Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How cool is this?

Now that the season is waning and I'm sitting around waiting for the weather and the rivers to clear I was going to review some of the equipment I bought and used this year. I've got some keepers and a few duds.

One of the things I'll get around to reviewing in a week or so is Orvis' sling pack. I think it's a winner in most categories save one -- color. That blue is just ugly (IMHO).

Now I find out that the cool kids at Orvis have come out with a new version of the sling pack in Digital Camo. I must have one.

Look for a slightly used Sling Pack to go on sale shortly.
I thought this was a joke when I first saw it

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Rainbow Trout & The Green Drake: A Christmas Fable

There once was a Rainbow Trout who lived tight against an undercut stairwell. He lurked there for most of the year growing fat on the things that Rainbow Trout grow fat on and dreaming dreams that only a Rainbow Trout can dream. Mostly he finned in the currents that swirl beneath the stairs.

Not far from the lair of the Rainbow Trout lived the fabled Green Drake Hummingbird nymph. This large burrowing nymph scurried and munched and grew and dreamed of someday being a beautiful Green Drake Hummingbird.

Once a year, when the combination of temperature and light are just right, the Trout moves higher in the column to lurk near the stream-side shrubbery waiting for a morsel to eat.

The nymph also senses the changing of the season and rises quickly from the bottom emerging as a beautiful Green Drake Hummingbird.

Newly emerged, the Green Drake Hummingbird flutters on the surface. While she hopes to someday find a mate and raise a family, her immediate thoughts are on drying her wings and figuring out how to use the damn things to fly to the safety of the stream-side shrubbery.

Deep below the Rainbow Trout senses the distress of the newly emerged Green Drake Hummingbird and turns towards the movement. Moving swiftly past the glowing globes and blobs of red the Rainbow Trout closes on the Hummingbird who is full of the peace and love and hope that can only be found in the Christmas season.

Eat well this weekend. Be safe. Be Merry.

Fluttering helplessly the Green Drake Hummingbird attracts the attention of the Rainbow Trout

Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's all downhill from here

Yeah, I don't understand
this shit either
At 05:30 UT this morning the Earth's axial tilt of the northern polar hemisphere was the farthest it's going to be from the sun this year. If I were a pagan, I'd be out doing my solstice dance celebrating the forthcoming lengthening of days and the hope for more warmth and rising trout. I'm not a pagan so I'll celebrate by wrapping up some work, heading to the UPS store and getting a few last minute presents.

The dream of rising trout is very premature unless you're willing to travel to the Southern Hemisphere where things are completely backwards opposite. But there's plenty of good winter fishing to be had as long as the stream flows remain relatively constant. Of course, it seems to consistently rain two days before any day off; the rivers have not accommodated my desire to fish for trout. Maybe the trout are complicit in this global warming thing. They seem to be winning; more water and less fishing.

My real hope for the post-solstice is that my psyche will begin to shift into a more positive place. The process of going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark certainly makes gloomy days gloomier. During the summer, when the hours are equally as long, I leave the office with at least the possibility of a fishing jaunt. I rarely get to wet a line but the possibility keeps hope alive. In the winter, hope sputters and fades in the long shadows cast upon the streams.

On a more positive note, I tattooed the new car last night. The old car had accumulated some personality over time including a collection of fishing related decals adorning the rear window. Most of those were irreplaceable. The new car just looked barren and I couldn't bear it any longer. Fortunately, the folks over at Boneyard Fly Gear and Bugslinger still have a nice selection to get me started.

I'm looking forward to the longer days. It won't be warmer anytime soon and the real snow is yet to come. But those winter shadows will shorten and additional sunlight will nurture the hope that in the not too distant future a Crocus will rise from the soil, peepers will sing, and Hendricksons will fly. It's all downhill from here.

I originally wanted the car in silver, but this color was all they had.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

ALERT: Special Christmas Present Opportunity (from you to me)

I'm sorry I didn't bring this special opportunity to your attention earlier, but I've been busy.

I know most of you haven't bought me a Christmas present yet. I'm sure it's just an oversight; I've got a few more to pick up myself.

To save you all the trouble and bother of the malls, I've found the ideal gift for you to leave under my tree.

Trout Run.

No, not that charming town in Pennsylvania but rather the faux Camp David located in Thurmond, Maryland. And it's only $9 million. If all my readers chip in and do their part, that's only $3 million each and if they tell a couple of friends, well, you could make me happy for a whole lot less on a per capita basis.

