Saturday, March 28, 2020

Living Well When Life isn't Always Easy

  When tomorrow's t-shirt weather is prefaced with last night's snow, and while I wait with diminishing hope of Canada allowing us to cross the border for the great late-May pike trip, I find yet another way to avoid starting my taxes.
Trout fishing.

   In reality, we planned to fish now. This weekend. My Duluth buddy and I (8 hours apart) were to more closely distantly meet, meaning a fist bump and not a hug, then him renting a room and I car camping instead of sharing the costs of a room, and go fly fishing together like we normally do for trout. It's always been social distancing there; frog hopping around each other hole after hole.
But, for the second weekend in a row Covid-19 and his work to set up employees to work from home, put the kabosh on that.

   And at a time when you think Covid-19 would be keeping All healthcare workers in a hospital busy, we are working hard to limit how many patients are in our hospitals. My therapy co-workers and I have health concerns while at work, yet ironically are getting called off of work more frequently than we'd like.

So, while I take extra time to wash my groceries, wash my hands longer, disinfect my hands after any trip in public, try to avoid touching my much, I also take the extra time to visit the Iowa trout streams, hiking, wading, and fishing, to truly appreciate and enjoy a healthy if  unwanted day off of work.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Brush-Making Tools/Materials for Musky and Pike Flies

Brush-Making Tools/Materials for Musky and Pike Flies                                   

Used or recommended by Lisa Davis.
February 3, 2020

StonFo Dubbing Brush Device (~$65) AND Turbo Spinner ($25). Spin manually. *Attaches to vise.*
or stand-alone quality wooden dubbing brush maker used with drill: contact Bill Sherer at  715-385-0171, in Wisconsin.
Dubbing wire:  DBW .006 or .009. No preference yet.  Sherer also sells wire.  For Bucktail, Powerpro is commonly used as it does not cut through the bucktail as easily-- See Luke Swanson’s Youtube video.
Dubbing wax.
Flush-cut wire cutters *** Harbor Freight*** has them for ~$3. Small with red handles. At fishing stores, you will pay $10.  These are one of my best purchases!!

Materials I Commonly Use for Musky Brushes
Core:  Fuzzy Fiber.  Fly Tyer's Dungeon (FTD) Congo Hair and Water Silk. Bucktail.  Neer Hair.  Sculpting Flash Fiber. EP Fibers.  Pike Skinz. Flash like Ripple Ice.

Longer Fibers:  Kanekalon (hair extensions).  Yak.  SF Blend.  Wampa Hair (Lund’s Fly Shop).  Nightmare Musky Fly musky fiber and FTD’s new Big Game Hair:  very similar aside from different length, amount, price.  FTD Crystal Hair and Crystal Web.  Flash material such as Larva Lace, Krystal Flash, CCT’s Krinkle Mirror Flash, Lateral Scale.  Other material commonly used is Big Fly Fiber.  Unique Hair, Super Hair, and Frosty Fish Fiber are stiffer and may keep tail of fly from collapsing as much. 

Tailing Materials I Commonly Tie on Hook Before Tying in the Brush
Bucktail –helps prevent brush material from fouling the hook.  Yak –adds structure to brush & sheds water well.  Steve Farrar Blend.  Hackle.  Ostrich feathers (optional).  Flash.

On YouTube, I have a couple of fave videos.  Dark Waters video: Tips and Tricks When Making a Dubbing Brush.  Gunnar Brammer has a couple of educational dubbing brush videos that use the StonFo device.

The longer the brush fibers, the slower I spin the brush.

When you can balance the density of the core materials with density of the longer fibers, your flies will walk-the-dog much better. The core pushes water, creates the profile width, affects how fly moves. If tail is too sparse or collapses too easily, I think this causes fly to fold in half. Tail affects movement too.  Too bulky of a core will cause other problems.  I am trying to work this stuff out now.  Try to make a couple brushes and flies and see how they swim before making too many more brushes. That is, don’t always make brushes in winter like I do unless you have access to a pool… ;)

I primarily use a bodkin to gently uncross the material as it attempts to wrap around itself.  When the wire still has large gaps, I try to avoid picking material too close to the wire but unfold material where it is more distant from the wire. I unfold a little material at a time while travelling down the brush. Repeat as necessary, spin again, and repeat. 

