Tuesday, January 19, 2016

New Year's Day Expedition


In most years, the autumnal changing and falling of the leaves signifies the final opportunities to pursue native Appalachian trout. Once redds start showing up, I do my best to avoid disturbing these fish and the stream bottom. Let them do their thing!

The norm is that these thin topographic blue lines are choked with ice this time of year. When trout are, more or less, fishsicles trying to survive instead of thriving like they do when insect life is booming. This year, with the much warmer than average temperatures, I decided checking out some new water might not be a bad idea.

Fish Passage Barrier - Candidate for Replacement?
I much prefer zinging dries on the 3 wt for brookies, but the 4 wt nymphing rig has been begging to get used. So be it. I took the camera for a walk - more hopeful of good scenery than eager char. I was pleasantly surprised to be rewarded with both.

Back the Brookie





After spending a bit of time on bigger water, it's easy to forget how sticky hemlock boughs are to 5x - like a magnet for errant casts. A necessary annoyance for the refuge they provide the trout and the angler. I have no doubt I will make a return trip to this little gem, off the beaten path, when the green of springs abounds. Can't wait.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Icons of Wilderness

Brown Trout

I have yet to figure out a way, verbally or visually, to capture what it is exactly that keeps up going back into the cold to capture these golden ghosts only to let them go, as if part of some freaky alien science experiment. Yet we stay mobilized. Ready to roll at any opportunity.  The river is where we, addicted fish chasers, flock to, to set everything else aside and are forced to play by the rules of these primitive icons of wilderness.

They take us from our civilized comfortable lives and make us adapt to the elements. Every day presents a new playing field. Flow, temperature, light, and the availability of food, among countless other things, set the tone. We get rained on, snowed on, sun burned, and wind burned, yet somehow being on a river can make even a shitty cup of coffee taste like opportunity.

Maybe it's wilderness we truly desire and the fish are the symbols we need to motivate us to feed the insatiable hunger. Who knows. Trout sure are beautiful though.

When speaking about why we need to protect wilderness, Ed Abbey said, "Every man needs a place where he can go, to go crazy in peace!"

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Absence


Tunes to set the mood?

So, it has been quite a while since my last post. It's not without reason. Over the last few years, the obsession of guys trying to make a name for the themselves via social media has become overwhelming. I'm not here to throw stones, simply to say that it's not my intent and it's hard to not get sucked into that way of thinking when you're surrounded by it on Facebook, Instagram, and the blog-o-sphere, etc.

It's been extremely refreshing lately to see guys put as much emphasis on their young kids out enjoying our fisheries as themselves with grip and grin hero shots. Sure, I love seeing piggy trout as much as the next guy but that can get stale. I much prefer seeing a kid with their first fly-caught trout or a guy holding up a sucker and laughing like a hyena and knowing his buddies are rolling with laughter in the background. Shared joy and grief, memories and stories are what it's all about.

Man, if this little skiff could talk, the stories it could tell...      Photo by  Pat Burke
The goal of these collections of posts is meant to celebrate the fun of exploring water with your buddies,  yearning to see the unseen, and enjoying every 6" brook trout. I need to do a better job of that. I think time away from it all, focusing on fishing with good friends new and old, working, and good clean livin' has been just what I needed. I intend to get back to sharing stories here very soon.

Not even six years ago - seems like a lifetime.
When I lived in Philadelphia, I had never caught what I would consider now a big wild trout. I could only dream of it. Remember to try to look at water and appreciate it like you used to.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

George Daniel: Strip-Set

Photo Courtesy of George Daniel
 In the winter of 2011, George Daniel's book, Dynamic Nymphing, changed the game for most of us when it comes to fishing subsurface insect imitations. Fast forward four years and the same thing is about to happen to streamer fishing with the upcoming release of his latest book, Strip-Set!

Strip Set
So much has happened in the streamer fishing world in the last 10 years. Strip Set, undoubtedly, will expose all of us to the latest techniques, ideas, gear, and big fish hunting strategies that have been developed by the foremost anglers and guides who are continually pushing the limits of fly fishing and making us drool over pictures of monstrous trout.

