Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Why Tie?

I started tying flies as a kid. Maybe the 3rd or 4th grade.  I was a rabid little fisherman, and when I learned of fly fishing/tying I wanted in bad.  Lucky for me my parents believed in fostering interests and letting my sister in I find our way and find the things that caused us joy.  Sometimes that lead to bumps, and some of the things did not last.  But today, about 4 months from my 41st birth day, tying and fly fishing sure have stuck!

They have always been a bit of relief from the world.  They have always been time to process life, to simplify life, and simply enjoy being in the out doors.

I've always loved endurance sports too... and in a weird way, fly fishing is an endurance activity.  Sustained levels of focus for hours - takes it's own unique endurance for sure!

It's also highly meditative.  You repeat a simple motion with focus - very much like some of the meditative approaches to Buddhism.  Focus is the key.  it's focus that brings you to the simple, open and clear mind which, despite it's attention to one thing, seems so much better at absorbing the world around us.

The snag for me, is that I don't have lots of time to fish.  I get out, but I'm not always able to make it a real consistent thing regrettably.

Tying on the other hand, I can do any time with about 15' at hand.  It connects me to the outdoors - as soon as you hold the materials or consider the fly you are creating it's use is a sharp focus.  And that brings back floods of memories about good times in the outdoors.  Ahhhhh.

Tying is also creative.  Even if you are repeating a pattern created by others, we all have our own style or flow.  Some guys tend to tie very neat flies, others bushy as a simple example.  Because of that creative aspect of tying, it scratches an artistic itch of mine.  I have always enjoyed sketching - and often "new" flies I create start on a pad with pencil in my hand... But there is just something about sitting down, looking at that vice and wondering what the excess of materials I've collected over the years could lead too.

The other night I was tying, and had not had time to in several weeks.  For some reason, I always tie midges or small micro nymphs after a lay off.  It reminds me that you dont need to make a lot of thread wraps, and it reminds me to keep things simple.  While I'm sure others have created similar flies... I just was not motivated to tie some pumpkin head midges (a great pattern I learned about on Matt Grobert's blog) which I'd been planning on - they are good little flies for sure!  But a simpler variation just jumped out to me.  An orange bead, 4-6 bit's of coc de leon and open spirals of peacock eye up the hook... Using the peacock to create "rib" through it's wide flat stem.  This is a little #22 scud hook, and brings a lot of good things to the table.  I'm excited to try this out on the swift some time this winter (a tail water about an hour from here that was in mind tying this up).

That simple little fly is a good example of why I tie and why I brought it up, it worked off good memories of a beautiful and fun place to fish, it got me playing with materials and trying to create my own twist on a fly that's really good (pumpkin head midge). Creative, flowing with my energy level, and inspiring ("I wonder if this will work?")...

I realize that this is some what a surface scratcher for why I tie - or fish.  But it helps clarify it a bit, or at least point at the direction that things tend to go for me.  We are all very different and have many different reasons... Which makes me wonder about others.  Why do you wave a rod or wrap thread to a hook?

In short... How about you?



Monday, December 22, 2014

It's winter... Time for fun and looking forward!

Happy New Year and Christmas (or whichever major winter holiday you celebrate) to all!

I'm taking a moment to put a few pic's up - some may have been here before.  But Overall, it felt like a fun process as I sit here...

First off, it's only about 2-3 months until we see a stream in spring like the river below.  This is the river I cut my teeth on, and I love it.  Looking upstream here is close to 2 miles of woods to the next road if you follow the river... Have to love fishing spots like that :)

Some times a fly just works.  Several years ago I learned about the "McPhail bug.  A simple combo of yellow floss, epoxy, marker and red/orange wire.  That's it.  Oh, and a lead or tungsten underbody of wire.  It's an awesome little fly.  I dont know how I got this pic with the dark background... wish I remembered because it's a cool pic of a great little bug to drift through deeper cuts like that one to the right of the big rock in the pic above.

