It has been one of the most unusual years. From the early cancellation of Detroit Fly Fishing show and some residual panic in retailers to continuing into early summer with more people on the river at many locations I can recall in recent years. It turned out to be decent season, less travel meant more localized anglers, nobody went into Canada, so- northern Michigan was the stopping point for our southern states. It feels very odd to not be traveling for Thanksgiving, or hosting my family here, but we cannot risk the chance of spreading the virus. It does however give me time to tie some flies for next year, plan out some trips and organize events with local TU chapter, and to give thanks to all the wonderful anglers I get to share time with each year on some of my favorite rivers. I had more than average cancellations this year due to fear of travelling during this pandemic- I hope to fish with those clients someday in the future. But also got to spend more time with regulars and fish with some guide buddies, which is always enjoyable and rewarding. I recall opening weekend, fishing the PRC with friends and commenting on how relaxing it was- zero agenda, no time I had to be home to get projects done, fish were caught, brats were grilled, laughs were had and I treasure those days, thank you guys for good times.
I think these times give us good cause to stop and reflect on each other, ourselves and how fortunate we are to be out doors sharing what we love with others who get this opportunity once or twice per year- we truly are lucky, fortunate. This holiday season, reach out to someone who has influenced you, tell them how much it means to you that they share some of what they hold close to their heart- let them know you value the friendship. Send a message to another buddy and just say “Thanks-> Thank- you for being a good person.” its a simple gesture that will make someone’s day/week. I have a short compilation of days on the river, cant get everyone in here, so IF I missed an EPIC day with you or your family, please know it was unintended. There are a few surprises coming in 2021- that promise to make this one of the best seasons ever. I will keep you posted in future blogs, but be sure to follow the TRUE NORTH YouTube page to get up to the minute happenings. Be Thankful. Go Forth, Spread Cheer!
Will we ever return to ‘NORMAL’? Highly doubtful. Can we strive for civil human kindness and compassion for one another- I believe so. Take some time during this unusual holiday season and find gratitude, deep thanks, share it with someone who has made this world a better place. Or take two minutes and text someone whom you have been at odds over futile small issues and simply say ‘Thank- you for being you.’
Later this week, I hope to push the publish button on your True North Holiday #CovidChristmas Wish list, until then, stay safe, shop local and start thinking about Hendricksons and early Stoneflies.
FISHWEAR is here!!
Very happy and proud to announce that Fishewear collection has found a home at the new MAD RIVER OUTFITTERS in Columbus Ohio. The staff and crew at MRO have a world class fly shop that opened during this crazy pandemic and they continue to rock the fly world with first class service and unbelievable fashion for on and off the river.
Fun, Fashionable, and Functional apparel for the female angler is the goal at Fishe- started by former Ice Road Trucker Linda Leary in Anchorage Alaska- this gear is put to the test in some of the harshest environments- to look good and last for more than a a couple seasons. From Italian Fabric Leggings to weekend bags, wading belts, and waterproof backpacks and carry-ons, these colorful trout/grayling and other designs(soon- Bass/Snook/Bonefish) will help you stand out from the rather ‘blah’ grey tones most anglers adorn. Be sure to stop in or call Mad River, pick up a pair of leggings for your favorite lady angler and be on the lookout for some new ‘casual/cozy’ apparel next year!
Way back in midwinter, good buddy Joe Cermele sent me a message-
“How would you like to do ‘MeatEater’ episode?”
As a northern Michigan guide/angler, how does one respond to this ??
“Heck YES!!! Some logistics and timing need to be worked out, but I would love to.” I responded.
I had some dates blocked out for sales meetings in Denver, but in the coming months an unforeseen pandemic would suddenly open up my schedule. Covid-19 was a blessing and curse that would free up time for filming in northern Michigan third week in June, which would theoretically be optimum for some great late night Hexagenia limbata action for the crew out of Montana.
Logistic nightmare one- permits. Making sure the production crew has clearance from DNR/FWS and all the proper channels months in advance during a pandemic when much of the state was on lockdown and/or furlough. We had glorious visons of Janis and I sitting around a campfire in the midst of tall white pines and hemlock somewhere lost in the Pigeon State Forest as we contemplated our day on the water and ate fresh caught brook trout- BUT where’s the BOAT? Right~ we need bigger water, but want brook trout. We can search some good sections of the Manistee/Au Sable River and work the mouths of feeder creeks for some fontinalis love- but no such luck.
