Friday, February 27, 2015

Epoxy Jigs Aren't Just For Albies

False albacore are the first fish that come to mind when I think about epoxy jigs. This type of lure casts well, can be ripped through the water column at a high rate of speed, and mimics a slew of small baitfish. It didn't really occur to me to use epoxy jigs in freshwater applications until we started targeting big seeforellen brown trout from shore. If they work on trout in open water, then why not through the ice? Well, we brought a bunch of the jigs on a January road trip to Lake George for some field testing and apparently lakers love them too. They get to the bottom in a hurry and their slim profile matches an array of forage from smelt to ciscos. When lake trout are in an aggressive chasing mood, epoxy jigs are a great offering to tie on. It's always nice to find another nice tool for the toolbox. Thanks, Hogy Lures

Monday, February 23, 2015

Little Bit of Luck

Have you ever stared at a rapidly filling calendar and picked the one small window that could possibly work for a fishing trip? We've all been there. I was in this position again not too long ago. Over the last few years, I have added a winter Lake George trip to the already too long list of annual traditions. Yet finding a weekend that works for three grown-ass men with busy lives and jobs isn't getting any easier. Things get even dicier when the type of fishing you are planning to do involves a giant body of water freezing over in time for said trip.

When I texted Jon, our local source of knowledge for all-things Adirondaks, with the date we hoped to pay Lake George a visit, there was a cautiously optimistic tone to his reply. Jon has lived through enough New York winters to know that January 24th could be pushing it in terms of having "safe" ice on Lake George. Some years she is frozen solid by then, other years she is wide open with white caps, but, as far as averages go, he told us that date would be on the early end for ice fishing on The King. Our trip's fate solely rested on the weather conditions leading up to it. We just needed a little bit of luck.

For weeks before our planned departure, we pored over every long term weather forecast we could get our hands on, scrutinized first ice predictions on ice fishing forums, and waited for texts and emails from Jon with updates from the promised land. It got to the point where we were sending daily screen shots to each other of the nighttime low temps and wind speed in Lake George. With just over a week to go, there was a spell of frigid air and windless nights and word came down that the first brave anglers ventured on to virgin ice. It was music to our ears. We were going to Lake George to jig up lakers on black ice. It was a trip I'll never forget.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


This is the third and final (for now) guest post from my buddy Chad. He is a great writer, fisherman and father. I hope you enjoy his work and style as much as I do. 

these are the dull drums of winter.  grey after grey rolling over, spliced through with bluebird bone chills.  the impossible unstoppable encroachment of the shelf ice over the stream edges.  your local shrinking from the cold and the wind.  and then finally, how can anything possibly live in there?  

the water so cold its black, so cold its perfectly clear.  the water is so thin between the shelf ice, the water that is still there.  all sentiment settled like sediment and the winter fishing is done.

but still, it is what you are, so it will be done.  and all hopes boil down into practice; of drifting your size 18 nothing nymph where you could possibly imagine a fish holding.  the practice of the minds eye, that other sight.  you are glad to be out with such low expectations.  you are glad to be out.

sunday mornings of my youth were spent in church.  carried there by the faith of my mothers, a station wagon, and no car seats.  the strong faith i always envied and wanted.  so genuine and so iron clad.  through all storms, something to lean on, and be carried by.

as i grew, i grew away from the church.   this to my mothers chagrin.  but one thing that has always stuck with me is what i learned to be the reasons we pray: to say thank you, to say i'm sorry, to ask for help, and to say i love you.

sometimes my mother will ask me if i went to church on a weekend, and i'll truthfully say i did not.  she will respond that it is my soul, chad.  which is a sharp and well placed arrow.  

but i do go, when the smell of old incense fills the silent congregation and my mother takes her place to the right in the pew we always sat at, i smell the cold winter air and take my place.  i cast and cast, all alone.  every one of those casts are prayers, and all four kinds at that.  not the stillborn dreams of a nihilist, but the honest prayers of one who is faithful.  if you keep doing it right, something will finally take, and you find your higher power.

