Pig Farm Ink Meetup

A couple weeks back word got around that Pig Farm Ink, and Iron Fly would be making their way to the Chicagoland area.  As the fly fishing and tying scene in Chicago continues to grow, with tying groups like Chi Tie and Dave Kuntzelman introducing tying in the city, and Stuart's group out at Coren's Rod and Reel to the classes and open tying session's Jeremy is hosting at DuPage Fly in the 'burbs, more and more people are meeting up, sharing patterns and knocking back a few beers getting to know each other.  It's been fun to watch things grow over the last five to eight years or so.  

The Mrs. and I decided to meet up there for a bite to eat and check things out.  I brought along the vice and a new camera I was trying out and connected with Bill Katzenberger, who wanted to see how things stacked up with what went down at the Hardly Strictly Musky stop earlier this year.  

Justin Carfagnini and Dave Kuntzelman worked to bring this event here and ran a great event.  There were familiar faces from TU events, guys I've bumped in to at Chi Fly and DuPage Fly  and other local events and new tiers like my wife and a few others.  Justin had extra vices for everyone and everything a new tier needed to get started.  

As things got warmed up, we all tied a few different flies, judged for speed, or quality, even blind folded.  Working our way up to the Iron Fly competition, everyone bounced around checking out each others work and creativity, clinking beers and cocktail glasses while scarfing down some food.  Bill seemed to be the big winner, taking home a few hats and a sweet permit t-shirt.  Before we knew it, all the preliminary flies had been tied, new rounds delivered and it was time for the Iron Fly.  

With remnants scattered across the table, the seconds began to tick off the thirty minute time limit we were given, and we all scurried to see what was available and develop game plans.  The thirty minutes went fast, but I was amazed at the variety of patterns that were developed and all the creativity that was shown.  Everyone had their own take on the materials available, and most all the flies tied looked like they'd get eaten.  From freshwater to saltwater, I was impressed with all the competitors flies.  But only one would be crowned as the winner.  The big winner for the inaugural Pink Farm Ink, Iron Fly challenge went to PJ Smith.  PJ's fly was definitely a hunter and looked very fishy.  Everyone loves PJ and we couldn't have been happier to see him take home the victory.  

Thanks go out to Justin and Dave for making this happen.  Be sure to check out Justin's blog: CARF OUTDOORS and Dave over at: Chi Tie.   

Catching Up

As my journey in fly fishing began, my dad played a big part and pushed us both in to a casting lesson together.  It was actually him who had the great idea of fly fishing and thought it would be a great way for us to spend some time together.  We'd often golf, but I had really become interested in bass fishing and he thought this could our thing.  So we began a journey together, that quickly became an obsession for me, but remained an interest, for my dad.  We still spend a lot of time together and the time we have on the water, I covet a bit more than some of the other.  

When my dad and I are on the water, when it's just he and I, often times I'm helping him battle knots, work on his casting, help him select flies and in general, kind of play guide.  It's one of my favorite things to do.  He's helped me so much over the years that it's great to return the favor sometimes. But this can bother him a bit, feeling that he's taking me away from fishing.  So as we continued to learn new water, he asked if we could get a guide on water I knew pretty well.  I chuckled at the idea and said we shouldn't waste our money.  In just the way a dad can, he let me know that he needed a bit more help than I could provide and any extra bit of knowledge of some close to home water, wouldn't be a bad thing.  

Knowing the fly shop in town offered guiding services, I reached out and asked who might be available.  They said they'd take care of everything, just meet up at the shop.  I wasn't sure of things, but we showed up and choosing to get a guide that day introduced me to a guy I think is one of the best in the Driftless.  And one of the most knowledgeable and fishy guys around.  

Nick Volk has been a man of many shops and it seems every time I run in to him or talk to him, he's smiling and wanting to know what I've been up to.  Nick was working out of what is now defunct, On the Creek Outfitters in Cross Plains, WI and then spent some time as the Fishing Manager at the Orvis here Lombard, out in the burbs.  He's since headed back up with Wisconsin and committed himself to catching every type of fish he can here in the Midwest, from musky to trout and everything in between.  He's started up Streamside Fly Fishing Co. and invited me out to great little local stream to chase brownies and catch up recently.  Our paths seem to cross a couple times a year and we always talk about spending a day on the water, and thought one of these last weekends might be a great weekend to get out.  

I'll let the pictures do the talking.  But in what seems to be my continued curse in Wisconsin, we spent another wet day chasing brownies and had some good success.  We broke in the Yomogi with a nice 14" brown and seemed to catch every 3" fish in the stream.  We traded off fishing different the different holes, delicately laying out flies in between branches in the brush, and chucking big streamers in to the heads of pools hoping for an eat somewhere before it reached the end.  All while we had intermittent heavy rains and a nice steady rain from pretty much walking in to walking out.  

It's always good to catch up with someone like Nick.  Not only do I seem to learn a ton every time we hang out, he's just an all around nice guy.  If you're looking for some help finding your way around the Driftless area, give him a call.  It'll be a decision you won't regret.


Pig Farm Ink Invades The Burbs

I was hoping someone would take the initiative and bring Pig Farm Ink to the Chicagoland area.  And now, thanks to the Dave and the other awesome guys over at Chi Tie, we'll have our chance to take part in what is the part Iron Chef and part fly tying.

Grab your vice and a buddy and head on over to Thornwoods in Wood Dale on Thursday night at six pm and get ready for what looks like a heck of a good time.  

Part Two of the Spey Journey - Gandalf takes Bilbo fishing

Doug is six foot six, I am five foot four. We stood in the Kankakee, he had the long fourteen foot Spey rod and I had the eleven foot switch rod. He made perfect casts like a wizard with a wand and I fumbled about like a hobbit with a stick.  

Earlier in the day I followed my GPS to locate Doug's house. I admire anyone who says, "Here's my address mate, you'll need to use your GPS to find the place." 

It was  like going to find a wizard, you know, over the river, off to the forest preserve, last house on the block, over the sleeping policeman and there you are kind of trek. No dragons, no dwarves and no trolls threatened me on my trip. Although I was nearly killed by the driver of a Chevy truck who merged without looking. I followed the voice from my phone and not the one in my head and arrived safely. 

After meeting his lovely wife I loaded my gear into his truck and we drove off to the Kankakee to work on my casting. 

"First we'll start out on the grass, then into the river." I had been visualizing my casting all week as it had been rainy and cold and my work schedule had been hectic and long. In the middle of the week, I spent an hour on the Des Plaines River and made the best use of it. 

“We’ll start on the grass mate, it’s a bit easier.” 

I never thought about casting on the grass. Where I work there is a perfect place to stand and practice. Just add a grass leader and I'd be good to go. Better than staying in for lunch, I thought. Although people would probably do what they always do and ask, “Any fish in the grass?”
Doug’s voice woke me from my daydream, 

"Ready mate?"

I stopped visualizing and picked up the rod.  "Single Spey, let's see it." 

I made the cast and it was awful.  "What was that?"

"Spey Fart."

"Do it again."


"Cast Van Dorn, cast." 

I slowly pulled the rod up, then accelerated the rod back in an arc, bringing the anchor point close, made the D-loop and fired the rod forward. 

And then I heard it, "Easy mate, easy mate, this is Spey casting, effortless power, but otherwise, good job, good job, now make ten more and we'll go onto the other casts."

I wondered how much I'd remember. For the next hour we worked on the Snap-T, the circle Spey, Double Spey and slowing my casting down. I remembered at least a couple of the names, as I'd spent the entire week reading Simon Gaeworth's book on singlehanded Spey casting. 

If you have a good memory, Spey casting has a lot to challenge you. If you have my memory, you’ll need tattoos on your forearms. 

