The Perfect Storm

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_09There has been a healthy dose of hit or miss permeating my daily grind since our last visit. Outside of the angling paradigm, I’ve been stuck in a rut of a different sort lately. 2016 to this point has been little more than a blur of too many 12-20 hour workdays. As if that isn’t bad enough, the j-o-b has been bleeding profusely into the weekends, which tends to wear a guy down. To add insult to injury, the honey-do list has been in full effect. There’s nothing greater than some time on the water to release the pressure buildup. I’ve had the good fortune to be able to escape deeper into the midwest troutin’ abyss for some camping and fishing to clear the cobwebs in recent weeks.

Water conditions have been quite manageable this spring. I’ve been rained out of a few areas, but for the most part streams have been somewhat low and clear. I plotted a course this week, full well knowing that things were about to change. Our run of summertime conditions were about to take a turn for the worse. While legions of brown trout enthusiasts trip over each other looking for the next big thing, I plotted a course for brook trout bliss. It’s no secret in these parts that I’ve been a certified char-o-holic the last few years. I’ve gone through these phases in the past. From bull bluegills to slab crappies, there’s something fascinating about searching for the biggest of the “little fish.” It’s not exactly a Labrador conquest, most midwest brookies have the stature of an Oscar Meyer weiner. I’ve found that there isn’t any one pursuit in angling that can sustain my interest over the course of the long haul. Let’s just speak plainly, I’ve got the attention span of a cocker spaniel. My ever changing angling goals are a simple case of peeling the other layers off of the onion, and brook troutin’ is simply the next layer.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_12adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_03adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_10I found myself standing knee deep, up shit creek without a paddle so to speak. The morning had started out dry, but you could just see that the sky was about to bust at the seams. I carefully watched the weather forecast and knew I had a limited window of opportunity before my dreams would be washed away for good. If I haven’t mentioned it previously, I love fishing in the rain. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I’m a sucker for adverse weather conditions. A little unpredictability goes a long ways. If I wanted it easy, I’d stick to my weekly game of shuffleboard.

As I worked my way upstream I picked up a few dinks here and there. This action served to keep my attention span from waning, but it wasn’t particularly productive and was smelling like another run of the mill kind of day. I nonchalantly worked my way through a nondescript section of water intermittently firing off casts to lackluster features. At one point I was fairly sure I’d snagged something on the bottom when I realized that it had a pulse. I attempted to horse the fish into sight. When I first set my eyes on it, it looked as if I’d crossed paths with an nomadic northern pike. I’ve caught pike while trout fishing from time to time, so it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility. In the interest of full disclosure, I repeatedly chased a monster Brookie last year that I spied on a popular section of a stream that had the same M.O. I’d seen the fish a few times earlier in the season and eventually hooked into the toad early one morning. adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_pullquote_1He flashed out from a log, grabbed my offering, made a few head shakes and went along his merry way. It was like two ships quietly passing in the night. I never saw the beast again and I’m sure she found her way into the clutches of another lucky angler. This was the first time I’ve had my lucent pike/brookie hallucination. My brain went into cruise control yet again with this latest fish and just automatically perceived it as the tell tale greenish hue of a pike. While this fish was nothing special by global standards, brook trout generally don’t come in that size category in this part of the universe, and my mind automatically wandered to the billion pint-sized pike I’ve battled over the years. Perhaps it’s just the greenish tubular flash of the take. Who the hell knows, the mind works in mysterious ways? Once I got the beast into closer range I realized that it was a quality brookie. Like a finely tuned instrument, I reached back to my sling pack to fetch my trusty landing net. The “oh shit” moment hit me like a ton of bricks. “Where the fuck is my net,” I asked myself in a panic stricken outburst? While going net free is commonplace for some, I’m an ardent subscriber to using one for trout fishing. Especially if you photograph as many fish as I do. It allows the fish swim comfortably while you catch your breath, remove the fly, retrieve your camera etc. It became readily apparent that I was going to have to do this the old fashioned way. I looked for relief from the tall bank to walk the fish into the shallows. I gingerly worked her up to the bank and proceeded to scoop her up via a light craddle maneuver. This is the point where the typical “lose your mind” punch drunk, big fish behavior is full effect. I immediately realized that this fish was worthy of measurement and a few pics. I kneeled down and positioned the fish on my thighs while attempting a quick tape measure and photograph. I was so swept up in the moment that I didn’t realize that my camera settings were all jacked up (see shitty pic above). It’s at this point that the skies opened up into a torrential downpour. It’s as if Prince himself had deemed this moment worthy of celebration. I’ve purified myself numerous times in the waters of Lake Minnetonka, so I guess I’ve earned my stripes. Within seconds my lens (and my psyche) were soaked to the bone. I pulled out my backup first generation GoPro and shot a few self absorbed “man fondles fish” pics in burst mode to commit the moment to eternity. The shoddy, yet strangely appropriate psychedelic results speak for themselves. I’d be remiss in my duties as a citizen of Minneapolis if I didn’t do my part to send Prince off in style. We all have our connection with the purple one. I mean the guy pretty much scored a decent portion of my childhood. The introductory guitar solo of Purple Rain takes me right back to standing on the sidelines (in predictable wallflower fashion) at every school slow dance and roller skating rink I ever attended. In fourth grade I wasn’t exactly sure what business “darling Nikki” had masturbating with a magazine, but Prince sure made me curious. When life gives you lemons in the form of rain-induced blurry fish pictures, why not make lemonade in the form of a laughable Prince tribute?

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_20adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_15adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_06dadrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_18adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_19adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_21adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_17adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_07badrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_22adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_04eadrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_11I labored for several more hours plying my trade to every nook and cranny holding lie that I could muster. Periods of undulating rain permeated the outing. It certainly put my Patagonia Mininalist Wading Jacket through it’s paces. It’s been a solid addition to the outerwear lineup (minus the tiny/tight fitting hood). Clearly my head is too big for it’s britches (no surprise). The rain hadn’t yet wreaked havoc on the water clarity, though it was slowly was becoming a case of diminishing returns. Much to my surprise, the first fish wasn’t the only good one to come to hand. The brook trout gods smiled upon me by offering up multiple uncommonly large specimens. I picked my way through dinky trout to catch to a handful of fish that often take you eons to catch in this region. At one point I began to repeat my new found cradle maneuver only to watch a giant shake loose before my very eyes. Sometimes you just have to get out of your comfort zone, but I kept thinking, “of all the days to leave my landing net back in the car, why did it have to be today?” Occasionally I’d get the lens on one of my cameras dry enough to snap a decent pic, but rarely could I corral the trout long enough to produce good results. Perhaps it was fitting that I wasn’t able to get many high quality images. Eventually I returned to find my net comfortably dry in the back of my vehicle. This stark discovery served as a reminder of what’s really going on. These fish don’t actually belong on our walls or in our Instagram feeds, or on a blog for that matter (despite our efforts to reproduce the feeling we get inside when we cross their paths). I need a pat on the back just as much as the next person, but for me it’s the game or challenge to know the unknowable, as opposed to braggin’ board fodder. I’ll divulge a dirty little secret. While I’ve found writing of this blog to be cathartic, and I have a soft spot for shooting photos of all sorts, the real reason I started this venue was to expand my limited WordPress skill set. That’s why the site is sort of buggy when viewed on some mobile devices (my apologies for my shortcomings). Fly fishing seemed like the most innocuous of subject matter, and if anyone finds value in my exploits it’s a bonus.

Occasionally I have to pull myself away from the temptation of the “me, me, me carousel” and look at things through a longer lens. This is one of the reasons I went off the grid and didn’t even carry a camera or tape measure for several years before I started this god foresaken endeavor. From my experience behind every door that you open through your outdoor pursuits, you’ll simply find another door. By that rationale this outing is not one of photographic excellence, or peddling my wares, or some masterpiece of storytelling. It’s simply pounding another stake in the ground. For whatever reason, it will always be appropriately engrained with the surrealist smear of the perfect storm.

 

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Stuck in a Moment

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I’m happy to report that I feel compelled for the first time in a while to tell an actual fishing related story. Not just the lazy camera dump and caption level blog entry that has polluted this site for some time. I had an interesting trip recently that seemed worthy of doing an actual write up. But to simply cut to the chase, that story will not be told in this edition of fishing with Andy. I’ll leave that for another day. Let us continue to plod our way through the flotsam and jetsom of the Adrift universe. This one is a simple case of standing up straight and carrying your own weight. We won’t let a light infestation of Brook Trout gill lice rain on our parade. Because truth be told, there’s nothing like a stout round of Brooks and Browns to cure what ails ya.

 

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But I digress, one of the greatest things about this endeavor beyond the false claims of angling prowess, is when the stars align and you’re able to capture what it’s really all about. Are there any photographers in the house? I tend to become acutely aware of what’s really going on through the “natural light,” often experienced at dusk and dawn (despite my inability to capture and reproduce it in any truly meaningful way). Immersing myself in these moments strips away the varnish of everyday life. It affords me the opportunity to take a deep breath and see the things that aren’t otherwise there. Many of you are probably asking what I’m smoking right now, and that’s a perfectly reasonable inquiry. It’s an each to their own proposition. But when you boil it down to the essentials though my own personal lens. It’s not about what you’re catching, which brands you think are “hip”, or even stockpiling more unnecessary stuff. It’s not about impressing strangers wherever the zeros and ones are flowing, or how you go about your business. It’s about where you’re standing, and the simple fact that you’re even standing at all. Every once in a while your low rent point-and-shoot will do you a favor, and you’ll truly see all that you can’t leave behind.

 

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Like a Hot Knife Through Butter

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Before I can even muster a post on current affairs, it appears as if we’re on cruise control to greener pastures. I’m not going to lie, I stood streamside a few days back and contemplated whether or not I should wet wade this particular stretch of brook trout water. I was simply feeling a little hot under the collar and was looking for relief from the warm afternoon sun. Perhaps wet wading is a bit too aggressive for the task at hand, but is it too much to ask for an old-fashioned Minnesota winter? Not that I’m looking to struggle through the doldrums of an arctic chill, but this mild 2016 has put a serious hamper on my other wintertime activities (namely ice fishing, pond hockey, with a light side of skiing and snowboarding for good measure). But where global warming has proven to shine is in the winter trout angling department. Gone are the days of trifling through deep snow drifts, wicked ice shelves and the incessant picking of ice from your guides. You can simply wait for the next unseasonably warm day to work your magic. And thankfully the snowfall has come in small doses. Maybe it’s time to put those snowshoes on craigslist? Sorry great, great grandchildren your loss of polar ice is ultimately my gain. Let’s just let the extreme weather games play out because as of late the fish have responded in kind. I’ve been fortunate to rack up numbers of good looking Brookies in spades. It’s been an episode of “Attack of the Clones” with the cookie-cutter dark male char as the order of the day. I haven’t even pulled out my camera all that much, because it feels like I’m catching the same fish repeatedly. But I suppose that’s a good problem to have. I mean what else are you going to look at in-between this long-winded dribble?

 

 

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To be, or not to be…

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_winter_17adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_winter_16The world can be a cold and unforgiving place. Peddling your wares on the information superhighway is a tough road to hoe. You tend to tear yourself wide open to scrutiny. Sure, the digital high fives stroke your ego when it’s all going well, but the ebb and flow of zeros and ones eventually lead to the Willy Loman moment where you question what it’s really all about? As I’ve stated ad nauseam, I tend to fall into the “reluctantly engaged” category with a light side of misanthrope. Once you actually break through the digital veil I tend to be much more normal than I let on. Sometimes my writing strikes a chord, other times it falls flat on its face. Not to mention my willingness to express opinions with an artificially injected highfalutin ego (just for good measure). The somewhat heated commentary following my last post highlights the risk in “putting it all out there.” At the end of the day this place is more of a personal journal than anything else, but I’m glad to have anyone on board who finds amusement in my journey. Truth be told, my reporting last season was incomplete at best. I neglected to write or photograph a good portion of my efforts (not to mention I left a handful of posts cued up in WordPress, but chose not to publish my findings). These installments represent a small cross-section of leftovers. Like many of you, I fill up my hard drive with hundreds of frames of angling photos every year. Upon further review they come out good, bad and otherwise, but only scratch the surface here on the blog. I always test my cameras before I’m on the water. My trusty first generation GoPro with its VIC-20 like intuitiveness is always good for an inadvertent selfie, or two.

 
 

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The Hurt Locker

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_02My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. After gauging the level of dissatisfaction amongst the passengers in my vehicle, I have unilaterally adopted a strategy to completely eradicate the lingering musk. While it is true we are not completely out of the woods in the waning days of the inland trout season, significant measures have been taken to put us on the road to recovery. In the interest of full disclosure it is a statement of fact that my days on the water were limited until recently. I’ve been locked in a mental box. The pain and discomfort associated with my aforementioned malady, made it so I couldn’t even wear my sling pack for a period of time, not to mention fly casting. More to the point, nothing says that your “shit stank” like the ubiquitous Pine Tree air freshener. Mrs. Adrift is so embarrassed by the ultimate beacon of feculence that adorns my ride that she takes it down every time she drives my car. But that’s half the fun of it anyway. The irony of my predicament is that I actually run a pretty tight ship when it comes to automotive cleanliness. A wicked cocktail of leaky waders and a muddy dog as co-pilot is the likely culprit, but at this point tests prove inconclusive. The good news is that angling battle stations have been mostly operational for a few weeks, and I’ve endeavored to get while the gettin’s good.

 

 

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After being sidelined it feels pretty good to be back on the horse as we transition into autumn. As best I can tell the fish, like the leaves, are quite a bit behind schedule. I’ll attempt to fill the mental tank before ultimately being frozen out and switching to off-season activities. As much as I’d like to blame man’s best friend (Abe) for my aromatic abnormality, my nasty little habit of wearing my leaky waders while driving between spots has cost me dearly. I may try to masquerade things with the sweet smell of Margarita, but I honestly don’t know if my vehicle with ever be the same. The ripple effect of injury and effluent can put you into a tailspin, but I’m happy to report that there is light at the end of the hurt locker.

 

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Guilt by Association

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_01The jury is still out on a number of fronts. As I attempted to “take it easy” for the better part of August I made the wise decision to reinvest my dividends. Yup, it’s about that time of year where I put the boy front and center. The old makin’ lemons from lemonade mantra is in full effect. My back still isn’t up to snuff, so I’ve been shying away from hours of hauling big flies on big rods. Many like to dabble towards the other end of the spectrum by dangling microscopic offerings from little more than an overpriced willow branch. adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_pullquote_01I must be stricken with a Napoleonic fishing complex, because I can “overcompensate” with the best of them, but that’s neither here nor there. Family centric posts of this magnitude are likely better served up to loved ones via Facebook for the guaranteed “like”.  That just isn’t my speed. I’m little more than a social media wallflower waiting to be plucked from the ditch along the information superhighway. But more to the point, I’m not about to take my foot off the gas on this long term project. Make no mistake, there is a war raging in the hearts and minds of parents and kids everywhere, and it revolves around one simple question. How do I get my kids off of their butts and off of the fucking electronics? Their lives (like ours), is a barren wasteland of iPads, iPods and any other number force fed entertainment devices. How is the simple beauty of a spring creek waterfall every going to compete with World of Warcraft? As best I can tell, there is no easy answer. I’m determined to pay it forward by committing more boots to the ground. Untether those whipper snappers from the chains that bind, and attempt to get lost in the outdoors. 

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_03adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_02adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_07adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_06adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_19We have taken a few end of summer troutin’ excursions. I even managed to get Ava out for an afternoon session, but she wasn’t game for this larger camping expedition. Jack was more than happy to oblige. This sort of endeavor often allows me to kill two birds with one stone. You can indulge in another sliver from the Driftless pie by exploring new water, and make some memories while you’re at it. But as I revealed in my previous installments of father and son camping, there are limits to what you can accomplish. I’ve found that the rough and tumble world of spring creek fishing can be too rugged for Jack. Sometimes I have to remind myself to see the world through his eyes. I suppose if I was eyeball to eyeball with a thick batch of wild parsnip, I might also reconsider the merits of this form of recreation. The best course of action is to concentrate your efforts on easy walking pasture stretches, golf course style habitat improvement areas, and a healthy dose of bridge hopping. This isn’t my preferred way to break down trout water, but it isn’t all about me. Standing spitting distance from miles of choice fly water, but being unable to fully fish it can be a tough pill to swallow. I drove past productive spots that I’ve fished in the past and I couldn’t help but wonder what lies beneath? We tried a little wet wading, but Jack isn’t tall enough yet, nor does he really have the stamina to undertake an entire stretch of water. Would it be considered child endangerment to leave your son at a bridge while his old man explores a quickie round of brook trout bliss? But seriously, every year we go fishing Jack’s attention span seems to increase. We popped in on a few marginal areas that I hoped would connect him with a giant. On his first cast he nabbed a beautiful, dark-colored brookie. A few minutes later fate took a left turn and netted him a smallish largemouth bass. He’s learning at a young age what exploring “chub water” is all about.