The last few years there has been a bit of talk about the "original" Adams dry, with down wings and golden pheasant tail vs the "modern" upwing and hackle tailed fly.  I dont know that the "original" (below) fishes better, but I do have fun tying them, and fishing them in spots like the pic above just feels good.  It's like the Parmechene Belle in my last post or a Gray Ghost or other fly with history... Something fun about using historically significant flies. 

What's coming though?  Hopefully more day's like this.  That's Rosemary bundled up to the right (barely visible), by friend Chris's kiddos and my kiddos (two tiny ones are mine) and Chris (holding the bass) out on the Ice.  Ice fishing to me is not about "skill".  It's about being with family and friends.  It's about enjoying time outside, and goofing off, eating snacks and drinking coco!  That's it. 

Often the fish you catch are not as bick as the bass Chris caught above (ever since, my son (wearing the white hat dead center) likes to call them "Largemail Bass".  Goof ball.  That aside, often the fish you catch are like the little sunny below.  I'm mostly a catch and release guy... but, every now and then, keeping a bunch of these guys and enjoying the tasty fillet's is just awesome!

Yep, 2.5 years old last winter and taking after dad and mom putting the hurt on the blue gills :). 

It's winter, but that just means new outside fun is around the corner!  Enjoy it!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

December, fly of the year and venison

This past weekend I got a few hours Sunday to hit a local stream.  I caught the skunk, but loved it!

You can see in the pic, that the stream's flow was solid, though gin clear.  I dont feel the clarity was an issue, I just feel the fish were sluggish and were hugging undercuts and I did not fish those areas successfully.  But hearing the water gurgle by, and enjoying the sights was worth every moment along this little stream.

It's funny to see bittersweet this time of year, when you are used to seeing it as a green tangle!  Deer love to eat bittersweet this time of year, and there were a number of tracks around this clump of the vine.

I mostly fished streamers and wet flies today.  In particular, a number 14 Parmechene Belle wet fly - which looks a bit more dull here given the water soaked floss.  It's a good little attractor fly for wild brookies - and a variety of other fish.  Plus fishing a fly with a long New England history has a neat lure to it!

This streamer is looking a scruffy mess.  This fly get's my "wild brookie fly of the year" award.  I made it up last winter and it's fished great.  After catching a lot of trout, some chubs, sunfish and bass... it's beat to a pulp for sure...

This one's for those of you who enjoy venison.  This is backstrap cooked in a home made lemon marinade AND coated in a blackberry reduction sauce.  In this case it's served up with a salad and wild rice... However it's served up, it's fantastic!

Have a super week - get outside and enjoy the early winter sights and smells - it does a person well!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Brief Update

I hope to put up a bigger update in the next week, but as I wind down from a long day, reviewing a few blogs I was motivated to put up a brief post.

The fall has zipped by fast.

I finished up my first two terms of grad school and am now in the holiday break.  I actually wish another class was going on now - I was just starting to get back in the groove with school after about 18 years away from formal schooling!    So far a solid A, which I'm excited about and which I've enjoyed working for.

I have fished a few times this fall - hitting some local wild trout streams while scouting white tails.  Regrettably, my fishing mojo was not high, and I landed a few chubs, but that was it...

On the other hand, my deer hunting mojo was solid and I managed to tag a doe and a buck with my bow during November.  I'll poke around a bit with the muzzle loader the next few weeks, but overall, most hunting now is about time in the woods, unless a very large buck strolls by.

It always feels good to have such healthy fare available for the family... And watching the 3.5 year olds chow down on venison and veggies is a great sight!

We are busily getting ready for the holiday's now, but tomorrow we are hosting some friends who we met while our son was in cancer treatment at Dana Farber.  They had to move here from Spain to seek treatment for their boy.  He's doing great, and their family will be here for a thanksgiving like meal tomorrow afternoon.  It's always fun to see them, and to let the kid's play.  I just wish there was still snow so we could take them sledding!

