Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Dave Van Vliet joined ChiFly earlier this year. He took a leap of faith leaving behind Stevens Point Wisconsin and dove headfirst into the fray of the big city.   For those of you who have met David, you might have picked up on the fact that he has a thing for Muskie fishing.  He also writes about it as well.  Enjoy his first post here

Beating the Odds with Muskie

One o’clock in the morning and I’m walking out of a gas station with a few more hours of driving ahead of me before I reach my apartment in Chicago. Beef jerky, a few “roller” dogs, and a large cup of coffee for the thermos. The coffee was only for an emergency if I started to doze off, and evidently I wouldn’t even need it because I was riding the high of boating a forty plus inch Muskie on a fly! The eat, fight, landing, and holding the fish played over and over in my head the whole way home. I never even turned on the radio. They’re the perfect quarry for adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers alike who pursue fish on fly. 

            Our story begins by waking up around nine or ten and meeting Central Wisconsin Muskie Sharpie Dan Boggs, who runs the Flying Musky Guide Company. He still holds the title and best jokes ever told in a drift boat, and when things get slow he pulls them out. Anyways, we’d be fishing a river in the state of Wisconsin. Not going to say where or even which river, but she’s a dandy and full of Musky. 

            I haven’t fished Musky in a about a month, so my excitement was through the roof. We put in and motored up a series of boulders just downstream from a spillway adjacent to a deep bank. This spot would be categorized as a “Bad Neighborhood” or a likely spot for a Muskie to be living. We anchored up and began to beat the runs and pocket water. We were also stretching out and pounding the deep, undercut bank past the boulders. To ensure success I wanted to work every inch and seam of this spot. We didn’t move anything, I even replicated a Muskrat by throwing my house cat sized fly up on the bank, then jerking it off the bank plopping it into the water and stripping it fast to trigger a strike. Despite our hard work, we didn’t see anything here, a common theme of Muskie hunting. We were basically building up our karma for the next spot. We pulled up anchor and rowed down through a section of skinny water, around a bend, and upstream to another spillway. This spot doesn’t get hit by anglers very often, and getting anything but a drift boat or canoe is up in there is risky business. 

            This spot almost looks too good to be true, so much good looking water to pick apart. The spot held everything from wood, to big boulders which created back eddies with slack water you could fit my Dodge Durango into. If there ever was a list of top ten most dangerous areas for a baitfish, this would top it.

Anyone who fishes Wisconsin frequently knows that the water has an amber color to it, meaning you gotta focus when looking for creeping Muskies behind your fly. I was working a boulder strewn bank when I heard Dan yell, “There’s one!” I jerked my head around to see him aggressively stripping his fly up into a figure eight. The only indication I could tell that there was fish chasing his fly was a large white scar across its’ back. I didn’t move a muscle while Dan worked the fish, and by its body language it was hot. As soon as it was there it was gone, in an instant. I couldn’t quit tell what went wrong. Dan stuck his rod deep into the water during the eight and kept the fly moving quickly. Eh, who knows they’re Muskie, and this spot was too good to dwell on an almost heist. 

            We moved several other smaller fish right up tight to the dam but no nothing would eat. Questions were beginning to mumble between the two of us as to what we were doing wrong. After realizing that we were over thinking the situation, we stuck to our guns and kept on fishing, casting and dancing our flies through bad neighborhoods hoping for an eat. 

            We decided to the leave the holy water and head down stream. We rowed up to a spot where the current rips flows around a bend after coming off of a deep bank. Right on the bend there’s two dead falls that provide excellent looking cover. We’ve caught Muskie here in the past so it was worth our time. We worked the deep bank and then anchored parallel to the wood and fished it hard. As I was finishing a figure eight when I pulled my fly out of the water when out from under the boat swam out a Muskie. GOODNESS GRACIOUS!!! I yelled and the fish was literally right under my feet. The fish was easily mid forties….just how I like them. 

            After another almost eat, we rolled the dice, got off the water and headed to another section of the river that was equally as good. I know the age old theme is to never leave fish to find fish, but we only had one day to fish, and without having the opportunity to save the next spot for tomorrow, we packed up shop and headed out. The spot would be a dam below a large flowage, and not to jinx our luck, but Dan and I scored here every time last time fall when all the big females pushed up the dam to feed before the winter. 

