Saturday, January 30, 2010

Great Lakes Angler on New York City

Readers, this last week my work brought me to Manhattan for my first time. As an outdoors-man, lover of open spaces, verdant surroundings, and cool clear water I expected New York to wear on me quickly and that my flight home could never come to soon. I was, however, very wrong about this and the following are my thoughts on this Metropolis.

The story starts at 4:30 A.M. Central time this past Wednesday. My bags were already packed and my things were in order. I found my way to the train to the airport, where I met the Photographer whom I work with. We boarded our plane at sunrise and climbed through the atmosphere to where I could look straight down out my window at the home turf of Great Lakes Anglers in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. I observed a surprising amount of ice tacked to shore all the way around the bottom of the Lake Michigan basin. The ice found its way out more than a mile off shore.

A path left behind through the ice by a freighter or cutter heading into an Indiana Harbor.

I flew on and soon found myself above a heavy blanket of cloud cover and found entertainment in the pages of Seven Years in Tibet while Josh Ritter and Vampire Weekend chimed through the speakers of my ipod and before I could shoot through more than a chapter or two we were beginning our final ascent. It was at this point I realized that from takeoff to touchdown it takes less time to fly over 4 states from Chicago to New York than it does to drive from my house to my favorite spot on the Milwaukee River... Depressing.

I craned my neck to get a good look at the spires of the buildings looming over the island of Manhattan. In the last few months I have landed in Laguardia two other times and only got glimpses of the skyline as my photography for Hedrich Blessing took my to Long Island and Connecticut, this would be my first time actually visiting the city.

Freighters entering New York City.

I slipped the 12 cases of photography gear off of the baggage claim and rolled it out the door. This process is a humerus one and often gets laughs and jokes from spectators. Firstly it always happens that almost half the gear that even comes off the plane belongs to me, and past that I (a lanky 6'1" guy has to wrestle with these 70 pound cases individually just to get them stacked into a tower on our cart. At that point I have to lay myself out to even instigate movement of the cart, as it weighs somewhere in the 600 pound range.

Common comments are "What band are you in?" and "I thought I brought too much baggage with me when I fly!!"My response to that is usually "Well, I like to travel lite."

Details aside I finally found myself having unloaded the baggage in the showroom which we were to photograph and was stepping into a cab to the hotel. I again craned my neck to get a view down every street and up every facade of every building. The other photographer and I grabbed a tripod and some cameras and spent the afternoon walking around midtown photographing what architecture interested us. We finished making a dusk shot at the apple store at around 6:00 and I trotted off to meet a friend a couple of dozen blocks to the south.

Clouds at dawn casting their shadows on Lake Michigan.

She is and architect and after showing me her office she had a surprise for me. She walked me over to the High Line, something I have wanted to see for the last 2 years after finding Joel Sternfeld's book : Walking the High Line, one of my favorites. From there we continued walking through the streets and I began to feel the energy of the city and found things that made it very different from Chicago and things that made it very same to some of the other metropolises that I have been to in the past such as Bangkok and Amsterdam. Every square foot of the city seemed unique and I found that by the end of a couple of evenings of walking I had put dozens of miles under my feet without even thinking about it.

The apple store, an hour before dusk.

In my short 12 hours of freedom in the city I made my way past storefronts, past camera stores, through a particularly wonderful used book store, and had tasted some fantastic food. I found that to me there were a few differences between Manhattan and Chicago and that the biggest and most important difference to me was as follows. In Chicago you approach this grip of buildings, buit up like a pair of pyramids rising from the lake to John Hancock and Trump Towers, and rising from the flats of Illinois to the Sears Tower. As you walk/bike/train/cab/drive your way toward the city it rises in front of you and you enter this densely packed web of concrete and steel. You stand in a tunnel of reflected light and noise. Upon making your way in a straight line in any direction you will find that in minutes you emerge from the other side and looking over your shoulder, you are afforded a view of the city again, retreating behind you heroically.

Manhattan, in contrast, is far more dense in some respects, and less in others. In any block you find dozens of buildings that rise 4 to 10 floors above your head, and in no case is there ever a chance of seeing more than a small cone above your head, you can walk for 5 miles and never find a view that affords you site of more than a few of the tops of the higher buildings around you. I will admit that I didn't make it to the financial district and I may find that part of the city similar to downtown Chicago. All in all I found a sense of uniqueness that I have never felt before in America, every square foot of this city seems to be made special by its tenant or owner and for that reason I felt the incredible energy and power that exudes from every shop window, honking taxi, and glowing sign.

