hold y'er britches...

Most of eastern Wisconsin got measurable rain yesterday and through the night last night.  Having talked to a couple guys that were out and about this morning and looking at the USGS gauges, things will be unfishable for a couple days.  Thankfully most of our snow is gone, so this most recent dumping won't cool the rivers down much.  If anything, it will bring fresh fish in.  Look for the smaller rivers to clear first and fish bigger flies/heavier tippet than you normally might.  Large streamers with a dark silhouette (black & purple) will work well along the edges of the rivers, as will large egg and nymph patterns.

Give it a couple days and try to hit the rivers just as they're starting to clear.  Fish will be less spooky and you can get away with using larger tippet.  Be prepared for a tussle, as there will be fresh fish in most systems.  Good luck!


4/9 update & report

As is evident by the lack of posts over the past week or so, it's spring (finally) and I've been out fishing a fair amount.  While I do enjoy writing and editing/uploading photos, I fish when I can.  My fly rods trump my electronics... Anytime.  Thus far I've made two trips to the Driftless Area and two back to the River Falls area.  The fishing has been amazing in the southwest part of the state.  Each time we've been down there we've had our choice of nymph, dry or streamer fishing, depending on the time of the day.  Most of the snow is gone now except for a couple of the deepest trenches in the north-facing hillsides.  Runoff shouldn't be an issue unless we get a good rain.  It's always a relief when the snow finally goes away as those afternoon melts and consequent cooling of the rivers can really shut the fish down.  It's been one of those springs where I've heard nothing but positive reports coming back from the Driftless Area, which is a great sign.

On the steelhead front, things are mostly just getting started on the rivers north of Manitowoc.  To the south, I've heard of fish being landed on the Menomonee River and the Sheboygan River.  The ice is gone there and water temps are in that 36-40 degree range already.  Shoto and Mishicot are also giving up fish, if you don't mind the elbow-to-elbow angling.  Up north, we still have a decent amount of snow and ice left in the deep cedars and hillsides, which is keeping things a little behind schedule.  Most of the rivers are, however, clear of ice by now.  By the end of the week here, I'd imagine things should be stable, starting to warm and also starting to fish well.  If the water temps are below 40 degrees, just remember to concentrate on the slightly slower water and work your flies down in the zone nice and slow.  The fish are around, we just need the water to stabilize and warm up a bit.  A dark leech swung through holding water or a nymph/egg combo on the edges of the current will produce fish this time of the year.  Good luck!

**Remember that your 2013 fishing licenses have expired**


march 22nd report

A few days ago it was almost fifty degrees out... Robins and red-winged blackbirds were all over the place, singing their springtime choruses, and we started to see some grass on the edges of the yard. Right now it's twenty degrees out and there are snow flurries forecasted for later today.  So goes life in the upper-midwest in the spring.

As far as fishing goes, things are just getting started.  Myself and others that have ventured down to the Driftless Area have experienced very good fishing.  The fish seemed to have made it through the long winter just fine and are fat, happy and ready to eat.  As usual, the warmer days are yielding fish sipping midges and BWOs on the surface.  When fish aren't on the surface, go below... I've heard of a lot of different nymphs and streamers working well this season.  I think the bottom line is that when the fish are hungry, they'll eat.  The streams across the Driftless Area are in a wide variety of conditions, as is usual in March and April.  While one is high, dirty and 35 degrees, the next is low, clear and 41 degrees.  Don't get too hung up on stream reports (from the internet or other anglers), because you sometimes don't know where they're coming from.  Just go fish.  Remember, the streams that are low and clear often have fish grouped together this time of the year.  Approach with caution.  Spooking even one fish can often stir up the pod and cause all the fish to become cautious.  In the spring, it's not uncommon for me to use 3X on one stream while tossing streamers and then use 6X fluorocarbon on the next stream while casting a size 22 midge.  Be flexible and don't get too fixated on one technique or one water type.

