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Covid Christmas Wish List

2020 November 24
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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!!

Riversmith USA Rod Quiver- In 2 or 4 rod, Silver or Black

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

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

Cody’s Creations- rod Tube racks, Elk, Bonefish to Trout, check it out!

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

Brian from MRO has the latest book from Blane Chocklett

5- TFO LK Legacy Rod

TFO LK Legacy Rod

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.

6- FishPrintShop


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

7- Whiskey Leatherworks

Fly Wallet by Whiskey Leatherworks

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

8- Snowbee Nivalis Jacket

Marc Crapo- @Vonbeardly keeps warm in the Nivalis Jacket by SnowBee.

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

9- FisheWear

Give the gift of FUNCtional, Fashionable, Fishable!

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

10- Dani Knoph Wildlife Studio

DK Studio for local Up North art work.

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

11- DeYoung Studio Art/Decals

Art from Derek DeYoung Studio

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.

Freshness is key- Life is too short to drink average coffee.

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.

Book your Trip for 2021!! photo by Kim Mettler at Michigan Barefoot Memories

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!!

Bear Andrews floats shallow water in his long boat. photo Brian Eavey

14- Adipose Flow

The Best boat in the market.

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

Merry Christmas!!! Have a safe and Blessed Holiday!

Year in Review #Covid-19

2020 November 22
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by Brian Kozminski

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.

Thankful I had the opportunity to spend time with Janis Putelis & MeatEater crew- even though the Hex was a bust.

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!

Tight Lines,


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.

FisheWear at MRO

2020 November 6
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by Brian Kozminski

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!

Tight Lines!


MeatEater Das Boat season II

2020 October 13
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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.

Das Boat Season 2- We thought the Hex would be Epic! Oh boy, we were wrong…

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.

We threw EVERYTHING in the box at them, Panther Martins & Rapalas were not out of the question.

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.

An enjoyable afternoon catching a few bronzebacks helped me realize this resource is at my back door and needs to be cherished.

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


2020 October 13
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The rain. The sweet smell of rain. Release of nitrogen from the atmosphere.
Petrichor. Smell it?

Photo by Sam Bosworth Media

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.

Enjoy. Petrichor.

Adipose Boat Build

2020 October 12
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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.

Test run on the Missouri River near Wolf Creek.
Big Bathtub- the mold of a future Skiff.
Laying down the honeycomb core for strength and support.
Taking shape-
Teflon coated bottom, will last longer and scoot over small obstacles.
Key colored Logo and accent braces~

final stages- prepping casting braces and accent color

Final Stage- Prepping braces and accent color.

Finished product- Add the Black Dog trailer and hit the Missouri River!!

Just Add Water.

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. 

Summers last Trickle

2020 August 9
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by Brian Kozminski

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.

TFO 3/4 weight Glass is perfect for these small streams.

These Days.

2020 April 19
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by Brian Kozminski

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’.

If it can fit in their mouth~ they will try it.

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.

Choose your weapon~

Opted for 5 weight instead of the 3 weight. The Finesse Glass will be better suited when I can target dries on a warm afternoon.

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.

Never will I dull of the beauty these fish possess.

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.

Much easier to dismiss this as irreverent youth and recall it was not that long ago, I was once less careful of my surroundings.

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.

This river has habitat for days, and a few willing players to entertain. I look forward to being back in this water.

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.