Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Wikipedia submission, gone bad!!!

Some of you have heard of me speaking ill of my enemy, the Snagasaurus*. I continue to speak ill of said pain in the ass and developed "Stage II" in my war against it.  "Stage I" was me bitching about it to anyone who would listen when I talked or wrote about it while sharing a fishing story. 

"Stage II" is launching a Public Awareness Campaign to educate and inform the public so that they know what and who this evil doer is through the use of our greatest on-line reference of the 21st century, Wikipedia.  I would like to give a special thanks to my Editorial Staff and Public Relations Consultant for this campaign, Mrs. Critter, who assisted with all the English mumbo jumbo formatting.

THE PROBLEM:  You will not be able to see it on Wikipedia as our submission was deleted within minutes of posting it.  The reason given was that "the information was unverifiable...and...can not use...for personal inventions."  I call Bullsh@#!!  I know many who have met this evil doer who have had terrible personal encounters.  Now that we know that the evil Snagasaurus has an insider at Wikipedia on it's payroll, I will have to find other means to disseminate information to the masses.  And for the record, Mrs. Critter is very upset with the henchman at Wikipedia after all her effort to figure out diphthongs (whatever those are) that she had included in the submission.

Mark my wordsssss Snagasaurus...bewarrrrre.

* the truncated and much less embellished definition from what Jen and I had before we were deleted: Snagasaurus is the entity below a water surface that causes one who is fishing to get hung-up on or even lose their fly or fishing lure. Usually there is no indication of its presence as it resides outside the victims (i.e. fisherman) field of vision. Frequent snagasaurus encounters can result in frustrating outdoors experiences as well as increasing the expenses incurred during and following the fishing endeavors.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Skinny Nelson

The Skinny Nelson

Hook: TMC 200R #20
Body: Black 8/0 thread
Rib: silver wire (small)
Thorax: two strands of peacock herl
Shell back: Pheasant tail
Tail: Pheasant tail

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Griffiths Gnats

Tonight I noticed that I only had bigger Griffiths gnats that survived last trout season, so I tied up a dozen size 22's to fill that void.

Hook: TMC 100 size 22
Thread: 8/0 Black Uni-thread
Body: Ice Dub Peacock black
Hackle: Grizzley
Post: Black 'Float-Vis' (a high float material to help see the little bugger at dusk)

Christmas Unwrapped

This Christmas was a great one as far as a fly fisherman and fly tier goes.  I was fortunate to have received many nice presents that will be used for many years to come.  I also received (from my grandmother who passed away earlier this year) a nice family heirloom. 

Because of the weather, plans were changed and we decided to stay at my parents home for the weekend instead of traveling to see Jen's family like we had planned.  It was good time, we ate homemade Christmas goodies (Jen especially appreciated the rum balls and the truffles), I tied some flies for both dad and myself, football was on in the background, and the frozen lake was pretty to look at while the snow continuously fell. 

Our new goal now is to see Jen's family next weekend, even though there won't be as many there, I am sure it will be as festive and just as meaningful.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"Craft" project

So for lack of a better title, I have been working on a "craft" project the past couple of nights.  With inspiration from a previous post showing a picture I had taken of a fly I tied, it hit me that I could do better.  And since I had all the camera equipment to make that possible, I set out to see what others do.

I surfed and surfed and saw some themes of how people set up to take good pictures of flies and I built my own "portable studio."  The total cost of this project for me was $0.00.  I just happen to have all the crap crafty stuff I needed around the house to make this thing.

I grabbed a mid sized cardboard box and mutilated it with a razor.  The idea was that the object inside the box would be lit up by lights outside the box, hence the holes on the opposite sides and the top.

Then, I added the "deluxe" option to this project which was adding a piece of Velcro to the back of the box and to the back of various colored file folders.

To the bottom of the box I taped in some white ink jet glossy photo paper to reflect light back up to the bottom side of the fly.

I re-enforced the box with packaging tape and then covered the openings with two layers of that gifty tissue paper stuff.  Here now, is the set up.  The camera is a good distance away because the lense I am using is the Nikkor 70-300 with the Macro option.  So, unlike a normal macro lense, I needed a little distance before the vise and fly where in focus.

The other thing you will notice is the vice is in front of the box instead of inside it.  After a couple of hours of messing around with different positions of the flash and trying to get it to work with the slave flash, I had to change tactics.  I wasn't getting good lighting, or when I did a huge shadow would be cast upon the background making for a serious distraction.

Once I brought it out in front of the box, the shadow issue disappeared and I could adequately light the fly enough for a descent picture that could go along with a pattern description.  It's obvious that I'm no Jim Schollmeyer, but I have to start somewhere.

So here are some of the pictures that I did while playing around with this project.



Sunday, December 20, 2009

A good weekend

Friday night Jen and I had a dinner date with Ben and Amy at a little Russian Restaurant called Moscow on the Hill.  It was pretty fun, the foods were good, the staff was fast, and several vodka shots tastings were had.  They had more choices of vodkas and specialty drinks then there are pine needles on a tree.  My main entree was a pork dish with apples and almonds inside it, and it was very flavorful.  Jen ordered a salmon fillet with dumplings on the side.  She raved about the dumplings.  I tasted the salmon and thought it was the best I'd ever had in the Midwest.  The appetizer was very good as well, it was a smorgasbord of things, and surprisingly, we all were digging the beat salad the most.  I' would definitely do it again.

Saturday morning Jen and I ran around picking up the house a little, wrapping presents, and last minute shopping.  Ben stopped over after his shopping was done for the day, and we set up to tie flies around the kitchen table for the next four hours.  We did take a brief break with a quick visit to the Fly Angler down the road, as I needed some more hooks and beads for the pattern I was tying.  We just plain enjoyed the day, a couple of cocktails (our friends bourbon, spiced rum, and crown paid us a visit), tied a few flies, had Christmas music on in the background.  Later on in the evening I did some consolidating of my many random post it notes listing flies to tie and made a consolidated list that was more manageable to read then my various chicken scratches on yellow squares.  Overall, I'd call that a good day.

