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Michigan Fly History

2018 December 11
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by Brian Kozminski

A recent project begun by Ray Schmidt of Temple Fork Outfitters Great Lakes Region has received some attention by local fly anglers and tyers across the country. Ray, former owner of Schmidt Outfitters in Wellston, MI and innovator of many Great Lakes patterns such as Ray’s Rattlesnake and STS Bugger, thought it would be a wonderful winter project to dig into the history and document the development of many patterns that made our area famous and also highlight others that may have had their 15 seconds of fame. I reached out to Mr Schmidt to get a little inside scoop. Here is where this endeavor is headed…

I was about 30 years outside of the Michigan fly development stage- 1930 thru 1950’s. I was lucky enough to be visiting my older brother in Grayling that lived next door to my Uncle Clarence Roberts.

The wonderment of law enforcement with the lure of fishing made a young lad want to be like his elders.
My love of tying flies soon followed. As years past and a world of fly-fishing opened for my career I wanted to preserve some of this stuff I knew, maybe some no one else knew.
I’ve chronicled flies for years both in text form and on our web sites. 
After our sale of Schmidt Outfitters and retirement looming large, I wanted to put together  these historic patterns in one spot for the community to see and enjoy.
When our friend Chris Doyal volunteered to help put this together, well….bingo.
Ray & Kate  -Double SS Outdoors
You can’t talk about fly tying and not mention the fly that put Mayfield Pond, near Traverse City,  Michigan, in nearly every fly box from here to Redding, California- The ADAMS. Whether you prefer the classic upwing spent style in Catskill fashion or the more popular parachute post, original muskrat gray body with Grizzly/Coachman hackle to current revisions in purple and iridescent sparkle, there is little doubt this mayfly pattern has fooled it’s fair share of trout from coat to coast. Midcurrent picked up on the project and many have now been tuned in. Join Ray as he talks & ties his way through the many flies our predecessors worked diligently to fool that big brown down on the millpond from decades ago. Who knows, a few of them may need to be tied up and swung into a current seam near you, they just might work.

Thalken’s Chloris Leechman

2018 November 25
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by Brian Kozminski

Earlier this season, I was fishing a river that has single 3/8″ hook size regulations, I wanted to throw a large streamer for coho and steelhead. Frustrated after drifting multiple egg patterns and stoneflies that were not getting attention from anything larger than 11″ stocker trout, I nearly gave up my day on the river. This spey style articulated leech pattern was sitting in my steelhead box and never saw any action. I gave it a go. The action and depth were exactly what I needed. Fish started coming out of shadows and deep pools to inspect this likely looking egg sucking leech fly. I reached out to Morgan Thalken to get some more info on his soon to be famous “Chloris Leechman” from Umpqua Feather Mechants.

Chloris Leechman from Morgan Thalken.

   “I began fly fishing when I was eleven years old. I began tying flies earlier than that. I was fortunate enough to have an anadromous fishery just a short bike ride from my house. Summers were spent swinging Caddis pupa, or skating heavily hackled dries for juvenile steelhead. Winters were spent chucking Teeny lines with egg sucking leeches in hopes of a grab from something larger. The obsession with swinging flies for Steelhead became engrained in me at a young age. The years and the travels have only fueled the fire.  

     The Chloris Leechman was a pattern that I began tying about five years ago. Essentially just a tweaked bunny leech to add some elements I desired. Nothin’ fancy. It had to be rabbit and it had to be articulated to have a natural fluid motion. I preferred a bead head over dumbbell eyes. I could achieve an egg sucking look with a hot bead, or go a little toned down sculpin style with a metallic bead. I also wanted to add a little accent color with a picked out dubbing collar. 

     Since I began tying these, I now probably have forty variations stuffed in my box. Different sizes, color combos, some with standard beads, and some with tungsten. I typically throw this pattern using a Skagit style head and a variety of sink tips depending on conditions with a 3’ leader.  This pattern has proven itself very versatile from fall to winter fish all along the Pacific Coast and beyond. “

Start with Rabbit and Gamakatsu Octopus Hook

Tie in connector and either Waddington Shank or hook you can sacrifice at the bend. Be sure to slide Bead on prior.

Wrap rabbit strip, Ice Dub head add some flash. Very simple effective pattern. Cut hook with pliers. (wear eye protection)

Finished product. Be sure to tie a variety of colors.

Barred Rabbit in olive and/or orange are very attractive under water. Cream/Yellow/ White in multiple sizes are a good idea. Purple for Bass and Pike is a must have fly.  Here is what you need.

