Monday, May 11, 2015

A conversation with Andrea Larko

For those of you who are not familiar with the name, she is an aspiring young artist who is taking the fishing industry by storm. She has a style all her own and it's a fresh look to an industry saturated with several other very talented artists. Everywhere you look in your local flyshop you will find prints, stickers, apparel, buffs and even reels with artwork. Andrea has recently joined Simms and has two designs on their women's apparel and with more to come. There are some reels from Abel featuring her work coming sometime this summer as well. Vedadoo sling packs have had her mark on them for some time now and she has a vast array of amazing stickers and prints available on Etsy! I bought a few stickers awhile back and my wife and kids were very impressed with her dynamic and upbeat style. She calls her work of intricate patterns and symbols within the shape of a particular fish, zentangle.

When not in her studio, Andrea loves to wet a line on some of her local rivers.

I have been biding my time for a great subject to write about to get me back in the game. I have been a little rusty and haven't been writing as much as I would have liked. I feel my health is slowly improving so it's time to get back on-board and start hitting the keyboard more often. I took some time to do some fishing this spring for my beloved steelhead, but this year the always unpredictable Michigan weather lived up to it's name and most of my fishing happened to be on days below freezing. Andrea agreed to do an interview for an article and within a few days we were talking on the phone.

Andrea is an easy going person and the interview turned into a casual conversation not so much about questions and answers, but just a comfortable conversation about two passions we both share, fishing and art.

The Mayfly sticker fit perfectly on my home made fly tying stand.

The Zentangle Salmon went on my articulated fly Box

The brown trout sticker (my favorite one btw ) went on another articulated fly box. As you can see her stuff is simply "freaking awesome"!

Andrea hails from a small town called Indiana in the state of Pennsylvania. Since an early age, Andrea had gone fishing with her family often. She has three sisters who all share her passion as well and her family has an annual camping and fishing bonanza every fall for king salmon and big browns. Speaking of Browns, the Brown trout is her greatest love of all. She find so much beauty in the vivid colors that make up the Salmo trutta.

3 out of the 4 Larko girls in waders.

Her parents were always the outdoorsy types who passed that passion down to their four daughters as well as being independent women.On the picture above you can see the olive green back with the yellow underbelly with her special touch of over sized spots in black, brown, and bright red. The fins are another distinct touch. She has an great grasp of the true detail of the trout, but made it her own style. Her signature is definitely the zentangle, when you see it you know it's from her hand.

Andrea favors pen and ink drawings using rapidograph pens and digitally coloring the drawing to get her finished piece. The rapidograph is an excellent pen and they are refillable. The pens are somewhat expensive, but once you have the pen the only expense is refilling them. She does like several other mediums. Oil painting is her all time favorite, but it is more time consuming.When not making awesome fish art she likes to dabble in other nature subjects.

One of her artistic influences is Scott Naismith, a Scotland artist whose color theory artwork she absolutely adores. Throw out the old color wheel, it was a hot mess!

Another favorite is Czech artist, Alphonse Mucha whose distinct style is known as Art Nouveau. I personally can see his influence in her work. Alphonse did some stained glass work and many of his pieces have a similar look with fancy scroll work giving it a very vintage look. He did many advertisements and posters for plays and such. His work was all over Europe in the early 1900's.

a sample of Alphonse's work
As far as the classic artists go she favors Claude Monet with his "Water Lillies" as one of her all time favorite pieces. She is also fond of Vincent Van Gogh. She loves all art from street and graffiti work to the classics.

Andrea started fly fishing about six years ago when her boyfriend bought her first fly rod. From the first moment she saw someone fly-fishing she was drawn to it. She loved how graceful and elegant it looked besides it certainly looked fun. She has become an accomplished fly fisher and loves dry fly-fishing for browns and brookies the most. Naturally the appeal of tying flies soon followed as part of the addiction. Some of her favorite patterns are black stones and caddis flies.

A brown trout with connect the dots for spots!

Someday she hopes to make a trip to Alaska and just be a part of the rugged wilderness adventures. Her fish bucket list includes the arctic grayling, which she could cross off it she gets the opportunity
visit the last frontier.

Andrea's rendition of the arctic grayling.

Two other fish she hopes to tangle with someday are the Tarpon and Bonefish.......

