Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bear's Den (my thoughts on local fly shops)

So I like to find local fly shops and support them as much as I can.  I will not lie - I do shop at the big chains like Bass Pro and Cabelas but you get something at the local small town shops that you can not get with the big guys.  If you look on the side bar of my blog you find the local shops I support whenever I am near them.  I do not really seek them out, but either find them by chance or hear about them from other fisherman. With this post I hope you at least stop in at your local shop and pick up a couple things.

When I was growing up in PA the local bait shops and fly shops were the places to find out what the fishing was really like on local waters.  As I got into fly fishing I found that these shops are a compilation of a time machine, a history book, a how-to guide, a lecture hall and - at times - a place to sling the thick stuff (aka tell tall fishing tails).  They also sell everything the big guys sell and if they do not have it they will order something special just for you.

Today I wondered into a fly shop called 'Bear's Den Fly Fishing CO'.  I am not going to lie - the name is really cool and I was worried that the store would not do the name justice.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the name matched the shop well.  It is located in the basement of what I think was a vet's office (the truth is I did not look at the sign very well I was too excited to be at a local shop).  I walked downstairs and turned the corner to see a small space stacked floor to ceiling with fly fishing and tying gear and supplies.

For my first visit to the Bear's Den I picked up some basics, but found tons of things I wanted to buy. Be proud of me Sarah I didn't buy a lot more then I needed.

The Bear's Den has more tying materials then I have ever seen in a fly shop.  They have tying materials that until this point I could only find online.  If you are not in the southeastern area of Massachusetts but have a fly tying item you need I would strongly recommend you check out their website.  The website also has lots of great fly fishing stuff as well.  It also has a discount section so be sure to stop in and see what they have on sale.

Now the actual shop has a lot of saltwater stuff.  I am a trout guy, and I found only one tippet spool that was higher then 5x and it was fluorocarbon which any fly fisher will tell you can really break the bank.   Now this is not a knock on the den and truth be told I might have missed some because they had so much stuff.  The reason for all the heavy leaders and tippets is how close to the coast they are - you can get to saltwater in ten to twenty minutes.  

Their proximity to saltwater brings a lot of anglers who are targeting stripers, blues and other saltwater fish of the northeast.  As someone who has only really fly fishes for trout, panfish and the occasional bass I am looking forward to giving this saltwater stuff a try, and a shop like this is my first step.  What I have found from other fly shops is that these are the places to learn how to fish.  The people who work here and the regulars who shop here know more about the local water and fish then anyone else.  So by shopping here and talking to people I am hoping to lean enough about bay and ocean fishing that maybe I will be able to hold my own.

Here is the list of fly shops I love to visit because I know you have not looked for the list on the side bar yet.

This is where I got my first fly rod.  Well my first was a gift - this is where I made my first fly rod purchase.

Housatonic River Outfitter

This shop is near Sarah's parents house and I tend to stop in anytime I am in the area.  The people in here are tops they will drop anything they are doing to help you out or just talk to you about the local rivers.

The Fish Hawk


  This is an Atlanta staple if you are a fly fisher and you find your self in the Atlanta area be sure to head on over to Buckhead and pay the guys in there a visit.

 I needed two shots of the Fish Hawk because all the frontage shots you can not really tell what you are looking at.  This was one thing I really loved about this place, you were stuck in the heart of the city.  Right on Peachtree Street, at 5 pm this street was bumper to bumper traffic. 

Bear's Den

The door on the left leads to a flight of stairs and into the shop.  Source

  This is my NEW local shop!  I plan on becoming a regular here and as I will be doing some saltwater shopping, questioning and learning from these guys.  I did not have a long discussion with the guy in the shop yesterday but it was enough to make me think I could learn to catch something in the salt (sorry salt water anglers I do not know the lingo).

The photo selection of Bear's Den is slim, but this is definitaly the center piece of the actual shop.  It is in the middle of everything and it is easily 25 feet long filled with flies.  Source  
So please check out these shops web sites and support your local fly shops!  It is my belief that if you support local fly shops you are keeping an important piece of the sport alive.  Not to mention the fact that you may gain that new fishing partner, learn a new technique or pick up that secret spot.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

William Joseph Old School Satchel Review

For years I have had a fishing vest at the ready, and it would have everything I need for trout fishing.  Growing up I would set this vest up in late April or early May right around opening day of trout in PA.  I kept the vest on a hook or a hanger and would grab it as I was running out the door.   In the last few years my attitude toward the vest has changed.  While living in Atlanta and fishing the Chattahoochee I found that a vest was just to hot to wear and ended up putting boxes in my pockets or using a small chest pack.  The problems I ran into with these methods were, I either ran out of room and took too few boxes or I took too many boxes and felt like a baby rattle walking around.  So I started looking in the internet for something different.  I was almost sold on a waist pack when I found this Satchel that is made by William Joseph.

