Sunday, March 28, 2010

The last four days was kind of like Christmas for me.

The last four days of the Great Waters Expo was kind of like Christmas for me.
To keep things from getting long winded on this post, I will just note my highlights from the week, so as to not bore ya too much.  So hang on and here we go!

A year ago, at the expo I was not really enjoying it as much as I could have.  With the weight of having been informed that my department was being off-shored and I was to be out of a job soon, having my DVD player stolen at the expo, and wrapping up all the mess that was involved in replacing the engine in my truck, I was having a serious bad streak that was beating me down.

With that in mind, we flash forward a year for the 2010 expo, I am in a different place.  A happier and more appreciative place.
  • Thursday night at the club, we had a great presentation by Jeff "Bear" Andrews from Michigan on fly fishing for Labrador Brookies.  The photos and the stories had me dreaming of going on such an adventure.  In support of Bear (and my want for a fresh lesson) I purchased one of his fly tying DVD's on tying trout flies.
  • Thanks to Andy Fiskness's hard work, we also got our hats and clothing back that night with the new club logo embroidered on them so that we would have them for the expo.
  • Greg Meyer gave me a nice display piece of driftwood that I can use to display my flies on when I do tying demonstrations.  It's very cool!
  • Mark Tibbetts brought his 105mm lens for me to use to see if I like the results in regards to my macro fly photography.  I can't wait to set up Critters Fly Studio and start snapping a few pictures to see what happens!
  • The Fly Tiers gang had supper at a nice Italian restaurant, called Biaggi's, that was way too good and way too filling and way nice atmosphere.  I HIGHLY recommend it as a must try for anyone needing a night out.
  • I scored three dry fly capes for the price of two.  I only intend on keeping one for myself, and donating the other two as raffle items for our club presentations.
  • Then, from the chicken pimp, I scored four nice sections of cock feathers, each different colors, for use as hackle that will be suitable for 18 - 24 flies, along with two hen necks.
  • My buddy Jeff Kennedy and artist, came up to me on Saturday morning as I was set up doing some fly tying demonstrations and asked for one of my flies, so I gave him one of my Spruce streamer flies and he headed back to his booth to paint it.  He painted up a very nice water color portrait of it then returned the fly to me along with the water color painting.  I was very shocked and VERY grateful for the gift.  I have purchased some prints of his work in the past along with his recent book, Drawing Flies 365, and to have an original painted by Jeff of a fly tied by me...well that's something I just can't describe in words.  Wow.
  • I found a nicely made 4wt Pennington bamboo fly rod that felt very good and is going to work very nicely on about half a dozen streams I know.  Not to mention that both Steve Pennington and his wife were extremely nice and wonderful to talk to and talked a little about his home waters in Northeastern Iowa.  The feel was right, the price was right, and now, I am in need to find the right reel for it since I bought it home.
  • Another bonus was that I had several opportunities to socialize a bit more with another tier, Bill Heckel, whose flies and personality I really admire.  A Really nice guy, with some illustrative and funny stories involving his friends Lefty Kreh and Dave Whitlock.  He also was nice enough to tutor me on a technique to improve a problem I was having with the wings of a fly I was struggling with, which worked instantly to improve the quality of the flies I that I was tying at the show. 

  • We started the day with breakfast at the french restaurant across the street.  I normally get their awesome eggs Benedict, but this year I chose to deviate from the tradition and ordered their French Crepes made with salmon and dill.  It was very good, but something that would have made a better dinner then a breakfast as it gave me strong salmon breath.  I'd do it again as there was no need for lunch after that.
  • I was able to take a breath from the show and go to two hour-long seminars.  One on fishing the Timber Coulee, a river I want to get to know more about since my last encounter where I had an epic battle of man vs. trout, and the trout won.  The other seminar was actually not a seminar but a open forum workshop for those looking for help with writing and publishing.  I found it very interesting and wished that we could have had an additional hour for the discussion to continue.
So that was my weekend in a nutshell.  I hope everyone that attended had a great time, it appeared that everyone from the club that was volunteering was having a good time.  I think this was the first year that I wished that the expo would have gone on for one more day.  Usually I am completly worn out, this time, I was energized by it all.   

So as promised, I won't get into all the other sub-stories to keep this post short. Time to kick off the socks and grab a beer.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Team Scandinavian Scores Gold!

Last night I got a call from my buddy, Canadian-Ben (SWE) to see if I wanted to go fishing Sunday in spite of all the bad reports about how the rivers were blown out by mid-week.  He was watching the flow plummet back to normal and the weather forecast was optimistic.  I was easily swayed since I had my heart set on fishing this weekend since being skunked last Monday.  We set a time to meet at his place for breakfast, and spent the next 20 minutes getting my stuff together for the trip.