            We rowed up river to the dam on the opposite side from the launch positioning in a big eddy adjacent to the main flow. I am not lying when I say this, but Dan moved a Muskie on his first cast! At this point in the day it was kinda more of a tease than anything. At the same time it kept our spirits up and our eyes focused. 

            Throughout the rest of the evening we continued to move fish in the same general area. Our theory was that at dark one of these fish was going to eat, right as the sun goes down its about to go down. 

            The witching hour was upon us, that magical hour right before dark when the boogie man was going eat one of our flies. I cast up against one of the pillars of the dam and WHOOOSHH! The surface erupted around my fly and my rod doubled over. I strip set hard and even managed to get a few more solid strips into the fish before it dove deep and bulldogged hard under the boat. Evidently what often happens with fighting Muskies is that you try to land them as fast as possible. Nobody ever fights muskies as if they are smallmouth bass or trout. The reason is that people spend so much time and effort chasing them that once you finally hook one, you automatically want to land it as fast as possible to finally hold it and see it.

            The same thought process applied here as well, and before the fight even started, it was over. Frantically trying to get that fish into the net and breathing heavily the whole time.  Let me tell you, when we finally got her int the net I sat back and breathed a sigh of relief. 

We had been beating the water all day and my forearms were on fire. We beat the odds as we could only fish one day because I had to go to work the next.  If you want to put the odds in your favor you must plan to fish at least three or four days. I've seen clients fish five days in a row without seeing anything. It happens, but that day we hit pay dirt, and the it made the drive back to Chicago a little less exhausting. 

Thanks for reading, tight lines!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Sage X Rod - A review and a look at what our friends at Sage been up to lately!

Back in June, we were fortunate enough to be among the selected group of dealers and writers to visit the Sage workshop on Bainbridge Island for a sneak preview of their new "Sage X" fly rods.

This was my third or fourth such tour, having sat on their Dealer Advisory Board for three years - and it was the most exciting visit yet.  Before I get to the details of their latest and greatest product launch, I would like to mention that things have been refined and new systems, tools and personnel implemented at the Sage workshop/factory to such a degree that I was amazed!

Team Sage has has hired and integrated some key personnel on the production side of their business, and gained efficiency and precision with investments on proprietary machinery, computer systems and specialized training.   I am not sure what details that I can share, but tasks that have been eyeballed and done by intuition in the hands of skilled artisans in the last decades now are aided by sophisticated machines, lasers and software designed and built in-house.  It's not like they could go to Hope Depot and buy esoteric machines .  It takes a level of technical ability to build stuff like they have.  25-30 individuals still touch and contribute to each and every rod produced by hand there.  Now these craftsmen do it at a  level of sophistication that I would dare to say puts them in a league of their own in the fly fishing industry.

Most of us are aware that they have world class rod designers and artists like Jerry Siem and his entire group of fellow designers and they are a key competitive advantage.  Did you realize that they have a compliment of full time material scientists, wonky engineers and really smart black box type guys and gals that together bring hundreds of years of scientific R&D experience and passion to the full time pursuit of perfection?  I hate calling Sage a factory, because the enterprise oozes "soul and passion" from the team of craftsmen and women that roll the blanks to the scientists that stress test hundreds of prototypes, but the tools and expertise that they have assembled makes this much more than a "rod shop" indeed.   This group is at the forefront of material science and R&D development, yet retain a level of passion and love for the essence of what makes fly fishing special.  My hat is off to the collective management for bringing this eclectic group of professionals to the next level without diluting their passion! 

So what has Team Sage come up with in launching the new Sage X Rod?

The "X" in this case means it's the 10th significant fly rod technology that Sage has developed over the years.  I don't know how, but they have refined the Konnetic Technology - this version being called Konnetic HD.

On the technical side of the user experience this translates to near instant dampening and near zero deflection or much better tracking.

By "dampening", I mean that my Sage X 5 WT goes from bent (loaded during a cast) to dead still flat/straight at the end of a cast.  It doesn't wiggle or twang when you finish your cast so energy isn't dissipated.  It's crazy efficient!

By "tracks well" I mean that the rod tip stays true during a cast and doesn't deflect left or right.  This produces even greater accuracy.