Thanks to Sarah for these great shots of the Satchel.   It was like a little mini photo shoot for it.

At the time I was talking to a representative at William Joseph about the waders that I received to review from Outdoor Blogger Network.  They offered to send me the satchel at a discounted rate in exchange for a field test and review and I could not refuse!  I received the bag before we moved to Massachusetts and have been using it ever since.

These boxes don't even take up half the space in the main compartment.

The William Joseph Old School Satchel was what I settled on and after some extensive testing the verdict is out.  I am tough on my gear and anyone who goes fishing with me can attest to that, so I wanted to give this thing a couple months of testing before a review.  It came in the mail at the end of March and I have been testing and putting this thing through the paces ever since.  I tried very hard to find or take issue with this bag but I have been overly pleased with it.

Under the flap on the front is more storage for extra boxes.

This bag has a vintage look and yet it is anything but vintage.  The satchel has a huge main compartment that I leave open or put my camera in.  This big main space can hold a packable rain jacket, your lunch, bags of rubber worms, or if you have about a dozen extra boxes or flies you will have space for them in the main compartment.  If you are thinking, "Okay, a big bag with a huge open space - so what is great about that Bruce?", that is not all it has.  The satchel has mesh pockets inside that keep everything organized.  Also the outside of the bag has a two pockets for boxes, leaders, tippet spools, or any other tool you can think of.

This is the back of the bag that I keep a stream side note book, a knot book and my licenses.

The deceptions between vintage look and modern function does not stop at the storage compartments.  It continues to the strap system.  There is one main shoulder strap that you can throw over your shoulder like a messenger bag.  This single strap cuts down on sweating that you will have from vests, chest packs and even waist packs that need to rest directly on you.  If you need a little security,  William Joseph put a buckling waist strap to turn this satchel into a waist pack as well.  Now all this strap talk leads me to the bonus feature.

The safety pin and license is an add on by me but it works perfect.

I read a couple reviews about this bag, and no one mentioned this bonus feature but I hope I am not the first to figure it out.  While on my second fishing trip with this bag I found that I needed to tie a blood knot and was kind of far from the bank to go sit down to tie it.  With my old vest I would have put the rod on my rod holder across my chest and tied the knot without the fear of dropping the rod.  I thought that this would be the one big complaint but as I unzipped the bag I found the solutions.  As it turns out when the satchel is opened most rods fit in the space securely and the satchel supports the rod while you tie blood knots, nail knots or even study the water to match the hatch.  

It is hard to show how the whole thing acts as a rod holder but here is my best try.  

Since March I feel like I have given the Old School Satchel plenty of good tests, and it is has scored high marks in every situation I have put it in.  As a bag on small streams it is great because it will carry all the gear you need and more.  On rivers you can put the waist strap up higher on your waist or chest and keep it out of the water, and it is its own rod holder.  I have even used it as a boat bag.  While on a boat and a canoe I put rubber worm bags and a bunch of spin fishing boxes in it (on top of my fly stuff).  So let me say William Joseph hit another home run with this one.   The Old School Satchel is a perfect blend of old and new and I am not sad to say that I think I have hung my vest up for the last time because of it.

This shot was taken a while ago as a teaser to this review.  Since I took this shot I have caught dozens of trout this size and bigger.  The idea of putting this picture last is to show that it's in the same shape as it is now (the pictures above). 


The William Joseph Old School Satchel was given to me at a discounted rate for field testing and a review. The thoughts and opinions above are my own with no outside influences.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Continuing Adventures

So my life has been non-stop for about a week now, and I have not checked in.  I know it must be bad when Sarah called me up to the living room yesterday to say "Bruce you have not blogged in a while."  Honestly I did not miss my time away from the keyboard but today is a cleaning day (6 days of traveling and 2 fishing trips in the past week and a half has left the house a little messy) and with all that cleaning I have had time to think about what to say.  First let me say that my wife did a great job recounting two of the events.

A cool picture Sarah took on her iPhone of the farm country I called home for so many years.

First was my sisters graduation.  I have not said it on here yet - Congratulation Steph!  You will do great on the next step of your life.  My wife shared this event on her blog in two posts and here are her two links, please go read about my wonderful sister's graduation, and see a little of where I came from.   (Hard Work Pays Off)  (Graduation Sneak Peak).

