Sunday, November 24, 2013

Iowa's First Casting for Recovery Retreat for Women Who Have Had Breast Cancer

   Iowa’s first “Casting for Recovery” retreat was held on October 11-13, 2013.  Women with breast cancer & survivors attended seminars, counseling sessions, an entomology class, fly casting & knot tying classes, were treated to good food, and finally, enjoyed a few hours of fly fishing with a “river buddy”.  The retreat was held in Decorah, a small, scenic town in Northeast Iowa, and the attendees fished the clear, spring-fed water of Trout Run.

   Women, who must be Iowa residents, signed up to attend the no-cost retreat and 14 were randomly chosen to participate.  Volunteers included social workers, other health care workers, fly fishing instructors and fly anglers.  On the final day, the ladies were paired up with a River Buddy to stream fish for trout.  Afterward, the ladies and the volunteers were treated to a luncheon.

   For the retreat, the women were provided with everything they needed to fish, including a fly rod, waders, vest, tippet materials and flies.  I’ve been told that at least a couple of the women have since purchased their own fly rods & plan to continue fly fishing.  Of course those who caught fish were thrilled to do so and others also said they enjoyed the peace of listening to and being on the water.

   For more information about Casting for Recovery in Iowa or in another state, including how to sign up, how to volunteer or where to send donations, see the link below.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

144 steps Lead to Fun at Bueter's Michigan Salmon Camp

   Salmon Camp, a fly fishing only camp, has been luring anglers to Michigan for years during 1 or 2 consecutive, long weekends from late September into early October.  Anglers fish the Pere Marquette River, & primarily target king (AKA Chinook, tyee, Pacific) salmon.  John and Rhonda Bueter are hosts of Salmon Camp and proprietors of Cloud 9 Resort, located in Baldwin, MI.  The actual camp, located at 3200 S. James Rd, is about 1 mile from the resort with most anglers electing to camp on the grounds and some renting cabins back at the resort. 
   This post was written to help the angler plan for and know what to expect at Salmon Camp.  It is a blast!  John’s mantra is, “This is too much fun to keep to ourselves!” To get a better idea of the social aspect of Bueter’s camp, please see my post from fall, 2012.         
The People
  Friendly folks from all walks of life attend Salmon Camp.  Generally anglers, & some spouses and older children attend.  Seasoned fly fishers and first-time anglers are welcome at camp.  4-footed friends must remain at home.

On Land
   The camp itself is home to the 24-hour campfire – the place of tales, toasts, and occasional late night/early morning antics. Mostly tents and a few campers dot the property.  In the large trailer where most food prep occurs, ladies have access to the bathroom with a shower.  Men have access to a shower house.  Running along an exterior wall of the shower house, there is a communal spot to hang waders.  There are port-a-potties on site. 
   Generally, 2 meals are provided:  a large, Friday evening supper and a big Saturday breakfast, both supplied by Rhonda and her crew.  Coffee and leftovers are the norm as well.  The option to purchase a large supper for Saturday is frequently offered.  Under the large, covered outdoor area, hosts welcome anglers, tales are told, meals are enjoyed, flies are tied and John provides lessons in knot tying and leader set-up.  John also coaches those new to salmon fishing and/or fly fishing on how to set the hook and fight a salmon.  He explains yearly why the bulk of Salmon Campers head to the Pere Marquette River at night instead of in the day to fish.
   Late afternoon or early evening, plans are made for the night’s fishing.  Carpools are the norm since parking is limited at the fishing accesses in the Huron-Manistee National Forest and those parking in a non-designated area risk a fine.  There is a use fee for parking.  One should always inquire about transportation, but John, his helpers, or those who return annually to Salmon Camp help ensure that “newbies” have a ride to the river & are prepared for the first trip to the water.

  People come and go throughout the days and nights at Salmon Camp.  All Bueter-led fishing trips are made at night, with folks usually leaving camp between 9 and 10 pm.  Most return to camp between 1 and 230 am.  Some venture out in smaller groups in the day or early evening, and a few leave late at night to return at dawn. The river is especially pretty in the fall & I recommend one visit to it in the daytime.
   There are at least 3 fishing stores, including Baldwin Bait and Tackle (BBT), all on highway M-37 in Baldwin, where fly fishing supplies & fishing licenses can be purchased.  To buy a license, one must also buy the $1 DNR Sportcard. The latter does not expire and can be a 1-time purchase if the angler presents it each time a license is bought. If you are purchasing a 1 or 3 day license, tell the merchant what time you want the license to go into effect to ensure you can fish as much as possible.  For a very good meal, the folks at BBT were spot-on to recommend “Barski’s”, also located on M-37, close to Salmon Camp,

