Seems I have been in a funk lately, I apologize. I should be busy, I should be on the road. A small part of me misses the weekend warrior galloping from hotel to motel, from show to show, showing off new fly rods and talking to fellow anglers in preparation for next season. The zooms have been getting me down, it’s just not as good as the real thing. Meeting in person. There is a certain genuine depth of feeling to actually talking face to face. Maybe there is another part that is missing?
All the Fly Film Festivals- I would make my way to Grand Rapids to hang with family for a day, meet with a few dealers and go to the show at Wealthy St. Theatre. We would also fill up the truck and head to TC where TNA would host a F3T at the Opera House. Always great time running into friends from the Adams TU and surrounding area. I like doing the annual review of what new F3T/IF4 movie previews have to offer. But can one do that without the atmosphere of being in a room with 200 other anglers as a GT smashes a huge fly on a flat? I don’t know-
What I do know is there are plenty of virtual Shows for us to watch at home. The benefit is your own living room, price for couch seat and a beverage is pretty affordable in the age of Covid-19. You also have a week to view the featured films offered. So pull out your credit card, sign up, help benefit the TU chapters that sponsor your favorite fly fishing (porn) shows.
Paul H. Young Trout Unlimited has teamed up with Michigan Trout Unlimited to bring you the IF4. Have a tying night, invite some friends over, perhaps a chance to get someone who has not yet crossed over into the ‘Fly Realm’ and wet their appetite. You have two nights to host a movie night- February 19 beginning at 4 pm– (you can start the film 48hrs after and have a week to watch) and March 19 beginning at 4pm. Support your State and local Trout Unlimited Chapter- $15.
“How’s the fishing?” the lady on the bank genuinely inquired.
“We got one in the net, had a few follows- decent day,” my buddy in the bow replied. “But we are just getting to the good water-” I retorted.
“I would go get my drift boat out of the garage, but I only dry fly fish.” she said as she adjusted her position on her deck above the quick flowing seam.
‘What did she just say?’ Sam asked.
‘She only dry fly fishes? That eliminates like 8-9 months of the year on the river.’ I pondered. It is an unusually warm early winter day on the river with guide Sam DeJonge of Wild Rise Outfitters. A pleasant air temperature of 47 degrees, we are toasty in fleece and the guides on my TFO Axiom II have not seen ice since last winter. Water temperature is 40 degrees, we are seeing intermittent clouds- we were hoping for a steel wool cloud covered day, but the sun manages to brighten a few runs along the way. We will fish all winter as long as boat launches are accessible. Solid advice to always check the takeout before you put in, they might not get plowed or are a treacherous skating pond from snow melt and re-freeze.
Don’t get me wrong, I get as excited as the next guy/gal when we see that first bug pop in early spring and an eager trout slurps it under the surface- but the streamer game- it gets my heart pumping like nothing else. For most anglers who chase apex predators, it’s all about the MEAT. Why does it seem intimidating? What is the hesitation for an angler to take the next step and buy a seven weight? Or even an eight or nine? I would surmise, in most cases, it is more about hurling a six inch wet tube sock through the air that may cause some trepidation, but that doesn’t need be the scenario. Let’s look at the basics. The hardware- line, rod, reel and flies coupled with the application of river reading and where to place a tasty morsel for hungry trout and how to retrieve your offering are the stuff books are written about. I will break it down for you in three stages. The Gear, The Flies and The Water.
Rod choice- One of the most important tools in the formula. One should choose a rod that can lift and deliver a larger fly to a sometimes tight or difficult location. Best rod weights from six to ten depend really upon the river and species you are chasing and the proficiency of the angler. Smaller streamers like Zonkers or Zoo Cougars can easily be propelled to likely soft seams with a good six weight, I really like the Axiom II or LK Legacy for the responsive roll casts often executed. Choose an eight weight if you need to catapult double deceivers or Gamechangers across the 50-yard line, often better matched with a fast action rod like the Axiom II-X. If you are into a mixed bag of bronzeback and lake fishing, the Blue Ribbon series in seven weight can toss your Lunch $ or a Bad Hair Day all day long. If you are looking in the budget fly rod category, the Pro II comes in under the competition and performs above it’s class. Proper pairing of line weight to the rod’s capabilities are paramount. We shall cover that next.