As the wire tightens down on itself, I can spin faster since the materials are now held better in place by the wire. This is when I use the dog (slicker) brush to work the material faster.
I consider the brush done when I can pull on fibers on the far end of the brush (the portion that spins up last) and the materials are held immobile between the twisted wires of the brush.

I cut off the near end of the brush and further brush out the brush, making a nice part along the wire.

Recommended hooks: Good spinnerbait hooks. Ahrex PR350 6/0. Partridge Bad Boy Predator 6/0 & Absolute Predator 4/0. Gama B10S 5/0.  The denser the brush core, the longer the shank you will need, or spin and add brush “heads.”

The completed brush fly. Bulkier than usual. Will swim it and see how it does.

Material is laid out on Stonfo Device. Next step is spinning it. The completed fly is shown above this picture.

A spun brush. I will likely trim back the longer black fibers on the front of the brush and this will become the head of a fly.

Multiple brushes. Note the varied density. Which ones will make a better fly??

Friday, April 5, 2019

June 29, Rain Date!! K&K Casting Clinic in Bettendorf

The casting  clinic had been canceled due to rain. The new date for the clinic is June 29, 2019. Please contact K&K hardware for details!!!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Brule 22. Our PB & J

   In 2008 I hired a guide and fly fished for the first time, falling in love with fly fishing, doing something that's kept me humble, taken me on adventures, introduced me to so many nice people, and given me joy. My guide also became my mentor and a great friend.

   I re-hired him in June 2017 to repeat that Wisconsin Bois Brule River guided trip of June 2008. "Can you drift that dry under that overhanging Cedar?" Yes, now I can. "Keep doing it...Again." Bam! Then finesse a 22" brown trout, attempting to keep my excitement in check, so my guide, mentor, and friend Ouitdee of Arrowhead Fly Angler could hand-land OUR personal best Brule River native brown on that lovely river of presidents!

   PB&J. Personal Best & Joy.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

2 Days at Musky Immersion Camp: The WI-MN Diaries continued

Fighting the fly.
Musky Camp Facts:  They can put you on to musky, but only you can stop your trout setting; names of rivers are changed or forgotten to ensure there will be musky to attack flies of future musky campees; there may or may not be s'mores, but do not expect to ever get hungry at camp (unless it is to fish for musky); this camp ain't for bed/boat-wetting kiddies; it's not just the camp leaders that are allowed to enjoy Adult Beverages while telling scary tales of toothy critters around a campfire. Sometimes the Camp Boss acts a little crusty, but he's been doing this so long he's become half-musky! Listen up when he gives pointers, and your odds of mugging for pictures with one of the big toothy girls will increase.

Brad Bohen is the head of Musky Country Outfitters (MCO), based out of Winter, WI. While Brad (BB) has been guiding clients to musky and mentoring younger guides for years, he is also the creator of the Buford, a fly largely made of bucktail that is the most well-known and likely still the most prolifically fished fly for musky.

Brad was also the Camp Boss, the dreams-to-reality guy who is making a musky immersion camp come to life. Classified as human hamsters by BB, we are also known as: Russ the comedian (or Russell the Love Muscle, First-Cast Russ); the ever-smiling and adventuresome Mike and Kelly, a white-water canoeing couple; the water acrobat Brian Bergeson, another fly-tier extraordinaire who lies awake at night thinking about fish; Cory, who taught his son Nick to fish and now that son, a guide, is teaching Cory to fly fish; TFO rep Patrick, our Chronic Fatigue Superhero who also managed to musky fish before breakfast, after supper, then during the day when everyone else fished; and me (Last-Cast Lisa, Twitch), skillful strip-setter of logs and rocks whose vocabulary is reduced to "Son-of-a-bitch!" when boffing a musky strike.