Apparently, I would have been wise to barter with the fly fishing Muses in May to hope for a better deal. But the weather would prove to do what it often does when a great hatch gets rolling in the Mitten state- it was quickly shut down. Two days into Hex season, we received 1.75″ of rain near the 45th parallel that would gush into our river systems and swell the banks along with satiating most hungry trout with a plethora of annelids & other dislodged macroinvertebrates. We saw a few Hex duns on the first night of shooting, very few rises in the 50 degree wet evening on our inaugural float with the Big Green Machine, but Janis was an absolute trooper. We trudged on, as fly anglers often do- hoping for a better second day, filled with plenty of beautiful B-roll footage catching small trout and some gorgeous scenery, but it was no prelude to the evening that was ahead. Zero bugs, zero fish, mucky, dark Black Rifle Coffee stained water and empty nets. We needed a 20+ inch toad for Janis- perhaps I wanted it too badly and didn’t let it happen. But we couldn’t change our path once the permits were in place. Even given the choice months post facto, I would not have changed a thing.
Day three- We need a fish to grill and have a culinary experience that will rival any street sausage Mr Anthony Bourdain would have discovered in Cuba. So we opt for alternate species- smallmouth in Lake Charlevoix, plentiful, voracious and large. In retrospect, actually a better option than 24″ Salmo trutta, which in many regards would have generated more hate mail than some bikini clad blonde bombshell improperly holding a Spin rod and largemouth bass gets ‘Likes’. Honestly, the smallmouth actually tasted much better than anticipated- next time, some garlic butter and Lawry’s or Old Bay Seasoning. I was grateful for the experience, hanging with Janis Putelis, RA Beattie and the film crew- the crepes at the bakery and working out kinks in filming boat modifications, sharing a little slice of Boyne with this crew will always be a lasting memory. #meateater #fueledbynature
The rain. The sweet smell of rain. Release of nitrogen from the atmosphere.
Petrichor. Smell it?
The sweet smell of the earth, wet and dank, fresh with new promise. Hope of a fresh new day on the river, watching the diurnal progress of the season as she passes from one to the next, each with a new beginning as it closes a chapter on the previous. Each season, the rain has its own distinct aroma. In the spring it brings a frigid warmth as it melts snow away, a washing the earth as she fills and floods the watersheds. Expunging the crud and sediments from the winter prior. In the summer, it seems to cool the clay baked shoreline as a mirage emerges along the horizon. Fall seems to be purging the trees of leaves that are holding out for one more shot at photosynthesis.
These next photos are from good buddy Sam Bosworth- check out his work here. We have been putting in a few hours together over the past few years, sharing water and stories, sharing some nature and experiences. I think you will find his work is not only stunning, but catches the moment. Notice the detail.
Smell it? The next season is upon us.
Back in 2010, I was in the market for a drift boat. I searched the classified ads from across west Michigan, South Haven to Traverse City scouring for a decent Clacka or Hyde.
By happenstance I came across Adipose on Facebook and truly became enamored by the sleekness of design and choice of color options.
In the following year, I had the first Adipose Flow in Michigan. It was perfect. The low bow, the ease of maneuverability, the storage and it’s uniqueness. This year, the year of Covid-19, I had the good fortune and joy of passing on my drift boat to another friend, and purchasing a new build.
By far, after floating a few occasions, the best boat in the river. Our time on the Missouri River was brief, but thanks to Justin and crew from Wolf Creek Angler and HeadHunters Fly Shop, we managed to put down the streamer rods and rig up some nymphs to catch a few great rainbows. We will be back, to explore more water. Rivers we drove over caught our attention- Look forward to getting back to MONTANA.
If you are in the market for a great drift boat- Give Justin and Marcy a call at Adipose Boatworks, they can get you on the list and customize your boat for you.
