Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Like many folks, I usually fish alone. Normally, I fish by chance. After work. After chores are done. Or when I'm inspired by a particularly splendid day. The spur of the moment decision usually precludes the alignment with other's plans and, truth be told, I rather enjoy the solitude.

My buddy Ross is much better at looking ahead. He puts together great parties and is the consummate host. His natural talents in the area are likely reinforced by his training in logistics. Or perhaps it's the other way around.

Last week while he was traveling on business he heard the call of the salt and declared a weekend jaunt to fish for whatever it was that might be biting. It was an inspired idea. I grew up in a seaside community but haven't fished the ocean often during the past few decades. Every time I get back to the ocean, I wonder what took me so long. The ocean's light and smells and textures are distantly familiar in the same way that walking into a old Victorian home and breathing deeply the smell of miles of polished wood surfaces recalls the places where my mom's parents lived. The nostalgia is a powerful narcotic.

To properly prepare we consulted tidal charts, considered the movements of bait and predators and developed a plan. Of course the main challenge in all that is where are the fish. I had heard some reports of fishing in certain places but when you're taking along three children and spouses, the list of places that are both accessible and palatable narrows the options. We needed someplace where there was a hope of fish but that didn't resemble a combination of a landfill and a hobo village (we all know of where I'm speaking).

The shore near a certain river seemed like a logical choice. There were flats and channels that would provide some options should we want to call an audible and move. There was also a nearby state park that had some additional features. And there was plenty for the non-fisherpersons to do whilst the piscators practiced their arts.

Maintaining a respectful distance from squirming eels
Ross made sure there was plenty of squid, bunker and eels to go around. He also brought the big guns; spinning rods up to the task of chucking large bait. True to form, he brought only enough rods for others and made sure the kids were set-up and out on the water.

Ross checking the skirmish line
I got in some casting practice with my eight weight switch rod. At the tail of last winter I got out once for some casting practice amongst the uncooperative Steelhead. If I was going to have any hope of using this gun on a trip to Alaska later this year I needed to use it a bit more than once every couple of months.

I learned a bunch. First, casting a T-11 sinking head on a switch line is a pain in the ass and almost not worth the trouble. A Skagit head works a whole lot better with a sinking head. Second, taking off the sinking head makes this a beauty of a single handed rod (again with the switch line). I can even imagine casting large dries or a nymph rig without looking like a complete neophyte. And finally, sometimes the best time to fish isn't necessarily the time you can fish. Especially in the salt.

No fish came out to play, but all was not lost. For three hours on a Sunday afternoon two boys and a girl tromped through the mud of a salt flat, dissected bait, and stood staring out into the blue yonder contemplating things in only the way one can when presented with the vastness of the ocean. And I got to watch my children begin to experience that inexplicable thing that draws me to places like this.

Did I mention how glorious the day was? No? Well, it was glorious!

Low Tide

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Smashing Flies on the Surface

I love seeing those slow motion video shots of trout taking mayflies off the surface. The folks over at Orvis News recently posted two videos that have some pretty awesome video footage of trout on the surface.

The music on the first one is just awful. I don't know what they're thinking. Perhaps T.J. and E.J. can help with soundtrack.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Military Training? Not likely. Think Bassmaster.

Not only are explosives good for conservation, but they're also good for fishing. Apparently someone without any professional fishing experience thinks that the rifle grenade found in Old Hickory Lake (or Ole Hick'ry Lake as it's known locally, Marc can check my pronunciation) was left over from World War Two training. That's feasible if one believes in Tinkerbell and the Tooth Fairy. The reality is far more obvious and practical.

If you're fishing in a Bass fishing tournament you can use your lures and such. You could even use firearms and explosives as long as no one catches you. But if you really want to be competitive, you need to cover the water. Fast Bass boat plus ranged, explosive weaponry and you're in position to be on the leader board (cause that's the point of fishing, to catch more, bigger fish than the other guy).

I think the obvious course of action is to poll recent tournament fishers to see who owns an M1 Garand. That's the guy who left this UXO behind.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

What's next, seat belt laws?

If you fish a river of any size this time of year you have to contend with all manner of floating humans - kayakers, canoeists, tubers, and I've even seen inflatable mattresses go by. I've been rammed by a canoe and heard all manner of horror stories. Some boaters are competent. Many barely so. And some are complete boobs. And precious few wear PFDs. I've seen empty boats go floating by and wondered how their occupants are faring. Out west, where the rivers are bigger and the snow pack melt makes them particularly unforgiving this time of year one can only wonder how many folks Darwin takes out on average.1

Be forewarned, that socialist extremists in the State of Washington think you should be denied your god given right to drown in raging torrents of water. They're requiring folks to wear something that might in fact save their lives. Cries of "big government" and "PFDs make me look fat"2 and "You can have my tube when you pry if from my cold, dead hands"3 rang about the council hall.

What's next, seat belt laws?

