Sunday, December 13, 2015

Reflecting on this Fly Angler's Life

With three napkins from Subway and a load of hand-picked wood, my thoughts were on coaxing up a nice campfire and setting to work on blackening some hot dogs.  The day's fish were also on my mind but not on the menu.

With late-evening sights of an Iowa summer as a backdrop, I looked past my fire to the Turkey River.  Just as I wished for fish-sign to ring the watery surface, it appeared in silence, and I watched the rings merge and fade with the ripples of a slow current.  Locusts buzzed and the fire popped.

The waters of small rivers and streams enrich my soul and return to me the peace that so frequently slips away during the work hours, days, and weeks.  No matter the rewards; the beeps, alarms, & people-sounds of my work in healthcare still extract a toll on me.

Three weeks ago, nearing the latter half of August, I sat in the same place, same chair, overlooking a campfire along this river for the first time.  I never thought I'd light a campfire when tenting solo, but acting on a whim may have started a comforting new habit.

That weekend threatened wind and rain.  Twenty to thirty-mph wind reigned supreme while clouds and sun battled for second place.  The rain never came despite the forecast, but oddly enough, planning smallie Iowa float trips nearly always seem to elicit bad-weather forecasts.

I'd needed to escape the day-to-day world and rediscover my peace.  Sharing this with like-minded friends would have been welcome, but I ultimately explored new water alone & had been grateful to do it.

And now, 3 weeks later, I sit here again in my Farm & Fleet clearance patio chair.  My pen, paper, headlamp & Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale keep me company by the fire.  Darkness is nearly here, & swallows, silhouetted by calm river water reflecting rays from a setting sun, will shape my memory of this extended weekend.

This time, yes, work was still stressful - very stressful - but this time I really wanted to enjoy the company of friends on what might be the final smallie float of the year.  But, it just didn't work out that way.  All were too busy doing other things.

So, once again, I'd made plans for a solo-camping & smallmouth float trip.

Strange, but it seems like I've returned to where I started.  But there aren't many fly anglers, especially in the Midwest.  Back in 2008, when my only fly fishing friend lived 8 hours away, I mostly fished, traveled, made lots of mistakes, and got lost -- alone.

Then I learned to network - at the local fly fishing club, fly fishing shows, on-line, with conventional anglers, and then slowly the world opened up.  I've been able to travel to go fishing with others in NC, MI, MT, and AK.  I can text, call, or email fly fishing friends anytime.  I lay out our club's newsletter, and there are so many known friendly faces at the shows.

Yet, it still frequently remains hard to find someone who has the time to go fishing for a few days, especially on smallmouth float trips, which I love nearly as much as fishing for musky.

I'm pretty happy by myself, which is probably a great reason why I shouldn't be alone too much.   When does finding a little peace transition into becoming a recluse?

But, I personally know people who won't go somewhere unless they have company.  Some of my best discoveries & most memorable times have been shared with others.  But my memories & my life would be far less rich if I'd waited for company to happen prior to venturing off on many things fly fishing.  The ironic thing is that I've met many of my fishing friends because I was willing to go someplace on my own & was willing to meet others.

I wonder if coming full circle also means that I will get to meet more wonderful people.

I live my life, and life has been great.  If I'd waited for life to happen to me, I think I'd still be waiting, or I'd have given up on this fly-fishing thing.   Don't wait!  And then someday, maybe we'll meet on the water & share some stories beside an evening campfire.
 (Written fireside 9-13-15 & finished while lounging in bed 12-13-15, because 100% heavy rain forecast would make for poor fishing and unsafe driving on gravel roads...& it's deer shotgun season. But, I did fish yesterday & it was good... but it wasn't enough. I think you know the feeling.) 

Sunday, June 14, 2015


On a slow fishing day, if I can't take any pictures of fish, or friends with fish, there is always something else to do and to to take pictures of:

But... when the fish are biting, these are the people and things I like to have pictures of:

Happy fishing and I hope you enjoy the outdoors as much as I do!!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Musky Tackle, Prep, Fishing

Excellent article on how-to and prep when fly fishing for musky!  The guys pictured (Brad Bohen and Lucky Porter) are also exceptional anglers and guides. 

the Silent-Water Day

The "silent-water day" is a day bereft of much of any life aside from myself & my fishing partner.  One is lucky to hear woodland sounds or birds, & at and below the water's surface is utter desolation.  I struggle to stay on my A- or even my B-game on these days.  But, I know that to land a musky on one of these days would be the epitome of success and simply finding one and enticing it to follow would be cause to get jazzed up.  My gut says a musky would not mess with a follow on a silent-water day.  They are either going to strike or not.  Do or don't do, but likely the human version of sleep in all day.  That is the kind of day that brings to life the much-used saying, "A fish of 1,000 casts."

