for some fly fishing action this past summer. Unfortunately we weren't able to get out during the warmer months because of scheduling but we made up for it this past Friday for some brown trout action. 

I had been a bit concerned about the weather. We really needed some rain and it looked like we were going to get it. As long as it wasn't too much then we were in good shape. Sure enough, it was just the right amount and when I picked him up first thing in the morning my words were "Today is going to be prime time in downtown brown-town!". Those words were echoed all day. 

The photos speak for themselves so I will let them tell the story for a bit:

Needless to say, he did great! For a 15 year old guy who has only ever caught one brown of 12" before he handled the rod masterfully! He did everything right and got the job done perfectly! Every fish he hooked he landed. So the respective lengths are 20.5", 22", 23" and 20". He got spoiled!  And almost all fish that day were landed on the same fly- a fairly nondescript nymph with a pink bead. Yes, I will be tying a lot more of those flies...

So in full disclosure, both his mom and he encouraged me to do some fishing while out with him. They both said that it would help him learn what to do better. I kept it to a minimum but I could not resist a few casts myself and I was rewarded:
One of the prettiest browns I have ever landed!

Egg stealing rainbow comes to hand!
It was an amazing day for sure. I felt really fortunate to have guided such a fun, smart, and attentive learner on what really amounted to the perfect day to be on the river. So, if you think about it his average brown trout is currently 19.5"... not too shabby!  This guy is going to be one impressive angler when he gets older (and he ain't half bad now!).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Water, Water Everywhere

Lake Champlain Current conditions as of 5/28/13
I was starting to get very concerned last week. Lake Champlain was at a level of just over 96 feet. It was warming up quickly and there were already pretty significant algae blooms in some of the places that I fish. Clear water, low water, lots of light, warm temperatures and lots of nutrients make for a pretty rich environment for algae to take hold. This spring had provided much of that and the nutrients came in two years ago with the record spring flooding and Tropical Storm Irene. That combination of factors got me very concerned about what was going to happen on the lake this year, both for fishing and guiding (and let's face it, they are pretty darn similar!). 

Lake Champlain conditions 8/27-9/7/2011
The weather pattern changed a bit this past week. A Nor'Easter rolled in. It dumped a ton of rain on us. We even got snow in the mountains (Mt. Mansfield got 2 feet). All that water needs to go somewhere and Lake Champlain is the basin into which it flows. And flow it did! In 5 days the lake jumped nearly two feet. The last time it did that was Irene. There are a lot of similarities to the impact of these two rain events on the level of Champlain and when you compare these two hydrographs it is pretty evident. Irene did it in about two days though.  Pretty similar amount of water; it is on the order of 200 billion gallons or so...

Pete with a nice male bowfin- look at the color of those fins!
Jump forward to Memorial Day. My brother Pete was hoping to repeat what we had done the week before. Nail some pike and bowfin. I was definitely ready to put some time on the water after being cooped up inside for several days with the nasty weather we had been having. I was a bit worried about the water conditions- especially the temps and muddiness. The lake temperature dropped 10 degrees down into the mid 40's but it was slowly climbing back up. The wind wasn't going to make things pleasant either. 

True to form the fishing was not the same. The pike weren't playing. The bowfin were hard to find- all that water allows them to spread out and with my style of sight fishing the muddy shores were making it quite difficult. Despite the conditions I still managed to get Pete on a couple of 'fins. Both were males and in spawning coloration. They are always fun. 

With the weather coming this week I think it could be a fantastic weekend to be on the water. If you want to get out this weekend please let me know. Lots of things are going on right now- bowfin, pike, bass, carp, gar... you name it it is moving right now!  Email muskyflies@gmail.com to book a trip!  Things will be booking up pretty fast this summer so get on it while you can!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May Weekend on the Water

I spent the past weekend on the water. Both days with folks I have known well for a long time. 
Scott working a usually productive corner bend...

Saturday was a gorgeous day. My friend Scott's wife Marlena had booked a trip with me for him as a birthday present. I was really looking forward to it! Scott wanted to brush up on his trout skills because he hasn't had a lot of time on the water lately because he is now a proud papa to two awesome little boys. Now I don't do a lot of trout guiding but I certainly can. So I brought Scott to one of my favorite smaller trout waters. It is loaded with wild fish and there are some real bruisers in there. 