The tributaries are just starting to break out of their wintery grip.  Most of the rivers to the north of Green Bay are still frozen over, but some of the rivers south of Sheboygan are starting to open and some are even ice-free.  Water temps will be in the 30s for the next week or more until we get closer to next weekend.  Towards the end of next week, it looks like temps (statewide) will be in the 50s or warmer.  Couple that with some warm rain and things will open up and get rolling.  Unfortunately, most fish at these temps will be in the slower pools, which will also be the last places to lose their ice. Concentrate on the slowest water you can find and work low and slow.  Nymphs and eggs paired together under an indicator will work well in the spring, and my best advice is to set the hook on even the slightest movement of the indicator.  When the water temps are 37 or colder, strikes can be very subtle.  Once the temps get close to 40 (and above), the takes will be much more obvious as the fish will become more active and aggressive.  Also, try to keep the fish out of the water as little as possible when the air temps are cold (or at any time, for that matter).  Cold temps are tough on a fish's delicate gill structure and exposing them to cold air can damage them.  Keep pliers out and handy, have your camera (if you use one) easily accessible and use a landing net.  I started using a landing net for steelhead about five years ago and think it makes a world of difference, especially when fishing solo.  I can net the fish and keep it in the water while I grab my camera, pliers, etc.  Nets with a rubber bag or soft cloth are gentle on the fish and keeping them in the water will keep the fish relaxed until you're ready to take a picture or remove the hook.

We leave for the Driftless Area on Thursday and we'll be down there for five days.  I should have lots of pictures when I get back... Temps look like they'll be very comfortable, hanging in the upper-40s and maybe even the 50s.  There's not nearly as much snow down there as there is here, so hopefully the runoff monster doesn't get us too bad.


one last reminder...

This weekend, Tight Lines is hosting it's Second Annual Brule River Day.  The event is Saturday at Tight Lines Fly Fishing Company and runs from 10AM-4PM.  For full details on what's going on and who will be there, follow this link for more information.

Additionally, I have gotten some feedback from a couple people that this blog loads slowly for them... I'm not sure what to say.  It may be a browser issue or an issue with the device.  I've only heard this from 2-3 people.  I emailed about 20 people and asked them to go to this page and they all said it loaded very fast and without incident.  If anyone else is having this problem, shoot me a message... I'd be curious to know what browser you're using.  Thanks ~ Nate



Mother Nature blessed us with some warm weather and I was finally able to break out of possibly my longest stretch without fishing in open water in a long time.  Temps were in the upper-20s on Saturday and I didn't make it out to fish.  Sunday was in the upper-30s when we got to the river and low-40s when we left.  I haven't seen that many fishermen on the river in a long time.  With the long winter and last week's opener being so cold, it's no surprise that there were a lot of people out.  We actually struggled to find a spot along the river that didn't have a half-dozen vehicles parked there.  We finally did find a spot where there was just one truck and the anglers from said truck were just finishing up. We parked, rigged up and decided to head downstream and fish back up to the bridge.  As we sat in the snow tying flies on and enjoying a beer in the warm sunshine, I glanced upriver and there was another angler sitting on the bank just 15 yards upstream from us.  He apparently had parked and walked down without us noticing.  Plan... thwarted.  There wasn't mush we could do and we fished the run that we were sitting near, landing one small brown and missing a few others.  We later passed above that angler and headed upstream from the bridge, fishing a couple spots along the way.  It seemed that each spot had a couple really hungry, aggressive fish in it and then, nothing.  We did not come across one of those runs that you can park in and catch 10-12 fish in a short period.  It seemed that you were best served to fish the run well, take a couple fish and then move on.  A tungsten scud paired with a midge larvae (Zebra Midge or JuJu Midge) worked well, as did a #20 red Copper John.  The warm sunshine and cold beer was much needed.  By the time we left, there was definitely a touch of color added to the river by the runoff that was occurring.  Although the air temps were warm, I have seen the river temps drop on these kinds of afternoons as much of the runoff that's entering the rivers is just a touch above freezing.  As the snow melts and runs down to the river, most of it's journey is over and through ice laden gullies and banks, cooling it as it flows.  These areas that have lots of runoff pumping into them can easily drop in temperature when there's still this much snow on the ground.  It didn't matter to us, I was just happy to be out.



a noble cause

A very well done site, a very noble cause and something we should all pay attention to.  I've heard of this movement being called "extreme" or "radical" and I don't think that's the intent.  Most of these dams are literally serving no purpose anymore and are costing taxpayers more money for upkeep than they're worth.  Hydropower is a great idea, but when the generators are old and the structure is failing, the cost vs. worth scale starts to tip into the unfavorable.  In the interest of the fish, the wildlife and all who enjoy both, I'm all for seeing some of these come down.  They've even started removing some small dams on some of our little Lake Michigan tributaries in the past couple years, allowing steelhead and their smolt to travel upriver to areas that just might be cool enough to harbor those fish and allow natural reproduction to complete the cycle.  It also makes it easier on the fish all around by dispersing them when they run so that they're not so vulnerable to anglers and predators.  I'm proud that we're realizing that without our tinkering, wild fish can rebound and Mother Nature will prevail.


wish i was there...