This property has everything I'd need to make me happy:

  • Gates to keep out folks who read my blog riffraff and poaching scum
  • A tired, old rustic looking house for me and my family and a limited number of you whom I actually like as long as you keep your visits short and ply me with extravagant gifts.
  • A bell which I'd ring in the early morning as a way to encourage hangers-on, dead beat relatives and riffraff who got past the gates to move to quieter places that aren't owned by me.
  • A shuffleboard court (or whatever you call the place shuffleboard is played). I've never been on a cruise and now I wouldn't have to go on one just to play shuffleboard. My kids could practice and get shuffleboard scholarships to elite universities.
  • "a two-mile trout stream running through the property" upon whose banks I could start a private club force feeding rainbow trout with trout chow and charging my personal friends upwards of $80,000 to catch them.... wait a minute, I think that's already been done.
  • Several small streams at which I'd hold small stream conclaves and invite all the small stream blogger brethren and sistren to so that we could fish and dance and sing and play other reindeer games.
Hold on, I just clicked on the realtor link and it says the property is no longer for sale.

One of you must have bought it!

For me!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

I can't wait until Christmas morning!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!*

*Regardless of whether you contributed to this wondrous and generous gift or not.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The loons, Henry, the loons.

A couple of months ago I posted an article on tin shot. It was a critically acclaimed piece that explored the nuances of various tin shot and while the follow-up "on stream" article was never published (and may never be) I'm hopeful that it'll get Pulitzer consideration this year.

Who knew?
Some thought I was crazy to stop using lead and if so it was in a "crazy like a fox three-toed orangutan trying to open pistachios" kind of way as opposed to, say, in a simply psychotic manner. It turns out I was way ahead of the mad rush for tin split shot. I got in early while the price was low.

The sovereign (yeah, it took me three attempts to spell that correctly) Commonwealth (just what the heck is a Commonwealth anyway (and, no, it's not a bunch of investment bankers grouped together to avoid taxes)?) of Massachusetts has banned lead sinkers and jigs (of less than one ounce, in freshwater) effective January 1.

Apparently it's cause the loons are dying from lead poisoning (and oil spills) and while I'm no fan of the trout eating vermin that are Loons I wish them no ill will either. So, Massachusetts is taking the lead (Or, the lead. Get it? The lead....t h e  l e a d. Oh, forget it.) on this subject.

I know that the alternatives to lead are not as effective but it would seem a small thing to have to add one or two additional split shot to your line to get the flies down and not have the loons or any other wildlife that might ingest it be harmed. I used tin shot up in Pulaski in November and seemed to do okay though I'll have to visit at least once more to declare tin shot expertise.

Anyhow, this is one more thing to noodle this winter as we dream of spring fishing. Swap out that lead for tin. The loons will appreciate it.

The Loons

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Quick Sips: Musky Man's Son Speaks & Steelhead Lore

A busy two weeks as winter begins to settle in here in the Northeast. The nightly temps have been well below freezing. I hope to tempt a few trout this weekend but am sure the water temps are stating to make the trout sluggish. Of course, the air temps are making me start to feel sluggish. A couple of quick items whilst you wait for more writing and adventures from yours truly.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Quick Sips: Friday Late Musky Edition

  • T.J. shares a wonderful story of early fishing with his Grandpa. Jonny called it a "bobby dazzler". I suppose that means "real good" in some language, just not necessarily ours. I agree with Jonny.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

In the morning

Last evening ended with that swirling, misty rain that does little more than fog your glasses and blow up under your umbrella making everything damp and nothing wet. This morning the rain was a little more earnest and I know the gauges on various rivers will start their climb putting the rivers in a condition that makes them less than inviting. With all the rain and gloom I'm replaying a couple of photos I took last week.

I got up early on Sunday morning, though not as early as most weekdays, and caught the sun just starting to do the things that it does most days when I'm otherwise distracted.

Sam and I spent some time fishing a local Brook Trout stream two weeks ago. I submitted an article to one of the online fishing magazines. If it doesn't get published I'll post the full story here. Below is one of the photos of the Brookies we caught. They're spunky little critters.

All around our area are little oases of ruraldom. They're generally old farms that have been given to conservation organizations. These are then turned into hiking trails and the like. One farm we visit a couple of times a year is surrounded by a bountiful harvest of housing developments. Marking the border between rural and suburban habitats is a lovely sampling of invasive plants.