 

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_18adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_17adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_09adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_10adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_11We bounced around to a few different bridges with little success. I decided we’d better make a run further south to a stream I have never fished, but would put us closer to a few different camping options for the night. We popped in on a habitat improvement section that was surprisingly manageable for Jack to walk and wade. I’ve been outspoken about the over usage and lack of creativity found in many stream improvement projects. I obviously support the idea of making our coldwater resources better, but many stream designs have a sameness to them that simply seems overcooked. Predictable little fake lunker bunkers that might as well have a sign saying “Catch Fish Here –>”. In golfing terms, it’s like you’re playing the same poorly conceived hole over and over again. Why even bother to play different courses when we’re making them all the same? Or more to the point, much of the H.I. in these parts is like a case of excessive plastic surgery gone bad. adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_pullquote_02I get it. In theory it’s supposed to be about the fish, and not the fisherman, and “playability” probably doesn’t enter into the “make waters better” lexicon, but I think in some instances less can be more. Why is the default position always to give a stream the complete arsenal of cosmetic procedures, when sometimes just a little nip and tuck will suffice? But I digress, Jack and I worked a few hundred yards of some of the better habitat improvement work that I’ve seen. I was happy to see that they left many of the native wood features and streamside trees in tact. After a slow start we started to pick up a steady stream of respectable brookies. We were having so much fun fishing and collecting grasshoppers that time got away from us. I uncharacteristically underestimated how quickly the sun sets this late in summer, and I would ultimately pay the price for my propensity to “wing it.” I wasn’t exactly sure where we were going to camp for the night and got slightly lost in our quest to find our camping accommodations. Eventually we found our way and got set for the usual round of campfire tomfoolery. The high point of our afternoon had been to select a candidate for harvest. When it comes to trout I’m largely a catch and release fisherman, but Jack insists upon cooking one up on the fire, which is just fine by me. Earlier in the day we looked for a few stocker Bows, but were unsuccessful in our efforts. We decided to sacrifice a decent brookie from his woody lair for the traditional consumption ritual. Like most boys of his age group, half the fun of it is the biological dissection portion of the equation.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_12adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_13adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_14adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_brook_trout_02adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_22adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_16 adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_15adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_05 adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_04adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_pike_01adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_21adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_23We awoke in the morning to find ourselves socked in by thick layer of Driftless fog. The task at hand was to break down camp then hit the road for a morning adrift amongst the rural landscape. After a solid round the day before we elected to look at a few more access points on the same creek, and were not disappointed. No monsters came to hand, but quality fish were very easy to come by on the most predictable of kid friendly locations. At one point we spied a deep bridge pool on the main stem of of larger river that is believed to hold big browns. It was just downstream from a small brookie feeder, so I hoped there would be some colder water to draw them in. Like the largemouth bass from the day before, we were given the warmwater curveball. A big slimer emerged from the hole to engulf the offering. Jack hasn’t worked his way up to handling bigger pike so I quickly held the fish up for a pic, before she managed to flop out of my hands and snap the line.

I’m just as guilty as your average bloke. Some of my good and bad habits tend to rub off on Jack. I’ve got a propensity to have less than desirable dietary habits when I’m on the road. I often just eat crap, then get back to the fishing. At one point he asked me if he could dine from the “rollers of death” and I obliged by letting him snatch a hot dog from the infamous local gas station concessions. It remains to be seen if my investment in father and son fishing trips will turn Jack into a lifelong outdoorsman or even a fly fisherman for that matter, and that’s okay. It’s honestly more about the quality time than any master plan. But the early returns indicate that he’s guilty by association.

 

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No Right Turn

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Let me just cut to the chase. I’ve been placed on injured reserve, and have been languishing there for the better part of August. I’ve got a neck and back injury that has prevented me from fully participating in any official angling activities. It all started with the infamous “I can’t turn my head to the right” scenario and escalated from there. I’m your sterotypical male that foolishly avoids medical intervention at all costs. I generally suffer through any ailment with little or no complaints. The fact that I’m even discussing a health issue affirms that sad truth that the tread on the tires can wear thin. Usually I just plod my way through the pain and eventually everything returns to normal. Neck and back pain is something that I’ve wrestled with from time to time, but probably not any more than your average Joe. Years ago I fished a bass tournament in its entirety unable to turn my head to right, but I didn’t let that rain on my parade. A few weeks ago in my usual display of stubbornness I decided to temp fate yet again. I was taking out the garbage one afternoon and a giant hopper just stared me in the face. The friendly little fella reminded that we’re knee deep in terrestrial season, and I’ve barely scratched the surface.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_015adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_brown_trout_03Much to the chagrin of the purist, my strategy would contain a contingency plan utilizing spinner gear as a backup. I’ve had a plethora of symptoms emblematic of a pinched nerve which has been wreaking havoc on my casting shoulder. I wasn’t sure it would hold up to the wear and tear of fly casting my standard flies. The reason I largely stick to writing about fly fishing for trout on this site is a question of audience. It’s a conscious effort to not mix church and state, despite the fact that chasing trout with the long rod is my favorite way to “skin the cat.” In some angling circles oil and water just don’t mix, but let’s be honest here, foolin’ fish is simply foolin’ fish no matter which reel you choose to strap to your rod. Let me say it this way, you can remove the Zebco 202 from the boy, but you can’t remove the boy from the Zebco 202 (as much as some might try). Embrace your past, I choose to put my pants on one leg at a time. We all learned to walk before we ran. If it wasn’t clear in the thousands of words displayed here that I often incorporate conventional concepts into my fly strategies. When I sit down to tie I often think of the available forage, popular fly patterns, and even the spincasting equivalent. What have others considered to solve this challenge? It’s the simple question of what triggers a fish to eat? It’s not about it being easy, it’s about making a better mousetrap. The difference is in the delivery mechanism. I can’t help but utilize the shotgun approach, it’s practically imprinted into my DNA. Don’t you just wonder why a Rapala “just works,” or what’s the magic behind the ubiquitous Panther Martin spinner? Even the worm dunker who kicks ass doin’ his thang on your local waters should be worthy of strategic analysis, not acrimony. adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_pullquote_02There’s a fair chance that many of you don’t support my approach, and the agree to disagree mantra may be in full effect. The creek fishing of my youth was steeped in the usual tactics. In my household we had fly rods and spinning rods and never thought much about it. My favorite childhood lure was a chartreuse buzzbait for largemouth bass on local lakes. I was fascinated by the abstract chunk of metal with the strange propellor and unnatural color scheme that flawlessly coaxed fish into explosive takes. That’s the reason why I still love the nostalgic sound of a large trout crushing a big foam fly. It’s not a coincidence that the big double “deceiveresque” pattern I’ve been throwing lately is evocative of a firetiger jerkbait. I truly believe that open-minded admiration of all angling methodologies helps me be a more effective, and well-rounded streamer fisherman. I’m perfectly okay with blurring the lines between disciplines. It’s not meant as a replacement to the core aquatic insect approach to fly fishing. There’s still nothing cooler than watching a adept nympher diagnose the situation and skillfully dissect a run. Some people like to turn over rocks for answers, others like to throw meat. And isn’t that what’s great about America? For me it’s always been about playing to my strengths while adding a new dimension to my approach. As I’ve said countless times before, why let the spin anglers have all the fun?

Enough of the long-winded soapbox diatribe, let’s get back to the task at hand.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_brown_trout_09I have a hard time doing nothing. Despite my current physical limitations I decided to try a low impact outing to see how things went with my back. I started the morning by throwing flies and managed two decent, but not spectacular fish. After putting a few notches on my belt I moved to a different spot and decided to give my shoulder a rest by scouting a new section of water utilizing the spinning rod. I arrived at the bridge crossing still early in the AM to find that I had the spot all to myself. I quickly found that a soft underhand pitch seemed significantly less taxing than my full flycast. I worked my way upstream at a good clip more interested in surveying the water for future assaults rather than carefully picking it apart. After an hour of wading a pair of anglers popped out of the woods and proceeded to work the run directly upstream of my location. When I gave them a hearty “good mornin’ fellas” they seemed to be caught off guard by my presence. adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_pullquote_01I hadn’t heard them walking up the bank around me, and they certainly didn’t wade up behind me, so I asked them if they had been working upstream from me the entire time. They responded with a wishy washy answer that I didn’t quite understand. I was simply trying to determine if I had been hitting “sloppy seconds” spots right behind them, which might explain my lackluster results. I then came to the realization that they had likely taken a short cut well away from the creek through a complicated series of woods, barbed wire fences and a farmer’s field to cut in front of me. Clearly they had underestimated how far and fast I had moved upstream. This dilemma brought the usual questions of streamside etiquette to the forefront. Our conflicting goals had us both looking to fish the same stretch of water. Is the unspoken rule first come, first serve? Did I have the right to continue upstream unimpeded, or was I supposed to acquiesce to the guys on the Rambo mission attempting to cheat me out of the spot? I decided to compromise and tell them that I planned proceed as far upstream as the next farm house then turnaround and head back to my car. They agreed and said they’d hike further up to give me my space. To my dismay after another 5 minutes of working upstream I realized that they had just walked out of sight then popped back into the creek just upstream from me again. I wasn’t interested in the backwoods brawl, and my heart wasn’t really in it anyway. So I folded my tent by going back to my car to reevaluate my life. Do nice guys always finish last? Needless to say, I didn’t jam my pocket knife into their truck’s tire, but the thought definitely crossed my mind.

 

 

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adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_brown_trout_07adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_iowa_01After a lukewarm start to the day I couldn’t help but switch back to the fly rod and attempt to put a few more fish under my belt. The bite wasn’t fast and furious by any stretch of the imagination, but I tangled with a few Brookies. There was one noteworthy encounter that I’ll likely spin into a yarn another day. I was encouraged that physically I felt pretty good following my morning on the water, but my body was giving me a red herring. I would pay dearly for my transgressions. The next morning I woke up and was barely able to get out of bed. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I “cried” in a literal sense, but Mrs. Adrift said something to the effect, “I’ve never seen you like that,” followed by a short discussion about the pains involved with child birth. It’s as if I’d been stabbed in the back a second time in as many days. I’ve often wondered what people meant when they use the phrase “my back is out”, but I’ve now learned that lesson the hard way. I spent the better part of the next week in fairly significant pain, even reduced to sleeping on our hardwood floors for parts of the night. I’m not sure why, but that was the only way I could find relief? I briefly considered and dismissed a Brett Favre style addiction to painkillers to soothe what ails me. Perhaps I’ll stick to dreaming of icy cold waters for escape.

I’m a few weeks into limited duty, and I’ve seen some improvement, but it seems like I may have some professional intervention in the very near future (if I finally pull my head out of my ass). I was driving back from a funeral in Iowa last week which gave me plenty of time to consider the task at hand. At this point I’m not sure if this malady will continue to put a serious cramp in my angling style, or even end my season for that matter. But one thing I know for certain is that a little dose of troutin’ is better than none. If I have to be reduced to short rod duty for awhile then so be it. Whether I deprive myself of all fishing for the longer term good, or I choose to recklessly exercise my demons. There’s no right turn.

 

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Crossing the Line

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_brook_trout_19I offer up this grainy pic as the only testament to one of the high points of my summer. It wasn’t a great morning for any angling specific reasons, this is more of an aesthetic high five. I meandered my way through a series of foreign valleys in preparation for an early morning raid. Thick bands of fog greeted me as I dropped in and out of each coulee. I half heartedly looked for a good vista to snap a nicer pic, but honestly I was too giddy to worry too much about photographic results. A quick iphone shot in transit will have to suffice. I’ve never been one to get particularly sappy about nature, or offer up some spiritual or philosophical bluster. I’ll simply say that there’s a handful of times per year that I find myself awestruck by the beauty of nature, and this was one of those times. There’s just something extraordinary about watching the morning fog burn off of the Driftless landscape.

I plotted a course for a specific beat on a creek that I’ve contemplated hitting for some time. Like most angling zealots, my to-do list is a never-ending series of unfulfilled promises. There are a few streams that I failed to explore during my Staycation Brookie saga earlier this summer, and I’m hellbent on finishing the task at hand. At this point in the season I’d imagine that these posts are as stale as week old bread, and that’s okay by me. I’m utilizing this space as a log book as much as anything, and it’s worth reminding myself that this thing is a marathon not a sprint. So I’d expect this pattern may repeat itself for some time.  

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_brook_trout_21adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_brook_trout_09It’s almost laughable to think that my eagerly anticipated destination was this subpar stretch of water. This out of bounds gem is a little rough around the edges and not even designated trout water. Like the clumsy kid on the playground who is picked last in a game of kickball, this crick wasn’t deemed worthy of inclusion. When tackling water of this caliber, you just never really know what you’ll find. You expect the worst and hope for the best. I’ve learned from experience that you’ll miss much more than you’ll hit on this proposition, but that’s half the fun of it anyway.

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_brook_trout_pullquote_01I popped into the early morning drink and immediately noticed a telltale diarrhea colored stain to the water. There was a squall line of showers that raced through the area the day before that I hoped didn’t wreak too much havoc. But like the majority of my outings this summer I was forced to contend with deteriorating water conditions. At best, most area streams are running full, at worst they’ve been virtually unfishable. Part of me actually longs for marginally low and clear summer conditions, but if it wasn’t evident by my last post I’ve fondly grown to accept such shortcomings. I quickly adjusted to the task at hand and began to work my way upstream at a good clip. I knew by reviewing maps in advance that there was an awful lot of poor habitat in-between quality holes. After 20 minutes of marching I arrived at the first reasonable bit of deeper water. I opted to do a little prospecting with my version of an Eggi Won Kenobi which adds a big tungsten bead and swaps out the yarn for an estaz egg (big surprise). After a few casts I had a nibble from an unknown inhabitant, but failed to hookup. After patiently scouring the zone I managed to identify the culprit, by securing an insignificant little creek chub into my evil clutches. Admittedly a small shadow of doubt cast over me like a light breeze. Not to be dissuaded I continued to work the deep corner bend, surprised that it didn’t have more to offer. After a few more drifts I managed a second smallish, but more meaningful adversary. A run of the mill Brook Trout came to hand, confirming what I suspected all along. There were in fact trout to be had in these parts.
adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_brook_trout_01dadrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_brook_trout_12adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_brook_trout_06adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_brook_trout_16adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_brook_trout_07I proceeded upstream through a series of bends that provided decent but not spectacular habitat. It mattered little as I began to pick up a reasonable number of average-sized fish. I fired a cast to an inconsequential looking midstream log when I noticed a more formidable trout swing and miss. Without missing a beat I went right back at the belly of the beast and managed a solid take. After a few rounds of beating each other up, I snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by scooping up the football-shaped beast into my net. After losing my favorite landing net back in June, I decided to restring this one with a Brodin Ghost Bag. It was a gift from a family friend a few years ago, but I have rarely used it because it didn’t have a tangle free net. Problem solved. This humpbacked Brookie had an impressive kype to body ratio and must have some serious largemouth bass running through it’s DNA. Consider the new net christened.

 

 

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I stepped out of the stream at one bridge crossing and was struck by the array of artistic exuberance. In the spirit of truck stop bathrooms, the Sistine Chapel of phallic expression adorned every inch of the crossing, and not everything would be considered in the spirit of good taste. It’s the old school journalistic ethic in me that feels the need report such travesties. Truth be told, I find the youthful dialogue to be immensely amusing. Some shit changes, while other angst filled diatribes seem to remain the same. When searching for a blank canvas to paint your master piece, or just a little slice of Brook Trout heaven, sometimes you simply need to cross the line.

 

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Filthy

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_007adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_008adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_005Like any good trout bum worth their salt I’ve found myself glued to weather reports, river gauges and other meteorological what not lately. The roller coaster of fluctuating water levels has been impressive this summer. Without strict adherence to the information provided, one could certainly find themselves up shit creek. Significant rain events seem to have a strange way of both repelling and attracting people at the same time. Wiser people than myself tend to steer clear of high water. I’ve got a nasty little habit of probing the dirtiest depths of muddy water in search of angling nirvana. To go, or not to go, that is the question.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_012adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_014adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_015adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_02adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_04adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_013adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_021adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_019Fishing in the mud can be an exercise in futility. It’s a low percentage game for sure, but it’s like swinging for the fences. If the stars are aligned you’ll find the apex trout in the system vulnerable to your offerings. They abandon the comfort of the usual hidey hole and move into shallows where you’d never even bother to cast under normal conditions. There’s nothing like a muddy veil to reassure even the most fickle trout that he’s safe from predation. It’s a reliable pattern on creeks far and wide. Most of the time I find myself a day late and a dollar short (or overly anxious by jumping the gun). But when you time it just right it can be good. I like to throw something big and gaudy or try to match the hatch by representing something washing into the creek. Given the amount of precipitation we’ve had this year, it’s been a bumper crop of quality brooks and browns on unfamiliar turf. The endorphins flow like Donald Trump’s comb over following a stout round. With that being said, the stupid expression on my face is enough to avoid the self absorbed grip-n-grin selfie for the foreseeable future.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_009adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_011adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_016adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_010adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_004The dog days are ahead dead to rights. But that’s just code for peak terrestrial season in my book (or tricos if that’s your drink of choice). Phrases like “back to school, NFL training camp and the great Minnesota get together” have entered the lexicon. Which on some level signals the beginning of the end. But let there be no shame in your game. Like the bottom falling out of a nasty slider, sometimes you have to give them a healthy dose of the filthy stuff.

 

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Staycation

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_27adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_11adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_28Is there anything better than the much anticipated summer vacation? When shopping angling destinations, it’s like a trip to Baskin-Robbins with too many flavors and too little time. Variety is the spice of life, and traveling provides an opportunity to get outside of the familiar. We go to places far and wide that offer up something that is missing in our daily grind. In flyover country fly anglers often head to higher ground, or even higher latitudes in search of angling bliss. Our Middle West manifest destiny finds us wetting our lines throughout the Mountain West or crossing into enemy territory for a healthy dose of Canadian bacon. Stories from Canadian fishing trips are recalled with the ferver a boy who has just seen his first magic act. The irony of this behavior is that the “fishing heaven” that I longed for in my youth was actually Minnesota. The land of 10,000 lakes had everything that Eastern Iowa didn’t. I occasionally have to remind myself of how good we have it in these parts. Excellent angling is around every corner if you chose to embrace it.

A few months ago I found myself surfing plane tickets in search of the next big thing. Invites to Idaho, a mad dash to Montana or Colorado were considered and dismissed. Am I in the mood for Rocky Road or Strawberry Cheesecake? Ultimately I settled on the notion of a road trip. My road trips tend to differ from the norm. I like to circle a loose collection of destinations on the map and “wing it.” The cardinal rule of road trip fishing is that there are no rules. You can throw the creature comforts right out the window, because there are no preconceived reservations in swanky hotels, cabins or lodges. Half the fun of it is that you start every morning not knowing where you will end up at the end of the day. In my younger days I’d often find myself in some hole-in-the-wall bar, but those are stories for another day. Now it’s more about the angling. It’s part Easy Riders, part Babe Winklemen and the fish are your only guide. If you’re on a good bite, you stick around, otherwise you move on to the next dot on the map. The idea is simply to roll with the punches and play the hand you’re dealt, as opposed to the templated fishing adventure where you’re being told where to fish and what to cast.

