April 15, 2015

Confessions of a Cutty Guide

During the season, sometimes I wonder what it would be like to work on another river, to be excited about row after row of neatly organized, tiny nymphs.  Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to test my skills against a species of fish that isn't so unapologetic about taking an over-sized, floating piece of foam.

But then I realize, I just gave up the best seat in the house.

Love the fish.  Love the fishery.

April 6, 2015

Mushroom and Bear Sausage Risotto


1/2 lb black bear sausage
8-10 Asparagus stalks
1 cup arborio rice
2 cups stock (chicken, or game)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 white wine
2 tbs butter

Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium skillet, cook the bear sausage until brown and crispy, rendering out the fat and flavor to build your risotto on.   Remove cooked sausage and set aside.  Add 2 tbs of butter and add rice.   As the rice cooks, make sure each grain gets coated with the rendered bear fat and butter.   Slightly brown the rice, careful not to let it fry in the pan.  Deglaze with white wine.  Then start stirring and slowly adding stock, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before adding more stock.

In a separate pan, saute mushrooms and asparagus.

Continue to stir the risotto until it has absorbed all the stock.  It will slowly release its starch creating a creamy consistency.  Return bear sausage back to the risotto, along with the mushrooms and asparagus. Finish with parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper.

February 15, 2015

Marsh Hens and Collards

Grilled Marsh Hens w/ Wild Rice and Homegrown Collards

Legs on a game bird suck.  Tough, full of tendons, too much work and not enough meat.
I'm a leg man, so I disagree.  Well, to be more honest, I'm a equal opportunist when it comes birds; legs, breasts, *gizzards, I'll take it all -sometimes even the feet.  

*If you haven't had the privilege of ordering fried gizzards from a small town, dive bar kitchen, after a a long day looking for birds, and a few pitchers of cheap beer, I would sincerely recommend it.

But the legs on a marsh hen are where it's at, which is not surprising considering they make up almost 60% of the bird's body.

Grilled Marsh Hens

A dozen marsh hens (breasts and legs separated)
     -marinate in red wine, just enough to cover the birds
         *it seemed that the longer the birds rested in the refrigerator, the more pronounced the marshy, salty flavor became.  Which is good.  It's not chicken.

Heat grill.

-A grill works in two ways:  If you can't get it above 350 degrees, it's called an outdoor oven.  If you want it to actually grill, and get a good sear, you'll need a higher temperature.

The hardest part about grilling is finding the hottest part of the grill.  Place your bird parts on the hottest part to get your grill marks.   If the grill is hot enough, it shouldn't take long.  Then flip the legs or breasts over, and move to a less hot section of the grill, close the lid, and use the grill as an oven to cook the birds the rest of the way through.

Grill in batches
6-8 minutes per bird part.

A Week Well Spent

A rail hunt, an oyster roast, chasing bobwhites with old friends at Wintergreen and G&T 's on the house (the folks' house to be exact)  - Not a bad checklist for a week in SE North Carolina.  There also happened to be a holiday in there somewhere, involving turkeys and out of control grandmothers.  Here's a few shots from a week well spent.

The old man shooting rails, but still talking turkey

Morning sky over the marsh

Don't Shoot Too Fast

Special thanks to Capt. Seth Vernon of DoubleHaulGuideService and fellow guide Capt. Judson Brock for their marsh hen expertise.

"I'll take a lot. And put it in a bucket"

The old stomping grounds
Wintergreen Hunting Preserve

Orvis No. 8's

January 20, 2015

Sleepytime Explosion Stone

Sleepytime Explosion stone?? Who named this fly... Borat?

My first day at Spotted Bear Ranch as a newbie guide was a memorable one, to say the least.  The head guide at the time walked in with a man wearing what looked like a big, palm-leaf sombrero.
"So you're the new guy, huh? " the head guide asked,  "Let me see your fly box."

I was a little intimidated.  I had never seen a palm-leaf hat that big before.

I had spent the whole winter tying flies in preparation for my first year as a guide.  I was proud of my size 18 zebra midges and hacked together pheasant tails.

"Yeah, that stuff isn't gonna work here."  the head guide quickly remarked as he assessed the contents of my fly boxes.  He handed me MFC's catalog.  "Find 10 patterns in here and put together an order for tomorrow."