Autumn or Russian Olive (or one of the Olives). Hardy opportunist.

Multiflora Rose. The blossoms are aromatic and lovely. Snuffs out natives.

Oriental Bittersweet. Pretty. It hangs on everything and chokes it to death.

Most of these came into the country as specimen plants for gardens. With few natural predators and lots of disturbed landscapes that provide fertile ground they've out competed native flora and now run rampant. Give some thought before you buy that pretty Asian plant at the nursery. It could be the next Bittersweet.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Heard on the River (by the pipeline)

"We don't know the source of this material. We don't know what it is," Gallagher said Monday night. "Our priorities are to protect the environment — whether it is our material or not — and to protect our workers. --- John Gallagher, Vice President for Refining, Suncor

Jerry scrapes the company logo in the the sand with a toe of his penny loafer . "He's a jerk.", he says to no one in particular.

Paul looks downstream to the bobbing white booms and the small army of wadered, life jacket wearing, workers. "You gotta admit it plays well on the news.", he takes a drag on a stub of a cigarette before flicking it into the river, "He's wrapped himself in the flag and has apple pie cooling on the window sill. It's good. Friggin' Suncor."

"Jerry didn't clear any of that crap he said this summer," Charlotte added defensively, "And if he had asked me we could have avoided a lot of the backlash from the press, from the tree huggers and ..."

Jerry cut her off mid sentence, "Bullshit, you'd of just come out with more of that 'We're monitoring the situation closely' crap! That's what you always push out the door. I'm on the tip of spear, it's my ass, and I can't help it if the fucking fishermen twist every word I say!"

Paul gave Charlotte a sharp look ending the debate. He turned back to the river bed, the coffer dam and the large hole being scraped in the cobble exposing a length of dark pipe.

"Listen, I want you guys on this thing like stink on shit. No one talks to the press unless it's cleared by Charlotte. Nobody. Jerry, if you see a television camera I want you to run in the other direction. Screw this up and they'll never find your bodies"

Charlotte and Jerry share a nervous glance.

"Pipelines are the life blood of this business. We've pissed off a lot of people in the past with our spills but we've managed to keep most of the crap out of the rivers. Post BP people are real sensitive about seeing oil on water. And the anglers are particularly vocal."

"There's a lot of money to be made scraping the tundra for oil sands. If folks start questioning the pipelines they'll start looking upstream and see the mess we're making in Canada. Then the house of cards begins to fall apart. And people will get crushed when that house falls. We've got to keep our house strong."

"Jerry", Paul said turning to the portly pipeline manager, "You've gotta get those propeller heads on top of pipeline maintenance. They get no extra budget but it's their asses if another drop of my oil fails to reach the refinery."

"Charlotte, reach out to HR. Let's get some sort of volunteer initiative going; start encouraging our employees to get involved with some of these angling and environmental groups. The next time this happens I want to see some of our guys on the other side of the story."

"I'll contact the PAC and Super PAC guys and see where we can apply some leverage. The last thing we need is additional regulation just cause we've had a few accidents in the past quarter."

He pauses and looks to the horizon.

"Oil keeps this country strong; keeps it independent. There's a whole way of life that depends on us getting this right. Sure we'll make mistakes but we've gotta rebound from those quickly and minimize the negatives." He turns back to his employees, "Keep pushing forward aggressively so our children can sleep safe at night but do it right. Protect our interests."

He gives Charlotte and Jerry that paternalistic look that is his hallmark; stern, yet gentle.

With a nod, Paul walks back to the waiting black Suburban. As he passes Jerry he gives him a reassuring pat on the shoulder.

Jerry looks down sheepishly and sees that the logo has filled with seeping water; a light rainbow sheen shimmers on its surface. He scrapes the sand smooth restoring it to its original state.

Note: This is a work of fiction and is not intended to portray any real situation or real company or real conversation that may or may not have taken place and any real or imagined oil spill. All the characters in this fiction are fictitious as is their dialogue and the clothes they are wearing. The Chevy Suburban is real and is a fine vehicle for transporting your fishing gear though this should not be construed as an endorsement of the Suburban or Chevrolets in general. Doesn't "Chevrolet" sound French? Perhaps it is. Also real is the quote that started this whole thing. Another real thing is the debacle that is oil sand mining. You should check out that National Geographic link.

Monday, November 28, 2011

One tree, two tree, three tree, four.

