"Sometimes, you just need to go downstairs and waggle a rod..." - Scott Hanson

"Write what you know. If you don't know, make it up..." - Scott Hanson

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Camping Trip #5

Here's a weird story for you: The Wife and I went camping over the weekend, and our kids weren't within 5 states of us! We had planned this trip to northern Wisconsin's Pattison State Park several months ago, and initially we were all going to go. But then the Sister-In-Law decided to head south, and our kids went along with her. So The Wife and I had a wonderful weekend to ourselves, doing whatever we wanted to whenever we wanted to. It was awesome!
The Black River in Pattison State Park
Pattison is about 20 miles south of the south shore of Lake Superior. It holds the tallest waterfall in Wisconsin, plus some other, smaller waterfalls, within its borders. All of these falls are on the Black River, which is lovely, but not a great fishing destination. So, while in the Park, The Wife and I did other things, mainly consisting of hiking. We also hiked at the nearby Amnicon Falls State Park, which is packed full of waterfalls, none of which are all that tall. Both parks are very fun to visit!
A bad pic of the tallest waterfall in Wisconsin.

A better pic of a shorter waterfall.
A crazy wad of roots we came across on a hiking trail.

Before the trip. The Wife and I had celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary by doing nothing. So, on this trip we decided to find a nice place to go out for dinner and celebrate "Us". After doing some research, it seemed that the restaurant that got the best reviews in the area was the Dreamland Supper Club, about 10 miles from the State Park. I hadn't been in a Supper Club for about 35 years, and to be honest the words "Supper Club" didn't inspire all that much confidence in either of us, but we decided to try it out. We are glad we did! It was a fun place, and the food was excellent. The Wife got a petite cut of prime rib, and I got their famous "french fried turkey breast", which was delicious! It was a four course meal that got better and better with every course. Our compliments to the Chef. We are glad we didn't let the name scare us away!
The Wife, getting ready for prime rib.

Of course, I brought my fishing gear with, even though I wasn't sure if there would be any good fishing nearby. After asking one of the State Park employees, we determined that the best fishing in the area was 45 minutes away in the world-famous Brule River. The Brule is one of the most popular destinations in the Upper Midwest for people looking to catch lake-run salmon, steelhead, and brown trout in the spring and fall. Despite that fact, and the fact that I have been crazy about fly fishing for 35 years now, I have only fished the Brule once in my life, a fruitless trip 15 years ago or more in which the river was super high and muddy from snowmelt run-off.
Wild raspberry that The Wife ate. She did not die.
I wasn't sure about making the drive to the Brule, but thankfully The Wife thought it would be fun. So we headed over there on Saturday morning to give it a try. After checking out a couple of access points, we decided to park at a prime-looking spot near the Copper Range Campground. The Wife parked herself on a sunny little beach area to soak up some rays and read a book while I headed downstream to see what I could catch. The answer: Nothing. So I went upstream to a fishy-looking spot. At least I hooked a couple there, but still I didn't catch anything. After an hour and a half of flailing away I was hot and ready to head out, but The Wife encouraged me to keep fishing, at least for a little while. Have I mentioned that she is the best wife a dude could ask for? If not, I should have...

I went back upstream to give that fishy-looking spot another try. By this time there were some fish rising to some kind of insect. I saw a few caddisflies flying around, along with a few small mayflies flitting about. I got a couple of half-hearted strikes to a Female Adams Parachute, but couldn't actually hook anything until I switched to a glass-beaded CDC Hare's Ear thing I tied several years ago. I fished it downstream on a swing, like a wet fly, and the trouts seemed to like it. I was expecting them all to be brook trout since that's what the locals said were in that stretch, but the first fish I landed was a lovely little brown, and all the other fish were rainbows. I was hoping to catch a brookie to round out the "Wisconsin Slam", but it was to no avail. Oh well.
My phone's camera stopped working properly, so I did not get a pic of my first Brule River trout, but it looked a lot like this one...
Tiny little baby Rainbow Trout.

I'm glad I finally caught some trouts in the hallowed waters of the Brule. Maybe I'll get back up there again some day and land some bigger ones. All in all, The Wife and I had a great weekend to ourselves. We have decided we need to go camping without the kids more often! If any of you want to babysit some time, let me know. I will be waiting anxiously for your phone call...

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Fives

I have already written about my 3-weight rods (The Threes) and my 4-wt rods (The Fours), so why not chronicle my 5-weight rods now? I can see no reason, so here we go!

The Fives
 As I mentioned in The Fours, I believe that 4- and 5-weight rods are the best tools for most of the fly fishing that I do (trout and panfish), so they tend to make up a majority of my rod quiver. I like the fact that I can cast small flies with accuracy, but I have no problem casting big ol' streamers and nymphs when the need arises. I have short 5-weights for small, brushy streams, and longer 5-weights for bigger streams and lakes. Let's start with the short ones:

First up is a 6'6" Cortland FR-2000 glass rod. It is the perfect rod for casting under low hanging tree branches and down tight, overgrown creeks. It is smooth and powerful, and I always have a great time fishing with it.
Cortland FR-2000, paired with a Berkley 556R reel, which balances it perfectly. And, bluegill.

