Monday, September 29

The Hipster Fly Rod: Grab your wood today, quantities limited

What do you do when you're 30 minutes into a 5 hour fishing adventure a few miles back in the bush and break your rod?

Introducing the new Sage line of Hipster rods:  The "Wood"

Are you tired of spending 3 months salary on a rod that is "just like everyone else's?  Well, sleep easy knowing you'll be the only one sporting a Wood on the river!

Most rods nowadays are measured in ounces...are you kidding me?  If you spend $500 on a rod that weighs 4 oz, that's $125 an oz!  The Wood is a refreshing trip down memory lane, priced at around $10 a pound.  That's right, per POUND.  You can barely buy a pound of bacon for that price.

The model shown is a 30 weight one piece, 8' 3 3/8".  A real back woods experience.  Guaranteed to not only give your arms the work out they need, but also to make your hands bleed within the hour. Not for the faint of heart, each rod is a "one of" and because of the quality, doesn't need a rod tube! The signature series will be personally inscribed with my initials, have a custom duct taped handle, and available only to the first 50 orders.       

For a nominal price, we'll also include a 12 foot section of old ratty fly line to tie to the end for ultimate fishability.  We've decided to do away with cork handles altogether, and are offering a whittled upgrade option.  The blanks are also available, but are the same price as the finished do the math!  The Wood comes in too many lengths and weights to ever list.  In fact, I'm even willing to do a custom length.  Weight may vary.  We've also decided to throw typical "action" descriptions out the window, as the Wood just isn't your typical rod and we didn't want to limit the possibilities.  I've included a list of our most popular models to help you in your selection:

broom stick   (our bare bones model designed with the hard core angler in mind.  a wonderful all                               around option)

tree stump     (great for those smaller rivers that still hold big fish)  

dad's wrath   (designed to compete with the fiberglass enthusiasts, very supple while still            
                       delivering an intimidating "sting")

car antenna   (are you all about presentation?  This is your rod)

carriage whip (like to beat the water to a froth, let the trout know you're there and mean business?                              This one's for you)

pole barn       (salt water, salmon, musky...pole vaulting)

splinter          (for the budget conscious, however this one will surprise you.  Think Harry Potter's                               wand meets Gandalf's staff and had a baby named Only in Orvis' Wildest Dreams.  

telephone pole (this is our Spey rod model...also, two people can fish this rod at the same time)

Again, you can rest assured that your Wood will stand out in the crowd!

Lastly;  if you're like me, you recently learned that if the broken half of your rod goes floating downstream making its way to the ocean, it doesn't fall under warranty!  Now you're left explaining to your wife why the lifetime warranty you raved about to justify the cost of your "typical" rod doesn't apply...and that no, you cannot in fact just "add some other section to it."  

To combat this problem, we've upgraded the Wood's warranty to include literally anything, at no charge.  Need to start a fire and the only wood you could find was your custom problem!  Needed a wading staff and used your Wood?  No problem!  Got in a sword fight?  Needed to fend off intruders?  Scared off a bear?  Had to give pole vaulting a try?  NO PROBLEM!  We'll get a new Wood in your hands in no time!

disclaimer:  any likeness to an actual Sage rod is nonexistent and not implied, nor is it intentionally materially misrepresented and other things of that nature.  Please don't sue me.  Also...what the hell good was the broken section of my rod, Redington?  I tried to catch it, but it was a futile chase (and midnight).  You were just going to look at it, say "hmm", and send me some new pieces anyhow. Can I sleep at your house tonight?

other disclaimer:  warranty does not cover "incidental" damage.  Incidental damage is anything related to:  using your Wood to start a fire, using your Wood as a wading staff, using your Wood to sword fight, fending off intruders with your Wood, intimidating bears with your Wood, or attempting to pole vault with your Wood.  Other things not included under warrantly include but are not limited to: breaking.  

The Come Down

     I've never driven so slow in my life.  There were only a few cigarettes left in the pack and with the knowledge that I wouldn't be buying anymore, I reluctantly lit one.  There was an old guy, weathered hands and face, short a few teeth, changing a tire on the side of the road about a mile from my house.  I gladly stopped to offer my help, delaying the inevitable. He laughed and thanked me for the offer.

