The Uncommon Angler Guide Service
Specializing in sight fishing trips for carp and float trips on local area rivers for all species. Licensed Maryland fishing guides.
Austin Green – Outdoor photographer/videographer and fly fishing guide – (410) 458-6446 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Brennan – 2011 Graduate of Sweetwater Guide School – (410) 365-3216 – email@example.com
Early season special! Only $150 when you book a four hour trip between April 18th and May 31st!
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.
By Austin Green
So days one and two were pretty much travel days so I figured they’d be easiest to just pair together. I have to preface this strain of posts that will be coming out over the next few days to journal our trip with this…this was one of the best experiences of my life. Period. I don’t write well, by any means, but I hope these posts help give you a taste of what we experienced on this trip, giving you an appetite for experiencing it for yourself one day.
A big thanks goes out to those of you who followed along via our social media outlets and through the hashtag #tltffbeaverisland14 we used to timeline and manifest the trip. An even bigger thanks goes out to Evan from Feather-Craft and CarpTrip.com for helping us get our ducks in a row and guiding us through the hosting process and Kevin Morlock, Steve Martinez, and Austin Adduci of Indigo Guide Service for giving us all a trip to remember forever and pass on stories of to our grandchildren. Thank you Bill and Tammy for opening up The Fisherman’s House to us pilgrims and for making it so special, something that ties the entire trip together. Thank you to the people of Beaver Island for being so welcoming to us fisherman’s antics and appreciating our overall love for what your home has to offer. Last but not least, thank you Austin Green for photographing and filming the trip, without you this trip would have been missing a certain little something…I hope all of our readers enjoy your images as much as we enjoyed your company.
Luis and I started to plan this hosted trip right after Luis returned from his trip last year and Evan from Feather-Craft and CarpTrip.com asked him if he would be interested in hosting a trip himself. After a few conversations and debates, the decision was made and it was time to put together logistics. Luis handled about 90% of it and deserves a large pat on the back for his planning genius (he does doit for a living though so there really was no better man for the job). Mario Garza, a long-time follower of the blog and one of our favorite fly tiers, was our first angler. It was all coming together. Two more anglers, Joel and Cheryl signed on filling two more spots and leaving one more to fill. We got into the 30 day countdown and there was still one spot left to fill and a lot of fine-tuning to do.
Austin Green of Austin Green Photography and The Uncommon Angler hopped on board as our last angler and a big weight was lifted off our shoulders. Over the course of a few more meetings and phone calls, planning was complete. June 19th couldn’t have come soon enough as a long week of work seemed to be stuck on slow-mo speed. Launch day finally came and the car was packed.
Day 1 – June 19th
I picked up Luis around 10am and we headed up to Baltimore to pick up Austin. We quickly loaded up the car at Austin’s place and started the 7 hour trek to Lorain, OH (right outside of Cleveland) where we would split the trip in half and spend the night with Luis’ family. The trip up to Ohio flew by. With only two stops, one for gas and food and one to stretch…um, pee. We arrived in Lorain around 6pm and were greeted by the best Puerto Rican food you could imagine (ask Austin, he had like 7 helpings). With bedrooms arranged and micro-brews in hand, it was time to sit back, talk fishing, and catch up with Luis’ family. We had a blast hanging out, relaxing, and thinking about what would be in store for the remainder of the trip. There was a big hex hatch going off while we were in Lorain, coming off of Lake Erie which was only a mile or so away from where we were staying. Of course us fly fisherman had to take a look and practice a little bit of beer-influenced entomology.
One thing we kept our eye on was weather. Since Great Lakes weather is so unpredictable, it was a crap shoot judging what would happen but the 7 day forecast for Beaver Island basically said 68 deg F with 5kts of wind and partly cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms every day…not ideal. We had our hopes up and looked forward with a great attitude. Overall, it was a pretty easy day with a great ending full of good food, good beer, and family.
