Last year, I was in my vehicle, Thursday night all loaded up and making a wine run for my wife when as I drove down the approach, my brakes went to the floor. Besides the usual flood of colorful metaphors that exuded softly from my lips, my mind was racing about my travels in the morning to local car garage instead of southbound on I-75 to attend the Midwest Fly Expo. I admit it. I was defeated, a small part of me was severed with a dull serrated knife. Why? What is so special about a weekend with a bunch of scruffy fishing guides and industry leaders? For one thing, it is the largest in the Midwest, and not very often you can have a collective of that many highly talented individuals in one room. For another, it is a second family. Aunts, Uncles, long lost twice removed cousins from the other side of the tracks whom we get to share our passion, stories and a beverage with but once a year. I was crushed. Stranded in Boyne. After making a call to Justin at Adipose, I posted online about my dilemma. Within an hour, amid many fellow condolences empathizing my situation, was an offer from fellow TU member nearby. “I can pick you up after lunch.” For real? How do I make this happen? Call the wife, scramble the troops and re-organize my packing so that I can be more efficient. Done. Awesome. Thank you Chad from Homewaters Real Estate.
I meant to write this last year, but after our carpool ride down this year, it seemed to make more sense. We have the ability to chat about local projects on our rivers, dam removal on the Boardman River, bridge on the Jordan, how Hex season was for each of us and solve all the little quandaries we see in the dynamic world of fly fishing.
This year was well attended, cooler temperatures seemed to bring in a few more anglers than last year. I had the elite honor to see it through the eyes of the Temple Fork Outfitters booth. Bear Andrews, Kate & Ray Schmidt and myself were nonstop busy either meeting new fans of the TFO line, chatting with old friends and clients from around the Great Lakes or introducing a few excited individuals to the new EDGE rods from Gary Loomis. It would be a disservice to try to mention all of the great people we get to hang out with for fear of leaving someone out. So I will post up a few pictures and ask if you have any to post on our Facebook page. Look forward to seeing many of you on the river this season and throughout the year at a river clean up near the 45th parallel. This is why we do what we do…
Special thank you is well deserved to the members of Michigan Fly Fishing Club for organizing and executing another well planned Expo. I would like to especially thank all the tyers and presenters who made the time and travelled to help this be one of the best shows in the Midwest. The Anglers who came to present- Landon Mayer, Craig Mathews, Rick Kustich and George M. Daniel– Thank you. It was a pleasure to connect and chat about the future of industry and share stories of time on the water. Look forward to seeing you again, perhaps on the river.
Last evening, while waiting on a couple at the casual restaurant I work at in the off season, I had the pleasure of talking about our salmon on the menu. It is Norwegian, and although farmed, one of the best farmed salmon table offerings we can provide. Most guests are not in the habit of dropping $30-50 per pound for Copper River Wild caught salmon, and thus we can’t offer it on our menu. We went on to discuss the potential development of Fish Farming in the Great Lakes as well as on one of our most famous trout rivers nearby. My clients spend a fair amount of time traveling the globe and reside in Chicago, they found it ironic that we would purposefully degrade a habitat that is rich with natural beauty all for the mighty dollar. I had to agree, after all, the pristine rivers and lakes are what draw many suburbanites to the North to breath our fresh air and swim in our freshwater seas.
But I also see the other side of the equation. Our establishment alone sells 60-100 pounds of salmon & whitefish weekly, multiply that by 52 weeks and a couple hundred restaurants across the 45th parallel and the number grows exponentially larger. Do we risk the healthy ecosystem of the Au Sable River to meet a demand for rainbow trout? Can we substantiate the negative impact(s) of open Pen Net farms in the Great Lakes? It seems absurd to me, as a Fly Fishing Guide and hospitality professional, that we could entertain the possibility of introducing new diseases and parasites from thousands of salmon living in confined space. This goes without mentioning the herbicides used to control algae blooms and fungi on the nets, coupled with potential escapement and intermingling with other native species, either to outcompete for food or diminish genetic purity of some salmonids that migrate up our orders to spawn. The concentration of feces in both scenarios depletes oxygen and feeds growth of various green algaes, detrimental to the survival of sensitive trout that need cold and clean water to survive.
