Tag Archives: The Fiberglass Manifesto

DISPATCH FROM BEAVER ISLAND

From the Monday I received Kevin Morlock’s email inviting me to fly fish for carp on Beaver Island, to the Wednesday when the wheels of the Britten Norman Islander barked on the island’s rolling, old blacktop runway, I had barely 9 days to prepare. I was supposed to be meeting four fellow anglers – Cameron Mortenson, Alex Landeen, Dan Frasier (Media editor at USACarppro), and John Arnold (scumliner Media/owner of Headhunters Fly Shop) – and our three guides – Kevin Morlock and Steve Martinez (Indigo Guide Service) and Austin Adduci (Grab Your Fly Charters). All great fishermen and great dudes to lose track of days on and off the water with. I arrived a couple days after the rest of the crew with one full duffel, more than enough fly gear, no carp experience or clue what to expect, and (since the guys were out chasing carp) no ride into town. Sitting on the concrete stoop outside the one-room, whitewashed terminal/shack at Welke Airport in the close-ringing mosquito buzz and heat of the island afternoon, I could not have been happier.

Britten Norman Islander

It’s a special place that greets you in a way that’s more familial than hospitable, and makes you feel at home, even though you’re nowhere near home. From the “Hey! You made it! Here, give me your bags” when I arrived at the Island Airways terminal in Charlevoix after a 9-hour drive, one minute before take-off, and the “Hey! You made it! Close the door so you don’t let the mosquitos in!” when I landed and walked into the rustic island terminal; to the impromptu and gracious 3-mile ride into town from the airport and fully narrated history and tour of the sleepy bayside town of St. James by Chuck and Sheila, a couple who thought nothing of helping this weary, ride-less traveler get to the Fisherman’s House; to the smiles and waves that came from every car, truck, bicycle, pedestrian, storefront, coffee shop, and residence I passed on the street the entire trip; to the graduation party invite we received from an island family who wanted to include us in celebrating their daughter’s milestone; to the amazing dinner prepared for us at the Stoney Acre Grill and great table- and bar-side conversation with Liam and Marylyn, the chef and his wife, who are also the owners; I had found America in one postage-stamp-sized village, on a slightly larger than postage-stamp-sized island, just a 15 minute flight out into a far larger than postage-stamp-sized Lake Michigan.

The view of St. James on the flight in. Photo credit: Alex Landeen

Of course, just as there is no one way to describe all of America, the town and the island are fittingly tough to pin-down as well. In town, cottage-homes, shops, docks, picket fences, fishing nets, weather vanes, lighthouses, dunes, fog, old boats and older marine artifacts reminded me of whitewash-and-cedar coastal New England. A pickup ride into the interior showed me a rambling maze of dirt roads, close-arched hardwoods and pines, dappled sun and heavy shade, hidden streams, sudden-appearing lakes, deer, turkey, cabins, and small, homestead farm plots that hinted at the Adirondacks or (oddly enough) Virginia or the Carolinas. Running the boats out of the bay, an archipelago of pristine, brush-tangled islands with names like Fox, High, Hog, Garden, Whiskey, Hat and Squaw, miles of almost-azure water, skinny, white-sand flats, lakes within giant, windward-side bays, tidal movement, cruising, tailing or laid-up fish, terns and gulls, a horizon and sky that are one-in-the-same, weather out of nowhere and an ever-present wind out of somewhere had the Keys on my mind. The island is one glorious juxtaposition. Like I said, America.

And then, of course, there’s the fishing. Not only is Beaver Island a beautiful getaway, it’s a world-class carp fishery where it’s not uncommon to have dozens of opportunities to spot-and-stalk or pole after 30+ pound fish on those Keys-like flats or deeper bays with a fly rod. Not to mention the inadvertent 5 – 7 pound smallmouth that often steal your fly just before your intended target noses down on it. Oh, and there’s pike, too. Diversity is a wonderful thing.

An it’s a diversity (both from a fish and situational/topographical standpoint) that Kevin, Steve and Austin are uncannily in-tune with. Not only do they know their fishery like the back of their weathered hands, they are also respected members of the community that they call home for 3+ months each year. In the two days before I arrived, the guys touched a decent number of fish (Alex, Cameron and John each covered those days very well on their blogs and Vimeo pages). In the days after, between the weather, visibility, wildly fluctuating water temps and spooky, finicky fish, there wasn’t a damn thing we could do but soldier on, and I managed to account for the only two carp hoisted.

