A Very Muskie Christmas

Katie Blizzard And Her Trophy Muskie

Katie Blizzard And Her Trophy Musky
Copyright 2015. Austin Green Weinstein. All Rights Reserved.

 

6 o’clock Monday morning wake-ups are only okay if fishing is involved. This trip would be a bit more technical as we planned to bring my five year-old son, Nolan, as he is still on school break. I am nearing pro-status taking Nolan trout, bluegill and bass fishing. My formula for success is a hydrated body, a caffeinated head and a backpack full of Nolan ammo (aka snacks), but let’s be real—fishing for musky in a small Gheenoe in frigid December slinging 10 weights with flies as big as Baltimore rats IS A DARING IDEAL! Austin, Nolan and I stuck to our plans and loaded the truck and boat and headed out. Chugging coffee and chicken salad sandwiches (odd, yes) we cruised and got our boat launched with the perfect amount of daylight. Nolan was warmly and smartly dressed, and thankfully excited for the day! First run down the river I was fishing first, casting and casting and more casting. 40 minutes in I managed to get the gigantic streamer wedged between two unforgiving rocks, I assume. I have my fair share of snags but this was making my blood boil…can’t cut the line, can’t swim under…stuck. Twenty minutes of trying to get the dang thing free was killing the mood to say the least. I am still curious how it happened but a metal clip holding the fly loosened enough to save the line. We had a small memorial service for that beautiful fly but it was time to move on.

The Gheenoe And Mercury Four Stroke

The Gheenoe And Mercury Four Stroke
Copyright 2015. Austin Green Weinstein. All Rights Reserved.

 

Now it was Austin’s turn to get his fix on and I back-paddled and maneuvered our boat so he had the perfect angle to cast—all while trying to entertain Nolan with quiz type questions, knock-knock jokes, and feeding him gummy snacks (and sweetly explaining for the 7th time why he can’t just sit on my lap when I’m rowing). During the next hour or so Austin had looked back at me for a split second and then I hear him say, “MUSKYMUSKYMUSKYMUSKY!” All while figure 8-ing so hard and viciously. He was a split second late and had stopped stripping thus the monster frightened and darted away. Tough break. The day got more interesting as we pull over to stretch our legs and warm up. We put together a lame fire as Austin is unusually concerned with how numb his feet are. I suddenly became a mom of TWO boys and resorted to warming up gnarly man feet with my hands and under my jacket to bring them back to life.

 

Fly Tied By Austin Green Using A Fish-Skull® Fish-Mask

Fly Tied By Austin Green Using A Fish-Skull® Fish-Mask
Copyright 2015. Austin Green Weinstein. All Rights Reserved.

 

I needed to get another shot, so again, we motored back up the river and I got myself refocused and stripped a bunch of line out and casted until my forearm started to slightly throb. The boat was gravitating towards the bank a bit too much, but I didn’t care and I just kept casting. Watching the gorgeous fly decked out with chartreuse and flashy colors slither and float in the water was encouraging. We have all had the thought, “Okay, if I was a ____ I would totally eat that, it looks so good!” As I’m mixing up my strips with some quick blasts a whitish beast soars up from under the boat and wrecks my fly! All I know is that I’ll have a stroke if she gets away so I strip set that hook so hard and it feels like I have it in deep. Mother musky is just as surprised as I am and is thrashing around and going under the boat and the phrase “Take away her will” was my only mantra I remember gleaning from a musky video. I muscled her up to be extra sure that hook was in! Nolan was cheering me on in the boat and Austin was absolutely stoked. He was saying many things all at once but the only thing I can remember in retrospect was him exclaiming, “You are such a babe!” when I hooked into the fish. It made me crack up laughing, and when I brought it up later he said, “Hey, Nolan was in the boat and I was going to say much fancier things if little ears weren’t around!” Oh, boy.

Katie Blizzard's First Musky!

Katie Blizzard’s First Musky!
Copyright 2015. Austin Green Weinstein. All Rights Reserved.

 

He helped net the mad monster and paddle the short distance to the rocky bank. My adrenaline was pumping and a hot sweat broke out all over me. When we safely had her in the water near the shore I just kept screaming we FINALLY caught a musky! It was all so surreal to me and more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. We photographed the beautiful creature we had worked so hard to find and every minute was feeling more and more gratifying. After momma musky had gotten a photo shoot I released her, unharmed, back into the murky depths from which she came.

Gorgeous Musky Caught On The 3-TAND T-90 and Orvis Helios 2

Gorgeous Musky Caught On The 3-TAND T-90 and Orvis Helios 2
Copyright 2015. Austin Green Weinstein. All Rights Reserved.