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_brook_trout_pullquote_01My original plan was head up the north shore of Superior for 3 or 4 days to mine the resident trout and char of northern Minnesota and Northwestern Ontario. I still have brook trout on the brain, and who doesn’t want to go to the land of the giants? Anglers everywhere are drawn to the region for the last stronghold of Coaster brook trout and Nipigon behemoths. This region harbors the brand of brookies that are hard to find these days. As my window of opportunity drew closer I began to have second thoughts about the original plan. I don’t know what it is, but just going up to Nipigon and fishing out of my boat on big water for a monster brook trout feels like a simple transaction. Is it just too easy? Shouldn’t a real trophy be earned not bought? Perhaps if I can muster up a finer fish than Dr. Cook’s I’ll feel better about the proceedings. I mean this in a respectful manor, because I’m an ardent “each to their own” kind of guy, but “the internets” are already filled with lemming anglers looking for their Nipigon trophies. The allure of this proposition is almost overwhelming. It’s like waving a big white rock under the nose of a raging crack addict, but I wasn’t so sure I wanted to join that club. Truthfully, I only have one whopper Coaster under my belt from years ago. I have misplaced the photo through the last few computer changes. At this point it almost feels like it never happened. For better or worse, I decided that my north shore journey would be better served towards the end of the season when colored up Coasters and bull Brookies can be found in a variety of locations. I’ll likely get over my hangups and scratch the itch another time. Though, I literally stood in my garage loading up my tent, cooler and a small cache of gear not knowing where I was going. “Do I need my bigger rods with sink tips for Canada or should I opt for something else,” I asked myself?

 

 

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adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_29Have I mentioned that good things come in small packages? Generally speaking everything about spring creek Brook Troutin’ is smaller. Smaller rods, smaller offerings, smaller results. On the flip side the rewards can be big. After hours of picking through candy bar sized trout, if you’re lucky enough to find a “big one” you’ll feel like you just hooked into Jaws. Those “big ones” are actually small ones by other standards, which that alone is worth the price of admission. But bigger isn’t always better. You just gotta love the patterns and coloration of Brook Trout. Usually it’s the little guys that stop you in your tracks.

I logged more miles than I’d care to admit and not everything came up roses. The rain has been fairly relentless recently and it wreaked havoc on a handful of places that I wanted to fish. I found just enough clear water on a few streams to muster up a good number of quality trout, with a few exceptional fish. The fishing was good enough that I didn’t even bother to photograph most of what I saw. There’s only so many times you can hold a Brookie up to a camera without it becoming a silly proposition. This will be our little secret, but I did break from the plan and throw Sulpher dries mixed with a round of late night mousing/topwater for big Browns one evening, but let’s not change course at this point.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_15adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_14adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_08badrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_17adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_38The older I get the less I seem to be able to fully go all “Christopher McCandless” on the bit. By and large I am living out of my car for the duration of a road trip. I was so tired one evening that I sat in my car eating a roast beef sandwich at midnight, lamenting the loss of my trusty landing net. I searched my DeLorme for the nearest campground or wayside rest area. After driving for the better part of an hour, I rudely rolled into an empty campsite and curled up in the back of my car for a rocky night’s sleep. Echoes of an unhappy baby rang out throughout the wee hours of the morning. Not exactly the peace and solitude that I had in mind, but these are the pitfalls that come with this type of helter-skelter endeavor. Let us continue the jam-packed processional of pics.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_01badrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_19adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_02adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_37adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_26adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_34adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_25adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_20adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_22There’s nothing like a little dirt under your fingernails to recharge the batteries. The constant juggling of work, family and other complications can cramp your angling style. The urgency of reality beckons us back like the snap of a wet towel. It regularly hampers my ability to truly scratch beneath the surface to the seedy underbelly of brook trout country. The narrative containing grandiose plans at exotic locales will be saved for another day. To a certain extent I’m offering you up yet another cookie cutter canter, but let us not underestimate the value of the staycation.

 

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Funny Math

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_17adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_18adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_19It’s time to get while the gettin’s good. And the gettin’ is good in these parts. At this point the transition to summertime troutin’ tendencies is complete. I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who’s full of hot air. Today’s little heat wave is a far cry from the morning chills I experienced recently. The daytime highs have been moderate, but I opted to give it a go on one of the coldest morning’s in recent memory. One should never underestimate Mother Nature, but I’m prone to rash decisions. I found myself shivering in the icy cold waters of spring creek delirium, with only a thin layer of breathable fabric to reduce the shrinkage. Not to be dissuaded, I plodded forward in typical binge and purge fashion, ignoring the fact that my teeth were chattering like an age old teletype machine. Let’s not let little things like hypothermia get in the way of our quest for numerological know-how.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_27adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_16Despite that fact that we’re knee deep in our orgy of dry fly antics, my mind has prematurely wondered towards the giant bugs of terrestrial season. I’ve probably been spending more time tying than casting, and that’s a problem in itself. I’ve secretly been pulling out the vise and constructing new monstrosities meant to test my meddle. Some may see air time, others will be sent to the dust bin of bad ideas. Putting your own spin on a known quantity is half the fun of it anyway. The results portion of the equation have yet to be written.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_04adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_09adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_brook_trout_31Since we’re talkin’ tactics, I figured I’d follwup on the Brookie bonanza from earlier posts. The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray, but the latest batch of flies and strategies have been paying dividends in the form of a smattering of quality fish. The curiously unnamed pink fly has done some serious damage. Perhaps we shall call her a “double-bubble” #10 Bubblicious? Somewhere between my Strawberry Twizzlers fly and a Pink Squirrel lies this double tungsten bomb-beaded blasphemy. No need to get your panties in a twist over the material choices folks, she’s all artificial. A light round of R&D tells me that if you want to increase the durability, but sacrifice some action you can substitute the current tail with chenille, but it’s all cheatin’ in the minds of some I suppose. Perhaps thoraxes, dubbed bodies and legs comprised of space age components are okay, but not plastisol tails? I don’t really follow any prescribed conventions when it comes to fly tying, so everything is fair game in my pea-sized brain. I’ll leave the unspoken rules of proper fly roddin’ to those in the know. I’m just full of contradictions, but the truth remains that good ol’ Bubblicious has worked as good, if not better than I’d hoped. I’ve been delinquent in furnishing you with any angling action lately, so I’ll just offer up this murderer’s row of finned foes and then we can proceed to go about our business.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_24cadrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_08adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_21adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_03adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_20adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_02adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_22adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_14adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_26 adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_01adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_25Why are we so entrapped by a game of numbers? The true measure of a man can’t be found in a simple spreadsheet or at the long end of a ruler. If I wanted to keep score, I’d be swinging the sticks on the golf course. It’s not that I’m immune to amassing quantities of quality fish. I like big fish and a good bite as much as the next guy. How many fish did I catch on this morning? It was somewhere exactly between “a lot” and “many”, but I can’t be 100% sure. Heck, I have a favorite corner bend that I throw Sulphers on ’til the cows come home, but truthfully I’m simply out to put one in the mental win column. Sometimes the simple arithmetic of religiously counting fish, or measuring every catch to within a micron can be almost too much for me to bear. Is more really more? Going fishing and not fervently keeping score is addition by subtraction in my estimation. I never liked math class, and I’m not about to start now. It’s all about the experience by matching wits with something that is wholly uncontrollable. Not to mention the silence, ahh the simple beauty of utter silence. So get out there and get while the gettin’s good (the numbers are there for the taking). There’s no question that I’m often guilty of using some “funny logic,” but in this case it’s simply that I find the math to be the funniest part of this whole equation.

 

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Slow and Steady Wins the Race

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After furnishing you with a flurry of early spring reporting I went off the grid for a bit. If I’m not careful I can slip into some of my old bad habits. I was recently surfing through the aisles of a local big box sporting goods store when I had an epiphany of sorts. I was stopped in my tracks at this Fenwick fishing rod rack. There was nothing particularly special about the fixture, other than the large photograph that adorned its flanks. A flood of memories washed over me. In my line of work it’s commonplace to cross paths with things that you’ve created. You make stuff, you send it out into the universe, and occasionally reacquaint yourself with it at a later time and date. I shot this pic for Fenwick a number of years ago and it served as a catalyst for a self-imposed hiatus from the glitzy world of angling photography. At this point in my life shooting fishing pics became nothing more than a simple commodity. It was a classic case of mixing business with pleasure and ultimately it became a chore. Quite frankly, it led to me no longer carry a camera while on the water for a decent chunk of time. Angling excursions big and small went by without a single frame to capture the experience. It felt good for a few years to get back to the basics and remove the tether by not worrying about photographing this or that. Truth be told I only started snapping pics again with my phone about the time I started this blog. As it turns out it’s hard to spin a yarn without the visual layer to support your case. I guess my college english professor was right, I’m no Ernest Hemingway. I’d imagine that most who partake in documenting their ventures struggle to keep it fresh. Beyond the endless string of water, woods and caudal fins, if your goal is a simple case of hero worship ultimately you’ll be left empty-handed. I’ve always claimed mine to be more of a personal journal than a periodical in the truest sense. It’s all fluff, and occasionally it also becomes a chore to construct the narrative. If there is truly something to be written, it will find it’s way to these pages, otherwise Adrift can to languish with the best of them.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_30adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_31So where does that leave us? What is all this mindless blather about anyway? I decided to freely fish a good portion this spring without the fishing blog elephant on my back. Fish came and went with little fanfare. Fishing rods and hearts were broken with little more than my standard array of curse words. In the interest of full disclosure, it’s a little known fact that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. I really haven’t been out in full force this spring due to the life/work balance conundrum. Though, after a new watershed didn’t quite live up to my hopes and expectations back in April, I could only soothe my soul with the steamy auspices of some Tung Ting Shrimp. Was this stream not as good as I’d hoped? Were its fish victims of climactic change like the others swirling in the internet rumor mill? Wrong place? Wrong time? Perhaps I’ll never know.  I was eloquently reminded by a power infinitely more wise than myself that in life, blogging, and angling, slow and steady wins the race.

 

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Get the Lead Out

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I feel compelled to make up for my last post. I was exhausted following a few days of fishing and was just too lazy to recount the ups and downs of steelheading bliss. I will endeavor to make up for my shortcomings by giving you some tactical tidbits in this post. Tactics and tying don’t make up a great deal of my rhetoric for good reason. As I’ve stated previously I’m no great mind in the world of fly tying, and my skill set leaves something to be desired. But why let my limited repertoire rain on your parade? I simply utilize a personalized approach that works for me. I love a hatch as much as the next guy, but I see no point in discussing my elk hair caddis pattern because it’s well traveled turf. I’d rather chat about my hairbrained schemes. At the core I’m constantly experimenting and can find inspiration from a variety of sources. Towards the end of last season I broke from my usual fluff and actually offered up a little bit of insight into my madness. I shared with you my “Little Boy” heavyweight bugger. The thing is a XL sized tank and mostly inappropriate when mining for char. I’ve adapted the thinking behind this fly for brook troutin’ duties. Not that these flies won’t work for browns, it’s just that I’ve got a soft spot for the little guys, and I’ve been on a brookie binge lately. I’m keying on some ultra deep pools that can be found on some prime brook trout streams. From an approach standpoint my tightline tactics have been dominating the landscape. I find myself using a modified Czech nymphing approach and less of the traditional nymph rigs that are prone to tangle and snag. I’ve grown to prefer a direct connection with my offering as opposed to being hampered by a series of floats, split shots and point flies. Here’s a rag tag cross section of flies that have gotten air time over the last few weeks.  I’m constantly refining my designs. The challenge has been in creating a fly that will plummet into the deepest of pools, but remain compact. Weight is the critical link to mastering strike detection using this approach. I’ve tried any number of tricks. You name it, barbell eyes, beads, lead wire all have been used, and regularly I use all of them in one pattern. Tungsten bomb beads have become a mainstay in my arsenal, and one just doesn’t seem to be enough in some applications. You’ll see that I frequently employ a double-beaded version. Sure I could throw a change up and go with the sinking line route, but where’s the fun in that? I’m a tinkerer by nature and prefer the heavy fly highsticking routine.

 



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Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s not like brook troutin’ is rocket science. A quality brown trout worth his salt can be fickle enough to fray your nerves. It’s like they have just a touch of muskie to them. That’s not the case with most brook trout. They’re more of the bluegill ilk. But a trout, is a trout, is a trout. If it was always easy we wouldn’t be talking about it. I had an epiphany of sorts back in February. Jack and I were doing some late winter ice fishing and I inadvertently left a few panfish jigs in my Patagonia sling pack. Jigs are a popular choice everywhere spinning reels spin, but for some reason as fly anglers we must tie our lead to the hook. And there in lies the shortcoming. I periodically can’t seem to find products at the fly shop that do what I want them to. It made me think about how much innovation has occurred in the ice fishing universe. Everything about the sport has changed in the last 20 years. adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_pullquote_01In particular the micro plastics and jigs that are meant to imitate aquatic insects are impressive. Driven by the almighty dollar, conventional baits are reinvented every few years. Conversely, stodgy old fly anglers year in and year out are content to slip their ubiquitous coneheads on to their olive-colored buggers. The traditions of fly fishing are both a blessing and a curse. Old school tactics are part of the allure of it all. I’ve got nothing but high fives and respect for those who fish classic fly patterns, but Norman Rockwell isn’t going to get me to the bottom of that 12 foot pool. Dave Genz on the other hand will. The godfather of modern ice fishing’s new series of tungsten bombing drop jigs are just what the doctor ordered. A marmooska jig on steriods, its massive tungsten head coupled with a tiny hook is perfect for dainty little brookies. Its designed to punch through iced over holes, but delicate enough for the smallest panfish and it’s damn heavy for its compact size. Casting the heavier flies in my brook trout lineup aren’t for the faint of heart. Like it’s big brother the “Little Boy” bugger, its difficult to roll this baby over with a traditional casting stroke. Even working the beast through a pool is a new dimension in fly rodding. Its like you’re pounding the bottom with a ball peen hammer. Not exactly your garden variety drag-free drift. I like to refer to my large single nymph fishing as “frankenymphing”. Close quarters dinkin’ and dunkin’ is where they can do some serious damage. While these seedy little cheatin’ attractors can represent aquatic insects, baitfish, worms or even baby brookies, the big tungsten jig versions require a specific yo-yo technique. As you can see above even the dinkiest of brook trout can find them a tasty morsel.

 

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Posting up a pic of a Rush River Bubblejack IPA makes me feel kind of icky. Featuring a fishing-themed beer on a fishing blog should probably be against the law (and an IPA nevertheless). Beer snobs everywhere have grown to dismiss this over saturated style of beer. I’d probably fare better if I said that I own a selfie stick. It’s not like it’s actually a brand that kowtows to our people (like Trout Slayer) but the Rush is on the Mt. Rushmore of local streams. For quite some time I avoided beer from Rush River Brewing for no good reason. Perhaps I felt like was giving in by drinking a beer named after a local favorite? One of my neighborhood pizza joints features this beer on their limited menu and eventually I caved. Its passé hoppiness has grown on me. I just as easily could have threw down a Bell’s Two Hearted. At least it’s not a PBR. Maybe we need to stop associating fly fishing with beer drinking? Lemonade anyone?

 

 


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adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_brook_trout_41adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_brook_trout_33I hit the road bright and early recently to test my meddle. Upon reviewing a new section on an old favorite stream at dawn I had a close encounter of the third kind. The precipitation that has hit the region lately had me wondering about the water level and clarity. I was carefully looking through the woods to see if I could get a good look at the water level when a dark object caught my attention in my peripheral vision. I turned to my right and noticed something staring back at me. It doesn’t make any sense, but the first impression I got was the outline of the old Mickey Mouse ice cream bars with the big ears that were popular in my youth. It took me a few seconds to register what it was, but I finally realized that a big black bear was standing in the brush across the clearing checking me out. By the time fully processed the encounter, in good black bear fashion, he turned and ran away. Needless to say I chose to move on to another stream. It’s the first time I’ve seen one while fly fishing in this area. After regaling Mrs. Adrift with the tale she wasn’t impressed. I chose to take out an insurance policy for future visits to this watershed in the name of bear pepper spray. Overkill? Perhaps. When looking to bomb the deepest of pools, or escaping from the evil clutches of your garden variety black bear. You’d better get the lead out.

 

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Ask and Ye Shall Receive?

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_brook_trout_15Some look upward with their palms to the sky to seek answers to some of life’s most basic questions. Others use a completely different methodology to unlock life’s riddles. My daily life is bogged down with just as many what if’s and mental scratch tickets as the next fella, but most of my questions tend to be more transactional in nature. Like, “when is the new battery charger for my camera going to arrive?” The workhorse camera for providing you blog content has been the now classic Panasonic Lumix TS3. I don’t need to tell you that these little waterproof point and shoot cameras have been game changers for “fish gropers” everywhere. More to the point, my battery charger and I had unexpectedly parted ways recently, leaving my camera a lifeless pile of microchips. I placed an order for a new charger using the ultra-reliable eBay as a means to furnish me with a replacement. My friends at the USPS placed an envelope at my doorstep providing a new dimension in customer service. The “received without contents” and “received unsealed” stickers might as well said, “we hope you enjoy your empty box”, or “we’re sorry for your loss.” The mantra of “through rain, sleet and snow” took on a whole new meaning as I considered my next move.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_brook_trout_07Selfie nation has become the bane of our collective existence. The power of phone-based cameras have allowed the self absorbed to put themselves into context, and I have been not been guiltless in this crime. This wasn’t a simple case of hollow self indulgence. Action fishing shots are hard to come by when you have a tendency to fish by yourself. Originally it was an attempt to sprinkle a few humans (me) into the endless ribbon of woods, water and fish. Eventually I’d just throw a good one in from time to time to annoy Mrs. Adrift. Hello world! I offer up this shot in the spirit of photographic experimentation. In my estimation this portal is little more than a personal scrapbook of my fishing pursuits anyway.