"Let's wader up and get into the water."


I finished lacing up my boots, grabbed my rod and headed into the water. 

"Easy mate, just to your knees, no need to get up to your wedding tackle."

"Wedding tackle? Oh - Wedding tackle."

So I stopped with the water at my knees.

"Cast to the island over there." 

So I did.

"Spey cast Van Dorn, two handed, not single handed."

"Water must've erased my memory." 

"Cast again." 

I liked casting on the grass, the anchor stops on the grass, it doesn't move downstream on you. You can clearly see where the fly and fly line are and you can wait as long as you want before making that forward cast. 

"Now face the island and make a cast, two handed please." 

Good instructors are polite, with a touch of sarcasm. Mean ones shoot over your head with automatic firearms and real bullets. Doug doesn't own any automatics, at least if he did, I didn't see them come out in the next three hours. 

I was better this time around and I heard a lot more, "Good job mate, good job, much better, now slow down, work on keeping your rod tip low."

Then I heard what I've been waiting for, "Let's go fishing mate." 

I was thinking, "I get a real fly, no fluffie, a fly with a hook! Look out fish, here I come!” 

And so it began, Gandalf the Wizard leading Bilbo the hobbit out into the river in search of bass. 

The words, "it isn’t deep mate," have a different meaning when the person you're fishing with is about sixteen inches taller than you are. Making a cast with both elbows in the water isn't covered in any DVD that I'm aware of. Or if there is one called, “Casting for short people,” I checked but there isn’t a you-tube video either. 

It was a good day for practice casting. Doug and I waded across the Kankakee and back and got into his truck to go try another spot. We went to Momence, drove over the bridge and took a short walk upstream. A bar was located not far from where we’d get out of the water. I thought, “Ah hah, the teacher knows how to get the best out of the student, no carrot and stick here.” 

"Easy mate, the water is shallower over here." 

Shallow water is a relative term to tall people. Up to your armpits isn't. 

We walked up and across the Kankakee past where an old dam used to be. The fish were cooperating and I got to celebrate catching my first fish on a Spey rod with a proper Spey cast. The next one came on a one handed cast. I caught a few fish and Doug made lovely Spey casts. 

"What d'ya think mate?"

"I think my arms are tired."

"You're moving along alright." 

"Yep, but I'm still about a hundred hours of casting or more, which is quite a way to go till I'm ready for the conclave."

"You want to keep going?"

"Sure, Bilbo had to make the trek to the mountain."

"We'll meet in two weeks mate till then I want you to practice going from low to high and making a proper D-Loop before you make that forward cast and slow down."

I drove from his house listening to my GPS. The ride home was without event. I read more of Simon Gawesworth's book, tried to memorize the movements of Andy Murray and tied up a grass leader to try out on my lunch hour. 

There is much work to do and it seems to me, that on this climb to the mountain, all I’ve done is pack the tent. 


Stuart Van Dorn


Hammer Handles

Goals are good to have, but if they never make it any further than the piece of paper on which you've written them, what good are they?

For the last couple of years, I've had chasing Northern Pike high on my list of fishing goals.  The Midwest is chock full of them and I've loved chasing them with spinning gear.  So when I heard some talk of chasing them locally here, just a couple of hours away from home, I couldn't say yes fast enough.  

We managed to for the most part, to avoid the rain last Saturday and had a great day tossing ten weight rods and sinking lines to hungry Spring fish.  The invitation came from Bill Katzenberger, of Skinny Water Culture fame, to fish out of his Boston Whaler, with him and his buddy Mike Timmer.  Mike was new to the fly fishing game and mainly stuck with the bait casting gear and massive plugs, but still managed to move and land just as many fish as us fly guys.

With the weather holding off, we made our way around the lake looking for some good water and nice weed lines.  We found some early and we knocked the skunk off the boat with a nice follow and take on a perch pattern.  We had a handful of follows, couple more takes and fish to the boat before we high tailed it to another spot, searching for these guys' big brothers and mommas.  

A few hours of pounding casts and working around other boats pan fishing without another bite, and we all decided it was more fun chasing hammer handles and getting some action than just working on our casting.  

We finished strong, with Mike hammering a couple of fish, and showing it wasn't just flies they were after.  

Watching all the follows we got throughout the day - fish coming from the depths to attack the fly, or slowly stalking before engulfing it at the right time, had my knees shaking and senses on high alert all day.  

With a full summer ahead of us, and some new info on a phenomenal fishery, I think we're finally going to be able to check northern pike off the list and finally get in the game.  It's something new for me, but something I'm really looking forward to digging in to.  


Plans This Weekend?

Are you headed out this weekend, or trying to figure out the fishing patterns for an upcoming trip?  There's a ton going on in the Midwest now, from warmwater fishing in the local ponds, to the Great Lakes producing colossal smallmouth, and don't forget the trout.  If you're heading out, be sure to visit Jeremy over at DuPage Fly Fishing Co. for a local report and some hot flies.  

If you're traveling up to the great state of Wisconsin to chase trout, be sure to swing on over and see Mat at the Driftless Angler for the local hot flies or check out the report section on his website and tie up a few flies before you head up.  Are you looking for someone to show you around the Driftless, give Kyle a call over at Black Earth Angling Co. and he'll get you on some fish and teach you a ton about the local areas as well.  



To those getting out - best of luck, stay dry, and if you see me, please don't high hole me!


TU Spring Fling

This Spring has been a flurry of craziness in our house.  Between healing up my ankle and trying to be ready to run a 5k with the Mrs., the ups and downs of a career in sales, putting our house on the market, and myriad of other reasons, it's been a good, but crazy start to the year.  Unfortunately things have suffered, including getting regular content up here.  

One thing that I haven't been able to do much lately is sneak away to the local events taking place through Trout Unlimited, DuPage River Fly Tyers, DuPage Fly, Chi Tie, and even the local Orvis.  Everyone has been having different events focused on local fishing opportunities, tying and all things Midwest fishing, and unfortunately I was finding out about things a day late.  

Last week I received a message from a good buddy, Kyle Zempel of Black Earth Angling Co. looking to seeing if I had any plans for the weekend.  He was coming in to town for the OakBrook TU chapters Spring Fling to give a presentation and talk about the Driftless Region and Wisconsin River fishing opportunities.  He was hoping to take me up on my offer of a place to crash and I didn't hesitate.  We stayed up late as he told me all about his epic trips down to the Bahamas chasing bonefish.  Needless to say it's moved up a few spots on the bucket list.  

Kyle awoke early and headed out to the show, leaving me to tidy up the house a bit and finish some weekend running around.  I made my way in time for the brats (not a coincidence) and say hello to Jeremy from DuPage Fly Fishing Co, and friend of the blog, Mike Allen.  As we walked in Mike spoke of the great times that were had at the recent Hardly Strictly Musky tournament down in TN.  I've got musky high on my list for this year, but hearing about a weekend of casting flies the size of small varmit without a bite, sounds maddening.  I don't have that much hair to pull out.  

I went in and hung out with Kyle, checking in to see how the rain had affected the turnout.  Turns out there weren't as many guys as I thought that got rained out like me.  The numbers grew closer to Kyle's presentation and there seemed to be a good buzz as I made my way around the room.  The event overall was nice and well put together.  It was great to meet some of the members of the OakBrook chapter and get my TU membership back up to date.  I appreciate what the organization does and hope I can help make an impact.  

As I walked out Jeremy grabbed me and I told him about my finished Yomogi four weight.  I just so happened to have it in the car and offered to have him a cast.  I headed out and met back up with Mike who had some nice things to say.  After both had cast it, neither wondered why it was quickly becoming my favorite rod.  I look forward to a season of switching between my beloved Kabuto and now the Yomogi.  Hopefully I'll have plenty of willing trout to test them on.  