The worst and best part of fishing trips is getting so deeply immersed in what truly matters in life.    Maybe I should say "submerged" in what matters?  Or...maybe it's just being able to get away from what everyone else thinks matters.  Yeah, I think that's it.  In a few short turns I would be thrown back to the wolves, forced to smile as I returned phone calls, answered benign questions about insurance policies, and mostly, pretend like it all mattered.  Don't get me wrong, I have a great career.  One that affords me the ability to make my own schedule, answer to almost no one, and work at my own pace. Hell, I'm writing this in my office right now.  It's just that I'll never be quite satisfied with any career choice I guess.

I miss the kids when I'm gone, I miss my wife...but sometimes I miss myself when I'm home.  I know it's all fantasy...I couldn't stay gone forever and probably wouldn't want to.  I live in Northern Michigan to begin with, a place where most people go to "get away" and to escape the hustle and bustle of of yet another lost and wandering population of people.  Maybe it's the idea I'm in love with.  The idea of a life spent by the stream, around the fire, and smelling of fish, waders, and beer.  Contemplating only the next piece of water to fish.  Winter is coming soon...that'd probably make me change my tune a bit.  But still...the idea persists, no matter how many times I try to suppress it with common sense, beer, and manufactured agendas I can't seem to shake it.

I'm already busy planning the next escape.

It wasn't really a spiritually moving trip, no cosmic connections, rather a grounding.    A rekindling of feelings not often felt and rarely shared.  I was able to stretch my roots deep into the land, drink in the connection, and repair the scars that everyday life has a way of creating.  A reckoning of the year's ups and downs.

The drive up started at 3:30 am.  We had decided that if we leave at that hour we could arrive at the river by 10 am, hence losing no fishing time.  I crawled in bed that night around 9.  I'm not sure why. My eyes didn't close until about 1:30, but I was up with the first few rings of the uncommon occurrence.  Most of the drive was filled with hopeful conversations of the rivers and lakes we would fish, the fish that may inhabit them, and past experiences in the places we would again ply our craft.  We were to meet my dad the following day at the camp site.  He happens to be sane enough to leave at a normal hour and also had a few extra days to stay so the urgency wasn't there.

The Jeep was packed to capacity and then some.  By the time we arrived in "town", nothing but two bars and a few closed general stores, the car smelled of enthusiasm, impatience, expectation, and stale cigarettes.  We dropped a few things at camp and made the 30 minute
drive to the first spot in 20.  It was a place I'd never been, a spot Alex had put in the leg work to find.  It was a hard two track to locate, if you can call it a two track.  It was shady at best...disappearing only to re-emerge as the jeep passed over tree stumps and rocked through wash outs and down a narrow, twisting hill to the put in. The type of place that makes you question how far you're willing to walk back to civilization when you get stuck. A track with branches and trees laying across the road, re-enforcing the idea that no one had been there in a long, long time.  Maybe they were just smart enough to walk...but its's a long ways back...and it's my story.

The water was roaring; a truly fast Michigan stream.  It was a fly fisherman's wet dream.  Literally.  The depth of the water was perfect, about 1 to 3 feet, but the rocks and boulders were not to be taken was slippery and I'm clumsy.  The lay of the land made for relatively easy casting.  High steep banks on one side, a gorgeous rock cliff hanging menacingly over the bank on one side created an amazing undercut that occupied way too much of my time.  I know there was a fish in there, laughing as I changed flies to try to bring him out. I don't think I ended up in a tree the whole day, a rare occurrence.  The first fish took me quite by surprise.  A gorgeous 11 or 12 inch brookie in full fall splendor.  The next several hours were spent moving brook trout, landing several and missing many more.  I met up with Alex downstream.  He was sitting on the bank lost in the scene. It was pretty apparent he was in his element.  His childish delight radiating off the water was not hard to miss.  The fall colors were the perfect backdrop.
A little later that day and a lot further upstream, we were in a stretch with deep pools. I hooked into the first big fish of the trip.  At least a 15 or 16 inch brook trout.  I carefully played it being sure not to rush.  As I reached for the net, I glimpsed the fish for the first time.  It was all of 15 or 16 inches, but somehow, my trout had turned into a pike.  I felt a little guilty that my disappointment was so palpable.  I grimaced as I unhooked it.  No...I didn't take a picture.  The next fish was a 22 inch pike. It was time to head to camp.