 The ability of a rod to generate line speed is the hallmark of a performance rod.  Faster line speed translates into longer, faster and more accurate casts.  Sage claims that this rod series produces the fastest line speed yet.  I agree.  Being a simple man, I don't get the science or physics involved, but I can feel it in the casting of this rod for sure but am puzzled why I can "feel" this rod better...

As far as the taper design - it is still a fast action rod - but the feel is very different from the One.  I absolutely love the Sage One Fly Rods and have years of fishing experience with that series- so I can't say which rod feels better to me yet.  I get the impression that I can load Sage X Rod deeper than the Sage One, and that the top or upper middle section of the rod has a softer touch.  I am not sure yet if the actual tip is softer, but I am very confident that this new rod is much better at protecting tippets and is much better at letting you the angler hold on to bigger fish on smaller hooks when called to do so.   That has always been a strength of moderate action or softer rods - but rarely has it been a virtue of full on fast action performance rods.

After landing a bunch of browns and rainbows on either side of the 20" size range on size 18-20 nymphs in fast water ( fished the  Beaverhead, Bighole and Boulder River in Montana in June) I am utterly pleased in this major refinement.  Previous fast action rods in these types of situations when small flies and thin tippets were necessary in fast water - were less delicate.

For a rod that allows you to do the delicate stuff well, it is at the same time a flat out casting machine!  Streamers or dries, this tool allows you to go further and more accurately than ever.

As a note - from my subjective opinion - I really started being romanced by this rod when I put on the  InTouch  Rio Gold Fly Line.  Initially I tried it with the Rio InTouch Perecption Line, and although it cast great, for me and this rod and the InTouch Rio Gold Fly Line work PERFECTLY together....

After having this rod for a handful of weeks and after bunch of lawn casting and a precious few days of trout fishing out west with the new Sage X, there hasn't been enough time to formulate a definitive opinion.  We might be a bit slower around here, but I am not a fan of uber reviews on brand new products that proclaim definitive conclusions.  I think a true understanding takes time to pick up nuance and subtleties.  Like I have said earlier, getting to know a new rod is like getting to know a new girlfriend...   It's just the beginning and all exciting and new.  What I have seen and felt and experienced so far, I have the feeling that this one is a keeper and that it will rank as among the finest that Sage or anyone has ever produced.  I look forward to learning as I grow into this series of rods.  They start becoming available August 15th, and in the mean time please come by the shop and test out our 5WT at your convenience

 Thanks for listening!

Andy Kurkulis

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Little Pre Holiday Fishing Trip to the Big Easy

Back in July while tarpon fishing with Greg Dini in Florida,  he casually mentioned that an opening had just materialized for Nov 30 and Dec 1 down in Louisiana-  a prime time trophy redfish and he had a spot available.  Greg is a rather sought after guide, and I had heard great things about "bull" redfish in the early winter, so naturally I booked the days.  (Greg owns / operates Fly Water Expeditions)  Really a fishy and fun dude!!

A few months later, when I mentioned it to my wife, she nearly fell out of her chair.  "That is Thanksgiving weekend you  !!%$#"   Oops - but what was done was done.   She needed a break from me anyway, with all of the pre Christmas stress and all.

My buddy, Chris (A.K.A "Tangles") miraculously got a hall pass and signed on to try his hand at the saltwater game.  Game on!

A short flight to New Orleans, a room in the French Quarter, and all we needed to do was not to over eat/drink and we would be fishing less than an hour out of downtown Big Easy.  If you have never been picked up at 6 am from a hotel in the French Quarter by a two ton truck towing a flats skiff, that alone is worth the trip!   A quick trip to this beautiful fun filled city was the smartest thing I have done in a long time. 

We fished with 9 wt Sage Salt Fly Rods which we over-lined with 10WT Rio Gen Purpose Tropical and SA Redfish Warm Fly Lines.  Normally, I hate overlining rods, but the average cast to these fish was 20-30 feet and the rod felt great uber overlined on the short casts.  Again - I can't tell you how important it is to use the right line for particular fishing situations!

The water was fairly clear, but there was a ton of overcast hazy skies, and visibility was generally lousy.  I don't understand how 3 sets of eyes had a hard time seeing 25 pond fish - but they would magically appear really close to the boat.  I think the longest cast we made in two days was probably 40'  Short quick casts were usually instantly rewarded.  It was nothing short of amazing to watch these fish charge the purple 4" streamers!

That was the first fish of the trip after 5 minutes on the bow!