Sunday we didn't leave the house.  I made a hearty breakfast, we paid some bills, spent some time  on both the wisflyboard and then on the Flytyingforum websites, opened our stocking stuffer gifts to each other, and then I was back to the fly tying bench with football on in the background and VH1's top 40 videos of the year.  Inspired by a fly pattern I saw online today and by the theme of the flies I'd been tying the past week or so, I came up with a neat pattern.

Hook:  TMC 3761 #12
Thread: 8/0 Olive Uni-Thread
Tail/shuck: 2 strands of pearl accent flashabou
Body: Ultra-wire green (size brassie) and Ultra-wire copper (size medium)
Thorax: Black UV Ice Dubbing
Hackle: Hen English soft hackle

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Cold Tuesday Night.

I made it up to the Fly Angler tonight for their first Open Tying night of the winter.  Several of us showed up and we pulled up a chair and our sense of humor upstairs in the middle of the rod shop.  We had a variety of flies being manufactured from Gotcha's, to soft hackles, to the Ultimate Meat Whistle Fly.

Some of us ordered delivery from Jimmy Johns, and they delivered speedy-quick!  I did my part to support the night by purchasing some 8/0 red thread as mine kept breaking a little to easily and must have been a bad spool.  Oh, and I bought a fly rod on my dad's behalf for this coming year.  I had two choices for the price range he was looking at, and I of course, I got the more expensive of the two.  But I won't tell him that and only charge him what he thought he wanted to spend.  He is getting a 9' 4-piece 5-weight Ross Essence FS fly rod with a soft case and rod tube.  I thought it was a fair deal, and added that to my spool of thread.

Later this week or next I will double check the extra 5wt fly line I have, and if it is good I will spool it on one of my former Orvis reels.  I just need to remember he is a south paw and to have it spooled backwards for him.  I think he will like the set up.

We tied from 6pm to 8pm and it was a great way to spend a winter night.  Tying with buddies (and The Jen who showed up with her glamorous haircut, fresh coloring, and big curls), terrible karaoke to the radio, and talking about future fishing trips (real and fantasy) to come.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I know I've been slow on the posts lately, but I've been busy with the holiday activities as I am sure many of you have been.  I came across this article that may be of interest and thought I would share it.  The name of the article is "Waters quiet but deep for Montana angling icon- so the Lilly legend goes" and it was found on-line at

Enjoy, and maybe I can take some pictures of the flies I've been tying to post here in the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

end of the season

wet muddy wading boots by the door.
waders hanging from the shower curtain rod.
a dirty, smelly, messy truck, in the driveway with a Brule stained floor.

the shed that needs to be re-organized.
the lawn neglected of regular attention.
a house in need to be prepped and winterized.

for weeks and weeks, a hot water bathroom faucet in need of repair.
piles of left over snacks, expired coupons, old mail on the kitchen table.
liqueur cabinet seriously bare.

photo's of the seasons victories...on the kitchen counter, the coffee table, the fly shop bragging wall.
rod tubes and grouse gun sitting in the corner, disguised by sleeping bags and sleeping pads.
half-unpacked luggage bags are in the hall.

fly boxes in need of refilling before winter thaws.
gps chips, delormes, sketches of maps on napkins, placed on the special shelf.
in the fly vest...empty leader packages, used tippet, a few surviving Thing-A-Ma-Bobs.

the fly-tying room in serious despair.
camping cookware waiting to be put back in storage.
fleece and Under Armor everywhere...everywhere.

     -Christopher Sprau

Monday, November 16, 2009

Steelhead season closes

Friday: Jen and I were greeted by a cold bottle of the Doctor at our Hotel door.  Thanks Peter!
We found the room where Peter was staying and chatted awhile about the recent weather, river conditions, and fishing reports of the past few days.  Then Jen went off to bed and we headed over to continue our conversation at the Kro-Bar over a couple of Spotted Cows.

Headed over to Twin Gables for breakfast.  The morning was overcast and it was one of those quiet drizzly days.  With no one joining us this morning, Jen and I got ready for and headed to the river.

The parking lots busier then expected, but finally we just picked a spot and hit the trail down to the river.   Jen hooked into brown trout just feet from her that was about 20" or so from what I could tell, but it spit the hook before we could get it to the net. 

We quit early that day stopped and stopped by Big dog's Trout camp looking for Struiff, but we didn't see his truck so we headed back to the hotel change out of our trout pants.  We then swung by Nesterville looking for Rick, but he was out setting up his stand for deer season.  His wife RayAnn said that he'd  back soon for the Northwest High School championship game that was going to be on at the Kro.

The bartender's grandson set up a laptop to the main TV so that the webcast of the game could be watched by the prideful folk of the town.  The desktop of the laptop showing a very very busty topless gal and a pool table, which didn't seem to bother grandma all that much...weird.  Customers there could get drinks, but not food...that would interrupt the staff from watching the game.  I think everyone in the bar was somehow closely connected to every player on the team.  It was a very lake Woebegone and neat to have experienced.  Comments about the ref's and the players were in no part unbiased, and some constructive criticism about the announcer was also given.  Several of the gals were totally engrossed in the game, putting thier hands together, breathing heavily, one of them actually just stood through the whole game to watch as she "just couldn't stand it."  For the record the Tigers went into this game with an impressive 12-0 record.  We later found out, that they ended the season with a 12-1 record as they had lost.  But, now Jen and I know why everyone had "Go Tigers" signs in the local towns and yards and businesses, and on their sweatshirts. 

We went back to the Hotel before the game had ended to pick up Peter and George for supper at the Italian place.  It was 5:30pm and been dark for at least half an hour now so we assumed they'd be ready.  In fact our timing was great, they were in the middle of emptying the truck form the day and going in to change clothes.  The minestrone soup was as good as what all the locals had said it was.  And it was the real deal as both Jen and Peter ran into a little bone that they spit out.  A couple of hours later we left and dropped everyone off. 

Nine-thirty came around and after my short nap I headed to the pub and hung out with the bouncer for about 45 minutes, talking about bow hunting and fishing.  Things were getting busy, so I left him to his job  and I invaded the table were Andy Roth and his two cohorts were deep into some friendly competition to decide who the billiards World champion was.  It was a fun group of guys filling up on Lienies and pizza.