Route 111 joins my house with a beautiful little trout stream. Along the way it passes through forests and brown fields and all the trappings of suburbia and it crosses another small river that never seems to fish as well as it promises. Driving back Saturday evening from Brook Char water I began to see them. It's after Thanksgiving so I don't begrudge them their joy, but I still feel it's a bit too early to see Christmas trees on top of minivans and SUVs.

We have a one tree house; one real tree goes in the dining room. The other rooms can't accommodate a Christmas tree* without some piece of furniture being moved into some other space. And then the other space will be too damn crowded for humans. I suppose that's our own fault; we happen to like furniture.

We're not decorators. You won't find icicle lights on our eaves or a glowing Rudolph on our roof. The only decorations visible from the street are white window lights and a small fake tree out on the porch. We got that dwarf tree a decade ago when we arrived home from a trip on Christmas Eve and couldn't find a real tree anywhere. I bought that fake tree, fully decorated, from the window of a local shop. We put a garbage bag over it, put it in the trunk, and it made a fine home for presents the next morning. I've often thought of replacing that fake tree with a small real tree but that's just one more thing to buy and to care for and to dispose of after the holiday.

Saturday, while Sam and I drove back from the char stream on Route 111 we passed many vehicles driving home with conifers lashed to their roofs. Again, I have no problem with this as long as it's after turkey day.  I expect some folks likely have tree erection traditions that practically require the purchase of evergreen products within forty-eight hours of Tryptophan poisoning.

What surprised me was the frequency of vehicles with multiple trees. At first I suspected that they were picking trees up for a disabled relative or a recluse neighbor. Then I considered that perhaps, like me, they were replacing that small fake tree on their porch with a proper tree. But then I began to see vehicles with three, and even four, trees.


How many trees does one need to slay in order to properly celebrate the birth of Christ?

And then it struck me.

If one purchased a 6,000 square foot house mansion inferiority complex on a half acre of property with a sub-prime mortgage funded by taxpayers you have plenty of room in which to put more than one tree. And owning such a behemoth you probably aren't giving too much thought to conservation or any of that other drivel.

Consumption has gotten out of hand. I had hoped that the global economic crisis and unemployment and a general good look in the mirror might have caused one or more of us to decide that more of everything wasn't the goal of our existence. That maybe we'd give some thought to how we got here, what it means for our future, and how we might do things differently. But that's just Pollyanna bullshit. Consumption is King baby.

I'm sticking with one tree.

* At least of the "correct" proportions.

Monday, November 21, 2011

There are some who call me....Tim.

A few years ago, a kindly group of investment bankers, high-net worth individuals and consultants willing to help*, persuaded some neighbors in New Hampshire to take relatively paltry sums to give their land over to industrial wind turbines**. Many signed up. Rumor had it that they were getting up to $6,000 per year which is a nice supplement to income, especially in this rural town. Of course, flatlanders such as myself were against the whole idea.

I share with my brothers a small cottage built by my great uncle back in the 50s. It's on a small pond that fishes poorly but we don't go up there to see industrial power stations, we go for the whole nature thing. Fortunately our house faces west and the turbines are up to the north.

New Hampshire is a live-free-or-die kind of place. Our town has no zoning cause folks want to be able to paint their house pink (a statement made at a town hall meeting) or put a half-dozen broken down school buses in there front lawn if they want without have to worry if their neighbors don't like that. I admire their pioneer spirit (sarcasm intended).

Of course, one wonders what the town will do in a couple dozen years. The tax benefits for wind will expire. The turbines will become derelict. The Limited Liability Corporations established to manage the towers will declare bankruptcy (if they ever had any assets to begin with). And, the town and its six hundred residents will be left to wonder how such a furry little bunny could be such a powerhouse of destruction and ruin.

This past weekend there was a fine article in the New York Times about the experience that a small burg in Pennsylvania has had with the whole fracking thing. As anglers, we've been concerned about the long term impact on fisheries but most of these folks were dealing with issues like putting food on the table, paying property taxes and putting their kids through school. Having a well on your property was like winning the lottery.

Of course, the lottery in Amwell Township includes inexplicable illness, dead animals and a pile of money and pollution. Fortunately, all the studies that the drillers have done point no blame at the drillers. I'm glad the regulatory agencies are on top of this (there's that sarcasm again, sorry).

Be sure to check out the video in the article. I especially like the image twenty four seconds in. I'm sure that milky white liquid that's flowing directly into a river is harmless***.

