Friday, June 4, 2010

Smitten by the Mitten

Apologies to the readership for the lack of posts lately.  Well, to be perfectly honest, I'm not sorry in the least, I hope you'll understand why.  Here is the result of a much needed trading of keyboard for cork-  sometimes you have to go off looking for something, anything, to get yourself lost in.  Sometimes you end up somewhere you've been a thousand times, yet, for some odd reason this time you've managed to dig yourself in deep.  The beauty of the whole game is evident when the best plans are reduced to shreds.  Here is a little bit of the latest romp through the great lakes state-

R4PB Trout Camp Video Diary from H.C. Foster on Vimeo.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Police Report

1400hrs May 23rd, 2010- A tan Toyota pickup towing a small unidentified camoflage vessel was observed traveling south on I75 at a high rate of speed near the town of Grayling.  State Troopers pursued the vehicle for almost an hour when they lost contact after being led down a sandy logging road near the intersections of King Road and Sunset Trail.  Recovery efforts for the disabled police cruisers is ongoing.  The pickups occupants was said to be one English Setter with priors of cardiac larseny and one unidentified male believed to be in his mid twenties wearing long underwear, shorts, and flip flops.  They are considered armed but not dangerous and known to frequent fly fishing shops and boat launches  Both are wanted for questioning in connection to a recent outbreak of terrible luck throughout the Northern Michigan area as well as the shortage of Whiskey.  If you have any information as to their wherabouts, please contact the MSP.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Drop the Gloves

Where I'm from, 30/30 means: "Its time to break out some Winchesters." 

Well apparently MUCC feels the same way.  Fighting the good fight the way us anglers know best- 30 species in 30 hours. 

Watch, remember, donate or write.  Get active, get serious, and get on it before its too late.  Don't let this resource be something I can only tell stories to my children about.  You think an oil spill is bad?  Just wait.  Oil doesnt swim. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pullback Outhouse Approved Reading Material: Fly Fishing with MacQuarrie

 Gordon MacQuarrie is most widely known for his "Old Duck Hunters Association" stories published between 1927 and 1956. The ODHA was a fictitious organization created by MacQuarrie for literary purpose and the president of this club was based on his father-in-law with whom he frequented his time in the outdoors with. "Fly Fishing with MacQuarrie" details sixteen short stories based upon MacQuarrie's adventures with "Hizzoner" along the mighty Brule River in northern Wisconsin. The Author's quick wit is ever present in this peek into fly fishing history. Steeped in tradition, MacQuarrie has the ability to dance the pen with the same mastery as the line with which he strings the rod of choice. Detailed are perspectives on life, love, and the pursuit of fish from "back in the day". Humor provided unequivocly by MacQuarries cast of characters that are so thoughtfully related the reader may believe they're disguised amongst the home team. A true classic piece of literature that is sure to please the reader who has "read it all", this collection is a sip of fresh water.

"A few decades back, before the days of high-modulus graphite rods, when chest waders with zippered flies were the stuff of science fiction, there lived a cadre of men who nurtured and advanced the art of fishing with the fly.  These men fished for trout in a time when few anglers had even heard of fly fishing.  They covered their skin with citronella oil to fend off mosquitoes and black flies.  They kept their cat-gut leaders soaked in water to make them pliable.  They wrote about fly fishing and they went by the names Haig-Brown, Wulff, Traver, Maclean and MacQuarrie.

Of them all, Gordon MacQuarrie may be the least known as a fly fishing author.  Like them, however, he was a master storyteller as well as an accomplished fly fisherman.

MacQuarrie did not scribe "how-to" articles.  Instead, he drew the reader into streamside angling ventures, telling an absorbing but instructive story as he did so, always in a light-hearted style."
-rear jacket excerpt

Fly Fishing With MacQuarrie
Compiled and edited by Zack Taylor
ISBN 1-57223-025-8
Willow Creek Press
Minocqua, Wisconsin


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chroming Cleveland

Chroming Cleveland from H.C. Foster on Vimeo.

Another "no budget" film from the hole.  Making my fishing buddies world famous, one cheap film at a time.
Here's a little taste of life on the Alley!  Some of you locals might recognize a few spots... shhhhhhh!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Local Fix

There is something magical about the "local" fishing spot- a favorite piece of water that is closest to where we lay our head. For the fortunate angler, this place may be as grand as a blue ribbon trout stream a few steps out the back door, or it may be a golf course pond full of chubby bucketmouths. Either way, the truly dedicated angler measures his or her domestic satisfaction in direct relation to the proximity of fish-holding water (not that it improves any other domestic relationships).

