Friday, October 26, 2012

Off the normal topic...Great Lakes Cigar rolling

Anyone who knows me or has followed this blog gets a sense pretty quick of the things that I dig.  My lovely wife, my family and friends, the cold side of the pillow, tying copius amounts of flies....and, of course, let's not forget fishing and cigars. At some point I went from casual enjoyment of cigars to them being a fixture in my fishing gear...seemingly as common as tippet spools and necessary as a fly rod.  My theory is that a successful day on the water is better enjoyed with a great stick. 

On a weekly basis, or sometimes more frequently, I head to my local Karric Square Tinder Box and hang out with my cigar mentor Mike.  He has helped to expand my palette from a steady diet of Connecticut wrapped sticks to the current wide varying, and far stronger, selections I partake of these days.  Smoking cigars with Mike is like drinking a fine wine with the vintner...the man knows his stuff.  Mike freely passes his knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, cigars on to people that walk throgh his door.  When you walk in to the shop there is always some amazing jazz on the radio and a good conversation to be had, along with an awesome stick of course!

One thing we have talked about is the art of making a good cigar.  There are a lot of steps in the process, from field to shelf, and any one step gone bad can lessen the end product.  With all the discussion though I have never actually seen a cigar wrapped by hand...until today.

Today Mike had a special event at the shop.  Darrin Hildebrand, owner of Great Lakes Cigar Company, was in shop rolling cigars!  Darrin and his associate Gary came down from Milan Ohio to and spent the day at the shop talking to customers and rolling cigars on ths spot.  When I first heard about GLCC my internal dialogue was pretty much "really...cigars rolled in Ohio.  hmmmm..."   That thought went away after the first  few minutes of the first stick I had, the Nor'Easter.  Darrin really knows his stuff.  The man owned a tobacco shop in Sandusy for a decade, and during that time started taking interest in making his own product.  Darrin trained under the watchful eye of expert Cuban rollers, and has now been doing his thing for 17 years.    They import leaf from seven countries and also incorporate local PA leaf, so you get a great blend of flavors.

Watching Darrin at the table knocking out each step and setting the presses actually reminded me very much of production fly tying.  Each thing has it's place and each step of the rolling process is part os a well thought out end game.  It is evident in watching the man that he enjoys what he is doing...and is VERY good at it.

In order of decreasing strength the Great Lakes Cigar Company's line up currently consists of the Pirate, the Monster, and the Ghost Ship...and each has interesting points as they burn.  My favotite is still the last in the line, the Nor'Easter.  The Nor'Easter is a fantastic blend with a barberpole finish.  It subtly alternates pepper and cream throughout, and is a top notch smoke.  The Great Lakes Cigar Company has only Darrin rolling it's sticks so the volume is still low, but if you can get your hands on one I would say definitely do it!

-mike schmidt

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Step by Step Volume to the presses!

Hard to believe that the first big show of the year for me, the International Fly Tying Symposium in Somerset NJ, is just a few weeks away.  With that in mind this week was time to kick the show prep in to high gear.  The last few years I have compiled step by steps from through the year and compiled them  as PDF files on CD, and that has been very well recieved.  This year I really had not done hardly any new step by steps so I really had to buckle down, and last weekend shot a dozen to fill out this years edition.  I finished formatting of them all tonight and knocked out the cover art....and in the morning they are off to the replicator.  This years edition of the step by step CD will have a mix of stuff including single hook, articulated, saltwater, and even a basic old school standby.  Here is the list of patterns that are included:  Double Deceiver, Red October, Stimulator, Shimmer Minner, Chard Choker, Conrad Sculpin, Jonny Darter, PT Nymph, Sincredible Sculpin, Hobo Spey, Senyo Egg Raider, Surf Candy, Skull Flatwing Eel, Skull Craft Fur Eel, and a Marabou wrapping technique.  I will have copies along at each show as well as being available on the website.

This week I saw this shot from ACF customer and friend Jason Tucker from Fontinalis Rising.  Jason was out throwing a 6" articulated ACF fly and had this feisty fish, not more than twice the size of the streamer, come out and try to make a meal of it.  Big flies catch little guys too!

