Monday, August 29, 2011

The Cow

I'm incommunicado in the deep woods of Alaska. I've scheduled this little vignette from my trip as you await further word as to my status and the quality of the fishing.

Morning over the Chugach
One of my most memorable moments of my prior life in Alaska was walking across a large open field during a cold winter’s night, probably during the winter of 1984. I had fallen into an eclectic group that like most population samples in the 49th state included precious few who were actually from Alaska. Jim Black, my closest friend while there, was native and native born but the rest, like me, were vagabonds from elsewhere.

Martha and her “old man” owned a pawn shop down the road from where I worked. I can’t remember her old man’s name, let’s call him Cliff, but these two were self-styled hippies from California. Cliff talked a lot about the music festivals of the 60s and 70s and Martha boasted of Haight roots. Cliff was clearly old enough to have been there and done that but Martha seemed to be younger though she wore the years uneasily on her large frame. 

There was always a gathering at Martha’s. The front rooms of this ancient house were filled with showcases of their stagnant pawn business and the back room and second floor of the ancient house were where they lived and entertained. The doors were always open and a winterized back porch was where everyone generally gathered. There always seemed to by a half dozen or so folks wandering about enjoying the subdued carnival atmosphere.

On this particular night I left Martha’s late. I was in between cars at this point so I walked most places. My usual route back to the house led me across a large field where I hopped a chain link fence that bordered the New Seward Highway. I crossed its empty lanes, then over another fence and then a short walk through the woods to home.

This particular winter the snow wasn’t too bad and the air not too cold. Living in Alaska, one redefines one’s expectations of winter weather but in general Anchorage has relatively mild winters and this particular winter my trek across the field wasn’t hampered by more than a foot or so of snow.

I don’t know what got me to looking up as I crossed the field but when I did I noticed the most spectacular show of Northern Lights. I was so enthralled that I eventually craned my neck so far back that I fell over backwards. Fortunately the snow and a bit of Wild Turkey cushioned the fall.  I spent enough time laying there admiring the show that cool snow melt seeped into my jeans and got me up and moving again.

The Fence
There was a low spot in the chain link fence that was my normal crossing point. The fence was bordered by a low hedge of birch and willow and as I approached the fence something ran along the fence line in between the shrubs and the fence. I couldn’t make out the form but the size was large enough to rattle the chain links vigorously. About ten yards to my left a small moose emerged from the willow and stared at me. I was relieved. At least it wasn’t a wolf or a bear.

Like most woodland creatures the spawn of these awkward, ugly beasts are quite cute. So, your first thought is “Awe, ain’t that cute”. Your second thought, like mine, is usually interrupted by the appearance of a rather perturbed cow. In this case, she appeared out of the willows to my right. I looked left, looked right, and made a bee line for the fence. No doubt my performance that evening would have qualified me for the high jump at the Olympics. I don’t know if the mother made a move for me or not; I didn’t look back. I kept moving till I got to the far lanes of the highway.

I drove by where the pawn shop used to be on Friday. At some point during the past quarter century our dear friends at Walmart came along and plopped one of their megastores on the site of Martha’s place. The field is now full of a Sports Authority and a Sam’s Club. It wasn’t surprising. We’re constantly creating and recreating our environment just as we are ourselves. Those were good times. I wouldn’t go back for anything.


Pretty Yellow Flowers

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Marketing is everything

While Macallan eventually earned my dollars I almost pulled the trigger on this one. 

Dang, I have to fly in the new plane!

Flying old school.  I had hopes to fly on the DC-3 but we've been places on the King Air. Dang!

Friday, August 26, 2011


Familiar Ground

That's today's yesterday's itinerary. Onward to Igiugig on Saturday

By the time you read this I'll be asleep four hours behind yesterday. I've not been looking forward to this trip in the same way that I did the Yosemite trip. Unlike the well planned trip to the Valley, it's one of those "trips of a lifetime" that came my way serendipitously. My vision of an Alaska trip was to one of the big name lodges with the family and a few friends. Definitely sometime in the distant future. But I got an invite to a lesser lodge with two guys on the TU board and in the moment it added up and I threw my hat in with them.

