A Michigan Guide Prepares For Winter

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By Brian Kozminski

Just got off the phone with a fellow fishing buddy who is a few states south of Michigan. I could immediately tell the genuine giddiness in his voice over recent tracks in the woods and excitement for the fishing season immediately in his focus. At first, I was caught off guard, “What do you mean? We are storing boats, raking, shoveling, blowing out water lines, switching the lawn mower and placing the snow blower in pole position in the garage.”

It is a much different story north of the 45th in Michigan. We can see hard water on many lakes in time for a Christmas bluegill fish fry fresh from the ice. Be careful. Many anglers jump the gun on first ice bite and inevitably find that spring and thin ice with a rather frigid bath to accompany. I will wait until my girls are home for Holiday break before we trek out and drill a few holes looking for some panfish or burbot. There are many other activities keeping my focus at full attention.

Long & Dusty road~

Rod and reel maintenance is foremost. Not that we are totally done with fly fishing, we have a streamer fest scheduled first week in December in hopes of finding a post spawn mega-tron brown in the Trophy waters. It has been a long and, at times, arduous summer; back-to-back trips for weeks and mixing in family time at the beach left some of my equipment neglected. I have set a large towel on my workbench to break down reels, toothbrush in hand and 3-in-1 oil to make sure all levers and cranks are at peak performance for next season. Lines are stripped into a bucket of warm soapy water, wrung through a microfiber cloth and dried, awaiting dressing at the next stage.

Fly boxes can become a task, so try to keep it simple. I have a large Cool Whip container filled with ‘past-prime’ flies that I will either de-hook and use for kids casting events or adorn on a few of my favorite fishing hats. This is also a perfect time to take inventory on what was used and what I need to either tie this winter or prepare a massive order from various favorite fly tyers. The Weather Underground app is a daily ritual; one eye on the coming forecast in hopes of a 45º streamer bite in the middle of a twenty-something daytime high can get any of us excited.

The Vessel~

Keep that float in shape and she will take care of you for more than a couple of seasons.

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Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Guide

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He is doubled over laughing. The drag on his reel is screaming. If he doesn’t get his composure soon he’ll likely loose a nice fish. From the platform Josie Sands is steadily chewing his ass.

“No Scott! That was all wrong,” the disgust in his voice palpable.

“But I caught the fish?”

“I don’t care, it’s still wrong.”

Josie is the head bonefish guide at Andros South and his reputation as a hard ass is world renowned. He is relentless, barking direction, criticism and sarcastic commentary from his perch on the stern. Today he’s ripping my buddy Scott a new one for catching a bonefish. Neither Scott or I remember what it was he did wrong, and apparently neither does the fish, but Josie is pissed.

There are a lot of guests at Andros South who will not fish with Josie. Frequently they are C-level executives who are used to doling out the criticism and don’t like being on the receiving end. Frankly, some of them are racist who don’t like being called out by a black man. Some just have fragile egos that can’t take the pounding. Whatever the reason, I feel sorry for those guys. They have no idea what they are missing.

I love Josie. I consider him a friend. I go out of my way to fish with him and have for years. For this, I get twice the tongue lashing everyone else gets. Josie will chew my ass and I will reply something like, “I love you too Josie,” and he will laugh and say, “you my boy!” I’m not sure which of us enjoys it more but I do know who reaps the reward. Me.

The truth about Josie Sands is not that he’s a grumpy old flats guide. It’s not that he’s a hard ass or bitter in any way. If that’s how he sounds, you’re not listening. Josie is a serious dude, to be sure, but in a good way. He’s

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Forget About Competition And Focus on Teamwork

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Like many anglers, I enjoy a friendly competition on the water with my buddies.

However, if you get too wrapped up in the competition aspect, often it can get out of hand and ruin your day of fishing.  These days I try to forget about competition and who’s catching what. It’s just not important to me anymore, and I instead prefer to focus on teamwork. Teamwork usually yields better fishing results anyway, and it also seems to build camaraderie much better than competition. Below are three reasons I choose teamwork over competition in my fishing.

1. Working as team on the water allows you to dial into the current fishing conditions much quicker.

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Assault on Omaha Beach, a Study in Finding Carp

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How to locate carp on new water, that are accessible to a flyrodder.

I’ve been banging around ideas in my head for how to write a piece describing the best way to locate carp. Frankly, I’ve been struggling a little bit. The problem is, I can look at a satellite map, or walk up to a body of water and have a pretty good idea of what looks carpy. I just don’t know how I know. Then I got a phone call from McTage Tanner last Tuesday.

“Let’s explore Lake McConaughy. I think it could become an A level destination for carp fishing.”

