Blanking Carp on Beaver Island

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An un-interested and well educated carp on the flats of Beaver Island.

Our first day on Beaver Island I walked out to the beach and spotted the carp. Main Island, wadable. Tight to a rock. Knee deep water. A pod of them. Probably 8-10 in all. All of them over ten pounds, the biggest of them pushing 30.

Last year I didn’t see one carp on the flats of Big Sand Bay. You don’t see fish down there too often. We didn’t know that when we booked that place. But this year we stayed closer to town near a point where Dave Hossler caught a nice one last year. So I thought the fish might be there, but now I had a bead on them.

I tormented them for hours. They tolerated me but for the most part ignored my offerings. A good couple follows, a turn, a few refusals, one good solid take, one head shake and the fish was off. Nothing. After that, they moved into deep water. I toyed with them the next day too, and the following day, but to no avail.

Later, Kevin told told me that those fish had been played with so much that they simply won’t eat a fly anymore. They’re just too well educated in the way of the fly. Alas.

I had two days booked with Steve the first member of the SmithFly Stream Team.

It was the day after JP‘s Carp Trip, and the weather was much better than when Cameron’s Trip was there. However, the Mayfly carp funk was still in effect. Even the uneducated fish weren’t eating like they normally would because they were so stuffed with mayflys. Again, alas.

The wind was blowing a bit the morning we went out. It was choppy with 2 footers projected for the main lake area. We headed a spot called Indian Bay where there’s a dock that leads to a trail into an ancient Indian Burial ground.

We found a decent number of fish, and the mouth flaring meant that they were eating.

After about 6 casts I layed one out to a large carp headed straight towards the boat. One long strip, and pause, the fish chased. I bumped it  a few times, and let it settle. He charged it, flared his lips, and ATE the fly in eight inches of gin clear water, 10 feet from the bow of the boat. When the fish came tight, my leader was almost in the tip top. He rolled up on the surface and his big wide flank of gold shined in the morning sun. Steve let out an affirmative but understated, “NICE DUDE!”. I thought that fish would be in the net in a second. But as soon as the fish laid eyes on the boat, he turned tail and screamed away from us in a panic. He pulled the drag out smoking fast right to the backing, and then, NOTHING.

The line was dead. Fish off.

That was a good sign. Maybe the mayfly carp funk was over? Maybe the day would be better.

But it really wasn’t.

We fished the rest of the day, and found quite a few more fish on the various flats around garden and hog island. We found lots of lookers and one other hook up with accompanied LDR, but that was it. Maybe it was me? I dunno.

To save the day, and avoid being totally skunked, Steve took us to a known smallmouth hang out and we landed and dandy smallie. But it’s NOT why we go to Beaver Island. I love smallies but Beaver is about giant CARP — on the flats.

In Beaver’s defense, my skills just aren’t where they need to be, yet. You have to be able to know EXACTLY where the fly is, many times in choppy, wind-driven, water by watching where the end of your fly line is. You have to be able to move the fly the right way — one big strip, and then little bumps. You have to be able to put the fly in front of the fish in the right way, at the right depth, at the right time. And I’m just not there yet, it also helps to be a MONSTER caster, which I’m not. So really, it was probably , for the most, what I like to call operator error — me.

The fishing really compares to what I’ve read about Permit fishing, and no I’ve never landed a Permit, or even seen one in the wild.

It’s difficult and that’s what keeps us going back. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Kevin suggested maybe I should take up Steelheading in Washington State, it might be easier  🙂

Beaver_Smallie

I’ll be posting a series of posts about other aspects our trip to “the rock” as the locals call it, here in the next few days, so keep your eyes peeled.

Great Write up of the SmithFly Digi-Pack by Louis Cahill on Gink and Gasoline blog.

My butt, flats fishing in the Digi-Pouch, photo by Mrs. SmithFly.

My butt, flats fishing in the Digi-Pouch, photo by Mrs. SmithFly.

Louis Cahill, photographer and fly fisherman extraordinaire has a great write up on the SmithFly Digi-Pack. I think the “changed my life” part may be a bit of hyperbole, but overall I think he likes it… what do you think? See quote below.

Full text on the Gink and Gasoline Blog.

EVERY NOW AND THEN A PRODUCT COMES ALONG THAT CHANGES YOUR LIFE.

An innovation that suits your needs so exactly that you wonder if you’ve been talking in your sleep. Some gadget, like your iPhone, that leaves you wondering how you lived without it.