One on One - Jonathan Marquardt

This month, I wanted to reach out to a Midwestern artist focusing on different types of fish themed art, Jonathan Marquardt of BadAxe Design.  I've had the pleasure of knowing Jonathan for a number of years now, back in the days before the name BadAxe was just a great trout stream in Wisconsin.  Since that time, I've been lucky enough to have a great seat to watch someone take a passion and turn it in to something so cool.  We enjoy each others company on the stream as often as possible, and have shared a ton of laughs and lots of good times.  He's a fishy dude with a great family and passion for the outdoors.  He's really living his art.  

I'm sure many of you know his art, so now sit back and get to know the artist.  And if you've got an open spot on your office wall, be sure to swing by his Etsy shop and grab yourself a print.  


Tell me a bit about yourself.

I love Wisconsin for so many reasons and love living here with my family.  We love the outdoors and this state has it all.  I am married with two boys and we are expecting a little girl this fall and we are very excited.

Is art your full time job?  If not, what do you do 9-5?

It is not and I am thankful for that.  I have a great circle of work, life, passion going with a full time gig at YETI coolers that has me traveling a lot and meeting all kinds of great people.  My spare time finds me in my home studio or out fishing with my wife Megan.

How long have you been fishing?  Fly fishing?

My dad took me to the Blue Quill in Evergreen, CO when I was 16 or 17 for an Orvis school.  I fished throughout college, but my skills really developed after school when I moved to Wisconsin and started fishing here.

What got you interested in fly fishing?

I’d be lying if I didn’t credit A River Runs Through It.  It think that inspired lots of people, but they’re afraid to say it.  More than the movie is the person who took me to see it, my dad.  My dad is an obsessed fisherman and fishing is his single passion.  I grew up fishing with him all the time and eventually became curious about fly fishing.  

Tell me a bit more about BadAxe Design.

BadAxeDesign is my studio and takes its name from the stream in southwestern Wisconsin.  It wasn’t meant to be a play on words.  

How does someone as good looking as you, end up as an artist and not a model?  Did you ever consider using your good looks for financial gain?

Ha ha.  I’m not sure what to make of this question other than to say that after a very lucrative career modeling in Europe I decided to throw in the towel and start a career making art and selling coolers.

It seems that you’ve risen to stardom pretty quickly, including landing the cover of The Fly Fish Journal, how has it been growing you studio and getting out there?

I am very grateful for the opportunities that have come from it and am thankful for the friends I have made.  The fly fishing world is a small one and the people in it are very supportive.  It also helps that most everyone is addicted to fish and whether they are catching fish or thinking about fish they usually like to cover their walls with pictures of fish.  

What’s been your favorite piece or project you’ve done so far?

I recently fished a commission piece entitled “Brook Trout Rising” and I am very proud of it.  Measuring 16x16,” it was one of the larger pieces that I have printed by hand.

What’s been the coolest thing to come from your art work so far? i.e. accolades, sponsorships, donated pieces, etc.  

I guess it would be that I was always making these prints and they were just piling up in my basement studio.  The coolest experience has been putting myself out there and getting such a warm reception.  I will never get tired of sharing my work with others.  The best compliment an artist can receive is to have someone purchase their work and display it proudly.  

What are your favorite art mediums to work in, other than finger paints?  

When  I am not finger painting or drawing in crayon, my favorite medium is block printmaking.  I have been following some other artists on Instagram who are working in large format.  I am going to attempt my largest piece yet this summer.  More to come on that.  

How much of your work is linocuts verse painting these days?

I would say 80% printmaking and 20% painting.  I sketch in pencil and watercolor.  Changing mediums is good to clear the head sometimes.

Tell me how you go about creating a piece?  Do you start with a photo?  

I start with a couple reference photos and use those to compose a sketch of the final piece.  Once the sketch is done I add a few color references so I can keep the layers in order for full color prints.  Single color pieces are not as complex in the planning phase.  I hand draw the image onto the face of the block in reverse and then start carving. 

If I told you to close your eyes, and picture your perfect fishing scenario, what we are we looking at?  Streamers in a deep pool?  Risers up and down a long stretch of river?  

Small stream, fish rising.  I love rising trout on a small stream with a small rod.  Sorry I’m not sorry.

Dragging mice across the surface to massive rainbows?  Bonefish on the flats? -  What are you doing and where?

We just got back from Florida where my wife got her first tarpon on the fly.  I backed her up with a nice tarpon myself.  Both fish ate within 25 feet of the boat which was sweet.

I know your job and fishing have taken you all over, but what’s been your favorite trip/place to wet a line?

There are so many great places that we enjoy fishing.  If I had to pick a favorite, it will always be Montana.  I went to school in Bozeman and it is a special place to me.  Megan and I head out there every year to fish the small streams and float the Yellowstone.

For all the groupies out there, where can we go to buy a print, learn more about your different projects or get a bit more Jonathan?

www.badaxedesign.com or visit my Etsy store: www.etsy.com/badaxedesign  Thanks!

Jonathan battled the cold for last year's Early Season Opener and though cold, we produced fish on streamers, dries and nymphs.  Just the right kind of day!


Rewriting a Curse

Really, it totally depends on how you look at it.  Either we took a long storied tradition and proved it's really just a fisherman's tale, or we missed out on a day that truly would have been epic.  

Anytime you can land a ride in a guide's boat on his day off, you don't turn it down.  Two hundred and twenty days a year, people pay for that chance.  And a beautiful day was expected. 

Per the weatherman's best guess, it would be a great day to be outside - the perfect Spring day.  I left the house early, and in a rush.  Scrambling to get the coffee going and my contacts in my eyes, the dog nipping at my ankles trying to get a morning treat after sniffing the bushes in the backyard.  As the sun began to fill our bedroom, I reached for the first pair of pants I could find, threw them on, grabbed some socks and a couple of long sleeve shirts and bounded down the stairs.  I filled the Hydroflask with a triple shot espresso, grabbed some ice for the cooler and headed out to the garage.  Tossing the last few things in the car, the sun stopped peaking over the horizon and quickly filled the sky.  Before I knew it, I was rolling in to Warner Bridges.  

As I rolled in, Austin appeared around the bend and hopped in.  Bill was waiting at Bird Park, drift boat loaded and ready to roll.  As we met Bill, I quickly noticed neither happened to be wearing their waders.  "It's gonna be beautiful," Austin said.  "Whatdaya need waders for?"  At that exact moment, I couldn't have agreed more.  But quickly a realization came over me - I was wearing my work pants.  Business casual, heavy cotton slacks - exactly what you don't want to be wearing on a drift boat for a warm day of fishing in the sun.  Suddenly I was hoping my Lucky Brand khakis were just that, lucky.  

As we got the rest of the boat packed up, Bill was the first to notice.  One of the most superstitious rules in the fly fishing world was broken - a banana had made it's way on board.  I won't point fingers, but it's presence was immediately feared, mocked and laughed at all at once.  Some of us tried to fight it, hesitating to get in the boat.  But it was what it was, and had already been tossed on board.  Our fate was sealed, or was it?

As we made our way down river, we jockeyed from one side of the river to the next, with Austin sliding us from hole to hole, looking for prime water.  Strip, strip, strip, pick up, re-cast.  Strip, strip, strip, pick up, re-cast.  The thing about streamer fishing is what it does to my heart.  I can't speak for you, but with every strip, I'm hoping to feel the tug.  The anticipation building from cast to cast, I truly expect a fish to be in every perfect spot, and hope every good cast is awarded.  It wouldn't be too late in the day before my desire for a tug was satisfied, the skunk was knocked off the boat and we could forget about the curse of the banana and focus on finding "the" pattern for the day.  

