Sunday, December 16, 2012

While we sit in the snow II

I decided a little more painting was in order and nothing warms the soul in dead of winter like dreaming about is what I came up with:

Monday, December 3, 2012

While we sit in the snow...

I got a message from Tim Pearson at River Blend Studios and he suggested that I dig my paints out of hibernation and paint a picture of a Brule River Steelhead in exchange for one of his.  Excited, flattered and a little scared were my emotions (in that order).  I haven't painted in 10 years.  With just the right push at the right time I decided to give it a go.  He suggested that I paint for an hour or so and, when finished, box it up and send it to him.  I headed out to the art supply store to update my supplies and returned with a few new drawing pencils, erasers, drawing pens, brushes and tubes of watercolor.  Tim is a masterful watercolor artist and I decided to follow his lead and give them a try despite never having used them.  Nothing like putting yourself on the spot...

Basically the end result was a graphic pen drawing with a watercolor overlay.  I took the hour deadline and multiplied it by about 15.  My painting, like my fishing is deliberate, intense and hard-earned.  As they say in the "Movie" "...all good things - trout as well as eternal salvation - came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy."

The exercise was good for me and I was comfortable sending Tim the piece:

Tim followed up by sending me his beautiful rendition of a Brule Steelhead...I'm sure he probably cranked this out in an hour (which really pisses me off!)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Steelhead Blitzkrieg II

I spent last week in a casino in Connecticut.  Work related.   Luckily all of the work was outside.  Still, the hotel and the meals were inside the casino.  Blue hairs wasting their final years and last dollars on the slim chance that they might win.  It's draining, depressing if you look too long and think too hard.  Twenty-somethings pissing away hard earned paychecks that they probably should be sending to the college loan folks or at least buying gas to get somewhere else.
Returning home, my flight touched down at the home airstrip and I turned on my phone...34 emails and 2 messages waiting.  One of the messages was from McSteel.  He explained that he was heading up north, before the river closed, to get in one last round of talks with the steelhead.  He mentioned that his brother and JG were coming too.  I could feel the envy surging as he asked me to call him back.  I dialed and he gave me the game plan.  He said, "I know that [your wife] is out of town for work this weekend and [my wife] says she will watch the girls if you can make it."  I said, "Give me two hours and I'll call you back."

Fourteen hours later I was in the car heading north.  Kids and McSteel's brother packed in along with waders, switch rods and a coffee pot.  The casino slime was already drying up and cracking off.
I dropped the kids off at McSteel's house and almost felt guilty as we motored off, sans kids, to the river.

We stopped by the campground to see if we could secure a spot on a Saturday night.  There are a moments in a steelhead trip when, despite my age and years astream, I still get anxious.  One is pulling into the stream access point just before you can see how many other anglers have beat you to the spot.  The other is pulling into the campground to see how many other guys had the same great idea you did and if perhaps just one decided to stay home and watch the football game, leaving a little patch of grass for you to drink a beer and sleep too few hours.

The campground was empty.

With our patch of grass virtually assured, we skipped the set-up of camp and headed to the river, wadered up and got to it.  Start time: 2:00 pm.  McSteel, being the understated maestro of this particular ribbon of all that is good, guided JG to the first steelhead of the trip within 30 minutes of ankles wet.  I stumbled through trying to get the Elder Brother McSteel into a fish, but I am a lousy guide.  I swung through the run behind him and caught a 14" chopper that was most probably a jack and even if it wasn't that's what I am calling it.  Somehow it would be less of a failure if this little fish had been in the big water and swam with the intended target.  If it was just a river bow, the connection would have been just that much farther off.

We fished a second run and watched downstream as McSteel hooked a steelhead of his own.  In the gray half-light of the drizzly evening that started at noon, his rod bowed and thrummed as I sprinted downstream to get a photo. 

And then, as if part of the script, McSteel paired up with his brother and promptly put him on a fish.

We shared an obligatory brew in the dark, de-wadered and headed back to the empty campground to stake our claim.

Tallboy PBR's, a hot woodstove and the smell of heating canvas and wet socks.  Conversation that flows like the river itself.   Another PBR and perhaps another... 

