end of a great season…

photo -

So the fishing season comes to an end … at least here in the upper mid west. Snow is here and there’s more coming each week. Yesterday we got more than 12inches /30cm of snow in one day. The lakes have already been frozen up for a while, and even the rivers are finally closing up. Early in the year I set a goal of catching 200 fish on a fly rod, and I’ve achieve that plus little more. More serious fly fishermen would probably be too embarrassed to display so many bluegills, bass, and carps that I have caught – but I am just happy to catch so many fish, regardless of their species. I have a few trout here and there whenever I had the chance to get to places with trout, but for the most part my prized fish has been the largemouth bass. I remain in that stage where catching any fish is still very exciting to me, and I feel that I might stay here a while. Some of my friends, who have fished only as long as I have already moved onto a stage where they disregard any other species than trout… we discuss this from time to time, but for the most part, you have to respect what they are after. I can say I had a great year : really got into fishing the mountain creeks, discovered the world of fly tying, and I am able to articulate what fishing means to me beyond catching fish….at least for the moment. Last year, I continued fishing during the cold months, claiming that I will “fish through the winter”. I’ll fish this winter for sure, but likely I will travel, and very likely I will spend more time at the tying bench. I sent my friends the below picture (the fish I caught in 2008) with a holiday greeting, and got back a lot of funny replies about me & small fish. Here is my favorite one from Italy.

“what's going on? I can't enlarge the composition of thumb-nails that you sent but it looks like you are specializing in catching really
tiny fish. I haven't fished in many years: is it a new niche of the fly-fishing culture? I remember that a lot of people were into fishing small streams but
not small fish.”

Happy Holidays everyone. My holiday wish for you:

for those who already fish: I hope you fish more, catch more, and catch the biggest fish next year.
for those who don’t fish yet: I hope next year brings you the opportunity to try out this wonderful activity. You just have to try it.


winter rainbows

All of our friends have been tying a lot of flies recently, and there’s nothing better than catching some nice rainbows on your own flies. Jonathan caught a couple of these rainbows the other day on some deep sinking nymphs he’s been tying. Looks like a blast Jonathan, hope I can join you sometime soon.


winter slow

I headed up to the local river in Wisconsin. It was one of the coldest days this winter, and felt it as I stepped out of my door. Driving up with the sun rising up to the right of me, I wasn’t quite sure if there will even be open waters. The winter is here and I am not sure how many more days of fishing is left, so this was one of those trips. I like fishing in nice sunny conditions as much as the next guy, but I am also slowly gaining a taste for fishing harsh conditions. This day wasn’t going to be harsh, only very cold.

In the winter you have to plan extra time for everything. It takes longer to drive anywhere because of the frozen roads, it takes longer to gear up because there more layers to put on, and it even takes longer to wade through any waters as you are either breaking through ice or walking carefully over snow covered rocks. I put on the fly and walked into the snow covered path. As I reached the edge of the water, I walked the path I knew well, because I wasn’t sure when the ice would give way, and soon it did. Imagine walking on top of Styrofoam panels, each step making a hold in the ice. Although the ice was thinner, I found it almost impossible to crash walk through it like a ice cutting boat. The flat layer created a pretty firm structure and each time I tried this my shin hurt pretty bad. So I had to walk big clumsy steps with jerky motion from when my foot fell into the thin ice. When I reached the open water things got a little easier but a lot more slippery with ice formed underneath the flowing water.

I threw the egg patterned fly around, but soon found my line full of droplets of ice. I had the deicing wax on the rod guides but didn’t expect the line to freeze up this way. I had to be really selective on when and where I would throw the fly, as it would take an equal amount of time to deice the line with my hands. I also made the mistake of putting my rod & reel down in the slush like water at one point. I soon found the reel & lines completely locked up, frozen with a consistent layer of ice over it. It took a long time to get the reel to turn again, and even then the drag knob wasn’t working. I saw a few fish as they scattered away with my clumsy and loud walk through the ice. I found it easier to drift with some big pieces of ice when walking downstream, hoping to mask my footsteps with the flowing ice sheets.

