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OCTOBER 29, 2010

River Wolves

Filed under Trips @ 1:37 pm

Muskies are more reptile than fish. One guide we ran into called them "River Wolves." They appear instantaneously and violently from tannic or muddied water. If given the opportunity, they will eat you, because they want to and, if you to let them they would not hesitate to do so. They have no natural predators, except us, and we need specialized tools with sharp hooks in order to defeat them. If it gets a chance, in an instant, a muskie will take those same hooks and tools and drive them right through your bloody, fleshy hands. Without those tools and a solid understanding of where these guys live, you don’t stand a chance in hell of catching one.


Muskies own the rivers, lakes and streams near Hayward, Wisconsin. When artists depict these beasts they paint them leaping out of a placid water landscape with gaping mouths, razor teeth, and a sneer that’s half demented smile and half spitting snarl. If muskies could, they would eat you when you got out of your car in the Hayward Wal-Mart parking lot. Missing children? There’s a chance a muskie ate it. These are triumphant fish at the top of their game and if you present it right, they will take a properly presented fly and jam both that fly and you right where the sun don’t shine. Muskie fishing with a fly rod. Now that’s entertainment!

Tomes Catching Muskie

Before you go fly fishing for muskies, I have a couple of suggestions. First of all, get in shape. You’re gonna be throwing a sink-tip with a fly about the size of a Buick station wagon on a 12-weight single-handed rod with at least 60 feet of line all day long—and all day long for a couple more days after that. It will beat the hell out of you and then some. There are days when you’ll see a lot of fish and then there are more days when you’ll see one or none. Often it’s pouring rain and somewhere in the 40 degree range. Muskie weather – it will pound you flat.

Tomes Catching Muskie 2

One of the keys to all this is to hire guides like Don Larson (aka, the Pond Monster), Joe Flater at Flater's Resort, or Larry and Wendy at the Hayward Fly Shop. The water is huge up here and often it’s non-descript. Without their expertise on where these fish hang out, you might as well be fishing in a bathtub—a huge bathtub. The technique for fishing for them is relatively simple. Know where the fish hang out, find the slack water or eddies, and cast tight to the shore or to structure. Strip the line back in a straight line to the rod tip giving as much action to the fly as possible. Do that and the bathtub will fill up with muskie.

Muskie Fishing

Walter and Muskie

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OCTOBER 26, 2010

Muskie-Palooza In The North Woods

Filed under Trips @ 1:03 pm

The Flambeau River is a liquid anaconda that drapes and coils itself across the woods of north central Wisconsin. Woods as in the Great North Woods. In the stomach of this river-beast, live giant sturgeon, the best tasting walleye on earth, armies of smallmouth bass, bluegills, northern pike and at the top of the food chain are muskies. These are the reptilian giants that own the river and are prey for nothing, save us. They exist almost as a mythical, historical presence in giant rivers like Wisconsin’s Flambeau and Chippewa, as well as countless lakes and smaller rivers and creeks.

Flambeau River

The muskie expert, Robert Tomes, and I are wandering around the Great North Woods in search of muskie on the fly. Some people say it can’t be done. Some say no one really does it. Some say a muskie won’t take a fly. Some say it takes a huge effort. Some people don’t know crap.

Getting Ready to Fish

“Musky” Joe Flater is a Wisconsin version of a Louisiana coonass. He traps beaver, shoots bear, hunts with a bow, guts out elk, fishes for anything that swims, and if he needed to, could probably eat a live ferret. For most of 30 years he’s been the master of ceremonies at Flater’s Resort – a bar and few cabins cut from heavy woolen cloth made in the 40’s. The resort hugs the banks of the Flambeau River, and has the feel that anytime now it will become Earth.

Musky Joe

Joe has offered to take Robert and me on a search for muskies. We’re gonna chase those beasts using flies about the size of a 1940 Buick station wagon. This will be a “fish tale” you won’t want to miss in an upcoming issue of TEN & TWO.

Muskie Flies

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OCTOBER 23, 2010

Boggan's Oasis

Filed under Trips @ 4:16 pm

For those people who know the Grande Ronde, they know about Bill and Farrell at Boggan’s Oasis. TEN & TWO always explores the journey that surrounds the fishing, so you can count on a story about the Oasis. And there’s no doubt that Bill will be showing us the proper way to make a chocolate malt. For those of you who have been to the Oasis, you know what I mean. The baseline definition of proper malts and shakes was born and raised at Boggan’s Oasis. TEN & TWO will publish the recipe and expose the truth to the glories of an Oasis chocolate malt. Andy Anderson is shooting it now, while I’m headed to meet Robert Tomes in Minnesota, who will be searching out muskies on the fly. Those beasts will eat a small car, so stay tuned, there’s more news from the TEN & TWO road just around the corner.

Boggan's Sign

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OCTOBER 20, 2010


Filed under Trips @ 1:35 pm

Andy Anderson is one of the world’s best commercial photographers. A number of years ago, he became famous doing fishing images and then drifted away from that photography because he thought he could be more creative in the commercial world. He took a look at the first issue of Ten & Two and decided that he liked the look and the feel of the magazine, so he offered to do some stories. He’ll be doing a lot of the major photography for our issue on the Grande Ronde. I spent the afternoon with Andy and the iconic fishing guide John Farrar. John’s "been there and done that" and been more and done more than most anyone. He’s a master at his art, and known all over the fly fishing world. So for a couple hours we had Walter Hodges shooting photos of Andy Anderson shooting photos of John Farrar shooting a dry line at Grande Ronde steelhead—two of my heroes. For me, it ain’t gonna get any better than this any time soon. You’ll see more of this story in our upcoming Grande Ronde Piece in TEN & TWO.