Beware of cute little bunnies bearing gifts. That crazy guy with the horns on his head is usually correct. Just look at the bones of past mining and drilling endeavors. At best that gift'll turn into a rusty pile of scrap metal. At worst, you'll lose your head. And that of your children. And your dogs. And pigs. And llamas.****

And now, for something completely different.

* Before you send money to your utility company for green energy, check to see if their green energy partner actually owns any green energy power plants. My gut tells me if you counted up all the kilowatts of green energy sold each year to consumers you would find it's more than the total green energy produced. And that "extra" money (along with most of the rest) is a payment directly to some rich investor.
** Some folks call these windmills. Technically, a correct statement, though charming dutch wind mills they're not. And they are a beautiful from an industrial design perspective with a heavy emphasis on the word industrial.
*** I promise, that's my last sarcastic remark.
**** More like humor (such as it is), not sarcasm.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's Dawn

Though The Almanac would disagree, it's dawn.
Fully an hour before that sage would announce it
The lesser blue on the horizon
Visible through the bare trees
Is measure enough
for me.

The air is solid on the truck window
Though the winter devil is not so close
That a brief touch of warmth
Dispels its touch; clear vision
for what is ahead.

To the north, six lamps ,
bobble down a cut in the wood
with hushed curses.
Tip tops tangle
And roots grasp
Cleated boots
Downhill, river bound

Shadows stomp and pace
At the inside of the bend.
Lights are now out.
The forge is lit
Bellows build the fire
The hammer, the tongs, the switch
of our trade, of our passion,
Leaded and run deep,
To work the Steel.

With a keen vision
That old eyes haven't known
Since the days of our wee youth
We see, feel, sense,
In the cool, gray light
The minor tug of unseen lips
On a morsel of deception.

A line zips through the water.
No war cry, but maybe a grunt,
Perhaps a quiet recognition,
Of what we've all been waiting for.
Heads turn in unison to the sound
All hearts beating a few steps quicker.
Reel in, with urging and envious eyes,
Step back, give room,
willing the fight to be a good one.

And it is.

No log to be beached
But a bright, shiny, nickel-
plated demon with the strength
Of its namesake
It runs
It runs
And so does the smith
Reeling, praying, cursing
It runs.

And it is over.
Ambushed on the beach
By a Scotsman and his kerchief.

The records books will not record
This Steel
But it is real and solid
And satisfying to the smith and his peers
In ways that confound words
And emotions and everything. 
But that look in the eyes and 
the murmured accolades
A handshake, the recognition
That satisfy almost as much
As this Steel.

The smile, the outward joy
Expressed during
The trip's first days
Is gone.
Tired, haunted eyes
Dull expressions from days of casting
Satisfied. Content.
Ready for another go.
And another,
After that.

Steel is at hand.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I am not a Steelheader

I am not a Steelheader

I have been to the river. I have stood and cast the thousand casts with the repetitive determination of one who knows that his time will come.

I have hooked fish. I have seen fish hooked. I have watched nickel-bright slabs cartwheel and surge and scream about the river. I have brought the Steel to hand.

And yet I did not leave the river with regret. I did not spend the ride home plotting the next trip. I am not fully distracted in my daily activities by the replaying of Steelhead moments on an endless loop in the screening room of my brain. I have no plans to return to the river.

I am not a Steelheader.

And yet I find myself still tying flies like these. What can it mean?

Steel Stone

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Bugs Life

Big Trout Food or Small Lobster?
There are bugs that scare the crap out of me. Sure there's that super large beetle that grasped onto my leg when I was fourteen and living for a summer in Montgomery, Alabama, but that's not the kind I'm talking about. Nor am I talking about some rare African stinging bug that can paralyze an elephant. I'm talking about trout food; scary as hell trout food.

Each year my chapter of Trout Unlimited samples a couple of streams in our area in support of the DEEP's* Rapid Bioassessment in Wadeable Streams & Rivers by Volunteer Monitors program or RBV** for short. The purpose of the RBV program is to monitor water quality (a key indicator of overall stream health) by sampling what sort of bugs live in the stream. Each type of bug is categorized as most desirable, moderately desirable or least desirable based upon the relative frequency that such bugs are found in high quality, moderate quality or low quality water. The better the bug life, the healthier the stream. And our trout friends, especially the natives, like high quality water.
Sam sorting

The bugs in the high quality waters are generally the stoneflies and a couple of different types of mayflies. Stoneflies are the Brook Trout of the macroinvertebrate world; they need clear, cold, well oxygenated water to live. Midges are the Bluegills; any sort of environment will do with a preference for warmer, still waters with muddy bottoms. Just the sort of place that would kill a Brook Trout. So, better bugs equals better water, and hopefully, more trout.

