SAO Pages

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Passing The Torch!

This past weekend was our second annual Kid's Fly Fishing Camp. Each year 10 to 12 youngsters make the journey over to the Allegheny's to partake in everything from casting, rigging, fly tying, fly selection, proper catch and release, and when and how to harvest. Most importantly each kid learns the value of team work, and leaves with the confidence and a sense of accomplishment that only fly fishing can deliver. Here's a glimpse into our weekend...

8:00am Saturday Morning briefing and the start of our weekend.

After briefing each excited angler is given the opportunity to stock a few trout. Nothing like being a kid and seeing the stock truck show up with a few beautiful fish. To say they were excited would not describe the moment. 

After stocking the kids were broke up into partners, and began learning to tie the fly patterns that were going to be used while fishing that afternoon. Each student was required to tie two flies.

Mike Sowers took the opportunity to take the lead and help each kids complete their goal of tying two patterns for the days fishing.

We were all amazed at how well each tied and the amount of effort each angler put into their patterns.

Fly patterns that were tied included the Woolly Bugger, San Juan Worm, Soft Hackles, Marabou Streamers, Clouser Minnows, and the Elk Hair Caddis.

It wasn't long after the fly tying that each angler and their fishing partner set out for an afternoon of casting and fishing. The goal was that each fishing partner would work to help each other on everything from casting, spotting fish, netting, and sharing in each others experience! 

When it all comes together! Great job!

Jason Gregory dedicated the weekend to wearing many hats, and helping out with casting and the simple things these boys needed to learn while on the stream. 

Shawn Brillon from the Orvis company and his son RJ made the long trip up from Vermont to be instructors and apart of making this weekend a success for all our young guests.

As you can see the patience each angler put into tying their flies and into learning good casting presentations paid off.

Each team of anglers found success during the afternoon and showed great sportsmanship and friendship toward one another, as each angler made sure (on their own BTW) that no one left the stream without hooking, landing, and releasing a trout! If only all anglers would treat each other this way...

As dinner approaches Jay worked hard to get these hungry kids fed well.

This year we decided to teach the kids how to properly field dress and prepare a trout for a camp fire dinner. Here Dave demonstrates and helps the boys clean 4 trout. The boys decide that with all the other food, that 4 trout would be plentiful and an acceptable harvest.  

I really think that this was one thing many of these boys have never been exposed to, and they dove into the opportunity to learn, and what it was like to eat food they had worked hard to harvest.

I took the time to show and assist each boy in making the perfect Citrus Brook Trout!

Here's a close up of one of the Brook Trout the boys prepared.

The trout along with beans and potatoes were all cooked over the camp fire.

Here's a pic of the camp fire dinner these boys helped complete!

Sitting around the camp fire, feasting on trout, burgers, dogs, potatoes, and beans. The fishing stories weren't half bad either :)

A pic of all the gear and items donated to the kids by the Orvis Company.  

Each anglers name was placed into a hat and when their name was drawn they had to pick a prize to give to one of their fellow anglers. Each angler left with more than a few nice gifts. 

This lucky angler was voted by his peers to have demonstrated the most sportsmanship and was awarded a new rod and reel outfit for his efforts. Shawn Brillon and RJ from Orvis were on hand to award and offer congrats to this fine young man.

After a night of marshmallow's and camp fire stories they were back at it.

What a beautiful catch!

We would like to extend a huge thank you to all of the parents involved! Dave-o, Flip, and Thunder!!! Thank you for bringing the boys into town and being a part of these boys lives on a daily basis! Jason and Mike thanks for all your hard work and being apart of this project over the past two years! A special thank you to Shawn Brillon, RJ, and The Orvis Company for being a huge part of this event. Most importantly to all you young anglers who attended- I am honored to have the opportunity to host and have you all as fishing partners each year! I look forward to what next spring will bring.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

All In The Family

Each year I have the opportunity to take a lot of people fishing and often times get to share with them the experience of a first Steelhead on the fly. That is always a great experience no matter how long you may have known the angler standing alongside you. However, there is one "first time" experience that trumps all others, whether you are a guide or not, and that is when you get to experience it with your own family.