The conditions were tough. We have not had much in the way of rain in the past 6 weeks or so. There wasn't a huge snowpack either and what we had melted off fairly quickly thanks to some spectacularly warm weather in late April and early May. This made the river low and clear. The fish weren't in their usual spots. Places where I would see a dozen fish most years were devoid of trout. Not good. Scot worked those spots and we kept going and going. 

Pete breaking the ice!
After taking a lunch break I decided to hit a different stretch on a whim. Scott had a couple of takes there but didn't get a hook set on either fish. Both looked like decent rainbows. We had another similar situation upstream and then a fish broke off. Moving to another river didn't produce any fish either. Low, clear water does not make trout fishing any easier. Scott was great about it but I do have to admit feeling badly for not putting a trout in his hands. Scott said that next year when he comes back I will get to choose what we chase... 

This pike's for you Cordell!
... and that is where Pete comes in. My brother and I got together on Sunday to chase big toothies out on the lake. I knew that we would find bowfin and pike so we got after it. It didn't take long to find fish. We had big bass all around, there were schools of panfish everywhere and the bowfin were all too ready to play. Pete got into one right off the bat. They are thick as thieves in the right spots right now. The really cool thing is that the males are in full spawn colors now. Turquoise fins and emerald bellies give these fish a really nice coloration. 

We nailed a bunch of bowfin and took turns switching spots so we both had a chance to put the cork to the fish. I got a nice pike too. I knew that is what Pete really wanted.
Pete's personal best bowfin of 28"

I started to have Pete work the shoreline. It was a pretty nasty day weather wise. A bit on the cold side and the wind (forecast to be 7-13 mph but was at least 15 with gusts pushing 25 or better) was not fun. The rain made it even more pleasant (huge dose of sarcasm in that statement). I had not been thinking when I got my gear together and I was in a short sleeve shirt and sandals. Pete was over prepared and had given me a jacket. 

I have to admit that I was doubtful that Pete was going to pick a fish up. There was a front rolling through and pike really don't care for unsettled weather too much. Well, I have to admit that I love being wrong in these situations! Pete got into a fish- a really nice one. He wanted very badly to get into a personal best. He definitely had that on here! A nice fish of 33" was landed. We got some pics and got it back in the lake. 
Pete's first personal best! 33"

We kept fishing and Pete picked up a couple more small ones. Then we got to one of my favorite spots. The fish were there. Pete definitely had the hot rod. For whatever reason I could not seal the deal but Pete was on his game! He nailed several more fish and then he had a bigger fish on. That thing tore him up and got him almost to  the backing. We got it next to the boat and Pete thought it was smaller than his earlier fish. I knew he was wrong (I love proving my younger brother wrong!). It taped out to be 35". Pete crushed his personal best twice in a day! Great stuff!

Pete's new personal best- 35"
What a difference between the two days though. Trout are really a pain sometimes. That is one of the reasons I don't guide them frequently. There are times in the year when they are just awesome but there are also times when all the planets align right for a huge hatch and not a single fish shows itself. Saturday there were plenty of bugs on the water and we saw only one rise in 10 hours. Contrast that with the shear biomass we saw on the lake... And the fact that the smallest fish we caught was 4 or 5 pounds... hard to beat the warmwater game!
The obligatory dropped fish picture

Friday, May 17, 2013

Bowfin Fun

I got out with Shane and Larry the other night. It was a great time. Went to a small local wetland area where there are plenty of bowfin to be found. It was an evening fish and the lower light can make conditions a bit difficult. I was a bit concerned because of the lower temps we have been having at night, but I was hoping that the "swamp muskies" would be on board with some game time. I wasn't disappointed!

I had revamped my canoe earlier to put in a different seat in the back for me and a seat just in front of me to make it easier to have 3 people in the boat. It worked out really well. The pics tell that story. 

Larry isn't a fly fisherman but has been making his own rods for years. He uses fly rod blanks and puts a spinning reel on them. The big thing is that he only uses 2 lb test line. I thought we were in for some lost fish but I wanted to see if this would work. Once again, I wasn't disappointed. He picked up on the search pattern for bowfin really quickly and spotted one within 5 minutes of getting to our destination. That fish had no problem taking a fly presented with Larry's untested rod! 

Shane started counting to see how long before that fish broke off the 2lb test. It tore off through the weeds and charged around just like bowfin do. Larry was in charge though. He carefully played that fish and got it to where I could put it in the net. First fish in the boat! A very respectable 8 pound 28" Master Class bowfin to start things off!