We’d discussed McConaughy before. This massive reservoir lies in the heart of the Nebraska Sandhills where the damming of the North Platte River created a 120-foot deep, 20,000-acre monster lake. Once the home of stripers and still a trophy walleye and trout destination, this behemoth, bottom release reservoir is massively productive; growing trout in its tailwaters at the rate of an inch a month. Ten-pound trout are caught there frequently but it wasn’t the trout we cared about. We did like the idea of clean, highly productive water, situated on a sand bottom holding healthy populations of carp. This could, indeed, be a special place.

Late night phone calls ensued, studying Google maps and soon we’d added two more PhD level carpers to the expedition. We poured through 8-year-old forum reports of carp as by-catch. Looked at bow-fishing sites and records and got anecdotal evidence from some local walleye guys. They don’t fish for carp, but they’d seen ‘em. By the time we left we knew this much, carp lived there and it was huge. Saddle up boys, this could be epic or disastrous, but it probably won’t fall in between.

I met Larry Dostal at his house in Omaha, threw my camping gear into his pickup and we were just getting on toward Lincoln when it occurred to me. For the next day and a half, I was about to do exactly what people asking me, where to find carp, are trying to do. I’m going to a new water body and searching for fish that may or may not be there.

If I paid attention, I’d find all the answers I needed for my piece. So I paid attention.

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Forced Perspective In Fish Photos, What’s Right?

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Is holding a fish up to the lens tantamount to Lying?

The other day I shared a photo of my good friend and G&G contributor Justin Pickett holding a huge brown trout with Orvis for use on their blog. The look on Justin’s face says it all. A fish like this could well be the fish of a lifetime. Since he landed it on an Orvis Helios 2, 4 weight, it seemed fitting that Orvis should share in the online glory.

Orvis shared the photo on their Facebook page and the comments lit up immediately. Lots of positive comments about what a great fish Justin had landed but a handful of trolls as well, claiming that the fish wasn’t big, just held out to the camera for forced perspective. Certainly, you’d expect that kind of juvenile behavior on Facebook, but it think it also says a lot about the fishing community.

Let’s get this out of the way. Justin had a tape in his pack and I measured the fish. It was 29 inches on the nose. I know Justin would have like it to be 30, fishermen are never satisfied, but I’d like to know where these trolls are fishing that a 29-inch brown trout isn’t big.

As a photographer who is in the business of photographing fish I think about this a lot. Pretty much every fish photo you see in the media is an example of forced perspective. It’s not at all unlike the photos you see in fashion magazines of rail thin super-models. If American women are having body image issues they should talk to the poor fish.

Just like in the fashion industry, the arguments about it aren’t going to change anything. You’re far more likely to see plus size models on the cover of Vogue next year than 9 inch trout held close to the chest on any fly fishing media. It’s frustrating to me for a couple of reasons. I’m much more interested in beautiful macro photos of colorful wild trout or creative images that capture the feeling of the moment, but nobody buys them. Trust me, I have hard drives full of them. Just like those Vogue photographers, I’m way more interested in paying my bills than arguing about whose fish is bigger.

I’m also frustrated that folks who know nothing about either the art or science of photography are instant experts on the Internet. Truth. What is that really? This topic of truth in photography got blown way out of proportion when digital cameras were invented. Suddenly publications like Time we’re making rules about how images could not be manipulated, AT ALL. Meaning no color correction or dust spots removed. The same things those same publication had been doing to every photo they printed for decades. All they accomplished was publishing a lot of bad photos.

The truth is that every photograph you have ever seen has been manipulated. Regardless of what you think is real or not real, a photograph is, by definition, a creative work. Someone made it and they imposed their idea of reality on it. It’s no different from a paining. If you are thinking that this isn’t true, it’s because you have had experience using some kind of automatic camera that someone has set up for you. It’s a black box, with a little artist inside. Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t make it truthful. Ask anyone who really understands how cameras work and they’ll tell you I’m right. The camera does lie. That’s all it’s ever done and I have made my living at it for over thirty years. In the end, the only reality is the one you make for yourself.

What I’m really interested in is not an existential debate on the nature of reality. The thing that gets under my skin about this is

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Limit False Casting to Improve Your Casting Stroke

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When we first start out fly fishing and we’re still learning the mechanics of the casting stroke, it’s very common for many of us to make excessive false casts in between our presentations.

For some of us, excessive false casting is an excuse to impart quality control during our fly casting, for others, we justify it for the simple fact that we just love casting a fly rod. Whatever the reasons may be for excessive false casting, it needs to be kept in check, if anglers wants to fly fish at their best. If you’re currently in the beginner or intermediate skill level range, one of the best ways to take your fly fishing to the next level, is to make yourself minimize your false casting on the water.

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Bonefish & Wind — 7 Strategies

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John Byron

Here are 7 tips to help you catch bonefish in the wind.