Met up with Anderson and Feiker at our usual breakfast place, and we were off to fish closing day of the season.  The weather was chilly this morning and mostly sunny, and the parking lots was a little less crowded from the day before.  We fished till sunset, several of us had hookups, Jen had a frustrating day with the snagasourous and tangles.  There was a part of the day, where Anderson decided to break out his unpolished sports commentation skills, and did a play by play as I was fishing.  It was funny, but he needs a little more practice before ANY sports channel will hire him to jazz up any event.  And I am pretty sure he is ok with that.

After a chili day, we headed back to the Kro to warm up, use the 'facilities' and enjoy a cigar.  Talked to the bouncer who was running on 3 hours a sleep and a 1-hour nap and just about to start a bartending shift.  Long story, but lets just say he gets the call to fill in and work at several places in town when other people call in sick or can't work for whatever reason.  We finished our last mugs of Spotted Cow of the season and wrapped things up with a supper together at the Anchor Bar in Superior, WI.  Nothing kills hunger or hamburger cravings like the Anchor Grill.  We left there very happy and full around 8pm and was home around 10:30p and went straight to bed.  We unpacked the next day after I had called in sick. 

And that was not fun.  Unfortunately, Jen and I had both had some bad stomach thing going on.  It was kind of there on Sunday, but we tried to ignore it.  We were suspect of the famed soup we had the night before since that is the only thing in common that Jen and I had, besides water.  On the drive home I went through a whole bottle of the pink stuff, as my stomach was doing this non-stop gurgling flopping around thing.  It was not fun at all, and I spent most of the day in bed hunched over.  I know not the ending to the season that one wants right?  At least we had fun this year, and I don't have to quit steel heading as I was threatening to do before this season had started.  I hope next year is just as fun.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Steelhead weekend #4

Friday night:
dropped Jen off at hotel, and then met up with Ben and Amy at Kro-bar for drinks.  We met drunk banjo "bubba" guy (think of Jeff Dunham's bubba puppet and you are getting very close, only not as good looking) who kept talking with us.  At first I thought he was a day early with the Halloween show.  It turns out that it was not a show.  He was drawn to my Psycho-ward sweatshirt and thought it was really funny.  At least that is what I could make out of his really slurred "bubba" accent.  He told us that he was going to stay home Saturday night to avoid the freaks...ironic.


We met for breakfast at the Twin Gables, Jenny and myself, Ben and Amy, and Peter.  We formed a loose plan and started our day.  Once again, the parking lot of choice only had one vehicle.  The River was ours for the taking.  Jen and I headed up to a specific spot on a hole suggested by Mike,  but once we got there, we backtracked to "my bush" as I just had better feeling about starting there.

I am glad I did!  On my first cast of the day, I caught a 29" steelhead out of the middle of the bend.  It seemed like it took forever to land, and I was enjoying every second of the fight.  Ben netted it for me, as Jen didn't have a net, and mine was too small for this guy.  We took several pictures and measurements, and after a hard decision, I chose to return it to river.   

We figured we let the area rest for a half hour, and after I finished my cigar, Jen and Ben chose their spots, and I moved up to the lead in to the pool.  It was all of 15 minutes and I had a second steelhead on!  I remember yelling to Ben that I was sorry, and pleaded for his help to catch this one too.  The first steelhead pretty much stayed in the water, but not this one.  The second one jumped out of the river 4 or 5 times and fight took just as long as the first.  I couldn't be happier.  It was mid October of 2007, when I landed my first and also last steelhead before today.  The day went by quickly as we continued to fish  and even moved to another angler parking lot for the last two hours of the day.

We ditched the trout pants and put on some comfortable clothes and headed to the Italian place for pizza, and beer, where I bumped into "Big Dog" and my buddy Struif.  So I shared my personal victory with them and Struif was very supportive, as he is fully aware as well of my frustrations with this steelhead game.

From there we ventured over to the Kro-bar to see the Halloween costumes, where we found Big Dog and Struif again, along with Tony, Louise, Jay and Rick.  Lots of stories and good conversations were had while watching the ghouls and goblins that floated around the bar.  Later in the night, the bartender appointed our group as the costume judges, she bribed us with a free round of drinks for our services.  Sounds good to me, we were kind of rating them already.  I have to say though, this was the quietest and rather disappointing from prior years.  Maybe next years run will be better.  ;) 

We may have gone out for breakfast an hour early...oops, daylight savings time happened and my watch wasn't corrected for it when I crashed the night before.  Jen and myself, Ben and Amy, Peter, and Mother Feiker met up for breakfast and headed to the river.  When I caught steelie number three with in a half-hour.  Can it get any better for me this weekend?  I was delighted, but a new challenge was presented quickly.  Ben was up river at another hole, and Jen didn't have a net, and she has not ever netted a fish before.  While I fought this runner of a steelie, Jen was working at removing my net from y back so that she could land it.  It was a very silver 24" steelhead that made several long runs.  On all three of the fish I caught this weekend, they all brought me within feet of going into my backing.  Jen was getting nervous when she failed to come close to netting it a couple of times and suggested that she take the rod and I land my fish.  But, since this was number three of the weeekend, so I denied her suggestion.  I told her this would be good for her to do, and was thinking to myself "please don't screw up, please don't screw up, please don't screw up" while giving her words of encouragement.

Jen did land the fish, and in the process, ended up more wet then the fish!  To put it in her words, "she got the sucker, god bless it!"  It was deep and heavy and everything a healthy steelhead should be.  Peter happened to walk by just before the release, so I was able to "Flash" him with my steelie before returning her back to the river for another day.

We only fished for another hour or so as we wanted to get back to see the Packer v Vikings game.  I did catch a little smolt about the size of the cigar I was smoking, which made me chuckle at that realization.

And that is my story of the end of my long dry spell of not catching steelhead.  I like catching them a whole lot more than fishing for them and not catching them.  I hope I don't have to wait as long for my next one, especially now that we made it look so easy in front of Jen.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Where did my steelhead monkey go? WHO CARES!!!

That's right, after a long dry spell, the monkey is off my back.  This weekend I hooked three steelhead and landed all of them!  Two at 29 inches on Saturday and one 24 incher on Sunday.  A special thanks to Ben and Jen for for being excellent net-men!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

28.5" Steelhead

Well this past weekend was steelhead weekend number three for the fall.  And coincidentally Jens 3rd weekend of steelhead fishing in total. 

