Thursday, December 29, 2016

Tying the Crawdad

I'm going to be perfectly honest here. I am not handling winter well this year. I'm freezing cold all the time, I just had a two-day bout with the stomach flu (that I'd rather not relive here), and worst of all, aside from some short 45-minute lunch hour romps at a local pond, I haven't had a decent fishing trip since October. Luckily though, if I play my cards right and don't relapse into the stomach flu, I'm going to have a day-trip tomorrow. I haven't decided yet where (maybe Bennett Spring, maybe Blue Spring Creek, probably Montauk), but I do know that wherever I go, I'll have a new trick up my sleeve.

If you look closely in most any body of water in Missouri, odds are you'll find a crawdad. I remember pulling up an old wire cage out of my grandpa's pond as a kid and there being dozens of the little crablike creatures scurrying in the trap. They are typically pretty well camouflaged in stream beds, but every so often, you can catch one swimming by, with surprising agility. It is no surprise then that with their prevalence in the Missouri water system that they are a significant food source for fish, even trout.

A real Crawdad, pulled from Bennett Spring

Monday, November 14, 2016

Turf War on the Trail Cam

A few months back, my dad and my brother-in-law went in together to buy one of those souped-up side-by-side golf carts, and they keep it at my parents' house. My parents live on several acres, most of which is a field, but there is a fairly large wooded area on the east line of their property. My dad took it upon himself to cut down a few trees to make a cart path through the woods behind his house. He even went so far as to construct a small wooden bridge over a creek in the woods, so he wouldn't get the cart muddy. For his birthday this past September, I bought my dad a trail cam to put down near the new bridge. I figured that the bridge would start getting some pretty decent traffic, not just from the cart, but from local wildlife as well.

My dad, Al, on his new toy.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Montauk State Park, October 2016 - Dictated but not read

I have been working at my current job for just under a year now, and in that time I've accumulated a good chunk of paid time off (PTO). Fortunately or unfortunately, I am only able to roll over 40 hours of PTO into 2017, meaning that before the year is over, I have to take six or seven days off, otherwise I am going to lose them. Earlier this month, I did just that, and took off on a Monday through Wednesday and did a solo-camping trip down to (surprise surprise) Montauk State Park for three days of fly-fishing, cook-outs, camping, and beer drinking. Aside from a few hiccups, it almost went perfectly according to plan. Almost.

For this trip's blog entry, I decided to try something new. One of my most significant challenges with this fly-fishing blog, aside from being a mediocre fisherman, is that I have an equally mediocre memory. Most of the time when I get home from a trip, I'm a bit burnt out, and the last thing I want to do is clean and store my gear, much less write a blog post about it. By the time I finally do get around to updating VossFish, the memories have begun to fade. But fear not. This time I had the bright idea to verbally take notes on my phone at the end of the day. This way, all of the nitty-gritty details, like fly selection, fish size, and location will all be preserved as an mp3 file stored somewhere on the cloud, I think. Of course, this means having to listen to the sound of my own voice (terrible) and transcribe the dumb things I have say (equally terrible). But hey, at least it's all well documented.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Hitting the Home Water: Montauk, July 2016

I don't know where August went exactly, but I just looked at my National Parks calendar, and apparently it's mid-to-late September already. Last week officially saw the first day of fall, but you wouldn't know that from the string of 90+ degree days we seem to keep having. I'm over summer. I am ready for pumpkin flavored beer and to make a big crockpot full of pineapple chili. August was one of those not so rare months that was a blink-and-you-miss-it moment in time. I didn't fish at all, and I don't even think I tied any flies. However, I did sneak in a quick day trip to Montauk State Park on the last day of July, and it was very fruitful.

As far as planing for a fishing trip goes, this one was pretty simple. I'd wake up in the middle of the night, drive to Montauk, and fish until I got tired or caught my limit. Simple. It was a sunny Saturday with big fluffy clouds lazily rolling in front of the sun every so often. I can't seem to remember what Emily was up to that Saturday. It seemed like it was our one free Saturday that entire summer. I was more than happy to spend such a gorgeous day hitting up my Missouri home water at Montauk State Park.