The advantages of living in close proximity to water are obvious: less travel, more gravel.  More importantly, this makes it easier to fulfill impromptu urges to fish.  Every piece of water is different. They all have little quirks and unique characteristics that make them special. Having an intimate relationship with a river takes enough time as it is- long travel times only exacerbate this. An overlooked justification is the skunk factor. A good skunking doesn’t hurt so badly when you only drove 5 minutes instead of 5 hours. It happens, and when it does, the faster one can return to their home and commence a remedy, the better.

I believe there are 3 types of anglers- those that took up fishing because they discovered they lived so close to quality water, those that have no other option but to travel long distances to fish, and those that choose where to reside for the sole purpose of being as close as possible to a quality fishery. I can brag that I've been all three.

Growing up in Michigan's northwest Lower Peninsula on the shores of Lake Michigan, fishing became part of my life because it was so readily abundant. Everywhere you looked; there was a plethora of freshwater game fish to pursue. There was everything from trolling deep water for Lake Trout, Salmon, Walleye and Whitefish to the shallow back channels and reed flats where Northern Pike and Small Mouth Bass call home. There were little farm ponds full of dinner plate Bluegills and last but not least, there were rivers full of trout. I had no other option but to enjoy this wonderful resource. Sure, there was golf- but after making a hole-in-one at age 13 (honestly) I had in my mind reached the pinnacle of my golfing career. I discovered, no- fishing discovered me- because I resided in an area surrounded by such extensive and diverse habitat.

When I left my home in Northern Michigan for college in Tucson, Arizona, proximity to fishing was not the first thing I thought of. Without a better cliché, I was a fish out of water. Literally. This is a point in my angling journey that I wish I could do over. I failed to pursue the opportunities to fish more in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. I wish I could chalk it up to hormones and cheap booze, but since those still play a part in many of my decisions, alas, I cannot. Living in such an arid landscape, I sufficed by fishing back in Michigan every summer and spent my winters chasing coeds around the campus of UofA. Neither thirst was really ever quenched.

My college career also brought me back to my home state for a few years as I finished my interventional cardiology program, yet far from the angling that I longed for. My "local" water was still a 45 minute drive away and it was disheartening that many of these waters surrounding Detroit were polluted and trash filled with low fish numbers. One positive that came from this was my interest in rough fishing with my fly rod- however; it only came as a necessity because the closest piece of trout water was more than a 2 hour drive away.

Within the last year I was fortunate enough to find a job with a company that allows me to work from a home office, extensive travel, and also gave me the option of moving wherever I chose in the Midwest. I knew that wherever I moved would have to satisfy my fishing addiction much more bountifully than just Carp and Bass fishing. Lakewood only seemed the logical choice. Lots of hospitals for work, cheap rent, a great bar scene and last but not least, its proximity to great Steelheading. These shots were taken this morning 5 minutes from my pillow with two other anglers that are also completing their "local water" cycle. Zach and Dave are both anglers that I can find on almost any morning somewhere on the river. There is nothing better than starting your work day with a couple hours of flogging water.  I'll see you boys in AM.

So, which category do you fit in?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

God Loves Ugly

After bangin out the bill payin work for the day, Porkchop and I headed out on a little excursion to check the water conditions.  Shipwreck city.  I mean cookin. 

I thought about what days like this mean to other anglers.  As one who pursues river fish, your life revolves around the flow.  In cycles.  We ride along on this rocketship while the water is right, but one storm or bump in temperature is all it takes to change us into this "high water zombie", prowling access points and staring at unrecognizeable runs or holes thinking: "Damn It".  Some are satisfied with just looking up the numbers on a website.  I however, seem to embrace the visual effect the sight of the river has ripping along, high and muddy.  I get lost for a minute and my life slows down. 

Its part of the pursuit.  Watching a river is something I simply cannot help.  Just like it's impossible to look at a beautiful woman and not wonder what she looks like naked.  Think if the first time we laid eyes on every river we ever fished, they were all running high and dirty.  Would some be like that girl you thought was hotter than she actually was once her clothes were off?      

When the water sucks, we bottle ourselves up.  Get on the vices (literally and figuratively).  Get bored with tying.  Go to the beer store.  Go to the head shop.  Go to the fly shop.  Go back to the beer store.  Go to our other fixes that are readily available until we've exhausted our patience (or money) and then go stare at the river some more.  Everything slows to a crawl when the river is fast. 

But maybe its the way the water balances us.  High water days bring us back to our "civilian lives" just long enough to make us remember why we'd rather pursue one in waders.  Dishes get done.  Clothes get washed.  Sleep gets slept.  Girlfriends call off search parties.  Fly shops see the guys they like.  Booze flows like the river, and who doesn't want that?  If anything, I think we should enjoy our bad water days as much as our good water days!