Fortunately there's an exemption for wading fisher persons and skin divers.4

1 - On average, three per year according to the article.
2 - I made this up.
3 - I made this up too.
4 - Skin divers wearing PFDs. That's funny.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Quick Sips: Vignettes Edition

Sitting in my office. Zipping down the highway on the long commute home. In those quiet moments that happen each day despite the chaos of life, I find a couple of images of last weekend's fishing swirling in my brain. They're details that didn't make it into the fishing report and perhaps they should have.
  • Unhooked: The first fish that I brought to the net was a fat Brown, maybe fourteen inches. A respectable fish though not particularly memorable except for how he came to the net. The trout fought better than its size with plenty of surging back and forth and pulling a bit of line. It was all that you'd like from the experience. The trout's head is up and I'm dragging him across the surface trying to net him as quickly as possible. I was using a new net and couldn't get it unhooked. At the same time I turn to look at the net's clasp, the trout surges. The tension on the rod releases and then jerks heavily. Now the fish is coming towards me tail first. Apparently he shook the hook and then his tail met the dropper. Foul hooked or do I get credit for the first half of the fight?
  • Please, God, not the eye!: I'm not squeamish about our sport. It's a blood sport and I get that we sometimes cause some damage to our quarry (and ourselves). Acceptable and understood. Ideally you keep the ones that won't make it and put 'em on the grill. When the large Rainbow was close to the net it looked like I had hooked the fish square in the eye. The Wooley Bugger was angled from his cheek across to his eye. When he was in the net close inspection revealed he was hooked in the upper jaw and the shank just ran back across his eye. It would have been a shame if things were otherwise as I was in a C&R section of the river and this trout deserved to fight another day (and hopefully make little trout). Phew!
  • Wait a minute....: I spend much of my time fishing small streams for small gems. When I return to the rivers and connect to a big fish it can be a surreal experience. For example, I was about a minute into the fight with the Brown and I realized that I hadn't seem my strike indicator since the fight began. In fact I was not to see it for another few minutes. Not only was it not on the surface, it's not even visible below the surface. Fully three feet of leader and another foot of fly line have disappeared into the murk. It's these little things that make you smile and laugh that giddy laugh when you're doing what you love and the trout have come out to play.
  • Dying Day -- The walk downstream to the car was at a brisk pace. Good fishing gives you a lightness that makes the going easier. It was also one of those rare moments where I hadn't squeezed the last bit of daylight out of the trip. I could actually see the rough path and the obstacles in my way. As I walked, I was torn as to whether I should check some dry fly water for rises or turn south towards home. I got as far as the car door before I made the call to head back to the water.

    Sitting on the bank I was close enough to the riffle to hear its music but not so close that the noise crowded out other thoughts. The air was still and at that perfect temperature and dewyness where you could just feel it lightly touching your skin. I thought to roll down my sleeves against the impending evening but instead enjoyed just a few more moments of its embrace.

    Upstream the river took a shallow turn and framed a piece of northern sky. In that frame, horsetail wisps of gray and purple cloud caught the sideways glow of the sun setting well below the hill's horizon. A Catbird worked its way towards me along the river's edge picking at what foods the river had brought. I sat perfectly still waiting to see how close he got to me before he figured out I was there. Three feet is the answer. The clouds were now more pinkish and orange. There must be quite a sunset somewhere out there beyond the hill

    A few fish rose out in the long, slow pool. Sporadic and splashy in the black water. Caddis, maybe. Lots of bugs in the air but not too many of any one kind. It's that mixed bag that makes it difficult to figure out just what the fish are on. Maybe they're confused too which is why they're not rising with any regularity. Shortly, I noticed against the deep blue of a sky on the verge of darkness a swarm of large mayflies. It's the swarm that tells you a spinner fall could happen but they're too high and too disorganized for anything to be imminent.

    It's now too dark to actually see the rises out in the water. You can just make out the silvery edging of the small rings as they catch the last embers of light. My cigar is almost done. The road home to family and life and everything else is ahead of me. I tuck away these memories to savor later and move on.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Quick Sips: Sweepstakes Edition

  • TU and the Outdoor Blogger Network announced the winners of their blogging contest yesterday. Some great writers there who you should check out. Yours truly ended up with nary a mention but I am magnanimous in my defeat and wholly devoid of bitter thoughts. By the way, I've misplaced my voodoo doll catalog. If you've seen it, shoot me an email.
  • You can help Save Bristol Bay by winning a trip to Bristol Bay. I'm fishing the Kvichak River in August. Look forward to seeing this beautiful part of the world (and catching a few fish). Don't forget to sign up by June 30th.
  • The folks over at continue their Memories on the Water contest. This contest requires you to submit a video via their Facebook page. This contest ends on July 1. The prizes here include a fantastic trip for your whole family to a choice of places. I'd chose Yellowstone.
  • Kirk and the team at continue their coloring contest for a whole host of great fly fishing gear specifically focused on kids. If you have kids or grand kids or friends with kids or have ever seen a child in need of fishing gear, get them to enter this one. Enter by midnight on June 30th

Monday, June 20, 2011

Phather's Day Phishing Phollowup with Photos

Missing a few legs = Trout Chow
If you've fished long enough you've got a few spots in mind that, if pressed, you could go to immediately and catch fish with some level of certainty. You may even have a spot where you could go and catch a specific species, say a favorite Brook Trout stream. If you're very lucky, you've ferreted out a spot or two where hogs hold. Until yesterday, I hadn't found such a spot.

