Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Locked Out

Granny and I should have been driving the Route 1 along the coast of California first thing today but instead we were sitting in an auto glass place in Novato, California. Last night I spoke to the North Bay and the MT. Tamalpais Fly Fishing Clubs about fly fishing in Yellowstone. Unfortunately about three hours before my speech I locked the keys in the Explorer. We have two spare sets but both were in the car! Idiot!

I have plenty of excuses, none that made life any easier. We called a locksmith that guaranteed our rescue in 35 minutes which would have given us plenty of time to make my show. He never showed and an hour before show time I found a rock and smashed out my own window. *******!!!!

To make a long story short, we made it to a wonderful dinner with our hosts Larry and Kathy Lack and even made it to my show and the presentation went without a hitch. As always I met and visited with a lot of great folks and had a blast.

At 1 PM Granny and I raced out of Novato down the 101 and we find ourselves in San Louis Obispo, California. We are about to hit the town. We’ve driven through this remote CA coastal city many times before but after tonight we will know it.

Tomorrow we drive to Laguna Beach and visit our friends Tina and Karl Weber that own the Gros Ventre River Ranch in Wyoming. I should get a few surf perch right in front of their beachside winter house!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Striper Time

Been too busy to post.  Had a heck of a weekend doing presentations in Fresno, California and then for the Fly Fishing Show in Pleasanton.  Then today I finally got to take a break.  A break where Granny and I got treated to the California Delta and some striper fishing with Ben Byng.  Good stuff!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Back Roads of Nevada

Granny and I are on our way to Fresno, California where I start a ten day speaking tour. Whenever I do a multiple day road trip by car I take a good look at the towns I may end up overnighting in along the way. I check them out on Google and search out a good restaurant or bar. Somewhere that can provide a little local flavor and culture. Last night Granny and I hit the famous Martin Hotel for dinner and drinks in the sleepy town of Winnemucca, Nevada. We needed to blow some steam after a grueling 500 mile drive from Victor, Idaho that included 100 miles of treacherous icy roads followed by seven hours of rain – those windshield wipers start to wear you down. All I can say is the food, drink and locals were fantastic!

Despite the entertaining evening, Granny and I got and early start this morning to continue our road trip. Based on the advice of some locals we met at the Martin Hotel Bar last night, Granny and I drove off the beaten path a bit. Instead of taking Interstate 80 all the way to Sacramento then south to Fresno we got off Route 80 ninety miles west of Winnemucca and took Route 93 South to Fallon, Nevada. Then we snuck over to Carson City and into California and over Carson Pass. We rolled in to Fresno at about 5 tonight. It was an awesome drive that took us through some incredible remote high desert, a snowy mountain pass and then finally the relentless traffic of California’s Route 99.

Tomorrow night I’ll speak to the Fresno Fly Fishing Club about Yellowstone and then Granny and I will make a late night drive to Pleasanton, CA for the three day Fly Fishing Show. I’ll be there all three days doing a variety of presentations and casting demonstrations. Busy busy. . .

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

California Bound

Heading for California for the biggest leg of the winter road trip.  Looking forward to seeing many of you along the way.  Should be fun and I should get some fishing in between shows for stripers and surf perch.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Surprise Fly Fishing Opportunity for Crappie

Last night was a great night in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I gave a fun presentation and got to visit with folks I met in previous trips here. Then after a short stopover at one of the Kalamazoo Brewery's with a group of Trout Unlimited Chapter members, Terry Wittorp and I made the hour drive back to his house. Once again road life entailed a late night after a very full day.

As a rule, the morning after I speak somewhere I fly directly home. That is, unless I’m invited to go fishing. A month ago Terry invited me to join him for a day of ice fishing for black crappie. Naturally I said yes. Unfortunately, it’s been too warm here in Michigan to form safe ice to fish on. Who could imagine no ice in Michigan in February? It’s true though. So Terry’s alternate plan was to run north to the Muskegon River. However, the Muskegon meant a long drive and conditions up on this beautiful river aren’t exactly red hot. That’s why at 1 AM this morning we came up with the decision to sleep in and then after a good breakfast, fly fish an open water channel attached to the crappie lake we intended to ice fish on. A place literally minutes from Terry’s house.