My first. Certainly not my last. Photo credit: Alex Landeen

This being my first time after carp with a fly rod, here’s what I learned: they’re a pain in the ass to catch.

There are days where they grub like pigs in a full trough and your backing sees the light of day all day long, so I’m told. But then there are days, many days, days like we had at the tail-end of this trip, when those rubber lips are zipped and you can’t buy a sniff or follow, let alone an eat.

The difference between the two outcomes can be as simple as rising water temps, a falling barometer, some chop and some cloud-cover. Of course, favorable conditions don’t mean a thing if you can’t put the fly 5′ past and 5′ in front of the fish 20, 30, 50 feet away, as often as not into a 20 – 30 knot wind. Drop even the quietest blip of a cast inside that window and see what happens. I’d tell you, but it would ruin the surprise.

On the hunt. Sometimes with no wind. Photo credit: Alex Landeen

We waded, poled and rowed the windward side of points and bays, which sounded counterintuitive until I learned that the waves churn in the warmer water, and churn up the crayfish, gobies and other bottom-dwelling buffet items, which carp dig.

Poling or rowing around the bays we’d see unmistakable pods of them from 60-80 yards away, some cruising in pairs, some laid up by the half dozen. Standing on the shore, we’d watch big submarine-shadows appear in the troughs of the waves, or catch their silhouettes in relief against the light bottom as they patrolled the shore in string after string after string after string after frustrating string of non-interested bogeys. Hundreds of non-interested bogeys.

On our last day out, blue-bird skies and air temps heading into the mid-to-high 70’s arrived. Cameron and I were out with Austin and we spent the morning running from likely spot to likely spot trying to simply find fish. It wasn’t till after lunch that they finally started to materialize. Anchoring the boat and wading to shore, we snuck up to a small cut-back bay that held at least 80 fish tied in a giant black and golden-brown knot between the deeper mouth and the shallower backwater. After a couple hours, at least a dozen fly changes, and several futile moves to other spots along the point beyond, I managed to fool one that immediately headed for Traverse City. By way of Chicago. Thankfully he changed his mind and returned, grudgingly, for his photo-op.

Back from Chi-town

Beaver Island was a stellar fishing trip, but just as stellar a place to simply get away to. And it really is a special place that combines the two as seamlessly as the island does. As our time wound down Sunday morning and we were all packing and cleaning the place up, I don’t think any of us were really ready to give up the ghost. But I can tell you this: while I may have left grudgingly, I knew that I would return, happily. And if I’m lucky, with the same crew we had this go-around.

The boys. And the Fisherman's House.

 

Thanks go out to the generous sponsors of this trip:

William Joseph, Simms, Montana Fly Co., 12wt, Fishpond, Smith Optics, Patagonia, Howler Bros., Scientific Anglers, Bozeman Reel Co., Angela Lefevre & Island Airways, Liam & Marylyn at the Stoney Acre Grill, Steve West & the Beaver Island Chamber of Commerce, the Dalwhinnie Bakery & Deli, Bill McDonough who hosted us at the Fisherman’s House, Cameron Mortenson at TFM who co-hosted the trip with Kevin, Steve and Austin who put us on the fish that we did and did not catch.

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Filed under On the water, The road

FOR THOSE FOLLOWING ALONG AT HOME

Two years have now officially passed since my first blog post.

It’s been a great ride so far, and I consider myself fortunate to have the modest audience I do. I’m also fortunate to have met–in real life–a couple dozen people I’ve connected with through the blog and social media circles, including other writers, photographers, industry players and good folks who just love to fish and hunt.

I don’t have any sort of giveaway to commemorate the occasion. What I do have is a list of other outdoor writers that I read and admire greatly. While this doesn’t cover every blog or writer I read, these are the ones I drop in on most frequently.

40 Rivers to Freedom – Alex Cerveniak just recently moved back to his native Michigan from central NY and has taken his writing with him. I’ve enjoyed his stream and field reports, opinion pieces and photography for a while now, but he’s found a really strong stride since returning home.