I suspected there would be a few surviving Kings and Browns left, the very last of the survivors. The few fish I saw scattering were exactly that, their colors bruised black & white from where the rocks had taken toll. They were big fish, and scattered away with some force. It wasn’t easy to get close enough without spooking them, one because of the noise from the snow & ice, and second because my body was cold and I was walking like Frankenstein. Plus I had to make sure the line was at least bending, free from ice as well as making sure the reel actually turned at all. My only chance was to try and spot one far away enough, then to make a slow and careful approach. I continued walking, I slipped and fell and was on all four, I cursed, and my knee hurt from the fall. I started to walk back to the bridge where I has entered, and spotted single fish hanging out near the edge where the ice stopped. I tied on a new fly because the current fly was now a ball of ice with the hook completely covered. I put on a split shot and cast the line out. From where I was standing, I didn’t have a direct view of the fish mouth because of the ice edge so I had to throw the fly to my best guess. Fortunately for me, the fish must have been ready to give the last fight of her life. She ignored several of my lame casts around her, even one cast where I think the split shot landed on her head. She stayed around and allowed me to get the fly into her mouth. She gave a strong but somewhat steady fight and was soon in my net. I took a quick photo and packed up for the day.

Back at the car, it took longer getting out of my frozen waders, with the laces frozen in that shape. The landing net was also frozen in that shape and I tied it up on the roof rack. My knee still hurt, and I felt the injury as I move it. As I drove back, I thought about how I felt about catching fish that were the last survivors from earlier this season. I always like catching fish, but these were likely the last days of their lives, perhaps I should have just let it be. I packed away my gear as I would have done if it had to sit till spring. I’ll see how that goes.

Fly Fishing the Far East.

Korea has some beautiful mountains and waters to fly fish on. I was looking through some of the photos on RainbowFly and was reminded how beautiful it is there. The fish found there are usually smaller but pretty, although you do meet some larger ones once in a while. There’s different waters with many variety of fish and many of the waters have fairly easy access. I haven’t gone salt water fly fishing in Korea yet, but I plan to do that next year in the East Sea. Here are some photos of fishing in Korea from the guys at RainbowFly (


One sunny winter day in Korea

The morning:

As always, everyone met at the fly shop at 6:00 AM sharp drank cup of Korean instant coffee to start another exciting day. Today’s destination was at Bonghwa creek with five experienced anglers Mr. Dakahara, Mr. Song, Mr. Byun, I, and Mr. Lee. In the van on the way, everyone feels safe and comfortable as always. Mr. Lee who is the guide drives skillfully like he does fishing: He knows all the roads specially the short cuts. When we arrive to the town near by the destination for the breakfast, I heard there was an old well that is famous. It was a starting point of Nackdong river. I walk there to look and found bunch of nice size rainbows and Yulmooks in the water moving graciously under the crisp morning sun light. That made me more eager to get ready for fishing.

On the way in the van:
On the way, some of us were already excited about the day can’t help to talking about the fishing with the opening comment of Mr. Dakahara recent acquire of the bamboo rod from Japan in auction. Although he didn’t bring that rod to this trip, he explained his experience with bamboo rod and how skilled craftsman approach to make such a high-end rod. He also was showing his antique Hardy and Shimano reels along with Bamboo fly box. It was nice touch that he had a small colorful plastic tool to hold the line-end for each reels. His equipment was always well kept and organized. During our conversion, I realized that we were already driving for over 3 hours. Out side was already bright and sunny weather was welcoming us to the Bonghwa creek for wonderful fly fishing.

The mid day:

I decided to group with Mr. Lee and Mr. Song to watch and learn of their experienced skill. We walked up the stream and share the casting locations and continue to walked up the stream. When I see Mr. Lee’s casual and comfortable fishing outfit, it always seems full of confidence and experience. It was a beautiful day to hike up the streem. After about 2 hours into hiking and casting, I was able to land with a 20 centimeter Yulmook in the far end of deep flowing water. I used #16 light brown parachute since I saw some of them hatching.

