Land of the Noonday Sun

I’ve now been to the Nantahala River in North Carolina three times.  It definitely won’t be the last.  This time I had the pleasure of fishing with professional guide, friend and fly fishing enthusiast Clint DePriest.  Watching Clint fish reminds me how much I still have left to learn. You can check out his website here: https://www.facebook.com/noondayfishphoto

And go ahead and look him up: Noon Day Fly Fishing on http://www.tripadvisor.com.

The weekend marked another trip full of amazing fish, good food and relaxation.  Of course, some people wouldn’t call standing in cold water, climbing incredibly steep cliffs, and hiking around a valley relaxing.  Plenty of fish were landed, and new scotch was sampled!  I was fortunate to be able to shoot enough video to capture the weekend.

One of my favorite parts about fly fishing is exploring the unknown in search of those more challenging fish.  What do you like most about fly fishing?  Post it in the comments section below.

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Fly Fishing Videography

My first video of 2016 is actually from my trip to Georgia near the end of 2015: https://colemanspecial.com/2015/10/26/no-fish-stocking-no-barbs-no-fishing-pressure-no-problem/

A lot of people ask me how I make my fly fishing videos.  It’s actually not too difficult. Here’s what you need:

  1. Preparation and Patience
  2. An HD camera (you can use your smart phone, but I highly recommend a waterproof case or bag to keep it safe so you don’t accidentally make a disaster movie instead of a fly fishing movie).
  3. Video Editing Software
  4. A Place To Show Your Video

With regards to Preparation and Patience, you need to balance your need to fish with the need to get good footage.  Sometimes, I spend an hour during prime fishing hours just getting some great footage.  It also helps to catch fish .  .  . and get it on camera.  There are plenty of times the camera ran out of power, or wasn’t ready when the fish finally decided to cooperate.   That brings me to preparation.   Make sure you have all the right equipment, and pack it carefully so that you can get at it easily (extra batteries etc.).

With regards to Cameras, in another post, I’ll talk specifically about the GoPro camera that I use.  But it’s important that you use a high definition camera (minimum resolution of 720p) so that your video quality looks good in our “high-def” world.  Between the GoPro and the iPhone that I use, I can get almost all the footage I want.  There are some things only a drone or a professional camera can grab, but a smartphone and GoPro can make some beautiful videos.

For Video Editing Software, most smart phones come with some sort of editing software, and there are plenty of cheap options in the “app store”.  If you want to, you can spring for Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro or another professional editing software, and then you are able to edit on a computer.

Finally, you will want to Share Your Work with the world.  I highly recommend Vimeo instead of YouTube for public viewing, but if you start to get a lot of followers, or want to increase your viewership, then YouTube can help with that too.  For sharing with family and friends, you can email a link directly from these sites.  In addition, Drop Box is a great way to store your files online so you can access them anywhere and share private links with family.

Stay tuned; I’ll share more tips and tricks about each aspect of my fly fishing videos in a later post.  Do you have any tips for making fly fishing videos?  Share them in the comments below!

No Keeping Fish, No Barbs, No Fishing Pressure, No Problem!

Hatch reels get it done!

Hatch reels get it done!

One of my fly fishing buddies, Jeff Smalley, yes, the one from the original “Trout Team 3”, recently invited me to join him for an amazing opportunity for some fly fishing on Duke’s Creek in Georgia.  The Smithgall Woods area is an amazing trout haven.

Jeff prospecting for rainbows.

Jeff prospecting for rainbows.

Anglers must register in advanced to fish, and they only allow fifteen anglers on the river per day (one morning slot and one evening slot).  The fish are reproducing naturally because it’s entirely catch and release.  Also, on this section of Duke’s Creek, you are only allowed to use barbless hooks (which I adhere to anyways).  Furthermore, they provide supplemental feeding to ensure the fish are healthy. All of this results in an amazing fishing experience with rainbows and browns that are crafty, intelligent and battle hardened.  I had more than twice the number of fish that I caught figure out a way to de-hook themselves.  And this was not due to the barbless hooks.  These fish have figured out just the right moves to throw their head and lose the hook point. They are powerful, acrobatic and energetic.  Not to mention that they are numerous within this five mile stretch of river.

After a full day of fishing, I had over a dozen rainbows battled into the net for a quick photo and release video.  I had twice as many get away, including some real hogs, ensuring I will visit this trout sanctuary many more times.  I also made a new friend, Clint DePriest (https://instagram.com/noon_day_flyfishing/), who happens to be an amazing guide out of North Carolina.

Clint's all over these 'bows.

Clint’s all over these ‘bows.

The moral of the story is: Whenever a friend asks you to go fly fishing with him, you say yes!  Have you ever been asked to go fishing, and aren’t able to go, only to hear later about the epic hatch you missed out on or the “once-in-a-lifetime fish” that was landed?

Check out the video I made for this trip too (in the videos section or click the link here: https://vimeo.com/143579448 ).