So in celebration, I have a 6 pack of craft brew on standby and some fresh materials to tie with.  I think I can smell breakfast on Thursday morning.  Now here's your daily dose of Slug, you'll feel better in the AM.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

March Madness

Apologies for the delay in another edition of bourbon fueled antics.  The move went well, and I have sufficiently transformed this ghetto hole into somewhat of an urban fishing/gundog/whiskey-bum... well, hole.

The weather is turning and if you live in the midwest, you might notice an abundance of people standing outside staring up at the sun as if they were waiting for the mothership to beam them aboard.  And, if you're lucky enough you might be finding a minute or two to spend on a local river as long as it doesn't look like some wicked Willy Wonka flowage of horror. 

It has been an adventure to begin to dissect a new territory of water.  While I have not spent as much time putting theory to practice as I'd prefer, I have spent a lot of time riding around in "Porkchop" (my truck) and scoping spots.  Alas, my feet are ready to trade shoes for waders a little more often and feel the weight of new currents gripping me like a first handshake- firm, yet light enough to promote a friendly relationship.

It's also the start of the spring field trial season and the sight of post winter, couch surfing, out of shape and out of practice bird dogs is always a welcome sign that winter is letting go.  I know Chaps is ready to start our spring conditioning program as he made it perfectly clear in his 15 minute tour of the Clyma compound this morning- a 10 minute vanishing act followed by an unproductive on what appeared to be a deer bed.  Oh boy.

Despite the awkward embrace of this season we call spring, those who are seasoned in the transition are still keeping a weather eye.  Winter may have walked out the door, but I've found we share the same habit of forgetting our keys, phone, sunglasses, wallet, ect... only on the very rare occasion do we have a clean departure.

What's your favorite sign of spring?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Relocation

Well its happened again.  4 years in one place is just too damn long.  Thats right, Cleveland, OH will be my new home.  For those of you chrome scholars out there, yes I will be in steelhead alley.  Better than fuckin Tornado Alley.  Every once in a while our lives require a healthy mend.  Some things we run away from, some things we run away to.  Fish have always been something I ran away to, but its never been healthy to run away from something else to get them.  So take away the Else (ironic).  Now all we have is fish and me and of course my trusty Setter Chaps, a few rods and gear, some decent guns, a truck, some basic posessions, a decent job and a clear reason to get the hell out of here (finally).  Operations will be conducted from my new place in Lakewood, OH.  Cheers!  -H.C.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Blue Fly

Pullbackworthy: Kudos to Patti- it was great to stay with her and experience the wonder of Will. A true blue guiding family. Take Notes. Go Play.

Monday, January 4, 2010

An Ausable Legend Remembered

I hate to admit that some time ago fly fishing didn't really excite me. It may have been that I had no friends that were willing to trade the bikini laden beaches for buggy cedar swamps, or, the fact that my father's only outdoor activities revolved around bird dogs and Grouse hunting, but I first found my time with a fly rod awkward and frustrating. It was purely a trial and error affair, with a strong tendency towards catastrophic error. My leaders frequently looked as if they were donated for mice to attain their presidential fitness award for the rope climb. I often traded my cheap 5wt for an ultra light spinning rod and a Mepps bucktail. The complexities of fly fishing are far too great for a boys mind with no guidance other than literature. It was rare for my dad to take me to a fly shop, and even if we did go to one, it was necessary for them to also have a fine gun library for him to browse. I would inevitably end up following one of the shop guys around, pestering them with as many questions possible until they were ready to keel haul me, at which queue my Dad would drag me out before I touched anything. It was only logical to use a spinning rod that my simpleton mind could wrap itself around.
To my father, a fishing rod was like a babysitter. It allowed me to do something by myself instead of bugging him. So from the time I could walk, talk, and tie my shoes, a fishing pole became part of my life. A lot of my dad's buddies had ponds at their houses stocked with bluegill, catfish, and trout. These provided hours of endless entertainment whilst my dad and company polished off glasses of bourbon and talked of things a son should surely not repeat in front of his mother. I didn’t seriously discover fly fishing until I was in 6th grade, and it was only then from reading the likes of Jerry Dennis in my parents bookshop after school. This was also about the same time I started reading Hemingway and learned that Nick Adams and I shared the same backyard. So you can imagine what my vision of fly fishing looked like- classic, pure, old timey and exaggerated. It was like watching a bunch of hardcore porn before losing your virginity- you'll be very disappointed to learn that your director’s version of this event doesn't match the performers agreement (not to mention sound, set, and lighting arrangements). So a fly rod never seemed the logical choice. Nowadays, it’s hard for me to imagine a day on the water (or lawn, or parking lot) that doesn’t involve throwing some loops. Then again, I guess that’s the beauty in learning something for on your own- because there are no real rules and even elementary successes are monumental. It may be that very reason that I enjoy fly fishing so much. I didn't know this at the time, but Rusty Gates did.