Here is another shot I got from good friend Brian this week.  Brian is one of the guys that makes it to northern Michigan for Salmonfest each year, but until the last year or so that was the only time he wet a line.  This last year, however, he has really been bitten by the fishing bug and spent many an evening stalking bass at a local lake in central Illinois.  Last Saturday I got a surprising message that he was out at 4:30 in the morning waiting to have at some water that had been stocked a few days earlier.  He had a tough time early in the morning, but later on was able to convince a few fish to eat including this beefy guy that made the trip back to Brian's place  for his first delicious fish sammich made with fish he caught himself.  Really awesome stuff if you ask me!

I'll leave you with a couple of fly pictures.  The group was sent out to a customer the other day and will hopefully see the inside of some fish mouths this weekend.  The last shot is one I tied up tonight for myself...just one more for the swinging box.  Looks like I will be here tying this weekend, but next weekend I will find water one way or another.

-mike schmidt

Monday, October 15, 2012

Orvis Cinci and some flies

I got back from Salmonfest last week with my body wanting desperately to rest and recover, but there was no way the schedule would allow for that!  I had orders piling up from being out, a Central Ohio Fly Fishers meeting to attend, and packing to head down to Cincinnati for the Grand Opening Saturday of the newest Orvis store.

One of the orders was for a mess of Tommy Lynch Drunk and Disorderlies.  This is a fairly complex tie so I have to make sure I am on my game to not forget anything.  As with many production runs I break this one down in to three steps, and got a shot of each to post here.

First off is to tie the tail sections for the flies.

Next up is to attach them to the front hook, using .024” 19 strand Beadalon and some beads, then attach and epoxy in place a large rattle.

Finally you complete the front of the fly, trim to a wedge, and glue on the eyes.

Yeah…I tied up some Wooly Buggers too…

When I got the call about heading to Cincinnati to tie at the Grand Opening of the Orvis store  I agreed to head down there, but was unsure of what to expect.  Having been to other Orvis corporate stores I knew that it was likely to have a very small fishing section so how would that translate to people interested in what I had to offer?  I figured that I would take down a few things for my table to catch people’s eyes, like carousels of flash and large bundles of colorful Amhearst tails.  Friday night rolled around I got all my gear together, then Saturday morning picked up my buddy Nate and hit the road headed south.  After approximately one fine cigar, in my case an Illusione HL1, we had made our destination. 

The store was easy to find and in a prime spot…right across from a large and swanky mall in Kentwood.  The store manager, Mike, came out and greeted us in the parking lot and we proceeded to get our gear unpacked.  Walking in to the store felt like stepping in to the Orvis magazine.  There was an abundance of earthy toned clothes, rich woods (mahogany perhaps), and I am sure there was a collection of many leather-bound books laid somewhere about the store.  All kidding aside it was an immaculately laid out space with an impressive amount of Orvis gear ranging from clothing and travel gear to dog training equipment.

Tucked back in a section of the store I found the mini mecca of Orvis fly fishing goods where I was to tie for the next five hours or so.  In the shadow of the line of Orvis waders, and flanked by a wall of rods and shiny reels, I got everything set up and was stretching a bit when our table neighbor for  the morning showed up; Alex Quick, fly fishing manager from Blackberry Farms.  If you are not familiar with Blackberry farms check them out on their site sometime…pretty impressive operation.  At the end of the day Alex hooked us up with some of the granola that he had on the table, and it may be the best I have ever had!

We settled in for the morning pretty fast as there was a steady stream of people coming through the door.  I was surprised by the number of people and glad to take the opportunity to talk to quite a few people that did not fish but were interested in what we were doing.  Perhaps they are candidates for the eight Orvis Fly Fishing schools that will be run through Mad River Outfitters this summer... (yeah, shameless plug).  Mixed in with the non-fisher folk were plenty of diehards from Northern Kentucky Fly Fishers and Buckeye United Fly Fishers that were happy to have another shop in the area to support, which may have been code for ‘place to go to get away from chores’.   We talked about tying, fishing, local conditions, steelhead coming in to the systems on Erie and getting out with Steelhead Alley Outfitters.  With all the people coming through our time at the table was over before we knew it.  Three o’clock hit and we jumped back in the car for another fine cigar and the Michigan game on XM for the ride home…not too shabby of a day.

I was happy to get a fish shot from customer and friend Brian Jester.  Brian was out seeing about some largemouth when this feisty drum made a meal of an ACF fly he was using.  Great fish Brian!