With my Panasonic down for the count I grabbed a Nikon DSLR with every intention of bringing you some Brookie action in “full HD.” Unfortunately I wimped out and decided to capture the day via an iphone and a GoPro. Call me lazy, but fishing, handling the catch, and snapping away with a real camera is just too much of a chore. While a GoPro does a nice job of capturing video, it’s a crap shoot when relied upon to shoot still photography. GoPro results, and iphones to a lesser extent, are an exercise in guesswork. It’s a push the button and hope for the best endeavor. With the blown out highlights and the wide angle lens, I find the shots to be almost cartoonish in their appearance. It doesn’t help that my first generation GoPro has a few scratches in the lens that create predictable blurry spots in the frame. Don’t get me started on iphones. Even though I always carry mine in a waterproof case, I’ve managed to kill 3 of them on the water. But enough of the shortcomings (and silly camera banter) let’s get to the results portion of the equation.

 

 

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It’s not like this year’s spring runoff has left us up shit creek, but let’s not count our chickens before they hatch. Reports have run rampant of a notoriously poor start to the Wisconsin trout season. As I went fishless for the first hour of the day, I was building confidence that I’d succumb to another lackluster excursion. There was just enough remaining stain on the water that I couldn’t see the bottom of the deeper pools. 
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I swung a juicy looking Shirley Temple into a medium paced run, only to watch a decent looking chunk emerge to lazily inspect my offering. I threw it back into the spot and allowed it to sink all the way to the bottom. Without hesitation the char snatched it up like a Scooby snack. This was the key that unlocked the remainder of the afternoon. The bites weren’t particularly plentiful or aggressive, but if I allowed the fly to dredge the bottom, I’d occasionally pick up a hit or two. In the deepest spot of the afternoon, I picked up two or three solid Brookies, but not anything to get too excited about. It’s funny how we can adjust our expectations. An eleven or twelve inch brown trout is as common as passed gas, but in the midwest spring creek brook trout paradigm, it’s a respectable result. After another handful of fruitless drifts, I highsticked the heart of the run one more time, garnering a solid take. As I set the hook, it became immediately apparent that a more substantial opponent had stepped into the ring. After gingerly clearing him from any potential pitfalls, I slid down the bank and into the drink, spooking every trout in the tri-county area. But it mattered little as I netted the brute and waded down into shallow water for closer inspection. I snapped a few pics and sent him on his way. At this point it dawned on me that the needle had conclusively moved to hit from miss.

 



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adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_brook_trout_16I forged a path further upstream into clearer water. The clarity didn’t seem to help the situation, and the fish became less cooperative. After picking up a few more quality participants, the hits eventually gave way to a series of frustrating short strikes. It mattered little because my time had run out. In an uncharacteristic display of restraint, I didn’t “one last cast” myself into the danger zone.

There are many times that I set out with fairly low expectations, but you always have to at least hope for the best. I’ve had a fairly serious case of Brookie on the brain the last few months, but I hadn’t taken the time to partake. This little jaunt was enough to temporarily tamp down the urges. Rolling around at night and simply dreaming of brook trout won’t bring them to hand. A little elbow grease and solid plan was enough to exercise these demons. It makes you wonder who coined the phrase “expect the unexpected?” Ask and ye shall receive?

 

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Baby Steps

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_sorry_folks_01 adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_sorry_folks_04 adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_sorry_folks_06Adrift Greatest Hits Vol. 1? No not really. I pride myself on offering up fresh content (as opposed to regurgitating yesterday’s news), but I stumbled across the first couple of pics recently when my kids were scouring the depths of my iphone’s photo library. These older images epitomize what I love about early March fishing. Even though you are often trudging though a wintery mix (and the bite can be hit or miss), you can feel mother nature shaking off the rust. There is an innate sense that it’s all gravy from here on out. In a wild display of mood swings, she’s elected to really turn up the heat. In like a lion out like a lamb? The remaining snowpack and shelf ice is not long for this world. From a photography standpoint, dawn and dusk can provide you either the best or worst light to capture the moment. The fish may not have come easily that morning, but the photos were flowing freely in the dawn’s early light.

 

 

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adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_winter_01adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_fly_tying_03adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_winter_07adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_winter_05As much as I’d like to tell you that I’ve been unraveling life’s mysteries at the crack of dawn, like two years ago, this just hasn’t been the case. Midday meddling has been more my speed. I’ve been eyeballing a Brook trout specific run, but spent more time on Brown dominated water. Countless hours pouring over options in the offseason ultimately paid dividends by supplying me with a quality fish on a new beat. Deep and slow was the way to go. This was a prototypical sluggish winter take that I classify as the “moving snag.” There’s no finer moment in fishing than the instant that you realize your “snag” actually fights back. It’s not like I set the world on fire, but I’m perfectly happy to simply have put one in the win column. There would be no Monet masterworks in this set. A few poorly constructed workmen-like pics of the beast and I sent her on her way.

The shortest distance between two points might be a line, but ultimately the shortcut will leave you high and dry. The Ides of March are upon us, and there’s no glory in easy. Inch by inch, mile by mile, I’m once again taking my baby steps.

 

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Finding Nemo

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adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_fly_tying_02Did you think I’d forgotten you? Without a doubt I suffer from multiple personality disorder. I’m able to switch from one vice to the next like a kid in a candy store. The frigid days of February made for some solid rounds of neighborhood puck and ice fishing, but left the long rod waning. This is the thinnest Minnesota snowpack I can recall. Great for streamside angling, but maybe not so great for recharging aquifers? In other news, there were no pseudo Middle West powder runs to ease the suffering. Perhaps there’s still a fleeting opportunity to make up for lost time? In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I’ve been pursuing cabin fever with the greatest intensity. But how long can one simply be the fish in the aquarium? It’s a big world out there, and the juices are starting to flow in earnest. There is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. The Wisconsin early season trout opener is the opening salvo in this house of cards. I’m a little fearful that there will be a repeat performance of last year’s perpetual winter, but I’m not one to make excuses. Get out there and fish hard, ’cause before you know it the weeds will be head high. I’ll be plodding a few tracks with the best intentions to truly find Nemo.

 

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Nothing More, Nothing Less

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Let’s not get too heavy handed with the Jack Handey banter in this edition, okay? It’s not like my insight on things is any more poignant than the next guy. My brain dump can sometimes lead to a communication conundrum on the information super highway. I usually pride myself in thoroughly planning out my expeditions, but in this case it was merely an afterthought. Honestly, I just opened my map, picked out a handful of juicy looking colored lines, and it was warp speed ahead. I chose a healthy dose of unfamiliar turf, with a few oldies mixed in for good measure. Probably not the smartest strategy in the dead of winter, but sometimes you just need to peek beneath the veil. I wasn’t too concerned with finding the next big thing. It’s probably no surprise to any regular Adrifter™ that I’m way too ADHD to stand in the same spot for any great length of time. From shallow skinny ribbons, to deep beaver dam pools I covered a little bit of everything. In many ways it just felt good to get the blood pumping.

 


adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_winter_04adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_winter_03adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_winter_06adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_trout_winter_02There wasn’t much happening at most spots. It was your typical sluggish winter bite with very few active fish. At one point I saw two browns move towards the surface in a deep run for what I believed to be insect activity, but something didn’t seem quite right. I observed the fish for a few minutes, then noticed that one fish had put the other sideways in it’s mouth. Both trout were an identical 12 or 13 inches so this wasn’t exactly a case of beast mode. I was surprised to see that that trout A could even fit trout B in it’s mouth. After a minute or two, the aggressor gently released the victim and it seemed no worse for the wear as they continued to swim around each other. As best I could tell they were just getting funky. It’s as if they were up to their eyeballs in the electric Kool-Aid acid test, and not necessarily a case of dog eat dog. Speaking of which, I met a new fishing buddy at one spot who was about as friendly as you could ask for. The canine followed me around and quietly watched me fish as I plied my craft deep into the heart of the valley. If only my pooch could learn such manners, maybe he would get invited more often? We can only dream.

 

 

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I was picking up a fish here and there, but there wasn’t much to hang your hat on. Lots of bites, but they were definitely in full short strike mode. In other news, I got shot down by the first “big girl” of the season. The only hard charger of the afternoon followed my offering from the head of a giant pool all the way to my feet. She slashed the bait hard at the surface, only to miss the hook altogether. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades (ick), but at least I was in the game. After a lukewarm winter’s day I tend to reassure myself that it just feels good to be out. I was born to walk the earth like Caine in Kung Fu.  For better or worse, this day was simply your garden-variety escape from Alcatraz type endeavor, nothing more, nothing less.

 

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Ditto

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_margin_06adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_07Let the extreme weather games begin. We’ve seen it all lately, from blistering cold to spring-like heat waves. Fortunately I’m dreaming of a brownish green Christmas, just like the ones I used to know. In terms of weather related angling choices, I just seem to find myself on the wrong side of history. Though in a shocking turn of events, I finished my holiday shopping early (so to speak). I generally throw down an end of year jubilee which serves as my gift that keeps on giving. This year I found it within myself to furnish you with the yule log a few days early. Having a blog is a funny thing. If you don’t feed and burp it regularly, ultimately it will choose the wrong path and be banished to the cozy confines of irrelevance. We’ve all surfed the remnants of the land of misfit toys. Not every website can be the Rolling Stones. Day after day, year after year forging ahead, even in the face of adversity and age (not to mention heavy drug use). Most of us wither and die prematurely. It’s because there’s just not enough hours in the day. Perhaps if we switch to the 27 hour plan I can give it all that it deserves? In the meantime why don’t I just drop a midwinter photo bomb as an attempt to fill in the cracks. The angling will heat up again soon enough, and hopefully I can provide some fresh content. As with all my B-roll filler, this one will be light on the storytelling, heavy on the cream. While y’all don your red and green X-mas sweaters, the true color of the season is brown (an awful line, I know).

 

 

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Placebo

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fall_01Let’s just pretend we didn’t get polar vortex’d this week, okay? What a difference a day makes. It’s as if someone simply turned out the lights. I look forward to many winter activities, but I must confess that when January weather starts in November, the dark season can be a long haul. This is when the fantasy begins. It’s not that there isn’t any winter angling, it’s that we are simply the meat in delusion sandwich. Eagerly anticipating the spring thaw, and longingly look back at the previous years success and failures is the norm. It’s with this in mind that I offer up a light smattering of greatest hits from the last few months. I often wonder why we examine fishing blogs anyway? Why does anyone give a shit about what I do or say? I suspect that the purpose is multifaceted. For some it’s trolling for intell, for others it provides a vicarious escape from the daily humdrum. Let’s just remind ourselves that the glass is half full. We had an extra two weeks to chase tail this fall, and the Minnesota State Park’s trout season is well under way (for those in need of a fix). I’ve mostly been knee deep in ice rinks and vise time, eagerly anticipating a run. I also lost a massive Muskie recently, just for good measure. She proceeded to tangle me into some shallow water cables, in an defiant act of karma convergence. But that’s a story for another day. Let’s not concentrate on the cold brutality of reality, how ’bout we long for the past?

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fox_red_lab_02adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fox_red_lab_01I gave Abe center stage in a post earlier this year, so I figured I’d catalog a shot or two with the larger, less mature version of the beast. It’s worth noting that he is just as suspicious of kayakers as his old man. His angling skills at this stage of development leave a lot to be desired, but we can only dream of the day that earns his spot as a humble troutin’ companion.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fall_05adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fall_07adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fall_03adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_07adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fall_02adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_01adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_06 adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_02Habitat improvement? You don’t generally see this bank stabilization strategy much in the midwest. I’m sure some turn their noses up at such tactics, but a 1943 Packard hidey hole makes for some serious business. I’d take the creativity of a stretch like this any day over the tiresome Stepford Wives style habitat improvement infecting trout streams everywhere. In vogue H.I. stream tactics make ebola look like the common cold. For what it’s worth this landowner couldn’t be a nicer guy. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fall_04adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_04adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fall_06adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_07adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_05adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_05When’s the last time you saw a bunch of little fish featured on a fly shop’s bulletin board? What’s wrong with us anyway? All of the sudden size matters? I guess I consider this post an ode to the little guy. No respect, no respect I tell ya. It’s a wise strategy to ease into the methadone, I’ll administer the high octane stuff when our withdrawals are at a fevered pitch. Offering up a quilt of random late season photos is just the first dose of your placebo.

 

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Shock and Awe

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_04adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_05adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_03adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_09Jack and I set forth bright and early to unlock the secrets of our cavernous destination. Crystal Cave would serve as the final chapter of this summer’s caving expeditions. We had a good time earlier this summer at Mystery Cave in SE Minnesota, but Jack was eager to jump the border into enemy territory for another round of exploration. As you can plainly see from the pics above the sugar rush was in full effect. It’s common knowledge in these parts that I’m a sucker for the sugary goodness of the doughnut, and lets just say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Getting the boy hopped up on a nutritious breakfast was simply the first part of my master plan. Crystal Cave, unlike it’s Minnesota counterpart, has a rock panning station that allows you to search for that diamond in the rough (and everyone’s a winner). Between the jelly filled confections and the minerals-a-plenty, Jack was a happy fellow. While my number one priority was to put a smile on his face, I admittedly wasn’t completely content. I had been suffering from a serious case of Brookie on the brain and I rabidly felt the urge to exercise some demons.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_10 adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_11 adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_12We shed our cave dwelling sweatshirts like two butterflies escaping cocoons. It wasn’t particularly hot out, but we were certainly overdressed for the task at hand. We were on a mission to find an easy walkin’ cow pasture, and I was sure that this beat would be full of overly anxious char. I figured that the specks would be foaming at the mouth to grace us with their presence. The area had gotten a pretty decent soaker the day before our arrival, but I felt good about our ability to find fishable water. Like a page from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, anticipation quickly turned into angst as I spied the mahogany froth beneath my feet. Once again mother nature dealt us a cruel blow. Streams have been very fishable for the latter part of the summer, but we had mistimed our assault. With shattered dreams of Brook Trout bliss, it was time for me to dig deeper into the playbook. We ran to a bridge crossing on bigger water and found high, but surprisingly clear water. The evidence of other assailants was littered everywhere. Most notably in the form of an old tub of liquified worms. The putrid smell was enough to choke a donkey. We made a few casts just for good measure, but weren’t impressed with the results. We decided to go grab a sandwich and weigh our options for the remainder of our journey.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_14adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_01adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_13I had been blown off of one of my favorite Brookie streams earlier in the summer by an isolated pocket of torrential showers. Within minutes the gin clear water turned amuck. I decided to take a look at a pool on another stream that often runs off color, but tends to be fishable after ample rainfall. I launched a smallish copper-colored clouser to the top of the run. Within seconds a large specimen emerged from the murky depths and briefly latched on to the offering, but never really planting hook in jaw. I was left dumbfounded, with only the close encounter to fill the void.

As Jack and I ate our sandwiches I decided to look for the monster that had eluded me. Jack has a fairly broad range of angling experiences in his short tenure. He’s been immersed in the usual array of warm and coldwater species. Big fish tend to be more impressive than little ones, but he has no real concept of a big Brown Trout. I decided to build up the myth of this fish en route by proclaiming that it was a giant who had eluded me. I added that the beast was virtually impossible to subdue. Just the kind of bluster to keep a 7-year old engaged in the process. As we arrived at the creek we strung up the little 4-weight that was intended for Brook Trout duties. We brought Jack’s spinning rod, but I thought that this would be a good lesson with the long rod. I was in no hurry to get on the water. There were a wealth of hoppers in the grass and Jack and I discussed how they could easily turn into trout food. I let Jack pick out a hopper then steered him towards the nymph box for a second “lucky” fly. The ubiquitous hopper/dropper combo would be employed with one caveat, we’d strap on a jumbo-sized dropper nymph that utilizes a technique that I call “shock and awe.” Any long time Adrifter™ would know that I like to use single XL nymphs without an indicator to dink and dunk my way through a run. I often refer to this pseudo Czech nymphing as “Frankenymphing.” Occasionally when Frankenymphing you’ll get fish that hammer the nymph upon impact. A few weeks earlier I had a fish move more than 5 feet and launch completely out of the water, ultimately missing my fly. It was this experience that prodded me to employ my “shock and awe” technique with Jack. When you put two flies of similar sizes on your hopper dropper rig you get a different presentation that the norm. It creates a double splat. The quickly plunging dropper and slowly drowning hopper wreaks havoc from above that is just too tantalizing for some trout to ignore. It’s as if two hoppers at once got blown into the creek and forces a quick decision from the fish, which one of these easy targets should I destroy?