Up next was Shane. Shane decided he would rather go with my Predator rod set up. The short, stout rod works great for these guys. He missed the first couple of fish. It takes practice to get used to how these fish take. The fly can be in and out of their mouth really fast. Eventually we got one and it was hot! It tore off through the marsh and put the rod to the test. Shane had an ear to ear grin. 

Unfortunately that was the last fish of the night. I had a great time out with these guys and it sure seemed like they had a great time too. 

Hopefully I can get you out on the lake after something you have never caught before. Hit me up muskyflies@gmail.com to book a trip!

the new back seat/poling platform.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

River Monsters in Vermont- Jeremy Wade

I had a couple of months to think about things before finally meeting the star of River Monsters, Jeremy Wade. There is only so much that you can glean about someone from a television show. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous and unsure of what Jeremy would be like. I figured here was a guy who travels the world fishing for huge fish but also is one of the biggest reality TV stars out there. He hobnobs with all the big media folks on talk shows like it's his job, and well, it is his job. 

From the first moment that I spoke to him when I was out catching bass he put me at ease. He was an angler first and foremost. Jeremy asked me questions about the gear we were using, the species we were after, the techniques needed and other questions about the fishery in general. They were definitely fairly pointed questions about the specific fish that were needed for the show. It was very professional and pretty chill to be blunt. 

When I first got him in the boat with me I was definitely a bit unsure again. Here I am in my canoe paddling with Jeremy Wade on Lake Champlain. We are in my element and I need to produce for the cameras and for Jeremy. I didn't want to look bad and I didn't want Jeremy to look bad either. We talked fishing the whole time we paddled to our location. It was great. He asked me questions about these fish, I told him anecdotes about what we were fishing for and the lake in general and he shared stories about his experiences. I asked him about some of the species he had caught on his show, asked about his fly fishing experience (to help him out with casting) and really just shot the breeze. 

Things changed when the cameras were on and he became quite focused on what he was doing. No surprise there. That is what he does for a living. Consummate professional. 

When the cameras were off and there was down time with the crew Jeremy was just one of the guys. It is patently obvious that the crew of River Monsters has spent a lot of time together in a lot of different conditions in parts of the world that outsiders rarely visit (hey, they came to Vermont!). The experiences that they have had collectively have brought them very close to one another and it is pretty obvious when you see them talking and interacting. They are a close knit bunch with inside jokes and lots of smiles. There is a lot of kidding around and Jeremy can alternatively be the one who starts the jokes or ends up the butt of them. He is just one of the guys. 

Jeremy did get a bit frustrated when we were after gar. I don't blame him. We were all a bit frustrated. They weren't behaving as well as they should have (i.e.- they weren't taking flies as readily as we would have liked). Jeremy was persistent though. He took every bit of advice that I could give him and absorbed it like a sponge. I could tell that when I was offering him tips he was taking them to heart and he was very interested in what I had to say about the biology of the fishes we were after. 

At a couple of private dinners we had with the crew Jeremy was pretty low key for the most part. He did a lot of listening and some of the other guys really lead the conversation. He was very mellow and I could tell that he (and the other guys) was really enjoying being in good accommodations on a shoot rather than the sketchy third world conditions that they all had become accustomed to over the course of five seasons of River Monsters.

I confess feeling a bit guilty about asking him to sign a few things for me, but he did so without hesitation. He didn't seem bothered by it at all and did it with a smile on his face. Watching him sign T-shirts for all of us that helped out was awesome. These guys were professionals with that! Two guys grab the shirt, hold the corners over the hood of a car and Jeremy signs it. Pretty fun to watch... and I got the last one done with the best signature! Thanks Jeremy!

Later in the summer I got an email from Jeremy- he was going to be back in Vermont taking flying lessons and wanted to get together to fish. How could I say no?  We both had fairly busy schedules and the day that we were able to get together was less than ideal for chasing carp. He knew that but was having a great time anyway. He got into fishing because of carp and really wanted to get on on the fly. I did my best but the combination of overcast skies, chop on the water and heavy weed growth were not productive for us. After a bit we decided to get after some bowfin instead. 