Finally, I have to make mention that this was one of the best sports weekends for me in a long time.  Michigan with the convincing shutout win, two Tigers wins in the ALCS, and the Lions pull off the improbable comeback from down 10 with five minutes to the overtime victory.  Hope my boys did not use up all their juju in one week…want to see more of that!

-mike schmidt

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

1000 Miles Campaign

This will be a little bit off the standard format for the ACF Feed…more conservation based than pure nature and fly porn.
To get the whole story requires that we start back at the IFTD show in Reno.  I was not able to attend this year but there were a fair number of non-traditional media present…aka bloggers.  While out at IFTD, and hopefully with some delicious Fat Tire  in hand, there was some discussion around how to have easier interaction with each other as a group.  This interaction would include everything from writing tips and IT fixes to conservation items and other social issues.  Essentially…how can we help each other with the day to day stuff and, more importantly, how can we leverage our audiences in a more efficient manner when a worthy item needs to get out there. 

To that end Andrew Bennett, from Deneki Outdoors, took the first step when he returned by creating a closed group on Facebook as a sort of gathering place for these discussions to take place.  There have been quite a few discussions, some more spirited than others, but the most recent idea that came out was very interesting to me.  Chris Hunt, TU National Communications Director, asked about interest in doing some virtual ‘brown bag’ style conference calls.  The idea being that on these calls we have people pertinent to an issue call in and give us their perspective then allow us to ask some questions. 

The response was very positive to that idea so today I participated in the first of what I hope is many such calls.  Chris was able to set up today’s call around the ‘1000 Miles Campaign’, which is a joint project of Orvis and TU.  To discuss the campaign we featured ‘guest speakers’ Dave Perkins, Vice Chairman at Orvis, and TU VP for Eastern Conservation Elizabeth Maclin.  In addition to our speakers there were a dozen or so other blogger present.  I was unable to keep up with all the names, but included were Jason from Fontinalis Rising, Koz from True North Trout, Matt from Fishing Poet, Christine from Fly Fish Chick...a pretty diverse group for sure.

The basic goal of the 1000 Miles Campaign is over the next decade to open up 1000 miles of new coldwater habitat to trout and salmon across the country that is currently threatened by faulty culverts and other man-made barriers.  The campaign’s goals include not only increasing overall trout habitat from coast to coast, but improving fishing opportunity resulting from stream improvements. 

“Culverts are significant impediments to fish passage and survival – just as significant as a major dam – but the solution is dramatically simpler, costs less, and the overall benefits to many watersheds is profound,” said Dave Perkins, Vice Chairman of Orvis. “By removing these impediments, we not only add vital habitat for fish, but we also open many miles of fishable waters for anglers.  We’re proud to partner with TU in this effort to engage the fly-fishing community in support of this often overlooked opportunity to dramatically improve fish habitat across the country.”

Here are the sites currently selected for work:
·         Murphy Brook, a tributary to the Connecticut River in New Hampshire
·         Tabor  Brook, a tributary to the Connecticut River in New Hampshire
·         Kinne Brook, a tributary to the Westfield River in Massachusetts
·         Coyner Springs, a tributary to the South River near Waynesboro, Va.
·         Crazy Creek, a tributary to the Crooked River in the Upper Deschutes River drainage in Oregon
·         Aldrich Brook, a tributary to Azizschos Lake and the Magalloway River in Maine
·         Yellow Creek, a tributary to the Bear River in southwest Wyoming
·         Big Slough Creek, a Driftless Areas stream in Jackson County, Wisconsin
·         Mabel Creek, a coastal cutthroat trout stream in Oregon.

“Opening up 1,000 miles of new habitat for trout and salmon over the next 10 years is an ambitious goal, but we think we can do it,” said Elizabeth Maclin, TU’s vice president for eastern conservation. “We’re lucky to have dedicated partners like the people at Orvis—they’ve always been very supportive of the work we do, and their commitment to this project means the world to us.”

If you would like to learn more head over to the ‘1000 Miles Campaign’ site. 

I think that this is a great project, but as with all projects it takes money to pull it off.  It is easy to make a donation and Orvis has pledged matching funds!  Hopefully some of you will join me in giving a donation for this project.  If you would like to support the ‘1000 Miles Campaign’ then simply head over to the Orvis-TU fund page and they make the rest easy for you.
Thanks for listening to the soapbox.  Next post is back to the usual….flies, flies, and more flies!

