Monday, October 29, 2012

End of the Season Celebrations!

I ran the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for over 20 years.  Those were some of the best years of my life and I made many lifelong friendships.  At the end of each season we had a fishing party.  Almost everyone went on the fun day.  We caught a lot of fish and shared our summer experiences. 

In 2009 I gave up my job to pursue my art and speaking career.  Leaving the fly shop and my friends was difficult.  After I left, the shop went through many changes.  The owners split and soon there were two shops battling for control.  The end result is that some of my fellow employees just bought the guide business.  It will no longer called Jack Dennis/Snake River Fishing Trips.  The terrific guide service now goes by Grand Teton Fly Fishing and through them you can fish all the same waters offered before with the same excellent guides. 

This weekend was the first Grand Teton Fly Fishing end of the year party and even though I haven’t been working with them for over three years I was invited.  I was so excited that I cancelled my trip to Yellowstone with Granny.  Saturday night we drove to Thermopolis, Wyoming where we spent yesterday and today fishing the Bighorn River.

Fishing was excellent to say the least.  Although we mustered up a few nice brown trout on streamers, the real fishing was with nymphs for rainbows.  In fact, it was some of the best rainbow fishing I’ve seen this year. 

I’m scrambling the next few days to be ready for a trip to Arizona Thursday.  I’ll be giving a full day seminar for Desert Fly Casters on Saturday.  Anyone can participate in this fun day.  The focus of the event will be knot tying, building European nymphing leaders, the double haul and simple tricks to “Improve Your Fishing Photography”.  If you’re in the area I promise you the day will be worth your time! 

Naturally, there will be some serious fishing involved with my good friends Cinda Howard and Steve Berry.  I’m going early and staying late so I can pursue the grass carp (white Amur) as well as the local bass, koi, sunfish and whoever else swims my way.  Expect some cool blogs soon!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Currier Artwork Season

The snow has flown here in Victor, Idaho.  I won’t stop fishing.  In fact this afternoon I’ll be off to Thermopolis, Wyoming to spend two days on the Wind River with friends.  But the cold weather does slow me down and I’ve spent the last three days working on the first of many accumulated art projects.

This is a water color I did of a golden dorado for Mark Del Frate of New Mexico.  Mark caught and released this monster from a remote jungle river at the Tsimane Lodge in Bolivia.  If you haven’t caught the “freshwater” dorado yet, put them on your list.  I’ve caught them in northern Argentina in the Iberá Marsh as well as in the Paraná River.  Although I’ve not yet fished them in Bolivia, I’m going in July – pumped!  Dorado are one of the top freshwater game fish on the planet!

Now is a great time to place an order for an empty spot on your wall. 

Here are my prices and size options.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fly Fishing for WI Muskie 2012 - Final Day

 October 21, 2012

Bill Sherer and I don’t like to make a habit of getting skunked.  We got our butts kicked yesterday by the muskellunge and we couldn’t let it happen again.  To increase our fish catching chances today, Bill guided me on a double float.  We literally floated two days worth of stretches on one of his secret muskie haunts.  This meant I needed to do my share, loosen up the shoulder, cast the 10-weight like it’s a 3 and fool as many chasers as I could.

As usual, I have an idea where we were but couldn’t begin to name the water body.  The place was in the boonies and other than a trapper and his young boys there were no other humans all day.  The sunrise will be memorable for the blast of colors from trees and the millions of leaves covering the ground.  The scene left my mind twirling about whether or not I should’ve left this wonderful place nearly thirty years ago.  Bill returned from doing the shuttle after about a half hour and we pushed off under a rich blue sky and temps in the 30ºs.

The tiny river consisted of long flats, a winding corner then a 100 feet of riffle.  I stripped my intermediate line through the riffles then dredged the deep corners with my 300 grain.  Because of the amount of river we were covering Bill pushed through most of the flats where there wasn’t enough water to hold a muskie.  Ten minutes into the morning I ripped a small muskie out from behind a log.  A similar spot to where I’d catch a brown trout on the Green back home.  It was an awesome attack on my fly, much more aggressive than that of a trout.  The baby muskie of 28 inches leapt from three feet away and landed on my fly with his mouth open.  I actually missed him then but he chased my fly towards the boat and I enticed him to eat again.

