Aric and I fished the Kinni last night from about 7:30 to 9:30. We began the evening nymphing, but after a small shower came through at about 8:30, the stream came alive with rising trout. I switched to a size 16 sulphur parachute I’ve been tying lately (will be available to order soon) and got swipes on nearly every cast, catching around a dozen fish before dark. It was easily the best dry fly action I’ve had this year, with sulphurs and caddis flies everywhere.
Aric continued nymphing throughout the evening with two size 18 pheasant tails and caught about 10 fish himself, while I caught 6-8 on a Euro pheasant tail and zebra midge before switching to the dry. No big fish of note, but it was fun to get into some great fishing on the surface!
Also, I am starting a guide service and am offering 20% off rates during the month of June! Click here for more details.
We were down by three for an eternity. Onalaska packed in their zone and we were deadlocked at 25-22 for nearly the entire fourth quarter while I sat on the bench, clinging onto the last bit of hope that I could somehow get into the game and knock one down to tie it up. It never happened. We lost 27-22 in a game that set basketball back 50 years — my last in a River Falls Wildcat uniform.
Two years later I sat in my room in Winona, watching the National Championship between Michigan and Louisville, and Spike Albrecht stepped onto the floor. Just minutes before, he told teammate Matt Vogrich, “I don’t think I’m going to play tonight.” But Trey Burke — the National Player of the Year — picked up his first foul early in the game, and to avoid foul trouble, John Beilein inserted the 5′-11″ freshman guard into the game. Madness ensued.
Suddenly he was raining threes from all over the court, with this one — his third — near the half-court logo.
“This is unbelievable,” Jim Nantz exclaims. “Unreal.” CBS cuts to the Michigan bench, in disbelief itself. As they go to a commercial break, Spike is shown, yelling, “Let’s fucking gooooo!” It was an incredible moment.
He had 17 points by halftime, carrying the Wolverines throughout the half. I’ve watched that first half probably a dozen times since, smiling after every three he hits. It will be a crime if ESPN doesn’t make a 30 for 30 on that half of basketball within the next 20 years.
How unknown was Spike Albrecht? Three weeks earlier I was at the Big Ten Tournament when my dad nudged me and said “Who is that little white kid for Michigan and why is he playing?”
He was everything I ever wanted as a high school senior.
He was hitting threes from all over in the biggest game possible after only scoring 1.8 points per game on the season. I pessimistically hoped for that as I rode to bench — just one chance to get into a game and make an impact, to show everyone that I could actually play.
Since that night, Spike further convinced me why he’s my favorite player and more than just a flash in the pan. Last year he was named team MVP and led the Big Ten in assist/turnover ratio at 3.0. He became a two-time captain. He showed off his crafty ball-handling, hit unreasonably deep 3s, and sunk circus shots like this:
Spike gutted out the past two seasons with a genetic hip condition. After two offseason surgeries, he’s clearly been a step slower this year, and announced today he was shutting it down for his senior season. It’s a sad day in the Avestruz household, as I’ve been robbed of watching my favorite player for 25 more games.
Spike’s first half in the 2013 National Championship will forever be one of my favorite sports memories. His performance embodied everything I dreamed of as a high school senior.
“Whatever happens with this game, win or lose,” Steve Kerr says in the telecast, after Spike’s fourth three, “we have a new cult hero in Ann Arbor, Michigan.” I had a new one myself.
Two weeks ago I read this column by Zach Lowe (my favorite NBA writer, RIP Grantland) and it reminded me of my once-love of the Spring Valley Cardinals. Growing up, I was a loyal follower of the Cards. River Falls was never really good at football, and since my dad grew up in the Valley and my mom taught there, that’s where we’d spend our Friday nights, in the shadows of the earthen dam.
I remember Tom Sauve breaking tackles and running for a touchdown after a halfback pass from Troy Timm, just before halftime vs. Owen-Withee in the 2001 payoffs — a play my dad and I still bring up. It got the team momentum going into the locker room, and eventually to the state championship, where they beat Hilbert 34-3. I remember jumping into Brian Turner’s arms after beating Clayton at Spooner Sectionals and telling him to “pack his bags,” as they’d just clinched another trip to Madison in basketball. I remember hearing the Eau Claire Regis student section chanting “Trailer Trash” at the SV faithful the night before, and having no idea what they meant.