-mike schmidt

Monday, October 8, 2012

Salmonfest 2012

Yup…Salmonfest can be a demanding mistress.  Wake up well before first light. Down to the river.  Fish, cigars, and a little whisky.  Walk out, lunch, beer, dominos.  Back to the river, more fish, more cigars, a little more whisky.  Walk out, beer, dinner, beer and whisky, stories, laughter, high fives. Bed.  Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.  The strong survive.  Well…I guess the weak survive too, they are just more sore.

I look forward to getting back together with the guys all year for it, and Salmonfest has yet to disappoint.  We have had great fish years and great beverage years as well as with the opposite of each…but never had a bad time.  Despite being in different cities and states Mike and Brian have now made it on the trip a number of years in a row.  We have done this enough that there is comfort in knowing we have an approximate schedule worked out, as you can see above, so there is no reason wasting time on the details and instead we get straight to the having fun part. 

Mike and I have been friends since the first day of freshman orientation at the University of Dayton (Go Flyers!), so we have plenty of old stories to mix with the new and keep the laughs rolling.  Reliving moments like him sleeper choking me out (back when I was much smaller) because I refused to ‘call uncle’ is half the fun of the trip.  Another favorite is the resulting disbelief in his eyes the time I uttered “nice sammich” before smacking a freshly made swiss turkey and mustard from his hands to the ground.  In retrospect that was a real dick move, but in that moment it seemed wholly appropriate and hilarious to everyone there except Mike.   Brian and I have been hanging out for well over a decade now as well.  He is a photographer and graphic designer so there is always a conversation going about gear, lighting, shots we want to get.  I pick up tips from his more studio based shooting and I like to think that he has picked up a thing or two from me on getting candid shots with fishy subjects that don’t always want to cooperate.  Despite his arguments otherwise I still say it is better to shoot a fishing trip in JPEG than RAW…

First thing this year I got us off the schnide just after 6a on morning one.  Still well before light I decided to tie on a glow in the dark ESL and use the light of the moon to show me the way.  Flipping the fly into a deep and dark pool in the dark of the night ended up being productive as I hooked up about ten minutes in…and the fight was on.  As I fought the fish in the dark I hoped to myself that the river had not changed too much over the last year as a swim would suck in the 30 degree morning.  The river stayed relatively true to form and Mike eventually got the net on this nice buck for me.  I was all smiles.

This year I was thrilled to have my buddy Greg come out for a night and day as well.  Having been friends since the first day of kindergarten Greg is one of my oldest friends so it was cool to have him come out and get some water time with us.  We were not able to get him in to any willing salmon that day but he did get in to his first brown trout!

I was really amazed at the number of browns that were around this year.  Normally we see a few around as they scoot through the current avoiding their bigger brethren, but this year it seemed that every redd had a whole pod of browns laying in wait for any stray eggs.   It was pandemonium every time a female would fan her redd…the browns would dart about crazily gobbling eggs then resume their vigil just off the back of the bed and wait for the next time.

We were not in Michigan until after dark on the way up so I had not seen the color in the trees yet.  As the sun lit the trees for us that first morning I was pleased to see the vivid yellows, reds, and oranges despite the drought of the summer.

Mike was able to get himself on the board so of course we had to have the obligatory toast.  Can’t afford to upset the fish gods…

The browns were not too picky.  Whether egg, stonefly, or caddis..a well drifted fly had a great chance of being made a meal.

This particular bank slot and hole was a favorite of Mike’s last year so of course he needed to give it a good run this year as well.

And it did not disappoint!

This one put a respectable bend in the rod.  Not as many active fish this year but the ones that were willing to play pulled hard.

This was actually Mike's first ever brown trout.  Not a bad way to get on the board!

Hanging out riverside was the name of the game.  At any given point one of us was looking over the shoulder of another; watching the drift, looking for head shakes, offering advise…or giving them crap about wrapping up in a tree.

When they were on the line they took you pretty much where they wanted to.

And when they were in hand they put a smile on your face that helped you forget about the burn that they put on your arms and shoulders!