Well, I have been talking. For some time and not in my sleep, to every manufacturer of fishing packs I know about making a truly waterproof pack that I can trust and is large enough to carry my camera. No one listened.

As it turned out though, I was not the only one thinking about this problem. While I was talking to the big guys, a clever fellow in Ohio by the name of Ethan Smith was solving my problem. There in the shop at Smithfly, Ethan was changing my life.

As you might guess I carry an insane amount of gear when I’m on the water. Along side my fishing pack with its six fly boxes, eight spools of tippet, split shot, line dressing, water bottle, net, and so on, there are two Nikon DSLRs, an array of lenses, a flash, batteries, data cards, lens cloth and the kitchen sink.

This all started out in a backpack containing a waterproof Pelican case that weighed forty pounds. Try hiking, wading and fishing with that for a day. Not only was it killing me but it took forever to get to my camera and I missed too many shots. I eventually discovered small dry bags made for kayakers and they were an improvement but I had to carry four of them and they were so small that I couldn’t carry the camera with the lenses I wanted on it. I had to assemble the camera, in the river, every time I took it out of the bag.

Then I discovered the Smithfly Digi Pouch. The Digi Pouch is a super heavy duty dry bag that offers not only safety for your gear but amazing versatility. It works as part of the Smithfly modular system and attaches securely to the Smithfly Switch Belt. The system is brilliant in its simplicity.

SmithFly El Poquito Awarded Gray’s Best 2013

I am floored and totally honored to be Awarded Gray’s Best 2013 for the SmithFly El Poquito.

I am biased, because they did publish my manifesto a couple years ago, but this publication is one of the LAST GREAT Sporting Publications, out there.I’m honored to be included this year along side other great brands like Patagonia, and LL Bean. It’s amazing.

And if you know anything about Jim Babb, Miles Nolte, and Russ Lumpkin, you know that you can’t buy their recommendation. They don’t give away “Editorial Content” because you buy ads. I’m living proof, because I’ve never bought an AD! In fact now I’m WAYin the hole to them, because they paid me for my article a few years ago. Yes, it’s true some publications still PAY for writing, hard to imagine, I know, but it happens.

Anyway, this wouldn’t be in there if it wasn’t the truth. I’m eternally grateful for their support and honest opinion about a weird little gadget I came up with.

I’m selling them like hot cakes —see you at the BUFF Show in Cincinnati tomorrow!

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I will only add that this might be one of the few items on the list this year that is MADE IN THE USA.

So buy one already!

Charting search trend data for outdoors activities. Seems to be declining, but why? Other fly fishing relevant search data charts as well…

So it’s a slow week at the office this week. Thanksgiving and all, so I was puttering around on Google trends, like I like to do, and noticed a fairly depressing trend illustrated by the chart below.

It appears that there is a seriously downward sloping trend among outdoor activities. I suspect that this trend is mostly the fact that the internet’s long tail is getting longer and people already know where to find this information and as a result are not doing generic searches for terms like “fly fishing” or “backpacking.”  But as a person with a respect for the sciences, I’m not offering that as actual causal relationship. I’m merely pointing out that the general public is is not searching for the stuff we like, as much as they used to.

Another interesting thing to note is that when it comes to fish species interest is largely flat if you remove the seasonal interest swings.

Notice there appears to be a slight decline in interest in steelhead, which anecdotally runs completely counter to everything I’ve seen on the ground in the fly fishing world. The term “bonefish” was clearly obscured by searches for “Bonefish Grill” so I left that out. In addition the term “trout” by itself, was WAY OFF-THE-CHART, so it was left out as well.

Another interesting group of terms I looked at was the various types of fly fishing we might do. Each seems to be fairly flat, with “dry fly fishing” clearly still being the number one searched for term among the group. Streamer fishing seems to the one that has grown the most in popularity recently, albeit only slightly. I’m sure most would agree that as a tactic it is, in fact, the one that has grown the most on the stream as well. Streamer fishing that used to be relegated to certain times of year is now acceptable all year long, on any day of the week, and in any conditions. At least it’s acceptable for those of us who don’t care about numbers but are looking for size, anyway.

And finally for comparison purposes I’ve done a trend query for mobile devices and trendy electronic gizzies to show what an up-trend should look like.

I think this just shows that the internet is getting mature and content in general is geting more targeted and specialized.