Going back a few years ago to 2009, I had a brief window of opportunity and an 8 year old son who was chomping at the bit to do what Dad does. It just happened to be March 22nd which is my birthday and I thought, "No better way to spend the day than teaching my son to fly fish!" We only had three hours to get done what I hoped to accomplish, so we hit the road. One hour of casting instruction and one hour of fishing is all that we had with travel time, so we crossed our fingers, said a prayer, and hit the water. With numerous hook-ups, many lost fish, and yes, even some tears from a disappointed 8 year old, the final fish came to the net with the splendor and majesty that only a father can understand. The moment the fish hit the net you could hear the shouts and jubilation from a mile away I'm sure, but I didn't care. It was my son, on my birthday, and I had never had a better one!

Patrick's son with his first fish on a fly rod...
and a Steelhead to boot!

He was as proud as they come and so was Dad!

Fast forward a year, and I had a good shot at getting my oldest daughter out. We hit the stream and conditions were right, but our good fortune wasn't as good this time around. With seven hook-ups came seven lessons in what not to do while fighting a Steelhead...we've all been there. Yes, we left the stream that day a bit disappointed, but this was a good day by any definition, because I had my daughter on the stream.

Fast forward one more year to the fall of 2011 and it was back on the stream this time with my oldest son and daughter. It was amazing how well my daughter did this day given the fact that it had been a full year since her last trip. We stepped into the hole and I put her in the sweet spot. It didn't take any time and she was making beautiful casts and picture perfect drifts...then it happened. The indicator stopped, she set the hook up stream (yes I said up stream), the fish surfaced, the head flopped side to side, the hook pulled, and she looked at me. I smiled and said, "what did you do wrong?" And to my amazement she said, I set the hook up stream. I was amazed and excited all at once. My soon to be teenager DOES LISTEN....woohooo....LOL....Oh, back to the story. I couldn't believe she had retained that small piece of information and analyzed her mistake so quickly.

With a bit of pride in my heart, I said, "OK, then just don't do that again!" Two drifts later, she had made a perfect cast, a great mend, and the indicator dropped again. This time she came up with a great hook set in the downstream motion and stuck that fish hard. Immediately the fish raced upstream and I was afraid to look at what she may do with the rod and the line and, and, and, I WAS AMAZED. I don't know what happened, but she acted as if she had caught 1,000 fish, because none of her previous years mistakes ever showed themselves this time around. She set right, cleared the line like a pro, kept her hand off the reel unless she was actually gaining line, and then that second "proud Papa" moment happened. I exclaimed, "raise the rod to turn that head up," and she followed the order with precision. I waited for that head to rise so that I could make a good stick, and stick him I did.

I wondered how enthusiastic her response would be. Would it be like my sons had been? Probably not I thought....she's a girl (reasoning in my mind that she's probably here more for me than her) and....well, I was wrong and extremely happy to be. When I came up with the fish, she let out a hoot that put a smile on everyone's face that day. In fact I'm smiling now just thinking about it!

What a beauty...and the fish isn't half bad either!

Dad thought he would push the envelope to see just
how much of a flygal she would be and said, "You have
to kiss your first fish." I was amazed when she put this
lip-lock on the fish. That's alright with me...but I'll shoot
any guy who tries for the same...LOL

Once again, fast forward about 4's now March of 2012. I am laying in bed one night when my wife comes straggling to bed extremely late. She was out with friends that night and came rolling in about 3am just as I awoke, needing to make a last minute call to clients before they left Columbus because of some overnight storms. As my wife crawled in bed, she said, "I have spring break next week, what do you think the chances are of you taking me fly fishing?" WHAT? I had to roll over and check to make sure my wife was actually the one in bed with me! "Seriously," I asked. I stumbled in my words totally taken back by the question and quickly realized that the following Thursday was, you bet, my birthday. Good old March 22nd. It had been golden three years earlier with my son...could it happen twice? I didn't know, but was very willing to give it a shot.

The big day came and I got the lunches packed for a picnic with the wife on the river and we headed out the door. My wife enjoys fishing (but had never fly fished), LOVES the sun, and proclaims the same for me. This was definitely a day of Steelheading that appealed to her because it was sunny and 75-80 degrees. I didn't care what the conditions could have been any condition as far as I was concerned! I was just elated to have my wife on the river with me!

It didn't take long to get the rod in her hand and teach her some basics on casting. She was a bit reluctant at times, but I gave her some space to let her work out the kinks and build her confidence and would then come in with some pointers which she took very well. Not long into the day she hooked her first fish and made the common one handed grab of the rod and line together and as always I watched the rod drop sharply and "Ping"....bye, bye fish!