The musky immersion 3-day test camp was based at MCO headquarters on the outskirts of Winter on the Flambeau River. During the online invite, I'd communicated to BB that I may only be able to do 2-2.5 days as my lesser-known nickname is Queen of Tendinitis and five days of pike fishing was preceding musky camp. BB still extended the welcome. Ultimately, I headed out after 2 days of musky fishing, not getting to partake in some of the unique offerings of this immersion camp. Other than fishing for musky in a drift boat, a skiff, and on foot, those who wanted to could have the opportunity to row a drift boat, to have casting lessons, and polish their fly-tying skills, possibly even using some of BB's Primo Tail line of material.  

Lunch on the river.
What my time in camp did offer was lodging, all breakfasts and lunches, and most suppers also provided by MCO. I musky hunted by skiff and on foot (AKA musky golf). I could use the guide's or my rods or trial a TFO-supplied rod. I used both my flies and guide flies. Most importantly, Brad, with his guide crew, provided a strong guiding experience. While I have fished for Northwoods Wisco musky many times, the MCO crew still managed to put me on unfamiliar waters, in a beautiful environment, in consistently strong musky habitat.

With some misgivings, I had elected to leave camp without the smell of musky on my hands. However, while wade fishing "Falling Down River" on my final day, I'd had a strong follow on a Brian Bergeson fly and had also missed a musky strike on my own fly not 6 feet from me. Son of a bitch!! The sweet and young Austin was my primary guide on that most memorable day. While not having Brad's years of guiding experience, Austin still had a strong familiarity with the river and its finned inhabitants, and he displayed a natural ability to communicate succinctly where and how he wanted me to fish particular stretches of water. He was attentive and polite, but innately knew when to let me do my own thing for a while. Overall, I was impressed with Brad's young crew, also including Jeff and Nick. While I smiled at the 20-something young mens' usual fly-fishing-dude banter, these guys were simply polite and nice --the kind of enthusiastic people it makes you feel good to hire. We were also photographed and interviewed by Brad's bro, Keaton, who was doing some PR work for Brad during the camp.

Austin, left, Russ, and Brian.
By fishing that day with my fellow human hamsters, Brian and Russ, the day was already guaranteed to be fun. They were more about getting me into fish than wanting musky for themselves, and their selflessness and generosity made the day much more memorable.  Brian often fished behind us or would poke around in side channels, finding musky on the path less traveled. While Russ severely limited his fishing (he really wanted to see others get into fish), his pheromones were so fishy, he caught 2 more musky that day within 45 minutes of each other, and the first one came to his first cast on the inside bend of a large hole.

The first day, Russ and I had gone fishing with BB on the "SW Fork of the NE WhatsItsName River". The water was fishy, really fishy. But there were a few special stretches where you'd turn and look and turn look and turn and look again, and simply not see water that a musky would shun. The musky snubbed me here, but they loved Russ. His stripping skills enticed three musky to the fly and the gal he got in the boat was in her 40's and angry. It was a musky that thrilled us all. Russ' happy musky dance was, if not a thrill, at least entertaining.

I know that the MCO crew had also gotten Kelly into a nice musky, and there was a picture on day 3 of her husband Mike mugging with a musky. I also believe that Pat had gotten into musky and smb, and Cory had a strike from a bigger musky. While I don't know the official Esox masquinongy tally, they visited every angler attending the MCO camp. Fly anglers left camp tired but happy, well-fed, having made new friends, and with great stories to tell. I bet when we were kids none of us ever knew that an adult camp could be so much more fun

Let the musky fest begin!

Russ keeping his cool.

Wisconsin river musky getting pissed.

Brad nets the musky for Russ.

Russ's laser focus gives way to a brief happy dance!

Russ and a Wisconsin Northwoods musky.

Final pictures prior to a safe release.

