Monday, December 16, 2013

Busy, and snowy, weekend

I do not care what the calendar says…winter is here in central Ohio.  After another couple blasts of snow last week, and the temperatures rarely even approaching the freezing mark, we are at record levels of snow and cold temps for this point in the year.  Maybe global warming is evaporating more water in to the atmosphere resulting in more snow…

A couple months ago I had made plans to head over to the Cattaraugus to swing flies for steelhead for a few days over this weekend so I had been watching the weather like a hawk.  If there was a weather report I was on it and I was tracking fronts like it was my job.  That ‘advanced scouting’ clued me in a couple weeks ago that it would likely not happen as there was an arctic front coming down hard on the region the week leading up to heading over.  I kept my fingers crossed that it would somehow dissipate but knew that was not likely as I have better odds gambling horses than I do getting good weather for trips.  Sure enough the front came through as expected and put everything in a deep freeze…porque no es buena for chasing chrome.  By Monday we already had all the information that we needed to make the crappy call and cancel the trip.
This left me with a  rare open weekend on the calendar; what to do…what to do…?

First things first, there were flies to tie so I got a bunch of prep work knocked out a couple orders and then started tying tails.  Feathers and fur where flying through the week quickly filling the garbage can each night.  The whole time at the vise though I had an eye on the local weather to see if there would be an opportunity to get out.  Thursday rolled around and the opportunity presented itself for Saturday.  I shot my buddy Scott a text message to see if he was around, and if so was he game to deal with inches of snow and/or rain with temps ranging 26-34 to go and take advantage of marginal at best flow levels to chase some fish.  The answer was a foregone conclusion of course.

Saturday morning came early but I was up and ready to hit the road.  After filling a couple thermos with coffee I was off in the snowstorm and headed towards the river.  I arrived with about 4” of fresh snow on the ground and the forecast was for precipitation of some sort without end until long after we would be off the river.  Shortly after I arrived Scott rolled in with a smile on his face and, after a quick car spot, we dropped in and I took first turn on the sticks.  I always keep an eye on local flows so I was not surprised at the low clear water that we had…but when you get the opportunity to get out you make the best of it.  As I carefully navigated our way downstream Scott was dialed in and hitting every likely spot…along with all the unlikely spots that big fish like to inhabit. 

We swapped off on the oars every so often and the man in the front made cast after cast.  We rolled through numerous fly patterns, different retrieves, and every conceivable type of water as we made our way downstream but were not rewarded with much action other than a few half hearted follows in the low and cold water.  Heavy snow turned to light snow, turned to freezing rain, turned to driving rain, turned to drizzle and still we kept the faith knowing each cast could be the one.

Pushing six hours in was the best action of the day.  We had made it through a long stretch of shallow and featureless water, and the first cover I saws was an overhanging tree just past a large undercut root ball.   The resulting current had dug out a pretty significant trough.  As we were still 20 yards upstream  I made a few casts to dial in  the distance then, as we got in to range, I dropped a perfect cast right in the bread bucket and made a quick upstream mend to let the fly get down.  I barely had time to get the first twitch and strip completed before the bottom seemed to erupt in buttery fury.  The beast had been perfectly camouflaged until it chose to attack and destroy the streamer.  As it hit and rolled I strip set hard and felt the weight then, after it rolled and headshook, I hit it again to try and drive the hook further home.   The second set pulled the fish a foot towards me so I thought I had a solid set.  As I fought the fish I heard the anchor go down an Scott was reaching back for the net…tense times.  The fish was right a the side of the boat as the net was brought to bear, then just as it was at the ready the fly simply came loose and the line went slack as the fish faded back in to the bottom.  “FUCK!!” was the first thing that came to mind…and voice…loudly. 

Starring sullenly down at the boat I had that crappy feeling inside that only comes from losing a fish like that.  After a minute I looked back at Scott and he had that look of disbelief too…we thought we had that one sewed up.  “Sorry bud.  Nothing I can say to make that better” were the words that came out of his mouth…and he was right.  That had been likely well over the 20” mark, was the thickest fish I have seen in a long time, and was so brightly yellow that it nearly seemed fluorescent.