The Stolen Fishing Trip

native brookie

native brookie

Fly fishing opportunities can present themselves in the most unusual of circumstances.  For instance, a friend and colleague of mine happened to fly in for a sales meeting.  I saw this as an opportunity to steal away to the river for two to three hours and show Jeff a little bit of the driftless area in Wisconsin.  After picking him up at the airport, and heading to the river in scrubs, we skulked around the river hunting for active trout.  A bunch of beautiful brookies and browns later, we were admiring the sound of the river as we put our gear away into my Subaru.  That’s when Jeff coined the phrase (for me at least): He said: “Michael, this was really a stolen fishing trip”.  He described it as stealing a moment in time for something you never have quite enough time to enjoy.  It’s amazing what a little relaxation on the river can do for the soul.  Have you ever had a stolen fishing trip? Share yours in the comments!

The stolen fishing trip

The stolen fishing trip.  Here’s Jeff masterfully handling my CFO reel and Orvis Helios-2, 4-weight rod like a champ!

Rush River: Brown High Water Yields Big Brown

When I moved to Minnesota, I started fishing the Kinnickinnic River in River Falls, Wisconsin (the Kinni, as the locals call her).  This is a typical Midwest small to medium stream in the heart of the northern driftless area with beautiful, naturally reproducing brown and brook trout.  It wasn’t until after a couple years of exploring the Kinni that I realized there was another gem about 15-30 minutes further east called the Rush River.  From Baldwin all the way through Martel and Ellsworth, the Rush River winds through beautiful farmland with ample natural trout and seasonal hatches.  In particular, the Trico hatch, BWOs and Sulfurs are very healthy hatches on this river at various times.  Both the Kinni and the Rush are subject to large changes in water flow following rain storms and showers.  This brings me to the point of this post.

A lot of fishermen shy away after a rain storm, but I’ve found that sometimes I can have a wonderful day on the river after a storm with a little strategy and the right flies.  After the most recent Minnesota and Wisconsin deluge, I decided it was time to put thoughts into action.  The river was running higher than usual, and was fairly ruddy, but it was not dangerous to wade (I hear my dad in my mind saying “safety first Michael!”).  At the first hole I went too, I struck out big time, including losing my whole rig within five casts.  Not the epic night I was hoping for.  However, after adjusting my rig a little, I started catching fish after fish as I went upstream from hole to hole, with virtually no one else on the river (ostensibly scared off by the recent storm).  After all, the fish do have to eat, regardless of the weather.  I was already into double digits for the night, and then the fishing got relatively quiet.  The biggest trout I had released so far was 10 inches (with a range of fish caught from 4 inches to 10 inches, both brookies and browns).  I had about a quarter mile walk back to the car, so I figured I would tie on a Stimulator and hit the same pools and riffles on the way back.  On my way back, I noticed a section of river I had previously ignored because it was difficult to get too, but the storm had padded down all the grass and made access much easier.  No sooner had I made a few casts then I was doing my best to pull in a nice 15 inch brown, which is more of a rarity on the Rush.  This was a fun fish to land on my newly minted Helios-2 (4-Weight) with CFO reel; this was really the first fish to challenge this rod.  A lot of people shy away from Orvis for a variety of reasons, but Orvis makes fantastic gear, is committed to environmental conservation and their customer service is superb in my experience.  I have products from Orvis that are over 20 years old, so I am a loyal customer.  I released this brown, as I do all my fish, counted my blessings and continued my walk back to the car, grinning from ear to ear about the last fish of the night.

Caught this beauty on the Rush River before dark after a stormy couple days.

Caught this beauty on the Rush River before dark after a stormy couple days.

The Fish of 10,000 Casts – Muskie on the Fly

This past weekend, my brother and I, along with two of our best friends, went on a guided drift boat trip in search of the “fish of 10,000 casts”, also known as the Muskie.  We headed to musky territory in Wisconsin, really the epicenter for this type of fishing.   Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) is part of the same family as pike.  Its genetic lineage is unchanged dating back to prehistoric times, so you feel like you are hunting something fierce.  The Muskie is the apex predator in its environment, and to catch one on a fly rod is truly an awesome feat.

The name, Muskie, comes from the Ojibwa word for “ugly pike” (maashkinoozhe).  It’s definitely an ugly fish.  But it’s also extremely hard to catch, puts up a good fight, and makes for fantastic photos.

This is the background for the epic trip I had in store for myself and my friends.  We were all fired up, none of us ever having been in a drift boat with fly rods.  Our guides were Brian “Lucky” Porter (www.faroutflyfishing.com) and Chris Willen (chriswillien.com).  Lucky has guided us before, and it was our first time meeting Chris.  Derek and John went into Lucky’s boat, and Adam and I went into Chris’ boat.  This is our typical Davies versus Coleman competition of course, albeit a friendly competition of pride and honor.  With regards to our hosts, I have to say that both of guides were amazing, and they really know their stuff.  After a brief introduction to the world of Muskie casting (with heavy rods, and special bank shot lines), we shoved off the shore looking for glory in the depths of the river.