If you haven't purchased or read George's Dynamic Nymphing, what I can tell you to expect from Strip-Set is a book loaded with so much information that you will be continually going back and re-reading page after page and learning something new every time. In addition, the photography alone will likely be worth the purchase just to experience the beautiful aesthetics of trout and the gorgeous places we pursue them.

In anticipation of Strip-Set's release, I reached out to George with a few questions to hold us over until we get notification that our pre-orders have shipped! A huge thank you to George for taking the time to answer the following questions!

CH: With your extensive background in competitive fly fishing and expertise on nymphing tactics, streamer fishing is kind of a different direction. What prompted the change?
GD: I’ve always loved streamer fishing. My addiction came in 2002 when I met and fished with Russ Madden. Russ was the first to show me articulated streamers and introduced me to the Kraken-a Russ Madden original that was a favorite of mine for over 5 years.  However, the name of the game with comp fishing is to catch numbers of fish, which meant often looking at nymphing as a primary tool. In all honesty, nymphing is my least favorite tactic but one I do the most since I do like to catch fish. If I had it my way, I would chuck streamers from a drift all day-everyday!


CHWhat’s your favorite species to fish for?  Do you have a bucket list species? 
GD: Without hesitation - TROUT. Trout live in beautiful places all over the world, including near my home in Central PA.   I do have a bucket list of fish but not in any particular order.  I would like to catch everything from a Golden Dorado to a Taimen.

CH: What are your top 5 go to streamer patterns?  
GD: Sparkle Minnow, Lynch’s Drunk and Disorderly, Strolis Head Banger, Sculp Snack (Bugger Variation), and Schmidt’s Grumpy Muppet.

CH: If readers take only one thing from the new book (I highly doubt that’ll be the case), what would you like it to be? 
GD: Match the approach to the conditions. I know this sounds like common sense but that means looking at floating lines, sink tips, full sinkers, un-weighted and weighted flies options.  This is no different than choosing when to tight line versus indicator fish when nymphing. My hope is for readers to learn to adapt their approach to the conditions they face. 

CH: You traveled all over the country doing research for this book. What destination did you most enjoy? Why? 
GD: The northern location of the lower peninsula, MI. The AuSable, Manistee, PM along with many others. Those rivers are designed for the streamer angler, chocked full of fallen timber and deep undercuts. The lighter colored stream bottoms make it easier for the angler to see a trout chasing a streamer, which heightens the sensation of streamer fishing.


CH: Guide’s day off streamer float. Where are you fishing and what two anglers are in the boat with you? Who’s on the sticks? 
GD: White River, AR in February with Lance Wilt and Brian Wilt (no relation) while taking turns on the sticks.

CH: Is there a place you have not yet fished but would like to? 
GD: Yes, I would like to spend some time fishing the tropics in Mexico, along with several countries in Eastern Europe, including Slovenia and Austria.


CH: How does Pennsylvania rate in comparison to other destinations? 
GD: While Central PA doesn’t have the trout populations as say the Green River, WY, it has such a diverse number of fisheries all within several hours.  I enjoy the seasons, the green, the mix between freestone and limestone, along with the challenge our fisheries offer anglers. While it’s great to travel, I enjoy coming back home.

CH: What affects, positive or negative, do you see social media having on the fly fishing industry over the last few years and going forward? 
GD: Both. The great thing about social media is that everyone has a voice, so there are some great anglers/tiers/writers who would never have been discovered if it wasn’t for social media. There are so many talented people out there who have no interest in writing books or articles, but who simply enjoy sharing their experiences along with their thoughts on certain subject matters. 

The downside I see is that many lesser known streams or sections of rivers are located through social media. Everyone has the same right as I do to fish any of these rivers, but some people feel the need to post every big fish photo of themselves and in doing so they generate a lot of buzz about their secret fishery. Many of my friends who are recreational anglers or guides do not post many big fish photos for the reason that it often attracts too much attention. There are some private sections of water that are now closed because of sudden pressure brought on by social media.