May God bless you with plenty of fish landed at your boat, successful catch and release, and just enough silent-water days to reflect upon and appreciate your memories and the path you have chosen to create a well-lived life.
 ~Twitch, May, 31, 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Niklaus Bauer Displays Keen Pike Perspective

   A very cool & fishy FaceBook friend & musky brother posted a link to a YouTube video on FB tonight.  I figure if Corey posts something, it's worth a look-see.  Almost thirty minutes later, I'm posting his link & another link to my blog.  Why?  The Swedish host of these episodes of Fly TV, Niklaus Bauer, is excellent.  It seems strange that I've only found Niklaus and Fly TV on YouTube  & not on a major outdoor television network.  The man is an excellent angler, personable, & shares what he knows about tackle, flies, and pike while obviously having fun.  I'd hire him for a pike (or musky!) trip in a heartbeat!!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Striking the Balance Between Fly Fishing and Casting

  Last fall a friend of mine laid it on the line about my day's less-than-stellar fly casting while we hunted for musky.  The up-side to that brutal but needed conversation was the man would not have said the things he'd said if he didn't feel I should have been & was capable of becoming a better caster.

   My goal since that day was to finally step up my game, throw out the bad habits, & start casting some serious line.  But the same problem continued to stonewall me.
   Hello. My name is Lisa.  Some know me as "Twitch", & I am 
addicted to fly fishing...

   Following the fall musky frenzy, it was time to go trouting.  Next, I learned I could actually fish for the musky cousins, Mr. & Ms. Pike, intermittently during the winter & early spring!  Oh my!  Then, as those early spring days this year grew longer and warmer, I simply could not get smallmouth bass out of my mind.  I even fished a local creek for smallies well before my rational mind knew they would have moved there from the Mississippi River.  Every cast equals hope, right?  Of course, now it's time to fish for musky again. 

   My problem is that I'm fishing and I'm fishing as much as a person who has to work full-time can fish.  My house is a mess, I substitute take-out for the grocery store & cooking, & I should be visiting family more often.  Yet, I choose to chase fin, again and again.  

   One might think fishing is the perfect opportunity to improve the casting game.  However, if the bulk of the waters one fishes are skinny waters,  it's easy to roll cast, get away with lobbing, & hone all sorts of bad habits that make for a poor caster of a 10 wt rod being loaded by 10 wt sinking line and a large, wet musky fly.

   Today, I and other Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association (HFFA) members had the opportunity to share our skills with others at the annual K&K Casting Clinic, sponsored by K&K Hardware, Bettendorf, IA.  Dan Johnston, a St Croix Rod rep from Cedar Rapids, IA, was the primary instructor & he also enticed another instructor, Jen Ripple, editor and founder of Dun Magazine, to the clinic.  Dan's casting skill and teaching ability are well-known & respected in the region.  Dan reported we had a record turnout for the event held at Bettendorf's Middle Park Lagoon.  At the start of the clinic I counted 43 attendees and believe we met or beat the 50 people attendance mark. 

   As is the case when teaching others anything, the instructor can learn a lot.  In my case, I learned I was a better & more confident instructor than last year.  I also learned that there are a few skills that I can get away with performing but am not yet skillful enough to teach.  At those times, I asked other HFFA members or Dan for assistance with the particular caster & then I, too, paid close attention to the instruction.

   At the end of the day, Dan kindly gave me a bit of one-on-one time.  I learned to initiate my haul just as the fly line left the water and I also polished-up my roll casting technique.  Dan then gave me a couple of casting exercises to practice.

   I neglected to share with you that this lagoon (pond) is located right next to a small creek inhabited by smalllies.  My intention was to fish the creek after the casting clinic had ended.  I'd loaded my car with rod, reel, and fanny pack of everything I needed to fish for smallies early this morning.

