Sunday, December 25, 2011

MERRY CHRISTMAS !  

   BTW, I'm planning on heading to NE IA next weekend.  It is my desire to end the year well and to start the year off right.  I will be fly fishing a couple of streams in the Driftless Area while celebrating the fact that in NE IA we have open water and can fly fish legally year-round!  Perhaps I'll see you on the water.  God bless you and yours this year.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

HFFA Annual Fly Fishing Show - 2012

UPDATE 1/4/12: Information is now posted for the show!  Please visit HFFA's website for more details:  http://www.hawkeyeflyfishing.com/
The Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association's annual fly fishing show will be held in 2012 on Feb. 17-19th.  This year's event will be held in Iowa City at the Clarion Highlander Hotel which is off of I-80's exit 246.
   Two of the featured speakers will be Brian O'Keefe and Rich Osthoff.
   I realize the show is less than 2 months away and there is very little information yet posted about the show.  However, I was also informed that a large swim meet will occur the same weekend.  So, if you think you might attend the show and you wish to stay overnight, I recommend booking a room now.
   Previous shows have featured fly fishing vendors, a multitude of bucket raffles, a casting area, and a nice array of Midwestern-born and nationally-known speakers speaking about both warm and coldwater fishing.  I will update the blog with more details and/or rumors as they become known.  I'd recommend reserving a day or two in your schedule to attend the show even if the official details of the show have been slow to appear.  I've attended the last 2 years and have found it worthwhile. 
 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Fiddler, Flies, Coffee and Friendship


   Griffith’s Gnats, Woolly Buggers, and Missy D’s were tied today to the accompaniment of fiddle, bodhran, and guitar.  3 tiers, Twitch, Dave, and Jackfish Kate, were warmed with coffee, music, and shared friendship today at Java Java Café in Davenport, IA. 

   Tossing emails to and fro earlier this week, local folk musician, Joe Nobiling and and yours truly (Twitch), shared opinions and YouTube links on artists such as the Avett Brothers, TxT, Tashina Claridge, and James Bryan.  Naturally, this evolved into comments about fly fishing and Hayward, WI.  I invited Joe & his fiddle to the coffee shop and, if he wanted, I would also help him ‘tie one on’.

   I tried not to become too hopeful, but it is always a pleasure to listen to friend Joe play the fiddle.  Well, I became positively loud and gleeful when our mutual friend John Kinser –bodhran in hand, walked in the door.  Did Christmas come early?  Not one gift but two!  Joe and his wife, Kathy, arrived soon after.  
     Following introductions between fly anglers, musicians, & Java Java owner Daron, we dabbled in talk about tying and music.  John, Joe, and Kathy were all given the opportunity to tie a fly, but they preferred to watch, then partake in what they came to do.  Both groups delved into their individual passions, but on a cold December Saturday a bridge was formed and we were able to enjoy and appreciate each other’s artistry.

   Jackfish Kate and I had arrived that morning during the ‘coffee rush hour’.  Joe and Kathy arrived as the café was quieting down, and then Jackfish and I closed the place down.  Prior to our leaving, Sam the ever-friendly barista, filled our bellies with delicious Thai chicken vegetable soup and oriental chicken wraps.  I’d only tied 4 Missy D nymphs while Jackfish had tied and then filled a small container with the tiny Griffith’s Gnats.  However, it was one of the most enjoyable ‘tie one on’ days I’ve had at the coffee shop.  I hope the others felt similarly. 

   Due to the holidays, the next possible tying day at Java Java would be Saturday, Jan 7th.  I hope my musician friends return and maybe then they will share my vise and my vice.  I’ll bring a fly rod, too.  If anyone wants to brave the cold, we can head outside for impromptu casting lessons.  Again, all are welcome to ‘tie one on’ at the coffee shop.  I’ll keep ya posted about future tying dates!  ~Twitch (Sat, Dec. 10, 2011)
  


  
  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Weekend to Tie One On at the Coffee Shop

   Jackfish Kate and I (Twitch) will once again pick up our vices, feathers and furs and head to the coffee shop for a morning/afternoon tie.  We'll be at Java Java Cafe, 836 E. River Drive, Davenport, on Saturday, Dec 10th, arriving somewhere between 930-1000am. The coffee and the people who run the place are great! There are also breakfast and lunch items for sale. AND if someone can get Darren-owner, to have enough patience and tie his first fly, I'll buy that person a cup of coffee.  Come and tie or just visit for awhile. (Pls see the newest post, "A Fiddler, Flies, Coffee & Friendship" about our fun day of tying and song-making.  More tying/music days are in the works and the dates will be posted on the blog's Home page)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Musky Guide Details Pike Prep for the Dinner Plate