 

We headed back to the loading dock and my muscles in my face were aching from smiling so much. I sat up front looking all around at the water and sky and then back to my son because I was overjoyed he had come along to experience why mommy is so crazy about these elusive fish. The only feeling I can compare when we had finally caught the musky was the moments after which I had finally birthed my almost 10lb son. I was in labor for many gruesome hours with him and between anxiety and adrenaline I was a mess. As soon as he was officially delivered I made this happy crying weepy sound that I had never felt or heard come out of me before. He was here! I did it! It may sound like a ridiculous comparison to some but that experience was quite similar-outrageously stoked, relieved and amazed! Totally awesome late Christmas present! When we had gotten back to the truck I was getting Nolan in comfy clothes and then he said, “You know, Mommy, I am REALLY proud of you!” Now, that was the best!

Nolan Excited About The Day

Nolan Excited About The Day!

 

By Katie Blizzard

 

Tenkara and Tricos On The Gunpowder: Advance Your Fly Fishing By Taking a Step Back

Beautifully Tied Trico Dry On The Tenkara USA Iwana

Beautifully Tied Trico Dry On The Tenkara USA Iwana
Copyright 2014. Austin Green Weinstein. All Rights Reserved.

Long awaited by some, despised by many, the Tricos represent the pinnacle of technical dry fly fishing. There is not much in the fishing world that rivals watching large brown trout, sitting side by side, mere inches below the surface film, gingerly nosing, yet gorging themselves as if drunk on the tiny, dead insects; all while plainly ignoring your “perfect” imitation.  The Tricorythodes emergence on the Gunpowder River is without a doubt, the finest match the hatch, dry-fly fishing opportunity available in Maryland. The devotees of the event wait eagerly for the mayflies all summer long.  While other rivers boast heavy Trico spinner falls in July or even late-June, ours does not begin in earnest until about late-August, thus leaving us Trico-romantics with nothing to do but fish ants and dream of September.

Rob Lepczyk Studying The Trico Hatch

Rob Lepczyk Studying The Trico Hatch
Copyright 2014. Austin Green Weinstein. All Rights Reserved.

Tricos are my favorite mayfly; mostly because of when and how the emergence occurs.  The males will hatch over-night, fly up to the trees and molt.  It is up in the trees where they will wait for the females to hatch and come to meet them.  The females can hatch any time of the morning, from right after the males, to well into day light; rewarding early-bird anglers a chance at very neat fishing.  After the females emerge they meet the males in the trees and molt. Now both sexes are fully mature and ready for action.  However, the mating rituals will not start until the sun warms the top of the trees to about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  The timing of the spinner fall will change as the days get shorter and the temperature gets cooler in the morning.  I have seen spinner falls at 1:30 in the afternoon!  River systems with later hatches, like the Gunpowder, could have steady Trico hatches into November.  Once the bugs start mating, they cluster up in massive balls, many times numbering in the tens of thousands.  Once they mate, the females leave the cluster, and return to the trees to push out their eggs sacks, this takes about thirty minutes, so do not leave after the males fall spent to the water and you catch a bunch of fish!  When the males fall to the river, they will literally bring the best fish up to surface to feed, once the fish sink back down, wait, the females will bring them back up.

Katie Blizzard Enjoying A Fiesty Trico Hatch!

Katie Blizzard Enjoying A Fiesty Trico Hatch!
Copyright 2014. Austin Green Weinstein. All Rights Reserved.

For years I had only heard of the spinner falls, seeing a few Tricos stuck in spider webs up and down the river.  But, having never bothered to learn the hatching behavior of the insects, I did not understand when and how it all worked.  Then it happened.  I was fishing a favorite stretch of water with the day off and nowhere to be but a trout river.  My friend and I were just sitting, looking around and watching for rising fish.  When the sun hit the water, a huge ball of Tricos devolved over the run, and began their mating and dying.  As the bugs began their ritual, we began disturbing said ritual.  That morning, between my friend and me, we took 22 trout between 8 and 16 inches long; all of this within the span of about an hour.  And there may or may not have been bigger trout rising which we couldn’t fool.

That was two years ago.  Within that span, I have literally stuffed my brain full of anything I could find vaguely relating to the tiny insect.  My fly rods have gotten longer and longer; going from 7’6” Fenwick glass rods to 9′ 3 weight graphite ones took me for a fun ride.  That ride eventually led me to the wide world of Tenkara.

Beautiful Brown Caught By Katie Blizzard

Beautiful Brown Caught By Katie Blizzard
Copyright 2014. Austin Green Weinstein. All Rights Reserved.