Next up is a 7' Phillipson Registered Epoxite glass rod. These are the only rods that Phillipson made with spigot ferrules, at least as far as I have been able to find. There seems to be some question about who made the blanks for these rods, as they are unlike any other Phillipson rod. Some people seem to think they were made by the Fisher Company, who also made blanks for Hardy, Winston, and Scientific Anglers, among others. I have no clue, but to me it does look and feel like other Fisher-made rods that I own, so perhaps.... Whatever the case, it is one sweet rod!
Phillipson Registered Epoxite 7' 5wt

Back in the day, Timberline made pack rods that were built on Lamiglas blanks. I think the guy who owned Timberline also made similar pack rods under the L.L. Bean name... My 7' 4-piece Timberline rod is perfect for throwing in a backpack when hiking around in trout country. And it throws a beautiful line, as well!
Timberline 7' pack rod, built on a Lamiglas blank.

My 7'6" Hardy 5-weight was definitely built on a Fisher blank. It's a sweet rod that throws great loops.
7'6" Hardy Fibatube glass rod
Some people might say that I have too many 8-foot-long 5-weights, but this is my blog, and I didn't ask them, so those people should keep their opinions to themselves... The first 8-footer is my old Scott PowR-Ply glass rod. It's a funny rod: at first when I picked it up it felt way too heavy and awkward. It especially feels too tip-heavy to me; I like it when a rod and reel balances near the grip. This old yellow beast doesn't do that, so if I were just to go by its waggle factor, I would have moved it on to someone else long ago. But, man, does this rod cast! It is as smooth as butter yet I can cast it a ton. I am not sure what the magicians at the Scott Rod Company were doing when they designed this rod, but it worked.
The script on Scott rods has gotten much more elegant since the early days...
A lovely brookie flop in front of my Scott PowR-Ply rod
After the brookie had gone back to the river...
Some of you are probably wondering where the Fenwicks are in my rod quiver. It is true that Fenwick made some awesome glass rods back in the day, and I am a self-proclaimed glass rod aficionado, so it would stand to reason that I should own some Fenwicks. Well, wait no more! Here is my Fenwick FF805. I had heard great review after great review of the FF805, but other people had too, so whenever I had a chance to get one the price either got too high or somebody else swooped in to grab it. Finally a few months ago I found one, and it hasn't disappointed. It is what I would call a near-perfect trout rod. It can do everything well, and it feels good while casting it. If you were to start a vintage glass rod collection, finding a Fenwick or two is a good way to start.
The Fenwick FF805, paired with a Marryat MR-8 reel

Diamondback made some very highly regarded glass rods in the 90s under the Diamondglass model name. They say that the 8' 4-weight is the best of the group. I have never had a chance to cast one of those, but I do have an 8' 5-weight, and it is incredibly sweet.
Diamondback Diamondglass 8' 5wt

My last 8' 5-weight is a Fisher branded glass rod. I have talked about Fisher often, as they manufactured the blanks for some of the best glass rods for other rod companies. They also sold rods under their own name, and this 5-weight is as nice as any of my other Fisher-built rods.
Fisher 8' 5wt and bluegill.
Finally, I have come to my last 5-weight. I got this well before I became crazy about glass rods, back at a time when none of the well-known rod companies were making glass rods. It's a graphite Sage 586LL, and it holds a special place in my heart for a couple of reasons, which I won't go into here. It's a silky smooth rod, and I have caught oodles of fish with it all over the Good Ol' USA. No wonder LL's still command a hefty sum when you can find them for sale!
A ratty Mushroom and Swiss Bugger after a good day of catching fish with the 586LL.

Thanks for checking out my list of Fives. I love talking about fly rods, so let me know if you have any comments, questions or concerns. See you on the water!
One last look at the Fives...

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Fours

In a recent post I wrote about my 3-wt rods (The Threes), and now I am going to take on the daunting task of writing about my 4-wt rods. It is daunting for two reasons: First, there are a lot more Fours than there were Threes. Second, my arsenal, and my tastes in fly rods, change often, so I may decide to sell a rod as I am writing about it... That could be awkward for both me and the rod! Oh well, I will push on and do the best I can.
My 4wt lineup.

Same.
Most of my fishing is for trout and panfish, and in my mind, the optimal tools for those two types of fish are 4- and 5-wt rods. Because of this, I own a lot of both. Today I will focus on the Fours, and I will write about the Fives some other day. So, in order of length, here are my Fours:
Gratuitous trout pic. 