We did the usual Friday night run up to the cabin we rented.  The drive seemed long as we drove though  rain, then sleet, and then snow.  We moved our gear from the truck to the cabin and settled in for the night.  Everyone else that we knew were coming up for the weekend would be pulling in later or the next day. 

Saturday we woke, had a hearty breakfast, and hoped we see my buddy Ben from the club soon.  He arrived just as we had fished getting dressed and rigging our fly rods for the day.  The go to a spot where the parking lot wasn't packed. 

Ben and Jen hopped in the truck and on our first parking lot of choice, there was amazingly only one other vehicle there.  Rare for this spot, especially since it was 10:30am.  Guess this is where we were going fishing!  We made the slippery trek down the trail and could see that the river had definitely changed over the past couple of days.  It was up, it was faster, and it was no longer clear.

We knew a particular spot that I was fond of and it could accommodate three of us fishing it at the same time.  We got into position, Ben at the head of the pool, Jen in the middle, and me at the tail.  I tried to make my first cast and caught a tree, just as three old timers across the stream came by.  So I pretended to ignore my situation while we chatted with them for a bit.  They said they this spot to hold few but big steelhead.  I smiled, and kept what I knew of this spot to myself. 

They headed down the trail and Jen made a noise.  She said she missed a fish.  I thought, "whatever" it was only her first cast, and went about undoing my mess from the tree.  Jen again made a noise and claimed to missed it again.  I broke off my line as it was a hopeless feet to try to save my rig, and again Jen said she missed a fish.  Ben and I advised she change how she set the hook and do a strip set instead of a rod set.  I went back to tying on a new fly and this time, Jen got excited and when I looked up she had a steelhead on.  In less then five casts she was fighting a steelhead.  I tossed my rod onto shore and worked my way up to her.  Ben also started to move down to assist as well.

We gave some direction as to what she should do and how to handle the fish and she was executing well.  And then the point came that I got excited, I saw the steelhead come by and realized my net was not big enough to land this one.  After two attempts, I hollered up to Ben that he needed to come down with his net.  Ben was able to get down by me pretty quickly and I stepped back out of their way, all this time Ben and I giving advice and shouting instructions to Jen.  It made several runs downstream and to the opposite bank and then found a spot just feet in front of us but past the deep edge where we couldn't wade over too.  It parked itself there.  Now time usually seems skewed when I get into these situations, but we were at a point where this battle was getting close to being abut 5 minutes long, and the three of us were looking at each other and looking at where the line was going into the muddy water and wondering what to do.  I then thought, the time is now or its going to be refreshed and take another run and we will lose it.  I advised to Jen that she angle and tilt her rod towards the bank and apply a little more pressure.  It worked, and the steelhead began to move.  After about a eight or nine attempts now, Ben netted the fish, and it was NICE.  Jen was sooooo excited and I started taking pictures in case it escaped the net, or fell out of someone's hands.  We did measure it before we took it out of the net for the grip and grin pictures and it measured 28.5" from kipe to tail.  We had great fortune of a great fight, Jen handling herself well for her first encounter with fighting a steelhead, and not screwing up in the unhooking and picture taking.

Jen was able to tell her story later to Mike and Phil over supper and we were all celebrating in her success.  Then we continued celebrating back at the cabin for bit a longer and sharing in other fishing stories.  I'm so proud of her! 

Monday, October 19, 2009

2nd Steelhead weekend

It was hard to stay focused at work on Friday, so I didn't.  I did everything I could to make the day go faster.  Four o'clock came, and I was out of there and headed for home.  I moved the pile of stuff from the living room that packed the night before into the Tahoe.  Ran over to Big 10 where I was to meet Mother Feiker to pick up the fleece windstopper coat and hat that Jen would need that we left behind at the previous weekend steelhead outing.  When I got back, Jen and Mike were ready to roll out of town, and so we did.

We made a couple of stops along the way to refuel, pick up "supplies" and have a bite to eat.  We arrived at our sleeping quarters around 9-ish and popped a beer while we unpacked.  Luckily we unpacked right away as Mike and I had some high-energy conversation and laughs, which kept the pace of our arm curls going at a pretty good pace.  Jen retired around midnight, and we ran out of steam around 2:30am.  At least that is what Jen says.

At way too early an hour Saturday morning, we here a knock at the door.  It's Muffin-top and his wife and they are ready to get the day started.  It was like 7am, and way too early after last night's Leinie-bourban marathon.  But we got our selves reasonably presentable to meet them for breakfast, of which I don't remember much.  After breakfast, we headed back to our room and got our trout pants on and it was decided that Jen would drive us to the river, as it appeared that Mike and I, or maybe really just me, may have been not sober enough to drive yet.  Oops!  I don't remember the drive to the river, but the next thing I knew we were standing in it fishing for steelhead.  It's amazing how standing in 40-degree water with a fly rod in your hand can sober a guy up so quickly.  The water was a .10" lower then the weekend before and a tad slower, and still very clear.

It was a nice day.  The kind of day that one who grouse hunts typically wishes for.  No wind, light cloud cover, 40's for a high, perfect for walking at a slow pace with a 20 gauge in hand.  We checked our rigging and our flies and started our nymphing. 

We covered some good water and Jen still seems to be a natural at learning the basics for fly-fishing.  Over all, the day didn't seem to be delivering too many steelheads to too many people.  But I was pleasantly happy.  By the end of the day I had caught three smolt.  Which to many, is trivial, but to me it was the end of a two year streak of catching nothing in the steelhead family.  This made me feel confident that the changes I had made in my rigging this year was indeed going in the right direction.

At dusk we headed back up the trail to the Tahoe, and then back to the cabin to get out trout pants off before going out to eat.  I am sure it has something to do with being in the outdoors all day, but there is nothing better then a heavy sweatshirt, a burger, and greasy appetizers to end the day.  We had a few people join us for supper.  I had just had a bailey's and coffee placed in front of me when Peter came in and joined us, eager to hear the days reports as he would start his three-day steelhead tour in the morning.  Ole and Bucky also stopped by a little after Peter and shared their fishing encounters that they had that day.