The next day I shadowed him on a float down the "lower" stretch of the river and watched fish after fish come up on a Davies' Purple Explosion Stone.


Big Stoneflies, a world away from my micro nymphs.

Lesson Learned.

Spotted Bear's big goldens are typically nocturnal. (most likely shortwing stoneflies).  But unlike hungover college students, trout will definitely remember their midnight snack the next morning, without the help of a crumpled up receipt.

Here's a step by step for this davies explosion stone inspired stonefly pattern.  Honorable mentions for names include:  Nocturnal Nancy.  Golden Ticket.  The Midnight Munchie.

  Prep your hook with a beadhead and weighted wire.

Hook: Dai-Riki #270 Size 8.
           Natural Bend 3x long

Bead:  Gold 3.8mm or 5/32"

Thread:  6/0 Camel
Medium Gold Wire

Anchor your weighted wire with thread so the body won't spin.

Wrap your thread towards the back, securing the gold wire on the bottom of the hook shank.

Goose Biots:  Blonde

Secure and split two goose biots

  Tie in a good amount of pearly fluorescent material.  Enough to wrap the entire body of the fly.

   Dubbing:  Hareline  Ice Dub UV Tan

Dub the body, leaving a space behind the beadhead for the thorax.

   Wrap the pearly fluorescent stuff around the body.

Bring the gold wire forward following the segments created by the body wrap.

Tie off and clip the gold wire, leaving the pearly fluorescent stuff to use as a flashback.

 Build the thorax.  Tie in two goose biots for legs

                Dub it!        

 Add more goose biots for legs:  Two facing rearward, two facing forward and dub it!

Pull the flashback material forward and whip finish.  Then take a brown sharpie and darken the top of the body segments and barr the legs

Using Loon's UV epoxy build the wing case and articulate the legs, pinching them with your fingers then securing the bend with epoxy.

Loon's UV epoxy tends to dry a little bit tacky, so I add hard as nails to give the wingcase a nice flashy, glossy look.

There you have it.  If you got a better name for this fly, let me know.

Someone once told me,  "if you really want to get good at fly tying.  Tie for the river  you fish"

December 8, 2014

Move Your Feet

It's a battle of scaled monsters and steel...   You stand there, for what seems like hours, in the same spot constantly casting to the same fish, and trying to mend across three different currents to get that perfect drift.   "I have to catch that fish"  9 times out of 10 your fly drags.  But that doesn't matter, that one good drift keeps you pinned to the same position. "If I get everything just perfect, that fish will eat my fly."    But the truth is, if you would have moved your feet, and took five steps downstream, it would have taken two currents out of your drift  and reduced your mends down to one.  And it wouldn't have taken 45 minutes for that fish to eat your fly.  It is one of the most common and overlooked mistakes in fly fishing.  And I catch myself doing it all the time, especially when I'm fishing a new stretch of water.

Most of the time, it starts before your fly even hits the water with the sight of a rising fish.  Tunnel vision sets in.  Instead of reading the water, your first reaction is "I have to cast to that fish."  You might even get a refusal on your first cast, which only makes things worse.  Now you have to try every fly pattern in your box.  (Of course, it wasn't your convoluted presentation that got rejected)
And before you know it, you can't move and you're fishing a size 22 dry fly.

First cast after I moved my feet.

November 21, 2014

Grilled Chukar Salad w/ Huckleberry Vinaigrette

 This one is pretty easy.  Make a salad and put grilled chukar on top of it.  The hard part is hunting the chukars and trying to find the huckleberries.

Grilled Chukar
4-6 chukar breasts (brined)
        brine- 2 tbs salt* 
                   1 tbs apple cider vinegar
                   3 cups warm water
*(I use Montreal Steak seasoning because the salt content is so high, plus you get garlic, onion powder, and other little granulated bits of goodness)

A brine will give you a little more wiggle room when it comes to doneness.  There's no fat on a chukar breast, so a brine will help keep you from turning your well earned piece of meat into a dried up strip of jerky.

Sear over high heat to get grill marks on both sides.
Cook through.  Rest.