   But, I didn't fish.  I stayed at the lagoon and practice-casted.  I honed my newly-refined roll casting technique.  I also practiced one of Dan's casting exercises & realized how many levels that exercise could improve my casting abilities!

   Feeling the tiredness that likely comes from being dehydrated & exposure to a day of sun,  I gave another longing glance at the small creek and its finned inhabitants, but headed for home.  

   Almost 2 hours later, I pause to look out the living room window while finishing this blog post.  My ginger ale is nearly gone and I see that it's now cloudy outside.  In so many ways, I reflect that now is a perfect time to go fishing.  With a clear conscience, I go.  ~May 9, 2015  


Friday, March 27, 2015

A Good, Long Weekend in NE Iowa & the Twin Cities (3/20-22/15)

I drove to the NE Iowa Driftless region Friday night & car camped along Canoe Creek.  It is one of my favorite streams - not because it is a great trout stream.  It isn't.  We have caught trout from this stream, I've also caught suckers, a pumpkinseed, & smallies... but all in very, very small numbers.  The stream bed has changed so much every year & especially on this stretch.  It isn't changing for the better with regard to maintaining healthy fish populations.  Nature doesn't always treat its resources very well, either!  However, this little stream still continues to tug at my heart.  I did fish Coldwater Creek for a very short time prior to heading to the TC.  I was gifted with one par brown on what I was told was a slow fishing day.

I believe the highlight of my trip to the Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo was seeing John and Stacie of Duluth, MN.  I was introduced to John, owner of Great Lakes Fly Shop in Duluth, on day 2 of my foray into fly fishing in 2008.  I tied my first fly - a clouser minnow- that day.  I think I met Stacie during an epic group float trip on the St. Louis River.  Wonderful person!  Later that year, we happened upon one another while searching solo for steel on the Brule River in Wisco.  Steelhead continue to elude me.  A few years ago I missed out on what ended up being a great opportunity to go fishing in Alaska with them.  It's been a long time since we all have met and the hugs were big and warm.  John has really developed an interest in spey casting and kayak fishing & still loves his steelhead & smallies.  If you are in town, I recommend stopping into the shop for all things fly fishing (yes, musky too!).   Other highlights of attending the expo including finally meeting (in person) & supping with Bob Bickford, owner/guide for St. Croix Adventures.  Bob is a smallie aficionado who also hunts for musky & trout who shares with me a mutual love of King's "The Dark Tower Series".  I didn't get to attend the musky fly tying contest - much to my great disappointment, or see many presentations but it was great to see Brian Porter again & I enjoyed his talk about regional species & musky fishing along with his great pictures.  Dan Frasier gave the best presentation I've heard about fishing for carp.

My friend & fellow trouter, Jeff Moore, was asked to tie at the expo.  His table display was excellent & he also set up a 2nd vise so others could tie a fly pattern with him.  I did get to watch Jeff and another man tie Jeff's "Moose Mane Midge", a fly that has also landed me a trout or two!

My trip to the Twin Cities would have been a huge disappointment if I had not visited Pho Tau Bay in St. Paul!  I had longed for 3 years to return & try their vegetarian pho.  However, after skipping lunch I was too hungry & went with #10 - pho thai vo bien, which included beef and beef meatballs, and then a fruity coconut concoction, che thai, a drink recommended by my petite, soft-spoken server.  She appreciated when I was able to pronounce the menu items correctly, after a few tries!  I also visited an outdoor store in Minneapolis & have happily found a moderate capacity backpack to fit me.  My lady salesperson was highly knowledgeable & fit me well.  Sadly, the owner of the store does not stock this backpack or many others in women's versions.  I could not leave with a backpack & will likely buy elsewhere due to this.  I made certain my salesperson does not work on commission.

Friends with whom I stayed at the motel texted/called me when I was at the restaurant to tell me about road conditions as they headed south of the TC, back to Iowa.  I think they had about a 20 mile band of bad driving.  When I left Pho Tau Bay, it was spitting snow.  As I drove, the band of snow had gotten much thicker.  I was about 20 miles from Decorah, IA, prior to being able to drive the speed limit.  But, it is not surprising to drive through this weather in March in Minnesota!!  I elected not to car camp and fish again in Decorah region.  I had hoped & failed to go piking back home in lieu of this.  I learned that Decorah got another 3" of snow that night.