Sunday may be a day where I get to fish a bit.  Rosemary's taking the kid's to the Nutcracker with my mom... and that leaves me with a full afternoon.  I'd love to hit the swift River (a tailwater an hour from me) but that may be a hair to far... So I may stick to some local native streams... or may just take a hike or a mountain bike ride and enjoy the fall woods.

Have an excellent weekend -

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Saw this today - AWESOME!

Here is a great little film about wild brookies - amazing, amazing little fish!

I saw this today on the Caddis Chronicles blog of NJ fly tier and fisherman Matt Grobert.  It's a fantastic blog - check it out!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

It's been to long... September photo dump time!

Man, I have been busy, and it's just make posting tough.  But, today I had a chance, so... here we go!

 The month started with a fun paddle on a local river/lake called long pond.  It's gorgeous!  The kids love to catch lilly pads as we pass them in the canoe and then "cast" them in to catch "Sea Witches".  It's pretty darn funny... But it's especially cool because they are enjoying being outdoors!

I think it was the next day that I hit a local reservoir and caught some sunfish on the two weight.  These little guys are not given their due credit.  They are tough fighters, pretty and willing to take a fly!

Not sure what the scoop was with this little guy.  Either he escaped a turtle or heron when he was young, or he's got quite the little tumor growing.  Sure loved the Dark Cahill wet fly I was fishing!

This is the best buck I've got on my trail cameras.  I took this pic with my phone to share with some buddies the day I saw it.  He's a big 7 point (there are 4 points on the left and 3 on the right).  I'm really hopeful he makes a mistake... But they dont get that big by messing up.  Most likely, Ill see every other deer I have on the camera where he is living... and not see him!  It will be fun to try though!

On a warmish day we took the kids to a farm pond near my parents place. They caught some sun fish, but Emily really had fun reeling in this golden shiner.

The left bank of this fine stream is deeper than you would think, and heavily undercut.  BrkTrt from would approve given the stream is covered in hemlocks.  It's hard to tell because in this spot, the light makes it through pretty well from the left... Very low this September for sure!

No trout came to hand in the pool on the day I was there, but this chub smashed the #16 stimulator pretty hard!

Amazing how the leaves are changing this year.  Excellent color for sure!

This past weekend we took a walk in my home town on some trails near a big swampy pond owned by a world renowned university located in Cambridge MA.  The university's forestry school is in town, and they own and thus protect thousands of acres, thankfully, most of that land is open to hiking, biking, hunting and fishing.

I loved how this one fern was almost bright yellow against the more tan/brown ferns it resided with.  Fall, is really building fast now.

This past Saturday I hit a local stream and managed a few brookies.  Amazing Halo's on this fellow.  He was oddly darker than most fish I catch on this stream, and he smashed the stimulator as I skated it through a pocket.

Hopefully I can post a bit more often in the next few weeks!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Fun weekend...

The misses and I both had work to do Saturday, but the day started so nicely, that we had to do something fun with the kids.  You only get so many "perfect" days a year :).  So, work would wait until the afternoon and evening... Off to Petersham we went for a fun walk, and some lunch from the country store.

After a brief walk through the woods, we come to the confluence of two streams.  The smaller of the two holds natives, and upstream from this point you can find natives.  They are not supper common on the main stream though, regrettably.  Over fishing is the culprit.  The main stream, which here looks horribly low, is stocked about 200yds below where I was standing, and occasionally the stocking truck rolls up a trail on the other side dropping fish along the way.  Thus, guys fish the tar out of it April through June.... Conversely the little stream rarely gets fishing pressure.  RARELY.  And though it's not loaded with wild trout, they are there and catchable.

This big hemlock met it's match years ago, but the forest it originated from still stands strong around it.

Soon, the beautiful green ferns will be golden, and then they will shrivel, almost overnight and evaporate for the winter.  For now, they are still very lush and green!

About to leave, I walked the kid's over to a bridge over the main river (spot that gets stocked I noted in the first paragraph).  The pool to the left here is always good for many trout until about the middle of June.  Even now they are there, but just the ones that dodged hundreds of flies, lures, bait's the first few ice free months of the year.

