“Thaw”

Frozen guides, frozen line, frozen everything. Most people in Aroostook County hang up their fly rods when the regular open water fishing season comes to a close in September, but we aren’t most people. The lower Fish River is open for business to anyone who dare throw a fly (or artificial lure) in the winter months, and some exciting action awaits those who are willing to dodge the ice flow in search of trout and salmon. So far, Chris and I seem to be the only ones willing to put our frozen feet forward. Call it crazy, call it addiction, judge us if you need to. The point is, fly fishing in the winter is better than no fly fishing at all. Few experiences offer the solitude that standing in a should-be-frozen river does, and hooking up on frigid days is by far one of the most rewarding feelings fly fishing has to offer.

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A mid-wading rest on the edge of the ice during a rare, warmer January day.

 

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Chris stepping down off the ice and into the frigid Fish River on a beautiful January day.

The air temperature has hovered around 10 degrees throughout the majority of our winter jaunts to the river, accompanied by a mixed-bag of wind, snow, and freezing rain. Most call us crazy, many call us sick, but those who understand our passion just call us on our addiction and tip their hats. This isn’t chasing steelhead on 20 degree days – what northern Maine offers for fly fishing in the dead of winter is a different sort of animal. You have to be willing to layer excessively, pick your spots carefully, and give in to suffering in the name of success – or lack thereof. Open water is not easily found, and most access requires a careful footing and some crafty weight distribution across dangerous ice shelves before you can get your feet wet. When you finally do take the plunge, keeping an eye upriver is essential if you plan on keeping your footing. Ice, slush and other debris cover the surface on most days, and many casts are made blindly in the name of safety. You have to be willing to lay it all on the line in the name of wetting a line. The days of failure will be plenty, but it only takes one fish to warm the soul when hope seems like a distant, frozen memory.

After one month, we’ve found some success on large, meaty wooly buggers thrown across currents and swung into what the steelhead guys refer to as “couch water.” The deep sweep has produced some great fish on some of our coldest days in January, and with every take our confidence grows. The winter learning curve is steep, but with success comes knowledge we can work with to tip the scales in our favor. Below are the fruits of our labor thus far.

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Day 3: “Somerset or Bust”

Rise and shine ladies and gentlemen, it’s the third and final day of the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, New Jersey.  With clear weather on tap for today, we are sure to have one of the best crowds of the weekend! Saturday was no slouch either, as we enjoyed the opportunity to chat with a load of people who have been great influences on us throughout our years in the fly fishing game. As you saw earlier, Chris finally got his picture and a few good laughs with fly fishing legend Lefty Kreh. I also had the pleasure of finally meeting the Fishing Poet himself, Mr. Matt Smythe. Matt has been a huge influence on the direction of my work throughout the years, and his writing is absolutely some of the most top-notch stuff I’ve ever read. His advice and encouragement are alway held in high regard, and it was awesome to finally put a face to a name. Hopefully we can wet some line together in the not so distant future!

Matt Smythe

In addition to our countless meet and greets yesterday, we also managed to squeeze in some research and development while digging through the fly bins. The mission was to build a meaty menu for the Fish River’s trout and salmon, and I think we covered the spread well with our selections of the bugger, sculpin, and articulated variety. Winter into Spring should bring loads of excitement if these new patterns can produce like we are hoping they will. Far and away from the classic streamers our northern fish are used to seeing, our hope is that new offerings bring with them new opportunities for some truly trophy fish.

Be sure to join us on the third and final day of “The Fly Fishing Show” if you are in the Somerset, New Jersey or greater New York area. The show goes on, and we are excited to meet even more new faces in chatting about the sport we love.

See you in the crowd!

-Ben

“Get Cheeky”

Day two of “The Fly Fishing Show” didn’t disappoint, with huge crowds trickling in throughout the day despite the previous nights snowfall. After a brief early morning lull, the convention center floor saw an impressive flow of traffic that included a greater number of families and kids than what we saw during day 1. The changing dynamic of the crowd brought even more excitement, an endless supply of stories, and even a few familiar faces.

One of the highlights of the show for me personally was getting the opportunity to connect with the guys from Cheeky Fly Fishing. Bringing Cheeky into Quigley’s Outdoors was a personal goal of mine through our first year of operation, and thus far the response both online and in-house has been fantastic. It’s been a pleasure to work so closely with Ted, Grant, and the rest of the crew as they continue to design, develop, and stand behind such a unique, quality product.