The Great Lakes are under attack from multiple facets. Whether it is the impending introduction of the voracious plankton filter feeding Asian Carp in Chicago’s Calumet River, or the selling of our spring water on the upper Muskegon River aquifers via NESTLE corporation to ship 20 oz. bottles around the world. Enbridge Line 5 in the straights of Mackinaw has many people concerned its age and degradation will someday lead to total devastation to the largest freshwater system on the green planet if there were a leak. These are just the tip of the iceberg, and current administration deems it necessary to cut Great Lakes funding from $300 million to $30, absolutely not the right time to be faced a critical situation which cannot be undone. Our family has made small steps to be more conscientious of our habits, buying local, eating more homemade pastas and fresh grown vegetables from the farmers market, and less top level consumer proteins. I will eat a fish once in a while, when I catch a walleye or a mess of bluegills with my girls. That is precisely why we are advocates for the resource, and why we need to protect them. For my daughters generation, and hopefully my grandchildren as well. We should Farm Dirt, not Our Water.
Listen to Dr Bryan Burroughs from MITU in his interview with WKAR.
It’s not that I haven’t been busy, nor am I slacking. Just seems that there are so many projects going on, literally my head is spinning from all the fires we have going on around conservation issues. There is also the issue of ‘staying fresh’ and not just being another fly blog that re-hashes yesterdays news. I am always looking for new ideas and any suggestions are welcome. Writing and editing for 50 Best Places to Fly Fish Midwest has occupied much time and contributing articles for a variety of other media outlets has left True North on the back burner. But it is all for the better. I am still looking for a few contributors for the Stonefly Press publication, mostly in states that are focused on walleye, North & South Dakota, Missouri and Kansas are difficult to find validated fly fishing services. Please send me any suggestions if you think of any.
March 11 & 12 are quickly approaching, and we are excited to see many fellow anglers of the fly at the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo in Warren Michigan. There is an All-Star lineup of fly celebrities including Landon Mayer, Rick Kustich, George Daniel and last but not least, Craig Matthews. I personally look forward to meeting all of these guys. Be sure to stop by the Temple Fork Outfitters booth, see Ray, Kate, Bear and myself who will be eagerly awaiting to show you some amazing new gear from one of the areas leading values in quality fly fishing rods and reels. Edge Rods by Gary Loomis.
For a few years, Adipose Boatworks has been diligently reworking the layout of their website. They sent out an e-mail asking some of the industry professionals who row the Flow if they would like to contribute a little inside info for a Guide Page. As the first owner of an Adipose in Michigan, I was more than happy to comply. There are now nearly two dozen Adipose Flow’s in the Great Lakes State, with good reason. Read here WHY ADIPOSE is the best Boat for Michigan Rivers.
Just worked up a small piece for Michigan Out-of-Doors magazine on the History of Flies in the Mitten State. Obvious are the famous flies like the Adams that put Mayfield Pond on the map, but there are other, lesser known flies that may deserve our attention, especially in this articulated streamer driven industry. Oldies but goodies are classic flies that still catch fish and there may even be a large generation gap that doesn’t realize how effective they can be.
Also had a great little highlight in Michigan Fly for the less than serious Fly Guide Profile. Working on a few other projects- keep your ears to the ground and I will be sure to share. Spring issue of aTightLoop will have some great material, heads up.
Currently, we are enjoying unseasonable warm weather, melting away most of our snow. Temps in the mid fifties have our 7 weight trigger finger itching to throw some Great Lakes Double Deceivers.With that, I would like to leave you with a rather enjoyable New Year Day on a nearby river. Client Andrew Benjamin was up for Holiday, we stay in contact, weather looked favorable to do a coffee fueled trip down the icy banks searching for gold. The river returned the favor, making our efforts well worth the time put in trimming trees and freezing our fingers and stripping streamers.
