Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thank You and Farewell.

Big Sky
So this post has been a long time coming. There has been a noticeable lack of updating lately. We’ve been fishing and guiding, and minus a small hiccup in water flows a couple weeks ago, it’s been a great spring. The Upper Andro has been fishing like a house on fire. My clients actually hooked-up on EIGHT doubles yesterday. In the end, we caught a lot of fish. It was an absolutely insane day! I don’t deserve all the credit by any means, it didn’t hurt that these guys were good anglers. Sure you can learn new tricks from a guide, you can spend a day taking in a scenic river, and you can have a great shore lunch- but at the end of the day, when the buck stops, 90% of people who have hired you have done so because they want to catch fish.

I’m always a little reluctant to put up numbers, because I don’t keep fish tallies. I think it misses the point and detracts from the heart and soul of what fly fishing is really all about. But at some point during the day, when it’s been really good, the conversation often turns to “how many fish have we caught?", and sometimes it helps to convey how good things were in numbers. Then again, you can get burned with that stuff, because we’ve all seen big days followed by really shitty ones. But if you need an update- go fish, it’s still really good.

As for the lack of updates- it’s for good reason. We haven’t been trying to promote the business because for the time being, we are done, and moving on to new adventures.

It feels kind of strange to write that, considering all the energy that was poured into Wild River Angler over the last four years, but it is official. WRA will be guiding its last trips this week.

It’s for good reason. I’m heading west, to the ‘last best place’- Montana. I'm dropping everything and starting over. That leaves a lot of room for a pretty big: Why? After all, Maine is a pretty nice place to live. There is not an easy answer, and the truth is, it wasn’t an easy decision. But in reality it’s a move that has been a long time in the making- and finally the time was as ‘right’ as it ever will be. Montana is not for everybody - but for some who deeply love to trout fish and have spent time there, it really needs no explanation. There are few better places to build a life around fly fishing.

No, fly fishing is not the most important thing in my life, but it’s right up there behind my wife, daughter, immediate family and friends.

I know some of you that have fished with us here have expressed interest in fishing out West. As calls and emails continue to come in about fishing here in Maine, we will be referring people to our friends that we made along the way. I’ll keep in touch as things come together and maybe even post an update here now and then. Being a Wild River Angler is more than a place, or a business- it’s a state of mind that can go anywhere you happen to be standing or floating in water.

So, Thank You! To all of you who started as ‘clients’ and became our friends- you made WRA possible. Many, many, many thanks. There truly would have been nothing without you.

Keep in touch, and see you under the Big Sky!


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tis' the Season

'Nuff said.

It's that time of the year. Some of the best angling in Maine is going down right now. Although we were running pretty low in the water department, it looks like we are in for some pretty serious rain- and it couldn't come at a better time. We should see a flow bump, but the good news is that the lakes (i.e. reservoirs) are low, so my guess is things shouldn't get out of hand for any length of time.

" Whoa Dad! It's stonefly city over here!" -Audrey

So get out there. It's that time of the year that on some days it comes so easy you might mistake it for child's play.

Kids these days.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Skinny Water Culture

The Native 

We are not talking about flats fishing here. We are talking about Maine streams and rivers- in April. Flows are super low. The lowest I can ever remember for April. Things are getting warm very quickly as well. Big rivers are already pushing into the 50's. A drift on the Kennebec earlier this week turned out pretty good- they were eating streamers, but it wasn't the full on blitz that's going to go down any day now. The smaller rivers are solidly in the mid-50's- and with those water temps the fish have strapped the feed bag on.

It's a whole new game out there from where it was two weeks ago. They are midging subsurface pretty hard. Zebra's, Barr midges, brassies are the good stuff. Put your ninja slippers on and get stealthy. Stay low and in the shadows. If you don't need to get in the water- don't.

Forget about indicators and a bunch of split shot. Strip your leader down. When conditions are low and clear an bobber can be more of a liability than an asset. A Rio Indicator leader  and the Rio Indicator line are perfect for this game- the orange butt and tip become your indicator. Lead your drift with the tip of your rod- don't drag it, lead it- like a Czech would do. You will feel the tug almost instantly- if you don't see the flash of the take first.