I cared about the Cardinals more than River Falls, and maybe any other sports team. I imagined I’d end up going there and being the next Ryan Stangl — a God in my eyes — who started at point guard as a freshman on the 2001 state team and later lead them there as a senior in 2004. Eventually I became more active in RF sports (and was the ball boy for a couple years), and the Cards took a backseat as their glory years faded away. I’ve maybe been to one football game and a handful of basketball games in the last ten years.
Now here they are, undefeated, and playing Pepin/Alma — also undefeated — on Friday in Level 3 of the Wisconsin State Football Playoffs, and I don’t know a single player.
More recently, P/A has become my most followed high school since I was able to watch my cousins Sam and Ben play for them while I attended nearby Winona State. I went to almost every home game and every playoff game for the past couple years. Watching Sam quarterback them to a state runner-up last year was probably the most I’ve been hooked to high school football since those Spring Valley teams. I paced the sidelines through three quarters against Bangor (until Heit’s pick-six), nervous that the #1 team in the state still had a comeback in them. I walked off the field that night yelling and fist pumping in euphoria — maybe the most excited I’ve been after a sporting event since high school basketball. I remember having beers with friends and family at the Dam View afterwards and cheering as we watched the highlights on the La Crosse news. I remember walking off the field a week later in Viroqua, hugging my Grandma, after the Eagles throttled Potosi to clinch the schools’ first state football championship game birth. I also remember the somber ride home after that state championship loss, discussing with my Uncle Tim why the hell they tried a fake punt on 4th-and-12 inside their own 20.
I miss it all — the lights, the cold, the car rides, the Dam View. With a combined enrollment of under 150, Pepin/Alma was the epitome of small-town high school football, and I loved it. As I sit here typing this, I can see the lights at Albia High School shining bright, the Blue Demons about to kickoff a playoff game of their own. Being in Iowa has kept me from getting to a P/A game this year, and it sucks.
It will be weird having the only non-RF schools I’ve ever had a connection to face off in such a big game, and even more weird to not be in attendance. Even though they have the worst logo in Wisconsin, I’ll be pulling for the Eagles in this one. Hopefully they’ll have “Benny Time” to end it!
Here’s my latest update from Albia. The past two months have been pretty busy as archery seasons across the Midwest have opened and things are ramping up for the rut.
In The Office
One of my main duties has been posting blogs and tips to the state pages on the website. We have these posts so people can check back to see how the hunting and deer activity has been between the weekly shows, maximizing traffic to the website. This can be tedious but also interesting to see the different bucks the pro staffers are chasing and the strategies they are using to hunt them. You can see Wisconsin’s page here.
My other main duty in the office is producing Muddy’s Whitetail Watch for one of our sponsors, Muddy Outdoors. Every week I interview Bill and he discusses what the deer are doing and the best strategies for hunting them. I will produce these videos until late December. You can find them on Muddy Outdoors’ Facebook page every Wednesday.
Lately, I’ve also been helping produce the East Show. Jon Lewis, the normal producer of the East Show, has been really busy with Cabela’s Northern Flight, a waterfowl show we also produce. I did the first three segments of this week’s show, which I think turned out pretty well.
In The Field
I’ve filmed a few hunts so far, and we are just about to begin our rut marathon. Last weekend we had a great cold front come through and three guys in the office tagged bucks in two days. It was a great way to kickoff the season and got us all excited for the weeks to come. I’ve mostly been filming pro-staffer Scott Prucha hunt his farm outside Albia. Filming Scott has been really fun, and he and his wife Vickie usually give me a great, home-cooked meal after the hunt. Last Sunday morning we had a nice 10-point walk by at 15 yards, but Scott opted to let him grow another year.
Last week I filmed Greg, our Main Show producer, harvest a doe on Bill’s farm. You can watch the hunt here.
In September I made my way to Southwest Wisconsin to film Scott and his friend Kurt Schroeder hunt the archery opener in Vernon County. We saw a bunch of does and a few young bucks. It was a fun weekend back in the Badger State. Hopefully I can get back to Alma for the gun season.
I’ve also filmed a bit for Cabela’s Northern Flight. Here’s a teal hunt that I was on in September.
It’s been a fun couple months. These next couple weeks should be even better.
I have now been interning at Midwest Whitetail for about a month, and it has been a blast. Here, I will try to summarize what I’ve been doing so far in Albia.
