Michigan Water & History

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality ( MDEQ) has recently handed down a decision that implies that Pure Michigan water has little value to this great state. 'We', have decided to give away 200 million gallons of water a year to the Nestle Corporation for a paltry sum of $200 per year! We can thank Heidi Grether for this decision that she defends by following the letter of the law ,which under the Great Lakes Compact states that as long as water is packaged under 5.7 gallons, there is no limit on withdrawal of water on the Great Lakes Basin. Chew on that for a minute or two.

More puzzling, is that during the public hearing process, 80,000 people objected to the proposal while apparently less than 100 people were for the permit (who are these people and who do they work for?) At this time, consider the fish farm, hatchery issue in Grayling, and you begin to understand that you do NOT understand at all how the 'tail wagging the dog' policies still permeate the decision making process, especially when it comes to conservation and environmental issues that reveal we have not progressed or learned much from our past travesties on the land and water.

Some people have suggested a boycott of Nestle products and it appears that there is some movement in that direction. However, I don't believe a boycott will have any effect on a major corporation that is much diverse in product exposure world wide. People outside Michigan or the Great Lakes region may or may not engage in protest in the same manner for example, that fly fisherman I have spoken to outside this state did not even know about the million gallons of crude oil that spilled into the Kalamazoo River here in Marshall, Michigan seven years ago, the largest in-land oil spill in fresh water ever!

This is a policy issue that has to be addressed at the state and federal level that insists that agencies with appointed leadership roles, that are responsible for the stewardship of natural resources be held accountable with consequences.

Consider that the MDEQ approved a permit last fall that would allow the Michigan Potash Co. LCC to withdraw 1.98 million gallons of water per day from the same watershed that Nestle is tapped into! Look at those numbers again.....2 million gallons per day!! Interesting note here is that as of the first of March, a permit supervisor said that there had been very little public input on injection wells, "only a handful of comments" were received, less than six, and most were in support of the wells! Why is this not bigger news than the bottled water fiasco?

What about the plastic water bottle itself? Their has been talk of a deposit being implemented. According to a report by NPR, last year Americans bought more than four billion gallons of water in individual-portion bottles. Many people who live in the country in northern Michigan, for example, that have a well with the best drinking water on the planet, are part of that 4 billion. The same report states that only about 23 percent of bottles, including soda, are recycled. Most being made with a non-renewable resource: polyethylene terephthalate, or PET.

Interesting to note here to those following the 'trade wars', the same NPR report states that China apparently is the number one consumer of material buying 40 percent of the bottles Americans recycle.

What have we learned about ourselves from the past? Do we care more than we used to about cold water and stewardship? Do fewer people become engaged in environmental issues in spite of overwhelming media and information exchange that we are all prisoners to? Do our children and grandchildren bare the burden of our never ending environmental blunders and suffer the consequences of our apathy and ignorance over and over again? Apparently, our collective insistence of making sure that history does in fact repeat itself, may some day lead us to an impasse that has us asking ourselves the question of what has true value in our lives, and what is convenient for now, that someone else can 'fix' when it there turn at the wheel. 


