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 shop...in 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

Friday, July 25, 2014

Wyoming 2014 Day Five

After four hard days of fishing, a little boozing and the late night tire change my body was not cool with the alarm but it was the final morning and time to rally.  Our initial plans had been to do some canyon fishing but another opportunity came up that was too good to pass up.  A river from my first year out, but unavailable since, was an option for the day so we jumped on it.  It is a much bigger river, big enough in fact to easily hold the flows from the first few days combined.  It is a river that has less fish then the others we have hit but they are generally larger and the potential is there for monsters.  It is where I caught my largest brown in Wyoming to date..one that is the only replica I have on my wall.

As we walked towards it through the field I was mentally steeling myself.  This water holds big fish but they are that way for a reason...you better do everything right or not bother.  The old adage that they are big for a reason holds true here.  These fish are thick, wary and far to smart to fool with any subpar drift.  Once we hit the rivers edge a smile spread across my face as the water looked perfect.  I entered the water carefully and re-rigged to make sure I was a prepared as I could be.  This is some serious hopper water so I decided to start the day by tying on one of the hoppers I knocked out just before heading west.  With the yellow hopper at the ready I moved in to position. 

The first spot was the outside of a bend with a deep pool that was 50 yards long and as wide as a two lane highway.  At the head of the pool there was a grass bank that sloughed off in to the water and formed a small island that was the perfect water break to slow the water on the outside of the bend.  A few casts were laid out to knock off the overnight rust and gauge water spped before moving in to target holding water that almost certainly had fish looking up.  A few casts later I connected with the first fish of the day.

Greg quickly got in on the act as well with a solid fish on one of his Virgin Chubbies followed shortly thereafter by our guide and friend Cole landing a solid slab as well.  It was an awesome feeling to all be on the board quickly as this river is not always that accomodating.

It is a much more wide open sort of scenery here than the last couple days.  A gentle breeze  was present most of the day and pushed the grass back and forth giving the illusion of green waves.  Wind is a four letter word but breeze is a fantastic thing.  Ninety degrees in dry air is still ninety degrees so a little breeze is always welcome to cool off, and of course it is always good to have more bugs blown in the water so the fish are looking up!

Where the browns from the last two days where a dark yellow with orangish tints and nearly arctic char like orange around the mouth, these fish were much more buttery.  The rocks here were far less red and orange so the fish had adapted accordingly and were a deep rich yellow.  They were obviously very well fed too as the shoulders on these fish were impressive.

There are a few spots where permanent islands have taken hold forcing the river to braid.  They were neat spots to fish as the current i nthe braids was very steady, fairly strong, and both banks were undercut and fishy their entire lengths.  A well placed fly typically meant a high casting angle to avoid the grass and overpowering the forward stroke to an abrupt stop to curve the fly up under the overhanging grass while piling in some slack.  Tricky cast but doable and there were a few rewards to be had.

The farther into the day we got the more I started to reflect on the trip and how fantastic it had been.  This day was similarly fantastic to the previous days but in a different way.  We saw far less fish but the ones we tangled with were significantly larger on average...and there were a few heart breakers that came off early or bent the hook out.

One last fish in the net to end my day and I reeled up.  No point in making any more casts as my spirit was full.  With smiles from ear to ear Greg and I stayed on the bank and watched Cole work through the last run, hitting one final fish.  What a day and what a trip.  After a few handshakes and thank yous we headed back towards the vehicles to see how the other guys did gear down.  Again all I could think was what a trip...and just 361 days until I am back (now 349). 

Ummm...the end.

Making this trip happen yearly is an indulgence that’s thankfully supported by my amazing wife.  She understands the opportunity to get out and experience the scenery, fishing and camaraderie of this trip is both something I will never forget and something I cannot get enough of.  I am lucky enough to have a great friend in Greg Senyo to share the water with and really work hard together to make these trips come off smoothly.   We are also very lucky to have such a phenomenal staff of guides to work with that will put up with finding the experience we are looking for and changing locations on the fly if necessary to do so.   Clark runs a tight ship but has fun while doing it.  Fishing with guides Clark, Cole and Anthony as well as friends Dan, Aaron, Chad and Rob this year was a top notch experience and one that I can not wait to do again.  To that end we set up time for the return trip during the first half of July in 2015 so if you are interested in coming along shoot Greg (gregsenyo@yahoo.com) or myself (mike@anglerschoiceflies.com) an email to get the details.

-mike schmidt