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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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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Pennsylvania Trout Fishing Report: May

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A late night fish slurpin’ down Green Drakes.

Date: May 31st, 2017

Water Conditions: Currently a lot of the watersheds in the area are high and unfishable from rain over the past couple of days. Many of the streams will be fishable again in the next few days, if they are not already. So far this spring water conditions have been in great shape overall. We continue to receive rain which has kept water levels anything but low. While high water leaves our river systems unfishable at times, it’s also great for the fish to have the extra water. Monitoring stream flow 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: Green Drake Size 6-10, Sulphur Size 14-16, March Brown Size 10-12, Gray Fox Size 12-14, Caddis Black/Tan Size 12-18, Isonychia Size 10-12  Frenchie Size 12-18,  Pink Beaded Walt’s Worm Size 12-16, UV Braider PT Size 14-18, RTV Nymph Size 12-16, Soft Hackles Size 12-18, Zebra Midge Size 18-22

Fishing Report:

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Green Drake: The Big Bug of May.

May is arguably one of the best times of the year to be a fly fisherman in Pennsylvania. Spring is without a doubt the “match the hatch” season, and a majority of the big hatches take place in May.

The weather this year continues to be an irregular pattern. Air temperatures are fluctuating back and forth frequently between hot and cold. This is certainly keeping the fish on their toes, but it has also created irregular hatch patterns.

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Sulphur Size 14.

Hatches have been anything but consistent on the water that I so frequently fish. There are bugs around, but we are not experiencing as heavy numbered hatches as expected this time of year. So far this year Grannoms, Sulphurs, March Browns, Gray Foxes, Caddis, and Green Drakes have all shown tendencies of sporadically hatching through different periods of the day opposed to a few hours of heavy bug activity at one time.

One of the best parts about the river systems in our area is they have a wide range of bugs. A lot of evenings anglers have to play the game to see which bugs the fish are eating the most out of what’s being offered. In my opinion, that’s a good problem to have.

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River Meals- because even gas station macaroni salad tastes better along the water.

As usual, nymphing throughout the day tends to be the most productive method, and dry fly fishing is the excitement of the evening. With all the extra water this spring helping keep big fish out of hiding, streamer fishing has continued to work well at the right times.

While it has not been a typical year in terms of weather patterns or hatch activity, the fishing has been quite good at times. At other times it seems the fishing is slower than typical for this time of year. Every day on the river is an opportunity. Anglers that are married to their river system have a better chance of experiencing those “magic” hours of fishing.

Forget the weather, don’t try to predict what evenings will be better than others. Put your time in, and you will earn the rewards. Go Fish.

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