Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Trading salted roads for salty air

From the very first date with my wife Liz I knew that there was something special there.  That fact is likely the only reason that her statement on our second date of “I have been trying forever to do it and at some point will move to Florida” didn’t faze me in the least.  In fact, since then, we have gone down to New Smyrna Beach for an extended amount of time each year in May and in many times have gone back down again at other points in the year…including for our wedding on the beach.  After a few years of this many friends starting jokingly asking when we were just going to stay down there.  We would often talk about what we would do, where we would want to be, how to pull it off and then the conversation always ended with “wouldn’t that be great…’sigh’…”.  

Well, the dream has suddenly become a reality and we are trading the salted roads for salty air.   I am finishing up my current corporate gig of over 16 years this month, then packing up a big truck and driving south to our new home by the beach! 

July will be about as hectic as it gets between the move south, attending IFTD with Clutch Tactical Fly Rods in Orlando, and a couple long scheduled trips to Wyoming and Alaska…but I live for that kind of hectic!  In the quiet moments during July I will be settling in with my amazing wife to our new home; unpacking, organizing, having a few beers and smiling. 

As we get settled in there I will be a refocusing of my thoughts and energy towards the continued and sustainable growth of Anglers Choice Flies.   I will continue to tie the existing catalog of ACF flies as well as some new patterns that have proven themselves and should be available before the fall streamer bite.  In addition, being on Mosquito Lagoon will allow me the opportunity to also grow the inshore saltwater flies available through ACF.  I cannot express enough the gratitude that I have for the support of friends, customers and vendors that I have worked with to make Anglers Choice Flies successful to this point, and look forward to expanding those relationships as ACF is pushed to the next level. 
-mike Schmidt

Monday, March 30, 2015


So apparently I have a blog that has fallen on a bit of hard times...  It used to be filled with adventures throughout the year, exploits both on and off the water, along with some big piles of flies and show pictures.  This last year I chose to cut back on the fly and most show pictures, as both Facebook and Instagram make them available to most, and focus here on some of the time I spend on and around the water.  That worked well for a while…and then show season happened. 
This year was supposed to be a year that I cut back on shows but it simply did not work out that way.  The schedule did start out with some holes in it which would allow me to stay home but opportunities for new shows and workshops popped up and gobbled up those weekends.  The result of these additions was that in a year with more wholesale and retail orders than ever (and thank you for those!) I have been gone a portion of 14 of the last 17 weeks. As you can imagine orders have gotten backed up more than normal for this time of year and I found myself in a bad place mentally…just beat down and unhappy with myself.  I needed a mental recharge more badly than ever.
As if on cue I got a call from Jac Ford a few weeks ago about heading up for two days on the water with him.  We had tried to get out when I went up to teach a workshop for his ‘20+ Club’ but the weather forecast was for standing temps of -28 or colder so we called it off.  I knew that I was behind on fly orders but I seemed to be getting less productive by the night as I was just mentally out of the game, so I said let’s do it.  This reschedule weekend was at a time when it would likely still be questionable weather and many would be chasing steelhead so we figured to have some light crowds as we swung for the fences on a notoriously fickle stretch of Michigan’s beautiful AuSable River.
Before I knew it the time had passed and I was driving north on Friday with the live broadcast of Miami’s  Ultra Music Fest cranked loud enough that I could feel the bass in my stomach and a premium cigar clenched in a toothy grin.  I met Jac at his cabin, which has been in his family since they built it in the 1920s and proceeded to have a couple beers as I started to decompress.  If I am being totally honest with myself I really did not know Jac very well outside of reputation and talking with him a few minutes at a time over the years at fly shows, and of course the couple hour workshop at his house.  It was great to kick back and trade some stories with a guy that has seen a whole lot of water.
I popped up minutes before my alarm was set to go off on Saturday ready to roll.  Jac made us a huge breakfast of eggs, potatoes and bacon to keep the body fueled through a morning that was going to be cold.  We had about an hour to the river to more stories were shared to pass the time driving through northern Michigan’s alternating rolling farm fields and forest.  As we got close to the river we snuck a peek and of course this was one time the weather guy was right…it was 6 degrees and not a cloud to be seen.  We rolled in to the AuSable Angler to catch up with owner Bruce Graff and grab Jac’s boat.  That boat was covered in frost so thick that any worse and I think you’d just have to call it ice. 
We got the boat over to the river and dropped it in pretty quickly, and away we went as the first boat off for the day at about 9.  I had my 9wt Clutch Arc strung up and throwing 350gr Coastal Express like it was nothing.  Good thing too as I cast, and cast, and cast…   We were in definite zero or hero water and with the temp drop and bluebird skies things were bound to be tough.  Jac and I talked and laughed our way down the river with him on the oars and me hitting every conceivable piece of water.  Sunny and shallow, sunny and deep, shadow and shallow, shadow and deep, banks, center river, different retrieves and flies…nothing seemed to matter.  It is tough to pattern fish when you aren’t seeing any!  After about 6 hours we dropped anchor and put down a couple massive three meat sammiches as we gathered ourselves to get back at it. 