I felt a certain level of contentedness as my plane rose beneath the full moon, speeding me away from New York and back over the Great Lakes to my home. I am pleased to have been given the chance to experience a thing which most people would like to do in their lifetime, it has given me a new respect for finding myself standing knee deep in cold water under a tunnel of budding trees on a April day with titans of the lakes swimming toward my feet. It has heightened my appreciation of every square foot of space that I have and I take it a shade less for granted than I did last week. All in all, I think this trip has made my love for the spot I live and the country I live in jump two whole rungs on a ladder I seem to be racing up with disregard for my own safety.

Thank you for reading and I will do everything in my power to be who I am and take what I have for what it is.

Until tomorrow...

Tom Harris

Monday, January 25, 2010

Chicago Perch Fishing Report : Navy Pier : 1-24-2010

The three week dry spell is over and Great Lakes Angler is on the board for 2010, catching 52 perch in an hour and a half yesterday. Conditions yesterday were more than favorable and, being as I was only on call for work, I headed downtown with rod and reel and some bait and picked a spot on the pier. As I strung up my rod folks were pulling in the standard 5"-8" navy pier perch that one expects to sort through while fishing there. I baited both top and bottom hooks with a chunk of shrimp and casted 30 feet off the wall. I brought up my slack and checked tension and as I did I felt resistance and set the hook. The fish felt bigger than it should and I reeled in an honest to goodness Jumbo Perch on my first cast, running between 12 and 13 inches. Not Bad.

Here is the big girthy Jumbo with an 8" standard keeper.

The rest of the time the action was fast and consistent, and I kept half a limit and tossed the rest back, I could have easily kept a limit but I only have two mouths to feed and don't like to over harvest fish that I will just freeze.

All keepers were between 8" and 12.5" and most fish were in the 7" range. I saw a few more 10-11" fish caught today and the fish seemed bigger than they did last year at this time.

Nothing like catching dozens of fish in the middle of downtown chicago on a 45 degree day in January. The wind and rain was a bit bothersome, but nothing compared to 15 degrees and frozen guides.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Great Lakes Angler 3 Week Dry Spell

I haven't wet a line in 3 weeks and my posts have been scant at best. I apologize for the state of relative radio silence. My work has kept my busy this month, particularly on the weekends.

The good news, however, is that I was able to take my new fly casting set up out in the vacant lot behind work today and nearly hit a wall 50 feet away with some of my casts. This rod acts like a spring and punches line out. I've never been able to throw a cast and have it pick 8 or 10 feet of line up from my feet. It's a wonderful sound hearing it zip through the guides.

Steelhead... Steelhead... Steelhead... I'm coming for you the second I get a chance.

Thanks for reading and I promise you some meatier posts soon.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Oregon Water : Far From the Great Lakes

I treated myself to watching this beautiful video detailing some of America's fly fishing in Oregon this evening after work. The soft yellow leaves and smooth grey cobbles makes me yearn for fall on the Root River and the Milwaukee, or spring on Oak Creek. Our rivers may not be as picturesque, but a day hooking into half a dozen Steelhead of similar quality to their far western brothers and sisters is unheard of. Our strains are hard fighting, high flying bulls with enough power to snap a rod or leave the water for a second at a time. Beautiful.

Enjoy the video.

Mackinac Bridge Under Construction

I bring to you a couple of photographs from the Life Archive for your viewing pleasure today.

The Mackinac bridge, the longest suspension bridge between two anchorages in the Western Hemisphere. Just another of the wonders of the Great Lakes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Lake Winnebago Sturgeon Blog : 2010 Season

A good friend of mine from my years as a photography student at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee is doing her thesis this semester on a topic that she and her family has been involved with for quite a number of years now. She has created a blog doccumenting Sturgeon spearing on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin. Steph has "been around sturgeon spearing since [she] was born" and as a photographer who I have a good deal of respect for I expect great things from this project.

Have a look at what has started out to be a promising project, and as the season begins get ready for some great photography. You can check out her blog here : Winnebago Lake Sturgeon.

A new Blog on the Radar : Fishing with Special Ed

A fellow by the name of Ed, a prominent Great Lakes (and beyond) fisherman just launched his blog over at Andrew Ragas's website, fishing headquarters. In an effort to build a network of stories and up to date fishing information I believe it is important to continue to build a community of bloggers who share the passion for fishing that we do. So please, if you have the time, have a look at Ed's new blog and enjoy.

Here is a little about Ed straight from his blog:

"I grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, and started fishing as young as 2 years old. From subdivision ponds and forest preserves to our local rivers and streams, I have been fishing locally for almost 30 years.

With the time spent serving my country, I was able to fish the fresh and saltwater bodies of water off the islands in the Pacific Ocean, as well as the fertile waters along the coast of Northern and Southern California. Whether it’s from shore, chest deep in the current, or motoring around in my Mercury-equipped Alumacraft fishing boat, I am at home anywhere on the water.