   Brad Bohen, the Afton Angler, recently provided Twitch with his Pike recipe, reported as delicious by mutual friends.  Not only did the Musky guide from Hayward, WI, share his recipe, he provided a detailed and entertaining account on how he prepares the quarry for the grill or oven.  Brad heads Musky Country Outfitters & in 2009 he was bestowed the official catch and release world record for the 36-pound tippet class by the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame for his 51.25” Musky.  The fish was boated on Oct. 6, 2008, during a rare big Musky Doubles feat.  For entertainment and some good eats, check out Brad’s Pike recipe on my ‘Reel to Creel’ page.  You will also find the link to Brad’s account of his memorable record-setting catch on the same page.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Travelling the Autumn Trail for Musky ~ The WI-MN Diaries (Part 5... Oct/Nov, 2011)

TALE OF THE RABBIT, THE MUNSTER, AND A MUSKY (Oct 28-30, 2011)  

   I would’ve driven the 14-hour round-trip every weekend this fall to fly fish for Musky.  When autumn arrived and plans were made, something unexpected would occur and the trip would be cancelled… again and again.  I gotta tell ya, this fly angler had needs which weren’t being met.  I got so desperate I was willing to pay for some hard-core, all-day action, but the services were denied me (jeez, I’m happy this is fishing we’re talking about!) .  Actually, the Musky guides were already booked.

   Finally, the probability of trips for the weekend prior to Halloween and the first weekend of November began to look brighter, but I remained skeptical until actually on the road.  WI-bound!  The weeks of frustration were coming to an end. 

   Last year’s goals for this year were to land a Musky outside of Wisconsin and outside of fall –which I just realized is my favorite fishing season.  Another goal was to watch Mike, a friend of mine, land his first Musky.  While I’d be thrilled to land hundreds of Musky in the great state of Wisconsin, I also fish MN, IL, and IA waterways.  My goals hadn’t been unreasonable.  However, by late September goals were altered to simply being able to fish for the toothy critters a couple of times.  Also, Mike had put aside the bulk of the fall season’s fly fishing for his other passion, falconry.  When plans did come together it was late fall and we were back around Hayward, Wisconsin.  After watching those around me boat the fat, toothy critters, I happily changed goals again to simply being able to land a Musky outside of the WI waterway in which I’ve landed all my Musky.  And then yes, this one goal also changed…

   During the whirlwind pre-Halloween weekend, I spent a 14-hour round-trip on the road listening to books on cd.  Then, with friend and Arrowhead Fly Angler guide Ouitdee Carson, we sandwiched in a Saturday of fly fishing followed with a night’s entertainment at the Musky Ball.  On that pretty fall day, Ouitdee and I put-in at Crowley Dam and we fished the Flambeau River.  It was cool to watch my buddy pull his pontoon down along a steep, staired path most other boat-owners could not follow.  I got to fish immediately below the dam but my intermediate line simply didn’t cut it in deeper, fast-current waters.  Next, I rowed downriver while my friend painted water with a new, perch-colored ‘Supercharger’ fly.  Within 15 minutes we boated a Pike and a few casts later, he landed the only Musky of the trip.  It was hooked in fast-current, shallow water but at the tail of a deeper seam.   As usual, we fished later than planned and finished by trailering the pontoon in the dark.  That night, we learned from other anglers that even a Musky follow that day had been hard to come by.  My buddy had done well. 

   Quickly, we cleaned up, tried to wake up, and then headed to Boulder Lodge for Musky guide Brad Bohen’s Musky Ball.  My friend wore casual attire while I dressed as a Musky Fly, complete with bug eyes and a hook.  The night was made up of food, friends, music, beer, and a tad of moonshine.  Not having seen Brad all year, I gave him a hug and accidentally poked his –oops!- with the ‘hook’ protruding from my costumed belly.  Sorry Brad.  During the evening, we watched a tall white rabbit do the smooth groove on the dance floor & noted that ‘Eddie Munster’ could simply replace his pointy ears with a guitar and be mistaken for AC/DC’s Angus Young.  We were also drawn outside to a campfire set in a circle of pines and listened to a bearded Scottish fly angler tell his riddles. 

   The following morning, my friend headed back home to his family, I explored some Hayward area waterways, and then made the long trek home, recalling the new memories and grateful for the chance to make and share them.  


2-DAY SERVINGS OF MUSKY ON A MULTI-SPECIES ROADTRIP (Nov 4-8, 2011)

   Late Friday I was back at Boulder Lodge, outside of Hayward, WI.  I spent a night which would ensure me not to sleep in –I car-camped.  Saturday morning I drove to meet buddy Ouitdee at the Spider Lake Café, which is the point of where this fish tale begins.  Let’s summarize:  On Friday, Ouitdee fished Chequamegon Bay for Smallies.  On Monday, Doug, another fly angler from Duluth, and me went to the Brule River in search of Steelhead.  Ouitdee was already there.  The MN-WI guide was enjoying his 100th day this year of fishing.  By Tuesday, we were all either home or… ahem… bound for home.  However, Saturday and Sunday were all about Musky and those who love to chase them.

   The weekend weather predictors proclaimed clouds and wind, & this was true, except Sunday was more windy than expected.  Ouitdee and I debated which water to fish Saturday and if we should chance different put-in and take-out spots for the pontoon should the wind get out of hand.  We decided on a ‘safer bet’, electing to meet at the café for breakfast, then fish a single area of the West Fork of the Chippewa River.  As soon as we met at the café, plans changed and we headed off for new waters, bigger fish, and the fun of fishing with MCO Musky guide Brian Porter and his friend Chris Willen.