Day 2 – June 20th
We woke up early with smiles on our faces knowing today would be the day we step foot on Beaver Island. Luis punched out some work early before we hit the road, dismissing some stress prior to the second leg of our trip to Beaver Island, another 7 hours. We hit the road and headed to Ann Arbor, MI to meet up with Mario. The 2.5 hours to Ann Arbor flew by, yet again. Mario was smiling ear toy ear as were we. We hit up the Walmart down the street to pick up odds and ends and some lunch. Thanks to Luis, I experienced my first White Castle burger and all I have to say is, why in the world aren’t there any of those around here in Maryland?!
Austin jumped in to Mario’s car to give him someone to chat with for the next couple of hours and to allow them to get to know each other a little more. With only a few stops, minor traffic, and a gnarly rainstorm…Charlevoix (where the airport was to get over to BI) was in sight…an super easy drive and second leg of the trek (sense a theme here?). The clouds parted as we drove into Charlevoix. We stopped one last time to grab some cash out of the ATM (since the one at Walmart was busted) and bug spray (which would prove to be a crucial addition to the packing list, ask Mario).
We rolled up to Fresh Air around 4pm, just in time for our 4:30pm flight. Cody checked us in and loaded up our bags. I unfortunately had the heaviest load (I also had a 22lb tent with us) and we were all over the 30lb limit. The load being so heavy, we had to send a few bags to go with the later plane.
The flight was an easy 15 minute jump over to Beaver Island and the flight in was amazing. The clouds had opened up and gave us an amazing look at what can only be described as the Caribbean in the middle of Lake MI. Prior to landing, we spotted somewhere around 20 carp cruising the flats on the East side of the island…just what we wanted to see. Flying over Beaver you can’t help but notice the vast amount of woods and swamp land. There are a few ponds on Beaver Island that are said to be loaded with pike. And yes, there are a lot of beavers on Beaver Island…
We unloaded the plane and immediately realized we needed to find the bug spray. The mosquitos were the size of the carp we were planning on catching…triple the size of the ones we had at home. But their size was against them as they flew as slow as molasses. The later plane landed and we grabbed our other bags. We loaded up the island shuttle, a short 5-10 minute ride in to town and to The Fisherman’s House was full of excitement and was the cheapest taxi ride ever…$1.50.
We drove into town as two of the Indigo boats were flying into the harbor…the perfect setup for excitement and anticipation of what was to come. We popped out of the shuttle and unloaded in a light rain. We put everything on the front porch as the Indigo guidespulled up with their outgoing clients. After introductions and a brief exchange of stories with the outgoing clients, it was time to do search out some brews to pop in the fridge and find some dinner. The deli and market, both owned by the McDonoughs, are steps away from the house and have everything one would need from groceries to gifts.
We walked about a half mile down the main road around the harbor to the Shamrock, a local bar/restaurant known for its awesome taxidermy wall decorations, amazing food, and irish influence (in case the name didn’t tip you off). There we no complaints about dinner, as most of us were almost licking our plates. We put away a few drinks before walking back to the house to setup the tent (we were a day early so, with permission, we setup camp in the side yard of The Fisherman’s House) and continue the merriment. On our way back we were able to stop and take in a few of the sights and sounds BI had to offer.
Once we got back to the house, the tent went up quick and gear was put together to checkout. As the night rolled on and the beer cans piled, we caught up with Evan fromFeather-Craft and exchanged stories. Evan is a great guy, one of the nicest I’ve ever met. He is the brains behind organizing hosted trips and has been great friends with the gentlemen of Indigo for quite a few years. As you will later find out, like I said, Evan is a stand-up guy, through and through.
Mario and I had been chatting a bit with Dave Hosler aka @pilecast (on Instagram). We found out a day or two before we left for the trip that he and Andrew Bosway of Scientific Anglers were hauling Andrew’s Towee up to BI for a few days of DIY fishing. Mario and I headed back down to Shamrocks to meet Dave and Andrew. It was great to finally meet Dave after following him on IG for a year or two now and to meet Andrew. We threw some stories around and made plans to have the guys come over for our meet and greet dinner tomorrow night.