My beautiful little sister.

Next I had an anniversary, 2 years of marriage to my wonderful wife Sarah.  The thing that makes me laugh and also makes me think she understand my fishing obsession is that Sunday night (the night before our actual anniversary) I was asked if I wanted to go try to fish for Striped Bass the next day.   I carefully thought through the next day and asked Sarah if she was going to the office, then if she wanted to go out to eat, and then I said, "Would you mind if I went fishing on the bay till dinner?"  Fully expecting to have to work for this I almost started in with my defense when she said sure (and the good sure not the one with undertones of no).  So here are her accounts of the anniversary of our marriage.  LOVE YA HUN!  Rehearsing Anniversaring; 2 Years; More Wedding Pics;  and lastly after hours on a boat cutting bait and catching nothing Anniversary Dinner

I have never been a fan of the finger point but Sarah loves this picture and truth be told there are worse pictures of me.

So now for a quick word about the fishing in this long span of time since I last posted last.  We went to PA for my sister's graduation, but another perk of the trip was that my brother was home from Wisconsin for the same reason I was home.  We grew up fishing for trout and other fresh water fish together, and we were fishing partners for years.  I do not remember many fishing trips as a kid, teen, and even the first couple years in my twenties where Jay was not along.  Then I moved to Atlanta with Sarah, and started fishing alone.  I have been fishing alone ever since, and the truth is that first bass adventure with John a while ago, was the first time I fished with anyone in a long time.  Jason and I fished together last Friday.  We fished a spot we had fished together countless times as kids and we did well there, missing and catching some fish as we moved up stream.  Here is my wife's take on my brother and I fishing together again.  If you don't click over to read the post maybe do it to see the picture of the crappy Jason caught it was huge! (Temporarily Single)

These were phone pictures and so this first fish needed two shots.
This wasn't a bad little stocker, I put him back in hopes he outsmarts the gangs of people who were on the stream that day.
Then we went to another spot where he and my did fished a pond and I hit the stream.  I did good on both streams I fished that day, and was shocked that the streams have not really changed a lot over the years.  It was nice to have a fishing partner again but Jay and dad wanted to call it a day, when it started to get hot, so I followed them home.

I got nothing but browns all about the same size. 
Until hit the other stream where I caught 3 of these little guys who were about 5 inches of so.
I think they might have been hold overs from last year or very early in this season because they had all their fins a the colors were great.  Check out the red on the top and bottom of this little guy's tail.
Once we were home I convinced Jay to come help me try to land a carp (it is a goal to hook one on my fly rod).  We when to a local pond where carp were everywhere and after spooking a bunch I had one take my fly where I promptly ripped the fly right back out of its mouth.  Jason had no hits at all and after an hour it really was hot so we went home.  Needless to say I miss having a regular trout fishing partner and will most likely never really have another trout fishing partner.  I am planning on going to see what the fishing is like out his way at the end of the summer, and I hope that he can come here and fish with me sometime in the future.

This leads me up to the last two days.  Saltwater fishing......

Just a couple days later I was looking at this...  Saltwater and lots of it!
That could be all I have to say about that, but I guess I will give a little more detail.  In the last two days (Monday and Tuesday)  I went fishing with John and his brother Brian for stripers.  Brian has a nice Sea Fox (center console boat mainly used for fishing) and we went in the bay looking for striped bass.  On my anniversary The first day we fished for a couple hours but the tides were wrong and a storm was rolling in so we quit before any action.  So the next day we went out again.  After leaving the dock at 5:30am and hit some tried and true spots where John landed the only Striper of the day, which was too small to keep.  We changed spots a couple time and still no good striper bites but now a rain storm was coming.  After talking about quitting the Peter (the 4th of the 4 of us) convinced us all we needed to stay out a little longer.  We changed tactics and started trolling and I am sad to report I lost the only fish we had while trolling.

Picture of Striper is coming

Finally we decided to do what would be best for our fishing pride.  We decide to fish for Scup, which I am told are the sunfish of the sea in these parts.  After a good boat ride we got to a spot I was told we would catch them.  We  were not there long before Peter landed a Fluke big enough to keep.   Then we started to catch scup and by we I mean everyone but me.  John, Brian and Peter all had scup, John also had a black bass and I was starting to think I was doing something wrong.  Then I landed a fluke, and about 3 or 4 scup on just a couple drifts and that restored my faith in saltwater fishing.  Needless to say we wished we had gotten some stripers or blues to show for almost 12 hours on the boat, but I think we all had a good time.