After cradling the gorgeous resident brown and letting her go, we both pondered the moment. It all happened so fast, surreal actually. The magnitude of that beautiful fish took a minute to sink in. Right about the time we hooked a decent scrappy little 16″ brownie, we realized that the previous fish not only dwarfed the fish in hand, but may do the same for many fish the rest of the year. It was a good day. See you on the water.
Recently, I was introduced to the not so new style of Euro-Nymphing. It has been around for years. Commonly known as either French-, Polish-, Czech-, or Spanish Style Nymphing, the Europeans have had a way with getting the flies down to where the fish are for decades. Until recently, the US Fly Fishing Team has been on the receiving end of most Fly Fishing Competitions, that is until Lance Egan and Devin Olsen got together and comprised a few theories and applied them to a functioning system and modernized technique. This is what we now know as ‘Euro-Nymphing’. Take away the variable leader length and number of dropper and point flies and we have a more simplified approach.
The Set Up*
Basic set up is a long rod, 10-12′ in length, usually in sizes 2-4 weights, counterbalanced with an oversized large arbor reel. I have found the 4 weight BVK in 10 foot length to be perfect. I have it matched with a BVK I reel, which is plenty large, but you can up-size to the II if you feel the need.
Leader length is where we see the biggest difference. Most of our Midwest leaders run the in the 9′ range with a 12′ leader for spooky or tailwater trout. The Euro set up will more than double that length. Not uncommon to be anywhere from 18-25 feet in length, the leader will serve as your running line, making your fly line choice not as significant. Chameleon Maxima in 20# for the majority of length, 8- 10 feet, for Devin’s rig and then attaching a 3′ section of Suffix Elite, followed by the sighter. The sighter is 18″ of .012-.014 Cortland Bicolor that enables the angler to see the drift and detect any change in the fly. We then use a tippet ring and add 2- 4′ tippet, with 4x to 7x down to the fly. This gets fly down and allows the drift to be more natural with little drag from a surface indicator other than the sighter.
Flies for Nymphing
The benefit of Euro-style nymphing is getting to where the fish are, the flies are integral to the set up. Most are thin profiled with a tungsten or oversized bead head to get to the target zone. Flies you may already know and use, Walt’s Sexy Worm, Egans Red Dart, Surveyor, Rainbow Warrior, and Hare’s Ear all are used, just tweaked a bit. There are a few secret weapons in the video as well.
This should be enough to have your interest. Without giving away everything the video has to offer, I would recommend picking up the video from TACTICAL FLY FISHER on MODERN NYMPHING to improve your next season on the water.
Teaching your Kids about Fly Fishing
As any experienced fly fisherman knows, fly fishing is a skill that takes time, dedication and lots of practice to master. For kids, this can be a trying skill to learn. Frustration and boredom might ensue with some children, no matter how even-tempered they usually are. So before you set out to teach your kids how to fly fish, take these next tips into consideration.
Kids have short attention spans. Be patient with them. Try short fishing trips the first few times, and make it about having fun rather than catching fish. The main goal, after all, isn’t about fishing but developing a love for being on the water and connecting with nature. Over time, they will become more proficient, and the real fishing can begin.
Teach the Basics
Don’t dive off the deep end with all of the fly fishing odds and ends. Start with the basics: rod, reel, line and fly. Teach them the proper ways to hold and cast the rod, straight over the shoulder. They don’t have to know everything all at once; overloading them with too much information may overwhelm them and lead to a poor experience.
Get the Gear
One of the great things about teaching your kids to fly fish is that they get new gear. It’s part of the whole experience, so outfit your kids with good boots and a quality vest (We suggest Carhartt’s line of fishing gear). A decent rod and reel that won’t break the bank is instrumental. Temple Fork Outfitters has combo pack for youngsters at less that $160- The Bug Launcher Kit will have you ready for the water in no time. This will help them feel more connected to the sport.