About two hours later we were in a stretch that has some cabins as well as some decent cover.  I cast up to the bank and started a quick retrieve.  While I was retrieving I looked over my shoulder and said “Hey Jac, I’m going to catch their pet trout”…and as I said it I watched his eyes get big.  Quickly swinging my head back around I saw a fish that looked as big around as my calf and a couple feet long tracking right behind my fly. I kept it moving with a couple of rod twitches but was running out of room as it was mere feet from the boat.  As I was about to have to try something desperate like a trout figure8 the fish inhaled the fly and as I set the hook the opposite direction I watched it come sliding right back out as his head turned to the side with just a small prick to remind him of his near encounter.  The adrenaline from the near miss kept me going for a while, but I knew from the knot deep in my stomach that was one miss that will haunt me for a long time.  We fished out the rest of the next three hours or so without another follow.  Round one to Mio.

We didn’t get back to the cabin until about 9 and needed to get some food down.  I kicked back after grabbing a beer for both Jac and myself as he cooked up some massive ribeyes and potatoes.  It didn’t take long for the food to disappear…it was amazing.  Dishes got knocked out and I think the physical day and food coma struck at the same time, so I crashed out between checking basketball scores.
Sunday morning came quick and I was again up before the alarm, only this time a little more sore than the previous morning.  Jac made breakfast sandwiches for the road as we were going to drop my car off closer to 75 to shave time for me heading home that night.  With the car dropped we again headed north.  Along the way I checked and we were looking at it being significantly warmer of a day with some potential cloud cover later in the day, and wind. 

Sunday morning my youngest brother John was going to meet up with us for the day.  After quickly swapping his gear over in to the truck we got the boat to the water and shoved off.  I honestly did not know what to expect from John out of the boat.  He has been fishing more than just about anyone I know the last couple years as he lives right close to the river but I had not seen him in action other than some short line casting during Tricos, and sinking lines with big flies are a totally different game.  Within a few short minutes I was blown away…dude can cast.  We proceeded to work our way down river as we caught up and told more stories.  We were working twice as much water since we had both rods going, but still just were not seeing the results.  Did I mention this river can be fickle…? 

As the morning progressed the cloud cover started to build and  the wind found us.  It went from mostly a calm day to steady swirling winds of 20-30 and gusts of much more.  The wind certainly kept us on our toes both with our casting as well as our retrieves.  We made it past the pet trout bench without seeing the previous fish again; I tried to stay positive and focused but admittedly some doubt started to creep in.  About an hour later we were canvassing both banks and my brother made a great cast river right so I threw a cast in to a shallow bank river left that drops in to a god trough.  That retrieve did not make it back to the boat as a ball of buttery fury erupted on the fly after only a few strips and it was on.  It was one of those strikes that leaves no doubt and you hardly have to do anything except hang on to set the hook.  After a good fight there was a thick 18” brown in the net.  It wasn’t the size of the fish the day before but that didn’t matter at all as it was gorgeous.  We kept it in the water and got over to a shallow bank so I could get out to deal with the fish and get a few shots.  He stayed in the water and was lifted briefly out for a single picture at a time; after a couple shots I removed the hook and cradled him in the water for about a split second before his powerful paddle of a tail rocketed him back to his deep trough.  Fucking Mio!