A nice fat smallie rolled on my streamer, putting a nice big bend in my Fenwick six weight.  It was great, the first fish on my new, classic fiberglass rod and a my first smallie of the year.  With a fish on the board, I busted out the powdered donuts and someone ate their banana.  And that's when things turned on.  

Bill, chilling in the back of boat, decided to flip the switch.  It wasn't before long that it seemed like I was merely inviting the smallies to the dance, but Bill was filling their dance card.  From the front of the boat, I couldn't have been happier.  It's fun watching someone catch the biggest smallmouth of their life, and then doing the same thing with the next fish.  The kid was on fire!  

With every cast and oar stroke, Austin and Bill put on a clinic.  Austin showing us the best parts of the river, hitting the best holes, rowing upstream to help me get my streamer out of the trees, and Bill was picking fish out of every run it seemed.  From alongside the boat, to inches from the shore, in deep holes and on shallow banks, Bill had it zeroed in.  

It's days like these where I tend to wish the river wouldn't end, the pull out would just stay another mile down stream.  The fish were biting, the conversation and laughs were flowing and the weather was outstanding.  Just the kind of day you'd order up, given the chance.  And best of all, the Kankakee hippos stayed just downstream of us.  Or were they staying just ahead of Bill, waiting for us to slip up?  But in the end, the question still remains - had we debunked the myth of the banana, or was a great day tempered by a storied curse?  I'll go with the former and stand confident that with the right guide and fishing partner, the fish will be found.  

Spey Journey-The First Lesson

Learning something new is usually a disaster. Learning something physical, unless you’re one of those fortunate and highly coordinated individuals, gives you the feeling that you’re lucky you can walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. 

Learning to Spey cast feels that way to me. It is a new motion, new movements, new gear and a different way of looking to load the rod and make a cast. At one point I turned to Doug and said, “Roll cast my ass, I’m going into the air!” 

Teachers and students get frustrated. Although Doug is mostly bemused and reminds me that anything we do new is difficult. “Think first cast mate, first girlfriend, first anything, it’s all a bit buggered up isn’t it, now? But you’re doing fine, coming along nicely.” 

A good teacher is usually patient and helpful and a bit comforting as we learn. Although I sort of grew up with what I call the, learn or die method, which involves a lot of yelling and sometimes gun shots fired over your head. 

That would be the military style of learning. 

Doug doesn’t yell. Not yet anyway. Although he did call me Corporal Van Dorn a number of times and then when he thought I was casting well enough in the slack water, took me to faster water where I become unbuttoned. 

Call it lesson one with a rule: things always change. Good teachers help you adapt.  

It started out simple enough. I went to work, finished a project and then headed for Batavia to meet Doug for the beginning of my instruction. I had been introduced to Spey casting two weeks ago. Then last week I photographed a bunch of beginners and novices being instructed in a class hosted by DuPage Fly Fishers and Chicago Fly Fishing Outfitters. Doug was the resident professional and rightly so, but that’s another story, yet it’s part of this journey of learning to cast. 

So how do we learn? Well first, most of us visualize. It’s a process used in learning and so we think about what it is that we want to do, the motion, the look and so on and then, in our imagination, we see ourselves making the cast. Usually perfect. This method is used by all of us. Some are better at it than others. So before leaving for Batavia I sat in my chair and worked on remembering what I had been taught two weeks before and what I had learned from watching other novices go through the learning process. (Don’t’ try this while driving!) 

I sent an email to Doug before leaving work and suggested we work on four things:
- Recognizing a good D loop
- Further explanation of what is a good anchor and how much of the line/leader is the anchor
- Lifting low and sweeping back
- A proper double Spey and if time, a snap-T 

On my ride home I think I asked for too much.

But Doug obliged. Good teachers usually do. 

First we practiced on grass. Doug makes it look easy but he’s supposed to, he’s the professional, the teacher, the big guy with the floppy hat and accent. I’m the short stubby guy whose thinking, “Maybe I should have said no and just continued to make fun of this.” 

On the grass we practiced the basics of getting the line to go to the proper place. “It’s a rod length away. The length of the rod and the length of the line never change. It’s all the basic same movement mate.” And my favorite, “What the bloody ‘ell was that mate?” 

“Start low.”
“Is that low?”
“Now sweep the rod back, good. Now remember the 180 degree rule.”
(I’m not good at math.)
“Easy mate, easy.”

Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.
So for a half hour I cast on grass until I could put the anchor a rod length away and make a fair sweeping cast without dipping the rod tip. Not on a regular basis but about every fifth or maybe tenth or was it twentieth one?

“Let’s wader up and get in the water.” 

Where I promptly forgot everything I learned on the grass. I like to think I have a good muscle memory as well as mental memory. Thinking you do and doing might be two different things as I seem to have neither and suffered a severe brain fart when making that first cast. Single handed.
And there it was, “What the bloody “ell was that, mate?”
“I was channeling Lefty Kreh, he doesn’t cast two handed…”
Nor does Bob Clouser come to think of it. 

But none the less, Doug patiently and once again, walked me through the steps. Then he retreated to a spot on the bank and continued coaching from there.
“Watch your anchor, there you go, now cast again.”
“No D loop there, now was there?”
“Slow down mate, effortless power, be smooth.”
Then he’d come out and correct something mechanical I was doing and have me repeat it again, and again, and again. 

“Want to try out the new switch rod?”
Do I want a date with Blythe Banner? You betcha.

It was a lovely change from the long and heavy rod that I’d been casting. Doug had put on a semi-automatic reel the likes of which I’d never seen (Thinkfish Bold) and now I think I want a new reel or two. It is not difficult to become a gadget guy in fly fishing. 

“Nothing changes, it’s still the same but now, less power, be smoother.”
So I promptly started single hand casting it. Lots of power and I liked it.
“Easy mate, it’s only a four weight.”
I throw it like it’s a seven weight, single handed and double hauling like a madman.
“It’s a two handed rod mate, two handed.”
In the military this is where the yelling would start.

So I went back to my usual brain fart mode and promptly forgot everything.
Learning isn’t something that comes easy to me. Making mistakes and lots of them, that’s my real strength. In the end I know everything you can do wrong, but if you realize that, then you start learning what not to do. And yes, I do touch hot objects and am addicted to touching wet paint, in spite of the signs, and a lot of concrete has my initials.

So Doug let me use the rod as long as I practiced proper Spey casting and promised not to use the rod in a perverse single handed manner. It was lovely to cast, light in the hand, responsive, threw a lot of line. This is not a commercial for Sage rods but if you have $950 dollars you want to part with, I think it’s a fine purchase. I think robbing a convenience store to pay for something is a bad idea but it occurred to me while driving home. But it was a good introduction to switch rods. Which are just shorter and lighter Spey rods so that you can go smallmouth bass fishing. And trout too. Stick to the one handed rods for bluegills, unless you like casting bluegills. 

I won’t be getting one soon. I have a wife. 

After several hours of beating grass and water into submission. Doug moved me from the spot I’d been standing in. We moved to river right, in case you’re wondering what that means, if you’re looking downstream, the bank nearest to you on your right hand side would be river right.  I like this term better than the saying, the bank where the fish are at, or the opposite bank, or far bank, lee bank, or pointing with the rod and saying, “hey, over there, cast over there.” 