Huckleberry Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup huckleberry vinegar
(take some vinegar- 2 cups, and some sugar -1/4 cup, boil it.  Cool it down Turn off burner. And add 1 cup of huckleberries and let it rest for 5 hours or so. Easy)

1/4 Olive oil
1/2 tsp of Dijon Mustard
2 tsp sugar
1 tbs of finely chopped onions
A little bit of Italian seasonings
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
 1 squirt of lemon juice

April 25, 2014

Montana Gold

I've seen the look, the one you get for passing up the Missouri and the Skwala hatch on the Big Hole to fish for carp.  I get it.  I like big trout too.  But not enough to give up a chance at casting to a fish with its head down, tail up, and feeding in shallow water.

I blame redfish and the Cape Fear Coast for that. But why carp?   Maybe, I somehow sub-consciously settled for redfish's fat, ugly cousin, carp. Or maybe, I have no standards. Or maybe, I just miss seeing oyster beds and half-submerged spartina grass off the bow of the boat.  But the simple truth is, carp are the saltiest fish I've ever fished for in freshwater.  And the last time I checked, saltwater is pretty hard to find in the great expanse between the continent's mountain ranges. But it's out there. If you don't believe me, I could suggest some delightful beachfront property in SW Montana.   You might have to wait 15 minutes for a rancher to herd 500 head of cattle across the road to get there, but trust me, it's out there.

April 12, 2014

Absent on Opening Day

In grade school that always seemed to be the case on the first day of turkey season.  It was fun until I realized that sitting in the woods, not allowed to talk or move for hours at a time, and not seeing turkeys was just as boring as sitting in class.   At least at school I could raise my hand or get up and go to the bathroom.  But once I graduated from college, gained  a little more maturity, and became a fishing guide living at home for my first winter, I really didn’t have a choice come spring in my father’s house whether or not I wanted to turkey hunt.  All it took was twenty years of coercion and a healthy dose of winter unemployment and I was hooked.  There have been plenty of memories made over the past 5 seasons with the Old Man, but looking back, it’s funny how most of them don’t actually include seeing turkeys.

Like the time we set up on a gobbler in Jones County next to an outdoor grill in a tented gazebo.  It almost worked.   I was quite comfortable in my folding chair and boots in the sand.  Or another time where we had a grandmother and her grandkid on a 4-wheeler race down the edge of the field to get a closer look at our tom decoy.  I remember thinking, “Oh boy, this could be ugly…“ as Old Man stood up to welcome our unwanted guests.  I urged him to be nice, and not use any words like, “stupid…”

  “We are turkey hunting in this field, did you not see my truck parked down the road?”            The Old Man said.
    The grandmother snapped back, “Well, we ride in this field all the time, our land is right across the road, been in my family for three generations.” 
             “That may be, but this is not your property and I have written permission to hunt here.” He replied. 
        “Well, you just stay on your property and I’ll stay on mine. And if I ever see you on my  property, I’m calling the sheriff.”

She sped off leaving a cloud of dirt and dust as the grandchild bobbled up and down between the handle bars.   I remember being left with the impression,  “Well, that was a very adult conversation and quite the example for her young passenger on how to resolve misunderstandings. They must be lovely neighbors.”    At least our decoy worked…

Or how on our drives home, the Old Man would often let his eyes wander to empty fields alongside the road.
“That field there, used to be full of turkeys.” He would say.
My brother and I riding as passengers would notice the opposite and equal reaction of the steering wheel. The further the Old Man looked left over his shoulder, the further we drifted right. 
“Whoa, whoa whoa…” My brother interrupted. 
     “What? You see turkeys”  The Old Man looked right and the steering wheel corrected left. 
“We were headed right for that ditch!”
“Oh, We’re fine… and that field over there,” the Old Man would continue, “I always see turkeys in there”
 My brother looked back at me and braced himself against the door handle.  I made sure my seat belt was buckled.

I woke up this morning in NW Montana and absent on opening day.  Surprisingly enough, I received  a text and a picture at 6 o’ clock in the morning from the Old Man of a dead turkey.   When did my dad learn how to text?   And take pictures?  I hope it wasn’t from a smartphone.  This could be dangerous.  Parents these days and their technology....