This shot was from one of the nice calmer moments but as we continued on downstream the weather seemed to take a pretty bad turn.  It went from windy to WINDY.  I swear at one point having the anchor down as John retied his rig was the only thing that kept the boat from blowing back upstream.  It was everything Jac could do to keep some semblance of a drift  down river, many time having to push the oars just to move downstream at all.  We picked our spots to cast when the wind died down to allow it but it was tough going.  With about an hour to go the snow started and it was sideways.  We had given it a good go but I had nearly six hours home so we made the call to start the push out a little after four.  Round two – split decision.  You never beat Mio, you only hope to coax a little love before she slams the door back shut. 
It was awesome to have spent the day on the water with John and Jac.  I certainly look forward to doing it again and hopefully getting some shots of John with a Mio hoss.  The snowy drive home didn’t feel as long as it usually does as my head was occupied with what ifs to keep my mind off the road.  What if I hadn’t hung that one time right before a prime trough?  What if I’d used chartreuse?  What if I hadn’t turned my head to Jac…would I have maybe gotten the Saturday fish to commit?  Or would I have froze (hope not)?
I got a good night sleep and hammered out a good day back at the desk job.  This week starts a long stretch of chipping away at orders until they are done.  Shows are over so it is time to get the delivery interval back to the standard 7-10 days instead of the bloated interval as it currently stands.  Scheduled this week is looking like around 75 hours of vise time before I sleep next Sunday night.  Put on some coffee, it’s going to be some long stretches at the vise!
-mike Schmidt

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

International Fly Tying Symposium 2014

I can only say I tied flies all weekend so many times before even I don’t want to see it anymore…so it has been a little slow around here as I have just been cranking away.  That changed a few times in the last few weeks though with a relaxing week down in Florida and then last weekend the yearly drive over to Somerset NJ for the International Fly Tying Symposium.  The Symposium was a blast as usual.  After eight hours, and a couple premium cigars on the road, I rolled in to the convention hotel just before rush hour on Friday.  First stop of course is to drop in to TKs Pub for a quick beverage before unpacking and as luck would have it I was able to catch the end of the Dayton hoops game as well.  Mike Heck was already there by the time I got in so we caught up a bit and then headed over to the convention side to unload.  Getting there early is always nice as we can pull in to the convention floor to unload rather than cart stuff a few hundred yards.  It did not take long to get everything out of the car and to our table where it would sit until morning before being set up for the show.  We visited with a few other people on the way out then headed over to the hotel to get squared away and get a plan together for the evening.  As it turns out the plan was the same as every other year…go to TKs and have some drinks while visiting with people as they arrive for the show. 
It is always fun to see many of the people there that I may only see for this show and maybe January.  Catching up over a years worth of details not covered in Facebook posts, emails and texts always makes for a fun evening.  As we slipped out about 10 we realized that thankfully gone are the nights that Heck and I close the bar each night there…fun when it is happening but makes the mornings less than a hoot.  Allen Landheer and I got back to the suite and found that Heck and Compton were both already out so we ducked in to the room and closed the door.  I sat down on the bed and started to go through emails I missed on the road then heard a familiar *POP* behind me.  My head dropped as I said “that sounds like a bottle of scotch…” to which Al replied “yeah buddy…Oban 14 tonight”.   Bed was put off by another few hours as we dug in to that delicious bottle and Al broke out his suitcase full of feathers.  It always amazes me to see what he has in there and what he recently has been able to find….this time it was a treasure trove from the previous weekend Art of the Angler show in CT.   Eventually sleep became the actual priority and we called it a night.  I had visions of pristine polar bear rugs and sessions of Congress where they legalize the harvest of herons dancing in my head all night…
Saturday morning came just a few precious hours later.  I made my standard run over to Zee Best Bagel for a breakfast Sammie and a sub for lunch before heading to the show to get set up.  At this point I can pretty much get set up in my sleep but with a few new items I took my time to lay everything out to make the best use of my 4’x2’ space.  With the banner up behind me I was ready to rock an hour before show time…so time to shop.  I had a list in my head before I went of a couple things that I wanted to grab so off I went to see what I could find.  I ended up with a full Blue Eared Pheasant, BEP rump patches dyed in three colors (olive, brown and blue), a cree saddle (not for dries but for streamers) and a bunch of giant hen saddles.  Pretty much mission accomplished!  The show opened and the initial flood of people came through.  As per the norm they tend to quickly walk through the first time looking for deals and trying to be the first to the material bins before then settling in and coming around to the tiers.  It seemed that attendance was down which meant that those there did have pretty much run of whatever they wanted to see without waiting or being a few deep at a table.  Mike and I had a pretty steady day of traffic in front of us which made the time go quickly.  In the afternoon I had my great friends Andrew and Amy stop by and hang out, which was great because I really haven’t seen them in person since they moved to Maine a couple years ago.  As the show wound down we got closed up and headed back to the room for a quick beer before heading out for some food.  I drowned my sorrows of the Michigan football loss in a giant full rack of ribs and a few Yuengs to wash it down and caught up with my Maine buddies.  They had to head back to the city for the night so we shot back over to TKs to catch everyone that went to the show banquet.  After a few hours we called it a night early again.
Al Ritt doing his thing with the ever present smile on his face.
Sunday morning was a near exact repeat of Saturday morning.  After checking out of the hotel I headed back over to grab food and then hit the show for the day.  Sunday was visibly slow so there was a lot more talking and wandering going on than tying.  IT was a laid back day so we made the best of our time by learning a few new things. 

