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