We got a chance to sleep in this time, as Muffin-top and his wife had left town yesterday.  And leisurely worked our way through the morning steelhead routine.  We tried a different landing then the day before to go fishing.  Both days, the spots we had picked was based purely on the number of cars at the landings rather then any skillful predictions of where the fish would be.  We just wanted to be away from the crowds.  Turns out, there was a lot of good water we covered that day as well. 

And then it happened.  I was working a nice bend pool.  I covered the top two-thirds of it and started into the tail of the pool.  A half-hour of fishing with nothing to get excited about.  I drifted my line down in the tail and my indicator did a fishing move so I raised my rod, not sure if it was a rock or a fish.  As soon as I had tension the steelhead I hooked was tight to the line!  It moved up and to the far side of the pool, then over to the close side towards me.  I could see that it was a dark steelhead, and that it looked to be about 20" or so.  Then it turned and screamed downstream and in about ten yards of its dash, my line popped and went limp.  My 5-second rodeo with a steelhead had ended.  I had also lost both my beadhead X-legs nymph and the yarn fly dropper.  The 3x G-max floro was cut cleanly off.  At least it wasn't my knot the did me in I thought to myself.  And while I may have cursed out loud at the loss off the fish, I quickly smiled and was happy that I got the chance to finally fight a steelhead after my long dry spell.

To add to my count, I managed to land another smolt later that day a little further down river.  And as the day came to an end, I had to convince Jenny that we did have to leave so that we didn't get home too late.  She was enjoying herself and really wanted to stay.  Eventually she came out and we left the river around 4:30pm.

We were greeted by your classic north woods "old timers" smoking a Backwoods cigar at the parking lot where we changed out of our trout pants.  He updated us on the scores and his analysis of the Packer game as well as the Viking game.  And we returned the favor by updating him with our analysis of the day's fishing.  After a bit of chatting, we hopped in the truck and headed for home leaving the old timer in my rear view mirror puffing on his cigar while he waited as it got closer to sunset before he wet his line.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Club Steelhead weekend

Jen and I arrived in Brule around 8:30pm, dropped off some stuff at the cabin, and went in to Twin Gables for supper since we saw Bob's truck there.  We found them (Anderson, Mother Feiker, Ben, Ryan, and Andy) in the back bar, watching the Twins-Yankees game.  Ben had pictures of the steelhead he caught earlier in the day and it was a very nice one at that.  Jen and I bellied up to the bar and ordered supper and watched the game.  We also chatted with Dee, the owner, and met her boyfriend during the commercial breaks.

After watching the Twins lose, we headed to the Kro-bar to see what was happening. 
I ran into a few more friends that I knew and did some catching up with them (Joe, Ash, Grizzly, Buzzy, and Shane).  It was great to see them and rib each other a little and share what little intel we had gathered on the current steelhead situation.

We (Mother Feiker, Ben, Andy, and myself) head back to the cabin after closing the bar down and went to bed around 3am.

We were up and getting ready to go to Twin Gables about 7:30am or so, and there it was...about a 1/4" of show on the ground.  Jen and I were excited by the fresh snow and were actually looking forward to spending the day in it.  It really made the bright colored leaves pop even more. 

After breakfast headed back to the cabin to get ready for fishing for the day.  The plan was that we park at two different landings and walk in opposite directions to where the other was parked, making our fishing groups smaller.  Jen, Andy, and myself in one truck, Mother Feiker, Anderson, and Ben in the other truck.  This was Jens first time going Steelhead fishing and it was no warm up to it, the weather and water was in full "normalcy" as far as steelhead weather goes.  There was  no easing her into it.  For the record the river was 42 degrees, air temp started around 31 and the high for the day was around the low 40's and our guides kept freezing up all day.  It was cold, and windy, leaves of red and orange and yellows were floating in the low clear river, and it was beautiful.

For some reason, I couldn't stay on my feet this weekend.  I fell three different times, so I was nursing a sore knee and elbow, but the back feels more aligned then when I started the day.  Go figure!  And today is the best my back has felt in a week.  Guess I should fall on my ass more often when my back is feeling crappy.   

Andy tagged into a colorful steelhead with bright red on it, and it broke off quickly.  He also got a strike in the same area before that.  When it happened, Jen was resting on the bank and got to watch the 15- seconds of excitement right in front of her and got to see the steelhead in the water racing around. 

We crossed paths with the boys half way through for a bit, had some beef sticks for lunch.  Anderson caught a 22" steelhead out the same area that Andy fought his. Anderson's was a bright chrome steelie, fresh from the lake.

Near the end of the day, Jen did get a strike, but that was it for her.

We warmed up back at the cabin and Tony was there making a feast for the cold hungry crew.  Ham, wild rice, cranberry sauce, salmon dip, mashed potatoes.  It was a full holiday meal!

Joining us for dinner were Jay (who also caught a couple steelhead that day), also two of Tony's friends from the area, Troy and Rick.  Then, Mike from the Fly Angler and his buddy joined up for some food and friendly conversation.

Around 10pm Mother Feiker, Ben, and myself headed for the Kro to see what local characters were out and about.  Anderson joined us later after Rick left the cabin.  I chatted with Dee's boyfriend about our day and his recent bow hunting experiences while he checked ID's at the door.  The Bugs were in full swing rocking the house.  Over the years, that band has definitely improved.

We ran into Mike and his buddy at Twin Gables for breakfast, as well as Big Dog and Greg Lonke.  We shared some status reports and predictions for the day along with a couple of laughs.  After breakfast, the boys headed off fishing while Jen and I headed over to Duluth to spend the afternoon with Chad and Sarah, before heading home for the Twins game.  It had been a while since I was there last so we thought it was a good time to do that before I get into my "serious" steelhead hunting mode over the next  three or four weekends to come.

Jen did say that even though the weather was less then ideal, and didn't catch anything, that she had fun and might even do it again.  I had a great time with her as well as seeing all my old and new friends.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hanging around.

So I opted to stay home this weekend instead of steelheading for two reasons.  First, I needed another appointment with the Chiropractor.  Second, I wanted to attend a friend of mines' surprise birthday.  In between the two, I had six hours to kill.