A much-deserved manshake between friends.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Last Cast: On the Fly for Pike in Canada

Luggage was packed floor to ceiling to knees and Scott's carry-on: coffee!
After watching a guy getting arrested at the Holiday gas station in International Falls, it finally hit me that vacation had begun! We charmed our way through customs at International Falls on May 18, enjoyed a Canadian favorite - butter tarts with ice cream - at a quirky restaurant outside Dryden, and finished up with a pretty, but sadly bear-free, 2-hour drive to Sioux Lookout where 8 of us would board the Sioux Falls Outposts' Otter plane the next morning for our 6-day Lake Miniss pike-fishing trip in Ontario, Canada.

This was supposed to be the third consecutive trip to Lake St. Joe, but a late ice out meant we switched to Miniss since its waters open a week earlier... otherwise we'd have had to cancel the trip.

Other than a very windy second day, the weather was great. Fish were still sluggish and slower to bite due to late ice out, but it got better as the days went on and as we learned this lake.

Ed was my same boat partner from 2 years ago. He powered the motor, and I did the anchor, rock-sighting, and navigation with the map (I did well for a self-titled Geographical Moron). He fished with fly and lure. He got one wally and the rest were pike. I used a 10wt fly rod to do my hunting.

Our trip organizer, John, cooked breakfasts and suppers (yum!). Final night was for ribs that were fantastic. We had a spontaneous walleye supper the first night and I really liked my first taste of walleye!!

I had one day when I only caught 1 pike, but there were gear and other issues. Otherwise, up to 6 pike/day for me, and I didn't let some hammer handles hook up. Slowish fishing, but enough while motoring around.

Up until the final afternoon, the biggest pike we boated measured 31-32", and I had caught no walleye. John had boated a larger pike while using a twister tail that was chomped while about 15' deep. He didn't measure it.

Scott and Ward had follows of 35"+ and 40"+ pike in a specific bay with current. No big-pike takes. Ed and I visited new water for us on the final day, and we did well and had fun. Then, we visited Scott/Ward in the bay of large pike follows. They'd had additional follows but were readying to leave. They recommended we motor to the "tutu tree" and try for where they had spotted the larger pike. We did. Ed had a decent 30"+ follow. I had nothing. I switched to a couple other flies, finally deciding between a chartreuse fly and a walleye-colored fly I'd tied specifically for the trip but had yet to fish. The fish had come most often to smaller flies (including a 3.5-inch 4-minute tie of a silver minnow pattern I'd used daily). But, I went with the larger walleye fly.

I made a few casts but knew Ed wanted to get going. We needed to pack to fly out the next AM. With Ed being the responsible person in our boat and nicknaming me "Last Cast Lisa," I made my last cast toward deeper water, gave the fly time to sink and stripped the line.

The 37-inch pike that wanted a walleye.
My fly stopped hard but with that subtle difference that tells you this is NOT a rock. I strip set hard once, twice, then stripped to bring the fish toward me while yelling twice to Ed to "Get the net!" The 2nd time I yelled was when the fish turned, I strip set hard the third time, and then I saw her. Eternally calm Ed exclaimed that wow I really did need the net. I don't usually want a green fish in the net, but we were looking at likely the largest fish of our group's trip, so after she turned, Ed netted her before she could get a good fight going. Of course, she was then very active in the net.

Ed tried a few times to measure her while I readied tools and got pictures of her in the net. She would thrash whenever he touched the tail, and this would botch the measurement.

The pike-slimed walleye fly.
She overpowered the jaw spreaders x 3 and, luckily, popped the snap (now in garbage) during the 3rd time, so I only had to deal with the de-barbed fly, not leader and fly line. The 4th time, spreaders stayed in place, and I freed the slimed walleye fly from inside her mouth.

Of course, we let her rest in the submerged net off and on while I also calmed down. I appreciated Ed's patience just as much as I appreciated this pike taking my fly. Managing a netted fish is not yet a huge strength of mine, but you have to do it to get better, and I did it.

Ed and John both have tooth-resistant gloves. I was able to use Ed's glove this trip for larger pike. After 2 efforts with the glove, she was secured, and I slowly lifted her into a classic hold that I was unable to manage two years ago during our first pike trip. My finger had been in a splint that trip. After boating the pike fondly christened "42," for pictures I could only hold that largest pike from our first trip in the net on my lap, and later hold her tail with my intact hand while helping her recover in the water. This year I got to manage the netted fish, pose nicely with her, then do a hand release while appreciating life's small accomplishments.