I've fished the Farmington River twice this year. It's a great river upon which I cut my fly fishing teeth. The fish are finicky enough to be a challenge but not so much that you never catch anything. And once you figure out where they are, they're pretty consistently in those places. They're just not always willing to come out and play.

There are two sections that I fish regularly, I refer to them as the upper section and the lower section. The lower section is down a long dirt road that gets you well away from civilization and onto some of the prettiest water on the river. It suited my mood and I had my eye on a specific piece of water that I've wanted to fish for some time.

I worked the normal runs and pools quickly casting to the likely spots and moving on. I had a fish on early but set the hook late -- as in, "Hey where did my strike indicator go?", pause, "I hate it when a fly gets stuck on something", pause, "Oh, there it is shaking hard against a tight line!" SET THE HOOK, that kinda late -- and he shook off pretty quickly when I finally got my act together.

Like most well fished streams, there's a path that runs along the bank of the river. The further you get from the parking lot the narrower and more overgrown the path becomes. Like most situations, you can find solitude and less shy fish beyond where the path ends. So that's where I was going.

Well past the end of the path there's a sweet little run that I've fished before. I've never seen anyone in that run. That said, there's usually fish there. Rarely on the surface, but to a well drifted nymph of the appropriate size, shape and color one can often tempt a trout.

Below this run is a deep, fast riffle. Deeper hard against the far bank but fairly deep across its expanse. Often I see someone in it. Usually with a guide. At the end of that riffle the river takes a sharp turn and beside that riffle is a large eddy. Again, with someone in it more often than not. Usually with a bent rod.

I fished the run first and got one fat Brown on a Caddis pupa. I had to contend with a pretty good tube and kayak hatch but they generally figured out they should be going where I'm not fishing.

Until these two idiots in a small, grey dinghy showed up.

You could hear the music well before they came into view and they weren't going to do anything but drift along right through the primary lane in the run. I asked that they drift to one side. In the words of the more erudite gentleman, "It's too late in the day to be moving the boat". We exchanged a few words and they drifted into oblivion. I wish them both a life of mediocrity and disappointment.

With the run spoiled for a bit I went off and fished down a shallow side channel that was fun to explore but was utterly fishless. At least to me.

The little guy who started it all.
Which brings me to the hole at the end of the deep, dark riffle. I started with a nymph rig and on the first cast got a six inch Brown. It was a bit confusing as I saw an eighteen inch fish in the water but the rod was bent like I had a six inch fish. This is about the time my brain switched on and I realized the big fish was chasing the little fish. With the little fish back in the river I quickly switched to big fish food and went back to work.

My only picture of the 'bow. He made a rapid exit when
I tried for a better picture. Lovely.
Dead-drifted, Black Wooley Bugger. Four fish on. Big bend in the rod each time. Two to the net. The first the prettiest Rainbow I've ever seen -- spectacular fine spots all along his body -- and the second a meaty twenty-one inch brown.

Now I know why folks come here.

With the light waning, I headed downstream to a popular pool to check the dry fly action. There was a mixed bag hatch of mayflies and caddis coming off and no regular rises. A father and son were prospecting without luck. A spinner fall appeared to be in the offing but no time soon from the look of it. I sat down and finished a cigar and watched the sun set.

Perfect weather. Perfect fishing.

Another look at the Brown. I had to fold him almost
in half to fit in the net. Sweet!

Phather's Day Phishing

Quick report, more to follow later.

Received a nice Brodin landing net for Father's Day so, of course, I had to get out and test it. It works as designed.

Farmington River Brown Trout

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Just upstream from a former Brook Trout stream

Winter Sand
I'm getting some yard work done this morning. The town hasn't been by yet to collect this past winter's sand from the road so I'm doing it just to make sure the storm drains stay open.

I took this wheelbarrow full of sand just from the apron of my driveway. It was all destined for a small stream down the hill which does double duty for all our runoff.

That stream has no trout in it. Long ago ornamental ponds damned dammed it up and it now runs warm through the summer months.

I can't help but think how things might be different if a few small dams were eliminated, we did a better job of managing storm water runoff and maybe we cleaned up after ourselves a bit more.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Green Fluffy Stuff

If you're of modest means and hope to retire sometime before your bones turn to dust you should be very cautious about getting involved in the art and mad science that is fly tying. My inventory of fly tying materials is VERY modest but is already so deep that I'm certain I have at least two of a few things. One can't help but forget purchases of both obtuse and common materials and then go purchase another of the same.