In the afternoon:

The end of the day, overall result was rather slow, but most senior Mr. Dakahara caught two 40 centimeter yaulmock (Korean native trout) with his #16 white parachute. Through out the day, most of us only saw a group of fish moving about in the deep water trying to get away from us. During the end of the day assessment, we were blamed on early arrivers that were already there fishing spooked all the fishes. This time of the year many of the creeks are frozen and the other popular Korean native trout fish called “Sanchun” don’t carry beautiful color as spring and summer season, so most of the fly fishermen prefer to go after yaulmock at this location Bonghwa or Naerinchun, and the locations are limited and it gets too crowded.

Bonghwa was short span creek that located next to the large road, so it wasn’t as sacred as some other famous creeks in Korea. This was my second trip to Bonghwa and I enjoyed the weather and scenery. After the day, I once again realized that I am starting to enjoy the activity of fishing and learn from the pros not necessary of catching the fish because if I only concentrate on catching, it isn’t much enjoyable hobby. The variable is what makes this hobby more exciting. Besides lately, I am much enjoying of learning tying flies. It isn't so easy yet, but with this additional fun choir, makes fly fishing much more enjyable.
After the quick dinner, we head back in rather fast speed because it was a weekday with no traffic. When we arrived to Seoul, we all gather at the shop and talked about the next trip.


tie some flies, eat some flies…

Well, maybe not flies, but various insects. An alternative way to get your protein, chef & food enthusiast Shoichi Uchiyama has published a book on this unique way of cooking. As I tie flies, I’ve often thought about what a tasty looking fly might look like to a trout, but I have never thought about how it might look tasty to me. If eating insects gets me more in tune with the fish, then bring out the plates. Visit his blog ( ) to see more. Cool.


A letter from Rio Manso (part Two)

Day 3:

Oh no! I was woken up by the sound of rain drops bouncing off the window. When I opened the curtain in the room, I see strong wind and rain pouring down. Patty looked gloomy as she stood next to me. We go down to the living room and greeted by Javier with somewhat awkward smile. He approached us with very sincere manner and said fishing might not be all that good but ready to depart as soon as we are ready. After a quick bite to eat, we were off to the upper portion of Rio Manso. It is going to be a drift trip down on the Manso river. I’m sure the heavy rain from last night will add some fun to the ride but wasn’t sure about the fishing condition. Javier suggested sinking line for me and streamer on floating line for Patty. Immediately, I found that it is extremely difficult to cast in strong wind with the heavy sinking line which I wasn’t accustom to. Patty pretty much gave up on casting for she was not equipped to deal with such condition. Fortunately, the weather started to clear up soon after we drifted down the river. As soon as the weather cleared a little bit, I get a hit with a 14 inches rainbow. Because of the strong current, the fish felt a lot stronger and feistier for its size. Immediately after the first fish, I get another hit with yet another small rainbow. And then as if it was planned, the biting stopped completely. At times, it couldn’t be any more accurate in terms of presentation to the fish but they just ignored everything we threw at them.

We pulled into the flat graveled area to have a picnic. Javier setup the picnic table with a really good Argentinean wine and started to grille very tasty steaks for lunch. After lunch, Javier strolled off to a stream which feeds into the river and hurriedly came back whispering to get my attention with his hand gesturing a huge fish. Two of us very cautiously approached the mouth of the inlet and found a huge brown trout floating behind a rock about 10 feet away from us ready to take on any fish or flies floating down the stream. Javier whispered in my ears that it is closed 30 inches. Javier carefully instructed me to crouch down and get ready to do very gentle roll cast. At this point, my heart is pounding uncontrollably and thinking “Don’t mess up. Do Not Mess UP!” I cast the fly and it lands approx 15 inches away from the fish to the side. It did get the fish’s attention but not enough to go after the fly. “Cast again but in front of him not to the side” I told myself “Oh sure I meant to cast the fly to the side of fish…” As I pulled awkwardly positioned fly out of the water, I made too much of disturbance and then BOOM the fish was gone. “Puta madre” Javier whimpered in disgust. Too add insult to my humiliation, my lovely wife Patty made a statement “I can’t believe you did that”. I went back to the picnic table and finished the really good Argentinean wine. Managed to catch two more fish after that but I couldn’t get rid of that brown off my head. Humiliated but good day of fishing.