4.21.2015

4/21 report

Spent Sunday trying to get a steelhead on a swung fly... on film.  Might as well have tried to film a Sasquatch playing ping-pong with FDR.  Woke up at 3:40am, drove a total of 239 miles, made countless casts, lost my lucky hemos and got one lazy bump that I suspect was a smallmouth. Conditions ranged all over the place... One river was covered with a 4 weight switch rod and a 2.5" long fly, the next required a 7 weight switch, 10' sink-tip and a big dark fly.  There were fish around, but the 70 degree temps and high, sunny skies had them unwilling to come out and play.  No one that we talked to had hooked anything other than suckers, pike and smallmouth.  But, that was just that one day.  This weather change we're experiencing right now will not only drop the river temps, but the precip will bring in the remainder of the steelhead that haven't run yet.  I'm welcoming the overcast skies, cool temps and rain.  This should be the last good week of steelhead fishing before I transition into full-on smallmouth season.

This is also the last week that the early trout season is open before the mandatory week-long closure that precedes the regular fishing season opener.  Get out and fish!  This week will be great.  It's going to be windy, cooler and there's a great chance for precip.  The blue-winged olives will be popping this week, although you may have to search for stretches of river that aren't hit by the wind.  The cloudy days will make the fish less spooky than the high and bright sun.  Caddis were also reported last week across most of the SW part of the state.

4.17.2015

4/17 quickie

Reports keep pouring in... And there's no sense to be made of it.  Bottom line - Go Fish!  The steelhead rivers south of Manitowoc are fishable and according to most reports, full of fish.  The progression of pre-spawn, spawn and drop-back will happen quickly this year, with temps across the area reaching into the mid-70s today.  However, next week will bring us back to spring conditions a bit with temps in the 50s and some rain/wintery mix in the forecast.  Sunday is supposed to rain and I hope it dumps on us like it did last week!

Some of the tributaries could give up smallmouth through the weekend!  We're seeing water temps in the low-50s already and with today and Saturday's forecast, you can easily get a smallmouth on the fly this weekend.  Next week's low temps could slow things a bit, but we're well on the way to our pre-spawn smallmouth season.  I'd focus on the slow edges, bays, eddys and backwaters first, working low and slow with streamers.  Bottom line = Find the water that will be the warmest right now.

Yeah, steelhead hate wood (actually overheard one day, whilst a self-professed steelhead expert preached finding spawning gravel was the "only way to get 'um")

4.15.2015

warm spring weather = lack of blog posts

Apologies for the brief absence... The last couple weeks has involved trout fishing in western Wisconsin, steelhead fishing in eastern Wisconsin, alumni basketball tournaments, little league meetings and a little work at the fly shop.  The days are getting longer and the weather is absolutely perfect.  People aren't even staring at me strangely when I wear shorts and flip-flops anymore!  I love this time of the year... the biggest problem I have is trying to find enough time to enjoy it all.

Now, a few reports:

Western WI - The rains we got last week were a gigantic help across the entire state.  Most of the rivers along the western side of the state were getting very low and clear... Unusual conditions for this time of the year.  Things are better now, but as dry as some areas were, I hope we continue to get some spring rains here and there.  Olives are popping on days when it's been overcast and the slightest drizzle (even humidity) occurs.  Small nymphs like Rainbow Warriors, JuJu Baetis, small scuds and tiny black Pheasant Tails have worked well.  As the water has warmed, fish have been located in water that has a bit more current, which also helps to conceal our silhouettes and movements.  Be patient, stay low, lengthen your leaders and don't barge in.  Stay back and watch the water for ten minutes and you'll like see feeding/rising fish.

