The Rebuild Raft & Maiden Voyage

A couple of months ago I fell into a very old raft that was rotting away in a field. There were holes all through the raft, 5 snakes living inside the old rubber, nests of bees around the NRS frame, and Cataract Oars that were worn down to bare fiberglass. It was junk, but it was a boat. And it’s now my boat with a new life.

A little character that was easily replaced with stainless hardware.

Over the last month or so, I invested a majority of my time replacing hardware, parts, and fixing what broken things I could. It would not have been possible without the help of friends and family that are a lot more handy than I am. From several accounts, I think this boat was originally somewhere around 10 years old.

After fixing up the frame, refinishing the oars, and purchasing a new AIRE Tributary 13 HD raft this boat has a new life. It was a lot of work, and the boat has a ton of character. But, there’s something about a little hard work on a boat with character that helps produce good vibes and mojo.

Andy puttin’ the first fish into the raft on its maiden voyage.

Early this week, Andy and I took her out for the maiden voyage. It was a day of good fun, and I can tell the mojo is off to a good start because we somehow managed to land the expected trout, a couple smallmouth bass, and even one largemouth bass. This raft is already off to an interesting ride.

A smallmouth is always a pleasant surprise for river rats like us.

Initially, I’m really impressed with the set up. I’ve fished out of plenty of drift boats, pontoon rafts, jon boats, and even a Towee. But, having never fished out of a 3 man raft before, I was a little skeptical of what I was getting myself into. I’ll wait until I’ve spent more time on the water to give a full review, but if first impressions hold true I’m in love.

So far, my buddies are taking full advantage that I am more interested in rowing them down the river than actually fishing myself. And who could blame them.

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Tailwater Road Trip

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Gettin’ lost in the fog on the West Branch.

A little over a week ago, Austen and I jumped in the car for 4 hours to check out the West Branch of the Delaware. As with most of our adventures, it was a last minute throw some plans together type of thing. It was supposed to rain like hell in our area that weekend, so we decided to dodge it by checking out what’s probably one of the largest fishing destinations in the east. For good reason too.

I’m always up for a couple days on the run searching for fish in different water. It seems the crew I run around with is the type where we just get in the car and go. We figure out where we are gonna spend the night when it gets dark, and worry about more important things first, like getting on the water.

I haven’t spent near as much time as I should on the Delaware river system. And that will be sure to change, I fell in love with the area last weekend.

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It’s easy to love a hard fighting rainbow from the West Branch of the Delaware.

Are there a lot of other anglers? Yes. Are the fish really technical and tough to catch? Yes. And, that’s sort of the point. Everyone seems quick to point out that the fish are really tough to catch, and there are a lot of anglers around.

But, there are some other questions that I think are more important. Is the water cold even in the middle of a dog day of summer? Yes, thanks to the tailwater bottom release. Are there large wild trout? Yes, tough to catch, but the opportunity is there for both browns and rainbows. How about hatches? Yes, like most tailwater fisheries, the bugs are awesome. To be able to fish summer Sulphurs in July is like a Pennsylvania fly fisher’s dream.

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Some fish don’t need a caption.

Stream etiquette should be a priority all the time, but on a technical, slower moving river with a lot of anglers around it is absolutely a must. Here is a link to an article posted on Hatch Magazine about drift boat etiquette that was actually written by a guide from the Delaware. There a a bunch of other articles out there on stream etiquette, just use your best judgement.

If your looking for a campground, hotel, or a cold beer check out The Beaver-Del. It’s all of those things that fly fisherman need, and it’s located right along the East Branch. It’s a really nice atmosphere, and the owners were great. Make sure to try the Catskill Brewery Devil’s Path IPA. It’s phenomenal, but one too many might jeopardize those early morning plans to get on the river at first light. Spoken with a bit of experience, possibly…

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A very solid brown Austen caught sippin’ a Sulphur.

Austen and I had an absolute blast on our “tailwater road trip”. I’m already looking forward to getting back up there again. The Delaware River system is definitely worth the hype. It’s also a great option for anglers in Pennsylvania if the water temperatures get borderline in the summer. Go fish.

 

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Gear Review: Orvis Recon – 9ft 6wt

A Coffin Fly perched on an Orvis Recon 9ft 6wt.

Over the last 15 months, the 9ft 6wt Orvis Recon became one of my favorite all around trout rods to date for the larger water that I fish. Yes, this rod was released in 2015, but I like to thoroughly fish a rod at least full season before drawing any conclusions.

Orvis released the Recon in the mid price category with a retail price of $425 for the freshwater models and $450 for the saltwater models. It seems that over the last year or so, fly fishing companies are putting more emphasis on offering quality products at the mid price level. While priced in the mid level category, the Orvis Recon is anything but.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect when purchasing a mid priced fly rod because I frequently do so. Over the last 15 months my Recon saw much more than a fair share of water time. Some of my other fly rods are actually feeling neglected. For trout fishing on the larger pieces of water I frequently fish, I can’t put the 9ft 6wt Recon down. Why? It’s simple. I love the way it feels in hand, and love the way it casts.

Although physical weight might make the Recon heavier than some other rods, it’s almost impossible to tell that with the rod in hand. The Recon feels so light in hand, and to me that’s what really matters. The Recon’s progressive action also makes it super smooth and easy to cast. Be aware, this rod is faster than you may think. Yet another reason I dig it.