I needed something. A moment, brief as it may be, but just some time away. The media, the divided country, phone calls, yard work/bathroom remodel/travel/guide trips/Covid-19/plans for fall- it had me dizzy, spiraling. I took my opportunity and hit the river, solo mission. Zero agenda. No promotional attaché’. Just me and my 3 weight FSG. It was neither great nor disappointing. The trout were there, and played along with every well-placed lime Humpy or Yeager’s purple 309. Nothing miraculous- a few that could stretch and make the 10″ mark but most were in the 7-8″ range, yet spunky and voracious. I also needed a reason to sit down and reflect and share.
The flowers and aromas reminded me of why we need to get out and adjust our mindset. Vibrant purple, yellows and varied hues of green adorn the river along my self-induced defrag session. Around some corners, the Joe Pye and sedum were heavy and strong, weighed down from the morning’s precipitation. The next bend has a nice deep run with a few logs in it. The fresh rain has added the slightest influx to a series of feeder channels along my route and often a trout will wait for fresh appetizers to appear on the evening’s special menu. All I have to do is navigate the dogwood behind me and manage a reach cast around a couple snags and plop my dinner feature in the feeding lane. It takes a minute, but in that time, I sense all that is right in this place- solitude, sounds, smells and trout. Even the brook trout smell fresh, cold and healthy, as if I was some form of piscatorial doctor- they ‘smell healthy’ to me. The froth of fresh rain adding to the watershed reminds me of youthful days, waterfall & beaver dam hopping in Ontario, catching as many trout as we possibly can because the ACR has scheduled to dynamite the dam that is bigger than a football field lest it break in a storm and wash out the railroad trestle on its way to Trout Lake.
The eager trout takes my fly even before it has a chance to test its buoyancy. Not a monster, but a delight to see a juvenile steelhead pounce and display his acrobatics at the end my fiberglass rod. This isn’t “client” water, not saying I haven’t brought certain individuals in to share these sacred spots, but more often than not, it doesn’t fish well with more than one angler and most clients who call are either looking for fish that measure in pounds rather than in inches. That’s ok. I have had good days with clients on Tricos and BWOs/hoppers- it is always cold and the fish will play. But much has changed. Gone are many deeper runs where a dozen fish could hide from anglers or overhead predation. Silt and sand have replaced many slots.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” ~Heraclitus
The peace of my adventure was only momentarily interrupted when I fell into a beaver hole. I recalled that over a year ago there were several beaver dams in this mile stretch of water. A multitude of hiding holes and runs for hundreds of trout. Over 30 beaver dams have been removed by local watershed organization. Right or wrong? Doesn’t matter, the organization claims “Connectivity” for better brook trout spawning, and studies from a private section of water on the other side of the state somehow validate removal without public input or consideration. I get excited when I see a beaver dam old or new. There was a time when I was President of MVWTU and wanted every beaver dam on the Maple River removed, eradicated. Many conversations with Dr. Burroughs from MITU has me thinking on different levels. There is a balance in nature. Trout and beavers have lived for 100’s of years in symbiotic harmony, the structure acts as a sediment catch as well as refuge for a multitude of animals in all seasons- especially summer when water levels are low. The bottom draws offer refuge for trout and fish extremely well. The topside can be a hotel for many trout to reach a respectable size- and often do. I am sure there are a few anglers who come in here with an ultralight & Panther Martin or a long rod and redworm rig to bring home dinner. If I were to measure my day on those standards- I had two keepers, dropped my Therma-Cell and had a decent time. But- if I were to measure my day on Catch & Release angling standards- I had the opportunity to dance and tangle with well over a dozen trout, the biggest at 10.5″, reset my internal tolerance for the less fortunate, and inhaled the beauty of a late summer day in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. It was a great afternoon in the valley.
This summer has been crazy. Hex season, Big fish lost, a few days with Janis from MeatEater, catching up with many clients, meeting new ones, new Adipose this fall. Stay tuned. Share. Stay Positive. Live happy, everyday.