OK, full disclosure: we got several Muskie eats but we did not put one in the boat.  This is apparently very common in Muskie fishing (hence, the fish of 10,000 casts).  At least, this was what I kept telling myself.  My ego and pride were definitely hurting despite the good luck with the bass.  It was a beautiful summer day though, with great friends and good conversation.  Just because we weren’t able to catch any Muskies though didn’t mean we weren’t able to catch some awesome fish.

16 inch small mouth bass

16 inch smallmouth bass

I landed a 16 inch smallmouth bass to break open the skunk, and both my brother and I had a few more eats without setting the hook.

This helped us ease into lunch time, and we finally felt we were getting the hang of the new casting style.  There is a figure eight maneuver you are supposed to do with your rod at the end of the line strip to try to entice a Muskie to strike, and honestly, my brother and I thought this was somewhat comical.  That is, until a Muskie came out from the depths of the water like the movie Jaws, causing me to forget all my knowledge, jump back, and pull my rod upwards, removing the hook from the musky’s mouth without setting the hook.  The guide was right to chastise me, but that moment in an of itself was enough to get me hooked for life.

I have to say a few things about our guide, Chris Willen.  This guy is amazing.  He was great company in the boat, extremely knowledgeable, and he gave us great direction and put us in the best position to catch fish.  I highly recommend him to anyone interested in testing their mettle with big game fish like Muskie.  Brian “Lucky” Porter also did an amazing job for my friends John and Derek, and having known him from our prior steelheading trip, I highly recommend him as well.

The next part of the story is really what elevated this trip to epic status.  Chris told us a story about some awesome fish previously hooked at the next hole, and sure enough, right after my fly hit the water, something big and fierce attacked my fly.  In my shock, I didn’t quite strip set the hook properly, but to our amazement, the fish then proceeded to follow the fly again, and Chris started yelling: “it’s a hot fish, get your flies back in the water quick!”.  The fish skirted away, but Chris told us we were going to have a do over with this fish, and we reset, rowed backwards, and informed the second drift boat behind us (Derek and John) that we were waiting to give it another go.  After ten minutes of chatting and planning, we were ready to get serious.  Sure enough, within five casts to that same exact hole, BAM!, a huge northern pike flew out and grabbed my fly.  This time, I stripped like a mad man and we brought a 35 inch pike right into the net.  We went ashore and got some amazing videos and photos.  It was truly an epic catch.  We released this apex predator back into the river, so it could continue to live its life at the top of the food chain.  A pike that big doesn’t even need to worry about Muskie since it’s almost as big as them now.

Here I am with guide, Chris Willen.

Here I am with guide, Chris Willen, holding the prize!  That’s 35 inches of Northern Pike there.

I landed another smallmouth bass, and we had a couple other Muskie eats with no hook sets later in the day.  We think a small northern pike also took a pass at one of our flies, but that would be it for the fishing.  After we brought the boats in, we all got to reminisce and recount the tale of the large Pike we were all privileged to see.  The story lost none of its gusto when we added a couple Old Fashioned’s, some Single Malt Scotch and a ton of Bavarian food to ease ourselves back into the real world.  Stay tuned for the video I’m editing, and remember to SET THAT HOOK!

Fly Fishing Purism

My grandfather fished dry flies, wet flies and streamers.  And he was deadly at it.  The same goes for my father, although he incorporated nymphs and emergers in his own arsenal.  Always on the artificial fly.  Always barbless hooks.  I think something about this technique makes you a better fly fisherman.  You develop that sixth sense that tells you when to set the hook at the faintest line twitch, the softest shudder, or that quick flash in the water as the fish turns over.

This is what my father always referred to as purism or “being a purest” when it came to fly fishing.  No strike indicator or split shot was needed.  No hopper-dropper, thingamabobber, Czech lines, or drifts boats.  It would be man (or woman) wading into nature’s home court, with the most primitive tackle handled in the most elegant way.  I was brought up learning to fish this way, and I think it really helped my brother and I hone our skills before we started introducing newer technical aspects of fishing for our own personal arsenal.

I’ve got to be honest though.  There’s nothing like making a trout rise to a single dry fly.  But then again, I’ll do everything I can to catch a steelhead or that “fish of 10,000 casts” . . . muskellunge.  These fish are so hard to catch, I’ll take any advantage I can get.  For me, I just love being out on the river, with dreams of the last fish and thoughts of the potential next fish drifting through my thoughts.  Whether it’s with split shot and jig hooks, or with a single barbless #12 Hendrickson (tied Catskill style of course . . . ), the way that you fly fish says a lot about your personality and style.

And then of course, as my family always says, it’s almost as much fun looking at all that cool fly fishing gear as it actually fishing with it.  I’ll continue to be an active participant as fly fishing evolves with new products and materials: bamboo, graphite, switch, Tenkara, anodization, disc drag, weight forward, sink tip, beads, flashback, tungsten, brassie, woven, jigged, choked, articulated . . . fly fishing is evolving like any other art form.  So embrace all the new tactics and toys, and fuel your fly fishing addition with the next big thing.