We met up with my dad shortly thereafter.  A few beers in and during a nice fire I decided to say what we were all thinking.  "I'm too tired to go mousing tonight."  It was all Alex could stand.  "If you're to tired then I guess we don't have to."

The next day's adventure had been set in stone before the trip was even finalized.  The lake.  We all have a few spots we don't talk about.  We don't utter the real name under any circumstance and we don't take anyone least not without the proper credentials and a blood oath.  This lake isn't really hard to find, in fact there's a sign pointing the way.  It is hard to get to however.  You almost have to fish it with a boat, and the long walk down a winding rooted disaster of a path is the perfect deterrent to keep out the unworthy.  Last year around this time found my Dad and I quite dumbfounded.  We weren't just catching brook trout...we were catching gigantic brook trout ready and willing to rise to a dry.  It was truly the experience of a lifetime and one I will never forget.

This year the fishing was quite a bit more difficult.  The wind was up and over the course of 9 hours we managed to bring 3 fish to the boat, all on streamers.  The biggest of which was only (this lake is unique) 14 or 15 inches. The walk back was chorused by wolves...gorgeous albeit a little off putting. I insisted we go back the next day.  What choice did I have?  In fact, left to my own devices, I'd probably never leave the lake except maybe to chase some river fish from time to time.

The next day found the lake in much the same situation...high winds and a boat full of impatient anglers.  Finally, around 6:00 the lake started to turn to glass.  Good god yes...they would start rising any minute...and eventually they did.  There was about a 30 minute window where they were sipping the surface.  And damn were they fussy about presentation.  Fly choice didn't seem to be a huge factor, but fishing a lake is different.  You can never be quite sure about the best strategy:  are you fishing to cruising fish, in which case you should just leave your fly the hell alone and let chance do the work, or should you chase rising fish and put it on their plate.  We tried a little of both with limited success.  We both caught a few 9 or 10's, the biggest fish again being in the 14 to 15 inch range.  (A great brook trout I know, but still).  This is the LOST LAKE.  This is brook trout paradise. That was the last time we fished the lake.  It's a commitment to head in there and there are just too many places to fish to spend the whole week in the same spot.  I could however be heard muttering the rest of the week: "we should be there right now...I bet now would've been a good time". I've said it before, but having "catching" expectations shattered isn't a bad thing.  The uncertainty is what keeps us going.  It's why I'm salivating as I write this, and why Lost Lake will haunt my dreams until next year.

The next several days were spent trying to cram as much fishing into the little time we had.  Mousing unfamiliar and hazardous water at night, chasing brook trout during the day.  Eating way to much food.  Probably drinking a little too much beer.

It's shit like this that a successful trip is made of:  

and don't forget to cast your ballot for Glasscock! He won't go soft on crime, and refuses to pull out until the job is done, and done right...

The official trout season is coming to a close in a mere day.  Even though trout season never really closes in Michigan, I'm still sad about it.  It's the mark of another year gone.  A season that I may remember for the rest of my life, or may be pushed out to make room for others.  Other fish, other places, other experiences.  I hope it doesn't though.  This has truly been one hell of a season, and the trip was the icing on the cake, the rise in the riffle you've waited all night to see.

Go chase your contentment, chase trout, have an experience...this year I've had more than I deserve.

fish on,


Friday, September 12

Reflections From the River: The week in fishing Sep 6th-12th

I laugh to keep from crying.   Here it is.

Sep 6th- Sep 12th

 I'm not normally this type of person, but damn it I'm I glad this week is coming to a close.  I got out fishing 3 times this week, and strangely enough they were all for salmon. Not a single trout trip in the mix.  Not ideal, but acceptable.