   Porter and I manned the oars while Chris and Ouitdee wetted flies.  Soon, Chris was yelling.  Each boat was rowed to shore and soon a 40” fat Musky was nestled in a cradle.  Porter directed the landing of the toothy fish, ensuring it had very little out-of-water time and that it was handled carefully while pictures were taken.  I was impressed by the thick-bodied fish and the guide.  During the course of the day, Chris landed 2 Musky, Ouitdee brought one to shore where it threw the hook just shy of being cradled, and Porter, who rowed more than he fished, capped the day by landing another thick-bodied lady that was 44” in length.

   The wind seemed to get brutal each time I rowed.  I was thinking of this when my friend voiced the same thing, somehow allowing me to feel better about the situation.  In retrospect, I guess I’d rather have the wind kick up when rowing than when casting with a fly tied on a 5/0 hook.  However, on the homestretch of the trip, Ouitdee rowed and the wind kicked up again, this time giving very little mercy to my friend, and to Chris in the other boat.  At this time, I was using Chris’s rod; a 10 wt Loomis which seemed more like a 12 wt, with 500 grain sinking line and the largest profile, articulated fly I’ve ever seen.  The wind and the large fly necessitated increased attention paid to the timing of my casts.  While I left the water that day the only angler without the sweet stink of Musky on her hands, we all left the water with body parts intact (aside from Chris, who was surprised to find his hand bleeding after one of his Musky encounters) & a desire to hit the water again tomorrow. 

   Chris and Porter stayed overnight at a friend’s cabin.  Porter later told me, “We got one little musky and some pike that Sunday, saw a couple others and lost a decent musky“.  Saturday was THE DAY to be on that stretch of water & I’m still pumped to have had the opportunity to fish it & to see those well-fed ladies.

   Meanwhile, Ouitdee and I headed back toward Hayward.  Along the way, I silently changed (again) my Musky goal for the year, and suggested to my buddy where we should fish on Sunday.  It was the West Fork of the Chippewa.  It was the last day that we would fish together in 2011 for Musky.  It was also –I hoped- the last day I had to tote a bottle of ‘Mosquito Wine’ onto his pontoon.

   During the previous trip, I’d scouted out our potential put-in at the West Fork and the then-current water-level.  The season had been dry but while the water was as low as I’d ever seen it, I thought it remained very fishable.  As re-enforcement of this, I watched at a distance as two men in a drift boat landed a fish.   

   So, on that November Sunday, after a Spider Lake Café breakfast, we went in search of West Fork Musky.  Ouitdee hit the oars first.  It was windy and chilly.  I had my West Fork ‘Hang Time’ fly on the line and asked my friend to keep the boat in a particular stretch of water.  Soon after I had my first Musky of the year!  It was a ‘micro Musky’ but nonetheless, my revamped goal of simply landing a Musky this year –even on the water where I’ve landed all my Musky- was met.  The Musky was released and I took the oars.  Within 4 casts, Ouitdee landed another Musky in the same stretch of water!  We traded on the oars, conquered the wind –again and again- anchored and fished together, and then finally my buddy hooked another fish!  I was rowing and could see it was large for the water in which it lived.  Ouitdee reported it to be about 40” and was ‘ugly’ & scarred.  While rowing to shallow water and excitedly looking forward to seeing this ‘ugly’ toothy critter, it threw the hook.  I was not happy, but my wise friend, who always seems to be happy, remained unfazed.

   The wind continued to challenge our boat, but we continued on.  We explored skinnier water and Ouitdee had another ‘micro Musky’ try for his fly.  My friend then took the oars and we started to head back.  He rowed back through a narrow stretch of water and Ouitdee pointed out a weed edge, asking me if I saw the small opening.  I told him yes and he asked me to cast to that opening.  I double-hauled and my fly, a modified Supercharger in reds, yellow and black, hit the opening.  Two strips later, I gave two very hard strip-sets to ensure that the Musky that hit my fly remained attached to that hook.  It wasn’t huge and it wasn’t fat, but it sure could fight.  I put the fighting butt in my gut and did not give any slack while Ouitdee rowed to the shallows.  I saw the fly at the corner of the fish’s mouth while Ouitdee clamped the Fish Grip on its jaw.  At that point the Musky again began to fight, tossing the fly, but the fish remained ours to photograph and to release. As we neared the landing, I attempted to use all my senses to feel and to remember the weekend.  At one point the sun lit the trees and water and all seemed to glow with a golden hue.   
   Well, reader, you’ve read how I whittled down my Musky goals and, in the end, how the Musky I finally landed lived in the same waters in which I’ve landed all my Musky.  Perhaps you think I might be disappointed?  On Columbus Day, 2009, I fished for Musky for the 1st time.  It was on the West Fork.  It was 32* & light snows made land & trees appear lace-covered.  The guide worked hard to put me on fish but they simply were not feeding.  Yet, I still remember it to be one of the most satisfying days I’ve ever had on the water.  Since then, whenever I’ve been on that water, I’ve landed Musky.  Ouitdee is a guide and has fly fished since he has been a child.  Prior to Sunday, he’d never fished the West Fork and it is always my thrill to provide him with the rare, new fly fishing experience.  I can’t imagine ever landing a ‘trophy-sized’ fish out of this water, but one at least has a good chance at a ‘micro Musky’.  We did more than that.  And on that Sunday I accomplished another goal of getting Musky ‘doubles’ with my friend and mentor.  It was for this reason I’d been carting around a bottle of wine on all of our Musky trips.  And, near the end of the day when the sun was ready to set with a golden hue on our season’s Musky adventures, WE also landed that single, final fish.  It was a fish which wouldn’t have been landed or even hooked without both anglers helping each other, carrying out specific roles and communicating well.  Yes, we celebrated doubles and goals met, but in the end we really celebrated life and a strong friendship.    