Showin' off the Cheeky Line for a photo with Ted Upton and Grant White of Cheeky Fly Fishing. It's been a pleasure working with these guys through Quigley's Outdoors, and was an absolute blast meeting them this weekend. Always fun when you get the chance to support the companies that go out of their way to support you!
Showin’ off the Cheeky Line for a photo with Ted Upton and Grant White of Cheeky Fly Fishing. It’s been a pleasure working with these guys through Quigley’s Outdoors, and was an absolute blast meeting them this weekend. Always fun when you get the chance to support the companies that go out of their way to support you!

 

More on day two’s action tomorrow morning – sleep is calling my name.

Cheers,

-Ben

Laughing with Lefty

Day two is off to a fantastic start! We’re meeting all sorts of great people, and even a few familiar faces as well!

Chris laughing during his first, hilarious encounter with fly fishing legend Lefty Kreh.
Chris laughing during his first, hilarious encounter with fly fishing legend Lefty Kreh.

“Sensory Overload” – Somerset Day 1 Recap

Day one is in the bag, and I’ve yet to come down from my cultural high. Fly fishing has been such a huge part of my life for a long while now, and being around thousands of people who hold the sport in such high regard is one of the single most overwhelming sensations I’ve ever experienced. My mind was buzzing all day long, and I’m not sure when I’ll be through processing all that I’ve taken in over the last 24 hours. If I had to narrow down the experience into one word, “thankful” is the only one that seems to cross my mind repeatedly. Thankful to the Department of Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for entrusting Chris and I to spread the good word on Maine Fly Fishing in such a fantastic setting. Thankful to share a passion that goes beyond simply catching fish or dawning the latest, most expensive gear. Thankful that I come from a place that so many from across the country hold in such high regard. Just thankful.

Throughout the day we swapped stories, traded tips, and reminisced on past experiences with fly fisherman from all walks of life. Some want trout, some want salmon, all crave a solitude the likes of which only our great state can provide. Their appreciation for Maine leaves me feeling awestruck and eternally grateful that I was granted the opportunity to grow up surrounded by one of the great fisheries in the country. After I filter through every memory, every epic day I’ve ever had on a pristine river, and every moment I’ve ever felt completely at peace on a remote northern pond, I realize all the times I’ve taken it for granted. I guess venturing far from home is all I needed to wrap my head around why I chose to live my life far off the beaten path. Regardless, if this experience has taught me anything, it’s that fly fishermen are all the same at their very core. Every individual here lives their life according to a different set of rules. We come from Washington, Maine, and everywhere in between. We don’t talk about fly fishing, we talk about our lives built on a foundation of fly fishing. We live, we breath, and we feed off each other’s experiences in ways that those on the outside looking in could never possibly comprehend. We collectively get the hype, and it drives us to places only a select few will ever truly enjoy. Wrap your head around that.

Swapping Fish Stories at the Maine Inland Booth

The industry presence here is far and away more impressive than I could have ever expected. Countless manufacturers, reps, retail outlets, and beyond are here demonstrating and selling their products. We’ll do our best to cover our favorites in individual features posted throughout day two of the show. Additionally, more to come on our experience tonight taking in all the films of IF4. Some great work and fantastic stories were on featured, and my thoughts on that experience deserves it’s own post.

For now I close the door on day one in favor of a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow is a new day, and an entirely new list of reasons to be grateful. Don’t forget to follow Chris and I on Instagram for even more updates and photographic goodness: (2zer7upnorthfly)(bardcore86), and be sure to tip your bartender before calling it a night.

Tight lines my friends,

-Ben

Live Blog Day 1: The Fly Fishing Show

From highest reaches of northern Maine, to Augusta, through New York and into New Jersey. 12 Hours later and the scenery has changed slightly for the Up’North crew. New York City was an absolute wonder to drive through, and the Manhattan skyline as seen from the George Washington bridge is a view I won’t soon forget.

One World Trade Center as seen from the George Washington Bridge. NYC.
One World Trade Center as seen from the George Washington Bridge. NYC.

Today marks day 1 of the Somerset, New Jersey stop of “The Fly Fishing Show.” Largely regarded as the largest and most complete stop on the tour, the venue is wall to wall with outfitters, merchants, manufacturers, and fly fishing folks from all over the country. Chris and I will be milling around the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife booth (K19), so swing by if you are in town and show us some love as you make your way through the crowds. Doors open at 10am, and judging by the crowd of beards and otherwise fishy people who have been filtering in since yesterday afternoon, we are in for one hell of a day. IF4 tonight with the likes of Lefty Kreh, and Cheeky Fly Fishing Crew, and representatives from SIMMS, Patagonia, Royal Wulff Products, Redington, and more industry names than I could ever list in a single post. This is the place to be this weekend if you throw flies, so get here and raise a glass with us as we kick off this three-day event!