Black and White Tarpon head.

Zentangle Rooster fish

Zentangle Permit. This appears on Simms Women's Solarflex shirt and won best in women's apparel at ICAST last year.

Last October Andrea quit her regular job to pursue her artwork full-time. She wanted to do what she loved for a living and is following her passion. Getting in the mix with some of the fishing industries top notch companies is a great start and she doe have her prints and stickers for sale along with some original pieces and prints for sale. She has a BFA in illustration from the Rochester Institute of Technology. If you are into art prints get them now while some of her limited edition prints are still available. All are numbered and signed, printed on acid free paper and only touched with the use of gloves so the artwork will last for a good long time and make an excellent addition to any man cave or woman cave for that matter. Depending on the style of decor that your spouse prefers her artwork would look great anywhere in an anglers abode. She has a new design for Simms that will debut this years ICAST and will be in addition to two more designs next spring. Currently she is working on a sling pack for Vedadoo that she will hand paint and it will then be sent off to a charity auction.

Andrea with a big beautiful male Brown Trout.
When she isn't painting fish, or tying flies Andrea will most likely be found on the river, her favorite being the Yellow Creek Trout Club where she can fish for a vast variety of freshwater species, but most of all her favorite, the Brown Trout.

It was an honor and a privilege to be able to chat with Andrea for this piece. She was easy and fun to talk to and I did get to throw in the teaser that the current world record brown comes from the Big Manistee River right here in Michigan where there have been several monsters caught. I could here the awe and excitement in her voice. If she ever happens to be out this way we should try for a monster brown on the Big M....

Black and white Crappie chasing a shiner. Love the fins and the detail of the markings. Almost looks like puzzle pieces.
Clicking her name will bring you to either her Etsy or Instagram page.

Monday, February 9, 2015

What is the meaning of it all?

I have my personal feeling about what fishing means to myself and it is quite But, I have run across others who try to suck to fun out of a relatively enjoyable sport. There are times of frustration when you encounter boat trouble, leaky waders, breaking a rod or other equipment failure. It is part of the game and it happens to every one of us at one time or another where our luck is in short supply on a given day.

This article was motivated by a fishing report I had read on one of my favorite rivers, the Pere Marquette. I prefer to fish the flies only section which is also catch and release. The rules are simple, no creel limit and tackle is restricted to artificial flies only.

Yet the article in question turned from a fishing report into a minor rant about people who use beads. Using a single bead unattached to the hook does not constitute it being a fly. However using beads in the creation of a fly is perfectly legal. Over the years I have had unfortunately run into "the elitist" who tend to think there is more to the rules than they appear.

When I first started fishing the PM I was in my early 20's and of moderate means. I didn't have the extra cash for a fly rod and reel, so I used a spinning outfit. A 12 foot fiberglass Heddon Silver King rod with a Cardinal 4 reel loaded with 10lb test and a drift rig with a fly. I could not tell you how many people told me I was illegal and I needed to leave the river or I would be reported, my gear confiscated, and then jailed and sent to hell shortly after....

I have since had several fly rods and reels and have made a couple as well including tying my own flies, but the rules are still the same as back then. I have even seen some guys with a long casting rod using a slip bobber with  a fly on the end, often a weighted eggs sucking leach or something with weighted eyes. I even know of guys who tie flies on jig hooks so the ride better under a bobber. Never have I thought of threatening them with what the DNR would do once they got a hold of them, but I have secretly praised them for trying something new, for thinking outside of the box while yet staying within the boundaries of the regulations.

Before I get into an idea of using beads into tying a great imitation of a steelhead's favorite treat, SPAWN! I had dared to ask a local shop worker if it was legal to apply a scent to an egg pattern. There are many, many egg patterns in use and I tie several, my favorite being the nuke egg. The response I received was not surprising, but the reaction was. The individual looked at me with a diabolical stare and said that scents were not to be allowed because it went against the integrity of fly fishing. Nowhere have I seen this in the regulations and have even brought it up to a DNR officer. The response I got from a person of authority was that there was nothing in the book that stated the use of scents in a flies only section was prohibited. I still have never tried it, but I'm sure others have and they have been within their legal right.