So as I left the Chiropractor, the truck just drove all by itself to the Fly Angler instead of going home.  Mike was at the shop, pretty much running it all by himself.  So I pulled up a chair at the rod building table and was offered a cup of coffee.  Clients came and went, I chatted with some about fishing and others about the fly rods they were looking at.  In between, Mike and I got to catch up on the past couple of months stuff as well as talk about a potential salt water trip.  Two hours into my visit, Jenny calls me up.  Hm, I wasn't sure how this was going to go over, but I answered and she said she would come up to the shop to join us.  I am on my third copy of coffee at this point and was enjoying chilling out.  I mean really, if ya aren't out fishing, hanging out at the fly shop, posing as the fly shop dog is a good second best thing.  Jen joined us shortly after our call with her Caribou Coffee in hand. 

More customers were coming and going, so I fitted Jen with some Sims breathable waders and Chota wading boots.  She said she had enjoyed our summer trips and was really looking forward to doing more.  So what the heck.  We dipped into our respective minnow funds to finance her new gear.  I am sure she will be happy with it and spend some time in them soon.

We hung out for a little while longer then we had headed for home to grab a quick lunch and the directions to the party.  It was a good way to spend five hours to avoid all the nags of home, without going too far away from home.  And I am pretty sure Mike appreciated us hanging around, with the added contribution we made to the stores profit margin for the day.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Drifting for Muskie's

This past weekend finally came after a long time of waiting.  Peter and I had set aside this weekend for a float trip to fly fish for muskie's with Wendy, our guide from the Hayward Fly Fishing shop.  Wendy, by the way, was also a cover girl for a fly fishing magazine holding one of those big trout things.  I'll skip the recap of the ugly drive up on Friday, but just mentioned that we met up at Peters cabin within 5 minutes of each other, which was pretty funny since we both had a long ways to go and had each had our side stops along the way. 

It had been a while since I last saw Peter, so after a hurried unloading of some gear and our clothing for the next day, we had a chance to exchange some highlights while we settled in by the fireplace.  We both had a long day so we retired early for the evening, and we needed to get up early in order to meet up with Wendy at the fly shop.  

Saturday, we eagerly got up, had a good breakfast, and were out the door with no delays.  We met up with Wendy and Larry who were both hanging out in the parking lot waiting for their respective clients.  After a short confusing dialog of regarding the shuttle logistics we ventured off to the Chippewa River.  On the drive out we saw three wild turkey's near the road.  I declared this to be a good omen for no good reason.  But it brought a smile to our faces.

We got to the boat launch, jumped into our waders as Wendy unloaded and prepped the boat for the day.  It was a cool morning, and a little overcast, a very little wind.  A lot of the trees were revealing thier fall colors, mixed in with those that hadn't started yet.  In no time at all we were floating in the river and getting familiar with the 9 and 10 weight rods as well as the flies the size of week old puppies.  It didn't take long and Peter had landed a pike.  Nothing huge, but still a fun fight and fun to watch.

Before we knew it, several hours had past, we were deep into our chatting about random stuff and enjoying an absolute gorgeous fall day.  Then Peter tagged into a muskie.  He quickly had that landed in the boat, and we took pictures.  It had a neat iridescent green color on it's side, and again, a nice sized fish, but not the scary monsters you see in brag pages of Outdoor News. 

Then there was the "almost" double header.  Peter and I were at a spot where we both set the hook at the same time on strikes.  Peter hooked his and ended up landing a pike.  Mine decided it didn't want to commit to me and spit the fly.  It was crazy fun moment and would have been cool had we both landed something at the same time. 

At some point we did break for a lunch on the river, prepared by Wendy, who makes a good lunch, but an excellent desert.  We had also stretched our legs and waded a gravel bar where there was some good water and some potential channels for muskie.  That is when we encountered the only other people we had seen all day on the river.  Two kayakers that paddled by us.  Other than that, we had the whole river to ourselves all day.  I think if I remember correctly, the float was around 7 or so hours from beginning to end.  So if you are keeping track, Peter caught one muskie and two pike, and I had two significant strikes and nothing landed.  As for wildlife we had saw a couple kingfishers in an aerial dogfight over the river, an eagle, we also heard a grouse fly off and a turkey putting. 

After the float we headed back to the cabin.  Peter jumped in the canoe for a little lake fishing to wrap up the day.  I transferred my running line and backing from an old bad Orvis reel I had to a new Ross spool that I had got last Christmas in preparation for Sunday's fishing in Northern Wisconsin for salmon and steelhead.  David Keene arrived while I was working on this, and directed him down to the lake so that he could go fishing with out of the canoe for the last hour of the day. 

I made a few casts along the shore shortly after my project was done and caught two large mouth bass and a decent sized pumpkinseed within a half-hour.  Once it was too dark, we headed off to the dead animal bar for supper.  While that is not its real name, it was an appropriate name.  There were a lot of dead animals mounted, more then your average Wisconsin bar.  Supper was good, then we headed back to the cabin to prep for Sundays fishing.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

All packed up and unable to go.

So my fly tying/fishing club had scheduled a weekend outing to camp and fish in SE MN.  I had been looking forward to this the past two weeks.  Campfires, trout, friends, fall, nice weather get my drift. 
Wednesday, I had most of the stuff put together and piled up in the living room, since I had to go to the club meeting Thursday night and had planned to take off right after work Friday.  It was week of mounting stress as another person quit and the department was short staffed to begin with.  I also had several things to take care of myself to complete my transition from a temporary contractor to a permanent employee (which is a good stress, but still stress).  Plans were going well, with a surprise appointment that had at the end of the day for a pre-employment exam for my new job. 

I got home on time according to "my plan" and commenced loading the Tahoe with our tent, cookware, fishing gear, chairs, table, stove, clothes, etc. etc.   Jen came home as I grabbed the final thing to put in the Tahoe, which was a sleeping bag.  As I went to toss it, I felt a shock to my lower back and my eyes instantly went wide open as I felt the pain!  My damn back went out.

I sat down with a pack of ice and had to make a decision.  Should I stay or should I go.  Is this a quick warning shot or is this going to hurt all weekend.  Jen pointed out some logic that my narrow focused fly fishing mind wasn't thinking about.  So a decision was made that I take care of my back for the night with an ice, take some lame weak ibuprofen, and lay down in bed to see how things go. I called Ben, who I was supposed to rendezvous with in the south part of the cities and reported the bad news.