Mark Karaba

Wild Places

I remember many years ago a cousin from Missouri came for a short visit to my home here in southern Michigan.
I took him fishing to a small lake near me which in my world, is the customary thing to do. I wanted to take him to one of my favorite lakes that though diminutive in size held good numbers of large-mouth bass and very rarely was fished by others. It always had a remote feel to it and I enjoyed paddling a canoe around it near the shore line.I suppose  it was the stand of tamarack trees that lined the east end of the lake that made it seem more wild and remote than it actually was. Tamarack trees will do that. We had an enjoyable time and as I recall caught a few bass. After pulling the boat up on shore and taking care of gear I said to him that the next time he visited I would take him up north, to which he replied, "this is up north"!
  I have been to remote and wild places. I have been to Labrador which is probably as remote as any place in North America. That involved a long commercial flight and then a 100 mile float plane flight. It was a bucket list thing to do for sure,but I was at the mercy of an outfitter ,guides and a producer and had little or no say in our day to day planning and was also burdened with the responsibility of filming, and due to the poor fishing conditions ,the result of extreme hot weather, had virtually very little time to fish myself. This fact has bothered me more as the years go by then it did in real time, as this was on a lake that claims the title of having the largest brook trout in the world.
    I have always sought wild places.  I spent many years chasing whitetail deer in Ontario that I am sure was the most remote place on the planet that held big deer and was legal to hunt unguided for a non resident. That place was over a thousand miles from where I live and and then involved a 20 mile boat ride to the camp we used as a base. It was worth the effort and drew me back many times and as I write this, I can look up on my wall and see the results of those 'expeditions' preserved as a physical reminder of my effort and the satisfaction they still represent to me.
   Fishing in a remote place creates the same stimuli for me.  Always trying to imagine that maybe only a handful of anglers have been here, I find myself consciously not looking terribly hard for evidence that may  indicate otherwise. A moose track on a gravel bar in mid river has the opposite effect of a boot track, and stands as a barometer of wildness, and in Northern Ontario, it can mean wild native brook trout. And, if you are on certain streams that flow into Lake Superior, it can mean coaster Brook trout!
   The coaster, if you don't already know, is a Brook trout that lives off shore in Lake Superior and returns to certain rivers to feed and spawn. To somewhat clarify, these fish feed heavily on smelt at river mouths in the spring and travel back to flowing water in the fall to spawn. It is not clear as to whether these spawning fish return to 'birth waters' due to a genetic implant like salmon.
Research indicates unlike salmon,coasters appear to spend their big lake existence within a few miles off shore and may frequent river mouths to feed at any time based on available food source including hatches that would carry 'spent flies' to the mouth of the big lake.
It is fair to say that most, if not all of the rivers that flow into Lake Superior in Fisheries Management Zone 10, from Sault Ste. Marie to Wawa, have Brook trout through out the upper river system .
If you are not familiar with the topography in the Algoma District along the north shore, you would be very surprised to find the abrupt change that lies just 10 miles north of the Michigan border.
    This is very rugged mountain terrain that will surprise you with the elevation change and views of the big lake that occur so soon after crossing the border from Michigan that you will want to pull into one of the designated viewing areas along the highway to pause and adjust your mind , and try to slow down and take it all in. You probably will find yourself saying out loud, "I had no idea"! If you are a trout nut like me, you may become overwhelmed by the rivers you will cross as you drive north and declare to yourself or no one in particular, "I will fish this one day"!
I have spent the last few years exploring some of the more accessible stretches of the rivers that pass under the highway near the Lake Superior shore and asking a lot of questions to locals to gain some intel.
      The rivers between the Soo and Wawa all begin in higher elevations and tend to have steep gradient near the mouth of the big lake. That means that virtually ALL have waterfalls , gorges and series of Rapids that can be technical to fish to flat-landers . The upper portions of rivers I refer to means limited access and 4 wheel drive on bush roads that can be very rough and bumpy. If you do not have a need or a desire to push farther into the bush to find brook trout, if you are content to stay within the cozy comfort of a main road and share your fishing with other (local) anglers, it is still worth the time as the fishing may still be better than you are used to experiencing.
If you fish in the U.P., you will be familiar with the type of water I refer to and have fished water with a steep gradient. I liken it to the waters I fish in the mountains of Tennessee, except for the 'tea stain' color, much like the UP.
       I realize that all anglers not not have the drive or inclination to explore wild places that might take some extra effort and can have a element of risk. People are different, and fly fishing people tend to follow trends that satisfy their needs and I believe some even entertain the idea of exploring new places, yet are satisfied to do it "vicariously" through others that are driven to fish around the next bend as it were. I mean those less inclined to explore are still drawn to a good story told by those that do! As it stands I, for one, am grateful that the majority of anglers are content to share there favorite water with like minded folks and find happiness their. I also fish the AuSable.
These rivers of the north in the Lake Superior watershed are under fished by Michigan standards. It is not Labrador, though the far northern rivers above the "height of land" or the divide in the most northern portion of Ontario that sends its waters north to James Bay, such as the Albany River or the Moose River exist in a vast roadless area that may rival Quebec or Labrador for remote factor and Brook Trout. This northern tier is where woodland caribou and even polar bears roam.
    At a certain age or point in ones life, value becomes more significant. All things that have meaning have a value factor. If fishing is important to you, if it is the vehicle that takes you to a place of quiet and the peace you deserve, and you are of a certain age, then time has a great value.
I guess I have found value in a place that is not too far from home,not too expensive ,and has a somewhat convenient' wildness 'factor that puts me among moose and wolves and Brook trout.
I love Michigan. I love northern Michigan and its wild and beautiful rivers.
I also love the fact that our neighbor to the north allows me the privilege to explore rivers that Brook trout thrive in,and experience a culture that is friendly and welcoming.
    If you have a desire to contact me about a fishing trip to Ontario or Michigan, or advice on rivers in Tennessee, feel free to email.

Mark Karaba

The Fly Factor



Mark Karaba of The Fly Factor is now offering guided fly fishing trips to Ontario Canada. We will be fishing several Lake Superior tributaries that hold genuine Coaster Brook Trout and wild Brook Trout throughout the entire upper river systems. These are wild fish in very wild surroundings that offer scenic vistas including many waterfalls, possible moose, bear and wolf sittings.
Trips will be fitted to your desire, ability and willingness to explore deeper into the bush or be content with more accessible, yet still very wild and under fished streams.
Accommodation details for lodging and food can be arranged.