Line Choice– We need to get the fly in front of the fish. Even if the fish has already eaten, placing a sculpin or crawfish pattern in front of a 24-inch brown forces the fish to react aggressively. Divide the river column into thirds, top third is 1-2 feet of depth, middle section 3-5 feet, and the bottom is 6-8 feet of depth. We like to use Scientific Angler’s Sonar Titan for many Michigan rivers. The Hover sink 2/4 can cover the top 2/3 of the river effectively with proper fly choice. Sonar Sink Intermediate 3/5/7 can get you in the deeper slots, and if you really want to get down, go Full Sink, but be wary of the all the woody debris- you may lose a Bangtail or two. Many are going to argue some flies can go deep if you use a full sink line, and that often works, but don’t double down with a full sink and a conehead Fishwhacker or you will go broke buying flies. Keep your leader short. Really short. Some anglers try to switch from their 9-11′ leader and can’t figure out why they are missing targets. I will tie a two-foot section of 30# shock tippet with a barrel swivel to 2- 3′ of 12-15# flourocarbon. Keep it under 6 feet long, you will amaze yourself with how well you can roll that heavier wet Grumpy Muppet under some overhanging brush when the heavy taper of your line gets your leader on point.
The Reel- Don’t over think this one, but DO NOT dismiss it either. Get a quality reel, decent arbor size, I prefer large arbor for quicker line pick up and retrieve. I have witnessed more fish lost when an angler is fumbling around with a load of line at his feet and he can’t seem to get enough line on the reel to get the upper hand before his 24″ brown takes his leader to log town and ‘POP!’ I have also witnessed fish charge the boat or go upstream and the slack in the line allows for the fly to ‘fall out’ on a poor hook set. Be sure you have a substantial drag that has quick initial start up, sealed drag is a bonus on the often sandy Michigan rivers. The newly designed BVK SD between $200 and $240 fits all these requirements- even for saltwater.
Fly choice- When you mention ‘streamer’ to certain crowds out West, they immediately think of cute flies like the Autumn Splendor and Woolly Bugger- those flies certainly have a time and place, but most often we are using articulated flies to imitate bait. Sculpin, crawfish, darters/dace, shiners/chubs and smaller trout- these are all on the menu for the fish who have achieved a certain size class. Flash is good, not too much, not too little, often it’s the only thing that allows you to track your fly in the water. The old adage bright fly bright day often applies, but don’t be afraid to go black- it can save the day. We also have plenty of leeches/chestnut lamprey and baby coho/steelhead smolt that add to the dinner features on most rivers that connect to the Great Lakes, perhaps this is why our streamer game is so different. Most often, it is best to try to match the color of the natural surrounding, the bottom. Olive, is a key color on the Manistee, but I have a good buddy who most often throws yellow, and his Instagram account will back his color choice. Kelly Galloup, who, along with Bob Linsenman, pioneered much in our way of thinking for ‘how to fish’ and what to tie for streamer patterns- they actually cowrote the book some 20 years ago ‘Modern Trout Streamers‘. Most flies are either versions of Kelly’s vast arsenal of witty named feathered configurations, but also some of the guides who either worked with Kelly when he was in Michigan or thousands of tyers who have watched countless hours on YouTube and his tying tutorials. Russ Maddin brought us the Circus Peanut and recently updated with the Chromatic Peanut, easily one of my top five flies for rivers we fish. Kelly adapted this pattern with the Peanut Envy. His streamer patterns like the Sex Dungeon, Zoo Cougar, Silky Kitty, Knappy Sculpin, Double Madonna, Barely Legal, Bottoms Up and the Woolly Sculpin have all opened our eyes to a wide variety of tying skills and methods of chasing trophy trout. Mike Schultz has brought us the Swinging D and the Swinging D 2.0, while Rich Strolis –Catching Shadows– and his Ice Pick, Hog Snare and Headbanger Sculpin have put plenty of big fish in angler’s nets. Mike Schmidt with Anglers Choice Flies continually bangs out a couple dozen Cotton Candy Deceivers, Viking Midges, Red Rockets, and Meal Tickets for his far reaching fan base. TFO’s very own Blane Chocklett revolutionized the streamer concept with his multiple articulated GameChanger. Primarily a toothy Esox chaser in his guiding days, Blane was out to mimic something that had more lifelike swimming motion. But his patterns have begun a revolution in all aspects of the streamer world and we continue to see evolution as we hit the tying bench.
The River- Let’s talk about the water and how to fish it, effectively. The top third of the water column can be searched with patterns such as classics like a Muddler Minnow or Zonkers, but also the forever classic Zoo Cougar or Butt Monkey. If you add a sinking line, you can take some of these more buoyant flies to the next level. Most flies with a lot of deer hair or classic bucktail streamers like the Black Ghost tend to stay in the 1-3 feet zone. Sometimes I find these flies are very effective in early fall for pre-spawn brook trout and can be easily flung on your favorite five weight with an aggressive taper. This brings us to the middle column, 2-5 feet of depth, often targeted by floating anglers because you can tempt a fish up from the bottom or out of the woody cover without snagging up and losing $8 flies. Intermediate sink or sink tip lines will allow you to get down, especially if you make a downstream roll cast/mend immediately after your fly hits the water. This allows the line to sink with the current and paving a path for your fly to follow in front of that very ominous looking log jam. Great flies for this depth are the Double Boogie Man, Sex Dungeon, Great Lakes Deceiver and Circus Peanut to name a few.