First, allow me to disclose that I don't know Rusty Gates AT ALL. I've been to his shop twice and only one of those times did I actually talk to him. I wouldn't have guessed it then, but that single conversation would have a lasting impression on me.

It was summertime and on a whim I had decided to head up to Au Gres and see if I could catch a few Walleye off the pier. After fishing for the evening, I slept in a field, down a rural dirt road, not far from town. I was disappointed the only thing I'd caught that night was a channel cat. The next morning I left early so I would be home in time to take my girlfriend to an afternoon Tigers game. I stopped in town at a cafe and had some breakfast. It was a beautiful day. I continued after eating and got on Southbound I-75. Five minutes after getting on the freeway I decided it just wasn't time to go home yet. I'm not sure why, but I took the next exit, turned back North, and called a girlfriend that wasn't going to take it well. I wasn't sure where I was going, but I wasn't going back to the Goddamn city. Not yet. I found myself taking the Grayling exit an hour and a half later, and turned east headed downriver. Eventually I came to a stop at Gates' place and wandered in.

I didn't really know anything about who Rusty was before meeting him. To me, he was just another guy behind the counter in a fly shop. It took all of about ten minutes for me to completely peruse the store, and aside from a hello upon entering, he had yet to say another word. I stood looking in bewilderment at the hundreds of fly patterns in the center display case. Another guy walked in. Someone he knew. They immediately struck up a conversation and Rusty offered the guy a cup of coffee. I watched enviously as the man took the cup. I felt the little kid begging to be keel hauled screaming inside of me. He wanted to be part of what they were talking about, whatever it was. But I just listened, hoping to pick up a tip or two on where some fish might be had or something else of top secret order. They didn’t talk fishing though. Rusty was saying about how they'd found some sort of industrial waste dumped behind a factory that was leaching into the river. His voice didn't change in tone until after he'd explained all the facts, and then he followed it up with something like: "F#%$in' criminals" and it came out almost as a low growl. After his cup was empty, the man left and I was once again the only customer in the shop. I was scared to talk. By now I had noticed a copy of Gates' book and put two and two together as to who was behind the counter. Not that I knew anything about him, but just the fact that he'd written a book on one of Michigan's most prized trout waters was intimidating. I felt like if I said the wrong thing, I might get tossed out on my ear. He was watching me now and I could feel it.

"Anything you’re looking for?" It wasn't the growl.
"Nah, just lookin. How's the fishing?" I responded.
"It's Ok."
"Any pointers?" I think my voice may have even cracked.
"Under the banks. Use some of those." He pointed to a streamer that looked like some sort of bugger pattern.
I hadn't brought my fly rod with me this trip as I had just planned on fishing for walleye and heading back. How was I going to get around this? Here's a guy giving me a tip and I'm going to walk out without buying his fly. This is also when I learned to keep a fly rod in my vehicle at all times for such occasions.
"I actually don't have my fly rod with me." I replied.
He looked at me with a raised brow in a puzzled expression. I didn't expect what he said next.
"Why not?" He asked as if it was my brain I'd left at home.
"I don't know." I mumbled sheepishly. I felt like a student that had forgot his homework.
"So what are you fishing with?"
"Spinners." I admitted guiltily.
"Go East a couple miles and turn left to the bridge. You can fish there."
"Thanks." and with that I left like The Devil from Sunday Service.

I drove a couple more miles down the road and found the bridge where I could throw spinners to my heart’s content. But I didn't want to. I made a couple casts and felt ashamed; like it had been my factory they found the industrial waste behind. I went for a swim in the cold river with my dog and lay in the grass to dry in the sun. After a while I got up and continued along my journey towards Mio, hooking south and eventually taking M-18 all the way through Prudenville, avoiding the freeway, and eventually arriving home later that evening. It has only been a handful of times that I've picked up a spinning rod since.

I wanted to go back and tell him how I felt, I wanted to walk back into that shop and earn a cup of coffee. Only now do I realize that conversation was the spark that ignited my fire for fly fishing. Strange, it only took a few words. I never knew Rusty Gates well enough for that cup of coffee, but he must've known something about me. Maybe he didn’t know that fly fishing would lead me on adventures around the globe, and that it would become engrained in who I am, but I bet he was certain I'd never return without a fly rod again. I'm one of so many that thank you, Rusty. I hope that someday I might get that cup of coffee, as I'm sure your new shop is still on the Holy Waters.