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_pullquote_01We stealthily slid our way up to the pool, which is easier said than done with a youngster. Jack doesn’t have the skill set to put this fly on target so we decided to tag team it. He stood in front of me holding the rod while I kneeled down and behind him. Similar to how a casting instructor shows a pupil, I controlled all of the mechanics while Jack was simply along for the ride. I decided to launch the rig towards an overhanging bush about 10 feet away from where I’d previously encountered the pig. Our juicy rig hit the water in good, but not great proximity to the target. Our shortcomings mattered little, as much to my surprise a long slender rocket shot out from the tree and engulfed Jack’s “lucky” mega prince. I set the hook and immediately felt undergunned. It’s at this point that pandemonium brook loose. I guess I hadn’t really considered what we’d do if we actually hooked a big Brown. I’d like to tell you that I just handed Jack the rod and he did all the work, but that just wasn’t the case. We attempted to fight the fish together for awhile, but Jack became out of sorts, as if he’d just seen a ghost. He stepped away, and said “dad you get it.” I swiftly grabbed my bantam-sized Brook Trout net and assigned him “net man”. After a handful of blistering runs she got close enough to net, but Jack really didn’t have the reach to land her. I ultimately scooped her up and brought her in for closer inspection. I must confess that I was squealing like a school girl while Jack stood there in shock. The legend was ours. I pulled out the camera and snapped a few pics in the net, but wanted Jack to hold the fish for a few frames. I had gotten a good grip-n-grin pic of him earlier in the year, yet this snapshot would be one for the ages. I carefully lifted the creature from the water and handed her to Jack. He instantly freaked out and refused to hold her. Without skipping a beat, I broke best fish handling practices by holding up the fish vertically to document the moment. Not the best choice, clearly I was plastered with big fish euphoria. I promptly put her back in the water and she scooted off quickly no worse for the wear.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_08Our original plan was to get after a healthy cache of Brookies, but sometimes you have to punt. Rarely can you go out and accomplish exactly what you set out to do. Catching a targeted big fish is something that doesn’t come around too often, and the fact that we accomplished it as the father/son team was more than I could hope for. It’s almost hard to believe that it was one and done (we didn’t even make a second cast that day). There was no need to be greedy.

The thirst to continually evolve my game is virtually unquenchable, though you have to be ready to take your lumps. I just never know what’s behind the next door. The payoff of that endeavor is palpable with shock and awe.

 

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Exercising the Demons

_adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_05b_adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_lake_superior_01By the first few weeks of August there are signs everywhere that the end is near. I like to prod Mrs. Adrift with these facts as a reminder that the endless summer myth is not meant for our goodnatured midwestern virtues. She refuses to accept my grave thesis, and regularly gleans all she can out of the dog days. Whether it’s the premature changing of the leaves or the cool overnight lows, I can already smell the gas fumes wafting from my snowblower. Not that it’s a big deal, our 2014 offensive never really materialized in any significant way. After almost 20 years of residing in the great white north, I’ve just resigned to the fact that warmth is occasionally nothing more than a fleeting glance.

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_07We haven’t talked turkey in any meaningful way lately, so I figured I’d offer up this ragtag bunch of buggers for further review. Most folks like to throw down their latest creation as if they’re an overbearing pageant mom hellbent on achieving perfection. That’s not the case for me, I’m all about exposing the warts in my amateur game. Is there really any way to improve the simple effectiveness of the woolly bugger? Perhaps not, but I’ve endeavored to plod forward nevertheless. I have to apologize up front for the unkept nature of these offerings. They were pulled right from the frontlines of duty. I procured them from the dark depths of my wet fly box for further analysis. Not only were they wet, they’ve been beat to shit by midsummer angling and I didn’t have any fresh ones to better illustrate my plight. I’ve been experimenting lately with a 3 tiered approach to buggerdom. On the far left is a garden variety #4 bugger tied up on a standard 2x long hook shank. I often throw this fly or a comparable Sloppy Joe, and it has served me well wherever fish swim.

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_pullquote_01The middle fly might be the most indecent bugger of the bunch. For starters, this particular tie looks like shit. It’s like a license plate, tied to a chick-o-stick, smothered in burnt hair, a real crowd pleaser. But there’s a method to my madness. This specific chunk-a-foam was my floating bugger/strike indicator prototype that I call a “Nobber.” In the land between a foam mouse and a foam hopper lies the foam bugger. If that wasn’t enough, this design is meant to serve double duty as an adjustable strike indicator utilizing Mikey Wier’s Super Hopper dropper system. I’ve tried a few different designs, but this one is the XL model for big fish servitude. It’s tied up on a spinnerbait trailer hook, and is meant to drop a meaty offering. It’s the t-bone version of a dry/dropper, and you can adjust it to accommodate different depths. I kind of laugh when I look at this “Nobber™.” Do you like how I add the ™ to things? It’s sort of a joke to myself since my world is chock-full of ™ ® ℠ and the nuances of said symbology? I’ve been experimenting with different foams to create a baitfish-like belly to the fly. It looks like crap, but emulates a dying baitish on the surface, and will elicit a strike. Like the colorful history of foolhardy flying machines, this thing is par for the course. I’ve improved the aesthetics since the first experiment, but why not bare it all? It’s not a bugger, it’s not a bobber, get yourself a Nobber.

The last suspect in the lineup covers the other end of the spectrum, and might actually be cheatin’ in the eyes of some folks. In the spirit of jig headed prospecting flies, this thing takes the cake. I’ve grown frustrated with not knowing what lies at the deepest of the deep pools that I come across. On many of my standard streamer designs I just can’t seem to get enough weight wrapped around the hook shanks. Like walleye fisherman everywhere I finally saw the light. The Orvis Tungsten Jig Bugger employs the same logic, only on a much smaller scale. Much of my tying utilizes my hoarder-like collection of angling paraphernalia. This batch is built on a jig head that I regularly use to entice bronzebacks from their murky lies.

For some reason or another I’ve always been fascinated with history and specifically military history (if you haven’t noticed from my occasional references). In college I was the goofy design guy stuck in a room with a bunch of ROTC jarheads discussing the intricacies of this or that battle. But more to the point this fly is meant to bomb the deepest pools and extract it’s inhabitants. It may not be PC, but I’ve dubbed this style of bugger a “Little Boy,” in reference to one of the catastrophic WWII devices that changed history. One must tread lightly with a Little Boy tied to the end of their line, it’s not for the faint of heart. If you try to unload a wide open cast you may be rendered unconscious from the chuck-n-duck experiment. A Little Boy requires a deft hand, and an arsenal of close quarters tactics. This is the pinnacle of all “sand wedge” designs and it’s not meant to be an all day fly. It took a stout Brown to 17 inches within two minutes of use. It’s worth noting that the tail on this one is virtually chewed off. I’m also a sucker for a good set of eyes (insert joke here). For this tie I made a pair from two gold beads tied together with some 100# saltwater mono. You have to get creative when tying in close proximity to the unwieldy mushroom shaped jig head. Why should walleye guys have all the fun? Flipping a Little Boy under your neighborhood logjam should answer all of the questions lingering in the back of your mind.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_11_adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_07There’s no question that I had a bad taste in my mouth following the missed opportunities guiding the fellas. I still had a case of hopper on the brain that I just had to shake. I guess I’m also a sucker for the splat-n-take action of terrestrial season. A few weeks ago I had a meeting just down the street from The Fly Angler in Blaine. I’m an ardent support your local fly shop whenever you can kind of guy. As a matter of fact I feel kind of guilty for not giving a shout out to the new look Bob Mitchell’s Fly Shop (BMFS) in Lake Elmo sooner. Given the reality of my west side existence, and extremely close proximity to Mend Provisions, I’m often at warp factor 6 when sniffing the Wisconsin border. I’ve got fish on my mind, and I am powerless to turn north to BMFS for a visit. I’ll endeavor to remedy that malady down the road. But I digress, the reason for my stop at The Fly Angler (other sowing my counterproductive oats) was to pick up a few terrestrials for further inspection in preparation for a stout round of tying. I got to work on the vise tying up a box of this and that which proved extremely fruitful over the last few weeks of angling. I had one commercially tied pink/tan hopper from the Fly Angler (the above pic I featured in my last post). It went largely unmolested on a backup rod that I carried while the guys dissected their runs. I have put that hopper through it’s paces (along with many others) and it has served dutifully on a variety of campaigns.

 

 

_adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_08_adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_12_adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_06b_adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_06_adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_02dadrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_06It’s funny how quickly blog fodder can become dated. This thing has been half written for a few weeks, but I just couldn’t find the time to finish her up. Late summer has been a blur of angling activity and the camera is full of fresh content. To put a point on the point, I carefully put my beloved pink hopper to the top of a run and watched it gently get slurped from the abyss. It was the coolest take I’ve seen in some time. Once the full brunt of the beast came to bare I realized that this battle was bare knuckled. Time after time I’ve come to realize that I actually talk to myself when reaching the pinnacle of my efforts. I’m pretty sure I let out a hearty “fuck yeah” when I put this behemoth in the net. He splashed my camera lens and unknowingly wreaked havoc on my ability to produce a quality pic. On some levels the bad taste in my mouth had been successfully been replaced with sweet nectar, but not really. There’s more work to be done.

Sometimes the path is just too difficult to blaze your own trail. We’ve all been there before. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but ultimately it’s just an empty shortcut. Your 15 minutes are short lived. At least in my case, if just for a moment, I successfully exercised the demons.

 

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20/20

_adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_01In one way or another we are all “masters” of our domains. Anyone worth their salt has an innate sense of self confidence. Conviction manifests itself in a broad array of flavors and intensities, but is omnipresent in most blokes. One of my quirky habits is to observe this characteristic in people. It’s not that I’m above such accidental temerity, on the contrary my middle name is hubris… Andrew Hubris Weaverling.

On a primal level we are programmed with baseline 20/20 vision when it comes to decision making. And that’s a good thing. How can you pretend to guide anyone to the angling promised land if you’re not chock-full of confidence, good decision making, and a light touch of bullshit?

 

 

_adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_03_adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_02 _adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_04_adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_07_adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_09Jim was the big winner when it came to auctioning off my mixed skill set for an annual fundraiser benefit. But for better or worse, this is a guide trip for two. Through the good graces of Jim, budding fly fishing enthusiast Sok weaseled his way into the trip for a third straight year (rubber galoshes and all).

The truth of the matter is that unlike a real guide, I hadn’t been out fishing midday recently. I was dependent upon gut instinct to get me through the trip. Bluebird skies and dog day heat were bearing down on us for the first few hours. I elected to tie up a mess of terrestrials as our first line of defense. It’s not news to any ardent Adrifter™ that I’m all about the reaction strike. Sure we could have drifted any number of nymphs under a float for some easy takes, but that leaves the angler somewhat disconnected from the action. I figured the fellas would enjoy the splat-and-take offensive action without being masqueraded by a bobber. Hoppers were the first course, and they didn’t disappoint. Within minutes of our foray into an easy walkin’ pasture stretch we had a solid take. I chose this familiar beat as a warm up and to observe Jim’s casting abilities. I really feel for Jim, he has the unfortunate burden of having only fished from drift boats in much flaunted Montana waters. The Driftless virgin did well in his warm up session, as I largely ignored the veteran Sok. He was relinquished to the bleak world of the trout selfie. In the interest of full disclosure, I realized when I got home that I had concentrated on the fishing and ignored quality pics for the blog. After a short session I pulled the plug on the first spot, suggesting we move on to Plan B.

 

 

_adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_05_adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_08_adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_06The reason for the move was to hit another easy walkin’ stretch that could provide better numbers of a fish with the first realistic shot at a big. Golf course like ease is generally part of my guiding formula, but not always the best choice if seeking sizable combatants.

Upon arrival we took a few minutes to “hydrate” ourselves. I consider this a full service affair since I serve as the self described “beer sherpa”, cab driver, and personal trainer in addition to my guiding duties. As I chomped on a sandwich I concocted a plan to embolden the soldiers for the upcoming mission. I proclaimed that this stream was so good that I could walk down to the stream, sandwich in one hand, fly rod in the other and bring a fish to hand in seconds. It’s poor form to take fish away from the clients, but we had a few miles to stretch out and I was confident that there’d be more than enough to go around. The plan went off without a hitch, as I promptly one handed a medium sized Brookie into my clutches and held it over my head like I’d just won the Indy 500. All I needed was the illustrious glass of milk to wash my sandwich down. I returned to the car, gave the troops a pep talk, recommending that we head downstream to the lower section for the chance at a beast.

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_pullquote_01After a few minutes of adjusting to the new conditions, both Sok and Jim were getting takes. I hovered between the two observing the low water conditions and eagerly anticipating what lied ahead. We put a few dinks under our belts, then I heard Sok yell from a deep and narrow section upstream that he had a bigger fish. I didn’t immediately react to the proclamation since we were only getting smalls. Upon further examination I realized that Sok’s 5-weight was folded over and throbbing like a compound fracture. It’s only then that I realized he was into a big Brown. By the time I arrived he had walked it down to a bigger pool where I could clearly see it’s prowess. Sok had nabbed a midday, bluebird skies tank, north of the mythical Mason-Dixon line of 20″. I find it amusing that some “trophy” trout are long and thin like the bemoaned hammer handles of Pikedom, yet others are built like absolute footballs. It’s as if the thick ones are composed of both the bicep and the tricep, and this fish was the latter. Once I observed Sok gingerly working the fish in it’s cozy confines, it struck me that I was negligent in my duties. After using my gear in previous outings, Sok had come armed with his own rig, and I hadn’t checked any of the specifics. As it turned out he was rigged with 5x and only the gods knew how sturdy the connections were. In the fog of war I decided to take action. I pulled my net from it’s holster and jumped into the creek, deciding that time was of the essence. The water was crystal clear and I got a good look at what I was up against. The brute bulldogged Sok into the deepest part of the pool and I followed suit. The rush of ice cold water pouring over my waders didn’t deter me from the task at hand, as I’ve dealt with the shrinkage many times before. The fish gave me a few flybys and I foolishly conceded strikes one and two, sending him away angrier with each errant net attempt. As all big trout do, he found the only cover available to him which was some laydown brush on the close bank. I screamed at Sok to not let the fish burrow in the cover or we’d be sure to lose him, to which he obliged. The pig popped out of the cover and casually twitched to the surface, ripe for the picking. He was just out of netting range, so I began to take steps forward to scoop up our bounty when I heard our worst fears come to fruition. Sok’s line snapped like an accident waiting to happen.

We looked at each other in disbelief, but were no worse for the wear. I pulled my camera from my pocket, asked Sok to pose for the hollow victory, and immediately began to question my actions. I like to say that the grip-n-grin trout fondling photo serves as the “proof of purchase” to a angling conquest, and I can’t help but feel responsible for Sok’s missed opportunity. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. It was Sok’s first entanglement with a monster, and he deserved better. What I can do to help heal the wound of loss is to provide a memento from the experience. Does that look like the face of a defeated soldier? We were all actually pretty stoked by the experience. It’s better to have loved and lost, than to never loved at all. Here you go buddy, tight lines!

 

 

_adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_11 _adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_12 _adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_fly_fishing_10bAs the afternoon gave way to evening the hopper bite cooled off significantly. Jim and Sok toyed with another solid fish lingering beneath a logjam, but couldn’t get him to commit to their delicious subsurface offerings.  So we packed it up and moved to bigger water. I gave Jim brief respite from his fly rod and suggested that he work a deep corner bend with a spinning rod, unsuccessfully looking for his shot at the title. Blasphemy according to the purist, but these guys are adept bilingual anglers and I’m not one to discriminate. Eventually we found ourselves immersed in a decent sized school of risers and it was time to decipher the evening’s code. There was a mix of visible insects, but I surmised that the Yellow Sally activity was the meal ticket. We stood in virtual darkness diligently working on our dry fly mending and drag-free drifts. Their work paid dividends, when the “when in doubt set the hook” mantra was in full effect. The results were paler than the afternoon’s crescendo, but that was fine by them. They were just happy to be on the board. Sadly I don’t have that luxury. When you’re hardwired the way that I am, every micron gets assessed, rehashed and reanalyzed. Only to be second guessed again and again. In my case the vapid axiom is true. Hindsight is 20/20.

 

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Great Expectations

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_brook_trout_03I’ve stated ad nauseam that there is no finer fly fishing month in these parts than June. There truly are many fantastic times throughout the year to be a flinger, I just happen to be fond of June. As I recently searched through the battered remains of my Panasonic’s memory card I was left wanting. The pictures read more like a quilt than a fully-formed nookie blankie. There isn’t a completed story in the bunch, just a smattering of hand and fish half truths rounding out the lot. The rhythmic heartbeat of the rainy season has been more predictable than Lionel Messi from 18-yards. While things have loosened up a bit over the last week or two, by and large I’ve been washed out. Two extended trips were cancelled and I found myself on the receiving end of mother nature’s cruel hand more times than I’d care to admit. The ample mayfly activity that we so richly deserve after a tough spring has left us empty handed. And so we fish on.

 

 


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adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_brown_trout_06Sometimes you’ve got to get back to the basics and simplify your game. Anglers dot the landscape looking more like Bradley Fighting Vehicles than proper fly rodders. I can be a staunch minimalist, willing to bare it all. Bask in my damn sexy chicken legs, ’cause there’s a good chance they won’t make another appearance. I enjoy the root beer frothiness of this frame, and couldn’t help but put it up. In a post lean on quality storytelling and even leaner on impressive conquests, I’m compelled to utilize such filler.

 

 

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I have a handful of new gear to review. Including my chaotic love/hate relationship with my new landing nets, but that’s a story for another day. I will offer up a parting gift of my 8-weight TFO BVK. This rod is all style and no substance, and cannot be trusted in a heavy weight bout. You sort of know what you’re getting in a TFO stick, so you just roll with the punches. A sizable common carp folded it up like a crepe during a blistering run. As I plodded back to my truck empty handed, disappointment washed over me like a light buzz. The all too familiar glass half empty mantra has been standard operating procedure as of late. I’ve been a day late and a dollar short which tells me my space time continuum has been out of synch. If it was easy they’d call it catching, right?

 

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It’s Starting to Look a lot Like Christmas

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_07adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_03It’s kind of funny. Some things just need to sit and stew for awhile before I can commit pen to paper. My current rate of blog production is at a slow and steady pace. Gone are the days of racing home to post the latest and greatest conquest. I’ll leave a collection of photos in a state of WordPress stasis for an inordinate amount of time before carefully crafting my message. Creating for me is always done in fits and starts.