   So, readers and fellow fly anglers, I wish you tight lines and even tighter friendships!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Anger Meets Ignorance on the Brule ~ The WI-MN Diaries (Part 4, Nov 7, 2011)

   With a smile, I greeted the landowner who had called out to me, expecting a ‘how is the fishing going?’ type of question.  Oh no, this guy was mad. 
   Doug and I had headed out from Duluth, MN, the morning of Nov. 7, 2011, to the Bois Brule River in Wisconsin.  For me, it was day 3 of fly fishing.  2 days of Musky followed by a final day of hunting for ‘Steel’ on a great river.  I dig multi-species trips & Doug loves to fly fish for Steelhead.  I was happy to be fishing with him.
   At the Red Gait parking lot, I saw buddy OC’s Yota.  Soon after, we found him at Howenstein Hole.  We talked and he told us what to expect upstream, including that when we got to the state park sign it would be private property & we would have to stay off the land but could still wade.  We thanked him and headed off to find holes of our own to fish. 
   We fished, crossed the river a couple of times , discovered one hole which had a huge blanket-topped picnic table bordering its shore, and near another hole I re-discovered an old enamel stove I came across last year when fishing with OC.  My guide friend has fished these waters with clients & is very respectful of others & the law, so I knew this hole to be accessible to the public.
   After rounding a couple more bends in the river, I discovered a property with a richly-colored golden-brown cabin on it and a vehicle in the drive.  It looked peaceful and it was here I discovered the private property signs posted on its neatly-trimmed border.  So, I backed up and left the trail staying 20’ clear of the posted property and respectfully staying out of eyeshot.  Despite the friendly IL neighborhood where I live, I still like the opportunity for privacy on my tiny property but find it difficult unless I remain indoors.  It is easy to appreciate another’s desire for privacy.
   Doug soon came by, he crossed the opposite riverbank, and we fished a hole large enough for two.  No fish.  We elected to head back for a late lunch.  I returned to the trail and it was here we met the ‘Angry Landowner’.  He informed us that as ‘sportsmen’ we were to respect the rights of the property owners.  I assured him that we saw his signs and had not crossed on to his property.  He told us his property extended beyond the signs to the ‘pipeline’ and he was not required to post signs but as ‘sportsmen’ we should be aware of the rules and not be disrespectful of the property owners.  He threatened us with law enforcement and fines unless we left his property.  He asked us, ‘would we want him on our property?’  Doug replied that currently, he’d say no.  We assured him we had been leaving and would continue on.  Doug asked how far the pipeline was. Landowner replied it was obvious.  Becoming angrier, he ordered us off of the trail and into the water, advancing toward Doug.  Doug told him to back off and we waded downstream.  Angry Landowner followed on the trail for a short time.
   Back at the Red Gait parking lot, which is where the pipeline and the trail to the river are located, we again met up with OC.  He was finishing off a beer left-over from our previous 2-day Musky trip. Dang!  I thought that beer was in my CRV.  No fish, angry landowner, and no beer for lunch.  What a day.
   We ate and told our tale to OC.  We realized we’d never seen a state park sign and it was still very unclear where the landowner’s property ended and state property began.  With no more than 1.5 hours of fishing daylight left, OC told us we could head back down the trail toward the Sauna Hole.  However, he cautioned us that part of the trail was again on private property (posted) but as long as we remained on the trail, the landowner didn’t mind others accessing the property.  When we came across the signs and entered the property, I admit to being a bit anxious.  However, I trust my friend and continued on.  The recommended hole was already being fished.  We found a nearby hole.  Near dark, we returned to the first hole and Doug and I again shared it.  The inside shore of the hole was banked by the trail and the owner’s very cheerful-looking sauna.  Now bankside, Doug watched me fish as the remaining sunlight was replaced by moonlight.  Another angler began to fish upstream of me.  Doug and he conversed.  As I left the water, the other angler moved on.  Doug told me the angler was also the property-owner.  I wish now that I hadn’t been so involved in fishing to stop and say hello.  I certainly would’ve thanked him for allowing us to share this section of the Brule River with him. 
   Overall, I believe both Doug and I would claim to have had a good day of fishing on the Brule, although we neither caught nor hooked any fish.  I’d also claim we experienced some ‘adventure and education’ on the Brule, again not due to any appearance of fish. 
   I learned that I need to have more knowledge of the waterways I fish.  While I wouldn’t recommend the Angry Landowner’s approach, he did further my education on the matter, so I appreciate crossing his path.  Other than employing a psychic or a land surveyor during fishing trips, I’m still clueless how to know when un-posted land is private property but I intend to learn more. (If something clear-cut presents itself, I will add it to the end of this post.)
   I think many people would label the ‘Angry Landowner’ a jerk or worse, and consider the ‘Happy Landowner’ to be a great guy.  I simply think of the Angry Landowner as, well, angry and very frustrated.  I feel badly for the guy.  I imagine he put down a large chunk of dough to buy his riverside retreat; a place to escape.  Perhaps all he wanted was a place in which he could leave civilization behind.  Alas, he bought property on the Brule, a river well-known for its Trout and Steelhead fishing.  No more can he stop the 2-legged human animal from entering this rich land than birds, bear, and deer.  A few will knowingly trespass and, I believe, many others -like me- who are ignorant, will accidentally cross his property lines.  This man, who paid a high price for property and peace will never truly get the peace he wants.
   I imagined to myself, what if Angry Landowner grilled brats outdoors on occasion and invited the stray angler over for a meal?  How many people from how many places would he meet and how many stories would he hear?  Or what if he just conversed with those crossing his land and wished them well?  I do know he would receive true ‘respect’ and while he would still find others on his property, responsible anglers would help ensure his property was cared for and avoided by the irresponsible few. 
   I believe both the Angry Landowner and the Happy Landowner deserve respect for their property rights.  The Happy Landowner, and those like him, are also deserving of kindness and gratitude from those who are allowed to enter their land.  But to answer the Angry Landowner’s question:  Yes, I would let him enter my property.  If I should ever realize my dream of owning a cabin with a little boat on a fish-filled waterway in which I give keys to all those who have offered me kindness and instruction in my fly fishing journey, I would give the Angry Landowner a key.  Indirectly he did teach me about fishing. But more importantly, I wish this man more experience in feeling the kindness of others.   
   The morals to my tale:  1) Learn the rules of the waterway.  2) If you should err and meet this angry man or another like him, tell him he is right and give him your kindness and understanding no matter what he expresses to you.  Returning a river of anger creates a dam; little penetrates either side but bad things spill over.  Continued streams of kindness may alter the course of the river.  Take the high road.  You may be sent below the trail to wade in the river, but the river is beautiful and only you can remove yourself from the high road.      