Jeremy had a blast getting into a large bowfin. That sucker was 11 pounds- one of the biggest I have had in the boat. It was a beast and Jeremy was really enjoying himself. Fishing with me last August was the first time he fished without a camera on him in a year and a half he told me. I felt pretty fortunate. 

As I dropped him off at his hotel we just sat in my truck talking for an hour. We talked about a lot of things. He gave me advice about my business and what to make of it sharing his experiences running a guide service in the Amazon. He was down to earth and really gave me a lot to think about. I really appreciated that time more than any I had spent with him up to that point. Having an internationally recognizable television star sit in a beat up dirty truck talking fishing with a local fly fishing guide says a lot about the man. 

In no way was the experience that I had with Jeremy negative. Earlier this year a very popular fly fishing blog put up a piece about the preview of Season 5 of River Monsters. They claimed that Jeremy was a world class piece of work (not exactly what they said, but I am trying to keep this fairly clean). I completely refute that claim. 

I went into this River Monsters venture looking at it as a cool adventure and something good for my business. When it was all said and done though, I feel like I made a friend. I hope to have the chance to wet a line with Jeremy again. And I feel like that will probably happen. 

Jeremy with his very first smallmouth... James approves!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

River Monsters- Part 2- Gar

Pleased with the catch!
One of the other species that the River Monsters crew wanted to get into while in Vermont was the longnose gar- another of my specialties. It was May and that can be a mixed blessing when it comes to gar. They are definitely around and can be found in large concentrations when they are spawning. However, they are not always the easiest to get to take when they are in that spawn mode. 

One of the things that is hard to understand when watching the show is just how much background work everyone does. Jeremy has a lot of pressure on him to produce fish and everyone else has their jobs too. The director, Dominic Weston in this case, has to do all the background homework on the fishes that they are targeting in order to bring the most dramatic story to the television audience. The same applies to the guides that take them out. There is a lot of work that goes into locating the fish as well as the knowledge it takes to catch them. 

"On set"
I had been on the lookout for gar. In 2011 the gar were found in good numbers up in smaller tributaries because of the record high levels in Lake Champlain. There were fish all over the place and some really large fish too. I had my current personal best from that year- a 49” female that weighed about 12 pounds. An excellent fish and one that I wanted to repeat but unfortunately 2012 was a dramatically different year. The water levels in the lake in May were about 5 feet shallower than the year before. It was a mostly dry spring and I was not finding the fish where I had before. 

Inspecting gar eggs
I started looking all over the place. I was doing long solo paddles in my canoe looking for fish. Several days I paddled over 10 miles looking for fish. One of those days was into a 15 mph head wind- yes, I love weather forecasters (they said it was supposed to be a 6mph breeze from the west- not the 15 mph from the north!). I was checking all of my usual spots and I was making phone calls galore to anyone and everyone that I knew who was out fishing or had knowledge. 

I started to find them. They were in the small creeks, but not in good numbers. I also found a spot on the lake where they were in good numbers and willing to take the fly. I finally had a game plan for when  I was to meet up with them again. Marty and Tim had the camera boats ready too. 

I met the River Monsters crew and headed south to meet Marty and Tim. They were at a spot where the carp were congregating. Dominic and Jeremy were interested in checking that place out to. Hey, big congregations of fish in shallow water? Good filming opportunities even if it wasn’t what they were after. 
Marty with the first fish of the day

As we got there I saw Marty and Tim on the water. Marty had a fish on and they had no net. I ran back to the truck to grab one. Nice carp on the fly and the whole crew was watching and talking. A good start to the day. We got some pics for Marty and as I walked back across the dam I noticed something. Something splashing in the water downstream… I shouted out an expletive and ran at top speed to check it out with Jeremy and Dominic in tow. I was hoping against hope that what I was seeing was really what I was seeing.

Indeed it was! Dozens of them… including all the others porpoising around, maybe as many as one hundred. It was a great congregation! The fish were everywhere. Most of them were well over 36” and there were some serious bruisers in there. Definitely some contenders for the state record were sitting in front of us. It was a dream come true! Everyone was pretty psyched. 

James filming Jeremy
We got everything set up. Jeremy had the Helios 9wt that I rigged up with a gar fly. He was casting pretty well. The time that he had just spent in Nicaragua chasing tarpon with a 12 weight out of a float tube had definitely made a difference. He was definitely vastly improved from his time chasing taimen- an episode that many fly rodders had panned because of his casting. Jeremy is a quick study and I gave him some pointers with casting. That definitely helped out as well. His double haul was great. 