Too much dubbing?
I have too much dubbing. I've got Superfine for dries, two collections of Antron for nymphs and my most favoritest collection -- 12 colors of Ice Dub. I also have three different colors of Sulphur dubbing in small packets as well as myriad other odds and ends including Red Fox Squirrel which I absolutely needed at the time but I'd have to go to Google to find out what its actually for. Update: The Red Fox Squirrel nymph as is turns out.

If there is a mad scientist of fly tying, it's Keith Barton of He's constantly tinkering with dubbing turning the kitchen sink is various colors from dying experiments and seeking better, more effective materials for those of us infected with the tying sickness.

Earlier this year he announced his own line of dubbing, Free Range Dubbing. I read the post and ordered none. As I've said above, I have enough dubbing.

Old school "recyclable" label
Then I read a review on some website and was intrigued in only the way a fly tyer can be intrigued about a combination of animal and synthetic substances that will make a fly so irresistible to a trout. I plunked down nine bucks for a few of the colors, mostly green ones. Green is a color that seems to be a winner in most places and I've been looking for a good caddis green in particular cause the other three Caddis greens I have just don't seem right.

A package arrived in short order and contained not only the colors that I ordered but some samples of other colors. I love surprises. Especially surprises that involve more fly tying stuff.

The material is pretty cool. Keith describes it in cigar terms: binder-filler-wrapper. What it looks like is some guard hairs coupled with some fluffier stuff (must be the filler) and a hint of sparkle. After a couple of years majoring on antron dubbings I found this stuff very easy to work with. While it certainly doesn't leap onto the thread (a claim Keith specifically doesn't make) it is easy to work with as long as you've got some dubbing skills and don't use too much.

It's very buggy on the fly. The guard hairs sometimes see a bit too buggy but if that's the case just trim them a bit. I don't know what the filler is but it lays down very nice. Just the right amount of buggyness without being unruly.

I was a bit disappointed about the level of flash. I like materials that have some sparkle and while there were tendrils of sparkly something-or-other in the material I would double whats in this recipe. That may just be personal preference as my theory is that every fly needs some flash.

Buggy on the fly
Fish catchin' Caddis
Of course, the proof is in the catching. Last night I made a quick trip to a local stream. There's this one pool that I can get fish out of any day of the year. Mostly fish there are in the 4-6 inch range. These are wild Browns. Last night I managed the largest fish I've ever taken out of that particular spot. All of ten inches and very spunky. Was it the Free Range? I don't know about that but it certainly was a fly I tied with Free Range.

Took the Green Caddis, Love those
 red spots. The picture in
the net really shows them off.

Note: This is just me writing about some stuff that I like. I don't do product endorsements (not that anyone has asked me to do so). And Mr. Barton didn't put me up to this.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Missing Quote Attribution

Several Gierach books ago (which is a couple of years ago), I read a quote that went something like "Well, we said we were going to go fishing and we did." and was referencing a fishless day. I think it was attributed to A.K. Best but I've not been interested enough to actually go back and reread the books just to find the quote. Maybe someday I will. It's a few words that sum up many a day on the water.

There was another one that went "The best time to go fishing is when you can" and was a similar mystery of attribution.

Until this evening.

No Shortage of Good Days. Page 114, at the top.

Ed Zern.

If any of you can cite the A.K. Best quote, that would be helpful.

Big Two Hearted Drivel

The first of two essays.
During the seven years since I've taken up this sport I have at times read about or participated in discussions where Hemingway's essay Big Two Hearted River has come up. Often it is in reverential tones that made me wonder what mysteries were plumbed or revealed in this text. I must admit that I've nodded knowingly even though these essays (yes, there are two of them) were not part of my reading past.

So whilst on vacation in Asheville I picked up a copy of the Hemingway essay tome and read the essays (yes, there are two of them) and when I got to the end I was left wondering what I had just read.

My Cliff Notes (or as the kids today say, SparkNotes) version: A guy got off a train, hiked through the woods, pitched a camp and did some fishing near a campfire.

Is that it?

Now I readily admit I have not reread these essays (ibid) to seek the deeper meaning but that's only because the first pass didn't give me any of the common sign posts of deeper meaning.

Several weeks ago while sitting around a campfire sampling the fruits of the highlands I stated clearly my lack of revelation after reading these essays (ibid) and was pleased to hear that I was not alone.

So, have I just created fly fishing heresy or is everyone else just as clueless about the apparent meaning of these essays?


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I attract rain clouds

It's official. When I go to a big river, a dark cloud follows me. I'm not speaking metaphorically here. It's an actual, dark cloud. Full of Rain. Which drops on my head.

Let's review the facts:
  1. Trip to the Housy two weeks ago. Tremendous volumes of rain.
  2. Trip to the Farmy on Saturday evening. Tremendous volumes of rain.
Looks like a trend. Hopefully, one that won't long survive.

Short story on fishing this past weekend: Rain, higher water, low visibility, slow fishing.

I didn't really want to fish the Farmington but I sort of felt obligated in some way. I hadn't been up there all year as the Housatonic was getting my big river attention. Perhaps it's because of this one particular pool on the Housy that I've sorta fallen for and which treats me well each visit. Fishing elsewhere just doesn't feel right. But the Farmy is a beautiful stream and the fishing reports have been good so I decided to give it a try.