Materials List:

Shank: U302 sz 6-2

Stinger: Gamakatsu Octopus hook sz 6-2

Bead: 5/32-7/32 size to match hook, color to match pattern

Thread: Uni 6/0 color to match body

Connecting material: 30lb braid

Body material: rabbit strip, standard or cross cut

Flash: flashabou to accent body or collar color

Collar: Arizona Diamond dub, set in a dubbing loop and picked out. Color to accent body

The HeatSeeker

2018 November 15
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by Brian Kozminski

Recently saw a streamer on Facebook that caught my attention. Mr Paul Brown of KC Fly Co. and guide in Alaska at The Alaska Rainbow Lodge ties up some beautiful beefy streamers for Pike/muskie and other predatory fish that can engulf baitfish imitations.

A little bit about Paul and how he works up his patterns:

“I work as a fishing guide for Alaska Rainbow Lodge in the amazing Bristol Bay region on the world famous Kvichak River. I’ve been guiding in Alaska for 3 years now and I love every minute of it. During the offseason I shift my attention from the giant rainbows of the Kvichak to tying flies. I started KC Fly Co. 3 years ago to be able to stay in the fly fishing industry during the offseason. I specialize in tying large, articulated predator flies for anything from trout to musky and exotic species. The Heatseeker is one of those patterns that can cover all of these species in one fly.”

Let’s take a look at the HEATSEEKER>

Ok so to start the rear hook is a 2/0 Ahrex Aberdeen Predator (any light wire hook will do) Run your thread back about a 1/4 of the shank from the eye and that is the starting point.

From there I tie in either Jerkbait Mania’s Pike Skinz or SF blend cut in half and tapered. I tie this all the way around the shank. And this is going to provide the taper you want depending on how long you cut the fiber.

I then tie in full length DNA Holo Fusion or Jerkbait mania Buck Blend. If it’s buck blend I mix in some ice Wong Fiber for a little flash. I have this extend about 2.5 shank lengths behind the hook.

Then I tie in 2 hackle feathers on the top half of the fly extending the tips of the feathers just past the buck blend.

I then create a dubbing loop and put in ripple ice fiber trying to keep it as thinly distributed as I can.

Wrap the flash and whip finish and that’s your tail.

The front hook is a 3/0 Ahrex 26* Bent Streamer hook. For my articulations I use 6mm beads and 49 strand .024 inch wire.

Then I tie in pike skinz cut in half and then cut in half again. Tying it all the way around the shank.

Tie in more buck blend. The top wing ends halfway down the shank of the rear hook and the bottom wing ends at the eye of the rear hook.

Spin another dubbing loop of ripple ice and wrap it.

Tie in pike skinz cut in half and cut in half again. I tie this stage in about 1/3 of the way back from the bend in the shank.

I tie in the last wings of buck blend measuring to the back of the front hook.

One more dubbing loop of ripple ice.

Then I switch my thread to GSP and tie in my collar trimming away the short butt pieces.

I make 3 spins of deer hair for the head.

I always start on the bottom and trim it totally flat.

On the top of the head I follow the angle of the hook trimming back to my collar.

For the sides I trim looking from above the fly starting at the eye of the hook at a 45 degree angle curving to 90 degrees halfway back on the head.

On this size I add 8mm eyes and call it good.

You can get Pike Skinz from my website www.kcflyco.com, I am currently running low on stock to sell but I am expecting another order from them to be showing up soon. You can also get it from www.jerkbaitmania.co.uk 

The Heatseeker, this is the wedgehead version of the Clincher by Paul Brown. All synthetic except for the head for durability.

Great Looking pattern~ get out and get your line wet!

 

 

Fall 2018 Video

2018 November 12
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My good friend and video/photographer Alex Childress spent some time with me this fall chasing a few brook trout and trying to capture that perfect moment of color from the landscape and the trout of our local rivers. Although we spent several hours throwing streamers for large browns, the weather either was too nice for fishing or on the nasty side for shooting video/drone work. If you are looking for a top notch photographer for your family/real estate/product shoot, give Alex a shout and spread the word.

The 2019 season holds a lot in store for the learning & new Fly anglers. So many rivers and endless possibilities. The Tip of the Mitt has exploded with great places to stay and dine, Boyne City/Petoskey seem to be flourishing along with the TC area. Take your family on a weekend get away and perhaps save a couple hours to share some quality time on a cool spring fed river.