In The Office
I’ve been mostly producing small How-To and Gear Tip videos for the Midwest Whitetail website and Cabela’s. They have been fun to do and have really helped me learn the editing software. Here are some examples of these videos:
In addition to editing videos, I also wrote a short article for the Cabela’s Whitetail Season website, and will probably be writing more throughout the internship.
In The Field
A couple days a week we go out to the chunks of public land in the area to walk the ground, hang and check cameras, film segments for the shows, and film deer at dusk. I’ve also spent some time at some of the properties the guys in the office have permission to hunt, helping with food plots and scouting. If I get anything out of this internship, it will be a pretty solid farmer tan. Though some of the walks can be long and the mosquitoes are terrible, it’s pretty awesome to do this for “work.” The amount of good public land they have around here is incredible and varies from river bottoms, ag land, and big woods. I’ve already learned a ton about hunting these areas from the guys in the office, particularly my boss, Aaron, who is pretty much the king of publicland. One evening we filmed velvet on a public piece and saw around 12 bucks, seven of which were over 125″, with one being a giant 170″, which got us pretty excited to hunt the area. This was also the same night that a skunk walked across the road wanting to join us in the cornfield we we filming from (my exact words to Aaron were “I’m getting the f— out of here!”), all while a nice 140s 10-point was eating in the soybean field in front of us.
The most surreal moment of the my time here occurred this past Monday. Aaron, Zach (another intern), and I were going out to scout a piece of public ground, and came across a giant antler. When Zach went to go pick it up, Aaron said “Oh my God. That’s Erik’s deer.” Erik (one of the full-timers in the office) missed a great deer two years ago on the same piece, but about three miles away. Last year’s interns got two pictures of him in November, and he really put on some inches. We were all giddy with excitement that we found this deer’s shed antler in August. We still can’t believe what a giant it is, and hopefully someone in the office can finish this great story with the buck this season! I can’t imagine how big he is this year.
We’ve also been out filming velvet at Bill’s to get some footage of the bucks he will be hunting in the fall. It has been pretty cool to see his farm in person after watching it in the shows over the years. Aaron also got some local knowledge of a giant deer feeding in an alfalfa field, so we set up a tripod in his Hummer (apparently people still drive those), and parked on the side of the road hoping to see the buck. A 160+” 8-point walked out, and I assumed this was the one we were after. Aaron didn’t seem too excited and said he thought there was another in the area. About ten minutes later, a giant, maybe 200″ 12-point stepped out. It was easily the biggest deer I’ve seen in person, and I could not believe my eyes. Southern Iowa is truly in a class of its own when it comes to giant whitetails.
A New Hobby
We need timelapses for the shows that will come out in a couple weeks. With the recent meteor shower and moonless nights we have been spending our nights shooting star time lapses, which look awesome. Setting the cameras at long exposures allows you to see some amazing things in the night sky, particularly the Milky Way. I brought my camera with to shoot the timelapses and just take some cool pictures. I’ll definitely be out doing this as long as I can handle the decreased sleep.
Pretty much the only bad things about my time here are that I’m not able to see everyone (including my dog) in the Dirty RF and there are no trout streams in the area. Oh, and there’s nothing to do in Albia outside of work (think Ellsworth, BUT IN IOWA).
Over the winter we were approached by Limit Creek Fishing Rod Company, asking if we’d be interested in helping market their new “Driftless Dream” line of fly rods. After about a month of use, we have been very impressed. They are fast action, lightweight rods that shoot line like a dream. We’ve thrown everything from heavy size 6 streamers to size 18 dry flies on these rods and they all cast well. Check out this promo video we just completed for them!
If you’re interested in Limit Creek’s rods, check out their site at LimitCreek.com.
Welcome to On The Rise! Here, you can view our videos and photography, as well as the latest fishing reports. As we get into the late summer and fall, we’ll also be posting whitetail hunting content.
This all began last summer when I filmed my brother, Aric, fly fishing on the Kinnickinnic River near our house and made a short video titled “Knee Deep — Fly Fishing the Kinni”. Our first video was pretty raw, but received lots of positive comments and even made it on the Orvis Friday Fly Fishing Film Festival. As the summer continued, we made a couple more videos and increased viewership. I have since decided to create a website so all our videos can be found in one place. Special thanks to my cousin Brose for inspiring me to create the website, as well as creating our sweet logo!
Stay tuned, as we will have a new video coming soon.