Chris landed his very first redfish a short while later - not a bad start to his young saltwater career!

We didn't catch a million fish -but the action was fairly consistent.  We managed to set personal bests, second bests, third bests etc etc

A 9 wt rod seemed to be the perfect option, and the Nautilus NVG 8/9 , the Loop Opti Speedrunner and Sage 4210 all got some serious workouts!   Unlike battling bonefish or permit, we quickly learned that applying a lot of drag and a lot of pressure is pretty important when duking it with heavy redfish.  30 pound leaders also hep!

There are literally hundreds of square miles of shallow water flats from New Orleans down to Venice, and basically all along the Gulf shoreline from Texas to Florida.  Redfish are the perfect gamefish in many ways.  They readily eat flies, they are not to picky usually, they grow big, they give anglers second and third chances, and they pull hard!  If you are ever in the need for a quick, easy and infinitely fun getaway, you might want to check out a redfish destination!!!! 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

New Fly Tying Materials

As we enter into fall, we start focusing on fly tying and staying in the game of fly fishing.

Every year dozens of new materials come on the market and we incorporate them into our patterns- here we profile a few that are worth checking out - all of which are found in our Fly Tying Selection!

Every streamer pattern needs eyes - and these are pretty handy.  Basically lead eyes with a better paint job that places emphasis on the pupils.  We are big believers that fish like or are very aware of eyes when hunting down their prey.  Double Pupil Lead Eyes

For those of you tying streamers that you don't want to weight down, but are still looking to incorporate very realistic eyes - check out the Fish Skull Mask and add the hyper realistic Fish Skull Living Eyes

The Fish Skull Mask is a clear epoxy head that is very light.  It will not add appreciable sink rate - but will move or push water and give you a place to attach the realistic Living Eyes (a lot easier that creating your own epoxy heads to boot!)  The selection or variety of Fish Skull Living Eyes is pretty awesome

For those of you that like tying intruder style or  spey flies, we have recently started carrying a superior product - OPST Barred Ostrich (aka Signature Intruder Drabs) 
These are hand selected Ostrich Plumes that have stout butts and tapered, fine tips.  Selected for length and features that are applicable to this type of tying, they are dyed and barred to the highest standards.  Great stuff!

We also have added a trailer hook to our selection from the folks at OPST. 
The OPST Swing Hooks are barbless, and have a slightly upturned eye, and are perfect for all patterns that call for a trailer hook.  People swear that these hang on to fish, and due to their shape and bend, tend to hook more in the corner of mouths, similar to circle hooks

New from Greg Senyo this year are a bunch of new colors of his Senyo's Barred Predator Wrap.  This material adds movement and color on spey flies as well as musky streamers and everything in between.  Just a few wraps - and your patterns take on a whole new dimension!

And last but not least - a great new tool that makes handling and attaching beads a whole lot easier!
The Beadmaster Tool works with almost any size bead and helps you place it exactly where you want without pricking your finger, or rolling down the hall

Happy Tying!

Friday, August 7, 2015

IFTD 2015 - Some of the people behind the brands

Every year since 2001, Jon and I have joined other industry folk that gather at the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show to get a first peek at what's going on in this industry. 

And every year, I am reminded / struck by the fact, that for an incredibly tiny industry, we are blessed with some of the most passionate, creative and inventive people that bring their passions and talents to work each day and create great gear. 

This year, there was a bigger buzz or energy than recent years past, and this was evident by a crop of new products - big and small.  Allow me to introduce you to a few people behind these new products.

You know their gear, and they have an incredible team of engineers and designers, but
Jerry Siem's DNA is embedded all over Sage Fly Rods.  He has designed as is responsible for some of the best known and best loved fly rods ever produced -including this year's "Best New Freshwater Rod" the MOD Series.  To boot, Jerry is a hell of a nice guy and incredible caster/angler.  Always great to catch up with him and Team Sage's new products - both rods and reels are going to be huge hits. The entire line-up of products is scheduled to arrive at ChiFly by late August.  Stay tuned...