I am very excited to be heading out to the back country once again. This is not my first trip to Alaska but back then I didn't fish. At least not seriously. Quite an error on my part. I'm returning to check out my old stomping grounds and to correct that previous error. I also want to check out the lands that these Pebble Miners want to scour. And, of course, I'm looking forward to catching a few bright, large Rainbows. And maybe a Salmon or two.

I've been searching for a lost watch for a week. Maybe longer. It's my fishing watch. It bears the logo of my favorite rod manufacturer. Overpriced. Waterproof. Part of the gear that makes up the mojo.
That stupid watch's absence was a bit of a cloud over this trip; glad I found it. I left the replacement Timex at home. Ann was right. Buy the Timex, find the other watch. I thought it a good omen to have found it in the hours just before the trip started.

The TU hat that bears the distinctive brown smear of many a summer's day's sweat dried around the band has some mojo too. It's wrinkled, soiled and bent with many memories of good fishing, thorough skunkings and everything in between. It's also home to a #8  Bugmeister that I saved from my first trip to the Deerfield. Big dries cast hard against the banks brought some nice Browns to hand that day. That hat rarely hangs on the hook by the back door. It's in the checked baggage below my feet. They better not lose the damn thing.

It's the new stuff on this trip that raises doubts. Two relatively new rods and their accompanying reels that I've only cast a few times and neither of which has helped bring a fish to hand. New fishing partners. A new guide. A new lodge. Lot's of new stuff. I suppose all this new stuff is how new adventures germinate and in which the fodder for good stories are found. Old stuff as a foundation; new structure on top.

Tomorrow, well, actually later today, I'll drive around Anchorage. See what I've missed over the past quarter century. See what news things there are to spur adventure.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Crazy Swedes

If you haven't run into the frontsidefly guys yet you're likely one of those folks who actually fish more than you surf the web. Not me. I'm willing to invest in quality web surfing on your behalf.

They're a bunch of energetic, hooting and howling, fly fishing Swedes who may seem a little loopy and have an affinity for video.

Their videos always feature someone fishing energetically and, when a fish is hooked, hooting like a deranged Swede. Though, truth be told the behavior is so strange I thought they were Norwegian.

Like you, I saw them featured in an article in the thisisfly this month. If you thought the article was a bit strange, wait till you see the video. The folks over on OrvisNews shared the video below last Friday.

The Mayfly god - (frontsidefly and this is fly) from Rolf Nylinder on Vimeo.

Full Disclosure: I'm at least 25% Swede. The rest is purebred Italian-by-marriage, Irish, and Latvian mongrel.

Monday, August 22, 2011

T.J. Brayshaw speaks on Sun Protection

T.J. Brayshaw again demonstrates that his passion and commitment to the sport extends far beyond Carp, Steelhead and Stripers. Check out his advice on Sun Protection.

Friday, August 19, 2011

What is up with North Dakota?

In my quest to rule the universe become as successful fly fishing blogger garner any attention at all for my ramblings I occasionally consult the Great Google (you have to put it in caps or you risk offending the Great Google) for reports on my minions readers. It turns out there's a good number of you that I dupe attract on a regular basis especially from those hotspots of fly fishing that include Connecticut, New York, California (Tom and Keith click a lot), Massachusetts, Colorado and Ohio (one very active reader).

Yet North Dakotans balk at visiting this moderately mediocre website font of fly fishing erudition.

What's up with North Dakota? Even folks from Wyoming, with a far smaller population than North Dakota, have come here in error have jumped on board the Sipping Emergers bandwagon.

Only North Dakota can resist!
So, today I am going to seek out a North Dakotan to visit this site. Am I going to do it by publishing material that is of particular interest to those in the upper Dakota? No! Am I going to do it by asking one of you to phone a friend? No!

I'm going to do it through subterfuge! I'm going to find some blog that features North Dakota kittens or knitting or something like that and post a comment. One of those folks is sure to click on my link and I will have conquered the whole of this Union!

Conan! What is best in life?

The boys and I watched the original Conan last night. A classic.

Tomorrow a new Conan movie arrives. It's like remaking Caddyshack. There's no way it will compare favorably. I don't know why they bother.

The answer: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Quick Sips: Climate Change & Stupid

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

When I am mad

When dementia finally sets in I hope I get a good video loop. My wife's grandfather got endless replays of the crappiest parts of the First World War. I want Paris in the Winter of 1992, the births of Chris and Sam, first words, first steps, holding hands, hugs, and good friends during good times. And, I want a replay of a small brown trout rising slowly to inspect a hopper much too big for him to tackle.