As the merriment settled down and the realization of us waking up early for a full day tomorrow settled in and it was time to hit the hay. What we had in store was a great breakfast at the deli and a full day of DIY flats fishing together on foot…a chilly night was ahead, good thing we had a little bit of alcohol in our blood and mummy bags to keep us warm.
During the fall of 2013 The Uncommon Angler crew gathered in New Hampshire for the first of many trips to come. Although the numbers of fish caught were few, all had a good time. The outcome was another trip planned for the spring of 2014. After a brutally cold and snowy winter in the Northeast, I was eager to begin chasing fish once again, especially with good friends.
Early spring angling was more difficult than the previous season due to the seemingly never-ending winter. Pond fishing was exceptional once air temperatures began to rise above 50 degrees. River fishing was not an option until about the last two weeks of May due to continual runoff. This was a difficult circumstance for me because I enjoy fishing rivers and streams more than any other type of water. Although still waters and spring hatches are enjoyable, I love finding a particularly fine stretch of riffles or a nice deep pool to cast into. Trout, bass, pike, and salmon are some of the species I like to pursue most in rivers. Having knowledge of each species and the types of water that each inhabits is essential to consistently finding fish throughout the year. Spring is the prime time to find any species in every body of water. This was the goal for the spring ’14 Uncommon Angler trip, set for the last week of May.
Austin Green, chief of The Uncommon Angler, and myself had been in contact with Mike Terrien of Burlington, Vermont for some time before the trip, and decided to invite him to join us. Having only met Mike once before in person, not on the water, but rather at a Phish show, I was eager to cast a fly with the guy. Mike was making the trek from Vermont to New Hampshire the evening of the 23rd, while Austin was driving north from Maryland. The plan was to convene in N.H. at my house and fish the morning of the 24th. On my drive to work I received a call from Austin notifying me of a car accident he was involved in. A vehicle had side-swiped him on the highway while driving through Pennsylvania. The news was at first an end to the trip before it began, but luckily the damage to Austin’s truck was minor. Without a passenger side view mirror and a lengthy scrape alongside the car, Austin continued on his route north.
It was around 11:00 p.m. when Mike pulled up the dirt driveway in front of my house. He transported his fishing gear inside and shortly after began tying a large pike fly. I instantly knew he was a serious angler and an exceptional fly tyer. Our plan was to whip up a few flies as we waited for Austin to arrive, and then get some rest so we could fish early the following morning. We could not have been more wrong about this plan. When Austin finally arrived at 1:00 a.m. we began drinking Fiddlehead Brewing Company’s Second Fiddle, an extremely hoppy double IPA which comes in at 8.2% ABV. Before we knew it, we were all tying flies and discussing the days of fishing to come. As the common phrase goes, “time flies when you’re having fun”, this was indeed what happened, but instead could be more properly labeled in our case, “time flies when you’re tying flies”.
When it was finally time to set our alarms for the morning we noticed we would be getting an hour and fifteen minutes of sleep. This realization was the first step towards an all-nighter, the second was more beer, more tying, and a late night breakfast. When the clock hit 3:30 a.m. we loaded the car and set off. Driving through an early morning fog was a feeling that I missed very much after the long winter. There is an eerie, almost mystical sense associated with driving through a dense fog that I cannot fully explain, but really enjoy.
After parking the car at our first fishing destination we rigged up our rods and walked to the river prepared to catch some trout. We began fishing expecting one of us to hook up within the first few minutes. After an hour and a half of ruthless sleep deprived casting we determined that it just wasn’t happening and decided to move on to another location. After arriving at our second spot Mike instantly hooked into a decent sized smallmouth. A few moments later Austin hooked and landed another bass. The morning was fishless for me, but I knew the week ahead would surely bring something good to my hand. At this point we were losing steam from no sleep and decided to head back to my house and relax. Of course we skipped out on rest and went right back to tying flies. The skewed sleep patterns of an angler are certainly hard to explain to a normal human being, a.k.a a non-angler.