Why is it on the first day of the season I get out on the river, I somehow manage to miss the first several strikes from a trout? Are the lightning responses from an eager brook trout darting out from tannic cover in line with a supercharged Porsche? Doubtful. Are my senses still dormant from a winter of shoveling snow and reflexes more calibrated with the elbow jarring of last falls Streamer trips? More plausible. There is more on my mind on this trip. Seems inevitable, but I begin the internal debate: could it be the fly? Am I getting short strikes? Are the char fat and full like they have been in past early seasons? Pay attention- anticipate the strike. What should I switch to? An immediate survey in the sleepy dogwood and tag alders show little sign of bug activity, so I decide to stay subsurface. A quick switch out of my #8 Black Ghost to a bead head Zirdle Bug, and roll cast down the seam and yet another quick drive by on the decent. Miss. Totally asleep at the wheel on that take. Roll it out and mend, jig, drop- BAM!! Finally. There are few that know the relief an angler feels when he either a) figures out his/her miscues b) finally aligns reflexes with literary knowledge or c) cracks the code and eliminates ‘monkey on the back’.
Phew. Time to relax. Shoulders are now in a more comfortable position. Nothing is tense. I actually begin to realize there must be a pinhole in my left leg in my waders because my wool sock is taking on a rather sloshy feel- not unlike that nasty spit of white slushy mix Mother Nature threw at us last weekend after a 6 day 50+ degree tease. For the record, I missed at least four times on two, maybe three different fish before I finally connected and had a decent ten inch brook trout in the net. These times, these unprecedented days we face, are much like fly fishing. Perhaps I am the only one who can surmise. Every time we head out, we are faced with a new set of parameters, and we must assimilate our approach based on past experiences and the writings of others who may have blazed this path prior to our time on this river. When we pay close attention to all the details, read the water properly, assess current situation with knowledge of experts both near & far, and predict a favorable outcome, we can be rewarded with either a gorgeous trout with a crimson flank and blue haloed dots or a larger silver-sided steelhead. The teachings of the river has many parallels- we just need to listen to them. I am one of the fortunate. I am knee deep and working a delicately orchestrated trout stream with habitat that provides more shelter and ample snags than the average trout stream. I am lucky not only because this is not only a quick day trip for me, but one of a dozen streams like this in northern Michigan. My escape is relatively quick and easy, if I assist with kids and home chores. Just then, another sudden jar from a trout I had not anticipated, as a pair of F-14 fighter jets roar overhead, and I miss my opportunity. I was slacking and not on point. Shake it off. It happens, and I can hear the increased throttle of the jets as they make another pass on my backside, northbound and lower- they want to know what they are biting on.
Never take for granted that soft, froggy water. Sometimes, brown and brook trout alike will set up in that ominous mucky bottom water because of the relative ease they can slide out and into a feeding lane or cover. So I work some soft water before I move across into the darker rocky bottom midsection. Just as I was deep in reflection regarding my place here, in the river, northern Michigan, my thoughts were brought back to focus by the 11″ trout that seemed to take the fly in slow-motion- allowing my dormant reflexes to react. The trout didn’t believe he was hooked just as much as I could believe he was attached to the end of my line. Then he went into ‘Fight or Flight’ mode- darting and dashing across the stream and hiding under some bank structure. I was happy at this moment I chose the 8’6″ 5 weight BVK instead of my 3 weight Finesse Glass. The river is not pushing serious amounts of water, not like it did two seasons ago when it crested two feet above the banks, but there is evidence from sand and pebble deposits on the island behind it did occur at first snow melt. The larger TFO rod allows me to throw some of the small streamers and bead head Girdle bugs that a 7′ fiberglass rod doesn’t execute as well. It also helps when these fish put on the afterburners- and soon into my net. A quick appreciation of the beauty this fish and these places afford me and I release the trout to play again, perhaps when drakes are hatching. A few brown stoneflies make their awkward fumbling aerial appearance, some skate for a moment on the waters surface and I watch with eager anticipation, but no rises. As much as I want it to happen, to the point where I have a small olive stimulator picked out of my box, I cannot will the trout to rise to a surface take at this moment. It is quite alright, they seem to be indulging just fine on #10-12 two toned Coffee Pat’s Rubber legs. Go with what works.