I have decided to make a fly that resembles a spawn sac made from beads. The idea is simple and the materials are readily available.

I present to you the 'Cody Sac' fly. I will get to the reason for the naming in a bit so hang with me.

Besides a vise I used a bobbin with white thread, a bobbin threader, scissors, a whip finisher, and size 6 tiemco hooks.

and BEADS! 6mm for salmon egg imitation, or 5mm for steelhead or brown eggs. You can but several different colors, but I originally started with three that looked close to color of natural roe.

The reason for the naming of the fly is because of a secret material I have used. It is Shetland Sheepdog fur, specifically the undercoat. It is the the purest natural white and it has a slight frizz to it. The fur was graciously donated by my canine companion......You guessed it! Cody

Shetland Sheepdogs have many endearing qualities; they are intelligent, fiercely loyal, energetic, loving, great with kids and other pets, movie star good looks, easy to train, etc. The one thing is they are hairy beasts and do they shed. They require a decent amount of brushing especially since they seem to always run through patches of stick tites! So I had all this hair and there goes the bright light and the wheels start churning.

The first few proto types only had the Sheltie Dub, but later on I decided to add some Ice dub for sparkle and sex appeal.

Another key element was the use of transparent beading cord most commonly used in the crafting world. I experimented with braid and mono, but the cord gave the beads the ability to move a bit especially in the 2 bead version. You can find this at any craft store for around $3

The beauty of this pattern is in the simplicity and low cost. When finished it looks exactly like a milting spawn sac without the netting.

Step 1. Put hook in vise. Wrap the white thread around hook 5-6 times and trim excess. Grab a generous glob of white fuzz and wrap on hook. Optional: before the white fuzz add ice dub to taste then apply fuzz after.

Step 2. Cut a small piece of the stretch cord (approx 4 inches). Insert 4 beads onto the bobbin threader.

Step 3. Pull stretch cord through top of the bobbin threader about half way then fold back and hold with two fingers. Slide the 4 beads onto the thread.

 Step 4. Firmly holding one end of the stretch cord, pull the bobbin threader away slowly until the other end comes free.

Step 5. Take the two ended of the stretch cord and make two half hitches.

                                         When its tied it should make a square of beads.

Step 6. place the square of beads with the knot facing the head of the fly. Give it a couple tights wraps at the head and trim excess stretch cord.

Step 7. Wrap over the top over beads in an X pattern several times until you get the desired shape. It seemed no matter how I tried it the 4 beads turned into a spawn sac shape naturally. Finish of the fly to preference. I like using a whip finisher myself.

 All that's left is to trim excess thread. Apply head cement, zap gap, or super glue as desired.

I experimented with several colors and one combo had no fuzz, but tons of ice dub. I even wrapped it in between the eggs to give the sensation off a massive milt with flash. I used green beads and green ice dub as well.

Another variation is using 2 beads with a loose cord to give the beads (eggs) more movement. This version is similar to a fly made by Josh Smith. This version remains unnamed, but I'm leaning towards 'Cajones'

All in all the purpose of this post was to rant a little about people who take themselves too seriously. Life is an incredible journey that's only as fun as you let it be. Follow the regulations in your area and respect your fellow anglers. Offer help, encouragement, and fellowship. It will only enhance your memories and experiences.

In closing I couldn't couldn't mention Cody the wonder dog without his adorable sidekick (and sister)
Kirrah, the sweetest pup who gives daily hugs!

During my exhausting and extensive research I came across some guidlines everyone should follow when applicable to your situation. May you always find what you seek while fishing. May the sun and wind always be in your favor, may the water always be cool and the fish plentiful, large, feisty, and very hungry!

Friday, January 9, 2015

The River is my Refuge

It has been a long, long while since I have been motivated to write....

My health has been the major reason I have not returned to my page. Since my last post I have constantly struggled to get better. My emotional state declined as well as my physical health.I had finally found a good team of doctors who were helping me turn the corner....

I have had six surgeries to improve my quality of life and to try to enjoy some of the things that brought peace to my suffering. Through it all I have come to realize one common truth
                                                    "Live for the moment!"

My fishing time has been severely limited and more often than not I am left to my own thoughts. I struggled through pain and control over my body. I find myself grateful that I still am able to do what I can.