Someone had built a really nice karin here, and It felt like something worth a photo.  It should stand until a lot of water falls and the stream rises, or, winters ice shelf pushes it over.  Pretty cool.

Sunday I got a little time to zip out and fish the Swift.  What you see here, are my attempts to take pictures with my cell in a waterproof case I got through TU.  it's one sided, so I had to try and set the phone on "selfie" mode if you will, and then take a pic with the phone facing away from me... Not as easy as it may sound... and it does not sound that easy.

Right away I caught a few brookies.  They have always been on this stream, but recently, be it increased organic matter in the river improving habitat (fallen trees) or something else, these wild little guys are really exploding in numbers, and will eat any thing that comes by.  they are 3-6" of furry!

This one really cracked me up, because my shot was so bad all I got was my thumb :)

I ended up with 4-5 nice rainbows and many more little brookies on beetles (#14's), and rusty spinners (#20).  Picture taking ended with the attempts above.  I received some good advice on cam's and I think Ill try and get one together for 2015.

Thanks for reading - fun weekend.

Friday, August 22, 2014

What Lies Below the Fern's... and N.E.D.

Took a walk Monday to put a trail camera up where I'd seen (and got 1 pic) of a decent 3.5 (I believe) year old buck last year (below).

I always wonder, when walking through Fern's that are waist high, if there are any creatures I'm walking past.  If venomous snakes were common here, vs only documented in like 3 areas of the state, I'd be nervous!
Today though, while wading through the ferns I was thinking to myself: I wonder if I have ever stepped on a snake?  I looked down, and a stick looked weird... so I stopped and spread the ferns a bit.  Low and behold... the funny stick was a little garter snake.  Cute little guy basking in a sunny spot between the ferns... Glad I didnt step on him!

 I'm not sure if these really are called "cardinal flowers" but that's what the old timers where I grew up called them... so I call them that as well.  Such pretty red flowers that grow up among the rocks at the edge, and even into streams here.
Best of all, the boy had his 18 months post treatment scan Wednesday and it went well.  He's very intently watching Tinkerbell in the pic :) here before going back for MRI.  There is a funny spot in his left temporal lobe that they are watching, it has no evidence of being tumor... and they suspect it's chemo or hydrocephalus related... but are not really sure - so it's just watch and see.  It did not change his status as No Evidence of Disease (NED) though which is super! They have no worries about it being a tumor, which is good news!  His blood was solid, a few funny things, but nothing that indicates secondary cancer (cancer caused by cancer treatment)... So, overall, he's doing well and is cleared for starting pre school next week.  Awesome!

Be well everyone!

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Next Generation

Fun times.

Our in home child care has had a rough week this week.  A tough situation made it impossible for her to come over Thursday and Friday... Thursday I worked and my mom watched the kids... Friday mom couldn't do it, so the kids and I had an unexpected day of fun.

After breakfast, I suggested a hike in the woods - and they were both excited.  We headed out to my home town - which is a very small, rural, New England town about 40' from our current home... And we hit the woods.

I knew I wanted to walk a specific trail off a seasonal road.  The trail was in an area where I rarely see ticks, and where I often see wildlife.  It also runs parallel to a nice wild brookie stream.  I would not have a rod in hand today, but I could point out likely spots and share a beautiful brook with the kids - that's just as good!

The first couple hundred yards off the road through soft hemlock forest, the kids repeatedly stopped to collect Red Eft's - the terestrial juvenile stage of the red spotted newt.  They were everywhere after last nights rain and the epic monsoon we had Wednesday.

Once we reached the stream, the kids did, what any self respecting kid does when they come to water - throw sticks, pine cones, leaves etc into the stream!  It was pretty fun watching them say "bye bye" to sticks as they floated away.

