Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fall report: Fish 2, Me...0

I managed to race home from work today and get some much needed time on the river. Water temps are definitely dropping and the river is still full of king salmon. Some are beginning to die off, while the moldys still spar and tail around each other in large pods.

I had a good smack a few casts in on the Quillayute. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of lifting the rod and pulling the fly out of the fishes mouth.

The sun dropped below the horizon and I switched it up to a white craft fur EP style bait fish which I ran grey prismacolor down the back of to mimic an alewife or shiner. My very first cast and I felt a tremendous tug on the rod followed by rapid head shakes. I figured it to be a smallmouth and began stripping the fish in... it was then that I felt the true weight of the fish. The fish took about 40 yards of line out as my click pawl screamed. The line went tight and I finally started to gain on the fish and it surfaced with a few big splashes. It looked to be a decent brown trout. It took another small run and began shaking its head fighting in one place, like brownies usually do. I side stepped to the bank on my left and began reeling the fish in when all of a sudden *tink!* my leader broke off. The loop connection failed. It didn't matter though. It was my first evening on the river and it just felt good to be swinging flies and casting to fish again. I know what I will be working on at the vice.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fall on Lake Michigan

Eric and the Doctor invited me along to try our luck out on the big pond this morning. With a steady west wind, the water was calm as glass. We motored in under the cover of darkness. The full moon lit our way until sunrise. 
Fishing was slow, but I did manage to catch myself a rainbow for lunch and I got a few shots of the sun rising over the water. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013


I like the idea of tying flies with materials taken from animals I have killed myself. It starts to bring all these processes full circle.

The recent deer I took provided me a with long, soft, high quality bucktail. I took a few process shots to show just how I preserved mine. Everyone out there has there own way of doing things. This is the way I do it. I am by no means saying it is the best way. It is just the way that works for me.

I start by deboning the tail. I use a Havalon knife which is basically a scalpel with a more robust handle. It has interchangeable/replaceable blades, so I always have a scalpel sharp tool in my hand. I split the hide along the tailbone on the dark side of the tail.

After the tailbone is out, it is important to remove all remaining flesh and fats. If not removed, these will rot and stink, and ruin the buck tail. Once I am confident in my fleshing, with the white hairs down, I spread and tack the tail to a board. Once that is complete, I apply a liberal coating of Borax. The borax serves to pull moisture, de-odorize and clean the flesh. After a few days, I will remove the saturated borax and replenish the area with fresh borax. If the fats and tissue have been removed, this process should take about a week or two.

After it has dried, it can be washed, bleached, dyed and used for all your fly and jig tying needs.


This blog has been severely lacking in the posting department lately. My lack of attendance can been attributed to my recent time spent in the woods in search of Whitetail Deer.

I have spent some beautiful mornings watching the sunrise, as well as some peaceful evenings watching it set. I have seen many deer so far this fall. Unfortunately for this buck,  I have grown tired of passing on deer and eating my tags.

On this particular evening, I had only been on stand for 20 minutes. I was settled in and enjoying the fall colors and smells. The peace was broken when he came bounding into my stand location, panting and excited. He stopped to catch his breath directly under my feet. This moment presented an opportunity you don't get often. He was as close to me as I was off the ground. The deer had no idea of my presence directly above. I reached for my bow and in one movement, slowly lifted it from the hanger as I drew back. I settled my pin behind his shoulder, took a moment, then slipped an arrow into his back and watched him bound into the swamp. Due to the angle of my shot, the arrow did not exit the other side of his body. It remained buried in his lungs, I was confident in my arrow placement.

I sat in my stand for a short while longer, allowing the deer to expire undisturbed. After what seemed like an eternity, I lowered my bow to the forest floor and quietly began my decent. As I followed the route he took into the swamp, my excitement quickly turned into anxiety and worry. I could not find a drop of blood. With the arrow still in his body, blood would be unable to escape from an exit wound. I knew this deer would be difficult to track.

 I called my good friend to tell him about what had unfolded. Being a much more experienced hunter than I, he advised me to bring my tree stand and whatever gear I didn't need to track the deer back to my truck. Once I had done that I was to go back to the last place I saw the deer and start to follow whatever sign I could find. He was on his way to help.

Taking the long way back to my vehicle trying my best not to disturb the woods while exiting quietly I began thinking the worst. I tormented myself with thoughts of not finding this deer. I turned up the narrow footpath towards where I had parked when, unbelievably to my greatest surprise and relief, there, 30 yards from my vehicle was a large blob of fresh bubbly bright blood. I couldn't believe I could be so lucky to have found blood in this location. After the shot, the deer had made a B-line across the swamp directly to my vehicle, only changing direction when he laid eyes on it. With a smile on my face, and a new light on the scenario, I dropped my gear off and began to follow his trail.

My friend arrived shortly after my discovery. His Uncle, who was also in the woods that evening, was nearby and came to assist in the tracking of the deer. The blood trail was obvious in some places, while at others it would dry up and leave us scratching our heads. We had to think like a wounded deer. Eventually we would pick up the trail and move further toward his final resting place. We searched the hardwoods, up a ridge and down again, until we found him. He had sought water, as wounded deer often do. He was floating in a grassy bog about 15 yards out. I slogged out in the knee deep water to retrieve him. Relieved to have found him, I grasped his antler and pulled him through the swamp grass to dry land. Now, the real work begins.

If it weren't for my friend and his Uncle, I may have never found this deer. Their combined experience and good advice led me to him. I can't speak enough about the generosity and camaraderie of these people. The whole process is an emotional roller coaster. It isn't remorse, but sadness I felt for taking the life of this creature. I know this is only normal. On top of that, pile anxiety, worry, happiness, excitement, the list goes on. These feelings all make for an emotional cocktail that having friends along with you while you attempt to digest, is not only helpful but necessary. True friends and good hunters alike have taught me important lessons like this one. I know that when I get a call and it is a hunter in need of a hand, I will be there, just like these guys were for me. Remembering to choose well when faced with these types of decisions not only earns us the trust, respect, and loyalty of our peers, it might also earn us a treat for our freezer too.