Join the fun and follow along with us throughout the weekend. Maine Fly Castings will live blog the event starting promptly at 10am E.S.T. If you can’t be in the area, take a seat and rock out with us here. Follow us on Instagram for even more photos throughout the day. (2zero7upnorthfly, bardcore86).

Cheers,

-Ben

Point it South: “The Fly Fishing Show”

Leg one in the bag.

5 hours of weary travel has us posted up on the hotel room floor, throwing down gas station food and cheap booze while we watch trout porn on an iPad. The northern winter has been one of freezing temps and unpredictable weather, but new opportunities to throw flies in the form of an extended season have done wonders to warm the soul. The obsession is overpowering, and the next few days will only fuel the fire.

This weekend we stray from the river and set our sights on Somerset, New Jersey for “The Fly Fishing Show.” It seems the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has grown quite fond of our “any weather, on the water” mentality, inviting us along to share our thoughts and experiences regarding all things trout and salmon. Maine is a literal gold mine in terms of accessibility, scenic watersheds, and native trout. This weekend is our chance to share what we live and breath with the rest of the fly fishing community, and the opportunity is more exciting than either of us could ever put into words.

The extended weekend will be full or surprises and excitement, and we can’t wait to dive in. IF4 on Friday night, and three days of rubbing shoulders with those who share our obsession from all walks of life. Follow our live blog in the coming days for the photos, stories, and shenanigans of our journey to Jersey. The hype is real, and what lies ahead is just about the only “out of water” experience we’re willing to venture away from Maine to take part in.

Check us out at the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife booth Friday through Saturday if you are lucky enough to attend. If you’re one of the less fortunate bunch, stick around our crazy little corner of the internet. Things are about to get wild, and we’d hate for you to miss out.

See you on the road,

Ben & Chris

Opening 2015 with a winner. Landlocked Salmon release on the lower Fish River - Aroostook Country, Maine.
Hotel room writing, fishing on the brain, road trip underway.

New Beginnings

I know what most of you are probably thinking. Believe me I get it. Just what in the name of good-ol jump roping’ jesus is going on around these parts? A new layout? Fresh digs? A brand new place to call your very own? Yes, yes, and yes. MFC is back – same name, different game. Out with the old, in with the new. A fresh pair of slacks for 2015. Ready to raise a leg and step inside? Pull em’ up all nice and snug-like.

I won’t get into the details that brought us to this point, I wrapped up that bitching session for better or worst. The fresh is the focus this time around, and over the coming weeks you’ll see Up’North transform into something it should have become long ago. New, original, DAILY content for you and yours to enjoy. Nothing more, nothing less. Loads of photographic goodness, not-so-typical fishing reports, random writing you’ll surely enjoy, reviews, ramblings, and everything else to comes tied to two fellas who throw flies way more than society is willing to accept.

Thats right, I said two. Bearded brother of the fly Chris Bard joins the Up’North team for the relaunch, bringing with him a beautiful mess of insight that comes with well over 200 days of fly fishing a year. To better serve you, we’ll use this website as an excuse to skip weddings, reunions, birthdays, and other less-than-thrilling functions all in the name of flies and fins. We’ll make all the necessary sacrifices to immerse ourselves in riverside research and development. We’re doing this for you, we’re doing this for us, because the fly fishing story in northern Maine deserves to be told.

Winter Fly on the Lower Fish River.
Winter Fly on the Lower Fish River.

You may have noticed the “UNDER CONSTRUCTION” header upon arrival. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we’re running on all cylinders to build things bigger and better. The goal is a much more simplified and clean format, and over time I think you’ll agree that this second coming was well worth the wait. What you’ll get in the end is an unfiltered view of the northern 207 that you simply cannot find anywhere else – guaranteed satisfaction brought to you by the stimulating nature of this wonderful fly fishing paradise we call home. We appreciate your patience, and as always, appreciate the support from those near and far. Maybe you followed Maine Fly Castings when it all began nearly eight years ago, or maybe you’re finding yourself in our neck of the woods for the first time. Regardless of how you got here, we hope that you’ll find reason to visit us frequently. The coffee is always on, and the entertainment is free of charge.

So on behalf of myself, Chris, and the rest of the sick minds that have made this great moment possible, I extend a hand and welcome you all to the new and improved MaineFlyCastings.com. We live and breath fly fishing in the northern reaches of Maine, and we’re happy to have you along for the ride.

Tight Lines,

-Ben