Tributaries - Four words about sum it up... All over the map.  From the Manitowac south, many rivers are still a bit high and stained.  Fish were caught last week before the big rains, but not real consistently.  Once the waters recede, it will be game on for a short period.  To the north, some rivers have already receded to low levels and are warming very quickly.  Some fish are done spawning and in the process of dropping back, others haven't entered the rivers yet.  Either way, a variety of fishing tactics and water types will produce fish.  Swinging to cover water will definitely work, especially with the water warming up.  Most of the fish I did see on Monday (spawning or not) were extremely spooky.  Wear drab clothing and approach low and slow.  I'd also recommend smaller streamers and nymphs in low water situations and fluorocarbon down to 3x.  The nice thing is that the rivers are in such a wide array of conditions that with a short drive, you can find the type of water you like to fish. Walleyes are also thick in some of the rivers.  Drew and I floated last Sunday and saw gobs of huge walleyes that were in from the bay.  One ate a streamer, the rest seemed more intent on finding a mate.





4.01.2015

4/1 driftless report

After four days in the Driftless Area, we returned home tired and slightly sunburned from our first multi-day fishing trip of the season.  I'd been hearing reports of low water and skittish fish for several weeks and those observations were confirmed upon arriving at the first river on Friday.  With no snow on the banks and low water, walking and navigating the streams could not have been easier. The fish were definitely wary and spooky, but absolutely catchable.  I realized right away that a longer leader, fluorocarbon and a white strike indicator would be necessary.  I fished nymphs for about an hour at the first river - a small tungsten scud paired with a midge larva.  A couple fish came to hand, but nothing like the usual fast and furious action that we'd normally experience this time of the year.  After switching to a small leech pattern, the fun began.  Paired with an indicator and slowly twitched, the violent strikes had us giggling like little kids.  Even though the water was low, the temps had the fish mostly located in the slower, deeper runs and pools.  The leech pattern on a longer leader was just the ticket for this type of water.  I don't think I fished anything but a leech for the next three days, with wind and rain making the act of casting small flies a tremendous challenge.  Monday was the first truly nice day, with temps in the 50s and low winds.  When we pulled up to the river, I glanced downstream and saw a small fish rise in the glassy water.  It was 9:37.  Rising fish this early was a great sign.  I pulled on my waist-high waders and grabbed two spools of tippet, my hemos, floatant and my small dry fly box.  That's it.  At first, the fish were only rising in the slowest water and wow, were they spooky.  I managed a couple fish, knowing that the frequency of the rises would only increase.  Around noon, the fish were coming up on the edges of the runs and in the faster water, making casting to them and approaching them much easier.  I landed another handful of fish over the course of an hour and that was enough to make my trip.  I'd forgotten how tricky it can be to hook a fish on a #20 dry fly!  Too quick, too slow... I demonstrated them all.  The Driftless rarely disappoints.







3.17.2015

3/15 report

Scouting on Sunday, I found a mix of ice and open water.  Even though it'd been in the 60s and above freezing for a while, the deep shade that some rivers are shrouded in kept some of the northern rivers in ice.  The ice on a couple of the rivers had broken up, but because of the small size and sharp corners, ice jams were abundant and creating impassable dams for the fish.  One of the rivers we scouted will need another couple weeks before it's open and free.  We need as much sunshine as we can get and we definitely need some warm spring rains!  It is still early, but with all the snow gone, pushes of fish will occur quickly unless we start getting some rain to bolster flows. None of the rivers (that were open) appeared to be experiencing above average flows, although they were a little stained. Water temps ranged between 33 and 35 degrees.  I'd definitely be focusing on the rivers from Sheboygan and south for now.




3.12.2015

march 11 report

After kicking around a couple of the local tributaries yesterday, I don't have a whole lot of positives to report.  I swung flies from 11am to about 4pm and did not hook a fish.  I did see what appeared to be a few smaller (16-18") rainbows porpoising later in the day.  Most of the snow in the area is gone, which is a good thing from a runoff/blowing out perspective.  However, there is still a lot of ice on most of the rivers.  Actually, with the exception of a couple areas near dams, everything was still frozen solid.  I was pretty shocked to not even see a hint of an open channel on a couple rivers. However, with the forecast showing sun and temps way above the freezing mark, it won't take long. I'd like to see a couple warm spring rains, but it doesn't look like we'll get that anytime soon.  With no snow left, the rivers should warm pretty quickly when the ice does go off.  The levels will also drop fairly rapidly.  It's a tough game to play if you're not able to be out regularly... You want to be there when it's still a bit high and just a touch of color to the water.  39-45 degree water temp is what I like to fish.  That window this year, with all the snow gone, could be very small.  I hope to get out this next week a bunch and will have more updates.  I left my DSLR at home and got a few shots on my iPhone...