I think what this tells us is that we need to come up with some new stuff. New ways to fish, i.e. streamer fishing (ok it’s not new but you know what I mean) to get the general public excited about outdoors activities. I’m not sure what those new things are, but we need some new juice in there… anyone, anyone, anyone, Beuller?

Speycasting and Fiddle Tunes

Midcurrent pointed us toward an interesting article today about Alexander Grant, one of the pioneers of  Speycasting.

Wouldn’t you know it, the man was a musician! And not just a musician he played the Fiddle! Yet another dot connecting the Fiddle and the Creel. Pertinent quotes below…

Born in 1856 at his family’s croft at Battangorm near Carrbridge in the Highlands of Scotland, Grant began his illustrious fishing career in the silvery waters of the River Spey system. As a young boy he was also exposed to his other great passion in life – playing the fiddle. So much was his early interest in the acoustic properties of these instruments that he once refused to attend fiddle lessons from the local school teacher because he disliked the tone of his tutor’s fiddle. This early appreciation of tone and vibration was something he used in later life to outstanding effect in the design of his famous ‘Grant’s Vibration’ range of fly rods.

Later in the article it gets to the heart of an issue I’ve been wanting to explore in more detail, the relationship between building acoustic instruments and building rods. I knew there was a connection, now I have PROOF! Well, if nothing else then at least it’s proof that someone else in human history was just as savagely deranged as I.

The real secret to success of the greenheart rod however, was the rod’s specific taper, which was worked out acoustically, rod by rod. As a talented musician, Grant also handcrafted his own fiddles and in doing so began experimenting with the principles of vibration frequencies. The information he learned was applied with great effect to his rod making room. He realised that as a natural product, the density of wood varied. This meant that two rods made to the same length, diameter and specifications different actions. Grant tuned each individual rod section as such that he could produce a rod that flexed in total unison. This meant that instead of each section ‘springing’ slower or quicker than the others, the rod’s action was totally married, resulting in a very powerful through-action.

Unbelievable! The connection between music and fly fishing is unmistakable!

Bluegill inside a Smallmouth, big appetite, incredible.

I got the picture below from a friend last night.

Caught a smallie on Sunday night while out with the wife, he had a good sized bluegill in his throat and still wanted to eat…wonder if he’ll be able to finish that meal, it looks to be heading down with the wrong end first

Thomas and Thomas Fly Rod Giveaway

As far as quality, legacy, charm, character, fit and finish, fishability, art, science, and perfection in fly rods go, it’s hard to top a Thomas and Thomas. Comparing rods from various makers at this level is like comparing supermodel girlfriends you could do it but, why? Just count your blessings and enjoy the time you get to spend with her.

Yesterday, T&T announced that they will be giving away your choice of rods to one person who “likes” them onF-book follows them on Twitter or subscribes to their newsletter. So what are you waiting for, go get it done and maybe you could own a super model fly rod of your own for no more than the cost of a click or two.

Here are some details from their announcement:

When we reach 800 likes on Facebook, 800 follows on Twitter and 800 subscribers to our monthly newsletter, we will draw one lucky winner from that pool. That winner will be able to select one rod from any line that is presently in the T&T catalog—except for bamboo. Our apologies to the T&T bamboo faithful.

One rod from any line, in any weight and any length. HelixHorizon IINS5SSSTNTSpey,Switch and even Heirloom glass lines are all fair game. From big salt to small stream, the choice is yours.

Mad River Float

I had the opportunity yesterday to float the Mad River in my friend Donnie’s new Hyde Rocky Mountain Skiff.

It was a tough day to be out on the river. We were originally slated to be fishing a Musky Tournament in the creeks where the guys in the bass boats with conventional tackle can’t go. But an all day soaking rain on Saturday had muddied up the creeks. So we went with the back-up plan to float our local trout stream in hopes that a slightly rising river would move the fish out from their holes. In a testament to just how dry we’ve been here lately, even after the all day soaking rain, the river barely budged up an inch. The Mad was still low and gin clear.

On top of the gin clear water what we found was a day with 20-30mph winds and fish that were hunkered down. On days like that with little to no bug activity, except for a spotty, late-day, midge and BWO emergence, are the perfect kind of days for throwing big streamers on full sinking lines. Huckin’ meat is not something I do with confidence, but is in fact one of Donnie’s favorite things to do. I rigged my 8wt and brought 5wt for back up. He rigged an 8wt and a 5Wt with full sinking lines.

We threw cast after cast covering water like mad men, banging the banks. And by the afternoon we were beginning to think the skunk was there to stay. It was pretty brutal. We should have moving more fish and at least getting some good follows by that time, ut between the two of us had only had two strikes and a flash or two.

