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.  


WI Early Season

It's almost here!  

Two more days and Wisconsin opens it's spring creeks to the fly fisherman from around the Midwest.  Come Saturday March 7th at 5am, Wisconsin starts the clock on Early Season, our first chance to chase those golden brown little devils.  With snow covered banks, and trampled brush, it's a chance to cast freely, bound through knee deep snow drifts and reconnect with nature.  Most importantly it's our chance to get off the couch, get away from the vise and back out on the water.  

Sometimes you've gotta work to find open water, but when you do, more often than not, it'll hold a hungry trout, dumb from the winter cold.  

Before you head out for the weekend, be sure to have your boxes stocked full of flies, lines cleaned and ready and equipment prepared for the cold.  Drop by DuPage Fly or Chicago Fly Fishing Outfitters  or visit Eric Heckman of Coren's and grab what you need.  If you're in a pinch, hit up the Driftless Angler up in Viroqua this weekend.  

Best of luck to all who venture out and be sure to dress warm!

 

West River Artwork - Ben West

While in Indy at the Fly Fishing Expo, I had the chance to meet and connect with quite a few great people.  One of which was a local artist named Ben West.  He's a young and up and coming artist who's got quite the fishy side.  

Ben's booth had a few of his paintings, both large and small, as well as a sketch book that featured some amazing drawings and water color paintings.  

What's great about Ben is he's an extremely knowledgeable fly fisherman and local to the Midwest.  With both a passion for guiding and fishing, he seems to bring both those to life on canvas and in his sketchbook.  

We're hoping to have Ben featured later on this year and get to know him a bit better, but in the mean time, check out his Facebook page here: BEN WEST.  

DIY Fly Boxes - Meat Box

In a follow up post to our last DIY, I wanted to share a larger, streamer box, made for your monster flies.  This is another easy build, using 6mm foam and a plastic case.  I used a single layer of the 6mm foam, but in the past I've also used two.  Having the extra thickness doesn't hurt and gives you a little room for error.  

I love these boxes and have built them in a variety of sizes.  Through the same company as before, Flambeau, you can get the same boxes you might find at Michael's craft store under the Art Bin name.  You're just cutting out the middle man ordering them from the web, and avoiding having their logo burned in the top.  

You can find the different sizes on the Flambeau webpage.  See here: FLAMBEAU TRADESMAN CASES.  Also be sure to check out their Clearance page.  The green case used in this DIY is the 10 1/2 in case and cost $1.84.  As of publication, there are still some available.  

You can get these cases with and without egg shell foam through Flambeau.  With the foam they make great fly tying travel cases for just a few bucks.  The foam keeps your materials from moving around and it'll hold most fly bases I've encountered.  

I figure cost out the door is around between $4 and $6 depending on the extra layer of foam and size of choice.  Beats the heck out of $35 and a trip to the fly shop.   

For this you'll need two (or four if you want thicker pad) sheets of 6mm foam, Flambeau case (this is the 10 1/2 in), a razor cutter or Exacto knife, a straight edge, and spray adhesive.  

For this you'll need two (or four if you want thicker pad) sheets of 6mm foam, Flambeau case (this is the 10 1/2 in), a razor cutter or Exacto knife, a straight edge, and spray adhesive.  

Using a hard surface, use the case's edge to create an indentation in the foam.  

Using a hard surface, use the case's edge to create an indentation in the foam.  

Use the indentation and trace around to create your case panels.  

Use the indentation and trace around to create your case panels.  

After cutting, give it a dry fit and any necessary trimming.

After cutting, give it a dry fit and any necessary trimming.

Grab that Exacto knife and using the straight edge, cut your slit about 3/4 of the way through the foam.  Be careful not to cut all the way through.  Any cuts through will allow your adhesive to leak through in later steps.  

Grab that Exacto knife and using the straight edge, cut your slit about 3/4 of the way through the foam.  Be careful not to cut all the way through.  Any cuts through will allow your adhesive to leak through in later steps.  

Give it a final dry fit and decide which fits each side best.  

Give it a final dry fit and decide which fits each side best.  

Be sure to have your spray adhesive the same temperature as your foam to eliminate your foam curling.  Spray all the way to the edges and place in the appropriate side.  

Be sure to have your spray adhesive the same temperature as your foam to eliminate your foam curling.  Spray all the way to the edges and place in the appropriate side.  

Use weight if necessary to ensure the adhesive is dry.  

Use weight if necessary to ensure the adhesive is dry.  

Final product, ready for some articulated goodness. You can also add another foam surface on the front/face of the case by cutting out an extra panel and using the spray adhesive as above.  

Final product, ready for some articulated goodness. You can also add another foam surface on the front/face of the case by cutting out an extra panel and using the spray adhesive as above.  

DIY Fly Boxes

I'm a big fan of supporting all fly shops and spending what I can, both local and when I travel.  I enjoy trying to give back to the local economy and fly industry and it's always good connecting with some of the local fly guys in their own environment.  Hell just ask Jeremy at DuPage Fly.  But there are some things that I think are a bit over priced or I may already own, and want another.  

After buying a few of the popular Cliff Boxes, I was hooked.  The boxes hold the exact amount of flies needed for varying adventures, as well as larger boxes for streamers and swinging flies.  I had been eyeing one of their larger streamer boxes while at the fly shop one afternoon and just couldn't convince myself to spend $30+ on a glorified box that looked like it could easily hold colored pencils as much as flies.  After doing some research, I found out that one of my customers is actually the company that manufactures the empty cases.  When I found out how much each box was, and what it would take to turn it in to a fly box, I placed an order and sat back and waited.  My first evening, I had put together four streamer boxes, and spent less than $24.  Ever since, I get a handful of requests around the holidays for gift exchanges.  

After having more than a few people ask me for the details on how to build one, I figured I'd share this with the rest of the class.

Secret #1 - Flambeau is the company that manufactures boxes that seem identical to the ones you see in the store.  See here: FLAMBEAU 2020-2 ONE COMPARTMENT

Total cost for this project was about $13, and that included a 4 pack of magnet sheets for $9.  And you can probably get about 6-9 of these boxes per mag sheet.  So the more you make, the less expensive each becomes.

Here's the rest of what you need:

Scissors and razor blade, 6mm foam sheet, magnetic sheet with sticky back, straight edge

This is the empty box.  My thought behind this was small nymphs on one side and dry flies or larger nymphs on the other.  One side is thinner than the other and it's up to you which is which.  I chose to use the deeper of the two for my dries.  

Use the case to get a rough outline the size of the box on the magnet.  It should be a little more than 2.5" wide and about 3.5" tall.  

Use the razor to cut and trim the magnet sheet.  Fit it in place, and when you're ready, peel the back off and apply to your preferred side.  

Measure and cut, using the straight edge, 2-3 foam strips.  I recommend fitting and trimming before gluing.  

Glue in the strips using super glue or head cement.  Be careful here as the glue may cause the foam to slide.  Let it dry and you're done.  

Depending on the set up you're looking for, they cover most of the needs you'll run in to and modifying or customizing the boxes is a cinch.  I'll show how I build the others in later posts as there are some tricks to the streamer boxes and cutting the slits to hold the flies.  

Hope this helps and Happy Holidays!