Unfortunately the gar weren’t being as cooperative as we would have liked. The rope fly was in the right spot. He was working it the way it needed to be worked. He was putting it right in the middle of the spawning congregation. We tried different colors. We worked all sorts of different angles to get those fish on the typical gar fly. No dice. 

We took a lunch break. I asked if it was alright to give it a try myself. I have had good luck with smaller flies put right in their face. They seem to get a bit upset about something in their personal space like that and swat at them. That is how I have done so well in the spring time with gar. 

My gar- and my personal best!
I put on a small fly that was bright and in your face. I started working it close to some of the bigger girls near the bank. The snapping started. They don’t like it when things are in their face. The big trick is to get a decent hook set. That isn’t always the easy part. The gar’s mouth is all bone. It takes a very sharp hook to stick in there combined with a constantly tight line to keep them on and a good measure of luck thrown in ta boot. Even having done this many years myself I would say that my hook-up to land ratio with this kind of gar fishing is about 30%... not great. 

I got one on. It was a nice fish. A beast actually. Everyone was watching and once it cooled down enough Jeremy helped me to land it. I broke my personal best. It was 51”. We didn’t weigh it but I am sure it would have been close or beaten the current state record. There was no way I was going to keep that fish to get that now though. I had a job to do…
Jeremy's first gar

Marty took a turn on the cork. He hooked a fish just like I had but it took off and broke off the bright fly that I had. I had other similar flies (they were my bowfin specials) but none as bright as that. I was sure we could get into some fish. 

Jeremy is the consummate angler. He learns by example extremely quickly. He got the gist of what I was doing and soon was into fish. He got a decent male fish to start things off. It wasn’t huge by any means, but it was in the low 40 inch range. It was decidedly male and extremely excited. I noticed all the milt that was now covering Jeremy’s legs. The off color comment that the cameraman James made had everyone holding their sides. 
Heavy bodied gar

The rest of the afternoon was pretty much a touch and go situation… Jeremy would have a fish on (collective, silent roar of excitement) only to lose it shortly thereafter (collective let down). Repeat. I gave him some tips- especially noting that it was critical to keep a very tight line on them and to keep the rod up. Fight them with the rod in the air not off to the side. That is what has worked for me best. Keep the fight as short as possible. We had pretty strong tippet on (16 pound Orvis AR) that could handle any of these fish. 

We were at it hours. He got into a few smaller fish but the bigger ones had been eluding him. There were several that were just beasts; 5or 6 inches across the back. They were there. You could practically touch them. James was getting awesome footage underwater of them and you can definitely see that really well in the show. It is so cool to see that many big fish spawning in one place. The rocks were covered in gar eggs. I told them about how they are poisonous to eat for mammals. It was cool to see that fact make it into the show as one of the bumpers between commercials. I smiled a knowing smile when I saw that.
Jeremy with the gar from behind the camera

Jeremy had a good fish on. It was hooked in the fleshy part of the jaw too! We all had our collective fingers crossed. He played the fish very well and had on my Buff work gloves to help him land the fish. He got it in the shallows and landed it. AWESOME! He had a nice big female gar. He got the footage of the fish that they needed and we all took some pictures of him with it. One of the great things about gar is that they can breathe air. Keeping them moist helps to keep them safe (which we did) but it allows a lot more safe handling time than many other fish. Darn handy for a fishing show!

Nice fish Jeremy!
We were all smiles after that. I was asked to help out as a camera boat to get some footage of Jeremy walking along the bank. I went and grabbed the canoe to get the shots. It is pretty interesting how much they shoot and how they want the boat placed. I think we spent 45 minutes or more filming the walking scene from all sorts of different angles. 

We were all pretty tired after that all concluded but Marty had invited all of us over to his house for dinner later that evening. More on that later…
This speaks for itself

I have to admit a guilty bit of the day though... Jeremy's gar was 49"... mine was 51". It still puts a grin on my face to think that I outfished Jeremy Wade one day... His collective experience far outweighs mine, but for that one day I got the bigger gar!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

River Monsters- Part 1 Bowfin

Getting ready to get into some toothy critters with Jeremy
I have been a pretty lucky guy much of my life. I have been able to put a whole lot of time into following my passion of fishing, I have had some women who were far more beautiful than I deserve share my life and I have had some amazing opportunities. Few experiences compared to the email I received in March 2012. I read the email, read it again, and read it for a third time. Then I did a quick internet search to make sure it was real. Icon Films wanted me to guide Jeremy Wade while he was in Vermont filming River Monsters in May. 