Allen Landheer talking about a new batch of feathers he procured recently.

Pat Cohen talking his shop.
As the afternoon got close to it’s end I started to slowly put things away that I was not using and then when the show closed I was able to get packed down in about fifteen minutes. I walked around and said my good-byes and happy holidays to everyone that I could find before hitting the road. About nine windy/rainy/dark hours later I rolled in to my driveway and crashed out about 2A. Always a whirlwind weekend and always a great time. Can’t wait to head back in January and do it again…for three days!

I leave you with a shot from early in the month...can't ever have enough redfish!  I hope that you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving this week and enjoy yourself in whatever you chose to partake of.  I hope to get some good water time soon and will of course be at the vise a great deal of time in the next month so will hopefully have some shots to share.
-mike schmidt

Sunday, October 12, 2014

FFF Southern Council Conclave

For a number of years now I have been sending flies by the dozens out to the banks of the White River in Arkansas; to date, between shops/guides and clients, I have sent somewhere north of 300 dozen streamers to the greater Mountain Home vicinity.  Crazy thing is that after all that I had not been on the fabled waters myself…until last weekend.   
About a year ago Michael Kyle from the FFF Southern Council contacted me about coming out to be a headliner for the Conclave.  I talked with him a few times about it and what his plans were to rejuvenate the gathering before his enthusiasm about it won me over and I agreed to come out.  Last Thursday I flew in to Springfield Missouri and met Michael out front of the airport for the ride to Mountain Home.  After driving a few hours, part of which was through tornadic level storms complete with hail, we reached the banks of the White.  It took everything I had not to jump out after crossing the bridge and seeing the gin clear flow to not jump out of the car and start rigging up on the spot.  The first order of business was to hit up Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher to catch up with the guys and get a license.  I was very impressed with the shop from the time we walked in.  Steve has put together a serious amount of gear, tying stuff and clothing in to a large space.  He had everything you could need for out there under one roof!  While at the shop we was confirmed that the weather was getting a little too sketchy so we nixed plans for a short float.  After hanging out with Steve, Bill and Gabe for a bit at the shop I left (with a bag of new tying goodies of course) and we headed over to the hotel to get checked in.  A short while later Michael and I headed over to a local catfish joint to meet up with a few of the other Southern Council board members for dinner.  The catfish was fantastic, as was the company, but while we ate we watched another gnarly cell roll in across Norfolk Lake.  It was bad enough that nobody wanted to even walk to the cars so we spent an extra hour or so watching the lightning that was so prolific that the sky never really got dark.  Eventually we got out of there and headed back to the hotel were a few other guys came by and we tied flies, drank beers, and watched Oregon take a totally unexpected loss.  It was awesome.
Friday morning came real fast.  I woke up just before my alarm and realized I had been up24 of the last 28 hours…sleep when you die I guess.  I did not dwell on it too long though as I had to get up and prep for a couple three hour classes I would be teaching.  The first class revolved around articulated streamers and the second class was classic winged wet flies.  The classes had a half dozen in each and went off without a hitch.  The guys that signed up did a great job on the flies and asked a lot of good questions.  It seemed like the classes were over  in the blink of an eye. 