I rarely get to fish when I want to, but instead fish when I can (yeah, I've used this excuse before). Saturday clearly wasn't ideal from a weather or mojo perspective (more excuses) but the chores were done and the family indulged me.

There were few folks on the river. That's a sure sign that either they've all been raptured (who am I kidding, they're fisherpeople, they'd sell their souls just for more time on the water) or they knew better than I that the evening conditions looked grim.

The two guys in the parking lot ahead of me walked down to the river without their rain gear. I chuckled to myself. Are they looking at the same sky as me? Threatening is an understatement. I wouldn't have blamed a guy for taking a tornado shelter down to the stream with him. As I arrived at the water's edge and pulled up my hood against the torrent, they reeled in and headed in the opposite direction. Which left more water for me.

The water in this section usually has some bumps and pockets but Saturday evening it was smooth and flowing slickly between the banks. I didn't get a reading on the USGS site before I left, it wouldn't have deterred me, but my guess was somewhere north of 800 cfs on a section that fishes well at about half that (see how I worked in yet another excuse). And the water was coming up. And visibility was right around a foot and a half. (Two more. Masterful!)

That meant nymphing and hitting the banks and shelves pretty hard.

With an Arturo Fuente well lit I went to work. The fishing was non-existent for the first hour so I worked quickly up the run working the likely seams, structure and even banging a few to the bank behind me. By the time I got to the fishiest water near the head of this run the only piscatorial accomplishment I had made was finding a pod of Salmon parr likely stocked by taxpayers. From a fishing perspective, they're a nuisance species in this water but all have to be released unharmed. And so they were. Those bazillions spent on parr stocking would be a whole lot more effective if they removed a few of the dams.

I skipped up to the run above the next riffle after a few drifts through the fast water. Above I managed two Browns in the less than a foot range pretty quickly. Both came to a BH Rubber-Legged Hare's Ear. As I moved to fish a seam up near the head of the pool the rain shifted from torrent to biblical.

Now my spidey sense hasn't tingled this much since I found that Sasquatch print and I could just imagine lightning and tornadoes hiding in a rain squall such as this. So me and my portable lightning rod made for the bank and sat for a bit waiting for the deluge to subside.

Half an hour and a few sips of highland nectar later the rain eased back down a torrential level. So I went back to work.

I decided to swing wets working back downstream to the car. Swinging wets has a nice tempo to it and it's easy fishing. I had a few follows and one where I begged the fish to strike but they were just toying with me. I even tried adding a second wet fly to the rig in hopes of enticing more interest but all I ended up with were some tangles.

By the time I got to the path to the car the rain had waned a bit but the skies were darkening with the passing of the day and it was time to go. I would have liked another tug on the line but there was enough fish in the fishing that I didn't feel cheated. At least not too much.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A niche within a niche

It struck me the other day as I was reading a discussion about the fly fishing industry that it is clearly a niche business. Fishing with something other than a fly rod is the 800 pound gorilla of the sport of fishing.

Then within that group is the niche of fly fisherman who read fly fishing blogs (all of you)

And within that group are those that write blogs (me, some of you, maybe many of you)

Out of the seven billion folks on the planet how many is that in total?

A very small number.

Thanks to all of you who stop by each time I decide to write a bit.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Conservation and The Bestest Trip Ever!

The organization
to which I belong
and volunteer!
The folks at Trout Unlimited and Outdoor Blogging Network have sponsored a program this coming summer where they're going to drag four bloggers out into the back country of Montana for some fishing and writing and photography and videography and all the other stuff that fly fishing bloggers do.(1)

In order to score an invite to this shindig, a unicorn will look deeply into the souls of all interested writers and chose four that are purest of thought and intent.(2) I kid. In fact, one has to write about their favorite trout fishing trip and also write a bit about why "you think coldwater trout and salmon habitat deserves to be protected and restored."

First, the latter question. I came late to the cold water conservation game. I took up fly fishing almost seven years ago thanks to a 40th birthday present from my buddy Ross and Orvis' fly fishing school. I took to this new sport with zeal. Prompted by the folks at Orvis, I joined TU and have been an active member of my local TU Chapter(3)

A combo backpack/vest
I own (5)
I probably should have been a trout fisherman all my life. The places where trout live have such a strong appeal to me. Well before I took to angling, running water called to me. Often, I would find myself stopped on a bridge peering down into a stream wondering what lurked below. And the rise of trout on the mirrored surface of a New Hampshire pond late on a summer evening is an iconic image of my time spent in the Granite State.

I have a pragmatic, holistic view on cold water conservation. As a carbon-based life form, I know that better water on the surface leads to better water in our aquifers and, thus, coming out the faucet. As a human being, cold water conservation makes a lot of sense because all those things we do to improve water quality often lead to improving other things -- lower reliance upon carbon fuels, less mountain top removal mining, fewer pollutants running out of hard rock mines, etc. And, finally, as an angler cold water provides habitat to my most favorite of chars, my most favorite of all fish, the Brook Trout. So, in short, cold water = good.