After a hearty meal we actually went to bed at a reasonable hour (before 1:00 a.m.) so we could wake up and fish the entire day. The following morning went similar to the previous except a trout was actually landed by Mike. It was a gorgeous football of a brown, which was estimated at 6 lbs and 20 inches. After Mike’s hookup the crew was stoked for what the rest of the day would bring. Although it was an excellent day of fishing with friends, missed fish and empty beer cans were all that came of it for me. Satisfied with his fish, Mike decided to hit the road and head home to Vermont after our day on the water, while Austin and myself planned our next days approach to pike fishing.
The next day brought intervals of rain, not too heavy that it would put the fish down, but rather energize them. After casting for a short period of time Austin hooked into a good fish. I positioned myself below him in order to net the fish from the water, but quickly noticed something bizarre about it’s appearance. After several quick runs I got a glimpse of the fish, which was not a trout to my eyes. Despite having no wire tippet on, Austin managed to land a decent sized pike, which measured around 32”. It was a great start to the day and was the first pike Austin had ever latched into.
As Austin and I were about to head to another location I decided to take another few casts into the swift current. Moments later my line was tight and being ripped off the reel at lightening speed. “Fish”, I yelled to Austin who was upstream at the time. He quickly came to me with the net ready. The fish was staying down deep giving some serious head shakes. I claimed a brown trout was on the other end, but after the pike hook up earlier I knew that anything could happen. Seconds later a massive brown was thrashing on the surface. After a few more runs the fish lost steam and was swaddled in the net. A high five was issued after gazing at the brown that we estimated to be ten pounds and 25 inches. The fish slammed a new variation of an old classic I have been working on lately, a grey ghost tied with laser dub, craft fur, lateral scale, and blue frost fox tail. It was the first fish I had taken on the streamer, more appropriately, the first fish to annihilate the fly. It is a wonderful feeling to hook and land a fish on a new pattern, that was to be honest, a total experiment.
The next day we decided to take the beginning of the day off and actually get some rest. As morning turned to afternoon we decided to go after some pike at a location that I had never fished before. We loaded the canoe with our gear and set off. Casting to the banks repetitively is the name of the game when pike fishing in early spring or fall. Our 8 and 10 wt. rods were tossing large (6-12 in.) flies without issue. I was utilizing my Sage Flight rod, which has been my go to river rod for several years now, while Austin chucked flies with a 10 weight Orvis Access and 3-TAND T-90 reel. The fishing was relatively slow until Austin latched into a smaller pike, but it spit the hook seconds later. We decided to switch banks as we paddled back up river. Within minutes I hooked and landed a small pike. Though it was no trophy I still got quite a rush as the fish hammered my fly. The fish inhaled the fly deep into the back of its mouth, so we decided to keep the pike for a feast. Both Austin and I had never dined on pike and figured it would be a good time to try.
When we arrived home we cleaned the pike and cooked it simply with bacon, salt, and pepper with a side of fiddleheads. It was a local feast with great flavor. Paired with the meal was Lawson’s Finest Liquids Peril Imperial India Pale Ale, a limited release beer brewed for the Lawson’s 6th anniversary bottle sale. I had been holding onto the brew for a few weeks to share with Austin, which we decided was to be drank only after catching a pike. Since we had both caught Pike it was our time to indulge. Peril comes in at 11.0% ABV with serious grapefruit and hop flavor and aroma. This is apparently accomplished utilizing a triple dry-hopping process, which Sean Lawson can only lay down with such perfection. We were also lucky enough to indulge in a bottle of Lawson’s Double Sunshine. Other beers cracked throughout the week included the renowned Heady Topper (DIPA) from the Alchemist, Focal Banger (IPA), Beelzebub (Imp. stout), and Founder’s Kentucky Breakfast Stout (Barrel aged Imp. stout). We had consumed a beer selection that was undeniably “world class.”