I have recently added Sales Representative for the Great Lakes Region under UMPQUA FEATHER MERCHANTS to my business. This will mean a few less trips in years ahead as I make road trips to dealers and attend sales seminars for brands I represent. I plan to maintain my guide License/insurance with the State of Michigan. Over the holidays, it would be great to support local businesses & Fly shops you frequent by purchasing a fly box/flies/vest or sling pack from Umpqua. Look forward to seeing and meeting many new fly folks at various Fly Fishing Expo’s and Demo’s in the coming year.

Ask your fly shop to carry the best, #TIEDTOTHEWATER

Have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving!

Tight Lines,

Koz

Enjoy some Fall Foliage and brook trout from this great area.

Umpqua Feather Merchants

2018 October 20
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WELCOME to UMPQUA

 New Tarpon S415 & Flats S420 are 5 times more corrosion resistant than traditional black nickel finishes.

New boxes include HD and LT along with Bug lockers in great colors.

Killer new pattern from buddy Zach Ginop. Think Conrad Sculpin meets Drunk & Disorderly. Dead Sexy.

Riley talks packs and product development. A ton of R&D goes into the Zero Sweep bag.

Entryway to Umpqua HQ. Meandering bamboo floor is mirrored with Pacific Northwest wooded ceiling.

Official UFM shuttle vehicle.

Fly Shipment hot from ‘Tie-a-Fly’- Umpqua has the single most on hand inventory in the States.

Wall of Flies~ all new flies for 2019 #tiedtothewater

 

Recent rip to Umpqua Feather Merchants allowed me the opportunity to meet and integrate with other members of the Umpqua Team. The innovation of sling pack and waist pack design went beyond my imagination. The smallest details, from hidden nipper ports and tapered covers on fly patches, to extra support on hip belts and closely trimmed flaps on waist seams prevent the angler from unwanted line tangles. Getting background from Riley Cotter on how the Zero Sweep technology went full throttle after meeting a former Special Ops veteran on all packs and bags was nothing less than amazing. Each pack has been carefully thought through to make your time on the water most effecient and enjoyable. Look for exciting new digital-Camouflage packs this fall and hot orange hemostats/nippers to accent these great looking bags. I might be getting ahead of myself~ Who is Umpqua Feather Merchants you ask?

Since 1972, Umpqua has been blazing the way for hand tied flies from coast to coast. Owner Dennis Black had the foresight to envision a group of select and established tyers to teach and produce the best production flies to reach US market. He saw production of jewelry in Southeast Asia and converted a manufacturer to tie some of the first overseas flies. This did not receive a warm welcome stateside, it took time to establish credibility and consistency for a very particular fly market in the US. Dennis spent the better part of a year teaching managers who to tie a fly properly. Umpqua keeps a close on on quality of material before it even gets to the tying manufacturers, which helps eliminate a good portion of bad flies. The use of TIEMCO hooks, which are chemically sharpened, set Umpqua flies apart from lesser quality tied flies.  It also started with a great team of fly tyers. Names like LaFontaine, Barr, Quigley, Mercer, Nemes, Dennis, Andrews, Kaufmann, Lawson and Mathews were a part of the senior roster. Later, Umpqua added younger and innovative tyers, some you may have heard, like  Charlie Craven, Lance Egan, Landon Mayer, Andrew Grillos, Bob Reece and Brian Silvey are part of a much larger and well established crew of great fly tying history. Ask your local fly shop if they carry Umpqua Flies and why they set a standard for other companies to follow.

#tiedtothewater

 

Do it in the DARK~

2018 August 20
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“You mean you float this in the dark?”-

“Yes.”

“Actually cast and catch fish without any lights?”

“Often, not all the time, but once you do, you will be forever changed….It is not the delicate soft presentation of a #16 Madame X, actually quite the opposite.”

Client conversation that has happened on more than one occasion over the years floating some of our heavily wooded northern Michigan rivers. Yes it’s true, we do it in the dark, not entirely true, red or green headlamps are acceptable, and they don’t blind the guide/client nor giveaway you presence to any suspecting trout. But what does it take to be a good ‘Mouser’?

Know your water, hire a guide and be safe at night.