Be a hunter- not some guy standing in a river wearing rubber pants waving a stick.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cold Start

Jimmy Legs- I missed you. 

2012 is officially underway! There was frost on the oar locks this morning, but despite the cold, the fishing didn't disappoint. With flows down, I have a feeling some smaller rivers and streams that I hold dear are going to be fishing very well this week. Nymphs, two or three of them, lots of weight. These are your friends. Put the tungsten putty right to it. I had some poor confused feller accuse me of fishing a mackerel rig this morning. Whatever.

Bro-ha with a leaper.

Let the good times roll!


Monday, March 12, 2012

Apres Fish

Did I finish that sandwich?
Everyone's got to eat. Quite a few of the people who fish with us stay along the coast or within easy striking distance- which means there are a ton of really good restaurants to choose from. Often we get asked about places to get a good meal. Sure you can find pretty good pub and grub just about anywhere these days, but if you want to eat really well, like really well, plan on grabbing a bite at one of these spots while you are here. Just make sure you make a reservation.

Primo, Rockland:  Straight from the farm to the table. 2012 Winner Andrew Harper Grand Award- Restaurant of the Year. We don't even know what that means, but the food is really good. 

Hugo's, Portland: Former Napa Valley French Laundry Chef Rob Evans lands in Portland, Maine. Winner of the 2009 Jame's Beard Foundation's Best Chef Northeast. I once guided some folks who told me about flying to Napa just to eat at French Laundry. I was baffled, they could have just come up to Portland and fished with me.

Five Fifty Five, Portland: Another Napa transplant settles in Portland. Wine Spectator Award of Excellence 2010. I think there is a trend here.

Fore Street, Portland: Portland's old standby- wood burning ovens churning local foods from farms and the sea.

So while your guide's dinner might consist of rummaging through the cooler on the drive home looking for left over's from the days lunch- you have some better options.

Foodies rejoice.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ok, I'm inspired- now let's go fish.

Since it's the end of winter, we could probably all use a little inspiration. 

Mike D. passed this over to us, and we're glad he did. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Fish Art

Since it's still winter and there is not a lot of fishing going on at the moment; and I'm about tired of tying flies; and some buddies have given me grief about writing lengthy dissertations that begin as random thoughts and end up as cheaply dispensed advice- I digress.

I actually saw this video posted on Moldy Chum the other day and really enjoyed it. It features the art work of Derek DeYoung and his Canvasfish Studio based in trout mecca Livingston, MT. And since I also really enjoy DeYoung's work,  I figured I'd share the video here.

Even if you aren't familiar with Canvasfish, chances are you've seen DeYoung's work adorning an Abel reel or on any number of Simms items. As he says in the video, his style may not suit everybody's taste, but one thing is for sure, it's unique with distinct qualities, which certainly sets it apart.

Grab a good cup of coffee, sit back, and enjoy. If nothing else, the imagery will get you stoked about your next trip to the 406.


Monday, February 27, 2012

The Hackle Craze.

The Next Big Thing. Trust us...
So the hair hackle craze might be on the down swing... but we've found a use for Whiting's new found surplus of hackles.

One rooster neck, half a bottle of Zap-A-Gap, and you have the next big thing.

The Hackle Soul Patch.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Don't get stuck...

Split Back CDC Hendrickson Emerger

Ruts can be pretty easy to get stuck in, especially when it comes to fishing. It’s easy and tempting to rely on tried and true techniques and flies that have equaled success in the past. We all know that guy who ties a black bugger to a new 9’ leader in April, and come September you can still find that same chewed up bugger on that now kinked and wind knotted leader that’s down to the last 6 feet. Good for him. He’s probably some type of Zen master who has achieved fly fishing Nirvana in the simplicity of his approach- and he probably even catches enough trout to be pretty happy with things just the way they are.

It has been said, that any fool can make a complicated mess out anything, but true genius will find the simplest solutions. That’s a pretty good way to approach any problem, but when it comes to complicated matters such as love, war and, on occasion, fly fishing, having a deep skill set to draw upon will help to achieve the best results.