It's been a busy year, and I haven't gotten as much time on the stream as I wished. When I do find a chance to fish, typically I have been exploring new waters, or fishing catch & release. This has led to a perilous situation in which the number of frozen trout in my freezer is getting dangerously low. For this previous trip to Montauk State Park, I needed to catch some nice fat rainbows and actually keep them. I was there for meat.

I could not have picked a better day to go fly-fishing. Not only was the weather impeccable, with large clouds providing shade in an otherwise perfect blue sky, but the park itself was surprisingly uncrowded for a mid-summer Saturday morning. Sure, there were a good number of other anglers out there, but they all seemed to be families with children, and they stuck in tight groups. There were plenty of spots on the dam and low water bridge, and areas that required additional wading were practically empty.

Montauk State Park, July 2016

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Wet Wading at Westover Farms

Back in June, Emily's side of the family organized a camping/cabin trip for all of the cousins at Bass River Resort near Steelville, Missouri. It was a packed weekend of lounging in the river, grilling all meals over a fire, drinking cheap domestic beers, and wrangling a bunch of children. Between my and Emily's siblings, we have 13 nieces and nephews as a couple, ranging from 8 months old to 8 years old. The oldest, Johnny, and I get along great, not in small part due to the fact, as Emily likes to point out, that we are on similar maturity levels. The great thing about Johnny though is that the kid is obsessed with fishing. I am not throwing out the term "obsessed" lightly either. I've fished with him and his dad, Steve, before, and he doesn't whine, complain, or say he's bored. He bates his own hooks and reels in his own fish, and he's been bugging me for years now to take him trout fishing.

Our Mr. Miyagi and Daniel-San relationship started out small. I would bring my fly rod along to a trip to Emily's parents and we would practice false casting in the field across the street. He handled the 8.5 foot pole as well as a person who was less than half that tall could be expected to. He was desperate though to get out on the stream and try the real thing.

Johnny Casting

Monday, June 13, 2016

Fly-Fishing Central Wisconsin: Brook Trout on the Plover River

In my last post, I alluded to the ratio of drive time to stream time (DT:ST), and what my drive time limit would be for a finite amount of fishing. Once again, this past weekend, I pushed my own limits further than they have gone before, and found myself driving for an extended length, in both time and distance, in order to fly-fish on a far away body of water for a short period of time that many would find unacceptable. The original plan was simple - my brother-in-law, Alan, and I would meet up after work on Friday and drive up to his dad's hunting cabin in the middle of the woods, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of Wisconsin. We'd be hauling Alan's side-by-side in the trailer behind us, and once we arrived, we would have two solid days of trout fishing and beer drinking, exploring the Plover River and getting into some fish. However, due to some family issues (that I don't find the need to go into on my fly-fishing blog), my arrangements changed to where Alan and I would have to drive separately because I would need to be back in St. Louis by the early afternoon on Sunday. My two days of fishing were cut in half, but even with that change in the DT:ST, the trip and the long hours of driving were well worth it.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Chasing off the Sunday Scaries at Bennett Spring

What is the magic ratio of drive time to time on the stream that makes a trip worthwhile? Is a fishing trip with a ratio of less than 1:1 of drive:stream time worth it? How does one calculate the ratio accurately? Individual trips? Or can you collectively measure both drive and stream time over a period of time, say a month? Back in April, I pushed the ratio as far as it could go, and may have found my limit of how long I'm willing to drive for a relatively short day of fishing.

I crossed the St. Louis city line at 5:20 AM, and tried not think about the things I left behind at home, namely a sick dog with an ear infection, a stack of vinyl I'd bought the day before, and the warm bed I'd dragged myself out of mere minutes earlier. It was Sunday morning, and I was driving fast westbound on I-44, keeping a keen eye on the rear-view mirror for the state police, and the Sunday Scaries. My destination was Bennett Spring, and my target was rainbow trout. If everything went according to plan, I should be geared up and casting away by 8:00 in the morning, but that's only if the weekend didn't catch up to me before I got there.