Andy Anderson Taking Photos 1

Andy Anderson Taking Photos 2

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OCTOBER 18, 2010

Grande Ronde Camp

Filed under Trips @ 1:47 pm

Scott O’Donnell runs a full-fledged floating steelhead camp on the Grande Ronde, just up from the Snake River near Clarkston, Washington.  This trip had six clients, three guides, a cook, two camp staff, a dog, and over in the corner slinking around with a camera, note pad and pocket recorder – me.  The float is four days with three nights in a different camp each night. It’s a masterfully well produced floating, fishing, camping, eating, sight seeing, Vaudeville show.  The clients loved the whole gig. They move the camp each day through the incredible rolling grass and basalt canyons, and past some of the best fly-fishing steelhead drifts in the US. 

This particular trip the fish weren’t taking dry flies, so the guides worked with dry lines or very short sink- tips and wet flies.  Fish were taking the flies just under the surface.  The Ronde gets these waves of fish that come upriver dependent on temperature gradients and water level.  If you hit it right, it can be steelhead heaven.

I floated with Scott and his crew for two days.  This is a trip not to be missed.  We’ll be detailing this trip as well as the entire Grande Ronde experience in a future issue of TEN & TWO.

Basalt Cliffs - Grand Ronde

Scott O’Donnell and clients drift under the basalt cliffs of the Grande Ronde as they pass near Boggan’s Oasis.  The daily floats are anywhere from seven to nine miles.

Grand Ronde 2  Grand Ronde 3

(Left) Scott advising client Charles Gehr from Fly Water Travel on the holding patterns of fall steelhead in the Ronde. (Right) Close up of a river map with favorite fall wet flies, and a guide’s notes as to the names of drifts on the Ronde.

Grand Ronde 4  

Client Charles Gehr handles a spey cast as an artist might handle a master brush stroke.  The guy knows his stuff and catches his share of fish.

Grand Ronde 5

Charles and Peter with a gorgeous fall steelhead taken directly in front of camp on the second night of the float.  He was using a very short sink-tip.  The whole camp gathered on the bank to watch him dance with a steelhead.  Really fun to watch.

Grand Ronde 6  Grand Ronde 7

(Left) Early morning conversation in camp tends toward historical anecdotes of fish caught and released.  The weather had not turned seriously cold yet, so sleeping was terrific. (Right) Camp chef Jane cooked an incredible meal of crab cakes and chicken piccata for the clients, under a perfectly clear blue/black Grande Ronde sky.

Grand Ronde 8

A ritual as old as fishing.  Campfire stories and fly fishing are hinged at the hip.

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OCTOBER 14, 2010

Grande Ronde 2

Filed under Trips @ 3:12 pm

Scott O’Donnell has been guiding on the Grande Ronde since 1992. Currently he runs four-day camping/float trips in October, and we’re going to join him and his crew of five as they take six clients on a search for summer-run steelhead that range from 4 to 12 pounds. The trip starts tomorrow. Today, they all take part in the “miracle” that is getting ready for the trip. Scott and his crew sleep in and work out of a guide shack in Troy, Oregon. The shack is exactly that. A shack and more shack piled on top of more shack. You gotta want to be a steelhead guide to do this. My bet is they know exactly what they’re doing.

Guide Shack

Scott O’Donnell (center) and part of his crew prep food, tie flies and gather gear for the trip inside the impossibly small guide shack.

Crew Prep 1

Crew Prep 2

Guides and crew gather at the guide shack's front yard as they start putting food in coolers and gear in dry bags. The rafts will be stacked on a truck and transported to the river tomorrow morning.

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OCTOBER 11, 2010

October on the Ronde

Filed under Trips @ 10:45 am

TEN & TWO is on assignment to do a story on steelhead fly fishing on the Grande Ronde River in Oregon and Washington. The Ronde flows from the northeast corner of Oregon to the far southest corner of Washington State and the Snake River. The country is made up of rolling canyons of basalt, grassland and ponderosa pine. This is Nez Perce Indian country. In the 1800s, Lewis and Clark passed through here looking for China. We’re here looking for steelhead on dry lines.

October is the month on the Ronde. Steelhead can be caught in other months to be sure, but October is when they come up to dry flies skated on the surface. In terms of pure steelhead heaven in the Lower 48, October on the Ronde is the Pearly Gates. We’ll start our journey with guide Scott O’Donnell floating and camping on the Ronde for a couple days. Then we’ll look more closely at the culture of the area. From Bogan’s Oasis to the Shilo in Troy, we’ll check out everything from the world’s best milkshakes to local homemade jams. We’ll get it done.

The entire Grande Ronde experience will be a subject for an upcoming TEN & TWO story by Walter Hodges and Andy Anderson, but for the moment, come along on the journey and we’ll file reports right from the river. If you’ve got a question or a comment, ask away and we’ll try our best to answer them.

Grand Ronde

I got this shot driving up the road to Troy, Oregon to meet Scott O’Donnell’s group for tomorrow’s float/camp trip. This is some of the most beautiful steelhead water anywhere. The fish routinely come up to dry flies in October.

Fisherman on the Ronde

Just before getting to Troy we found this chap using a nymph on a dry line in a spot where he had caught six steelhead the day before.

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