River right had a lot more current and I had another brain fart when he said, “Now make any cast you want.” I promptly did a one handed cast. “Any Spey Cast mate, Spey cast.” (I think he might have been yelling. It was loud on river right.) And so I made him show me what would work. And he showed off. Doing snake rolls, Snap-T’s, Circle Spey and I think an Irish jig, which for an Englishman is quite something. And then he gave me the rod. “I’m going for Gatorade, you want a water or something?” I wanted to make a damn good cast was what I wanted but asked for water. “Good, I’ll be back, you work on making a proper Spey cast. Do a good one and we’ll give you your water.” I think I liked yelling better and seeing as how we were casting across from a sewage treatment plant, I wasn’t touching my lips to the river.

A bit later: 
“Nicely done.” Here’s your water. 

We had been at it for four hours. I was tired, sunburned and my shoulders were bugging me a bit. 

Doug asked me what I thought. I repeated what he’d said earlier. “Isn’t easy.”
“Want to continue on?”
“Sure, I’ve come this far, might as well keep going.”
“That’s the spirit mate.”

I received an email from Doug later that day: Hello Stuart, Nicely done today, sorry I had to give you a hard time. But you reached a stage where it was more beneficial to keep going than to stop.

Good instructors know these things.
I wanted to quit when he took the switch rod from me. That would have been after two hours.
You reach a point where you can only remember so much. Where your muscles can only do so much and you want to stop, but that’s when it’s best to push forward. And so Doug pushed me on. 

Today, I can see me unsticking the line from the water, bring the anchor around and waiting till it’s time to cast, moving the rod up some imaginary spiral staircase, and finally powering it forward to make the cast. 

In my imagination I can see this. The rest will be up to practice. Doug was kind enough to set me up properly.  The rest is practice, with a rod, not imagining it. I do really well with the imagination. I’m the best you’ve ever seen in my imagination. Snap-T, Perry Poke, Circle Spey, oh yeah baby! Then I get the rod in my hand and there it is, brain fart and loss of memory.
This will be a long journey. We’ll find out how patient Doug is. I haven’t mentioned to him that I do much better when shots are fired over my head. Being a good teacher he’d probably give it a try. I know that he’s a good shot and after I soiled my britches, I bet I’d make a damn fine cast.

Driftless Trip Report

With my ankle on the mend and a couple of days down on the Kankakee, my recovery seems to be moving along well.  I'm up walking, physical therapy has been helping me along and I'm on track for a full recovery.  Considering this and some other factors, last Saturday I found myself looking for something to do.  Knowing I had the day free and needed to be out of the house, I gave Keith and Jonathan a call to see if they'd be down for helping me get my trout season started.  

With a bit of planning and some last second weather watching, we firmed up a location and meeting time.  I was ecstatic.  Though a month late, I was finally getting to experience Early Season, and I was going to accompanied by two of my best buddies.  

Keith met me up early and we hit the road.  The three hours it takes to get up there tends go fast when we ride together.  With so many common hobbies and interests, and the fact that he's actually my customer through work as well, we don't really struggle finding things to talk about. 

We beat Jonathan to the stream and found ourselves with the stretch of water we wanted, open and waiting for us.  We hopped out, wadered up and hit the water.  It was good to finally be back up in my little slice of heaven.  

Unsure of the weather throughout the week, the forecast for the weekend was looking good, almost too good.  And though we were by no means upset, we were blessed with a perfectly blue bird, not a cloud in the sky, sun shining down on you, so perfect the fishing is bad, kind of day.  It was one of those days where just being here was a victory for me.  The number of fish I would, or would not, catch today was irrelevant before we even started.  

As we got to fishing and began working our way upstream, we noticed a couple of cars making their way up and down the road, slowing down to check us out.  Starting with the shorter of the stretches, Keith and I had planned on fishing the short lower section and then start to fish the main section we were there to fish.  We just wanted to kill a bit of time before Jonathan arrived.  

Wouldn't you know it, but they pulled over just above us, hopped out with their spinning rods in hand, checked on us again, and walked right down to the water.  Now anyone who's knowledgeable to this area would know, based on the location of our car, and our location on the water, we were working our way up and were, for sure, going to be continuing upstream.  It's this kind of ignorance that drives me crazy.  They slept in, didn't get to the river first, watched us working our way up, and still high holed us.  Frustrating isn't the word.  Especially considering we had been there for almost two hours before they showed, and Jonathan arrived not more than fifteen minutes behind them.  

We played the role of the bigger person and left their tires in tact, but it really makes my blood boil the lack of respect so many people display on the water.  Just because you drove there, doesn't mean you can cut in front of someone else who did things right.  Luckily Jonathan was able to get a few good casts in and managed a nice little brownie.  

Knowing we had limited options, we picked a few other spots and opted for going to a somewhat known stretch of water that's been turned in to a long stretch of slow, stagnant water, thanks to a couple of large beaver dams that do a great job of creating large pools, perfect for a streamer.  We worked it quickly, focusing on the best pools and Jonathan and Keith managed to hook up with a couple of brown trout, validating the move and keeping everyone in high spirits.  

As we walked back to the truck, laughing and joking about what a great day it had been, I reflected on the last few months and everyone who reached out to offer help, a kind word, or a day on the water and realized just how lucky I am.  Though I was fishless for my first trip out, I was ok with it.  Healed up, happy and blessed with tremendous family and friends, I was and still am, satisfied that it's not about how many or how big, it's just about the experience and all the fun of the adventure along the way.  For it's the adventure and those you allow to accompany you, that make up the stories we replay for years to come.  


Extended Inland Trout Season; Does it really matter?

With the recent DNR activity and voting up in Wisconsin, I wanted to reach out to one of the guys most in the know up there, and one of the best guides in the Driftless I know - Kyle Zempel, lead guide with Black Earth Angling.  A totally fishy dude, with a great eye and a great understanding of the environmental and how we impact it.  

(Write up courtesy of Kyle Zempel, of Black Earth Angling and Kyle Zempel Photography)


As of January 1st, 2016 Wisconsin's inland trout season will be 2.5 months longer, will it make a difference?

Currently, Wisconsin's inland trout season is as follows:

Catch and release (early season): 1st Saturday in March to the Sunday preceding the first Saturday in May.

**Season closes for one week before the regular season begins.

Regular Season: First Saturday in May to September 30th.

What will the new rules in effect as of January 1, 2016 look like?

Catch and Release (early season) will open on January 1st and remain open until the regular season opens on the first Saturday in May. There will be no week closure before the regular season opener. The regular season opener (first Saturday in May) will mark the day that folks who would like to bring a trout home with them can do so. The regular season will run from the first Saturday in May until October 15th (instead of Sept. 30th).

To sum that up, it will look as follows:

As of January 1, 2016:

Catch and release (early season): January 1, 2016 to the Friday before the first Saturday in May.


Regular (Catch and Release not required): First Saturday in May to October 15th

The regulations regarding bag limits will also be receiving a change. The regulations will be simplified. As of 2016, a stream will no longer have multiple regulations per stream. The stream will either be all RED, YELLOW, or GREEN in the regulations booklet. This is to simplify the regulations for those who plan to take fish home. 

The BIG question is will it really change anything? My answer is YES!!

To the common individual, being able to fish in January and February doesn't mean much as they will likely not tough out the cold. Many trout fishermen are an exception to this, they are not the common individual. Yes, for many folks this early extension to the season will not change anything because they don't knock the dust off their rod until late-April, but for some fisherman who struggle through the winter months waiting for the season to open so that they can “wet a line” this is great news. I have no doubts that there will be some individuals that will get out multiple times before March hits. I am one of them. When you hit a mild winter day, it is often just enough to get out and cast. Catching a trout is a bonus. While out doing some pre-season scouting I have witnessed fish rising to some really nice midge hatches and thought to myself “Wow, if only I could wet a line.” Now those of us who may struggle from seasonal depression can get out and heal our minds. We must keep in mind that angling isn't always about catching a fish, but getting out and recreating. The new season extension will now allow for the die-hards to get out and recreate instead of sitting in front of our computer/television screens.