Thursday, September 22, 2011

FALL MUSKY PREVIEW - The Anglers' Report 2011

   Predictions are in for the ‘Fall Bite’ by those hot on the Musky trail!  While I can’t say I received the well-rounded Midwestern fly angling responses that I’d hoped for, I received great responses from N. Wisco anglers and from a Minnesota guide.  I’ve even included a report from a non-fly angler & wish I had time to hunt down a couple more.  
   Now on to business.  I posted the fly anglers’ responses below from northern to southern regions & by state.  To keep them as timely as possible, I would’ve liked to have posted responses as soon as I’d received them.  However, I felt it wise to post all responses at the same time.  Predictions for a good fall feedbag were generally high, but the early season fishing success was quite variable.  Why?  I dunno; too many variables & not enough responses to even make a good guess.  However, I’ll make a bad guess and say that regional weather took a big slice out of my fish pie.  My warm water fishing this year bit…& it was almost the only thing that did bite.  Even the Smallies frequently snubbed my flies & the closer to home (further south) I fished the less time I spent with a bent-over rod. 
   I hope you take a gander at the responses below & let the anglers get you powered up to hop on the Musky Trail for the big ‘Fall Bite’!  While you’re at it, check out the anglers’ websites to learn a little more about where and how to fish for Musky.  I wish everyone fun & successful fishing.  I know that when the opportunity strikes I’ll be hitting the water every chance I get!  (Posted 9/22/11. Thanks anglers! ~Twitch)

Brad Bohen (www.muskycountryoutfitters.com)
   Brad heads up Musky Country Outfitters in Northern Wisconsin.  He spends May through November getting fishy on the flowages, lakes and rivers of the Hayward Lakes Area.  Brad is a full-time guide, angler, and fly fishing educator who believes that MCO & its guides provide anglers ‘a professionally hosted fly fishing experience second to none’.  Brad & MCO offer  3-day Musky fly fishing classes throughout much of the fishing season.

Bill Sherer (www.wetieit.com)
   Bill and his wife, Dawn, own and operate the We Tie It Fly Shop in Boulder Junction, WI.  Through his ‘Northern Adventures Guide Service’, Bill guides fly anglers across N. Wisconsin, especially for Muskies.  Bill also teaches fly tying and fly fishing classes, and he designs flies for various manufacturers.