I saw a white 2 1/2 gallon bucket a short distance in the bush upstream. Now is a good time to head back, grab that bucket and pick up some trash along the river. It is amazing. Some of the most beautiful places in the country, and people are often the laziest when the beer can is empty. I find several old cans tucked up under dried cattails from last season and freshly consumed Shock Top bottles on an island in front of a deep run. I can only surmise they were recent because the three were neatly placed in some grass that otherwise would have been swept away a week or so ago, but why bring glass? Back at the truck, there is a campsite with cans of Two-Hearted Ales and White Claws among small CO2 chargers I recognize from making real Whipped Cream at the restaurant. What kind of party did I miss here? At first I get irate and disgusted at the irreverence of people and these pristine places, then I quickly clean up the site and disperse these resentments recalling I once was immature and irresponsible, perhaps it is now my turn to take care of the places we value and lead by doing- not just preaching. This isn’t a self admiration pat on the back moment, most of us bring a small trash bag and carry out seasons worth of others debris, but more of an Embrace the Suck moment. All of our experiences can be highlighted by one or two selective moments- if I let this part of my day absorb deeply, I will forget lessons learned by slowing down and fishing to the tempo of the river, and the glorious trout that I shared with my time on the river.
The Stay at Home order has us all feeling a bit lost, out of place. Our biorhythm and natural process of our day has been out of whack. Many of us out of work, or working from home, while homeschooling and balancing something that resembles a family life- without going to see family. March was a pivotal point- we had to make decisions to save lives. The Midwest Fly Expo in Detroit was cancelled. Beyond unfortunate for fly dealers, vendors and sales representatives as well as the rest of our fly family who eagerly looks forward to the annual family reunion in Macomb County. April proved this to be a good call. What if we had the show? How many people would be infected or even worse? So I wanted to reach out to a few buddies and see if we could get a message on the issue out there. Jeff Troutman from Remote. No Pressure. was intrigued by the concept of getting some varied viewpoints on the state and fly fishing industry together for an informal Podcast. On board were Allen Crater, co-owner of Stevens Advertising and formerly State President of BHA , Jon Osborn, author and Public Safety Officer in Holland, along with Jeff Troutman and myself were set to discuss the pros and cons of this pandemic. Look for it this week on RNP. I am sure I will share it. We discussed many aspects of this day and age. But, to my surprise, much was on the positive. Fishing will still be there(could even be better), Morels are soon to pop, families are spending more time together. Business has evolved, much like people. We are finding a way.
Unprecedented. Dire. Bleak. Gloomy. So many adjectives that people are using to describe the place we are in right now. The State of Society, it truly is unfortunate. Instead- we should embrace the positive. The ‘Golden Opportunity’. Spend some better actual quality time with family. Take that nature hike on a trail or conservancy property you have been putting off. Get crazy and learn a language, workout, change your diet, plant a garden, start a blog- not all of course, but really, I am building a deck. The Corona Deck. We will undoubtedly see a few less restaurants this year, fewer fly shops and ice cream shops. Perhaps we are setting up for a new society. This summer will be different, in ways we have yet to comprehend. Not all of it will be bad. Now is a perfect opportunity for growth and change. The business that doesn’t have any social media outlet would benefit from this time to connect to a waiting or untapped audience. Reading a cereal box this morning- Cap’n Crunch has [Twitter] [Facebook] and [Instagram]- really? Check it out. If you are a business and don’t have one of these media outlets, someone else is getting your clients. This is changing how manufacturers will do business, how schools will have class. Two months ago, I never heard of ZOOM, now, weekly have at least 1/2 dozen meetings with clients and business partners. Once a person or society practices something for over two weeks, it becomes habit, a new normal. We are living the new change. Coincidence? You think McDonalds had the drive-up App curbside in the past year by accident? We were headed this way.
Regardless of how you’re handling the current situation, take the time to just sit still and enjoy the quiet. Turn off the television and enjoy a moment on the verge of a new world. Smile, be kind, and if you can, get on a river and throw some flies.
Check on my buddy Paul Beel at FRANKEN FLY with a write up on local tyer Tim Neal.
WOW. We have never seen times like this. My children can’t even begin to comprehend the worldwide impact this virus has on our future. Many people, many businesses, all of our lives will be forever changed. I have seen a lot of ugliness on the social media outlets- some directed at State level officials, others at POTUS, and I can’t speak to being on one side or another, but I would not wish to be in any political position at these incredible times. I have been on the phone calling a lot of our fly shops to check in and see how things are going. I won’t give out names, but I have heard a host of responses and want to relay what the next couple weeks might hold for us in the Fly Industry. These are merely opinions. Nobody knows for certain what will happen in the next month or two, but I wanted to reach out and connect with you, my readers and say thank you for always reading and being diligent and being trouty.