We finished out the stretch with renewed attention but I couldn’t fully shake that pit in my stomach knowing that we had missed a buttery golden opportunity.   I have replayed that fight time over and over in my head and don’t think there is anything I would have done differently.  Sometimes the dice just don’t roll your way.  Still sucks when it happens.   In the end though I realize that it is unbelievably cool to see a fish like that, and I have him marked for round two sometime in the near future.

Sunday was mostly spent at the desk building stock throughout the day, under the watchful eye of my assistant, until it was time to hit a company Christmas party later in the day.  At the party many pleasantries were exchanged and I was asked how things had been going,  I did say I’d been out all Saturday in the snow, but left out ‘the fish’…still too soon.

Next time it ends differently…I hope…

-mike schmidt

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Out from under a rock

Well, this has been the longest that I have gone without posting here since I started it up.  Not so coincidentally that matches up to what has been an extremely busy time at the desk, and something had to give!   Since the camping trip back in October I have made it out on quick exploratory trips locally to keep tabs on the conditions and tweak patterns, but never really had a chance to get out and fish hard for an extended period.  I was busy enough with flies and life in general that this was the first fall since I moved to Ohio (fifteen years ago) that I literally did not head up to Erie a single time for the fall steelhead run!  The whole time I consoled myself that it was OK as I was going to head to the Catt to swing flies with some good friends and that would make up for it…but that trip was scheduled to start tomorrow and the this current arctic blast we are enduring has it locked up.  Guess I’ll tie some more!

Don’t get me wrong, being extremely busy is certainly a ‘first-world problem’ and I am very thankful for all of the business.  It seems that more and more people are sourcing at least a part of their fly arsenal from local US tiers, and that is very exciting for me.  This was once again the best year for Anglers Choice Flies in terms of volume, sales, and exposure.  This sort of year does not happen without the support of the tying and fishing community so I thank you all.

In the coming months I will be on the show circuit, though not as heavily as the last few years.  I will try to get some shots up as they come and go, and I do also plan to get back to hitting the water more often as we get in to the spring.  There are a handful of patterns that I have been working on since last year that have been kept close to the vest, but after tweaking in the fall are about ready for some action.  I plan to release some of those over the winter as well as some more step by steps for both patterns and techniques.  I do have plans for some video projects in the works now as well since I have both the software and hardware to make it happen, so watch for short videos to start dropping sometime later this winter once I have a better handle on the editing.

It’s early yet, technically not even winter, but the early cold and snow out west already makes for a promising spring and summer.  It is something that I keep a close eye on as I will again be headed out to Wyoming in July to chase fish around with hoppers.  The last two years that trip has been the highlight of each years fishing as the scenery and company is only surpassed by the amazing fishing itself.  If you missed the posts about it check them out from the last two Julys.  I am super excited to have the trip back on the calendar and do have just two spots remaining available, so if you are interested in tagging along drop me an email for the details.

I want to thank you for all the support that has allowed me to grow Anglers Choice Flies year after year.  The ever increasing interest in tying, new flies, new materials and techniques has been fantastic to see and is indicative of a group of people dedicated in their pursuit of what they love.  I greatly enjoy both watching and contributing in any small way to that growth and catching up with friends, new and old, along the way. 

In case I do not get back on here before then or catch you on the water…have a Merry Christmas and fish on in to the new year!

Jan 15 and 22   Streamer Class at Mad River Outfitters, Columbus OH
Jan 24-26  The Fly Fishing Show, Somerset NJ
Feb 1  Greater Cinci Fly Fishing Expo, Cincinnati OH  (Streamer tying workshop)
Feb 3, 10, 17, 24  Advanced Tying Class at Mad River Outfitters, Columbus OH
March 8-9  Midwest Fly Fishing Expo, Warren MI
March 12  Bar Flies with Schultz Outfitters, Ypsilanti MI
March 22  Tie One On, Syracuse NY
July  11-15  Hopper Extravaganza, Wyoming

-mike schmidt