Going deep- aka Dredging- we need to be on the bottom, Headbanger Sculpin, Tungsten Conehead Woolly Sculpin, or a conehead Madonna will get down deep and dirty. I have often heard, “better to use the wrong fly at the proper depth, than the right fly at the wrong depth.” Basically, you gotta get the fly in the fish’s face- banging streamers on the bank is a good call, you will get a reactive aggressive strike that simply is the fish exerting dominance over territory, which is why we will see flashes on our streamer and get short strikes or ‘misses’- but sometimes they can’t just stop on a dime when they charge. Never overlook or underestimate the soft inside bend. This is an easy thing to do, especially when the far bank holds a ton of wood and a sweeper that is the very definition of a trout condo, but trust me. That transition water where the sand fades into dark cobble is exactly where a large aggressive fish can disappear into the bottom and wait for a careless brook trout or crawdad to slip out of his comfort zone. These can be camouflaged as shelves or deep gradient slopes, learn to read these tell-tale trout lies and you will amaze yourself in hook up ratio. Get a guide that can show you some of these non-descript looking trout hide outs, the return will be worth your investment.
Be sure to investigate a few spots like the front of a riffle zone or deep behind a down tree that looks like frog water. Big trout, especially in winter months will rest in dark murky water looking for a casual leech or crawfish to pass in front of their noses. There may be many likely looking holds that many trout may inhabit, especially on our wood=laden northern Michigan rivers, but the unlikely looking local still can hold a trout, only a few less anglers have plied that water. Make a variety of retrieves. Imagine you are the baitfish that just came face to face with with a 22-foot dragon, would you casually walk out of the room, or turn on a dime and high tail it out of there? Make that fly dance and run like it is designed to swim. Sometimes the water temperature will dictate a very slooow thump thump retrieve. Trout will actively feed when water temperature is between 55 and 65 degrees, but post spawn opportunistic trout need to get some weight back on for winter. Spawning season can be stressful on trout, please leave them plenty of room to reproduce and secure future generations of trout to chase the other 11 months of the year.
Streamer fishing is not a numbers game, some days are banner and well, others are a nice boat ride. Work your water, all depths, pay attention to where Mr. Predatory fish came from and why. No matter what you perceive as your preferred fishing method, always leave room to expand your horizons. Whether dry flies are your thing, or maybe you prefer Euro nymphing, having the right gear, the right line, and the “right” water always make for a memorable experience. Get out and enjoy the journey. #fishtheoriginal
Walking out of a relatively noted fly shop along a fairly famous river, I glance down at the few dozen Missing Link Caddis, Hippie Stompers and Dust Bunnies and I ponder why are there nearly two C-notes sitting in the palm of my hand? It is mid-June, I have some hope and collective reports from various underground resources the drakes are going down tonight- but where? South? North? Main stream? Who knows. All I know is the four dozen Hairy Drakes I stashed away from Jerry Regan after the Midwest Expo have a date with destiny on some silky smooth water only to be interrupted by voracious explosions from recently rejected Mr Brown. Am I the only one who wonders what makes a quality fly and why do we pay $30 per dozen for a good fly? I decided to dig deeper.
We need to look at the basics. Hook and material. I called up Josh Graffam, recently promoted Sales Manager for Umpqua Feather Merchants, and asked “What makes your flies worth the platinum pricing?”
Josh responded -“There are a few things that set our flies apart, one the of the most important is the hook. We tie exclusively on Tiemco or in a few cases, signature tiers request a specialty hook that’s unique to their pattern. We also take great care in sourcing and high grading materials so that our factories are provided with the very best components which in turn creates the highest quality commercially tied flies. With over 200 signature tiers featured in our lineup, we have one of the most diverse and comprehensive selections available in fly shops around the world.”
This leads to the second part of fly choice- design. Who is coming up with the latest patterns? What makes them work? I met Charlie Craven over a sales meeting last year and he had some great insight, being not only a signature tyer but also a shop owner. “It’s about darn time fly prices went up. Fly prices have been stuck in the eighties for decades, literally. The amount of time and work that goes into creating & testing a pattern is often a lot longer than most think. If you can produce a quality fly that fishes well cheaper than what a company has been doing for 40 years, by all means, go ahead.” Most guys don’t sit down and put materials on a hook via mystical formula and voila- the Next Copper John is born. Generally, a fly is born out of a need, and deeper inspiration often evolves from time on the water. Then scratches on paper, time at the vise, time on the water, more time back at the vise, sometimes, professional tyers like Mr. Craven let a pattern soak for some time and then come back to it with improvements or revisions. “Great patterns must be durable, effective, problem solving fish catchers.” – Mr Craven interjects.