Now, perhaps more than ever, fly fishing is relevant. I see virtual fly tying groups pop up on my feed from Trout Unlimited groups and local fly shops hosting tying nights on Facebook and other outlets. This is beyond great!! We need to have this interaction, for our sanity and for our families. Fly shops are dying for your business- they need to you keep them afloat and pay the bills until this passes. We can still go out and practice social distancing while hiking back in the woods to a favorite stretch of water. Call and check what your local fly shop is doing regarding online purchasing or curb-side delivery for call ahead orders. Being from the service industry, I realize and see how more restaurants and fly shops are better situated for this, but time will certainly show who can evolve and work out the kinks. Some fly shops have long understood and utilized the social media aspect of business in this day and age. Others are starting to see that there is some relevance in having a ‘following’ on Instagram/Facebook. Having a web presence and getting clicks also translates to sales of actual products and materials that don’t sit on a shelf and expire. I can only encourage dealers to get online and connect with their clients in this global marketplace that operates 24 hour a day. This is a great time to look at a business plan that includes social media/online sales for the next 5 years.
We are also fortunate that most of us have all the things it takes to go out and get lost on a river or stream for an afternoon. Others might not be so lucky. Invite that person who is Fly Curious and show them the glorious world fly fishing can offer (from a socially acceptable distance, of course), the reward might be more than just a 12″ brown in the net. Let them borrow that steelhead rod or 5 weight for a short time, until they get the bug and purchase their own. It can turn into a lasting relationship for many adventures on the water that include river clean-ups, camping. cook-outs and travel to many other fishy destinations. We have a golden opportunity to share a treasure that can have a deep and lasting meaning.
Give a buddy a call and see what his/her plans are for the coming year. Make some rough draft for a camping/fishing trip. I made a promise to a few anglers earlier this year to fish with them because too many years have passed with flippant promises made-“We should fish this year!” often heard at the Midwest Fly Expo. Sadly, it was not this year. Called merely days prior to event, the State made the right call to prevent gatherings over 250 people. Many fly shops stock up on various Show Specials. Give your shop a call and see what they might have in store for you. Make that promise to FISH this year become a reality. Pull out your Google Calendar and lock your buddy down for a date, or two. I know I have had a couple of May/June Guide dates call and cancel. I am keeping them open to shuffle other clients who were looking for better hatches and still reserve one or two for personal time on the river.
Look at the positive side of this. This is the slow time. Really. At least this wasn’t middle of June. I know viruses tend to become extinguished in warmer climates, but that doesn’t rule out a pandemic in June because of our Global economy and travel. It gives us the opportunity to regroup, organize and clean things up. We are still tying flies, organizing boxes, mailing out ‘CoVid Care Packages’ to friends who will appreciate and keeping positive. Having a global event happen in the fall would devastate winter travel to saltwater fishing destinations as well. There are multiple silver linings in this pandemic. Many ‘would be’ summer travelling anglers are going to be likely staying close to home and keeping their dollars in state or near a favorite river with family cabin on it. Big ticket items may take a small hit, but all the small necessities of fly fishing are essential- flies, leader/tippet, fly boxes, Dry Magic and streamside accessories.
Talking to Corey H. at Schultz Outfitters said it best- “we are selling little bits of Happiness.” How true. Leader/Tippet, hooks, tying materials, riverside accessories – all small packages that offer hope. To the Angler and Fly shop. The shop that sells ‘happiness’ has return customers and exponential growth.
The rivers are still flowing. Every day, 24 hours a day, whether you voted Democrat or Republican. The river keeps moving. The trout are still thriving. Looking for their next morsel. This is here for you. To relax, enjoy and lose yourself for a day. I encourage you to practice some ‘Social Distancing’ today on a river that you can access, perhaps you forget about things for a few minutes while that fish has you tight to your reel. I am headed out to find a fish that can help me focus on June, and hatches that will blow your mind…