It's no secret that we here at ChiFly are fans of Nautilus Reels.  Please meet Kristen Mustad, the man behind this brand.  Year in and year out, Kristen and his team develop game changing innovations and frankly reels that are awesome.  Congrats on their yet to be officially named  new reel that won "Best new Freshwater Reel" and "Best new Saltwater Reel" - The soon to be re-named "Nautilus X" Available late 2015/early 2106

Meet John Le Coq, one of the co-founders of Fishpond USA.  He is pictured here at their booth standing next to a picture of his father - the man who inspires John daily.  John and his partners the brothers Kurtz are innovative, conservation minded folks that bring beautiful products to life - and have a unique and original perspective on gear design.  This year, they will be introducing addition packs, bags and slings with waterproof zippers and materials that are made from recycled fishing nets.  Congrats on winning "Best of Show Eco Friendly Product" and "Best of Show Chest Pack/Vest" category!

Tough to introduce just one person from Team Simms - so here is a group shot of KC Walsh and his uber talented team.  This company has grown up so incredibly much in the past 15 years, and it's been a privilege and a ton of fun to grow along with them!   Congrats on  winning 7 Best of  Show Category awards!  As a Simms Platinum Dealer - you will see every single one of their award winners at ChiFly soon!

And last but not least, please meet Jim Bartschi, the chief rod designer at Scott Fly Rods showing off the Scott Meridian.  Congrats on winning not only the "Best Saltwater Fly Rod", but also the big daddy "Best of Show" overall award!  Jim has an uncanny ability to design rods with distinct personalities.  By that I mean, when you cast his Meridian or Radian - they have a feel that is so unique - and that my friends is Jim's DNA.  Great team over at Scott - and great to see Jim and Scott get their much deserved recognition!!!

There are so many more great individuals behind so many awesome products or brands - and look forward to other introductions soon. 

Tight Lines Soon - Andy K

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

SW Wisconsin report 4/26/15

Jon was up in the Driftless last week for a few days of fishing.  The water was in great shape despite a bit of rain Sunday night.  The flora seem to mirror last year’s late spring.  The ground is still brown with ramps and other seasonals beginning to sprout.  

 Reminder:  Early trout season closes on Sunday, April 26th and reopens on Saturday, May 2nd 

Fishing was good sub-surface with Caddis Larva, small Pheasant Tails, and Scuds.  The black caddis have begun hatching on streams with water temps in the mid 40’s.  More fish have moved into the holding lies:  The seams at the heads of pools and tailouts.  

Most fish were fairly chunky and colorful from having a wide variety of active food scources.  


The rocks on most creeks we looked at were teeming with life.  BWO wing pads were dark indicating imminent emergence.

Upcoming hatches and a few particularly good flies flies to use and now available on our site: 

BWO's  - Dries and nymphs!


 Black Caddis - an early season favorite!

Craneflies - A really fun top water species - you should always have these in your box

Midges Always present - especially important in spring and fall!

Reminder:  Early trout season closes on Sunday, April 26th and reopens on Saturday, May 2nd   

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Wisconsin Opener

 Niall McCarthy, our newest employee, shares what opening weekend of this years Wisconsin Trout Opener looked like.  This is Niall's first post:

Last weekend my friends and I went up to the Driftless for the trout opener as we have for many years now.

This past weekend looked like it would be one of the more promising weekends, especially compared to our experience last season (see below)

My brother, Watson my dog, and I drove up Saturday morning and got to the first stream around 10 am. Within the first few casts I hooked into a nice little brown on the reliable pink squirrel. I let my brother fish and he had immediate success as well, on an olive bugger.

  Watson celebrated our success by jumping in the river and learning how to swim for the first time.

Unfortunately, that was pretty much the extent of our success for the day. We came across a pod of rising fish in a super clear and shallow tail out but were too lazy or greedy to switch to dries. Most streams were still very low, clear and had a fair amount of shelf ice on them.

We found a few sections that were ice free but most of the water was pretty fast for this time of the year. My friend measured a few streams and they were all around 35 degrees or so.

On Sunday, we found one hole on a lower spring creek that gave up a fair amount of fish from stripping nymphs through the pool.

A new brewery opened in Soldiers Grove called Driftless Brewing Company. Michael, one of the brewers gave us a tour. I sampled the golden ale, brown and pale, all of which were excellent.  Check it out next time you are in the area.

The other good news is there’s a major heat wave going on in the upper midwest for the next week which should melt most or all of the snow. Here is what remains as of 3/10.

I would imagine the streams get punched for the rest of the week but could drop into good shape by the weekend.  Get out there and fish - it is going to be a great season!