Saturday morning came uncomfortably, and I surf the net till I found a chiropractor that was open on Saturdays.  I found one who was open for two hours.  After the typical initial paperwork was out of the way, he did an adjustment, and I went home to put an ice pack on again.  At first, I wasn't sure that he helped it or made it worse.  The muscles were more tense then they normally are when this happens to me.  I wasted the day in and out of bed. We did leave the house for a little bit just to get out and went for a "real burger" over at Moe's Grill, but I needed to get back as sitting straight wasn't giving me much comfort.

I was kind of cranky, in part due to the pain of my back, but more so I think because I missed out on a weekend camping with friends and Jen and fly fishing for trout as the season closes soon.  If there is a sliver lining here, I guess it is that I started reading a book that I just bought by Jack Hemmingway called A Life Worth Living.  At least I could read a little bit about fishing if I couldn't actually be out there doing it.  Jen just unloaded the truck since I won't need half that stuff for my adventure next weekend where I am going to northern Wisconsin for a guided Muskie fly fishing trip that my buddy and I booked last year. 

Hopefully next weekend will go more as planned then this one did.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


It has been pointed out (from my last post) to me that Mountain Dew and Snickers is an odd combination for breakfast.

The Mountain Dew and snickers breakfast is actually an evolution from when we were going to college at the University of MN-Duluth. Back then, we would get up early on a Saturday or Sunday morning, pack the car with people, and head to the Brule river for kayaking. On the way would stop in at a gas station to fuel the car and us, so we would grab a king size snickers and a large chocolate milk each.

In the spring we would get some good white water kayaking and our trips ranged from two to four hours. Except for this one time where a two hour trip turned into a five hour trip and the beginning of the end to a relationship of one of the couples, but that's a story for another time. The snickers and chocolate milk we great energy and it kinda helped the hangovers too, which were caused by, ahem...STUDYING REALLY REALLLLY HARD. Yup, I miss Duluth, and those college days.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fishless Saturday

Jen and I woke up early this morning and turned on the weather channel. It looked like there was little chance of bad weather till the evening so we threw our fly fishing gear in the truck and took off.

I broke from my usual morning trouting routine of Mountain Dew and Snickers and instead had a "Nature Bar" and cheap Super America iced coffee...and that was "my bad" for changing the morning ritual, as our day went fishless.

We arrived at the chosen river a little further south then there was water. Damn maps, they should know where the river has water and where it is just a dry rock bed. We headed north up the "river" about eight miles where we actually saw moving water, but it was so overgrown that the weeds were at least a foot to two feet taller then myself (that's about three to four feet taller then Jen, if you're keeping track of her). After a couple of unsuccessful approaches, we retreated back to the truck to try a third spot.

This time it looked more promising, with trout regulation postings and an actual mowed foot path to follow. Well after trying several of the trails that came to the river, there was not really "great" water nor a way to get down to it. We would step off of the trail to approach the river only to find steep eight to fifteen foot drops. Again, we retreated to the truck.

Now this early in the morning, I had already flicked the bird at some 16-year-old punk for his crappy driving decisions, we had been rejected by the river gods several times, Jen injured her thumb (blood and all), the humidity was high, and it had already cracked 75 degrees and it was only 10:30am. Yes, such fun we are having. At least the scenery was nice.

On our 4th approach we found an access point to the river that A) had water in the river, and B) had not been overgrown. So this is looking awesome at this point in our day, right? We get down to the river, Jen is using my 8.5' Sage 3-wt, and I have my 7' 4-wt bamboo rod, and we are ready for some trout. We fished all the usual riffles, bends, and pools without success. In fact the whole entire time we were on this beautiful little stretch, we saw only a shadow of one, count it again, ONE fish. And since it was only the shadow I saw, I am not sure what kind of fish it was. It was warming up, our patience had worn thin, and the lack of seeing anything getting better, we pulled the plug. We did see a neat little hawk up in a tree in front of us and humming bird inches above one bend in the river, but that was pretty much the extent of seeing anything wild along this water.

We changed out of our waders, hopped in the truck and headed for Cabela's to replace my blown out Thermarest and get Jen an upgraded sleeping bag for the fall adventures. Sometimes, I guess, going fishing is going fishing and not catching.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Labor Day weekend

A few weeks ago Jen and I were invited by our friend, Bryan from Milwaukee, to join him and a group of fellow fly fishers for Labor day weekend. We had no commitments so we gladly accepted and set about getting ready for a weekend of camping, fly fishing, and enjoying the beauty of the remote wilderness and the trees as they were starting to display their fall colors. And I do mean remote, as we were lucky to have an outhouse, but no more. It was just the kind of weekend we needed.

Very early Saturday morning we hit the road and headed to our destination. We arrived just before noon, where we set up our campsite a hundred yards or so from a nice small lake amongst the other tents of our trout seeking group. The usual routine of setting up the tent, filling it with sleeping stuff and our clothes, camp chairs, setting up the new portable camp table so that we wouldn't have to use our cooking stuff on the ground as we have been doing in the past. I think this is a huge improvement to our camping adventures. Checked to make sure both the Coleman cook stove and lantern worked.

Then we grabbed a map since no one was around and canvased the area looking at potential streams to fish and doing a little off-roading. Apparently the red-dotted lines on the Delorme is used to mark ATV trails in addition to minimum maintenance roads. Oops! We went a little ways down one of the red-dotted lined "roads" and ended up backing our way out as an ATV raced toward us from behind. That was embarrassing. But, on a better note some of the red-dotted line roads were basically nice logging roads that I am familiar with seeing in northern Minnesota, which was comforting. We had a blast on our explorations and seldom did we find paved roads to follow along on nor other people. When we got back to camp, a few of our buddies where there that we knew and a few that were new to us. After some quick catching up and introductions, we headed down to Eli and Tara's campsite where they had set up right on the beach and had a good fire going for cooking supper. The feast, by the way, was fabulous. Appetizers made of wild game, pork loin cooked over the coals, summer veggies, and much much more. Stories, naturally, where shared around the campfire and lots of laughs were had among the 14 of us. It was a late night. :)

Sunday morning, after a making some hot cocoa and oatmeal, I got some guidance from Gimp as to where Jen and I could catch some trout. Jen and I tried one of the rivers for the first part of the day. It took about 20 minutes of driving into the woods off of a back road on to a forest "highway" (basically an un-groomed logging trail with a number indicating we could drive it). It was a slow moving river and crystal clear. Gorgeous right? Yup, very much so. And therefore hard to fish. The trout were spooky, so we had to cast longer distances and delicately. This ended up being a little too much for our patience level that morning so we moved on.