Despite working a full day of work on Friday, my weekend kicked off on Thursday morning at 6:00 AM when I dropped Emily off at the airport for a weekend long bachelorette party in Mexico. Friday night resulted in midnight bowling and 2:00 AM pancakes. Saturday morning was Record Store Day, and I found myself standing in line at the Music Record Shop at 7:00 AM with a thermos full of coffee. By 8:00 the coffees turned to beers and they didn't seem to end that day. Saturday also included a Cardinals day game, a St. Louis Soccer Club night game, and boozy slushies in Soulard. It was a perfect storm of lack of spousal supervision or better judgment and an abundance of sunshine and day-drinking. In total, I was going on about 7 hours of total sleep for the weekend when I set course for Lebanon, fueled only by coffee and crappy energy drinks, but ready to throw caution and driving regulations to the wind and make my stand, officially kicking off the 2016 trout fishing season.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Friday Night Fly-Tying GIFs

It's a Friday night and it's just me and Norma sitting around with nothing better to do. I would go out, but I have a pretty busy day planned tomorrow of working with my dad to finish the basement remodel he and I are doing at my house. Emily's working on a term paper for her MBA course, otherwise we'd be binge-watching season four of House of Cards. I figured I'd might as well tie some flies. I'm still on the fence of going fishing again this weekend, so I might as well be prepared if some fly-fishing does arise.

Ever since I tied those John Deere Jigs, I've been wanting to give making some fly-tying GIFs a try. No time like the present, right? So please see below for some quick and dirty fly-tying GIFs. I went with some simple patterns, as I was more concerned with my camera setup than I was with the fly patterns. First up, the Mohair Leech.

When I was fishing the Current River last week, the guy at the fly shop at Reed's Cabins was swearing by the olive Mohair Leech. He was even kind enough to give me one of his so I could copy his pattern. Granted, I did lose his leech to a submerged tree that day, but I remembered well enough how to make it . . . I think.

Mohair Leech - Voss Fish
Size #6 Mohair Leech

Thursday, March 3, 2016

February on the Current River

My New Year's Resolution for 2016 is to fish at least once every month. I accomplished this in February by the skin of my teeth, making a day trip down to the Current River below Montauk State Park on the 28th of the month. This was also the day before my 2015 Missouri fishing license expired, so I was cutting it close on two fronts.

Baptist Campe Access - Voss Fish
Baptist Camp Access - Current River
These early spring weekends have been surprisingly busy, making it harder to sneak away to the streams. They seem much busier than years' past. This weekend alone I had a fish fry with the in-laws on Friday night, an all-day, five microbrewery pub crawl on Saturday, and finally, the Current River day trip on Sunday. Luckily for me, the pub crawl didn't affect my Sunday morning as much as I was fearing it would. In fact, Sunday morning proved to be one of my easiest commutes to Montauk. For the first time in a long time, I didn't have to drive all the way there by myself. I was joined by my brother-in-law, Alan, and my pal David, whom I used to work with at Express Scripts. Having people to talk to made a world of difference on the 2.5 hour trip. It also helped that the days are already getting longer in Missouri, and unlike when I drove down to Montauk back in January, it wasn't pitch black the entire drive.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Throwback Gallery: My First Fly-Fishing Trip - Bennett Spring, May 2013

For the past few weeks, I've been working on moving my old Macbook's hard-drive data and backups onto a formatted external terabyte hard-drive that Emily's PC can read (oh God, such a boring sentence to start of a blog post with). Long story short, after a frustrating week of messing with formatting languages and partitions, I stumbled upon some old photos I'd forgotten about from a few years ago. The photos below are from my and Emily's camping trip to Bennett Spring back in May 2013. This was my first time fishing with a fly-rod and unsurprisingly, I had no idea what I was doing. Today, I still kind of don't know what I'm doing, but unlike back then, today I feel the need to write about it on the internet.