For details on pricing and booking email Mark at: trout211@icloud.com

-The Fly Factor Staff

Spring Newsletter

Greetings from The Fly Factor staff,

We’ve continued to work hard all winter long fishing new haunts, preparing gear and boats, tying lots and lots of flies and planning new trips. We are extremely excited with all that we have planned for 2017! We offer smallmouth trips on three local rivers – the Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, and the Grand.  We also have upcoming destination trips! Mark has been working diligently on offering a Canadian brook trout expedition and inquire about our up north trout trips!  

Photo:   Fly Factor client Ben Hughes with an April 2016 pre-spawn giant 20 ¼” personal best smallmouth on-the-fly. The fish ate a proven custom leach pattern Brett tied.

Photo: Fly Factor client Ben Hughes with an April 2016 pre-spawn giant 20 ¼” personal best smallmouth on-the-fly. The fish ate a proven custom leach pattern Brett tied.

Our favorite fishing trip - Kalamazoo River smallmouth is growing in popularity among fishing circles and we would love to expose you to it, teach you something new, and give you a shot at a trophy 19” plus smallmouth bass. The secret is out! Take a trip with TFF the most knowledgeable Kalamazoo River smallmouth gurus.  

NOTHING gets the heart pounding or the knees shaking like a river smallmouth smashing a streamer and erupting out of the water!

Our season primer summaries and gear list for smallmouth (almost all the following gear can be used for trout as well):

Recommended gear:

  • 6-9 wt. med-fast to fast rods. The new 7 wt. Echo Boost and Echo Boost Salt has performed excellent for streamers and is affordable but there are a myriad of other options.
    • Recommended – Echo, Sage, TFO, Ross, Orvis, Scott
  • Large Arbor 6-10 wt. reels – put plenty of thick backing on, typically over 200ft. for larger arbor reels. Closed seal drags are preferred but not essential.
    • Recommended – Sage, Ross, Lamson, Orvis
  • Full sinking lines – 150 grain to 250 grain full sinking line. Typically with a head length of 20-30 ft.
    • Recommended – Airflo Streamer Max – Short and Long, Scientific Anglers, RIO
  • Intermediate lines – A slower sinking rate line but still enough to submerge neutrally buoyant streamers.
    • Recommended – Scientific Anglers, RIO, Airflo
  • Bass/Muskie floating line – Aggressive head designs help to cast and roll heavier streamers and weighted flies.
    • Recommended – Airflo Bass/Muskie

April is pre-spawn and these fish are interested in fattening up in preparation for the task of spawning. Spring temperatures are warming the water and as the water warms so does that activity. Now is the time to catch a true giant as these fish are very robust. MDNR’s recent early catch and release season has allowed us to target fish before the traditional Memorial Day opener. For fly anglers that’s fantastic. Fishing can be great this time of year but tactics need to be dictated by the mood and fish are usually concentrated. It can be feast or famine. Slower streamer tactics (dredging) and weighted lines rule, but a warm up and aggressive streamer tactics can takeover. Trip expectations should be swinging for the fences. Day trips are the norm and longer days covering water can pay.

Photo:   Fly factor client Austin Lortz with an April 2016 pre-spawn trophy 20” smallmouth also his personal best on-the-fly. The fish ate the same leach fly as above.

Photo: Fly factor client Austin Lortz with an April 2016 pre-spawn trophy 20” smallmouth also his personal best on-the-fly. The fish ate the same leach fly as above.

May is the month you shouldn’t miss! Weather tends to be more consistent and this is when you get a shot at multiple big fish days. Anytime of the day is productive. The middle to end of May is when the majority of spawning takes place for smallmouth. We DO NOT target spawning fish. We leave fish alone on beds. It can happen but an immediate release is the best option - males will aggressively protect nests. You’ll rarely catch a female sitting on a bed like you would a largemouth. The timing of the spawn is a combination of environmental factors like temperature, position of the sun, and day length. The spawn can take place very quickly however. Fishing can get very good with hungry pre-spawn and post-spawn females. Large spawned out females can get lock jaw but spawning is not usually symmetric across the board and there is usually a willing fish. Tactics consist of fishing weighted streamers, swimming large neutrally buoyant streamers and topwater (froggin).  

Photo:   Mark with an impressive 19” smallie caught in early May 2016. Mark used a weighted crayfish streamer pattern (Skyes craw).

Photo: Mark with an impressive 19” smallie caught in early May 2016. Mark used a weighted crayfish streamer pattern (Skyes craw).

Photo:   Fly Factor client Suzanne Stone with her largest smallie to date, a beautiful 19” fish. She caught it in late May 2016. This fish took a weighted crayfish streamer (Skyes craw) developed by Skye Fissette, same as above, tied by Brett.