Take the Missing Link Caddis for example. Mike Mercer had been catching fish all day and later in the evening watched a pod of rising fish on the Lower Sacramento River. After throwing a variety of caddis and coming up empty handed, he whipped up a few ‘dries’ to try out. They had a flashabou tinsel wrapped softex body to hang below the surface and split ‘V’ wing made of Z-lon, and they worked!! Today, a well tied Missing Link Caddis in olive green and red can fool many a trout feeding on emergers of a variety of caddis and other bugs. All of these innovative tyers get a small portion of fly sales when you purchase a royalty fly from their appropriate company.
So what does it really matter? I could buy a dozen El Cheapo Zoo Cougars from Big “X” Fly Company for half of what many other brand companies offer. They can sell them cheaper because they are. Hooks and materials can be substandard, like not really tungsten when advertised they are. Often they won’t swim properly. IF they catch a fish, they won’t last for more than one. They are not paying royalties to Mr, Galloup. I heard a story from an angler who broke 4 stonefly nymphs on a couple browns in the same day. He claimed they were a size #10, and I wondered if he was snagged into the bottom more than a fish, but he insisted he felt the fish break the hook. I then questioned his leader choice. He was using #12 maxima. Be sure to match proper tippet size to hook size in the event you hook an immovable object, your leader will give and not the hook. The hooks may have been compromised, but since they were purchased from a Big Box Outdoor retailer, it would be unlikely all the flies in the bin were of the same origin. You are the consumer and have the power to request the name of the company your favorite fly shop gets a majority of their flies. Since fly shops generate nearly 30% of annual sales from those little buggers of marabou and rubber legs. Many shops employ their off season shop jockeys to fill bins of regionally exclusive flies like Borchers Drakes because Big Fly can’t or won’t do them justice. A good fly shop will mix batches between three reputable fly manufacturers in the event of a weather or shipping related incident, they won’t be without Purple Haze or Meat Whistles for summer rush. You can also do your own due diligence and blind order a dozen Stimulators from three separate companies and see how they compare. Be sure to look closely at the hackle, how many wraps of body hackle and head wraps. Are they symmetrical? Consistent? Is the head wrapped and cemented? Do the same with your favorite nymph pattern- Prince Nymph, Bead Head Hares Ear, or Copper John. Dissect the results and see how the flies stack up from the bottom to the top. Some companies will take the short road and wrap less lead on nymphs or use a lighter metal for bead-heads so they don’t get to desired depth as fast as other nymphs might.
We as fly anglers are a tedious lot. We spend our money on fancy waders with zippers, the latest in carbon fiber fast action rods and light composite reels upwards of thousand dollars, yet we scrimp on the one thing that actually has us connected to the trout we seek. If you are willing to spend the money on all the external items in fly angling, is a ninety cent fly worth risking a record trout on? The next time you are sitting on that log waiting for that brown drake hatch to occur, the very same hatch you dreamt of all winter and only have two nights a year to capitalize on a trout worthy of bragging rights over morning coffee, make sure the fly you chose is worthy of its adversary.
Seems like we couldn’t become more divided. The politics, on the news, social media, billboards and radio. We are bombarded by the constant noise from news outlets. I try to avoid it but somehow, it still infests my feed. All this conflict got me thinking about the state of the fly community and the manner in which we conduct ourselves on the river. These thoughts have been in the queue for some time; however, because of so many run on thoughts, I did not feel the need to inundate you with more rhetorical diarrhea but perhaps I shall hit send, maybe, just maybe.
We are all anglers.