Kids work well with clearly defined and achievable goals. This can include casting skills or knot tying. If you start with casting practice, we recommend challenging the kids to aim at larger objects, slowly working down to smaller ones. Learning these crucial skills early on will make your kids expert fishermen later in life.
Kids need feedback when learning a new skill. Let them know when they are doing something right. It can be as simple as a “good job!” or “great cast!” This affirmation will feed their confidence and encourage them to keep working to get better.
Keep It Fun
Remember, your kids are just kids. They won’t master this skill for months, weeks or even years. And that is okay! You are laying the groundwork for a great life skill. Keep it fun so they will continue to enjoy the sport for years to come.
Make it Short
Far too often we want to make an afternoon or day outing. Most kids have an attention span lasting no more than 20-30 minutes. Better to keep it short, allow the kids to break up the monotony and catch frogs & turtles or look for snakes. Grab a submerged log and a few rocks, turn them over. I have yet to meet a child who was not amazed at all the little bugs who live in the underwater world we are enthralled with. This should open a page for life long passion of natural sciences.
Don’t forget that you are not the first to try to get your child to love the river or lake as much as you do. Find your local Trout Unlimited Chapter & Federation of Fly Fishing, attend a meeting and get involved. Both groups are eager for younger and new members and often have an annual children’s event aimed at exactly what you may be trying to do. When other kids see friends who are getting involved and active in river clean-ups or fly tying events, they are more likely to stay interested.
Don’t Forget the Fish
What is fishing without the fish? Don’t forget to teach your kids about the different types of fish they might be catching. From trout and panfish to salmon and bass, rivers and lakes are full of interesting creatures. You can even include the best flies to use when fishing for the different types of fish. Just don’t get too technical. For instance, smaller flies are used for smaller fish because their mouths are smaller. You could also talk about using specifically colored flies because of the surroundings. These are all crucial parts of fishing that often get overlooked for the more fun things, like casting.
We hope you and your kiddos have a great time learning to fly fish. Don’t forget the gear for your kids as well as yourself. It might be time for a new vest!
From a distance, whether mowing the lawn, tending to the animals, or cutting wood, I can recognize the Fa-Thump, Phathump, Fa-Thump amplified rotation of the tires and diesel engine working up the motivation to travel up the long hill a mile away from our house. A sudden increase in my heart rate, eyes get dilated, hair stands on end, my senses are alert, vision sharpened and hearing more acute than ever as the big Brown truck makes a rounded left hand turn on our dirt road kicking up a dust cloud common in northern back roads. I can can usually tell in a split second if he is about to accelerate or coast in order to make the wide turn into our driveway.
What could be in the big box? The possibilities are endless. There is a chance they could be new curtains or bedspread for my daughters room, but I am hopeful it could be a new slew of rods from TFO or a replacement net for my broken Brodin wooden Guide net. My wife is privy to my game. She knows I have a secret code with the guys glad in pooh brown to store boxes inside of my garage door so I can intercept before she gets home. Its all in good fun. Is it a genetic disorder? My father had a serious problem ordering online and getting things he really need needed, like shark fishing rods, fish finders, Ice-augers and other miscellaneous items from Cabelas that I inherited. Do we as males have an inherent ability to bond with other males in this delivery secret ritual or is it more?
Jump back two decades and I was living in a much larger metropolis where I would drive to the mall or one of several Fly shops to purchase the majority of fly tying materials or a much needed new line from Scientific Anglers. I simply could not fathom living a life ‘Up North’ where one didn’t need to drive across town to actually pick up a rod or feel a pelt of deer hair prior to purchase. My brother-in-law bragged about how he would accomplish all of his Holiday shopping from the comfort of his EZ chair online. Inconceivable. Now days, I see the virtue in compiling of list of tying materials and making a bulk order to Feather-Craft for my Sex Dungeons and Hog Snares, along with guide flies from Catching Shadows and Anglers Choice Flies for next guide season.