A small compilation of opening weekend photos from the past...


saturday guest fly tyer events

Join us at Tight Lines Fly Fishing Company for our last two Saturday fly tying events.  These are free events on Saturdays that offer lots of information and insight into various aspects of fly tying and fishing.  On March 8th, Bob Haase will be in-house talking about a wide variety of topics, from new tying materials to becoming a more efficient tyer.  Bob ties about as much as anyone we know and no doubt will have some pointers to improve your game at the vise.  On March 15th, we'll be having our second annual Brule River Day, with the guys from Fly By Night Guide Service.  Tim Pearson will be there with his amazing paintings, Luke Kavajecz will be tying his flies that he likes to swing on the Brule and Damian Wilmot will be there to tie, answer questions and offer insight based on his 20+ years of Brule experience.  You don't want to miss this event!  Click on this link for more info on either event...



I finally got around to organizing and uploading some pictures to my Flickr account from this past summer/fall.  Check it out at this link or click the link in the sidebar.

Also, if anyone is noticing that this page loads really slow, leave a comment on here and let me know. I got a comment that it seems to take forever for the page to load, although I haven't noticed it.  Thanks ~ Nate


opening weekend, aborted

Well, contradictory to my last post, I will not be partaking in any opening weekend fishing activities. Instead, me and a couple of the guys will be grilling steaks and drinking cheap beer, imagining what it'd be like to be knee deep in a blue-green run, running nymphs through likely water and maybe even hooking a fish or two.  If the forecast was eighteen degrees, I may consider going.  Maybe even at fifteen degrees.  But with the forecast currently sitting at between one and five degrees, it's just not worth it.

I will be wetting a line the following weekend, the 8th & 9th.  My wife, kids and myself will be heading to western Wisconsin that weekend to visit my family and see my new niece (congrats Luke and Lindsey!), help cut and burn some downed trees and catch a few trout (hopefully).  Cigars and good bourbon will be in order as celebratory indulgences.  It looks like the forecast is going to swing back up into the thirties and it'll be just what the doctor ordered.  I'll have pictures and reports from the area when I get back.  Until then, it'll be the same old routine of trying to stay warm, looking at piles of fishing gear and tying a few flies.  We're over the hump and I'm confident that the worst is behind us... After this week, it's all downhill!


opening day tradition - renewed

I remember when the trout season opener was a huge deal for me personally.  Preparing gear for two weeks beforehand.  Tying flies so that every single slot in my fly box was taken and accounted for. Cleaning lines.  Straightening leaders.  Organizing basically everything that I owned so that I could hit the water and be absolutely efficient and surgical.  I'd stay over at a friend's house and we'd stay up until 3AM talking about where we'd fish, how we'd fish it, what would be hatching, and of course, who would catch the biggest fish.  When the lights finally did go out, there was no sleeping as the excitement and anticipation had the same effect as seven cups of coffee.  When I moved away from the western side of Wisconsin, that tradition of an opening day outing went by the wayside.  The lack of nearby trout streams, having a family, guiding spring steelhead... All of the above came into play.  I want that feeling back, that excitement.  Starting this year, I'm going to try to make an effort to fish the trout opener each year.  I may have to drive three hours, but it will be worth it.  This year's opener may be a rough one.  Our snow coverage here is the third highest (for this time of the year) since 1889. We're forecasted to get some beautiful temps for the next couple days, and then back down to the upper single-digits and well below zero at night.  Without any kind of snow melt, we may very well need snowshoes to get anywhere on March 1st.  Either way, I'm going to try to be there.