I enjoy the heck out of fly fishing for crappie so when Terry suggested this I was thrilled. I fly fish for crappie with a 4-weight rod, a floating line and a small popper. This time of year the popper idea is out because the water is too cold so I rigged a 12 foot level 1X Fluorocarbon leader with two nymphs. My point nymph was a size 14 Hare’s Ear and my dropper was an unknown smaller nymph that I placed about three feet up the leader. In spite of the care and time taken to rig, neither Terry nor I expected to catch anything because it’s still the dead of winter. We simply wanted to make the best of a day.

We hit the unthawed part of the crappie lake at around 10. The weather was ridiculously gorgeous for February in Michigan with sunshine and temps in the upper 40°s, so nice that the day also attracted local crappie anglers equipped with their live minnows and slip bobbers. Terry and I eased our way in on to the end of a dock and launched a cast. All eyes were on the intruders with the funny rods.

From my point of view I could see the tops of some weeds down about five feet deep and as my flies got close to me I could even see them coming through the water. That’s when to my disbelief I saw a crappie honing in on my point fly. Just as I noticed that fish, another sprang from the weeds and nailed my dropper. Ha! I couldn’t believe it! A fish on the first cast when we had low expectations!

Usually when you catch a fish on your first cast the rest of the day generally sucks, but today we continued to produce crappie after crappie. They weren’t by any means the big dudes we hoped for but several made the 10” mark. And for about every six crappie we caught, a colorful bluegill would enter the mix. I even caught what I think is a monster 7” golden shiner. The fact is that any warm sunny day of fishing in Michigan in February is a good one, especially when you can catch more than 50 crappie on fly rod.

The true highlight of our day was that we out fished the minnow dudes. In fact it was so bad that I heard one of them mumble to his friend, “Looks like we need to get us one of those wavy trout rod things”. It was really funny. I should add however, that although bait guys and fly guys often don’t mix well in close proximity, I very much enjoyed fishing and chatting with the locals. These guys were fascinated that I actually came from Idaho and I enjoyed hearing the gossip from around the Sister lakes. It was fun. And while Terry and I released all our crappie, the locals filled a few buckets. That’s how set up the hilarious picture that began the report.

I’ll be headed home tomorrow only to unpack and virtually pack again. Tuesday it’s off to California for a two week tour that starts in Fresno Thursday night. My next fishing is planned in the Delta where me and friend Ben Byng will try to track down some nice striped bass.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I flew into Grand Rapids, Michigan late last night. My friend Terry Wittorp picked me up and we drove an hour or so to his house which is on the Sister Lakes. This morning Terry took me to St. Joseph on the shores of Lake Michigan. It’s a windy drizzly day but we had it in us to risk a walk out onto one of the piers where we visited some of the local anglers dredging spawn to catch lake whitefish, coho salmon and brown trout. The dead fish picture isn’t something I like to promote but trust me, fishing the docks of Lake Michigan in the dead of winter doesn’t attract anglers that will put them in the freezer and never eat them. These fish won’t go to waste.

I love visiting the Great Lakes region. Whenever I’m here I think back to my Northland College days living in Ashland, Wisconsin. I had the privilege of experiencing some remarkable fishing that few ever get to see. The fishing up here is a lot better than most know.

This evening Terry and I will head up to Kalamazoo where I will give my presentation “Fly Fishing Through Midlife Heaven” to the Kalamazoo Chapter of Trout Unlimited. I’ve spoke here before and I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone.

Tomorrow Terry and I are going fishing. Where? We don’t know. Originally we planed to ice fish for crappie but the ice is rotten because of the freak warm weather in the region. I’m sure we will get some good ideas from the Chapter folks tonight.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lakers Through the Hard Water

The ice is perfect down on Fremont Lake in Pinedale, Wyoming. Traditionally, February on Fremont offers the best shot at pulling a big lake trout through the ice. Ice fishing is one of those sports that many snub their nose at. But I love it. Every type of ice fishing whether its tip-up fishing for walleye and northern pike, jigging for panfish or in this weekend’s case, jigging for lake trout, I enjoy them all. The sport is a lot more challenging then most think, and the ice is a peaceful place. When you think about it, fishing on top of ice is truly amazing and for me a great way to enjoy the solitude of winter at its best. Unfortunately because of my winter schedule at this point in life, I rarely get to enjoy the experience anymore. That’s why when my old buddy Mike Braghini asked me to join him this weekend I made the time.