Now, the two new “winter months” of fishing will affect mainly the die-hards, but the 15-day extension on the other end of things will have the bigger affect. It always broke my heart that when the leaves began to turn in the great state of Wisconsin, I had to pick up and head to Iowa's Driftless streams (not that there's anything wrong with Iowa) if I wanted to enjoy some Fall fishing. This will now be a different story. I've been asked why only until the 15th of October, why not until the end of October. I would like to clear this up as I have asked this question to the folks a the WI DNR and they have a legitimate reason. If you have ever fished in the WI Driftless area, you are likely aware that much of the fishing grounds are lands leased for public use or are easements. Well, many of these gracious land owners like to enjoy the sport of bow-hunting on their own property. During the middle of October Whitetail activity really picks up as rut begins to start. The landowners were concerned about a fisherman walking through their property spooking the deer they are after, negatively affecting their hunt. Nobody likes being high holed on a stream, we should have the same respect for others out enjoying the great resources we have in the state. So, the DNR met these landowners in the middle which has left the majority of people happy. They let us fish until October 15th and we stay off their property through the peak hunting season. I feel that it is more than fair seeing that most of these landowners are nice enough to open up their privately owned lands for public fishing use.  

The next issue I've had to address is the statement, “Isn't that when the trout spawn? Aren't you going to negatively affect that?” The answer to this question is both yes and no. If we (fishing community) are careless and don't pay attention to where we are wading then yes, we will negatively affect the spawning activity. However, if we are stewards of the sport and pay attention to what we are doing on the stream (much like taking the time clean our waders so we are not spreading invasives), this will not have a negative affect on the fish. Bottom line is pay attention, familiarize yourself with what, and where, reds are, and be sure to stay away from them. Make others aware - we are all in this together.


As a fishing guide I get a unique perspective on this because, well, I make money taking people fishing. The extra days especially on the fall end of things means potentially 15 more pay checks for me or my other guides. I expect to book up everyone of those days if the weather conditions in October hold up. That is a significant change for the guiding community. We are lucky enough that the Driftless Area has the fisheries to support numerous excellent fishing guides, and the extra potential guide days will help support these guides financially so that they are able to keep doing what they do best. This change however, is reaches much further than just supporting fishing guides. Many local businesses will see a positive impact due to the additional available fishing days. Motels/hotels, gas stations, bars, restaurants, and fly shops are just a few that are directly affected by the extension. I've had the pleasure of working with many business owners in the Driftless Area specifically, and they will tell you that trout fishermen and women are a major part of their customer base. They will likely see the positive impact on the October end of things more so than the winter side, but as a small business owner the extra income is always welcomed with open arms. 

Fishermen and Fisherwomen can now enjoy fishing amongst fall colors.  

One on One - Ben West

Tell me a little about yourself.

My Name is Ben West, I am a Fly Fisherman and Artist.  I live in Bloomington, Indiana where I chase a variety of fish.  Some of my other interests include bowhunting whitetail deer, spring turkey hunting, mountain biking, gardening, cooking/grilling, live music, mushroom hunting, training my chocolate Labrador. 

Do you paint full time, or do you have a 9-5?

I have several other jobs that I do aside from painting.   I am a fly fishing guide. Last summer I was up in Alaska working as a guide with Deneki Outdoors; Alaska West Lodge.  I love guiding and being on the water every day. It is my true calling.  I have spent a few summers guiding out in Wyoming in the past as well.   When I am back home in Bloomington I juggle my time between Carpentry, Farming, and Artwork.   

Tell me a bit about your home waters.  Outside of that, what’s your favorite place to fish?

In the early spring I fish for Musky, they are a mean predator of a fish that really capture the imagination and are quite a challenge to catch on any tackle let alone fly tackle.   I also chase after early spring carp in my favorite creek.  In the past few years I have really grown finatical about carp fishing with the fly rod.  It is a ton of fun, they live everywhere and are a challenging fish to catch.  They are great practice for saltwater flats fishing and even backcountry stealth trout fishing.  I fish a lot in Lake Monroe which is the largest lake in Indiana and luckily it is very close to home.  My favorite species to chase in the lake is the Hybrid Striped Bass.  We call them Wipers cause they are a hybrid between a White Bass and a Striped Bass(Striper).  Once they start up in the spring that is all that I chase after because they are an amazingly strong fish that run in schools.   I have had incredible days fishing for them catching dozens of fish in the 10-12 lb range.  They are a fish that will give you a workout and really peel off some backing from the reel.  I also enjoy fishing for smallmouth bass in a scenic small stream.  Smallmouth bass are an awesome fish, they are aggressive predators and sometimes impressive acrobats.   As far as favorite place to fish outside of the home waters I have to say Alaska.  I spent 4 months last year living on the remote Kanektok River in the Western Alaskan Tundra.  The fishery is absolutely incredible.   We caught all 5 species of Pacific Salmon, Leopard Rainbow Trout, Dolly Varden, and Arctic Grayling.  The whole Alaskan fishing experience would take a lot of time and words to describe.   The fishing is just astounding up there in so many ways.    

What led you down the long road that is fly fishing? 

In Middle school my wood shop teacher was an avid tournament bass fisherman and he always had bass magazines around the classroom.  He was a great resource for getting me into bass fishing. We fished a tournament or two and quickly I became obsessed with bass fishing.  I was soaking it up like a sponge. I read everything I could about techniques and lures.  I got up early to watch the bassmasters classic on the weekends, when a show came on and they were fly fishing for brown trout.  I thought that looked like a lot of fun. So I borrowed a fly rod from a friend, and taught myself how to catch bluegill and bass on the neighbors farm pond.  I grew up in the country in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.  The pond across the street was where I really learned a TON about fishing.  It was close enough to ride my bike there and I did, every single day after school.  The farmer must have thought I was crazy as hell cause it would be pouring down rain or blowing like crazy and I would be on the dam, casting into the wind!   I am just really fortunate and grateful to have grown up in the country and to live so close to a pond.  I believe that is truly how got hooked on fly fishing.  

What’s your favorite fish to target?

Tough question... there is a fish for every season. There is also something about every species that captures my interest.  Big gnarly brown trout would probably have to be my answer though.  They are the perfect fish. I love how aggressive they are as predators and how colorful and amazingly stunning they are as well.  They will charge down you streamer and crush it with authority or they might come to the surface and slurp your hopper.    

What's your greatest fishing memory, good or bad?

I think the strongest memories in fishing are of those big fish that you get to see JUST ONCE before they shake out the hook, or pull you into the wood and break you off.  I think its that quick glimpse of that fish right before it gets away that we all remember, and will never forget.  Losing a big fish hurts, but it just fuels the fire  even more and really captures your imagination.  

How long have you been painting?  

I sold my first painting for Two dollars to my Kindergarten art teacher.  It was a painting of a troll under a bridge.   I come from an artistic family.   My Mom is an artist, she works in oil and paints landscapes around home in the mountains and valleys of Virginia. My dad works with wood, he is a carpenter and wood carver.  They always encouraged me to draw, paint, and be productive.   I studied art at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina.   I graduated in 2010 and my senior thesis was a series of large oil paintings of trout. 

When you’re first considering a new painting, where do you find your inspiration? 

I primarily paint fish that I have personally caught myself or helped someone land.  I will sort through my own photographs and get excited about the memory of that fish or that place and start from there.   

What other mediums do you work in?  Water colors, colored pencils, etc?

All of my paintings are Oils, but I do work with watercolors and pens for sketching.  I usually do several small sketches to work on composition and to practice drawing a fish before it goes onto a larger canvas. 