Expect it. Chasing bonefish, wind is a feature, not a bug. The flats are … wait for it … flat. Often no lee. Nothing to impede wind across the ocean. When you’re after bonefish, you’ll deal with wind every trip and often every day.
Learn. This blog and its sisters have a ton of great videos on casting in the wind. Chase ‘em down. The Belgian Cast. High with the wind, low into it. Side arm. Let the rod do the work. Don’t overdrive the cast. Keep the normal rhythm. Study the art of casting in the wind.
Practice. Old joke: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, my son, practice.” How do you get good at casting in the wind? Same answer: practice practice practice. Five minutes a day, all winds, all directions. Practice your casting. 
Heavy up. If your main gun is an 8-weight, go to your 9-weight when the wind is getting gnarly. If you’re normally casting that sweet all-distance flyline, shift over to one of those front-loaded cannons like the Rio Quickshooter or Bruce Chard’s Airflo Tropical Punch. And put on a lead-eye fly, one heavy enough to drop straight to the bottom instead of skating across the surface as your flyline scoots in the wind.
Shorten up. You can’t see the fish very far away when the wind whips up the water surface,. Good news:

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Fly Fishing: Don’t Turn Your Cheek, Pay it Forward

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The other day I had the opportunity to guide a client who previously had put down his fly rod for many years.

As he put on his waders and boots, and I began rigging the rods, he told me that many of his good friends were avid fly fisherman. Problem was, they had made it clear to him that they preferred he didn’t tag along with them, because they didn’t want to waste their precious fly fishing time teaching a beginner. I felt bad for the guy. He had been painted an outcast by his own buddies, and every year that went by, it made it harder and harder for him to pick up his fly rod. With a comforting grin on my face, I replied, “Man, I really wish you would have called me sooner. We could have nipped this in the butt a long time ago.”

During our hike in to the river, I decided my mission for the day was

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Don’t Put Off Your Bucket List

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On more occasions than I care to count I have found myself the subject of judgment if not out right scorn from strangers, colleagues and even family over the amount of time I spend fishing. Sound familiar? Chances are, if you fish as much as I do you’ve run into the odd individual who, for what ever reason, feels that you owe them an explanation for what you’ve chosen to do with your life. I’ve seen people galled that I am “wasting my life”. Folks, sometimes visibly angry with me when I tell them I spend well over a hundred days a year on the water, demanding an explanation. As if they were a disappointed parent. This used to irritate me but I have come to see this jealousy as an opportunity to have some fun at their expense. I taunt them a little. I draw them in and let them get really comfortable with the idea that I am a worthless fool and they are setting me straight before I explain it. And because I don’t like being judged I enjoy watching their faces drop when they hear the answer.

My father was a pilot. He had his pilot’s license at fourteen but he had already been flying for years. He flew the F86 for the Air Force. He could do things with a plane that scared the pants off of experienced pilots. He was truly gifted and he loved it. It was his purpose for living. When he got out of the service he could have flown for a living but his father had started a business and asked him to come to work for him. He would have done anything for his Dad so he did and he hated it every day.

He chain smoked and after suffering a heart attack in his forties, reluctantly, he gave up his pilot’s license. He put his energy into golf. He was always athletic and competitive. He loved to gamble and always won. Gambling, it seems is only a problem if you lose. My brother tells the story of seeing my father win fifteen-hundred dollars on a single hand of cards then give the money to the local girl scout leader to take the girls to camp. That’s how he was. When he passed away about all he owned were his clothes, an old Chevy and his golf clubs. His family and friends never wanted.

At fifty-nine my father had all he could take and

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Fly Fishing: Respect Thy Tarpon Guide

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I respect tarpon guides a great deal. As a trout guide, I run into many of the same struggles they do on the water, but tarpon guides have to deal with managing them at the extreme level. They spend their days on the water guiding in some of the most demanding and technical fly fishing conditions on the planet, and to make things worse, many of their clients have never experienced the saltwater fishing conditions before in their life. Getting the job done, day in and day out, is rarely easy for a tarpon guide. I imagine there’s plenty of silent prayers being made on those poling platforms, begging for a starving fish to show itself at just the right angle, and that a good presentation follows.

Friends that guide for tarpon tell me of occasional periods where the skunk doesn’t leave the boat for days at a time. Hookups that are short lived, are the only thing that keep them sane and focused on the prize. It’s not that they aren’t spotting fish and getting plenty of opportunities during the day. Most of the time, their hands are clean and the skunk falls on the operators standing on the bow. It’s hard to hit your targets if you haven’t taken the time to sight-in your fly rod before you begin the hunt (pre-trip casting preparation). Consequently, a large percentage of the fish catching opportunities witnessed by tarpon guides fizzle out before they can materialize, from presentations missing their intended targets. And don’t get me started on the unstable emotions that plague newcomers to chasing tarpon on the fly. That’s a whole-nother can of worms. I’ve been on the bow many times, where I completely fell apart after locking eyes with a 100+ pound poon.

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