We don’t have to be on the same page, but we can be civil towards one another. We have our differences, that is what makes us unique. I can like a certain product, it does not define me, rather shows a side of my personality. You have a fairly defined line out there: Fly Guys vs Bait guys. I would go further and say it goes deeper. Rio/SA vs. Redington/Orvis, Stealthcraft/Adipose vs. Clacka/Hyde vs. Euro Nymph/Streamer Long Boats/’other guys’- these lines only seem to further drive the wedge between us. It really makes little sense. I can listen to Moby & New Order (and a variety of 80’s alternative music), you can listen to Sturgill Simpson, Bon Jovi, Kanye, or Kid Rock, we can still be friends. We can still come together after a river clean up and have a BBQ and be cool about the resources we care about. It amazes me, especially in my travels, how we treat each other on a daily basis. We are so quick to judge when we have spent little time in the other person’s shoes. I chose my drift boat for the rivers that I fish, it works for me. I quickly learned when I trailered my Adipose to the White River in Arkansas, even though doable, was not the preferred water vessel. Same is true on the lower Manistee. But the smaller faster confines of the Jordan River and upper Manistee, my Flow is great for me and my clients. I use TFO because I believe in the product. The customer service and warranty of the rod company started by Lefty Kreh and Rick Pope is unequaled in the fly market. You can use the rod and reel you like, we can still be friends. Diversity should be celebrated. Last summer, I was shopping in Mackinaw City with my girls. Simone was on the hunt for the perfect summer sweatshirt, after about five stores, with matching storefronts, I noticed there was little IF ANY difference between these shops. In fact, I came to find out later when I spoke with a small independent store that the same family came into town, bought the hotel, restaurant and Crossings Mall, driving up rent and dropping prices on hoodies to monopolize the once popular tourist destination. It was actually sad. There was little diversity and every store lacked customer service and quality. Celebrate and support those who choose a different path than yours.
It’s not about the size.
I don’t claim to be an expert, only doing the best I can with what I have. Some of you who have had the chance to spend some time on the water with me know where I came from. Not the best, certainly not the worst- but there was a dark time. In my late twenties, I was working in the service industry and hitting the Jager and Captain like it was my job. I was self loathing and spiraling deeper into depression because I was not the doctor or lawyer I was supposed to be. It took jail time and cold sleepless nights on the street before I finally made up my mind to do the next best thing- so simple and yet the most difficult thing to do- ask for help. I got clean in the Spring of 2001 and began to rewrite my book with fresh eyes and, after some encouragement, a revitalized sense of worth. God willing, April will mark 20 years not a drop nor a drug, One Day at a Time. Next week I will be hitting the half century mark, perhaps this is partially the reason I am getting contemplative.
I have worked very hard to have achieved what I have, especially when I look back when I was loser couch surfing with only backpack containing a set of work clothes, apron and a change of socks. I only bring this up because of others who like to throw spears. Other guides who quickly forget how they got their waders wet or rowed a boat for the first time and publicly denounce that they “would not let me even carry their rods to the boat.” This Holier than Thou approach is exactly why we are where we are in society. Many guides had shops or mentors to teach them the way- they also provide insight on lesser known situations. These times I had to learn on my own and develop my own methods. IF I have not spent time in another man’s boat, I cannot make a personal judgement call on his ability to guide nor his personal convictions. I do, however, know that we need each other. I am the guide who brings out many beginners and novices, while the seasoned professionals who tout ‘only the Biggest Trout are caught in my boat’, they rarely have time nor the patience for beginners. My approach is different, again, that’s OK. Every trip should be a learning experience- the angler/client should walk away with a new view or approach to the next time they hit the water on their own. We should be a nurturing culture as guides- not a selfish, secret society. NOT every trip is about catching the trout of a lifetime. If it is, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
Use the Socials~ but don’t abuse.
I came into this profession quite possibly at the most opportune time. Remember MySpace? Ya, it was after that. The era of Facebook/Instagram and yet to be tamed YouTube. I had a new baby and plenty of time in between diaper changes and bottle feeds at 3am to tie a fly and make a post about a cute little girl who soon became my bug partner in the river. I spent many hours dedicated to volunteering for the Miller Van Winkle TU chapter and on State Council, which in turn developed a classroom experience for SIC at Sheridan Elementary (which continues today). As a TU president, I also saw the value in partnering with local Watershed groups and conservancies and developing those relationships which have proved beneficial even today. Facebook really helped push these events and helped escalate True North Trout from 60 followers to over 5K and growing. This didn’t happen without a few bumps. I had to take my bruises and learn along the way. Even though I do post some contentious content from time to time, I am still learning what hot topics to avoid.
I guess, at the end of the day, I’m just trying to encourage everyone to celebrate our differences and play nice. We all have our own story, and we’re all writing our pages one at a time. Sometimes we need a new chapter, and other times we spend too much time dwelling on pages we should have already turned. It is time to move forward. It is time to heal. We would do well to embrace our differences and be the example we would like our children to see. We’re all in the ‘same boat.’
Very happy to announce a collaboration with FISH PRINT SHOP and Temple Fork Outfitters for the month of January. I would like to see a picture and hear a short story on your favorite, doesn’t have to be biggest, memorable fish you caught on your TFO rod. January will be freshwater, February will feature saltwater species.
Tell me a little about your catch. Where you were, what rod you were using and why you like what TFO does for your fly fishing experience. Contest will run from January 1 thru 30.