This past weekend the boys and I went camping in Trout Town U.S.A. The purpose of the trip was not to fish but we did camp along a pretty piece of water that just screamed "trout live here". Being one of the most storied waters in Catskill troutdom it would no doubt contain those trout.

The camping was spectacular. Just long enough in duration to get you out in the woods without making it feel like you were being punished. Just far enough away from cell phone service and electricity that we were literally unplugged. Instead of being glued to the latest electronic gadget the boys worked on fire building skills, tent raising and honing the time honored craft of sitting around BSing.

I got away to fish for an hour or so each day. Friday I headed upstream fishing all the likely slots that ran along the shaded far bank. Not so much as a glance. I spoke with Kerry, a younger fly fisherman from Queens, NY, and he had similar results the prior day. I suppose that late in the season a stretch of water along a campground is bound to be fished pretty heavily but I had at least hoped for a Dace or a Crayfish or a tadpole. Nothing doin'.

Our campsite was down by one of the trails that fisherman use to get to some of the better water. All manner of fishing gear passed by the next morning including what looked to be a bamboo fly rod with a sizeable pyramid of lead attached. I guess it takes all kinds. It was nice to see a fair number of kids, mostly boys, came down with their spinning rods hoping to get some luck. My boys were not interested, which was surprising. It may have been the weather, the lack of sleep or sunspots. Who knows.

We had brought along a new board game to play and as rain threatened all day it was determined we would play in the tent. But, we needed a table. So we went into town and found what may be the last small town department store in existence. I thought Walmart had killed them all off but here was an honest to god five-and-dime sorta place that I recall from my youth. They had everything from shotguns to homemade fudge and enough camping gear that we had a selection of tables.

We also stopped by the Beaverkill Anlger to further inject life into the local economy. Looking to further my boy's education I engaged in some "fly shop BSing". I spoke with Evan, the shop owner, about the economics of the fly shop business. It's a trade that during good times is one of passion more than financial reward and it has turned south during this great economic malaise. Now it's just about weathering the storm until we all are confident enough in our financial situation to start buying stuff again.

Back at camp we assembled the table that lacked directions and defied logic. Fortunately, three male brains were able to discern the mechanism after about thirty minutes. I have always maintained that our eight person tent is just perfect for three, four in a squeeze, and that proved to hold true even when you move your table and chairs indoors. The gaming went off well and even when the heavens dumped on us for hours we remained dry and content.

Just before the rain, we took a break from the game and I fished the good water downstream. I was fishing a large hopper and a caddis dropper. I managed a couple of tugs on the line early on but they were either so small that I shook them off or larger and they shook themselves off. There was one particularly violent strike and tug that will be tucked away in the "Damn, I woulda liked to see that fish" file.

In a piece of fast water between two boulders I saw that Brown Trout I referenced earlier. On the first pass, he rose out of the gloom and slowly finned backward inspecting the hopper. It's hard to tell exactly how big a fish is from a distance but this eight inch fish was eyeing a size 6 hopper. Definitely an optimist. He settled back into his holding position.

On the second pass, he did the same but just as I would have expected him to return to his rock he spun downstream and gave the hopper's leg a tug. Quickly realizing his error, he scooted back into the depths. So often in our sport the first sign of a trout is a dip in an indicator or splash on the surface. But the thing itself remains hidden. In those long moments when they do reveal themselves it plays out in slow motion. I almost forget my purpose and am transfixed when I see trout doing what they do.

Now I too am an optimist so I swapped out the large hopper for a size 14 Usual. I cast upstream a few times but the fly was landing in the wrong lane so I quickly cast again. On the third or fourth cast the fly was where I thought it needed to be so I let is slide past the first boulder skimming past the slack water behind it. The trout did not even hesitate. No inspection. No moody nibble. Just a full splashy take.

As the rain starting dappling the streamside cobble the trout came to hand. He looked to be a stocked fish given the condition of one of his fins though the others look full and bright. Plenty of spunk that belied his eight or so inches.

Sunday morning the heavens gave us a four hour respite from the rain. We got the requisite fire started and made a hearty camp breakfast. While we remained relatively dry during the night and morning, our gear was drenched. That makes striking camp a miserable affair. Sand and dirt sticks to everything and you just get used to being damp, damp, damp.