After giving a shout out to the newest child in my family, I felt compelled to serve up my revenge piping hot, by giving some airtime to the real boy in the house. Jack had earned a troutin’ tour through a variety of means. His older sister had been the recipient of a Minnesota Wild v. Chicago Blackhawks extravaganza earlier this year compliments of the man with the white beard and the red suit. Somehow Ava was born loving hockey more than oxygen, but Jack is just a garden variety puckhead. One of his many vices is geology. He’s been begging me to take him to visit a mine or a cave for quite some time. I promised, upon the completion of first grade,  we’d go “walk the earth” in prototypical father and son fashion. The main target of our exploits was Mystery Cave in Fillmore County. A camping and fishing trip, in addition to the cave tour, would allow him to give his new Swiss Army Knife the workout it so richly deserved. I ruled that Jack must wait until he was twelve years old to get his first knife. Unfortunately my authority has been superstitiously usurped by the efforts of Mr. Claus.

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_09adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_02Before our departure I circled the map with no less than a dozen greatest hits. We had time to kill before our cave tour so we procured provisions for our trek. A quick stop at a small town grocer south of Rochester supplied us with the foodstuffs necessary to survive the journey. The missing link was the main dish for our campfire smorgasbord. I had two or three targets in mind to fulfill our mission. We arrived at the first stream with our mouths clogged with donuts. I’ve learned a set of best practices meant to indoctrinate Jack to my evil ways. Subterfuge, in the form of sugary goodness, is a lynch pin to this philosophy. adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_pullquote_01A quick stop to down a few donuts and explore a handful of pools is a good way to harness the short attention span of a young boy. This creek returned the favor in spades. In less than 5 minutes we were into the chunky Rainbows that were born of this purpose. This drew the attention of a few locals fishing a large deep pool upstream. A perplexed father with his four daughters struck up a conversation with me by asking the question, “Do you trout fish a lot?” to which I replied, “I’ve been known to wet a line.” He mentioned that his red and white bobber rigs with crawlers had only produced one fish for the morning. He was clearly unfamiliar with the concept of holding lies, to which I gave him a few pointers. Jack and I wished them good luck and continued our campaign.

We managed to sneak in two more dandy looking pastures and successfully subdued a number of Browns in the process. Jack told me at the third creek that he didn’t want to take his rod with him, and that he just wanted to explore. I didn’t press the issue, as this was tried and true big fish water. His pardon allowed me to swing a big juicy streamer under every cutbank in the beat. Jack searched far and wide for the bovines responsible for the ankle breaking goodness. Much to my chagrin, the monster Browns were uncooperative and I only managed to roll one beast on this leg of the journey.

 

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_24adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_10The cave tour and morning’s fishing exploits left us depleted. A run eastward was in order along with a stop at an old-school soda fountain. We ordered up some waffle cones and decided to polish them off creekside (see subterfuge agenda above). Sure we could have probed deep into the valley of Bee Creek to unlock its mysteries, but this was our happy hour and we were content to take it easy. Fatherhood will test your resolve at every turn. Putting your needs behind that of your offspring is standard operating procedure, and trout fishing is no stranger to this concept. Providing a positive association with the sport is paramount to it’s long term survival. How else does fishing compete with Minecraft? The hope is that it will pay dividends down the road.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_14adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_12adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_13adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_01adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_15adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_16adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_22 adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_23Our plan was to go deep into SE to camp. It was a coin flip between Camp Winnebago and Beaver Creek Valley State Park, but ultimately ended up at the park. We had logged a good number of miles and stops along the way. Jack was eager to setup camp, and my thirst led me to crack open a cold one. I hadn’t brought any adult beverages with but managed to kick it old school and solicit a cold sixer of Coors Light since it was the only game in town. In short order I made the call to abandon ship on plans for an evening raid on prime Houston County waters. Instead we proceeded with the standard camping practices. Jack was more than happy to photo bomb our trout cleaning station, proudly displaying his newly acquired vintage Tufboy Brite Blade Measuring Tape. It was a fixture in my father’s tackle box. He has been deceased for the better part of a decade, so he never met Jack, but this seemed like a good time to pay it forward. After cooking dinner we decided to walk the banks of the famously gin clear Beaver Creek hoping to fool an inhabitant into submission. We had barely made a cast when Jack proclaimed he had to “drop a few friends off at the lake.” We beelined to a nearby outhouse and as I opened the door for him I was overwhelmed with the telltale stench of park life. As Jack proceeded to sit down he shouted, “Dad a cockroach!” This strange proclamation forced me to awkwardly twist around in the doorway and proceed to snap Jack’s rod in the spring loaded door. The cloud of poo smell was quickly replaced with a wave of sadness. This cheap, little, four -and-a-half foot rod held a special place in our hearts. I had given this spinning rod to Jack a few years ago. It had a unique full-flexing stiff action that was a staple of my creek fishing youth. My sadness was very short-lived as I found comfort in how it went down. I quickly pulled out my camera and decided to document its demise as Jack evacuated himself from the noxious tomb.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_20adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_17adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_19adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_04 With a reasonable night’s sleep under our belts we awoke loaded for bear. I had my eyes on the prize by getting access to a coveted stretch of water. I believed that this would hold Jack’s best shot at catching a good-sized trout. While it didn’t produce the behemoth that I’d anticipated, it did produce a treasure trove of solid mid-teens fish. I’d hoped to give him a light dose of entomology 101 by spending some time with the fly rod, but I wasn’t in any hurry for him to take the training wheels off this trip. The truth of the matter is that tall weeds and even taller bug densities were taking their toll on the boy. There were no notable risers and this stretch wasn’t for the faint of heart. If it were not for a handful of ATV trails our bushwhacking would have been stopped dead in its tracks. The discomfort is written on his face above. This run was pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with a newbie. After covering a half mile of water, I realized the error of my ways and executed the evacuation plan.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_21adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_05 adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_houston_fillmore_06I had one more trick up my sleeve. After skipping prime Brook trout water the night before, I decided to hit one more spot as we began our pilgrimage home. Mother nature continued to wreak havoc on trout streams far and wide. The ungodly amount of precipitation that we’ve endured lately has fallen into the blessing and curse school of thought. I held out Brook troutin’ until the end and it proved to be my undoing. By the time we arrived at the beautiful, kid-friendly pasture section it was getting worked like a full-time job. Rain and wind were abusing the little stream, turning its waters to chocolate milk. Jack and I opted to make a handful of fruitless casts nevertheless. As the weather turned even more sour we sprinted across the field and jumped the stile faster than you can say, “California Chrome”.  A fitting end to our abbreviated tour.

 

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I regularly make an apology to the diehards or some statement to the effect of “this is my world and you’re just living in it,” as an asterisk or mitigation to a “family photo album” style blog entry.  My typical posts are littered with redundant frames of hand-held fish pics, but this one is a celebration of my kid’s exuberance. It’s important to me to report all aspects of the experience. If for nothing else other than to remind myself of what really matters. The days of selfishly and obsessively chasing fish are far too many, and the days of exposing my children to nature are grossly too few. In a world where we stare blankly into our devices 24/7, are we really seeing anything at all?

 

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Baby on Board

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_abe_red_fox_labrador_04If dog is actually man’s best friend, why does he incessantly bite my heels? Is this how “friends” treat each other? This flavor of disrespect fills every horrifying episode of Real Housewives of Orange County. But it’s not the behavior I’m looking for in my daily life. I’ll cut to the chase, I’m a card carrying “dog liker.” I’ve had a long standing embargo on canines inhabiting the Adrift™ worldwide headquarters. My argument to Mrs. Adrift went something like this: “as long as I am knee deep in changing diapers, I don’t need another butt to manage.” While Mrs. Adrift has never owned a dog, I grew up with them including an excitable Golden Retriever named MacArthur that lived into my twenties. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I vividly remember the amount of work and dedication required to create a well adjusted citizen, and until recently I wasn’t up for the task.

Now that Jack is finishing 1st grade my already flimsy argument has worn thin. Louie the cat just isn’t enough of a presence to fill the animal void in our household. I finally relented and began the search in earnest for a new partner in crime. We toyed with the notion of rescuing a dog and actually had a few unsuccessful attempts at making a connection. Upon my initial delving into the seedy world of pooch acquisitions, it became apparent that demand was outpacing supply. I quickly learned that like a hot real estate market, you need to be ready to pull the trigger at a moment’s notice. Recommendations from a few colleagues at North American Hunter led us to procuring a British-style Lab due to their mild temperaments. I called around to an obscene number of breeders in the midwest, only to be told that I’d have to get on the waiting list and a puppy would become available anywhere from fall to next year. This was not an unexpected result. My homework over the last few years, in preparation for this event, informed me that this was the name of the game. A call to Red Oak Labradors netted a referral to a gentleman named Doug Westphal. Both Jeff Sorensen from Red Oak Labs and Doug regaled me with a story about a “pick of the litter” male fox red labrador puppy available from Doug Westphal Retrievers. It was 10 weeks old, potty trained, sleeping through the night in a crate, and already playing fetch. Doug couldn’t have been more friendly on the phone. He mentioned that he’s been breeding dogs for 30 years and typically sets one puppy aside from his litters to train for hunting, and often sells it at 6 months of age for a whopping $2,500. Because he had another litter on the way, he was going to sell this puppy at a bargain before the training was complete. He texted me a photo of the puppy and the puppy’s parents. The cuteness factor was in full effect and the kids were getting excited at the notion of a pup that was immediately available. Arrangements were made to visit the dog at his home in Savage. We went and met the little fella named “Abe.”  Mrs. Adrift, Jack and Ava’s hearts melted upon exposure. They were powerless against his evil clutches. My thoughts were more practical and tempered, but I must confess that he was a great looking pup. Doug explained that Abe’s dad is named Lincoln and has a heralded pedigree loaded with hunting champions. We decided that we were interested in purchasing Abe and agreed to come back the next weekend to pick him up. I took a copy of Abe’s pedigree, just so I could do a little research about Abe’s bloodlines.

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_abe_red_fox_labrador_pullquote_01We had a week to prepare. Puppy proofing, google searches and trips to the pet store were the norm. I was up to my eyeballs in work, putting in 15 hour days, and largely unavailable to participate in pregame festivities. One evening I got a frantic text (if there is such a thing) from the Mrs. in regards to Abe. As it turns out, she had been searching Fox Red Labs on Pinterest and stumbled across the picture of Abe’s parents that we’d been texted, and it was from a place called Warne’s Labs in New York. It was at this point that the “story” we’d been given from Doug and Jeff unraveled completely. There had been red flags throughout the process, but I chalked up the obvious half-truths to good old fashioned salesmanship bluster. Many of the things we’d been told just didn’t add up. And for good reason, because the story was a complete fabrication. The old “too good to be true” adage was in full effect. It was at this point I dug in my heels and attempted to figure out the reality of the situation. After several calls to breeders on the pedigree I was able to determine that Doug Westphal had no hand in the breeding of Abe, and that he wasn’t the super dog they claimed. The actual breeder didn’t even know who he was until they reviewed their paperwork. I learned that a few weeks earlier Abe had been purchased as the 5th male pick of a recent litter from Turkey Creek Labradors out of South Dakota for a few hundred dollars cheaper than what we were going to pay. The pedigree I was provided is accurate, and Abe’s dad really is a Turkey Creek stud named Lincoln. Once we determined that this bizarre scam to broker or “flip” dogs at a marginally higher price still was going to net a solid dog from a reputable breeder, we decided to bring Abe to our home. I guess I’ll never really know why we were given such a load of horseshit when trying to buy this dog. When I picked Abe up I let Doug know that I uncovered his plot. He reacted just like naughty children do by compounding the problem with more lies.  The truth of the matter is that we were actually fine with paying a little extra by not waiting months to get a puppy. Sorry for the lengthy diatribe on the matter. I’m writing this as a public service to assist people who google these “breeders” in the future. Perhaps landing on this post will help individuals make a decision on whether or not purchase a dog from their poorly executed hustle. Seems like an awful lot of work for a few hundred dollars. Needless to say Westphal Retrievers order for a female out of next year’s Turkey Creek litter has been revoked.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_abe_red_fox_labrador_13adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_abe_red_fox_labrador_01 adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_abe_red_fox_labrador_02Enough of the fluff, let’s get to the meat on the bone. After a few days at home I was ready to take Abe for a test drive. I wasn’t really sure how a young pup would do on a fishing excursion, but I felt compelled to give it a shot. I surmised that an easy fishing habitat improvement stretch would fit the bill. As you know, I’m not prone to fishing the golf course style theme park stretches with any regularity, but I do see their value for novice anglers. And make no mistake about it, Abe is a rookie. He was surprisingly well-behaved and not particularly interested in my fly casting. After a few minutes of work we finally netted a dink Brookie that would serve as our litmus test. He made a few lunges at the perfect candy bar sized specimen, but I didn’t allow him to chew. After a lick or two I released the candidate, and he was no worse for the wear.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_abe_red_fox_labrador_05I used this opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Abe wasn’t the only virgin in the mix. I had a small4/5 weight 6’6″ Eagle Claw Featherlight fly rod that I had yet to fish. Mrs. Adrift had procured one from Mend Provisions as a birthday present. I had eyeballed these little gems last fall in the shop, but hadn’t gotten around to picking one up. It was a simple case of nostalgia on my part. Growing up my brother had an Eagle Claw Featherlight that we regularly put through it’s paces on our neighborhood Smallmouth creek. In recent years Cameron from the Fiberglass Manifesto and others throughout the blogosphere have praised these little rods as cheap thrills. I could sugar coat it and tell you what you want to hear by complimenting the superiority of glass, but that just isn’t the case. I found the little rod to be quite awkward and it took me awhile to master the stroke. Perhaps it’s just a little too short for my liking and I need to step to one of the longer models? If nothing else it will make a great starter rod for Jack.

 

 

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I learned pretty quickly that the biggest danger for a trout fishing puppy is barbed wire. Whether lunging towards fences or swimming in creeks, Abe was in harm’s way. At one point he jumped in a deep pool and lustfully swam towards a length of barbed wire crossing the surface of the water. I quickly jumped in the drink and rescued him just in time before he became entangled in the mess. Abe had done enough good deeds to graduate from troutin’ preschool and I decided to move him up to kindergarden. I grew tired of the predictable water features and dink Brookies found in the fake habitat improvement beat. We moved to a more natural location where I suspected better Brookies could be had, and it didn’t disappoint. No giants were seen or landed, but that’s okay with us. Abe has the attention span of a gnat, but we had a pretty good round nevertheless.

In some ways it’s hard to regress to the land of newborn babies. People are rarely honest about the brutality of caring for a newborn. Sure they’re precious, but I’m not afraid to admit I’m not particularly fond of that stage of management. Let’s just say that it’s a long term investment that hopefully pays dividends down the road.

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

 

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Mess with the Bull, You Get the Horns

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_neck_scar_01Happy Wisconsin opener y’all. Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars. I’d like to celebrate this annual tradition with an in-depth review of my April conquests, but that would simply be a smoke screen for less rewarding scuttlebutt. Typically I’d find myself knee deep in caddis by now, but for a number of reasons I haven’t logged much time on the water. You could start with the mind numbing volumes of rain pounding streams far and wide, but a little closer to home I’ve been laid up with a few health issues. Mrs. Adrift attempted to slit my throat while I slept, as you can clearly see in the photo above. Ouch! The frustration of being married to a bonafide trout junkie must have been too much to handle.  In reality, I had a mass removed from neck a few weeks ago along with the offending salivary gland (good times). When the problem first reared it’s head, I sheepishly labeled it the proverbial “cancer scare”, but the good news is that the unwelcome intruder was benign. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that was a diehard tobacco chewer in my youthful angst years. Like many of my outdoors brethren, fishing and chewing went together like peas and carrots. Did my habit get the best of me? Perhaps. But I’m just happy to be on the mend, and looking for a clean bill of health in the future. 

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_polar_vortex_19adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_wolf_moon_netsBut I digress. After several years of pain and anguish I finally added a new landing net to the stable. An astute Adrift™ regular may have noticed the one of a kind tape job on my net in some of the pictures lately. I broke my primary trout net late last season in a streamside tumble that would make Chevy Chase proud. Instead of simply throwing it into the trash bin I elected to resuscitate the victim through an elaborate combination of aluminum flat stock, hose clamps and Jack’s favorite roll of camo hockey stick tape. Even though the net is still in service, I endeavored to add a larger one to the mix. After mishandling a few big fish while photographing them last few years, I wanted a net with an ultra large hoop, but still comfortable enough to carry in my back. After extensive research I decided to keep it local by choosing a Wolf Moon Rogue Net via the fine folks at the Fly Angler. I stepped it up in size going with a 15″ x 22″ hoop. It’s absolute overkill for average trout stream angling, but will give me the extra size I was looking for when targeting big stream trout and lake run fish. I somewhat reluctantly chose the nylon mesh bag, as opposed to the ghost rubber bag. I’ve used rubber bags for a number of years in my other nets, but wanted a deeper, light-weight offering. I can’t stand how the mesh bag gets tangled in every hook, stick and twig, but I chose it for it’s fish friendly qualities. I’ve found that the shallower rubber bags don’t allow bigger fish to swim freely while you’re handling them for photographing. They sort of lay there contorted in what appears to be an uncomfortable hammock. The much deeper mesh bag allows them to swim comfortably upright. Will I be able to tolerate the mesh net for the long term? Only time will tell.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_brown_trout_01adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_brown_trout_01Let’s be honest here. The new net is way too huge for garden variety trouting. I acquired with the full intention of loading it with Lake Michigan steelhead a few weeks ago, and we all know how that turned out. Since I really have no new tall tales to offer up. I thought I’d at least share with you the first slime to coat the new net from earlier in the season. This is a fishing blog after all. With that in mind I’m eager to write about a few of the rig and fly combinations that I’ve been tinkering with, but that’s a story for another day.

My doctor initially told me I’d be out of commission for a month. That’s is a tough pill to swallow given that we’re hitting the sweet spot of trout activities. Heck, you’ll probably see me at your local trout stream in the not too distant future. I’ll be easy to spot with the massive rectangular net, and my recent shiv wounds. Keep the train on the tracks boys and girls, ’cause if you mess with the bull, you get the horns.