Nothing but a series of expletives came out of my mouth for about 10 minutes. I was incredulous. 

Marty Sienkiewycz one of my best fishing buddies!
The River Monsters crew was after a number of species that are found in Lake Champlain. They were originally after muskies and when they had contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service they were directed to me. I told them that muskies would be pretty tough during the time frame that they were going to be here but that there were other options out there... And so it began!

Tim Sienkiewycz- another great fishing buddy!
A series of emails and phone calls started after that. I was still a bit stunned. I was going to have the most recognized angler in the world in my canoe with me! Talk about some serious press time and let's just put it out there: it doesn't get any cooler than that! Seriously... how many people in the world can say that they have had that chance? And I didn't want to blow it!

Caught on the phone!
I got the ball rolling at work; I talked to my team at school and made sure it was cool with them (thank you so much Mike, Kathy, Amelia, Nancy and Brian!) and then checked in with the principal to see if it was alright to have a flexible schedule and take unpaid days off (thank you Karsten!). All set there! I also checked in with my friend Tom Rosenbauer at Orvis to see if there was anything they wanted me to put in Jeremy's hands. There was and I soon had a Helios/Mirage 9 weight outfit to have on camera! I also needed a couple of other boats for the camera and crew. I made some calls and my great friends Marty and Tim Sienkiewycz were more than happy to help out!

Hunting fish with Jeremy- photo courtesy of Tim Sienkiewycz
I met with the director, Dominic Weston, for a meal before the rest of the crew got to Vermont. They were still traveling here from Central America where they had been chasing tarpon. Dominic had great energy and it was pretty obvious that he was excited about the possibilities I had offered up. He had some great notes and had definitely done his research. Soon a plan was hatched. I had been spending a whole lot of time on the water making sure that the fish that they wanted were around and willing. Just that morning I was out on the lake talking on the phone with Dominic and got into a nice bowfin. It was on!

A couple of days later I was out after work fishing and the phone rang. It was the call I had been expecting. Jeremy. I asked him to hold on for just a second while I landed a smallmouth. What a great start to the conversation! We talked about what we had planned for the trip and I was getting even more jazzed up than I had been. Wow. Of course I had to fish for a bit after that too...

Jeremy with a nicely colored male bowfin! His first and on a fly!
The first day on the water arrived. What a horrible day weather wise. Gray, overcast skies. The wind was up a bit too. Rain was in the forecast. Just not pleasant weather to be out in. And here I was meeting fishing rock star Jeremy Wade for the first time and I had to put him on bowfin. Not ideal conditions. 

We all met up and got our game plan together. I was ready. I signed the contract. This was serious business. I could not talk about or mention anything about what we were doing anywhere in any media until after the show aired. Boy, this was going to be a long year! What a secret to keep too!

First fish in the boat! Photo courtesy of Tim Sienkiewycz
The crew got in the boats with Tim and Marty. Great guys one and all! They were going to meet us at the filming location in a few minutes. I was going to paddle down to where the bowfin were with Jeremy in my canoe. So cool! We chatted quite a bit, talking mostly about (surprise, surprise!) fish and fishing. We are both very passionate about the topic and got along very well. 

Me with James and Jeremy hunting bowfin!
It took a while to find the fish. The overcast skies were not helping matters. We started picking up bowfin though. I love those fish! It is such a different ballgame to fish with a camera crew though. You really have to shift your thinking and let them lead the action. Very different from when I guide. I was still guiding but I did have to change how I normally spot fish to fit in with the theme of the show. So we got a couple of bowfin under our belt and then James, the camera guy, asks if he can get into the canoe with me and Jeremy. Sure! I said.

Have you ever seen the crazy camera outfits they use for shooting HD television? They are pretty awesome to look at but weigh a ton. James got in the canoe right behind Jeremy. Then the boat didn't budge. Crap! What was going on? Oh... a stump under the canoe... Problem solved. I can't wait to see the footage from that. 