On Instagram- Hashtag #fishtheoriginal #truenorthtrout #Make2021EPIC #fishprintshop
Four finalists will be narrowed down at end of the month and (1)winner will chosen by my better half.
A little on Mike at FISHPRINTSHOP-
Michael is a fishing enthusiast with a background in Biology and Art. The Fish Print Shop has two guiding principles, fisheries conservation through promoting Catch and Release fishing practices and fairly compensating artists for their life’s work. Michael explains, “I wanted to create something timeless that you might find in a natural history museum, old city aquarium, or biology classroom- places where I’ve always found solace when I’m not fishing.”
Michael personally makes each print to ensure the highest quality. He is constantly sourcing the finest inks and papers to ensure his prints will last “a lifetime and beyond”.
Just call, text, or email Michael and you can discuss your project.
Look forward to hearing some great fish tales!!
Nets from Bryon Anderson- Recently had a chance to get the latest from woodworker and net maker Bryon. We met years ago at a river cleanup and immediately fished that afternoon. It is always a pleasure bumping into him on the river and talking about some of his writing and his latest hobby- net building. So here is what he had to say~
I am what you might call a successfully transplanted Michigander. I came here from my native rural Missouri after college, newly married and but recently introduced to the wonders of this thing called fly fishing. We landed in Ann Arbor, in an apartment whose one redeeming feature was that it was right on the banks of the Huron River. For two years, that river taught me to fly fish, and with those new skills came a piece of truth that every fly fisher knows too well: one fly rod is never enough.
I was drawn to the idea of building my own rods at first for the simple reason that I was poor, and, I soon learned, with a little practice I could build a nicer rod than I could buy finished for the same money. I built a 3-weight that not only serves me beautifully to this day, but also reminded me of something I already knew from tying my own flies, which was that I enjoyed building my own fishing tackle almost as much as I enjoyed using it. That realization led to building many more rods, making furled leaders, and eventually – when I decided that I “needed” a portable fly tying bench, to woodworking.
I had just started flirting with the idea of building my own landing net when I became an instructor at a Trout Unlimited fly fishing school, where I had the good fortune to meet Jim Newland, a fixture at the school and in Northern Michigan fly shops, where he sold his signature handmade nets. Jim and I hit it off and, several weeks after the school ended, he emailed me to say he was retiring from making his nets. He invited me to visit his workshop and take home many of his specialized tools and bending forms and materials, with the hope that I would carry on the tradition.
Jim’s shoes were big ones to fill; my skills were still developing when I was blessed with his friendship and generosity, and it took me a while before I could produce nets that were worthy of association with his, while developing and blending in my own aesthetic too.
My process is very similar to Jim’s. I start with thin strips of hardwoods – mostly Black Walnut, Hickory, and Maple sourced from Michigan forests, but sometimes mixed with some more colorful exotic species such as Padauk, Canarywood and Niove, as well. The strips are soaked in boiling water to make them more pliable, and then bent and clamped around a wooden form to create the shape of the net hoop. After the wood dries in the desired shape, the wood strips are laminated together using a waterproof plastic resin glue and again clamped to the form and glued to a handle made of one or more hardwoods, sometimes with accents made from highly figured wood burls. After the glue cures for 24 hours, I begin the process of sanding and shaping, creating contours that are pleasing to the eye and that make the net rest comfortably and feel good in the hand. The hoop is also slotted and drilled to accept the net bag after finishing is complete.
Once the desired contours are achieved and the wood is sanded very smooth, the net can be customized with woodburning, carved epoxy inlays, or various other artistic effects if desired. It then receives a coat of a waterproof sealer that will ensure that water can never enter the pores of the wood and cause it to rot. It is then topcoated with multiple coats of a good marine spar varnish, which produces a satin sheen and provides more protection against water, and also against UV radiation.
The final step is sewing on the net bag. Most people now favor the soft rubber bags, which, while heavier than traditional cotton or nylon bags, are less likely to snag on hooks, and which are believed to be friendlier to the protective mucous coating on a fish’s body. I use the rubber bags on my nets that are large enough to accept the sizes they come in. My smallest nets get a soft woven nylon bag that is still very fish-friendly. All of the bags, regardless of material, are U.S.-made and of very high quality.
Bryon’s nets range from around $100 to $120. Special orders can be requested. Find his work on ETSY here.
It’s that time of year, as an angler we get our promotional boxes inundated with useless ‘NEED TO HAVE’ items for next season. My aim is simple. I will keep it brief, speak only what I have personally used, and share my experience. The rest is up to you. Share this with your friends and family, perhaps there will be something special under the tree- IF it will fit.
Peace & Tight Lines!!