Once I got the class materials all packed up I caught a ride over to the fairgrounds for the night as there was grilled food, bluegrass and beverages to be had.  It was a gorgeous night (though a little chilly) and the event was well attended.  I had the opportunity to meet a bunch of people I have only talked with on line.  It was great to talk flies and fishing the White over a few beers with everyone out there.

Eventually the band tapered off to take a break and that opened the door for other to take the mic…spontaneous and hilarious karaoke broke out for a few more hours.  The night ended up the same way as Friday…back at the hotel with a few more beers and this time watching BYU lose a stunner.
Saturday morning was another early one as I had to get back over to the fairgrounds to set up the table for tying as well as prep the presentations.  I was set for the day to alternate in the presentation room with author Jason Randall.  I did presentations on Production Fly Tying and Streamer Fishing a few times and tied in between…the day flew by.  

The show seemed to be very well attended as the presentation room was always full and there were people a few deep in front of the table when I tied.  I got all my gear packed up as the show was winding down and we stayed at the fairgrounds for the evening festivities.

That night there was a competitions BBQ team  providing the food, an awesome bluegrass band (Missouri Boatride) and an auction to be had.  The BBQ and bluegrass definitely did not disappoint. 

I got a chance to check out some of the auction items and was stoked to see the flies I had donated were framed by Steve Jensen for the auction, and brought in some really good money for the club.  I also was being auctioned off for a day on the White river the following day and was excited to see that a few friends that we had been hanging out with won and would be headed out with us in the morning.  By the time the auction wound down we got everything there squared away and headed back to prep for the morning...which was o course done over a few beers with another great football game on.
Three straight days of going hard was definitely wearing on me but nothing was keeping me from finally getting to the river.  We got all of our gear squared away and met up with the guys, then headed to the water.  I have been told that the White runs clear but still was amazed to get to the launch and see that it was bathtub clear and you could spot trout all over the place.  The Corp had shut down generation so it was low and slow…not great for streamers though I gave it a shot.  I ended up with one on a streamer early and then it just shut off.  Eventually we resorted to fishing midges to get some fish in the boat but I don’t think anyone would have really cared if we hadn’t; we had a great time floating and joking around for the day.  I think the highlight of the day for me was in early afternoon when I spotted a 30” class brown just a few rod lengths from where we had the boat anchored off.  It was on a shallow flat with a rainbow tboned in it’s mouth and shaking it like a rag doll.  IT would then release it, swim a few feet away and circle, then come back and hammer in to it again.  I got serious fish fever just watching it.  Once I had a streamer tied on I made a cast far upstream but evidently not far enough as it spooked off.  Michael and I jumped in to the extremely cold water and got over to shore to sneak up and see if we would get another shot, and sure enough it came back.  I was able to make two casts this time before it ghosted out in to the center current.  I thought for sure that a fish like that on the feed would be more of a player but the conditions were against us.  I will be haunted by that fish until I get back out there and do it again…in January. 

