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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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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A Snow Day & Streamers

Fly fishing has the ability to make life as simple as it should be. A few days ago, our biggest concern was navigating through the 4-6 inches of snow to get to the water. After we were floating down the river in the boat, life was simple. A beautiful kind of simple. We were fly fishing, and that was it.

A box of streamers, a couple of sandwiches, and a cooler with beer. To hell with the rest of the world and all of it’s bad news. We decided that were going to have a day perfectly balanced with IPA and trout chasing streamers. If you follow along with this blog, it’s no secret that I love winter fishing. A snow day and streamers is a combination at the top of my list.

Maybe this, or maybe that. What I do know, is that I have experienced a fair share of good fishing on snowy days. Yesterday was no different, we committed to the streamer game and fortunately so did the fish.

Austen ties a wicked good streamer that we have both caught a lot of solid browns on. I’ve been calling it a Double Decker. It’s not mine to disclose, but I’m sure you will hear about this fly again. A fly that you have full confidence will produce can be a blessing while covering water, since it’s usually just one or two casts in each spot. Thanks again for the sweet tie brother.

I properly baptized a fresh 7ft 11inch 8wt Orvis Recon fly rod with two solid PA wild browns. This rod was purchased as a backup boat streamer rod. Initially I’m impressed, but I’ll post a full gear review after it’s put through the test.

Yesterday was the most productive trip we have had in awhile. It was a good day to have as our last float before trekking down south to the promised land. Stay tuned.

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A Couple of Float Trips & the Streamer Ultimatum

On our float trips the last couple of days we served the trout a Streamer Ultimatum.


As Austen was rowing the boat two days ago he said, “We could probably catch a bunch of fish in that riffle if we stopped to fish it with nymphs.” I paused between casts to look down on the section of water he was talking about. It was a slower rolling mid-depth run that we have both caught our fair share of fish in over years. I turned to reply, “Yeah, you’re probably right.” Then I laughed, and slung another cast to the bank with a nasty articulated streamer on a sink tip line. “But, what’s the point?”, I said. He was on the same page.

We had already given the trout a Streamer Ultimatum. They were either going to eat a streamer, or we weren’t going to catch them. We didn’t really care if it was the most productive technique. Catching fish on streamers was what we wanted, and that past couple of days we were fishing for us. Not for them.

As guides and former competitors on the US youth fly fishing team, Austen and I are well aquatinted with playing the “catch as many fish as you can game”. The last couple of days were strictly “joy fishing”.

I’m stuck in a rut right now where I really only want to catch fish on streamers. It doesn’t matter if conditions are ideally suited to streamer fishing, or not. I’ll fish a streamer all day to experience that one good eat, from what’s usually a solid fish. It’s an addiction, or sickness. I’ll admit it’s kind of a dark place to be stuck in, I love it though.

This is one of the many things that I really love about fly fishing. You really can make it what you want it to be. Fish however you have the most fun. And tomorrow if fishing a different way seems fun, do that too.

At the end of the day we considered our efforts a success. We found a fair number of trout willing to meet the terms of the Streamer Ultimatum. Beware, this streamer thing is contagious.

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