Fishing Jones – There are people who say they travel everywhere with a fly rod, and then there’s Pete McDonald who catches bass out of an airport pond before he heads for security check-in. He’s got a knack for packing a lot into a short post and also just published a beautiful book of essays and photography with Tosh Brown.

Mouthful of Feathers – I can’t help but wish I lived out west with a bird dog and a few bird-hunting comrades when I read the shorts that these six guys write. The stories are unflinching and well crafted. The imagery is as big as the country they turn their dogs loose on.

Fat Guy Fly Fishing – The trio of Alex Landeen, Aaron Dennett and Kyle Deneen dish up healthy portions of snarky opinion, fat bass pics and epic reports from events like Carp Slam and Wrinkleneck 22. You’re just going to have to see for yourself.

LO FI FLY – Probably my favorite recent find. The Unicorn Wrangler fishes with good buds in Canadian big fish locales and posts solid pics, video and write-ups. Plus he dredges up some ill (yea, I said ill) old-skool (and new-skool) lo-fi photos and videos that have nothing to do with fishing or the outdoors, and has singlehandedly made cussing a formal element of creative writing. Dig it.

Mysteries Internal – Erin Block is translating solitude and a life lived simply into a beautiful, ongoing conversation between herself and the world around her. Her stories and anecdotes about fishing and life move with an ease and poesy that remind me of why I was so drawn to writing in the first place: it forces you to slow down and pay attention.

Arizona Wanderings – Ben Smith spends a lot of time outdoors, and not just in Arizona. He fly fishes small Arizona and Adirondack mountain streams and big Alaskan and PacNW rivers. He hunts javelina and mule deer with a recurve. He hunts birds. He ties a mean hopper pattern. And he puts up great reports from his wandering.

fishbeer – Reading Matt Dunn’s blog is like skiing a new mountain in the dark. One moment you’ll be bombing along, adrenaline wide open and hollering, and the next you’ll be flat on your back spitting out bark and your fronts. His mind works in ways I wish mine would, and his writing is in lock-step.

Hunt Ducks, Hook Fish – Pete Thrubis is another dude that spends a lot of time outdoors, and has been known to park his truck with duck/bass boat in-tow in the parking lot at work. His no-frills, Michigan blue-collar voice tells a great story regardless of season, quarry or success. And his appreciation for that time outdoors always carries some good perspective.

The Fiberglass Manifesto – I know this one might go without saying, but I’m saying it. While TFM is a site that explores the Glass Lifestyle, Cameron has established a mainstream daily resource for new gear reviews, industry news, and promoting the sport of fly fishing as a whole. While I may not tune-in to every custom rod build report, I do look forward to fishing some glass in the near future.

Bonefish on the Brain – I’m not sure how he does it, but Bjorn Stromsness drops a post every day about his beloved bonefish or places to fish for his beloved bonefish or small island shacks he dreams of inhabiting so he could chase his beloved bonefish full-time. I’m just about convinced that I need to find some salt soon.

The Outdooress – Rebecca Garlock has been a tad busy, what with starting the Outdoor Blogger Network, running around the Oregon countryside for salmon and chasing browns on River X with yours truly. Thankfully, I have her word that she’s about to play some serious catch-up on her stable of stories. I’m looking forward to some more humor and big fish pics.

 

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Filed under In the woods, On the water

THERE’S ALWAYS TIME FOR ONE MORE

The plan was to paddle our kayaks into the West River for bass. Jason and I made the same trip last year and have fished a handful of times in the past, including our practically-epic smelt trip. The last time Dave and I had fished together though, we were 10 or 12 years old. We had ridden our 10-speeds to Holiday Harbor and traipsed the muddy trail through some woods to fish for bass from a shale beach-point on the north end of Canandaigua Lake.

Dave and I were cousins by friendship. Our moms were simultaneously-pregnant kindred-spirits. Dave’s older brother Phil and I were actually the ones born in consecutive summer months, but we all grew up together. Some 26 years after our last time on the water, here we’re both married with kids and homes and jobs and other grown-up obligations, fishing the opposite end of the same lake from kayaks instead of shore, and still chasing the same quarry. It’s crazy how much life goes on in almost three decades, but how little things actually change.

By mid-summer this end of the lake is thick with lilly-pads and milfoil making it difficult to fish, even more so out of a kayak with a fly rod. This year however, a record rain-filled spring had awarded us with a couple extra feet of water which held the weeds to much smaller surface-clogging amounts.