After we finished up the float we packed everything away and said our goodbyes to John and Chris then hit the road back towards Michael’s place in Springfield.  We had briefly toyed with the notion of stopping on the way past Taneycomo for some night fishing but between the lack of sleep and the generation schedule decided the better of it and headed straight to his place.  I was totally wrecked and was out by about 8:30 that night.  Sleep was glorious.
We got an early start on Monday so that we could get a few hours in on Taney before I had to get to the airport.  We checked the gauges on the way and found that the generation that was supposed to go on all morning, yielding good streamer water, had been  shut down about 2am, yielding lesser streamer conditions.  We dumped the boat in anyway and gave it a shot.  After a bit we hit a second launch to grab Michael’s buddy Matt for a few more hours.  I did not resort to midges but did end up basically dead drift fishing a small weighted sculpin to get in to a few more fish.  Taney has a little more color to it than the White but is still more clear than anything I have here in the Midwest so it was really cool to look around and just watch all the fish and how they act.  Eventually it was time to pack up to get to the airport and end the trip.  I was able to get right through security with no problems, a rarity for me as I must ‘fit some description’ and on to the plane.  It was an easy trip back until we were on our final approach for Columbus and there was a terrible storm centered over the airport.  At this point I’d had about 20 hours of sleep over the five days and the captain came on to tell us that we had 25 minutes of reserve fuel to circle and hope the storm would break up before we would divert to Pittsburgh…for the night.  All I wanted to do was get home to my wife and my bed so this was not well received.  At 24 minutes he came back on that we were cleared to attempt a landing and that it would be bumpy.  He wasn’t kidding.  Ten minutes later we were on the ground and happy.  What a trip.

Michael Kyle and the rest of the Southern Council put on a great show this year.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and would recommend going for anyone that is in the area next year.  I may be out there again just to enjoy the fun but can’t wait that long to exact my revenge on the spooky trout…I’m heading back out for Dally Streamer Fest on January 31st and will get some water time in then!
-mike Schmidt

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

New Anglers Choice Flies hats now available!

I got the new run of ACF hats in and available now...freshly posted to the New Flies page at the Anglers Choice Flies website. They are top quality hats and embroidery, and amongst the most comfortable that I have ever worn.  I ordered up a dozen of each in the first run so get them while they're in!

Here is what is available:
110Flexfit Snapback in black - $25
110Flexfit Snapback in grey - $25
Fitted Flexfit in navy, both S-Med and L-XL - $25
Visor, Velcro closure in navy - $15

-mike schmidt

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Salmonfest 2014...the Gathering

We plan all year and somehow we always still find ourselves tying the night before the trip, and this year was no different.  Salmonfest each year takes place on Michigan's Pere Marquette River and is an excuse for various old friends to get together, and as Aaron Rodgers says, "R-E-L-A-X". I just got home a couple hours ago from the four day and three night event and frankly I need some time to relax from all the relaxing we did. Don't get me wrong we put in some serious hours on the water, but I think I hurt more from laughing than I do from hiking around and fighting fish. 
The crew consists of a college roommate, a buddy I met the summer of graduation, and myself.  Every year we invite many others to join in on the fun and this year was more crowded than usual as we added a brother and his friend, a brother-in-law, a great friend I've known since kindergarten, and a good buddy from Columbus. 

Berkshire was the first one on the board this year.

There were plenty of browns around gobbling eggs up.  My working theory is that the smaller number of kings in the river so far this year have left the trout free to pillage with far less consequence than in other years where they have to worry about being chomped themselves.

The whole point of the trip to me.  Was awesome to hang out riverside to tell old stories as we made new ones!

Some guys slept mid day...

...but Brian took the opportunity to watch me tie and then learn to tie his first fly.  It was a very well tied egg that was promptly donated to the river an hour after the whip finish was completed.  Good thing he now knows how to tie more!

One of the better browns from the trip.  I wish that there was a way to make them colors vibrate and change in a picture as they do when they are in hand.  This shot simply does not do the fish justice.

Greg has been a good friend since kindergarten and lived up north for the last ten years but had only made it over to meet up with us for one other day before this year.  He fished his ass off for a couple days before landing his first salmon in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday.  Was awesome to see him get his first on a fly rod and that smile was still there when we all hit the road this morning.

