Friday, June 17, 2016

Spring Fly Fishing in Western Massachusetts

As we prep for the baby to arrive, fishing time has gotten slimmer and slimmer. Thankfully, we have a river in the backyard. Like every late spring, I can look out over the Deerfield and see bugs doing their magical dance above the water. As a fly fisherman, it doesn't get much better. Don't get me wrong, I fully understand that trout do the bulk of their feeding beneath the surface, and I more than comfortable with nymphs and streamers, but nothing beats fish feeding on dries.

Admittedly, I've been spoiled. I grew up a few short miles from Penns Creek in central Pennsylvania, one of the most well-known freestone flows in the state. I vividly remember my first ever trip during the infamous green drake hatch. Huge bugs filled the air (and your mouth if you weren't careful), and the later we stayed, the more big trout started to sip them down. I got skunked that night, but I was hooked. I've since experienced some incredible fishing all around the country, but as touristy as it is, I will always love the drake hatch and those giant flies.

 There have been a few net fillers this year, including this beast rainbow.

On certain evenings, the Deerfield can almost replicate that magic. It does get a Drake Hatch, although alone, it falls well short of those in central PA. However, combined with a number of other bugs (including huge March Browns), the sheer number of insects in the air is amazing, and the fishing can be insane.

I've been able to sneak out every few days for an hour or so just before dusk. Some nights, it is every cast. That isn't an exaggeration. Other nights, for one reason or another, I'm more than content with two or three fish.

Brookies tend to start early. I assume that most are born as native fish in the river's tributaries. They aren't huge, but they are fun and beautiful.

This pretty brook trout fell for a Brown Caddis

Then, the browns and rainbows start. These fish are a mix of stockies, hold overs, and natives, depending on the stretch you are fishing (some of which have all three). Oddly, they aren't too spooky in terms of wading fairly close to them in super clear water. However, they can be very picky when it comes to drifts and line management. One night, it seems like I can do no wrong. The next, I may get snubbed the majority of the trip.

 On this particular evening, I had a number of 15"-17" browns in the net

The fluctuating water levels in the river can change very quickly, and are often different each night. What worked one evening may have to be tweaked the next. Fish position differently in the different currents, and it impacts the timing of hatches as well. It makes fishing the same areas a lot more fun and challenging, but it can be equally frustrating when plan A turns into plan B and C...and D.

I've found that carrying two rods, including one with a 10'-11' leader and one with a 8' leader, can make a world of difference. Also, don't be afraid to go big. I almost always tend to downsize my flies, but these Deerfield trout don't mind big offerings if they look right. In fact, on many late spring days, I would argue that they prefer the bigger meals. Additionally, don't be surprised if the bugs you are seeing in the air an hour and a half before dark almost disappear by the time the bite really starts picking up on certain nights. Sometimes you can keep fishing the pattern, while on other nights it is best to re-tie.

I also like to grab my kayak and float through some of the less pressured areas, getting out to wade at certain spots. This approach allows me to cover water early and target bigger fish when surface feeding starts.

The Wilderness Systems ATAK 140 in action

One last tip, and this is very general. I tend to fish in fairly muted or natural colored clothing most of the time. But I've noticed a clear trend lately. On days or nights when the bite is slow, I get probably 30%-50% more bites wearing my faded blue/grey Red Sox hat than I do wearing my fairly bright red RepYourWater hat. Keep that in mind the next time you dress to hit the river.

The "insane" hatch season is slowly dwindling on the river, but it fishes well all year, particularly in the colder months (when it is safely accessible). But if you are new to flinging flies or simply want to go have some fun, the Deerfield likely won't disappoint.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Ins and Outs of the Ned Rig

For quite some time, I had been slowly piecing together a Ned Rig article for this blog - a mix of a review and multiple trip reports. However, that idea got nixed and I ended up running the article in Kayak Bass Fishing Magazine. This issue is loaded with awesome content, and you can find my article on page 12. Long story short - the Ned Rig is super productive for both quantity and quality. The smallies absolutely destroy it in cold water. Enjoy!