Manageable weeds. Blue sky. Early-evening 70-degree temps. A few cold beers stashed behind the kayak seat for later. We shoved off to meet our piscine destiny.

Under the watchful eye of an American Bald Eagle, one of a few nesting pairs in the area, we paddled from the lake into the river–Jason and Dave with spinning rigs and me with my trusty 5 wt. It took us about half an hour to figure out what was getting the fish to look up. We traded bright top-water patterns for dark and the water instantly turned electric…well, for Dave and I anyhow. Every cast, every pop-strip and retrieve had the hair on the back of my neck standing like a jumpy kid watching the first Friday the 13th, waiting for Jason Voorhees to jump out of the water with a machete.

The Jason who was out with us, however, was a little slow out of the gate. So, he headed for another good-looking stretch of water back around a bend and promptly started sending texts with pictures of his catches.

“Should we head over that way?” Dave asked.
“Let’s get one more cast in here, they’re all over us.” I replied.

So Dave cast again and immediately hooked up. I elected to save my cast and get his battle on video. After a successful release and about a dozen more casts each, we paddled off to locate Jason.

Later, over a few dozen wings from Wally’s and the requisite beers to wash them down, Dave and I got talking about his dad, or Uncle Phil as I always knew him. He had passed away a bunch of years back now, and we reminisced about the funny stuff that stuck with us about him. I didn’t say it then, but I miss Uncle Phil. And I know his boys do too. Our laughs wound down to a short silence, then Dave said, “You know, one thing he always use to say is I‘ve always got time for one more.
“Always,” I said. “That’s how you got that last nice fish. One more cast.”
“Yea, that was a good call, bro.”

The bartender stopped in front of us, nodding at our chicken-wing-boneyard and empty beer mugs, “You want another one?”

Without missing a beat, Dave smiled, “Always got time for one more.”

Music credit: Etta Baker with Taj Mahal (Poem & Cripple Creek)

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Filed under Fatherhood and venison jerkey, On the water

FISHY KIDS MAKE THE WORLD GO ‘ROUND

I’m proud of my kids. They do well in school. They enjoy the sports they play. They’re respectful and generally keep their noses clean. But what makes me the most proud is their love of the outdoors…curiosity and wonder and freedom at it’s purest. And it’s important to me that I do everything I can to keep them excited and active and involved…because I know someday the outdoors will need them and their passion to respect and fight for the wild places that are left when I’m no longer on the planet.

Cameron Mortenson and Kevin Powell feel the same way. Which is why they started Fishy Kid, a web-based initiative to get kids and families excited about fly fishing and spending time together on the water. And also why I’m excited to be supporting their efforts with proceeds from fishingpoet t-shirt sales.fishy kid

I had the opportunity to ask Cameron a few questions about Fishy Kid and its place in the “take a kid fishing” world.

OK, let’s start with an easy one…what is Fishy Kid about? Why does it exist?
Fishy Kid is another way to reach the next generation of anglers, stewards, and outdoor enthusiasts and their families. Fishy Kid exists to inspire creativity and interest in all things fly fishing through education, contests, and giveaways.

You say on the site that it’s brought to us by two dads who love to play outside with their kids…any particular experience stand out as the catalyst for starting Fishy Kid?
Kevin Powell and I approached a few of our sporting artist friends early in 2009 with an idea about creating a coloring book that we intended to link off our personal blogs and spread it around the internet through other friends.  As the coloring book came together Kevin and I were so impressed with the quality of the pages and could immediately see the potential of where Fishy Kid could go that Kevin began work on the Fishy Kid website and I worked on gear sponsorships in order for us to give away some great gear away to those that joined and participated.

How is Fishy Kid different than other orgs that focus on getting kids outdoors?
Well…”organization” might be a little far off from what we are (laughing) but we do try to keep up with everything that is going on, promote the website, coloring book, and whatever contest we might be in the middle of.  The toughest part about working on Fishy Kid is finding the time to keep up with it. Kevin and I both have careers and families and sadly Fishy Kid becomes secondary for periods here and there.