She was really amazed at the power of that fish and immediately questioned her ability to get the job done. I quickly affirmed her ability and told her she didn't need to be anxious, but to just keep the rod up at all times and the line simply "under control" need for death grips here. She settled in and within a half hour that glory moment came. The fish ran her around, up and down if went as I shouted out instruction on what to do and what not to do. Soon I was moving in, net in hand, to see if my birthday blessing would happen twice. Within seconds, it was sealed....I may now have one of the best sets of birthday memories a fly fisher could ever ask for!

My wife and the catch of my life, holds her
first Steelhead and her first fish on a fly rod!

I think I could get used to having this one as my
partner on the stream more often!

Needless to say, I am a blessed man. We now number 4 steelheaders in the family and my two youngest are begging every day for their shot at it. Soon, I hope, we will be a steelheading family and my dream collage of pictures for the wall will be complete. I look forward to the day I can hang that frame on the wall. It will most certainly be a trophy of a lifetime!

Patrick "Flybum" Robinson
Head Guide
Steelhead Alley Outfitters

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fisknat Grande Ronde Net Review

Late in 2010 I was given the opportunity to review one of the newer Fisknat Steelhead net models. At that time, I don’t think it had an official name, but now is known as the Grande Ronde. For the sake of this review, I will break my observations into categories to better help those researching the product produced by Bob and Shannan at Fisknat. In addition, please understand that I am not going to offer a lot of filler. You won’t read what it is made of and about it’s sleek clean lines because you can see all of this simply by visiting their website at I will say this about the net though…if you are looking for a piece of eye candy, or something that will look good on the water and in photos, Fisknat nets represent quality craftsmanship and beauty. With that said, please allow me to share with you my unbiased field test results of a made in America piece of fishing gear that can accompany you for many years wherever you may find yourself on the water.

A Steelhead Alley Outfitters guide poses with an average size
Steelhead and a Fisknat Grande Ronde


After a few conversations with Bob, I knew the net I was to receive was big, but I must admit I was a little taken back by the size of the package that arrived at my home. Nevertheless, I opened it with excitement to see the piece of craftsmanship inside and was initially impressed by what I found.

Upon pulling the net out of the box my initial thought was something along the line of, “WOW, this thing is HUGE!” Never before had I seen a hand crafted wooden net with such impressive size! With a bow of 20” x 30”, a handle length of 36”, and a total length of 66”, you now know why it got the name Grande Ronde!

A 28" Brown Trout sits in the bow of a new Grande Ronde net.

Regardless of my first impression and its impressive size, I must say that when I put it in hand for the first time, it was a great feeling piece! Not only did it feel good in the hand (proper proportions, well balanced), but it was a beautiful piece of artistry that was sure to catch the eye of anyone passing you by. Couple that with the fact that I am also a freelance photographer and take photos of my clients very serious, this would be a gorgeous piece to have in the shots.

Overall, you could say that my first impression was, “WOW, now that’s a net!”


I think it should be noted at this time that Fisknat has categorized the Grande Ronde as a boat net. While I believe this must be the ultimate wooden net for a boat netting big steelhead and other large gamefish, it needs to be noted that this net was not tested from a boat during my season of testing. Instead, it was tested in a bit more abusive atmosphere and is found to work just as well outside the boat.

Patrick Robinson poses with a client on a great day
of steelheading on Steelhead Alley.

I help operate the largest fly-fishing guide service on the southern shore of Lake Erie where our target species is Steelhead. Unlike other areas in the Great Lakes, most of our streams are best fished by walk and wade techniques as opposed to floating. With that in mind, we must carry our nets with us along with rods, reels, lunches and things of this sort. I will say from experience that it is nice to have a net with a big bow, deep bag, and a considerable reach.Those characteristics can often mean the difference between a successfully landed fish or the frustration that results from that one extra run that broke your client off. This net encompasses all of those things making it a lean, mean, fishing grabbing machine!

I also must say that while this net seemed big in the confines of my home, it was absolutely perfect on the stream for what I do day in and day out! I have always carried my net in hand while guiding and this net was to be treated the same. Without question, this net has been the best net I have used to date…not to mention the most beautiful!

As for the construction, I will say that it is an exceptional piece and is capable of copious amounts of abuse! I have broken more nets than you can imagine in my guide career and most were made of metal. I have snapped net bows on the stab by striking rocks on the bottom of the river in the heat of the moment, I have broke handles and bows on the lift, and had them snap after being stepped on by clients. I am happy to say that I have duplicated all of these scenarios with this net and it has survived all such incidences in a years worth of guiding!