If not for the rain, I could have gone for another night in the woods. Being disconnected in our ever more connected life is a blessing. Sure, you could go somewhere and fake it. Turn off the cell phone. Disconnect the wifi. Ignore those around you who are Androiding and iPhoning. But it's not the same.

Being somewhere out there where the biggest luxury is a flush toilet a hundred yards down the road and all the screens have gone dark and nothing rings but the sound of a maul striking the butt of an axe. That's something we all need more of.

Monday, August 15, 2011

You can't make this crap up

I know most of you probably read Chandler's stuff but just in case you don't his latest report includes five of the following seven items: Catching Brook Trout. A death-defying, temporarily crippling fall. A topless woman. A Wonder Rod. An overheated, trout scaring Wonderdog. Wayne Eng out fishing Tom. A doggie gone thru the drive thru window.

Guess which five then read this post. Then this one.

I don't know how he does it. In fact, I'm not even sure what exactly it is that he does.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Quick Sip: Tom's Maine report

  • A delightful report of Smallmouth fishing in Maine.

    This is one of those places that I kick myself for not going to and experiencing. Six to eight hours in a car and I could be deep in the heart of Maine's backwoods. Must add this to next summer's list.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fishing done. Jon and I each managed another Brown on dries and fished till full dark.
A full moon began to peek over the lip of the valley and I briefly toyed with fishing downstream in a large pool but the road beckoned.
On the way out we spoke with a guy who was mousing. That sounds like a lot of work with a 7 wt but apparently can be very productive for large trout.
Of course, we're already looking forward to Steelhead runs at Pulaski. Jon and I knocked around some dates in November. Now all we need to do is book some lodgings.
What a great sport!
Black Stonefly worked to get three on the line but none to the net. ugh! Switching to dries to see if we get a hatch.

Stonefly! Saw a bunch in the air too!

Considering plan B
Don joined us and I saw a bent rod downstream a short while ago. I just put a Brown in the net on a Lightning Bug.

Jonny on the water. Tried a hole that had been good before but struck out. Working downstream through the fast water to find our fish. 
A little live blogging action (at least until i get bored with it). On the road to the Farmington to meet Jon. Beautiful day to be on the water. Looking forward to his Mill River report.

My Favorite Meeting

The afternoon off! Gonna fish with Jon & Don.

I think I'll bring my rain jacket

It looks like things are cooling off in Igiugig and the rainy season is starting.

"Where the hell is Igiugig?", you ask. It's in Alaska on the shores of Iliamna Lake at the source of the Kvichak River. I'm off for a ten day adventure there on the 25th. Most of the Salmon runs will be done by then but there should be some Rainbows to play with.

I better bring a cap and mittens.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wading Safely

My buddy Gary, a big Spey guy, put me on to this video series over on It's a Simms video on wading safety. I found it to be worth the watch. Some of it I knew. Some stuff was new. A bit slow to get started and the music annoys me; but overall a good refresher. The video is divided into six parts.

As far as recommended technique, you won't find me hopping across deep water anytime soon. And I'm a bit disturbed that they left the poor guy who got his foot stuck, stuck there without a resolution.

But other than that, worth a watch. Just don't get your foot stuck in water deeper than your arms are long. If so, you're screwed.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Need an 8 wt Rod?

I find myself with one eight weight rod too many. I know, you're thinking "He must be daft. Or worse. How can one ever have too many of any rod weight?"

With the discipline of a Buddhist Shaolin Monk I've decided to limit myself to only two of any single weight rod and I'm now at three of these things. For those of you who are struggling with the math, that's one too many. I could convert it to some incredible Kung Fu weapon, but instead I'll sell it to defray the cost of this miserable habit of ours.

My discipline leads to your good fortune (yes, I got that out of a fortune cookie).

If your arsenal requires an eight weight rod, visit ebay. Bid on the rod. Shipping fees waived for Sipping Emergers readers.

For those of you wondering the particulars, it's a Orvis Frequent Flyer 908-7 , 9' 8 wt seven piece rod used only once (catching nothing as Jonny can attest).

Wood ain't Fish.