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Short Letter to my Unborn Son

Dear Son,
I can't believe that you will be here in just 8 weeks, assuming that you don't get antsy and make a run for it early like your mother and I both did. But please don't, because there are too many projects left to complete before then. Plus, I still need to get a haircut.

At a recent baby shower, the guests all filled out questionnaires of things they hope for you some day. As we read them, I noticed a definite trend. Many people hope that you have the same passion for fishing, hunting, and the outdoors as your mom and I. I can't lie - I hope you do too. Your mom is infamous for her giant buck, and I've gotten pretty good at fooling fish into eating fake food, which probably sounds pretty weird. Well, maybe not that weird, as you'll soon be putting many non-food items in your mouth as well, I'm sure.

But I want you to know that if you don't like those activities, then that is OK as well. Or maybe you just won't be as passionate about them as I am - also fine. You may prefer music or art or working on cars or golf or something I know nothing about (despite what your mom may say, I don't claim to know everything). I/we will support you no matter what you do, as long as you give it 100% of your effort. I won't hesitate to give up time on the water or in the woods to drive you to practice or a show or whatever it may be. Honestly, seeing you succeed will mean more to me than anything I have achieved myself. People are unique, and that uniqueness should be embraced and promoted. Do what you love, and you will be as happy as I am (as I sit and write this with a smile).

Of course, if you end up liking the aforementioned outdoor activities, then this letter is somewhat moot. In that case, I've already got me eye on a few beginner rod and reel combos. These New England fish aren't going to be too happy about that.

All my love,

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Pflueger Patriarch XT Review

Wow, that was a serious blogging lull. My last post was on February 2nd. Coincidentally, I started a new job on February 8th. Between it, baby prep, and numerous other winter projects, my free time has been lacking. However, I'm hoping to turn a corner and get back to regular blog posts. This blog actually isn't mine at all, it is a review from friend and Kayak Angler Magazine digital content manager Ben Duchesney. He had a chance to recently review the Pflueger Patriarch XT. In my opinion, Pflueger spinning reels don't get enough love from the fishing industry. However, rarely I have encountered folks who try and Pflueger and go back to another brand. All of my trout reels are Pfluegers and I love them. They are workhorses, but still smooth as silk. Anyway, here is a snippet of what Ben had to say about the Patriarch XT. The rest of his review can be found on the Kayak Angler Magazine website.

"Lightweight, riddled with high end carbon fiber, titanium and magnesium components and pretty enough to be on a poster up on your wall. I'm talking about some supercar, this is the Pflueger Patriarch XT, $249.95. Everwhere I turned anglers (and Pflueger) were saying this reel is one of the lightest spinning reels around. I wouldn't want to show you guys a reel just because of its light weight though. The Pflueger Patriarch XT is also designed to be smooth. Though when I say smooth, I really mean smooooooth, (in a Rico Suave voice)."

Now, if winter would just give up so that I can go fishing! Tight lines!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Kayak Fishing Fitness Series - Intro

I feel like I pretty much constantly have ideas for blog series or videos. Many of those ideas never come to fruition for one reason or another. However, I am very excited to announce an upcoming Kayak Fishing Fitness series on Man Powered Fishing. I've partnered with good friend Eric Boyd of Foothills Angler, who is also a National Strength and Conditioning Association certified coach and my teammate with Bending Branches paddles. Kayak Angler Magazine online will also be featuring the series. This particular blog will provide an overview of the series, so that you know what to expect.

First, a bit about us. In addition to Eric's NSCA certification as a strength and condition specialist, he is a former college athlete, NCAA division I strength and conditioning coach, and professional baseball strength and conditioning coach. I am also a former college athlete and have been fortunate enough to work with numerous trainers and athletes, including USA Powerlifting record holders, extreme sports professional, health science educators, and various outdoor industry pros. I've written multiple articles for Rapid Media and Kayak Angler Magazine sharing my fitness regimen, tips, and tricks.