Now to a fishing tale(4).

I'm going to retell a portion of a tale that I told late last summer. It was my all time favorite trip, especially the afternoon session where my wife, two boys and I hiked back into a canyon to fish for Cutthroat. I sought a Cutthroat for much the same reason that I love the Brookie. It's the native species of the area and it struggles to make its way in a world full of invasive Brookies, Browns, and Rainbows.

We had started the day on the Madison and Gallatin. The fishing wasn't very good but we did manage enough tugs on the line to keep things interesting. I caught the other big native, the Rocky Mountain Whitefish, several times but still needed a Cutthroat.

I had mentioned to our guide, Travis, earlier in the day that my goal was to catch a Cutthroat Trout. He mentioned that the waters we would be fishing wouldn't likely be Cutthroat water. However, he did know a small stream that might yield a Cutthroat but it would be a hike. The family agreed that it would be a fun adventure so we left the Gallatin behind and set out to this new stream.

The creek, let's call it Cutty Creek, crossed the road in several places but the spot that he felt would give us the highest likelihood of catching a cutty was well off the beaten path where the stream took a long detour into a deep canyon.

To get to the canyon we hiked about a quarter mile across a field and forest to an abandoned roadbed that you couldn't see from the main road. The forest in this area had clearly burned at some point in the past decade or so. Not only were there plenty of fallen trees to scramble over but the dense thicket of saplings was surely hiding rabid grizzly bears ready to strike.

One thing I've never heard from a guide was a briefing on bears. The particular creek we were fishing was located in the Grizzly Bear Management Area. Fortunately, we didn't have an encounter with a bear but Ann and Travis were both carrying the large pepper sprays that are allegedly effective when faced with bear trouble (6).

An abandoned roadbed made the walk in bit easier as we climbed and then followed the ridge above the canyon. Once we were well into the canyon we scrambled down the canyon wall to the floor. The trip down the steep slope was challenging but the entire clan handled it without major injury.

I fished at the first set of pools and managed a couple of small Rainbows and my first CutBow -- a Rainbow Cutthroat hybrid. The fish came to either a Royal Wulff dry or the dropper below -- I switched between a small prince and a zug bug. They seemed to work equally well.

I also managed a few wild Rainbows in this stretch from six inches to about eight inches. All beautiful fish who slashed at the flies with abandon.

Cutbow Water
We climbed above the waterfall in the picture above and bushwhacked our way through some pretty tough willows and deadfalls. We worked a bunch of pools including one where I managed a rainbow and Chris managed a Cutbow to the net. Sam fished the same pool and managed to get a fish on but it shook the hook.

We continued to work upstream at times wading along the banks, at times scrambling over deadfalls and at times seeking any path through the canyon's maze.

Ann streamside
Sam, Chris and Travis preparing to fish
A wild Rainbow
Reminders of the forces that shape the landscape
Scrambling uphill to find a way through
And back down when the way is blocked

Chris' Cutbow
Streamside Fishin' Family Foto. There's that
great backpack/vest again! (5)
A representative deadfall
Sam leading the way down one scramble
As we progressed towards the upstream end of the canyon I fished every likely run and pool. The water here was at a fairly steep gradient so it was more pocket water than anything else. I got a few slashes and one fish on but nothing came to the net.

Towards the end of the day we came upon a most spectacular pool. Long, deep and moving just fast enough to keep the trout from getting too good a look at the fly. The family halted streamside so I could get a few casts on the pool before we marched through. The first drift I got a hard strike on the bushy Royal Wulff fly and landed an eight inch Cutthroat. Mission accomplished!

Finally, a Cutthroat
We ended the day working our way out of the upstream end of the canyon and across a large willow field through which the creek meandered. All told, we probably covered about a mile and a half but the up and down, crawling-around certainly made if feel longer.

It was a great day of fishing and it was a special treat to have the family along. I was especially satisfied with the boys getting into fish and being outdoors seeing why I love this sport and the places it takes me. Who knows, maybe some of it will rub off.

The upstream end of the canyon

1. Which means they'll be lots of scandalous stuff like fishing lies and discussion about the relative merits of Singlebarbed Nymph Dubbing vs all others. What happens in Lima, Montana stays in Lima, Montana.
2. I really have no idea what the criteria are (or if TU has any unicorns) but they're probably looking for someone who has decent writing skills, a Family Membership in TU, who sits on the board of directors of their local chapter and is the Youth Education Coordinator for said chapter and rather enjoys fishing related adventure (e.g. me). Oh, and stunning good looks too (for which I have no proof).
3. See footnote two, above. Especially all that volunteer stuff for TU!
4. Finally.
5. Ideal for hiking and fishing the backcountry in Montana
6. I will spare you a retelling of the peppery beer crap w/bells joke.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Local Waters -- The Movie!