Now before you stop reading, thinking that there is no way an angler can fish to ultra-selective fish without being able to pay line in or out during the drift, thus limiting your fishing.  To be honest, I have fished many Trico days this year with a Tenkara rod, and I can say that it is as limiting as one can get.  In fact, it is so limiting, it will open up new doors to you as a fisherman. Yes, it is true you cannot feed line like one does it with a reeled-rod; but a Tenkara angler must only lift their rod tip up or down to lengthen line or keep slack up off the water. What I mean by Tenkara limiting us to the point of rediscovery is that by restricting your effective range, the angler must work a piece of water that is only maybe fifteen to twenty feet long.  This, above all else, teaches us patience.  Having to be a more patient angler will improve your over-all performance as a fisherman; whether it be for trout or tarpon.  While fishing to some of our favorite picky trout at our favorite pool, my friend, Coach, who had just made his first few casts with his 12′ Tenkara, turned to me and said, “I feel like my drifts are longer, but in reality, they are only better”.  What Coach said is the reason why you should try Tenkara.  When a fisherperson has limited themselves to a small bit of water at a time, the river will look different.  The angler will often notice small, subtle currents they missed before.  Finding new holding spots within your favorite run, now that is way cool!  As a guide and fly fishing instructor, I must consistently instruct my students not to fish too far away.  Remember, most trout an angler catches will be within fifteen to twenty feet, not seventy.  One of the worst things a fisherman can do is strip off all of their fly line and slap it across the pool.  This will scare the fish if they are not rising; and if they are rising, especially to Tricos, and you slap the water, you will not see the fish for the rest of the day.  The spinner fall only lasts about an hour or so, better not mess it up.  Remember, go slow to go fast.

Beautiful Gunpowder Brown Fooled By A Trico Spinner

Beautiful Gunpowder Brown Fooled By A Trico Spinner
Copyright 2014. Austin Green Weinstein. All Rights Reserved.

Taking your time and thinking more about what you are doing with your fly seems to me as one of the most important pillars that support the practice of Tenkara.  Observation is often left behind for the “run and gun” style of fishing.  Very rarely does a modern fly angler sit down and watch the river for longer than a few minutes.  To fish a Trico spinner fall, the fisherman must be patient; both while waiting and fishing.

This brings me back to Tenkara fishing for trout during the Tricos. The match the hatch style of fly fishing may seem to fly in the face of Tenkara practice.  The over the top, complexity often associated with match the hatch style seems to define the obsessive angler, and what many Tenkara fishers call “western” fly fishing. I believe the defining feature of “western” fly fishing culture is consumerism, not complexity.  For many non-fly fishers, the perceived idea that an angler must know the “Latin” names of every insect and be able pick the right fly all the time, is scary.  Learning about the aquatic insects, may be complex and involved, but will lead you towards a more thorough understanding of the ecosystems you have come to love.  Always remember, love of the natural world is another major pillar of Tenkara, as it is in “western” fly fishing culture.  I have heard many folks compare fly fishing to bow hunting, saying that both practices bring you closer to center by challenging yourself.  If that is the case, Tenkara is the traditional bow hunting of the fishing world.  Simplicity rules; and that is the defining feature of Tenkara.  With less going on, you have more to pay attention too. Not necessarily paying more attention to your gear or self, but to everything else that is happening around you.

Rob Lepczyk Mastering His Drift

Rob Lepczyk Mastering His Drift
Copyright 2014. Austin Green Weinstein. All Rights Reserved.

If there is one thing I have been able to figure out about Tenkara, is that it is still fly fishing; possessing all of the same appeal that “western” fly fishing has.  But, I can see that Tenkara is going the same way that “western” fly fishing has been for years.  Anglers seem to be forcing constraints upon themselves. As in only fishing in one fashion because someone told you that is how you do it.  This locks us inside some little box, thinking there is only one way of doing things.   I believe this limits us as anglers, stifles creativity, and creates division between us.   Expand yourself.  Think for yourself.  And please do not judge others for doing something differently or having a different way of thinking, in fly fishing and otherwise.  So, instead of only using your Tenkara rod for small, mountainous trout streams, try bringing the wiggly, telescoping rod down a little further off the mountain and give it a try on some selective, “smart” fish.  After all, the fact your drifts are perfect won’t change with the elevation.

By Rob Lepczyk – www.greatfeathers.com

“Pursuing Esox: Muskie, Pike, and Chain Pickerel on The Fly”

I’m proud to announce that The Uncommon Angler, in collaboration with Austin Green Photography, has begun filming “Pursuing Esox: Muskie, Pike, and Chain Pickerel on The Fly.” We would like to thank The Orvis Fly Fishing Blog, 3-TAND Fly Reels, Scientific Anglers, and all of the individual fishermen who have reached out to help make this film a possibility! We still have over a years worth of filming to go, but we are so excited to be well underway! Here is a small gallery of images from our filming so far!