Photo: Fly Factor client Suzanne Stone with her largest smallie to date, a beautiful 19” fish. She caught it in late May 2016. This fish took a weighted crayfish streamer (Skyes craw) developed by Skye Fissette, same as above, tied by Brett.

June is a sleeper month. Most fish have finished spawning and are aggressive. Fishing can be productive all day but the closer we get to July we focus more on mornings and late afternoons. Fish are hungry and tactics are dictated by fish mood, but terrestrials and prey fish, macroinvertebrates and bethic bugs (crayfish etc.) make up a broad-based diet. Streamers – weighted and neutrally buoyant, topwaters, and large nymphs or buggy flies are all producers. Some of our best days have come in June.  

Photo :   Fly Factor client Shane Snyder with an 18” post-spawn June 2016 smallie that ate a large neutrally buoyant streamer (D & D). Big fly and a big meal for a hungry top-notch predator.

Photo: Fly Factor client Shane Snyder with an 18” post-spawn June 2016 smallie that ate a large neutrally buoyant streamer (D & D). Big fly and a big meal for a hungry top-notch predator.

Photo:    Brett with an 18” post-spawn June 2016 smallie that aggressively ate a frog fly he’s developed for the surface.

Photo: Brett with an 18” post-spawn June 2016 smallie that aggressively ate a frog fly he’s developed for the surface.

We look forward to providing an exciting day on the water! Book a trip soon. Dates are filling up fast! Look for our next newsletter coming this Summer. Send us a message via email theflyfactormi@gmail.com or call 269-274-2195 if you would like any custom tied flies for smallmouth or trout tied by Brett and Mark. Both have developed innovative, proven fly designs as well as popular flies tied with the highest quality hooks and materials. Custom orders will be tailored to what you would like to target. Ask about our streamer and topwater fly packages.

-The Fly Factor


I have been thinking about certain conservation groups lately and how they sustain themselves with volunteerism and, also financially.
Let me speak specifically about two groups that I have supported for many years, based on the organizations history, mission statement, and the actual work they do that is rational, I believe, and benefits all of mankind.
The first would be Trout Unlimited. An organization that originated here in the great state of Michigan and stands at the forefront of promoting cold, clean water.
Let me say this up front (and then explain) if you care about cold, clean water and hope that generations from now will enjoy the benefits and aesthetic privilege and basic human right to enjoy what's left of this essential ingredient of life itself, you should join this group! Today there are more than 150,000 members supporting this conservation organization that looks out for you and your family's interest in clean water stewardship.
This doesn't mean that you have to fish for trout or salmon to be a member, or fish at all for that matter. It could mean that you care about the future of maybe our most valuable natural resource and can afford to spend $35 a year to help support a proven and reliable group of dedicated people that make decisions associated with real science.
There are very real threats to water today that most people don't take the time to consider. Modern agriculture today is something that everyone should be aware of as a direct threat to a resource that in fact, belongs to us all, and T.U. (Trout Unlimited) is not the only group that is fighting for strict enforcement and new regulations to hold those that might abuse the resource accountable.
In the southern part of Michigan, and many other states that use modern farming practices, this is a huge undertaking that takes vigilance and determination to negotiate solutions to all involved that respect the rights of the farmer to make a living that doesn't infringe on the rights of all people that also have a right to expect a conscientious use of a jointly owned resource.

Irrigation wells are popping up all over the Midwest, and water withdrawal issues are a hot topic along with fertilizer run off issues. Look at the algae bloom situation with Lake Erie, for example. The truth here is that TU is in fact, mostly a group of people that fish for trout. Most, statistically speaking, fly fish. To some this may appear to be a snobbish group involved in lots of expensive gear and gadgets that don't make sense to the uninitiated masses. Some of this generic perception and judgement probably has a small vein of truth running through it. But for the most part,TU is made up of conservation minded people that are looking out for the interest of all of us to protect Michigan's most valuable resource that not only works to protect water that can sustain trout, but ALL aquatic life forms that deserve to exist for generations. Head over to http://www.tu.org/ for information on membership.