A beautifully-patterned 37-inch pike.
While I held her for pictures, Ed measured her again. We knew this pike wasn't 40 inches. She was 37".

Back at the cabin, Ed spread the good news. Our group was very pleased as was I. Jeff asked if I knew the Fishermen's Handshake. I said no. He said he hadn't used it on the trip because no one had gotten a fish large enough. We did the Fishermen's Handshake to honor the pike that came to the last cast. I gave kudos to Ed, Scott, and Ward, because without them, that fish would not have connected with my last cast.

It wasn't actually the last cast of the trip though. While packing after supper, I went to the porch to look for any missing gear and realized I had missed something more important than that. I took in a breath and smelled ... pike. At that moment I realized that I hadn't really taken the time to truly experience as fully as I could where I was. I smelled the air around me, went to the sandy beach to pick up a chair, and I plopped it on the edge of the dock.

I sat and enjoyed the evening sounds, the myriad of tree frogs, the birds, a couple fish splashes, eventually the wolves, and I looked at a bright half-moon. I realized I hadn't once looked for the light-pollution-free Canadian stars. I am almost embarrassed to write that.

But darkness comes late to the cabin and all of my Northern Midwestern friends go to bed early. Just what was I to do until it got dark? I remembered the fish splashes. I also remembered that the shore in front of the cabin isn't a hot spot for fishing but there were those splashes, and maybe night brings better fishing?

So, I went back to the cabin and unpacked headlamp, rod, reel, and a couple flies. I was targeting walleye.

I got a net from the fish cleaning house. My first walleye was foul-hooked. But during the hour, I netted 4 wallys, the largest 19 inches. I cheered them all (and they also wanted that crazily simple-to-tie minnow pattern!). I used the headlamp to see to remove the fly from each fish.

It was good to know I wouldn't leave Canada empty-handed of walleye. Afterward, I scanned the water with the headlamp on. Wow! What fun to see glowing walleye eyes moving around on the water bottom! Then, I saw small glowing eyes on the water's surface and what appeared to be wings. A swimming bat!? No, it was the water-pushing rear legs of a frog or toad. I kept my lamp on it, hoping it would not become a walleye or pike meal but wanting to watch if it should. The toad swam next to the dock and luckily, no splashes were heard, but I know they don't taste good.

The next morn we flew home, and I could keep my eyes open the entire time, unlike the bumpy flight in, where keeping my eyes closed and imagining fish being caught while singing "Thunderstruck" in my head kept the nausea away. Those Canadian lakes are also beautiful seen from the air.

It was a pleasure to spend another memorable pike-fishing trip with great people on beautiful water.
(Trip dates: 5/18-24/2018) Written 5/27-28/2018

Lisa, John, Scott, Ward, Jeff & sons Tom and John, and my patient boat partner Ed

Trip Photos
(Click on any picture to view it larger)

Vacation begins!!

Ready to cross the border.

Wishing we'd flown business class....
A distant view of the cut rock channel into a finger bay.

Ed on one of our plentiful pike days. 

Another water source to feed Lake Miniss.

At the mouth of a finger bay.

Even the pit stops offer beautiful views!

Cautiously motoring through the cut rock bank of a finger bay.
Beaver lodges are plentiful here. We saw one otter and one beaver.

Six of us motored to the Miniss River on the 2nd to last day of fishing.

The Miniss River.

Near the short walking trail to a little boat on another section of Lk Miniss.

A little boat and motor for anyone wanting to fish more water. Don't forget to put in the plug!
Shiprock Island

Pike can't resist a chartreuse fly!
Relaxing at the cabin before supper.

Ed and Scott at the dock. 

Ribfest! And who ate the most? Your's truly-- just to compliment the cook!
The Otter's arrival on Lake Miniss to fly us back to Sioux Lookout.

The view from Canadian skies as we leave all that fishing goodness.