Two hours of work got us half way on one tree
Split, stacked firewood. Very satisfying. It's the promise of a hearth crackling on a winter weekend. Book in hand. Sunday Times piled on the side table, spilling onto the floor. already read . Perhaps a nap on a Sunday afternoon. It's difficult to see all this on a dank, sweaty August weekend when you're turning two foot and occasional three foot oak and hickory rounds into something that'll burn.

Friday evening and Saturday morning Chris and I wrestled wood to the splitter and Ann and Sam stacked it. There's still more to stack and even more to split the result of five trees that were felled by professionals earlier in the week.

My body has assisted me in identifying certain muscles that I've not exercised properly in the recent past. There's this one on the outside of my right forearm that aches quite acutely. It's sole purpose appears to be for chucking split wood onto a pile. I haven't done that in some time. It apparently needed the exercise. There's also a handful of little muscles in my hand that seem to have an equal purpose.

The tree service took these trees and created an industrial accident. Cylinders of wood with raw ends piled as if a dump truck just delivered a load of piping that needs to be buried to serve some purpose.I find it very satisfying to split wood; to clean up the accident and turn those jumbled pipes into something useful.

When I was younger I used axe, maul, wedges and the like to get the job done. As recently as five or so years ago I enjoyed such tools. But something's turned during the past couple of years (my age, most likely) and now a hydraulic splitter seems the ticket. Though it doesn't relieve one of all the physical labor it sure helps.

Chris and I settled into a rhythm on the machine. We'd alternate the wood manhandling and the machine operating. At fifteen he's starting to fill out and was an able hand at all the physical tasks. I must say that at first I was somewhat hesitant to be the log loader while he worked the hydraulics but he took the job seriously, understood the dangers and we both finished the task with all body parts attached. It's very rewarding to see the boys grow into men. Especially men who are capable of helping with the hard work.

We got through about 20% of the wood on the ground. The big trees remain. No rush. This winter's wood was split and stacked last year so we'll get to the rest of this when the weather turns cooler. The tree in front of the house is gone which was the one we really needed to get done.

The weather on Friday evening and Saturday morning was perfect for fishing. Overcast. Cooler though still muggy. The local waters were a bit low but I had taken stream temps during the week and they were still fishable; especially at the ends of the day. I even saw a few splashy rises while taking those temps. Sunday evening, chores finished, would have been a nice time to wet a line.

But my aching muscles and general weariness kept me from the water. Sitting at a desk all week doesn't prepare you for eight hours of hard labor despite working out a few times a week. I now fully appreciate why a buddy gave up the landscaping business when he was in his thirties. The body bounces back slower and slower over time. I can mow the lawn. Trim the hedges. But any activity that requires more than 50% of my muscles to work at a single time over extended periods is no longer prudent.

So, no fishing this past weekend. Hopefully I'll make up for it come Thursday when a window opens in my work schedule. I hope to fish the Farmington with Jon and Don.

Not caught this past weekend

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Guide Experience

Dan Harrison working hard
Midcurrent expert Phillip Monohan responded to a a question about the do's and don'ts of hiring a guide on this week's column. I can't argue with much of what he says. His essential point of view is that you've hired a guide based upon his experience, so listen to him. Sound counsel.

I hire guides a couple of times a year. Mostly to fish water that's new to me while on vacation. I generally get only a brief period on family vacations to fish so I like to make the most of them. I do hire the Harrison Brothers a few times a year to fish the Deerfield River but I think I enjoy their company as much as the fishing.