1- RIVERSMITH Rod Quiver. Yes. This is the big one. Many have already converted from the other rod tube company to this manufacturer for good reason(s). Choice of two or four rod banger. Black or silver, even a limited edition hunter green came out a few weeks back. Two different length options- 10’4″ or 11′ 4″(black was only available in shorter model when I purchased). Customer service is outstanding. Based in Boulder, Colorado, where these guys are taking over the rod rack market, namely for two key features. The reel housing has a noticeable lip which prevents from easily prying open the reel housing and stealing contents. The other is the mounting brackets- they are utilizing a T-bar in the mount directly to the integrated tubes, they have not come loose in 40K miles of my road sales travel and they are as secure as they were last year when I installed them. Only set back- having a taller vehicle like a Tahoe/Suburban or Expedition wont allow you to park in some parking ramps with lower height clearance, and some may not park in garage- Riversmith is aware and looking at shorter ‘Stubby’ mounting brackets. What I personally like is the choice of two or four rod bangers. As a guide, I can have multiple rods rigged and ready to go with a 4 rod rack. If I was a weekend warrior, the two rod Quiver would satisfy my Streamer & Dry/Nymph rod set ups. The reel housing opens to the right, much like a normal door, which prevents the actual housing from cracking after flipping the door over the top after repeated use. Many have asked about a Spey or Two handed rod rack- at 14′ in length, it would only fit on a couple of vehicles and the amount of tube extended in front of the forward bracket would allow for too much play in the tube. Until they develop a three bracket attachment system, you simply need to break down your two handed rods. Pricing: 2 Banger model $399 4 Banger $680-720(extended model).
check them out here www.riversmithusa.com
2- Cody’s Creations – Cody has been wrapping license plates around panels and making Roosterfish, Boneys and even a few Trout for a couple years now. There seems to be no limit to his creativity and a look at his art will attest. You need one of these in the cabin or in your den. His work is amazing- it also takes time. If you order this week, perhaps you will see something by Christmas. Contact Cody Richardson720-206-9614
3- OnX Hunt App I don’t hunt, so I never saw the benefit of this great outdoor tool. Now that I regularly use the variety of features, I don’t know how I floated the river without it! Sure, I know where I am headed when I put in at 72 and take out at Hole In the Fence, but how far exactly is that? Who owns that awesome stretch where all that wood is piled up? What about where I lost that piggy last season? Mark it, add a waypoint, take a foto and save. Get it- right now get 30% off premium & elite Hunt memberships for Black Friday. Code THANKS30
4- GAMECHANGER the latest by Blane Chocklett. From the Gummy Minnow to the Game Changer, fly tier and professional guide Blane Chocklett has been at the fore of progressive fly design and fishing tactics for species ranging from trout to musky for over twenty years. He is an advisor for many top fly fishing and fly tying companies in the industry including Temple Fork Outfitters, Yeti Coolers, Costa del Mar Sunglasses, Scientific Anglers, Patagonia, Renzetti, Flymen Fishing Company, Sightline Provisions, Hareline, and Adipose Boatworks, and he is southeast regional editor for Fly Fisherman magazine. Check out a quick recap from Mad River Outfitters Please pick this addition to your fly library at your favorite fly shop for $49.95
The LK Legacy series pays homage to TFO’s founding rod designer Lefty Kreh by incorporating all his wisdom in the creation of the ultimate “big water” trout rod for intermediate to advanced anglers. Whether casting dries, nymphs, or streamers, the LK Legacy’s perfect tracking and a crisp, smooth recovery make them very powerful and responsive. LK Legacy series lighter line weights will easily protect 5x tippet when fishing to highly selective trout. And the mid to heavier line weights are excellent for windy conditions or distance casting as they are designed to efficiently generate high line speed and very tight loops. The combination of light weight and durability make these rods perfect to fish from first light to sundown in the high mountain west where conditions can include wind and big water. Find them at one of many TFO dealers near you. Available in sizes 3-8 weight $270-300. Hard to beat a rod that works this much for so little coin.