Shelf ice like this was breaking up all over the place.  One even brought down a tree that had limbs trapped in the ice when it broke.  


Beware the 'bergs.  Massive sheets of ice were floating everywhere yesterday on a couple of the rivers.  Watch out for this in the spring as it's breaking up... It can get dicey pretty quickly.  

3.09.2015

opener report/f3t

I attended both the De Pere and River Falls showings of the 2015 Fly Fishing Film Tour and had a great time at both events.  Thanks to everyone that attended these shows and another tip of the hat to the folks that worked hard to bring these events to town and make them run smoothly.  Both were run flawlessly.  The films themselves were good this year, but not as good (overall) as other years.  It's getting harder and harder to find original and exciting content that hasn't been done ten times before. The list of fish species that haven't been caught (and filmed) by fly anglers is shrinking and new/original content will continue to be a challenge.  Quality will set films apart, which is a good thing.  Thanks again to all who came out!

Shaking off the haze from the night before, Saturday greeted us with the warmest temps of the year and bright sunshine.  It was time to trout fish.  Michael, Drew and myself ate breakfast and headed to one of the local rivers that I grew up fishing.  I was genuinely surprised at how much ice was on the river.  I know that February was cold, but Februarys are always cold.  The runs and riffles were open, but the slow water areas were ice-covered.  With water temps that low, that's definitely where the fish would be found.  We fished a handful of the slower runs that had decent depth and did not hook a fish.  For early season fishing, it was still too early in the day to be dejected.  We kept plugging away, yearning for that first fish of the season.  By the tenth run I'd fished, I remarked that any fish would be cause for celebration.  Between the three of us, we did not move a single fish in the first four hours.  Big streamers, small streamers, nymphs of all shapes and sizes... Nothing.  We made the move to another river early in the afternoon and were relieved to see far less ice on the water.  The result was the same.  The banks were crawling with little black stoneflies, midges and baetis.  Oddly, we did not see a single trout rise.  It was like a Twilight Zone episode... All those bugs around, warm spring sunshine on our faces, familiar waters, and not a single trout to be found.  We didn't even see any fish in the river.  Normally you can walk up on a pool and spook some fish around, but even that was not the case.  The part that got even more bizarre was when we hiked out to the trucks and I texted my buddy who had been out on a different section of the river - Between 13 anglers (most of whom are very good anglers), they did not hook a single fish!  In all the years I'd fished those rivers, I could never recall anything like this ever happening.  I mean someone should've snagged a trout... or caught that random dumb fish that didn't get the memo.  It just didn't happen.  After licking our wounds Saturday night, we headed back out again on Sunday.  Chris and I made the walk to the river and it was even more pleasant than the day before.  The winds were down and the sun was warm. Unfortunately, the results were the same.  We fished everything in our boxes in water that ranged from 12" deep to 7' deep.  Fast and slow, deep and shallow, light and dark... It didn't matter.  Every angler we talked to said the same thing - That they hadn't heard of one single fish being hooked. Now I was legitimately pissed off.  I knew that there were fish around and that at some point, they had to eat.  We walked even farther than the day before and finally, in a run underneath an overhanging tree, I managed to hook and land my first trout of the season.  I've never grinned wider after catching an 11" long trout.  And that was it.  We fished for another three hours and could not manage a single hookup.  We talked to probably 7 or 8 other anglers and it was all the same story.  Nobody had hooked anything.  My only hypothesis is that the water was just too cold, but there had to be more than that.  Maybe the perfect storm of cold water, barometer, and something else?  People reported catching fish from the lower Driftless Area all the way up to the Namekagon, which had to have water at least as cold as the rivers we were on.  It was definitely a strange weekend of fishing.  Things will only continue to improve.  This week is going to be unseasonably warm and the little snow that we have will be gone by midweek.  Once the snow is gone, the rivers can start warming and it will be game-on.  I'll probably make a run later in the week to the local steelhead tributaries to see how they're doing.  It'll be a while yet until they're clear of ice, but it's always fun to get over to the lakeside and see them again.