Fremont is large lake about 14 miles long and 2 miles wide in places. It backs right up into the Wind River Mountain Range and is as beautiful as any lake I’ve ever ice fished. What’s most amazing is that it’s over 700 feet deep in places making it one of the deepest mountain lakes in the Rockies. I think that’s what intrigues me the most. I know there are some frightening monsters down there and when I stand on top of the lake in the dead of winter looking into that dark ice hole it intimidates me. I feel like and anything could happen.

In the early 90’s I enjoyed chasing the big lakers of Fremont Lake through the ice as much as summer fly fishing. There was one winter that I ice fished sixty days on Fremont. I could share some unbelievable stories. More importantly I caught some huge lakers. In fact, during that particular winter I landed twenty lakers over 10lbs, five of which were over 20lbs and my biggest was 26lb. With a full stomach that 26lber would have been well over 30lbs. Imagine pulling this guy though a hole in the ice!

Just because you’re on a lake that’s home to big lakers doesn’t mean you’ll catch one. Fremont actually goes by the nickname the “Dead Sea”. You need the magic touch to get those big lakers regularly. I’ve been skunked on Fremont more than any other place. It took me years to perfect the soft jigging techniques needed to nail big lakers. Those days I had a good quality fish finder and I could watch my jig going up and down and see the fish looking at it. It was incredible. In fact it wasn’t much different than fooling a rising trout on a stream during a hatch. Only a 20lb laker is a heck of a lot smarter than a 20” trout. I had a lot of special tricks, jigs and colors that could entice a laker to eat under each condition. These days, I’ve forgotten many of my tricks and the fish finder along with my best jigs are long gone.

I met Mike at his house in Jackson, Wyoming around 7 AM Saturday and we loaded up and headed the hour drive to Pinedale. It’s still plenty dark here at 7 so we eased along. We must have seen a dozen moose and hundreds of mule deer along the roads, more than even the biggest wildlife enthusiast would want to see while driving. When we got to Fremont we were fully amidst a freezing fog. It was cold and damp as we geared up. Once ready Mike fired up his snowmobile and I hopped on the back and we were off.

We snow machined about ten minutes to one of my favorite old spots. It’s where I caught most of those big fish nearly 20 years ago. We were the only fishermen on this location. In fact, we only saw about a dozen other anglers across this massive lake but of course the ice fog made it impossible to see more than a ¼ mile. We punched out our holes with Mike’s power auger and in minutes we were ready to jig.

I tied on a rust colored DOA Minnow and jabbed a dead minnow through the hook and lowered it down the hole. There was a lot of excitement for me when my jig hit bottom. I was in about 110 feet of water and often times within the first three jigs you get a bite. But that didn’t happen. Soon an hour went by without a bite . . . then another hour . . . and another. The morning fishing was slow to say the least.

At noon Mike, who has a fish finder, started graphing some fish. However they kept swimming up to his jig and leaving. Either they weren’t hungry or we had the wrong stuff. It wasn’t until about 2 that Mike got the first bite of the day – he missed him. Then he went on a run and set the hook and missed about three more fish that he was watching on his finder. The big problem with lakers is they often get in moods where they barely touch the jig and don’t take the hook in their mouths. This was one of those times.

Meanwhile, I had my rod lying next to my hole. I was about fifty feet away so I left my reel on free spool in case a fish grabbed my jig as a dead bait. I’d been hanging with Mike waiting with my camera for him to finally hook up. I glanced off at my rod only to see it bouncing all over. I sprinted for it picked it up and set the hook. I got there just in time. I had on a nice fish and not much line left on the reel. I pumped this fish hard to gain back some line before he started to smoke me. There was no doubt this was nice fish. Not a giant, but could easily be a 10lber. The fish made a couple runs but overall I was bringing him in fast with my 14lb test. Then, after five minutes of battle he was gone. I lost him. Bummer!