Like most fishing, time and patience are critical, but on a totally different level. First, understanding your prey. They are large nocturnal predators, specifically built for hunting swimming tenderloins- whether they be in the form of amphibian, fish or mammal. Brown trout have been found feed almost exclusively at night and are most active just before dawn. They like to hunt in shallow sandbar regions- think Orca attacking seals near islands, smaller prey can out maneuver predators in open water, but in less than two feet of water, the 24″ brown has the upper hand- and nowhere for likely mouse/frog to escape. So flip the normal methodology of casting at LWD(large woody debris) and cast to the shallow side of the river. Next, patience. No really. A LOT of patience. Very few occasions has an angler actually hooked up on his/her very first actual mousing ‘take’. Many big browns will swipe or slash at the mouse pattern to immobilize or stun the prey and more often than not, client and guide have been jacking up on coffee and 5 hour energy drinks to make it through the late night/early morning hours. Your Sense of sight is gone, heightened are all your other senses, hearing & feeling become your primary inputs. When you hear the subtle take from a twenty inch something or the unmistakeable toilet bowl flush from a cavernous mouth of Hog Johnson, it takes every once of restraint not to set the hook and pull the mouse pattern directly out of the trouts mouth. Waiting, patience, feeling the weight of the fish on the other end of the line, connection. Now you have your hands full. Be sure you are properly outfitted.

The vicious attacks are what keep us coming back, night after night.

Some anglers go big and heavy, that is personal preference and completely acceptable. Fly rods in eight weight are good for pulling a two foot bruiser out of multiple stacked logs or deep mysterious pools, but I prefer a solid 6 or 7 weight. Some of our rivers are so heavily overgrown with cedars that a 8′ rod with sold backbone works perfectly. TFO Mini-Mag is that stick, but the new AXIOM II is perfect. BVK or Clouser are great options as well. If you have limited access to rods, you will most likely want to use your streamer rig and adapt it to the night game, which really isn’t ‘that’ much different. You line choice should have an aggressive forward taper, Scientific Anglers Mastery MPX Magnum or Mastery Titan will assist in flipping that foam/deer hair/rabbit strip creation will little effort. SA also makes a Frequency GLOW– great for beginners to get an idea where they are casting. Keep your leader short and stiff. While fishing in Arkansas on the White, I learned to never go below #15 fluorocarbon and 6′ or shorter. Some will argue to use mono because fluoro will sink, but at less than 7 feet, it won’t sink a mouse pattern. Sometimes, we would actually through double deceivers, or other large baitfish style patterns that push some water, so the fluoro comes in handy. Let’s talk about flies…

Potentially catch the fish of a lifetime. Daytime temps are too warm to fish, we choose to float at night.

Make your fly presence known. Seriously SPLAT your water logged drunken lemming pattern on the water, then give it a pause. You want the Mr Salmo trutta to hone in on his next meal. You can then begin to proceed with either short little strips with occasional pause, or some anglers like to jiggle/swing the fly across the water with intermittent pauses. After fishing with many different styles, I can’t speak to which one is more effective, what works one night on one river may not be the key in your neck of the woods. Have faith in your method and your flies. One of my best clients, who has boated a couple decent trout, watches YouTube videos of mice swimming. Sounds crazy. Have fun tying mouse patterns, look for bouffant materials that will also hang just a little in the surface film. A few of my personal favorite and successful patterns come from Rainy’s. Steve’s Loco Mouse hits the water hard, takes a beating and come back for more. Nick’s Cheeky Mouse– when in stock- is a killer skating pattern. Be sure to carry a few of the classic MouseRat by Whitlock. Check out the new Mason’s Mouse Trap– dead, sexy.

The more times you go, the more likely you are to connect. Don’t get frustrated if you miss a few times, we have all been there. It’s part of the learning curve. Keep it fun. Enjoy the journey!

Tight Lines,

Koz

True North Trout

 

Umpqua Feather Merchants UPG Premium Fly Box

2018 July 23
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by Brian Kozminski

Protect your investment. Keep your flies safe and dry. Aren’t these two of the best services a fly box can provide? True. What about durable and long lasting? You want materials and construction that will last more than one or two +90º days on your dashboard. Ever notice how the foam either peels or delaminates from the box on many other lesser fly boxes. Waterproof- no, REALLY waterproof, like dunk it under water for 5 minutes and see if your flies are wet. The HD from Umpqua Feather Merchants is completely sealed and will keep your flies high and dry. Made of high density shatter proof plastic, which is also see though for visibility, has a latching clasp with a water tight closure. The LT Weekender is slim and perfect for stashing an assortment of your Go-To patterns and hitting the water.  Both have 3-D injection molded TPE(Thermoplastic Elastomer) and magnetic closures. The LT Weekender has a magnetic pad for smaller flies and multiple sized slots for a whatever hatch may come your way.

Do you value your flies? Then they deserve a worthy home. Keep them safe and dry in a UPG LT or HD Fly Box.

The HD Large is perfect for your Rubber legged bugs or drake patterns.

Fly boxes that will keep your flies safe and dry from Umpqua Feather Merchants.