Catch a fish of a lifetime? What if it wasn’t the biggest? Perhaps you want to preserve a special trip with family member- get a reprint and frame it. That Tomerelli print will look awesome in the den or living room. Fresh or Saltwater> This is a great gift for the angler in your life. Pricing depends on size. Up to 34″=$75 34-46″=$90 46-60″=$125 over 60″=$375 more information here FISHPRINTSHOP.com
Do you have that one special person? Super difficult to buy for? Perhaps a client, or your boss, who already seemingly has everything… THIS is the gift for you- Whiskey Leatherworks has the most refined, attention to detail personal and cool items they didn’t know they needed. From a new Hand Forged Buckle Leather Belt, Fish Flops, Fish Print belt & Dog Collar, Leather Fly Wallet, Leather Dopp kit, Flask, Leather Dog collar, to a Wine & Whiskey Tote- the list goes on. You will make a huge hit with this gift. Prices vary- Check them out here Whiskey Leatherworks prices $20-200
Designed in the UK and winner of EFTTEX Best New Product Award and Trout Fisherman’s Tackle Tester Choice– SnowBee Nivalis Jacket is getting attention. You may have seen them at shows. They are slowly making their way to the Midwest. The guides in the Rockies already know the value of warmth and waterproof. The Snowbee Nivalis Jacket is DWR(waterproof) & down filled for warmth. Most noticed the waffle appearance, that weld prevents the down from slipping and eventually having a ‘saggy’ jacket. The DWR fabric also keeps you dry and the down fill keeps you toasty. I have sat at a few wet/cold football games, and rowed down some icy river mornings- this jacket is like wearing your favorite ultra warm sleeping bag. I stay warm, dry and cozy- that makes for a happy angler at the end of the day. Duck hunters have recently taken notice to the versatility and style of this jacket- you should check them out at D&R Sports Center in Kalamazoo. Recent write up in ALLENOUTDOORS. Keep dry, stay warm. Women’s Jacket has light blue accent. Price $299
The holidays are upon us, and we know that this can be a stressful time of the year. If you’re struggling with gift ideas for a woman who loves rivers, oceans, and the great outdoors, do not fear! Let us help you find something amazing! Below are collections to suit women of all stripes and gift-givers of all budgets. So much has been going on with the elves at Fishewear. Check out the latest in Womens River apparel at Mad River Outfitters! Leggings, Waterproof bags, Alagash Skirts, Sweatshirts and so much more. Prices $35-200
Dani Knoph Davis is an artist, writer, and advocate for wildlife conservation in Michigan. She launched Dani Knoph Wildlife Studio in 2017. Archival prints of her artwork can be found at specialty shops and galleries. In 2017, Dani joined a statewide effort to reintroduce Northern Michigan’s once predominant native salmonid species, known as the Arctic Grayling.
In 2017, Dani was asked to write a feature story about Arctic Grayling restoration for Traverse Magazine. Research led her down a rabbit hole through Michigan’s pre-conservation past. Historical records and photography of the late 1800s revealed a grim period of deforestation, barren river banks, displaced Native Americans, and declining wildlife. Learning about this era of habitat destruction inspired her to learn about the current state of Michigan wildlife and native species. That’s when a friend introduced her to Michigan’s Wildlife Action Plan, a statewide framework to coordinate conservation for wildlife and habitats by working together toward shared goals—a plan that acknowledges 300 species in need of conservation. Price $25-75
Derek DeYoung was born on a bayou near the shores of Lake Michigan where his love of fishing was ignited. Over the years his art has veered from the classical fishing art, placing more importance on using a unique style and palette. Using oil paints on canvas, he artfully captures all the subtle intricacies fish possess; their patterns, dimension and texture. In his artwork DeYoung is constantly pushing the limits by painting fish in beautiful and original ways. Whether for the cabin, the den, the office or even the main entrance- Derek DeYoung has a fish motivated theme piece of art to hang in your modest abode. Pilsner glasses and mugs, wrapping paper, otterboxes, 3 or 4 panel art- Really, If it has scales, Derek has painted it and I am sure there is a place in your home. Check out his work> DEYOUNG STUDIO Price $6-$800.00
12- Sandhill Coffee– from the farm to your cup.
Coffee has a way of bringing people together; whether it is over your first cup of coffee at the start of your day or planning an incredible outdoor experience with friends. We strive to provide you with a premium coffee that makes connections to others and the environment.
Sandhill Coffee is a proud member of 1% for the Planet. Sustainability means a lot to us, so we are promising to donate 1% of our yearly revenue to an environmental non-profit. With every purchase you are giving back to the environment that you enjoy. Check out the complete line at Sandhill Coffee Price $14-$75 gift packages available.
13- Support Your local Guide– Call and get some dates in the books or see if they have Gift Certificates for next season. You are going to get out on the water, now would be a good time to assist your favorite outdoor river enthusiast- Short list of Guides in our area- Bear Andrews at Bear Handed Guide Service, Ethan at Wing & Hook, Tim at River Valley Adventures, Sam at Wild Rise Outfitters, Bill at Wild Bill’s Guide Service, True North Trout, Matt at Boneyard FlyGear or Aaron at Mainstream Guides. We are all eagerly looking forward to a fun & fishy 2021!!
14- Adipose Flow
Might as well dream BIG. Get on the list for the Crew in Helena Montana to build your perfect drift boat. So many great options, price depends on modifications $7500(used)-12,500.00