Last weekend I spent some time with the camera I got from on one of my favorite small streams trying to capture what it is about these streams that I like so much. I've had a small stream essay rolling around in my head for a bit and thought it might be a good opportunity to both get this thing out onto paper (metaphorically speaking) and show a unique type of fishing to the folks who visit

Well, this was more of a challenge than I originally thought. First, video taping yourself can be a frustrating. Especially when you find out that the Pentax Optio's video is nowhere near HD quality. This was Survivorman-like taping and I have some great shots where I'm only half on the screen. Artistic, but not the thing I was going for. I eventually figured it out and fortune smiled on me when Ann joined me later in the day to help with the camera work.

Once the video taping was done it was quite a trick to get it all edited together and then dub over the essay. The TakeMeFishing rules limit video submissions to ninety seconds and it's only when you try to read something that you realize how short a period of time ninety seconds really is. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite and then edit, edit, edit.

Finally, ninety-seconds of material.

I'll leave it to you to tell me if it's any good.

I'll eventually write the longer form of the essay. While the video version scratched the itch, there's more than ninety seconds of tape sitting on my mental cutting room floor.

Thank you for your support.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


So I'm fishing this past weekend on a small stream near the house and I see the print below in the sand along a particularly sweet piece of water.

So immediately I think "What the heck is that?" And then, "Probably a critter with large teeth!" And then I look over my shoulder and scan the area but I'm good cause my spidey-sense isn't tingling.

With my experience at wilderness fauna identification being limited to distinguishing cats from dogs* I use the Google but it's just as dumb as I am on this subject. So, I search out experts on mammal identification** and find such over at a popular fly fishing site.

Now all the usual crackpots and intertube trolls will say things like "You made that up!" or "It's three deer prints on top of each other. You can clearly see the dew claws!". I have had to suffer such nonsense and worse.

But one particular clear thinker on provided the proper identification - the Eastern Three-toed Sasquatch. Now, that's a pretty bold statement*** cause we all know that the Eastern Three-toed Sasquatch has been so cross-bread with the west coast strain that it's nearly impossible to tell the difference.

But this alert reader had divined the stream that I was upon and, even more amazingly, the exact run. And, he knows that on this particular river,which is mostly riffle, run, small pocket rinse-and-repeat sort of water, this run is the only place with the right mixture of water velocity and features to be good centerpinning**** water.

AND, Eastern Three-toed Sasquatch are known centerpinners****. They've got the long arms that makes mending and using those rods so effective.

So, mystery solved. Watch your backs out there. Stick to the pockets. There's Sasquatch on the water.

* I'm a dog person. Everything else is a cat.
** Cause we all know that despite the three, aggressively shaped claws is not the reptilian Chupacabra cause that's more of a southern species.
*** And a stupid one if not for the information in the next paragraph.
**** Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Quick Sips

  • There's a great article on the Northern Woodlands website regarding small stream restoration in northern New Hampshire. My favorite line in the article is "The water had a smooth, muscular look where it pitched over a log and passed a deep refuge." Well written and informative about the history of logging in the area and the impact on streams and trout habitat. Thx to BrkTrt for finding it and posting over on
  • Those folks over at are running a video contest (you need to be on Facebook to enter) as part of their National Fishing and Boating Week. Maximum length 90 seconds. Grand Prize: 4 trips to chose from, I'd chose the one to Yellowstone. Good fishing thereabouts. I'm going to enter something in the next day or so. I'll post it here as well when I do.
  • Speaking of videos, this one would likely win the contest however the contest is only open to citizens of the U.S. (lawyers....and likely tax law too....).  I first saw this over on the Singlebarbed blog. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

"They're" watching!

I went fishing last weekend so I've got some things to report, state, and ramble about. But I'm working on a short video project now and trying to earn a living and putting the finishing touches on some home improvement work so I haven't had time to post. Back to the regular schedule of rambling posts later this week.

What I do have time for is a non-fishing rant.

I'm used to going to websites and seeing advertisements tailored to the subject matter on the website. Go to a sports site see sports ads. Go to a fishing website, see fishing ads. It makes sense.

And then I started to see ads that were geographic specific. For example, one for "Connecticut Driver's Insurance" but figured they just knew that the IP address for my server was in CT.... though now that I think of it I'm currently sitting in New York. So how to "they" know where I live.

They're watching
Now it's gotten a whole lot more big brotherish. I can't escape the Orvis ads. They're on many websites I visit that are wholly unconnected to fishing. And this morning, I'm on a fishing site and I see an ad for Stubhub with tickets for upcoming Red Sox games. I was another site over the weekend buying tickets for a Red Sox game. So now "they" know that I'm a Red Sox fan and am interested in tickets.

I'm not a bleeding heart liberal and don't think our privacy laws should be as restrictive as those in Europe but it does seem that "someone" is collecting a whole lot of information about me. I get that I've probably given "someone" a whole lot of info about myself via Facebook and other venues. But this advertising thing seems a bit more insidious. Who are they? What do they know? And will they use this info for anything other than hawking wares?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Dam Busting

How to deal with the dams on the Pootatuck River
As Tom pointed out over on Trout Underground, the Elwha Dam on the Elwha River is being removed to help restore native Salmon runs. Great news for the future of this fishery and certainly a blueprint to follow up and down the Pacific Coast. Similar progress is being made on the Penobscot River in Maine.