As luck would have it I have some people in my life who will give me a swift kick in the ass when I want to give up. My wife has forced me to wake up and get ready as she drove me several hours to a fishing spot of sacrificed sleep which she is not prone to do. My son also grew into a baby man child with a drivers license and the desire to kick my ass into the river as well.

Quality over quantity has become another mantra of mine. Anything is often better than nothing as I have caught less fish, but cherished each battle with more appreciation than ever.

                                                   "Pay it forward! Always!!!"

I am legally physically disabled. Some may look at me and think what the funk is wrong with him? Well, each persons medical history is their own and many choose to keep theirs private. But, know this....before you judge someone try to understand them first. Many people struggles with unseen illnesses and the attitude that them not being sick is often more hurtful than the illness themselves.

One of the greatest qualities of man is compassion. Never forget to use it! I have heard way to many times that it doesn't pay to be nice! Get yours while you can! I do not and will not understand that way of thinking.

Illness has a way of telling you what is really important in life! People! It is the relationships you make and how you treat those who are a part of your life. Over the last year it seems I have been in touch with more of my older friends, meaning old friendships that have taken a bigger importance. For me that seems to be my old fishing buddies. Along the way you make new ones as well that hopefully will turn into old ones too. Some of my fondest memories are often my most unexpected when a complete stranger can strike up a conversation simply due to your common love of the river and her bounty.

Even though I cannot fish as much as i would like my love for fishing is no less than before, if anything the passion is even more fierce! I have tried to use the time spent not fishing for other en-devours somewhat related. One of which was rebuilding several old rods and just having fun with the whole process. Much of what I learned was trial and error and I even rebuilt a rebuilt rod to improve on it again.

There is something about catching a fish on a fly you tied and the same goes for catching one on a rod you built or rebuilt as well. There is something magical about it that is hard to explain. Anybody can buy the best rod, but to catch one on one of your own creation gives you a special feeling. It also helps that I have never been quite satisfied with the length of any fighting butts I have come across. Picking the colors and the style of the wrap to your very own liking as well as the placement of something as simple as a hook keeper with the finished product knowing everything is just the way you wanted it and you don't have to settle for something store bought.

Then there is the feeling of letting the mighty fish swim away. Home made fly....homemade rod....the appreciation of the fight and then the release. I can't think of a better way to spend a sunny fall morning with friends.

Most of the rods I rebuilt were close to 20 yrs old! Now, to me they are like brand new again and the cost is very minimal compared to a brand new rod.

My favorite so far was a 9 foot St.Croix rod I used for many years and caught countless Steelhead on. Th handle had gotten chewed up and the tip was busted off. I  rebuilt it on the idea of another old favorite rod I had, a Berkley Lightning Rod. I think I came close with the color scheme on the wrap, but opted to paint the rod florescent orange to make it stand out so I went with a little bit more wrapping then I planned as well. Just a little secret, the black on the butt section was colored by a clack Sharpie!

I took another idea with using czech beads for nymphs and with my sister's guidance even made some jewelry!

                   eventually evolving into semi-precious stones, copper and silver........

Life is a journey and one path leads you onto a path you never expected to take. I made some necklaces as well and the inspiration for creating things led into drawings and computer artwork and the idea to challenge myself to learn new ideas and create bigger and better things than I had ever imagined....

Although I have seen my share of curve balls thrown by life, I have made the conscious decision to just learn how to hit the curve, because I sure as hell ain't about to give up.

Fishing is still a huge part of my life. I just have to listen to my body and take what I'm given and make the most of it and appreciate every chance I do get. When i get out I try to make the most of it and I still have the luck of the fishing gods on my side and with help from others I still will be able to get into the heavy of it all.

I've found you can meet the nicest people along her banks, but the rudest as well. The choice is yours which you choose to be. My refuge is the river! we have a and her! her waters flows as through the earth as mine own blood through my veins. In all of her splendor as the sun sparkles across the surface reflecting warmth onto my face and the coolness of her touch as it caresses my skin! Her roar and laughter at life as she tumbles over the rocks and logs always moving ever downstream. The smell of the rushing waters in her deep pools and eddies so dark and often menacing with untold mysteries. So many memories she holds for me......but, I am eager for the new ones yet to come!