Sunday, May 24, 2015


McSteel and the family came down for the Memorial Weekend.  One of our wives suggested that a trip to the zoo with the kids on Sunday would be a fine idea and somehow the men weren't invited.

Considering the options for a guys day off, we decided to go fishing.

It rained pretty much all day as we poled the river and peered and casted and peered some more.
We saw plenty of carp and bass but nobody was interested in eating.

McSteel saved the day with a well placed cast into the splash rings of a small baitfish blitz and his fly got clobbered by a little pike that, by most standards, would be considered "by-catch" except that I like pike and it was the only fish of the day.

We gave it a solid college try and visibility was actually pretty decent (despite the rain) with no wind.
At around 3 in the afternoon when the deep soak set in we decided to trailer the boat and go find a beer...

Photo Courtesy: McSteel

Friday, May 22, 2015

Not a Rapala

I rolled back to the night fishing grounds armed with a 7 weight and a few boxes of streamers.  There are places that I've come to fish often enough and had enough success at that they, by virtue of my history there,  remove the nagging question of "should I be fishing here or should I move?"

My night fishing grounds are one of these places.  After dark fish move into this shallow bay to feed.  This happens often enough that I fish it with confidence and can settle into the easy rhythm of casting and

My trance was broken with the arrival of a spin fisherman on the far bank.  We chatted across the water as my flyline arced out, landed and was stripped back into my basket.  He was soon joined by a buddy of his who took up position down the shore from his pal.

One of them caught and kept a small pike.  Despite the darkness I knew this to be true because I could hear every word bounce across the calm water on this still night.

A 15 inch walleye clobbered my fly.  I was thinking of taking a photo of it as proof of my fishing prowess and fly fishing expertise, but as I was setting my rod down and reaching for my camera it flipped a half corkscrew turn and came much for prowess.

The next tug felt heavier and I was a little more ginger in my landing practices.  A nice walleye appeared in the glow of my, now lit, headlamp.

I inquired into the darkness if the duo across the water were keeping fish.
the confirmed and I offered up my catch.

One of them hustled over and I took a quick snapshot before handing it off.
He thanked me and disappeared into the night with the fish.

As they rustled around hooking the fish to their stringer they mentioned that it taped out at 18".
One or the other of them asked if I was using a Rapala.

"No, flies, streamers...kind of like a baitfish pattern", I replied.

"Oh...", then silence.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


All indicators pointed to a soft breeze from the north.  RS, Brother Bill and I agreed to meet out at the lake at 8:30 PM, plenty of time to get waders on and flies knotted.

By 8:45 the short walk to the lake included the sound of lapping waves and a soft wind in our faces.  With light dropping under the steely sky, we climbed a short knoll to overlook the water.  Wind and waves met us mockingly.

It's not that the three of us couldn't cast or that the surf would pound us into submission.  Rather, the sheltered water and low wind (that we planned on) would be the breeding ground for a million midges and these in turn would tempt our quarry within casting range.  With the the west wind....all bets were off.

Weather IS.  It always has been.  You can plan for it, run from it, embrace it or ignore it.  It still just IS.

I wouldn't say that we embraced it and we didn't really plan for it.  The front that was kicking up Zephyrus also dropped the temps to the mid 40's and that wasn't including the wind chill.  Late May with rag wool gloves and stocking caps, standing belt deep in a lake after the sun goes down is not what I would call comfortable.  It didn't take us long to get chilled

And by "us", I mean Brother Bill and me.

RS was doing just fine.  He was fast into a walleye before I had even got my boots wet.  His second fish, a healthy white bass came a little later.

A few midges blew down the lake and smacked us in the unexposed parts of our faces, which in the dark felt like an errant raindrop...except that it wasn't wet.  So, the midges were around, but they weren't helping us as we had hoped.

After an hour or so we walked out of the lake and down to the river, out of the wind, looking for alternate targets.