First up is a green Steffen S-glass 7-footer. Most Steffen glass rods are a deep brick maroon color, but early on they made some green ones. This is one of those green rods, and, like all Steffen rods, it is sweet! Despite the short length I can cast to 50ish feet quite easily. If you have never cast a Steffen glass rod, you really should!
Steffen S-Glass 7' 4wt

My Hardy 7' 4-wt glass rod is another sweet one. The blank was made by the Fisher company, and like all Fisher made rods, it is a beautiful casting tool.
Hardy 7' 4wt

Next up is an old Scientific Angler System 4 glass rod. SA glass blanks were also made by the Fisher company, and the System 4 has the reputation of being the sweetest in the lineup. I would agree.
System 4

While I am writing about Fisher-made rods, I might as well mention my 7'6" Winston Stalker glass rod, which, you guessed it, is also a Fisher blank. Fisher rolled the blanks for quite a number of companies back in the day, and as far as I can tell, every blank they made was a winner.
Winston Stalker 7'6" 4wt

Another winner is my Scott F754/3 black glass rod. Scott made these rods in the 90s, if I am not mistaken, and like all Scott rods, this one rocks. It might be my favorite all-around trout rod...
Scott F754/3

Of course everyone knows that Sage is probably the most popular fly rod company in the world these days. Their graphite rod selection is vast; so vast that I no longer have any idea which models are which. Back in the day they made some high quality glass rods, and my 476SFL is a workhorse. If not for my above-mentioned Scott, this might be my favorite all-around rod...
Sage and brown

Sage, up close.

I wanted a high quality 4-piece glass travel rod, and I found that in my Unstructured Glass 8' 4wt. Unstructured Glass rods were made by Vladan Milenkovic, a rod builder/musician who is based in Boston. Unfortunately he no longer builds these rods, so if you can find one you better snap it up!
Unstructured Glass 8' 4wt

Livingston Rod Company is based in Montana, and they make very high quality glass and graphite rods. I was lucky enough to obtain one of their prototype glass rods which is 8'6" in length and rated as a 3 or 4-wt. I love it with a 4-wt WF line, so I am including it on this post as opposed to the former.
Livingston Rod Co. 8'6" 3/4wt

Finally, I recently acquired an old Scott graphite PowR-Ply 9' 4wt rod. I always say that if you need to use a longer rod you should stick with graphite, as it is lighter than fiberglass and won't cause your shoulder to fall off after a day of casting. Plus, the older graphites, like this rod, are nice and slow, as opposed to lighting fast like new graphites are.
Scott graphite + brown trout = Happy me

Well, those are my Fours. At least for now... Let me know if you have any questions about a specific rod. Happy casting!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Camping Trip #4

I know this is going to be hard to believe, especially if you are a native Minnesotan like me, but I have lived here in God's Country all of my 45 years, and up until this long weekend which just ended, I had only seen Lake Mille Lacs twice. And not only had I only seen it twice, I had never fished it ever.
Our first view of Lake Mille Lacs, on the night we arrived.
Our home for the weekend. 

To put this into some kind of perspective, for as long as I can remember, Lake Mille Lacs has probably been the most popular fishing lake in a state that is completely crazy about fishing. The walleye is the State Fish of Minnesota, and Lake Mille Lacs has historically been one of, if not the, best walleye lakes amongst the 10,000 or so lakes in our state. And I have been a crazy fisherman since I was a little kid. But I have always been a trout guy, not a walleye guy, so despite its reputation, Lake Mille Lacs has never been on my radar.
A lovely Mille Lacs evening.

Until this week, when the family and I took our 4th camping trip of the summer, at the beautiful Father Hennepin State Park on the south shore of Lake Mille Lacs. Father Hennepin is a wonderful park, with great hiking and biking, and a nice beach to sprawl out on, on hot summer days. And, if you can't find something to do in the park, there are a million other things to do in the area. In fact, there is so much stuff to do, fishing might get pushed to the back burner.
The Wife and the Youngest, walking on a trail. 
The Wife and the Boy both climbed to the top of this fire tower. The boy was scared but did it any way. I was scared, and watched them from the ground...


Swimming before the fireworks on the 4th of July.

A beach that goes out forever...

The kids found this rock. At first I thought it was a piece of play-dough they had rolled into the shape of a worm...

Sometimes you just need to sit around the fire in a chair that is way too small...
Morning in the campground.

Sunset by the lake.

I didn't get a chance to fish until the morning of our last day. I was hopeful to join the millions of other anglers who can say that they have caught a fish or two or several out of Lake Mille Lacs. But, alas, it wasn't to be. Despite a great, fishy-looking bay that I was fishing in, I caught nothing in the half hour or so that I fished. In fact I didn't even get a bite. I was skunked on Lake Mille Lacs, but at least I could take solace in the fact that I am sure I am not the first person to say that.

How could I not catch any fish here...?!?!
At least my gear worked well. Berkley Para/Metric 8' 6wt.

And I still had plenty of time to haul the family and the camper home and set out to the in-laws' lake, which I have wired in such a way that I almost always am able to catch a few. Which I did. Nice ones, too!

Nice bluegills back at my home lake.

Head to Father Hennepin State Park if you want to have a great time. Just make sure you bring plenty of bug spray. We slathered ourselves in the stuff, but still came home covered in bites. It was the only downside to a wonderful weekend of family fun!
We did not see much wildlife this weekend, other than millions and millions of tadpoles and toads. Here is a cute little guy that had just lost his tail and was crawling around on the beach. He had thousands of similar friends nearby, and millions more legless buddies still swimming around in the lake.

The Wife took this photo because she knows I am such a buggy guy. Looks like a nymphal husk from a Hex nymph to me...
A typical Mille Lacs area mosquito. They grow them big up there!