There are a few reasons this week was such a bad week to get out, but the main one is my son.  Dealing with medical issues is never fun, and the poor guy is at the beginning of what may be a long road.  Tuesday we took him down to the children's hospital and received the diagnosis of tourettes syndrome.  He's 6.  My wife and I don't quite buy the diagnosis conflicts with the other pediatric neurologist, and something is still off.  Soon we'll be off to see another specialist, maybe at a different children's hospital, but we need to figure out what the hell is going on.  He's a different child than he was last year.  At best, it's something called "inattention adhd", a relatively unique disorder.  It doesn't entirely explain the motor "tics" he has though, but tourettes doesnt explain the "spacing out."  Not the worst diagnosis out there by a long shot, but it'll make life tough on him.  At worst, he's on the autism spectrum.

It could always be worse I guess.  I'm not sure why I say that.  I don't think anyone anywhere has ever heard someone utter those fucking words and felt better afterwards.  Fuck.  We've never really dealt with anything major like this before.  At one moment I feel like I may just physically let lose on the next person to cross my path, the next I want a hug, and for someone to tell me it will be all right.  It will all work out for the best.  It will be all right...right?  Maybe.  Probably.  Maybe not.  This is probably why I chased salmon this week.  The salmon can be a glorious fish for mindless casting...truly letting your mind go and losing track of time, waiting for the explosion of a fish or emotion, whichever comes first.

On a positive note, my buddy caught his first salmon!  A fantastically ugly and gorgeous buck that waited until the last second to attack. "Holy shit!  It's BIG.  Do you think it's a salmon?"  It was hilarious watching him try to hold it for the picture.  "It's too big, what do I do?"

The last two times I went by myself.  The first night a husband and wife parked their kayak 30 feet from me and proceeded to cast they're spinning rods (which they were holding upside down) in my direction.  Luckily, I wasn't really there to catch fish anyhow.

I finally got my hands on a salmon last night. Well...kind of.  I started the night by wading as deep as I could into the "serene" Cheboygan river. Within minutes I had my first fish on:  the second biggest walleye I've ever caught.  I slim 9 incher.  About 20 minutes later I was into my second fish of the night.  A feisty 12 inch rock bass...on 15lb tippet.  I was starting to feel like a real sport.

I swung an egg sucking leech for about another hour when I saw it:  A nice size salmon jumped right in front of me.  Then again.  Then it floated to the surface at my knees.  It slowly tried to get back down and began a slow course downstream, tail up.  I took a few steps down and casually grabbed it by the tail (a dangerous move in the Cheboygan river).

I spent about 5 minutes reviving the fish and contemplating the contradictory nature of what I was doing. I was overcome with the feeling of how futile this all  Not just the resuscitation of this particular fish.  But all of it.  The  I've modeled my fishing pursuits around a fly rod and around catch and release.  I stood there giving CPR to a half dead fish, who, for some reason or another thought I was a safe bet to die in front of; a salmon that, regardless of what I do, will be dead in about a months time.  A salmon that was probably so sick of seeing spoons and treble hooks ran in front of it that it may actually have been begging for a quick death.

The fishing was over at that point.  What else can you do?  Go on fishing like it hadn't happened, pretending like it actually mattered whether or not I caught a fish when one, literally, landed at my feet only so I could temporarily revive it so it could swim away.  Pretend like it was going to live or even make it through the night.  A temporary fix.  The salmon is almost certainly dead by now...but maybe the goal was to feel like I accomplished something.  Maybe I just didn't want to see it die and it was easier if it died out of sight...out of mind...not my responsibility.  It would have tasted fine on the grill, it wasn't decaying, relatively silver, a little green. Probably caught and fought until the last second only to have broken off.  Slipped away, temporarily escaping his fate only to come face to face with it downstream as we all inevitably must.   It's all downstream.

I don't want to watch my son slip away.  I don't want him to have autism.  I don't want him to go through that and I don't want him to be "different." Not in that regard. I don't care how that sounds.  I don't pray and I don't believe in God, but right now I want to believe.  I wish I believed.  I want him to grow up, I want him to laugh at just how futile fishing is, and love it all the more for that very reason.  I want him to hold a dying salmon in his hands and embrace just how fleeting life is, how truly pointless most of life's pursuits are, and how the most pointless of those pursuits are often the one's worth spending the most time on.  I want him to swim upstream, against the current, not helplessly float down while I pretend like it will be OK.  I want him to be OK.

I want him to be him.