We muddled around for 20 minutes and then headed back to our vehicles where heater knobs were dialed to full red.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Friday Night I paddled a Canoe race with my daughter.  We are not canoe racers, but I had two things in my hip pocket.
1. I grew up near the boundary waters and canoes have always been part of my life.
2. My daughter, 11, is as tough as they come. 
I'd love to report that at 11 we've spent hours paddling and I knew that she could do it.
But the truth is, we have spent more time in the Battle Skiff than in my canoe.  I had no idea how she'd do.

She blew my mind.  3.5 miles of paddling and she never, not once, quite digging in.  I couldn't have been more proud.  We finished 69th out of more than 200 canoes....most of them with two adults on board.

That is how the weekend started.  The weather was looking crappy and I was still feeling pretty good about my outing with Mr T catching musky and smallmouth from last week.  My wife mentioned that we had some yard work to do.  The winter had killed a few plants/shrubs in the yard and she suggested that I do something about it.

I never intended to make it the weekend project but once I start something I have a very tough time stopping until it is done.

By Sunday afternoon I had a pile of deadness in my driveway that I was sure would require a trailer to haul away, and I'd borrowed my neighbor's chainsaw to drop a tree (Thanks Tim!)  I still have a healing blister and sore shoulders from spending 2 hours pulling a stump out of the ground.  Sunday was a trip to the local nursery to procure the necessary greenery to get my yard back into shape.  I dug, fertilized and planted until, once again, we are the envy of the gardening community (not likely).

At 1:00 PM on Sunday, exhauseted from my domestic exploits,  I checked my phone and found a message from Kyle Zempel from Black Earth Angling Company . Over the past month or so we'd been messaging back and forth on Facebook about his recently acquired boat.   He wanted to make it battle ready for the smallmouth fishery he guides on and he ran a couple things past me. 

The message indicated that he was going to be taking said boat out for a trial run at 3:00 and he kindly invited me along.

The canoe race, the planting, the blisters, I'd paid the price.
My wife patted me on the head and said that I was free to go.

So I went.

I rolled in about 2:45 PM and Kyle was wrenching on his boat.
I suppose that I could have been disappointed that it wasn't water ready and that we weren't going to be casting flies in the next 15 minutes...except that I love wrenching on boats.
Kyle had planned and designed some killer oar lock mounts that needed to be installed and his new oars needed to be assembled.  Maybe it was an hour of tinkering but honestly if it would have been 3 hours I'd have been good.  Rigging boats is a sweet part of the process. 

I'm not sure what time he backed down the launch into the river, but before long he had his jet fired up and soon I was standing on the bow casting a streamer to the bank.

The first fish followed shortly thereafter.  After a whoop and a couple of quick photos, Kyle spent 10-15 minutes trying to revive it.

It died.

It's always interesting fishing with new people...the perspectives and experiences that are shared, that bring two anglers together, are exactly the same and entirely different.  As he was working the fish in the current to revive it, Kyle told me about how a smallmouth will "color up" if they are overly stressed and aren't going to make it.  He held the fish in the current and spoke as I envisioned a "lit up" billfish.

A few moments later he called my attention to the fish's color.  As he held it, trying to get oxygen into its gills and waiting for the telltale flick of its tail indicating that it was revived, lively and ready to go on with its life, it transformed.  It colored up.  If you've ever seen a smallmouth from a rocky, woody, tannin stained river, they are dirty black/copper.  As he held the fish for me to see, it transformed to a truly copper scaled creature with dark side banding.  I suggested that it looked like a painting.

"This fish isn't going to make it", he said.

I put down the rod and my camera and asked if I might try reviving it.  I too held the fish and moved it to get oxygen to its gills.  The fish was rigid.  No tense muscles, not flick of the tail.  We tried for what seemed like 20 minutes.   I relaxed my grip and it turned sideways, ready to float.   Though it bummed me out, I dispatched it with a nalgene bottle thump to the head.  Kyle said he'd eat it which made me feel only slightly better about the truth.