CH: What’s in your CD player or on your iPod for your drive to and from the river? 
GD: I like a little bit of everyone. On my Pandora station I have the following artists: Johnny Cash, Mumford and Sons, Lumineers, U2, Eddie Vedder, Eric Church, Luke Bryan, all the way to the Dallas String Quartet. Odd, I know.

CH: What’s your beer of choice?  
GD: Troegg’s Perpetual IPA.


CH: You’ve written THE book on contemporary nymphing techniques, we’re all drooling over Strip Set, and you recently mentioned that you spent an impressive 75 consecutive days guiding. What’s next? 
GD: There’s always something. I hope to have my nymphing DVD available by Christmas, I’m still working another 20 days on the water guiding, I have a full line of clinics/shows lining up from now till the end of 2016. I’m about to begin work on a third book project, but most importantly spending more time with my family. For the first time in 5 years, I was able to spend multiple weekends with my family. I also got to spend 24 days on the road with my daughter during a western trip. My hope is to continue to write, create additional DVD’s, expand my business in other areas, and to incorporate my family more into the business model.

CH: Is there a current topic or issue (conservation, ethics, etc.) you’d like to take a few lines to talk about?
GD: Recently when traveling to the Driftless Area of WI, I was amazed by the sheer number of public accesses the state has acquired over the years through easements. The state had the foresight to put much of their time and money to acquire easements that now offer any license holder the right to fish these waters. The work the state of WI has done over the years will guarantee access to many generations of anglers. I truly hope our state, along with others, will follow WI’s example. 

Thanks again to George for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions. If you can't tell, I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this book and I'm sure most of you feel the same way. No doubt, we're all in for a treat!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Not Another Fish Story


With all the rain we had early this summer, construction season at work got off to a very slow start. Since the beginning of July, it seems like everyone has been making up for lost time. Extended work hours and elevated stress levels have really cut into time spent writing up outings. Don't worry though, I wouldn't let anything hinder fishing opportunities.






Generally speaking, a rare occurrence this summer.
A few weekends ago, I had the opportunity to sneak out for a couple hours to explore a tiny stream I had never been to.  It's located in the center of my fishing-world and has been surprisingly overlooked. As much exploring as I have done this year, I have run into very few brown trout in streams I would consider "Brook trout streams.' It's been a pleasant surprise that PA's state fish is holding strong in the Northcentral region.

On this particular outing, I took a little higher quality camera (a borrowed DSLR) than my phone. Let's just say, I need some practice with it. Haha. Most of the pictures ended up blurry, but hey, you never know till you try, right?

Womp.
As usual, when expecting smallish brook trout to be the typical quarry, I was traveling fairly light. Wet wading, with a lanyard, a dip can of flies, and NO NET. Usually this is not an issue but then I worked my way up to the first spot where you say, "Oh yeah, there's a good fish here." It was an undercut bank that was deeper than any of the brushy pocket water I'd encountered thus far. On the second drift over the tail of the pool, I was rewarded with a splashy rise to my bushy dry fly.


It only took a few seconds after I set the hook for the scrawny water to explode as a heavy (well... heavier than what I was expecting anyway!) trout thrashed to free itself from the sting of the fly. The fish flashed and darted for the undercut bank and there was little I could do with 5x and my 3 wt. While he was doing his best to wrap my tippet in the hanging roots, which he did, I thought for sure "I'm going to lose this fish. What a shame." Somehow, I was able to work free and steer the fish into less treacherous water.

As things were winding down, I crouched in the chilly mountain water, sliding a beautiful brown trout toward me. The rod was continuing to flex as I reached out when suddenly, tension released and the fly popped free. Uhh.... Another fish story culminating with the finned foe as the victor. If only I'd had a net. No shaking hands, no admiring the natural beauty of the spotted Potter County butter belly fish. Do not pass go, do not collect $200!