 

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Reality Check

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_winter_11I’ve got a fever. Both literally and figuratively. February and March has been one of the most illness laden stretches in recent memory. Packing up my goods during pregame warmups recently looked more like a NyQuil commercial than a fishing trip. And the malady doesn’t stop there. I’ve been feverishly laboring on the vise with an acute case of Steel on the brain. While trib exploits have been my central focus lately, I’ve still managed to trudge through a few of run-of-the-mill outings, including a run through a popular set of headwater springs.

 

 

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As you may know, I’ve got a nasty habit of wearing my waders to and fro. I’ve grown comfortable wearing them while driving long distances in the car. En route to my fishing destination is a fairly comfortable undertaking, given that I’m still as fresh as the morning dew. When I wear them home, it’s another story altogether. I “one last casted” my way into running late last week. Which had me jumping in the car and racing home without so much as a loosened strap or shoestring for that matter. It’s this kind of behavior that gets my car smelling like the bowels of a high school locker room. A timely text from Mrs. Adrift only compounded the problem. A small scale honey-do list forced me to do a little grocery shopping in my boots, waders and accoutraments. This wouldn’t be the first time, nor will it be last that I stroll the aisles of a South Minneapolis grocer adorning full battledress.

One minute I’m blissfully standing ass deep in the receding snow drifts of early spring, the next I’m clip clopping my studded rubber soles through the perilously slippery confines of the neighborhood market. If only the dream couldn’t die. Make the most of what little time you have. It’s only a question of time before you receive your reality check.

 

 

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Of Mice and Men


After multiple weeks of holiday cheer (and the extended break compliments of the weather terrorists) the juices are now flowing again. The Minnesota winter trout fishing opener can be a rite of passage. For me it’s simply the removal of a mental barrier. I rarely race out to be on the water simply to fill in a blank. I’m often more moderate in my approach. I scan the horizon in search of a heat wave. Anything approaching or exceeding the mythical 32 degrees mark will fit the bill, but I’m usually not in a huge rush to wet the line. All good things come to those who wait.

Deprived anglers regularly choose to fill their dusty fly boxes with the latest creations, but I’ve never been one to ward off the winter demons with such methadone. That’s not to say I don’t tie flies, it’s just that the placebo has proven to be ineffective on me. I can’t seem fool myself into dreaming about mid-June by whipping up a bunch of mayfly patterns. Tying for me is more reactionary in nature. Either there is an immediate need or an inspired whim to push me into service.

The best distraction for me lately has been coaching youth Hockey. I’ve found it to be somewhat effective in helping me tolerate the midwinter doldrums. A total shifting of the mental gears is usually how I roll. But I must confess that the strategy is wearing thin. In the interest of full disclosure, I spent the holidays cracking open the laptop late at night to peep pictures of naked fish, review maps, and read the latest discourse. Plans were made for the upcoming season. Some will come to fruition, others will remain what-ifs.

In our time of great need, as a measure of public service, I plucked another round of 2013 unpublished B-sides for your viewing enjoyment. Hopefully this will help brighten the most depressing day of the year. The fact of the matter is that I left quite a few stories untold and unseen. To keep this post manageable, I may not get into many specifics but I will throw down a respectable number of frames. Happy New Year and may the force be with you.

 





In my last post I offered up a heavy dose of Brook Trout love. This soliloquy is thick with Browns, but has a sprinkling of Bows and Brooks for good measure. Troutin’ is an unpredictable undertaking. If you attempt to target one species or the other it may not work out the way you planned, and sometimes it’s a blessing in disguise. I don’t generally go out of my way to seek the Driftless slam of a Brown, Brook and Bow, but accomplished the feat twice, if memory serves. Sure I need a Tiger to actually round out the lineup, but that omission will be our little secret.

 

 




Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! The best snake is of the roadkill variety, right? Wrong. I almost stepped on this guy returning to my car one afternoon. My heart skipped a few beats after I heard a mimic rattle, but quickly determined that it wasn’t a Rattl’r, but a relatively harmless Fox Snake. Too little too late, as the mental damage was already done to my fragile faculties. Not to be outdone, check out the massive Wolf Spider throwing down an impressive expanse of midstream webs. The metronome of nature doing it’s thang is welcome respite from the cruise control of throwing loops. These critters serve as a reminder that we’re simply unruly house guests, spilling beers on the carpet of their hood.

 

 

I’m a creature of habit and I like to do my damage while others are catching some Z’s. It’s a good way to insure your favorite run won’t be overrun with foot traffic. The ever changing psyche of the angler is ripe for the picking. In warmwater fishing circles we refer to this approach as “topwater.” Troutheads simply call it “mousing,” as if trout only eat mice at night. I typically post a few “topwater” fish each year, but neglected to do so in recent posts.

It’s not necessary for me to go into the tactics behind this approach since they are well documented ad nauseam. Generally speaking, most of the tactical rules hold true. One nugget I’ll add is that I prefer a night with a few wind gusts. It helps masquerade your presence, and probably convinces the fish that your critter has actually just been blown into the river. But the beauty of this method, like all fishing, is that there aren’t actually any rules, just opinions. So let me throw mine into the hopper. I’ve most likely stood on my soapbox before on this issue, and if so I’ll apologize in advance. Having a blog is like having dementia, you often forget what you’ve said or done.

I strongly dislike the standard spun deer hair style mouse that you see at shops everywhere. Others regale you with their ability to “push water” and create a wake that drives big trout nuts. That very well may be true, but the deer hair also adds unnecessary bulk. It acts like a bulbous porcupine making it harder for the fish to get the fly in its mouth and inhibits good hook penetration. I prefer a more streamlined approach. I’ve touted my Duane Arnold fly for the last few years for good reason. I catch more fish with it. It’s cross between a Chernobyl and an Electric Frog. I’ve done quite a bit of side by side tests between the Duane Arnold and mouse patterns, and the increased hooking/landing percentage is immense. While the trout man tends to be unexplainably infatuated over the notion of a mouse eating Brown, mister fish isn’t swayed by such fads. They’ll eat something resembling a hopper on steroids, just as easily as a mouse. It’s a simple game of opportunity, and there’s no such thing as too big. The red Chernobyl above is your standard issue commercial tie for comparison. I’m no great mind in fly creation, but the mouse is a prototype I’ve been toying with. You palmer the foam body of the Duane Arnold with something from Michael’s called glitter eyelash yarn (it’s pretty much the same stuff that is labeled synthetic hackle at most shops). I use it as the body of my Sloppy Joe fly, but have adapted it for mouse duties. It gives the appearance of bulk, but is much more forgiving and less of a mouthful than deer hair. What’s easier to sink your teeth into, a porcupine or a squirrel? I don’t find color to be as critical as I’m sure others do, it’s more of a profile thing. I didn’t have any matching zonker strips for this round of tying, so I just used the olive ones I had on hand. The fish ate it nevertheless. Like my Shirley Temple fly experiment, I even tested a few jointed versions, but they haven’t earned their way on the blog yet. Maybe this will be the year that I strike mouse pattern paydirt.

 

 


Let’s get to the results portion of the nocturnal topwater game. I realize that this fish isn’t exactly unpublished content since I posted the pic a few months ago. I had the best intentions of writing a post at that point, but got busy and this guy, like many others, was put on the back burner. This dude absolutely crushed a Duane Arnold upon impact. I like to accelerate my forward casting stroke to forcibly slap the water with my offering. It’s the antithesis to everything you learned about properly presenting a dry fly. When he emerged from the depths I was stunned with his beak-like appearance. I almost convinced myself that it was a North Shore humpy. Topwater is a hit or miss proposition. It had been quite some time since I’d even crossed paths with a quality fish. I got completely skunked on a few of my best spots this season, but put some effort into dangerously traversing some new sections of streams. Fortunately my knees are no worse for the wear. I must atone for committing a cardinal sin in the eyes of some. I was so punch drunk with this fish that I marched right over to the bank to take a quick measurement and snap a few pics. After losing a few fish while photographing them earlier in the season I was determined to document this catch. Trout like so many other aspects of society have become highly regulated. Everything is treated with kid gloves. I never allow my children to walk down our front steps without wearing their helmets, and I certainly don’t put my trout into harms way by placing them on the bank. I’m all about best practices, but truthfully I’m a bacon man who’s willing to live with the consequences of my actions. I endeavor to treat this delicate little flower with the respect that it so richly deserves.
 
 







And thus concludes my midwinter medley. Surfing through these pics afforded me the opportunity to relive the experience. I can almost feel the late summer breeze and hear the explosive take of my last topwater fish. It was as if someone threw a chunk of riprap into the river. What is the lesser of two evils, trudging through waist high snow drifts of January or crawling elbow deep in the silty quicksands of summer? We are a strange breed, again and again unable to control our impulses. There is an emptiness that curiously can only be filled with a simple field mouse. It’s almost laughable when you openly admit such a weakness. Let’s not tell our friends, okay? The good news is that it’s not the most adverse shortcoming of mice and men.

 

 

 

 



Hoarding


Tamp down those thoughts of Sugar Plum fairies and let’s get back to what really matters. The glass half full portion of the equation tells us that we can be mining some of our favorite runs in just under two weeks. Can I get an Amen? With that in mind I’ll take you back to a warmer, more comforting time. A time and place where tall weeds, and even taller egos rule the roost.

I sacrificed a good month of prime summer trout fishing with my Rocky Mountain distraction. It’s not that I wasn’t fishing locally, on the contrary I continued my saga at a reasonable clip. But strangely enough my heart just wasn’t in it. I put the lion’s share of my efforts into planning, tying and dreaming of high elevation elation. It pretty much derailed my grandiose plans of a  2013 Brook Trout exposéMy angling escapades usually have a very specific agenda, and rarely is about just catchin’ some fish. It is a case of collateral damage that I can no longer just casually wet a line. But that’s how far down the rabbit hole I am. Is hindsight always 20/20? Who the hell knows?  I selected a smattering of pics from late summer Brook Troutin’ to give you visual relief from your meager subzero existence.  

I continued to amass stream miles at a healthy pace in a fairly broad range of destinations. Generally I’m the most laid back of fellas, except when it comes to planning, departing and driving to a chosen locale. My mind is like a steel trap, emboldened by dawn of the information age. Online mapping and GPS capabilities have turned the whole thing into an episode of high school math class. A prime demonstration is exemplified in the photo above. There’s no finer way to rain on my angling parade than being stuck in traffic. Tempers rarely flare in my universe. I tend to operate with the restraint of a whippet peddler at a Dead Show. When unexpectedly being kept from a round of fishing, I do not shy away from dressing down humanity.

 


After promptly taking the youngsters for a round of troutin’ I felt ready to get back on the saddle. I ambitiously doubled down on my Shirley Temple micro streamer. If one is good, why isn’t two better? An articulated version clearly removes this thing from the micro category and squarely puts it into the mini, if not into the normalcy realm. I could go into blow by blow accounts of bringing fish to hand, but this is Brook Trout after all. I can say with great confidence that this pattern is a clear cut winner. Why should we let the Brook Trout Rapala have all the fun? The fish will attack this thing with reckless abandon. What do you suppose they think this thing is anyway? These little fish are either cannibals or perverts, you be the judge. I’ll admit that this streamer really isn’t any different than a Crappie jig, and I know that is a tough pill for some to swallow. Let’s face the facts folks, the difference between a Woolly Bugger and a Maribou Crappie jig tends to only be in the amount of love that is put into it’s creation.

 

 

Have I mentioned that I hate snakes? My mother was deathly afraid of snakes and somehow passed the gene on to me. The running joke was to pretend that you see a snake on any outdoors occasion. She’d scream and practically have a heart attack and we’d all get a good chuckle out of it. I partially blame Indiana Jones for my illogical fear, but my phobia never prevents me from bushwhacking with the best of them. Let’s just say that the best snake is of the harmless roadkill variety. If snakes are bad, a rubbery gas station breakfast bagel may be worse. You would think by my last few posts of McDonald’s, DQ and now shitty gas station food that I live off this stuff. The reality is that I don’t frequent fast food with any regularity unless I’m on the road, and even then it’s a simple case of priorities. If I’m alone on a trip I often eat as fast as possible, and it’s little more than a functional necessity. If the choice is to sit and eat, or fishing. I’ll take fishing everytime. There will be plenty of time for opening and closing one’s mouth as soon as the fishing is done.

 

 

 I hit one of the finest creek chub “hopper hatches” that I’ve ever encountered while searching for Brookies. Conventional wisdom might tell you that it’s a bad sign.  As I’ve stated in the past, my kids principal regularly reminds them “if it’s not hard, you’re not learning.” A rule that is useful in academics and angling. I’m fascinated by the habits and tendencies of my fishing brothers and sisters. Some people love to fish the same holes using the same methods over and over. I’ve got a buddy that is a fly fisherman, but 99.5% of his trips are dragging leeches on a Lindy Rig in deep water for Walleyes. Another guy I know chases giant Muskies non-stop, it’s what keeps him up at night. You regularly see locals pulling up to the same spot, repeatedly working the same turf waiting for their “lucky” day when the big one will arrive on the end of their line. Many people I encounter are obsessive about one specific microcosm of fishing. There’s often one definitive trigger that satisfies their lustful need. I enjoy hearing about and respecting everyone’s ailments. I listen with great empathy.
 
 

The percentage of trips that were duds this year was fairly high. My quest to search far and wide for new Brook Trout water often reduced my ability to catch fish. Searching doesn’t always equate to catching, but that’s okay in my book. Sometimes other diehard anglers don’t even understand my approach, as they are birds of another feather. I brought quality fish to hand, but no real trophies were had. The distance between success and failure can be shorter than you think. While I’m reluctant to give specifics, I got direct evidence that just I missed mark on finding some truly monster-sized fish on more than one occasion. That’s the kind of thing that keeps us coming back for more.

My Eastern Iowan homeboys from American Pickers regularly celebrate and extract goodness from those who choose to obsessively collect junk. A&E’s Hoarders on the other hand treats the collection of objects like a sickness. These people are one step away from  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Is it a simple case of one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, or is it something much deeper?

I often find myself discussing fishing with others who know nothing about the sport. It’s almost as if we are speaking in two different languages. They have no concept of what it’s all about, and sometimes I don’t feel compelled to let them in on my secret. After many fishless hours walking back to the car or returning on a road trip I question my faith in the pursuit. On which side of the disorder equation do I belong? At the end of the day it matters little, as I have no immediate plans to stop hoarding.

 

 



ROI



My hiatus from local fishing reporting ends today. I’ve left it to others to provide you blow by blow accounts of middle west cold water conquests. Those of us who have chosen the path of blogdum are always faced with the blank page. What path do we chose to fill our infinitely scrolling publication? Long ago I opted to not be a resource for up to the minute fishing reports, water conditions or pseudo fly industry/culture babble. Mine is more editorial in nature. Within the spectrum of said editorial, lies the family photo album component of my plight. If you’ve landed at this destination with hopes of hardcore fishing exploits, today is not your day (though I will dangle the carrot of greener pastures just ahead). This is the fulfillment of a promise. An agreement I made with Ava that she’d get an opportunity to complete her “spring break slam” by entertaining a healthy round of Brook Troutin’. I agreed to write about it if she sealed the deal. The conventional rules of adult fishing need not apply. This is elementary school folks. There will be no statute of limitations on completing the slam, since we got washed out of our first attempt earlier this spring. We just picked up where we left off to complete her trifecta of a Brook, Brown and Bow (minus our traditional warm-up of midday pancakes).

 

 

I selfishly plotted and plundered my way through the peak season without taking the kids trout fishing. Upon my return from Colorado, the reminder to “pay it forward” was my first order of business. The conditions were far from ideal. It was a stifling hot, bluebird sky sort of day. We had no grandiose plans of rolling up huge numbers. As with all youth fishing it was more about the adventure and entertainment, than the casting and retrieving. No rise forms were spotted, and it didn’t matter anyway since my fly rod never made it out of the car. I told myself that if there were easy fish to be had we’d entertain some fly fishing education, but it just didn’t materialize. Our usual run to Lund’s reignited Jack’s love affair with the pocket knife, and provided us a handful of “lucky” Panther Martin spinners. The kid has a Dexter-like fascination with knives, which I don’t spend much time worrying about since he’s a chip off the old block. Upon extraction from the checkout begging, we set course to scout for holding water.

 

 

After regaling you with every aspect of my last few posts, brevity will be paramount in this instance. Suffice it say, the usual spots were not giving up their secrets with ease. We had to work for everything we got. It mattered little as all we needed was one fish to complete the task at hand. The pride is written all over Ava’s face. The fact that she refers to that fish as “my” Brook Trout says it all. Does anyone really own any fish? From a mental standpoint, hell yes. The value of quality time with your kids goes without saying. It may make for subpar blog content. But this is my world, and the transfer of the outdoors stewardship to the next generation is an immeasurable return on investment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can’t Hardly Wait

Just thought I’d throw down a quick, “how do you do?” The good news is that there’s a lengthy wrap up on my Colorado excursion sitting in the queue. The bad news is that I’ve neglected finishing the writing. I’ve been too busy logging stream miles, and made a recent pilgrimage to see the new/old look Replacements with the other middle-aged lemmings. I’m shifting my focus to warmwater, but I’ll furnish you some more Rocky Mountain highs, and a treasure trove of midwest trouting soon enough.  I can’t hardly wait.

 

 


 

 

 

 

Go On Take the Money and Run

As I pressed my nose up against the glass I couldn’t help but contemplate another urban angling assault. Unfortunately I don’t own an “Urbanist” fly fishing pack, so I felt rather ill prepared for the task at hand. Rather than another Manhattan raid, the subject of this contemplation was the all too familiar “Windy City” skyline. “It’s gotta have a few spots similar to Milwaukee,” I almost convinced myself. My rumination quickly went by the wayside as the flashes of lightening and claps of thunder were a bit too close for comfort at the apex of this skyscraper. Little did I know that the storms sweeping through Chicago had taken their toll in the Twin Cities the night before. This disturbance was just the beginning of historic damage in South Minneapolis, including a massive 100 year old tree that almost pancaked Mrs. Adrift’s car. The reality of my past 36 hours had begun to take it’s toll anyway. Sleep depravation and general soreness had lingered into our day trip into the city as I struggled to keep my sanity.