sit on a rock and listen to the winter wind come.  hear it from a ways off, and then see it in the tops of the trees as it nears, then feel it on your face as it joins with the song of the river.  kneel and cast and listen.  It is resonant, lovely, gentle and strong; the sound of these hymns.  

the colors of a winter trout, lit up like stained glass in the church window.  and against all odds, i have it in my net.  a small thing, but one to pour your faith into and be faithful to.  and i dip my hand into the stoup of the river, the holy water, to cradle my faith and release it.  my mother and i, both at church.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Jim's Salmon

This is the second of a series of guest posts from my buddy Chad. He is a great writer, fisherman and father. I hope you enjoy his work and style as much as I do. 

we don't have a ton of winter fishing here where i live, but the state stocks atlantic salmon brood stock and they can provide some fun times when you are desperate. some of them are dumb, and like logs just heavy. others really put up a good fight. they are pale effigies of real salmon, but they are the biggest game in town open water in the winter. i like to fish them with big streamers.

one day a few years ago i was having shit luck haunting my usual spot. it was bitter cold with a fanged wind biting. my feet eventually turned to useless blocks so i figured to move on. i made my way upriver to a spot that is pretty popular. up just below the dam, there is a fire ring and you can shoot the shit, have a beer, linger before going home. sure enough i saw this old dude with a big ass spin rod and a cane. we started talking as fishermen will.

his name was jim and he had never caught a salmon. this bothered him. he just wanted one he said, all them other guys got em! why not he? i felt for him. it had been 2 years of fishing before i got my first. but i knew if you kept fishing there, one dim bulb would eventually get pissed off enough at your streamer or spoon or whatever to smash it. i told him so. keep on casting man. yeah, he says you got that right! i'm gonna!

he was one of these fellas that just come across so genuine, i liked him immediately. he was retired from the union, worked part time as a black jack dealer at the casino. had a bum leg and a big ass beard. loved to go fishing. wished he could do more of it. i told him, jim you are going to get one today. i gotta feeling. he was using a big mepps spinner.

i was casting a while later downstream when i heard a commotion. looking up, jim was on a fish. he had no net so i went quickly up to where he was to help him out if i could. he couldn't get down to the river edge too well because of the bum leg but luckily he was using heavy line. he fought the fish and it ran around and thrashed and jumped as a spirited one will do.

he kept the pressure on the fish, and when it was spent, i netted it for him. and there, was jim’s first salmon.

at this point, he began to laugh. SON OF A BITCH! he yelled. SON OF A BITCH!

i brought the fish up to him. it was badly hooked, deeply in the gills it had taken his spinner and it was a goner. i had my ice fishing backpack with me so i got out my lip gripper and took the fish by the lip so jim could hold it.

SON OF A BITCH! WOULDJA LOOK AT THAT! he said, and he laughed and laughed.

i says, jim let me take your picture and i promise i'll send you a printed copy. that’s your first salmon and that’s a pretty damn good thing! congratulations man! i snapped a picture of him with the fish.

then he reached into his coat and pulled out a bottle of mr boston blackberry brandy. YOU GOTTA HAVE A SIP WITH ME! MY FIRST SALMON! and he laughed. i took the bottle and took a nice slug. he was still laughing like a kid. and it moved me.  and it moved through me with wings and it tickled me. 

i started laughing too. it was such pure and good laughter that we had there. it was the sound and body of happiness. and he put his arm around me and we laughed and laughed. it felt like nothin.

we passed that bottle back and forth a while. i got his address.  we laughed and laughed.

i felt great for a week after that. whatever it was? didn't matter. jim got a salmon and i helped him net it. i printed his picture and sent it to him. he wrote back that he had broiled it and it was delicious. we saw each other a few more times, but i haven't seen him in years now and i wish i could. we'd have a damn good laugh about that first salmon of his and knock back a swig or three of mr boston.  for old times sake, to first fish, to good laughter.