That was all the excitement for Saturday. The end result a big fat skunk. This is something that happens all too often when chasing the big lakers through the ice on Fremont Lake. Mike and I were totally cool with our efforts however and headed back to his house where I spent the night and we crushed some meatball subs and watched hockey. Trust me; a guy with a last name of Braghini can make some mean meatball subs!

Today was much nicer weather. It was too nice. A few days ago the weather was predicted to be snowy and windy. Those conditions often mix with low barometric pressure and fishing for lakers can be excellent. But instead the weather was a disappointing complete opposite. We had lots of blue sky, sunshine and literally no wind. And the temperature had to be hovering around 40ºF which for February in Wyoming is virtually sunbathing weather. Sure enough, again our fishing was slow.

We messed around and had a great time though. I rigged a monster jig with a 7” long sucker and drilled a hole in 180 feet of water. I dropped the oversized bait to bottom and slowly bobbed it. Then the lack of action and the warm sun put me to sleep. I put my reel on free spool and slumped in my chair and dozed off for at least a half hour. Naps on the ice are good ones. The only outdoor naps better are the ones in the tall grass of the Henrys Fork Ranch on a hot summer day.

After five hours of trying to force a big laker on the big bait I went back to a small gitzit jig with a minnow and at last I nailed a fish. It was a small laker of 23 inches. But the skunk was off and Granny and I will have one heck of a delicious fish dinner tomorrow night. (Lake trout caught through the ice from down 100 feet deep are a delicacy!) I went on to catch one other and got a few taps while jigging the smaller jig and bait. Mike, an experienced ice fisher, settled for the two day skunk. He took a deep breath as we left the lake and suggested we stop for a drink at the Corral Bar in Pinedale on the way home.

If it was easy to catch a big lake trout everyone would ice fish and it would be boring as hell. So despite the slow fishing, this weekend reminded me of how much I love to ice fish. Being out there in such an amazing setting is unreal. Naturally with little action my mind had plenty of time to wander. Should I really be on the road most of the winter? Should I really be missing what I love so much? Well, I think we all know the answer. We need to make a living and unfortunately it takes us all away from the amount of fishing we’d really like to be doing. That’s life.

Lucky for me, I love my work and this week I hit the road again. I’m headed to Kalamazoo, Michigan to the Kalamazoo Valley of Trout Unlimited to give my presentation “Fly Fishing Through Midlife Heaven”. Best of all, I’m going to hang around an extra day and do some fishing. And if I’m lucky it just might be through the ice again! Stay tuned . . . .

Friday, February 10, 2012

Competition Days - Once Upon a Time

Few know much about the past of “Currier” fly fishing. One terrific chapter was when I had the great privilege of competing on the world stage. In my five years of competing I had the opportunity to fish the best trout and grayling waters the world has to offer. It was truly unreal!

I was recently interviewed by Dejon Hamann. Dejon asked me all the right questions about my competition career and the end result an article I thought all of you would enjoy.

I’m finally headed for the ice this weekend. Expect a fun post on Monday and let’s hope either myself of my buddy are holding a big lake trout!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

2012 Begins Cold as Ovals

It’s been 43 days and counting since I last made a cast to a fish. I’ve made a lot of fly cast under the fluorescent lights at Fly Fishing Shows in the long blue pools but today was finally the real thing. And despite the frigid temperatures and evil penetrating wind and mediocre at best fishing, I still wouldn’t trade the day on the river for anything.

I floated the South Fork with pals Gary Eckman and Ed Emory. Both Gary and Ed have been hitting the river hard all winter. They are about as hardcore as anyone I know. Even if I wasn’t out of town all winter I wouldn’t have as many days under my belt as they do. They really get after it. Gary is truly amazing as he’s 71 years old!

We started with Ed behind the oars. This time of year we actually fight for the oars because rowing keeps you warm. Gary and I fished streamers and did our best to keep the ice out of our guides. My Scientific Anglers Stillwater line was constantly frozen up. It was truly too cold for a “quality experience” because five casts and your guides were ice-clogged. And as a result, even in our favorite pools we couldn’t catch a darn thing. I’m sure it was a combo that the trout were beyond lethargic and we weren’t fishing well either.