You'll notice in the pictures below, that there are no triumphant shots of me holding a trout. I got skunked the entire weekend. There are also no shots of me wearing waders because I didn't realize I needed waders to fish at Bennett. Lesson learned and I asked for waders that Christmas. Despite my naiveté, I still have fond memories of that trip. My favorite being Emily getting scared I was leaving the campsite so early in the morning to go fish, so she tagged along with me and slept for a few hours in the front seat of the Prius while I stood on the banks like a goon. Fun times. Please enjoy the gallery below.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Tying the John Deere Marabou Jig

Whenever I fish Bennett Spring or Montauk State Park, I always seem to have the best luck whenever I use the the John Deere Marabou Jig pattern. I first learned about this fly last May, when I was fishing with the Eckelkamp family at Bennett Spring. I had a lot of luck with it on that and several subsequent trips. I'd been meaning to learn how to tie my own and this week I finally buckled down, bought the materials, and taught myself how to tie this incredibly versatile fly. This is one of the most popular fly patterns in Missouri, and you can find it in pretty much any fly shop in St. Louis or near the Missouri trout parks. Both T. Hargrove's and the Ozark Fly Fishers have instructions on how to tie this particular fly but I thought I'd give a crack at explaining my experience with it.

A line of Deeres

Monday, January 25, 2016

Trip Summary - Catch & Release at Montauk, January 2016

One of my goals for 2016 is to go fishing at least once every month. Coincidentally, Emily wants to go on at least one hike every month this year. I'm sure there will be at least a few two-birds-one-stone situations, but either way, it looks like the Voss family will be spending a lot of time outdoors this year. I kicked off my resolution this past weekend with my first fishing outing of 2016, with an overnight trip to Montauk for some catch & release trout fishing.

This trip fell into my lap. A few weeks ago, Emily had her college roommate, Alice, over for dinner along with her husband, also named Jake. We've been out fishing and camping with the Dunlaps before, so naturally it's all Jake and I talked about the whole night. Jake mentioned that he and some of his friends were heading down to Montauk the weekend of January 23rd, so naturally I invited myself to crash on the floor of their cabin Saturday night.

Fishing above the low-water bridge - Montauk Missouri

Friday, January 22, 2016

Trip Prep - Catch & Release at Montauk, January 2016

Late last year, I switched jobs, and one of the many benefits of my new position is having Martin Luther King Jr. Day off work. Now, this was a surprise to me. I fully intended to come into the office this past Monday, but luckily I overhead a couple of co-workers discussing what they were going to do on their day off. A day off? It was the most pleasant shock I've felt in a long time. Whereas Emily still had to work that day, I figured I might as well spend the holiday fishing. There was just one snag in that plan, the temperature.

Weather forecast

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Threat to Fly-Fishing That You've Probably Never Heard Of

Let me describe a group of individuals to you, and see if you can guess who I'm thinking of. Often, they can be seen wearing funny pants. It would be no surprise at all if you spotted them sporting some sort of facial hair. Old, expensive, antiquated equipment is their passion, even though cheaper, modern, more functional products are more readily available. They take pleasure in knowing their hobbies are seen as obscure, and they get bummed out if "the secret gets out" or "someone talks about a place," and a once hidden gem location becomes too mainstream. Despite these trends being decades expired, a few of them might still be wearing fedoras and some even unironically wear fanny packs. Finally, they're probably into some weird, arts & craftsy-type activities, and talk about it as if everyone should know the vernacular. I'm of course talking about hipsters, and once they catch wind of fly-fishing, I think we're all going to be in big trouble.


Hipsters: those weird young people who never seem to work regular hours, drink too much coffee, and pay too much in rent for crappy "renovated" warehouse apartments. Already hipsters have invaded once proud hobbies, including bike riding, beer brewing, butchery, and bluegrass music. What will happen when these once oddball activities become too mainstream for hipster culture, and a surge of these oddball "unique" youngsters come and take away your fly-rod, just like how Obama's going to come personally take away all of your guns.