Fishing never slowed down from there.  We pushed through a few more flats.  There were a few turns without fish but then we floated into a run that reminded me of fishing for peacock bass in the Amazon because there were baitfish fleeing for their lives.  There were multiple muskies here and my heart raced.  I braced myself and sure enough on the first strip of the first cast I hooked up.  I ruined the fun morning for this muskie and he made me pay.  Even with my 10-weight, all I could do is hang on for his first smoking run.

I ended up catching three beautiful muskies from this one run.  Two were just over 30 inches and this one we didn’t measure.  Although he’s not nearly a monster, this is a fish I’ll remember to go along with today’s sunrise.  I had four muskies landed on the fly and it wasn’t even 10 AM. 

Things warmed up considerably.  I’ll bet the temperature was close to 55º in mid afternoon under mostly sunny skies.  Bill and I were shedding layers between muskies.  Yes, I said “between muskies”.  Today will likely go down as the top muskie fishing day of my life.  I hope it’s wasn’t but seriously, I doubt I’ll top today.  Our final fish count was nine muskies to the net.  The smallest was the first of the day.  All the rest were over 30”!

If fly fishing for muskellunge isn’t on your list then I suggest you make room for it.  Muskies are one of North Americas top game fish and Northern Wisconsin is one of the best kept secrets of all.  I truly love it up there.  You can get in touch with Bill Sherer through his We Tie It Fly Shop in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin.

What an incredible fishing day to add to an already phenomenal 2012!  Many thanks to my friend George who made this trip possible. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Wisconsin Muskellunge Fly Fishing 2012 - Day 2

October 20, 2012

While yesterday was a typical mid October day in Northern Wisconsin with temperatures in the 40°s and a few rain showers, today was a warmer and mostly sunny.  Whether that’s why we couldn’t budge a muskellunge to eat my fly we’ll never know.  Another possibility to our lack of success was that we had musky anglers floating ahead of us fishing lures and live suckers.  Unmolested muskies are hard enough to catch but to come up on them after someone fished a lure to them – your chances at catching them are slim. 

We saw exactly two muskies all day.  Both were over 40 inches long and the way they raised from the depths to pursue my fly will always be remembered.  They were like ghosts and the distance between their eyes was nearly a foot.  But they were far too smart to be tricked by my feathery concoction.

The only fish that even swung at my fly was this scrappy fly-wrecking Northern pike.  Northern pike sit high on the menu of big muskies.  This dude was out on the prowl which means the muskies were not.  Tomorrow is the last day.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fly Fishing for Muskie 2012 - Day 1

October 19, 2012

George booked Rick and I with the same two muskellunge fly fishing guides we had last year, Bill Sherer and John Coolidge.  This was fantastic news. Rick and I hit it off with these guys and they really know their stuff. You could easily call Bill one of the pioneers of fly fishing for muskie and it only takes a few minutes before you admire his knowledge of this fabled fish.  Bill is the owner of We Tie It Fly Shop in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin.

As for where Bill took me today, I honestly don’t know.  Certainly I have an idea but I respect his hush-hush spots and would never return on my own nor tell another angler where we were.   What I can tell you is that like most muskie waters, the place was beyond gorgeous.  Some folks don’t believe places without mountains can be so beautiful, but for me the dense forest of the Great Northwoods is spectacular, especially the tamaracks glowing everywhere you look. 

While Bill ran a shuttle for our float with his wife, I geared up.  For muskie you need a big fly rod.  I rigged my 10-weight Ross RX with my F1 reel and a Scientific Anglers Streamer Express 300 grain fly line.  The stout rod and saltwater quality reel will handle a 20lb musky if I have the good fortune of hooking one and the sinking line helps drag my 8” streamer to the depths where large muskie live.  Last, you must have about 12” of 30lb wire shock tippet at the end of your heavy leader or the toothy muskie or his cousin the Northern pike will bite you off. 

When Bill returned we pushed off and on my third cast I saw the first muskie.   Last year I learned there’s knack to induce a strike.  I slowed down my fly, hesitated and then made a vigorous strip.  Wham – the first muskie was on!  Moments later I landed and a 25” muskie toddler.

Not a bad way to start considering last year on Day 1 I got skunked.  Since that first day I’ve learned what it takes to get a muskie to eat a fly and I’m better at hooking them.  Like all big fish, I strip set rather than raise my rod like with a dry fly for trout.  But even so, muskies glide towards you after they take the fly instead of turning.  So not only do you have to make several long fast hook settings strips, but you need to sweep your rod much further than the normal jab.