As I was roto-tilling the garden last spring, standing amid the fresh aroma- a nitrogen rich potpourri, compliments of goats, sheep and chickens wafting through the promise of fresh spring air, I quickly shut down the tiller to say ‘Hello’ to my local driver. I had the idea of ‘getting to know’ my UPS and Fed-Ex guys. Why not? Really, they know me, and he often asks how the fishing is. These guys know more about you than perhaps some guys at the office. For instance, he knows I prefer getting camping equipment from Sierra Trading Post and on a more personal level, my monthly prescription for Humira injection for my psoriasis needs to be chilled and kept in the shade. So I had prepared a set of questions for my driver.
What is your name? How old are you? How many years have you been delivering packages for UPS?
“Jack. A little older than you. 28 years next month.”
How many kids do you have? What do you like about delivery packages?
“I had three— I lost my son in Afghanistan four years ago…”
Whoa~ did not expect that. How do I continue? I don’t. It was understood. We both had a moment. I paused to reflect how it gut wrenching it would be to lose a child, and then have some forty year old punk on my route have the audacity to ask about my personal life. He was a little choked up, I apologized and expressed my condolences. I can’t even imagine. It made the moment that much more real and I quickly realized I had found what I was looking for. Jack always sees my on the way to the river, beeps his horn as I fly by to meet clients, leaves a dog treat on my boxes at the door inside the garage and in return I leave him fresh SweeTango apples from the farmers market. This is a good relationship. I encourage everyone to get to know their delivery person, from every company. Find out something about their home life. Especially this time of year. They are transporting millions of boxes to more homes than ever before, in some off the most inclement conditions. Traveling thousands of miles each week to make sure you can light up someone’s face with that special box under the tree. The least you can do is let them know how much they are appreciated.
I am not much for making resolutions. They are often false promises one makes and never really intends to keep for an entire year. I quit smoking when my eldest was born, put down the bottle some years prior to that. Can honestly attest to those resolving to quit the nicotine addiction that it was easier to quit drinking. Both will require you to be ready and dead honest with yourself. I suppose I could lose some weight, really? Nah, Who am I kidding. Working out would do wonders for my mental stability, but trying to fit that in a schedule with family, restaurant and managing the guide business would take the deft balance of a trapeze artist. So my workouts will remain mending fences, shoveling snow and rowing a boat, along with other menial farm chores.
The past year was another amazing and spectacular trip around the sun for True North Trout. Met many new clients, fished again with old friends and had a few good laughs while watching fish gingerly sip blue winged olives from glassy rippled edged pools. The next year already promises to be bigger and better. Added Randy Monchilov to the crew, booked a few trips, one request for overnight camping accomadations and the ever eternal hunt for new waters to explore. We plan to expand our skinny water trips with an inflatable watercraft and eventually do more on the North Branch Au Sable River, with potential for cabin rental on the river. The SUPonthefly venue will certainly gain some traction and attention as we ply some still waters for pike and smallmouth bass in between floats on the Jordan and Upper Manistee rivers. Happy to be on board with Temple Fork Outfitters and Scientific Anglers bringing the client what we feel are the best products in the market for our guests. Last season we met and did some filming with a couple of different media companies and intend to do some spring steelhead and opening trout season filming to wrap up a possible episode or commercial for publicity. The CRA looks to be on track for the Chestonia/Old State Bridge removal project to start sometime in 2017, and we eagerly anticipate being able to drift under a new open span bridge sometime in 2018.
The snow is gently wafting outside the window, and the county road commission just barricaded my drive, so I must get back to my work out. So, no new promises from TNT in 2017, only that we aim to keep our clients on as many fish as we can find, teach them as much as we can share about our resources and entomology while drifting a few nymphs. We will provide the freshest local food, scones and produce from our favorite purveyors while keeping it reel, wet and fun for you and family. Tight Lines and Happy New Year!!
See many of you January 7 and 14 in Grand Rapids at either Celebration of Tying or the Great Lakes Council Fly Show at East Kentwood.