I fear that fly-fishing, as a sport, is incredibly vulnerable for a hipster acquisition. It is a powder keg waiting to be ignited. Not only is fly-fishing a more obscure version of traditional fishing, but it is a hobby that rewards antiquity, expense, and exclusivity. Whereas a fly rod is more expensive and in many ways less practical than a bait-casting fishing pole, a bamboo fly rod is an even more expensive and even less practical version of a normal graphite fly rod. Owning a one-of-a-kind, hand crafted bamboo fly rod that is too fragile to ever fish with would be the dream of any hipster fly-fisher. But soon simple store bought bamboo rods will not suffice, and local woodshop co-ops will be packed with young mustached people crafting their own bamboo fly rods, using the finest, most expensive, imported, all-organic bamboo, of course. This is, unless they start growing their own bamboo. Soon hipsters will find out they need even more expensive gear for steelhead fishing, or salmon fishing, or salt-water fishing. They'll be chomping at the bit for a Tenkara fly rod. Just take a quick look at Tenkara Rod Co's website. The hipster leak has already begun. Rods are just the tip of the iceberg. The sport of fly-fishing is ripe for a hostile hipster takeover.
Vintage Hipster Angler
This isn't a new theory. Look at that old-timey hipster-angler and his mustache.
Fly-tying already rewards those who are willing to spend a pretty penny on materials. We already have chickens being specifically bred/manufactured to produce fine hackle feathers. What's going to happen when hipsters demand that these chickens be cage-free? Or antibiotic free? That $80 collar hackle cape is going to cost $150. The trout themselves (who already have many hipster-like qualities) will become more accustomed to this all-natural hackle fibers on flies, and refuse your shoddy hand-tied, traditional Adams or BWO. Today, fly-fishers already relish in finding secret tying patterns, or even discovering their own. Like moths to a flame, hipsters will be unable to resist the urge to start tying flies, using other-worldly patterns and proudly (and loudly) proclaiming the benefits of 19th century Scottish patterns over today's mundane flies. Fly-tying will become the new knitting. Mark my word.

It won't stop at fly-tying materials or patterns. I fear that like vinyl collectors and yarn stores of years' past, fly tackle manufacturers will see the rise in fly-fishing's popularity as an opportunity to raise prices on all gear. Can you imagine what an all-natural, organic, vegan 7x leader 3-pack will cost? Waders will be specially manufactured so that skinny jeans can be worn inside of them. Polarized sunglasses will now only come in colorful thick plastic frames.

You can forget about having that special, secret spot to go fish in. Hipsters pride themselves in their knowledge of underground, obscure hot spots. Not only will a surge of hipsters steal all the secret spots, but they'll add more bodies to the already crowded streams. You won't be able to false cast without getting your line tangled in some hipster's gauged ear plug. If the cleanliness of Williamsburg is any indication, conservation will surely suffer as well. Streams will be littered with empty PBR cans, American Spirit cigarette butts, and unspooled cassette tapes.

Hipster Trap
It's a trap!
To be completely fair, on paper, I'd probably be grouped in with first wave of hipsters discovering this sport. I have a record player in my living room, I drive a Prius, and the hair on the sides of my head is much shorter than the hair on the top. You can even find pictures of me with a twirled mustache online if you look hard enough.

Hipster Jake
Check out that fucking hipster.
However, I wear normal jeans, don't ride a fixed gear bike, and have a closet full of fishing tackle in my basement. If anything, I consider myself more of a lumberjack-type hipster than a Seattle-hipster. In fact, of all of the fly-fishing elements that would be attractive to hipsters (i.e., exclusivity and snobbishness) I consider some of the sport's most unattractive traits.

Of course at the end of the day, one thing does keep fly-fishing insulated from hipster culture. All those hipsters' dads would probably be on board with the idea and proud of their weirdo kids finally doing something normal and outdoorsy for once, and as we all know, parental approval is a big turn-off for hipsters everywhere.

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