Now with a surf rod I am borrowing from my dad I think I want to try to catch some more of these saltwater fish.  So stay tuned because this summer I am planning on putting in the time and effort to try and learn how to saltwater fish.  I might even try to do some salt water fly fishing!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Nothing to say about an amazing valley view.

We were in Connecticut Sunday evening and most of the day Monday because we were going to a memorial service in NYC.  We did it so we would not have 6 plus hours of driving all in one day, but I did not complain because it meant we would be near some really fine trout streams and rivers.  I had grand thoughts of hitting the Housatonic River and trying to catch some monster trout, but the weirdest thing happened on the ride to the river.  The mountains were electric green and looking alive and all my thoughts of landing a monster trout on the river faded.

That first fish but the picture doesn't do it justice.

I had a complete change of heart and suddenly felt the need to reflect on a much smaller stream.  So I went to a small mountain stream that I did not fish at all last year.  It is one of my favorite streams near Sarah's parents house for many reasons.  As I parked the car and strung up my rod I could hear the stream down the trail and right then the reflecting started.

One of many delicate releases this day.

This guy might have been a new addition to the stream by the state early this spring because the color was not like that others I caught the rest of the day.

 This stream is kind of special because I fished it the second time I came to visit Sarah and her family in CT.  That same weekend was the first time I met the lady who's memorial we were going to.  Then a couple years later I took my brother fishing on the steam, the weekend my family came to visit Sarah's family (because we had just gotten engaged).  There was also the week of our wedding where I fished it alone as an unmarried fisherman for the last time.  I fished it alone because my brother could not be in the wedding due to some obligations he had to the Coast Guard (he had just gotten out of boot camp and needed to report) and the trip was going to be just him and I.  Looking back that was the last time I fished that small brook that tumbles down between two mountains until this past Monday.

Up till this fish that had all been much smaller.

This is the only rainbow I have ever caught out of here, and the picture again doesn't show the colors the way they were.  He had a lime green back, and a neon pink strip and when he was in the water it was an amazing sight.

I have never been skunked on this stream, I fished it in a downpour once and still managed to land two small brook trout.  So it was only fitting that after I tied the ausable bomber (Thanks Small Stream Reflections this is my new small streams go to) on and made my first drift down the left side of a pool. A small trout came up took that fly off the water like it was the first food it had seen all day.  I spent the better part of four hours Monday morning reflecting on that stream and fishing of course.  I caught countless trout and even managed to land three of the biggest fish I have ever caught on this stream.  Truth be told all those other fish did not matter because with that first one I was instantly filled with joy.

Saying good bye to the big bow. This was now the biggest fish of the day.

Joy.  I remembered why I love fishing for native and wild trout.  They are beautiful, smart, fast and joyful.  With each fish and each memory I smiled bigger  and at some point near the end of my fishing trip with mosquitoes and flies dive-bombing me I started to laugh because I was still catching trout and did not want to leave.  Now as I am scratching those bites on my arms, hands and neck I am reminded of how great morning adventure it was.

Two casts later in the same small pool was this beauty! Until I landed this fish I didn't believe fish this big would be up this stream as far as I was, because I was in skinny water at this point.

On my 15th or 20th last cast I landed this fish and my ausable bomber was losing it's tail and a piece of hacked was dangling from the back.

Now I am looking forward to the next adventure on my National Take Me Fishing Week Tour:  My home waters back in PA.  My brother will be home from WI and I hope to get out fishing with him at least in the short time I will be there.      


Monday, June 6, 2011

National Boating and Fishing Week Underway

So after I wrote the post National Boathing and Fishing Week the writer of the blog Small Stream Reflections left a comment saying that he plans to do the same thing he always does (fish as much as possible).  I plan to do that same thing, but the part that makes this week different for me is the fact that I will be traveling and it happens to fall on a week that is meant to promote fishing and boating nation wide.

In my post I planned to kick this week off by taking my wife fishing for free fish day again (second year in a row).  We borrowed a canoe and hit the water, and instead of me putting a couple pictures around a nice story maybe you just read my wife's account of the afternoon.  She posted this on her blog and it is a great telling of what happened on Saturday afternoon. The title of her post is Free Fish Day.  Be sure to look at all the pictures, she is talented with that camera and I have been trying to get her to come along and take more fishing pictures for me.

Well I hope to post a lot this week and maybe that will help my posts stay really consistent for a while.  Stay tuned for a really successful trout fishing trip, the trip was successful on more then just a catching fish level so come on back for find out more.