At about 2:30 the fishing got interesting and we started to see more fish. I’m not sure if it’s the location or time of day and conditions or what. Who knows. But the river started to heat up after 2:00.

We managed to have shots at a few really good fish. I missed hooking up with a nice 20″ fish in a spot most people wade right through. He swiped at the fly but wouldn’t really commit. Angler error.

Donnie saved the day though with a killer 25″ Brown Trout.

Donnie threw to s a spot that looked absolutely featureless and un fishy in the traditional sense. Nothing un-usual or interesting, just another spot in the miles of river we covered that day. But out of this featureless nothing -to-write -home-about hole a nice fished rolled up on his yet-to-be-named secret sculpin pattern. Donnie missed his strike. In a knee jerk scared-as-shit reaction type mode Donnie threw back the exact spot with a splat that would make a dry fly purist cringe and what the text books tell you will send trout running to the next county. However, the trout in a similar knee-jerk scared-as-shit kind of way hit back in an epic boil of splashing water, and hooked up.

With 12lb tippet on there, Donnie horsed him to the net and we had him in the boat. What a doozie! Great job Donnie. That one nice fish turned a tough and frustrating day into a great and memorable one!

Throwing big meat, is a one or two fish a day game, it’s about size, not numbers.  That’s something you hear over and over again, and that’s because it’s true. Brutal or not it’s worth it and that’s why we do it.

Ocular Histoplasmosis, if you are a bird hunter, you should read this.

So it’s been a little weird around here lately. The SmithFly stuff is taking off and getting crazy in a good way. That’s awesome, 2012 looks GREAT, thanks for all the support. Most of my stuff is now SOLD OUT which is a good thing. I’ve been working some crazy overtime at my day job, no complaints.

But the other day I went to the eye doctor for a random check-up, I hadn’t been in over ten years. My eyes and my vision were fine, or so I thought.

Upon closer inspection the Optometrist noticed what she called a “swollen optic nerve”. She was cagey about what that might mean, but Google is brutal and revealed a list of causes that ranged from BAD to REALLY REALLY BAD! Needless to say the Smith house was a little freaked out.

The optometrist referred me right away to a specialist called a neuro-opthamologist, any time you have to go see someone with “neuro” in the title it isn’t fun right?

So with trepidation I went this Tuesday morning to see the  neuro-opthamologist. After a tense few minutes in his office he revealed that it was NOT in-fact a swollen optic nerve, it was ocular  histoplasmosis.

Histoplasmosis is a disease caused when airborne spores of the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum are inhaled into the lungs, the primary infection site. This microscopic fungus, which is found throughout the world in river valleys and soil where bird or bat droppings accumulate, is released into the air when soil is disturbed by plowing fields, sweeping chicken coops, or digging holes.

Histoplasmosis is often so mild that it produces no apparent symptoms. Any symptoms that might occur are often similar to those from a common cold. In fact, if you had histoplasmosis symptoms, you might dismiss them as those from a cold or flu, since the body’s immune system normally overcomes the infection in a few days without treatment.


Ok so now that we have the technical crap out of the way basically at some point in my life, who knows when, I’ve been infected with the histoplasmosis spore and it moved to my eyes creating scarring. The mold and spore that causes histoplasmosis is endemic to the area I live. They call it the histo-belt, as its basically a belt around the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. However it also happens to be present in bird droppings. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you might have seen some posts about the birds that I’ve bought over the past few years to train my lovely English Setter Nick. I cleaned up a lot of poop, from quail and chukars over the past few years.

The Doctors all agreed that there is no way to tell if my infection was recent or from a while ago, aka if it was from the birds or just growing up around here. The mold just lives int the dirt. So just playing around and getting into stuff can give you this issue.

Anyway, if you buy birds, or if you shoot birds, or you raise birds, be careful with the poop and handling of the birds, it might make you sick and permanently hurt your vision. And if you are a bird hunter like me, get your eyes checked sooner rather than later. The docs can catch it and they can save your vision.

Apparently Histoplasmosis is the leading cause of blindness in 20-40 year olds in this country. For the rest of my life I’m going to have to have laser scans of my retinas to make sure new blood vessels aren’t growing behind my scar tissue and threatening my ability to see.

For now my sight remains 20-20 and I don’t need glasses, but we’ll be watching it closely.

Shoot straight and wear mask if you’re cleaning up poop.