Austin Green's Muskie Penetrator Fly and 3-TAND's T-90 Fly Reel

Austin Green’s Muskie Penetrator Fly and 3-TAND’s T-90 Fly Reel
Copyright 2014. Austin Green Weinstein. All Rights Reserved.

Jeff Brennan Navigating Our Approach

Jeff Brennan Navigating Our Approach
Copyright 2014. Austin Green Weinstein. All Rights Reserved.

Accidental Walleye!

Accidental Walleye!
Copyright 2014. Austin Green Weinstein. All Rights Reserved.

My Father And I Searching For Muskie

My Father And I Searching For Muskie
Copyright 2014. Austin Green Weinstein. All Rights Reserved.

Muskie Flies, Otter Creek's Overgrown Pale Ale, 3-Tand's T-90, and the Orvis Helios 2.

Muskie Flies, Otter Creek’s Overgrown Pale Ale, 3-Tand’s T-90, and the Orvis Helios 2.
Copyright 2014. Austin Green Weinstein. All Rights Reserved.

Accidental Walleye!

Accidental Walleye!
Copyright 2014. Austin Green Weinstein. All Rights Reserved.

 

Stay Tuned For The Announcement Of Our New Documentary!

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Fly tied by Austin Green

“Personally, fly tying is no longer just tying flies anymore, it’s constructing utilitarian sculptures–masses of synthetics and furs to create color fields and abstract planes and alternate dimensions. The meditation through which you enter the world of the fish you are pursuing; and the fly must be as beautiful as the fish as not to disgrace it’s being.”

An excerpt from Austin Green’s essay, “The Fly As An Utilitarian, Sculptural, Abstraction”

Rising Water Angling: Humboldt County Steelhead On The Fly

Rising Water Angling: Mike Ball

Rising Water Angling: Mike Ball

Want to swing in on the action? The 15th-16th and 23rd-26th of January are still open! Contact Rising Water Angling and mention The Uncommon Angler for a special promotion. PURCHASE A FULL DAY GUIDE TRIP, AND YOUR SECOND DAY IS FREE!

Mikeb904@gmail.com

LLS Insanity

This weekend, Jon Zukowski experienced the most exhilarating day of Landlocked Salmon he could have ever dreamed of. After landing numerous fish alongside his father, he hooked into an absolute beast of a hen. Jon commented, “I ran downstream as it tore line off my real, I fell on very slippery rocks, and the fish was tailed 20 minutes later.” One of our followers noted, “So big it looks like a full-blown Atlantic!” The fish is extraordinarily beautiful and we have included an album of photos below for your viewing pleasure.

Landlocked Salmon

Landlocked Salmon

Landlocked Salmon

Landlocked Salmon

Landlocked Salmon

By Austin Green

It’s Here…

This Brown Was Caught By Austin Green During The First "Warm Front" of The Year!

Copyright 2014. Austin Green Weinstein. All Rights Reserved.

That time of year is upon us again; greens turn to yellows, reds, oranges and eventually browns.  Each morning will bring birds and the frost line further south.  Deer push out their winter coats as we pull out wool sweaters, jeans and rubber boots.

Our streams fill with colorful leaves, keeping our flies from reaching the now colorful fish.  Hormones are beginning to flow through the fish like the water in the rivers, hook-jaws are devolving and bellies are getting fat with roe.

As brown trout get frisky and excited, so do we.  Though, unlike the fish, we are not in the mood for continuing our race, but seem to be more interested in slapping wooley buggers up against a half submerged log jam; taking advantage of the trouts instinct to scare off and intimidate any perceived competition or threat.

For many trout fisherman, this is the most exciting time of the year.  The fish, preoccupied by spawning, seem to loose all concern with threats from either the terrestrial or aquatic world.  This gives us as anglers the opportunity to pursue the largest of trout.

Of course you can target the big boys and girls all year long, but in the Fall the fish are a little more open to the idea of biting your fly in the daylight hours.  During the summer time, you have to night fish to fool any of the biggums; this is because they are actually feeding at that time of year.  Now, all they want to do is make love, and chase away your big yellow and brown streamers fly.

Essentially what I am trying to say is that it is time to break out the six weights, sink tip and five inch streamers that could knock an infant unconscious.  As the water cools, the fish will become more and more comfortable in slower, deeper pools and undercuts.  So get dressed in those wool sweaters and jeans and get out there and hang a hog!

-Rob Lepczyk

Originally posted on the Great Feathers blog as “It’s Here…”