The second organization I support is the Ruffed Grouse Society.
This conservation group has somewhere around 20,000 members throughout the U.S. and Canada. The foundation of their mission statement is in part; "Dedicated to preserving our sporting tradition by creating healthy forest habitat for Ruffed Grouse, American Woodcock, and other wildlife."
Incorporated in the early 1960's to support research that explores the dynamics of forest growth, this organization, not unlike TU, helps to keep an eye out for how our public land forests are managed for diversity for many forms of wildlife.
Stable populations of grouse and woodcock are healthy indicators of a properly managed forest. The same way that trout and other fish species, along with aquatic insects living in a stream represent a healthy cold water environment. In keeping with that concept, many other forms of wildlife reap the benefits of properly managed public forest lands that create diversity and habitat for a variety of songbirds and plant life along with grouse and woodcock.
National Forest lands, (land that belongs to you) are 'ground zero' for management philosophy conflict that doesn't necessarily have species diversity in mind, especially when logging is required to facilitate habitat diversity. Keep in mind that these are federally controlled forests that are run by that well oiled machine known as the federal government. It seems that nature tends to suffer when bureaucrats with agendas are drawn to lobbyists with the deepest pockets. Most conservation groups do not have deep pockets and rely on dedicated volunteers that take a stand on principals that benefit nature.
Another way to explain a forest management plan would be to simply consider a woods full of mature trees that have a canopy that blocks out the sunlight that otherwise would serve to support an under story of plant growth. Simply put, diversity in plant growth means diversity in wildlife.
This is not to say that a mature forest is completely void of wildlife. It is about managing a forest for diversity. A "be all you can be " sort of philosophy .
If you do not hunt grouse or woodcock and live in the southern part of this great state, these issues can seem far removed from being of great importance. But if you are someone that hunts, is a bird watcher or a mushroom picker and spend time on public land in northern Michigan, realize that there is a group of dedicated conservation minded people fighting the good fight that is in the loop of how our public lands are managed, with maximum diversity being the goal. For a mere $35 dollars a year, you can help out a great cause and feel as though you personally contribute to help monitor forestry management that left unchecked, could leave public lands to the fate of bureaucratic lobbyists that don't always have promoting nature and diversity as a goal.
For more information go to www.ruffedgrousesociety.org/

Mark Karaba
The Fly Factor

Preparation for Winter Fishing is Key to Comfort

My buddies have been pulling their weight on our steelhead streams. At least that's what they've been telling me. That's certainly what I've be viewing on social media as well. I usually don't steelhead much until after deer season. That's Jan 1st in my home state. Mistake or not I've been deer hunting hard. I fill my freezer every year since I've been on my own and deer hunting is the way I do it. I love to pursue whitetails and it also sustains me throughout the year.

Hunting is winding down and I have a renewed vigor for late season muzzleloader. Weather gets nasty and the deer have to get on their feet to feed - usually right before dark. It has been in the twenties the last couple days and even got down into the single digits recently. Makes for some good but real cold mid-morning hunting and evening sits.

Regardless of the weather - if you’re fishing or hunting, the right cold weather gear is essential. Without it you can't do it well. So being prepared is something I spend a lot of time and resources on.

Guide / Co-Founder Brett Riser

Guide / Co-Founder Brett Riser

Hunting for me goes like this: layers and layers, wool vest, gore-tex shell, gloves, mittens, hand warmers, wool socks with merino wool liners, sitting bibs and coat, and gore-tex/fleece face mask.

Fishing goes like this: two pairs of wool blend socks, fleece pants, bootfit breathable waders, wading belt, layers, sweatshirt, wool vest, sweatshirt, wading jacket, hat, and fingerless gloves.

There are a few things that I've learned over the years spending time in frigid water and weather. Those are the things that keep me warm while in the woods and on the water. I know some guys just don't get cold...eye roll.

Wool is warm. Merino wool is an excellent choice for hats, socks, and baselayer. There are a lot of gloves out there. I like the fingerless/ mitten type for fishing and I like mechanic style gloves and mittens for deer hunting – mittens when the temperature really drops. 

Hunting late season has prepared me for cold weather fishing as well. Most people think that you just throw on your winter jacket and go but for me there's a lot more preparation that goes into it.

When it comes to fishing I prefer breathable bootfit waders in cold weather. When you walk to the stream you don't overheat or sweat, and it's much easier to move than neoprene style waders. A good pair of bootfit breathables used to be hard to find but more wader makers are starting to offer them due to demand. I wear a base layer and fleece pants underneath my waders in very cold water and don't have a problem with my legs getting cold. My feet is what I have to worry about. The bootfit wader is warmer than a stockingfoot. What it does is keep the cold water layer farther away from your skin, you can add more sock, and a couple heated foot and toe warmers if need be. The whole foot warmer kind not just the toe warmer will allow you to stand in the stream much longer and a lot longer than no warmer at all.

If you are wading in freestone streams or streams with lots of slippery rocks - felt is best. Sometimes while searching for the right waders you can't have everything. Spikes can help and I've even wore those slip over type soles for ice fishing to get traction. A wading staff can be a big help especially in deeper or swift current.

A really nice wading coat over a warm fleece liner with a wool vest and hooded sweatshirt is my choice for my upper body. The vest is important because it keeps your core wrapped up tight with warmth. That's where your vitals are and when your body gets cold it starts to pull your blood away from your extremities to protect your heart and organs. If it's extremely cold another layer will keep the chill off. If you don't have a wading coat - a gore-tex or rain shell will work and will double to block the wind and shed rain. Otherwise snow, rain and wind will cut into you reducing the time you spend fishing.