The morning continued to provide excellent action.  However, despite the improvements in my tactics, I added a few more muskie screw ups to my resume.  The next muskie I landed was this handsomely barred 33". 

After that last muskie, the fishing shut off.  Other then spooking a beast from a sunken tree, we never had a single muskie look at my fly again today.  We tried a variety of different colored flies and fly sizes but nothing.  When the muskie bite is off – it’s off.

When I got home to Chippewa Retreat I met up with Rick.  He and John saw several muskies while fishing in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan but never landed one.  However they hooked a giant that shattered one of John’s 10-weight fly rods.  It’s back at it bright and early tomorrow.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Wisconsin Musky Time

October 18, 2012

My friend Rick Schreiber and I flew into Duluth, Minnesota last night and today we drove to Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin.  We’re staying at the Chippewa Retreat Resort.  This is our second annual muskellunge on a fly trip.  This fantastic excursion is put together by our great friend George Hillenbrand.  Rick once guided George on the Snake River and I took care of all of Georges tackle needs when I ran the fly shop.  Over the years we became great friends and George started taking Rick and I and other friends to Northern Wisconsin ice fishing each year.  Last year, he changed the trip to fall in hopes we could catch some musky on the fly.  The adventure was a great success.

Unfortunately, this year George and his friends were unable to make the open water musky trip.  They cancelled three weeks ago.  Yet even though they can’t make it, George generously kept everything from flights and guides to accommodations in tact for Rick and me.  The trip certainly won’t be the same without the complete gang, but Rick and I intend to catch some musky.

Normally Rick and I fly into Wausau, Wisconsin.  This year we decided to go to Duluth a day early and cruise Route 2 along Lake Superior to Ashland, Wisconsin.  I spent incredibly fun years in Ashland earning my degree at Northland College from 1983-1987.  Those four years provided me with some of the best fishing of my life.  Had I not been offered a fly shop job in Jackson Hole, Wyoming I may have stayed in Ashland.

Although I’ve returned to Northern Wisconsin the last six years, I’ve not been to Ashland since 1988 – hard to believe.  So today, for old time’s sake, Rick and I passed through.  Like everything does, Ashland has changed.  But after my quick observation, Ashland looks great and best of all, Northland College is still thriving.  I made a surprise visit on an old pal, Tim Walworth.  Tim, an Ashland native, taught me a lot tricks for catching fish out of Lake Superior.  He is now the proud owner of the local favorite, The Vintage Platter Restaurant.  Tim’s restaurant is a must stop for anyone passing through Ashland.

I probably don’t have to tell you Rick and I wet a line along the drive.  We stopped at the famous Brule River.  Right now you can fish from Route 2 downstream to the mouth by Lake Superior.   After a Wisconsin breakfast in Iron River, Rick and I got fishing licenses and drove to the mouth of the Brule.

Although the mouth of the Brule River is loaded with Coho salmon, walleye and incoming steelhead, Rick is a fan of moving water.   After a look around we drove back upstream a few miles and found some nice turns in the river.  The water was slightly off color from the drizzle and rain we were experiencing, perfect for fall run steelhead. 

While the locals advised fishing egg patterns Rick and I went with streamers.  Neither of us is much into fishing egg patterns.  However, after I fished a great looking run without a fish, I put on a favorite Vladi Trzebunia nymph of mine and immediately dredged out a rainbow.  This was my first fish on a nymph in a long time and I was delighted.  Today is my birthday and I catch a fish every year on my birthday. 

After working the run hard with no other trout I went upstream to track down Rick to see how the streamer was doing.  When I found him he was fishing hard.  He’d had a steelhead chase his streamer and was focused on bringing him up again and catching him.  I bummed a stogie and watched.

After Rick worked the pool without another sighting of the fish he turned it over to me and my nymph rig.  On my second pass the oversized rainbow (Great Lakes steelhead) nearly ripped the rod from me.  It was game on and the thick lake run fish leapt and ripped his way up the pool.  After a fantastic fight I tailed the splendid birthday fish.