The alarm went off at 6am this morning, I was out the door by 6:30am.  I got to Ben's place, it was still dark thanks to the daylight savings time switchover, and he made a great breakfast.  We headed out and found our way to the riverside by 8:30am.

The fog had lifted, the sky was overcast, and the water was very cold.  We headed to a favorite spot of Ben's and to assure me that there were trout here, he caught and landed a nice buttery Brown trout to show me.  That was very kind of him, but now Team Sweden was ahead of Team Norway in the medal count thanks to a size 20 brassie.  The water was near its previous flow from a week ago and was somewhat stained, but it had gradually got better as the day progressed.  We fished awhile until we thought we pretty much checked out all the possible feeding lanes, then headed back to the car to move on to other possibilities in warmer water.

Along the way, we stopped in at Lund's so that I could check out the fabled Hardware store that had fly fishing stuff that I had heard about over the years.  That was interesting, they definitely had a large fly assortment.  It was still kind of weird to go into a hardware store and see Filson clothes, Fish Pond fly vests, echo rods, and Dr. Slick tools.  I did my obligatory purchase of some flies, as I try to do at all "normal" fly shops that I have visited and we continued on our way to fish some more.

A short walk later we were back in the water, and it wasn't long before Team Norway (that's me) evened up the Medal count with a respectable Brown trout on one of my double secret zebra midge variations, in a size 22.  We made a few more casts and then decided to leap-frog the guys below.  There was a light, but steady hatch all day of little black stone flies as shown in the picture above, running about size 12 to 8 and the fish were not taking them on the surface.

We hit here and there and eventually ran into, Team Sunshine.  Team Sunshine comprised Sid, Joe, and Tom from our fly tiers club.  When we came up to them, Sid and Joe were relaxing and enjoying all 68 degrees of sunshine and a cigar, with Tom just down around the bend.  For those wanting to know, Team Sunshine had no medals earned at this point.  We chatted a bit and continued on our trek.  The air temperature had risen quickly, and all the clouds had left for the day.   It was a nice day, and that sentiment was echoed by the other dozen or so fly fisherman that we came across who all had been unsuccessful.  I have to suspect that it was because a lot of them were just getting on the water when the sun had come out instead of fishing the "better" overcast weather earlier in the day.

So, Team Norway and Team Sweden decided to form alliances to ramp up our medal count and we formed Team Scandinavian.  Which just really meant that we had enjoyed our time out on the water, and that the we needed to hold a celebratory feast at a nearby respectable Wisconsin beer burger joint Ben knew of.  We spent a good 6 hours in the cold water, and we had "earned" it.  It was nice way to wrap up a day where we had both got our first trout of the 2010 season on what was a to be considered a tough day of fishing as far as the trout not cooperating.  For the record, the leinie's honey weiss tap beer and Spotted Cows on tap waffle fries were very good. 

Monday, March 8, 2010

WI Trout C&R Opener

Jen and I went fly fishing for trout over in Wisconsin today and we were skunked.  Which was better then yesterday when we "tried" to go fishing and every single place I knew and some new places we discovered had too many cars for any non-combat fishing.  It was more crazy then I had expected.

Today it was overcast and chili on the water, not terrible for a day off from work, but it could have been warmer or less windy.  Their was a good wind that was blowing up-river which didn't help things for a first fishing excursion of the year.  After spending so many hours on the Brule last fall, I had forgotten how skinny and clear my little local trout water is.  Wow!  Guess I am getting used to bigger waters, thanks to the Brule and Montana rivers.  The snow along the banks was also deeper and heavier then I had anticipated, but nothing to stop anyone with any decent sense of balance from getting out.  Jen used my 4wt Winston rod and I opened the season with my custom 5 weight bamboo rod hoping for some magic. 

We did run into fisherman today who said he had caught one on a #20 BWO, and the other half dozen where on a zebra midge.  We saw very few risers, but we did see some healthy brookies and browns racing up stream from us.  There was a brief hatch, but is was a sparse one, and nothing to write home about.

The lessons learned today were 1) leave a little earlier in the morning then we did to get a spot on the water, 2) my left foot of my waders has a small leak, 3) packing a lunch for the drive home would have been nice (I can only eat so many of those health food bars in one day before I getting tired of them), and 4) don't forget the cigars again (it's proving to be bad luck for me).  

Jen took a few nice pictures with her new pocket camera and all three of the ones in this post were taken by her.  She also got a small taste of how to fish dry flies, more to come on that later this season.