One of the best attributes of this net is its new reinforced handle. I believe that this attention to detail is the backbone and strength of this net. The strength of this net is awesome having held multiple doubles at one time (all fish being between 25-30” in length). That is at times between fifteen and twenty pound of fish at times and this net handles it well!

A father-son Steelhead double.

Although I am extremely happy and impressed with the performance of this net, there is one thing that some may not like about the Grande Ronde, and that is size. If you are the kind of person not wanting to carry the net by hand, then a smaller net may be a better option. I personally hope to get some time with Fisknat’s San Juan Guide net or the Guide Pontoon net for this exact reason as I believe a direct comparison will be very healthy for those who cross over from floating to wading with any kind of frequency.

As with any sport, there are personal preferences and nets are no different. That being the case, I want to keep the focus squarely on what this net is, what it is designed for and how it can be used, and give it a score based on the use and abuse I personally witnessed.

My understanding is that this is a Steelhead net (or similar size species). It was designed to handle the beating that netting fish like this can bring and allow you to net them with relative ease. It is proven that this net is just as much at home both in the boat and out. Under those pretenses, I would give this net an overall review score of 9 out of a possible 10, making it a piece of gear I would forthrightly recommend to other anglers!


v Strong build, reinforced handle

v Great reach due to long handle

v Durable enough to take serious abuse

v Size well suited for boats

v Deep rubber bag that is hook/fish friendly

vBeautiful craftsmanship & artistry made in America


v Very large net; Can make hand carrying undesirable. If this is a concern, a smaller model may be worth looking into.

vPrice can be a deterrent. However due to the high level of craftsmanship, artistry, and strength, coupled with “Made in USA,” it is well worth the investment.


In closing, any angler who fishes for any length of time recognizes the need for a net that fits their scenario and target species. Fisknat has a selection of nets that fits just about any scenario and based on my opinion, should be considered a top-notch, high quality company focusing on hand crafted nets marked by strong functionality and a touch of artistry! I highly recommend Fisknat nets based on one year of hardcore field-testing abuse. In my opinion, “Fisknat is where it’s at!”


Patrick “Flybum” Robinson

Head Guide – Steelhead Alley Outfitters

Owner/Operator – Flybum Media Productions

Note: Fisknat provided this net for the purpose of this review. It did not make any compensation for this unbiased review and has no obligation to nor does it have any further business dealings with Patrick Robinson, Steelhead Alley Outfitters, or Flybum Media Productions at the time of this review.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Grand River Castapalooza 2012

Don't miss out on the opportunity to get some casting demonstrations, cast some of the newest rods and lines, watch some quality fly tying and just enjoy a great spring day outside at this years Castapalooza. The information below will tell you when, where and what time.

Come out and enjoy a great time of gear, fellowship, and fun!

If anyone has questions, feel free to contact us.

Patrick "Flybum" Robinson
Head Guide
Steelhead Alley Outfitters

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Swingers Gone Wild!

When the waters are right, I love to swing flies and thoroughly enjoy working with others to do the same. It seems that the sport of swinging for steelhead is gaining in popularity and with such, you get a variety of folks wanting to work on the game...rank beginners all the way to those with some experience.

J.B. learns the basics of skagit casting in his
pursuit of catching Steelhead on the swung fly.

Well, this week I had both and can say it was a fun week...not to mention a VERY memorable one! What you are about to read is the absolute truth, nothing but the help me God.
One client who I truly enjoy spending a day on the water with is J.B. He is a go getter, a hard worker, and after our last excursion, definitely not a quitter! J.B. and I met a number of years back when we both attended a fly tying event in Columbus Ohio. Little did we know that we would meet again years later...he as my client, me as his guide. This was the second trip this spring, and I told him a couple of days prior that the conditions were great for swinging flies. At that point he said he had never swung flies, but I convinced him that it was definitely something he would fall in love with. With that, we hit the stream with the rod in hand and began teaching him the basics of spey casting. What is an anchor, the dangle, a white mouse, a D-loop, a dynamic roll cast, a double spey, a circle spey, etc. In short order, I had him working out the kinks on a circle spey cast and he was really starting to get it when the train wreck happened...when the swinger went wild!