We are now at Chippewa Retreat in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin.  We just played pool with the owner and good friend, John McGraw.  We had a great time catching up over beers and tomorrow it’s time to chase musky on the fly. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Sucker Born every Minute

I was tossing and turning at 5 this morning and finally gave up the fight.  The big laker I’ve been after all week at Jenny Lake must have been calling me.  At 6 I was loading my Exploder and heading back to Grand Teton National Park in darkness.

By the time I arrived the sun was up, what sun there was anyhow.  This morning was mostly cloudy and I drove through some scattered showers between Victor and Jenny.  The elk were bugling and a cold wind was busting whitecaps up on the gravel beach I hiked too.

I started fishing with my 7-weight RX and a Uniform Sink Type V but after 15 minutes of casting and stripping without a bump I switched to my 5-weight that was rigged with two nymphs.  With this I made some short casts just past the drop-off and started a three finger hand twist.  That was it.  On my first retrieve I hooked and landed a 21” laker and followed him with five more lake trout in five more casts!

Landing the lake trout I got up early for on my 5-weight probably wasn’t going to happen so after my fun of catching a few I went back to my 7 and continued dredging.  Absolutely not a strike.  At 10 I was thinking of packing it in because I have plenty of work to do at home but the wind intensified and I could see a storm brewing and blocking out the Tetons.  I hoped it would be the storm that triggered the big fish bite.  I casted aggressively through the entire hour long lasting squall but still not a bump.  By 11 the storm was gone and Jenny slowly calmed down from whitecaps to a gentle waves.  That’s when I hooked up to something stronger than a cookie cutter mackinaw

My heart jumped a few beats but I could feel awkwardness.  I had a sizeable fish but it wasn’t making the typical big lake trout run.  After a minute of stubborn fighting, up to the surface came a glowing sucker.  A sucker!  While most anglers would have been disappointed, I was stoked.  I balanced my camera on a rock and got me a sucker hero shot.  Good fun!

That was the excitement for today.  I pulled out from Jenny at noon cold and wet.  I have packing to do.  I’m headed for Wisconsin to try for my 50” musky later this week – priorities!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Flat Creek then Jenny Lake in an Afternoon

A weather change wasn’t in the forecast but today we woke up to clouds and wind.  Granny’s off and I asked her if she’d be up for hiking into Jenny Lake with me.  However, she knows how possessed I get when I’m on a big fish mission and she opted not to join.  But what fun would it be if I caught that three foot lake trout I saw with Rick Schreiber the last couple days and no one was around? 

As morning went on Granny got a few things done and started to show some interest in a Jenny excursion, only she wanted to throw a loop in it.  She suggested starting with a couple hours at the famous Flat Creek on the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming for some big Snake River Cutthroats.  I haven’t fished on Flat in years so she had a deal.

Unfortunately when we got to Flat at around 1 PM the weather was a borderline hurricane.  Clouds were whipping by overhead, it was drizzling and the wind had the grass lying sideways.  After we walked down to Flat there were more whitecaps than fish.  Miraculously however, there was one pool sheltered just enough that in the glassy slick next to the undercut bank there were three cuttys rising.  I tied on a thorax mahogany dun and set Granny loose on the lowest fish.  But the wind brutalized her.  Handling the long leader required for the finesse dry fly fishing of Flat turned into more of a nightmare than fun for her.

We could have left then but I had to take a crack at the two remaining risers.  It took me two false casts before I was asking myself why I hadn’t been to Flat in years.  I love this kind of dry fly challenge and a minute later I set the hook into a 13” cutty.  After releasing him I grabbed a seat and waited for the last remaining cutty to start rising again.  Once he did I got him also.

The two cutthroats were not the hawgs Flat Creek is famous for but fooling them is always an accomplishment, especially in tough conditions.  After I set free the second one we hoofed it for the car and drove straight to Jenny Lake.  Funny thing, Rick was already there.  He too is possessed at the chance of a huge lake trout on the fly!

It was wicked cold and windy at Jenny.  Rick had been there an hour and caught only one laker.  This is strange because it’s these exact conditions that trigger lakers to eat.  Yet not today.  Rick fished another hour before he left freezing.  Granny and I stayed till near dark but we never had a single strike.  But staying was fantastic.  It was a very ominous evening with storm clouds moving over the Tetons and to further add to the charm of the evening a family of otters came by us for a visit.  Of course they proved the lake trout were there!