At the Water
   As anglers walk the river trail, sudden, loud splashes made by salmon emanate from the river & through the darkness.  Tucked inside the periphery of the bobbing light of headlamps, angler excitement builds and the desire to enter the dark water & do battle with the scaled adversaries grows. 
   Salmon Camp fishing officially takes place at night on the “flies only”, catch and release section of the Pere Marquette River.  Access is at “Claybanks” & here, what goes down must come up!  There are 144 wooden steps (and the historic salmon slide) that lead down to the water.  Anglers then hike along both public and private land and respect for the shore and water is enforced by John.  Nets may also be used to haul out a smattering of trash left by others who, evidently, still need a mama.  An LED lamp per group is generally left hanging from a tree to mark where tackle, rod tubes & backpacks are left on the bank.  Most anglers string up their rods at the riverbank.
The Fish
  Target the males and try not to disturb egg-laden females or their redds.  During this year’s final Salmon Camp, I heard that a 32# king salmon was landed.  Coho salmon, steelhead, brown and rainbow trout can also be present in this section of the fishery.  Anglers wade into the water and target a particular area based on fish action.  While most of the water is only knee to mid-thigh in depth, there are deep holes & the river bottom varies from sand, to gravel or rocks.  It’s easy to take an unexpected bath when fishing & wading at night.   A headlamp is needed, but the amount of its use will vary depending upon the weather conditions and moon phase.  Classically, I use my headlamp for hiking & wading, to help get the initial amount of line out on the water, to change flies, & also to fight & land fish. 
   I purposely cast a bit short to the hole where the fish are located and then strip out 2-3”
of line after each cast until I feel contact with the head (hopefully) of a salmon.  I feel this method allows the best opportunity to get a fair vs. foul hook-up.  If I feel I’m on target but need to get the fly just a little lower in the water column where I surmise the mouth of the fish is located, I make a small step upriver & cast out the same amount of line.  Powerful runs & acrobatics are common with a hooked salmon.  In a side arm direction, setting the hook a few times is recommended.  Depending upon the angler’s experience level, a 2nd person may be required to land the salmon either with or without a net.  Even when landed salmon are displaying the unappealing signs of being spawned out, anglers ensure salmon are adequately revived prior to releasing them. 

Rod & Tackle
   It’s best to tackle large salmon with a 9 or 10 wt fly rod.  Many use floating line.  If so,
sink tip leader & a fluorocarbon tippet are recommended. Others might simply tie up a tapered fluorocarbon leader to their 40-50# butt section.  The tippet ranges from 12-20# test, depending on the year’s salmon run and how lucky one is feeling.  I run intermediate fly line to a 40# mono butt section to a leader made simply of a 5 foot length of 20# fluorocarbon. When fighting these large fish, John recommends use of an unimproved clinch knot to secure tippet to fly.  If a break-off does occur, this likely keeps it at the hook eye, not farther up the leader or at the fly line.  Apparently, many anglers don’t use weighted flies or add weight to the leader, but most of the flies I tie for Salmon Camp are wrapped with non-lead wire to add weight.  I occasionally add weight to the leader, particularly when fast current is entering a deeper hole. 
   A popular fly choice is the “Crystal Bullet”, made with glow-in-the-dark flash.  Flies can be purchased in town and an angler or two typically sell flies at Salmon Camp.  Ensure the hook is very sharp otherwise you will lose fish.  A net is commonly used, but not required, to land a salmon.  I have gotten away with forceps, but a good pair of pliers is recommended to remove flies from salmon.  Furthermore, the flies you remove may not be just your own!  These fish, whether fair or foul hooked, tend to cause a lot of break-offs.  Bring extra tippet & leader materials.

   Bring a headlamp (70 lumens minimum) with extra batteries to the river.  Lamps that include a red setting help preserve night vision.  At least one person in each group should have an LED lantern for the shore.  This keeps backpacks, rod cases, etc., from getting lost and helps anglers find their way back to the shore.  Chest waders are a necessity.  A hat is recommended for obvious reasons but in case of rain, a brimmed hat will help keep the headlamp dry.  A wading staff and clear glasses could increase one’s safety.  Also recommended: wader patch kit, water, snacks, gloves, clothing layers &, perhaps, a change of clothing.  For this reason, many carry backpacks during the trek to/from the water.  Because anglers carpool, it’s not convenient to return to camp for dry clothing, etc. 
More Questions?
   John can give more detailed answers to questions, including the net and hook size limitations, current cost, directions to Salmon Camp (a gps may not accurately direct one to the camp), or what one with specific physical challenges can expect with getting to and fishing the water.  At least 1 month prior to camp, John sends out an email providing general information & the basic requirements for Salmon Camp.  Salmon Camp email can be directed to the link email address below.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tie One On at Davenport's Java Java on a Blustery Saturday

   We will be tying flies again this Saturday, November 23, 2013, at Java Java, located at 836 E. River Drive, Davenport, IA.  Tying will start at 9:00 am and last until noon.  Musicians are also being invited but their plans are currently unknown.  All are welcome!!!!