Some of these bugs scare the crap out of me. Sure the midges are harmless enough and the crayfish look like small lobsters so even though they pinch my hand when I pick them up they go into the "generally harmless" category. But have you ever seen a dobson fly? Well it's larva is no less terrifying. And they can pinch you like nobodies business. A pinch from a small lobster, no problem. A pinch from something that looks like it came straight out of the waiting room in the Men in Black spaceport, that's just freaky. And Large Black Stoneflies, those dudes just look like they've had a bad day and are out to mess with someone.

And just in case you think those ropy caddis fly larvae are harmless, I submit Exhibit 1: Bug Condo and Exhibit 2: Condo Carnage. Exhibit One appears to show a peaceful community of tiny, harmless bugs living in their condos; living and playing happily together. But one of those caddis flies is a voracious predator. Put him in a bin with anyone else and soon all you'll have left is nymph parts and a yellow goo swirling in the water. No need to call CSI, the guy who did it is the guy who isn't chewed into pieces.

Exhibit 1: Bug Condo
Exhibit 2: Condo Carnage

I love bringing the boys to do this work. In addition to the hard life lessons about condo living they get a whole new perspective on the things that link us to everything else. We like to fish. The fish need the bugs. The bugs need clean water. The water doesn't stay clean unless runoff is controlled. Anything you put on your lawn, put in the storm drain, or that leaks from your car eventually makes it to where the bugs live and the trout eat. It's all connected. It's all important.

For your viewing pleasure: I took a series of 2,000 pictures*** while Sam and I sampled a local small stream. This shows you how it's done.

One Minute RBV from Sipping Emergers on Vimeo.

* Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Or is it Department of Environment and Energy Protection? Who knows. But some genius in state government thought that putting energy and environment into a single organization made a lot of sense from a budget perspective. Probably for a lot of other reasons too.
** Thankfully the state has a law that limits acronyms to only three characters. Otherwise, the program would be called RBiWSRbVM.
*** Actually, the GoPro camera took the pictures, but I pressed the button to get it all started.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Salmon River Photos

I've got some words to write about the trip to the Salmon River, but for now I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Up Early


Warming Day

Frosty One

Bob with a fish on; hooked about 100 yards upstream.

A King that was far livelier that one would expect.

I never saw this one but he left his mark.

I was able to get my fly back off a snag after a King ran me around the pool for five minutes.

First fish.

Big Fish. Happy Bob (well, that's his happy look)

Much happiness on the Salmon River

Jon working the water hard.

Bill's actually happier than he looks. It's the nasty headcold that's holding back the joy.

Another shot of that Steelie I caught.

It really wasn't as crowded as it looks. Okay, it was.

Fish on!

Nah, Steve's not happy, he always looks that way.

Steelhead at first light

Quick Sips: CFR Fund Raising + Quilts

  • Casting for Recovery's fund raising online auction ends tomorrow. Go over and check it out! Bid early. Bid often.
  • Quilting. I know, friggin' quilting. What the hell does it have to do with fly fishing? I found Susan Damon Balch's website while rambling around the sites of folks who donated to the CFR auction. She quilts, but she quilts some amazing aquatic and fly fishing stuff. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Back to work with Steel on the brain

After three days at Pulaski, I'm back at work. Fishing for Steelhead is clearly better than doing email.

It was my first time fishing for Ontario Steelhead though one could argue that my casting lesson in March was fishing though that would be quibbling and you know how I hate quibbling.

I managed to hook sixteen. I saw about a half dozen of those, most of which were Steelhead, but I also had a five minute fight with an elderly yet feisty King. He tangled me in a stump. That was the one fish I regretted not getting in; at least I got my fly back.

More thoughts soon.

My first (and only) Steelhead

Friday, November 4, 2011

Phriday Philosophy

This week has been a philosophical one on the blogosphere. The topics of ethics and the "why?" of our sport are nettlesome ones. At 50,000 feet they're so general that it's hard to get to the essence of the issue without some pretty deep and ripe thinking. You've really got to turn this stuff around and stare at it for a while. And even when you finally put pen to paper it's more often than not just your current thinking versus some final, universal insight on the subject.