The second half of the day we spent on pocket water tucked in an old growth forest, with very little undergrowth and nice cool shade on a pretty warm day. Jen and I took turns catching brookie's and rainbows. None of them were very big, but there were a lot of them caught in their little pools and they were very mad that we caught them. They were true firecrackers of a fight for their little size, which I would say averaged around six to seven inches. We returned to camp for another feast and lively campfire conversations.

Monday morning, we had a quick breakfast, broke down camp, said some good byes, then headed off to a river about 20 minutes from camp. It was another pocket water river that gave up some brookie's to my #16 Royal Wulffs and #12 orange stimulator's. Which, by the way, almost all of the fish caught on Saturday were on #12 orange Stimulator's. After an hour or so, I returned back to the Tahoe, stopped for ice cream at a local tourist trap next to some water fall, and then we headed for home.

I'm glad we had three days for this trip, but I think making it a four day trip would have been a little better. I can't complain though, it was a good trip and the only casualty was that my Thermarest blew out. It was not really a surprise, as I use them a lot and these are getting pretty old. And with all the off-roading, the dirty truck escaped breaking down, flat tires, and almost getting into a situation that would have ripped out our rear axle.

I love fall!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Critter is now set up to go mobile with my blogging!
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Sunday with Bob and Josh

So we (Bob, Josh, and myself) decided to float the St. Croix river and fish for smallies. It was a nice sunny day, mid 80's, and 7 miles of river we floated. Josh caught the only fish, a 21-incher only 10 minutes into a 6- hour float. Action was slow, and no one we ran into was having any luck either so it wasn't that we forgot how to fish or had too many beers. It was nice day to be out with friends regardless. This was Josh's biggest smallie he has caught so he was pretty pumped about that. Congrats Josh! The highlight for me was to see a five foot sturgeon in a foot of water as I stripped my fly in front of it, it turned away and bolt off as I'm pretty sure it wasn't happy with us about to float over it with the drift boat.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fishing on the lake with Kate

Weather: Sunny to Partly cloudy
Air Temp: mid to high 70's
Water Temp: 75 degrees
Wind: 15-25mph
A couple of weeks ago Kate and I decided we needed to set a day to go fly fishing together. With the memory of my last hot day of fishing in waders, I thought it be best to hit a lake. So today we went up to my parents lake home to try our hand fly fishing for bass and sunfish.
Kate arrived at my place at 9am, we transferred her stuff to my Tahoe, hit the gas station for a Snickers and Mountain Dew breakfast, and headed North. Along the way we may have gotten a little too into our conversation and we may have missed our exit. So with a couple of extra miles added to our commute we got to the parents house, loaded the boat and hit the water.
We found our first spot sort of out of the wind where we thought something would be on the north west side of the lake. It didn't take long for me to realize that I left a gear bag in the truck where my seven or eight boxes of bass flies. We fished for a little while with a lack of any activity we swung back by the house to pick up the bag-o-flies.
We returned back to the North side of the lake in a different lilly pad area that felt like it should have had something. I was sure I was on to something with three other fishing boats scattered about the area. But after an hour or so of nothing, we headed south to a connecting lake to try our luck.
We anchored at a spot that I have had a good history of catching bass and pan fish in. We started fishing and I got a hit. I pulled in what I thought would be a sunfish and it turned out to be an ok sized crappie. Score, I am no longer skunked....but wait, now Kate needs to get something. I landed two more crappies, when Kate delivered and landed a very peachy pastel colored sunfish. Very pretty specimen I thought. Kate lost a couple of good fish that were biting off her flies. We were having good success with dark colored (browns, blacks, etc) weighted Woolly Buggers fished deep at the bottom of the six feet of water that were in.
Then we had some excitement. I had switched from my 9 weight rod to my 6 weight rod with a brown bead head woolly bugger. I saw a flash of fish smash my fly and take it to the bottom. Some excited words jumped from my lips and Kate got excited! I carefully played the fish back up to see what it was as I was lazy and hadn't switched my leader on this rod setup to my lake leader from my 6x leader. I was sure that whatever this was, it would win. When it came up we saw that it was a very nice sized walleye. My fear of losing my catch fell to half of what it was. Yes it still has teeth, and yes I am still using what ever light test line a 6x leader is, but at least you can wear out a walleye a heck of a lot quicker than a pike.
He came up, and then went back down several times. I think we danced for close to four or five minutes, giving Kate plenty of time to reel in her line and get the net out from being tied into my vest at the bottom of the boat. With a successful landing, we measured it and it was my 2nd biggest walleye to date that I have caught. It came in at 22" and a mean toothy smile. We snapped a couple of quick pictures and returned him to the water. With only 15-20 seconds of reviving him, it took of to the deep water.
Who does that? Who goes fishing for bass and sunfish in shallow water and catches crappies and a big walleye...well, obviously "THIS GUY" does. That was well worth the overall slowness in fishing action we had. And I think anyone who knows me knows my opinion of walleyes does not match those of most Minnesotans, and I am still pumped about it anyways!

We fished a little bit longer, getting a couple more hits and losing a few more flies before we decided to head back to the dock and hang it up for the day. We had spent 5 hours in total out on the water, watching birds, cranes, pelicans, tons of dragon flies and damsel flies. Kate experienced her first time fly fishing out of a boat, and I think she walked away not afraid to try it again. Dad was awesome, not only did he let us take out his boat for the day, he fixed my weed whacker and barbecued hot dogs for us for luppper (late lunch/early supper).
I did get a lot fried today, I have applied lots of layers of Aloe, and we are not done yet for the day. Remember the flies that I left in the Tahoe...well, the 50 SPF sunscreen was in there too, but I guess that wasn't at the forefront of my mind. :)