In the pic below in the background, you see the confluence of the small stream, with a slightly larger stream... In reality, it's not that big either, rarely more than 10-15 yards across in this section... The larger stream, upstream from this point holds wild brookies as well... below this point, they are fewer between, though they are still there if you look hard enough.

We started up the stream, and after passing the first good run, I stopped to take a down stream pic, the space in the middle of that triangle between the three bigger rocks is a spot that has provided several beautiful trout over the years.

Now the pace of the stream quickens.  It's still not raging, but, when the water is high, it can be quite a sight through here.  Then again, about a mile upstream, the little brook rips through a series of granite shoots and falls - it's absolutely gorgeous, especially after heavy early June thunder storms - super green moss and leaves but very high flow... AWESOME!

All of this wood is great organic matter.  I don't get it when folks get mad about trees being in streams.  Yes, it makes the fishing tougher, but it's better for the fish - seems like a worthy trade to me!  Between the tree in the foreground, and the bigger tree in the distance is another pool / run that has yielded many brookies... From when I used nothing but worms as a kid, to today... it's been a good spot.

This is a great corner, it's pretty deep (2-3' is deep here), and it has some overhead cover from the log and nice undercut boulders for the trout to hide under.

There is a brief section, about 2/3 up to a neat little bridge over the stream, where hardwoods take over for about 50 yards.  in this spot, the stream tumbles and rolls through pockets... it's a nice spot to drift bushy dry's like bombers or elk hair caddis and mini muddlers.

In this area, the kids enjoyed walking at a brisker pace.  Emily asked to have her kitty put in her shirt - like a piggy back ride - and Will had his hiking stick he'd found... the trail is very narrow and clear here, often cutting through tall ferns.  It sort of encourages you to travel, and the little people decided to do just that through here!

Almost to the bridge, and the stream mostly is a series of pockets with a few "pocket pools".  That's my lingo, for a pocket that seems to big to be a pocket, but is not really a pool.  Just around the bend and up 60-70 yds is the bridge.

Seeing the bridge, the two explorers took off running to catch the view.  They loved it.  The funny part, was that there is a rock written to honor the man who donated this land, memorializing his name in a bronze plaque recessed into a granite boulder.  (this is a Trustees of Reservation property, a private land stewardship group based here in MA.  They occasionally buy land, but most of the time, it's donated to them for preservation.)  The plaque is not the part that was funny, but the fact that they knew those were words on that rock, and that they wanted me to read it about 15 times... that, was funny!

About 80 yards further up and the stream opens into a substantial beaver meadow before getting into a steeper gradient again.

We walked up from the bridge into an old pasture that now is growing up with goldenrod, raspberries and blackberries as well as other grasses and weeds.  Emily promptly started to eat some black berries.  Then she asked me if Bears (we had talked about bears that live in this area) ate blackberries too.  I told her yes... and we all kept eating berries.  Then she said something to the effect of: "berries are called berries because bears eat them."  I wont look at wild berries the same again!  Ha!

We hiked across the meadow, then stopped to see some friends, they were not home, so we drove to my folks (all in the same town) and had a surprise lunch with Mia and Grampy - who were pretty happy for the surprise visitors!

Very fun to see them enjoy the outdoors... Awesome actually!


Monday, August 11, 2014


I've been really busy of late.  Applying (and getting into) to grad school, work, life etc. have been keeping me off the water.  But I have put out the trail cam locally and have seen this doe and fawn in pictures many times.  Looking forward to seeing them in the fall bow in hand.  The little guy would get the pass... I'd have to think about the doe.  Some healthy and delicious dinners for the family there.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Blue Lining on the Mississippi

Yep, that's the Mighty Mississippi, me and my 2 weight hoping to catch a sunfish or chub or baby small mouth bass over a few drifts.  Only had time for about 5' of fishing... but... I can say I swung a wet fly on the Mississippi where it's not bigger than a little blue line I'd wander along looking for blue halo's back home...