Pat Ehlers (www.theflyfishers.com)
      Pat is the owner of The Fly Fishers Inc., Milwaukee, WI.  Pat has taught fly casting and fly tying classes & has been a speaker and instructor at shows & seminars throughout the U.S.  Pat’s other pursuits include the development, for warm water fishing, of a line of fly rods, & a series of fly lines(for Bass and Musky). He is a contract/royalty fly tier & is a writer for various fly fishing media outlets.

   Kip heads up Wildwood Float Trips, based out of Monticello, MN. He is a full-time fly fishing guide. Much of Wildwood’s guided fishing occurs on Minnesota’s Upper Mississippi, St.Croix, Rum, Kettle, and St. Louis Rivers. Kip also holds seminars at most of the major shows and offers tying and casting classes. In October, Kip plans to host a 3-day, 3-river, Minnesota Musky Tour.  



Steve Ruhmann (flatlanderschapter.com)
   Steve is the president of the Flatlanders Chapter of Muskies, Inc.  He has been fishing for Muskies for 14 years & primarily uses baitcasting equipment.  He strictly fishes for Muskies most of the open water season.  Wisconsin areas fished include Lake of the Woods, otherwise he’ll be fishing every weekend at either Madison Chain of Lakes, or waterways in Polk, Vilas or Oneida counties. He landed his personal best 50” Musky this August.



1) WHAT HAS THE MIDWESTERN MUSKY FISHING BEEN LIKE THIS YEAR; A TYPICAL YEAR, BETTER OR SLOWER THAN USUAL, OR ??

[BRAD]  At Musky Country Outfitters we have experienced an exceptional spring and summer as far as musky on the fly has gone in 2011.  We have had to work for the fish at times...but have been consistently bringing both numbers and quality fish to hand.  If this trend continues as expected MCO will shatter its best season ever (2010) with the number of boated musky on a fly.  Typically this musky on the fly season has been challenging and rewarding for both the MCO guide staff and our clients.  I'd rate the 2011 spring/summer as a bit above average.

[BILL]  In the past 15 years I have averaged between 150 and 200 muskies per year, my lightest year was 145, the most I ever boated was 192, so if I continue on the trend I am on now, I should get very close to or exceed my best years...  I had an exceptional year for all species of fish this year, but then I fish a much larger geographic region than most anglers do.  We had the best Walleye bite I have experienced in quite some time this spring, the trophy trout fishing extended even into late June, then we had exceptional Smallmouth Bass fishing all the way through August, I had one of the best Pike years I have had in a long time, and from late spring to present I have experienced some excellent Musky fishing, all of this fishing is on the fly of course.  We had some slow times during high water or cold front times, but these typically only lasted for a couple of days and were not really a factor in my overall fishing success this season.

[PAT]  River muskies have been pretty good to us this summer. I filmed a show, LL Bean's Guide to the Outdoors with Tim Rajeff this past July. We had 3 days to film and were affected by a major front going through, 98 to 78 degrees in an hour and it messed up our smallmouth fishing some. We were able to pick the river apart and get some good film. On the third day I took us to a river with muskies to try and hit a home run on the last day and Tim caught one around 30" for the camera. It really enhanced the shoot. So we've been able to catch a few this year when we have gone out.

[KIP]  I think this summer has been slower than I would have hoped.  I think that it had everything to do with unstable weather patterns throughout the summer and the extremely high water that we had a good portion of the summer.  I don't think the fish could settle into the happy spots and eat like we want them to…I was happy just to dial in some Smallmouth for most of the summer.

[STEVE]  Fishing has been very streaky this year with smaller windows.  One day they are on and then the next day with what would be ideal conditions you can’t even buy a follow. 

2) DO YOU FEEL THIS YEAR'S SPRING AND SUMMER WEATHER WILL HAVE ANY EFFECT ON THE UPCOMING FALL BITE?

[BRAD]  Yes this exceptional spring and summer have set up the autumn to have big, healthy and feisty predator fish.  Great forage producing conditions such as we have been experiencing this season stack the deck in the favor of great autumn conditions as far as fish health and vigor are concerned.

[BILL]  We are definitely drier than last year, especially since early August, which changed the way I approached my Musky fishing late in the Summer and into this early Fall.  ..I think we started into a fall pattern earlier than normal on the rivers I fish, since mid-August the fish have definitely changed their feeding patterns - this is probably due to the change of season and the low water conditions we are experiencing.
   Most of the regional rivers are very low due to the slight rainfall we have had recently, low water means clear water, and the fish are taking very bright flies right now.  In the past month I have been exclusively using a 4/0 Perch colored Figure-8 and catching lots of Muskies.  When I change flies to a Sucker or Smallie color, I can't even get a follow, but when I change back to the Perch, the fish jump all over it!  I believe the fish will stay on this pattern until we get some significant rainfall and the water gets higher and cloudier, then they will immediately switch over to the Sucker colors, they may switch without the rain if we get significantly colder conditions, but usually that coincides with some decent fall rains.