This past fall I got to spend a day fishing with fellow Wild River guide Scott Overbey. We stumbled into some ridiculously good fishing on a little piece of tucked away water. In the first 20 minutes of fishing I had landed 4 butter-sided fall browns between 14 and 16”. Solid lake fish that had migrated into moving water for the spawn. Scott was doing equally as well as we dead drifted 6mm tangerine eggs with plenty of split shot under indicators. Even after the fast start we tweaked our weight and adjusted our indicators until things were fine-tuned and preceded to hammer a pile of fish in a relatively short section of stream. It was one of those moments that sticks with you; one of those days that you later recollect over a beer in January as epic- a term that admittedly gets a bit overplayed these days- but nonetheless fit my personal definition. As we fished we joked that it almost felt like cheating, and we should change flies or techniques just to make life a little harder on ourselves. Yes, fly anglers are a misfortunate breed.

But after about an hour or so the egg-drift-bite noticeably slowed down. We went a little longer between the telltale quivers of the indicator before it was pulled sub-surface by a hungry brown until ultimately our drifts were ignored. Something was changing. It wasn't long before we noticed rise forms near that head of this classic pool, where fast water dumped out of a shallow riffle. The rises became so numerous that literally there were 4 or 5 rises in a span of one or two seconds. It was November, these were spawning browns, and it seemed like every one of them was suddenly looking up.  We both mumbled something along the lines of "What the ----?"

We stalked to the head of the pool along the bank, took up a position in the brush, and watched. We were now hunting individual fish. Snouts broke the water with telltale bubbles left behind- surface rises. No bugs could be seen- trapped emergers in the film? Tiny blue wings? Midges? We started re-rigging for dry fly fishing with hand tied Rio twelve-foot 5x leaders. We still weren’t 100% on the bugs, but given the time of year and having fished this piece of water quite a bit, we made an educated guess and figured a blue wing hatch was unfolding. I tied a size 16 CDC Parachute BWO as the lead fly, more as an indicator to monitor my drift, with 24” of 6X tippet tied off the bend of the lead fly with a #20 un-beaded flashback Pheasant Tail dropped to imitate an emerging baetis nymph. A dab of Gink on the nymph would keep it up top in the film. 

After carefully wading in to get into position and making a few delicate casts followed by what seemed like perfect dead drifts, we earned a few looks that resulted in last second refusals. Smaller flies? Micro drag on the leader? While standing in the water, closer inspection revealed a well built, chubby looking midge crawling about the rocks and in the foam collecting in the back eddies. A size 20 Griffiths Gnat traded places with the floating pheasant tail nymph as the dropper. The larger BWO remained on point to again serve as an indicator because I have a hard time seeing and tracking size 20 Gnats. The presentation process was repeated, this time followed by a swirl, some bubbles, a set, and the satisfying dead weight followed by the energetic thrashing of another plump fall brown. Scott and I switched off and took turns hooking and landing a scandalous number of fish on dry flies, in November. A feat that we knew would not likely be repeated for some months to come with winter fast approaching.

It doesn’t always work out that smoothly. And sometimes figuring out a bite can mean a lot of trial and error. But being November, the advantage was ours because the available menu of aquatic insects willing to hatch that late in the year is much more limited. Compare that to early summer conditions in say June, when a simultaneous compound hatch of 2 or 3 different insects can happen with other bugs in various phases of their life cycle present as well. Things can get complicated fast during times when a wide range of insect sizes, shapes, and colors are available for trout to feed on. Particularly because in these situations trout will typically key on to, and rhythmically feed on only one of the available insects (usually the most prevalent one)- a survival strategy that allows them to take in the most calories in the most efficient manner possible. For the angler that means you may see Hendrickson duns on the surface, but your #14 Adams doesn’t catch any fish because they are feeding on the size 16 sedge-caddis emerges just below the surface. We’ve all been there, stumped and frustrated at some point in our angling life- and it’s no wonder we all know a guy who only fishes a black woolly bugger regardless of whats happening on the water.

The point of all this is that flexibility and change are important to the fly angler.  Always observe first, it’s easy to charge in and start peppering a run with casts- but remember, usually the first cast is your best shot at a fish before the odds of making a bad move and spooking your quarry start working against you. Change your fly size and pattern, adjust your weight and move your indicator to work the entire water column, use sink-tips and full sinks with streamers, mix up your retrieve, and keep watching and observing. All of these factors can be the difference between an “epic” day and one that was “pretty good”.