Preparation is key for my cold weather fishing and hunting adventures. I don't mind toughing it out in the elements but I'm going to prepare the best I can to insure I'm as comfortable as I can be. If I can stay longer in comfort it's more enjoyable and enables for more time in-stream or in the stand.

Brett Riser
Co-Founder / Guide
The Fly Factor

Drive into Springtime

The trip was not planned. It started with a phone call from my brother. He was calling to see if I wanted to ride along with him to take our mother down to see her sister, our aunt, to Knoxville,
Tennessee for a short four day visit. I said yes. I mean YES! Please! I only had one question....could I bring my fly fishing "stuff" along? "Fine with me", was his reply. Now I had purpose, though of course, I looked forward to seeing my aunt, and some quality time with my mother.
We left early the next morning at around 7:00a.m. I have made this trip to Tennessee many times, though not to Knoxville as a destination, and not in February.
The drive was pleasant and thankfully uneventful. My brother, who has made the trip in February many times, commented, that he had never seen snow cover all the way through Indiana. Even the northern tier of Kentucky had patches of snow here and there.
As we drove on, the snow disappeared altogether by the time we got into Tennessee . Even the tops of the Smokies did not appear to have snow, and this was unusual, as I have seen the mountain passes closed the first of April, with the Forsythia blooming in Gatlinburg, and the tops of the mountains covered in snow. As we arrived in Knoxville the thermometer read 50 dg. When we stepped out of the car at my Aunt’s house, it was like a dream.
The next morning after breakfast and shower, it was decided we should probably let mom and her sister get caught up and not interfere with that sacred reunion and.....maybe we should go to the mountains to give them plenty of time to bond. This seemingly unselfish act could by sheer coincidence-lead to some random sightseeing and possibly even lead to Trout fishing, though mainly as a means of preoccupation, so as to not to lead us back to the house prematurely and possibly foul the atmosphere of two sisters in the depths of conversation and 'catching up'. I felt that this was the responsibility of considerate sons and nephews.
As we drove higher into the Smokies, the thermometer seemed to climb along with us. By 1:00 p.m. It was 65 dg. We had the windows down and as was fitting, the radio dialed into bluegrass music. The sky was a deep blue with nary a cloud to be seen. The snow shovel born blisters on my hands seemed to heal as they hung out the window, as if immersed in some traditional, southern backwoods potion!

After a little bit of trout fishing and sightseeing, we decided to head back to Knoxville as it was late afternoon and food was the next order of business. I suppose we hoped that our considerate and unselfish act would not go unnoticed, and possibly we would be rewarded with a home cooked meal that would be ready to be dished out upon our arrival. This was not exactly how dinner played out, but it was in the making and served a short time later.
So for three full days, my brother and I dutifully stayed away, to the mountains,
to the rivers and streams, and awesome weather, in the name of all that was decent and righteous, as good sons and nephews with a sense of "doing the right thing for others", having been raised properly, should do!
Early on Sunday morning, we departed for home. Leaving this virtual tropical paradise and driving back to the sub-arctic regions of southern Michigan and normal daily routines involving most commonly shoveling of snow, hauling firewood, and repeatedly checking the ten day forecast, which lately has been equivalent to the results of a scratch off ticket. We drove into snow midway into Kentucky and, well, if you live in Michigan you know the rest of the story.
After being home for a few days and staring at the largest piles of snow that have ever adorned my yard, I have to really think hard to remember that all to brief vacation that now literally seems like a dream. Now, when I check the ten day forecast, it is for Tennessee, and then as I watch the snow fall outside my window, for a moment, I remember that it was real.

Mark Karaba
The Fly Factor

11 Things to Learn about Fly Fishing from a Conventional Angler

I recently went bass fishing with a buddy of mine this winter. Which is rare because normally we have ice or its just so cold you wouldn't think about going bass fishing. It was mid-December in Michigan so we took advantage of such a mild weekend. Sitting here in mid March I've been thinking about that trip. We've had a relatively mild winter in southwest Michigan this year and ice-off will be coming soon. Most of our warm water rivers only iced over a few times. So my thoughts have been toward new techniques, flies and presentations I'm looking forward to experimenting with. Which leads me to how some of these hypothesis and ideas have come to be.