Monday, July 7, 2014

Central Minnesota Trout

My wife's family is from Minnesota.  In the early 30's, her dad's dad built a little cabin on the shore's of Gull Lake.  Gull is a large lake.  it's clear, and very mesotrophic in structure.  It does have rock piles and deep holes, but overall, it's typical of many upper midwestern bodies of water - big flat's, points, drop offs... Lots of walleye, bass, pike and sunfish.

Those are all fun to catch... but a few years ago a neighbor told me about a little stream near by that had a bunch of work done on it by the state DNR.  I did some research, and learned that the DNR had found wild trout lived in this stream - in a part of the state with very very few fisheries that are anything but warm water.  And they got to work.  They secured fishing access from private land owners.  They placed large rock's and boulders in the stream to create plunge pools and they used stone to sure up some outside corners, and to help create deep trough's for the trout.  The state claimed to have electro shocked a brown trout to 5lbs after a few years of working on the stream.  They also made the stream a catch and release fishery with the goal of increasing native brook trout size to 10+ inches on average.

The lower portion of the stream, which flow's into Upper Gull Lake is home to a little park, called Fritz Loven Park.  It's a neat little spot for a picnic, and there are other trails through the park to walk.  The state augmented those trails with a great walkway along the stream, even bridges on small swampy areas or stairs on steep hills... Yet this stream is rarely fished... When everyone has walleye on the brain... the number of folks interested in catch and release trout fishing on a small stream apparently is not that great!

Finally today I got to fish this little stream for about 60'.  When you have 3 year old twins at the cabin, you don't have much time to hit the river!  But, after a few years of bringing gear and not using it... I finally wet some flies... and found the streams residents to be very willing to eat.

I took a few photo's of neat areas along the stream and a few of the fish that willingly took a stimulator.

This pic (above) is what you see from the bridge in the main parking area.  Those rocks on the right, some are natural... most are additions from the Minnesota DNR to add structure and keep the stream scouring and with different current patterns.

This log debris was placed in the stream.  It's hard to tell, but the log is all the way across 2/3 of the stream. It creates two distinct currents, one that would be below the pic dead center and rolls under the banking I'm standing on to take the picture... and the other where the current plunges over the log, scouring a 3' deep hole in the sandy stream. 

This is the first brookie that came to hand.  He was living about 5' down stream from the log in the pic above.  He drilled the stimulator I floated over him with abandon... and until I lifted him from the water, I thought he was much larger than he actually was.  

 This shallow riffle did not seem to hold much, but far to the right the current worked through a tangle of branches and under the bank.  A brookie was caught there.

Here, I'm realizing the pic does not do justice.  the current was channeled via a steep bank on the far side, coupled with some DNR added rock along that outside of the turn.  Alone, that would have made for a deep far side of the stream... but the blow downs in the corner added lots of wood and more scouring.  that corner dead center was probably 5 feet deep.  I had a few browns (I think) come up for a look at the fly and turn away at the last moment here... then I snagged the fly and made a ruckus trying to get it out.  I was successful, but, killed the hole for the day - at least for me.

This was a really cool spot.  that yellow sign on the elevated foot bridge in the center, along the edge of the stream, says that this is a Wild Trout stream and it is catch and release for brook trout.  The stream drops down a short riffle, in a narrow section below the foot bridge...  This gathers the current, and creates a very strong scouring pattern when complimented by the DNR's rock addition to the outside.  It makes a run that is deep, with super outside cover (rock and over hang).  I caught a few browns and brookies here on the stimulator...

This brown thought he was 18" long, and ran hard in the run above trying to push himself under the rocks on the left of the stream.  Thankfully he came to hand and posed for a moment before returning to the stream.

Hopefully Ill have a few more fun pic's from some fishing up here in the next week or so... I have not fished as much as I would like... but we have had some fun family adventures and I did drift a fly in a totally amazing spot that I doubt many have... But more on that, next time.

If you are in the Brainerd Lakes Region on Minnesota, consider hitting up Stoney Brook.  It was a neat little spot, and clearly has a lot of potential!