Random Stuff and a Warmup

I just wanted to drop a big thank you to all of you that came out and supported the Cabin Fever and Badger Opener Fly Shows... It was great to talk to you all and chat about how anxious we all are to get out and fish again.  It's been a pretty nasty winter thus far and the general consensus around the past two shows is that if things don't break soon, people are going to start going all kinds of crazy!  Well, we may get our wish (for a little while at least) as it looks like the end of the week is going to be really nice. Low to upper-thirties are forecasted for at least five days, and it's more than welcome here!  Things will start slowly melting, birds will be singing (I even heard reports of robins in the area today) and the desire to fish will grow exponentially.  We're heading to northern Minnesota on Thursday for four days of icefishing, but that won't satiate the desire to fish in open water.  Patience, grasshopper, for our time in nearing...
Thanks Kim Ferrie for the photo!


In Case You're Bored...

Check out the Tight Lines YouTube channel and browse some of the new stuff we've been working on lately.  From beginning casting lessons to knot tying, fly tying and more, we've got you covered.  We'll be shooting and editing a bunch in the next month, so check back often for more videos.  With the new "film room" and harware upgrades, the quality of the videos should improve dramatically, which especially helps with the tying tutorials.  Michael Bay we are not, but we've gotten a lot of positive feedback from these little clips.


Join Tight Lines at the Badger Opener

Once again, we'll be at the 2014 Badger Fly Fishers Spring Opener.  This event is being held at the Radisson Hotel in Madison, WI on February 8th from 8AM to 5PM.  Here's a link to the Badger Fly Fishers website for more info.  This is always a fun show for us with lots of local vendors, speakers, fly shops and just great folks all around.  As always, we'll be accepting donations of fine craft dark beers and IPAs.


Tributaries Video (2014 F3T Selection)

A little sample of what's to come in the 2014 Fly Fishing Film Tour.  The films this year look amazing, maybe the best lineup we've seen in the past few years.  There seems to be the perfect combination of conservation awareness, amazing cinematography, music and good ole' fish porn.


One More Month to Go...

And it can't get here soon enough.  At this rate, we may be looking at shelf ice on some rivers as well as lethargic trout.  I'm hoping this weather funk that we're in changes drastically in the next month or the opener of Wisconsin's early trout season may be tough in some areas.  Either way, I'm in.


Top Gear for 2014

Five or six years ago I did a post titled "The Meandering Kudos",  highlighting some of the top gear pieces I'd used that year.  I've gotten several requests to do something like that again, so here goes.

The fly fishing industry has never been better for quality gear and a wide variety of options.  When I started fly fishing, breathable waders weren't even invented yet.  It was rubber, canvas or neoprene. Fishing shirts came in just a few colors - Olive, gray, khaki, khaki and khaki.  Graphite was just breaking into the industry and fiberglass was common.  The isle at the fly shop had a handful of lines, leaders and tippets.  Now there's lines for carp, muskies, selective trout, trout in lakes, trout on the surface, trout eating nymphs, trout eating streamers, redfish, bluefish, stripers, tarpon, peacock bass... You get the idea.  It's overwhelming to someone just getting into the spot and a Godsend for those of us that know (or think we know) exactly what we need.  Reading the company catalogs can be insightful, but lets face it, they're all going to say that their stuff is the best and has no flaws.  The only unbiased feedback anymore comes from us, the anglers.  The people that use, abuse and then use some more.

Below is some of the best gear that I've used over the past year.  For simplification, I've kept this list exclusive to stuff that's come out within the past year (or close to).  It's not often that something comes out and I think, "Geez, why didn't someone do this a long time ago?"  This stuff fits that criteria... The wow factor.  The "I'm impressed" factor.  The must have factor.  **Pictures are numbered.  Numbers coincide with descriptions below.**











#1 - Simms Headwaters Large Sling Pack - One of the most useful, well designed packs that I've ever used.  Size is perfect for a light rain jacket, water bottle, fly boxes and all the other stuff you'd need for 4-6 hours on the water.  The flip-down work station is awesome and makes losing split shot and indicators while rigging a thing of the past.  

#2 - Redington Form Game Rod - The best "play" rod that I've ever used.  Actually casts a real fly line so you can practice hauling and shooting the line.  Two-piece for easy storage.  Super fun little rod... Maybe a sleeper mini-stream bugger rod??