I think most of us make our way to fly fishing through some sort of natural progression. It probably started with a zebco or a spinning rod with bait, then progressing to artificial lures after you mastered bait fishing-- something a little more exciting and active.  Perhaps a little more thought put into presentation, retrieval speed, lure choice. Some of us end up pursuing walleye, bass, pike etc with primarily artificial lures. Eventually some of us become so obsessed we guide and fish amateur and pro tournaments and some just operate as serious weekend warriors. For those of us who end up with an affinity for the fly rod and reel, we usually never end up finding it the same way but none the less end up in the same place. If you were really lucky someone showed you the ropes with the fly rod. Most of us on the other hand get bits and pieces along the way and this can actually lead toward creativity as an angler. If there's one thing I I've learned about fish through studying fisheries biology is that hard "rules" don't always hold up. Fishing is a great way to gain an understanding of fish behavior but if you aren't flexible or observant you will miss the opportunity to witness behaviors that aren't laid out in a fishing article. Fish don't care how we've described them and will do something to challenge common human understanding. We are constantly learning and understanding more and more about fish through science and angling but fish evolve as well as fisheries.

I think we all like to think that somehow our progression to fly fishing is a process where we end up ultimately achieving fly fishing enlightenment. It's the way it's supposed to be. Similar I suppose to a big game hunter who starts out using a rifle or shotgun then picks up a compound bow and ends up with traditional archery equipment like the recurve or longbow. I've found myself before I go to the lake or steam saying, "ahh but I want to catch one on a fly" which is great challenging ourselves this way with a fly rod, but often we don't really "attack" the water with the fly - it's one presentation and that's it - no adaptation, we end up fishing the same way we would any other time. And worse yet we don't push ourselves to learn a new method that's outside our comfort zone.

Sometimes I think in today's world of fly fishing we get caught up in the idea of it. I'm guilty of it and  I'm sure you're guilty of it too. I've tried to steer away from this line of thinking but it seems to happen anyway. We all enjoy the ambiance of the fly fishing experience. I wouldn't want to take someone fishing if all they cared about was catching the most fish every time they went. There is so much more to fishing than just catching fish. But the definition of fishing is, " the activity of catching fish". We can use our competitive nature to help us grow as anglers. Too often we use the act of fly fishing as an excuse as to why we didn't catch anything. I believe most of us haven't tried hard enough or are locked into one style of fishing. For example if you are fishing a steamer don't just fish an unweighted streamer in the top 1/3 of the water column. Experiment with different styles and retrieves and cover different depths to target fish that may not be keyed up in a feeding lane. You still might be able to elicit a reaction strike from a fish lounging in a deeper pool or slower run that is resting. This might be the difference between stripping steamers all day without a bite or landing one nice fish- trust me that one fish will be the difference between just a boat ride or a trip that you can recall as a fond memory. It's ok to pride ourselves on being fly fisherman but we need to remember to think outside the box and to use everything in our "toolbox". I don't think fly fishing should be an excuse for not effectively catching fish. I'm sure many big fish flies these days are directly influenced by conventional lures and the need to effectively elicit results. Some of these flies are the dahlberg diver, zoo cougar, and D & D. This is also where sinking lines evolved from - necessity.

You see the thing I keep remembering about that trip in December bass fishing on the Kalamazoo River is how bad I got out fished. Not that it was embarrassing or that I'm going to put down the fly rod to hit the BASS trail but I kept thinking how effective he was compared to me. It's not like it was unfair, Joe had to work for those fish and he is an accomplished angler. He and his partner routinely win local tourneys in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. The thing I was thinking about was how could I mimic those presentations with my fly rod.

Photo: Melanie Jewell. Caught it in March this year, 2016.

Photo: Melanie Jewell. Caught it in March this year, 2016.

Fly fishing isn't always the most effective way to fish. It's harder to cast, you use more muscles, end up sorer at the end of the day, have a harder time with subsurface and short range presentation. Fly fishing can be more effective in certain situations like imitating emerging mayflies, caddisflies etc. but generally it is much harder to illicit the same results as conventional styles. However we all still love the sport, sometimes for just this reason. The point is there are many things we can learn from conventional fishing styles.

Which leads me to a few things or pointers for you to take away from your "lowly"conventional bass angler buddy.

Eleven things to learn about fly fishing from a conventional gear angler:

1. Have at least two fly rigs ready to go. Bass anglers have 6-10 rods ready to go. This way you can swap out a floating line and weighted streamer; for fishing moderate to shallower rivers and depths. A floating line with a floating fly; when fish are actively feeding on the surface.  A sinking line and unweighted streamer; for moderate to deeper stream sections or depths. A weighted streamer with a sinking line in order to dredge some deep bends and holes.

2. Fish deep. Use a sinking type line like a long streamer head or 300 grain sink tip. This will get your fly down in a hurry when fish are in winter or early spring patterns.

3. Vertical/semi-vertical presentation. What does this mean for the fly angler? Consider presenting a fly in a vertical fashion. This means using a float and some weight coupled with a long fluorocarbon or monofilament leader.