And when you get to ground level on the issues, often there's so much emotion wrapped up in practices and traditions that it all devolves into a shouting match and you go and get banned from a discussion forum just for talking about it.

Tom edged up to the philosophy topic when he took on the "Why do we fish?" question in an excellent blog post on Tuesday. I gave my most recent answer in a comment to his article (which I've pasted below) but Tom summed it up best and simplest; go give it a read.
Why Steve Fly Fishes
It’s one of those “what is the sound of one hand clapping” sort of things. When we discover it we know it’s there but you can’t describe it; it’s only through experience that you discover the soundless sound of the stream and the fish and everything around it.
Crap, I think I just went metaphysical and zennish. I need a cocktail.
Erin started off the week coming at the topic directly. In her On Ethics post on Mysteries Internal she came at the issue from the point of view of fishing over spawning fish. She covered not only her research on the topic, but, as always, her thoughts and emotions and internal machinations as she turned over the issue. Erin, as always, gives us plenty to chew on and I've got some things to think about with regards to my fall fishing practices.

She also linked to an excellent post by Jay Zimmerman who discusses a "ground level" issue of bead pegging. If you read Jay's work and the comments you'll see how going from the 5,000 foot level to ground level triggers the emotional, slightly irrational, side of things. My take on Jay's post is below; I like facts, not emotion. Of course, the facts support my world view so that's why I like them so much.
Steve on Pegging
A fly, by legal definition in the Great State of Connecticut, is a "single or double hook dressed with hair, feathers....". A bare hook is not a fly. So let's not kid ourselves about a bare hook being a fly. That's just BS. And if you're not using a fly, you're certainly not fly fishing.
I don't care what kind of fly you use, natural or synthetic, bug or egg, I'm not going to tell you how to fly fish.
I also don't care if you're dunking worms, shiners or triple-jointed, treble-hooked Rapalas, that's still angling. I do it from time to time. It's good fun.
But if you're trying to trick a fish into getting close to a bare hook so you can foul hook it, well, that's not angling. In Connecticut we have a legal definition for intentionally foul hooking fish, it's called snagging.
Put the bead on the hook and we'll have no problems.

And finally, T.J. Brayshaw, in classic fashion, came at the issue head on in his post Verboten! Thoughts on ethics and fishing.... Fair warning, it's a tome. But it's worth reading and rereading to make sure you get it. And by getting it, I mean that you understand it enough so that you can go off and mull it for some time. Heavy stuff, with some quality references to work both practical, scientific and philosophical on the subject of the ethics of fishing, not fishing, and vegetarianism.

I'm very practical on the subject. Ours is a blood sport. If you're not comfortable with that statement, you're delusional. Some of us, myself included, mostly catch and release and by doing so look to do the least harm possible to our quarry. But I've accidently snagged fish, eye-hooked two that I can recall (those ones haunt me a bit), and likely killed a few fish that I didn't intend to in the process.

I'm not proud of those events nor am I shamed by them. They are what they are. I accept them as a reality of my pursuit which is a thing I pursue for reasons I can't put words to but need to do very much. It's part of what makes me, me. It's part of what makes me human. And it's part of what makes me like so many of you, so much. We approach our sport with thoughtfulness and passion, with a sense for how it fits into the greater scheme of our lives, and we try to express it in words that are a delight to read and which stimulate our love for all that our sport entails.

At the end of the day, perhaps Tom summed it all up best, we fish:
"Because we like it and we don’t break any laws doing it."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Where'd these Goons come from?

Quick nap mid-day. The lodge was basic but covered
the basics-- shower, bed, food, a place to store the scotch
In the United States, the edges of civilization are far more civilized that edges that can be found elsewhere. However, you can still travel to places that have enough cultural disorientation to make a small adventure seem bigger. I think most of the Mississippi is like this. And certainly the Southwest portion of Alaska promised cultural enhancement to what would otherwise have been simply an amazing thing.

Prior to the Alaska trip, I had not been to a lodge or fish camp. The place where we were going was clearly on the fish camp end of the lodge scale and about four miles upstream from one of those quintessential lodges. Of course, our place ran about one third the cost of the fancy place, and while room and board compromises were made, we fished the same waters.

Why we're all here. A small rainbow trout.
I'm sure the clientele downstream differed from ours as well. About thirty folks filled the ten rooms at our lodge and was a mix of retirees, small business owners, and working stiffs out for an adventure. In my experience when you assemble any random group of humans the prevailing mode is to mesh; to seek some way of coexisting. And when you tie them together with a common interest, say, fishing for large Rainbow Trout, you create a common thread of experience that makes the meshing much easier.