He had started to settle in with a cast that was fishable (not pretty just yet, but fishable), when I decided to make a change of sink tip. I felt that a little bit longer tip was necessary to fish the run we were currently in, so I made the change....and oh how I came to regret that decision.

With the very next cast, coming off the dangle, he started into his lift and subsequent circle of the circle spey or "C" spey. This is where the lesson was learned the hard way. Instead of drawing his circle out in front of himself as I had instructed, he did so slightly over his head and the fact that the fly and line will always follow the path of the rod tip was proven very true. All at once, a beautiful custom emerald shiner swung fly came flying directly at him at breakneck speed and railed him right in the hip. Much to J.B.'s chagrin, as he looked down, he found that the hook made penetration, ripped a quarter inch slice in his Simms waders and began it's exit with a secondary puncture! I couldn't believe what I was seeing and felt horrible...the look on his face was one of bewilderment...but what can a guide do? I too had done the same thing years prior, but fortunately the hook didn't grab.

J.B. being the light hearted, fun loving kind of guy he is just laughed it off and said oh well. Disappointed for sure, he tried to refocus on the casting trying to not let it ruin his day. So, what misfortune for the day one might think, right? Well, it gets worse....MUCH WORSE!!!
Now as you can imagine, J.B. was a bit gun shy at this point, just as many a new spey caster has been themselves, but he was pressing through it. As he prepared the line for the next cast, I could sense the was a bit noticeable as he paused trying to build up the nerve to try it again. Being the coach, I took notice of the anxiety and encouraged him to get back in the saddle and give it go...I mean what else can happen at this point, right?

Well, I know lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place, but what about flies? As luck would have it, J.B. made a second attempt, and this time the fly broke the water, entered the air, and instead of heading for his hip, this time it was the area of his head! Yes, his head! Again, at blistering speed, before J.B. could even duck, he hears a crack around the area of his neck...around the area of his sunglasses...around the area of his glass lens Costa's....Yep, you guessed it. The next cast delivered a fatal blow to one of the lenses on his Costa sunglasses shattering them into a spider web.

At this point, I was drowning as my mouth had dropped so low that I was now taking on water! I couldn't believe the luck in this moment. I honestly didn't know whether to laugh or cry and J.B. figured laughing was the best of the two and gave it a roll. Now, I'll admit, it's not easy getting past a moment like that, but we did...carefully...and only after getting rid of that blasted sink tip that had thrown him into a tail spin of misfortune.

Fortunately for us, his casting would improve immensely in the coming hour...don't believe me, just check out this short video of one cast. Looking GREAT J.B.!!!

J.B. Shows that he can really get it done!

With the improved casting, he also had many pulls and hookups by the days end to look back on. This time around, he didn't get any of the Steelhead to hand, but he did get a Smallmouth and a very interesting rock. I guess you can say that J.B. is the full experience kind of guy....and that is what he got! He has already talked about his return to the Alley to finish the task and I have all confidence that he will do so!

J.B. proudly displays his prized rock swung up on day one!

A nice swung fly Smallmouth became J.B.'s first victim.
I have a feeling that many more are to come!

Following J.B. was a gentlemen by the name of Scott. He had used a two hander before but it had been some time ago and it was time for a refresher. We started out the day with the standard indicator nymphing that many Steelheaders use, but again with the conditions being right, I asked him if he would be interested in swinging flies. He quickly said yes, and the rest of the day we fished on the swing. A few kinks worked out here and there and we were looking really good...and the fish thought so too!

Scott swings up this nice dropback hen to punctuate the day.

A close up of the hen above with a custom tied
emerald shiner pattern by Greg Senyo.

A feisty buck chased us down and connected!

Buck fever of a different variety!

The buck above before being
unhooked from the grasp of a gorgeous fly!

Well, hopefully we will get some rain soon so that the rivers will rise and bring us another push of fresh fish! That is our hope and I'm sure it's yours too.

The fish are still around if you are willing to chase them, so get out and see what you can do with a day. No matter how you do it, I'm sure memories will be made......

Patrick "Flybum" Robinson
Head Guide
Steelhead Alley Outfitters

Friday, April 6, 2012

Spring on the Alley- Photo Essay

A special thank you to all of you who had the opportunity to fish with our services so far this year! Here is a collection of recent photos from the guys on staff, it's been a tough spring due to the up and down weather, but the gang worked even harder and as always they do the best they can everyday! I'm proud to be apart of such a great group of guys! We hope you enjoy and have a Happy Easter!