#3 - Redington Butter Stick - Glass, reborn.  Ultra-fun glass rods at a modest price.  If you fish small streams, do yourself a favor and get your mitts on one of these rods, if you can.  They're selling out quickly everywhere due to their popularity.  

#4 - Loon Nip 'n Sip - A nipper and a bottle opener.  Pair with a hemostat and what else does a guy need.  James Bond did more with much less.  Great combination!

#5 - Sage Pike & Musky Rods - Built around the idea of the previous Bass Series, but a full nine feet in length with a nice fighting butt/lower grip.  Not only do these rods cast better than their shorter cousins, the new Pike/Musky Line is a real home run.  It's camouflaged with a clear intermediate tip, making it great for huge streamers.  Comes with rod tube (with built-in reel case) and the new line for $595.  More versatile than the previous Bass Rods, these should serve a purpose for tarpon, peacock bass, pike, muskies, big stripers and anything else that requires big flies and a big rod.  

#6 - Simms Stretch Neck Gaiter - If you fish anywhere with blustery winds and chilling cold, this thing is a necessity.  Keeps your neck, cheeks, ears and nose warm.  Soft fleece backing and breathing holes complete this simple, but useful piece of equipment.  My wife has already stole my first one for winter running.

#7 - Smith Polarchromic Ignitor Lenses - Available in most of the Smith Techlite Glass frames, these lenses are amazing.  Great for stained water and a wide variety of lighting situations.  For those of you not familiar, the Polarchromic lenses actually get darker when it gets brighter out and they lighten when it gets darker out.  Eliminates the need to carry multiple pairs of glasses/lenses.  In my opinion, a good pair of polarized glasses is near the top of my "must have" on the water gear.  They'll make the difference between seeing the fish (and cover) and not.  

#8 - Simms Slick Jacket - Hands down the best waterproof jacket I've ever worn.  The seamless exterior keeps line from snagging on corners and the inner pockets have more than enough capacity for anything you'd need to carry.  I dig the black color, which absorbs a lot of heat on a chilly day. The Pro Fabric has a slight stretch to it, which is perfect for casting and rowing.  The hood is big enough for my big head and a stocking cap with a headlamp.  I also like that the cut of the jacket (body) is what I'd call full-length.  Most wading jackets are cut short for wading.  This jacket is great not only for fishing, but I've also worn it to shovel snow, go sledding with the kids, to the store... Anytime you want to beat the wind and stay dry, this is your jacket.  I can't imagine a better jacket than this one.

#9 - LifeProof iPhone Case - A slim case for your iPhone that's guaranteed waterproof??  Seems like a no-brainer.  It even has a glass port over the camera so that pictures won't be distorted and blurry. Makes carrying a phone on the water sensible, especially with a $650 phone.  I don't always like a phone while I'm fishing, but they're great for snapping quick photos and telling your buddies (who are at work) that the fish are really grabby today.

#10 - Howler Bros Gaucho Snap Shirt - I dig this shirt!  The patterns are rad.  The fabric is very lightweight, but incredibly tough... a rare combination in today's lightweight fishing shirt market. These shirts dry fast and fit well.  Add the fact that they have pearl snaps and hey, what else could you ask for?


February 1st Guest Tyer - Dave Ballok

Stop by Tight Lines Fly Fishing Company on Saturday, February 1st for our Saturday tying event and watch one of the best musky tyers around turning out some BIG flies for big predator fish.  Dave Ballok will be in-house, creating his proven musky/pike flies and offering insight as to how and why they catch fish. If you fish for anything with teeth and an attitude, you need to come check this out. Dave will be tying from 10AM until 4PM.  We also have a limited supply of Dave's flies in stock and for sale.  These are tied by Dave himself and don't stick around for long, so check those out as well. This is a free event so get out of the house, knock the dust of the vise and watch Dave do his thing. You can follow this link for more info...


get on it!

Just a reminder, if you haven't gotten your film tour tickets yet, head to this site or call/stop into the fly shop ASAP.  It IS a bigger venue this year, but we do have limited tickets available, so get yours now. It's way cooler to be in the theater, watching rad fishing videos, drinking beer and possibly winning some great prizes than it is to be standing outside in yet another Polar Vortex... Trust me.  Pre and post-show indulgences at St. Brendan's Pub.  Join us on February 5th for the 2014 Fly Fishing Film Tour.