 

 

It all started a few days earlier. In standard fanatical fashion I had concocted a hairbrained scheme to bypass the mediocre confines of Dane County and make the deeper run into the “Heart of the Driftless.” The North-South Driftless divide is palpable, though not to the extent as the shameful chapter in our nation’s history. Twin Cities “Yankees” tend to go on at great length about the finer points of Western Wisconsin and Southeast Minnesota, while the Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago “Rebels” proclaim the newly minted “Heart” region as the cat’s ass. Leaving my beloved Iowa with “innocent bystander” status, often unjustly relegated to sideshow designation. There’s a similar East Coast/West Coast rap war parallel to made for Minneapolis and St. Paul, but that’s a story for another day.

I’d exchanged a few messages with notorious big trout junkie and Southwest Wisconsin expert Len Harris  in preparation for my forray into the “Heart.” We informally planned to meet up and fish an early morning on prime Richland County water. My timing proved to be unfortunate as Len hit the water hard the day before my arrival on another monster quest and was unable to go. He offered up a few suggestions via the information superhighway, wished me good luck, and sent me on my way.

This is the time of year that sunrise is obscenely early. To many the notion of fishing just before dawn is out of the question. For me it’s just standard operating procedure. I’m not inherently a morning person, but I’ve grown to really enjoy early morning road trips. The anticipation of what lies ahead generally wards off any notion of how tired you actually are. Return trips on the other hand can be a chore. If you’ve had a killer outing often the post conquering glow will carry you to the finish line.

 

 

GPS can be one of man’s best friend when wandering the backroads, but I never travel without my old school Gazetter. You never know when you’ll lose your signal. Navigation in the dark, bleary conditions were challenging, but I managed to find my first destination without too much fanfare. I popped into the cool waters under the veil of darkness and began my journey. It’s difficult to get your bearings when arriving on new water at predawn. It’s unwise to make any dramatic movements, so I often move at a snail’s pace and just pick apart the available cover. I opted to throw my T.B.E. fly in search of big browns (big surprise). In the first promising pool I managed to roll what appeared to be a mid-teens fish. Clearly I was on the right track. I continued my trek upstream for another 100 yards or so as the sun began to give me a better idea of my surroundings. I presented the fly straight upstream and stripped it back to me which produced a handful of average-sized browns in the first half hour. Upon arrival at the largest and deepest pool yet, I had high hopes that it would produce a bigger fish than I had seen thus far. I carefully slid into position and fired the T.B.E. to the upper portion of the hole. No strikes, but I faintly could make out the silhouette of a sizable fish in pursuit. I quickly put the fly right back into the heart of the run, only to be dissed a second time. A downsizing was in order. I went to the old faithful Sloppy Joe that has been so successful on many other streams. Retie, knot check, cast, connect. I hooked up with what I could tell was a good, but not giant fish. I slowly walked the fish downstream to an optimum landing spot and scooped her up with my trusty net, revealing a good but not great fish. It mattered little as I was on the board. A few quick pics and I sent her on her way.

I saddled up again hoping I didn’t spoil the upper portion of this prime looking pool. I meticulously baby stepped my way back into position, double-hauling a pinpoint cast to the top of the spot. I was immediately met with a rude awakening as a second and much more substantial fish took the bait. Like other tanks I’ve hooked in the past this behemoth shot to the surface, thrashing with reckless abandon to undue my stranglehold. After visual confirmation, this was for sure the biggest brown I’d tangled with this season. Some may deem “Mason Dixon” trout of 20″ be  real trophies, but my pulse typically remains unchanged for anything under the 23ish neighborhood, and this fish was well in excess of that mark. The early rounds of the bout scored in my favor as I once again backed the fish down into the slower water downstream. My heart was beating like a drum as I reached behind to prepare my net for landing duties. At this point in the fight I’m usually gripping my 6-weight and holding on for dear life as fish in this weight class aren’t moved easily. I worked him to within about 4 feet, just outside of netting range, when the beast gave me another surge. Unexpectedly, he made a beeline for as the Brits say my “John Thomas.” I quickly closed my legs as to not allow him to thread the needle. In a split second the extreme angle of my fly rod caused the streamer to sling shot from the fish’s mouth into the early morning air leaving me to sulk in defeat. “Rookie mistake,” I bemoaned. I felt as if I’d been disqualified from Olympic competition after years of preparation.

 

I moved on from the scene of the crime, trying not to dwell on my shortcomings. One of many reasons to do this dance is to intrinsically feel something. If you’re cut from this cloth you can be moved to giddiness with child-like enthusiasm. You’ll have some of the highest highs, but you’ll pay for it tenfold with the lowest lows. This was one of those moments. Nevertheless I continued to take my craft to any nook and cranny, vowing to get vengeance on the stream that just humbled me. I began to rack up an impressive number of fish on my #4 Sloppy Joe. I didn’t bother to photograph anything as it was a medley of the usual suspects. After an hour or two I connected with another good fish. This “redemption” catch was a quality specimen a couple of clicks north of the Mason-Dixon line. I was pleased to at least walk away with a solid consolation prize in typical 2013 fashion. I snapped a few “insurance policy” closeup shots of the fish in the net for proof of purchase. This is the first thing I do when I catch a photo worthy fish. They’re not always well composed pics, but I take a few before going for the risky hand held shots that can allow the fish slip away. For the second time this summer a Big Brown slipped from my grip before I really got any respectable shots, but for some reason I didn’t really care. My apologies to those of you that look to Adrift for a light session of midwestern fish porn. I’ll endeavor to do better next time.

 

 

As the morning was heating up I began to contemplate my next move. I managed one more quality Brown before I opted for the great escape. “At least the drive was worth it,” I told myself. Next up on the agenda was a move to put some quality Brookies into the done pile. I exchanged pleasantries with a local farmer’s elderly wife while I knocked back some fluids and food items. A quick review of my maps was in order and I continued my drift through the heart.

 

 

My wayfinding skills in this neck of the woods left a little to be desired. Multiple times I wandered off course. Through the kindness of strangers I managed to find this little gem, as two different dairy farmer’s gave me directions. It’s reputation proceeded itself as I’d heard through multiple sources that it was a fine Brookie stream. The first landowner that I approached wasn’t home, so I tried the next property downstream. Sure enough an extremely friendly woman allowed my to fish on her property. She proclaimed that her son “catches some big ones.” All the folks that I encountered on this journey couldn’t have been friendlier, a welcome addition to any trip. I only had an hour or two to chase Brookies until I had to head for home. The first thing that stood out to me was the shallow water conditions. You had to trek in between quality holes. Once you found a good pool it would be loaded with fish. I decided to throw a Shirley Temple. This little fly caused the schools of Brook Trout to pirhana-style frenzy, attempting to inhale my offering. After catching a number of fish, I’d actually strip the fly faster as to not hook the smaller Brookies. It was like swatting at flies. A few good fish were brought to hand, but not the big Brook I’d hoped for. This high population stream fished comparably to many of the quality streams in Western Wisconsin, but not any better. I was mildly disappointed that I didn’t see any monsters, but quite frankly I’m like a spoiled little kid.

 

 

The trip back wasn’t as painful as I feared. It was fairly uneventful outside of being stuck behind this tractor for the better part of a half hour. I’m pretty patient when it comes to this as we’re playing on their turf. There was a few opportunities for the woman driving the John Deere to allow cars to pass but she would have none of it. I didn’t let this minor inconvenience rain on my parade.

While I’m an ardent Yankee at heart and firmly believe that my waters are the best of the midwest, you’d be hard pressed to find any ill words to describe the Rebel portion of the Southern Driftless. It’s a classic you say potato, I say potato conundrum. If you get the chance to bask in the finest waters that the Heart has to offer, don’t hesitate. Go on take the money and run.

 

 

 

 

An Embarrassment of Riches

Where has summer gone? From deep in the Ozark Mountains, to some rocky mountain highs , I’ve been peddling my goods far and wide since our last visit. What little free time I’ve had has been spent doing this or that rather than paying homage to the blog. The first order of business has been a massive fly tying operation to fill the shortcomings of my boxes. Where does that leave me one may ask? Playing a high stakes game of catch up, as my angling content hangs in the air like a stale fart. I’m hoping to work my way through the backlog in the coming days, but I’ve made that empty promise before. Looking back at these images already makes me long for the antics of peak summer fishin’. As I like to say, Fall in Minnesota actually begins in August. Sure we still have waves of summer heat, but there are tell tale signs that clearly indicate which way this thing is heading.

I thought I’d get back in to groove by featuring the angling feats of my brethren, rather than that of my own. My second annual fundraiser auction guide trip commenced this year with a few changes. Sok and Scott were the recipients of the trip compliments of Riverstone Salon + Spa’s hefty late night contribution to the cause. Scott is somewhat of a rookie to midwest trouting, but this is Sok’s second go round on the trip. I loosened up the rules a bit not forcing Scott to dabble with the long rod, since he is an avid spin angler. Riverstone paid the hard earned money so my prerogative was to simply put them on as much action as I could muster.

 

After suiting up and knocking back a few preparatory cold ones we began the long road upstream to trout immortality. A few wise cracks were exchanged in regards to Scott’s weathered carcinogenic backpack, and then the games began. Sok invested in a brand new fly rig and is committed to advancing his stature in the angling arts. I set him up with a dry/dropper rig and sent him on his way. Scott has only trout fished a handful of times in lush Canadian waters, so I figured I’d hang with him at to help decipher the code. It’s always a delicate dance when giving others a glimpse into this madness. I try to find a balance between straight up instruction and allowing an individual to unravel it on their own. In fairly quick fashion Scott found a few eager trout chasing and nipping at his offerings, but couldn’t get any solid commitments. We swapped out a number of different spinners and cranks until we landed on just the right recipe. I was caught off guard on how difficult it was to hookup, and was secretly dismayed that this wasn’t going to be an epic bite. Nevertheless Scott put one on the board, which turned out to be the first Brown Trout of his life, can I get an Amen?

 

 

We covered a fair amount of water with the one-two punch. Scott threw a crank in hopes of connecting with a giant, while Sok tackled the risers on a dry/dropper rig. I brought up the rear and occasionally cast at hole after they’d worked it over. There was a steady mix of bugs in the air, which proved to be one of those evenings where they were on both something and nothing at all. My primary task would be to cast at the leftover fish to see which flies they’d react to and pass the intell on to Sok. I’d hoped that this would be easy fishing, where we’d be able to cast any number of dries and stack up a sick pile of beauties. That wasn’t exactly the case. We’d manage to fool a fish or two with our fake food, then the inhabitants of the next pool would have a staunch case of lockjaw. We were getting fish, just not at the clip I’d hoped for. I cycled through a number of fly combinations, as the risers grew in number and intensity. Scott persisted as his short strikers soon turned into solid hits, though his landing percentage left a little to be desired.

 

 

Sok’s casting skills have come along since last year. Perhaps it’s the pride in throwing on your own rod, or the fact that I preached practice before you get on the water. We discussed meeting at the park for casting warm up before our trip, but it didn’t come to fruition. The alternative was a session on Youtube followed by some backyard fun. It paid dividends on the water for him in terms of accuracy and distance. It provided us more time to get into the nuances of a drag free drift, mending and basic entomological concepts. He manged to dupe a few Browns as the evening wore on. At one point I tied a Sulpher emerger pattern on Sok’s line, similar to a larger RS2. It was immediately met with a solid take and short run followed by and abrupt snap. At first it appeared as if the line broke, though further inspection revealed that it was actually the hook. This event has caused me to comb through my boxes and inspect my flies with greater scrutiny. I must admit that I always dry my flies out after a dunking, but there’s obviously a point of diminishing returns. It turns out that there were a number of flies in the box that didn’t cut the mustard in terms of hook strength and Sok’s hookup was simply the bellwether.

 

 

We trudged upstream through deep pools of frenzied trutta. I continued my bartending, fly selection and advisory duties, but really the guys switched to autopilot and we spread out along our cozy confines. There’s no substitute for time on the water, and this was a moment to hone one’s skills. The sheer number of fish boiling at our toes and insect activity was immense, but it was by no means easy fishing. You had to earn your keep. I had reason to believe that a giant could be had at our evening’s destination, but none was brought to hand. It mattered little as it just felt good to be alive. It is times like these that you simply have to acknowledge your embarrassment of riches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Easy

I must confess that I’m running a little behind on the blog posts. The dog didn’t eat my homework, but between traveling, work and fishing there’s been little time for superfluous zeros and ones. I’ll do my level best to right the ship and get this thing back up to speed with my current backlog of angling escapades. My previous New York offering was a long-winded soliloquy, so I’ll attempt to stick to the facts folks.

As I regularly remark, June is my favorite month to fish and I’ve endeavored to savor every minute of it.  Everything in June is big. The hatches, the long days, the thunder showers and the anticipation. Get it while the gettin’s good because the peak mosquito, ticks and weeds season looms perilously close. Fortunately for us the Brown Trout train is a runnin’ and far be it from me to stop it in its tracks. So let’s get on with the show.

 
 

There’s an infinite number of ways to skin the cat this time of year. The obvious approach is to match the evening hatch given the variety of swarming bugs. It’s been a hit or miss affair with any number of patterns working, depending upon the day. Is there any place on this planet where a Parachute Adams won’t occasionally dupe a wily trout?

I’ve still been embroiled in a hefty round of streamer testing. I wrote the phrase “there’s no such thing as too big” in my Close Encounters article and for some unexplained reason I’ve been testing the limits of that proclamation. I think I’ve been in search of a personal “slump buster” given the lack of productivity with my regular compliment of go-to flies. For the most part I’ve been throwing my own creations, but even the big deceiver/striper pattern I threw in Manhattan elicited strikes from overmatched dink Browns. In typical fly fishing karma fashion, I launched the meaty fly deep into the clutches of a tree on the next cast. The prevailing notion that Brown Trout will eat prey half their body length whenever available was in full effect.

 

 

June has continued to provide plenty of precipitation. Maybe not to the levels that we saw earlier this spring, but certainly enough to turn on the worm bite a bit. What the entomological purist may fail to recognize is that the match the hatch mantra is relative. Take a look at these pics and you tell me what this fish is dining on besides my Orange Twizzlers fly? When I removed the mangled remains of my fly from the fish’s jaw I was impressed with how the chenille dutifully replicated the natural. But enough about the details and one man’s fly preference, let’s just soak in a fistful of salmo trutta, shall we?

 

 

Nothing like a healthy dose of June to cure what ails ya! It reads like a broken record of Brown Trout love. A handful of solid specimens have been brought to hand, but it hasn’t been as easy as the title would indicate. I’ve logged a good number of miles on several creeks to scratch together this montage. Think an opportunistic big Brown won’t take a huge fly if given the opportunity? The prevailing winner in the fly department has been a massive Galloupesque articulated job with dual #4 3x hooks that I’ve dubbed “The Big Easy.”  Take a look at the blurry iphone pic just above the photo of the fly, you’ll see a hint of a “big easy” deep in the trout’s mouth. I’ve tested a single-hooked version of the fly, but have grown frustrated with too many short strikes so I opted to double down. I’ve fished the T.B.E. fly in several corners of the Driftless over the last few weeks and it is by no means a catch-all sort of pattern. It’s more of a feast of famine situation in which I’ll elaborate in subsequent posts.

 

 

I mentioned a few months ago that a “bridge busting tank” had taken me for a ride.  The beast shot out of the water doing the Lambeau Leap and subsequently spit the hook back into my face in defiance. It’s always a difficult conundrum as to when you should revisit a spot once you’ve located a big fish. If they’ve had hook in their jaw the task at hand can be even more perplexing. In this instance I felt confident in the effectiveness of my T.B.E. fly so I decided I’d go back and take a shot after almost 2 months of waiting.

The bridge that she calls home is one that seems to be overlooked by most anglers, including myself, in lieu of a more popular access point. I’ve previously made a few casts with only a handful of dinks to show for it, but have rarely spent much time investigating it with any detail. I often bypass it to move on to greener pastures. Almost by accident earlier this spring my fly slid close to a deeper undercut which garnered the quick joyride that terminated in disappointment and what ifs. This time around I decided to approach the bridge pool cut bank on the near side and slip the T.B.E. downstream into the holding lie. I proceeded in ultra stealth mode preparing for close quarters combat. A deep breath followed by quick downstream flip was in order. Pause, pause, pause in standard tightlines tradition. Nothing. Second, third and forth casts also produced zip. I then scoured the pool for any signs of life, which came back negative. A one hit wonder I told myself as I slowly inched my way upstream past the bridge pool. A shallow silty stretch is just upstream that has some thin cut banks and a small log. Not as juicy as the deep pool downstream but certainly worthy of investigation. I haphazardly cast blindly over streamside vegetation with little thought of the beast being in this unlikely and shallow locale. My fluffy jointed friend was greeted with a rude awaking as I quickly set the hook, but wasn’t sure what I was dealing with. Immediately the fish ran downstream towards the bridge as I got a visual ID as to what I was dealing with. I knew it was the fish I’d lost before. It’s signature yellowish bronze coloration, sparse dot pattern, and massive size was the tell. Holy shit I told myself, I’d actually succeeded in accomplishing what I’d set out to do as I slipped her into my net after a brief tussle. This was in stark contrast to the fishless and lackluster hours that I’ve endured this season. I got a quick measurement which put this fish a hair shy of 24″ (I promised a little mathematics from time to time for you “numbers” guys and gals). This fish was worth hassling with my tripod for a handheld grip and grin shot. I reached into my pocket to grab my Joby tripod only to realize that I’d left it in my garage. Nevertheless I proceeded to snap a few closeups on my net before the fish flopped and escaped upstream. I was flooded with a sense of accomplishment that had me buzzing all day long.

 
 

Chosing to live and work in the “north country” can be an absurd proposition. There’s a limited peak window of activity and opportunity from all creatures big and small. We take to the more temperate climate and extract all that we can before lumbering back in retreat. The inevitable cycle of life continues and I predictably march to the beat of its drummer while basking in the cool waters of the big easy.