[PAT]  I don't think the weather this year will have any effect on the fishing this fall. I think it will depend on the weather that we get in the next 2 months.

[KIP]  I think the weather will have an effect on the fish this fall; how can it not? 

[STEVE]  The heat of this summer made the fishing very tough.  As things cooled down towards the end of August, the fishing improved.


3) WHAT ARE YOUR PREDICTIONS FOR THIS SEASON'S FALL BITE?!

[BRAD]  It's silly in my mind to predict something like this.  The best advice I can give is to get out there and give it a whirl whenever you can.  An old time musky guide once told me...They are all good...some are just better than others.  (I took it to mean days on the water;)  Fall is always Prime Time...as for this fall...I'll predict it for you in December after I have a better handle on it!

[BILL]  Currently I have 109 Muskies in the boat for this season and I don't see that letting up anytime soon; the "Fall Bite" is already on as far as I'm concerned.  With a little luck and stable weather conditions we may have the best extended fall Musky bite we have seen in recent memory - let's hope so!
   (Excerpt from update on 9/23/11:  Get to the Northwoods asap, this ride won’t last forever, but it will be great for the next few weeks - hopefully through the middle of November!
   Currently we have 126 Muskies in the boat for this season and the best is yet to come, we saw 24 and put 10 in the boat in the past 2 days!  Go out and get em')

[PAT]  I don’t see why we won’t have good fall fishing.  Once that cold weather hits the apex predators start to eat and I think this year will be the same as long as there’s no weather curveballs thrown at us.

[KIP]  Things are finally settling in and this should set up for a very good fall bite.  If the weather and the flows on the bigger rivers that I concentrate on remain for the most part steady things should be good.  Now that the water is low, the fish should begin to concentrate in the deeper water and when that water temp begins to really drop the alarms should go off for them.  Musky are somewhat a creature of habit (when they’re not acting like moody muskies) and once they're happier and more content they should begin the fall feedbag.  Muskies are a lot like kids, they don't like when their surroundings change.  Let's hope the fall is steady as she goes and they get happy. 
  Good luck to all fall musky hunters it should be if nothing else, interesting.

[STEVE]  I think the fall bite is going to rock.   Too many inconsistencies throughout the spring and summer should have these fish rev'ed up this fall...... I hope.   

Thursday, September 8, 2011

THE CALM BEFORE THE BITE ~ The WI-MN Diaries (Part 3, Sept 3-4, 2011)

 IN PURSUIT OF MIDWESTERN MUSKY   
   Prime Musky season is quickly approaching.  The sun is warm but the wind is crisp and delightful.  The green of the trees and weeds are just past their prime.  The grass no longer grows at a lawnmower-burn-out pace.  Fall is nearly here & two nights past, I dreamt of Musky follows. 
   In honor of Labor Day weekend, a good buddy and I worked-out our casting arms with 10wts on Wisconsin’s Flambeau and Chippewa Rivers.  On Saturday, we’d planned the Flambeau float with a mid-afternoon stoppage for meals and rest.  Then, back to Musky water before dusk, to allow our eyes & other senses to adjust to the waning light, while continuing to fly fish into the night.  However, too little discipline (or too much passion) birthed 12-hours of casting and rowing, accompanied by fatigue and empty bellies.  Soon it was 830pm, darkening, with a waning moon and only one small light to guide our casting, rowing, fly changing… potential fish landing.  Dang!  Our fun and earnest hunt for the apex predator kept us from realistically and smartly exploring these creatures’ night-time habits.  We headed back to camp after loading the pontoon on the trailer.  I truly hope for another post-afternoon opportunity.  24-hrs on the fly/night fishing for Musky is on my bucket list, for good or bad, sane or crazy reasons. 
   Did I mention my buddy landed a Musky?  It was small enough that he didn’t want a photo to commemorate his first WI Musky on the fly.  However, I noted he sat back in the pontoon with a satisfied look about himself and his primary focus then appeared to be setting me up on good Musky water.  Now that’s a mighty fine friend.  He also fished successfully with an 8wt landing Smallies.  I kept to the 10wt and ended up dry, as far as Muskies go.
   Sunday greeted us with rain and a late start.   Throughout the day, the skies would cloud over and it would rain.  Then, after an indeterminate amount of time wearing hood-covered hats, we’d look up from our fishing and note the skies were blue yet again.  Hoods on, hoods off.  We’d also broken out the waders; another sure sign fall was on the way.  All in all, however, it was a lovely day. 
   No Muskies landed on Sunday.  However, at the start of the float, in deep, fast water I had a ~40” Musky follow my fly.  Figure 8 but no take.  Yet, the line was shooting out beautifully, the fly was hitting the targets, & I had a follow.  I was stoked!  The only fish landed Sunday on the Chippewa was a Smallie on a Musky fly.  We tried a variety of flies, but the Musky, the Musky follow, and the little Smallie with a Musky appetite all came on the ‘Supercharger’.  This fly is a Jared Ehlers creation; a quick tie which presents with a large profile and excellent action in the water along with a nice ease of casting.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JN8G64gHU4c .  The photo shown is a Supercharger but with an added orange marabou collar.
   The weather patterns varied throughout the weekend so how did that really affect the fishing?  After our final day of Musky hunting, we stopped in at Wannigan’s in the town of Winter for broasted chicken.  Greg, the owner whose business is next to a popular take-out spot on the Chip, told us that the fishing seemed to have been slow this year, attributing it to the hot summer temps.  So I’ve been wondering, what has Midwestern Musky fishing really been like this year; a typical year, slower than usual, or ???  And, will this year's spring and summer weather have any effect on the upcoming Fall Bite?
   I’ve decided to take these questions to the folks who have been fishing for Musky as much as I wish I could.  I’ve e-mailed Midwestern Musky guides, and also fly shop owners who cater to those who crave the pursuit of toothy critters.  Of course, the hope is for a good response.  (UPDATE:  The Fall Preview post, including the anglers' responses, is posted on my general posting (or Home) page. It will remain there until the end of November.  After that time, I will move it to the 'Featured Article' page. -Thanks, Twitch. 9/22/11)

