The Rainbow Warrior Give-Away

This blog post is long over-due.  Thanks to my friend and fishing buddy, John Matulis, I finally landed my first rainbow trout (non-steelhead) in Minnesota.  And then I proceeded to land a few more!  John moved to Rochester, Minnesota from New Hampshire just recently, and he has been exploring the driftless area in effort to give me a reason to drive down to visit him.  He’s been scouting out the White Water River, and I finally found some time to join him in our pursuit of tight lines this past fall.  Well, the river did not disappoint.  After showing me around, John placed me right into his “pot ‘o gold hole” (affectionately now called JPOG) and with the help of a Rainbow Warrior fly, rainbows started crushing my flies.  I joked that I found rainbows at the end of the pot o’gold, rather than the other way around.  It was a great outing for my first time fishing in southeast Minnesota.

Lance Egan, a competitive fly tier from Utah, has invented many flies that produce staggering amounts of fish.  Two of his flies that I fish the most are the Frenchie and the Rainbow Warrior.  In particular, the Rainbow Warrior has been a deadly fly for me wherever rainbow trout are around.  There’s something about the flash and color scheme that seem to drive these fish bonkers.  Here’s my favorite video for how to tie the Rainbow Warrior by Tim Flagler at Tightline Productions:

As an added bonus this week, I’m giving away five size 16 Rainbow Warriors to one person drawn at random (tied with a tungsten bead, and the barbs mashed).  Post a comment on my blog and you get entered into the drawing.  Post a comment on multiple blog posts and you get two entries (maximum of two entries).  In my comments section, leave a comment and your email and I’ll announce the winner one week from today.  The winner will have five Rainbow Warriors mailed to the address of his or her choice.  Happy commenting!

 

RainbowWarriors

Rainbow Warriors

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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.

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.

Wedding Boutonnieres and Fly Tying – A Match Made In Heaven

When my wife and I were engaged, I was given one very important task (in addition to showing up): pick out the attire that myself and my groomsmen would be wearing.  That’s not entirely true, but for the most part, Katherine did an amazing job of planning all the other large and little details of the wedding as well as including me in the decision processes when needed, but this one task was my really responsibility.

She also knew how much fly fishing meant to my family and I, so she suggested tying some larger colorful flies, and matching them with a appropriate flower to create our own custom boutonnieres (clearly, I married the right woman!):

I did a little research and found these beautiful gold brooch fly hooks, designed with a cap over the hook point and an attached pin, perfect for using with a boutonniere once the tying was complete.  I highly recommend them.  They’re a little hard to tie due to the pin, but it’s worth it to have everything all-in-one and ready for attachment to whatever you want (boutonnieres, hats, vests!)

http://www.jsflyfishing.com/veniard-gold-brooch-pin

When I first scoured the world wide web for ideas about this style of boutonniere, there was almost nothing on the internet.  Now there are a few Etsy posts six years later that allow you to place orders, but there’s still not a lot of information out there.

Here are some of my own creations:

It really helped make our special and added a little touch of ourselves to the photographs.  If you love fly fishing, and want to include something like this in your wedding, I highly recommend it. And if you can tie your own flies, then it could be even more special for you.

The Coleman Special

As with many childhood memories, they are often wrapped in myth and legend with morsels of truth sprinkled around.

For as long as I can remember, my dad espoused the virtues of our family fly: the Coleman Special.  Ostensibly named after the Coleman clan, and clearly a modification of the famous Woolly Bugger, the Coleman Special was the first fly I ever fished and it also became the most often utilized fly of my childhood.  Not only does it catch fish, but it happens to be an easy fly to cast under most conditions.  I learned to roll cast with this fly as well as the different nuances of retrieval to trigger a rainbow into an explosive strike.

As a child, I was enamored with the bright colors that appeared to drive Rainbow Trout crazy.  As an adult, I suspect this is why I prefer to experiment with such brightly colored flies as “The Fly Formerly Known as Prince” and the “Pink Squirrel”, even before they became mainstream in most fisherman’s fly boxes.  Not surprisingly, my own fly tying style often incorporates bright oranges and pinks due to my early influence from this fly.

Many fly fisherman I run into on the river tie their own flies, but it’s rare to find someone who experiments with their own patterns (or at least someone who is willing to share them).  One of my favorite past times is talking to fellow fly fishermen on the river and exchanging some flies, often with me handing over several of my own concoctions that they’ve never seen of before as well as some of my old standbys.  My family has given out plenty of Coleman Specials over time, and I hope the name sticks.  I like to think that a piece of my family history is lurking in fly boxes across USA and perhaps the world.

ColemanSpecial2

Pictured above is aforementioned “Coleman Special” originally designed by my father Michael and modernized by myself

Here is the original Coleman Special recipe:

Thread: Florescent Fire Orange,

Hook: Size 8-14, 2x Long Streamer Hook

Tail: Pink Marabou

Ribbing: Gold tinself or brassie (small or medium) ribbing for segmentation and hackle support

Body: Flourescent Orange Chenille

Body Hackle: Palmered Brown Hackle (may substitute ginger), use ribbing to secure

Optional Add Ons: Non-toxic Weight (8-10 wrapps pushed up against the bead), Brass or Tungsten Bead or Cone Head (rainbow colored or gold) matched appropriately to the hook, flashabou or crystal flash added to the tail section

Fly Fishing for Generations

My grandfather passed along the knowledge and art of fly fishing to my father.  My brother and I were lucky enough to have this wonderful hobby passed down to us.

Grandpa fished to bring food home and find solace away from the ship yards.  My father fly fished to experience the art and immerse himself in nature.

For my brother and I, we didn’t need to bring fish home for the family.  We appreciate the art of fly fishing and enjoy connecting with nature.  But we’re also part of the new generation of fly fishers.

Catch and release, protection of our natural resources, and technical fly fishing are our calling cards.  We have as much fun experimenting with new techniques and looking over our gear as we do on the river.  And while we never mastered the same talent for the arts that our father did, we believe in fly fishing as an art.

My forefathers hail from the generation of purism: swinging wet flies or placing delicate dry flies upon the surface with a smooth 10 o’clock to 2 o’clock motion.  Fishing a dropper or placing a strike indicator are almost heresy, and yet there is still so much to learn from the traditional ways.  My father can out-fish anyone with his precise casting and 6th sense for the slightest tug in his line.  Meanwhile, my brother and I push the limits of fly fishing and mix our purist foundation with newer techniques like Czech nymphing, side casting, non-toxic split shot, and tricked out flies that look more at home in a toy chest than in my father’s fly box.

I’m an avid, 3rd generation fly fisherman and this is my story.