2.28.2015

hank patterson on nymphing

Good stuff here from HP...



2.27.2015

f3t reminder

Just a reminder... If you haven't gotten your tickets for the Fly Fishing Film Tour in De Pere, there are still tickets available.  Don't wait too long, you won't want to miss this event!  Also, I heard a rumor that even though the website says they're sold out, there are still some tickets available for the River Falls F3T at Lund's Fly Shop.  Give them a shout if you're interested in attending that show.  Here's a link to their site for more info.

Bart and I will be manning the Tight Lines booth at Central Wisconsin Trout Unlimited's "TroutFest" this weekend in Winneconne.  The show runs from 9-4 and is free to everyone.  There will be speakers throughout the day talking on a variety of topics, as well as guest tyers, vendors and outfitters.  This is the last show of the season for us, then it's on to open water and warmer days.  One week and counting until the early trout season kicks off!


2.20.2015

soon, very soon

The temps continue to hang in that "stupid to go outside" range, which is alright as it's been a much milder winter than last year.  With the trout season opening in two weeks and steelhead just around the corner, I really feel like we're past the worst of it.  The next couple weeks are busy with speaking engagements, two Fly Fishing Film Tour nights, a tying demonstration and hopefully some fishing. I'll be in western Wisconsin for the early trout season opener and if these temps stick around, it'll be a lot of bank-sitting and coffee drinking and not as much fishing.  Hopefully we get some warm weather and don't have to deal with too much slush and ice.  Either way, it will be great to be out again on the spring creeks... The scuds and midges have been waiting patiently in my boxes!



2.12.2015

2/11 report

I had to take advantage of the last of the "warm" days before we get an arctic blast this weekend. When I left the house, the sun was out, the winds were down and it felt like it was going to be a perfect day.  Of course, it never works out that way.  When I got to the river, the sun was gone, flurries were starting and the winds were really starting to rip.  I packed a bottle of water and some granola bars, knowing that I was going to be walking a long ways.  The shelf ice along the banks made the walking easy.  It was like walking a sidewalk with a couple inches of snow on it, cutting my walk time at least in half.  I fished four specific spots hard, swinging through them twice with different flies.  I did have a couple small plucks on one swing, but they did not feel like a larger steelhead or lake-run brown.  Most likely a planted trout from the TU stocking last spring.  By the time I decided to call it a day, my guides were completely frozen solid and my waders were a layer of ice from the waist-down.  I love that.  You can look at it from two perspectives; On the one hand, I walked three miles, got wind burned, didn't hook a single fish, lost three flies, twisted my knee when I broke through a layer of ice, burned a quarter-tank of gas and lost feeling in my fingertips.  On the other hand, I got some fresh air, got some practice casting, exercised, enjoyed the bird sightings and at least gave myself a chance at catching a fish.  That's what winter fishing the Great Lakes tribs is all about.  You can't go into the day expecting to catch fish and marking it as a failure if you don't do so.






2.06.2015

upcoming

Just a note...

I'll be giving a presentation on fly fishing for muskies at TroutFest on February 28th in Winneconne, WI.  This is a free event hosted by Central Wisconsin Trout Unlimited.  For more info, click here

I will also be presenting "Badger State Steelhead" on February 23rd to the Badger Fly Fishers in Madison, WI.  For info on the Badger Fly Fishers and their venue, click here.

Both the Badger Fly Fishers and Central Wisconsin TU have great groups and their meetings are always a treat.  Many of their members are long-time customers of ours and I look forward to joining them for their monthly meetings.  Both of these presentations are open to the public... The more the merrier.  What else is there to do in February?