It is a trip I look forward to every year as it gets us together and keeps the tradition going.  I may not see some of the guys until next years trip but as soon as we are there it will seem as though we never left.   The tradition of the Salmonfest get together is important and something to be protected, even as it is morphing more to Troutfest ot perhaps a move to later in the year for Chromefest. 
I'm beat...time to crash out for me.  It will be a short turn around for me this week as in a couple days I will be heading southwest to Mountain Home Arkansas for the Southern Council Conclave and some water time on the White.  I should have a bunch of shots and new stories to tell by the time I get back.
-mike schmidt

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Castapalooza at Schultz Outfitters and some fishing time

It's been a while since I have posted anything as I have suffered through the post-Wyoming funk.  Even following a short trip it is hard adjusting back to life without mountains just as it is life without the beach when I come home from Florida.  Truth be told, August is usually a month that I fish the least and try to get caught up at the tying desk. This year was no different as I have been putting in crushing hours getting flies completed and shipped.
This weekend was a welcomed break that I have been looking forward to for a long time.  The Schultz Outfitters crew puts on a great event and this weekend was the Castapalooza North event.  They drew in two handed casting wizards like Jeff Liskay, Will Turek and Jimmy Chang.  Streamer mad men and visionaries Tommy Lynch and Russ Maddin both made it down to the event to share on water and behind the vise knowledge.  Clutch fly rod owner and one time competitive caster, Lee Janik, brought his quiver of spectacular rods and gave a double haul primer guaranteed to add distance and power to your cast. Rick Kustich was in to talk chrome and I was there to do a presentation on fishing from paddleboards and tie a few flies.  I did not have a table so midday I decided to go ahead and set up in the grass next to the river and knock out a few flies for the personal streamer box.  It was a day filled with good energy and fishy conversations that flew by.
The evening was taken up by a bonfire and hanging out with good friends while trying to ignore the football thrashing that was in progress.  After a long night of relaxing, telling stories and laughing I rolled in to my makeshift bed (in the back of my car) for a horribly short couple hours of sleep. 

Despite being both severely over served and under slept the night before I popped up like a little kid on Christmas morning as I was heading to the river.  I crawled out of my car about the same time that Lee did the same about a dozen yards away and we just laughed at the absurd conditions we continue to subject ourselves to in the name of fishing and fun.  As we started to get our gear sorted and collected in Lee's boat others started appearing in ones and twos, and after a little bit we had a motley assortment of anglers ready to go float and chase down some smallies.

We arrived at the river in time for a quick car spot and got the float underway.  We had about eleven miles or so to go so we pushed through the first bit to get to prime water.  There could not have been a better day if it had been specifically drawn up for us; the sun was out, the wind was nonexistent, the temperatures were cherry and the company top notch.

I was not worried about anyone messing with our boat as I was floating with the Beard Mafia.  It was really nice to get out with a couple guys I have been buddies with for a long time but never had the stars align to hit water together.  Corey (Sled) works at the shop and is a hopelessly addicted fish junky, and Lee is the owner of Clutch rods who loves to get out and have a great time doing anything.  It was a hell of a day that left me literally sore yesterday from laughing so hard and so often Sunday.

One story involved Sled and some shine that was a bit strong.  Between the heat and shine he decided that the boat was too constrictive so he rolled out and swam along behind us as I was on the oars and Lee was terrorizing fish.  He hooked up after casting about fifteen feet behind Sled and fought the fish for a minute before Sled yelled "I got it!" and swam over to water land the beast.  After a quick tarpon pose with the smallies it swam a few circles around him and took off.  Hard to improve on the day from that point!

While we were not treated to the best fishing that river gives up we did have fairly consistent fishing through the day as we went through a slew of cookir cutter 12-15" fish.  The other boat did get it done with a 17" and an 18" fish so they had bragging rights on the day.
On the day we threw a few different sticks but the general consensus was that the Clutch 7wt Archipelago stick is an absolute powerhouse that is money for the kinds of lines and streamer techniques we employ in the Midwest.  I talked with Lee at length about the lines of rods that he has created, the made in the USA aspect of Clutch (as he says "conception to completion in the Great Lakes region") and the vision he hasfor the company.  After spending some time throwing them I think he has some real winners that fit what we do to a tee.  You will be hearing a lot more about Clutch both here and in the industry.
All in all it was a spectacular weekend with friends and just what the doctor ordered. The next few weeks I will be a tying hermit again to get flies piled out the door before heading up to northern Michigan for the color change, egg eating browns and maybe a salmon or two followed a week later by the FFF Southern Council Conclave in Arkansas.  Busy, but a good busy!
-mike schmidt