Kyle said, "It doesn't happen often, but it happens".

It's a blood sport after all.

I'm 43 years old and I learned something new and something valuable.  Something else to notice, to look for.

Slipping downstream with a fish in the cooler,  we decided that we'd trade the rowing station, fish for fish.  And we did.  We each caught some decent small mouth and each one (thankfully) flicked their tails and swam off after release.  I know that Kyle has been having success on his river and I was only enviously surprised/thrilled when he guided me to a measured 18" fish.  That might be the largest I've caught on this stretch of the river...  After a couple of quick photos, it too swam off under a full head of steam.

The sun started to drop and we'd set out to do what we set out to do.  The oars worked out well, we got a chance to fish together, we caught fish and it never rained on us.

I'd had a great time and realized only after I got home and looked through my photos why.  The boat was great, a true river craft.  The fishing was actually pretty good, despite the crazy fronts blowing through.  But, the real reason that the day was success was because I'd shared the afternoon with a guy who understands why I fly fish.  Check out every picture of this guy.  He puts the "grin" in grip and grin....

Thanks Kyle.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


I  knew that the wind was wrong but I was itchy so I went anyway.

The wind WAS wrong.

Back to the lake after dark.
The kids in bed and my wife working on her laptop in bed.

I had a couple of short strikes from what were probably white bass and turned my headlamp on to watch the glow of the walleye's eyes.  It is pretty cool.  If you've never seen it, you should.

The question is...was it worth it?

No fish on a fishing trip?

Almost always.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Carp Lunch

Lunch wasn't a sandwich.

It was a 7wt and my camera.

And a stroll.

The carp moved into a back channel of the river.

The puffed mud and fed as I pasted casts right on their head, wildly to the left and mistakenly to the right.

I led them and waited for them to get close before I twitched it.

None of them cared.

Nobody took the bait...believed the ruse.

The nice part about a camera is that even when the fish aren't cooperating you can still bring home a consolation prize.

This is today's....

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Spring Night

It's become somewhat of a tradition around here. 

The spring peepers start chirping, the sun lingers on the horizon and I leave the house at dusk with a headlamp, a 6, 7 or 8wt and some streamers.  Although my night fishing typically starts closer to June, I couldn't resist going out to check things out.

On the lake near here it is the midges that get the food chain buzzing.  The midges start to hatch, the bait fish and gills move in to mop up and the predator fish follow right behind.

Tonight the midges were in evidence but not quite a blanket hatch.  I connected with one white bass and two walleyes.  The water is so clear that it is easy to see the bottom with the aid of a headlamp after dark.

Things are warming up.

Add caption

Sunday, May 10, 2015


If you are ever the guy that gets a call for the "guides day off" trip and you don't are out of your ever-loving-mind.

Mr T, wanted to take a "pre-client run" and asked me to go along with him and his buddy CS.

Boy am I ever glad I am not out of my "ever-loving mind".

Sunday, May 3, 2015


I told MK to bring two rods.  One for gills with a dry and nymph dropper and one for carp and bass.
He followed directions and when we shoved off at 6:10 AM we had 4 rods in the boat.

I didn't make the mistake of motoring too close to the surface feeders in the main channel so the motor was only on for a minute or two before it was time to pole. 

And there they were. 

The carp had moved 50 feet into the main channel and were slurping down whatever it was that they slurp.  Noses and backs showing occasionally but otherwise just subtle rings in and around the flotsam.

MK, had the light rod pre-rigged with an appropriate bluegill foam spider and decided to give it a shot.

It took a number of casts but then the stars aligned.
When the carp hit, it absolutely pounded the fly.

Why a fish with an underslung mouth feeds on top is still a mystery.  Why it would pounce on a fly the way a bass does a popper is an even bigger mystery.

We'd been fishing for 30 minutes.  Pretty sweet.