July 21st, 2008

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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FAOL Michigan Fish In & Lessons Learned
By Deb Freele, Ontario

It was a busy two weeks. After the Flygirls gathering at Wakely Lake, the folks from Fly Anglers Online started showing up at Gates Au Sable Lodge, a top notch meeting place, near Grayling. I enjoyed my usual reconnaissance through the Fly shop. I picked up a few more local patterns, bits that I needed, planned my final purchase for later in the week (birthday present) and caught up on the latest shop gossip.

It was even more fun this year than last year. The area and the faces are beginning to feel quite familiar and like old friends. I run into many of them through the year at the tying and fly fishing shows in Michigan over the winter. The really interesting thing is that this fly fishing world is really a lot smaller than one realizes. Borders do not matter. It almost doesn't matter who you run into or talk to...they will always know someone you know. With Michigan being next door to Ontario, there is a crossover of shared info, interests and friends. Conversations are always easy to start...just start talking fly fishing and you'll have a new friend in seconds. The knowledge base is worth the trip alone. You don't have to be on old hat at this stuff...a neophyte is going to get a head full of new info and some mentoring, as most are very eager to share what they know.

The Fish-In is an informal gathering. We mostly go about our own business through much of the time but it is a place to meet up when things get slow on the river (Canoe Hatch time) or at the end of the day to compare notes and tell stories. It's also nice to be able to hook up with others, so you don't always have to fish alone. (My husband does not fish.) It can also be a good place to get out of the rain. We had access to the conference room (at Gates) for the full week. One could sit and tie flies, learn to furl leaders, check the weather or fishing reports, or just have a good chin wag.

We ate well too! You want to have Joe Valencic in your group. The king of bread makers!

We ate VERY well on this trip, because not only was Joe at the Fish In, but he was camped beside us at Canoe Harbor. He's also the king of hot breakfasts and Dutch Oven cooking! YUM!!! This man has talent at the camp stove.

We did some more eating on July 4th...celebrating the day with GOOD food, good drink and great friends:

We even had a special guest casting instructor that day!

Of course the Fish In includes some fishing:

Here is an AuSable River Grand Slam (Trout Slam):

Now if I can only find a tiger trout. (hybrid)

If you are looking for trophies, they are there to be had, IF you work hard. My main goal this year was to learn some new techniques so it wasn't all about numbers. I tried a few new things this year, like really trying to get the Kelly Galloup method of stripping BIG streamers down to an art, and though I didn't hook up too many trophy size fish, I did raise a lot out of the logs. What a thrill it was, in it's own right. I actually landed two very nice fish, but here's the sad tale. I was setting up to take a photo of the first...a nice 18+ rainbow. I had it settled down in the net and just about focused when I heard a "kerplunk"! What the heck was that? My camera shut off!! Drat! Low battery? NO...it was NO BATTERY! The battery door had popped open, dropping my lithium proprietary battery into the rushing water, never to be seen again! I slap my head, swear for a few minutes, to get it out of my system and release the now fully revived fish back into it's hole, then give myself another smack. LESSON #1 - Duct Tape the battery door shut on the camera before heading into a river...or lake.

I have to fill you in a little before I go on with the fishing and the next bit. On this day I also had my new purchase from Rusty's (Gates) shop. I acquired a new vest to replace the old worn out pouch I carried my flies and gear in. I finally found one I liked after many years of searching...and I finally reasoned with myself that it was in fact worth the investment and now was the time to get it. Here she is on the right:

I felt really cool wearing this baby! If I was a guy...I'd be feeling like Brad Pitt! In fly fishing...clothes make the fisherman....and if you believe that...YOU need a smack up side your head. None the less...I was feeling good that day.

I also had one of those little magnetic fish net do-hickey holders lying around so I was eager to try that out, too. Well, another expensive lesson was learned that day. DO NOT TRUST magnetic net holders to hold your net all by it's self. ( I have some words for my local fly shop owner.) I had returned the net to it's proper holding spot (Magnet) and continued to fish. I don't use the net very much. I only pull it out when I have a fish of good size that I want to get in without playing it too long, for a healthy recovery. Well this was a GREAT day of fishing. I had been landing fish right left and center...32 by the end of the morning. I only needed the net twice however. The first time was the lost photo op fish.... then the next one was about an hour later...a beautiful near 20" brown! I had the fish pretty close, reached around my back to grab the net...the net.... uhhhh ...where's the &%$#ing NET?

Got the fish to hand, give it a look and released it without a photo...without a net...and a lot of "F" bombs.

LESSON #2: DO NOT TRUST A Magnetic net holder. Use a net tether WITH the magnets.

So if anyone found a nice large ash and cherry wood fishing net with a half of a magnetic holder attached (made out of Cocobolo wood), floating down the river below Mio, it's mine. I'd love to see it again. We're old fishin' buddies.

That was an expensive day! Oh well...I watched eagles over the river, got hissed at by a family of mink, saw some beautiful scenery, caught my share of fish , and had some great entertainment. It was chased down with some cold beers sitting with friends, old and new, around the campfire later that night. What more could any one ask for?

Jack Hise wins the Accuracy contest!

And the Winner of the Long Distance Casting Contest...JC! The old man proves he still has it.

So does the grand lady!

Here is the next generation:

This is one thing I can not stress enough...the future of our lakes, rivers and streams are our children. Teach them to fly fish and with that you will be creating awareness and a love for these precious places. It will be these children who will continue the fight for clean water, clean air and wild spaces and filling the seats of the old guard at organizations such as the Anglers of the Au Sable. While you're at it, teach them (how) to vote.

Don't just teach your sons. Teach your daughters too. The very best times I recall in my youth, are with my now long gone father. They were the days we went fishing. Don't miss the chance to make life time memories. Take a kid fishing! ~ Deb Freele, Ontario

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