Friday, September 5

Reflections from the River: The week in fishing

Aug 30th - Sep 5th

Happy Friday!  I think in most parts of the state the salmon are trickling in!  Get out there and fish.   

Just not here!  My wife said someone was "kicking" a salmon they had caught to their car

Bridges are where I like to see people though. I think they keep the unworthy or unwilling from looking for different spots.

I kicked off the labor day weekend with a trip down below Mio with my dad for the weekend (I was only able to stay for 2 days).  It’s always a bad weekend for me, with the kids starting school, and the guilt of being gone just before it starts, but it's a great weekend for him:  he gets to be the hell away from the 40,000 intruders in Mackinaw set to enjoy the tradition of traversing the bridge...maybe it’s only strange to me since I grew up there, but I never did quite understand it. Maybe some day.

We arrived to the campground, expectant as you can be when it’s done nothing but storm for a few days, and nothing but storms are in the forecast for the next two.  Turns out, mother nature was on our side.  The impending storms kept the tubers out of the river, and we had a fairly uninterrupted day time float.  Not too many fish, but good company, cheap beer, and a few laughs.  We were hopeful we picked the right time this year, that the white flies would be delayed. You see, my Dad is the type of guy that doesn't care about "conventional" wisdom. He knows the white flies are prime a week or two BEFORE labor day, but he likes the labor day weekend. It turns out, it was great timing.  There was a good spattering on Saturday night, and it "snowed" on Sunday, but few fish rising.  

Fritz, the type of guy that’s so damned nice you hope he catches all the fish, DID.  A gorgeously fat brown of about 24 inches.  She was pulled from a fairly nondescript spot, just prospecting as there were no real rising fish to speak of.  Hell of a way to start the night.  We spent the next 4 hours mousing and throwing streamers without moving a SINGLE fish.  Strange, considering there wasn't much of a moon, but the barometer with the constantly changing storm fronts could have had a hand in it.  

That day I broke my 6 month old Allen 8 weight, so I was throwing some pretty beefy hairballs with a 5 wt.  So far, Allen seems to be a pleasure to deal with on warranty issues.  

Unfortunately I had to head home without quite getting my fill, so Monday night I had to get back out there.  I had my mind set on a tricky stretch of brook trout water that runs through a hellacious swamp.  The kind of place you don’t really want to walk to...especially at yourself.  My buddy Alex was up for the challenge, as he almost always is.  He’s the type of guy that doesn’t really ask too many questions about where we’re going...mostly wondering if we’ll be back before sunrise, and if he should bring the 4wt or something bigger. After committing to the excursion, he'll then spend the rest of the day sending weather updates, breaking down the radar, barometric pressure stats, the moon phase, local folklore, a new fly pattern he'd like me to get tied by the time we leave, and last but not least his personal opinions of the likely hood of catching fish. I'm not sure why, he's going to go regardless of the supposed "probability", but it's fun to watch.

We had fished this spot 2 weeks previous.  The first time either of us had been there.  The evening fish was a little slow, both of us releasing 1 or 2 small brookies.  We were to hell and gone back in the swamp and decided we had better start the long walk back up the river...we tried the swamp on the way down and it was horrible.  The bugs started coming off just before dark and the river turned to a boil in no time.  We each took a few more between 6 and 10 inches, and just as soon as it had started, it was done.  Both being extremely fond of mousing, we discussed the prospects of tying one on and catching a brook trout after dark...on a mouse.  What the hell, right?  I had the mouse in the water for about 3 minutes, and BAM.  It was on.  I was in awe as i netted the 14.5 inch brookie (I only had the net because I forgot to take it off on the way in.)  Neither of us could believe our good fortune.  Within 15 more minutes I had lost two more fish which must have run at least that big.  Finally, Alex had a hook up.  He brought in a truly amazing specimen, just over 15 inches.  A sweet wild brook trout indeed.  

Long story short, we expected a lot going in the next time.  What we got turned out a little different.  The water was at least 8 inches higher, a lot for this little stream, and the fish were unwilling.  Two fish were rolled, not very big.  I think our biggest hurtle was that we expected to be fighting the fish off with a stick after such a good run the first time.  That's why I go back. That's why I love fishing.  I am not so secretly glad that we struck out.  What would've happened had we had the same luck?  Would we fish anywhere else?  Or would we never fish there again, having convinced ourselves that we had it “figured out?”  