Just then, he started swimming downstream, away from the safe haven of his lair! Headed to an extremely shallow gravel bar that nearly separated us from the pool below, he left himself unprotected. I thought fast, followed him down, and as he struggled to snake-ishly swim to safety, his back completely out of the water, I gently (but hurriedly!) reached down and cradled the fish out of water.

Unfamiliar with the high-powered camera, I fumbled for the safety and certainty of my phone. I snapped a few quick shots before he decided he still had some fight left and wiggled free. Back to that undercut, where I bet he is still sulking.



WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER.



Just as a heads up, my next post will be a little different than anything I've done here. One of the greatest aspects of fly fishing is interacting with like-minded folks. An often overlooked joy is the great conversation that can spring up on the drive to the river, shuttling the boat, or simply anchored up in an eddy for a quick lunch break. As the cool autumnal temperatures creep in and the trout in our small streams get closer to spawning season, my mind drifts to bigger waters and throwing big flies to big fish.

It just so happens that a new book that will likely change the way many of us approach the streamer game is going to be released in a few short weeks. The author of that book was gracious enough to answer a handful of questions ranging from what to look for in the new book and general interview type questions to random topics similar to how conversations go while anchored up in a riffle. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Vacation

I love vacations. Even if I'm not the one on vacation!


This past week, my buddy that I ride to work with every day went on vacation. Which meant I could be on the river every day after work! I have to say, this is some of the very best fishing I can ever remember having in the middle of July.







Weeks like this remind me of a great blog post from the Troutbitten guys. A recent post of their's talked about people telling them how lucky they are to live in Central PA near great fishing. They explained that luck had nothing to do with it. It's a choice to factor fly fishing into major life decisions. The truth is, it's not luck, coincidence, or any of that. I live where I live because of great fishing, great friends, and the proximity to family.


Loon finger... The only thing I don't LOVE about Loon's Deep Soft Weight
Flows are finally beginning to get back to their normal summertime levels, but the fish I've been seeing have been fat, healthy, and happy. Should make for a pretty good fall season! For now, watch the water temperatures and try to get some good Trico and terrestrial fishing in. It's time!

Don't forget to goof off a little.

Public Service Announcement

I'll be putting in another order of hats (see below).  Camo front, with a screenprinted logo, black mesh, and snapback. $18 each (plus shipping) If you're interested, let me know chaserhoward@gmail.com.
Screenprinted locally at Canoe Place Shirt Shack.

Deadline is Friday August 14.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

No Big Deal

A week or so ago, during an after-work tying session, my buddy Kris dropped a pretty incredible bit of knowledge on me like it was no big deal. Of the hours I've spent looking at topo maps and Google Earth for wild, secluded, undiscovered trout streams, I always keep my eye open for remote lakes or ponds in North Central Pennsylvania that might contain wild brook trout. Scratch that - I've looked for them in North West, North Central, and North East PA. I've found the odd beaver pond with a few tiny trout here or there and I've found some pretty good bass and panfish ponds. More often than not, when I follow up on good leads, I end up in swampy mosquito infested areas that are home to nothing but chubs.

So, we're twisting up bugs, I think we started talking about my pond or something ( I don't know, the information I was about to get pretty much wiped my memory). And then the conversation took an interesting turn...

"Have you ever fish Nunya Pond? It's got brook trout in it." (Like it's no big deal)

"What the..WHAT?!"

"Oh yeah, I used to go there all the time. We should check it out sometime."

Best. Invitation. Ever.

Pond name may or may not be legitimate. Reader discretion is advised.



When we both were free, we decided to try to get there after work. Getting there and having time to fish in a few short, post-billable hours before dark wasn't the easiest thing to achieve, but man was it worth it. Countless beautiful native brookies were caught on blue foam damselflies and quickly sent back to the frigid waters of the spring-fed, meadow pond.






There really are fantastic secrets left to be discovered here in the East. Sometimes a little help from your friends is all it takes. Kris, I owe you one brother.