So here's my thoughts on getting the most out of a guide:
  • Before you hire one, ask around. Internet discussion forums, Facebook, etc. Find someone who's fished with a guide in the locale you're looking to fish. Find one they like. Interrogate them on why they liked the guide. Make sure the things they liked are the things you would like. I once hired Rachel Finn out of the Hungry Trout in Wilmington, NY. She got us on fish. That said, she has a drill instructor personality. We marched a whole bunch and she forced (or shamed) you to make casts that you thought you couldn't but actually could. It was a great day. I'd hire her again; but she might not be for everyone.
  • Find out if you're fishing with the guy you're talking to or someone else. Once, someone whose opinion I highly value gave me a tip on a Delaware River guide. I called the guy and we eventually set a date to fish together. When I got there, I was fishing with one of his guides, not him. The guide I got was okay but was not a great fit personality-wise.  I'd still like to fish with this guy but felt a little bait and switched if you'll pardon the pun. Maybe someday.
  • Have a chat with the guide to set expectations. This is more of a two way street that Phillip lets on in his article. Tell the guide what you'd like from the day. Are you after a trophy -- one monster would make you happy? Do you want to fish natives? If I'm fishing with the boys my goal is fish to the net. I'd rather fish a small creek knowing we're going to get fish to the net with enough frequency to keep everyone interested that to get trophies. Then let the guide manage your expectations. He will recommend water and tactics. Go with them.
  • In that chat, find out what sort of personality the guide has. I've fished with three types: Confident Professional, Intense Angler, Laid Back Rower. Confident Professional is my pick. He's a guy or gal who has good interpersonal skills, talks about his craft without seeming too arrogant and, most importantly, listens. The Intense Angler can be good if you like serious Type A personalities. He's talkative; in fact you don't get to talk. He lets you know when you've missed an opportunity. He may take it personally if you're not catching fish. Some of these guys I can take; most are going in the "jerk" category. Laid Back Rower never seems to work hard enough even though he's doing as much as the other guys. I fished with one of these on the Delaware. We got on fish though I always felt the decisions were mine to make. That said, he did a nice job rowing the boat.
  • Call your guide  a week or so before the trip. Guides work with hundreds of people during the season. He's not going to remember your expectation setting discussion from four months ago. Find out the conditions and how those conditions might require a different play. Adapt.
  • When you meet your guide on the day of the trip, go over these expectations again. Get his read on things. Again, adapt. Even once you're on the water, adapt. I can remember one day when I was after trout we had the opportunity to get into a mess of bass and shad. I wasn't particularly interested but I gave it a try. WHAT A BLAST! Be ready for unexpected opportunities and seize them. Nothing mixes up a day of catching thirteen inch trout like a twenty-two inch shad horsing line from the reel.
  • While the selfish part of your brain will tell you that you've paid someone to help you catch fish, that's not what's going on here. You've paid someone to take you fishing. The catching may well be as fickle as if you'd gone yourself. That's the reality of the situation. I've never been skunked with a guide but I've had one fish days. Of course, that one fish was twenty-one inches long.
  • Most importantly, relax. You're going to feel pressured to meet the guide's expectations of setting the hook at the right time, seeing every dip in the indicator, spotting the fish finning in the cushion in front of every boulder. But you're paying him. So, chill. It's not about meeting the guides expectations. It's about fishing some great water, learning a bit of the craft (ask tons of questions), and perhaps sharing the experience with a buddy.

Who would I fish with again? These folks.

Tom and Dan Harrison, Harrison Anglers, Deerfield River, Massachusetts
Brown Hobson, Brown Trout Fly Fishing, South Fork of the Pigeon, North Carolina
Jimmi Morales, Sierra Fly Fisher, Secret Yosemite Creeks, California
Rachel Finn, Hungry Trout Fly Shop, Ausable River, New York

Folks I wouldn't fish with again? Well, I'm not that kind of sport.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Quick Sips: Phenology & Steelhead Barbie

  • John Gierach, Poet Phenologist (via Midcurrent). I've heard Phenology referenced in a couple of TU meeting presentations, my buddy Jon clued me into the link between Forsythia blooms and Striper runs, and now Marc does a deeper dive on the subject. There's one small stream I fish where sulphurs and wild grapes ripening coincide. Steamy summer evenings, fish splashing in cold water at little yellow sailboats, and the heavy smell of ripe grapes. Perfect!
  • If you don't read Gray's, you should. Outstanding stuff in there. Even when I read the hunting issue, which isn't my passion, I nevertheless find great literature. Editor James Babb does an interview with Marshall Cutchin on Midcurrent. I've only been Steelheading once (I'll correct that this fall) but this is a keeper:  
"We believe that flies are meant to imitate life and steelhead flies are essentially meant to imitate a Barbie Doll’s fashion accessories—especially if you appreciate purple Easter bunnies with black feather boas and red clown noses."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Quick Sips: Catch Mermaids

*Yes, a lame caption to be sure but everything else I could think of would have gotten me in trouble so I went with purely descriptive. Feel free to add your own creative captions.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fishing with Trout Unlimited

This weekend I spent two days at the Trout Unlimited Northeast Regional conference. The purpose of the conference was to bring together leaders in the northeast U.S. (as well as a few mid-Atlantic states) to discuss some of the pressing matters of TU. I won't bore you with the details but it had all the various operational and organizational development stuff that you'd normally do in one of these types of events.