This group meshed pretty easily. Nobody in this crowd was putting on airs and for the most part I sat each evening with one or another of the parties and it was easy to fit in.

Except for the goons.

Tony called them the goons. It was the perfect moniker. Three guys, all shy of thirty seasons, who right from the beginning went out of their way to be apart. At first I attributed this to the awkwardness that comes from trying to leap the age gap. The next youngest guys in the room were probably close to twice their age and maybe they didn't appear to have the social graces to make that leap. But by the second day it was clear that they saw the gap and didn't deem it worth leaping.

It's as if someone built a 1950s roadside motel in the tundra. Who would sit at those tables? The bugs
would eat you alive!
They bitched about the rooms, the food, and practically anything else that could be bitched about. They drank heavily, apparently smoked dope on the boat and openly belittled and made fun of folks sitting around the room with them. And they saved special venom for their guide; poor bastard. I had to agree with Tony, these guys were goons.

I've found goons in all aspects of my life and you probably have too. Some of these goons have to be confronted, their affront to the established order is just too great, but most have to be ignored. They live in a small world and not only is it difficult to bust in their door, it's not worth it. There's nothing to find or to improve or to rationalize with, it's simply a void.

These goons were ostracized by the group and eventually they got the hint and chartered a plane and left. Sometimes social remedies are the best ones.

With the goons gone a cloud was removed from the public life of the lodge. The evening gathering of the clan lost its edge. Meals were easier. "Big Fish" stories were more enjoyable and there seemed to be a relative abundance of camaraderie in the room.  To paraphrase my best buddy Ross, living life well is both the best revenge and reward.

Live well.

Out back. A bedroom faced the front and a bedroom faced
the back with a bathroom in between.

Dirrrty flies for dirty business

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Quick Sips: Fire in the Hole & the Stone Age

The White Salmon free at last
(photo from White Salmon Restored)
  • A fantastic wicked cool video of the Condit Dam removal; better vantage point, higher quality and some awesome time lapse footage. I love watching this thing go off as much for the pure joy of blowing shit up as for the restoration of the flows for this stream. Let's blow up more dams!
  • The town said they hope to have all the streets clear by noon on Wednesday. Apparently that's when the bulk of the power restoration begins. Since we're off on the fringes of town on the wrong side of the tracks (though we would argue differently) my guess it's gonna be some time. Praise the Lord and pass the fuel can.

Monday, October 31, 2011

What a crap ass weekend

Getting ready for the storm on Saturday, I headed off to the hardware store just as the snow was starting so I could get some supplies for an oil change on the generator. While I was there the storm just opened up. By the time I was coming back down the hill to the house there were two inches of slushy snow on the road.

I had actually fantasized about fishing this weekend. Sure we were getting a freak winter storm but it's friggin' October, how bad could it be? Maybe a quick trip before the storm or a trip Sunday afternoon after the snow melts. I was a bit concerned that the snow melt would cool the water and put the fish down, but I wasn't there exclusively for the fish but also for some time on the river. I was delusional.

Unfortunately, the hill got the best of me.

Regardless my creeping pace, gravity took over and provided Sam and I with a thrilling ride to an abrupt stop where the road turns. We're both fine. The car will need some attention. The wrecker should be dragging it out of the woods this morning.

One more thing to add to the pile.

We received about eight to ten inches of heavy wet snow and listened all night as the trees snapped and crackled and thudded to the ground. Some of those breaks sounded like automatic weapons fire followed by a crisp snap and a thud. Others went off like small explosions with the same terminal result.

No power is likely for days though the aforementioned generator is purring away providing some semblance of normalcy. We went for more gasoline last night and swung into the Mobil station. I wondered if they were open. The lights were on but there was only one car at the pumps. They only had high octane gas available but we weren't particular; we gladly paid the extra thirty cents a gallon. By the time we stopped pumping our ten gallons, every bay was full and there were a dozen cars in line waiting to fuel up. Timing is everything. At least we've got enough gasoline to get us through the next day, possibly two.

With the generator, at least there's heat and water and some of the other amenities. Internet service provided by the cell phone was spotty yesterday but seems to be functioning normally today. The neighborhood looked like a war zone yesterday but most of the blasted trees have been moved aside so at least the roads are passable.

Steelheading next weekend. Looking forward to it.

I guess this is what insurance is for.