Sometimes margins between success and skunkzilla are razor thin. Pay close attention, stay flexible, carry a range of tools (leaders, flies, lines, etc) to get the job done, and keep working it.

It may end up as a one of those days that it feels like cheating- almost.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Fresh Look

Topped off and ready to go...
Over the past week we've learned more about web design/hosting/mastering/insanity than we ever cared to know. 

The good news is we are all fixed up and the new site is up and running. We cleaned it up a bit, consolidated things, got rid of some old stuff, and are pretty happy with the new look. It's not a radical departure from the old, but it seems to have a cleaner and more streamlined feel. Find our new site here...

On another note, the fly boxes are full and some warm days have reminded us that we seem to have rounded the corner and are heading toward another spring. I've got to say, we got off pretty easy this winter. At this rate, barring the epic rain that we saw last year, it could be a short run-off season and things could pick up pretty fast. 


Saturday, February 11, 2012


"What are you tying on?"

It looks like Wild River Angler is going to be moving its base camp...

Stay tuned.

By the way, our website is toast at the moment. We are working on that.

Technology- the bane of our existence.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cabela's & Maine

Maine Brook Trout- Seriously...
If you get a chance  to check out the Cabela's 2012 Fly Fishing Catalog you might notice a pretty thick brook trout gracing the cover. Well, I can tell you for a fact that the fish is indeed a Maine brook trout.

I know, because that's my hand holding the fish.

Earlier this summer I was contacted by Maine based photographer Dennis Welsh who was  looking to set up a freshwater fly fishing photo shoot for a "client". The deal was pretty simple. Help set up a location, and stand around and have photos taken of me while I "fish"- and I get paid.

After scouting some locations with Dennis we settled on the Upper Andro at a spot between Gilead and W. Bethel. The location had certain advantages: easily accessible, beautiful surrounding landscapes with dramatic cliffs and mountain views, and within striking distance of the coast, where they also planned on doing a saltwater shoot.

The whole process was definately a unique experience and I think I even managed to pick up a few photography techniques. According to Dennis, this was the first time that Cabela's had done a photo shoot for their fly fishing catalog on the East Coast. It was cool to be part of that.

"You want me to cast with which hand?"
On the inside of the cover there is a shot where I'm throwing a cast with my right hand-  except I'm a lefty.

Photographers (good ones that is) are constantly worried about the direction of the light and how it interacts with the subject. In this case, they were looking for a dark back ground with back light to illuminate the line in mid air. To get it right, Dennis asked me if I could cast with my right hand. "Huh?" I've done it before messing around, but I wasn't sure what the results would be. So I gave it a shot- and I've got say it looks like I even managed to get a haul in there resulting a fairly decent loop for the shot. No doubt the presentation on the water probably looked like a I was beating the water with a bullwhip.

So there it is, the beginning- and most likely the end- of my "modeling" career.

Definitely a fun experience, and I'm proud to have been a part of helping Maine's exposure in the fly fishing world. A big thanks to the Cabela's, Dennis Welsh, and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries for their support.



Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wiggle Your Dub

Harline Hare's Wiggle Dub
I've been messing around with some new tying material lately. One of my new favorites is Hare's Wiggle Dub from Hareline. This a basically a hare dub that has tiny little stretchy rubber legs mixed in. The little rubber legs actually appear to be tiny shreds of Spanflex or Stretch Floss, which means they won't dry out and crack like traditional rubber legs.

Buggy Mix.
I've found the best way to dress with this stuff is to make a dubbing loop, spin a dubbing brush, and wrap. Sometimes the rubber legs can be a bit long, depending on how they are captured in the dubbing loop, trimming to length helps get the proportions right.

Here is one use I've found for it. Sort of a take on the venerable Guide's Choice Hares Ear. Instead of using peacock for the thorax, Wiggle Dub is substituted. Kind of a cool, buggy effect with a lot of life. I can see this stuff being used in a lot of patterns- stonefly nymphs anyone?

Check your local fly shop, if you are in Maine, check Eldredge Brothers in Cape Neddick. Eldredge might just be the last best fly shop in Maine. Those guys are serious about their business and stay up to date on the latest patterns and tying materials. They are definitely not centrally located, but it's worth the trip. If you haven't checked them out, do yourself a favor and get down there!