Morning comes early when the plan is to hike in at first light.  Today's beat included a familiar stretch of water and I relaxed a bit.  McSteel took it upon himself to get me into a fish.  He planted the other two guys in the #2 and #3 runs and took me to his #1.  The rain was falling light but cold.  The wind kicked up a little.  I knew this run.  I'd hooked fish in it in the past.  Still, you are either a steelheader or you are not.

I am not.

I don't feel the mojo.  I seldom think "this swing is moving through perfectly" or "one step to the bucket".  I get my fish by keeping my fly wet and moving...over and over and over.  I'm sure I screwed up the #1 run.  I probably should have tightened up the angle of the swing to get the fly a little deeper.  I probably could have tucked the fly a little closer to the log.  My fly did tempt a little brown and that was cool...but it wasn't steelhead cool.  I kept stepping down...past the bucket that McSteel himself would've have drained.  I felt like it was needed.  I was in a trance...freezing my ass off but covering the water.  Swing, step, swing step...

The others were off on their own water when the little chromer hit my fly and then the sky.  Maybe 21-22" inches of fat bright steel.  Not big as steelhead go, but certainly not a river 'bow.  I tightened my drag to keep her out of the alders but she took a leap into them anyway.  After a few minute fight, I landed her and botched the photo opp.  I started swinging again.  Step, swing.  Futher down I felt a tug and landed a torpedo brown that could've also been a lake fish.

At noon we pulled our chilled feet and light hearts from the water and headed back to the camp to warm up, pack our gear and head for home.  Twelve hours of driving for 10 hours of fishing.  This runs counter to my standard equation of 1:1 driving to fishing. 

But, in this case, it was a smart move and sure bet.

McSteel attached to his namesake.

Grip and Look Down

Superior Steelhead

Rare look inside the IC

Warm Hot and Dry

Non-Target Species

From Left to Right: us

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Steelhead blitzkrieg

Left Saturday morning for a few hours of fishing on Saturday evening and a full day on Sunday.  Total miles required: 708.

Sometimes you just have to go.

With flows in the low 100's and a bluebird day in the works, the odds weren't good, but sometimes you just have to place your bet and roll with it....and besides not betting at all makes you a gauranteed loser.

McSteel opened up the first night swinging up a jack and a nice chrome fish in the mid 20's.  I never got a touch.  We set-up camp in the dark, heated up the chili and pulled a few cold ones down before turning in.

With the alarm set for 5:15, I was jumpy and rolled out of bed at 4:00.  Coffee on the cook stove and a few logs on the fire, a full day of steelheading ahead...pure joy.

Waking up in a warm wall tent with dry waders has gone from a luxury to a necessity...nylon tents have no place here.

We hit the river trail by headlamp and despite the low flows, we found some nice water with enough flow to keep the line tight and swinging.  At noon I hooked up on a beautiful mid 20's chromer after stripping my intruder back through some soft water at the end of the swing.  All of those beautiful swinging arcs and this fish thought it was a brown trout.  I wrestled it up to the surface twice before it twisted and popped.  Damn it.  Good looking fish too. We scored some free eats at the local bar (Packer halftime viddles on the house) and power napped for 45 minutes, broke camp and hit the river hard until dark with only one more fish hooked and lost by McSteel.

The catching is the gamble...being there is a sure bet.


"Never more..."

Swingus Interruptus

Bright Jack

Fly box re-shuffle

IC - Idiot Central
Fresh Brew 4:15 am

Rainbow trout or Steelhead...time will tell.
Ribbon of Life


Monday, September 3, 2012


The boat and a good buddy, a lake rumored to hold Northern Pike and a few hours in the morning. 
McSteel, pullin' the haul for pike...

Saturday, September 1, 2012


My 8 year old daughter cast a fine loop out near the weeds, gave the popper a twitch and was fast into her first "solo" fly caught fish.  A big moment (at least for me!)  Atta girl!!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Family Vacations

When you go on a family vacation and the central activity is catching panfish off the dock...that's cool.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Getting out.