What was different was the vibe. Apparently this meeting used to be a small group of guys locked in a room in Massachusetts. This year the organizer, Jeff Yates, envisioned something larger and more inclusive. Over sixty men and woman from across the region participated in three days of events. I don't know if this is a direct result of the new leadership at national or just a changing of the guard locally but I liked the discussion and the energy of the days and look forward to some results.

James and Kit nymphing a run.
While TU is a coldwater conservation organization most members do it cause they love to fish. So the conference included the compulsory fishing expedition to and barbecue on the Farmington River. I wasn't able to fish on Friday when the formal guided fishing occurred so I was intent on getting out on Sunday afternoon. Two members from the chapter, Kit and James, were equally interested in getting on the water so we drove to the TMA together.

Kit and James hadn't fished the stretch of water I had in mind before and I was eager to put them on fish. We first stopped at a run that produces pretty regularly and everyone got tugs on the line with a few to the net. We then walked upstream a bit to another spot that I wanted to fish. It fishes better from the far side and there was no one on the run so I decided we should work our way across and then fish the pool from the far side. Mistake.

More high sticking.
Before I knew it three guys came downstream and set-up in the place that I wanted to fish. The first guy swung a streamer through the pool working quickly and not disturbing things too much. Good. The next two were chucking worms and caught three or four fish in short order. Crap. That pool would be spooked for hours.

Lesson: If the water you want to fish is free, fish it. #@$%!

The plan was to work our way back downstream nymphing so that we hit a pool that usually has rising fish just before dark and hopefully managed a few more to the net. The nymphing was slow to begin with but picked up a bit. I had a couple on and two Brookies to the net. This was a first for me. I can't remember having caught two Brookies on the Farmy.

The first came in a thin piece of water taking an Olive WD40. I thought this water too thin and sunlit to hold a nice fish but this was one of the largest Brookies I had caught on the Farmy.

The second came a short while later and was sitting beside a large boulder and took a large Isonychia nymph with vigor. The nice thing about the Iso is that it's a pretty active nymph so your drifts don't have to be perfect.

Another shot of the first Brookie
It was time to move downstream so Kit and I wandered down to find James. He had a sweet spot at the tail of the riffle. A couple of other guys were upstream of him but strangely none were downstream in what I consider the sweet spot of the pool Not making the same mistake twice we set-up with emergers and started targeting the sporadic rises.

The rises were those frustrating holes in the water where the fish just sucked the fly down as if by magic. I managed a nice Brown after the first couple of casts and then proceeded to miss a whole bunch. So within about twenty minutes the water was well spooked and I decided to stand and give it a rest.

Rabbit's Foot Emerger
Glancing downstream I saw a bunch of rising fish in a long glide. Leaving fish to find fish is a cardinal sin of fishing but there were MANY rising fish. It was too much to resist. Kit was smart and stayed behind but James and I bushwhacked down to a section where the fish were all over the place. And except for the bait fish that James caught none would come to hand.

Faced with an hour of trying to dial in selective, cruising trout who seemed intent on frustrating us, James and I decided to head back up to the pool and rejoin Kit.

Kit had managed a couple of hits while we were gone and soon we began to see a few more flies with a few Sulphurs mixed in. I managed another Brown on the Rabbit's Foot Emerger and missed a few more. James had tied on a Para Sulphur so I matched that decision and managed my last of the evening.

A Sipping Brown
It was great to be out fishing with Kit and James. We've spent a bunch of time working on TU projects together but have never fished together. While the fishing wasn't all it could be it was enough and the company was good along the way. I hope we can get back out again to explore a new piece of water that James mentioned.

And a final note on TU.

If you're a member, great. If you're not, or were, give it a look. I can't invite you back to an organization that's already changed. TU members across the country are working on that. It's likely that the thing that either drove you away or kept you from joining might still be there. But the organization is shifting and it needs your help to get where it needs to go.

Join TU for yourself (or a relative or a friend) for $17.50 or for your kids (or grandkids or neighborhood kids) at $12.

Quick Sip Update: Fly

Quick Sips: Small Streams Hemingway