Eric fly fishing an eddy seam along a strong rapid in western NC

We aren't the gym selfie, Creatine ingesting, social media hash tag types. I love cooking delicious food and drinking good beer, and we would both rather spend our spare time with family or on various hobbies. That concept will be a big part of the series - S.M.A.R.T. goals, standing for specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound. I'll add economically feasible (read cheapskate) to that list. For instance, part of Eric's regular workout includes push-ups with his son Grayson on his back, while I utilize 5-gallon buckets, sand bags, and various other items around my house and yard. We don't spend our mornings checking for a six pack in the mirror (I prefer to keep mine in the fridge), and a perfectly sculpted body lost its appeal after age 25. We workout for health and to improve various functional exercises, paddling being one of them.

For me, especially here in New England, winter allows me to focus on health, new hobbies and projects, and coming up with goals for the upcoming fishing season. It is a perfect time to sneak in a short, high intensity workout nearly every day. We aren't believers in fad workouts or diets. Just as there is no perfect kayak, there also is no perfect workout or diet for everyone. The best diet and workout are ones you can consistently stick to. We believe in giving full effort, while it keeping it simple and fun. My average workout lasts about 20-30 minutes. In that time span, I typically do 3 circuits of 3 exercises with 3 sets per exercise. It is high intensity, but it is simple, functional, and focuses on improving strength, balance, and flexibility. And both of our workout regimes are based on years of experience, and at times experimenting, to find what provides us with the best bang for the buck.

Hooked up on a fall trout in western MA

In addition, these workouts have changed for us over time. Workout evolution is something I regularly think about. For instance, some lifts I did back in my football playing days aren't terribly useful on a daily basis today. However, lower back exercises and stretches have become incredibly important, since I spend 40+ hours a week in front of a computer earning a paycheck. So, workouts should include things you do on a regular basis, such as lunging, squatting, twisting, bending, etc.

One last item before I introduce the various topics. Success, especially related to diet and exercise, stems from support, motivation, and attitude. That means being non-judgmental, positive, and open minded - things this series will promote. All too often, I've seen these values disappear from gyms, and at times from social media.

Here is what we currently have planned. These blogs and videos will be released once per week, starting mid- to late-week next week. Some will also include input from other paddlers and industry pros.

1 – Creating a true home work out
Why spend money on a gym membership? You can put together a cheap home "gym" and incredible workout that will save time, money, and headaches in the long run.

2 – Cardio 
 I've always joked that, outside of athletics, there are two reasons to run - from the cops and to catch the ice cream truck. However, cardio exercises are paramount to our health, especially when combined with strength training and stretching.

3 – Diet and nutrition
Most folks reading this probably know the things they should and shouldn't eat. So, this blog will focus more on lesser discussed topics, such as our favorite fitness apps, recipes, and tips, especially for days on the water.

Rabbit food - a necessary evil

4 – Stretching, flexibility & posture
If there is one thing I consistently see anglers struggle with, it is flexibility and posture, which is heavily linked to stretching and fitness. It can help to improve your fishing from seated or standing positions, especially after long days on the water. We even dabble in the art of Yoga, with help from some special guests.
5 – Stability
Let's face it, the ability to stand and fish from a kayak is becoming more and more popular. Beyond that, stability exercises can vastly improve your core strength and paddling. We will break down a number of different key exercises for improving overall stability in this two part topic.

The ATAK is makes standing easy, but balance and stability exercises help
6 – Strength
After building a solid foundation with previous blog topics, we will dive into strength training. This two part topic will breakdown the ins, outs, dos, and don'ts of body weight exercises, as well as some of our favorite strength training lifts and circuits.

7 – Multi-functional favorites
Last, but certainly not least, we will focus on multi-functional activities, including plyometrics, medicine ball exercises, lifts, and more. These will kick your butt, but provide great bang for the buck!

If you have any questions, comments, or ideas, please shoot one of us an email ( or Tight lines!