You can find these great boxes on Amazon.

ON the verge

2018 June 15
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To say that this past Spring was not your average transition from from Winter to Vernal Equinox might be an understatement. Early April snowmelt and above average temperatures had many of us hopeful for an early bloom, we even raked and were ready to bust out our gardening gloves. Then we were pummeled with over 24″ of white stuff mid April, just in time to slow the progress and reset our fishing calendars. I only mention the seasonal variations to set the stage for what we have been experiencing and prepare for the hatches, or sometimes, lack thereof.

North Branch Au Sable Mid April.

We have had high water. Everywhere. Opening trout season on many small creeks was a blow out. Some rivers saw double and triple flows. Big water had flows that were steadily above the norm for close to a month, boat launches had water levels 12-18″ higher than normal. This did many things to the fish. It pushed them into new homes, displaced some small first year trout, and it also flushed out many rivers. The river systems have been flooded with food. Early season hatches still occurred, without the usual voracious symphony of hungry trout rising to emerging Hendricksons. They were, how shall we politely say- rather full and satiated. Not to mention pushed down to deeper waters, new holds and in some cases, entirely new sections of river. We still caught an occasional trout, just was not as high impact and exciting as one had dreamt during our winter months in captivity while tying flies and reading up on latest techniques. One certainly noticed how well fed those few fish we caught were. Brook trout on a couple rivers had fish that not only had shoulders for a 10″ fish, but also a belly so gorged on earthworms, they were literally spilling out of their mouth. This was noticed on multiple trips.

Tom and Rod had great day looking for trout at every bend.

Then there was the warm up. Spring transitioned to summer with the smoothness of a bike race when the lead takes a spill on a tight turn and the rest can’t avoid tragedy. We saw river temperatures soar into the upper 60’s and even had 70º pledges in effect on Au Sable MIO water, in MAY. Record temperatures ago Memorial weekend across the state had many of us looking for the big bugs that would soon accompany. The drakes did not disappoint. They didn’t always fall, which is typical of the climate sensitive mayfly, but they arrived with great anticipation. Luckily, the evening lows began to drop and return rivers temperatures to fishable levels.

The Browns we have had in the net have been very healthy, well fed and after surviving another winter, eager for the next hatch. The Hexagenia limbata is prepped and ready to give us all she promises. A few things to consider- A) higher water levels and B) well fed/happy trout. What we have noticed in years passed, the higher water allows trout to move into shallow, reed filled water to feed on mayflies amid the vegetation. Be prepared to hear fish that are ‘Up in the weeds’ or fishing on peoples lawns. The fish you hear slurping, may be deeper in cover than you realize, scout your water early and know the length of your cast and target. Don’t under gun your opponent. The big bug game is 6 weight and 2X time. I am headed out tonight test the new TFO Axiom II 6weight and see how fat the fish are.

DNR survey crew looking for trout.

IN other news~ The North Branch Au Sable has had some concern. Thanks to a few local Grayling Guides, Jamie Clous and Joe Guild, they contacted the DNR with a serious inquiry as to where many of the usual brook trout have gone. After a few trips they not only didn’t catch the usual of eager spring feeding trout, they did not report seeing many fish either. Other guides in the area had the same concern. The folks at Fuller’s North Branch had a serious situation at the end of their dock. The DNR has come out and did two separate fish stockings, the first at Twin Bridges and at Dam Four revealed low numbers of fish. It was alarming only to find 3 fish at each locale when this river was on track to be one of the best brook trout fisheries in the state right behind the Black River in the PRC. Theories abound. Maybe the shockers were malfunctioning. Could the late spring have had a detrimental effect on first year trout? Did the heavy snow and rapid melt push fish further down stream? Has something happened to the Macro-invertebrate habitat? Shelf ice could have scraped out much of the river and displaced bugs? Did the first year trout not withstand the rapid snow melt? I called Neal from the DNR- in his words, “We are flabbergasted- we don’t know where the fish are but it is far too early to make any guesses. We are looking into this and taking this very serious.” The DEQ has been contacted and a second fish shock survey revealed similar results to the fish survey. 2 brown trout and one brook trout at Twin Bridges. Where have all the brook trout gone? After asking a couple local long-time fly tyers in town, the retort was ominous and dark. “I believe they got just what they were asking for…”

Josh at Gates has been heavily involved and if you have questions or concerns, please contact him. They have also teamed up with Vedavoo to raise funds with Anglers of the Au Sable in regards to the Grayling Fish Hatchery.

Hopefully you get out and have a Hexy June!!

Happy Father’s Day!