   As for my predictions:  I believe the Musky Bite was slow this season & that their prey did not flourish due to the same suboptimal weather conditions.  If so, the Musky were able to feed adequately, but their typical body mass for this time of year is on the low side of normal.  With that in mind, Esox will have enough stored energy to aggressively pursue their forage base and will do so.  They will instinctively understanding the need to play catch-up in order to have the stored energy reserves available to survive the winter and be ready to spawn in spring.  To get to the point, I predict the Musky will behave like dogs left alone in meat markets and the fly angler will simply need to locate those markets.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

IA DNR & AWARE Volunteers Clean Up Waterways (...Trash Talk continued)

*JULY 7-14 were the dates for the 2012 AWARE clean-up of the Iowa River. Please see the 2012 post for results:  http://strip-n-twitch.blogspot.com/2012/07/this-year-participants-in-iowa-dnrs_19.html *

    On July 9-16, 2011, the Iowa DNR again backed up its trash talk with action.  The DNR’s Project AWARE volunteer river clean-up of the Little Turkey, Turkey, and Volga Rivers netted 64,722lbs of garbage.  That is the equivalent of 32.36 tons, or nearly the weight of 18.5 new 4WD Honda CR-V LX SUV’s, being removed by volunteers and their canoes! 
   This year, 429 volunteers participated in the clean-up.  An average of 152 volunteers participated each day with 273 being new to AWARE this year and 61 having participated for 5 or more years.  Of the total amount of trash collected by these volunteers, 96% was recycled.  Scrap metal, then tires (611), composed the greatest weight of recyclables, and 335lbs of redeemable cans/bottles (cha-ching!) were found.   
   Participants ranged from aged 2 to 76.  An Indiana father/daughter team participated and a father from Cedar Rapids, IA., had sons from Illinois, Colorado, and Oregon join him on the hunt for garbage.
    When asked what the most unusual piece of trash removed from a river was, Brian Soenen, Project AWARE Coordinator replied, “While I don’t recall anything being incredibly unique, volunteers found quite a few wooden-spoked wagon wheels and an insane number of large implement tires.  The great news is that most of the trash was ‘old’ junk…been there a long time and has now been forever removed.”
Photo Caption Information:
   #1:  On day 1, Nick Gaeta, Cedar Rapids, IA, transports trash through Gouldsburg Park on the Little Turkey River, following a 'pre-cleanup' of nearby Crane Creek. Gaeta has participated in all but the 1st year of the Project AWARE clean-ups.  #2:  While at least 5 paddlers had already spent a good portion of this day plucking trash on a 'pre-cleanup' of Crane Creek, most volunteers set up camp at Gouldsburg Park, Hawkeye, IA, & enjoy the day's outdoor festivities. The confluence of Crane Creek and the Little Turkey River is located at the park.  #3:  KJ Rebarcak, Long Grove, IA, left, and 'Dutch Oven' Dave Brown, Springfield, MO, transport trash through the Little Turkey River on the first day of this year’s Project AWARE river clean-up.  The trash was actually removed from nearby Crane Creek.   
 #4:  Members of the Dubuque Fly Fishers and the Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association were asked to volunteer their time and present a hands-on fly casting clinic.  Approximately 8 fly anglers participated.  Project AWARE volunteer Rose Danaher, Homestead, IA, (pictured) receives a fly casting lesson from Kate Lodge, a member of both clubs, & a Geneseo, IL, resident. 
   For more information about Project AWARE (A Watershed Awareness River Expedition), & methods of participating in the clean-up of Iowa waterways, please visit this link:   http://www.iowadnr.gov/Recreation/CanoeingKayaking/ProjectAWARE.aspx .   And, please e-mail me your 'trash talk'!  If you pick up trash from waterways or want to share how you have changed your own habits of trash disposal while on waterways, if you want to comment about how waterways have improved over the years, or if you want to report about what you most commonly find in and along waterways, email me about it or send me a picture.  I'd like to increase the attention paid to the maintenance and appreciation of our waterways.  ~Twitch