Get out there this weekend, make some memories, and good luck!


Wednesday, September 3

Trout People Confessional


     The conversation normally goes something like this:

     "Oh you fish!?!  We limited out on walleye in 45 minutes!  45 minutes!  Hell, I was home in time to watch the news!"

or this:

     "You fish? I fish a lot!  I mean a lot!  Caught two "master angler" brook trout out of a lake in the U.P.  They didn't taste very good though  Strangest thing, never once pulled another nice fish out of that little lake.  Not even worth fishing anymore if you ask me."

orrr this:

     "Oh you fish?  Man, 54 blue gill out of lake Big Swingin Dick last Friday.   FIFTY FOUR!  Can you believe that?   I mean shit, 54.  My buddy caught 36 the night before, but yesterday we only caught 16.  Today started off good, caught 15 in the morning but only managed 6 this afternoon.  I'd really hoped to catch at least 54 again today, but it's looking like we'll only be bringing about 33 home. Can't win 'em all."

I've accepted that there is a chance I may be a trout snob. Could it be true? I probably am.  Bloody hell, I am. Not in the prick sense of the word, (most of the time) just in the sense that the trout is my fish.  In my world it is the most revered and profound of all the fishes.

In a nut shell my fishing philosophy, maybe life philosophy, is this:  More than anything I prefer to be fishing.  More specifically, I prefer to chase trout with a fly rod.  If that's not possible, I'd prefer to chase salmon with a fly rod.  If that's not possible, I'd prefer to chase any fish with a fly rod.  If that's not possible, I'd prefer to fish a spinning rod.  If I can't do that, I'd prefer to fish...any way possible.  If I can't do that, well, that's why I started a I can at least write about trout.

 I have about as much in common with a fish counter as I do with a cruise ship captain.  Yep, we both spend a lot of time on the water, but that's where the similarities end.  As most of us are, I'm guilty of having a bit of big fish envy from time to time (maybe more than that), and occasionally suffer from a case of big fish pride, but for me big fish and big numbers are not the destination, they are but an occasional byproduct of the journey.  They are an excuse to stay out all night, a reason to be unreasonable, and  the cause of  many an exciting predicament.  What they are not is the end all be all.

I've had fish filled days on the water and weeks where I haven't laid eyes on a fish. What interests me about your "master angler" brook trout or your 50 fish days is not necessarily the size, not the number...but the FEELING.  Tell me about how your heart skipped a beat when you first felt the full weight of the fish and I will gladly listen.  Tell me about the rush of adrenaline when your walleye first broke the surface and you have my ear.  Tell me not about how many blue gill you pulled in, but what it FELT like to catch so many fish your arms ached, or maybe that your kid was there to experience it for the first time.  I don't want to hear about how quickly you can limit out (don't break your arm patting yourself on the back), but what I do want to know is how fulfilling it must have been to devote so much time learning a piece of water and reap the "fruits of your labor"...or maybe that it was at that old spot your dad used to take you when you were a kid...

I'm of the school of thought that most people are genuinely good and normally mean well.  People that would do the right thing when faced with the choice.  However, that doesn't mean that I feel it necessary to "suffer fools."

I can listen to most anyone talk about fishing, but it seems more and more that people don't want to talk about fishing, they want to talk about catching (I suffer from the malady myself from time to time too).  I think that's another reason why I'm a trout "snob"...I enjoy talking to other trout obsessed people.  Someone that can describe and understand the feeling of walking 3 miles through the swamp and the exhilaration of an 8" brook trout in the beaver pond his grandpa showed him.  What it's like to sit high on the bank of a winding creek, losing themselves as they gaze into the riffles that have a way of reflecting more than a mirror ever could.  There's something innately different about us.  Our obsession starts deep in the under currents of rivers and lakes, mystery and wonder, and works it's way up to the surface where a feeding trout breaks the boundary of what we had imagined was there and creates the tangible link in an otherwise intangible feeling.  Trout people understand that.  There is a love there, between trout snobs, trout bums, and trout, that few others can understand.  A one sided love, true, but a love nonetheless.