We got a couple of fish in the boat and it started to rain fairly hard. It was lunchtime and we were all ready for a break. We went to the only area of dry land we could find nearby. Not idea,  but better than nothing. But as we disembarked from the boats to walk through the muck to get out of the rain disaster struck. Dominic tripped and went face first into the water landing on the remote monitor he used to watch what was being filmed. It is not absolutely critical to filming, but does help a lot... and it costs a pretty penny too (thousands). The best part was listening to James talk about how he has trashed several cameras in the course of filming for the show (at $25000 a pop!). 
You have no idea how psyched I was to have him get this fish! 

We got back out filming. I wanted to see Jeremy get into a big female. I wanted a big fish in the boat. We were in this patch of dead cattails and I saw a nice big girl next to us. I pointed her out. She was pretty tight against the boat and I knew it was tough for Jeremy to see. I put him in the general area and he wasn't quite there so I asked if he wanted an assist... I grabbed the line and wiggled it in front of her. WHAM! It was on! Nice bowfin indeed! The fish went nutso in the weed growth and we both ended up out of the boat to land her. It was pretty cold being early May and an overcast day, but when I saw Jeremy go in I knew I had to do it too. Totally worth it! Great fish- 29" and a bit over 9 lbs! Jeremy had a Master Class bowfin on the fly!

After that the weather got worse and the camera lens was getting wet. It became impossible to film any more. We decided to high tail it out of there. It was a shorter day than I planned but completely worth it. After getting everything loaded up (with Jeremy's help) I went home to a nice, long, hot shower. 

More to come... 

Watch River Monsters Tonight "Vampires of the Deep"

River Monsters' Jeremy Wade and film crew visited Lake Champlain last year at this time. They always like local guides and unusual fish. Does that give any clues as to why I might be promoting this?


Watch "Vampires of the Deep" tonight at 9pm on Animal Planet to find out for sure... And I will have a whole lot to say after that!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Wading Into the Primordial Ooze

I set out after work yesterday hoping to find some carp. There is a shallow backwater along the lake near my home that I suspected would hold some hoovers. I really didn't feel like dealing with the canoe and there was the possibility of thunderstorms so I thought that wading would be an interesting option. So I put on the waders and my wetland boots and off I went. 

There were rain clouds in the distance and I could see the rain coming down on the other side of Lake Champlain. The sun was filtering through the clouds and there was a light breeze when I got to the wetland. I walked out into the marsh and into the muck and decaying vegetation that is the bottom of these areas. If you have never walked in a shallow marsh it is a very interesting experience. The bottom is highly variable; it is made up of bits of rotting wood and plant matter that kicks up and clouds the water with the occasional sunken log or root mass to trip you up. It is vastly different than walking in a stream. And it can be quite slippery at times as well.

I saw some motion near a clump of cattails so I went to check it out. I thought it might have been a carp feeding at first but the way it was charging around got me thinking it was another of my favorite fish: the bowfin. When I got there (which takes much longer on foot than in my canoe) I noticed a decent largemouth bass staring back at me. They are in spawn mode and he was charging around defending his spot. Cool stuff. He disappeared and I kept going on my wetland walkabout. 

Shortly after that I looked down to see the smiling face of one of my aquatic adversaries. Amia calva is aptly named in my book. I have always thought that Amia uses the same Latin root as the term amiable (friendly) which I can only assume comes from the "smile" they always seem to have. Their demeanor is far from friendly however. I find that bowfin are pugnacious and belligerent- just the way I like my fish. Combine that with the fact that they can breath air, are an ancient fish, and are more than willing to take a fly you have a real winner in my book!

I had that first fish on just briefly- mostly because of my fly choice. I changed up to my Zombie pattern and the second just hammered the fly and tore off. Great fun on a 6 weight rod! It zipped through the remains of last year's emergent growth and the shoots of this year's. As I walked toward a log that would let me get a couple of self timer pics I saw another larger bowfin. I knew I might have a shot at that one in a bit.  I landed the fish, got my pics and watched it swim off. I was pretty pleased that the fish jumped out of my hands and I had to try to grab it when the camera went off. I think the picture came out very cool. 

I went back to where I saw the other fish. Sure enough it was there and it took the fly in the whump! of muddy water that bowfin leave as they strike. It was on and off in a second. Another even larger bowfin greeted me as I was just getting ready to leave. That fish spooked before I had a chance to react. 

I found a new spot. I will be back! There is a lot of water there and I know the carp will show up. Next time I think I will take the canoe though. That primordial ooze is a pain to walk in.