I stopped in to see C.A. at the shop and we made loose plans to sneak out on Thursday night for a little fly flinging on a local lake.  Thursday afternoon he confirmed and Thursday night we launched.
Fishing was slow, though despite plenty of vegetation I have to admit that the water clarity wasn't half bad.  I can only assume that the summer heat boiled off the usual impurities.  Standing on the deck of the Jon casting clousers in 8 feet of water at the edge of the weeds on a fine, calm, mostly bug free evening in can bemoan the loss of summer or just settle into the seasonal groove.  I think we chose the latter.  He was kind enough to pack a couple microbrews and some BLT's with fixin's from his CSA (he even put celery salt on the tomatoes...helluva guy).  Another swell evening to be alive with fly rod in hand.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Jon Johnson needs a new name

After big mouthing for the past 8 years about how I really don't need more than a 6 horse because the Big W is too spooky to run at speeds much over 6 mph,  I started thinking about the Nipigon River and the Carp flats of Door County and how these waterways would be nice to exit quickly if, say, a guy had to.  I perused Craigslist for weeks and finally broke down and bought a new Yamaha 15 Horse 4 Stroke engine.  The dealer gave me fair price, a 5 year warranty and gave me on trade in what I paid for the Johnson 8 years ago.  In other words, I got a good deal.  So the Johnson is in the rear view mirror.  The Yamaha is quiet and goes like a bat outta hell (relatively speaking).  It actually has enough weight and torque that it started to stress the transom on Ol' Jon.  I was smart enough to add a transom saver when I bought it (probably saving me from having to call my insurance agent upon my return from towing it home from the dealer).  I took the girls out for a ride as part of the break in schedule and noticed a popped weld on the transom.  I quickly turned the boat back to the launch and made the some repairs/upgrades to the transom.  So far so good.
I'm not sure if I need to rename her Jon Yamaha or what.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Atlantic Relief

A work trip to Maine.  Clean, clear Atlantic water and evening dropping tides on one of my favorite beaches.  I was able to schedule work (3 days in a row) around fishing for stripers and...blues.   I have caught some very, very small blues on Martha's Vineyard a few years back, but this trip I finally discovered why these fish are revered by some and despised by others.  Let's just say that I lost a few flies to these toothy bastards.  I also caught one that was probably in the 4-6 pound class but failed to get a pic after I was trying to dance around the teeth and it finally cut my line and swam off with another fly.  Sand eel patterns were the fly of the trip and now, after the run in with the blues, I need to tie more.  My last of the three nights fishing the beach, after I caught a couple small stripers, I got hit and broken off by something that left a surface disturbance similar to a Manatee...not being in Florida I can only assume that it was something else...
I guess I'll have to go back and see if I can figure out what it was.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Getting out of the house...

The weekend was unplugged.  No cell phone, ipods, ipads, laptops.  From our mom and pop hotel room in Door County we cheated a little and watched some of the summer olympics on the old school TV...otherwise we were unplugged.  Family weekends are just that.  You can sneak an 8 wt along but it's still not a fishing trip.  The kids swam and enjoyed the simple pleasure a swingset provides.  We packed our own food with the exception of 3 meals which we had at the same restaurant because the service was good and the food was better.  I snuck away a few times once to watch the kid at the end of the pier catch a nice small mouth and once to wade the flats of Bailey's Harbor looking for (but not finding) feeding carp.  Such sweet failure.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

More Rain!!!!

Another dose of the life giving liquid!!
Not a lot...but some.  Is the glass half empty or half full?
Neither, but at least it's no longer bone dry.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Big trip...or family?

I finally had enough heat and loaded the fam in the vehicle for an afternoon on the big W.  As can be expected, the fishing was poor to horse#$*%....but the girls liked the sand and the warm water.   Sometimes that's just the way it is.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


After weeks and weeks and weeks with high temps...rain finally!!!

Sunday, July 8, 2012


A June with only .3" of rain...a sun that won't stop beating down.  I headed to the local spring creek looking for a break from the madness.  Water temps were in the mid 70's.  I opted to shoot some pics instead of messing with the stressed trout.