Friday, January 13, 2012


Tying 24's, not recommend after a couple of cold ones.
Since it's winter, and there isn't a lot of angling going on, and there is a lot more tying taking place, we figured it would be fun to share some of what we've been working on. I actually enjoy winter, because it's a bit of break from fishing and a chance to focus on tying. To me personally, tying is the other part of being a fly angler. An important part. Do I tie all of my own flies? No- I'm not that fast. There are certain patterns that I purchase by the dozen. Then there are times when tying feels like a chore- like in July, at 9:30 at night, when I need to slam out half a dozen Slumpbusters and get lunch together for a trip the next day. 

But winter is a chance to sit back, and enjoy the process. Brew some good coffee for an early morning session, maybe get together with some friends in the evening and crack some cold ones and fill the empty spots in the boxes, whip up some hot new pattern, and maybe even dream up the next fishy concoction that just might be THE ONE. 

With the streamer boxes full, lately I've been cranking out some bugs on the vise. Spinners. Don't underestimate them. I like to carry them in a range of sizes. Rusty colored ones cover a pretty wide range of bugs. Make sure to carry some small ones like those above to cover trico and BWO's. I tie them in a bunch of sizes, colors and styles. Dubbed bodies, quill bodies, thread bodies, micro-fibbett tails, hackle tails, yarn wings, poly wings, hackle wings. They all work. Spinner wings are generally clear, and the spent egg layers usually lie flat on the water, wings extended out to the sides and flush on the water, as opposed to upright like a recently hatched dun.

The easiest to tie might be the Compara-Spinner as described in Caucci and Nastasi's classic Hatches. Real simple, tie in tail fibers, dub a tapered body with some super fine, tie in a dry fly hackle in a light dun or cream color (spinner wings are clear), dub to the eye, wrap the hackle over the thorax dry fly style, tie off the head, then clip the hackle flat on the top and bottom so the fly rides low on the water (hackles only extending off the sides of the fly). Fish them on top or just below the film. Can't see them? Add a small dab of strike putty two feet up the leader, or fish them as a dropper off a visible dry fly that acts like an indicator.

Think spinners aren't important? One of the better browns that I've seen come out of the Kennebec in the last couple of years (a solid 20" fish) sipped a size 12 Compara-style March Brown spinner on a bright sunny afternoon in May. 
Spinner Sipper.
The next time you run into rising fish eating something "invisible" on top or in the film, pay close attention. Are there mayflies hovering en masse above? Look in the scum lines where the garbage collects. Look closely at the water. Usually a spent mayfly is flush in the film or subsurface and very hard to see on a casual glance. And finally, break out a seine. A small piece of screen works fine and can save you some fly changes as you start dialing in the code. 

Have fun out there!


Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Dog Days... Of Winter

It's official, the first fish of the year were landed today, a couple of decent browns- with a fly rod, not an ice trap. It was cold, and a few hours were plenty. Followed by a good bottle of wine, a fire ripping in the stove, a couple hours of tying, some good company, and some good food. This is what makes 5 months of winter tolerable.
And those new sculpin patterns are going to be a whole lot of fun to throw come May.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Men at Work

I had a chance to share some photos via the focalFISH photo blog run the by Mark Raisler and John Arnold, the honchos at Headhunters Fly Shop in Craig, Montana. focal is a great place to take in some fishy imagery, especially in the dead of winter here in Maine.

Frankly, it's a little humbling to have some of my images up there with folks who actually have talent.

The first photo essay I submitted was all about Maine landlocks, and features water from around the state, and admittedly, one fish from Massachusetts. More recently I submitted a piece in black and white from a steelhead trip last season. The black and white worked, especially since it was the dead of winter and there was no real color to capture anyway. The land lock essay can be found here and the steelhead essay can be found here.

If you ever have a chance to visit Craig, MT and fish the Mighty Mo', do it.  It's an amazing place and will likely leave you shaking your head wondering if what just went down was for real as your whole trout fishing schema makes a radical shift.

If you find yourself there, don't forget to visit the Headhunters and buy a fly or two.