The next several days did not include much fishing, but instead moving. It was the end of the month and I was set to move out from the house my girlfriend and I had been living in for the past three years. It was one of those moves where you stop and ask yourself “how the hell did I accumulate so much shit?” Although a U-Haul would have been suitable we instead loaded my Subaru countless times until the house was empty. Definitely not an enjoyable experience, but it had to be done in order to chase fish the following days. After one morning of moving Austin and I decided to hit a favorite remote brook trout pond to catch the evening hatch. After hiking to the pond we loaded one of the canoes that awaited us and set out. A handful of trout were rising, but not enough to target with a dry fly. We started out stripping bright colored buggers just below the surface and received non-stop action. After landing several fish each we decided to switch to dries due to an increase of hatching insects. The next few hours were filled with brilliant takes on the surface and many hookups with fish in the 5”-15” range. It was the highlight of the week for both of us. There are few things in life that equal a good hatch on a remote pond where it is just you, the fly, and the fish.
The next morning we awoke to sunny skies and warm weather. This was a welcome change from five straight days of rain. I quickly determined that it was the perfect day to chase smallmouth bass. I called a close friend of mine, John Panakio (Captain John if you will), who has a humble camp on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. We loaded up my car and drove down to the lake ready for some bass fishing. We packed the boat and cruised out to my favorite smallmouth location on the lake. Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in New Hampshire, at 72 square miles there are a lot of places to fish. After reaching our first bank we began casting to cruising fish in the shallows. I hooked into a nice bass within minutes, and Austin continued to do the same shortly after. The remainder of the day was one fish after another. Although trout are hands down my preferred species to catch, I cannot turn down a shot at smallies. In the end it was a good day of beers, fish, and friends.
The next mission was a float on a new stretch of river where we planned on targeting pike with a shot at some smallmouth as well. After cars were parked in proper locations we began the float that ended up being a skunky one. No hookups, no takes, no fish seen. After the float we portaged the canoe up a rather long trail and headed home. The following day we decided to take another attempt at some pike and bass.
While driving up to the pond we planned to fish we stopped at a good old-fashioned convenience store for some beers and food. We grabbed a few canned pale ales and a bag of maple bacon potato chips and continued on our way. For a final time we loaded the boat and set out for the day. Although everything seemed like a routine at this point what would come later in the day was far from standard. After a short while of fishing I was into a decent largemouth bass that slammed my fly inches from the shore. After many more casts we decided that the fish had turned off. Although the water temperatures were still cool (50s) the air temperature was reaching into the upper 70s.
It seemed like a good time to work some big flies down deep with a heavy sinking line. As we paddled the boat back toward the shore I suddenly heard a panicked shout come from Austin who was in the rear of the canoe. Startled, I glanced behind me to see what had happened. What I saw will never escape my mind. Austin was diving off the boat into the frigid waters below. As he hit the water I noticed the tip of his Orvis access 10 wt. slowly fade into the depths of the pond. After a moment Austin emerged from the water, out of breath and out of a rod, reel, and line. I stared back at him in disbelief. At this point I comprehended what had happened and could not believe the reality. As the wind was moving the canoe along, Austin had set his rod down in the stern of the canoe to correct the direction of the boat and his large 3/0 hook must have snagged a submerged log and was ripped into the water.
As I paddled my soggy friend back to the shore we were both in shock. An Orvis Access rod, 3-TAND T-90 reel, and Rio line were resting on the murky bottom of the pond. The depth was 25’, but without a wetsuit, goggles, a light, and flippers the rod was inaccessible. After contacting several scuba services Austin decided that the price to pay for hiring a diver outweighed the value of the rod. It was a difficult decision, but in the end, shit happens. That night, a heavy session of whisky and bluegrass ensued, helping numb the pain of such a loss and put a cap on our week of countless species.
Text By Jon Zukowski, Photos By Austin Green.
Besides getting deer hair in every uncovered orifice of my body, my least favorite part of spinning deer hair is getting it in my beer. There just isn’t anything worse than finishing trimming your fly and reaching for your glass, only to find an evenly distributed layer of red and chartreuse flotsam across the surface film.
These particular deer hair trimmings are coming from my snook and sabalito tarpon floaty flies. I plan on slapping these babies along abandoned docks and mangrove islands in the “back woods” of Ambergris Caye in Belize.
Once I am in Belize I wont have to worry about getting deer hair in my beer. Not because my beer will gone any quicker, but because deer hair is not making the cut for my mobile fly tying case.
By Rob Lepczyk