Now I am living back again in the southwestern suburbs with my family, and go fishing every chance I get. If I had a goal in life it would be to spend the rest of my days learning new waters, sharing my knowledge of local waters, and enjoying the breathtaking scenery that nature surrounds us with."

Rise : Confluence Films Trailer

Featuring hatch reels. Thanks to a reader for bringing this to my attention.

"Rise" Trailer from Costa Sunglasses on Vimeo.

It really is a beautiful trailer. There is so much fishing to be done in the world, I'm just thankful I'm right in the heart of it... the Great Lakes.

Ginger Rogers : Life Magazine Cover

A photograph from 1942, actress Ginger Rogers holding fly rod as she sits on ground while taking a break from fly fishing on her 1,000-acre ranch in the Rogue River Valley.

I wonder how many actresses these days own a 1000 acre ranch to fly fish on... I would wager not many.

Great Lakes, Asian Carp, and the Obama Administration

During a flurry of media, accusations, and assumptions about who is doing what and how come this level headed writing comes from Andy Buchsbaum, a name you, my readers, will come to know in the years to come I'm sure.

"As the legal briefs fly and the rhetoric heats up, I think it’s important to remember that every government agency involved in this process cares deeply about the Great Lakes and is exerting enormous efforts to keep the invasive carp out of the Great Lakes. We may disagree with their strategy or methods, but folks in the Obama Administration and the Illinois DNR have been pulling all-nighters through the holidays to try to get a handle on how to protect the lakes from the carp and we need to recognize that.

And we can’t lose sight of the fact that this Administration has already, in its first year, done more for the Great Lakes than any other in history, that President Obama is truly our first Great Lakes president, and that we’re in agreement with the Administration on virtually every other Great Lakes issue."

He runs a blog of his own, Great Lakes on the Ground and is currently on his way to China to speak about the Great Lakes as a success story.

Obama, truly our first Great Lakes president. More than enough reason to support him right there and wait to see where legislation and support falls before we start throwing stones.

I encourage you to follow Great Lakes on the Ground, as it is a reputable source about the great lakes, straight from the mouth of National Wildlife Foundation.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Google Life Collection : Great Lakes Angler

Tonight I made a bit of discovery using google image search. If you type into the search bar : source:life "xxxxxx" anything you want, it will search their newly scanned archives of all of the Life Magazine articles and feed you the images associated with the articles it finds.

Thus a search of "source:life greatlakes" will get you images of the great lakes from articles from decades ago, which makes for some great images that you have likely never seen.

I naturally tried "source:life wisconsin" and found this beautiful trout stream image.

Here is another from "source:life greatlakes"

Finally this great image of "the Swanson family" on Oak Street Pier with a trot line out for yellow perch. This image was taken in 1950.

Have a look yourself, you might enjoy it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Fly Fishing for Musky

Catching a Musky can be a once in a lifetime experience for an angler. I myself have only logged two of them in my lifetime, caught this past summer and the summer before. Catching them using normal tackle or specialized musky tackle is the method of choice to get the job done. Catching one on a fly rod... well that's something else entirely.

I've seen photographs of them with big flies sticking out of their mouths but this video is really something else. It's a trailer for a video called Musky Chronicles, enjoy.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Great Lakes Angler : New Gear : Hatch 7 Plus Fly Reel

Well I finally have a setup worthy of the fish I fight on our wonderful Great Lakes Tributaries.

These are two photographs of my new hatch 7+ for my eight weight rod. I plan on dancing with Steelhead, Brown Trout, and even some Salmon on the tributaries throughout the great lakes region. I also picked this reel with Northern Pike and big Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass in mind, I shoot for those in May-August in Northern Minnesota.

I can't wait to put some miles on this set up, enjoy the photographs!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Catch Magazine : E-Magazine : January Issue

What could be better than a wonderful fishing magazine filled with good stories and even better photography that you don't have to pay a subscription fee for. Sure you don't get to hold in in your hands but their basic equation holds up : Water + Trees = Fish

Have a look at this months issue.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Chicago Trout Bum : A Year in Pictures

The Chicago Trout Bum, a (becoming) longtime friend of the Great Lakes Angler put together a good looking slide show of Trout and Salmon catches during the fall run of 2009. I make an appearance sporting a hefty Seeforellen Brown Trout, and a few other photographs I have taken of my own fish or fish friends of mine have landed made the show. There is plenty of eye candy from dime bright hens to tuna sized trout in here so buckle up and have a good watch.

Check out the Chicago Trout Bum here.

This is Fly : E-Magazine : January Issue

This is fly, January edition is out and it is certainly worth a read. As a matter of fact I should have just stayed in and read this in the warmth of my apartment today instead of hitting the ice and racking up such a low score on the fish. A report will come soon, until then, have a read.