Plans are already in the works, and a little over 51 weeks from now we will reconvene for the 2013 edition of Salmonfest.  We may have a few new faces in the group, or maybe just the old standbys.  There may be lots of fish around or just a few goblins.  There may be flooding or drought.  One thing is for sure…we will have one hell of a good time again!

-mike schmidt

Monday, October 1, 2012

Catching up...Idaho, flies, and on the water with my Helios2 and RedSpotFly

So I was sitting there yesterday with my buddy Nate watching football while enjoying a good cigar and a dram of Powers whisky when he said “Hey, what’s going on with the blog.  Nothing new lately…”.  I had a response formed in my head but then realized he was absolutely correct…it had been well over a week. Hard to believe how fast things seem to go when you are busy.  Here is a bit of what has been going on lately.

A week ago Thursday I labored through a morning at work then picked up the wife and  headed to the airport.  The destination was far northern Idaho for the wedding of one of my best friends to his amazing lady, Kibbee and Freya.  We were way out there.  If you read the story about the finger taken out of the big trout…that was at Priest Lake Idaho and we were only a few miles away at Western Pleasure Guest Ranch.  To the shock of everyone I talked to I did not take along a single piece of fly tackle as my time was already spoken for, and of course I later read about some amazing fishing that was taking place all around where we were…

I did get away on Friday morning for a short run on the ranch property.  It was great to get away on the trails for a little bit and take in some of the scenery.  I told the ranch that if I was not back in two hours that they should send searchers out of horseback for me, but I made it back in an hour as the hills were a bit more than I bargained for!

The evenings were spectacular.  The jet black wilderness and bright stars along with a small bonfire and the lodge brightly lit against the night.  It was a trip that was too short, but had a great time despite no fishing in the mix.  There are definitely plans in the works for a return trip to chase some fish around.

When I got back it was time to knock out some flies.  I spent a good portion of the week at the vise and here are a few of the orders that made it out the door.  Above is a few of Tommy Lynch's DDs.

This order is the initial order being sent up to ACFs newest distributor, Boyne Outfitters up in Boyne City MI

Saturday morning I got up early and headed out to the river to meet up with Michael Decoteau of RedSpotFly.  I have had a few stitches lately so, on doctors orders to promote healing, I have been away from water for six weeks…it drove me nuts!  Hardly able to sleep I was up early and on the road.  I had my new SmithFly boat bag to bring along all the gear I needed and was giving my Orvis Helios 2 rod it’s last test to pass…and pass it did. 

My overall assessment of the rod is that it is a rocket and able to stand up to some serious torture.  Before my hiatus from the water it stood up well to floating line presentations for carp and smallmouth, but today was the real test in my eyes….full sinking line and big flies for browns.  The rod is a fast action tip flex with power right through the cork handle.  I was casting a 250gr Streamer Express with 5-6” flies and the 6WT Helios2  handled them without issue.  For casting under 30’ this rod would get it done, but it really excels when you give it some line.  With 30’ of line out this rod was able to pick up the line and the fly then shoot to 70+’ off of a single false cast with pinpoint accuracy.  The rod  did very well with low roll casting up under cover and the stiffness allows for some serious action imparted to the fly through a rod retrieve.  This rod performed phenomenally for the streamer application and is now going to be my go to stick for chasing browns with meat.

I had a great time hanging out with Michael for the morning and catching up with him.  The man is an artist so it is no surprise that he is talented behind a lens, even with me as the subject.  Here are a few shots that he snapped of me during our time on the river.  He does not yet have a dedicated site set for RedSpot, but if you have not already been there you should check out the RedSpotFly Facebook page to see what he has been up to and ‘Like’ to follow!

I also managed to get in on the photo game and snuck in a shot as he was working a deep slot.  There is a lack of fish shots as we did not do so well in the catching game on that day but it was nice just to be out and on the water.  I expect that the recent cold nights may have moved some fish around in to their fall lies, so the streamer game should be heating up in the next few weeks!

I did take along the most recent variation on a pattern I have been playing with.  The fly performs really well in the water; it is not exactly a swim fly as it has Predator eyes for some weight but not so much weight that it is a vertical retrieve.  This fly really glides through the water and has a great erratic motion with an abrupt jerk retrieve.  Any suggestions for a name?  There could be a few flies in it if the name is used…

-mike schmidt