Whether it’s a long cast with a dry fly, roll casting a heavy nymph rig, or putting the fight to a large fish in heavy water, the 9ft 6wt Orvis Recon will do so effortlessly. This rod is a great tool for wade fishing, but also for float fishing. When it comes to all around trout fishing on larger waters I feel right at home with the 9ft 6wt Orvis Recon.

The only application that I would shy away from the Recon is serious streamer fishing. In my experience, the Recon is not quite as stiff as desired for throwing sinking lines or big, heavy streamers.

If you are in the market for a mid priced all around trout rod, I’m sure it will be hard to find one better than the Recon. At the price point, I almost think that Orvis did too good of a job with this one. Go cast a Recon, see what you think.

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Summer Bassin’ & Relentless Fly Fishing

Roasted the Boogle Bug, and bent the 8wt in half.

When you and your fishing buddies are all fly fishing guides, it can be challenging to pin a day down on the water together. Yesterday Jake, Andy, and I were able to take a ride down the river for a summer smallmouth session. It was a blast. If you feel like you might be missing out on something, it’s because you probably are. I’m not sure what a summer would be like without river smallmouth floats.

I grew up fishing the river for smallmouth bass with my family and friends. Yeah I know, a lot of people are claiming home water these days. But, I lost my first Mickey Mouse Shakespeare Spincast in the river when I was 3 years old. So there’s that, insert laughter.

Puttin’ in. My idea of a good morning.

Anyways, where I was going with that is I’ve spent a lot of time on the river fishing for smallmouth, but every time I step in the boat with Jake and Andy I learn a thing or two. Whether it’s something about fly design, fish behavior, or a technique, I think it speaks volumes about how dialed in their smallmouth program is on the water they fish.

As I always say, you are only as good as the company you keep. When anglers fish together, they have the opportunity to learn together. But only if they are willing. I love that the anglers I surround myself with are able to question each other, and bounce things off each other in a constructive way. Anglers learning together is one of the things I’ve always loved about fly fishing. Well that, and having one heck of a lot of fun while fishing.

Don’t know the answer, Boogle It.

Yesterday we caught bass a variety of ways, but I pretty much got glued on fishing poppers. It’s sort of like dry fly fishing for trout, except smallmouth don’t necessarily sip, they gulp. And then they bend an 8 weight in half like it’s their day job, because they are river smallmouth and that’s what they do.

From rain, the river has been pretty high so far this summer. Yesterday was the first I’d been out after smallmouth since early spring, and I was glad to spend the day with good buddies. As always, I’m looking forward to many more river days this summer.

If fly fishing for smallmouth is your thing, check out Jake’s website: Relentless Fly Fishing and blog: All Things Fly Fishing. There are years worth of great fly patterns, stories, and photos.

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Pennsylvania Trout Fishing Report: June

A solid streamer eatin’ brown from a typical adventure with Austen.

Date: June 28th, 2017

Water Conditions: It’d be pretty tough to ask for better water conditions than we are seeing so far this summer. Our local area continues to receive rain at a pace that is keeping our rivers and creeks in great fishing shape. Yes, the rain created some days that were blown out, but thanks to the precipitation low, clear water conditions are being avoided. It’s nice to have extra water around for the fish, and to help keep the fishing rolling through the summer. Water temperatures are not currently a concern thanks to the cooler weather, but it never hurts to remain aware. Monitoring stream conditions on your local watershed prior to making the trip is always a good idea. See the Stream Flows page on the blog for a list of streams with USGS data.

Recommended Flies: Zebra Midge Size 18-22, Red PT (Pheasant Tail) Size 18-20, Frenchie Perdigon Size 18-20,  UV Braider PT Size 16-18, Soft Hackles Size, Ant Size 12-18, Blue Quill Size 18-20, Light Cahill Size 12-14, Isonychia Size 10-12, Golden Stonefly Size 6-8

Fishing Report:

While the rain has kept anglers off the water some days, it’s been great to have the extra flow through the beginning of this summer. The higher water and cooler weather so far is much appreciated after a very dry and hot summer in 2016.

Any day that ends with being on the water is a good day.

This year’s irregular weather pattern continues to make the bugs seem out of wack. Hatches and evening dry fly fishing continues to be hit or miss, and not make much sense at times. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great hatches and solid nights of dry fly fishing this year. Overall though, it just seems to be an off year that has lacked the heavy number of bugs and consistency we are used to in the area. At least this seems to be the case on the water I frequently fish.

With that being said, the nymphing and streamer game continues to be productive thanks to great water conditions and cooler weather. If I’ve said it before I’ve said it a thousand times, but it’s great to have the high water keep the bigger fish on the move.

Light Cahill. Because Sulphurs aren’t the only yellow mayfly.

Ants have been around in strong numbers, and the terrestrial fishing should continue to kick on as the water levels drop back towards normal. Summer bugs such as Blue Quills and other Paraleps are playing a strong role. For that reason, smaller nymphs are producing the most fish to net. However, there are also a few of the bigger bugs around such as Isonychia, Light Cahills, and Golden Stones.

As summer marches on and water levels drop, presentation and how an angler approaches the water will become even more important. Summer fishing can be challenging at times, but also very rewarding. I look forward to sight fishing and the technical conditions of summer. Fishing low, clear water can provide many lessons towards growing as an angler.

The release.

In the meantime, water conditions and weather are in great fishing shape. As a result the fishing is solid, take advantage. Go fish.

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