2.05.2015

new look

This summer will mark my ninth season guiding for Tight Lines Fly Fishing.  We've moved locations once.  Employees have come and gone.  Families have expanded.  Business has grown.  The one thing that had remained constant was our Tight Lines logo.  A company's logo definitely becomes it's trademark... It's image.  It's what people think of when they hear your name. Our logo was awesome, but Timmy took a chance and is going to roll with a new one for this year. And I dig it!  Shop friend (and creative genius) Eric came up with the design and Tim emailed it to all of us to see what we thought.  The response was unanimous... Let's do it.  It's a fresh new look and I'm looking forward to rocking it in 2015.


2.03.2015

the countdown continues

31 more days...




2.02.2015

carp... the other whitefish

Super excited to get back out carp fishing this summer. I really wish I had more time to spend on the flats of DC.  I've said it before... When carp are feeding on the flats, there may not be a more fun fish to pursue.  The visual aspect, the strength of the fish, the setting and the understated beauty of the fish makes them one of my favorites.








1.27.2015

spot the eagle

Last summer, my clients and I were floating down a side channel and just as we were about to pass under a (severely) tipping pine tree, my client whispered to me that there was "a big bird right over us".  I looked up and there was a juvenile bald eagle, not more than forty feet overhead.  I managed a couple quick shots before she got nervous and bailed.  Ditch the motor and it's amazing what you can see... And how close you can get.


1.26.2015

dam removals

This is a really interesting site that shows the dam removals across the country.  Great to see the entire state of Wisconsin covered in check marks... I can think of a handful of deadbeat dams I'd like to see come down.  Several of these could potentially allow trout and salmon smolt to migrate upstream to waters that are cool enough to allow them to survive.  --American Rivers Link--

Also, this marks the 500th post for this site and 8th year in existence.  Thanks for following along and all the kind words.  It's amazing to go to TU meetings and fly fishing shows and hear that people are actually keeping up with this site and reading along.  Much appreciated...

1.25.2015

f3t

Reminder to get your tickets for the Fly Fishing Film Tour... Once again, we're holding the event at the Meyer Theater in Green Bay on the night of March 5th (Thursday).  St. Brendan's Inn, which is just down the block, will be home to the pre and post-film festivities.  Click on this link for more info or call the shop at (920) 336-4106.


1.21.2015

eat a peach

We had the pleasure of hosting guest tyer Dave Pinczkowski this past weekend and Tim filmed and edited this little clip of Dave tying his "Eat a Peach Leech".  If you don't know this fly, you should. It's ridiculously easy to tie, cheap to tie, and it's durable.  The color combos are endless, although Dave has this particular scheme pretty dialed in.  Swing them for steelhead or strip them for smallmouth and browns... Can't go wrong!





1.19.2015

should've read the user reviews

Pictures to come... Tomorrow afternoon?  Last year I made the switch to a card reader as my means of transferring images onto my computer.  I had been using a cord that went from my Canon to my USB port, which was slow and prone to "unexpected transfer interruption" when I was uploading. When I got to my local electronics place, there was only one card reader left in stock and it was a whopping $14.99.  I bought it and should've researched them a bit more.  Turns out that the one I got only scored 1.5 stars out of 5 because, in most cases, "it just stopped working".  Well, that's exactly what mine has done.  Time for a new one I guess.

I did get some nice shots yesterday though... It was a beautiful morning on the local river.  Slightly overcast, warm, low winds and only one other angler.  That one other angler did just happen to be right where Bart, Charlie and myself wanted to fish.  So, we did what any other anglers in that situation would've done... Sat on the tailgates, had a couple beers and told fishing stories.  When the fisherman did leave, we headed down and started casting away.  Streamers and sink-tips went out again and again, with little notice from the fish.  I did see one fish boil in the middle of the river, but I could not tell what species it was from my vantage point.  It had all the ingredients to a perfect day, that is until the hometown team absolutely crushed the souls of their adoring fans in a true heartbreaker.  In the words of Forrest Gump, "and that's all I have to say about that".