Tell me a bit more about your guiding

I love guiding.  It's great to share and teach this passion of fly fishing with others. I enjoy spending a lot of time outside and on the water.  Last summer I was guiding at Alaska West Lodge.  I was up there for four months. I lived on the Kanektok River and was on the water about 12-14hrs a day.  When you spend that much time on any body of water you start to understand it.  I really enjoy sharing that knowledge and creating fishing memories with people.  

How does guiding influence or impact your painting, and vice versa?  

I am able to take a lot of fish photographs when I am guiding. It's a great way to collect painting references. I also am able to do commissioned paintings for clients.  If they catch a fish of a lifetime and want a painting of it I can make it happen.   

Who are your favorite artists?

Winslow Homer, Derek DeYoung, Paul Puckett, Tim Borski, Robert Bateman.  Truly inspiring artwork.  

For everyone looking to see more of your art, where can they learn more?  

I have a blog were you can see some of my images.  westriverart.blogspot.com  also check out my Facebook page Ben West Art.  

I look forward to creating a website and also making prints available. Rght now all the pieces I have for sale are original oil paintings.   You can contact me about paintings or commissions at  benjaminbwest@gmail.com

A Spey Journey - Introduction

Sensei Taylor

Doug Taylor is a spey rod instructor. He is a tall Britisher with a wry wit and a casting style that is best described as smooth and easy. Too easy.   

That is, like everything in life, the guys who do it well make it look easy and yet we all know they've put in a lot of time to become that way. If you think someone was born to spey cast and then you added up the hours they spent on the water working on their form, you'd realize that few people are actually born that way. Even the Rajeff brothers went to casting school. 

To be honest, I've been poking fun at long rodders since the day my dad said, "See that guy making those roll casts, that's a spey rod, about as old and archaic a technique you'll ever see. Can’t cast a dry fly with it.” That was about 1959 and I've been carrying my dad's words around in my head ever since. 

So it probably came as a surprise to Doug when I said, "You know, I make fun of guys who cast Spey rods but maybe I should consider giving it a shot, just to make sure that I'm not like some food critic, a guy who can't cook but is critical of others who do.”  So at the Early Show, in November, I talked to him about taking a lesson just to see what I was making fun of. He looked down at me and grinned, "Call me when you're ready." 

So a couple of weeks ago, I called him up.  

"Hey Mate, what's up?"

"I think I should learn to cast a spey rod."

And the conversation went downhill from there but at the end I had an appointment with Doug for an introduction to Spey Casting. In other words, finding out if I’d like it. 

We met in Batavia just south of the City at a small park with a number of bridges crossing over the Fox River. It was also across from a sewage treatment plant. I made a mental note not to be making any jokes. 

Before we started, I said to Doug, “Define two handed Spey Casting” 

"A Spey cast is an accelerated roll cast with a change of direction." 

To which I added, "And like everything Scottish, especially golf, a pain."

And there I was wadered up, standing in knee deep water, getting a whiff from the sewage treatment plant, learning how to anchor the line, the 180 degree rule, how to make a D loop, which looked more like an L to me and searching for the anchor. I was learning to slow down and wait for the line to do what it was supposed to do in order to make a decent cast. Or at least get Doug to say, “Well that wasn't as much rubbish as the last cast."

We started at 10:00am and got out of the water at 2:00. We stopped because I got tired and frustrated. This was not what I had thought. It is nothing like single handed casting. It might look the same, but it isn’t even close. 

"What do you think mate?" 

"My dad was wrong." 

"Say again."

"My dad made fun of Spey rods fifty years ago, and I'd taken up the torch after that. But he was wrong. It's not a roll cast. It's a damn difficult cast." 

"That it is. Think you'll continue on now that you've had an introduction?"

“Hell, I'm not even sure if I made any decent casts today."

"You did a few." 

"Yep, a few."

"Enough to encourage you to keep going?"

I told Doug I'd think about it. 

I sent an email to Doug a few days later. "I'm encouraged, let’s see where it takes us." 
He, perhaps to his own chagrin, said, “I think it’ll be a good story.” 

Do I like two handed casting? It’s interesting and I agree with Doug who kept saying, “You know mate, two handed will only help your one handed.” 

I also believe in Leprechauns. 

Can I tell you the difference between a switch rod and a Spey rod? 

No. Nor Skandia lines, proper heads and all of that minutia that people go into when telling me about their two handed experience. They talk, I nod, then fall asleep. 

What I know is that day on the Fox was the first time I’d ever cast a two handed rod. It is a challenge and I like to be challenged, not so much that I’m overwhelmed but so that I will take the next step. Which believe it or not is to take another lesson and practice. And get gear. I think I like the get gear part best and this is where a teacher comes in handy. You just borrow their stuff till you figure out what works for you. And then go on a buying spree. 

After a while, I know it’ll be become fun and one day I’ll have forgotten that day on the Fox, where the line whacked me in the head, the anchor was nowhere to be found and the 180 degree rule was meant for filming interviews and not some cast.  Where a D loop, actually looks like a D loop and the names of the cast don’t sound like something from a book written by a drunk Welshman. 

The end game is not the perfect cast. It might be hearing Doug say, “Well done, nicely done lad, not bad,” which I suppose might happen, however it’s also about catching fish. Because in the long run, learning how to cast is about casting to a fish, not standing out in river whirling and tossing a line about. It’s about delivering a fly to a spot where the fish are. It’s about reading the water and making the best presentation possible. And the more skills you have with your casting, the more likely you are to connect and land that fish. 

So that’s why I’m going to work at this, that and Doug said I had some skills. Not many but enough. And he quoted a guy, “If I can’t get them to do a Double Spey in ten minutes then either they’re a ninny or I’m drunk.” 

Doug said I wasn’t a ninny. 

You can follow the journey here on Tippets and Tales as I photograph and video tape the lessons and progressions, including the two steps back. So stay tuned, the adventure is just beginning. 

Half Full or Half Empty

If you were to ask most people around me, more often than not, I'm a glass half full kinda guy.  I tend to consider myself very lucky.  I've been blessed with a lot of great things to this point in my life.  I'm married to the love of my life, my immediate family is healthy and growing, I love what I do and where I work, and that's just a few.  But the highs never seem quite as high without a little pain and suffering.  It's been a rough start to the new year - an unexpected death in the family, cancelled vacations, and now a broken ankle - the doldrums of Winter and this string of bad news, have been taking their toll.  

Being stuck inside, leg up, looking outside through a dirty window was finally getting old.  Ask the Mrs., I was crabby and probably not much fun to be around.  Over the last week, I've been making ankle has been improving and I've started physical therapy.  During one of my recent therapy sessions, as I was hopping on the bike, a pretty boisterous gentleman burst through the door and loudly announced his arrival.  First impressions had me thinking he was loud and obnoxious, trying to draw as much attention to himself as possible.  He said "Hi!" to everyone that would listen and joked with the staff.  As went to get started, they instructed him to join me over on the bikes.  "Oh, great" I thought.  

I hadn't really looked up or really paid much notice, but soon our physical therapist was introducing us, Willy, Brad.  Brad, Willy.  Willy was quick to take it from there, and used the intro to give me a run down of his last couple of years.  He was in there not only rehabbing, but reeducating his limbs on how to work.  He'd been paralyzed almost three years ago and was on his way to getting his legs to work consistently.  He could get them to work more often than not, but sometimes they'd just shut down.  He was in there three days a week, while at the same time trying to start his own business and manage a family.  Mind you, to me my injury was a big deal.  It was the inconvenience, more than anything.  Not being able to do things for myself was frustrating.  But in the end, this was a small bump in the road.  Seeing what Willy was going through, telling me about how he was pushed out of his business after the accident, trouble at home - it was like a hard slap of reality across my face.  Here this guy was, with plenty to be not only mad about, but something that could easily drive someone to depression, and he's making jokes about his legs not showing up for work, and laughing and playing with the staff.  He was the breath of fresh air and the kick in rear I needed.  