I’d say the biggest difference so far is that, by design, we’re sticking pretty close to the fly fishing side of things, since there really aren’t as many youth initiatives within fly fishing. That way even if a child starts with a cricket and cork, the exposure is there for them pick up a fly rod and reel later on if they chose. It is also a great opportunity for our fly fishing sponsors to get their products into the hands of the youth in the sport, since many are designing gear that is specific to young fly fishing anglers, which is really neat.

How much of an effect do you think social media is having on getting people to care about getting outdoors, or to care about the outdoors, period?
The initial launch, promotion, and familiarity industry-wide about Fishy Kid would not have been possible without having social media as part of the equation. It really has been astounding to see how far-reaching ideas can be through the use of Facebook and Twitter and we really appreciate everyone that has spread the word about the website to their friends and family.

I think that social media, blogs, forums, and other areas of the internet provide an incredible amount of information and support for parents who then see other families outside camping, hiking, and fly fishing and realize that it really can be done. It just takes a little more thought process and preparation sometimes.

How important is it that the outdoors, or fishing specifically, be a part of our kids’ lives?
A neat realization for me as a father has been seeing how interested my own children are about being outside and as they get older want to fish as well. Fly fishing isn’t something that I’ll do alone ever again. My daughter or son will almost always be along for trips as well and it is really exciting to expose them to the different elements of this sport and help them understand how valuable the resources that we have are.

What’s been the biggest success you’ve had so far?
I’d have to say our biggest success so far has been the participation and continual growth of membership of the Fishy Kid website since it’s launch in July of 2009. And secondly, the support that the industry as a whole has given the Fishy Kid website from the start. We launched with a couple dozen gear sponsors and that has grown to almost one hundred sponsors in the past year and a half. We hope to see both grow this year.

Any big plans in the near (or relatively near) Fishy Kid future?
Admittedly we’ve started off kind of slow in 2011, but we do have a few plans for this year with a new saltwater-themed coloring book being released this summer, another fishing photo contest that will run through summer break. There’s a few other ideas bouncing around as well.

Fishy Kids in all 50 states yet? Any other countries?
I’m excited to say that Fishy Kid is worldwide! We have membership all over the place and we really try to keep that in mind when we plan a contest so that everyone can participate and be a part of the Fishy Kid website.

******

Is your kid a Fishy Kid? I know mine are…and it’s a very cool thing. Make sure you register when you visit their site – fishykid.org. It’s free and not only will you be able to get in on the fun, kid-centric contests and unbelievable prizes (they’ve given away a canoe, fly rods, waders and other great gear), you can also download the Fishy Kid coloring book…which is full of reknown artists drawings for your young’un to dress up with their crayons and markers. And remember, proceeds from the sale of fishingpoet t-shirts are going to Cam, Kevin and their Fishy Kid efforts.

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Filed under Fatherhood and venison jerkey, On the water

ON THE HORIZON

Father’s day is this weekend. I honestly had no idea. I’ve got to get out from under this rock…

Now that I’m cognizant of the fact that it’s Dad’s weekend…I’m going to do some fishing.

Saturday will find me and another friend in our kayaks at the south end of Canandaigua Lake and on up into the West River. We’ll be chasing bass and pickerel with fly rods, primarily. Who knows, a few rogue browns and bows might still be lurking around.

Sunday I’ll be taking the kids out to the bass ponds out at my in-law’s place. You’ve heard of shootin’ fish in a barrel…doesn’t get more target rich than this. They never get bored. Neither do the fish.

We’re also heading down to Hendersonville, NC next weekend to visit some family…aunts, uncles, cousins and my grandma. Need to get the kids down there to spend some time with great-grandma Nora while we have some time to get away… and while she’s still with us. I think it’s going to be a difficult reality for my oldest to wrestle with, but she’s blessed with “old-soul” insight– she’s got an uncanny knack for understanding.

Usually there’s a golf outing with my Dad and uncles on trips like this. Probably will be again. But I’m going to take one morning and cast small flies to big trout on the Davidson River. I mean, it’s only a half hour drive from Hendersonville… of course I’m going to escape for a morning. I’ve been in touch with Cameron Mortenson from The Fiberglass Manifesto, whose home territory includes the Davidson, and he’s been generous enough to pass on some river intel. I’m psyched.

So, stay tuned for pics, possibly another video or two. And in case I don’t get a chance to holler again before…
Happy Father’s Day.

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Filed under Fatherhood and venison jerkey, On the water