At about noon it warmed up enough so we could squeeze out about ten casts before needing to clean out the guides. The temperature had risen to about a whopping 12º F. The problem however, was the wind was pushing 20 MPH dropping the wind chill below zero. In fact the day was on the edge of not being fun. By now we were in one of the most reliable places on the Upper South Fork to catch a fish. The wind had blown ice chunks all over where we needed to row and cast. Over and over we fished this area until finally Gary caught a respectable brown trout.

We made several more rows through the area and lo and behold I caught three good cutthroats in a row. I too was on the board. Not just for today but for 2012! But these three fast cuttys gave us false hopes because it was at least another two hours and three miles further downstream before our next fish.

The last couple hours made up for freezing our butts off for most of the day. In the summertime sunsets last about 15 minutes and you cherish the time. But in the heart of winter, sunsets can last hours because the sun is so low in the sky all day. Right now ours starts at about 3 PM and goes all the way till 6. If you’re dressed for the plummeting temperatures, winter sunsets are also cherished. Today’s was a beauty.

First of all it was my turn on the oars. Like I mentioned earlier, this isn’t normally what you want but in winter the exercise of rowing keeps you warm. So those plummeting temps didn’t cause me any pain. The fishing also turned on - well, okay it improved. There were midges on the water and a few fish rising and Ed and Gary were able to catch a couple.

What I liked best though was the incredible light. What’s amazing is that here on the South Fork, only 25 miles from Victor where we have tons of snow, there’s virtually no snow. At least all the south facing slopes are snowless and they look like they do in early November. Its weird. And the setting sunlight lit these mountain sides up in gold like you can’t believe.

The wildlife was excellent too. We saw several groups of whitetails, but the birdlife is where it’s at this time of year. There are literally thousands of Barrow's Goldeneye ducks wintering here. Their wings whistle as they fly so you don’t even need to look to know there’s a flock overhead. We also have plenty of trumpeter swans and they’re on every island. Sometimes we don’t see them at all but you hear them launching their enormous clumsy bodies into the river before we get to them. Their webbed footprints in the snow make for an interesting photo.

That’s about it for the first day of fishing for 2012. A week ago I thought the day would take place staring through an ice hole but thanks to the invite from Gary and Ed the first day of the year was through the fly rod on the South Fork – exactly where 2011 left off. Now it’s back to work for a few days. Wednesday night its back in front of the audience as I am one of the hosts at an American Rivers get together at Teton Mountain Lodge in Teton Village, Wyoming. American Rivers is a leading organization that works to protect and restore our nation’s rivers and streams. The night will be a lot of fun and includes a showing of the Confluence Films movie “Connect”. Once again, if you are one of the lucky ones to live nearby be sure and join as it is free to anyone.

Ice fishing will still make the blog as I will be getting on Fremont Lake in Pinedale, WY on Saturday and perhaps even Sunday! Stay tuned. . . .

Friday, February 3, 2012

Enjoying Home

Arrival into the homeland wasn’t easy on Tuesday night. It was 0º, dark as heck and our car was covered and caked in the hardest snow you ever saw. It took a half hour to thaw and chip away before Granny and I could drive. The drive to Victor was a bumpy one. The roads are covered in frozen ice chunks and old snow. The storm that rocked this place January 18-22 was a bad one with high winds and 5 feet of snow in the Tetons!

When Granny and I got home we had no chance at getting in the driveway. The snow bank the plows created were high and made of solid ice-ball- hard-packed-snow-chunks. Shoveling was hopeless. We just parked on the street and walked in the cold house.

Wednesday I tapped the shovel about three times and realized I should save my back for more important things in life. I hired someone to plow us out for the first time in 18 winters. The driveway looks real nice and I hope you like the lump in this picture. Underneath the snow is my famous trout bum car – the Dodge Aspen.

The weather is gorgeous now. It’s great sucking coffee at the house and watching the sun light up the mountains around the house. Catching up on things however, has been a grunt. The month on the road put me behind in almost every category. I’ve got some cool things going though including exciting art projects, new speaking engagements, some cool new hosted trips and a fly fishing school for April. I’ll post the details as soon as I have them.

The only bad news I have is that ice fishing on Monday and Tuesday could be out. Doug and Derek aren’t so sure about driving down from Bozeman. We’ll see. If they don’t I’ll keep playing catch up and hope to get on the ice next weekend.