4. The bass anglers I fish with are absolutely meticulous. They pick apart cover, depth, and contour.
When I was in Alaska we used weighted streamers and worked breaks in glacial lakes to catch dolly varden that positioned themselves along break lines similar to bass fishing I had done back home. It reminded me of working a break line with a crankbait or a jig for bass. We gave our flies plenty of time to sink to the bottom and worked them where the fish were waiting to ambush. The point is adapt your presentation to the cover or situation and don't be afraid to mimic presentations that have worked with conventional gear.

5. Bass bite year round. Fish feed year round in order to sustain themselves. Some have much lower feeding rates at cold temperatures but the human limitations we impose upon them are false. Ice fishing has taught me this. If there's open water and its legal go for it. Pike actively feed especially since they spawn at ice out.

6. Cast to cover (this relates to #4). Don't be afraid to cast in cover or let current swing your fly under log jams, banks or docks. A lot of anglers don't cast at cover the way they would with spinning or bait casting gear. I'm not sure why we are way more reluctant to fish cover the way we would with conventional gear. Beef up your leader and let it fly.

7. Make your fly weedless just like a weedless jig or frog. When it's mid-summer and weed growth is at its height use 20lb. mono to make a weedless fly or buy them that way.

8. Get creative. I think there is a bass tournament 5 days a week on the lake I live on. I'm pretty sure those old northern bass have saw everything there is to offer by midsummer. A new fly, a new presentation sometimes something different is the only thing that works. Or when I fish pressured water I try to fish when no one else is around (i.e. nighttime).

9. Think about using a rattle in your fly. We use them in crankbaits and jerkbaits all the time.

10. Most of the conventional anglers I fish with fish when it's cold. You don't need to wait to fly fish when bass are actively chasing streamers. Steelhead and streamer fisherman do but we tend to forget to target bass when it's cold. One of the best times to fish for smallmouth is when the water temp gets around 40 degrees or more.

11. Sometimes the materials we use in our flies are preferred by conventional anglers and what that means is they know natural fibers move much better in colder water and seem much more lifelike. That can give us an advantage. Keep this in mind.

I'm definitely not giving up the fly rod and reel anytime soon but we need to remember that we can learn from conventional anglers and we shouldn't feel "superior" to them simply because we are using a fly rod. We should keep an open mind and remember we are all anglers and help to promote conservation and outdoor recreation. Angler dollars make up the majority of the money that state and local agencies use to protect, manage and improve our fisheries. And remember a lot of anglers get their start with conventional tackle.

-Brett Riser

The Fly Factor

Piscatorial Musings

Mid winter and the blues can creep in any time now for the open water/stream fisherman. We tie flies, buy new rods and reels whether we need them or not I suppose to keep us in the "loop" of the world that awaits us, that we long for.
At some point if you fly fish, you just have to cast. You long to just cast. A green lawn would do nicely. The fishing part is, at a certain point in your life, almost a secondary thought to the act of throwing a beautiful, well timed loop that in your mind at least, lets a clump of grass on the lawn become a tight lie behind a log that holds a spotted fish.
Though I do not play golf, it is I assume, much like a golfer that just needs to swing the new driver that he got for Christmas, and somewhat like fly casting it requires enough over head space to allow for a true 'cast'. It will feel good to refresh certain muscles that have been dormant for too long and on their own long to work back to a rhythm that only months ago were natural and repetitious and, probably needed a break.
 There is the planned trip to Tennessee in February that has become somewhat of a tradition that tends to ease the pain. Though not exactly a 'drive into spring time', fifty degree weather is as common as thirty five degrees in the southern Smokies in February and, in past years small yard flowers have shown themselves and seem to make the drive home to Michigan more difficult and, though you already know the answer, you find yourself asking the question to no one in particular, "why am I leaving"?

A few of this winter's Streamers.

A few of this winter's Streamers.

I suppose the lack of casting and fishing has less of an impact on the occasional angler that does not fall asleep at night with the visions of paddling, rowing, wading and casting a fly to spotted fish and small mouthed fish and ospreys, and the smell of cedar that they purposely crushed in their hand and, hopefully the sound of a grouse drumming on a log, because fly fishing is all of these things and they all have equal value as stimuli that gives us promise for tomorrow.
So we wait. And we tie flies. And we read books about fishing. We pace and fidget and assemble fly rods in the basement and wiggle them about and stare at the stained cork handle that fits your hand in such a natural way that it becomes easy to recall pleasant memories and beautiful places that are ingrained in you that are real and not a dream. They exist somewhere out there away from the stale air of the winter house under the stark bareness of the trees and under the ice and snow.
As we recall places and rivers we make a mental note that this year will be the year that we fish a certain river or stream that we never got around to fishing because there is only so much time and, the time somehow slipped away and then when you weren't looking......winter, in total stealth mode, snuck up on you and the long dark days of planning and promising and fidgeting was upon you like so many winters before and hopefully, many more to come.

Mark Karaba
The Fly Factor