So often I, and we as a society, focus on the negative.  We jump to the defensive so quickly, like everything is a personal attack.  We struggle to see the positive in things and tend to focus only on complaining.  I was a perfect example of the glass half empty mentality.  I thought everyone was out to get me, life was terrible and there wouldn't be a tomorrow.  Without the ability to fish, drive, walk, run, or do anything, life just wouldn't be the same.  What would I do?  And heck, it's only temporary for me.  

Getting a dose of reality from meeting and hanging out with Willy for an hour knocked my life back on course.  It's something I'll think back on when I need a good kick in the butt.  As I begin to walk and soon get back on the water, it's going to be all about the time I spend hanging out with good friends, making good casts, whether they're rewarded or ignored.  A chance to focus on photography, maybe a couple of short videos and finding some new water.  We're often all so caught up in catching big fish by the hundred that the journey and adventure along the way can get lost.  In everyday life, caught up in the hustle and bustle of what's going on, we don't look around to appreciate what we have.  

Here's to drinking from a glass that's half full in all aspects of our lives.  

Coming Through

With Early Season in full swing, I'd normally already have a handful of days on the water under my belt, maybe even a couple of weekend in the Driftless.  But this year is different.  Since the end of February, I've been laid up with a broken ankle.  Talk about a bad time for a hockey injury.  This has left me feigning for fresh air and living through the photos of the trout everyone else is catching.  Heck I even missed Peter Cozad's One Fly Tourney at the Driftless Angler last weekend.      

The good side of being laid up is being able to spend some quality time with the Mrs. and I've been doing a lot of rod building.  So all has not been lost.  What's also been nice is hearing from a lot of buddies.  From checking in, to calling to give me a hard time, to making sure they included me in the next hockey session, even though it's going to be a while before I'm back skating.  

One person in particular was set on making sure he got me on the water as soon as he could.  That person is Captain Austin Adduci of Grab Your Fly Charters.  From invites to the fish the lake front, to him trying to convince the Mrs. to spend a day on the boat with us.  

This past Thursday I got a text saying he had an open spot for Saturday and wondered if I was up for exploring the Kankakee.  I immediately cleared my schedule and Austin was even kind enough for me to grab a buddy.  I was pumped.  Seven am Saturday morning couldn't come soon enough!  

As Jay rolled up Saturday morning, I realized it was hovering around nineteen degrees and adding a few layers might be beneficial.  With a high predicted in the low thirties, I wasn't focused on catching fish.  I was just happy to be casting on water and not in the driveway.  

As we hit the water and finally wet a line, the sun was shining and keeping us nice and warm.  Though the air temps were below freezing, it wasn't until the wind started to blow, that we would take notice.   

As Austin rowed us down, we definitely had to shake off the early season casting woes, but as the day progressed we found a groove and even with the low temps, moved some decent fish.  Between cleaning our guides out every few casts, Jason was able to land a nice 16.5" smallie that was nice and thick, sporting some great dark olive stripes on a dark bronze body.  

My only chance left me with a tangled mess and racing heart.  I watched a real nice smallmouth come out and hammer my streamer, leading to me abruptly pulling the fly from his mouth.  There's not much more frustrating when you know it's your own fault.  But just being there was more than enough for me.  Having the cold breeze on my face, cold fingers and great conversation was more than enough to make the day a success for me.  

Thanks Austin.  I can't tell you how much that one day meant to me.  Now that I'm walking (I'm using the term loosely), I've got a reason to have a bit more pep in my step.  

Licenses 2015 - Do You Have Yours?

It's that time of year again!  With Early season in full effect, the steelhead beginning to make their way in to the tributaries around Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes, and the warm water fisheries melted and presenting hungry smallmouth, musky and everything else, it's time to stock up on those licenses for the year.  

I've found by buying my licenses online you can save an image of it on your phone.  It saved me a couple of times last year.  It seems the only time I ever forget my license in the car, are the same days I run in to the DNR!  Three for three last year.  Luckily I had the license on my phone and the officers were very understanding.  

Don't be like me!  Make sure you've got an up to date license and have it with you whenever you're on the water.  



Hair Flying Everywhere - Follow up with Corey Gale at Coren's

Deerhair bugs are what H. G. Tapply loved to cast.  He wrote a book about then and they’re often referred to as Tap’s bugs. The art of spinning deer hair has progressed quite a bit from those simple flat faced bugs. Now we have sliders, poppers, divers and any number of odd and interesting shapes. 

Deer hair and I don’t get along all that well, it’s a bit fussy for me and my wife doesn’t like the bits and pieces that find their way into the laundry, carpeting and even the occasional cheese sandwich. But there are few flies that can match the “coolness” factor of a well tied bass bug. 

But deer hair bugs can be frustrating. So I was encouraged to read, Deer hair should be fun, not frustrating, written on the top of the handout that Cory brought to his clinic. And he’s correct, the right tools, the right techniques and the right materials, make it fun. They also make it easier. 

So I’m going to share some pointers that I learned from Cory and suggest that you check back to this blog from time to time to see when he’ll be doing his class again. It is well worth the time and you also leave with two bass bugs and some new knowledge about what a good bass bug should look like and what you have to do to make deer hair float like cork. It all starts with the proper proportions and the mantra: Don’t crowd the hook eye. 

Pointer one: use gel spun, nothing flares hair like this stuff or is better at holding the hair in place.
Two: get a good hair stacker and in this case, bigger is better.
Three: scissors and razor blades need to be sharp
Four: Once you’ve tied on the tail, take a look at the shank of the hook and divide it into segments where you’ll be tying on the hair. On most this will be three maybe four segments. My suggestion is if you can’t imagine that part, then mark it with a sharpie. You do this so that when you grab that clump of deerhair, you’ll know how big a clump to grab. If the clump is too small, you’ll have to add more near the hook eye and that makes that last wrap around the hair difficult and if you take too much you’ll crowd the eye. So by taking the right amount, you’ll have an easier time stacking and or spinning the hair.
And Five: if you want more, you’ll have to attend a class or maybe I can talk Cory into doing a video, but any who, the last tip is when you’re stacking hair, use your thumb and forefinger to control the hair and keep it from sliding around  the hook. There’s a photo about that in this group. So if you keep your thumb and forefinger controlling the hair on the hook shank, it won’t roll about, it will stay separated and you have much greater control over the materials. 

So those are a few of pointers for those of you interested in deer hair. Good glue is another. I suggest and Cory insists that you buy a bottle of Fly-rite, (Fly Tite) no toxic head cement. Some fly shops might carry it but I suggest that you go to www.whitetailflytieing.com and order a bottle. It won’t dry up on you like head cements and it does an excellent job of holding the thread and hair in place. If you need to thin it, just use denatured alcohol. 

The crowd was as expected and if you came after 9:15,  there was only SRO, (standing room only). We had coffee and donuts too, always good to have coffee. And Cory took us through tools, materials and then right into tying bass bugs. Like all good teachers, Cory took his time, worked one on one with those having difficulties and shared his experience learning from Chris Helms and brought a selection of some very nice bugs he’s tied. 

I learned a few new tricks this time that I intend to apply to my own tying. And I finally had a bass bug that looked like it was supposed to, well packed, colorful and yep, I intend to cast it. Most of all, Cory is right, the proper tools and technique make it fun, not frustrating. You also tie quicker and so what might have taken you, say an hour, might take half that time. 

So next time, hope to see you at Coren’s Rod and Reel. You’ll be glad you came and spent the time.