While I'm all for dam removal our current methods are far too mundane to garner much interest beyond conservationists. Who can get behind dam removal if it's done with a jackhammer and a backhoe? Without broad support for dam removal, it's gonna be a generation before we make much progress.

If we really want to get the public excited about the notion of dam removal we need to take our cues from 4th of July celebrations. There's nothing that flag-waving, red-blooded American's like more than seeing something blown up.* Get a large volume of explosives, mix with some patriotic song, add flyovers of military aircraft and you've got the recipe for broad based support for Dam Busting. We could make it quite the event with live HD telecasts, bleachers, box seats and, of course, peanuts, popcorn and beer. I see a real economic development and entertainment opportunity here.

Perhaps I should call Spielberg to see if he wants to put on a show. Actually, this sounds like something FOX might carry.

* Well, the ONLY thing they like more is blowing something up themselves.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Quick Sips

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Bonfire

I approached the bonfire along a narrow, hardened track that led to a clearing.

A rising shower of sparks exploded as a shadowed figure tossed logs onto the fire. The blaze was already of inspired size and yet the fire stoker chucked dried Red Oak into the pit like John Henry hammering a railway spike. The heat of the pyre was so great that it took me a moment to realize the person was not alone but there was another figure seated well away from its glow.

As I approached, the seated figure asked if I had heard the banjo playing on the wind. I told him I had not but thought the notion romantic and wished I had. It was then I noticed a third figure seated with a banjo case at his side.

I was offered a plate which contained the requisite meat and starch items and had a tall beer. The talk was of fishing, but not directly. We spoke of fishing writers, mostly. Several points were well discussed. Firstly, the Toms. East coast and west coast both getting a favorable nod, one for his blog and the other his podcast.

The discussion then turned more directly to fishing stories and fishing lies. We spoke of recent poor fishing for Stripers and Carp. We shared our "top five" species though most of the time was spent arguing about the criteria versus the ranking itself. Favorite to look at? Favorite to catch? Favorite because of its essential nature? Regardless, Brook Trout was my number one followed by Rainbows, Browns and Bluegills. Beyond that it's all the same though I do think the brutish Bluefish has some charm.

We then turned about whether a popular writer, some might say fly fishing's most popular writer, pronounced his name with a hard "k" sound at the end, a "sh" sound, or a more European "ah". My opinion was the hard "k". I recall hearing someone who seemed in the know pronouncing it that way. Regardless, as the banjo player said, we thought all three of them wrote particularly well (though there was some debate as to exactly how well).

Soon the banjo player had picked up his banjo and commenced to picking. I'm not sure of the song and maybe he wasn't either but it seemed to go quite well with the fire, the talk of sport and general feeling of camaraderie. Soon the first figure brought out a guitar and some scotch and the tunes were woven both together and singularly adding a sweet soundtrack as the fire was stoked and restoked.

As the drink took its effect the music became more inspired and then erratic. As it swerved hard towards erratic, first the banjo and then the guitar were retired and another round of Speyside was poured and consumed and poured again.

It was unavoidable that we again spoke of writers and one in particular was rated middling at best and well below that by the greatest skeptic. In order for the clan to fairly opine on the subject, a volume of his writing was produced and we passed the book in turn for readings of random passages so that we could determine once and for all the quality of his pen. Inspired both by his pen and our drink, we howled as wild children at the theatrically read passages. And by the end, we agreed none were inspired by the writings.

And the book was tossed in the fire.

With the drink well down, the conversation became a rambling mixture of  poorly conceived ideas and  random thoughts uttered in jumbled messes of syllables and primordial sounds. The banjo player called for more stories of the water but none were proffered and the mood turned quiet. The fire issued muted snaps and cracks and the sounds of the night woods filled the long blank spaces in conversation leaving each to his own thoughts.

The fire was now a fraction of its former might and the wood pile was a barren patch of dirt. Dissatisfied with the state of the bonfire the banjo player and the fire stoker discussed the merits and wisdom of procuring large chunks of a nearby felled tree. The opportunity for feats of strength coupled with the strong drink renewed the energy level of the group and they went off for more fuel.

They returned rolling a large round of wood to the fire's edge. There was some discussion along the way about the wisdom of burning the full round, whether it would burn at all, and how exactly a hundred pounds or so of wood would make its way over the stone lip of the pit. Assurances were made and accepted and with relative ease the banjo player and the fire stoker thumped the log onto the large, glowing pile of coals.

We had long ago passed into the wee hours of the morning. The night had become still and damp. Occasional rain spattered in the tree tops. The conversation came in low, short threads. The coals made slow work of the round.

With the spirit of the gathered clan waning I took leave of this good company, tucked away my memories of the evening and returned to where I had started.